:: The End Times

Hegel and the Ethical Life published 08/12/2018

Costello presents a challenge to the account of critical reflection that I go on to offer, because she suggests that such atrocities could become so seamlessly integrated into everyday life that no one suspects (except lone critics like her) that there is something deeply wrong here.  It presents a challenge to Hegel’s optimism that, if there is something deeply wrong here, it will break through the surface in the form of practical contradictions, which will in turn make continued participation in the practice in question increasingly untenable. 

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Andreja Novakovic.

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Kant’s Sublime published 30/11/2018

Kantian moral psychology borrows quite a lot from the Stoics, including the basic conception of the good as the object of practical reason. In the second Critique (5:57ff.), Kant points out that German has ready resources to distinguish good from well-being (Güte from Wohl), and bad from ill-being (Böse from Übel). This is exactly the distinction that the Stoics drew, when they argued that the only truly good thing is virtue; anything else might have a kind of positive (or negative) value for planning things out so that things go well (or ill) for one. The Stoics, like Kant, think that human beings typically suffer from chronic misvaluing, where we confuse what is preferable in this latter way for what is genuinely good, and what is dispreferable in this latter way for what is genuinely bad. The only genuinely good thing is virtue, say the Stoics.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Melissa Merritt.

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German Idealism and Modernism published 23/11/2018

On trial in The Trial is not only the confused and despairing Josef K., who finds himself being accused of a crime he seems to have no recollection of having committed and whose nature is never revealed to him, but our very capacity for making ourselves intelligible through the use of language. Of course, The Trial displays a surface clarity unsurpassed by most so-called modernist writings. Kafka was a brilliant story-teller and never conducted “experiments” with language. My claim, though, is that the surface clarity of his prose only barely disguises a deeper and more fundamental sense of uncertainty with regard to speech as a means for creating mutual understanding.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Espen Hammer.

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How History Gets Things Wrong published 22/11/2018

Our whole culture and every civilization that we have any record of is constructed on the rickety foundations of the theory of mind. It has given us free will, moral responsibly, praise and blame, moral norms and political institutions, things we can’t dispense with in the normal course of life.  My book is a plea that when we try to mitigate the worst features of human interaction, to design better institutions, control an uncertain future, we try to use theories that have a chance of being on the right track instead of the theory of mind.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alex Rosenberg.

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Dilthey, Simmel, Nietzsche, Benjamin: Life and Relativism published 17/11/2018

In the view of some, we are living in a “culture of life”. The practical impact of scientific discourses on life also points towards an important feature of the concept in general: when life becomes an epistemological object, established oppositions such as theory and practice or nature and culture are often transcended. Naturalistic concepts of life seek to explain also social, cultural, and even ethical phenomena. This holistic dimension of the concept of life makes possible, on the other, so many interventions on the part of the humanities against the reductionism of naturalistic explanations.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Johannes Steizinger.

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Multi-Scale & Existentialist Freedoms published 09/11/2018

The idea of level encourages scientists, on the basis of nothing, to formulate the idea of dependence of everything on the minutest stuffs, because a level system admits of natural bottoms and tops.  And while there is no reason to resist the idea that any number of things depend on the minutest features of the universe, why (by the very same token) should we insist upon it?  In any case, it requires an argument to maintain any sort of dependence thesis, whatsoever its content.  That is my fundamental argument against levels.  By holding out the model of levels in advance of any argument to that end, we smuggle in some profound prejudices.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Mariam Thalos.

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Buddhaghosa: Immeasurable Words published 03/11/2018

The text that we have begins to list matrices that operate as a sort of table of contents introducing different types of causes and conditions among the phenomena of lived experience, and it operates in an algorithmic way of endlessly ramifying the possibilities for human experience. The Burmese scholars of old sometimes said it simply cannot be written down, and at others times tried to estimate how many cartloads of books it would take. There really is nothing equivalent to this style of thought about psychological experience in other traditions.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Maria Heim.

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Nietzschean Flourishing published 27/10/2018

Nietzsche argued that philosophers were wrong to endorse the psychological generalization that human beings avoid pain and seek pleasure.  Rather, we avoid pain and pleasure that we see as meaningless, and we seek pleasure and pain that we regard as meaningful.  So it is facts about meaning, rather than the hedonic quality of outcomes, that determines what we do. Nietzsche likes to make this point by mocking the English utilitarians, who claimed that happiness is the only thing we value for its own sake.  Nietzsche’s rejoinder is simple: “Man does not pursue happiness – only the Englishman does that”

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Paul Katsafanas.

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Taking Stock of Fiction and the Issue of Feminism and Trans Women published 19/10/2018

I don’t have the definitive answer as to why so many academics I otherwise respect have decided that my articulating the thoughts just expressed are ‘hateful’ or ‘transphobic’; nor why many others, who have no skin in the game either way, seem so content to let them go unchallenged. I think partly it is to do with feminist philosophy being a small club, and with me being an outsider to that club; partly to do with people’s commendable intention to be ‘inclusive’ but without facing the hard questions about how to enact that intention in a complicated world with many extant patterns of oppression; partly to do, ironically, with certain gendered stereotypes  which tends to position me, as a female, as particularly unkind in saying what I say, without seeking more charitable motives.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Katherine Stock.

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Rousseau: Where Does Social Inequality Come From? published 13/10/2018

Rousseau is certainly thinking of Augustine when he absolves God of the responsibility for evil, but he adds an important twist to his predecessor’s account of the same: for Rousseau evil does not enter the world through human sin but as a result of contingent events, including free human actions, whose evil consequences no one foresees or intends. By far the most important respect in which Rousseau is influenced on these matters by his predecessors lies in his appropriation of the connection drawn by Augustine between sin and pride and of Hobbes’s claim that glory is a major cause of the state of war that characterizes the state of nature.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Fred Neuhouser.

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