:: The End Times

Darwinian Creativity, Memetics and Some published 14/01/2017

Memetics reduces again either to something trivial – no big news that there are cultural items that spread, right – or to something false: that they make copies of themselves and that they spread because of their properties. The last point, an explanatory analogy, is often taken to also imply that memes spread independently of the beliefs and interests of human beings, which is also wrong.

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

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Kant, other minds and intersecting issues… published 07/01/2017

An Epicurean is someone who thinks that when people are dead, they no longer exist. Our suggestion is that people are implicit Epicureans. How should an implicit Epicurean answer the questions in the study? Consider first the vignette in which David is dead. You’re asked whether you agree or disagree with statements such as ‘David has emotions and feelings’. This statement presupposes that David exists. And it’s very natural to think that when a statement has a presupposition that you take to be false, neither agreement or disagreement seems appropriate. (Compare being asked whether you agree or disagree with the statement ‘I’ve stopped cheating on my partner’.)

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Anil Gupta.

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Kuhn’s Science and Does Medicine Really Care About Patients? published 23/12/2016

Who is the physician? The answer to this question has changed dramatically through the centuries. For the Greek and Roman traditions, for example, the nature of the physician shifted from priest to philosopher. Today another shift has occurred, from philosopher to scientist—especially technician. The human factor has been eliminated or greatly marginalized, and so professionalism is often reduced to technical competence. Little if any human competence, if you will, is required of a medical professional today, and this can result in patient harm and compromise the morality of modern medicine. Unfortunately, modern medicine too often resembles an industrial factory in which patients are placed on a conveyer belt, and then anatomized, tested, and treated.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews James Marcum.

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Ethics, Law and Politics published 17/12/2016

I see loyalty – roughly perseverance in relational commitments despite the cost of such perseverance – as an important human value/virtue. Think of it as a kind of relational glue. It is odd that a value/virtue that plays such a central role in dramatic literature has played such a small role in philosophical writing. There are probably a number of reasons, but I think that a predilection for a certain kind of individualism is a major one. Others might include the fashionability of consequentialism, the idea that loyalty has more to do with sentiment than reason, as well as its proneness to corruption. The revival of interest in virtue/character as distinct from rules/principles has also created space for a renewed, if hesitant, interest in loyalty.

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

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What Kind of a Fact is a Flying Pig for Kant? and Things like That published 03/12/2016

If we really can’t help but think a certain way, one might worry that this doesn’t guarantee that that is the correct way to think. If we can’t rationally doubt certain principles, then there is a certain kind of sceptical worry that we are stuck being unable to doubt false principles. I appeal to Kant’s idea that conditions on the possibility of thought and experience are themselves also conditions on the objects of thought and experience.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jessica Leech.

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Saving Wittgenstein, Credence Knowledge and Semantics published 26/11/2016

Wittgenstein got stuck when it came to analyzing propositions about the colors of objects. Take four propositions about the color of some particular object A. These propositions aren’t logically independent from each other, so at most one of them could be an elementary proposition. But then the worry is that once we determine that one of these four propositions is elementary, we’ll have no way to analyze the three leftover propositions, since they won’t each be truth functions of the elementary color proposition. A lot of people think that this problem motivated Wittgenstein to abandon the central project of the Tractatus.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Sarah Moss.

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Wittgenstein’s Ethical Enterprise and Related Matters published 19/11/2016

I am very firmly of the view that philosophy needs to be aware of the non-philosophical investigations going on in its very many neighbouring disciplines (whether that is in history or in mathematics or in art or in psychiatry: it’s not as if everything that isn’t philosophy is science), without surrendering its responsibilities to any of them. After all, quite often when things start getting really interesting in these neighbouring disciplines it’s because they are getting philosophical, whether or not this is recognized.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Edward Harcourt.

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Nihil Unbound published 12/11/2016

In Sellars’s account, the “myth of Jones” is perhaps the most momentous step in the construction of the Manifest Image and hence in the development of our collective self-conception as humans. It is the step through which we begin to understand ourselves both as minded beings motivated by beliefs and as sentient beings affected by sensations. In Sellars’s myth, Jones is the genius who first suggests that what humans say and do can be explained as the outward manifestation of inner mental states of believing, desiring, and sensing.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Ray Brassier.

[Pic: Shirren Lim]

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Constructing Race published 05/11/2016

In the case of race, explicit racism seems to be much rarer than in the past. A range of other barriers remain, but a substantial part of the explanation of the relative deficit of nonwhite philosophers (especially black philosophers) seems to involve large-scale inequality in society as a whole. There remains substantial disagreement about how to correct such inequality (even were there the political will to do so). Thus, even once we acknowledge a role for various kinds of explicit, implicit, and structural racism (even when we acknowledge a role for the social construction of race), there are other barriers that we as a society must understand and address.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Ron Mallon.

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Peirce, Pragmatism and Race, Racism published 29/10/2016


I argue that we need to be involved in defining ourselves, to own the definitional project, otherwise we, as a group, are doomed in Europe. Given the surge in far right sentiment across Europe I worry that we may already be doomed, but while ever someone else controls whats defines us we can simply be erased by fiat. Now, perhaps this borrows the tools of “white” mainstream philosophy by talking of definitions and concepts and precision etc. but I don’t feel as though my philosophical work is especially tainted because of that. Its just another aspect of the many ways that philosophers can and are doing important work on such issues.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Albert Atkins.

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