Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spinelli's Questioni Scettiche

Emidio Spinelli's Questioni Scettiche: letture introduttive al pirronismo antico (Roma: Lithos, 2005) can be read for free here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Elenchos Issue on Sextus

Volume 13 (1992) of the Italian journal Elenchos was devoted to the proceedings of the international conference "Sesto Empirico e la storia del pensiero antico," which took place in Rome in 1991. The good news is that this issue is now available for free here. (Thanks to Emidio Spinelli for the information.) I highly recommend that you read at least the articles by Annas, Decleva Caizzi, Ioppolo, and Sedley.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Workshop on External World Skepticism

Workshop "New Perspectives on External World Scepticism," Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP), LMU Munich, 9-10 July 2013.

Is the external world largely as it appears to be? How can we rule out the possibility that we are constantly deceived by a vicious demon or the Matrix? In response to the global sceptic, contemporary epistemologists claim - for example - that perceptual justification is immediate in that it doesn't require independent reason for rejecting sceptical alternatives. Others contend that we are a priori entitled to trust "cornerstone" propositions that guarantee the reliability of our perceptions. Another view is that ordinary hypotheses are preferable to sceptical alternatives because they better explain our experiences. All these responses have been challenged with informal and formal objections. Bayesian methodology seems to vindicate entitlement theories but it is arguably unsuitable to model the state of radical ignorance presupposed by the sceptic. Immediate justification theories are affected by gruelling difficulties, like the bootstrapping and the cognitive penetrability problem. The thesis that explanatory force produces justification is controversial and - some contend - incompatible with formal representations of rational belief. The workshop focuses on these and other interesting responses to external world scepticism. It aims to gather together traditional and formal epistemologists to foster collaboration between researchers working from a variety of perspectives. 

In addition to six invited speakers, there is space for about two additional speakers. Anyone interested in presenting a paper, should check the workshop website here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Conference on Disagreement

You might be interested in this Call for Papers (thanks to Emidio Spinelli for the information):

"Disagreement" - University of Alberta Philosophy Graduate Conference, May 10-12, 2013, Edmonton, Alberta

Keynote Speakers:
Thomas Christiano, University of Arizona
Adam Morton, University of British Columbia

We invite submissions of papers by graduate students and postgraduates (who were awarded their PhDs no earlier than 2007) to the graduate philosophy conference to be held on May 10-12, 2013 at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

At first, one might take ‘disagreement’ to be merely a matter of subjective opinion. Nevertheless, disagreement is a pervasive and genuine phenomenon of and in our experience which calls for philosophical reflection. This conference focuses on the notion of disagreement broadly construed. We invite papers that discuss the nature, value of, and attitudes towards disagreement. Papers from both the analytic and continental traditions, as well as from disciplines and traditions of investigation other than philosophy are welcomed. Possible questions for consideration include but are not limited to: What constitutes disagreement? What distinguishes private from public disagreement; internal from external disagreement; or intra- from inter-personal disagreement? Are all disagreements resolvable, and on what grounds? Are disagreements structured by power dynamics? Is reconciliation always desirable or is there value in perennial discord? Can there be faultless or harmless disagreements in the realms of ethics/politics/aesthetics/epistemology, etc.? If so does this entail some sort of relativism or pluralism, and if it does is this a bad thing?

Deadline for submissions: January 30, 2013 (Extended from January 10, 2013)

Submission Guidelines: Papers should not exceed 3000 words. They should be prepared for blind review and sent as a PDF file to In a separate PDF attachment, please include your name, academic affiliation, e-mail address, paper title, and an abstract of no more than 150 words. For more information, please contact us at

Thursday, January 10, 2013

God & Evil

I've just read this claim made by Trent Dougherty: 

"The greater one's sense of solidarity with the human community, the greater one will feel the problem of evil. Yet, at the same time, the value of that solidarity provides greater scope for understanding why it is permissible for God to allow humans to suffer."

I must first of all say that, unlike Trent, I'm not an expert in theodicy, so I may be missing something here. This said, I cannot help feeling that theodical explanations are forced. And this happens as soon as one combines in a single being (or Being!) so many attributes, some of which seem to be nonsensical when applied to someone/something: God is all-powerful, omniscient, all-wise, eternal, infinite, and also just, merciful, and the summum bonum (I'm talking in general, since in the quoted text, there's no reference to possible attributes). It appears to me that, once one accepts the existence of such an fantastic being, everything gets messy and one needs to come up with seemingly absurd explanations. I'm not asserting that the claim in question is false, but only that the second conjunct strikes me as highly problematic and that I myself don't understand in the slightest how it is permissible (or possible or obligatory or whatever) for such a being to allow humans (and animals) to suffer so much. It looks like a game with some very abstract concepts: let's assume there's this guy with such and such attributes; what follows? and how can we combine them so as to make them compatible? Mutatis mutandis, this reminds me of those situations in which the nerds from The Big Bang Theory wonder, as though they were real, whether, e.g., The Hulk could kick The Thing's ass or Wolverine Batman's, or whether The Hulk could lift Thor's hammer (they actually discuss much more subtle questions about superheros and their powers). Positions like this one are those which are so mercilessly attacked in Sextus Empiricus's works. In the end, none of this makes much sense to me, but this may be due to my intellectual limitations and my lack of faith.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Skepticism in Cicero's Academica

The volume Cicero’s Practical Philosophy (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012), edited by W. Nicgorski, contains Hal Thorsrud's "Radical and Mitigated Skepticism in Cicero’s Academica".