:: The End Times

Glory, Beauty, Epiphany, Imagination: How To Do Moral Philosophy published 11/01/2019

If I want to overthrow the grand récit of ethical theory, then what do I want to put in its place? Part of the answer lies in Williams’ stinging retort to this question when his supervisor Hare put it to him: “I don’t want to put anything in its place—that’s not a place where anything should be.” But if we anti-theorists propose to change the landscape, we do have to explain what we think the landscape should be changed to. So another part of the answer to Hare is that there’s a whole variety of rich ethical resources that we can free ourselves up to deploy if we just get out of the grip of theory. And here (now I’m going well beyond anything that Williams says) are some of them: glory, beauty, epiphany, and indeed imagination.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Sophie Grace Chappell.

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Quine’s Naturalism published 22/12/2018

I find Quine’s variant of naturalism fascinating because he is not particularly interested in these big, often very polarized, debates between naturalists and supernaturalists. Rather, he pretty much assumes that these debates have been settled and he seeks to advance our scientific worldview by showing that a truly naturalistic picture of reality also requires that we radically rethink our philosophical views about truth, justification, mind, reference, and meaning. In short, Quine argues that traditional philosophical disciplines like metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of language need to be naturalized as well.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Sander Verhaegh.

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Curriculum and the Child Redux published 14/12/2018

Cutting across the political and other beliefs that divide us within this framework are values which nearly all of us share or at least say we share. We want ourselves and others to have a flourishing personal life based on autonomously chosen activities and relationships. We want us all to possess the necessary conditions of such a life – good physical and mental health, adequate income, housing, education, time to ourselves, safety, the rule of law, internal and external peace etc. We want interesting work with all positions, including élite positions, open to all of us. We want to live in a democratic society, one that involves all of us in different ways in decision-making affecting the well-being of ourselves and the various communities, local and national, in which we live.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews John White.

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Hegel and the Ethical Life published 08/12/2018

Costello presents a challenge to the account of critical reflection that I go on to offer, because she suggests that such atrocities could become so seamlessly integrated into everyday life that no one suspects (except lone critics like her) that there is something deeply wrong here.  It presents a challenge to Hegel’s optimism that, if there is something deeply wrong here, it will break through the surface in the form of practical contradictions, which will in turn make continued participation in the practice in question increasingly untenable. 

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Andreja Novakovic.

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Kant’s Sublime published 30/11/2018

Kantian moral psychology borrows quite a lot from the Stoics, including the basic conception of the good as the object of practical reason. In the second Critique (5:57ff.), Kant points out that German has ready resources to distinguish good from well-being (Güte from Wohl), and bad from ill-being (Böse from Übel). This is exactly the distinction that the Stoics drew, when they argued that the only truly good thing is virtue; anything else might have a kind of positive (or negative) value for planning things out so that things go well (or ill) for one. The Stoics, like Kant, think that human beings typically suffer from chronic misvaluing, where we confuse what is preferable in this latter way for what is genuinely good, and what is dispreferable in this latter way for what is genuinely bad. The only genuinely good thing is virtue, say the Stoics.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Melissa Merritt.

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German Idealism and Modernism published 23/11/2018

On trial in The Trial is not only the confused and despairing Josef K., who finds himself being accused of a crime he seems to have no recollection of having committed and whose nature is never revealed to him, but our very capacity for making ourselves intelligible through the use of language. Of course, The Trial displays a surface clarity unsurpassed by most so-called modernist writings. Kafka was a brilliant story-teller and never conducted “experiments” with language. My claim, though, is that the surface clarity of his prose only barely disguises a deeper and more fundamental sense of uncertainty with regard to speech as a means for creating mutual understanding.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Espen Hammer.

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How History Gets Things Wrong published 22/11/2018

Our whole culture and every civilization that we have any record of is constructed on the rickety foundations of the theory of mind. It has given us free will, moral responsibly, praise and blame, moral norms and political institutions, things we can’t dispense with in the normal course of life.  My book is a plea that when we try to mitigate the worst features of human interaction, to design better institutions, control an uncertain future, we try to use theories that have a chance of being on the right track instead of the theory of mind.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alex Rosenberg.

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Dilthey, Simmel, Nietzsche, Benjamin: Life and Relativism published 17/11/2018

In the view of some, we are living in a “culture of life”. The practical impact of scientific discourses on life also points towards an important feature of the concept in general: when life becomes an epistemological object, established oppositions such as theory and practice or nature and culture are often transcended. Naturalistic concepts of life seek to explain also social, cultural, and even ethical phenomena. This holistic dimension of the concept of life makes possible, on the other, so many interventions on the part of the humanities against the reductionism of naturalistic explanations.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Johannes Steizinger.

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Multi-Scale & Existentialist Freedoms published 09/11/2018

The idea of level encourages scientists, on the basis of nothing, to formulate the idea of dependence of everything on the minutest stuffs, because a level system admits of natural bottoms and tops.  And while there is no reason to resist the idea that any number of things depend on the minutest features of the universe, why (by the very same token) should we insist upon it?  In any case, it requires an argument to maintain any sort of dependence thesis, whatsoever its content.  That is my fundamental argument against levels.  By holding out the model of levels in advance of any argument to that end, we smuggle in some profound prejudices.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Mariam Thalos.

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Buddhaghosa: Immeasurable Words published 03/11/2018

The text that we have begins to list matrices that operate as a sort of table of contents introducing different types of causes and conditions among the phenomena of lived experience, and it operates in an algorithmic way of endlessly ramifying the possibilities for human experience. The Burmese scholars of old sometimes said it simply cannot be written down, and at others times tried to estimate how many cartloads of books it would take. There really is nothing equivalent to this style of thought about psychological experience in other traditions.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Maria Heim.

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