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The Rhetoric and Lethargy of the Anthropocene published 14/05/2016

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The Wittgensteinian metaphor of picture that captivate us, which is the interpretive key to the arguments contained in my book, refers to a collection of futile philosophical assumptions, strongly criticized by the heroes of my narrative. Those assumptions prevented the development of more fruitful and more open views of language. While philosophizing about language we need to take into account a few factors, such as: 1) the existence of non-referential but meaningful expressions as well as the fact of the empirical underdetermination of reference, 2) the importance of performative dimension of language, 3) the role of practice of building and maintaining references in the area of situated speech (parole), 4) the existence of de-essentialised common area shared by the participants of acts of communication.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Ewa Bińczyk.

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Kant, Marx, Fichte. published 07/05/2016

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It is a cause of shame to any member of the human race to be a member of the same species some of whose members could vote for any candidate for president that has been offered by the Republican party. Such people seem to be motivated only by short-sighted greed, ignorance, fear and hatred. It is sad to witness the persistence in our society of the racism and xenophobia that seems to be a permanent part of our political culture. It is shameful to see politicians exploiting these human weaknesses in order to gain political power. It is most depressing of all to contemplate a future in which politicians who do this will continue to have influence over people’s lives. As long as this party exists in its present form, our nation cannot endure as a free society. Still worse, under their policies the human race is being rapidly propelled toward its extinction. It is not possible to exaggerate the importance of what is at stake in our politics at present.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Allen Wood. Illustration: Billy Childish.

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How Far Do You Have To Go Before It’s A Crime? And Other Puzzles published 01/05/2016

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I argue that even if an agent’s commitments are in general morally permissible, they can lead her to act wrongly by silencing what are in fact morally relevant considerations, such that it never even occurs to her that she ought to act other than she does. Think of a person who is so rigidly guided by her plans and policies that she fails to notice that she morally ought to deviate from them in a given case. My claim is that if the moral violation is explained by the kind of deliberative silencing I described, then it is a direct expression of her agency and something she is culpable for.

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

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The Philosopher’s Library (Part 2) published 24/04/2016

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John McDowell’s Mind, Value and Reality, a great collection of essays. From an earlier period of analytic philosophy, Bernard Williams’s Moral Luck, Thomas Nagel’s Mortal Questions, Nelson Goodman’s Ways of Worldmaking. We are having a reading group at Sussex on G.E.M. Anscombe’s Intention, if you fancy some hard work, this very slim volume is recommended.

Book recommendations from philosophers interviewed as part of the End Times series.

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Political Philosophy published 23/04/2016

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Marx tried to avoid moral criticism of capitalism, and this is one of the points of differentiation between ‘scientific’ and ‘utopian’ socialism. The scientific socialist is the person who understands the forces of history, especially the fact that capitalism must inevitably break down to be replaced by communism. The role of the scientific socialist is to bring this process to light so that it can be hastened. But once it is doubted that there is any such fact that capitalism must break down, the only form of socialism available, is ‘utopian’ socialism, which argues for communism on moral grounds. So it is the failure of history to follow the theory of scientific socialism, if indeed it does fail, that leads to moralism.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jonathan Wolff.

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The Rationalist Theist published 16/04/2016

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Either the Theist says that God wills things because they’re good (in which case he or she is committed to there being something independent of and prior to God’s creation, a standard of goodness that could be thought to limit His sovereignty and perhaps constrain His actions) or things get to be good simply because of the fact that God wills them to be so (in which case the substance of morality might be thought to be arbitrary; God could have made torturing puppies morally obligatory). Amongst philosophers who have written on this topic, I am unusual – possibly to the point of uniqueness – in thinking that actually all the major ways of ‘solving’ this so-called dilemma work.

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

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buddhist ethics published 08/04/2016

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I think the philosophical interest in Lojong is in ideas about how moral development works. A lot of philosophers in the West take after Aristotle and think of moral development on the model of developing a skill. It’s almost taken to be a truism that the way to develop a virtue is by doing the actions associated with the virtue. You get to be a generous person by doing generous actions, a just person by doing just actions, and so on. I think Lojong puts pressure on this; it is a collection of techniques for developing morally important traits like compassion, selflessness, and kindness that doesn’t involve doing any of those actions. I think it offers a well-developed picture of how we can also cultivate virtue via imaginative practices that should be more central in how philosophers think about moral development in general.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Nicolas Bommarito.

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Kant’s Historical Turn published 01/04/2016

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One main oddity in many post-Kantian and Anglophone discussions of Kantian autonomy has been that they understand it basically as just a matter of an individual acting rationally on principles of its own choosing. But Kant’s own notion of autonomy is not captured by the notions of individuality, choice, and rationality, for he stresses that people make individual rational choices that generally are immoral, e.g., merely prudent rather than respectful of the necessary equal value in the dignity of persons as such. Hence, common liberal endorsements as well as conservative or radical criticisms of Kant–for a stress merely on individual rational choice as such–are all fundamentally misguided.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Karl Ameriks.

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Paradoxes and Their Logic published 27/03/2016

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Dialetheism is the view that there are true contradictions, i.e. true claims of the form ‘P and not-P’ (or ‘P and it is not the case that P’). For example, I mentioned ‘this sentence is not true’ earlier. According to standard versions of dialetheism, this sentence is in fact both true and not. So the claim to this effect would be an example of a true contradiction. Why adopt such a crazy view? The apparently most promising argument, which had been stressed by Graham Priest, was essentially this: one should adopt this view because any more orthodox solution of paradoxes such as the Liar will involve severe expressive restrictions.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Bruno Whittle.

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Colour published 20/03/2016

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This is a species of color realism because it allows that
colors are perfectly real and instantiated properties. No one would
infer from the relationality of sisterhood to the unreality of
sisters. Likewise, color relationalism offers a way of accepting color
realism, and so avoiding the eliminativist’s extreme skepticism — but
without the unprincipled, ad hoc stipulations required by the many
other forms of realism that insist on an exclusively veridical variant
in cases of perceptual variation.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jonathan Cohen.

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