Reading Log – February 10th, 2021

Back to candidacy paper readings today. I’m working on a paper related to philosophical intuitionism and epistemic self-defeat. That is, I’m interested in arguments concerning whether arguments undermining intuition (in the technical, philosophical sense of the word) are ultimately self-defeating since they must rely on intuition. I actually began the Smithies paper a couple days ago but set it down halfway through due to its length. The Smithies piece didn’t turn out to directly relate to my project as much as I’d hoped, but was still an illuminating read in the vicinity since it discusses intuitionism. The Zouhar reading relates directly to my project, and while I disagree with most of what he has to say that’s what makes his essay interesting and valuable.

  • Smithies, Declan. “On the Global Ambitions of Phenomenal Conservatism.” Analytic Philosophy, Vol. 60, No. 3, 2019. 206-244.

This is the longest standalone article I’ve read while reading for my candidacy paper. It’s an attack on Michael Huemer’s theory of ‘Phenomenal Conservatism,” though it’s also a companion piece to Smithies’ book The Epistemic Role of Consciousness (2019), given that he’s continually referring the reader back to the book for the details on his own theory of “Accessibilism,” which features prominently in the article. It’s probably for the best since the article is long enough – though too much of its length is repetition of the same ideas. I should say something about substance instead of complaining about the style and length. Although Smithies attacks Phenomenal Conservatism his own theory still takes intuitions as evidence, so it’s not a direct challenge to my own thinking. His claim that intuitions lack presentational phenomenology, and are in that way dis-analogous to perception, does seem to raise some problems for proponents of sui generis intuitionism, however.

  • Zouhar, Marian. “On the Alleged Indispensability of Intuitions to Philosophy.” The Balkan Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2015. 37-44.

Zouhar’s target is George Bealer’s argument that modal intuitions are indispensable to philosophy. He think that Bealer is mistaken since certain philosophical arguments can be formulated without referring to intuitions. Likewise, Zouhar thinks modal intuitions can be arrived at through induction, without the need for intuition. I think Zouhar misses the point of Bealer’s arguments, but I haven’t read all of the relevant Bealer yet so I could be wrong. Regardless, certain modal intuitions (about, say, the necessity of accepting the conclusion of a sound argument) do seem indispensable to philosophy and argumentation in general. Zouhar states that we can simply “assume” these things without evidence, but that seems an abandonment of the search for answers rather than an actual one. There are real concerns that “intuition” might not be a reliable source of evidence, but I don’t think denying the need for evidence is a plausible alternative. Still, a very helpful read!

Reading Log – February 9th, 2021

I intended some time ago to begin a daily log of what I was reading, both to remind myself and to record some thoughts before I moved onto the next thing the following day. Today I took a break from reading for my candidacy paper to re-read material for a publication.

The paper I’m preparing is tentatively titled “The Regress of Nationalism” and is intended for Medjunarodne Studije/International Studies, a bilingual journal that publishes articles in English and Croatian. Back in November I gave a (virtual) talk at the State (In)Stability 2020 conference at Libertas International University called “Multiculturalism and the Regress of Nationalism”, which was an early version of the paper I’m writing. The speakers were invited to submit their papers afterward for a special edition of the associated journal.

Here is what I (re-)read today:

  • Moore, Margaret. “On National Self-Determination.” Nations and Nationalism: A Reader. Ed. Philip Spencer & Howard Wollman. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005. 221-236.

I agree with Moore that nations are best understood according to a subjective definition, but that might be all we agree on. She provides a strong argument for affording political sovereignty to nations, but I think it is misguided. In particular, I think it’s a mistake to identify the “people” who are owed self-government with a particular nation. In short, national identities are shifting, overlapping, and unstable. You can never design political boundaries that perfectly align with national boundaries, so there must be another basis for the state. In the paper I intend to argue the necessity of multicultural accommodation that can permit the multi-national coalition building required to ground a political state.

  • Trudeau, Pierre. “The New Treason of the Intellectuals.” Against the Current. Ed. Gerard Pelletier. Toronto: McCelland & Stewart, 1993. 151-181.

I first read the collection of Pierre Trudeau’s writings, Against the Current, during high-school. The critique of national self-determination he provides in “The New Treason of the Intellectuals” has always stuck with me as powerful. To briefly summarize, if the principle of national self-determination is consistently granted to national groups then each will find another minority nation within itself as soon as it achieves independence. The result is a regress with no stopping point at which a stable state can form. This is at the heart of the paper I’m working on. There is much more of value in this essay by Trudeau as well, particularly his optimistic proposal for what Canada could become.