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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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The Philosopher’s Library (Part 1) published


Since I don’t really read fiction, I don’t think I have been influenced by it in any way. On the odd occasions I do read, I like fiction that explores philosophical ideas. The novels of Sartre and Dostoievski are obvious examples. I also love the short stories of Borges. These are the closest thing to philosophy-fiction, if there is such a genre.

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

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Bigger Than Chaos published 19/03/2016


In the nineteenth century, scientists and government statisticians began to find fairly stable social trends: rates of marriage, suicide, undeliverable letters and other unfortunate events tended to stay much the same from year to year (though the rates differed from place to place). Further, these patterns could be captured quite well using the mathematics of probability, which was fast maturing at the time. There was great hope for a science of society that would replicate the success of the science of inert matter—a “social physics”.

That hope turned out to be premature.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Michael Strevens.

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Not and Other Metalinguistic Stuff published 12/03/2016


Transparency, in the relevant sense of the word, is a property of certain linguistic contexts. It’s a property they have if they permit the substitution of co-referring terms. For example, before he encountered Darth Vader in Cloud City, Luke Skywalker knew that Anakin Skywalker was his father. He didn’t know that Darth Vader was his father. It came as quite a shock to him, after all, when he learned the sad truth. But ‘Darth Vader’ and ‘Anakin Skywalker’ refer to the same man. So the context ‘Luke Skywalker knew that _ was his father’ fails to be transparent. Only transparent contexts license the sort of inference needed to challenge monism.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Mahrad Almotahari.

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