Here is an interview I gave with the KNEA on academic freedom.
I recently had couple of pieces go public. One is a book review of Brook Ziporyn’s Ironies of Oneness and Difference, published in the ASDP East/West Center alumni chapter’s newsletter. The other is a short version of a paper that I’ve been kicking around forever that finally found a home in an edition of Philosophy Pathways focused on childhood.
The mistake people make with Nagel’s most famous work is focusing too much on the stupid bat, as neither the bat nor our inability to know what it’s like to be a bat is all the important to his argument. The misplaced emphasis makes people respond to Nagel as if he were making an epistemological point, rather than using an epistemological observation as part of an argument about ontology and science. As I read him, Nagel is arguing that the subjectivity of something like pain is essential–to talk meaningfully of pain is to talk about pain as experienced by a subject. This creates the epistemological gap highlighted by the bat example, but more importantly demonstrates the irreducibility of pain. Unlike phenomena that don’t have an essential subjective aspect, something like pain cannot be treated in the standard scientific way that strips away the subjective properties of our experience of a thing to arrive at an objective description it. Nagel’s example is lightening. As experienced lightning has various subjective properties. Strip these away and you still have lightening–being experienced as a bright flash in the sky is not part of what lightening is in itself. Not so, says Nagel, with pain. Strip away the subjective properties of pain and you’re changing the subject. Continued…
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