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Criticism » Cortázar’s glass trap (published 21/09/2014)

Cortázar writes to create traps that lead us in but lie about having an exit. There is no exit. Because of this we’re always wondering about the nature of the relationship being developed. In ‘One Step Forward, One Step Backward’ he tells the story of the fly who finds she can pass through glass but then finds out glass is a trap. A Hungarian scientist has invented a one-way process whereby the fly can’t get back out via the glass through which it entered. It’s a picture of how he works his fictions. His stories are made out of one way glass.

Richard Marshall on Cortázar’s Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampires. An Attainable Utopia.

Interviews » The End Times » Leibniz, Berkeley, Kant, Frege; bees, toasters and Julius Caesar (published 19/09/2014)

Within ten years he had produced a strikingly original, if slightly crazy, physics of his own. He then traveled to Paris and received a crash course in the cutting edge physics and mathematics of his day. Shortly afterwards, he began making really big contributions in math and physics, some of which I suspect still aren’t fully appreciated today. Among other things, he discovered the infinitesimal calculus, offered a devastating critique of Descartes’s laws of motion, and laid the foundations for important developments in the eighteenth century by the likes of Euler, Lagrange and Jacobi.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jeffrey K. McDonough.

Interviews » The End Times » philosophy of captivity (published 12/09/2014)

The magnitude of the harms done to animals is almost incomprehensible — 60 billion suffer before they are slaughtered for food in global industrial agricultural production annually and that contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector, which in turn is wreaking havoc on animal habitats on land and in the sea. When we also consider the additional threats that other animals face from human activities, it becomes clearer that the problems are structural and remedies cannot solely rely on individual tastes. But there are some really hard philosophical questions about what, if anything, individuals can do to help curtail these harms.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Lori Gruen.

Interviews » The End Times » Towards a Secular Europe (published 05/09/2014)

I regard 1989 as more important than 9/11 in bringing back religion to the world order. Once the division of the world along allegedly secular values collapsed, the way to re-draw boundaries and decision fell back on religious identity as the strongest form of cultural difference, at least in the eyes of the ruling west. 9/11 was just the first global stage to assert the change of picture. It is true that starting from this 9/11, religious voices became more prominent at the global level: they quickly understood that the political stakes were high; it was not about controlling national politics, but about shaping the international order along religious lines.We know what happened: the still born constitution gave birth to a set of minor technocratic changes; religion as a political fuel is alive and well in the spirit of European people in particular when it comes to define Europeanness and otherness, which typically takes the form of Islam-as if we were back to the time of the Crusades.

Continung the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Lorenzo Zucca.

Interviews » The End Times » from normativity to responsibility etc (published 01/09/2014)

We are united by our relations to a common history, a common heritage of cuisines, architecture, crafts, professional and leisure activities, arts and literature, and more which shape our imagination, providing us with the memory of smells and colours and patterns of response, and mutual expectations, which enable us to understand each other, and open avenues for individual development and creativity within the common bonds, individuality which makes itself understood to others, because its roots are in the common culture, and which can be freer and richer because of the richness from which it derives. Interpretations of cultural goods, of history and psychology, are crucial to these processes precisely because they combine preservation with change, plurality with relating to a common core, the common object of interpretation.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Joseph Raz.

Criticism » The Rottweiler’s Guide to the Dog Owner (published 29/08/2014)

Poetry that is about the yearning for a moment you missed and couldn’t ruin, poetry that goes to an imagined community of real people who rightly fear the known, poetry that reverses justice, becoming the carrot with the stick taken out, poetry that comes out of bars as philosophy, that never forgets nor forgives Eliot, that is taller, that from afar can be mistaken for tomorrow and from a distance yesterday and from here neither yesterday nor tomorrow nor either proven until false nor shown to be true, poetry that is always losing the connecting verb, that arrives incognito by mistake, that, given a presupposition of well-being and confidence, resists opinions and clings instead to Werner Herzog, Bowie’s ‘Heathen’/’Reality’/’Outside’, leaving a recorded message because it’s caught in traffic wanderlust or some indeterminate clause… the binaries all left undone and untidy.

Richard Marshall on S.J. Fowler‘s The Rottweiller’s Guide to the Dog Owner.

Interviews » The End Times » The Ethical Machiavelli (published )

Up to the second half of 18th century some of Machiavelli’s most intelligent readers – philosophers like Francis Bacon and Spinoza and Rousseau – read him as a thinker who wanted to uphold high moral standards. They thought he wrote ironically to expose the cynical methods politicians use to seize power, while only seeming to recommend them. Which doesn’t mean they thought he was writing pure satire, a send-up of political corruption. He had constructive aims too: to train people to see through plausible-sounding excuses and good appearances in politics, and think harder about the spiralling consequences of actions that seem good at the time.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Erica Benner.

Interviews » The End Times » Saying no! to Jack Bauer: mainstreaming torture (published 22/08/2014)

Within a few weeks of the 9/11 attacks, it became clear to anyone who wanted to know that one result was that people were going to be tortured. Of course this wasn’t the first time the U.S. government has been involved with torture, but September 11 did mark a real change. Almost overnight, a question that many people believed had been resolved – whether or not torture is wrong – was reopened. In November of 2011, Jonathan Alter, a mainstream liberal columnist, wrote in Newsweek, “In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to … torture.” He wondered whether it might be a good plan to deport the Muslims living in the United States whom the FBI had rounded up to “Saudi Arabia, land of beheadings.”

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Rebecca Gordon.

Nonfiction » Pataphysics is dead serious (published 19/08/2014)

Can a man who asks for a toothpick on his deathbed be serious? Can a College which has Committees for Hirsutism and Pogonotrophy or a calendar with names of months such as Phallus (Phalle) or Pshit (merdre) , and whose members devote a large amount of time to spoonerisms and to Oulipo games such as writing novels without the letter “e”, be really serious? Indeed, His Magnificence Irénée-Louis Sandomir, the founder and first Vice-Curator of the College, says in his Opus Pataphysicum: “Doesn’t serious mean anti-pataphysical”? And the College’s specialist of spoonerisms, the Regent Luc Etienne formulated the main axiom:”The real pataphysician takes nothing seriously, except ‘Pataphysics, which consists in taking nothing seriously”, and added a corollary: “‘Pataphysics consisting in taking nothing seriously, the true Pataphysician cannot take anything seriously, not even ‘Pataphysics”.

Pascal Engel on the seriousness of Pataphysics.

Interviews » The End Times » responsibility and punishment (published 15/08/2014)

A multi-disciplinary perspective is necessary if one wants a nuanced understanding of the mental states legal responsibility depends upon, and the way in which scientific psychology may, or may not provide evidence that such states are present in a criminal defendant. Court cases are a rich source of information regarding folk psychological assessments of responsibility, and legal scholars discuss, categorize, and critique courts’ handling of hard cases. Neuroscience currently represents cutting-edge scientific accounts of human psychology, and lawyers are increasingly presenting neuroscientific data as evidence. Philosophy is a way to bridge the gap between the folk psychological foundation of legal responsibility and neuroscience.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Katrina Sifferd.