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Interviews » The End Times » Saying no! to Jack Bauer: mainstreaming torture (published 22/08/2014)

Within a few weeks of the 9/11 attacks, it became clear to anyone who wanted to know that one result was that people were going to be tortured. Of course this wasn’t the first time the U.S. government has been involved with torture, but September 11 did mark a real change. Almost overnight, a question that many people believed had been resolved – whether or not torture is wrong – was reopened. In November of 2011, Jonathan Alter, a mainstream liberal columnist, wrote in Newsweek, “In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to … torture.” He wondered whether it might be a good plan to deport the Muslims living in the United States whom the FBI had rounded up to “Saudi Arabia, land of beheadings.”

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Rebecca Gordon.

Nonfiction » Pataphysics is dead serious (published 19/08/2014)

Can a man who asks for a toothpick on his deathbed be serious? Can a College which has Committees for Hirsutism and Pogonotrophy or a calendar with names of months such as Phallus (Phalle) or Pshit (merdre) , and whose members devote a large amount of time to spoonerisms and to Oulipo games such as writing novels without the letter “e”, be really serious? Indeed, His Magnificence Irénée-Louis Sandomir, the founder and first Vice-Curator of the College, says in his Opus Pataphysicum: “Doesn’t serious mean anti-pataphysical”? And the College’s specialist of spoonerisms, the Regent Luc Etienne formulated the main axiom:”The real pataphysician takes nothing seriously, except ‘Pataphysics, which consists in taking nothing seriously”, and added a corollary: “‘Pataphysics consisting in taking nothing seriously, the true Pataphysician cannot take anything seriously, not even ‘Pataphysics”.

Pascal Engel on the seriousness of Pataphysics.

Interviews » The End Times » responsibility and punishment (published 15/08/2014)

A multi-disciplinary perspective is necessary if one wants a nuanced understanding of the mental states legal responsibility depends upon, and the way in which scientific psychology may, or may not provide evidence that such states are present in a criminal defendant. Court cases are a rich source of information regarding folk psychological assessments of responsibility, and legal scholars discuss, categorize, and critique courts’ handling of hard cases. Neuroscience currently represents cutting-edge scientific accounts of human psychology, and lawyers are increasingly presenting neuroscientific data as evidence. Philosophy is a way to bridge the gap between the folk psychological foundation of legal responsibility and neuroscience.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Katrina Sifferd.

Interviews » The End Times » queer theology and sexchatology (published 08/08/2014)

Saying we all have a sexuality doesn’t mean we are all being sexual, in the way we usually use that shorthand, all the time. Sexuality is about our creativity, our generativity, the energy through which and in which we interact with the world – so a person who’s temporarily or permanently celibate doesn’t stop being sexual just because they’re not being genital with anyone else. Sexuality is about far more than orientation.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Susannah Cornwall.

Interviews » The End Times » Foucault’s freedom (published 01/08/2014)

Practices of state violence are not just instruments for upholding sovereignty and for enforcing the law. They have increasingly got their own internal ends that legitimize them and law is used simply as a particular tactic for the achievement of these ends. The deployment of law thus becomes strategic: it functions as means to predetermined policy ends and not as the ground of their legitimacy.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Johanna Oksala.

Interviews » The End Times » truth, success and frank ramsey (published 25/07/2014)

Philosophy was then very popular in France, but not in the present day sense of people going to philosophical cafés or festivals, and of the success of lousy books on happiness and wisdom. Philosophy was a political subject, which made a difference to our lives. The intellectual atmosphere was electric, and just after 1968 we had a sense that something was happening, although nobody knew what it was. Sartre was still very active in leftist politics, as well as Deleuze and Foucault. They were our stars, and everyone was discussing Freud, Lacan, Marx, Mao. We dreamt – but only dreamt – of being street fighting men.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Pascal Engel.

Interviews » The End Times » towards hope (published 18/07/2014)

I regard love as a more decisive focus of meaning than death. In terms of Heidegger’s argument, this is because I think he misdescribes the importance of the deaths of others and focuses exclusively on my relation to my own death. But, in reality, the deaths of others have a more urgent and immediate impact on our lives than the purely notional knowledge that I too will one day die.Ethics arises in the recognition of our obligation to care for others as beings, like us, exposed to mortality—that is, beings who need our help. Buddhism, not wrongly, extends this to ‘all sentient beings’.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews George Pattison.

Interviews » The End Times » on cognitive artifacts (published 11/07/2014)

Two of the main characteristics of human cognition are the ability for tool using (though that’s not something that is unique to humans), and processes of cultural accumulation of knowledge (also not unique to humans strictly speaking, but much less pronounced in non-human animals). So in a sense, when it comes to cognition (and other matters), the nature vs. nurture dichotomy is deeply mistaken: our biological nature is precisely that of being cultural animals!

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Catarina Dutilh Novaes .

Interviews » The End Times » dreams of reason (published 07/07/2014)

First, there is Hume’s engagement with scepticism, which is the most thoroughgoing such engagement of all modern philosophers. (Descartes was just using scepticism as a stage device to frighten conventional thinkers into the arms of his own new system.)What I like is Hume’s refusal to accept any easy answers, combined with an equally resolute refusal to say something bonkers (ie, that we don’t in fact know anything). We could all do with more of Hume’s moderate scepticism, especially in science. This is one thing that years of science journalism taught me.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Anthony Gottlieb.

Interviews » The End Times » String theory and post-empiricism (published 04/07/2014)

Smolin and a number of other critics of string theory have quite vigorously argued that the string physicists’ trust in the viability of their theory is unfounded and constitutes an unfortunate deviation from the path of legitimate scientific reasoning. I think that those critics make two mistakes. First, they implicitly presume that there is an unchanging conception of theory confirmation that can serve as an eternal criterion for sound scientific reasoning. If this were the case, showing that a certain group violates that criterion would per se refute that group’s line of reasoning. But we have no god-given principles of theory confirmation. The principles we have are themselves a product of the scientific process.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Richard Dawid.