Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Clive James

Clive James’s death at his home in Cambridge on 24 November has just been announced. He survived to his surprise and gratitude ten years after a first terminal diagnosis, thanks to the wonders of the hospital here. He leaves, along … Continue reading → The post Clive James appeared first on Logic [More]

Watsuji Tetsurō

[Revised entry by Robert Carter and Erin McCarthy on November 27, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Watsuji Tetsurō (1889 - 1960) was one of a small group of philosophers in Japan during the twentieth century who brought Japanese philosophy to the world. He wrote important works on both Eastern and Western philosophy and philosophers, from ancient Greek, to Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Heidegger, and from primitive Buddhism and ancient Japanese culture, to Dōgen (whose now famous writings Watsuji single-handedly rediscovered), aesthetics, and Japanese ethics. His works on Japanese ethics are still [More]

How to Make a Difference

Steven Hales complains that we (folk and academic ethicists alike) focus too much on individual action:We like to believe that when it comes to the great global issues of our time—climate change, pollution, poverty, mass extinction—that we each can make a difference. A small one maybe, but a real and significant difference, nonetheless. [...] That’s a mistake. It not only makes us guilt-ridden and worse off psychologically, but even more harmfully it also provides only the illusion of effective action, thereby allowing global problems to fester without a proper solution. [... W]hen it comes to global-scale issues, what individuals do is somewhere between 100 percent pointless and 99.9999999 percent pointless.There's something right about this, but the central claim is crucially wrong.  After all, if you're able to alleviate just 0.0000001% of global harms, that's actually quite a lot of good you've done!  You may have saved someone's life, or slightly increased the chance of humanity's continued survival, or slightly increased the average quality of life for future generations (and either of the latter two may in fact involve astronomical amounts of good).  Once we grasp the magnitudes involved, it becomes clear that having a proportionate impact is far from pointless.Hales argues that individual contributions are necessarily wasted "when (1) we solve climate change and your sacrifice wasn’t needed after all, or (2) we fail to solve it and your [More]

Etymology and delusion, part 2

Last week (November 20, 2019), I discussed one aspect of etymological lunacy. Looking for a (or even the) protolanguage is a sound idea, even though specialists’ efforts in this direction have been both successful and disappointing. The existence of Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Semitic can hardly be doubted; yet many crucial details remain unknown. The post Etymology and delusion, part 2 appeared first on [More]

Syllabus Showcase: Jonathan R. Cohen, Constructing Our World, Constructing Ourselves, Nineteenth Century German Philosophy

by Jonathan R Cohen Jonathan R Cohen holds degrees from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Penn. He began teaching at the University of Maine Farmington in 1992 after a year at Swarthmore. His research focuses on Nietzsche, Ancient Philosophy, and Jewish Philosophy. He is the author of a study of Nietzsche’s Human, [More]

A Collection of Stories for Teaching Ethics

Luc Bovens, professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has created a website that gathers together and organizes various “short stories in world literature by both classical and contemporary writers” that may be useful in teaching a range of questions in ethics and social and political philosophy. The site is called TESS: Teaching Ethics with Short Stories. Aimed primarily at college and high school students in humanities courses, it gives visitors the option of browsing through its collection of stories geographically or thematically. The themes include “autonomy & dignity,” “luck & irony”, “gender & relationships,” “truth & deception,” and others, as you can see on the image of the theme menu, below: The site is not just useful but also beautifully designed, with artwork by Fiorella Lavado. If you click on a tile, you’re brought to a page with brief descriptions of various relevant stories. For example, if you click on “truth & deception”, you get the following: Clicking on any of the stories will bring you to a page with a link to that story, links to some relevant news articles, and a set of questions. The site is supported by the Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has also received funding from the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method and from the Centre for the Philosophy of the [More]

Anticipating Automation and Utopia

On the 11th of January 2020, I will be giving a talk to the London Futurists group about my book Automation and Utopia. The talk will take place from 2 to 4pm in Birkbeck College London. The full details are available here. If you are around London on that date, then you might be interested in attending. If you know of anyone else who might be, then please spread the word.In advance of the event, I sat down with the Chair of the London Futurists, David Wood, to chat about some of the key themes from my book. You can watch the video of our conversation above.I can promise that the talk on the 11th won't simply be a rehash or elaboration of this conversation, nor indeed a rehash of any of my recent interviews or talks about the book. I'll be focusing on something different. #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]

Back to categories

IFL2 is off to the proof-reader. So, for a while, time to think of other things. A while back, I constructed a webpage linking to online materials on category theory at an introductory/middling  level, including lecture notes, (legally available!) books, … Continue reading → The post Back to categories appeared first on Logic [More]

Arrow’s Theorem

[Revised entry by Michael Morreau on November 26, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Kenneth Arrow's "impossibility" theorem - or "general possibility" theorem, as he called it - answers a very basic question in the theory of collective decision-making. Say there are some alternatives to choose among. They could be policies, public projects, candidates in an election, distributions of income and labour requirements among the members of a society, or just about anything else. There are some people whose preferences will inform this choice, and the question is: [More]