Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November philosophy links

Marilynne Robinson on 'Jonathan Edwards in a New Light: Remembered for Preaching Fire and Brimstone, He Was Actually One of the Great Intellectuals of His Era'.

'The Jewish Exiles Return to Germany -- Jürgen Habermas recalls philosophers and sociologists of Jewish background as returnees in the early Federal Republic Of Germany'.

Philip Bricker's new SEP entry on ontological commitment.

'John Stewart Bell: the nature of reality'. Bell's bio.
Debunking pop-science bogosity about Aristotle.

Interesting issue of Historical Reflections (on religion and the French Enlightenment).

At Philosopher's Zone, John Sellars and Kerry Sanders on the 'Return of the Stoics'.

'Remembering Derrida: A Forum by Peggy Kamuf, Gil Anidjar, Elisabeth Weber, Michael Marder and Luce Irigaray'.
The Dictionary of Untranslatables assumes the task of providing a comprehensive discussion of words significant in European philosophy whose "translation, into one language or another, creates a problem" (in the words of Barbara Cassin, its editor). In this it is astonishingly successful: comprehensive entries on hundreds of words, running to 1400 dense pages in the English edition, incorporating the work of 150 scholars in the original French and dozens more in the English translation.
'The most troublesome case is that of the expression “the priority of the right over the good,” which is untranslatable into French, and not solely because French lacks an equivalent for “right,” but also because of English’s lack of rigor.' (Translation by Jacques Lezra)

Added (Nov. 18): From the Partially Examined Life, 'Kant: What is Beauty?'

'Grace Notes: Eriugena and the Predestination Controversy'.

Siris has just posted a list of links: 'Links of Note, Noted'. [end of Nov. 18 addition]

Stellar performance of 'School Days' on YouTube (not a good video though).

Emmylou singing a Neil Young tune:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Philosophy links

Kadri Vihvelin and Terrance Tomkow didn't like Dennett's review of Mele's book on freedom: 'It is disgraceful because Dennett is coyly, with nodding winks and cunning smiles, inviting the reader to commit the ad hominem fallacy.'

Jerry Coyne didn't like John Gray's review of Dawkins' autobiography.

Michael Rosen reviews The Impact of Idealism: The legacy of post-Kantian German thought (four volumes).

'"Blind" to the obvious: Wittgenstein and Köhler on the obvious and the hidden' (by Janette Dinishak).

Sarah Bakewell's review of The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science (by Armand Marie Leroi). Also reviewed by Patricia Fara.

Frank Freeman reviews Emily Wilson's The Greatest Empire: a Life of Seneca.

Peter Thonemann reviews books on Thucydides by Neville Morley and Geoffrey Hawthorn. Morley's book is Thucydides and the Idea of History.

From Morley's post on the death of German novelist Siegfried Lenz:
It is the task of the novelist, as it is of the historian, to represent the complexity and ambiguity of life, against the tendency of politicians and businessmen to seek simple answers based on a limited number of suppositions and ends.
Baroness Onora O’Neill's Hansard Lecture: ‘Can Human Rights Be Justified?’

Cass Sunstein reviews Altered Pasts: Counterfactuals in History (by Richard J. Evans).

Russ Roberts interviewed about his book How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness.

Benjamin Bilski reviews Vincent Azoulay's newly translated Pericles of Athens:
Writing with precision and avoiding clichés and anachronisms, Azoulay carefully balances the credibility of classical sources. He presents a convincing account of the stratēgos in the Athens that emerged from the Persian Wars as a fragile democracy in which Pericles played a central role as the city further democratised its public institutions and increased its power until defeat in the Peloponnesian War.
Martin Woessner reviews two books on philosophy and film.

'Under the tutelage of [Wilhelm] Herrmann, [Karl] Barth was from the beginning suspicious of metaphysics and its impact upon Christian doctrine.'

Richard Waters reviews Walter Isaacson's book The Innovators (on the post-war pioneers who laid the groundwork for Silicon Valley):
Unlike Jobs, who was in equal parts brilliant and obnoxious, those singled out for special mention by Isaacson freely share both ideas and credit for their discoveries. The writer is at pains to stress that innovation often works best when combined with a selfless, highly collaborative approach.
From BBC Radio3, Andrew Hussey on Camus.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Some resources on sci-fi & philosophy

Eric Schwitzgebel has invited several philosophers and sci-fi authors to post lists of their favourite philosophical sci-fi stories. He's posted four batches so far (batch 1, batch 2, batch 3, and batch 4).

Schwitzgebel's inspiring effort got me thinking about other sources that may be relevant to the topic. Here's what I've found so far.

First, there are five six anthologies:

1. Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction (2010), its table of contents, a teacher's guide; it was reviewed by Matthew Cheney;

2. Philosophy of Science Fiction Film, by retired philosophy prof Steven M. Sanders;

3. Philosophy Through Science Fiction: A Coursebook with Readings, by Ryan Nichols, Nicholas D. Smith, Fred Miller. (It's an update of Thought probes: philosophy through science fiction literature.) Reviewed by Liz Stillwaggon Swan;

these two collections from Prometheus Books:

4. Philosophy and Science Fiction, ed. Michael Phillips;

5. Feminist Philosophy And Science Fiction: Utopias And Dystopias, ed. Judith A. Little; and...

Added (Oct. 13): 6. Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence, ed. Susan Schneider.

Next, there are several items by David Auerbach on his great Waggish blog (inc. 'SciFi novels for liberals' as well as posts on the Gollancz SF list, Olaf Stapledon's Flames, exceptional science fiction, and Gene Wolf).

Auerbach wrote an article about Thomas Disch at The Millions: 'The Prescient Science Fiction of Thomas M. Disch' (followed by an Appendix and a note on Disch's death at Waggish).

Here are two more especially apt items by Auerbach: one on Joanna Russ' 'We Who Are About To…'; the other on Robert Sheckley's 'Warm' (which Auerbach relates to P. F. Strawson's 'Freedom and Resentment'). 'Warm' is on Gutenberg.

Re. Sheckley, there is also this WaPo piece by Michael Dirda, as well as an item by Steve Danziger. One of Sheckley's stories, 'The Seventh Victim' (pdf), was the basis of The 10th Victim (with Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress).

There's some relevant material at Science Fiction Studies (here are some abstracts from a recent issue). This journal has made available the full texts of some old volumes; e.g., the Le Guin issue from 1975 and, from the same year, the Philip Dick volume (with contributions by Lem, Aldiss, and Fredric Jameson).

Also at Science Fiction Studies, one can find Roy Arthur Swanson's paper 'The True, the False, and the Truly False: Lucian’s Philosophical Science Fiction' (1976). Swanson was Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

There's some relevant material at Matthew Cheney's Mumpsimus. Cheney's an English professor who sometimes makes use of continental philosophy, as in this post about novels by M. John Harrison (which inc. references to Derrida and Deleuze).

At io9, there's a post by Charlie Jane Anders on 'The Philosophical Roots of Science Fiction'.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

C. E. Montague on working out a spice of ultimate good

I blogged about C. E. Montague last spring. Here's a passage from one of his books:
People whose work is the making of calculations or the manipulation of thoughts have been known to find a curiously restful pleasure in chopping firewood or painting tool-sheds till their backs ache. It soothes them with a flattering sense of getting something useful done straight off. So much of their "real" work is a taking of some minute or indirect means to some end remote, dimly and doubtfully visible, possibly — for the dread thought will intrude — not worth attaining. The pile of chopped wood is at least a spice of the ultimate good: visible, palpable, it is success. [pp.6-7] - C. E. Montague (Disenchantment, 1922)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sundry items of philosophy (in the loose & popular sense)

Lives of famous Scottish philosophers.

Carrie Figdor interviews Richard Fumerton about his book Knowledge, Thought, and the Case for Dualism. Fumerton mentions a course that he took as an undergrad at Victoria University in the University of Toronto, where he took philosophy courses with Francis Sparshott and Peter Hess. I attended Vic in the late 80's and took several courses with Hess, who completed his doctoral work at Brown under Roderick Chisholm (who supervised a lot of good philosophers).

From 2009: 'Moral and political philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre, honoured at [University College Dublin]' (inc. a 50-minute talk by MacIntryre).

Michael Rosen reviews Onora O'Neill's Acting on Principle: an Essay on Kantian Ethics.

From the Nordic Wittgenstein Review, Hans-Johann Glock's paper 'Reasons for Action:Wittgensteinian and Davidsonian Perspectives in Historical and Meta-Philosophical Context'.

Here's a bio of mathematician Karl Menger, son of economist Carl Menger

Dale DeBakcsy on Ludwig Feuerbach.

From last July, Habermas interviewed about the 'Internet and Public Sphere: What the Web Can't Do'.

Edith Ackermann interviewed by Urs Hirschberg on 'Talent, intuition, creativity: on the limits of digital technologies'.
Ancient commentators on Aristotle.

Parts 1 and 2 of  Mohammed Hashas' reflections on Islamic philosophy.

Richard J. Bernstein on 'The Pragmatic Roots of Cultural Pluralism'.

Seyla Benhabib in the NY Times: 'Who’s On Trial, Eichmann or Arendt?'

From last July, Benhabib on 'Human Rights and the Critique of “Humanitarian Reason”':
This prevalent mood of disillusionment and cynicism among many concerning human rights and humanitarian politics is understandable; but it is not defensible. Developments in international law since 1948 have tried to give new legal meaning to "human dignity" and "human rights". Admittedly, these developments have in turn generated the paradoxes of "humanitarian reason"....
Eric Posner's Twilight of Human Rights Law will be released in October. 

Margaret Somers and Fred Block on 'The Return of Karl Polanyi'. Karl Polanyi had a home in Pickering, the suburb of Toronto in which I was raised. Karl taught in the USA, but his wife Ilona Duczynska (more here) wasn't allowed to live there due to her socialist past. Karl Polanyi's daughter Kari Levitt was an economics professor at McGill University. Karl's nephew John won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry and taught at the University of Toronto. John's father (and Karl's brother) Michael Polanyi was an accomplished philosopher who anticipated some of Thomas Kuhn's ideas. There needs to be an at least three-volume work of historical fiction about this family.

'David Flusfeder’s novel John the Pupil follows three students of the medieval philosopher-savant Roger Bacon who make a secretive journey from England to the seat of the papacy at Viterbo'.

Jonathan Israel and Lynn Hunt trade blows over her review of his book Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre:'Hunt roundly berates me for the significance I attribute to Diderot, d’Holbach, and Helvétius, making one mistake after another.'

Marcus du Sautoy on Borges' appeal to mathematicians. Includes a mention of Cantor and a clip of Borges being interviewed in 1971. Borges 'read all Bertrand Russell's books on logic and maths'. Rebecca DeWald reviews a couple of companions to Borges.

From a thought-provoking post by sociologist Thomas Sheff:
The discipline of psychology, for example, has become Brahean, committed to systematic studies, even if they don’t work. One example: more than twenty thousand studies using self-esteem scales. These studies are systematic, but they don’t predict behavior and are therefore useless.
Psychologist Roy Baumeister tackles one of the biggest pseudo-scientific frauds of our day, the unsupported rhetoric about the importance of self-esteem.

From last June, 'A Philosopher Refutes the "Stuck in Time" Hypothesis of Amnesia' (about a paper by Carl F. Craver).

Here's a short poem by Edgar Lee Masters -- 'Imanuel Ehrenhardt' -- that manages to fit mentions of philosophers Sir William Hamilton, Dugald Stewart, Locke, Descartes, Fichte, Schelling, Kant, and Schopenhauer into its first five lines. Masters sets aside these philosophers in favour of John Muir.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Philosophy in the wider world

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a site devoted to theories of causal history. The site has entries for many ancient and early modern philosophers as well as for Russell, Schlick, Popper, Reichenbach, Hempel, Mackie, Suppes, David Lewis, Marjorie Grene, Paul Humphreys, Nancy Cartwright, James Woodward, and Christopher Hitchcock.

It's always interesting to find philosophers being cited in the medical sciences literature. Last July, I noted Carl Hempel's influence on the DSM. There is also Karl Popper's impact in epidemiology. For instance, Mervyn Susser and his partner, Zena Stein, made use of Popper's work. Susser also made reference to the work of Imre Lakatos, Thomas Kuhn, and Mario Bunge (among other philosophers).

The journal History of Psychiatry has an article on 'Ernst Cassirer's Philosophy of Symbolic Forms and its impact on the theory of psychopathology' by Norbert Andersch and John Cutting.

The same journal also has published 'Karl Jaspers on the disease entity: Kantian ideas and Weberian ideal types' by Chris Walker.

Blossom Dearie:

I posted last June about Berkeley's popularity among the poets. Peter Brooke reviews a book from 2010 called ‘We Irish’ in Europe: Yeats, Berkeley and Joseph Hone by W. J. McCormack. According to the book, somehow the Italian fascists (esp. Giovanni Gentile) co-opted Berkeley for their awful ideology. McCormack's book is also reviewed in Berkeley Studies by Tom Jones.

Wuthering Expectations has a post about Schopenhauer's influence on the French Decadents (something to which I alluded in a couple of posts). If I ever get the time, I'd like to look more closely at Schopenhauer's influence on Anna Karenina.

From the Huffington Post: 'The Unexpected Way Philosophy Majors Are Changing The World Of Business'.

The BBC Radio 4 has a series called Baldi, which is about a 'Franciscan priest and philosophy lecturer [who] turns amateur sleuth to solve murder mysteries'.

BBC Radio 3's series 'Wagner's Philosophers' (with broadcasts on Adorno, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and the German idealists).

Blossom Dearie performed the Adjectives song ('Unpack Your Adjectives' -- it's on YouTube) for Schoolhouse Rock. This next song of hers' never made it onto children's TV:

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Philosophy links, Sept. 6

The photo is of Elizabeth Anscombe speaking on the occasion of her receipt of an honorary degree at the University of Navarra.

'The Anscombe Forum is an annual event designed to explore the work of G.E.M. Anscombe in particular and Catholic thought in general.' (via LGH)

Richard Marshall interviews Joseph Raz.

Huenemanniac on Collingwood

The online journal Diametros hosts a collection of articles on the radical enlightenment. It includes a paper by Jonathan Israel.

Jane O'Grady's Guardian obits of several English philosophers (Geach, Goldie, Quinton, etc.).

Jonathan Glover's site is a real joy. I especially like the part called 'Travesties and Encounters', with anecdotes about Oakeshott, Waugh, and this bit about Bomber Harris and Rev. John Collins:
John Collins invited the Minister of Aircraft Production, Sir Stafford Cripps [grandfather of philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah], to give a talk on the subject "Is God My co-pilot?". Cripps argued that officers should only send men on bombing raids which they thought were morally as well as militarily justified. Sir Arthur Harris replied by arranging a lecture on "The Ethics of Bombing". This was given by T.D. ("Harry") Weldon. a Fellow in Philosophy at Magdalen College, Oxford. ... He was Personal Staff Officer to Sir Arthur Harris in Bomber Command and drafted the communications Harris sent to the Cabinet and the Air Ministry. Predictably, his talk was rather different from that given by Cripps. When Weldon had finished, Collins asked whether Weldon had not taken his subject to be "The Bombing of Ethics"?
On Vimeo, Robert Pippin on 'Critical Theory as Political Philosophy? Reflections on Honneth and Hegelianism'.

Here are four of my favourite replies to The Edge's question, 'What scientific idea is ready for retirement?'
Martin Rees: We'll Never Hit Barriers To Scientific Understanding.
Donald G. Hoffman: Truer Perceptions Are Fitter Perceptions.
Joel & Ian Gold: Mental Illness is Nothing But Brain Illness.
In the New York Times, Gary Greenberg reviews the Gold bros' new book:
What is in tatters for T.S.D. [Truman Show Delusion] patients is something crucial to negotiating social life, and that, according to the Golds, is the primary purpose toward which our big brains have evolved: the ability to read other people’s intentions or, as cognitive scientists put it, to have a theory of mind.

Leo Coleman on the recent English translation of Vincent Descombes' The Institutions of Meaning: a  Defense of Anthropological Holism. The same book is reviewed by Jocelyn Benoist.

Stéphane Haber reviews Descombes' Les embarras de l'identité (Identity's Difficulties). Descombes replies (beneath Haber's review).

Samuel Scheffler is interviewed about his book Death and the Afterlife:
What is not frequently noticed is that our practices of valuing and finding meaning in our lives draw upon the presumption that others will outlive us, that there will be generations of human beings continuing into the future.  One way to grasp the significance of this presumption is to imagine a scenario in which we know that humanity has no future.  How would this knowledge affect our lives in the present?
Physicist and novelist Alan Lightman on 'My Own Personal Nothingness'.

Michael Saler reviews physicist Marcelo Gleiser's book The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning. John Gribbin also reviews Gleiser's book.

John Horgan interviews philosophical physicists George Ellis and Carlo Rovelli.

Massimo Pigliucci on 'the return of radical empiricism'

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Philosophy link-o-rama

Here are the podcasts from an Oxford conference on 'Religious Epistemology, Contextualism, and Pragmatic Encroachment'.

From Philosophy TV, Gregg Caruso and Neil Levy on consciousness and moral responsibility; and Al Mele and Eddy Nahmias on free will and science.

Over the past few months, Siris has developed an epic series of posts on the Platonic corpus (including writings that used to be in that corpus but which are now doubted to have been written by Plato). Here's a list of what had been covered by August 1. Since then, there have been posts on the Symposium and the Republic. Also, there have been four thorough posts on Plato's letters as well as posts on Alcibiades Minor, Clitophon, Hippias Major, Xenophon's Symposium, and Plato's Epigrammata.

At Partially Examined Life, the hosts 'walk a live audience through Plato’s dialogue [Symposium] about love, sex, self-improvement....'. They also have a recent item about 'Maimonindes on God'.

Elisa Freschi has a series of posts about a conference on Buddhist philosophy (inc. one on Buddhism and philosophy of mind).

Cambridge have posted podcasts for several symposia, including the following: Ian Rumfitt and Gary Kemp on truth and meaning, Hallvard Lillehammer and Roger Crisp on moral testimony, Gideon Rosen and Marcia Baron on culpability, duress, and excuses, Amber Carpenter and Stephen Makin on the ethical significance of persistence, and Tamar Szabó Gendler and Jennifer Nagel on self-regulation.

Cambridge have also posted Alan Millar's Inaugural Address and Michael Bratman's Routledge Lecture.

From Elucidations, Jeff Buechner's podcast on Kripke and functionalism.

David Auerbach has a series of posts on Georg Simmel's Philosophy of Money.

Barry Stocker has a series of posts in the field of 'philosophy and literature', including several on Vico. See also his posts at NewApps.

At In Our Time (BBC), Melvyn Bragg discusses the philosophy of solitude with Melissa Lane, Simon Blackburn, and John Haldane.

From The Encyclopaedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory, 'Schopenhauer and Nietzsche on Moral Growth'.

From Philosophy Bites, Amia Srinivasan on Nietzschean genealogy and Roger Scruton on the sacred.

Some Roger Scruton quotations.

From the bio of Polish philosopher Henryk Elzenberg (who taught the poet Zbigniew Herbert):
Besides being motivated by his own philosophical inquiries, he took part in classes run by H. Bergson, F. Rauh, E. Durkheim, L. Levy-Bruhl and V. Delbos .... Elzenberg spent the years 1913-1917 on intensive studies on the philosophy of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. ... In the autumn of 1916 ... his work Foundations of Leibniz's Metaphysics was presented .... It was followed by his third book (habilitation) entitled Marcus Aurelius. On History and Psychology of Ethics (1922).
John Gray on Kenan Malik's history of ethics and John Gray on Michael Oakeshott.

Ádám Tamás Tuboly's review of Greg Frost-Arnold’s Carnap, Tarski and Quine at Harvard.

Timothy Yu on 'Wittgenstein, Pedagogy, and Literary Criticism'.

Wittgenstein links from the British Wittgenstein Society.

The IEP entry for Victor Kraft; the SEP entry for Ludwig Fleck; and the University of Iowa's bio for Gustav Bergmann.

Historian George Mosse on Bergmann: 
Gustav Bergmann in philosophy was the most visible refugee on campus, a distinguished logical positivist, yet a difficult person, opionated and combative. ... Hardly any of his colleagues managed to get along with him. We clashed straight away about the Western Civilization course and much else besides. (George L. Mosse, Confronting History: a Memoir, p. 144)
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Links on the University of Illinois' termination of academic freedom

John K. Wilson reproduces Chancellor Wise's alarming letter. Every word of Wilson's critique (in the first four paragraphs of the linked post) is golden. Here's an excerpt:
Wise greatly expands the concept, declaring that not only persons but “viewpoints themselves” must be protected from any disrespectful words. I am puzzled as to exactly how a free university could possibly operate when no one is allowed to be disrespectful toward any viewpoint.
More by Wilson on the Salaita case at Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Cary Nelson defends the opposing view. Scott Lemieux replies.

From Timothy Burke's letter:
I am not troubled by the idea that an acceptance of all students as they come to you is an important professional standard. ... But you must not measure adherence to this standard by reading what scholars or intellectuals say or write in the public sphere, whether in formal publication or in social media. ... Neither the University of Illinois nor any of the proponents of your decision have presented any evidence that Professor Salaita would be or has been unable to adhere to those ethics. The only evidence is a handful of tweets that really say nothing about how he approaches the classroom, how he mentors students, how he participates in evaluation.
Brian Leiter:
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees have now declared that the First Amendment does not apply to any tenured faculty at the University of Illinois.
Michael C. Dorf gives a very detailed examination of the relevant laws:
Academic freedom and freedom of speech protect all viewpoints, even those that are hostile to academic freedom or freedom of speech. Moreover, as I explain below, none of the peculiarities of Salaita’s case justifies the university’s revocation of its offer.
Corey Robin links to some of the many petitions protesting the University of Illinois' treatment of Salaita.