:: The End Times

Refer published 09/12/2017

I think it matters, and should matter, to a lot of Americans whether Trump is lying to us or whether he’s just full of shit. Likewise for the Brexiteers. Maybe it’ll only matter for the history books—well, at least until Trump finally gets around to banning those. Still, it matters. If we’re going to do better, we’ve got to start holding people to account, and hopefully in the right sorts of ways. My vague hope is that learning to attend to the various different ways in which our politicians lie to us, mislead us, and otherwise use language to manipulate us might one day help us to start making better, more informed decisions. I just don’t know how we can possibly hope to move forward in the complex, rather fucked-up world we live in if we’re basing our collective decisions not on good information, but on some bullshit that Trump decides to put in a tweet or that Boris Johnson decides sounds good on the side of a bus.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Eliot Michaelson.

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End Times Philosophy Interviews: The First 302 published 08/12/2017

As we hit the 300 mark I thought it might be a good idea to organise them in one place for readers who might find it useful. So here is the whole series so far. The categories used are pretty rough and ready but should help orientate people.

The End Times Catalog – all 302 of the interviews in one place!

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Logics: More Than One Way to Skin a Cat… published 02/12/2017

There is a logic that is nowadays called “classical logic”. It is based on a number of assumptions, including the assumption that a domain of individuals the language of classical logic is used to talk about is never empty, and that every sentence is either true or false but not neither true nor false nor both true and false in a given situation. Historically, this logic is rather young and goes back to work by George Boole and Gottlob Frege in the second half of the 19th century. The first textbook on classical first-order logic appeared in 1927. It may be debated whether the classicality of what is now called “classical logic” is a historical coincidence or whether classical logic is classical for some deeper reasons.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Heinrich Wansing.

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Frege, Dummett, Vagueness, Liars and Julius Caesar published 25/11/2017

I think we need to learn to live with the Liar, the same way we have learned to live with the Gödel incompleteness theorems (to which it is closely related). The interesting question, which is the one I think should get more attention, is what the philosophical consequences of this orientation are. It implies quite directly that there can be no all-encompassing language: no single language in which everything that can be said at all can be said. And it isn’t just language. There will be a corresponding (but forever moving) limit to thought. Our conceptual resources, to borrow a term from Dummett, will necessarily be ‘indefinitely extensible’, without limit, as a matter of necessity. It seems to follow that there can be no single ‘theory of everything’.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Richard Heck.

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The Critical Imagination published 18/11/2017

Most philosophers appeal to two conditions: originality and value. They think an imaginative story, for instance, is one that is good in an original way. I think this isn’t right. Leonardo da Vinci’s designs for flying machines were bad designs for flying machines, because the machines couldn’t have flown. But they were still imaginative. I’m also not persuaded that there is any interesting sense in which something imaginative must be original. It might be imaginative for a contemporary poet to use a medieval poetic form, even though she got the idea to use that form from the medieval poets she read.

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

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Thinking About Globalisation, Immigration and Refugees published 04/11/2017

Refugees are, at least typically, distinctive in important ways. The dangers that they face – persecution on the basis of one of the “protected grounds” – is such that it can really only be plausibly addressed by given them refuge in a safe country, and eventual access to full membership. This is because the dangers they face are ones that we can’t expect to end relatively quickly, or that can be plausibly addressed with direct assistance (as would be the case with many natural disasters), or with more foreign aid (as would be the case with other dire living circumstances), or with direct intervention into the offending country. Because direct intervention is unlikely to be appropriate, we also cannot expect the danger to end any time soon, making permanent or at least long-term assistance necessary.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Matthew Lister

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Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger: Sex, Death and Boredom published 25/10/2017

Like Keats, Schopenhauer tells us that, metaphysically speaking, life is but a (bad) ‘dream’. And whereas Kant argues that since we cannot escape the fabric of our own minds, reality ‘in itself’ is unknowable by us, Schopenhauer thinks he knows what it is. (At least he thinks he does in his youth. Later on he retreats, somewhat, from the claim.) What underlies the surface of things, Schopenhauer claims, is the tormented and tormenting ‘will’.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Julian Young

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Brentano’s Mind, Frege’s Sense published 14/10/2017

Brentano is a thorn in the side of pragmatically-minded philosophers such as Mach and later Schlick. He held that we can study cognition from the first-person standpoint independently of its function or purpose. Part of the development of Austrian Philosophy are attempts to overcome Brentano’s point of view. Brentano’s descriptive psychology is still a model for Non-Naturalists and Non-Pragmatists.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Mark Textor.

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brains published 07/10/2017

In sum, I am not a fan of using “brain reading” techniques in the courtroom, at least not yet. I suspect that some in the law are taking the prospect of neuroscience in the courtroom more seriously than they should, in part because some legal scholars that have only a working knowledge of neuroscience have been far too uncritical of the scientific work (which may be excellent basic science, but whose applicability to real cases may be quite limited), and have overblown its prospects for near-term application in the courts.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Adina L Roskies.

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Understanding Defensive Killing published 30/09/2017

I don’t buy the conceptual division between war and ‘ordinary life’ – I think it’s just a hangover from Walzer – so I don’t want to talk of one as an extension of the other. Talk of ‘ordinary life’ conjures up an image of a peaceful suburb in New Hampshire, which is a pretty parochial way to think about morality. Some people live their whole lives in failed states. Some people grow up in dire poverty, surrounded by violence and lawlessness. Ordinary life might, to them, feel a lot like a permanent state of conflict. And we can have crises outside of war – outbreaks of disease or natural disasters, for example, that raise a lot of the questions that also arise in war (the distribution of resources, allowing harm, collateral harms, uncertainty and so on).

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Helen Frowe.

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