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The Philosopher’s Library (Part 1) published 20/03/2016

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Since I don’t really read fiction, I don’t think I have been influenced by it in any way. On the odd occasions I do read, I like fiction that explores philosophical ideas. The novels of Sartre and Dostoievski are obvious examples. I also love the short stories of Borges. These are the closest thing to philosophy-fiction, if there is such a genre.

15 Philosophers recommend books for your bookshelves taken from the End Times series.

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Bigger Than Chaos published 19/03/2016

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In the nineteenth century, scientists and government statisticians began to find fairly stable social trends: rates of marriage, suicide, undeliverable letters and other unfortunate events tended to stay much the same from year to year (though the rates differed from place to place). Further, these patterns could be captured quite well using the mathematics of probability, which was fast maturing at the time. There was great hope for a science of society that would replicate the success of the science of inert matter—a “social physics”.

That hope turned out to be premature.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Michael Strevens.

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An Interview with Danielle Dutton published 15/03/2016

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Because Margaret the First took so long to write, I aged while it was happening quite a bit. I started it in my late twenties and I finished it when I was 39. As I was approaching 40, there were things I could understand differently about aging and the desire to accomplish something by a certain age that I couldn’t have understood when I was 29. It made me realize that the book was also about Margaret aging. It seems so simple. But I think I had to age myself to be able to write about it.

Michelle Lyn King interviews Danielle Dutton.

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Not and Other Metalinguistic Stuff published 12/03/2016

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Transparency, in the relevant sense of the word, is a property of certain linguistic contexts. It’s a property they have if they permit the substitution of co-referring terms. For example, before he encountered Darth Vader in Cloud City, Luke Skywalker knew that Anakin Skywalker was his father. He didn’t know that Darth Vader was his father. It came as quite a shock to him, after all, when he learned the sad truth. But ‘Darth Vader’ and ‘Anakin Skywalker’ refer to the same man. So the context ‘Luke Skywalker knew that _ was his father’ fails to be transparent. Only transparent contexts license the sort of inference needed to challenge monism.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Mahrad Almotahari.

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imagination supposition, imagine. published 29/02/2016

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The topic of imagination can evoke fancy, dreams, artistic abilities, in contrast with reality, facts, scientific abilities. Clearly this is a cliché and imagination, as I tried to show beforehand, is strongly connected to knowledge and the sciences. Stereotypically the humanities in general are tied to women, whereas the sciences to men. Moreover, among the humanities philosophy emerges as more masculine than languages or literature, for instance. But this does not stop here. Analytic philosophy is stereotypically masculine (though analytic feminism is increasing its visibility).

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Margherita Arcangeli.

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The Pyrrhonian Skeptic published 28/02/2016

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The conversation I am interested in is also facilitated by the fact that most Greek philosophy pre-dates monotheistic premises. This doesn’t mean that for Plato, Aristotle, Chrysippus, Epicurus, and so on, there is no such thing as divinity. But for them it is a question, and not one to which the answer is simply available, how one should think of a god. And for all the ancients know, the soul may well be physical. The main interlocutors of ancient skeptics, Stoics and Epicureans, think so. This is one reason why ancient skeptics would not come up with external world skepticism. To them, it is an alien idea that ‘the mind’ is different in the relevant, radical way, from ‘the world.’ Instead it is a highly complex part of the world. I think this is along the right lines, and a good reason to study these theories.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Katja Vogt, with images by Jens Haas.

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All About the Ego Tunnel published 25/02/2016

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Conscious experience as such is an exclusively internal affair: Once all functional properties of your brain are fixed, the character of subjective experience is determined as well. If there was no unidirectional flow of time on the level of inner experience, then we would live our conscious lives in a bubble, perhaps like some simple animals or certain mystics – locked into an eternal Now. However, our phenomenal model of reality is not only 3D, but 4D: Subjective time flows forward, the phenomenal self is embedded into this flow, an inner history unfolds. That it is why it is not a bubble, but a tunnel.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Thomas K Metzinger.

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Digital Ghosts published 20/02/2016

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Your whole body is just a system of cells. It’s like a library of interacting books, which all tell stories about each other. Or its like a network of interacting computers. You are a visceral internet, a living digital library. As part of your body, your brain is also digital. If it’s not digital, then what is it? Don’t say analog, because that’s just an infinity of bits. If it’s not digital, then it contains something that escapes binary division. Plato wrote about this in his Sophist, which I think is by far his best dialogue. If you don’t think the brain is digital, then you believe it contains a sophist. To use the Platonic imagery, the brain is a trackless wilderness, haunted by an uncanny shadow.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Eric Steinhart.

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Scepticism and Early Wittgenstein published 13/02/2016

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I had always been attracted to the challenge of understanding Wittgenstein’s enigmatic early work. The Tractatus is the result of a phenomenal burst of intellectual energy. Wittgenstein arrived in Cambridge in 1911 to work with Bertrand Russell. He was 22 years old, he spoke little English and had no philosophical training. By 1913 he had already developed some of the central ideas of the book. He wrote it while serving in the Austrian army during World War I. When the war ended in 1918 he had finished it. The book conveys an enormous sense of depth and mystery. You feel that he is on to something important, even if you can’t quite see what it is.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jose Zalabardo.

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Truth, Knowability, Mind and Romantic Love published 07/02/2016

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Romantic love is a classical philosophical topic, and while neuroscientists and psychologists have much to add, I am of the belief that this is one of the few areas left where philosophers have a clear advantage and can make genuine progress. What really drew me to this topic was my interest in the emotions. Add to that my bewilderment upon witnessing the puzzling tendency in the popular literature to focus either on the ‘feelings’ involved in love or the brain chemicals and neural correlates underlying them.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Berit Brogaard.

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