Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Hydrogen-Based Economy: Is it Enough to Paint Something Blue to Make it Green?

A hopeful image for a hopeful article by Bertrand Piccard. "Blue Hydrogen" seems to be popular, nowadays. But is it enough to paint something blue to make it green? It turns out that "green" hydrogen, assuming it exists, is too expensive for what we need to do now in order to move away from fossil fuels and stabilize Earth's climate. Hydrogen has come a long way since the time when it was discovered by Henry Cavendish as a component of the water molecule in the 1700s and then given its name of “creator of water” by Henry Lavoisier in 1783. It was later discovered that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and the main component of stars. Using hydrogen as a fuel is an old idea. It was, again, Cavendish who discovered that it can burn. The idea that hydrogen could be cycled as an energy storage medium is probably as old as the “fuel cell,” developed by William Grove in the early 1800s. In the 1950s and 1960s, the dream of "energy too cheap to meter" associated with nuclear technologies made it possible to think of hydrogen as an energy vector able to carry energy to the points of use, even vehicles, from a limited number of large nuclear plants. The first explicit mention of the concept of “hydrogen economy” was made by John Bockris in 1970. The nuclear promise never materialized, but the concept of the hydrogen economy was later linked to renewable energy. The idea of the hydrogen economy gained a lot of traction with the 2002 book by Jeremy Rifkin, [More]

Rituals for the Dead: Religion and Community in the Medieval University of Paris, By William J. CourtenayBeing with the Dead: Burial, Ancestral Politics, and the Roots of Historical Consciousness, By Hans Ruin

Rituals for the Dead: Religion and Community in the Medieval University of Paris. By CourtenayWilliam J.. University of Notre Dame Press, 2018. 214 pages. $100.00 (hardcover), $45.00 (paperback), $35.99 [More]

The Parent-Child Relationship: Can it justify becoming a parent?

I recently became a father. Well, when I say recently, I mean just over a year ago (October 2019). Being a parent raises a number of practical and philosophical questions. Should you have children in the first place? How do you care for a newborn? How do you give your child the best start in life? Is it wrong to give your child special treatment over other children/people? Does being a parent give meaning to life that was previously absent? Ordinarily, I am inclined to prolonged and frequent spells of philosophical self-reflection. The examined life and all that. One thing that has surprised me about becoming a parent is how little of this I have done on the subject of parenting itself. Perhaps this is not unusual. Perhaps the first year of parenting tends to be dominated by the practicalities of caring for a child and not its philosophical import. But now that I have settled into a somewhat predictable routine with my daughter (fingers-crossed!), I have a bit more time for my usual ruminations. And there is plenty to ruminate on. In this article, I will focus on one issue in particular: the nature and value of the parent-child relationship. We have many relationships in our lives. They are often a source of value. Think about your friends and intimate partners, for example. Few of us would do without them. The parent-child relationship is both different from and similar to these other kinds of relationships. What I want to consider are its structural features and how these [More]

Capitol Assault: Epistemic Defects

Incited by Trump and his enablers, Trump supporters attacked the capitol of the United States. While this is mostly a matter of law and politics, it does raise issues in both epistemology (the theory of knowledge) and ethics. I have been working informally on epistemic epidemiology and this provides an ideal case. While Trump, his [More]

The Great Reset: The Western Path to Dekulakization

 One of the Soviet propaganda posters promoting the collectivization of agriculture in the 1930s. On the lower right, you can see a small man opposing the line of the marching peasants, He is recognizable as a "Kulak," one of the local independent farmers who were dispossessed and partly exterminated to leave space for collectivized farms.  In the 1930s, the Soviet Union carried out the "dekulakization" (раскулачивание) of Ukraine. It was the term given to the removal of the relatively wealthy, independent farmers ("kulaki"), to be replaced by collective farms. Their properties were confiscated, many of them were relocated to remote regions, and some were exterminated. We don't know the exact numbers of people involved, but surely we are in the range of a few million. The transition to collectivized farms may have been one of the causes of the great Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s, known as the "Holodomor," The reasons for the dekulakization are several. In part, they were related to the belief that large-scale, centrally planned enterprises were more efficient than small family-owned firms. Then, the Kulaki were seen as a potential enemy for the Soviet Government, while the region they occupied was a strategic asset in terms of food production in an age when famines were an effective war weapon. But these considerations are not enough to explain why the Kulaki were so ruthlessly destroyed in just a few years. It was, rather, just a simple power [More]

Black, White, Left, Right and Blue

Incited by their leader, Trump supporters stormed the capital. This event, like the anti-mask protests, provides a clear contrast with the police response to BLM protests. To illustrate, Trump ordered the tear gassing of peaceful protestors for a photo op outside of a church while rioters in the capital were able to take selfies with [More]