:: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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