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3 Quarks Daily Philosophy Prize Finalists 2014

3QD's 2014 finalists for best blog posts on philosophical topics: Should animal products have ethical warning labels? Why is scientific uncertainty a moral responsibility [see last 4 mins.]? Should people choose probabilistically among competing moral theories? What are some bad ways of arguing about free will? Are most of us just not good enough to be utilitarians? Are volunteer soldiers morally responsible for unjust wars? Do P2P networks provide a model for something to do with consciousness, reality, and, yep, quantum mechanics? When are delusions good for us (see also)? What's up with philosophical systems that knock themselves down, e.g. Nāgārjuna's, Nietzsche's, and Rorty's? There's also an archive page for older prizes and other categories (previously).
posted by Monsieur Caution on Dec 1, 2014 - 35 comments

Truth is harder to tell than a lie

The habitual liar may be a very honest fellow, and live truly with his wife and friends; while another man who never told a formal falsehood in his life may yet be himself one lie-heart and face, from top to bottom. This is the kind of lie which poisons intimacy. And, vice versa, veracity to sentiment, truth in a relation, truth to your own heart and your friends, never to feign or falsify emotion—that is the truth which makes love possible and mankind happy. Robert Louis Stevenson on truth and writing.
posted by shivohum on Nov 30, 2014 - 5 comments

One of the oldest questions we have about ourselves.

Personhood Week: Why We’re So Obsessed with Persons, by Virginia Hughes (@virginiahughes), National Geographic:
"People have been trying to define personhood for a long time, maybe since the beginning of people. The first recorded attempt came from Boethius, a philosopher from 6th-Century Rome, who said a person was 'an individual substance of rational nature.' Fast-forward a thousand years and Locke says it's about rationality, self-awareness, and memory. Kant adds that humans have 'dignity,' an intrinsic ability to freely choose. In 1978, Daniel Dennett says it's intelligence, self-awareness, language, and being 'conscious in some special way' that other animals aren't. The next year Joseph Fletcher lays out 15 criteria (!), including a sense of futurity, concern for others, curiosity, and even IQ."
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 21, 2014 - 10 comments

Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist?

In a wide-ranging discussion about democracy, capitalism, and the American body politic; Chris Hedges interviews political theorist Sheldon Wolin in eight parts. (via) (previously) [more inside]
posted by AElfwine Evenstar on Nov 11, 2014 - 38 comments

The observer at the end of time: Of immortal watchers and imaginary data

In a Multiverse, What Are the Odds? "Testing the multiverse hypothesis requires measuring whether our universe is statistically typical among the infinite variety of universes. But infinity does a number on statistics." (previously) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Nov 9, 2014 - 47 comments

Everything not saved will be lost

Here are some recent thoughts of mine: I am playing too much Destiny. Also, games might be an expression of the futility of the human condition. [more inside]
posted by Sebmojo on Nov 8, 2014 - 11 comments

The fault is not in our stars, but in our bladders

The Philosophical Implications of the Urge to Urinate: Our Sense Of Free Will Diminishes When We Need To Pee Or Desire Sex.
posted by homunculus on Nov 5, 2014 - 33 comments

“We’re all smart. Distinguish yourself by being kind.”

Philosopher Brian Leiter announced that he will be stepping down as editor of the Philosophical Gourmet Report, a highly influential reputational ranking of philosophy Ph.D. programs he created in 1989 while he was a graduate student, and which has been published on the Internet since 1996. [more inside]
posted by standardasparagus on Oct 17, 2014 - 74 comments

The Troller System

Here's the last ideo-political-philosophico-temperamental spectrum chart you'll ever need.
posted by Iridic on Oct 17, 2014 - 30 comments

This exhibition... has ushered ecstatic experience back into the world.

Thrown by Kerry Howley chronicles the author's exploits as a philosophy grad student turned devoted follower of a succession of MMA fighters; the connection is less odd than it sounds. The Paris Review has an excerpt from the book (parts one and two), detailing the weigh-in process for fighter Erik Koch before his victory over Cisco Rivera in 2010 in Las Vegas. At Salon, Lydia Kiesling writes that Thrown recalls the best of literary fiction: The nearly hysterical circumlocutory gymnastics of the narrator, and her dual position as a predator and supplicant to her fighters, reminded me of nothing so much as Humbert Humbert, with immense cauliflower-eared men in the startling role of Lolita. More reviews of Thrown at Time (paywalled) and Oxford American.
posted by Cash4Lead on Oct 17, 2014 - 5 comments

Philosophical science fiction - suggested reading lists

A collection of philosophical science/speculative fiction reading lists, (with decent amount of short fiction and some media thrown in) with short "why you should read this " blurbs. The suggestions are made by professional philosophers and philosophy-trained SF writers, and curated by Eric Schwitzgebel, Professor of Philosophy at UC Riverside. Part 2, Part 3 With more suggestions promised to come. (Previously, a course on Science Fiction and Political Science , previouslier - curated lists of anarchist and socialist science fiction
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory on Oct 8, 2014 - 21 comments

Some Essays on Heidegger's Black Notebooks

Heidegger in Black. The King is Dead: Heidegger's Black Notebooks. Heidegger's Black Notebooks: Extreme Silencing. Release of Heidegger’s ‘Black Notebooks’ Reignites Debate Over Nazi Ideology. Is Heidegger Contaminated by Nazism?
posted by Sticherbeast on Oct 2, 2014 - 42 comments

"something like a sense of despair often took hold of me"

The Colour of Our Shame: 3 AM Magazine interviews Chris Lebron [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Sep 29, 2014 - 3 comments

The human being is very often not profitable from the system’s POV

According to the philosopher Anselm Jappe, who has come to Lisbon to give a talk at the Teatro Maria Matos, in capitalism we are defined by our relation to labor. But the system is a “house of cards that is beginning to collapse”. It is time to rethink the concept of labor.
posted by a_curious_koala on Sep 28, 2014 - 67 comments

The Social Construction of Money (Wealth/Capital in the 21st Century)*

The political economy of a universal basic income: "your view of what is feasible should not be backwards looking. The normalization of gay marriage and legalization of marijuana seemed utopian and politically impossible until very recently. Yet in fact those developments are happening, and their expansion is almost inevitable given the demographics of ideology... UBI — defined precisely as periodic transfers of identical fixed dollar amounts to all citizens of the polity — is by far the most probable and politically achievable among policies that might effectively address problems of inequality, socioeconomic fragmentation, and economic stagnation." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Sep 19, 2014 - 62 comments

In an Orderly Fashion

Reading Pathways: suggestions for where to start in on the works of Austen, Murakami, Asimov, Munro, Bray, Bradbury, Morrison, Forster, Atwood, and others. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Sep 8, 2014 - 36 comments

Of Kant and many other things

The Enlightenment’s ‘Race’ Problem, and Ours. Why have we chosen to go with Hume and Kant, rather than with the pre-racial conception of humanity?
posted by infini on Sep 6, 2014 - 53 comments

If we're not in pain, we're not alive

You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website], the long-delayed "sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Aug 25, 2014 - 84 comments

there's nothing that is scientifically proven

(A theoretical physicist explains why) Science Is Not About Certainty [more inside]
posted by flex on Aug 5, 2014 - 33 comments

You want to go and slay all the false statements in the world

This Letter to a Young Haskell Enthusiast is mostly not about Haskell, or about programming, but about being a good person in an online community.
posted by swift on Aug 1, 2014 - 40 comments

Living Books About Life

"... a series of curated, open access books about life — with life understood both philosophically and biologically — which provide a bridge between the humanities and the sciences." Although they offer "frozen PDFs," these books—on topics like biosemiotics, animal experience, and air—are curated collections of links to open access science articles, reviews, interviews, podcasts, sometimes with embedded sounds and videos. They have ISBN numbers and editors vetted by the Open Humanities Press, which is generally a gold mine of interesting books and journals. They feel perfectly at home on the open internet, evoking hope and nostalgia for a flourishing academic world wide web, without paywalls and login screens. [more inside]
posted by mbrock on Jul 29, 2014 - 7 comments

The truth is stranger than fiction

From behind the New Yorker's temporarily removed paywall, a postmodern murder mystery from Poland in 2007.
posted by ellieBOA on Jul 25, 2014 - 10 comments

the three-day workweek

Carlos Slim calls for a three-day working week "We've got it all wrong, says Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms tycoon and world's second-richest man: we should be working only three days a week." also btw: The four-day work week (previously)
posted by kliuless on Jul 21, 2014 - 84 comments

Democratic Theory and Mass Incaceration

The new issue of the journal The Good Society is about "Democratic Theory and Mass Incaceration." All articles are available online.

From the Introduction: The United States is the “world champion” in incarceration, to borrow Nils Christie's words, and United Kingdom jurisdictions, though some distance behind, are persistently among the European countries with the highest per capita rates of imprisonment [...] This symposium of the Good Society seeks to catalyze an engaged, multi-disciplinary discussion among philosophers, political theorists, and theoretically inclined criminologists on how contemporary democratic theory might help us think beyond mass incarceration. Rather than viewing punishment as a natural reaction to crime, and imprisonment as a sensible outgrowth of this reaction, we will frame these as institutions with deep implications for contemporary civic identity, which present unmet demands for public oversight and reflective democratic influence.

The rest of the issue can be read online here. [via mefi projects]
posted by OmieWise on Jul 16, 2014 - 9 comments

Mysteries that will not collapse into solutions

Tao Lin became very interested in Terence McKenna over the past two years, and now he's writing a weekly column about the man and his ideas for Vice. Part I: Beyond "Existentialism". Part II: Terence McKenna's Memes, featuring 30 of Lin's favorite memes propagated by the philosopher-explorer, touching upon entheogens, consciousness, evolution, belief, language, the internet, and mankind's search for meaning. If you have time on your hands, here's over ten uninterrupted hours of McKenna as referenced in the first column.
posted by naju on Jul 15, 2014 - 14 comments

A less intellectually lazy atheism?

Atheist bashing or tough love? A thought-provoking review by Michael Robbins of Nick Spencer's new book on the history of atheism in Slate magazine. It reads like an autopsy of the recently murdered religious/atheist dialogue, with the "intellectually lazy" new atheism atop the list of suspects. [more inside]
posted by cross_impact on Jul 9, 2014 - 369 comments

Utility, welfare, and efficiency

  1. Welfare economics: an introduction
  2. The perils of Potential Pareto
  3. Inequality, production, and technology
  4. Welfare theorems, distribution priority, and market clearing
  5. Normative is performative, not positive

posted by kliuless on Jul 7, 2014 - 7 comments

The geese are all facing in angles

Pianist Jeremy Denk has been living in a state of emergency. Instead of consulting a professional, I have come up with a three step solution. Recalibrating my life solution. The first step is to ignore all existing emergencies. Now, this—I can already hear you saying it—can’t last, this is not a workable solution. It sounds in fact like the opposite of a solution. Patience! Wait till you hear my next two steps. Step two—the real genius hinge of the whole thing—is then, in the absence of all emergencies, in the vast plain of false calm left after the tyrannical banishment of all the old emergencies, to choose to treat the smallest things as emergencies.
posted by shivohum on Jul 6, 2014 - 13 comments

Routledge Gives Free Access to 6,000 eBooks

After digitizing over 15,000 books, Routledge has made 6,000 of these e-texts free for viewing during the month of June.
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Jun 27, 2014 - 8 comments

Is philosophy a bunch of empty ideas?

An interview with Peter Unger, Professor of Philosophy at NYU, regarding his new book, Empty Ideas: A Critique of Analytic Philosophy: "In a way, all I’m doing is detailing things that were already said aphoristically by Wittgenstein in Philosophical Investigations. I read it twice over in the sixties, pretty soon after it came out, when I was an undergraduate. I believed it all — well, sort of. I knew, but I didn’t want to know, and so it just went on. And basically what Philosophical Investigations says is that when you’re doing philosophy, you’re not going to find out anything. You find out some trivial things, you’ll be under the delusion that you’re doing a great deal, but what you should do is stop and do something more productive."
posted by bookman117 on Jun 23, 2014 - 113 comments

Eigendemocracy: crowd-sourced deliberative democracy

Scott Aaronson on building a 'PageRank' for (eigen)morality and (eigen)trust - "Now, would those with axes to grind try to subvert such a system the instant it went online? Certainly. For example, I assume that millions of people would rate Conservapedia as a more trustworthy source than Wikipedia—and would rate other people who had done so as, themselves, trustworthy sources, while rating as untrustworthy anyone who called Conservapedia untrustworthy. So there would arise a parallel world of trust and consensus and 'expertise', mutually-reinforcing yet nearly disjoint from the world of the real. But here's the thing: anyone would be able to see, with the click of a mouse, the extent to which this parallel world had diverged from the real one." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jun 23, 2014 - 45 comments

On the illusion of infinite happiness

For it is the future generation in its entire individual determination which forces itself into existence through the medium of all this strife and trouble...That growing affection of two lovers for each other is in reality the will to live of the new being, of which they shall become the parents...The lovers have a longing to be really united and made one being, and to live as such for the rest of their lives; and this longing is fulfilled in the children born to them, in whom the qualities inherited from both, but combined and united in one being, are perpetuated...Therefore Nature attains her ends by implanting in the individual a certain illusion by which something which is in reality advantageous to the species alone seems to be advantageous to himself... Arthur Schopenhauer on the Metaphysics of Love.
posted by shivohum on Jun 17, 2014 - 11 comments

Time : a flat circle :: Consciousness : a state of matter?

"While the problem of consciousness is far from being solved, it is finally being formulated mathematically as a set of problems that researchers can understand, explore and discuss.

Today, Max Tegmark, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, sets out the fundamental problems that this new way of thinking raises. He shows how these problems can be formulated in terms of quantum mechanics and information theory. And he explains how thinking about consciousness in this way leads to precise questions about the nature of reality that the scientific process of experiment might help to tease apart.

Tegmark’s approach is to think of consciousness as a state of matter, like a solid, a liquid or a gas. 'I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are many types of consciousness,' he says."
posted by Strange Interlude on Jun 12, 2014 - 235 comments

Cogito Ergo Publish Openly

Discouraged by limited access, exclusivity in subject matter and author demographics, lack of transparency and long wait times, Ergo is a new take on the philosophy journal that recently released their first volume.
posted by Lutoslawski on May 28, 2014 - 13 comments

Cause 8 bit is all you need

8-Bit Philosophy: What is Real? (Plato) 8-Bit Philosophy: Does SCIENCE = TRUTH? (Nietzsche) 8-Bit Philosophy: Do Humans Operate Like Computers? (Kant)
posted by flapjax at midnite on May 22, 2014 - 11 comments

The madness of the suburbs: who knows it but you?

Nietzsche and the Burbs.
posted by homunculus on Apr 30, 2014 - 10 comments

"You have to put on a mask. You have to dissemble. You have to cheat."

Failed Philosopher King Michael Ignatieff confirms Machiavelli in the latest edition [direct link to mp3] of the Philosophy Bites Podcast.
posted by sockpup on Apr 12, 2014 - 32 comments

A SAT Attack on the Erdos Discrepancy Conjecture

Computers are providing solutions to math problems that we can't check - "A computer has solved the longstanding Erdős discrepancy problem! Trouble is, we have no idea what it's talking about — because the solution, which is as long as all of Wikipedia's pages combined, is far too voluminous for us puny humans to confirm." (via; previously ;)
posted by kliuless on Apr 12, 2014 - 24 comments

Visions of Impossible Things

The chaplain then explained how he had spoken with the dead man’s wife, who related a vivid dream she’d had that night of her husband standing next to her bed, apologizing and explaining that he had been in a car accident, and that his car was in a ditch where it could not be seen from the road...They recovered the body 20 minutes later. Most scholars have no idea what to do with such poignant, powerful stories, other than to dismiss them with lazy words like "anecdote" or "coincidence."...We should put these extreme narratives, these impossible stories, in the middle of our academic table. I would also like to make a wager, here and now, that once we put these currently rejected forms of knowledge on our academic table, things that were once impossible to imagine will soon become possible not only to imagine but also to think, theorize, and even test. Professor Jeffrey Kripal explains why the humanities needs to expand its field of acceptable topics for investigation.
posted by shivohum on Apr 2, 2014 - 114 comments

The time to be HAPPY is NOW

"How can I be happy?" Narrated by Stephen Fry
[more inside]
posted by jammy on Mar 27, 2014 - 46 comments

Being Alain de Botton

Why Alain de Botton is a moron. Alain Botton on why he is not a moron.
posted by shivohum on Mar 25, 2014 - 91 comments

It can't hurt to ask

Congratulations, you won the lottery and got offered a tenure-track job offer in the humanities! Now it's time to start negotiating. But don't negotiate on the terms, because your new colleagues might decide to rescind the offer. Further coverage at Inside Higher Ed.
posted by escabeche on Mar 13, 2014 - 252 comments

That’s why it doesn’t matter if God plays dice with the Universe

Discovering Free Will (Part II, Part III) - a nice discussion of the Conway-Kochen "Free Will Theorem". [more inside]
posted by Wolfdog on Mar 4, 2014 - 92 comments

He said that in the end it is beauty that is going to save the world now

La bella vita: True beauty pleases the eye and the mind – but can it help us to become better people? "In 1795, the German dramatist and poet Friedrich Schiller published a book with a fearsome title – On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters. It has never become well-known, which is a pity, because it contains some of our most useful insights into the nature and value of beauty. Schiller’s starting point is an analysis of the human condition. He wants to understand our delight in what we find beautiful. Instead of asking which things are beautiful, Schiller is curious about what is going on in us when we respond with this distinctive, intimate thrill and enthusiasm that leads us to say ‘that’s beautiful’. Different things might provoke this response in different people. But why do we have it at all?" [Via]
posted by homunculus on Feb 18, 2014 - 13 comments

A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching

The deep philosophical differences between the two main conservative factions of the Catholic Church, pitting adherents of John Courtney Murray against the followers of Alasdair MacIntyre is the root cause of the mixed messages being put out by the Church on public policy matters. It is the fight worth watching.
posted by reenum on Feb 11, 2014 - 108 comments

Full and Partial Belief

Philosophers Kenny Easwaran and Jonathan Weisberg discuss full and partial belief. [more inside]
posted by Jonathan Livengood on Feb 6, 2014 - 6 comments

It belongs in the clawed embrace of the undead amphetamine god.

"Nick Land was a British philosopher but is no longer, though he is not dead. The almost neurotic fervor with which he scratched at the scars of reality has seduced more than a few promising academics onto the path of art that offends in its originality. The texts that he has left behind are reliably revolting and boring, and impel us to castrate their categorization as 'mere' literature." Robin Mackay discusses the past phases of Nick Land, previously of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, now of the neoreactionary Dark Enlightenment (previously). Meanwhile, Mark Fisher, former cohort of Nick Land at Hyperstition, discusses Land in his own way.
posted by Sticherbeast on Jan 27, 2014 - 37 comments

I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

The pedestrian truth that you live one day at a time didn’t help: What was I supposed to do with that day? My oncologist would say only: “I can’t tell you a time. You’ve got to find what matters most to you.” —neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi on coming face to face with his own mortality. SLNYT.
posted by Athanassiel on Jan 24, 2014 - 29 comments

Does God Exist?

Do we have good reason to think God exists? We do, says William Lane Craig. Craig has debated several high profile atheists, including Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.
posted by shivohum on Jan 15, 2014 - 516 comments

I Was Told There Would Be No Math

M.I.T. professor Max Tegmark explores the possibility that math does not just describe the universe, but makes the universe.
posted by COD on Jan 14, 2014 - 111 comments

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