Friday, December 31, 2010


In relation to my previous post, I've found out that there is an illuminating entry on trust in the Stanford Enclycopedia of Philosophy. You'll see that it contains a useful bibliography.

Since this is the last post of the year, I take this opportunity to wish you all a good 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Epistemology of Trust

For some time now, I've been thinking about posting something about the epistemic justification of trust. But I haven't done so until now because I didn't know whether there had been any serious discussion of this topic in the field of philosophy - although one could argue that this subject is dealt with by those working on the epistemology of testimony. Even though I haven't searched for any philosophical work in this area yet, I'd like to say a couple of things that might be plausible to at least some extent. 

I've always thought that some key skeptical arguments, such as indiscernibility arguments, have important consequences in the case of trust. As the Academic skeptics used to argue, it seems that we can never discern a true impression or appearance (phantasia) from a false one because they may have all the same traits, i.e., there is no trait which can assure us of the truth of the impression. One usually says that it makes sense or it is justified to trust a given person because of a number of reasons, including certain psychological traits of that person and his past behavior. However, in fact, that does not guarantee anything at all. There seems to be an unbridgeable gap between the evidence we have (or might have) and the truth or what is really the case. So, trust is just irrational and, hence, a highly dangerous risk. Trust is just blind faith - I'm aware that "blind faith" may sound completely redundant.

In the course in professional ethics which I teach, I explain an argument which makes use of the so-called prisoner's dilemma, which is a dilemma discussed in metaethics, business ethics, game theory, etc. I think that this dilemma is an excellent example of how people usually (always?) behave and supports the idea that it doesn't make any sense to trust people: you never know what the other person will do, i.e., you never know whether the other person has the genuine intention to respect the "pact" the two of you have made. And so, it is rational for you not to respect it, and since the other person is in the same situation, then it is only rational for him/her not to respect it either. (Those interested in this dilemma can take a look at this entry.)

So, in the end, it seems to me that there is no epistemic justification whatsoever for this kind of blind faith (or any kind of faith for that matter) and that at most there may be some kind of pragmatic justication in the sense that trusting might sometimes work. In addition, it seems that most of us cannot help trusting people, since to all appearances we need to do so, or don't we?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Free Will Skepticism

I've just found out about this article by Benjamin Vilhauer:

"Free Will Skepticism and Personhood as a Desert Base," Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (2009): 489-511.

You can find the paper here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Book on Evolution and Hypocrisy


Someone at Princeton University Press has informed about the imminent publication of this book:

Robert Kurzban (Univ. of Pennsylvania), Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind (PUP, 2011).

The thesis of the book is that the mind consists of many different parts or applications and that, although these applications are usually consistent with one another, sometimes they are not. In this case, "one part of your mind – one application, or 'module' – can believe one thing, while another part can believe exactly the opposite. Behavior is dictated by which module is in charge at any given time. Essentially, our minds have evolved to encourage hypocritical behavior."

More information about the book can be found here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Internalism and the Dream Argument

Some of you may be interested in the following paper which explores the connection between the dream argument and epistemic internalism:

Halvor Dordby, "Skepticism and Internalism," Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (2009): 35-54.

The paper can be found here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review of Companion to Ancient Scepticism

The latest issue of Philosophy in Review features Filip Grgić's review of The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism, edited by Richard Bett. To access the review, go here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ian Hinckfuss' "The Moral Society"

Lately, I've been reading more about contemporary ethical skepticism and Mackie's moral error theory, and have found out that Ian Hinckfuss (who passed away in 1997) defended an interesting version of ethical nihilism in his book The Moral Society: Its Structure and Effects (Canberra: Australian National University, 1987). (The original, cool title of the book was To Hell with Morality.) Although the book is out of print, I've found an online version which incorporates some revisions. To access the file, go here (if you encounter any problem, let me know).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Influence of Cicero's Academica

Sylvia Giocanti and Emmanuel Naya have organized a journée d'étude entitled "La fécondité des Académiques de Cicéron dans l’histoire du scepticisme." This event is supported by GRAC/CERPHI (ENS-Lyon). Here's is the program in French:

Vendredi 7 janvier 2011, de 8h30 à 12h30 et de 14h à 16h, Université de Toulouse II-Le Mirail, Département de Philosophie, Bâtiment 18, salle 214.


Stéphane Marchand (École Normale Supérieure de Lyon): "Les Academica dans le Contra Academicos d’Augustin : sur l’usage et le détournement dogmatique du scepticisme."

Christophe Grellard (Université de Paris I): "La seconde acculturation chrétienne de Cicéron: la réception des Académiques aux IXème-XIIème siècles."

Emmanuel Naya (Université de Lyon II): "Skepsis in utramque partem: la place de la Nouvelle Académie dans la redécouverte du scepticisme à la Renaissance."

Luiz Alvez Eva (Université de Parana, Brésil): "Montaigne lecteur des Académiques."


Sylvia Giocanti (Université de Toulouse II): "Comment traiter de ce qui n’est ni entièrement certain ni indubitable ? Descartes héritier des Académiques de Cicéron."

Sébastien Charles (Université de Sherbrooke, Canada): "Cicero Redivivus: Foucher, apôtre moderne de l’académisme et critique du cartésianisme."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Workshop on Ancient Skepticism

Josef Moural has organized a workshop on ancient skepticism which will be held in Prague on December 18th. Here is the program:

10 a.m.

Mauro Bonazzi (Università degli Studi di Milano): "Plutarch on the Difference between Academics and Pyrrhonists."

Markus Lammenranta (University of Helsinki): "Agrippa's Problem."

(12-13:30 lunch break)

Josef Moural (Universita J. E. Purkyně, Ústí nad Labem): "What Kind of Investigation the Pyrrhonist Continues to Pursue after the epochê."

Baptiste Bondu (Université Paris Ouest, Nanterre): "What Kind of Subjectivity Does the Sceptical phainomenon Involve in Sextus' Texts?" Update: the new title of this paper is: "What Kind of Experience Does Sextus Empiricus Accept for the Sceptic?"

The Workshop takes place in room 342 of the Celetná building of the Faculty of Philosophy, Charles University, Prague (Celetná 20, 110 00 Praha 1). Those interested in attending must contact Josef Moural at this address.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nietzsche and Ancient Skepticism

A new book on skepticism has just come out:

Jessica Berry (Georgia State University), Nietzsche and the Ancient Skeptical Tradition (OUP, 2010). For more information, go here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Sophists

There's a new book on the sophists by Mauro Bonazzi (Università degli Studi di Milano). Given the skeptical elements detectable in the sophists, I think the book might be of interest to those working on the antecedents of the skepticism of the Hellenistic and Imperial ages. Here's the information:

M. Bonazzi, I sofisti. Roma: Carocci, 2010. € 16,50.

Table of Contents

1. I sofisti: storia di un nome e di un pregiudizio

Chi sono i sofisti?/Polemisti, cattivi maestri e falsi filosofi: le accuse contro i sofisti

2. L’essere e la verità, l’uomo e la realtà

La verità di Protagora: l’interpretazione gnoseologica/La verità di Protagora: le conseguenze pratiche/Gorgia: la dialettica del non essere/Due testimonianze nel solco della discussione di Gorgia: Seniade e Licofrone/La realtà secondo Antifonte/Dalla physis al logos: presocratici e sofisti

3. Un mondo di parole: i sofisti tra grammatica, retorica, poesia e filosofia

Grammatica e correttezza dei nomi/Critica letteraria e critica della tradizione poetica/ Retorica, sofistica e filosofia/Dal logos al nomos, dal linguaggio alla politica

4. La giustizia e la legge

La giustizia secondo Protagora/Contro il nomos: da Gorgia a Callicle/Trasimaco e il realismo politico/ Antifonte e la logica dell’individuo/Altri avversari del nomos/Il problema dell’uguaglianza/Attualità dei sofisti

5. Insegnare la virtù: i sofisti tra felicità e successo

Gli immoralisti/La morale della concordia di Antifonte/La scelta di Prodico (e di Ippia)

6. Gli dei e la religione

L’agnosticismo di Protagora/L’origine della credenza negli dei/Provvidenza e giustizia divina: questioni di teodicea

Appendice. I sofisti e i saperi specialistici (technai)