Friday, November 05, 2004

eastern (division) philosophy bazaar

This December I'm off to Boston to attend the APA Eastern Division meeting. I've just had a look at program and I thought I'd write up some notes. For a start, Ernest Sosa will be opening the meeting with a talk on "“How Do Dreams Bear on Philosophy?” It's the only paper with the keyword "dream" in the title, which is a sad statistic on just how bad dreaming fares in today's academia (at least among philosophers). Compare that with the dream saturated popular media and you may get an idea why contemporary philosophers shunned dreams until the advent of The Matrix. As Erion & Smith write in their contribution to the collection of essays The Matrix and Philosophy:
...we can make sense of the distinction between waking and dreaming itself only if we really are awake sometimes, and since we can distinguish the two kinds of experience, it follows that there can be no serious reason to worry that our lives might be made up entirely of dream sequences that never end.
That's not really the conclusion of The Matrix Trilogy, or of the other contributors to the Matrix symposium. Chalmers, for instance, seems to think that something like a Matrix Hypothesis (that is, the notion that I am and have always being in something like an artificially simulated environment) can be seriously entertained: the simulation can be so perfect that in the Matrix one can entertain rationally justified and justifiable beliefs about what is "real".

In fact, the Matrix Trilogy endorses a view of reality not unlike that of the dream puzzled Chuang Tzu. As the story goes, Chuang Tzu dreamt one night he was a butterfly and when he woke up he could not figure out whether it was he, Chuang Tzu, who dreamt of a butterfly, or a butterfly now dreaming he was Chuang Tzu. Personally, I prefer the Chuang Tzu's dream allegory because it leaves open the possibility of doubt no matter what state of consciousness you happen to be in (in the Matrix or outside of it, in the "real" world; I wonder though - is there truly an outside?).

Anyway, this year there are symposia on the nature of time, just wars, Fichte, rational choice, skepticism, and the philosophy of mind, and some very interesting special sessions on latin american philosophy and feminism, etc.

John Bigelow, who's on the time symposium should have something interesting to say about time, judging by what's he's already said about space (in Timeaus). For those who've been on a long road to skepticism (and wondered if there was a shortcut) Baron Reed's paper gives some directions, although his defense of the notion that "justified belief (a la Gettier) differs from a lucky guess in that the former is likely to be true" does not necessarily hold if fallibilism is true. Also on the skepticism symposium is Bryan Frances with his Frankenstenian dream of breathing life into skepticism (forthcoming as Skepticism Made Live from OUP next year).

I also wonder what Marios Vargas will have to say about Eurocentrism and the philosophy of liberation (the title of his talk) given his wayward journey into full time philosophy via careers in baking and video game testing.

It's also good to see that Asian philosophy is so well represented this year with a special session on the status of Asian and Asian-American philosophers and philosophies. Charles Goodman's is asking “"Has Strawson Refuted Dharmakīrti?”" Generations of Naiyaikas have tried and failed so I doubt that Strawson has all the muscle needed to defeat Dharmakīrti. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what Goodman comes up with. Two more papers from Owen Flanagan and Mark Siderits are covering Buddhist ethics and ontology. Then there are talks on Dewey and Madhyamaka, consciousness and Advaita Vedanta, and various Chinese philosohy topics. Finally, the ISBP is holding a special panel on Mind in Buddhist Philosophy with three contributions from Dan Arnold on "Causes and Reasons in Buddhist Philosophy," Michael Sheehy on "Rang byung rDo rje’s Variegations of Mind Reflections," and myself on "Mental Imagery and the Buddhist Epistemology of Perception."

A true Eastern philosophy bazaar!


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