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Foucault’s freedom published 01/08/2014

Practices of state violence are not just instruments for upholding sovereignty and for enforcing the law. They have increasingly got their own internal ends that legitimize them and law is used simply as a particular tactic for the achievement of these ends. The deployment of law thus becomes strategic: it functions as means to predetermined policy ends and not as the ground of their legitimacy.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Johanna Oksala.

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truth, success and frank ramsey published 25/07/2014

Philosophy was then very popular in France, but not in the present day sense of people going to philosophical cafés or festivals, and of the success of lousy books on happiness and wisdom. Philosophy was a political subject, which made a difference to our lives. The intellectual atmosphere was electric, and just after 1968 we had a sense that something was happening, although nobody knew what it was. Sartre was still very active in leftist politics, as well as Deleuze and Foucault. They were our stars, and everyone was discussing Freud, Lacan, Marx, Mao. We dreamt – but only dreamt – of being street fighting men.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Pascal Engel.

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towards hope published 18/07/2014

I regard love as a more decisive focus of meaning than death. In terms of Heidegger’s argument, this is because I think he misdescribes the importance of the deaths of others and focuses exclusively on my relation to my own death. But, in reality, the deaths of others have a more urgent and immediate impact on our lives than the purely notional knowledge that I too will one day die.Ethics arises in the recognition of our obligation to care for others as beings, like us, exposed to mortality—that is, beings who need our help. Buddhism, not wrongly, extends this to ‘all sentient beings’.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews George Pattison.

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on cognitive artifacts published 11/07/2014

Two of the main characteristics of human cognition are the ability for tool using (though that’s not something that is unique to humans), and processes of cultural accumulation of knowledge (also not unique to humans strictly speaking, but much less pronounced in non-human animals). So in a sense, when it comes to cognition (and other matters), the nature vs. nurture dichotomy is deeply mistaken: our biological nature is precisely that of being cultural animals!

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Catarina Dutilh Novaes .

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dreams of reason published 07/07/2014

First, there is Hume’s engagement with scepticism, which is the most thoroughgoing such engagement of all modern philosophers. (Descartes was just using scepticism as a stage device to frighten conventional thinkers into the arms of his own new system.)What I like is Hume’s refusal to accept any easy answers, combined with an equally resolute refusal to say something bonkers (ie, that we don’t in fact know anything). We could all do with more of Hume’s moderate scepticism, especially in science. This is one thing that years of science journalism taught me.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Anthony Gottlieb.

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String theory and post-empiricism published 04/07/2014

Smolin and a number of other critics of string theory have quite vigorously argued that the string physicists’ trust in the viability of their theory is unfounded and constitutes an unfortunate deviation from the path of legitimate scientific reasoning. I think that those critics make two mistakes. First, they implicitly presume that there is an unchanging conception of theory confirmation that can serve as an eternal criterion for sound scientific reasoning. If this were the case, showing that a certain group violates that criterion would per se refute that group’s line of reasoning. But we have no god-given principles of theory confirmation. The principles we have are themselves a product of the scientific process.

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

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the double life of objects published 27/06/2014

Metaphysicians often begin with prephilosophically accessible phenomena and then go deep by asking what the phenomena are like fundamentally. Given that the phenomena are familiar, we have common-sense beliefs and intuitions about them.What role does common sense play in the metaphysical enterprise? I believe that foundational metaphysical analysis should aim to preserve our common-sense conception. The task is a difficult one. Soon tensions between our metaphysical principles and our ordinary thought and talk start appearing. But we should resist giving up our prephilosophical beliefs too easily.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Thomas Sattig.

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Lacan and french post-rationalism published 20/06/2014

I don’t think there’s a single ‘political stance’ of post-rationalism. Here, I would want to compare the thinkers I wrote about it in that book to the literary figures associated with modernism. The latter, as a movement, was as often associated with fascism as it was with the Left. That’s not true empirically for post-rationalism – most of the later figures I write about in the book were or became revolutionary socialists of various stripes, although Lacan was no Marxist – but I don’t think there’s anything inevitable about the Leftism of this style of thought.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Tom Eyers.

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schelling, adorno and all that jazz published 13/06/2014

Basically, you’re not going to be responding adequately to protesters in Tahrir square if you argue that freedom is an illusion, because materialists have shown determinism is universal. The metaphysical debate can in these terms itself contribute to unfreedom by reducing the scope of what needs to be investigated. As Adorno points out, freedom of the will only becomes an issue at all at a particular historical juncture, when the idea of a natural order of things disintegrates with the rise of bourgeois individualism. In this kind of perspective it may be more important to ask why the debate so often focuses on the metaphysical question of freedom of the will, when that is not the decisive issue.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Andrew Bowie.

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deep control, death and co published 06/06/2014

“What is the value of acting from one’s own, reasons-responsive mechanism”? I suggest that this value is the same as the value we place on artistic self-expression. In acting freely, we are (in a sense) writing a sentence in the narrative of our lives. Our free will transforms us into authors of the stories of our lives, and endows us with an irreducible “narrative” dimension of value.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews John Martin Fischer.

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