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Buzzwords » Top Reads of 2016: Richard Marshall (published 23/12/2016)

12 of what I’ve read this year: The Genesis of Neo-Kantianism, 1796-1880. Frederick Beiser. Beiser is an essential read and this is a great and readable book about an important sub-field of continental philosophy. It includes, for the Beckett fans amongst us, a chapter on Windelband, one of whose books Beckett read and from which […]

Interviews » Restless Hauntings: Richard Marshall Interviews Marina Warner (published 06/04/2009)

mw2By the time photography got into its stride it was accepted pretty much as a documentary index of reality. This was why it became very popular in spirit circles because it proved that spirits existed. Well now of course we know so much more about this very peculiar state of being which has been called ‘image flesh’ – a term of Maurice Merleau-Ponty that I like very much. It’s an expression I like because it implies flesh that is not flesh. He applied it to other forms of iconography, which are also image flesh. They might be more material than a photograph – a sculpture, a painting – but they share the relationship to the mind’s eye that photography does.

Richard Marshall talks Catholicism, zombies and Beckton Alps with Marina Warner.

Interviews » The End Times » Making a Difference (published 19/09/2018)

Hume’s answer to the problem of induction is: ‘custom or habit’. The mechanism is just a brute mechanism that works as follows: once you’ve got enough experience of events just like y (e.g. feeling satisfyingly full rather than dropping dead) following events just like x (eating toast), you start just brutely coming to expect y-type events when we experience x-type events. That’s it. Essentially it’s no different to what happens when your dog infers that a walk is imminent from the fact that you’ve just put your coat on, picked up its lead and said ‘Walkies!’. Your dog has come to expect a walk to follow because that’s what’s always happened in the past.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Helen Beebee.

Interviews » The End Times » Buddhism and Levinas (published 14/09/2018)

A chair, for example, is often regarded as “the same chair” whether it is painted one color or another, or a leg is replaced. Moreover, the concepts we employ are understood to circumscribe or capture that essence. But if all phenomena are always arising and passing away, dependent on causes and conditions, then—according to many Buddhist thinkers—they do not possess the nature or essence that we attribute to them with our words and concepts. They do not exist independently. According to our social/linguistic conventions, of course, things do have meanings that are stable. But upon analysis, many Buddhists argue, it is we who have superimposed these meanings on passing phenomena. Ultimately, these phenomena lack, or are empty of, the concepts that we superimpose upon them. Even this emptiness of the meaning that is superimposed, it is argued by some Buddhist philosophers, is itself dependent on the mental imputation of an essence, and is therefore also empty.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews William Endelglass.

Interviews » The End Times » The Causal Revolutionary (published 08/09/2018)

We have never internalized how profound this dichotomy is, which Nancy Cartwright immortalized in: “No causes in no causes out.” This means that statistics and big-data cannot answer ANY causal question, for example, what will happen if we intervene (say ban cigarettes) or what would have happened had we acted differently. The latter being counterfactual.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Judea Pearl.

Interviews » The End Times » The Monarchy of Fear (published 31/08/2018)

In an absolute monarchy, the monarch thrives on fear, and usually finds many ways to engineer fear. But in a democracy we need to look one another in the eye as equals and to work together for common goals. This requires trust, the willingness to be vulnerable to what other people do. If I’m always defending myself against you I do not trust you. Trust breeds deceit and defensiveness rather than common efforts to solve problems.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Martha Nussbaum.

Interviews » The End Times » Freedom’s Tendency to Get Ahead of Itself and Fall Short etc (published 25/08/2018)

We are used to seeing Kant as being somehow dismissive of our living nature, since he seems to define practical reason by means of actions that precisely go against our sensible impulses, desires, and inclinations. But although he makes it very hard to notice this, Kant in fact has a surprisingly wide and inclusive conception of desire and life: He defines the faculty of desire as the capacity to be by means of a representation the cause of the existence of what we represent. And to be alive means nothing else than to be a being of desire in this sense, a being that is capable of this practical stance toward the world.

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

Interviews » The End Times » Indian Materialist Philosophy (published 17/08/2018)

Buddhism offers a hope of liberation, nirvāṇa, getting out of the cycle of birth and rebirth, with suffering accompanying every birth. On the other hand, materialism has nothing to offer but the naked truth that consciousness dies as soon as the body is dead; therefore, there is no question of either liberation or rebirth. The hope for living forever in heaven is not there. Buddhism in this respect offers a middle way between traditional Hinduism and the Cārvāka/Lokāyata.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Ramkrishna Bhattacharya.

Interviews » The End Times » The Contesting Memory of African Philosophy (published 12/08/2018)

An African philosophical perspective, that takes itself seriously, must engage the question of being—i.e., what to be means—for contemporary Africa, since colonialism, above all else, destroyed the differing modes of African being-in-the-world. Indeed, the struggle for African freedom (which presently has achieved only the status of formal independence) is aimed at precisely this; reclaiming the African experience of being from within the context of our contemporary world. This is what Amilcar Cabral means by “return to the source.” This too is what Frantz Fanon is calling us to when he insists that we must invent our freedom. Remember, this is how The Wretched [Damned] of the Earth ends—one of the most important works of contemporary African philosophy.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Tsenay Serequeberhan.

Reviews » The End Times » Is Time Travel Possible? Are We Close to Doomsday? And Other Big Deals… (published 04/08/2018)

The Doomsday Argument applies anthropic thinking to our place in history.  It says (roughly), we should favour the prospect of imminent human extinction on the grounds that our location, qua randomly selected humans, is more probable if a large fraction of all humans there will ever be have already lived.  In other words, the argument runs, if we apply anthropic reasoning to our location in history, we should increase our probability for history being close to its end.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alasdair Richmond.