:: The End Times archive (

the existentialist of hard choices published 04/04/2014

Maybe Sophie, in choosing between which of Jan and Eva to save from the Nazi gas chambers, was forced to do something that was not guided by reasons. When she chose to save Jan, she was not acting within the scope of her rational agency because practical reason had broken down – she had to existentially plump rather than rationally choose. Hard choices of the second variety allow responses within the scope of rational agency — you remain a rational agent as you agonize over what to do just as you remain a mathematician as you painstakingly work out the next line of the proof. In these substantively hard cases, it makes sense to
continue to deliberate, agonize, ask your mother for advice, and so on. When we choose in such cases, we are exercising our rational agency, not simply plumping like Sartrean existential agents.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Ruth Chang.

» Read more...

kripke’s unfinished business published 28/03/2014

Is there really an analytic tradition in philosophy?. Of course there is an analytic tradition in philosophy, but analytic philosophy is not a philosophical school. There is no set of philosophical doctrines that all, or even the great majority of analytic philosophers adhere to, and there is no restricted set of common goals or interests. There is also considerable overlap between continental philosophers like Brentano, Husserl, Gadamer, Levinas, and Habermas, on the one hand, and various collections of analytic philosophers on the other. But that doesn’t mean that the divide is merely sociological. The analytic and continental traditions are paths of historical influence that have led to family resemblances among their members, even though some members of each tradition resemble some members of the other more strongly than they resemble various members of their own tradition.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Scott Soames.

» Read more...

On Popper and hayek published 21/03/2014

Hayek seems to me best understood as a sophisticated classical liberal, and in consequence his work contains much that is at odds with all strains of conservatism. Hayek’s critique of the hubris of those who think that they know enough to run other people’s lives, is, it seems to me, the antithesis of the views of those conservatives who think that they had a calling to re-make the political institutions of those living in the rest of the world. The devastation that has followed would, I think, be exactly what a Hayekian would expect.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jeremy Sheamur.

» Read more...

sex, culture and justice published 14/03/2014

I think liberals see these matters as mere imperfections of the real world, without recognising that the continuing oppression of women demonstrates a profound inability of traditional liberal analysis to theorise or rectify injustice. Feminists have been much more successful at this, in part because feminists understand that how women fare in the world is intimately connected to how women and men are portrayed, represented and constructed in that world.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Clare Chambers.

» Read more...

Mary’s Room and stuff published 07/03/2014

I think laptops and quarks are both real. My difference with Carnap and Huw Price is that I am a Quinean in the sense that I am unable to make sense of different scales or levels of reality, of the whole way of thinking that lies behind the Carnapian project as Price conceives of it. On the Quinean way of thinking, the difference between the existence of quarks and of laptops lies in the difference between quarks and laptops, not between the sense in which they exist.

Continung the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Frank Jackson.

» Read more...

epistemic consciousness published 28/02/2014

The whole question of whether materialism is part of the scientific world-view is much harder than it appears. For one thing, there are many different things people have in mind by ‘materialism’, whether legitimately or not. We might have in mind the materialism of the ancient Greeks. That is definitely not part of our world-view. Or we might have in mind the materialism of Smart and Lewis. But I doubt that is part of our world-view either, mainly because it is incredibly optimistic.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Daniel Stoljar.

» Read more...

on william james and john la farge published 21/02/2014

Self-styled “grammar snobs” want so much to get back to that point in the past where the majority of people respected language and understood its nuances, and society at large shared a common understanding of grammar rules. But that place is a mirage. There was no time when everyone spoke flawless English and people punctuated “properly.” It’s important to come to grips with this historical fact, because it influences what we do in the present: hanging on to the old story about grammar– the mythical story– limits our relationship with language.So what might originate as love of language ends up, if it’s focused inappropriately on grammar rules, seeming really quite hateful and limiting.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Cecelia Watson.

» Read more...

mental lives and Fodor’s LOT published 14/02/2014

Descartes is a philosophical staple, but I love using science fiction because many students are passionate about it, and it leads them to carefully work through the details of even the most dense philosophical works. And nowadays students have an intuitive understanding of technology that lends itself to thinking philosophically about films like The Matrix and I, Robot.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Susan Schneider.

» Read more...

being for published 08/02/2014

We speak a language and there seem to be facts about what its words mean. So we might initially aspire, before learning too much logic, to be able to say what those facts are – and to be able to say them in the language that we are speaking. But there are deep and general paradoxes about attempts to state the extensions for all of the predicates in a language – including those for words like ‘true’ and ‘satisfies’ that we use to state an extensional or extension-determining semantics.

Continuing the End Times series Richard Marshall interviews Mark Andrew Schroeder.

» Read more...

metaphors and minds published 31/01/2014

Once when Bjork was speaking to a chorus, she said “Make it dolcissimo, like marzipan.” I think she was driven to metaphor here because there was a very specific property she wanted their voices to have – a particular combination of richness, sweetness, and bitterness – that we don’t have a word for in our language (English or Icelandic). She couldn’t demonstrate the sound directly herself, because she’s not a whole chorus. But once they hit on the sound she wanted, she could say “Yes, like that. Let’s call that the marzipan tone.” And from then on, ‘the marzipan tone’ would literally refer, by stipulation, to the sound she could only metaphorically gesture at before.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Elisabeth Camp.

» Read more...