:: Interviews archive ( click for A-Z index)

talking to all the smartest people in the world published 14/07/2014

In “I thought I saw the whole universe (Scarlett Johansson in Versace)”, the actress’s sequined torso is refigured in oil on canvas as the night sky. This piece is both Blake’s world in a grain of sand and Doctor Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who. We stand in front of it together and gaze at the black and white, star-like surface, the thin arms, the incandescence that emanates from within the paint itself.

Joanna Pocock interviews Margaux Williamson‘s talking to all the smartest people in the world.

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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 .

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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.

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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.

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the double life of objects published 27/06/2014

Metaphysicians often begin with prephilosophically accessible phenomena and then go deep by asking what the phenomena are like fundamentally. Given that the phenomena are familiar, we have common-sense beliefs and intuitions about them.What role does common sense play in the metaphysical enterprise? I believe that foundational metaphysical analysis should aim to preserve our common-sense conception. The task is a difficult one. Soon tensions between our metaphysical principles and our ordinary thought and talk start appearing. But we should resist giving up our prephilosophical beliefs too easily.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Thomas Sattig.

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Lacan and french post-rationalism published 20/06/2014

I don’t think there’s a single ‘political stance’ of post-rationalism. Here, I would want to compare the thinkers I wrote about it in that book to the literary figures associated with modernism. The latter, as a movement, was as often associated with fascism as it was with the Left. That’s not true empirically for post-rationalism – most of the later figures I write about in the book were or became revolutionary socialists of various stripes, although Lacan was no Marxist – but I don’t think there’s anything inevitable about the Leftism of this style of thought.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Tom Eyers.

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schelling, adorno and all that jazz published 13/06/2014

Basically, you’re not going to be responding adequately to protesters in Tahrir square if you argue that freedom is an illusion, because materialists have shown determinism is universal. The metaphysical debate can in these terms itself contribute to unfreedom by reducing the scope of what needs to be investigated. As Adorno points out, freedom of the will only becomes an issue at all at a particular historical juncture, when the idea of a natural order of things disintegrates with the rise of bourgeois individualism. In this kind of perspective it may be more important to ask why the debate so often focuses on the metaphysical question of freedom of the will, when that is not the decisive issue.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Andrew Bowie.

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deep control, death and co published 06/06/2014

“What is the value of acting from one’s own, reasons-responsive mechanism”? I suggest that this value is the same as the value we place on artistic self-expression. In acting freely, we are (in a sense) writing a sentence in the narrative of our lives. Our free will transforms us into authors of the stories of our lives, and endows us with an irreducible “narrative” dimension of value.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews John Martin Fischer.

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Momus and his Writerly Self published 02/06/2014

I’m in a small town in Sweden right now, and today I went to an outlet store in an industrial park and saw basic garments covered in American flags and placenames. My first thought was: “Could I cut these flags off?” But why actually sew an American flag onto a pair of mass-market tracksuit pants made in China and sold in Sweden? Why can’t I buy some pants without also buying the idea of America? And who is selling me America, if the pants are actually made in Tajikistan and Bangladesh? Then I saw cheap paperback translations of American mass-market novels at the local supermarket, and even big American cars on the roads….At the same time, Sweden has something like IKEA, which represents a non-American global-imperialist success story.

Writer Adam Novy interviews Momus about his recently published title from Penny-Ante, unAmerica.

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Multiverses and sleeping beauty published 30/05/2014

The Everettian multiverse is one of the most beautiful ideas in the history of science. If it’s wrong, at least it’s gloriously, elegantly, ambitiously wrong. My approach to Everettian quantum mechanics (EQM) builds directly upon that of the ‘Oxford Everettians’ – David Deutsch, Simon Saunders, David Wallace, and Hilary Greaves. Wallace’s presentation of the view has become canonical, and any seriously interested readers should start by ignoring me and reading his lovely book The Emergent Multiverse.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alastair Wilson.

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