:: Interviews

Has Physics Gone Astray? published 04/08/2018

Quantum gravity is necessary to remove contradictions between general relativity and quantum theory. This is to my knowledge the only presently existing mathematical inconsistency in our theories of nature, and hence a very strong indicator that the theories we have are incomplete.

Saying that we ‘need’ quantum gravity is saying too much. It’s not that we need quantum gravity like, say, clean water or sustainable agriculture. But it is, in my opinion, one of the presently most promising avenues for progress in the foundations of physics.

 Real world impacts are hard to predict and often amount to little more than science fiction. To find a theory for quantum gravity, we will have to better understand quantum theory itself.

Tam Hunt interviews Sabine Hossenfelder.

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Is Time Travel Possible? Are We Close to Doomsday? And Other Big Deals… published

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.

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Interdisciplinary: Metaphysics, Science and Philosophy published 28/07/2018

Looking at Pauli’s scientific correspondence and the way he originally introduced the principle in a letter to Alfred Landé in 1924, it was clear that it was a purely phenomenological rule to explain some puzzling phenomena in spectroscopy on which Pauli and colleagues had been working for years. Heisenberg referred to it teasingly as Pauli’s “Verbot”; and it was only with Dirac that it became known as “Pauli’s exclusion principle” in 1926. How did a phenomenological rule eventually become a scientific principle?

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Michela Massimi.

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Philosophy and Poetry published 22/07/2018

Martha Nussbaum argued that what we value is embedded in narrative structures (it’s the way in which some object figures in a narrative that attaches value and significance to it) and it is the particular histories with certain things that gives them the significance they have in our lives. For instance, my lucky penny is not lucky in itself but has developed this significance because I have carried it around and there have been a series of events which I perceive to have experienced luck whilst in possession of the penny. The penny may have further significance if given to me by a loved one, and so through the connected episodes the object is configured with a particular value and significance that can only be understood or explained with reference to that history. Nussbaum develops this thought with reference to the role emotional responses play in shaping this significance in such episodes (e.g. the feeling of security that comes from knowing I have my lucky penny to my gratitude in succeeding in my endeavours and attributing that gratitude to that particular object).

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Karen Simecek.

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The Weaponising of Free Speech On Campus, and Other Toxicities… published 20/07/2018

While the boundaries of speech have been debated and contested on campus for decades, the focus on free speech as a wedge issue is newer and more pressing in the last few years. The history of campus activism is long and storied: Students’ concerns about invited speakers, for instance, have sparked protests and disinvitations in the 1970s; the Vietnam war gave rise to heated political activity on campus; the sweatshop issue prompted students to stage sit-in numerous times over decades. None of the current expressions of tensions – protests, ‘no platforming,’ controversial speakers, disinvitations – is new. What we see now that we have not seen before is, first of all, the involvement of outside groups, ideologically motivated and funded by individuals and organizations, which are promoting the more divisive aspects of the current tensions. It seems that they do so either out of a sense that conservative and right-leaning views are too sparse on college campuses, or as part of an effort to discredit higher education for political reasons.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Sigal Ben-Porath.

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Scorpio Rising: Gothic Hybridity and the Occult – A Discussion Between Laura Joyce and James Pate published 17/07/2018

My favourite Noir writers also suggest a greater mystery out there, something that can’t be solved, that maybe can’t even be articulated. Everyday experiences, everyday things – doors, windows, lakes, hotel rooms, corridors, beaches – become invested with a kind of unnervingly unknowable quality. To a certain extent, I like Noir for the same reasons I like the Gothic. I’m much more interested in what I don’t know than what I do know.

A Discussion Between Laura Joyce and James Pate.

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Emptiness and No-Self: Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamaka published 15/07/2018

The emptiness of emptiness is interesting as a response to the Madhyamaka dilemma because of its meta-philosophical implications. It forces us to re-examine our conception of what philosophical theories are and what they do. The theory of emptiness certainly looks like a very general and very comprehensive metaphysical theory. And if we consider it from the perspective of Western metaphysics we are all familiar with, it is unclear how we could say that such a theory is not making the claim that it is ultimately true.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jan Westerhoff.

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How Not To Be A Frog In A Well: Chinese/German/Buddhist Philosophy published 14/07/2018

Hegel and Rosenzweig belong to what could well be described as the religiously motivated rejection of non-Western forms of thought; they lack the grandeur and height of God and the individual dignity of the person that they respectively associate with Christianity and Judaism. These narratives are not only historically problematic in the past; they concern the present. Each time someone claims that the Chinese are merely imitative and not capable of creativity, merely collective without any sense of individuality, that an idea does not matter because it is only Chinese, and so on, they are reproducing the Eurocentric and Aryanist (it should not be forgotten the common use of such terms across the West until 1945) racial schemata that emerged in the Enlightenment as reason and freedom were increasingly identified as unique capacities of a particular race and civilization that had the duty to rule over lesser ones.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Eric S. Nelson.

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Low cost, big aims: An interview with Dostoyevsky Wannabe published 10/07/2018

What we publish has to be very good, very bad in a good way, or very cool — and that stands as our criteria. I suppose it’s similar to the “publishing” in inverted commas thing. A way not only of not setting ourselves up as appointed gatekeepers but also of not offering wholly fabricated standards to writers that nobody could live up to because they don’t genuinely exist.

Fernando Sdrigotti interviews Richard Brammer.

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An Interview Without Gordon Lish published 09/07/2018

The conditional nature of a work of art voiced in Lish’s regret—what he meant to do—is known to anyone who creates: very rarely are we not beset with contingencies, interruptions, and limitations that prevent untrammeled expression of our original intent. If we’re very lucky, the ‘something else’ that happens instead is an improvement over what we imagined we would make.

By Carrie Cooperider.

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