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epistemic consciousness published 28/02/2014

The whole question of whether materialism is part of the scientific world-view is much harder than it appears. For one thing, there are many different things people have in mind by ‘materialism’, whether legitimately or not. We might have in mind the materialism of the ancient Greeks. That is definitely not part of our world-view. Or we might have in mind the materialism of Smart and Lewis. But I doubt that is part of our world-view either, mainly because it is incredibly optimistic.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Daniel Stoljar.

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on william james and john la farge published 21/02/2014

Self-styled “grammar snobs” want so much to get back to that point in the past where the majority of people respected language and understood its nuances, and society at large shared a common understanding of grammar rules. But that place is a mirage. There was no time when everyone spoke flawless English and people punctuated “properly.” It’s important to come to grips with this historical fact, because it influences what we do in the present: hanging on to the old story about grammar– the mythical story– limits our relationship with language.So what might originate as love of language ends up, if it’s focused inappropriately on grammar rules, seeming really quite hateful and limiting.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Cecelia Watson.

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mental lives and Fodor’s LOT published 14/02/2014

Descartes is a philosophical staple, but I love using science fiction because many students are passionate about it, and it leads them to carefully work through the details of even the most dense philosophical works. And nowadays students have an intuitive understanding of technology that lends itself to thinking philosophically about films like The Matrix and I, Robot.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Susan Schneider.

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being for published 08/02/2014

We speak a language and there seem to be facts about what its words mean. So we might initially aspire, before learning too much logic, to be able to say what those facts are – and to be able to say them in the language that we are speaking. But there are deep and general paradoxes about attempts to state the extensions for all of the predicates in a language – including those for words like ‘true’ and ‘satisfies’ that we use to state an extensional or extension-determining semantics.

Continuing the End Times series Richard Marshall interviews Mark Andrew Schroeder.

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metaphors and minds published 31/01/2014

Once when Bjork was speaking to a chorus, she said “Make it dolcissimo, like marzipan.” I think she was driven to metaphor here because there was a very specific property she wanted their voices to have – a particular combination of richness, sweetness, and bitterness – that we don’t have a word for in our language (English or Icelandic). She couldn’t demonstrate the sound directly herself, because she’s not a whole chorus. But once they hit on the sound she wanted, she could say “Yes, like that. Let’s call that the marzipan tone.” And from then on, ‘the marzipan tone’ would literally refer, by stipulation, to the sound she could only metaphorically gesture at before.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Elisabeth Camp.

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on the tragedy of life published 25/01/2014

Lyotard says we should reject all meta-narratives that try to create a centre of meaning; rather we should become ironists and employ multiple narratives, giving none any real authority. This is in fact the very nihilism that Nietzsche predicted would follow from a thorough appreciation of the Death of God. What strong individuals, the type that Nietzsche really cares about, do in the face of the collapse of all received, externally sanctioned, meta-narratives (be they that of religion, utilitarianism, Marxism, etc) is create their own meta-narrative; they impose their own values, recognizing that this is an existential act of self creation.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Ken Gemes.

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Epistemology and Democracy published 25/12/2013

One strategy Robert and I find rampant in contemporary argumentative culture is the use of tone of voice to distort a dialectical situation.We call the strategy modus tonens. With modus tonens, you not only reject a view, imply there’s something obviously wrong with it, and communicate that to an onlooking audience, but you also communicate to the interlocutors that they are in need of some educating on the issue – they commit obvious errors, and they don’t even know what they are.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Robert Talisse and Scott F. Aikin.

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what the hell are we doing here ? published 13/12/2013

About ten years ago I interviewed Noam Chomsky, and the first question I asked him was why, with all the irons he has in the fire, he dedicates so much time to engaging with philosophers. He said his concern was really part of a more general concern – that “it should trouble us that we’re not thinking about what we’re up to, and those questions happen to be the domain of what philosophers pay attention to.” I feel that there are just too many human enterprises that are not being subjected to critical thinking, and the problem is getting worse rapidly.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Peter Ludlow.

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rationally speaking published 06/12/2013

As Noam Chomsky once aptly put it, citizens of modern democracies need a course in intellectual self-defense to guard themselves against all the bullshit they will be bombarded with by corporate and governmental powers. I can’t think of anything better than studying history, reading Shakespeare and Joyce, learning how to admire a Picasso or Van Gogh, or understanding Aristotle and Marx as the foundations for that course.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Massimo Pigliucci.

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from the second person published 02/12/2013

I think Nietzsche has a quite brilliant and insightful analysis of a recognizable psychological syndrome that is responsible for much mischief, but he fails to appreciate the ways in which, properly conceived, morality involves a form of mutual respect that is quite positive and life affirming and that develops naturally out of our capacity for mutual response.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Stephen Darwell.

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