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The Tyranny of the Ideal published 29/07/2016

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Morality is, in my view, the crowning achievement of humanity: in our evolutionary development we made it, as it made us into the cooperative, fair-minded, deeply social species that we are. As a species we are up to morality and justice because we made it up. Many, I suspect, think this demeans morality, just as some Christians think that evolution demeans human dignity. I draw a very different conclusion: what an incredible species we are to invent this way of living together!

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jerry Gaus.

Painting: Billy Childish.

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The Philosopher’s Library (Part 3) published

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But let me mention two ways in which things outside philosophy, especially in the arts (novels, films, plays, dance, visual art), are important to my work in philosophy. First, novels, movies, etc., stimulate the imagination, which is very important for doing philosophy: for drawing new connections, for contemplating new concepts, for seeing things from new perspectives, and so on. Second, they give us a sense of a very deep kind of truth, different from the kinds of truth I have investigated so far, but one that I hope to incorporate into my study of truth in the future.

Philosophers recommend books for your bookshelves taken from the End Times series.

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In Praise of Desire and Some published 22/07/2016

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People of relatively low intelligence can be morally wonderful if they desire the right and the good (not necessarily under the description “right” or “good”). Their low intelligence sometimes results in their accidentally doing something wrong, but doing something wrong out of low intelligence alone is like stepping on a person’s foot because you are (literally) blind or missing a cry for help because you are (literally) deaf. We do not judge the blind or deaf person as morally bad. This is a lot of what motivates my view that virtue is about wanting right and good things, not about being particularly good at thinking.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Nomy Arpaly.

Image: Billy Childish.

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Frege and Necessary Beings published 15/07/2016

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I’m still inclined to believe that numbers are abstract objects, but there’s been quite a bit of work recently, partly by people who know a lot more about linguistics than I do, arguing that contrary to some appearances, number-words are best understood as predicates rather than names or singular terms. Given my broadly Fregean view of the relations between syntactic and ontological categories this might be the basis of an argument for viewing numbers as properties rather than objects. I used to believe that there was a compelling argument for taking them to be (abstract) objects, but now I am not really sure about this. What seems to me far more important is not whether numbers are objects rather than properties, but whether, and in what sense, they exist.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Bob Hale.

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evolution, bioethics and human nature published 08/07/2016

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Once we acknowledge that ‘human nature’ can include abilities, beliefs or values that have become widespread throughout our species because of learning processes, it’s clear that we will have to be rather liberal when it comes to what we include as part of human nature. Very large numbers of people can eat with chopsticks, very large numbers of people can recognize David Beckham. It’s hard to keep these traits out of ‘human nature’, while keeping imitation in.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Tim Lewens.

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Philosophy and Diversity published 04/07/2016

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The principle of non-contradiction, for example, contains within it the Western worldview that, metaphysically, something either is or it is not; and epistemologically, it is either true or it is false. It cannot be both real and unreal; true and false. Nor can it be resistant to this schematic. But the fact that something either is or is not (true or false) limits the playing field of that which is (or that which is the case) considerably. There is no room for hybridity, no room for mixedness, nor room for ambiguity or nuance.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Tina Fernandes Botts.

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Reid’s Common Sense, Berkeley’s Vision and Whether Gentile’s Fascism Should Matter More Than Berkeley’s Slave Plantation published 25/06/2016

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But you ask: do we face the same sorts of issues regarding Gentile as we do with Heidegger? Gentile – no longer at the center of power by the late 30s – helped Jews in Italy who were threatened by the Fascist regime. But his philosophy and his politics were of a piece, both contributing to a global disaster that cost many lives. Among other things, the disaster was one of nationalisms in conflict. Our politics today is still in turmoil about nationalism and nativism.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Rebecca Copenhaver.
Painting: Billy Childish

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On Perception, Aesthetics etc etc published 18/06/2016

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Our motor skills are developed through physical play; our perceptual skills by playing at looking and listening “pointlessly”—the infant stares, and by doing so she learns how to look. (Notice how my emphasis on active perception plays into this notion of perception as a skill.) It is this fun, I claim, that is the basis of aesthetic pleasure. A child babbling for no other purpose than the sheer joy of it—that’s the prototype of art production. Aesthetic enjoyment isn’t tied to the value of particular things, as standard evolutionary accounts maintain. It is rooted, rather, in the joy that infants get from activities that have no immediate purpose, but which have a long-term benefit in terms of learning.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Mohan Matthen.
Painting: Billy Childish.

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Who Rules? published 11/06/2016

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When Arendt says that “truth has a despotic character,” she explains that she means that as a single person investigates questions in, say, physics or math (even aspects of history, though that’s more complicated), the correct answers are not in any way affected by the fact that there are other minds with other perspectives. It’s simply between me and the non-negotiable world. By contrast, in the domain of the moral and political, there is no subject matter at all if not for multiple minds and perspectives. The right answer is not only hard to know without help from others—that’s also true about lots of math, physics, and history (she emphasizes the need for witnesses, for example). More importantly, in normative matters the right answer is itself some accommodation of multiple perspectives, such as competing aims and convictions.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews David Estlund.

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The Logical Pluralist published 05/06/2016

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It’s not true that everything in the world makes it true that there’s either beer in my fridge or not—there are some parts of the world that are completely silent about my fridge and its contents. You can maintain the classical insights as being correct, but still say that they don’t tell you all there is to know about consequences and logical connections.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Greg Restall.
Picture: Billy Childish.

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