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Podcast Profile: New Books in Philosophy

podcast imageTwitter: @NewBooksPhil (followed by 213 philosophers)
Site: newbooksnetwork.com/category/politics-society/philosophy
328 episodes
2011 to present
Average episode: 66 minutes
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Categories: Interview-Style

Podcaster's summary: Interview with Philosophers about their New Books | Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/philosophy

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List Updated: 2022-Dec-07 12:35 UTC. Episodes: 328. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

Episodes
2022-Dec-01 • 63 minutes
Alexander Kirshner, "Legitimate Opposition" (Yale UP, 2022)
The idea of legitimate political opposition is familiar. A decent political order permits citizens, parties, and coalitions to challenge those in power. Under such conditions, there is an ongoing nonviolent contest for power. Typically, the value of legitimate opposition is understood in terms of democracy. Here, the idea is that democracy is damaged or subverted when practices of legitimate opposition are suppressed. However, this familiar account opens questions about the value of legitimate opposition un...
2022-Nov-21 • 61 minutes
Charles Goodman, "The Tattvasaṃgraha Of Śāntarakṣita: Selected Metaphysical Chapters" (Oxford UP, 2022)
The Tattvasaṃgraha of Śāntarakṣita: Selected Metaphysical Chapters (Oxford University Press, 2022) collects excerpts from a massive encyclopedic work of the late period of Buddhism in India. Translator Charles Goodman has selected sections of this Sanskrit text which cover debates over the existence of prime matter, God, and an immaterial soul, as well as controversies around the cause and effect, karma, and Jain perspectivalism. Within these chapters, through a translation of the verses of the Tattvasaṃgra...
2022-Nov-10 • 68 minutes
Tristan Grøtvedt Haze, "Meaning and Metaphysical Necessity" (Routledge, 2022)
In 1980, the philosopher and logician Saul Kripke published a small but hugely influential book, Naming and Necessity, in which he argued that some claims that we discover empirically to be true are also necessarily true – true not just in our world, but in any possible world in which the objects or kinds referred to by the words in the sentence exist. In Meaning and Metaphysical Necessity (Routledge, 2022), Tristan Grotvedt Haze revisits the concept of the necessary a posteriori. He uses a method of “facto...
2022-Nov-01 • 73 minutes
Saba Bazargan-Forward, "Authority, Cooperation, and Accountability" (Oxford UP, 2022)
We often find ourselves acting in concert with others, where what we do together goes beyond the causal contribution of any single participant. When a collection of individuals works together in a way that results in a wrongful harm, it’s intuitive to think that each of the participants should be held accountable. Yet this intuition needs to be squared with the fact that no single individual’s contribution was causally necessary for the wrongful harm to have occurred. Hence there’s a range of views about “c...
2022-Oct-20 • 59 minutes
Leah Kalmanson, "Cross-Cultural Existentialism: On the Meaning of Life in Asian and Western Thought" (Bloomsbury, 2020)
Does human existence have a meaning? If so, is that meaning found in the world outside of us, or is it something we bring to our experience? In Cross-Cultural Existentialism: On the Meaning of Life in Asian and Western Thought (Bloomsbury, 2020) Leah Kalmanson shows how East Asian philosophies challenge the dichotomy implicit in the way this question is often framed. Her book investigates Korean Buddhist meditation, Confucian ritual practices, and Yijing divination. Along the way she argues that the specula...
2022-Oct-10 • 71 minutes
Neil Levy, "Bad Beliefs: Why They Happen to Good People" (Oxford UP, 2021)
Misinformation, disinformation, fake news, alternative facts: we are awash in a vast sea of epistemically questionable, not to mention false, testimony. How can we discern what is epistemically good to believe from what is not? Why are so many of us vulnerable to believing in ways that are unresponsive to widely available evidence – in other words, to holding bad beliefs? In Bad Beliefs: Why They Happen to Good People (Oxford UP, 2021), Neil Levy argues that we are in fact acting rationally, in accordance ...
2022-Oct-03 • 64 minutes
Michele Moody-Adams, "Making Space for Justice: Social Movements, Collective Imagination, and Political Hope" (Columbia UP, 2022)
A standard way of proceeding in political philosophy is to start with some form of conceptual inquiry: we first try to figure out what justice, equality, and freedom are and only then we may eventually begin thinking about how these goods might be pursued and achieved. On this approach, although social activism is perhaps necessary to counteract the worst kinds of social deprivation, it is also premature from the philosophical standpoint: as we still are debating what justice is, present efforts to bring ab...
2022-Sep-20 • 60 minutes
Kim Q. Hall, "Queering Philosophy" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022)
Why isn’t there a queer subfield in philosophy? How has institutionalized philosophy continued to develop without a recognized specialization in queer philosophy? What would it mean to care queerly for philosophy? And how might that change not only the field, but the possibilities for living? These are just some of the questions raised by Kim Q. Hall in Queering Philosophy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022). Hall diagnoses philosophy’s straight habits and shows how an intersectional approach to queering philosoph...
2022-Sep-01 • 68 minutes
Kelly McCormick, "The Problem of Blame: Making Sense of Moral Anger" (Cambridge UP, 2022)
Blame seems both morally necessary and morally dicey. Necessary, because it appears to be a central part of holding others to account for wrongdoing. Dicey, because – in its standard forms – blame involves the expression of anger and aims to harm its target. What’s more, our blaming practices appear to presuppose a kind of freewill that some argue is implausible. In any case, we are aware of the ways in which blaming can go wrong. Are we ever justified in blaming others? In The Problem of Blame: Making Sens...
2022-Aug-19 • 62 minutes
Pascah Mungwini, "African Philosophy: Emancipation and Practice" (Bloomsbury, 2022)
In African Philosophy: Emancipation and Practice (Bloomsbury, 2022), Pascah Mungwini considers the history of African philosophy in relationship to world philosophies. Arguing for the importance of African philosophy to know itself through its past and its present, Mungwini takes up topics such as the characterization of ethnophilosophy as a way to reflect on the emancipatory potential in philosophical dialogue. In his view, intra-continental dialogue, as well as world philosophical dialogues, challenge imp...
2022-Aug-10 • 70 minutes
Igor Douven, "The Art of Abduction" (MIT Press, 2022)
How should we form new beliefs? In particular, what inferential strategies are epistemically justified for forming new beliefs? Nowadays the dominant theory is Bayesianism, whereby we ought to reason in accordance with Bayes’s rule based in the axioms of probability theory. In The Art of Abduction (The MIT Press, 2022), Igor Douven defends the alternative Inference to the Best Explanation (abduction), in which explanatory considerations play an essential role in determining what we should come to believe. D...
2022-Aug-01 • 65 minutes
Cécile Fabre, "Spying Through a Glass Darkly: The Ethics of Espionage and Counter-Intelligence" (Oxford UP, 2022)
On its face, spying and counter-intelligence activities seem morally suspect. They tend to involve sneaking, deceiving, and manipulating, as well as various forms of betrayal, treachery, and disloyalty. Yet intelligence and counter-intelligence operations are mainstays of any modern state. Are we to conclude that these activities are wrong, but nonetheless necessary, given the realities of modern politics? In Spying Through a Glass Darkly: The Ethics of Espionage and Counter-Intelligence (Oxford UP, 2022), ...
2022-Jul-20 • 63 minutes
Alice Crary and Lori Gruen, "Animal Crisis: A New Critical Theory" (Polity, 2022)
As we lose more individual animals and entire species to catastrophic climate change, habitat destruction, toxic dumping, and other human activities, it becomes increasingly difficult to register the full scope of the crisis. In Animal Crisis: A New Critical Theory (Polity Press, 2022), Alice Crary and Lori Gruen reinvigorate the discourse of animal ethics with a critical theoretical approach that gives us new ways of thinking about what is owed to animals. By theorizing the links between human and non-huma...
2022-Jul-11 • 68 minutes
Michela Massimi, "Perspectival Realism" (Oxford UP, 2022)
For many philosophers, the fact that scientists take different perspectives on the world is an obstacle to being a realist about the world. In Perspectival Realism (Oxford University Press, 2022), Michela Massimi argues that to the contrary the plurality of perspectives is the driving force behind realism. On her view, the realism that emerges out of the perspectival nature of scientific representation takes perspectival models as inferential blueprints for exploring what is possible. The realist’s primitiv...
2022-Jul-01 • 63 minutes
David Hunter, "On Believing: Being Right in a World of Possibilities" (Oxford UP, 2022)
According to many standard philosophical accounts, beliefs are a kind of stance one takes toward a proposition. To believe that Nashville is in Tennessee is to adopt a certain attitude towards the proposition ‘Nashville is in Tennessee’. One advantage of this view is that it seems to make clear how beliefs can be right or wrong: to believe a proposition that is false is to have a false belief, while to believe a proposition that is true is to have a true belief. But in Philosophy things are never simple. An...
2022-Jun-20 • 65 minutes
Mark Siderits, "How Things Are: An Introduction to Buddhist Metaphysics" (Oxford UP, 2021)
Mark Siderits’ How Things Are: An Introduction to Buddhist Metaphysics (Oxford University Press, 2022) is a wide-ranging survey of how Buddhist philosophers think about the nature of the world. The book takes readers through topics such as the well-known claim that there is no self, in addition to issues involved in causation, consciousness, and the metaphysics of time. Siderits argues that, as mereological nihilists, Buddhists deny the existence of conventional persons as well as the more ontologically rob...
2022-Jun-10 • 69 minutes
Sherri Irvin, "Immaterial: Rules in Contemporary Art" (Oxford UP, 2022)
Art forms have rules, usually implicit, that govern the experiences that artists want their audiences to have: for example, a representational painting should be hung right-side-up, the same sort of paint medium should be used in restoration, and the painting should not be touched. In Immaterial: Rules in Contemporary Art (Oxford University Press 2022), Sherri Irvin argues that contemporary conceptual art is constituted by custom rules as well as by their physical medium: the artist may specify that the wo...
2022-May-20 • 69 minutes
Jessica M. Wilson, "Metaphysical Emergence" (Oxford UP, 2021)
Is a tree nothing but its material makeup, or does reality include trees above and beyond what they are made of? How about consciousness – nothing but neural activity, or something over and above it? Metaphysical emergence is a leading nonreductive theory of how we can be committed to a fully material world without accepting that everything reduces to fundamental physics. In Metaphysical Emergence (OUP 2021), Jessica Wilson synthesizes scholarship on the idea of emergence and divides the existing proposals ...
2022-May-13 • 57 minutes
Shannon M. Mussett, "Entropic Philosophy: Chaos, Breakdown, and Creation" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022)
Everything is breaking down. Chaos is increasing. Entropy is not just a metaphor, although it also that. In Entropic Philosophy: Chaos, Breakdown, and Creation (Rowman and Littlefield, 2022), Shannon M. Mussett argues that while denial and nihilism are common and world-shaping responses to entropy, they are not our only options. By revaluing order and stability, chaos and decay, we can turn to entropy with care and see the possibilities for creation in destruction. Mussett makes these arguments attentive to...
2022-May-03 • 70 minutes
Blain Neufeld, "Public Reason and Political Autonomy: Realizing the Ideal of a Civic People" (Routledge, 2022)
According to a familiar picture, a democracy is a free society of self-governing equals. This means that democratic citizens have a duty to participate in the processes of democratic governance. Moreover, it is often held that their participation should be aimed at acknowledging their fellow citizens’ status as democratic equals. On a dominant interpretation, this acknowledgement comes by way of how citizens conduct themselves in political decision-making contexts -- including especially contexts of politic...
2022-Apr-20 • 59 minutes
Priyambada Sarkar, "Language, Limits, and Beyond: Early Wittgenstein and Rabindranath Tagore" (Oxford UP, 2021)
What does a Bengali intellectual and poet have in common with a British-Austrian logician and philosopher? In Language, Limits, and Beyond: Early Wittgenstein and Rabindranath Tagore (Oxford University Press, 2021), Priyambada Sarkar explores the shared fascination both of these figures have with the limitations of language, the nature of the ineffable, and the role of poetry in our appreciatin both. While we know that the young Ludwig Wittgenstein read Tagore’s works to the Vienna Circle, Sarkar goes beyon...
2022-Apr-12 • 66 minutes
James C. Klagge, "Wittgenstein's Artillery: Philosophy as Poetry" (MIT Press, 2021)
“One should really only do philosophy as poetry.” What could Ludwig Wittgenstein have meant by this? What was the context for this odd remark? In Wittgenstein’s Artillery: Philosophy as Poetry (MIT Press, 2021), James Klagge provides a perspective on Wittgenstein as a person and how his life intersected with his work, in particular in the transition from his early Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus to the later Philosophical Investigations. Based on private notebooks and memoirs by some of Wittgenstein’s studen...
2022-Apr-01 • 74 minutes
William J. Talbott, "Learning from Our Mistakes: Epistemology for the Real World" (Oxford UP, 2021)
The enterprise of Western epistemology has largely been devoted to a collection of issues concerning the definition and analysis of knowledge. What makes knowledge different from true belief? When is one’s evidence or justification for one’s belief sufficient for knowledge? When must we revise our beliefs? What methods or processes can be relied on for forming rational beliefs? These endeavors typically aspire to defeat skepticism. Yet they often fall flat. In response, contemporary epistemologists have dev...
2022-Mar-21 • 59 minutes
Jana Mohr Lone, "Seen and Not Heard: Why Children's Voices Matter" (Rowman and Littlefield, 2021)
What happens when we take children seriously as philosophical thinkers? What if we try to hear them about topics such as climate change, solitude, and the meaning of friendship? In Seen and Not Heard: Why Children's Voices Matter (Rowman and Littlefield, 2021), Jana Mohr Lone engages with the voices of many children in philosophical conversation to learn not only what they think, but also what hearing children can make possible for our shared world. Sarah Tyson is an associate professor of philosophy at th...
2022-Mar-10 • 69 minutes
Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman, "Metaphysical Animals: How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life" (Doubleday, 2022)
What are the proper things for a philosopher to worry about? And who should be able to worry about them? These two questions, raised in the context of the disruptions and horrors of World War II, animate Metaphysical Animals: How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life (Doubleday, 2022). The book interweaves the biographies and philosophies of Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch, who met as students at Oxford as World War II left the old men, refugees, women, and conscientio...
2022-Mar-01 • 68 minutes
Myisha Cherry, "The Case for Rage: Why Anger Is Essential to Anti-Racist Struggle" (Oxford UP, 2021)
According to a broad consensus among philosophers across the ages, anger is regrettable, counterproductive, and bad. It is something to be overcome or suppressed, something that involves an immoral drive for revenge or a naïve commitment to cosmic justice. Anger is said to involve a corruption of the person – it “eats away” at them, or plunges them into madness. Maybe anger has been under-appreciated. Perhaps we have failed to make the right distinctions between different varieties of anger – thereby overlo...
2022-Feb-21 • 64 minutes
Jay L. Garfield, "Buddhist Ethics: A Philosophical Exploration" (Oxford UP, 2021)
In Buddhist Ethics: A Philosophical Exploration (Oxford University Press, 2022), Jay Garfield argues that Buddhist ethics is a distinctive kind of moral phenomenology whose ethical focus is not primarily cultivation of virtues or the achievement of certain consequences. Rather, its goal is for moral agents to shift a non-egocentric attitude about the world from recognizing its interdependence, impermanence, and lack of any essential selves. He makes this argument through investigation into a number of Buddh...
2022-Feb-11 • 71 minutes
James Woodward, "Causation with a Human Face: Normative Theory and Descriptive Psychology" (Oxford UP, 2021)
How do we reason about causal relationships, how do we determine what the causal relatiomships in nature are, and how are these two things – causal cognition and causation – connected? In Causation With a Human Face: Normative Theory and Descriptive Psychology (Oxford University Press, 2021), James Woodward synthesizes the normative and descriptive aspects of reasoning about causation in a way that combines a minimal realism about causal relations with the ways in which creatures like us think about and inv...
2022-Feb-01 • 66 minutes
Daniel Groll, "Conceiving People: Genetic Knowledge and the Ethics of Sperm and Egg Donation" (Oxford UP, 2021)
In the United States, tens of thousands of children are conceived every year with donated gametes. When people decide to create a child with donated gametes, they’ll typically have to make a moral decision about whether the identity of the donor will be available to the resulting person. This quickly raises additional moral and even existential questions about the value of knowing about the circumstances of our own conception. In Conceiving People: Genetic Knowledge and the Ethics of Sperm and Egg Donation ...
2022-Jan-20 • 68 minutes
Erin M. Cline, "The Analects: A Guide" (Oxford UP, 2021)
Probably the most well-known Chinese philosopher around the world is Kongzi, typically called by his Latinized name, “Confucius.” And yet he did not write a single book. Rather, his students collected Kongzi’s life and teachings into the Analects, a text which has become immensely influential from ancient Confucian traditions up to the current day. In The Analects: A Guide (Oxford University Press, 2021), Erin M. Cline argues that we should understand the Analects not only as a guide for living, or a philo...
2022-Jan-10 • 58 minutes
Kris F. Sealey, "Creolizing the Nation" (Northwestern UP, 2020)
Can the concept of the nation be a resource for liberatory political struggle? Are the dangers of nationalism simply too great? In Creolizing the Nation (Northwestern UP, 2020), Kris F. Sealey argues that creolization offers theoretical resources for imagining the possibilities of decolonial nations. Such new imaginings are made possible by the ways creolization allows us to think subjectivity, community, and history inventively. Sealey draws our focus to everyday practices of sabotage and jostling that des...
2021-Dec-31 • 67 minutes
Michael Cholbi, "Grief: A Philosophical Guide" (Princeton UP, 2022)
We think of grief as a normal response to the death of a loved one. We’re familiar with the so-called “five stages” of grief. Grief seems as an emotional episode that befalls us along life’s way, something to be endured and then gotten over. But grief isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. For one thing, we can grieve for strangers. And although there seems to be something like a duty to grieve, it’s not clear to whom such a duty could be owed. Perhaps grief is indeed a psychologically normal response t...
2021-Dec-01 • 65 minutes
Avia Pasternak, "Responsible Citizens, Irresponsible States: Should Citizens Pay for Their States' Wrongdoings?" (Oxford UP, 2021)
We tend to think that states can act wrongfully, even criminally. Thus, we also tend to think that states can be held responsible for their acts. They can be made to pay compensation to their victims or suffer penalties with respect to their standing in the international community, and so on. The trouble, though, is that when states are held responsible, the cost of moral repair is transferred to the citizens of the offending state, including citizens who objected to the wrongful acts, may have been unaware...
2021-Nov-19 • 68 minutes
James Garrison, "Reconsidering the Life of Power: Ritual, Body, and Art in Critical Theory and Chinese Philosophy" (SUNY Press, 2021)
Reconsidering the Life of Power: Ritual, Body, and Art in Critical Theory and Chinese Philosophy by James Garrison (SUNY Press 2021), argues that the tradition of Confucian philosophy can provide resources for theorists like Judith Butler and Michel Foucault in understanding what it is to be a subject in the social world. Garrison’s interlocutors are intercultural, from Confucius to Kant, Arendt to Butler, Hegel to Nietzsche. His book argues that Confucianism offers a relational, discursive, bodily, and rit...
2021-Nov-11 • 75 minutes
Herman Cappelen and Josh Dever, "Making AI Intelligible: Philosophical Foundations" (Oxford UP, 2021)
In their open-access publication, Making AI Intelligible: Philosophical Foundations (Oxford University Press, 2021), Herman Cappelen and Josh Dever argue that philosophers of language can contribute to a deeper understanding of artificial intelligence. AIs known as “neural nets” are becoming commonplace and we increasingly rely on their outputs for action-guidance, as when an AI like Siri hears your question and says, “There’s a pizza shop on the corner.” Our use of words like “says” suggests an important q...
2021-Nov-10 • 69 minutes
Vinciane Despret, "Living as a Bird" (Polity Press, 2021)
Birds sing to set up a territory, but the relationships between the bird, the song, the territory, and the bird’s community are highly complex and individually variable. In Living as a Bird (English translation by Helen Morrison, Polity Press, 2021), Vinciane Despret explores the concept of territory from a perspective that situates philosophical work on human conceptions of other animals within historical and contemporary empirical research into bird song and territorial behavior. Following recent theorizi...
2021-Nov-01 • 68 minutes
Mark Schroeder, "Reasons First" (Oxford UP, 2021)
A leading approach in ethics takes the reason as in some sense primary or basic. This approach claims that a range of moral concepts – goodness, rightness, obligation, and so on – are ultimately to be cashed out in terms of reasons. Although this approach is controversial among metaethicists, it is among the leading proposals in the field. However, a “reasons first” approach is generally absent in the neighboring normative discipline of epistemology. This is despite the fact that epistemology has had plenty...
2021-Oct-20 • 56 minutes
Lindsey Stewart, "The Politics of Black Joy: Zora Neale Hurston and Neo-Abolitionism" (Northwestern UP, 2021)
What can southern Black joy teach us about agency? What role does refusal have in liberation? What more might there be to root work than resistance? In The Politics of Black Joy: Zora Neale Hurston and Neo-Abolitionism (Northwestern UP, 2021), Lindsey Stewart explores Hurston’s contributions to political theory and philosophy of race to develop a politics of joy that owes much to indifference, refusal, and tactical misrecognition. Contending with white supremacy and countering neo-abolitionist approaches th...
2021-Oct-11 • 60 minutes
Helena de Bres, "Artful Truths: The Philosophy of Memoir" (U Chicago Press, 2021)
What is a memoir? What makes a memoir both nonfictional and literary? What are the memoirist’s moral obligations to the people they write about besides themselves, and to their potential readers? And is the writing of a memoir just indulging in narcissism, or revenge? In Artful Truths: The Philosophy of Memoir (University of Chicago Press, 2021), Helena De Bres examines the philosophical issues that the memoir genre raises, given the doubts we may have about whether people can write the truth about themsel...
2021-Oct-01 • 66 minutes
Catarina Dutilh Novaes, "The Dialogical Roots of Deduction: Historical, Cognitive, and Philosophical Perspectives on Reasoning" (Cambridge UP, 2020)
If all men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, then it must be that Socrates is mortal. What could be more obvious? Well, sometimes obviousness serves to conceal philosophical difficulties. There’s more going on in this simple deduction than we tend to recognize. For one thing, we are not being asked to assess whether all men are, indeed, mortal. Nor are we asking whether Socrates is indeed a man. Instead, we’re focusing on the logical relation that obtains between those two claims and the third. We claim th...
2021-Sep-20 • 71 minutes
Stephen Phillips, "Jewel of Reflection on the Truth about Epistemology: A Complete and Annotated Translation of the Tattva-cintā-maṇi" (Bloomsbury, 2020)
In the first complete English translation of a monumental 14th century Sanskrit philosophical text, the Jewel of Reflection on the Truth about Epistemology (Bloomsbury 2020), Stephen Phillips introduces modern readers to a classic of Indian philosophy. The author of the Jewel, Gaṅgeśa, is a comprehensive examination of epistemology and its interrelationship with metaphysics, taking up topics in philosophy of language and logic along the way. The translation itself includes a commentary by Phillips, explaini...
2021-Sep-10 • 69 minutes
Collin Rice, "Leveraging Distortions: Explanation, Idealization, and Universality in Science" (MIT Press, 2021)
Most of us agree that science aims to tell us what is true about the world. But how do we get at the truth by using theories and models that deliberately, pervasively, and ineliminably distort what they are about? How does a model that makes wholly unrealistic, even impossible, assumptions about reality help explain it and provide us with understanding? In Leveraging Distortions: Explanation, Idealization, and Universality in Science (MIT Press, 2021), Collin Rice tackles this puzzle by examining how ideali...
2021-Sep-01 • 62 minutes
Alessandra Tanesini, "The Mismeasure of the Self: A Study in Vice Epistemology" (Oxford UP, 2021)
Epistemology traditionally focuses on the analysis of central epistemological concepts, such as knowledge, justification, evidence, truth, and belief. But having knowledge is also a matter of acquiring knowledge. And this means that epistemology must also address questions of our conduct ­– how we should go about finding things out, what it means to be a good inquirer, and so on. This suggests that people can behave badly as epistemic agents. It falls to epistemologists to examine bad epistemic conduct as w...
2021-Aug-20 • 64 minutes
Andrea J. Pitts, "Nos/Otras: Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Multiplicitous Agency, and Resistance" (SUNY Press, 2021)
How can we think together multiplicity and agency? How can we resist oppression and build transformative political coalitions while attending to the ambivalences and incommensurabilities born of the collective conditions for action, meaning making, and self-understanding? In Nos/Otras: Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Multiplicitous Agency, and Resistance (SUNY Press, 2021), Andrea J. Pitts engages the work of Gloria Anzaldúa and her many readers to give us a framework for consistently returning to these questions as ce...
2021-Aug-10 • 68 minutes
Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther, "When Maps Become the World" (U Chicago Press, 2020)
There are maps of the Earth’s landmasses, the universe, the ocean floors, human migration, the human brain: maps are so integral to how we interact with the world that we sometimes forget that they are not the world. In When Maps Become the World (University of Chicago Press), Rasmus Grunfeldt Winther considers how maps get made, used, and abused, and how processes and problems from cartography can be found in the ways we create and use scientific theories. Winther, who is professor of humanities at the Uni...
2021-Aug-02 • 70 minutes
Lani Watson, "The Right to Know: Epistemic Rights and Why We Need Them" (Routledge, 2021)
We often talk as if individuals have entitlements to certain kinds of information: medical test results, political representatives’ voting records, crime statistics, and the like. We also talk as if these entitlements entail duties on the part of others to provide the relevant information. Moreover, we talk as if the individual’s entitlement to information also entails a range of protections against misinformation, deception, and the like. Despite the fact that these ideas are common, there is surprisingly ...
2021-Jul-20 • 73 minutes
Sokthan Yeng, "Buddhist Feminism: Transforming Anger against Patriarchy" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020)
How can Buddhism and feminism be brought together in a constructive way to challenge patriarchial structures? What could such a philosophy say about anger over injustice and oppression? In Buddhist Feminism: Transforming Anger Against Patriarchy (Palgrave, 2020), Sokthan Yeng answers these questions. She argues that, despite Buddhist institutions themselves being susceptible to feminist critiques, there are fruitful ways of reading Buddhist philosophy and practices that contribute to feminist goals. By exam...
2021-Jul-09 • 74 minutes
Alyssa Ney, "The World in the Wave Function: A Metaphysics for Quantum Physics" (Oxford UP, 2021)
Quantum mechanics is full of weird findings – for example, that systems widely separated can somehow still be correlated, and that a system may be in two different possible states at the same time. Entanglement and superposition, among other phenomena, have prompted debate since the inception of QM about how, exactly, we should understand what it tells us about reality. In The World in the Wave Function (Oxford UP, 2021), Alyssa Ney defends wave function realism, the claim that the basic representation in Q...
2021-Jul-01 • 66 minutes
Chandran Kukathas, "Immigration and Freedom" (Princeton UP, 2021)
Discussions of the ethics and politics of immigration tend to focus on those seeking entry into a new society. We ask whether a country has the “right to exclude” those who want to relocate within it. We explore the moral implications of more-or-less restrictive immigration policies, often with a view towards the plight of immigrants and refugees. These are of course important questions, but in his new book, Immigration and Freedom (Princeton University Press, 2021) Chandran Kukathas argues that a state’s i...
2021-Jun-24 • 71 minutes
Rocío Zambrana, "Colonial Debts: The Case of Puerto Rico" (Duke UP, 2021)
What can debt reveal to us about coloniality and its undoing? In Colonial Debts: The Case of Puerto Rico (Duke University Press, 2021), Rocío Zambrana theorizes the way debt has been used as a technique of neoliberal coloniality in Puerto Rico, producing profit from death on the island. With close attention to the material practices of protestors who have fought that destruction of life for the purposes of profit, Zambrana argues that decolonization entails political-economic subversion and transformative i...
2021-Jun-10 • 71 minutes
Mona Simion, "Shifty Speech and Independent Thought: Epistemic Normativity in Context" (Oxford UP, 2021)
At the intersection of epistemology and philosophy of language is a puzzle. First, it seems we don’t need less evidence for a claim that we know something if the practical importance of the knowledge claim shifts. Second, it seems we shouldn’t assert that we know something if we don’t. Third, it seems that if the practical importance of a knowledge claim shifts, we should back up our claim with more evidence. So is knowledge really insensitive to shifts in practical stakes? Or should the knowledge norm of a...
2021-Jun-01 • 69 minutes
Gregg D. Caruso, "Rejecting Retributivism: Free Will, Punishment, and Criminal Justice" (Cambridge UP, 2021)
According to an intuitive view, those who commit crimes are justifiably subject to punishment. Depending on the severity of the wrongdoing constitutive of the crime, punishment can be severe: incarceration, confinement, depravation, and so on. The common thought is that in committing serious crimes, persons render themselves deserving of punishment by the State. Punishment, then, is simply a matter of giving offenders their just deserts. Call this broad view retributivism. What if retributivism’s underlying...
2021-May-20 • 73 minutes
Arindam Chakrabarti. "Realisms Interlinked: Objects, Subjects, and Other Subjects" (Bloomsbury, 2019)
Arindam Chakrabarti’s Realisms Interlinked: Objects, Subjects, and Other Subjects (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), not only brings together his wide-ranging research from the past three decades, but brings together Indian philosophers with analytic philosophers in an extended reflection on metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind and language. He takes up these topics under the three broad categories of objects, subjects, and other subjects, investigating where arguments for the existence of ordinary objec...
2021-May-10 • 68 minutes
Samantha Matherne, "Cassirer" (Routledge, 2021)
Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945) was a leading neo-Kantian who developed a systematic view of how we construct and experience culture, widely construed to include mathematics, science, religion, myth, art, politics, ethics and other social endeavors. In Cassirer (Routledge 2021), Samantha Matherne explains how Cassirer updates Kant to develop his critical idealism in the form of a distinction between substance and function – the mind-dependent objects we cognize, and the structure of our minds that these objects ...
2021-May-03 • 63 minutes
Jennifer Lackey, "The Epistemology of Groups" (Oxford UP, 2021)
We commonly ascribe beliefs and similar attitudes to groups. For instance, we say that a foreign government believes that members of the press are spies, or that a corporation denies that its product is harmful to the environment. Sometimes, it seems that in such cases, we are simply ascribing to the group the shared beliefs of its members. But there are other cases in which it appears we are referencing an independent subject of the belief or attitude – the government or the corporation, over and above its...
2021-Apr-20 • 59 minutes
Perry Zurn, "Curiosity and Power: The Politics of Inquiry" (U of Minnesota Press, 2021)
Is curiosity political? Does it have a philosophical lineage? In Curiosity and Power: The Politics of Inquiry (University of Minnesota Press, 2021), Perry Zurn shows, consequentially, yes. He further asks: Who can be curious? How? When? To what effect? What happens when we are curious together? Engaged with multiple social movements ranging from the mid-twentieth century to our current time, and thinkers of curiosity from the Ancient world until now, Zurn theorizes the normative and political force of curi...
2021-Apr-09 • 64 minutes
John Sellars, "Marcus Aurelius" (Routledge, 2020)
Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is one of the most popular philosophical works by sales to the public, while in academic philosophy he is considered somewhat of a philosophical lightweight. In Marcus Aurelius (Routledge, 2020), John Sellars argues that this academic perception mistakes the Meditations as a failed work of theoretical argument, when instead it is a series of spiritual training exercises to condition the Roman emperor’s character in accordance with the Stoic doctrines he learned as a bookish boy....
2021-Apr-01 • 67 minutes
Luke Russell, "Being Evil: A Philosophical Perspective" (Oxford UP, 2020)
Evil is among our everyday moral concepts. It is common to hear politicians and others condemn certain acts, purposes, people, or even populations as evil. But what does it mean to say that something is evil? Is the evil simply the exceedingly wrong? Is evil rather a distinctive kind of wrongness? Is it a kind of wrongness at all? Are acts evil regardless of the motives of those who commit them, or are people the things that are fundamentally evil (or not)? It takes only a few simple questions to complicate...
2021-Mar-19 • 66 minutes
M. Kirloskar-Steinbach and L. Kalmanson, "A Practical Guide to World Philosophies: Selves, Worlds, and Ways of Knowing" (Bloomsbury, 2021)
The first book in a new series, A Practical Guide to World Philosophies: Selves, Worlds, and Ways of Knowing (Bloomsbury Academic 2021), co-authored by Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach and Leah Kalmanson, introduces readers to a diverse range of world philosophies. It both guides readers through philosophical questions and reflects on how the discipline of philosophy has come to define its boundaries, thus deciding which questions are worth asking, within which contexts, and by which methods. The book takes up a ...
2021-Mar-10 • 73 minutes
Peter Langland-Hassan, "Explaining Imagination" (Oxford UP, 2020)
How do we think about situations and things do not exist but might, engage in pretense and fiction, and create new works of art? These are central cases in which we’re using our imaginations, but what is imagination, and how should it be explained? In Explaining Imagination (Oxford University Press, 2020), Peter Langland-Hassan distinguishes using mental imagery to think about things and thinking about imaginary things, and proceeds to give a reductive account of both. On his view, imagining isn’t a sui gen...
2021-Feb-19 • 64 minutes
Patricia Hill Collins, "Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory" (Duke UP, 2019)
Is intersectionality a critical social theory? What must intersectionality do to be both critical and a social theory? Must social justice be a guiding normative principle? And what does or should social justice mean in intersectional theory? Patricia Hills Collins explores these questions, and many more, in Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory (Duke University Press, 2019). Engaging a wide range of thinkers, activists, and traditions, including Classical American Pragmatism, the Frankfurt School, an...
2021-Feb-10 • 64 minutes
Thomas Pradeu, "Philosophy of Immunology" (Cambridge UP, 2020)
Vaccines make us wholly or partly immune to disease, such as Covid-19. But what is it to be immune? What is an immune system, and what does it do? In its beginnings, immunology was considered the science of the self/non-self distinction: the immune system comprised the self’s defenses against invading non-self pathogens, and was a sophisticated system possessed only by vertebrates. In Philosophy of Immunology (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Thomas Pradeu explains why these traditional conceptions have b...
2021-Feb-01 • 64 minutes
Thomas P. Crocker, "Overcoming Necessity: Emergency, Constraint, and the Meanings of American Constitutionalism" (Yale UP, 2020)
A core duty of government is keeping those it governs safe. However, in modern democratic states, government is structured by a Constitution, which establishes constraints and checks on the power of any one office. But emergencies – from natural disasters to terrorist attacks – often call for a swift response that presses against those constraints and checks. In the United States, the President has claimed the authority to do what’s necessary to secure and protect the American people. Can such claims be squ...
2021-Jan-20 • 61 minutes
Fanny Söderbäck, "Revolutionary Time: On Time and Difference in Kristeva and Irigaray" (SUNY Press, 2019)
What is the relationship between time and sexual difference? Are the categories of linearity and circularity that have so dominated conceptions of time sufficient for the emancipatory aims of feminist theory and praxis? In Revolutionary Time: On Time and Difference in Kristeva and Irigaray (SUNY Press, 2019), Fanny Söderbäck engages the work of Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray to argue that neither linear nor circular models of time make change possible. Only through returning to and revitalizing the past c...
2021-Jan-11 • 71 minutes
Kyle Johannsen, "Wild Animal Ethics: The Moral and Political Problem of Wild Animal Suffering" (Routledge, 2020)
Many sentient (or possibly sentient) wild animals follow a reproductive strategy whereby they have large numbers of offspring, the vast majority of which suffer and die quickly or suffer and die slowly. Either way, there is a huge amount of suffering in the wild. And it is a truism in ethics that we have a duty to alleviate or prevent unnecessary suffering. If we could intervene in nature to prevent this suffering, shouldn’t we? In Wild Animal Ethics: The Moral and Political Problem of Wild Animal Sufferin...
2021-Jan-04 • 62 minutes
Regina Rini, "The Ethics of Microaggression" (Routledge, 2020)
Seemingly fleeting and barely legible insults, slights, and derogations might seem morally insignificant. They’re the byproducts of ordinary thoughtlessness and insensitivity; moreover, insofar as they inflict harm at all, the harm seems miniscule – hurt feelings, disappointment, annoyance, momentary frustration. Aren’t such things as insults and put-downs in the eye of the beholder, anyway? Surely, there are bigger fish to fry. In The Ethics of Microaggression (Routledge 2021), Regina Rini takes seriously ...
2020-Dec-21 • 66 minutes
Paul Goldin, "The Art of Chinese Philosophy: Eight Classical Texts and How to Read Them" (Princeton UP, 2020)
Paul Goldin's book The Art of Chinese Philosophy: Eight Classical Texts and How to Read Them (Princeton UP, 2020) provides an unmatched introduction to eight of the most important works of classical Chinese philosophy--the Analects of Confucius, Mozi, Mencius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, Sunzi, Xunzi, and Han Feizi. Combining accessibility with the latest scholarship, Paul Goldin, one of the world's leading authorities on the history of Chinese philosophy, places these works in rich context as he explains the origin a...
2020-Dec-10 • 67 minutes
John Campbell, "Causation in Psychology" (Harvard UP, 2020)
Our practices of holding people morally and legally responsible for what they do rests on causal relationships between our mental states and our actions – a desire for revenge or a fear for one’s safety may cause a violent act. In either case, John Campbell argues, there is a psychological causal process that leads from the motivating mental state to the action. In Causation in Psychology (Harvard University Press, 2020), Campbell – who is professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, c...
2020-Dec-01 • 71 minutes
Paul Morrow, "Unconscionable Crimes: How Norms Explain and Constrain Mass Atrocity" (MIT Press, 2020)
The moral horrors of genocide and mass atrocity lead us to wonder how such things are even possible. A common and understandable reaction is to see events of this kind as arising from the collapse and eventual disappearance of norms. That is, because we find genocide and mass atrocity so difficult to comprehend, we grasp for an explanation that ascribes to such episodes the absence of compressibility. In Unconscionable Crimes: How Norms Explain and Constrain Mass Atrocity (MIT 2020), Paul Morrow argues agai...
2020-Nov-20 • 75 minutes
David Chai, "Zhuangzi and the Becoming of Nothingness" (SUNY Press, 2018)
Zhuangzi and the Becoming of Nothingness (SUNY Press, 2018) offers a radical rereading of the Daoist classic Zhuangzi by bringing to light the role of nothingness in grounding the cosmological and metaphysical aspects of its thought. Through a careful analysis of the text and its appended commentaries, David Chai reveals not only how nothingness physically enriches the myriad things of the world, but also why the Zhuangzi prefers nothingness over being as a means to expound the authentic way of Dao. Chai we...
2020-Nov-10 • 67 minutes
C. Thi Nguyen, "Games: Agency as Art" (Oxford UP, 2020)
Monopoly, Solitaire, football and Minecraft are all games, but for C. Thi Nyugen they are also an art form – specifically, the art form of agency, our capacity to set goals and pursue them. In Games: Agency as Art (Oxford UP, 2020), Nguyen argues that a game designer sculpts agency by specifying the goals and abilities of the potential player – what the player should care about and what their abilities are in the game environment. The resulting disposable ends and interesting struggles yields valuable aesth...
2020-Nov-02 • 61 minutes
Zena Hitz, "Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life" (Princeton UP, 2020)
We live in a culture that tends to view thought with a degree of suspicion. Thinking is frequently associated with uselessness, idleness, laziness. These suspicions can be somewhat allayed when thinking can be directly tied to some kind of purpose or tangible result, of course. Accordingly, we tend to conceptualize thinking in terms of learning. In turn, we think of learning largely as a matter of acquiring marketable skills. However, when overtly attached to products and outcomes, thinking and learning bec...
2020-Oct-20 • 61 minutes
Elisabeth Paquette, "Universal Emancipation: Race Beyond Badiou" (U Minnesota Press, 2020)
What is Badiou’s theory of emancipation? For whom is this emancipation possible? Does emancipation entail an indifference to difference? In Universal Emancipation: Race Beyond Badiou (University of Minnesota Press, 2020) (Minnesota University Press, 2020), Elisabeth Paquette pursues these questions through a sustained conversation with decolonial theory, particularly the work of Sylvia Wynter. Through consideration of Négritude and the Haitian Revolution, Paquette argues for a theory of emancipation that ne...
2020-Oct-12 • 65 minutes
William P. Seeley, "Attentional Engines: A Perceptual Theory of the Arts" (Oxford UP, 2020)
How do we distinguish art from non-art artifacts, and what does cognitive science have to do with it? In Attentional Engines: A Perceptual Theory of the Arts (Oxford University Press, 2020), William Seeley offers a cognitive science-based account of how we engage with art, what it is that artworks do, and what artists do to make sure they do it. In his diagnostic recognition framework for locating art, artworks are communicative devices in which artists embed perceptual cues that enable the perceiver to cat...
2020-Oct-01 • 73 minutes
Serena Parekh, "No Refuge: Ethics and the Global Refugee Crisis" (Oxford UP, 2020)
Discourse in wealthy Western countries about refugees tends to follow a familiar script. How many refugees is a country morally required to accept? What kinds of care and support are host countries required to provide? Who is responsible to maintaining the resulting infrastructure? What, ultimately, is to be done with refugees? Many of these questions assume that states are morally required to rescue refugees. Rarely does the discourse consider the role of wealthy Western countries in creating the condition...
2020-Sep-10 • 69 minutes
Ann-Sophie Barwich, "Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind" (Harvard UP, 2020)
Smells repel and attract; they bring emotionally charged memories to mind; they guide behavior and thought nonconsciously; they give food much of its taste; and the loss of sense of smell can help diagnose disease. But what features of the world do smells pick out? What is the olfactory code? In her new book, Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind (Harvard UP, 2020), Ann-Sophie Barwich delves into the mysteries of smell and the difficulties of scientific attempts to explain how it works. The science of s...
2020-Sep-01 • 70 minutes
Lisa Bortolotti, "The Epistemic Innocence of Irrational Beliefs" (Oxford UP, 2020)
There is something intuitive about the idea that when we believe, we ought to follow our evidence. This entails that beliefs that are the products of garden varieties of irrationality, such as delusion, confabulation, false memory, and excessive optimism, are for that reason epistemically derelict. Many philosophers would go so far as to say that people ought not to hold such beliefs; some would go further and say that it’s our duty to challenge those who hold beliefs of this kind. However, in The Epistemic...
2020-Aug-20 • 62 minutes
Beata Stawarska, "Saussure’s Linguistics, Structuralism, and Phenomenology: 'The Course in General Linguistics' after a Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)
In Saussure’s Linguistics, Structuralism, and Phenomenology: The Course in General Linguistics after a Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), Beata Stawarska guides us to consider Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics anew. By delving into Saussure’s autograph notes, letters, and student lecture notes Stawarska reframes all of the hierarchical pairs promoted as part of his doctrine—the signifier and the signified, la langue and la parole, synchrony and diachrony. The book performs reading and w...
2020-Aug-10 • 68 minutes
David Livingstone Smith, "On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It" (Oxford UP 2020)
The phenomenon of dehumanization is associated with such atrocities as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the Holocaust in World War II. In these and other cases, people are described in ways that imply that they are less than fully human as a prelude to committing extreme forms of violence against them. In On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It (Oxford University Press, 2020), David Livingstone Smith analyzes what dehumanization is, why are we prone to dehumanize, and how we might resist dehumaniz...
2020-Aug-01 • 93 minutes
Bo Mou, "Philosophy of Language, Chinese Language, Chinese Philosophy" (Brill, 2018)
Contributors to Philosophy of Language, Chinese Language, Chinese Philosophy, edited by Bo Mou, professor of philosophy at the San Jose State University, bring together work on the syntax and semantics of the Chinese language with philosophy of language, from the classical Chinese and contemporary analytic Anglophone traditions. The result is an anthology which explores what Mou calls “the constructive-engagement” model for doing philosophy. In this wide-ranging interview, we talk about the book’s contribut...
2020-Jul-10 • 67 minutes
Cailin O’Connor, "Games in the Philosophy of Biology" (Cambridge UP, 2020)
The branch of mathematics called game theory – the Prisoners Dilemma is a particularly well-known example of a game – is used by philosophers, social scientists, and others to explore many types of social relations between humans and between nonhuman creatures. In Games in the Philosophy of Biology (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Cailin O’Connor introduces the basics of game theory and its particular branch, evolutionary game theory, and discusses how game theoretic models have helped explain the genesi...
2020-Jul-01 • 69 minutes
Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke, "Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk" (Oxford UP, 2020)
College courses in Ethics tend to focus on theories of the moral rightness or wrongness of actions. This emphasis sometimes obscures the fact that morality is a social project: part of what makes a decent and stable society possible is that we uphold standards of conduct. We call out bad behavior, blame wrongdoers, and praise those who do the right things. We apologize and forgive in public ways. In short, we hold one another responsible. Again, this is all necessary. However, we are all familiar with the ...
2020-Jun-22 • 63 minutes
Cressida J. Heyes, "Anaesthetics of Existence: Essays on Experience at the Edge" (Duke UP, 2020)
How should we think about the relationship between subjectivity and experience? In Anaesthetics of Existence: Essays on Experience at the Edge (Duke University Press, 2020), Cressida J. Heyes approaches this question through interrogating the apparent limits of experience found in unconsciousness—including sleep; forms of “checking out”—including general anesthesia and a glass of wine; and childbirth. Using genealogy and critical phenomenology grounded in feminist theory, Heyes approaches the project of con...
2020-Jun-11 • 102 minutes
Robert Pippin, "Filmed Thought: Cinema as Reflective Form" (U Chicago Press, 2020)
Robert Pippin's book Filmed Thought: Cinema as Reflective Form (University of Chicago Press, 2020) is a work in the philosophy of film published in 2020 by the University of Chicago Press. Each chapter in Filmed Thought treats a film in-depth, including works by Hitchcock, Ray, Malick, Sirk, Almodovar, Polanski, and the Dardenne brothers. The book is written in an accessible style that does not seize upon films as merely convenient illustrations of already established philosophical ideas. Instead, Pippindev...
2020-Jun-10 • 62 minutes
Matthew Duncombe, "Ancient Relativity: Plato, Aristotle, Stoics and Skeptics" (Oxford UP, 2020)
As a matter of basic metaphysics, we classify individuals in terms of their relations to other things – for example, a parent is a parent of someone, a larger object is larger than a smaller object. The nature of relativity – the question of how things relate to other things – is a topic that winds its way through the history of philosophy to the present day. In Ancient Relativity: Plato, Aristotle, Stoics and Skeptics (Oxford University Press, 2020), Matthew Duncombe considers ancient views of relativity f...
2020-Jun-03 • 59 minutes
Frank Wilderson III, "Afropessimism" (Liveright, 2020)
How should we understand the pervasiveness – and virulence – of anti-Black violence in the United State? Why and how is anti-Black racism different from other forms of racism? How does it permeate our moral and political ideals? Frank Wilderson III combines memoir and works of political theory, critical theory, literature, and film to offer a philosophy of Blackness. In his new book Afropessimism (Liveright, 2020), Wilderson insists that the social construct of slavery – as seen through pervasive anti-Black...
2020-Jun-02 • 121 minutes
Brian Greene, "Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe" (Random House, 2020)
Brian Greene is a Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he is the Director of the Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics, and co-founder and chair of the World Science Festival. He is well known for his TV mini-series about string theory and the nature of reality, including the Elegant Universe, which tied in with his best-selling 2000 book of the same name. In this episode, we talk about his latest popular book Until the End of Time:...
2020-Jun-01 • 64 minutes
Ilya Somin, "Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom" (Oxford UP, 2020)
When we think of democracy, we typically think of voting; and when we think of voting, we ordinarily have elections and campaigns in minds. In this intuitive sense, voting is a matter of casting a ballot. After Election Day, votes are counted, and, typically, the majority rules. But things really aren’t so simple. For one thing, citizens bring differing levels of information and ignorance into the voting booth. What’s more, famous mathematical analyses cast doubt on the very idea of a majority will. Given t...
2020-May-25 • 57 minutes
Santiago Zabala, "Being at Large: Freedom in the Ago of Alternative Facts" (McGill-Queen's UP, 2020)
In recent years, questions around the nature of ​truth ​and ​facts have reentered public debate, often in discussions around journalistic bias, and whether politically neutral reporting is possible, or even desirable. Many pundits have tried to place blame for the increasingly slippery and fickle nature of truth in reporting on the ideas developed in much 20th-century philosophy, particularly postmodern theory. Santiago Zabala, however, argues that this is to mistake a diagnosis with the condition itself, a...
2020-May-13 • 60 minutes
Karl-Stéphan Bouthillette, "Dialogue and Doxography in Indian Philosophy" (Routledge, 2020)
This ground-breaking work on Indian philosophical doxography examines the function of dialectical texts within their intellectual and religious milieu. In Dialogue and Doxography in Indian Philosophy: Points of View in Buddhist, Jaina, and Advaita Vedānta Traditions (Routledge, 2020), Karl-Stéphan Bouthillette examines the Madhyamakahṛdayakārikā of the Buddhist Bhāviveka, the Ṣaḍdarśanasamuccaya of the Jain Haribhadra, and the Sarvasiddhāntasaṅgraha attributed to the Advaitin Śaṅkara, focusing on each of th...
2020-May-11 • 72 minutes
B. Earp and J. Savulescu, "Love Drugs: The Chemical Future of Relationships" (Stanford UP, 2020) )
Consider a couple with an infant (or two) whose lives have become so harried and difficult the marriage is falling apart. Would it be ethical for them to take oxytocin to help them renew their emotional bonds, or would this be an unethical evasion of the hard work that keeping a marriage going requires? What if someone has sexual desires that they consider immoral – should they be able to take a drug to suppress those desires, or alternatively can society force them to? Debates about the ethics of using dru...
2020-May-11 • 80 minutes
Adrian Johnston, "Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism: The Outcome of Contemporary French Philosophy " (Northwestern UP, 2013)
In the contemporary philosophical landscape, a variety of materialist ontologies have appeared, all wrestling with various political and philosophical questions in light of a post-God ontology. Entering into this discussion is Adrian Johnston, with his 3-volume ​Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism​, an attempt to develop a systematic and thoroughly atheistic material ontology of the subject. The first volume, subtitled ​The Outcome of Contemporary French Philosophy (Northwestern University Press, 2013) lo...
2020-May-06 • 77 minutes
Dominik Finkelde, "Excessive Subjectivity: Kant, Hegel, Lacan and the Foundations of Ethics" (Columbia UP, 2017)
How are we to conceive of acts that suddenly expose the injustice of the current order? This is a question that has puzzled philosophers for centuries, and it’s the question that animates Dominik Finkelde’s book ​Excessive Subjectivity: Kant, Hegel, Lacan, and the Foundation of Ethics (Columbia University Press, 2017). The book looks at these three major thinkers, and the ways they saw subjects as being immersed in a particular set of ethical orientations, but also always with a subtle but profound potentia...
2020-May-01 • 65 minutes
Emily Thomas, "The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad" (Oxford UP, 2020)
Travel has been a topic lurking in the background (at least) of a lot of philosophy. Socrates was keen to remind his jury as well as his interlocutor Phaedrus that he had spent nearly his entirely life within the city of Athens. For another example, Descartes saw fit to take the intellectual journey of his Meditations from a room in a foreign country. But that’s not all: many great philosophical works comment on the value of travel: think here of the reflections that close Rousseau’s Emile. In The Meaning o...
2020-Apr-29 • 64 minutes
Shay Welch, "The Phenomenology of a Performative Knowledge System" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)
In The Phenomenology of a Performative Knowledge System: Dancing with Native American Epistemology (Palgrave Macmillian, 2019), Shay Welch investigates the phenomenological ways that dance choreographing and dance performance exemplify both Truth and meaning-making within Native American epistemology, from an analytic philosophical perspective. Given that within Native American communities dance is regarded both as an integral cultural conduit and “a doorway to a powerful wisdom,” Welch argues that dance an...
2020-Apr-29 • 88 minutes
Peter Adamson, "Classical Indian Philosophy" (Oxford UP, 2020)
In Classical Indian Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2020), Peter Adamson and Jonardon Ganeri survey both the breadth and depth of Indian philosophical traditions. Their odyssey touches on the earliest extant Vedic literature, the Mahābhārata, the Bhagavad-Gīta, the rise of Buddhism and Jainism, the sūtra traditions encompassing logic, epistemology, the monism of Advaita Vedānta, and the spiritual discipline of Yoga. They even include textual traditions typically excluded from overviews of Indian philos...
2020-Apr-28 • 60 minutes
Leslie M. Harris, "Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies" (U Georgia Press, 2019)
Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies (University of Georgia Press, 2019), edited by Leslie M. Harris, James T. Campbell, and Alfred L. Brophy, is the first edited collection of scholarly essays devoted solely to the histories and legacies of this subject on North American campuses and in their Atlantic contexts. Gathering together contributions from scholars, activists, and administrators, the volume combines two broad bodies of work: (1) historically based interdisciplinary research on the pr...
2020-Apr-14 • 63 minutes
Peter Carruthers, "Human and Animal Minds: The Consciousness Questions Laid to Rest" (Oxford UP, 2019)
Do nonhuman animals have phenomenally conscious mental states? For example, do they have the types of conscious experiences we have when, in our case, we experience the smell of cinnamon or the redness of a ripe tomato? In Human and Animal Minds: The Consciousness Questions Laid to Rest (Oxford University Press, 2019), Peter Carruthers argues that there is no fact of the matter as to whether they do or not. On Carruthers’ view, nonhuman animals have those types of consciousness identified as being awake and...
2020-Apr-09 • 53 minutes
Matthew McManus and Marion Trejo, "Myth and Mayhem: A Leftist Critique of Jordan Peterson​" (Zero Books, 2020)
In 2016, Jordan Peterson, a relatively obscure professor of psychology, released several videos on YouTube making critical remarks on political correctness and related political legislation. This would kick off a meteoric rise in fame, with sold-out live shows, podcasts, television interviews and a worldwide bestselling book. Along with his newfound fame, however, came a ​lot of criticism, much of it from progressive commentators, most recently in the form of ​Myth and Mayhem: A Leftist Critique of Jordan P...
2020-Mar-30 • 54 minutes
Matt Cook, "Sleight of Mind: 75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy" (MIT Press, 2020)
Paradox is a sophisticated kind of magic trick. A magician's purpose is to create the appearance of impossibility, to pull a rabbit from an empty hat. Yet paradox doesn't require tangibles, like rabbits or hats. Paradox works in the abstract, with words and concepts and symbols, to create the illusion of contradiction. There are no contradictions in reality, but there can appear to be. In Sleight of Mind: 75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy (MIT Press, 2020), Matt Cook and a few c...
2020-Mar-23 • 40 minutes
Zahi Zalloua, "​Žižek on Race: Towards an Anti-Racist Future​" (Bloomsbury, 2020)
The Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek’s prolific quips on various cultural and political issues around race and related issues, found either in short YouTube clips or lengthy books have gained a lot of attention, much of it admittedly confused and occasionally offended and frustrated. Part of this is likely due to Žižek’s style, which tends to jump around in a blur of philosophical and cultural references, sometimes obscuring what his actual point is. However, his eclectic style shouldn...
2020-Mar-23 • 53 minutes
Todd McGowan, "Emancipation After Hegel: Achieving a Contradictory Revolution" (Columbia UP, 2019)
An Interview with Todd McGowan about his recent Emancipation After Hegel: Achieving a Contradictory Revolution (Columbia University Press, 2019). The book advocates for the relevance of Hegel’s dialectical method to questions of contemporary theory and politics. It seeks to disabuse readers of common misapprehensions concerning Hegel’s philosophy, such as the familiar thesis-antithesis-synthesis schema to which the dialectic has so often been reduced, and to show that the concept of contradiction understood...
2020-Mar-20 • 60 minutes
Amy Reed-Sandoval, "Socially Undocumented: Identity and Immigration Justice" (Oxford UP, 2020)
In Socially Undocumented: Identity and Immigration Justice (Oxford University Press, 2020), Amy Reed-Sandoval reframes the question of immigration justice by focusing on the historical development and lived experiences of socially undocumented identity. Drawing on ethnography, phenomenological analysis, storytelling, and a non-ideal theory approach, she tracks the development of racialized, class-based, and gendered elements of socially undocumented identity and the unjust constraints that target this ident...
2020-Mar-10 • 59 minutes
Kareem Khalifa, "Understanding, Explanation and Scientific Knowledge" (Cambridge UP, 2017)
What is the relation between understanding and knowledge in science? Can we understand a scientific theory if it is false? Do we understand a scientific proposition we can’t elaborate or do anything with? In Understanding, Explanation, and Scientific Knowledge (Cambridge University Press 2017), Kareem Khalifa argues for a revised version of a traditional view whereby understanding is a function of knowledge of an explanation. In his updated version, understanding admits of degrees, starting from minimal und...
2020-Mar-04 • 58 minutes
Richard Polt, "Time and Trauma: Thinking Through Heidegger in the Thirties" (Rowman and Littlefield, 2020)
For some time, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger has been treated with a certain level of skepticism because of his engagement with the Nazi party, a skepticism that has resurfaced with the publication of the ​Black Notebooks​, private journals he kept throughout the last several decades of his life. In his new book Time and Trauma: Thinking Through Heidegger in the Thirties (Rowman and Littlefield, 2020), Richard Polt starts by taking a close look at his ​Being and Time (1927), followed by a close an...
2020-Feb-28 • 82 minutes
David Estlund, "Utopophobia: On the Limits (If Any) of Political Philosophy" (Princeton UP, 2020)
It is tempting to hold that any proposed principle of social justice is defective if it demands too much of people, given their proclivities. A stronger view, one that many philosophers find attractive, has it that there is something about the concept of justice that makes it the kind of thing that must be kept “down to earth,” and within our reach. A range of conceptual and methodological issues quickly emerge once we begin wondering whether this kind of deference to the realistic and feasible is warranted...
2020-Feb-25 • 42 minutes
Phillipa Chong, “Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times” (Princeton UP, 2020)
How does the world of book reviews work? In Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times (Princeton University Press, 2020), Phillipa Chong, assistant professor in sociology at McMaster University, provides a unique sociological analysis of how critics confront the different types of uncertainty associated with their practice. The book explores how reviewers get matched to books, the ethics and etiquette of negative reviews and ‘punching up’, along with professional identities and the futur...
2020-Feb-20 • 58 minutes
Megan Burke, "When Time Warps: The Lived Experience of Gender, Race, and Sexual Violence" (U Minnesota Press, 2019)
In When Time Warps: The Lived Experience of Gender, Race, and Sexual Violence (University of Minnesota Press, 2019), Megan Burke considers the relationship of sexual violence to lived time by reexamining and building upon the work of Simone de Beauvoir, and in conversation with Judith Butler, María Lugones, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and many others. Through developing a feminist phenomenology of time, Burke allows us to consider how racialized colonial sexual domination structures feminine subjectivity. By foc...
2020-Feb-12 • 73 minutes
Chenyang Wang, "Subjectivity In-Between Times: Exploring the Notion of Time in Lacan's Work" (Palgrave, 2019)
If you thought Jacques Lacan’s essay on "Logical Time" was the psychoanalyst’s final word on the subject, then this interview has a lot to teach you! In his new book Subjectivity In-Between Times: Exploring the Notion of Time in Lacan's Work (Palgrave, 2019), emerging scholar of psychoanalytic theory and continental philosophy Chenyang Wang offers the first systematic analysis of the notion of time in Lacan’s work. Wang, based in East China Normal University, begins by telling us about the state of psychoan...
2020-Feb-10 • 66 minutes
Travis Dumsday, "Dispositionalism and the Metaphysics of Science" (Cambridge UP, 2019)
Dispositionalism is the view that there are irreducible causal powers in nature that explain why objects behave as they do. To say salt is soluble in water, for example, is to say that salt has the disposition to dissolve in water, and this disposition is understood as a real causal power of salt. In Dispositionalism and the Metaphysics of Science (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Travis Dumsday articulates a novel version of dispositionalism – nomic dispositionalism – and considers its relation to a cros...
2020-Jan-31 • 69 minutes
Katherine Hawley, "How to Be Trustworthy" (Oxford UP, 2019)
It is obvious that in our day-to-day lives, a lot hangs on trust, and thus on whether those around us are trustworthy. Yet there are several philosophical issues surrounding trust and trustworthiness. For example, is trusting someone different from relying on them? Correspondingly, is being trustworthy different from being reliable? Assuming that there is a difference, in what does the difference consist? What renders one worthy of trust? Is our trustworthiness something under our control? In How to Be Trus...
2020-Jan-30 • 40 minutes
K. Linder et al., "Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers" (Stylus Publishing, 2020)
If you’re a grad student facing the ugly reality of finding a tenure-track job, you could easily be forgiven for thinking about a career change. However, if you’ve spent the last several years working on a PhD, or if you’re a faculty member whose career has basically consisted of higher ed, switching isn’t so easy. PhD holders are mostly trained to work as professors, and making easy connections to other careers is no mean feat. Because the people you know were generally trained to do the same sorts of thin...
2020-Jan-29 • 119 minutes
Adrian Johnston, "A New German Idealism: Hegel, Žižek and Dialectical Materialism" (Columbia UP, 2018)
In 2012, the world-renowned philosopher, psychoanalyst and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek released his 1000-page tome ​Less Than Nothing​, following it up afterwards with its shorter reformulation ​Absolute Recoil​ in 2014. The works contained his usual use of movie-references, historical and political events and jokes to engage in some substantial philosophical formulations, particularly in dialogue with Hegel and Lacan. In these books, Žižek forged a new developed a number of innovative approaches to variou...
2020-Jan-20 • 41 minutes
Maria Dimova-Cookson, "Rethinking Positive and Negative Liberty" (Routledge, 2019)
Maria Dimova-Cookson's new book Rethinking Positive and Negative Liberty (Routledge, 2019) offers an analysis of the distinction between positive and negative freedom building on the work of Constant, Green and Berlin. The author proposes a new reading of this distinction for the twenty-first century. The author defends the idea that freedom is a dynamic interaction between two inseparable, yet sometimes fundamentally, opposed positive and negative concepts – the yin and yang of freedom. Positive freedom is...
2020-Jan-10 • 64 minutes
Manuel Heras Escribano, "The Philosophy of Affordances" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019)
Ecological psychology is one of a number of contemporary theories that explains the mind in terms of embodiment and environmental situatedness, rather than inner symbol manipulation by brains. J. J. Gibson, a founder ecological psychology, coined the term “affordance” to express a core concept of the view: as embodied, situated organisms we do not simply perceive objects, such as a chair or a tree, but rather we perceive the object as something that is sit-on-able or climbable. In The Philosophy of Affordan...
2020-Jan-06 • 57 minutes
Frederick Beiser, "Hermann Cohen: An Intellectual Biography" (Oxford UP, 2018)
The eminent scholar of Neo-Kantianism, Frederick Beiser, has struck again, this time bringing his considerable analytical powers and erudition to the task of intellectual biography. For those of you aware of the distinguished philosophical career of Hermann Cohen (1859 - 1918) and the absence of an intellectual biography in English, Beiser’s scholarship is a long time coming. Though Cohen scholarship has experienced a mini-renaissance in the last thirty years in the English speaking world, knowledge of Cohe...
2020-Jan-02 • 69 minutes
John Danaher, "Automation and Utopia: Human Flourishing in a World without Work" (Harvard UP, 2019)
The future is a constant focus of anxiety, and we are all familiar with the pressures that come distinctively from automation – the transformation by which tasks formerly assigned to humans come to be performed by machines. These days, the stakes seem to be higher, as technology now seems poised to render nearly all human labor obsolete. What lies in store for us, and for the flourishing and meaning of our lives, once technology has relieved humans of the need to work? In Automation and Utopia: Human Flouri...
2019-Dec-20 • 58 minutes
Adriel M. Trott, "Aristotle on the Matter of Form: A Feminist Metaphysics of Generation" (Edinburgh UP, 2019)
In Aristotle on the Matter of Form: A Feminist Metaphysics of Generation (Edinburgh University Press, 2019), Adriel M. Trott argues for understanding the relationship of matter and form in Aristotle’s work on the model of a Möbius strip. With the figure of the Möbius strip, we can identify two planes at any particular point, but, taking in the figure as a whole, we see that those two sides are produced by a torsion of a continuous strip. Through this figure, Trott allows us to think anew with Aristotle, not...
2019-Dec-16 • 57 minutes
Peter Adamson, "Philosophy in the Islamic World: A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Volume 3" (Oxford UP, 2019)
It is no easy task to survey and present a comprehensive history of philosophy of an entire intellectual tradition to a broad public audience without compromising on the scholarly rigor demanded by that history’s nuances. In an ambitious endeavor to do precisely that with the Islamic tradition, Peter Adamson masterfully shows how it can be done. His work, Philosophy in the Islamic World: A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps (Oxford University Press, 2018) forms the third volume of a larger series of boo...
2019-Dec-10 • 64 minutes
Christopher Peacocke, "The Primacy of Metaphysics" (Oxford UP, 2019)
A basic question in mind and metaphysics is the relation between the nature of mental content (or meaning) and the nature of the domains of entities and relations to which those contents refer or which they are about. Does an explanation of this relation require us to give meaning priority, or instead is the metaphysics of the domain always involved in explaining the content? In his new book, The Primacy of Metaphysics (Oxford University Press, 2019), Christopher Peacocke argues for the idea that the metaph...
2019-Dec-05 • 65 minutes
Julia Maskivker, "The Duty to Vote" (Oxford UP, 2019)
When asked what democracy is, many of us instantly think of elections, and thus voting. Although we tend to see voting as central to democracy, we also think that voting is optional – a commendable activity that a citizen might choose to do, but one that can be omitted blamelessly. What’s more, political theorists and philosophers tend to regard voting as irrational, reckless, or worse. Some have even suggested that low voter turnout is a signal of the health of a society. In The Duty to Vote (Oxford Univer...
2019-Dec-03 • 58 minutes
Alberto Cairo, "How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information" (Norton, 2019)
We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what if we don’t understand what we’re looking at? Social media has made charts, infographics, and diagrams ubiquitous―and easier to share than ever. We associate charts with science and reason; the flashy visuals are both appealing and persuasive. Pie charts, maps, bar and line graphs, and scatter plots (to name a few) can better inform us, revealing patterns and trends hidden behind the numbers we encounter in our lives. In short, good charts m...
2019-Nov-11 • 71 minutes
Robert Talisse, "Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in Its Place" (Oxford UP, 2019)
In the United States in particular, there is almost no social space today, whether that’s Thanksgiving dinner or going shopping, that has not become saturated with political meaning. In Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in Its Place (Oxford University Press, 2019), Robert Talisse argues that contrary to what many democratic theorists have argued, democracy is something we can do too much of – and that it is in fact being overdone. Talisse, who is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderb...
2019-Nov-03 • 40 minutes
Kathryn Conrad on University Press Publishing
As you may know, university presses publish a lot of good books. In fact, they publish thousands of them every year. They are different from most trade books in that most of them are what you might called "fundamental research." Their authors--dedicated researchers one and all--provide the scholarly stuff upon which many non-fiction trade books are based. So when you are reading, say, a popular history, you are often reading UP books at one remove. Of course, some UP books are also bestsellers, and they are...
2019-Nov-01 • 69 minutes
Elijah Millgram, "John Stuart Mill and the Meaning of Life" (Oxford UP, 2019)
According to an intuitive view, lives are meaningful when they manifest a directedness or instantiate a project such that the disparate events and endeavors “add up to” a life. John Stuart Mill’s life certainly was devoted to a project in that sense. Yet Mill’s life was in many respects unsatisfying – riven with anxiety and trauma. What does Mill’s life teach us about meaningful lives? In John Stuart Mill and the Meaning of Life (Oxford University Press 2019), Elijah Millgram weaves intellectual biograph...
2019-Oct-24 • 33 minutes
J. Neuhaus, "Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers" (West Virginia UP, 2019)
The things that make people academics -- as deep fascination with some arcane subject, often bordering on obsession, and a comfort with the solitude that developing expertise requires -- do not necessarily make us good teachers. Jessamyn Neuhaus’s Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers (West Virginia University Press, 2019) helps us to identify and embrace that geekiness in us and then offers practical, step-by-step guidelines for how to turn it to...
2019-Oct-21 • 57 minutes
Dilek Huseyinzadegan, "Kant’s Nonideal Theory of Politics" (Northwestern UP, 2019)
In Kant’s Nonideal Theory of Politics (Northwestern University Press, 2019), Dilek Huseyinzadegan analyzes Kant’s political writings by attending to the role of history, anthropology, and geography in his thought. She shows that Kant employs teleology as a means to orient us within the chaotic contingency of experience in order to plan and navigate a path to just political orders from our current conditions. Teleology, far from functioning as a deterministic principle in Kant’s work, provides a way to think...
2019-Oct-10 • 69 minutes
Justin Garson, "What Biological Functions are and Why They Matter" (Cambridge UP, 2019)
Why do zebras have stripes? One way to answer that question is ask what function stripes play in the lives of zebras – for example, to deter disease-carrying flies from biting them. This notion of a function plays a central role in biology: biologists frequently refer to the functions of many traits of evolved organisms. But not everything a trait causes is its function – the stripes might disorient some harmless birds, but that isn’t their function. So what determines the function of a trait? And what sort...
2019-Oct-01 • 64 minutes
Axel Seemann, "The Shared World: Perceptual Knowledge, Demonstrative Communication, and Social Space" (MIT Press, 2019)
Much of what we are able to accomplish in our day-to-day lives depends on the ability to act and think in concert with others. Often this involves not only the capacity to perceive together the surrounding world—we must also know that we perceive together. In other words, there must be perceptual common knowledge. Philosophical questions mount quickly: How is this kind of knowledge possible? How does it arise? What does its possibility show us about our sociality? What does it suggest about the world ...
2019-Sep-20 • 69 minutes
Malcolm Keating, "Language, Meaning, and Use in Indian Philosophy" (Bloomsbury, 2019)
Philosophy of Language was a central concern in classical Indian Philosophy. Philosophers in the tradition discussed testimony, pragmatics, and the religious implications of language, among other topics. In his new book, Language, Meaning, and Use in Indian Philosophy: An Introduction to Mukula's 'Fundamentals of the Communicative Function'(Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), Malcolm Keating looks at the views of the philosopher Mukula Bhatta, whose innovative position on meaning aimed to capture the differences ...
2019-Sep-10 • 66 minutes
Chiara Russo Krauss, "Wundt, Avenarius and Scientific Psychology: A Debate at the Turn of the Twentieth Century" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019)
At the start of the 19th century, the field we now call psychology was still the branch of philosophy that studied the soul. How did psychology come to define itself as a separate area of inquiry, and how did it come to be a science? In Wundt, Avenarius and Scientific Psychology: A Debate at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Palgrave MacMillan 2019), Chiara Russo Krauss considers the conceptual foundations of psychology as a science in the conflicting views of Wilhelm Wundt and Richard Avenarius. Wundt est...
2019-Sep-03 • 56 minutes
Amy Olberding, "The Wrong of Rudeness: Learning Modern Civility from Ancient Chinese Philosophy" (Oxford UP, 2019)
Amy Olberding’s The Wrong of Rudeness: Learning Modern Civility from Ancient Chinese Philosophy (Oxford UP, 2019) is a joy to read, both entertaining and rich in ideas. The Wrong of Rudeness asks a key question for our times how do we interact with each other, especially in politically contentious situations? Olberding addresses this and related issues by bringing our moderns challenges into dialogue with thinkers from early China. Weaving together modern cultural references with innovative readings of clas...
2019-Sep-02 • 63 minutes
Patricia Marino, "Philosophy of Sex and Love" (Routledge, 2019)
For those who think that philosophy must speak to everyday experience and ordinary life, it would seem that philosophical questions occasioned by love and sex should take center stage. Moral, epistemic, metaphysical, and political issues surrounding sex and love pervade our culture. Where would pop music, television, and fine art be without the dilemmas at the intersection of love and sex? And yet there are some less familiar philosophical issues lurking as well. In Philosophy of Sex and Love (Routledge,...
2019-Aug-20 • 73 minutes
John T. Lysaker, "Philosophy, Writing, and the Character of Thought" (U Chicago Press, 2018)
What is the relationship between the form of writing and what can be thought? How is a writer’s thinking shaped by form? How is a reader’s? Does this matter for philosophy? In Philosophy, Writing, and the Character of Thought (University of Chicago Press, 2018), John T. Lysaker explores the importance of the praxis of writing for philosophy. Essaying a variety of forms, the book invites the reader to investigate the volume in their hands as a performance. It engages with, among others, the work of Plato, Em...
2019-Aug-09 • 60 minutes
Samir Okasha, "Agents and Goals in Evolution" (Oxford UP, 2018)
Evolutionary biologists standardly treat organisms as agents: they have goals and purposes and preferences, and their behaviors and adaptive traits contribute to the achievement of their goals. This explanatory practice brings evolutionary biology into conceptual contact with rational choice theory, which provides models of how people make decisions and act on them. In Agents and Goals in Evolution (Oxford University Press, 2018), Samir Okasha explores the fascinating and complex links between evolutionary ...
2019-Aug-01 • 71 minutes
Quassim Cassam, "Vices of the Mind: From the Intellectual to the Political" (Oxford UP, 2019)
Sometimes people are blameworthy or otherwise not admirable because of what they believe. And sometimes they are blameworthy or otherwise not admirable because of how they believe – broadly, their ways of thinking, inquiring, handling evidence, and managing information. We sometimes criticize others for being careless, dogmatic, gullible, and so on. These evaluations often have the form of appraisals of the persons to whom they are applied. So, just as we might speak of intellectual virtues, we can also spe...
2019-Jul-10 • 68 minutes
Susanna Schellenberg, "The Unity of Perception: Content, Consciousness, and Evidence" (Oxford UP, 2018)
How does perception result in thoughts about items in the world (such as dogs or flowers) and in conscious states of many kinds (such as experiences of seeing red)? How does perception provide evidence for our beliefs (such as the belief that there is a red rose in front of you)? In The Unity of Perception: Content, Consciousness, and Evidence (Oxford University Press, 2018), Susanna Schellenberg considers these questions about the role of perception in mind and knowledge. Schellenberg, who is professor of ...
2019-Jul-01 • 66 minutes
Christian List, "Why Free Will is Real" (Harvard UP, 2019)
Given our modern scientific view of the world, how is freedom of the will possible? That is the classical problem of free will. Strategies for addressing this problem include the flat denial of free will, as well as various attempts to render free will consistent with a physically deterministic world. Among these latter, there’s a tendency to redefine free will in a way that dissolves the apparent tension between freedom and determinism. In his new book, Why Free Will is Real (Harvard University Press, 2...
2019-Jun-20 • 79 minutes
Camisha Russell, "The Assisted Reproduction of Race" (Indiana UP, 2018)
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) such as in vitro fertilization and surrogacy have been critically examined within philosophy, particularly by feminists and bioethicists, but the role of race—both in how the technologies are used and in the effects that they are having—has received less attention. In The Assisted Reproduction of Race (Indiana University Press, 2018), Camisha Russell undertakes this critical analysis. While there is a robust scientific consensus that there is no meaningful genetic...
2019-Jun-10 • 61 minutes
Nicholas Shea, "Representation in Cognitive Science" (Oxford UP, 2018)
In order to explain thought in natural physical systems, mainstream cognitive science posits representations, or internal states that carry information about the world and that are used by the system to guide its behavior. Naturalistic theories of representation provide explanations of what information, or content, these internal states carry, and how they come to have the contents that they do. In Representation in Cognitive Science (Oxford University Press, 2018), Nicholas Shea approaches the problem from...
2019-May-31 • 64 minutes
Mary Kate McGowan, "Just Words: On Speech and Hidden Harm" (Oxford UP, 2019)
We’re all familiar with the ways in which speech can cause harm. For example, speech can incite wrongful acts. And I suppose we’re also familiar with contexts in which a person who occupies a position of authority can harm others simply by speaking – as when a boss announced and thereby institutes a discriminatory office policy. In such cases, the announcement is itself a harm in addition to the harm of the instituted policy – the boss’s announcement constitutes a harm and does not only cause harm. Once we’...
2019-May-10 • 65 minutes
James Doyle, "No Morality, No Self: Anscombe's Radical Skepticism" (Harvard UP, 2018)
This is the centennial year of the birth of G.E.M. Anscombe, one of the major philosophical figures of the 20th century within the analytic tradition. A close associate of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Anscombe contributed fundamental insights in philosophy of mind, action theory, and ethics. In his new book No Morality, No Self: Anscombe's Radical Skepticism (Harvard University Press, 2018), James Doyle considers two of her major papers: in "Modern Moral Philosophy", she denies that the term "moral" picks out a spe...
2019-May-01 • 62 minutes
Mollie Gerver, "The Ethics and Practice of Refugee Repatriation" (U Edinburgh Press, 2018)
Moral and political theorists have paid a healthy amount of attention to states’ rights to determine who may reside within their territory. Accordingly, there’s a large literature on immigration, borders, asylum, and refugees. However, relatively little work has been done on questions concerning how refugees are treated once they have gained access to a new country; and from these questions emerge additional issues concerning the repatriation of refugees. As it turns out, there are several global organiz...
2019-Apr-19 • 62 minutes
Jill Stauffer, "Ethical Loneliness: The Injustice of Not Being Heard" (Columbia UP, 2015)
In Ethical Loneliness: The Injustice of Not Being Heard (Columbia University Press 2015, paperback 2018), Jill Stauffer argues that survivors of unjust treatment and dehumanization can experience further harm when individuals and institutions will not or cannot hear the survivors’ claims about what they suffered and what they are owed for having suffered. She calls this further harm “ethical loneliness.” With Stauffer’s analysis, the harm of ethical loneliness can lead us to rethink how we understand respon...
2019-Apr-10 • 63 minutes
T. J. Kasperbauer, "Subhuman: The Moral Psychology of Human Attitudes Towards Animals" (Oxford UP, 2018)
Non-human animals are companions, research subjects, creatures we fear, creatures we eat. Why do we put other animals in the various categories we do, and treat them in the various good and bad ways that we do? These are questions about human attitudes towards other animals, and the moral implications of those attitudes. In Subhuman: The Moral Psychology of Human Attitudes Towards Animals (Oxford University Press, 2018), T. J. Kasperbauer examines this relatively underexplored area of moral psychology. Kasp...
2019-Apr-01 • 62 minutes
Michael Hannon, "What is the Point of Knowledge? A Function-First Epistemology" (Oxford UP, 2019)
Epistemologists working traditional modes have sought to discover the necessary and sufficient conditions under which one has knowledge. This has led to several tricky philosophical problems. Perhaps most notorious of these are the problems concerning skepticism. It seems that any analysis of knowledge admits of cases where the analysis is satisfied and yet knowledge has not been secured. This has led some philosophers to seek some other starting point for epistemology. Perhaps one should begin with th...
2019-Mar-19 • 32 minutes
Discussion of Massive Online Peer Review and Open Access Publishing
In the information age, knowledge is power. Hence, facilitating the access to knowledge to wider publics empowers citizens and makes societies more democratic. How can publishers and authors contribute to this process? This podcast addresses this issue. We interview Professor Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, whose book, The Good Drone: How Social Movements Democratize Surveillance (forthcoming with MIT Press) is undergoing a Massive Online Peer-Review (MOPR) process, where everyone can make comments on his manuscri...
2019-Mar-11 • 66 minutes
Elizabeth Schechter, "Self-Consciousness and Split Brains: The Mind's I" (Oxford UP, 2018)
Human brains have two hemispheres whose major connection is the corpus callosum, which enables information to be shared between the hemispheres. Split-brain subjects are people whose corpus callosum has been surgically cut to alleviate epilepsy. This and other similar operations or conditions yield an odd phenomenon in which the patient appears to be two agents: for example, in controlled experiments they may only be conscious of stimuli shown to just their right eye, but when asked to draw the stimulus wit...
2019-Mar-01 • 62 minutes
Guy Axtell, "Problems of Religious Luck: Assessing the Limits of Reasonable Religious Disagreement" (Lexington, 2019)
Our lives are shot through with contingency – where, when, and into what circumstances we are born is largely a matter of chance. And yet those features play determining roles in our lives. The languages we speak, the customs we practice, as well as our tastes and ambitions, all seem to depend largely on luck. In many cases, this is also true of our religious convictions. Hence a puzzle: it is common for religious convictions strike us as deeply personal and formative, and those who have them also see their...
2019-Feb-20 • 67 minutes
Ethan Mills, "Three Pillars of Skepticism in Classical India: Nagarjuna, Jayarasi, and Sri Harsa" (Lexington Books, 2018)
Skepticism has a long history in the Western tradition, from Pyrrhonian Skepticism in the Hellenistic period to more contemporary forms of skepticism most often used as foils to theories of knowledge. The existence of skepticism in Indian Philosophy, however, has long been neglected in favor of dogmatic positions. In Three Pillars of Skepticism in Classical India: Nagarjuna, Jayarasi, and Sri Harsa (Lexington Books, 2018), Ethan Mills considers the thought of three very different philosophers in classical I...
2019-Feb-11 • 63 minutes
Jonathan Birch, "The Philosophy of Social Evolution" (Oxford UP, 2017)
It seems to go against evolutionary theory for an individual to give up its own chances at reproducing in order to increase the fitness of others. Yet social behavior is found throughout nature, from bacteria and social insects to wolves, whales, and of course humans. What makes self-sacrifice to any degree even possible, given that self-interested behavior is the default? In The Philosophy of Social Evolution (Oxford University Press, 2017), Jonathan Birch critically examines the conceptual foundations of ...
2019-Feb-01 • 72 minutes
Henry S. Richardson, "Articulating the Moral Community: Toward a Constructive Ethical Pragmatism" (Oxford UP, 2018)
Even those among us who think that morality is rooted in timeless normative truths will acknowledge that the overall moral fabric that binds us to one another is subject to various kinds of renovation and expansion. To take a simplistic example, the advent of the Internet has occasioned a host of new moral concepts attuned to the new ways in which people are able to treat each other -- think of “friending,” “blocking,” trolling, “sub-tweeting,” doxing, and such. These are new concepts introduced into the...
2019-Jan-15 • 71 minutes
Maria Kronfeldner, "What's Left of Human Nature? A Post-Essentialist, Pluralist, and Interactive Account of a Contested Concept" (MIT Press, 2018)
Much of the debate about the roles of nature vs. nurture in the development of individual people has settled into accepting that it's a bit of both, although what each contributes to a given trait or feature, how much, and they interact are still matters of dispute. In What's Left of Human Nature? A Post-Essentialist, Pluralist, and Interactive Account of a Contested Concept(MIT Press, 2018), Maria Kronfeldner critically examines instead the 'nature' side of this dichotomy: what exactly is a human "nature"?...
2018-Dec-14 • 62 minutes
Samuel Schindler, "Theoretical Virtues in Science: Discovering Reality Through Theory" (Cambridge UP, 2018)
A fundamental problem in science, and in philosophy of science, is that of theory choice. Scientists propose theories to explain data, but when two scientific theories can both explain the same data, what criteria do scientists use to choose between them? And given that even very popular scientific theories can turn out to be wrong, how are the criteria for theory choice related to truth? Do scientists even aim at true theories, as realists hold, or, as anti-realists hold, do they just care that the theorie...
2018-Dec-03 • 73 minutes
Carrie Figdor, "Pieces of Mind: The Proper Domain of Psychological Predicates" (Oxford UP, 2018)
We’re all familiar with cases where one attributes certain psychological states or capacities to creatures and systems that are not human persons. For example, your cat might prefer a certain variety of cat food, and maybe your houseplants enjoy a certain corner of the room they’re in. In many cases, these attributions pass by without much notice. However, in certain regimented scientific contexts, the attribution of psychological states and capacities to non-human things has become indispensable in our ...
2018-Nov-15 • 67 minutes
Shannon Spaulding, “How We Understand Others: Philosophy and Social Cognition” (Routledge, 2018))
Social cognition includes the ways we explain, predict, interpret, and influence other people. The dominant philosophical theories of social cognition–the theory-theory and the simulation theory–have provided focused accounts of mindreading, the more specific practice of ascribing beliefs, desires, and intentions to others in order to predict and explain their behavior. In How We Understand Others: Philosophy and Social Cognition (Routledge, 2018), Shannon Spaulding draws on social psychological research an...
2018-Nov-05 • 68 minutes
David Rondel, “Pragmatist Egalitarianism” (Oxford UP, 2018)
Pragmatism is a longstanding philosophical idiom that advocates public-facing philosophy – philosophy that abandons merely academic puzzles and addresses itself to the social and political problems of the day. This commitment is perhaps most firmly manifest in John Dewey. Unsurprisingly, Dewey wrote extensively in social and political philosophy, focusing in particular on developing a conception of participatory democracy. Given his strong commitment to democracy, it is clear that Dewey is some kind of e...
2018-Oct-15 • 68 minutes
Robert A. Wilson, “The Eugenic Mind Project” (MIT Press, 2017)
For most of us, eugenics — the “science of improving the human stock” — is a thing of the past, commonly associated with Nazi Germany and government efforts to promote a pure Aryan race. This view is incorrect: even in California, for example, sterilization of those deemed mentally defective was performed up to 1977. In The Eugenic Mind Project (MIT Press, 2017), Robert A. Wilson critically considers the type of thinking — which he calls eugenic thinking — that drives eugenic sterilization practices: the qu...
2018-Oct-01 • 68 minutes
Candice Delmas, “A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil” (Oxford UP, 2018)
According to a long tradition in political philosophy, there are certain conditions under which citizens may rightly disobey a law enacted by a legitimate political authority. That is, it is common for political philosophers to recognize the permissibility of civil disobedience, even under broadly just political conditions. There are, of course, longstanding debates over how to distinguish civil from uncivil disobedience, what forms civil disobedience may take, and the difference between civil disobedienc...
2018-Sep-17 • 65 minutes
Anjan Chakravartty, “Scientific Ontology: Integrating Naturalized Metaphysics and Voluntarist Epistemology” (Oxford UP, 2017)
A scientific ontology is a view about what a scientific theory says exists. Longstanding philosophical debate on this issue divides into two broad camps: anti-realists, who think scientific theories are committed to the existence only of those things that can be observed, and realists, who hold that these theories are also committed to unobservables, such as subatomic particles. In Scientific Ontology: Integrating Naturalized Metaphysics and Voluntarist Epistemology (Oxford University Press, 2017), Anjan Ch...
2018-Sep-11 • 35 minutes
Shelley Tremain, “Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability” (U Michigan Press, 2017)
How should we understand disability? In Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability (University of Michigan Press, 2017), Dr. Shelley Tremain explores this complex question from the perspective of feminist philosophy, using the work of Michel Foucault. The book is a fascinating critique of much contemporary philosophy and policy, providing a detailed, but easy to follow overview of key works in feminism and in Foucault’s thought. The book places these discussions in the context of inequalities within aca...
2018-Aug-31 • 61 minutes
Brian O’Connor, “Idleness: A Philosophical Essay” (Princeton UP, 2018)
Culturally, idleness is widely derided as laziness, uselessness, and sloth. Even within philosophy, the idle are criticized for being wasteful, selfish, and free-loading. Indeed, throughout the history of moral and political philosophy, it is frequently asserted (though not often argued) that humans must be perpetually active, busy, and, in a word, productive? But why? Is there really nothing to be said for idling? In Idleness: A Philosophical Essay (Princeton University Press, 2018), Brian O’Connor exa...
2018-Aug-15 • 65 minutes
Keya Maitra, “Philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita: A Contemporary Introduction” (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018)
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the foundational texts of Hinduism and probably the one most familiar and popular in the West. The moral problem that motivates the text – is it right to kill members of one’s extended family if they are on the other side in a war? – leads to an extended discussion of such themes as rebirth and reincarnation and the personal paths to unity with the universe through the yogas of action, knowledge, and devotion. In Philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita: A Contemporary Introduction (Bloom...
2018-Aug-06 • 68 minutes
Steven Gimbel, “Isn’t That Clever: A Philosophical Account of Humor and Comedy” (Routledge, 2018)
Humor and its varied manifestations—jesting joking around, goofing, lampooning, and so on—pervade the human experience and are plausibly regarded as necessary features of interpersonal interactions. As one would expect, these pervasive phenomena occasion philosophical questions. What renders some item or event humorous? Are funny jokes objectively so? As humor is a mode of interacting with others, can it be deployed irresponsibly? Can it be harmful and impermissible? What is the relation between humor...
2018-Jul-16 • 69 minutes
Eric Winsberg, “Philosophy and Climate Science” (Cambridge UP, 2018)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that there is a warming trend in the global climate that is attributable to human activity, with an expected increase in global temperature (given current trends) of 1.5- 4.5 degrees Celsius (2.7-7.2 degrees Fahrenheit). But how do climate scientists reach these conclusions? In Philosophy and Climate Science (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Eric Winsberg presents the elements of climate science in an accessible but rigorous framework that empha...
2018-Jun-29 • 70 minutes
Elizabeth F. Cohen, “The Political Value of Time: Citizenship, Duration, and Democratic Justice” (Cambridge UP, 2018)
We’re all familiar with some of the ways that time figures into our political environment. Things such as term limits, waiting periods, deadlines, and criminal sentences readily come to mind. But there are also protocols, accords, mandates, and contracts, and these frequently invoke temporal bounds of various kinds. In fact, when you think of it, a full range of political phenomena are structured by time. And yet time seems to have eluded political theorists and philosophers. In The Political Value of ...
2018-Jun-15 • 65 minutes
Edouard Machery, “Philosophy Within Proper Bounds” (Oxford UP, 2017)
There are five people on the track and a runaway trolley that will hit them, and you are on a footbridge over the track with a large person whose body can stop the trolley in its tracks. Should you push the large person to his death to save the five on the track? Using hypothetical cases and questions about them to elicit judgments is a prominent method of analytic philosophy to discover modal or necessary truths – truths about what must be the case. The method is used to consider what action is right, whet...
2018-Jun-01 • 66 minutes
William A. Edmundson, “John Rawls: Reticent Socialist” (Cambridge UP, 2017)
John Rawls is easily the most celebrated and influential political philosopher of the 20th Century, and his impact remains remarkably strong today. The central concepts with which his theory of justice begins are now components of the philosophical vernacular: The Original Position, Veil of Ignorance, Primary Goods, and his Two Principles of Justice (especially the Difference Principle) all will be well known to the majority of professional philosophers. It is less commonly acknowledged that the apparatus...
2018-May-15 • 65 minutes
Ruth G. Millikan, “Beyond Concepts: Unicepts, Language, and Natural Information” (Oxford UP, 2018)
Kant famously asked the question, how is knowledge possible? In her new book, Beyond Concepts: Unicepts, Language, and Natural Information (Oxford University Press, 2018), Ruth Garrett Millikan responds to this question from a naturalistic, and specifically evolutionary, perspective. Millikan, who is distinguished professor emerita at the University of Connecticut, has long been a leading figure in theorizing about language and thought. Her latest work considers the “clumpy” world that organisms confront an...
2018-May-01 • 62 minutes
Christian B. Miller, “The Character Gap: How Good Are We?” (Oxford UP, 2018)
My guest today is Christian Miller. Christian is A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University. He is a moral philosopher specializing on character, with special interest in the empirical study of the virtues and vices. He currently directs The Beacon Project, which studies morally exemplars; and he has recently completed a 5-year research project called The Character Project. His latest book is titled The Character Gap: How Good Are We? (Oxford University Press, 2017) Moral thinking and ...
2018-Apr-16 • 67 minutes
Alexus McLeod, “Philosophy of the Ancient Maya: Lords of Time” (Lexington Books, 2018)
The ancient Maya are popularly known for their calendar, but their concept of time and the metaphysics surrounding that conception are not. In Philosophy of the Ancient Maya: Lords of Time (Lexington Books, 2018), Alexus McLeod reconstructs an ancient Mayan metaphysical system based on key texts and other artifacts plus using analogies with ancient Chinese philosophical thought. On his view, the Maya held that we can understand everything in temporal terms but that everything does not reduce to time, and th...
2018-Apr-02 • 62 minutes
Gloria Origgi, “Reputation: What it is and Why it Matters” (Princeton UP, 2018)
We all put a great deal of care into protecting, managing, and monitoring our reputation. But the precise nature of a reputation is obscure. In one sense, reputation is merely hearsay, a popular perception that may or may not have any basis in fact. Yet we rely heavily on reputations for example, when were choosing a restaurant, mechanic, or physician. Accordingly, multiple sites on social media are devoted to helping us to discover the reputation of service providers, social events, and even people. Still,...
2018-Mar-15 • 67 minutes
Menachem Fisch, “Creatively Undecided: Toward a History and Philosophy of Scientific Agency” (U Chicago Press, 2017 )
Thomas Kuhn upset both scientists and philosophers of science when he argued that transitions from one scientific framework (or “paradigm”) to another were irrational: the change was like a religious conversion experience rather than a reasoned shift from one theory to another based on the best evidence. But even if one disagrees with Kuhn, how can this change be shown to be rational? More generally, how can transitions from one set of normative standards to another be rational, given that there is no neutr...
2018-Feb-15 • 64 minutes
Karen Neander, “A Mark of the Mental: In Defense of Informational Teleosemantics” (MIT Press, 2017)
The two biggest problems of understanding the mind are consciousness and intentionality. The first doesn’t require introduction. The latter is the problem of how we can have thoughts and perceptions that about other things for example, a thought about a tree, or a perception of a tree. How can mental states be about other things? A naturalistic theory of intentionality is one that explains intentionality using just those resources available from the natural sciences, such as causal relationships or elements...
2018-Feb-01 • 65 minutes
Bart Streumer, “Unbelievable Errors: An Error Theory about All Normative Judgments” (Oxford UP, 2017)
It’s intuitive to think that statements of the form “lying is wrong” ascribe a property—that of wrongness—to acts of the type lying. In this way, one might think that statements of this kind are much like statements of the form “Bill is left-handed,” which also seems to attribute a property—left-handedness to Bill. But what about a statement like “Bill is a Wookie?” As there is no property of being a Wookie, the statement seems then to be false. What’s called the error theory is the view that statements tha...
2018-Jan-15 • 68 minutes
Sam Cowling, “Abstract Entities” (Routledge, 2017)
Here’s a true sentence: The number seven is odd. What’s philosophically odd about the sentence is that it seems to imply that there must be numbers, including the number seven just as the truth of The Statue of Liberty is in New York implies that there is such a statue. But the number seven, unlike the statue, isn’t located anywhere, and we can’t see it or touch it. It is, Plato argued long ago, an abstract entity. But should we think reality includes abstract entities? In his deftly written critical survey...
2018-Jan-01 • 66 minutes
Kieran Setiya, “Midlife: A Philosophical Guide” (Princeton UP, 2017)
Middle-agedness is a curious phenomenon. In many ways, one is at one’s peak and also at the early stages of decline. There is much to do, but also dozens of paths irretrievably untaken. Successes, but also regrets. It’s no wonder that the idea of a midlife crisis is so familiar. But midlife is not commonly a subject of explicit philosophical study. In Midlife: A Philosophical Guide (Princeton University Press, 2017), Kieran Setiya develops a philosophical account of the crises associated with midlife that c...
2017-Dec-15 • 67 minutes
Owen Flanagan, “The Geography of Morals: Varieties of Moral Possibility” (Oxford UP, 2017)
What is it to be moral, to lead an ethically good life? From a naturalistic perspective, any answer to this question begins from an understanding of what humans are like that is deeply informed by psychology, anthropology, and other human-directed perspectives as these are constrained by evolution. In The Geography of Morals: Varieties of Moral Possibility (Oxford University Press, 2017), Owen Flanagan sets out to clarify the landscape of moral possibility for actual human beings. He defends a perspective o...
2017-Dec-01 • 63 minutes
Daniel R. DeNicola, “Understanding Ignorance: The Surprising Impact of What We Don’t Know” (The MIT Press, 2017)
Epistemology is the area of philosophy that examines the phenomena of and related to knowledge. Traditional core questions include: How is knowledge different from lucky guessing? Can knowledge be innate? Is skepticism a threat, and if so, how should it be countered? And: Is it possible to know something simply on the basis of another person’s say-so? In the background of all of these traditional questions is a broad concern thats not often explicitly addressed—the concern is with ignorance. We study the na...
2017-Nov-15 • 70 minutes
Susanna Siegel, “The Rationality of Perception” (Oxford UP, 2017)
Seeing is often a good reason for believing—when things go well. But suppose we have a case like this: Jill believes that Jack is angry, although she has no good grounds for this belief. Nevertheless, when she sees him, she sees his face as angry even though it is neutral. Is it reasonable for Jill to believe he is angry on the basis of what she sees? No, argues Susanna Siegel: her perception has been hijacked by her prior unfounded belief, and so it cannot turn around and justify that belief even if Jill t...
2017-Nov-01 • 55 minutes
Jean Kazez, “The Philosophical Parent: Asking the Hard Questions about Having and Raising Children” (Oxford UP, 2017)
We all recognize that parenting involves a seemingly endless succession of choices, beginning perhaps with the choice to become a parent, through a sequence of decisions concerning the care, upbringing, acculturation, and education of a child. And we all recognize that many of these decisions are impactful. More specifically, we know that the choices parents make often deeply impact the lives of others, including especially the life of the child. Given the sheer number of impactful and other-regarding choic...
2017-Oct-15 • 66 minutes
Ron Mallon, “The Construction of Human Kinds” (Oxford University Press, 2016)
Social constructionists hold that the world is determined at least in part by our ways of representing it. Recent debates regarding social construction have focused on categories that play important roles in the human social world, such as race and gender. Social constructionists argue that these categories are not biological or natural and that alleviating social injustice begins with recognizing they are not. At the same time, the case of Rachel Dolezal, a woman born of white parents who considers herself...
2017-Oct-01 • 64 minutes
Alfred Moore, “Critical Elitism: Deliberation, Democracy, and the Problem of Expertise” (Cambridge UP, 2017)
According to a challenge going back to Plato, democracy is unacceptable as a mode of political organization, because it distributes political power equally among those who are unequal in wisdom. Plato goes on to object that democracies are suspicious of the very idea of expertise in political matters. Long traditions in political philosophy have proposed various responses to Plato. According to a predominant trend in contemporary democratic theory, public deliberation can serve to meet Plato’s challenges. Y...
2017-Sep-15 • 65 minutes
Jan De Winter, “Interests and Epistemic Integrity in Science” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017)
In the 1960’s Thomas Kuhn argued, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, that scientists’ choices between competing theories could not be determined by the empirical evidence. Ever since, philosophers of science have debated the role of non-epistemic values and interests in science, generally agreeing that such influences are undesirable even if they are inevitable. In Interests and Epistemic Integrity in Science (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), Jan de Winter argues that the direct influence of non-episte...
2017-Aug-15 • 66 minutes
Kristina Musholt, “Thinking About Oneself: From Nonconceptual Content to the Concept of a Self” (MIT Press, 2015)
When Descartes famously concluded “I think, therefore I am”, he took for granted his ability to use the first person pronoun to refer to himself. But how do we come to have this capacity for self-conscious thought? We aren’t born with it, and while we may not be the only creatures that can think thoughts about ourselves, this ability does not seem to be very widespread. For starters, to be able to think of oneself, it seems one must first possess a concept of the self of what the “I” refers to. In Thinking ...
2017-Aug-01 • 68 minutes
Alejandra Mancilla, “The Right of Necessity: Moral Cosmopolitanism and Global Poverty” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016)
We are accustomed to the thought that individuals facing dire circumstances may rightfully take use of others’ property in order to save their own lives. For example, one thinks it obvious that in order to avoid freezing to death, a lost mountain hiker may rightfully break into and make use of a heated cabin that is not his property. But what justifies this idea? And what are its implications for a world where millions are subjected to sustained and systematic depravation? In The Right of Necessity: Moral C...
2017-Jul-15 • 66 minutes
Gualtiero Piccinini, “Physical Computation: A Mechanistic Account” (Oxford UP, 2016)
A popular way of thinking about the mind and its relation to physical stuff is in terms of computation. This general information-processing approach to solving the mind-body problem admits of a number of different, often incompatible, elaborations. In Physical Computation: A Mechanistic Account (Oxford University Press, 2016), Gualtiero Piccinini integrates research in mechanistic and psychological explanation, computability theory, and other areas to provide a detailed account of the sense in which some, b...
2017-Jul-01 • 69 minutes
Justin Snedegar, “Contrastive Reasons” (Oxford UP, 2017)
When we are thinking about what we ought to do, we are nearly always deciding among options. And we often talk in ways that reflect this; statement about what one ought to do are frequently explicitly statements that identify some act as the one to be performed from a broader set of alternatives. Accordingly, we recognize that a consideration which favors some act among one set of options might favor a different act among a different set of options. This has led some to think that normative reasons are fund...
2017-Jun-15 • 66 minutes
Bongrae Seok, “Moral Psychology of Confucian Shame: Shame of Shamelessness” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017)
Shame is a complex social emotion that has a particularly negative valence; in the West it is associated with failure, inappropriateness, dishonor, disgrace. But within the Confucian tradition, there is in addition a distinct, positive variety of moral shame a virtue that, as Bongrae Seok writes, “is not for losers but for self-reflective moral leaders”. In Moral Psychology of Confucian Shame: Shame of Shamelessness (Rowman and Littlefield), Seok draws on textual evidence from Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi,...
2017-Jun-01 • 61 minutes
Peter Balint, “Respecting Toleration: Traditional Liberalism and Contemporary Diversity” (Oxford University Press, 2017)
The freedoms prized and secured in a modern liberal democratic societies give rise to significant forms of moral and social diversity. In many cases, these forms of diversity must be dealt with by the state and its citizens. A standard way of trying to address social diversity is to call for toleration. But toleration can seem to have a dark side: it might appear that we tolerate only that which we, to some degree, disparage or disapprove of. In this way, toleration might also be a way of affirming ones sup...
2017-May-15 • 70 minutes
David Danks, “Unifying the Mind: Cognitive Representations as Graphical Models” (MIT Press, 2014)
For many cognitive scientists, psychologists, and philosophers of mind, the best current theory of cognition holds that thinking is in some sense computation “in some sense,” because that core idea can and has been elaborated in a number of different ways that are or at least seem to be incompatible in at least some respects. In Unifying the Mind: Cognitive Representations as Graphical Models (MIT Press, 2014), David Danks proposes a version of this basic theory that links the mind closely with the computat...
2017-May-01 • 63 minutes
Linda Zagzebski, “Exemplarist Moral Theory” (Oxford UP, 2017)
Many of the longstanding debates in moral philosophy concern the question of where more theorizing should begin. Some hold that moral theories should start with definitions of moral terms like good; others contend instead that we should begin by identifying the conditions under which an action is right; still others maintain that one must start by developing a procedure for deciding what acts to perform. The thought is that once a theory accounts for whatever is properly first, the rest of morality simply f...
2017-Apr-15 • 69 minutes
Benjamin Hale, “The Wild and the Wicked: On Nature and Human Nature” (MIT Press, 2016)
Many environmentalists approach the problem of motivating environmentally friendly behavior from the perspective that nature is good and that we ought to act so as to maximize the good environmental consequences of our actions and minimize the bad ones. An environmental activist turned academic philosopher, Benjamin Hale argues against this dominant consequentialist approach towards environmentalism in favor of a Kantian view. In The Wild and the Wicked: On Nature and Human Nature (MIT Press, 2016), Hale, w...
2017-Apr-01 • 59 minutes
Cristina Bicchieri, “Norms in the Wild: How to Diagnose, Measure, and Change Social Norms” (Oxford UP, 2017)
Humans engage in a wide variety of collective behaviors, ranging from simple customs like wearing a heavy coat in winter to more complex group actions, as when an audience gives applause at the close of a musical performance. Some of these collective behaviors are cases of imitation, of doing what others do. In other cases, the behavior is driven by individuals’ expectations about what certain people both do and believe others should do. When confronting real-world cases where groups act in ways that are pr...
2017-Mar-15 • 67 minutes
Stephanie Ruphy, “Scientific Pluralism Reconsidered: A New Approach to the (Dis)unity of Science (U. Pittsburgh Press, 2017)
The idea that the sciences can’t be unified–that there will never be a single ‘theory of everything’–is the current orthodoxy in philosophy of science and in many sciences as well. But different versions of pluralism present very different views of what exactly they are pluralistic about, why sciences cannot be unified, and what the failure of unification entails about the world and about our knowledge of it. In Scientific Pluralism Reconsidered: A New Approach to the Dis(unity) of Science (University of Pi...
2017-Mar-01 • 64 minutes
Ryan Muldoon, “Social Contract Theory for a Diverse World: Beyond Tolerance” (Routledge, 2017)
The idea that a political order derives its authority, legitimacy, and justification from some kind of initial agreement or contract, whether hypothetical or tacit, has been a mainstay of political philosophy, at least since Hobbes. Today, the leading approach to theorizing justice–John Rawls’ conception of “justice as fairness”– employs a contract doctrine, albeit of a somewhat modified kind. There, too, the idea is that an initial agreement, struck under special conditions of fairness, settles the princip...
2017-Feb-15 • 70 minutes
Carl Gillett, “Reduction and Emergence in Science and Philosophy” (Cambridge UP, 2016)
Are complex phenomena “nothing but the sum of their parts”, or are they “more than the sum of their parts”? Physicists, chemists, and biologists as well as philosophers have long argued on both sides of this debate between the idea of reduction and that of emergence. At this point, argues Carl Gillett, the sides have reached a stalemate, where it is difficult to know in what ways the sides fundamentally disagree about the nature of the relation between a composite whole and its parts. In Reduction and Emerg...
2017-Feb-01 • 75 minutes
Fred Feldman, “Distributive Justice: Getting What We Deserve from Our Country” (Oxford UP, 2016)
The philosopher (and 1972 presidential candidate) John Hospers once wrote, “justice is getting what one deserves. What could be simpler?” As it turns out, this seemingly simple idea is in the opinion of many contemporary political philosophers complicated enough to be implausible. According to many these theorists, the question of what one deserves is no less vexed than the question of what justice requires. Some even hold that the question of what one deserves can be answered only by reference to a concept...
2017-Jan-18 • 70 minutes
Jennifer Greenwood, “Becoming Human: The Ontogenesis, Metaphysics, and Expression of Human Emotionality” (MIT, 2016)
Psychological and philosophical theories of the emotions tend to take the adult emotional repertoire as the paradigm case for understanding the emotions. From this standpoint, the emotions are usually distinguished into two categories: the basic emotions, like fear or happiness, and the higher cognitive emotions, like shame or pride. In her new book, Becoming Human: The Ontogenesis, Metaphysics, and Expression of Human Emotionality (MIT Press, 2016), Jennifer Greenwood challenges this standard division and ...
2017-Jan-03 • 70 minutes
Elizabeth Barnes, “The Minority Body: A Theory of Disability” (Oxford UP, 2016)
We are all familiar with the idea that some persons are disabled. But what is disability? What makes it such that a condition–physical, cognitive, psychological–is a disability, rather than, say, a disease or illness? Is disability always and intrinsically bad? Are disabilities things to be cured? Might disabilities be merely ways of being different? And what role should the testimony and experiences of disabled persons play in addressing these questions? In The Minority Body: A Theory of Disability (Oxfor...
2016-Dec-15 • 69 minutes
Andy Clark, “Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and Embodied Mind” (Oxford UP, 2016)
The predictive processing hypothesis is a new unified theory of neural and cognitive function according to which our brains are prediction machines: they process the incoming sensory stream in the light of expectations of what those sensory inputs ought to be. On this view, only prediction errors are fed forward into the processing stream, and these are used to update subsequent predictions and guide action. In Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind (Oxford University Press 2016), An...
2016-Dec-01 • 66 minutes
William H. Shaw, “Utilitarianism and the Ethics of War” (Routledge, 2016)
On any mature view, war is horrific. Naturally, there is a broad range of fundamental ethical questions regarding war. According to most moral theories, war is nonetheless sometimes permitted, and perhaps even obligatory. But even an obligatory war may be fought in a morally impermissible way. So it makes sense to distinguish the moral questions concerning the decision to wage war from the questions concerning the conduct of soldiers, armies, and states in the course of fighting a war. There is a large and ...
2016-Nov-15 • 67 minutes
Paul C. Taylor, “Black is Beautiful: A Philosophy of Black Aesthetics” (Wiley Blackwell, 2016)
Why is it controversial to cast light-skinned actress Zoe Saldana as the lead character in a film about the performer Nina Simone? How should we understand the coexisting desire and revulsion of the black body that traces its roots to Thomas Jefferson’s longstanding relationship with his slave Sally Hemings and extends to contemporary attitudes towards black hair? In Black is Beautiful: A Philosophy of Black Aesthetics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016), Paul C. Taylor examines primary themes in racialism from the per...
2016-Nov-01 • 59 minutes
A. John Simmons, “Boundaries of Authority” (Oxford UP, 2016)
Political states claim the moral right to rule the persons living within their jurisdiction; they claim the authority to make and enforce laws, establish policies, and allocate benefits and burdens of various kinds. But states also claim rights over their territories. These include rights to establish and protect borders, to control airspace, extract and use natural resources on and beneath their geographical region. Philosophers have long wondered about the basis for states claims to authority over persons...
2016-Oct-15 • 71 minutes
J.D. Trout, “Wondrous Truths: The Improbable Triumph of Modern Science” (Oxford UP, 2016)
The social practice we call science has had spectacular success in explaining the natural world since the 17th century. While advanced mathematics and other precursors of modern science were not unique to Europe, it was there that Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, and others came up with theories that got modern physics and chemistry off the ground. In his latest book, Wondrous Truths: The Improbable Triumph of Modern Science (Oxford University Press, 2016), J.D. Trout mounts a spirited defense of the claim that ...
2016-Sep-15 • 67 minutes
Kenneth Schaffner, “Behaving: What’s Genetic, What’s Not, and Why Should We Care?” (Oxford UP, 2016)
In the genes vs. environment debate, it is widely accepted that what we do, who we are, and what mental illnesses we are at risk for result from a complex combination of both factors. Just how complex is revealed in Behaving: What’s Genetic, What’s Not, and Why Should We Care? (Oxford University Press, 2016), Kenneth Schaffner’s assessment of the impact of recent biological research on the genetic contribution to behavior. Among the developments he considers are the sequencing of the human genome and the de...
2016-Sep-01 • 66 minutes
Martha Nussbaum, “Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice” (Oxford UP, 2016)
Anger is among the most familiar phenomena in our moral lives. It is common to think that anger is an appropriate, and sometimes morally required, emotional response to wrongdoing and injustice. In fact, our day-to-day lives are saturated with inducements not only to become angry, but to embrace the idea that anger is morally righteous. However, at the same time, were all familiar with the ways in which anger can go morally wrong. We know that anger can eat away at us; it can render us morally blind; it can...
2016-Aug-15 • 74 minutes
Silvia Jonas, “Ineffability and Its Metaphysics: The Unspeakable in Art, Religion, and Philosophy” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)
There is a long history in philosophy, art and religion of claims about the ineffable from The One in Plotinus to Kant’s noumena or thing-in-itself to Wittgenstein’s famous remark at the end of Tractatus that “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” But even if the ineffable cannot, in some sense, be expressed, what can we say about what it is to be ineffable? What sorts of things are ineffable and what sense can be made of the claim that these things are ineffable? In her new book, Ineffabi...
2016-Aug-01 • 66 minutes
Diana Heney, “Toward a Pragmatist Metaethics” (Routledge, 2016)
The pragmatist tradition in philosophy tends to focus on the pioneering work of its founding trio of Charles Pierce, William James, and John Dewey, who together proposed and developed a distinctive kind of naturalist empiricism. Though they disagreed sharply over central issues concerning truth and meaning, the original pragmatists shared a commitment to the primacy of practice and human experience, and a corresponding distaste for abstract philosophical theorizing. It comes as no surprise, then, that pragm...
2016-Jul-15 • 66 minutes
Arianna Betti, “Against Facts” (MIT Press, 2015)
The British philosopher and logician Bertrand Russell claimed it is a truism that there are facts: the planets revolve around the sun, 2 + 2 = 4, elephants are bigger than mice. In Against Facts (MIT Press, 2015), Arianna Betti argues that not only is it not a truism that there are facts, but that on either of the basic views of what facts are, there aren’t any. Betti, who is professor of philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, argues that we don’t need to posit facts as truthmakers or as the referents o...
2016-Jul-01 • 65 minutes
Mark Navin, “Values and Vaccine Refusal: Hard Questions in Epistemology, Ethics, and Health Care” (Routledge, 2016)
Communities of parents who refuse, delay, or selectively decline to vaccinate their children pose familiar moral and political questions concerning public health, safety, risk, and immunity. But additionally there are epistemological questions about these communities. Though frequently dismissed as simply ignorant, misinformed, or superstitious, it turns out that vaccine suspicion, denial, and refusal are positively correlated with higher levels of education, and greater depth of knowledge about vaccine sci...
2016-Jun-15 • 68 minutes
Julian Reiss, “Causation, Evidence and Inference” (Routledge, 2015)
What do we mean when we claim that something is a cause of something else that smoking causes cancer, that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand caused World War I, that the 8-ball caused the other billiard ball to go into the side pocket? In Causation, Evidence, and Inference (Routledge 2015), Julian Reiss defends an inferentialist account in which causal claims are inferred from evidence for a hypothesis and are the basis of inferences to other consequences. Reiss, who is Professor of Philosophy at Durh...
2016-Jun-01 • 71 minutes
David Shoemaker, “Responsibility from the Margins” (Oxford UP, 2015)
Moral life is infused with emotionally-charged interactions. When a stranger carelessly steps on my foot, I not only feel pain in my foot, I also am affronted by her carelessness. Whereas the former may cause me to wince, the latter arouses resentment, which can be communicated with an emotionally-toned protest, Um. . . excuse me. . . With this a protest, I hold the stranger responsible for her act. Yet there are cases where the stranger who steps on my foot does not manifest an objectionable carelessness. ...
2016-May-15 • 62 minutes
Rachel McKinnon, “The Norms of Assertion: Truth, Lies, and Warrant” (Palgrave McMillan, 2015)
One of the important ways we use language is to make assertions – roughly, to pass on information we believe to be true to others. Insofar as we need to learn by means of what others they tell us, assertion is a speech act that addresses this need. It also follows norms – ordinarily, we shouldn’t assert things that we believe to be false, and when we do we have violated a norm of assertion. In The Norms of Assertion: Truth, Lies, and Warrant (Palgrave Macmillan 2015), Rachel McKinnon argues against the prev...
2016-May-01 • 65 minutes
Duncan Pritchard, “Epistemic Angst: Radical Skepticism and the Groundlessness of Our Believing” (Princeton UP, 2016)
Many are introduced to philosophy by way of a confrontation with the kind of radical skepticism associated with Rene Descartes: Might I right now be dreaming? Might everything I think I know be the product of some grand deception perpetrated by a malevolent demon? Today, many philosophers seems simply to dismiss radical skepticism as unworthy of our attention; however, the skeptical challenge lingers, and, for many, it still is a source of concern. In Epistemic Angst: Radical Skepticism and the Groundlessn...
2016-Apr-15 • 67 minutes
Eric Dietrich, “Excellent Beauty: The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of the World” (Columbia UP, )
Although there are many deep criticisms of a scientific view of humanity and the world, a persistent theme is that the scientific worldview eliminates mystery, and in particular, the wonders and mysteries of the world’s religions. In Excellent Beauty: The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of the World (Columbia University Press), Eric Dietrich argues that the human thirst for mystery would still be slated even if we explain away the mysteries of religion in scientific, specifically evolutionary...
2016-Mar-15 • 71 minutes
Brian Epstein, “The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences” (Oxford UP, 2015)
The social sciences are about social entities – things like corporations and traffic jams, mobs and money, parents and war criminals. What is a social entity? What makes something a social entity? Traditional views hold that these things can be fully explained by facts about people – their bodies, their attitudes or some combination of these. In The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences (Oxford University Press, 2015), Brian Epstein argues that such views of social facts are untenably ...
2016-Mar-02 • 65 minutes
Leif Wenar, “Blood Oil: Tyranny, Violence, and the Rules that Run the World” (Oxford UP, 2016)
Chances are that at this very moment, you are either looking at a computer screen, holding a digital device, or listening to my voice through plastic earphones. Our computers and these other devices are constructed out of materials that have their origins in lands across the globe. And oil plays a central and early role in the causal story of how we came into possession of them. Oil also plays a leading role in the major global conflicts of our day. Much of the world’s oil is sold to us by brutal tyrants wh...
2016-Feb-15 • 66 minutes
David J. Stump, “Conceptual Change and the Philosophy of Science: Alternative Interpretations of the A Priori” (Routledge, 2015)
Ever since Kant argued that there was a category of truths, the synthetic a priori, that grounded the possibility of empirical knowledge, philosophers have debated the concept of a priori knowledge in science. Are there kinds of scientific knowledge that are not based in sense experience? What is the status of mathematical claims in science? David J. Stump, professor of philosophy at the University of San Francisco, argues that there is a priori knowledge in science, but that it is a pragmatic and dynamic. ...
2016-Feb-03 • 66 minutes
Rivka Weinberg, “The Risk of a Lifetime: How, When, and Why Procreation May be Permissible” (Oxford UP, 2016)
We don’t commonly think of procreation as a moral issue. But why not? When you think about it, creating another person seems like a morally weighty thing to do. And we tend to think that procreation under certain conditions would be irresponsible, selfish, or reckless. Might there also be cases where procreation is morally impermissible? In The Risk of a Lifetime: How, When, and Why Procreation May be Permissible (Oxford University Press, 2016), Rivka Weinberg explores a broad range of questions concerning...
2016-Jan-15 • 64 minutes
Colin Klein, “What the Body Commands: The Imperative Theory of Pain” (MIT Press, 2015)
Nothing seems so obviously true as the claim that pains feel bad, that pain and suffering go together. Almost as obviously, it seems that the function of pain is to inform us of tissue damage. In What the Body Commands: The Imperative Theory of Pain (The MIT Press, 2015), Colin Klein denies both apparently obvious claims. On his view, pain is a “protective imperative” whose content is to protect the body or body part: for example, “Don’t put weight on that left ankle!” Klein, Lecturer in the Department of P...
2016-Jan-05 • 72 minutes
S. Matthew Liao, “The Right to be Loved” (Oxford UP, 2015)
It seems obvious that children need to be loved, that having a loving home and upbringing is essential to a child’s emotional and cognitive development. It is also obvious that, under typical circumstances at least, for every child there are adults who should love them. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that many national and international charters and declarations specifically ascribe to children a right to be loved. But the idea that children have a right to be loved seems philosophically suspicious. Qu...
2015-Dec-15 • 72 minutes
Brian P. Copenhaver, “Magic in Western Culture: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment” (Cambridge UP, 2015 )
Belief in magic was pervasive in Greco-Roman times, persisted through the Renaissance, and then fell off the map of intellectual respectability in the Enlightenment. What happened? Why did it become embarrassing for Isaac Newton to have sought the philosopher’s stone, and for Robert Boyle to have urged the British Parliament to repeal a ban on transmuting base metals into silver and gold? In Magic in Western Culture: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Brian P. Copenhaver...
2015-Dec-01 • 68 minutes
Carlos Fraenkel, “Teaching Plato in Palestine: Philosophy in a Divided World” (Princeton UP, 2015)
We tend to think of Philosophy as a professional academic subject that is taught in college classes, with its own rather specialized problems, vocabularies, and methods. But we also know that the discipline has its roots in the Socratic activity of trying to incite debate and critical reflection among our fellow citizens. That is, we acknowledge that, apart from its existence as a technical discipline, Philosophy is a kind of civic activity that, we hope, can help us to address life’s biggest questions, eve...
2015-Nov-15 • 72 minutes
Nancy Bauer, “How to Do Things With Pornography” (Harvard UP, 2015)
We live in a world awash with pornography, in the face of which anti-porn feminist philosophizing has not had much impact. In How to Do Things With Pornography (Harvard University Press, 2015), Nancy Bauer takes academic philosophy to task for being irrelevant and argues that philosophers should emulate Socrates in giving people reasons to reflect on their settled views. Bauer, who is professor of philosophy and dean of academic affairs for arts and sciences at Tufts University, considers the sexual objecti...
2015-Nov-01 • 63 minutes
Lisa Tessman, “Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality” (Oxford UP, 2015)
Moral theories are often focused almost exclusively on answering the question, “What ought I do?” Typically, theories presuppose that for any particular agent under any given circumstance, there indeed is some one thing that she ought to do. And if she were indeed to do this thing, she would thereby morally succeed. But we know from experience that our moral lives involve moral dilemmas. These are cases in which it seems that moral success is not possible because every action available to us is morally wron...
2015-Oct-15 • 64 minutes
Miriam Solomon, “Making Medical Knowledge” (Oxford, 2015)
How are scientific discoveries transmitted to medical clinical practice? When the science is new, controversial, or simply unclear, how should a doctor advise his or her patients? How should information from large randomized controlled trials be weighed against the clinician’s hard-won judgment from treating hundreds of patients? These are some of the questions that are considered by Miriam Solomon in Making Medical Knowledge (Oxford University Press 2015). Solomon, who is professor of philosophy at Temple ...
2015-Oct-01 • 68 minutes
Stephen Macedo, “Just Married: Same-Sex Couples, Monogamy, and the Future of Marriage” (Princeton University Press, 2015)
There has been a lot of talk in the United States recently about same-sex marriage. One obvious question is sociological: What are the implications of marriage equality for the longstanding social institution of marriage? But there are philosophical questions as well. What is the purpose of marriage? What are the goods that marriage helps individuals realize? Once marriage is no longer understood to be restricted to heterosexual couples, must we then question whether it should be restricted to couples? Why ...
2015-Sep-15 • 66 minutes
M. Chirimuuta, “Outside Color: Perceptual Science and the Puzzle of Color in Philosophy” (MIT Press, 2015)
What is color? On the one hand it seems obvious that it is a property of objects – roses are red, violets are blue, and so on. On the other hand, even the red of a single petal of a rose differs in different lighting conditions or when seen from different angles, and the basic physical elements that make up the rose don’t have colors. So is color instead a property of a mental state, or a relation between a perceiving mind and an object? In Outside Color: Perceptual Science and the Puzzle of Color in Philos...
2015-Sep-01 • 61 minutes
Cass Sunstein, “Choosing Not to Choose: Understanding the Value of Choice” (Oxford UP, 2015)
The political tradition of liberalism tends to associate political liberty with the individual’s freedom of choice. The thought is that political freedom is intrinsically tied to the individual’s ability to select one’s own path in life – to choose one’s occupation, one’s values, one’s hobbies, one’s possessions, and so on – without the intrusion or supervision of others. John Stuart Mill, who held a version of this view, argued that it is in choosing for ourselves that we develop not only self-knowledge, b...
2015-Aug-14 • 63 minutes
Chad Engelland, “Ostension: Word Learning and the Embodied Mind” (MIT Press, 2015)
How do we learn our first words? What is it that makes the linguistic intentions of others manifest to us, when our eyes follow a pointing finger to an object and associate that object with a word? Chad Engelland addresses these and related questions in Ostension: Word Learning and the Embodied Mind (MIT Press, 2015). Engelland, an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas, explores the way in which ostension crosses the Cartesian boundary between body and mind. Drawing on historical an...
2015-Aug-01 • 80 minutes
Max Deutsch, “The Myth of the Intuitive: Experimental Philosophy and Philosophical Method” (MIT, 2015)
There is a movement in contemporary philosophy known as “experimental philosophy” or “x-phi” for short. It proceeds against the backdrop of a critique of contemporary analytic philosophy. According to the Xi-phi critique, analytic philosophers rely too heavily on an unsound method which involves arguing for philosophical conclusions from premises whose force rests solely in what philosophers find “intuitive” or “obvious.” Using polling and survey methods, experimental philosophers show that claims that phil...
2015-Jul-15 • 69 minutes
Margaret Morrison, “Reconstructing Reality: Models, Mathematics, and Simulations” (Oxford UP, 2015)
Almost 400 years ago, Galileo wrote that the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. Today, mathematics is integral to physics and chemistry, and is becoming so in biology, economics, and other sciences, although amid great controversy. The messy reality of biological creatures and their social relations cannot be captured in mathematical models or computer simulations, it is argued. But what is the relation between mathematics and physical reality? Do highly abstract mathematical formalis...
2015-Jul-01 • 71 minutes
Kevin Vallier, “Liberal Politics and Public Faith: Beyond Separation” (Routledge, 2014)
In a liberal democracy, citizens share political power as equals. This means that they must decide laws and policies collectively. Yet they disagree about fundamental questions regarding the value, purpose, and meaning of life. What role should their convictions concerning these matters play in their public activity as citizens? According to familiar answers, citizens must bracket or constrain the role that their religious convictions plays in their public lives. But many religious citizens find this unacce...
2015-Jun-15 • 63 minutes
Helen de Cruz and Johan de Smedt, “A Natural History of Natural Theology” (MIT Press, 2015)
In A Natural History of Natural Theology: The Cognitive Science of Theology and Philosophy of Religion (MIT Press, 2015), Helen de Cruz of the VU University Amsterdam and Johan de Smedt of Ghent University examine how the findings of cognitive science can and cannot be used to draw conclusions about the rationality of religious belief. They examine the types and role of the cognitive processes at work in these arguments, such as cause and effect and inference to the best explanation. They also consider whet...
2015-Jun-01 • 57 minutes
L. A. Paul, “Transformative Experience” (Oxford UP, 2014)
We typically make decisions based on a projection of their likely outcome with respect to the things we value. We seek to maximize of enhance the things we think are good, and minimize what we think is bad. But sometimes we are faced with a decision where we must choose whether to undergo an experience that will likely transform us in fundamental ways, perhaps even change our sense of what’s valuable or important. Indeed, sometimes we must choose whether to in effect become a different kind of person. How s...
2015-May-15 • 73 minutes
M. Joshua Mozersky, “Time, Language, and Ontology: The World from the B-Theoretic Perspective” (Oxford UP, 2015)
Is the present time uniquely real, or do past or future equally exist? Does saying the word “now” simply express the speaker’s current position in time the way “here” expresses her current position in space? In Time, Language, and Ontology: The World from the B-Theoretic Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2015), M. Joshua Mozersky, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Queen’s University, argues for ontological commitment to past, present, and future alike, and provides an account of tensed language in wh...
2015-May-01 • 65 minutes
Jason Stanley, “How Propaganda Works” (Princeton UP, 2015)
Propaganda names a familiar collection of phenomena, and examples of propaganda are easy to identify, especially when one examines the output of totalitarian states. In those cases, language and imagery are employed for the purpose of shaping mass opinion, forming group allegiances, constructing worldviews, and securing compliance. It is undeniable that propaganda is employed by liberal democratic states. But it is also undeniable that the use of propaganda is especially problematic in liberal democracies, ...
2015-Apr-15 • 67 minutes
Wayne Wu, “Attention” (Routledge, 2014)
The mental phenomenon of attention is often thought of metaphorically as a kind of spotlight: we focus our attention on a particular item or task, our attention is divided or diffused when we try to text and drive at the same time, and our attention is captured when we suddenly hear our name pop out from the conversational hubbub of a noisy party. But what is attention? How seriously should we take this or other metaphors as giving us insight into the nature of attention? In Attention (Routledge, 2014) Wayn...
2015-Apr-01 • 70 minutes
George Sher, “Equality for Inegalitarians” (Cambridge UP, 2014)
There’s a longstanding debate in political philosophy regarding the fundamental point or aim of justice. According to one prominent view, the point of justice is to neutralize the influence of luck over individuals’ shares of basic social goods. This view is known as luck egalitarianism. It holds, roughly, that inequality is consistent with justice only if it is due to individuals’ choices rather than their luck. Luck egalitarianism has an undeniable intuitive appeal, and hence has been the subject of a ran...
2015-Mar-15 • 69 minutes
Marya Schechtman, “Staying Alive: Personal Identity, Practical Concerns, and the Unity of a Life” (Oxford UP, 2014)
What is it to be the same person over time? The 17th-century British philosopher John Locke approached this question from a forensic standpoint: persons are identified over time with an appropriately related series of psychological states, in particular a chain of memories, and our interest in identifying persons in this way stems from our interest in holding people responsible for their actions. Locke’s psychological account of persons remains highly influential today, although his forensic approach is mor...
2015-Mar-02 • 70 minutes
Seana Shiffrin, “Speech Matters: On Lying, Morality, and the Law” (Princeton UP, 2014)
It is generally accepted that lying is morally prohibited. But theorists divide over the nature of lying’s wrongness, and thus there is disagreement over when the prohibition might be outweighed by competing moral norms.There is also widespread agreement over the idea that promises made under conditions of coercion or duress lack the moral force to create obligations. Finally, although free speech is widely seen as a primary value and right, there is an ongoing debate over the kind of good that free speech ...
2015-Feb-15 • 65 minutes
Evan Thompson, “Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy” (Columbia UP, 2014)
The quest for an explanation of consciousness is currently dominated by scientific efforts to find the neural correlates of conscious states, on the assumption that these states are dependent on the brain. A very different way of exploring consciousness is undertaken within various Indian religious traditions, in which subtle states of consciousness and transitions between such states can be revealed through meditation. In Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Phil...
2015-Feb-01 • 66 minutes
Carol Gould, “Interactive Democracy: The Social Roots of Global Justice” (Cambridge UP, 2014)
Contemporary advances in technology have in many ways made the world smaller. It is now possible for vast numbers of geographically disparate people to interact, communicate, coordinate, and plan. These advances potentially bring considerable benefits to democracy, such as greater participation, more inclusion, easier dissemination of information, and so on. Yet they also raise unique challenges, as the same technology that facilitates interaction also enables surveillance, as well as new forms of exclus...
2015-Jan-15 • 69 minutes
Erik C. Banks, “The Realistic Empiricism of Mach, James, and Russell: Neutral Monism Reconceived” (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
The Austrian physicist Ernst Mach, the American psychologist William James, and the British philosopher Bertrand Russell shared an interest in explaining the mind in naturalistic terms – unified with the rest of nature, not metaphysically distinct as Descartes argued. In The Realistic Empiricism of Mach, James, and Russell: Neutral Monism Reconceived (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Erik C. Banks delves into the movement that these three figures launched, for the first time showing how they provide a uni...
2015-Jan-01 • 65 minutes
Terence Cuneo, “Speech and Morality: On the Metaethical Implications of Speaking” (Oxford,
It is widely accepted that in uttering sentences we sometimes perform distinctive kinds of acts. We declare, assert, challenge, question, corroborate by means of speech; sometimes we also use speech to perform acts such as promising, commanding, judging, pronouncing, and christening. Yet it seems that in order to perform an act of, say, promising, one must have a certain kind of normative status; at the very least, one must be accountable. Similarly, in order to issue a command, one must, in some sense, hav...
2014-Dec-15 • 63 minutes
Joelle Proust, “The Philosophy of Metacognition: Mental Agency and Self-Awareness” (Oxford University Press, 2014)
Metacognition is cognition about cognition – what we do when we assess our cognitive states, such as wondering whether we’ve remembered a phone number correctly. In The Philosophy of Metacognition: Mental Agency and Self-Awareness (Oxford University Press, 2014) Joelle Proust considers the nature of metacognition from a naturalistic perspective, drawing on recent psychological research as well as a range of philosophical work in philosophy of mind and philosophy of action. In this erudite and comprehensive ...
2014-Dec-01 • 69 minutes
Claudio Lopez-Guerra, “Democracy and Disenfranchisement: The Morality of Electoral Exclusions” (Oxford UP, 2014)
Modern democracy is build around a collection of moral and political commitments. Among the most familiar and central of these concern voting. It is commonly held that legitimate government requires a system of universal suffrage. Yet, democrats tend to hold that certain exclusions are permissible. For example, it is commonly thought that children and the mentally impaired may justifiably be disenfranchised. We also tend to think that the disenfranchisement of felons and non-citizen residents is permis...
2014-Nov-15 • 68 minutes
Eric Steinhart, “Your Digital Afterlives: Computational Theories of Life after Death” (Palgrave Macmillan)
What is life after death? Many people may seek an answer to the question by looking to a traditional religion, such as Christianity or Buddhism, and offering its view of an afterlife. In Your Digital Afterlives: Computational Theories of Life After Death (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), Eric Steinhart presents core tenets of digitalism, a theology that transposes philosophical and theological concepts, principles, and arguments about the self, the universe and the nature of divinity into the conceptual framework...
2014-Nov-01 • 68 minutes
Michael E. Bratman, “Shared Agency: A Planning Theory of Acting Together” (Oxford UP, 2014)
One striking feature of humans is that fact that we sometimes act together. We garden, paint, sing, and dance together. Moreover, we intuitively recognize the difference between our simply walking down the street alongside each other and our walking down the street together. The former involves coordinated action and intention; but the latter involves something more–what we might think of as a shared intention. Once we recognize that shared activity involved share intentions, a range of distinctively philo...
2014-Oct-15 • 69 minutes
Stephen Yablo, “Aboutness” (Princeton UP, 2014 )
A day after Stephen Yablo bought his daughter Zina ice cream for her birthday, Zina complained, “You never take me for ice cream any more.” Yablo initially responded that this was obviously false. But Yablo, who is professor of philosophy and linguistics at MIT, also noticed something interesting: that Zina said something true about their formerly regular activity of going for ice cream, and that she expressed this truth by saying something false. Wrapping truth in falsehood is common in ordinary conversati...
2014-Oct-01 • 85 minutes
Susan Haack, “Evidence Matters: Science, Proof, and Truth in the Law” (Cambridge UP, 2014)
Our legal systems are rooted in rules and procedures concerning the burden of proof, the weighing of evidence, the reliability and admissibility of testimony, among much else. It seems obvious, then, that the law is in large part an epistemological enterprise. And yet when one looks at the ways in which judges have wielded epistemological concepts, there is plenty of room for concern. In Evidence Matters: Science, Proof, and Truth in the Law (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Susan Haack brings her skill...
2014-Sep-15 • 71 minutes
Richard Fumerton, “Knowledge, Thought, and the Case for Dualism” (Cambridge UP, 2013)
A few years back, Frank Jackson articulated a thought experiment about a brilliant neuroscientist who knew everything there was to know about the physical world, but who had never seen colors. When she sees a red tomato for the first time, she learns something new: what it’s like to experience red. The Knowledge Argument has been a key move in philosophical debates about whether the mind is just the brain. In Knowledge, Thought, and the Case for Dualism (Cambridge University Press, 2013), Richard Fumerton a...
2014-Sep-01 • 61 minutes
Samuel Scheffler, “Death and the Afterlife” (Oxford UP, 2013)
Our moral lives are constructed out of projects, goals, aims, and relationships or various kinds. The pursuit of these projects, and the nurturing of certain relationships, play central role in giving our lives their meaning and value. This much is commonplace. 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 si...
2014-Aug-15 • 67 minutes
Anne Jaap Jacobson, “Keeping the World in Mind” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)
Some theorists in the cognitive sciences argue that the sciences of the mind don’t need or use a concept of mental representation. In her new book, Keeping the World in Mind: Mental Representations and the Science of the Mind (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), Anne Jaap Jacobson, Professor of Philosophy and Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Houston, argues that what is needed is a different kind of theory of what mental representations are, one that reflects the way the notion of representat...
2014-Aug-01 • 65 minutes
Elise Springer, “Communicating Moral Concern: An Ethics of Critical Responsiveness” (MIT Press, 2013)
The long tradition of moral philosophy employs a familiar collection of basic concepts. These include concepts like agent, act, intention, consequence, responsibility, obligation, the right, and the good. Typically, contemporary moral theorists simply inherit these conceptual materials, and they use them to stake their positions within the terrain that is established by these concepts. But we must recognize the possibility that the categories and distinctions that form moral philosophy’s bedrock can nonethe...
2014-Jul-15 • 67 minutes
Marcin Milkowski, “Explaining the Computational Mind” (MIT Press, 2013)
The computational theory of mind has its roots in Alan Turing’s development of the basic ideas behind computer programming, specifically the manipulation of symbols according to rules. That idea has been elaborated since in a number of very different ways, but in some form it remains a core idea of the cognitive sciences today. In Explaining the Computational Mind (MIT Press, 2013), Marcin Milkowski, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy of Mind of the Polish Academy of Sciences, ...
2014-Jul-01 • 59 minutes
Simon Blackburn, “Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love” (Princeton UP, 2014)
At the heart of our moral thinking lies trouble with our selves. The self lies at morality’s core; selves are intimately connected to the proper objects of moral evaluation. But a common theme of moral theory is that the self, and concern with the self, is the source of much that is immoral: selfishness, greed, vanity, arrogance, envy, and so on. Many moral views that otherwise are opposed to each other seem to agree that being good requires some kind of dissociation with the self. And the transcending ...
2014-Jun-15 • 66 minutes
Jakob Hohwy, “The Predictive Mind” (Oxford UP, 2014)
The prediction error minimization hypothesis is the first grand unified empirical theory about how the brain implements the mind. The hypothesis, which is as bold as it is controversial, proposes to explain the mind via one core mechanism: a process of comparing predicted sensory input with actual input, updating our hypotheses in light of the difference, and generating new predictions. In The Predictive Mind (Oxford University Press), Jakob Hohwy introduces this theory to a wider audience, develops the the...
2014-Jun-01 • 66 minutes
Mark Alfano, “Character as Moral Fiction” (Cambridge UP, 2013)
According to a longstanding tradition in ethical theory, the primary subject of moral evaluation is the person, or, more specifically, the person’s character. Aristotle stands at the head of this tradition, and he held that moral theory must take as its center a theory of the good man; he hence devised an elaborate conception of the virtues–those dispositions and traits constitutive of the good life for human beings. Virtue ethics thrives to this day. In fact, virtue theorizing has been applied to other ...
2014-May-15 • 70 minutes
Melinda B. Fagan, “Philosophy of Stem Cell Biology: Knowledge in Flesh and Blood” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
Philosophy of science has come a very long way from its historically rooted focus on theories, explanations, and evidential relations in physics elaborated in terms of a rather mythical “theory T”. But even in philosophy of biology, attention has largely been on the concepts and abstract mathematics of evolutionary biology, not the in-the-trenches work of cell biology. Melinda B. Fagan, associate professor of philosophy at Rice University, stakes out new ground in Philosophy of Stem Cell Biology: Knowledge ...
2014-May-01 • 77 minutes
Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij, “Epistemic Paternalism: A Defence” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
Many of our goals and aspirations in life depend upon our epistemological capabilities. Our attempts to do the right thing or live a good life can be greatly hampered if we are unable to form true beliefs and resist false ones. Consequently, we have good reason to seek to be epistemologically healthy. Yet we know that as fallible creatures we are prone to a wide variety of systematic errors and pitfalls. So we should seek to improve ourselves epistemically. However, we also know that our reasoning is vu...
2014-Apr-01 • 47 minutes
Adrienne Martin, “How We Hope: A Moral Psychology” (Princeton UP, 2013)
From political campaigns to sports stadiums and hospital rooms, the concept of hope is pervasive. And the story we tend to tell ourselves about hope is that it is intrinsically a good thing — in many ways we still tend to think of hope as a kind of virtue. Hence we talk about hopes being dashed or crushed; and we speak as if losing hope is an unmitigated bad. We also talk about false hope, which is a kind of misfortune rather than a blemish on hope’s moral ledger. Hope is deeply bound up with our moral live...
2014-Mar-14 • 70 minutes
Josef Stern, “The Matter and Form of Maimonides’ Guide” (Harvard UP, 2013)
The medieval Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides’ most famous work, The Guide of the Perplexed, has been interpreted variously as an attempt to reconcile reason and religion, as a guide to philosophers on ruling the community while concealing the truth, or as an exegesis of rabbinical texts. In The Matter and Form of Maimonides’ Guide (Harvard University Press, 2013), Josef Stern provides an entirely distinct reading of this singular work. Stern, William H. Colvin Professor in the Department of Philosophy at th...
2014-Mar-01 • 69 minutes
David Edmonds, “Would You Kill the Fat Man?” (Princeton UP, 2014)
The trolley problem is a staple of contemporary moral philosophy. It centers around two scenarios involving a runaway trolley. In the first, a trolley is barreling down a track without any brakes; off in the distance five people are tied to the track. If you do nothing, they will be killed by the trolley. But you can flip a switch, thereby turning the trolley onto a spur, where there is only one person tied. In this case, most people claim that one should indeed save the five by turning the trolley, ev...
2014-Feb-15 • 77 minutes
Sarah Pessin, “Ibn Gabirol’s Theology of Desire: Matter and Method in Jewish Medieval Neoplatonism” (Cambridge UP, 2013)
Neoplatonists, including the 11th century Jewish philosopher-poet Solomon Ibn Gabirol, are often saddled with a cosmology considered either as outdated science or a kind of “invisible floating Kansas” in which spatiotemporal talk isn’t really about space or time. Sarah Pessin, Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Emil and Eva Hecht Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Denver, is committed to upending these traditional readings. In Ibn Gabirol’s Theology of Desire: Matter and Method in Jewish Me...
2014-Feb-01 • 58 minutes
Joseph Carens, “The Ethics of Immigration” (Oxford UP, 2013)
It is commonly assumed that states have a right to broad discretionary control over immigration, and that they may decide almost in any way they choose, who may stay within the territory and who must leave. But even supposing that there is such a right, we may ask the decidedly moral question about how it may be exercised. And this query calls us to try to bring our views about the ethics of immigration into equilibrium with our other moral convictions about citizenship, liberty, and equality. Can our c...
2014-Jan-15 • 87 minutes
Michael Weisberg, “Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World” (Oxford UP, 2013)
In 1956 and 1957, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to test a plan to dam up the San Francisco Bay in order to protect its water supply: they built a 1.5 acre model of the Bay area in a warehouse, with hydraulic pumps to simulate tides and river flows, and observed the result. The model showed what a disaster the dam plan would be: it would have turned the bay into a polluted wasteland. In Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World (Oxford University Press, 2013), Michael Weisber...
2014-Jan-01 • 67 minutes
Michael Huemer, “The Problem of Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
The philosopher Robert Nozick once claimed that the most basic question of Political Philosophy is “Why not Anarchy?” Political philosophers pose this question often with the intent of demonstrating that there is indeed a good philosophical reason why governments should exist. Indeed, we often simply take for granted that the state and its vast coercive apparatus is morally justified. Similarly, we tend to think that anarchy is both a practically untenable and morally undesirable mode of social association....
2013-Dec-15 • 67 minutes
Jennifer A. McMahon, “Art and Ethics in a Material World: Kant’s Pragmatist Legacy” (Routledge, 2013)
Art and ethics are linked philosophically by the fact that they are both fall under value theory; and some aestheticians, notably Berys Gaut, have argued for a direct connection between aesthetic and moral values, in that the moral values that an artwork may embody can raise or lower its aesthetic value. In Art and Ethics in a Material World: Kant’s Pragmatist Legacy (Routledge 2013), Jennifer A. McMahon argues that aesthetic and moral judgments are intrinsically linked by the fact that they contain a commo...
2013-Dec-01 • 62 minutes
R. Jay Wallace, “The View from Here: On Affirmation, Attachment, and the Limits of Regret” (Oxford University Press, 2013)
Our moral lives are shot-through with concerns and even anxieties about the past. Only a lucky few, if anyone at all, can escape nagging and persistent regrets about actions and decisions in our past. But sometimes those very decisions that we now regret are the causal or conceptual antecedents of subsequent outcomes that we now affirm. That is, when we look back on our lives, we often find certain features of our past lamentable, even though without those features something of value in our present would no...
2013-Nov-15 • 66 minutes
Muhammed Ali Khalidi, “Natural Categories and Human Kinds: Classification in the Natural and Social Sciences” (Cambridge UP, 2013)
The division between natural kinds – the kinds that ‘cut nature at its joints’ – and those that simply reflect human interests and values has a long history. The natural kinds are often thought to have certain essential characteristics that are fixed by nature, such as a particular atomic number, while other kinds, of which a commonly cited example is race, are contentious precisely because they appear to group things, in this case people, by features that reflect social mores and not real essences. That na...
2013-Nov-01 • 54 minutes
Helene Landemore, “Democratic Reason: Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many” (Princeton UP, 2012)
We’re all familiar with the thought that democracy is merely the rule of the unwise mob. In the hands of Plato and a long line of philosophers since him, this thought has been developed into a formidable anti-democratic argument: Only truth or wisdom confer authority, and since democracy is the rule of the unwise, it has no authority. This rough line of argument has proven so formidable, in fact, that many democratic theorists have tried to evade it by explicitly denying that politics has anything to do wi...
2013-Oct-15 • 68 minutes
Tadeusz Zawidzki, “Mindshaping: A New Framework for Understanding Human Social Cognition” (MIT Press, 2013)
Social cognition involves a small bundle of cognitive capacities and behaviors that enable us to communicate and get along with one another, a bundle that even our closest primate cousins don’t have, at least not to the same level of sophistication: pervasive collaboration, language, mind-reading and what Tadeusz Zawidzki, Associate Professor of Philosophy at The George Washington University, calls “mindshaping”. Mindshaping includes our capacities and dispositions to imitate, to be natural learners, and to...
2013-Oct-01 • 66 minutes
Simon Keller, “Partiality” (Princeton UP, 2013)
Our moral lives are shaped by a deep commitment to the moral equality of all persons. This thought drives us to think, for example, that each person’s life is of equal moral importance, that each person is deserving of equal regard, that no one’s life is intrinsically more morally important than any other, and so on. However, our lives are organized around what might be called special relationships – friendships, marriages, families, and such – and these relationships carry with them duties to show certai...
2013-Sep-14 • 61 minutes
Michael Marder, “Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life” (Columbia UP, 2013)
“If animals have suffered marginalization throughout the history of Western thought, then non-human, non-animal living beings, such as plants, have populated the margin of the margin”, a “zone of absolute obscurity” in which their mode of existence from a philosophical perspective is not even question-worthy. So writes Michael Marder, Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country in the Basque autonomous region of Spain, in his new book, Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of ...
2013-Sep-01 • 68 minutes
Jody Azzouni, “Semantic Perception: How the Illusion of a Common Language Arises and Persists” (Oxford UP, 2013)
A common philosophical picture of language proposes to begin with the various kinds of communicative acts individuals perform by means of language. This view has it that communication proceeds largely by way of interpretation, where we hear the sounds others make, and infer from those sounds the communicative intentions of speakers. On this view, communication is a highly deliberate affair, involving complex mediating processes of inference and interpersonal reasoning. In his new book, Semantic Perceptio...
2013-Aug-15 • 70 minutes
Carlos Montemayor, “Minding Time: A Philosophical and Theoretical Approach to the Psychology of Time” (Brill, 2012)
The philosophy of time has a variety of subtopics that are of great general as well as philosophical interest, such as the nature of time, the possibility of time travel, and the nature of tensed language. In Minding Time: A Philosophical and Theoretical Approach to the Psychology of Time (Brill, 2012), Carlos Montemayor, assistant professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University, focuses on the question: how do we represent time? That is, how is temporal information represented in biological creat...
2013-Aug-01 • 85 minutes
Thom Brooks, “Punishment” (Routledge, 2012)
Social stability and justice requires that we live together according to rules. And this in turn means that the rules must be enforced. Accordingly, we sometimes see fit to punish those who break the rules. Hence society features a broad system of institutions by which we punish. But there is a deep and longstanding philosophical disagreement over what, precisely, punishment is for. The standard views are easy to anticipate. Some say that we punish in order to give offenders what they deserve. Others claim ...
2013-Jul-15 • 63 minutes
Berit Brogaard, “Transient Truths: An Essay in the Metaphysics of Propositions” (Oxford UP, 2012)
Propositions are key players in philosophy of language and mind. Roughly speaking, they are abstract repositories of meaning and truth. More specifically, they are the semantic values of truth-evaluable sentences; they are the objects of belief, desire and other propositional attitudes; they are what we agree and disagree about in conversation, and they are what is communicated in successful discourse. By philosophical tradition, propositions have their truth values eternally; that is, they always include a...
2013-Jul-01 • 67 minutes
Christopher Hookway, “The Pragmatic Maxim: Essays on Peirce and Pragmatism” (Oxford UP, 2012)
Charles Sanders Peirce was the founder of the philosophical tradition known as pragmatism. He is also the proponent of a distinctive variety of pragmatism that has at its core a logical rule that has come to be known as “the pragmatic maxim.” According to this maxim, the meaning of a concept or a proposition is ultimately to be defined in terms of the “sensible” and “practical” effects it would produce in the course of experimental action. That is, of course, a crude articulation. But, according to Peirce, ...
2013-Jun-15 • 66 minutes
Julia Tanney, “Rules, Reasons and Self-Knowledge” (Harvard UP, 2012)
It is fair to say that philosophy of mind and the sciences of the mind quite generally adhere to an information-processing model of cognition. A standard version holds that there are events going on in the brain that represent the world, and that familiar psychological terms are used to refer to these events. In Rules, Reasons and Self-Knowledge (Harvard University Press, 2012), Julia Tanney, Reader in Philosophy of Mind at the University of Kent, mounts a sustained attack on this dominant view. Taking her ...
2013-May-28 • 67 minutes
Kimberley Brownlee, “Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience” (Oxford UP, 2012)
When confronted with a law that they find morally unconscionable, citizens sometimes engage in civil disobedience – they publicly break the law with a view to communicating their judgment that it is unjust. Citizens in similar situations sometimes take a different stance – they engage in conscientious objection, they quietly disobey, seeking only to keep their own conscience clear. A common view of these matters has it that the conscientious objector is deserving of special respect, and even accommodation,...
2013-May-15 • 64 minutes
Helen Longino, “Studying Human Behavior: How Scientists Investigate Aggression and Sexuality” (University of Chicago Press, 2013)
What explains human behavior? It is standard to consider answers from the perspective of a dichotomy between nature and nurture, with most researchers today in agreement that it is both. For Helen Longino, Clarence Irving Lewis Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, the “both” answer misses the fact that the nature/nurture divide is itself problematic. In her groundbreaking book, Studying Human Behavior: How Scientists Investigate Aggression and Sexuality (University of Chicago Press) Longino looks...
2013-May-01 • 73 minutes
Philip Pettit, “On The People’s Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy” (Cambridge UP, 2012)
In political philosophy, republicanism is the name of a distinctive framework for thinking about politics. At its core is a unique conception of freedom according to which freedom consists in non-domination, that is, in not having a master or lord, in not being subject to the arbitrary will of another. This republican conception of the free person contrasts with a competing and familiar view according to which freedom is primarily a property, not of persons, but of choices. On this view, one is free insofar...
2013-Apr-15 • 66 minutes
Meir Hemmo and Orly Shenker, “The Road to Maxwell’s Demon: Conceptual Foundations of Statistical Mechanics” (Cambridge UP, 2012)
Among the very many puzzling aspects of the physical world is this: how do we explain the fact that the laws of thermodynamics are time-asymmetric while those of statistical mechanics are time-symmetric? If the fundamental physical laws do not require events to occur in any particular temporal direction, why do we observe a world in which, for example, we will always see milk dispersing in tea but never coming together in tea – at least not unless we film the dispersal and then run the film backwards? In Th...
2013-Apr-01 • 68 minutes
Cheryl Misak, “The American Pragmatists” (Oxford UP, 2013)
Pragmatism is American’s home-grown philosophy, but it is not widely understood. This partly is due to the fact that pragmatism emerged out of deep philosophical disputes among its earliest proponents: Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. Although it is agreed that they are the founders of Pragmatism, they also held opposing views about meaning, truth, reality, and value. A further complication emerges in that it is widely believed that Pragmatism was purged from the philosophical mainstre...
2013-Mar-15 • 69 minutes
Jesse J. Prinz, “The Conscious Brain: How Attention Engenders Experience” (Oxford UP, 2012)
For decades now, philosophers, linguists, psychologists and neuroscientists have been working to understand the nature of the hard-to-describe but very familiar conscious experiences we have while awake. Some have thought consciousness can’t be explained scientifically, and others have argued that it will always remain a mystery. But most consider some sort of explanation in physical, specifically neural, terms to be possible. In The Conscious Brain: How Attention Engenders Experience (Oxford University Pre...
2013-Mar-01 • 68 minutes
Roslyn Weiss, “Philosophers in the Republic” (Cornell UP, 2012)
Contemporary philosophers still wrestle mightily with Plato’s Republic. A common reading has it that in the Republic, Plato’s character Socrates defends a conception of justice according to which reason should rule the soul and philosophers should rule the city. On all accounts, the Republic is centrally concerned with the question of what philosophers are and how they come to be. A standard reading contends that the multiple discussions in the Republic of the nature of the philosopher all aim to depict the...
2013-Feb-15 • 65 minutes
Beth Preston, “A Philosophy of Material Culture: Action, Function, and Mind” (Routledge, 2012)
Many philosophers have written on the ways in which human beings produce artifacts and on the nature of artifacts themselves, often distinguishing the act of producing or making from growing, and distinguishing artifacts from natural objects. However, such discussions have tended to be theoretically restrictive – for example, in philosophy of technology, the focus is primarily on non-religious and non-artistic artifacts. In A Philosophy of Material Culture: Action, Function and Mind (Routledge 2012), Profes...
2013-Feb-01 • 66 minutes
Clayton Littlejohn, “Justification and the Truth-Connection” (Cambridge UP, 2012)
There is a long-standing debate in epistemology between internalists and externalists about justification. Internalists think that a belief is justified in virtue of certain facts internal to the believer. Externalists deny this; they hold that facts of some other kind must obtain in order for a belief to be justified. In his new book, Justification and the Truth-Connection (Cambridge 2012), Clayton Littlejohn defends a novel version of externalism, one which holds that a belief must be true in order to be ...
2013-Jan-15 • 66 minutes
Herman Cappelen, “Philosophy Without Intuitions” (Oxford UP, 2012)
It’s taken for granted among analytic philosophers that some of their primary areas of inquiry – ethics, epistemology, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language, in particular – involve a special and characteristic methodology that depends essentially on the use of intuitions as evidence for philosophical positions. A thought experiment is developed in order to elicit intuitive judgments, and these judgments have a special epistemic status. Paradigm cases of this methodology include Gettier cases, in wh...
2013-Jan-03 • 68 minutes
Brian Leiter, “Why Tolerate Religion?” (Princeton UP, 2013)
Religious conviction enjoys a privileged status in our society.This is perhaps most apparent in legal contexts, where religious conviction is often given special consideration. To be more precise, religious conscience is recognized as a legitimate basis for exemption from standing laws, whereas claims of conscience deriving from non-religious commitments generally are not. Why is this? Is there something special about religiously-based claims of conscience? Is there something special about religion such tha...
2012-Dec-14 • 65 minutes
Alva Noe, “Varieties of Presence” (Harvard UP, 2012)
What do we experience we look at an object – say, a tomato? A traditional view holds that we entertain an internal picture or representation of the tomato, and moreover that this internal picture is of the surface of the tomato, and not, say, the side of the tomato that is hidden from view. This general view of experience has been criticized for some time by numerous scientists and philosophers, Alva Noe among them. In earlier books, Noe — professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley ...
2012-Nov-26 • 70 minutes
Corey Brettschneider, “When the State Speaks, What Should it Say? How Democracies can Protect Expression and Promote Equality” (Princeton UP, 2012)
Liberal democracies are in the business of protecting individuals and their rights. Central among these are the rights to free expression, freedom of association, and freedom of conscience. Liberal democracies are also in the business of sustaining a political environment in which citizens are regarded as political equals. In exercising their rights, some citizens will come to hold beliefs and viewpoints that are fundamentally at odds with the idea that all citizens are their equals. That is, in a free soci...
2012-Nov-13 • 60 minutes
Miguel de Beistegui, “Aesthetics after Metaphysics: From Mimesis to Metaphor” (Routledge, 2009)
What is the nature of art? The question involves understanding the relation between art and reality and what we are expressing in art. Miguel de Beistegui, professor of philosophy at the University of Warwick, addresses these questions in his latest book, Aesthetics after Metaphysics: From Mimesis to Metaphor (Routledge, 2012). De Beistegui’s framework for understanding art stands in contrast to a metaphysics that posits a sensible world of experience and a supersensible world of forms or essences, in whic...
2012-Oct-31 • 72 minutes
Jamie Kelly, “Framing Democracy: A Behavioral Approach to Democratic Theory” (Princeton UP, 2012)
Plato famously argued that democracy is nearly the worst form of government because citizens are decidedly unwise. Many styles of democratic theory have tried to meet Plato’s argument by denying that democracy has anything to do with wisdom. Democracy, such views claim, is simply a matter of representing citizens’ preferences in politics, or rather a matter of giving everyone equal input into the decision making process. But even these minimal conceptions of democracy often want to distinguish between “raw”...
2012-Oct-15 • 64 minutes
Jill Gordon, “Plato’s Erotic World: From Cosmic Origins to Human Death” (Cambridge UP, 2012)
It’s traditional in Plato scholarship to divide his dialogues in various ways. One common division is a temporal one that distinguishes among early, middle and late dialogues. Another is by content: there are the so-called erotic dialogues, which include Symposium, Phaedrus and Alcibiades I, where themes of love and friendship are explicitly treated, and then the rest, which deal with such non-erotic themes as language and knowledge and ontology. Jill Gordon, Charles A. Dana Professor of Philosophy at Colb...
2012-Oct-02 • 53 minutes
Nicole Hassoun, “Globalization and Global Justice: Shrinking Distance, Expanding Obligations” (Cambridge UP, 2012)
Citizens of well-developed liberal democracies enjoy an unprecedented standard of living, while a staggering number of people worldwide live in unbelievable poverty. It seems obvious that the well-off have moral obligations to those who are impoverished. But there’s a question regarding the nature and extent of these obligations. Some hold that well-off societies and their citizens own substantial duties of humanitarian assistance to the global poor. Others claim that our duties are stronger than this; they...
2012-Sep-15 • 66 minutes
Kristin Andrews, “Do Apes Read Minds?: Toward a New Folk Psychology” (MIT Press, 2012)
The ability to figure out the mental lives of others – what they want, what they believe, what they know — is basic to our relationships. Sherlock Holmes exemplified this ability by accurately simulating the thought processes of suspects in order to solve mysterious crimes. But folk psychology is not restricted to genius detectives. We all use it: to predict what a friend will feel when we cancel a date, to explain why a child in a playground is crying, to deceive someone else by saying less than the whole ...
2012-Aug-22 • 76 minutes
Paul Weithman, “Why Political Liberalism? On John Rawls’s Political Turn” (Oxford UP, 2010)
It is difficult to overstate the importance of John Rawls to political and moral philosophy. Yet Rawls’s work is commonly read as fundamentally divided between “early” and “late” periods, which are marked mainly by the publication of his two major books, A Theory of Justice (1971) and Political Liberalism (1993). The most common account of Rawls’s intellectual trajectory has it that the later Rawls came to regard the project of A Theory of Justice as deeply flawed. That is, Political Liberalism is often rea...
2012-Aug-15 • 72 minutes
Lee Braver, “Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger” (MIT Press, 2012)
Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger are both considered among the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. Both were born in 1889 in German-speaking countries; both studied under leading philosophers of their day – Bertrand Russell and Edmund Husserl, respectively – and were considered their philosophical heirs; and both ended up critiquing their mentors and thereby influencing the direction of thought in both the Analytic and Continental traditions. In Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wit...
2012-Aug-01 • 72 minutes
Anthony Laden, “Reasoning: A Social Picture” (Oxford UP, 2012)
According to a view familiar to philosophers, reasoning is a process that occurs within an individual mind and is aimed specifically at demonstrating on the basis of statement that we accept the correctness of some other statement. We reason, that is, in order to figure out what to believe or decide what to think. Reasoning in this sense has as its objective its own termination–we reason in order to reach a conclusion; and once a conclusion is reached, reasoning is no longer needed. In his new book, Reason...
2012-Jul-15 • 69 minutes
Helen Steward, “A Metaphysics for Freedom” (Oxford UP, 2012)
The basic problem of free will is quite simple to pose: do we ever act freely? One of the traditional “no” answers comes from the idea that we live in a deterministic universe, such that everything that happens had to happen given the initial conditions of the universe and the laws governing its unfolding since then. A contemporary variant goes something like this: we’re predetermined to do what we do because our minds arise from brain activity and brain activity is just a special kind of physical activity....
2012-Jul-01 • 79 minutes
Kok-Chor Tan, “Justice, Institutions, and Luck: The Site, Ground, and Scope of Equality” (Oxford UP, 2012)
Justice requires that each person gets what he or she deserves. Luck is a matter of good or bad things simply befalling people; hence luck distributes to people things they do not deserve. Justice must then be in the business of morally correcting the impact of luck on individuals’ lives. This is an extremely simplified articulation of a popular–and in certain philosophical circles infamous–conception of justice called luck egalitarianism. As a kind of egalitarianism, luck egalitarianism holds that justice...
2012-Jun-18 • 66 minutes
Eric Marcus, “Rational Causation” (Harvard UP, 2012)
We often explain actions and beliefs by citing the reasons for which they are done or believed. The reason I took off my hat at the funeral was because I was paying respect to the deceased. The reason I believed that taking off my hat was appropriate was because I believed that the deceased deserved respect. So much is part of what is sometimes called the space of reasons and reason-giving – a space that people occupy but objects like apples don’t. We can explain an apple’s falling because the wind blew str...
2012-Jun-01 • 66 minutes
Elizabeth Brake, “Minimizing Marriage: Marriage, Morality, and the Law” (Oxford UP, 2012)
From the time we are children, we are encouraged to see our lives as in large measure aimed at finding a spouse. In popular media, the unmarried adult is seen as suspicious, unhealthy, and pitiable. At the same time, marriage is portrayed as necessary for a healthy and flourishing adult life. And we often see the event of a wedding to have a morally transforming power over the individuals who get married. But with only a little bit of reflection, our popular conception of the meaning and significance of mar...
2012-May-15 • 67 minutes
Paul Thagard, “The Cognitive Science of Science: Explanation, Discovery, and Conceptual Change” (MIT Press, 2012)
We’ve all heard about scientific revolutions, such as the change from the Ptolemaic geocentric universe to the Copernican heliocentric one. Such drastic changes are the meat-and-potatoes of historians of science and philosophers of science. But another perspective on them is from the point of view of cognition. For example, how do scientists come up with breakthroughs? What happens when a scientist confronts a new theory that conflicts with an established one? In what ways does her belief system change, and...
2012-Apr-27 • 72 minutes
Michael Lynch, “In Praise of Reason” (MIT Press, 2012)
Modern society seems in awe of the advances of science and technology. We commonly praise innovations that enable us to live longer and more comfortable lives, we look forward to the release of new gadgets, we seek out new ways to employ technology in our everyday lives. These developments depend upon a set of intellectual practices that are commonly associated with the methods of the natural sciences. We are able to invent and create precisely because we are able to gather evidence and reason competently. ...
2012-Apr-15 • 72 minutes
Charlotte Witt, “The Metaphysics of Gender” (Oxford University Press, 2011)
Is your gender essential to who you are? If you were a man instead of a woman, or vice versa, would you be a different person? In her new bookThe Metaphysics of Gender (Oxford University Press, 2011), Charlotte Witt found that most people answered that obviously they’d be different if their gender differed – even though many feminist philosopher friends considered gender essentialism to be false. Thus a philosophical inquiry was born: what is gender essentialism, why might it be true, if it is true, and wha...
2012-Mar-15 • 67 minutes
Karen Stohr, “On Manners” (Routledge, 2011)
We rarely stop to notice that our everyday social interactions are governed by a highly complex system of rules. Though often only implicit, there are rules governing how to board an elevator, how close one may stand to another when in conversation, when to bring a gift to a party, and how to maintain one’s privacy. These rules are simply taken for granted, and when we regard them at all, we typically see them merely as instruments for social coordination, ways of keeping out of each other’s way. Yet when o...
2012-Mar-15 • 68 minutes
Uriah Kriegel, “The Sources of Intentionality” (Oxford UP, 2011)
It’s standard in philosophy of mind to distinguish between two basic kinds of mental phenomena: intentional states, which are about or represent other items or themselves, such as beliefs about your mother’s new hairdo, and phenomenal states, such as feelings of pain or visual experiences of seeing red. It’s also hotly debated how to explain how both kinds of mental phenomena are part of a purely physical world. The dominant approach in recent decades is to explain the phenomenal in terms of the intentional...
2012-Mar-01 • 78 minutes
Allen Buchanan, “Better than Human: The Promise and Perils of Enhancing Ourselves” (Oxford UP, 2011)
Popular culture is replete with warnings about the dangers of technology. One finds in recent films, literature, and music cautions about the myriad ways in which technology threatens our very humanity; most frequently, the lesson is that the attempt to harness technology for the betterment of the world always backfires. It’s no wonder, then, that when it comes to biomedical technologies that promise to enhance human physical and cognitive capacities, many people tend to express deep unease or opposition. B...
2012-Feb-15 • 64 minutes
Peter-Paul Verbeek, “Moralizing Technology: Understanding and Designing the Morality of Things” (University of Chicago Press, 2011)
“Guns don’t kill people; people do.” That’s a common refrain from the National Rifle Association, but it expresses a certain view of our relations to the things we make that also affects our thinking about the scope of ethics. On this traditional view, human persons are moral agents, and artifacts, or products of technology in general, are just tools; they have no moral significance in and of themselves. In his new book, Moralizing Technology: Understanding and Designing the Morality of Things (University ...
2012-Feb-01 • 65 minutes
John Christman, “The Politics of Persons: Individual Autonomy and Socio-historical Selves” (Cambridge UP, 2011)
In theorizing justice, equality, freedom, authority, and the like, political philosophers often rely tacitly upon particular conceptions of the self and individual autonomy. Traditional forms of liberalism seem to assume a conception of the self according to which selves are self-interested rational choosers of their ends who are fundamentally asocial. Longstanding critiques of liberalism contend that liberalism assumes a flawed conception of the self. These views hold that once one recognizes the thoroughl...
2011-Dec-15 • 68 minutes
Crawford (Tim) Elder, “Familiar Objects and their Shadows” (Cambridge UP, 2011)
It might be a surprise to non-metaphysicians to discover the extent to which it is questionable whether the familiar objects we see and interact with – the dogs, trees, iPods, and so on – really exist. And yet, these familiar objects are actually very strange. For example, we take for granted that very same object can change all of its properties, and all of its matter, and yet somehow remain the same object. but how can that be? By analogy, if I swap all the ingredients in a recipe with a bunch of other in...
2011-Dec-01 • 70 minutes
Robert Audi, “Democratic Authority and the Separation of Church and State” (Oxford UP, 2011)
In a liberal democratic society, individuals share political power as equals. Consequently, liberal democratic governments must recognize each citizen as a political equal. This requires, in part, that liberal democratic governments must seek to govern on the basis of reasons that all citizens could endorse. However, the freedoms secured by liberal democratic institutions give rise to a plurality of religious and moral doctrines, and thus a morally and religiously diverse citizenry. Liberal democratic state...
2011-Nov-15 • 67 minutes
Peter Ludlow, “The Philosophy of Generative Linguistics” (Oxford UP, 2011)
The human capacity for language is always cited as the or one of the cognitive capacities we have that separates us from non-human animals. And linguistics, at its most basic level, is the study of language as such – in the primary and usual case, how we manage the pairing of sounds with meanings to make such a thing as speech even possible. The standard view in linguistics today, introduced by Noam Chomsky in the 1950s, is that language is a biologically based cognitive capacity that develops in specific w...
2011-Nov-04 • 55 minutes
Fabienne Peter, “Democratic Legitimacy” (Routledge, 2011)
Winston Churchill said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. The quip reveals an interesting dimension of democracy: it’s hard to beat, but it’s also hard to love. Democracy is hard to love because it sometimes requires us to acquiesce and live by decisions, rules, and laws that we oppose. In fact, democracy sometimes requires us to accept political outcomes that we take to be demonstrably sub-optimal, mistaken, and even unjust. In short, when democracy decides, even thos...
2011-Oct-15 • 66 minutes
Troy Jollimore, “Love’s Vision” (Princeton UP, 2011)
Love – being loved and loving in the way two otherwise unrelated persons can be – is a kind of experience that just about everyone values intrinsically. As we say, or sing: love makes the world go ’round, and all you need is love. But what sort of experience is loving? What more can we say about it that will illuminate the kind of experience it is? In his thought-provoking new book, Love’s Vision (Princeton University Press, 2011), Troy Jollimore, Professor of Philosophy at California State University at C...
2011-Sep-30 • 74 minutes
Jason Brennan, “The Ethics of Voting” (Princeton UP, 2011)
It is commonly held that citizens in a democratic society have a civic duty to participate in the processes of collective self-government. Often, this duty is held to be satisfied by voting. In fact, the sentiment is commonly expressed that voting is always a good thing for citizens to do, no matter how they vote. Similarly, it is widely held that when citizens neglect to vote they violate a civic duty, no matter how uninformed or misguided their votes would have been. These popular pieties about voting are...
2011-Sep-14 • 63 minutes
Carolyn Korsmeyer, “Savoring Disgust: The Foul and the Fair in Aesthetics” (Oxford UP, 2011)
Today’s podcast features a book about disgusting art – that is, art that deliberately aims to cause disgust. While aesthetic judgments regarding the value, or not, of artworks have historically been tied to the notion of beauty, there are plenty of works of art and genres of art that succeed aesthetically only when they cause non-pleasurable responses. Horror films and tragedies are typical examples. These kinds of art are philosophically puzzling. How is it that things that we know are not real can cause e...
2011-Sep-01 • 62 minutes
Elizabeth Anderson, “The Imperative of Integration” (Princeton UP, 2010)
Demographic data show that the United States is a heavily segregated society, especially when it comes to relations among African-Americans and whites. The de facto segregation that prevails in the US is easily shown to produce grave and systematic disadvantage for African-Americans. The degree and extent of this segregation is difficult to explain in the morally innocent terms of individual choice and personal responsibility. Furthermore, the disadvantages that result are not adequately addressed by standi...
2011-Aug-15 • 67 minutes
Susan Schneider, “The Language of Thought: A New Philosophical Direction” (MIT Press, 2011)
In 1975, Jerry Fodor published a book entitled The Language of Thought, which is aptly considered one of the most important books in philosophy of mind and cognitive science of the last 50 years or so. This book helped launch what became known as the classical computational theory of the mind, in which thinking was theorized as the manipulation of symbols according to rules. Fodor argued that certain features of human thought required that any human-like computational cognitive system had to have a structur...
2011-Aug-04 • 60 minutes
Sanford Goldberg, “Relying on Others: An Essay in Epistemology” (Oxford UP, 2010)
In our attempts to know and understand the world around us, we inevitably rely on others to provide us with reliable testimony about facts and states of affairs to which we do not have access. What is the nature of this reliance? Do testifiers simply provide us with especially compelling evidence? Should we regard the testimony of others as only so much more local data in our cognitive environment? Or is there a deeper sense in which much of our knowledge depends on others? In his new book, Relying on Othe...
2011-Jul-15 • 64 minutes
Robert Pasnau, “Metaphysical Themes: 1274-1671” (Oxford UP, 2011)
What was the scholastic metaphysical tradition of the later Middle Ages, and why did it come “crashing down as quickly and completely” as it did towards the end of the 17th Century? Why was the year 1347 a “milestone in the history of philosophy”? And why didn’t philosophy itself collapse right along with the scholastic framework? In Metaphysical Themes: 1274-1671 (Oxford University Press, 2011), Robert Pasnau (University of Colorado, Boulder) provides a monumental yet highly readable synthesis of four hun...
2011-Jul-05 • 64 minutes
Gerald Gaus, “The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom and Morality in a Diverse and Bound World” (Cambridge UP, 2010)
If we are to have a society at all, it seems that we must recognize and abide by certain rules concerning our interactions with others. And in recognizing such rules, we must take ourselves to sometimes be authorized to hold others accountable to them. Perhaps it is also the case that we must recognize that states have the authority to enforce the rules. It has long been the aim of liberal democratic political theory to show that there is a form of social authority which is consistent with the intrinsic fre...
2011-Jun-15 • 63 minutes
Eric Schwitzgebel, “Perplexities of Consciousness” (MIT Press, 2011)
How much do we know about our stream of conscious experience? Not much, if Eric Schwitzgebel is right. In his new book Perplexities of Consciousness (MIT Press, 2011), Schwitzgebel argues for skepticism regarding our knowledge of the phenomenology of conscious experience. We don’t know if we dream in color or black and white, we don’t know whether tilted coins look elliptical or round, and we don’t know whether conscious experience is confined to what we are paying attention to or more abundant. Schwitzgebe...