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Interviews » The End Times » dreams of reason (published 07/07/2014)

First, there is Hume’s engagement with scepticism, which is the most thoroughgoing such engagement of all modern philosophers. (Descartes was just using scepticism as a stage device to frighten conventional thinkers into the arms of his own new system.)What I like is Hume’s refusal to accept any easy answers, combined with an equally resolute refusal to say something bonkers (ie, that we don’t in fact know anything). We could all do with more of Hume’s moderate scepticism, especially in science. This is one thing that years of science journalism taught me.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Anthony Gottlieb.

Interviews » The End Times » String theory and post-empiricism (published 04/07/2014)

Smolin and a number of other critics of string theory have quite vigorously argued that the string physicists’ trust in the viability of their theory is unfounded and constitutes an unfortunate deviation from the path of legitimate scientific reasoning. I think that those critics make two mistakes. First, they implicitly presume that there is an unchanging conception of theory confirmation that can serve as an eternal criterion for sound scientific reasoning. If this were the case, showing that a certain group violates that criterion would per se refute that group’s line of reasoning. But we have no god-given principles of theory confirmation. The principles we have are themselves a product of the scientific process.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Richard Dawid.

Interviews » The End Times » the double life of objects (published 27/06/2014)

Metaphysicians often begin with prephilosophically accessible phenomena and then go deep by asking what the phenomena are like fundamentally. Given that the phenomena are familiar, we have common-sense beliefs and intuitions about them.What role does common sense play in the metaphysical enterprise? I believe that foundational metaphysical analysis should aim to preserve our common-sense conception. The task is a difficult one. Soon tensions between our metaphysical principles and our ordinary thought and talk start appearing. But we should resist giving up our prephilosophical beliefs too easily.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Thomas Sattig.

Interviews » The End Times » Lacan and french post-rationalism (published 20/06/2014)

I don’t think there’s a single ‘political stance’ of post-rationalism. Here, I would want to compare the thinkers I wrote about it in that book to the literary figures associated with modernism. The latter, as a movement, was as often associated with fascism as it was with the Left. That’s not true empirically for post-rationalism – most of the later figures I write about in the book were or became revolutionary socialists of various stripes, although Lacan was no Marxist – but I don’t think there’s anything inevitable about the Leftism of this style of thought.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Tom Eyers.

Interviews » The End Times » schelling, adorno and all that jazz (published 13/06/2014)

Basically, you’re not going to be responding adequately to protesters in Tahrir square if you argue that freedom is an illusion, because materialists have shown determinism is universal. The metaphysical debate can in these terms itself contribute to unfreedom by reducing the scope of what needs to be investigated. As Adorno points out, freedom of the will only becomes an issue at all at a particular historical juncture, when the idea of a natural order of things disintegrates with the rise of bourgeois individualism. In this kind of perspective it may be more important to ask why the debate so often focuses on the metaphysical question of freedom of the will, when that is not the decisive issue.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Andrew Bowie.

Nonfiction » Béla Tarr’s Turin Horse (published 07/06/2014)

‘In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Alberto. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse’s neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse.’

Richard Marshall on Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse.

Interviews » The End Times » deep control, death and co (published 06/06/2014)

“What is the value of acting from one’s own, reasons-responsive mechanism”? I suggest that this value is the same as the value we place on artistic self-expression. In acting freely, we are (in a sense) writing a sentence in the narrative of our lives. Our free will transforms us into authors of the stories of our lives, and endows us with an irreducible “narrative” dimension of value.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews John Martin Fischer.

Interviews » The End Times » Multiverses and sleeping beauty (published 30/05/2014)

The Everettian multiverse is one of the most beautiful ideas in the history of science. If it’s wrong, at least it’s gloriously, elegantly, ambitiously wrong. My approach to Everettian quantum mechanics (EQM) builds directly upon that of the ‘Oxford Everettians’ – David Deutsch, Simon Saunders, David Wallace, and Hilary Greaves. Wallace’s presentation of the view has become canonical, and any seriously interested readers should start by ignoring me and reading his lovely book The Emergent Multiverse.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alastair Wilson.

Criticism » Knausgaard: norse dwarf, norse god (published 25/05/2014)

He conjures up an immense solipsistic myth of fears and furies, monsters and agonies, a perpetual fury against a realisation that death is his fate and that his life, each viciously wounded and maimed moment of it, from childhood to the present, is precariously hovering at the brink of a terrifying emptiness, a meaningless hole into which everything is falling. In a state of panic he rages against this and chases a world through improvised language written down at speed that runs out towards the primitive vivacity of his own subjectivity. It is against erasure that he casts his spells and as he does so he becomes both terrifically powerful and knowledgeable and at the same time small and ugly and strange. Who wouldn’t want to read this?

Richard Marshall on Knausgaard’s My Struggle.

Interviews » The End Times » on theism and explanation (published 23/05/2014)

While the arguments put forward by many Christian philosophers are serious arguments, there is something less than serious about the spirit in which they are being offered. There is a direction in which those arguments will not be permitted to go. Arguments that support the faith will be seriously entertained; those that apparently undermine the faith must be countered, at any cost. Philosophy, to use the traditional phrase, is merely a “handmaid” of theology. There is, to my mind, something frivolous about a philosophy of this sort.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Greg Dawes.