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Interviews » The End Times » absolute generality (published 18/04/2014)

I thought it was absolutely obvious that one could make claims about absolutely everything, and started working on the topic because I thought it was ludicrous that anyone could think otherwise.

Now I believe that my younger self was blinded by a metaphysical prejudice.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Agustín Rayo.

Buzzwords » Philosophy at 3:AM (published 14/04/2014)

Some of Richard Marshall‘s End Times interviews have now been collected in a book entitled Philosophy at 3:AM (Oxford University Press): The appeal of philosophy has always been its willingness to speak to those pressing questions that haunt us as we make our way through life. What is truth? Could we think without language? Is [...]

Interviews » The End Times » philosophy of biology (published 11/04/2014)

Philosophy is, roughly speaking, its own field, though it has a special status because it’s so integrative – because the aim of philosophy is to get a coherent and defensible picture of everything going on. I very much like the one-line description of philosophy given by Sellars: philosophy is about “how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term.” If we take this view on board, it implies that philosophy will always be interacting with the sciences and drawing on them, but it won’t be swallowed up by them.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Peter Godfrey-Smith.

Nonfiction » Resnais, Giacometti and Seductive Maniera (published 10/04/2014)

According to Badiou being able to seduce women is also a reason for using conversational French for your philosophy. Again he cites Descartes: ‘ Such a varied and complete knowledge of all is to be found not in some aged pedant who has spent many years in contemplation but in a young princess whose beauty and youth call to mind one of the Graces rather than grey-eyed Minerva or any of the Muses.’ Badiou suggests that the French have been turning philosophy into a pick-up line ever since. ‘This intention will be repeated by all the notable French philosophers, who comprise a significant anthology: Rousseau, and also in his own way Auguste Compte, and then Sartre, as well as Lacan. All of them wished to be heard and admired by women and knew that they mustn’t be courted in Latin nor in the language of pedants.’

Richard Marshall on the attractions of Seductive Maniera.

Interviews » The End Times » 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.

Criticism » losers (published 29/03/2014)

How should we read? In circumstances where disasters are daily presented like a statement of accounts then the recommendation to read inattentively has appeal. Of course when Beckett did make the recommendation he read Proust as a writer on the prowl for laws and Kafka plain alarming. ‘Nothing is sure but emptiness and error,’ writes Beckett, ‘ … nothing but this idiotic race that every man seems condemned to engage in for no gain and which seems rather, as in Kafka, to be the effect of some divine curse.’ Readers crawl over their pages like across a burning globe, and our futile wheels turn in dying fires.

Richard Marshall reviews Brittain-Catlin’s Bleak Houses.

Interviews » The End Times » 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.

Interviews » The End Times » 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.

Criticism » GDP (published 16/03/2014)

‘Acceptance of the new measure for this period [pre 1950] would involve a major reinterpretation of American history.’ US productivity would be shown to be lower than the UK in 1914, and growth of GDP was lower than the UK by 1929. In the 1970s Thatcher came to power on the back of a calculation of the GDP that showed the UK economy in crisis. But later recalculation showed that things weren’t as bad as had been originally thought.

Richard Marshall on Diane Coyle’s GDP.

Interviews » The End Times » 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.