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

the universe as we find it published 02/05/2014

Until the 17th century objects were thought to do what they did because they were as they were. This is the Aristotelian picture. God creates the objects and endows them with powers. God can intervene in the course of nature in either of two ways: by miraculously modifying the powers possessed by objects, or by directly manipulating them. With Descartes this picture alters dramatically. The source of motion is not to be found in material objects, but in mental substances, finite or infinite.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews John Heil.

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History needs a challenge published 28/04/2014

The sentence itself seems to be coherent; this is a kind of language that doesn’t stumble or hesitate, a language that was seemingly never exposed to anything. What does it mean that everyone should understand? This kind of language seems to function better than anything else, and thereby it might also be false, or at least treacherous. I have tried to work with this authoritarian, didactic language, building sentences that look right but might hold absurdities or inconsistencies. If the rules appear to be arbitrary, you might also discover something that has to do with the rules themselves.

For the 2014 Prague Microfest Giulia Parin interviews the Swedish poet Linn Hansén.

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davidson and derrida published 25/04/2014

Derrida, being also a Heideggerian and French, places Husserlian noemata in a tradition that goes back to Plato—the distinction between logos and rhemata, between the genuine meaning (logos) of a word and other features of a word. Derrida questions this distinction. If we are skeptical about this distinction, then the critique of a discourse can focus on rhetorical features as well as what are considered ‘logical” features of the discourse. I have argued that Quine should agree. Since there are no meanings, the language cannot be divided into the truth-conditional (logical) and “other.” Quine did not pursue this line of thought. Derrida does, and his discussions of Plato illustrate what it would be like to really take there to be no clear “logical” core to a text.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Sam Wheeler III.

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absolute generality published 18/04/2014

I thought it was absolutely obvious that one could make claims about absolutely everything, and started working on the topic because I thought it was ludicrous that anyone could think otherwise.

Now I believe that my younger self was blinded by a metaphysical prejudice.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Agustín Rayo.

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philosophy of biology published 11/04/2014

Philosophy is, roughly speaking, its own field, though it has a special status because it’s so integrative – because the aim of philosophy is to get a coherent and defensible picture of everything going on. I very much like the one-line description of philosophy given by Sellars: philosophy is about “how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term.” If we take this view on board, it implies that philosophy will always be interacting with the sciences and drawing on them, but it won’t be swallowed up by them.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Peter Godfrey-Smith.

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the existentialist of hard choices published 04/04/2014

Maybe Sophie, in choosing between which of Jan and Eva to save from the Nazi gas chambers, was forced to do something that was not guided by reasons. When she chose to save Jan, she was not acting within the scope of her rational agency because practical reason had broken down – she had to existentially plump rather than rationally choose. Hard choices of the second variety allow responses within the scope of rational agency — you remain a rational agent as you agonize over what to do just as you remain a mathematician as you painstakingly work out the next line of the proof. In these substantively hard cases, it makes sense to
continue to deliberate, agonize, ask your mother for advice, and so on. When we choose in such cases, we are exercising our rational agency, not simply plumping like Sartrean existential agents.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Ruth Chang.

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kripke’s unfinished business published 28/03/2014

Is there really an analytic tradition in philosophy?. Of course there is an analytic tradition in philosophy, but analytic philosophy is not a philosophical school. There is no set of philosophical doctrines that all, or even the great majority of analytic philosophers adhere to, and there is no restricted set of common goals or interests. There is also considerable overlap between continental philosophers like Brentano, Husserl, Gadamer, Levinas, and Habermas, on the one hand, and various collections of analytic philosophers on the other. But that doesn’t mean that the divide is merely sociological. The analytic and continental traditions are paths of historical influence that have led to family resemblances among their members, even though some members of each tradition resemble some members of the other more strongly than they resemble various members of their own tradition.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Scott Soames.

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On Popper and hayek published 21/03/2014

Hayek seems to me best understood as a sophisticated classical liberal, and in consequence his work contains much that is at odds with all strains of conservatism. Hayek’s critique of the hubris of those who think that they know enough to run other people’s lives, is, it seems to me, the antithesis of the views of those conservatives who think that they had a calling to re-make the political institutions of those living in the rest of the world. The devastation that has followed would, I think, be exactly what a Hayekian would expect.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jeremy Sheamur.

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Edgeland: Marshland published 20/03/2014

Language and writing often tries to appropriate places and make them understandable. Take the Romantics as an example. Before the Romantics, hills, the Lake District and the countryside were just a wilderness, it was ugly, no one wanted to go there because there were bandits and wolves there. Why would you want to leave the triumph of the Enlightenment in the cities? But the Romantics came along and said, ‘That’s quite pretty’. So for a while language became about describing this exciting new place. Then it got into the Gothic and it became clichéd and all the rest of it, to the point where you couldn’t write about it anymore.

Kit Caless records Simon Spanton in conversation with Gareth E Rees.

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sex, culture and justice published 14/03/2014

I think liberals see these matters as mere imperfections of the real world, without recognising that the continuing oppression of women demonstrates a profound inability of traditional liberal analysis to theorise or rectify injustice. Feminists have been much more successful at this, in part because feminists understand that how women fare in the world is intimately connected to how women and men are portrayed, represented and constructed in that world.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Clare Chambers.

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