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Why The World Does Not Exist But Unicorns Do published 10/05/2015

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Commitment to the existence of unicorns is just not as substantive or even outright crazy as it looks if we take it for granted that there really only are those things that the imaginary discipline of physics tells us exists. I am saying “imaginary discipline,” because there is no such thing as the single discipline of physics. “Physics” or “science” still often count among philosophers (particularly among metaphysicians) as empirically grounded forms of metaphysics that get to the bottom of things (the ultimate grounding level). This is neither clearly a consequence of any actual finding of physics to date nor could it be given that we are dealing with metaphysical interpretations of terms such as “particle” or “to consist of” when we claim, for instance, that tables consist of particles and then wonder whether tables even so much as exist. Of course, tables exist and, as far as I know, so do electrons.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Markus Gabriel.

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Darwinian conundrums published 02/05/2015

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The questions at stake here concern the origin and nature of the mental, social and ethical lives of human beings. These are exemplary philosophical questions. In order to answer them, we need both science and philosophy, and we need collaboration and dialogue between scientists and philosophers.

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

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philosophy of science published 25/04/2015

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In my own thinking of this matter, I found it useful to think of scientific theories as ‘growing existential statements’ in the sense that in adopting a scientific theory, we are committed to the existence of entities that make our (interpreted) theory true and, in particular, to the existence of unobservable things that cause or explain the observable phenomena, but at the same time we leave open the possibility that the theory might not be uniquely realised or that it might fail to be (fully) realised.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Stathis Psillos.

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propositions, analysis and context published 19/04/2015

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When one looks at the contextually sensitive expressions in natural language, those whose context independent meanings are sufficient by themselves to secure semantic values in context are very much in the minority. Kaplan called such expressions pure indexicals and ‘I’ and ‘yesterday’ may be the only ones (and I worry about ‘yesterday’). Even candidates like ‘here’, ‘now’, and ‘today’ don’t seem to be pure indexicals since e.g. the temporal extent of the semantic value of ‘now’ varies from context to context (‘Let’s leave the party now’ vs. ‘People now watch more content on their computers as opposed to their televisions than they used to’). Similar remarks apply to ‘here’ and ‘today’ (and perhaps ‘yesterday’).

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jeffrey King.

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Philosophy of Markets published 10/04/2015

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Economic models make simplifying assumptions about human agency and about social interaction. If one only used these models to answer the questions they are supposed to answer, taking into account their methodological limitations, there wouldn’t be any problem. But often they are used to make much wider claims.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Lisa Herzog.

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Philosophy from the Zettabyte published 05/04/2015

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The philosophy of information is not a matter of developing a philosophy of the next gadget. It is about engaging with the deep transformations caused by ICTs in how we understand the world, hence in our epistemology and metaphysics; in how we make sense of it, hence in our semantics; in how we conceptualise ourselves, and what we think we can be or become, hence in our theories of education, identity, and our philosophical anthropology; in how we interact with each other, how we manage and shape collaborative and conflicting relations, and how we may construct the society we want, hence in our socio-economic and political thinking.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Luciano Floridi.

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Hegel, Irigaray, Motherhood & Feminist Philosophy published 22/03/2015

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I’m not convinced that we can decide to minimise the salience of reproduction and all the ramifications that it has. It seems to me that reproduction is going to have to be made sense of in some way in any society, and that there are certain limits on the ways that we can make sense of it. However, I don’t think that from this necessity of sexual difference it follows that men and women have to occupy different social roles or that those roles must be hierarchical. By and large, women can carry, bear, and breast-feed babies and men can’t, but it doesn’t follow that women rather than men have to be the principal child-carers in every family.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alison Stone.

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The Legacies of Idealism published 14/03/2015

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Schelling himself was a phenomenon. From an early age, he had learned that whenever he walked into a room, he was almost always the smartest and the most charming person there. That served him both well and badly. He entered the seminary at 15 and was Fichte’s successor in Jena at 23. As is well known, he, Hegel and Hölderlin roomed together for three years in Tübingen (the greatest college roommate lineup in history) and it’s a bit of an exaggeration but not over the top to say that together they hatched their plans for idealism while they were roommates.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Terry Pinkard.

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Philosophical Frontiers of Ancient Science published 06/03/2015

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It’s worth adding that the work of hiving off the soul from the body is never complete. Galen, for example, wrote a treatise in the second century CE in which he argues that all the faculties of the soul, including intellectual capacities, are dependent on the mixtures of the body. The debates we see now about whether mental illness should be treated entirely physiologically or through, say talk therapy is in this sense very old. Once the physical body comes on the scene, there’s pressure to carve out a space of the human that cannot be simply reduced to corporeal dynamics. Yet at the same time, protecting that space from what happens to the body is never easy, even for someone like Plato (who offers, for example, a pretty “medical” explanation of pathological sexual desire in the Timaeus.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Brooke Holmes.

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self-consciousness, aesthetics, music published 28/02/2015

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I am an anti-metaphysician, that is, I think that metaphysical debate requires therapeutic treatment. It’s not quite that, as you put it yourself, Wittgenstein holds that things like selves are just reifications of language; I’d be happier to say that one should talk of persons rather than selves, as these seem to be third- as much as first-personal entities. (Actually I wouldn’t be as hostile to metaphysics as Wittgenstein was; it’s interesting that he wrote little about space and time, where metaphysics seems inevitable.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Andy Hamilton.

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