The Moral Argument Against Footnotes and PDF

Once upon a time, I loved footnotes and PDF documents. Now I don’t. I prefer eBook format and endnotes. I admit that footnotes are handy sometimes. For example, when I read visually, it’s nice to have the notes on the same page as the body text. However, footnotes are not so handy for auditory reading. Neither are PDF documents. For instance, footnotes wreak havoc on auditory reading. They interrupt the audio stream of the main body of text — sometimes mid-sentence. And since many people have to rely on auditory reading to consume academic research, this means that PDF documents and footnotes decrease the accessibility of research. That’s bad. If we can avoid this bad, we should. And we can avoid it. So we should.

1.  Books vs. Articles

Sometimes academic books are available in an eBook version that is amenable to auditory reading — e.g., Amazon’s Kindle format and Apple’s iBook format. And some academic books have a proper audiobook version — e..g, Amazon’s audiobooks. This is great, but… Continue reading The Moral Argument Against Footnotes and PDF

Representative Art vs. The Real Thing: Which is more beautiful?

“…we think that the world would be improved if we could substitute for the best works of representative art real objects equally beautiful.”

G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica (§117,¶ 2)


I don’t buy it. 

Consider the statue of David. Now ask yourself, “Would this be more or less beautiful if it were an actual man standing on the pedestal?”

Continue reading Representative Art vs. The Real Thing: Which is more beautiful?

25+ Cognitive Science Podcasts

Cognitive Science investigates the mind with methods and tools from various fields like computer science, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy. Here are some popular cognitive science podcasts. I listen to almost all of them, so feel free to contact me if you have questions that are not answered in each podcast’s description below.

Continue reading 25+ Cognitive Science Podcasts

50+ Cognitive Science and/or Philosophy Blogs

Here is a list of cognitive science and/or philosophy blogs. Feel free to share it and/or suggest additions to the list. Continue reading 50+ Cognitive Science and/or Philosophy Blogs

Considering Third Party Candidates? A Podcast Discussion

The 2016 US election has many people thinking about third party candidates. Good news: philosophers and others have been sorting out the ethics and rationality of voting for awhile now. I talk about the philosophy of third party voting with Kurt Jaros below:

The Podcast

Continue reading Considering Third Party Candidates? A Podcast Discussion

The Four Levels of Apology

Apologies are crucial for relationships. Apologizing allows for forgiveness and anger reduction, among other things (McCullough et al 2014). It took my spouse and I awhile to realize that we did not understand ‘I’m sorry’ in the same way. So, eventually, we agreed to distinguish between four levels of apology. These levels capture each of our concepts of ‘apology’ (as well as some related concepts). Later on, we drew up another set of distinctions to gauge the badness of what we apologize for. In this post, I’ll explain the distinctions and how they help our relationships.

1. Four Levels of Apology

My spouse and I like speaking precisely. “Precision of language!” we tease one another (Lowry 2002). So how precise are we when it comes to apologies and responsibility?† Well, depending on how responsible we feel, we will offer one of four levels of apology: Continue reading The Four Levels of Apology

Does Ethics Rest On A Mistake? Three Arguments That It Does 

There are at least three philosophy papers whose titles ask this question. They all argue that ethics does rest on a mistake. However, they disagree about the mistake and, therefore, about the solution. Below I’ll give a very brief overview of each paper.

Prichard, H. A. (1912). Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake? Mind, 21(81), 21–37. [HTML, open access]

  • Answer: yes.
  • The mistake: thinking that philosophical reasoning confers the motivating force of moral obligation.
  • Solution: intuitionism — in the same way that we “know” or “have access” to the deductive force of logical entailment or mathematical proof, we have the ability to “know” or “have access” to motivational force of moral obligation.

Gettner, Alan. (1976). “Does moral philosophy rest on a mistake?” The Journal of Value Inquiry, 10(4), 241–252. [Online, behind paywall] 

  • Answer: yes.
  • The mistake: the method of trying to find moral laws (or treating ethics as a science).
  • The solution: challenge and supplant this method.

Jones, William Thomas. (1988, March). Does moral philosophy rest on a mistake? Humanities Working Paper, 132. California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA [Online, open access]

  • Answer: yes.
  • The mistake: thinking that ethics is not fundamentally different from psychology, economics, and anthropology. (Error theory: our philosophical vocabulary led us to make this mistake.)
  • Solution: treat ethics as co-extensive with psychology, economics, and anthropology.
What Do you think?
  1. Does ethics rest on a mistake? If not, then where did these papers go wrong?
  2. If ethics rests on a mistake, what is the mistake?
  3. Is there a solution? If so, what is it?