Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Conspiring with the Enemy: The Ethic of Cooperation in Warfare

2020.05.11 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Yvonne Chiu, Conspiring with the Enemy: The Ethic of Cooperation in Warfare, Columbia University Press, 2019, 344pp., $35.00 (pbk), ISBN 9780231182454. Reviewed by Jovana Davidovic, University of Iowa War is an exercise in brutality defined by the breaking of ordinary moral norms. Yet, over and over again, history presents us with cases of enemies seemingly ignoring what war requires of them and cooperating with each other sometimes against their own interest. In this book, Yvonne Chiu examines this phenomenon. Theorizing about ethics of war far too often lacks reference to real-life lessons. This in turn often results in theories of war that cannot be straightforwardly used for decision-making in war, and accounts that are so far removed from practitioner's experiences that they get ignored. Ignoring the reality of war also often leads to blind spots regarding whole sets of ethical questions about war. Such is the case with ethic... Read [More]

Wilhelm Windelband

[New Entry by Katherina Kinzel on May 18, 2020.] Wilhelm Windelband (1848 - 1915) was a German neo-Kantian philosopher. He is considered the founding father of the Baden (or Southwest) school of Neo-Kantianism. The Baden school included his student and successor at Heidelberg, Heinrich Rickert (1863 - 1936), and Rickert's student Emil Lask (1875 - 1915) as its core members. Alongside his contemporary Hermann Cohen (1842 - 1918) - the founder of the Marburg school of Neo-Kantianism - Windelband is a central proponent [More]

Mindscape Podcast Interview on Automation and Utopia

Sean Carroll is one of my favourite authors and podcasters. He is a great cosmologist and defender of philosophical naturalism. His podcast Mindscape is the first thing I listen to every week. It was, consequently, a great privilege to be a guest on this podcast to discuss my book Automation and Utopia. You can listen below or check out the original post on Sean's website.   #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; } /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */ Subscribe to the [More]

Victor Gorshkov: a life for the biosphere.

The basic concept of the biotic regulation of Earth's temperature according to Gorshkov et al, 2002. The figure shows the potential function U(T) for the global mean surface temperature. Stable states correspond to pits, unstable states to hills. The modern value of +15°C (288 K) approximately corresponds to an unstable state (2, thin line). Physically stable states correspond to a frozen Earth (state 1) and a red-hot Earth (state 3). We are precariously living in a shallow minimum of potential energy that defines the habitable zone for the biosphere. This state can be created and maintained only by a healthy biosphere. On May 10th, 2019, Victor Gerogievic Gorshkov died in St. Petersburg after a life dedicated to scientific research that he continued to perform up to nearly the last moment. One year later, I thought I could publish this small homage to his figure and his work. His longtime coworker and companion, Anastassia Makarieva, was also kind enough to write a summary of Victor's life and work for this blog. In many ways, science follows the 20/80 rule, sometimes called the "Pareto's rule," which tells that 80% of the work is performed by just 20% of the performers. Maybe Pareto was an optimist and it may be that science works because, as Newton said long ago, a small number of "giants" emerge out of the general mediocrity. One of these creative people, a true giant of science, was Victor Gorshkov (1935-2019), researcher at the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, [More]

Articulating a Thought

2020.05.10 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Eli Alshanetsky, Articulating a Thought, Oxford University Press, 2019, 164pp., $50.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198785880. Reviewed by Matt Weiner, University of Vermont Eli Alshanetsky has written a valuable and original study of a phenomenon that is familiar to us all, but that has received little scrutiny in recent analytic philosophy: putting our thoughts into words. Sometimes articulating our thoughts is easy; they come to mind as sentences of the language we speak. But other times finding words for our thoughts is a struggle. It is these hard cases that Alshanetsky focuses on, where we seem to have a thought that we must work to formulate, and then we arrive at a formulation that we recognize as capturing the original thought. As Alshanetsky argues in Chapter 1, much of the philosophical literature on self-knowledge focuses on cases in which the thinker can easily state... Read [More]

The Great EROEI Scam: Are renewables a good idea?

The cheetah in the figure knows very well that it cannot spend more energy in chasing the impala than the impala can provide once eaten (in other words, the cheetah needs an energy return on the investment (EROEI) >1). Carnivores make no calculations about that question, they only know that, if they want to eat, they have to run. And this is our destiny, too. If we want to survive, we need to build new energy sources to replace fossil fuels and to that before depletion or climate change (or both) destroy us. But, unlike lions and cheetahs, we tend to discuss a lot on the subject and, sometimes, to get it completely wrong. This is the problem with the recent movie "Planet of the Humans" and its totally wrong evaluation of renewable energy (image by Nick Farnhill, creative commons license)   Years ago, when I discovered the concept of "EROEI" (or EROI), energy return for energy invested, I was both delighted and elated. "Here is," I thought, "an objective way to evaluate and compare the efficiency of energy technologies. No more shaky financial calculations, no more ideology, no more politics, only facts. And everyone has to agree on the facts." And the beauty of the concept was that if the EROEI is smaller than one for a certain technology, then it is an energy sink, not an energy production system.I was wrong more than I could have imagined. From when the idea of EROEI was first proposed, in the 1980s by Charles Hall, the concept was stretched, squashed, squeezed, [More]