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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.

Criticism » Borges’s funes the memorious (published 09/03/2014)

In 1887 John Langdon Down lectured on what he called ‘idiot savants’ . The film ‘Rain Man’ features a character with this syndrome. The film is based on Kim Peek who is said to have the most astonishing memory on earth. It was estimated that he knew the content of 12,000 books. He could read different pages of a book with different eyes. He read eight pages in 53 seconds and recalled 98% of what he’d read. He couldn’t filter. He had limited capacity to reason. Any problem not based on memory stumped him or proved difficult. He only read factual books. Multiple interpretation and ambiguity was avoided. He processed information literally. He ended talks around the world saying, ‘We are all different. You don’t have to be handicapped to be different. Treat other people like you would like to be treated and the world will be a better place.’

Richard Marshall reads Quiroga on Borges and Memory.

Interviews » The End Times » 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.

Nonfiction » The Prophetic Silence of Bolaño’s ‘2666’ (published 02/03/2014)

A proper understanding of existence is that we are not its purpose. Bolaño writes to that impressive fact. His esotericism is a matter of asserting this anti-providentialism. It results in a change of consciousness. Yet as an author there is a lingering requirement to order and structure that rejects happenstance. Bolaño’s writing knows that there is a creative imagination ordering and processing. But the new consciousness it springs out of is one that withdraws from saying what purpose it has, or if there is any.

Richard Marshall on Bolaño’s ‘2666’.

Interviews » The End Times » 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.

Criticism » why fight poverty etc (published 23/02/2014)

We need a much better understanding of how we support each other, and how money – and other support – is passed around and within families before we can think about reducing poverty. We need to understand the very different experiences of poverty, and how gender, disability and ill health all influence someone’s chances of becoming poor. We need to know more about the role of culture, attitude and behaviour in shaping people’s experience of poverty.

Richard Marshall reviews the new Perspectives series.