Since this has been living rent free in my head, the way that philosophy thinks about "thought experiments," the qualitative control or "style" required for thought experiments to be taken as such, has a lot to do with how they fail where fiction succeeds.
By "qualitative control," I mean the very specific stylistic demands of "thought experiments" in philosophy. Now, most philosophers would argue that there is no "style" nor a "stylistic demand" imposed upon philosophical thought experiments, I take that to be bullshit.
Were this not the case, we would recognize Mengzi's "child in the well," Dogen's "Mountains and Rivers as Sutras," or even the whole tradition of Koan practice across Buddhism as thought experiments. And yet, they are classed as something else, something other.
Now, this might be a problem of how the western construction of philosophy, and its qualitative controls, exclude non-western philosophies. Sure. But let's take a western example: Gloria Steinem's "If Men Could Menstruate," linked below.…
This is very clearly framed as a thought experiment, and even follows some of the philosophical conventions of that framing. However, stylistically, it disregards those conventions in favor of world building more aligned with short fiction than the "swampman."
I'd argue that Steinem's stylistic choice, the qualitative controls she adopts, in her thought experiment are what enables "If Men Could Menstruate" to function better than other examples of thought experiments in the philosophical genre.
So, if we want "thought experiments" to actually do the work they're supposed to do, we need to look beyond the western philosophical canon, and its qualitative controls, and towards thought traditions that use narrative and poetry to make present possible worlds.
And, to get back to the point, fiction is all about creating a possible world and exploring the limits of that world. In germ, this is what thought experiments are supposed to do; in practice, the style of thought experiments rob them of this power.
Anyway, if you want to be a better philosopher, read some fiction. Preferably fiction by people who do not share your experience of the world.

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More from @shengokai

6 Jun
To be clear, I did not ask science or scientists to make policy: I asked that bioethicists consider the social implications of the research they produced.

Now, in doing so, I appealed to Dewey's conception of the responsibility of science to society for very good reasons.
First, many bioethicists seem to think of themselves as informing the deployment of science via philosophy. That's fine. But as purported experts on the ethical questions at the intersection of biology and ethics, they share responsibility for how the work is used.
This point is worth considering as the work of the authors of that paper is routinely circulated within the professional fields that emerge from the sciences. Here, I'm talking specifically about medicine, and the ways their work informs medical dispositions toward disability.
Read 20 tweets
5 Jun
I'm going to respond to this one because it is important. In "Feminist Killjoys and Other Willful Subjects" Sara Ahmed says the following:

"That you have described what was said by another as a problem means you have created a problem. You become the problem you create."
Put in an academic context, that I have described the "quest for truth" as practiced by the academy as a problem, means that I have created a problem. In creating the problem, in problematizing the quest for truth, I have become a problem. Hence, I am an example of the problem.
Let's run this back. I've become the problem because I've shattered the "happy image" of what the quest for truth entails, what the consequences of that quest have been, and how those consequences have caused suffering. The "happy image" of an unproblematic life of mind is gone.
Read 10 tweets
5 Jun
My thread on the Singer paper has apparently upset some folks with my characterization of its conclusions and how I associated it with a larger trend of using academic freedom to defend bigotry and marginalization.

I'd like to begin my response with the following:
Having said that, I'm actually going to respond seriously.

I will not be tagging some folks I'm referencing in this thread because they, and their work, do not deserve to be collateral damage in whatever twitter shitstorm emerges from the "partisan language" in this response.
That said, many of the responses are concerned about how the thread "shuts down inquiry" or uses the language of religion to essentially do what Singer and company predicted would be done in their section on "partisan language" and "polarization." This is not a problem for me.
Read 27 tweets
5 Jun
Actually, let me go a little further about this since I'm good and mad. I warned people that the logical consequence of these "academic freedom" fights would be the creation of a field where people can pass off bigotry as scholarship unchecked.
Now, "Can 'eugenics' be defended" doesn't function in the same way as the GC's circulation of bigotry as scholarship, but it is operating in the same rhetorical sphere where inquiry must be defended at all costs, regardless of the harm it does to the subjects of that inquiry.
And, make no mistake, this article isn't calling for a reasoned conversation about the nature of "genetic enhancement" or any of the other euphemisms used by the authors: it is looking to evade the responsibility of considering the impact of this scholarship on disabled people.
Read 8 tweets
5 Jun
I read that fucking Singer eugenics paper and rarely have I been more disgusted with the state of this cursed field.
Bold of them to make this claim when the majority of these folks, and the discipline at large, refuses to engage with work by disabled philosophers, much less philosophical work that puts these "problems" in a larger social and cultural context, a context this piece ignores.
I'm suddenly reminded of Audre Lorde, of Frederick Douglass, who pointed out the hypocrisy of asking us to engage in dialogue when no such olive branch has been extended. We need only look at the citations on this paper for confirmation of this point.
Read 7 tweets
4 Jun
Get to work figuring out the broader institutional structure. What does "head of Universal Pictures" mean, and what are the limits of my authority?

That would take about a month Then, I'd collect my first paycheck, and pay off some of my debt.
Oh, you meant what else I would do? Start an educational division focused on providing students with practical, hands on experience in each of Universal's subsidiary units.

I'd focus the division's outreach at public 4 year, regional, minority serving, and community colleges.
By "practical, hands on experience," I don't just mean the actor/director/writer's craft, I mean everything from information technology, to set forepersons, to catering and transportation services, all of it.
Read 4 tweets

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