Posts in Essays
Keith Lehrer on Self-Trustworthiness

Keith Lehrer anchors the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom in our trustworthiness, and in our acceptance and preference of our trustworthiness. Acceptances of beliefs and preferences of desires constitute what Lehrer calls "metamental ascent,” a distinguishing human characteristic. Yet we human beings are also distinguished, less laudibly, by our capacity to deceive ourselves.

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EssaysBrian Flatgard
Toward an Ethic of Desires

Desires may be represented as a relation between the subject of desire and the object of desire. Suppose Charlotte desires to eat chocolate, first one bar, then another, then another. If she begins, she won't stop until the cows come home. Two questions arise concerning this relation: First, does Charlotte project her desire upon the chocolate, thereby making it desirable, or is chocolate in some way desirable objectively? Second, can Charlotte's desire constitute a vice?

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EssaysBrian Flatgard
Metaphors As Interrogatives

I want to argue that metaphors are deep, determinate interrogatives. Each of these words-’- ‘deep’, ‘determinate’, and ‘interrogative’—needs explanation. But before we turn to definition and argument, it will be helpful, and enjoyable, to have examples to work with. Patrick Kavanagh, an Irish poet who died in 1967, wrote “Raglan Road.” Kavanagh intended that the poem could be sung to, “The Dawning of the Day.” You may have heard musical versions. Raglan Road, literally, is a road in Dublin.

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EssaysBrian Flatgard
Toward a Philosophy of Educational Risk

Risk suffuses human life. Education that would prepare students for life must prepare them for handling risk. Trust breaks the paralysis of risk. Education that would prepare students for negotiating risk must prepare them for responding appropriately with trust. Thus, a philosophy of education must account for the dyadic relation between trust and risk.

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EssaysBrian Flatgard
Why Poetry Is Not Technology: The Inexplicability of Metaphor

Posing the topic, "Why Poetry is not Technology," implies at least some confusion about the relationship between poetry and technology, the possibility of construing poetry as a technology, the possibility of controversy between those who see poetry as technology and those who don't. This possibility might appear remote: In any ordinary sense of 'poetry' and 'technology,' poetry is not a technology. Poetry is a form of literature, literature is not a technology, and therefore poetry is not a technology. The reasoning would seem obvious. In the late Twentieth Century, it isn't, not even to poets. 

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EssaysBrian Flatgard
Religion as Cosmic Metaphor

According to Joseph Kupfer, if someone asks why you believe in God, you should answer with a poem rather than with an argument. The suggestion seems reasonable: Art can persuade where logic fails, and the point applies to religion. A problem arises, however. Persuasion may mislead. Many a person has fallen in love, under inspiration of poetry, wine, and music; thus did love fail from the lovers’ inspired misperceptions. In religion, too, might art persuade just because—as with wine—it impairs our capacity to perceive?

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EssaysBrian Flatgard
Wisdom, War, and Doubt: Notes on Responsible Believing

There was a philosopher, a 19th century Englishman, named W. K. Clifford. Clifford wrote one of the more famous sentences in western philosophy. He said, “It is wrong always, anywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” To repeat, it is wrong—by ‘wrong’ Clifford meant ‘immoral’—it is immoral always, anywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. 

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EssaysBrian Flatgard
Does It Depend On What You Believe?

‘It depends on what you believe’.  This claim surfaces frequently in discussions of morality, religion, and art.  It suggests tolerance on the part of the speaker.  It reminds us of other open-minded sentiments, ‘Who’s to judge?’ and ‘Live and let live’.  The sentence, ‘It depends on what you believe’ seems morally enlightened.

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EssaysBrian Flatgard