Monday, May 30, 2011

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world

The other day my fellow grad students and I were having a chat about which living philosophers were defending the most out there views, and we came up with a top ten. Of course their real views are probably not so crazy once you understand them properly, but philosophers all like to stare incredulously at one another from time to time. It's fun. So here they are, starting with the craziest:

1.      Donald Baxter (instantiation is identity; so are most other things)
2.      Graham Priest (loads of contradictions are true; noneism is parsimonious)
3.      Terence Parsons (so Meinongian the cogito doesn’t work)
4.      Takashi Yagisawa (concretist about impossibilia)
5.      Peter Unger (no ordinary objects, ex-sceptic)
6.      Michael Bench-Capon (see below)
7.      David Benatar (coming into existence is a harm)
8.      Kit Fine (funny ideas about essence, time and vagueness)
9.      Meg Wallace (plurality of one world, irreducibly tensed properties might be parts)
10.  EJ Lowe (seriously old school metaphysics)

It’s obviously a parochial list drawn up by a bunch of primarily analytic philosophers, and I don’t flatter myself that my inclusion wasn’t partly due to a desire to include one of our own. Nonetheless, they chose me rather than another of our own for a reason. Here are some of the main offenders:
  • I’m a moral nihilist, in that I think everything is morally permissible, but I’m also an aesthetic objectivist, in that I think some things are objectively beautiful and others are objectively ugly.
  • I’m a counterpart theorist about de re modality, although I’m not a genuine modal realist, I think things have essences and I’m really strict about what counterpart relations are admissible.
  • I’m a stage theorist about persistence through time.
  • I think composition’s identity, not in the way that helped Baxter to the top spot, but not in the innocuous way David Lewis thought it was either.
  • I’m pretty sympathetic to Ryle and Wittgenstein in the philosophy of mind, and sometimes refer to central state materialism (with deliberate abusiveness) as ‘brain-body dualism’.
  • I’m a raving Millian in the philosophy of language, to the point that I think there aren't any analytic truths, and probably aren’t any a priori truths either.
  • I’m epistemicist about vagueness.
  • I’m sympathetic to dialetheism as a solution to the semantic paradoxes.
  • I think a sentence can be false, or even true, without expressing a proposition.

One of the reasons I’ve got funny ideas is that I’m very quick to form opinions: I tend to view philosophy as concerned with finding ways to think about things, and I’d rather have a slightly unsatisfactory way than no way at all. I haven’t been picking these views out of perversity though. They really seem like the sensible ways to think about the subject matters in question. Perhaps I’m just being neurotic and actually there’s nothing especially crazy in my repertoire, but if I do have a penchant for thinking things which by most accounts are neither true nor even plausible, is this something I should worry about?

1 comment:

  1. I don't think it's something to worry about. I'm inclined to think anyway that holding views in philosophy isn't really much like holding views at all. It always feels to me like it's more like supporting a football team than believing something. You wear the colours, declare your support, and try to make it to all the matches, and even when your team is getting hammered you always wait a little bit longer than you should before changing sides.

    I realise that (in theory at least) philosophers are a little less loyal to their views than the Man U fan is to that strange red imp they focus their idolatry around, but I think the vibe is the same.

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