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Buzzwords » Top Reads of 2016: Richard Marshall (published 23/12/2016)

12 of what I’ve read this year: The Genesis of Neo-Kantianism, 1796-1880. Frederick Beiser. Beiser is an essential read and this is a great and readable book about an important sub-field of continental philosophy. It includes, for the Beckett fans amongst us, a chapter on Windelband, one of whose books Beckett read and from which […]

Interviews » Restless Hauntings: Richard Marshall Interviews Marina Warner (published 06/04/2009)

mw2By the time photography got into its stride it was accepted pretty much as a documentary index of reality. This was why it became very popular in spirit circles because it proved that spirits existed. Well now of course we know so much more about this very peculiar state of being which has been called ‘image flesh’ – a term of Maurice Merleau-Ponty that I like very much. It’s an expression I like because it implies flesh that is not flesh. He applied it to other forms of iconography, which are also image flesh. They might be more material than a photograph – a sculpture, a painting – but they share the relationship to the mind’s eye that photography does.

Richard Marshall talks Catholicism, zombies and Beckton Alps with Marina Warner.

Interviews » The End Times » Indian Materialist Philosophy (published 17/08/2018)

Buddhism offers a hope of liberation, nirvāṇa, getting out of the cycle of birth and rebirth, with suffering accompanying every birth. On the other hand, materialism has nothing to offer but the naked truth that consciousness dies as soon as the body is dead; therefore, there is no question of either liberation or rebirth. The hope for living forever in heaven is not there. Buddhism in this respect offers a middle way between traditional Hinduism and the Cārvāka/Lokāyata.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Ramkrishna Bhattacharya.

Interviews » The End Times » The Contesting Memory of African Philosophy (published 12/08/2018)

An African philosophical perspective, that takes itself seriously, must engage the question of being—i.e., what to be means—for contemporary Africa, since colonialism, above all else, destroyed the differing modes of African being-in-the-world. Indeed, the struggle for African freedom (which presently has achieved only the status of formal independence) is aimed at precisely this; reclaiming the African experience of being from within the context of our contemporary world. This is what Amilcar Cabral means by “return to the source.” This too is what Frantz Fanon is calling us to when he insists that we must invent our freedom. Remember, this is how The Wretched [Damned] of the Earth ends—one of the most important works of contemporary African philosophy.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Tsenay Serequeberhan.

Reviews » The End Times » Is Time Travel Possible? Are We Close to Doomsday? And Other Big Deals… (published 04/08/2018)

The Doomsday Argument applies anthropic thinking to our place in history.  It says (roughly), we should favour the prospect of imminent human extinction on the grounds that our location, qua randomly selected humans, is more probable if a large fraction of all humans there will ever be have already lived.  In other words, the argument runs, if we apply anthropic reasoning to our location in history, we should increase our probability for history being close to its end.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alasdair Richmond.

Interviews » The End Times » Interdisciplinary: Metaphysics, Science and Philosophy (published 28/07/2018)

Looking at Pauli’s scientific correspondence and the way he originally introduced the principle in a letter to Alfred Landé in 1924, it was clear that it was a purely phenomenological rule to explain some puzzling phenomena in spectroscopy on which Pauli and colleagues had been working for years. Heisenberg referred to it teasingly as Pauli’s “Verbot”; and it was only with Dirac that it became known as “Pauli’s exclusion principle” in 1926. How did a phenomenological rule eventually become a scientific principle?

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Michela Massimi.

Interviews » The End Times » Philosophy and Poetry (published 22/07/2018)

Martha Nussbaum argued that what we value is embedded in narrative structures (it’s the way in which some object figures in a narrative that attaches value and significance to it) and it is the particular histories with certain things that gives them the significance they have in our lives. For instance, my lucky penny is not lucky in itself but has developed this significance because I have carried it around and there have been a series of events which I perceive to have experienced luck whilst in possession of the penny. The penny may have further significance if given to me by a loved one, and so through the connected episodes the object is configured with a particular value and significance that can only be understood or explained with reference to that history. Nussbaum develops this thought with reference to the role emotional responses play in shaping this significance in such episodes (e.g. the feeling of security that comes from knowing I have my lucky penny to my gratitude in succeeding in my endeavours and attributing that gratitude to that particular object).

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Karen Simecek.

Interviews » The End Times » The Weaponising of Free Speech On Campus, and Other Toxicities… (published 20/07/2018)

While the boundaries of speech have been debated and contested on campus for decades, the focus on free speech as a wedge issue is newer and more pressing in the last few years. The history of campus activism is long and storied: Students’ concerns about invited speakers, for instance, have sparked protests and disinvitations in the 1970s; the Vietnam war gave rise to heated political activity on campus; the sweatshop issue prompted students to stage sit-in numerous times over decades. None of the current expressions of tensions – protests, ‘no platforming,’ controversial speakers, disinvitations – is new. What we see now that we have not seen before is, first of all, the involvement of outside groups, ideologically motivated and funded by individuals and organizations, which are promoting the more divisive aspects of the current tensions. It seems that they do so either out of a sense that conservative and right-leaning views are too sparse on college campuses, or as part of an effort to discredit higher education for political reasons.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Sigal Ben-Porath.

Interviews » The End Times » Emptiness and No-Self: Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamaka (published 15/07/2018)

The emptiness of emptiness is interesting as a response to the Madhyamaka dilemma because of its meta-philosophical implications. It forces us to re-examine our conception of what philosophical theories are and what they do. The theory of emptiness certainly looks like a very general and very comprehensive metaphysical theory. And if we consider it from the perspective of Western metaphysics we are all familiar with, it is unclear how we could say that such a theory is not making the claim that it is ultimately true.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jan Westerhoff.

The End Times » How Not To Be A Frog In A Well: Chinese/German/Buddhist Philosophy (published 14/07/2018)

Hegel and Rosenzweig belong to what could well be described as the religiously motivated rejection of non-Western forms of thought; they lack the grandeur and height of God and the individual dignity of the person that they respectively associate with Christianity and Judaism. These narratives are not only historically problematic in the past; they concern the present. Each time someone claims that the Chinese are merely imitative and not capable of creativity, merely collective without any sense of individuality, that an idea does not matter because it is only Chinese, and so on, they are reproducing the Eurocentric and Aryanist (it should not be forgotten the common use of such terms across the West until 1945) racial schemata that emerged in the Enlightenment as reason and freedom were increasingly identified as unique capacities of a particular race and civilization that had the duty to rule over lesser ones.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Eric S. Nelson.