Funny or Insensitive?

So I was picking up a test today from the Academic Assistant Center, where people go to take tests with added accommodations. On the receptionists desk was a bowl of candy . . .
full of Dum Dums.

No joke.


Evidence and Defeat

Here is a plausible principle that I think ought to be denied:

Necessarily, if one has some evidence for p and no evidence against p, then one's total body of evidence supports p.

I think that this principle should be denied since there is both 'direct' and 'indirect' evidence:

p is direct evidence for q (for S) iff p evidentially supports q all by itself.

p is indirect evidence for q (for S) iff (i)p is not direct evidence for q,(ii) p is direct evidence for not-r, (iii) r is direct evidence for q.

Undercutting defeaters are examples of indirect evidence. I take there to be two kinds of defeaters:

Necessarily, (ignoring the individual) for all propositions x, y and z, x is an undercutting defeater of y regarding z iff y is evidence for z, x is not evidence for or against z, and (y&x) is not evidence for z.

Necessarily, (ignoring the individual) for all propositions x, y and z, x is a rebutting defeater of y regarding z iff y is evidence for z, x is evidence for not-z, and (x&y) is evidence for not-z.

So long as there are undercutting defeaters, then the above principle is false. This is because one can have evidence against what supports p without having evidence against p. As such, one's total body of evidence can fail to support p (though not support not-p) while there being some evidence for p and no evidence against p itself.

This all comes from a discussion I'm involved in here.


Praising Ants and Condemning Rich Fools

I have been thinking about savings and retirement funds and what not recently (part of this relates to the post on philosophy and charity). I was thinking about how the ant is praised for storing up food for the winter and how there might be some evidence there regarding what we should do.

However, I just got the monthly newsletter from Desiring God Ministries on this very issue. It is worth the short read. The author reminds us that the ant is praised for it diligence not its accumulation, and that Jesus warns against such storage in Luke 12: "Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where you treasure is, there will your heart be also."


The Madness

Round 1 . . . not so good for me. As evidenced by my very red bracket.

Only one person on CNNSI got the whole first round correct. That's only 12 more right than me.


Jesus' Tomb

Perhaps you have heard of the stories claiming that the bones of Jesus have been discovered. These links were passed along to me, so I thought I would pass them along. They are responses to the alledged discovery:

Toronto Star


Ben Witherington's blog also has a lot of good stuff.



30 and on Spring Break . . . I am either really cool or not at all.


New Look

The blog has now been reformatted. I hope you like the new look. It now includes a picture I took of some frozen branches in our backyard [top right of page]. Here are some other recent pictures of an even better subject.

Here are some shots of Karis enjoying some of our 80+ inches of snow this winter.

Karis enjoying the phone and a taco. Two of her favorite things.


Even Harder . . .

Try this, where you have to place states on an unmarked map and then it calculates the average number of miles that you are off. My average was 32 miles, though I know someone who got a 3 mile average!


Church/State Issues

I am T.A.-ing for a Social and Political Philosophy course which has exposed me to several issues in philosophy I have never thought much about. We are currently studying the modern philosophers Hobbes and Locke -- mostly on the relation of church and state.

Locke is clear in a division of church and state. The state promotes civil liberties (life, liberty, health, possessions, etc.) and the church promotes mutual edification and worship of God. He is also clear that force (taking away possessions, liberties, life) is an instrument only of the state. The instrument of the church is persuasion and reason. The church being a voluntary society, the worst it can do is to cast someone out of its membership.

In A Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke states, "If any man err from the right way, it is his own misfortune, no injury to thee; nor therefre art thou to punish him in the things of this Life, because thou supposest he will be miserable in that which is to come."

This made me think of the complaints people have of the 'religious right' attempting to 'legislate their morality'. Since this is a form of democracy things are a little bit complicated, but it seems that whatever law is legislated ought to be for the promotion of the civil liberties of the citizens. Religion cannot be compelled. We would not think that attending church should be legislated nor praying the sinners prayer nor taking communion. These are spritual activities that need to be undergone by choice, not force. If this is all right, then it seems that the only basis on can have for 'legislating one's morality' is that such standards promote the civil liberties of the citizens. I am not saying that this cannot be done, however, when you think of the arguments that are often advanced, the reasons put forward tend to have to do with such actions being immoral according to a certain (often spiritual) guidelines. If such things should be legislated against, it seems that they should be on the basis of civil liberties instead.

50 in 10?

How many states can you name in 10 minutes?
This Canadian rattled off 46.

Don't let me beat you.
Try it out here.

I'll tell you what I missed in the comments, but no peeking before you try!

Philosophy and Charity

I have recently encountered two arguments related to charity that I thought that I would share and then get your thoughts.

I. Peter Singer on our Obligations
The argument here comes more in the form of a story. We are asked to imagine a person who has a very valuable car (perhaps there are no others like it). This car brings this individual a great deal of pleasure (perhaps even pleasure he could not otherwise attain). Unfortunately, this individual parks his car on some railroad tracks. Sure enough, a train is coming. Worse yet, though the tracks fork and he could redirect the train before it hit his car, there is a young innocent girl stuck on those tracks. He must choose his car or the girl's life. What should he do? Well, hopefully the answer is pretty obvious. He should let his car be destroyed.
What's the big deal? Singer claims that each of us is in the very same situation as the man with the car. Pick any of your favorite possessions, costly habits, savings, etc. that bring you pleasure. It is the case that you having those is coming at the cost of other individuals in the world dying by starvation or some other means. If you think the man ought to give up his car to save the girl, Singer thinks you ought to do the same. Further, the problem is recursive, so once you give one thing up, the claim still applies until you are living at the same level with least of the world.

II. Dan Moller on letting people starve -- for now.
Moller gives the following argument:
1. Future lives count just as much as present lives (we have an equal obligation to them as we do to present lives).
2. There will continue to be at-risk people in the forseeable future.
3. The cost of saving lives will decrease over time.
4. There are ways to increase your wealth over time.
5. It would often benefit you to delay providing aid (your life would be more enjoyable).
6. Therefore, we should let people starve -- for now, since we can do more with our resources for future generations.