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Reviews » Shklovsky’s Zoo (published 12/07/2015)


The impression by the end is of conceivable dark and silence or an indefinite approximating towards them. At the last the voice speaks over herself with a possibly apocryphal story about Franz Kafka. Kafka looms large in this. His parables free up narrowing limits. Something expires before our very eyes before the last syllable and what we end up with is that odd kind of actuality Beckett in a letter writes down, i.e.:

‘… the pigeon helping with its wing the too frail branch on which it lights.’

Richard Marshall reviews Joanna Walsh’s Shklovsky’s Zoo, with images by Maja Nilsen.

Interviews » The End Times » Between Saying and Doing (published 19/06/2015)


I think what distinguishes philosophers as such is that we study humans as discursive beings—that is, as normative rational creatures, in the sense that what we in the fullest sense do (including believing) is subject to normative assessment as to the goodness of the reasons we have for doing or believing that. (How rational we are in the sense of how successful we are at actually fulfilling our obligations to have such reasons is quite a different matter.) Norms and inferential-justificatory behavior can be studied empirically. But the question of what norms and good inferences are, and of how to understand the kind of creatures we are in virtue of living in such a normative space of reasons seem to me to be of the first importance—not only for philosophers, but for the culture at large.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Robert Brandom.

Interviews » The End Times » On German Materialism (published 13/06/2015)


Materialism has always been political, at least in the eyes of its opponents. This could already be seen in Antiquity, when Plato threatened materialists with jail (Nomoi X), and later when Christianity had become the hegemonic spiritual force in Europe and allied with the ruling forces of feudal society: all kinds of a-religious or anti-religious philosophy, materialism included, became automatically ‘political’ in that they seemed to undermine the foundations of the established social order. This was confirmed by contemporary reactions to Hobbes or to French materialism in the 18th century, accused of having brought about the French Revolution.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Kurt-Otto Bayertz.

Interviews » The End Times » Thinking About Mindreading, Mirroring and Embedded Cognition et al… (published 06/06/2015)


My impulse is to bring science into partnership with philosophy wherever possible (and relevant) . This was easily exercised in philosophy of mind as well as epistemology. Interestingly, when I turned to the topic of “folk psychology” (later called “theory of mind” or “mindreading”), I noticed that even philosophers preoccupied with some variety of cognitive science oddly chose a strikingly a priori methodology to answer the question of how mindreading is executed. Their answers came straight from the pages of other philosophers, who had floated armchair-based hypotheses about how people assign mental states (to self and others).

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alvin Goldman.

Interviews » The End Times » Why Murder Philosophers? (published 29/05/2015)


Montaigne says that death’s power over us comes from its “strangeness,” from that when it strikes it usually finds us unprepared. That’s why we need to devise spiritual exercises whereby we make death a familiar presence in our lives – “domesticate” it, if you will. Here’s one recipe that he proposes: “let us frequent [death], let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind than death. At every instant let us evoke it in our imagination under all its aspect.” So we have to bring death into the midst of our existence, show it hospitality, give it shelter and take good care of it.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Costica Bradatan.

Interviews » The End Times » How Pragmatism Reconciles Quantum Mechanics With Relativity etc (published 24/05/2015)


While I think quantum theory helps us to understand all kinds of otherwise puzzling phenomena, it does not do this by saying what’s going on at a deeper level: ontologically speaking, there is no quantum level. Quantum theory is fundamental to contemporary physics, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. But it does not contain fundamental laws, and does not contribute its own fundamental ontology. Since quantum mechanics is in these ways parasitic on other descriptive or representational frameworks it cannot be expected to provide a basis for the reduction of the macroscopic to the microscopic. Nor, therefore, can anything else within the horizon of contemporary physics.

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

Interviews » The End Times » What’s a hole made of and other enigmas (published 16/05/2015)


Holes provided many nice examples of entities about which we have rich and a times conflicting intuitions. These include the idea that holes do not exist, that holes are just parts of the holed-object, or that they are properties that we erroneously re-conceptualize as individuals.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Roberto Casati.

Interviews » The End Times » Why The World Does Not Exist But Unicorns Do (published 10/05/2015)


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.

Interviews » The End Times » Darwinian conundrums (published 02/05/2015)


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.

Interviews » The End Times » philosophy of science (published 25/04/2015)


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.