Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More Favorite Movie Scenes


Despicable Me

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective


Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon 2

At the Circus


Man on the Moon

Jurassic Park

The Caine Mutiny

Monday, May 23, 2011

Very interesting

Here's an audio recording of Hilary Putnam and Alvin Plantinga, two of the greatest living philosophers, discussing the existence of God. I didn't realize that Putnam is Jewish. It's from ten years ago, but it was just put on YouTube a couple of days ago.

(cross-posted at Quodlibeta)

Friday, May 20, 2011


Apologies for not posting much for the last few months. As I've mentioned, I'm finishing up my dissertation, and haven't had the time to blog. Out of devotion to my readers I point you to this fascinating article about three boys from an island in the South Pacific who took a small boat and were lost at sea for 51 days with almost no food and water.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Quote of the Day

The kind of situation Goldman describes, namely one in which two events C and C* are seen to be nomologically necessary and sufficient for each other, and in which each of them is thought to constitute an explanans for one and the same event E, is an inherently unstable situation. This is so especially when C and C* are each a member of a system of events (or concepts) such that the two systems to which they respectively belong show the kind of systematic nomological connections Goldman envisages for the psychological and the physiological. The instability of the situation generates a strong pressure to find an acceptable account of the relationship between C and C*, and, by extension, that between the two systems to which they belong; the instability is dissipated and a cognitive equilibrium restored when we come to see a more specific relationship between the two explanations. As we shall see, in cases of interest, the specific relationship replacing equivalence will be either identity or some asymmetric dependency relation.

Another way of putting my point would be this: a certain instability exists in a situation in which two distinct events are claimed to be nomologically equivalent causes or explanations of the same phenomenon; stability is restored when equivalence is replaced by identity or some asymmetric relation of dependence. That is, either two explanations (or causes) in effect collapse into one or, if there indeed are two distinct explanations (or causes) here, we must see one of them as dependent on, or derivative from, the other -- or, what is the same, one of them as gaining explanatory or causal dominance over the other.

The tension in this situation that gives rise to the instability can be seen in various ways. First, if C and C* are each a sufficient cause of the event E, then why isn't E overdetermined? It is at best extremely odd to think that each and every bit of action we perform is overdetermined in virtue of having two distinct sufficient causes. To be sure, this differs from the standard case of overdetermination in which the two overdetermining causes are not nomologically connected. But why does the supposed nomological relationship between C and C* void the claim that this is a case of causal overdetermination? Notice the trade-off here: the closer this is to a standard case of overdetermination, the less dependent are the two explanations in relation to each other, and, correlatively, the more one stresses the point that this is not a case of standard overdetermination because of the nomic equivalence between the explanations, the less plausible is one's claim that we have here two distinct and independent explanations.

Second, if C and C* are nomic equivalents, they co-occur as a matter of law -- that is, it is inomologically impossible to have one of these occur without the other. Why then do they not form a single jointly sufficient cause of E rather than two individually sufficient causes? How do we know that each of C and C* is not just a partial cause of E? Why, that is, should we not regard C and C* as forming a single complete explanation of E rather than two separately sufficient explanations of it? How do we decide one way or the other?

When we reflect on the special case of psychophysical causation, where C, let's say, is a psychological event, C* is its physiological correlate, and E is some bodily movement associated with an action, it would be highly implausible to regard C as directly acting on the body to bring about E (e.g., my belief and desire telekinetically acting on the muscles in my arm and shoulder and making them contract, thereby causing my arm to go up); it would be more credible to think that if the belief-desire pair is to cause the movement of my arm, it must "work through" the physical causal chain starting from C*, some neural event in the brain, culminating in a muscle contraction. If this is right, we cannot regard C and C* as constituting independent explanations of E. We must think of the causal efficacy of C in bringing about E as dependent on that of its physical correlate C*.

I believe that these perplexities are removed only when we have an account of the relation between C and C*, the two supposed causes of a single action, and that, as I shall argue, an account that is adequate to this task will show that C and C* could not each constitute a complete and independent explanation of the action.

Jaegwon Kim
"Mechanism, Purpose, and Explanatory Exclusion"
Supervenience and Mind: Selected Philosophical Essays

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My two favorite musical passages

In addition to my favorite piece of music, there are also short passages of music that I absolute love. Below are my two favorites. Of course I love the entire pieces in which they appear, and recommend you listen to the whole pieces, since part of what makes these passages so wonderful is the parts they play in the overall pieces.

I've mentioned before that I think Bach is at his best when he writes for solo instruments, and his cello suites are no exception. Here is the prelude to his sixth suite performed by Yo-Yo Ma. The video is kinda freaky. The passage that I love is from 2:55 to 3:04. Prior to this point the piece is in a fairly standard 12/8 time signature (I assume), divided into four beats with three eighth notes per beat: 3 + 3 + 3 + 3. In the passage I love, he divides it up differently: 2 + 5 + 3 + 2. Perhaps the 5 could be divided up as 2 + 3, but I'm not sure. Regardless, this is insane. And no one could have pulled it off except Bach. The man was an absolute genius.

The next piece is the first movement from Mendelssohn's violin concerto in E minor, with Sarah Chang on the violin. In my opinion, Mendelssohn is one of the most underappreciated composers in history; he's famous, but he should be as famous as Mozart and Beethoven. My wife is not as appreciative of the minor keys, but when she heard this she was just in awe: "The violin just sang" she said. The passage I love is from 8:56 to 9:42. Here, you really have to listen to the whole piece because what makes the passage so amazing is that it repeats the main theme from the piece in a different and utterly brilliant format.