Sunday, May 29, 2011

Evolution and Morality

Those working on ethical skepticism will be interested to know that Guy Kahane (Oxford) recently published the paper "Evolutionary Debunking Arguments" in Noûs. At the moment, the paper can be downloaded for free here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sextus and Rhetoric

The second talk below might be of interest to those living in Paris and working on ancient skepticism:

Dans le cadre du Séminaire de Philosophie Hellénistique et Romaine aura lieu, le samedi 28 mai de 10h à 12h à la Sorbonne (Salle Grec 1,16 rue de la Sorbonne), une séance du Cycle Pluriannuel Rhétorique et Écoles Philosophiques. Deux conférences y seront proposées:

Marie-Pierre Noël (Montpellier 3): "La rhétorique de Platon."

Carlos Lévy (Paris Sorbonne): "La rhétorique de Sextus."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


First of all, I apologize to those who read Aporia because of their interest in skepticism—I’ve got a few new posts on skepticism in the pipeline which I haven’t been able to post yet. But there are things that make me feel dismayed. Also, right now I should be working on a few book reviews and papers, but thinking, reading, and writing about the Synthese affair makes it difficult to focus on other things. So I hope this will be my last post on this affair.

An argument to which I referred in my previous post seems to be gaining force: it is not advisable for (young) scholars to submit their papers to Synthese anymore because of the new bad reputation of the journal. I cannot find any serious basis for this argument because nothing in the Synthese affair implies that any one of the papers published in the journal isn’t of high quality. Also, as I have said many times, there was no censorship, that is, no part of any paper was changed or removed once it was accepted for publication. So, if anyone asked me what to do, I’d just say: “Go ahead and submit your paper to Synthese.” Unfortunately, I don’t have anything I could submit to them. It seems to me that the argument in question is not reflecting a fact but rather trying to boycott the journal by making scholars feel afraid of having their papers published in Synthese. I don’t know how things work in the States (or Canada), but I hope that no department will pay attention to such an argument. Well... unless Sarah Palin is the department chair.

I think that right now there are two issues that should be distinguished: the behavior of the Synthese editors and the “political” behavior of those scholars who are trying to boycott the journal. Our business should be philosophy, not the manifestation or the concentration of power.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Again on the Synthese Affair

Brian Leiter has posted a comment on my previous post on the Synthese affair. The reason I didn't accept it three hours ago was that I was away from my computer. I think that his comment deserves to be reproduced in a new post and that I should try to respond to it.

"Here's another question: who is Diego Machuca and why is he obsessed with me (see the Certain Doubts blog for his first intervention) and why does he feel free to misrepresent what's been going on so outrageously?

What I actually wrote on May 21, after the petition signed by 470 philosophers failed to generate a satisfactory response, was the following: "It seems, at this point, that there are now two options, given the intransigence of the Synthese editors with respect to the core issues of misconduct. One option remains a boycott of the journal, by both contributors and referees. The second, which several philosophers have now raised (and one of whom, a distinguished senior figure in the fields in which Synthese publishes, has raised directly with the publisher), is to demand the resignation of the editors responsible for this mess. Right now, it would be fair to say, the stink of this affair hovers over what everyone agrees has been a very good and important journal in the field. Some philosophers feel that only a complete turnover in editorial management will suffice. I invite signatories to the petition to weigh in with their thoughts on what should be done now."

That's the full extent of my alleged "demand" that the editors resign. Others have suggested it, I wanted to gauge what others thought about this suggestion, and about the boycott.

The subsequent poll revealed, contrary to Dr. Marchuca's continued misrepresentation, that hundreds of philosophers agree with my opinion, including some 200 who favor a boycott now.

But what is particularly puzzling is the suggestion that I am not allowed to have an opinion about this matter and express it unless lots of other philosophers agree with me. Why should I be so constrained in my right to express my views?

That you, Dr. Machuca, do not appreciate the seriousness of the editorial misconduct at issue or its consequences for science education in the United States does not mean I am "obsessed" and it certainly does not justify a blog purportedly about skepticism being turned into a forum for an irrelevant personal attack on me. Shame on you."

First of all, thanks for your comment, Professor Leiter. Here are some remarks in response to yours:

(1) This blog is indeed devoted to skepticism, but very rarely I write off-topic posts when I feel like expressing my impressions about other academic or scholarly issues. In addition, since it is my blog, I can write posts on any subject I want, and readers can decide whether to stop reading it.

(2) Who is Diego Machuca? As I said in my previous post, I’m not an important member of the philosophical community, but I do speak my mind. I’m surprised by your claim that I’m obsessed with you. You base your claim on my two comments on John Turri’s post on Certain Doubts and my post here. In the second comment I don’t mention you at all, whereas in the first one I only say that it seems to me that you’re obsessed with the affair. Since I used “seems,” I left open the possibility that I may be wrong (note that in my previous post I used “apparently” and “seemingly” a few times), but I must confess that you do seem quite obsessed. That’s not a personal attack; it’s just that your behavior looks extreme to me.

(3) I already said, both in my comments on Certain Doubts and in my previous post, that I don’t agree with what the Synthese editors did. The difference is that I don’t think that what they did licenses us to try to boycott the journal. Neither do I think that what happened will exert any influence on science education in the US. The articles against ID are there (again, there was no censorship) and intelligent readers will weigh the force of the arguments. Those who are dogmatic will remain dogmatic, I suppose.

(4) I never said that you’re not allowed to express your views, did I? (Reread my previous post.) What I said was that those of us who are not involved can voice our opinions (including the opinion that the editors should resign), but that we don’t seem to have the right to demand the resignation of the editors.

(5) I mentioned your name because Leiter Reports is your blog and because you seem to be the spokesman of quite a few people. (I must admit that when I said that a few dozens of scholars agree with you, I should have said “a few hundreds.”) But my criticisms were directed at all those who are trying to boycott the journal so fiercily.

(6) If you’re really intellectually honest, you should admit that you have undertaken a campaign against the journal and that you want the editors to resign.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Synthese Affair


As some of you may know, there has lately been a heated discussion about the attitude adopted by the editors-in-chief of the journal Synthese in the case of the 2009 special issue “Evolution and Its Rivals.” To get an overview of this affair, you can take a look at, e.g., this post and this post on Brian Leiter’s well-known blog. Since I think that Leiter and other scholars have adopted an extreme position (they are now demanding the resignation of the editors-in-chief), I’d like to say something here even though I’m not an important member of the “philosophical community.” (And just to be clear, I’m not a supporter of Intelligent Design.)

I do think that the Synthese editors-in-chief shouldn’t have inserted the disclaimer behind the guest editors’ backs. It seems to me that they have now paid the price for what they did, since lots of people know what they did, they have been strongly criticized in a number of blogs, and the issue has even been discussed in an article in the New York Times (check it out here). However, it also seems to me that Leiter is kind of obsessed with this affair and I wonder why. I ask myself: who is Brian Leiter to demand the resignation of the Synthese editors? If some members of the philosophical community aren’t happy with what the editors did, then they have of course the right to decide not to submit their papers to Synthese or not to review for them—Leiter has actually been asking people to do precisely this. But resignation is a decision that should be taken only by the editors-in-chief and the publisher—people should remember that there are contracts in play between editors and publishers. I think that the affair concerns the editors-in-chief, the guest editors, the authors, and the publisher. The rest of us can voice our opinions about the affair, including the opinion that the editors-in-chief should resign, but I don’t think we are entitled to actually demand that they do so or to insistently try to organize a boycott against the journal.

It is clear from what I’ve heard from scholars from North America that some people think that the cost of crossing Leiter is high. I confess I don’t care whether the price is high or low. Among other things, Leiter is a well-known Nietzsche scholar and the editor of the Philosophy Gourmet Report, and his philosophy blog is widely read. But so what? I think it’s silly that a guy takes himself to be the voice of the philosophical community and that he starts this kind of fierce campaign against a journal based on reasons that don’t seem to warrant such a campaign. He has been trying to organize a general boycott, but even though he has not succeeded, he continues to promote this instead of accepting that a lot of people don’t agree with him.

We should bear in mind that the papers against Intelligent Design were published without modifications in the special issue so that anyone can read them and draw their own conclusions. So there was no censorship. The affair doesn’t change my view of the journal either in itself or under its current editorship. One can see that the editors-in-chief behaved in a seemingly silly and disrespectful way. But it is stupid to believe, as some have claimed, that what the editors-in-chief did should lower our opinion of the journal. Synthese is a leading journal where quality is (as far as I know) the editors’ sole criterion of acceptance for publication, and they didn’t stop the publication of any of the articles in the special issue. In addition, I don’t think (again against what some people have claimed) that if you now publish a paper in Synthese, it will reflect negatively in your CV. Why should that be the case? It is plain to me that Leiter’s campaign, endorsed by a few dozens of scholars, is affecting negatively Synthese and this is a real shame.

I could say a few other things, but I think this is enough to make my point of view clear. I wish I could counterbalance a little bit the (apparently) extreme position adopted by Leiter and others, and I hope I’m voicing what other people think but perhaps don’t dare to say.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pyrrhonian Modes

Emidio Spinelli has called my attention to the following recent article on the Pyrrhonian modes of suspension of judgment:

Nathan Powers, "The System of Sceptical Modes in Sextus Empiricus," Apeiron 43 (2010): 157-71. The paper can be found here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

First Issue Skepticism Journal

I'm pleased to announce that the first issue of the International Journal for the Study of Skepticism, edited by Duncan Pritchard and myself with the support of Baron Reed as reviews editor, is now out. You can access it by clicking here. Since it is the first issue, the articles can be downloaded for free.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pyrrhonism and Ordinary Language

On May 19th, there will be a conference on ancient philosophy and ordinary language at the Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium). Emidio Spinelli (Rome) will give the talk, "Contre la rhétorique: langage pyrrhonien et 'usage commun de la vie' selon Sextus Empiricus." For more information, go here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sinnott-Armstrong's Neo-Pyrrhonism

Folke Tersman (Uppsala University) recently published "Contrasts and Demons: On Sinnott-Armstrong’s Moderate Pyrrhonian Scepticism," in L. Haaparanta (ed.), Rearticulations of Reason. Recent Currents. Acta Philosophica Fennica 88 (2010): 243-60. As far as I know, there's no online version of this journal.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Journal Episteme

I here reproduce information already posted on a couple of other blogs:


The journal EPISTEME announces an impending move and transformation. With the first issue of 2012 we begin publication with Cambridge University Press and expand our scope from social epistemology specifically to all of epistemology. Our new title will be: Episteme, A Journal of Individual and Social Epistemology. EPISTEME has published since 2004 with Edinburgh University Press. With Cambridge we shall publish four issues per year, approximately 500 pages per volume. Cambridge will include EPISTEME in a bundle of journals to which 1,500 institutions already subscribe.

Scope and Mission Statement. EPISTEME is a general journal of epistemology in the analytic tradition that invites both informal and formal approaches. Among its primary “traditional” topics are knowledge, justification, evidence, reasons, rationality, skepticism, truth, probability, epistemic norms and values, and methodology. The journal devotes special attention to topics in social epistemology, including testimony, trust, disagreement, relativism, diversity and expertise, collective judgment, and the epistemic assessment of social institutions (e.g., science, law, democracy, and the media). The journal welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to epistemology that borrow methods from allied disciplines such as experimental psychology, linguistics, economics, game theory, evolutionary theory, and computer simulation studies. We do not publish purely historical work or case studies.

Editorial Team


Alvin Goldman (Rutgers)

Associate Editors

Jessica Brown (St. Andrews)

Igor Douven (Groningen)

Don Fallis (Arizona)

Branden Fitelson (Rutgers)

Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern)

Christian List (London School of Economics)

Jack Lyons (Arkansas)

Matthew McGrath (Missouri)

Jonathan Schaffer (Rutgers)

Frederick Schmitt (Indiana)

Jonathan Weinberg (Arizona)

Michael Weisberg (University of Pennsylvania)

The first issue of 2012, guest-edited by Jennifer Lackey, will include the following contents:

(1) A symposium on pragmatic encroachment, with papers by Jessica Brown, Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath, and Jason Stanley;

(2) A paper on the epistemic case for multiple-vote majority rule, by Richard Bradley and Christopher Thompson; and

(3) A critical notice of Sanford Goldberg's Relying on Others, by Mikkel Gerken.

Previous Contributors. In our eight years of publication with Edinburgh (when we specialized in social epistemology exclusively), our pages have featured work by the following authors, among others: Jonathan Adler, Elizabeth Anderson, Michael Bergmann, Paul Boghossian, Albert Casullo, David Christensen, Earl Conee, Igor Douven, David Estlund, Richard Feldman, Branden Fitelson, Richard Foley, Miranda Fricker, Margaret Gilbert, Sanford Goldberg, John Greco, Susan Haack, Christopher Hookway, Philip Kitcher, Hilary Kornblith, Jennifer Lackey, Larry Laudan, Peter Lipton, Christian List, Helen Longino, Ram Neta, Philip Pettit, Nicholas Rescher, Gideon Rosen, Sherrilyn Roush, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Michael Strevens, Jonathan Weinberg, Roger White, Michael Williams, and Linda Zagzebski.

The journal welcomes submissions for publication in 2012 and thereafter. Manuscripts should be directed to: Manuscripts should be anonymized, and should be accompanied by a separate file containing an abstract, author identification (including institution), and contact information.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Moore, Wittgenstein, and Skepticism

Annalisa Coliva (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia) recently published her Moore and Wittgenstein: Scepticism, Certainty and Common Sense (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). For more information, go here. This is actually the revised and expanded version of a book originally published in Italian in 2003. About a month ago, a review of the book appeared in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Incidentally, there is a collective volume dealing with Wittgenstein published by the same press in 2010: Nuno Venturinha (ed.), Wittgenstein after His Nachlass. The book's web page can be found here and recent reviews can be read here and here.