Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Philosophers and Petitions

Numbers generate a pressure to believe that isn’t grounded in explanatory force, because having more and more adherents to a view doesn’t give rise to better and better accounts of why the view is correct… Philosophers ought to be especially sensitive to introducing this element of belief imposition into our culture. As a philosopher, I want my influence to be philosophical, which is to say, I want to bring people to believe only what they, by their own lights, can see to be justified; I don’t want them to believe something because (I am one of the) many people who think it. That’s Agnes Callard (Chicago), writing in The New York Times, on why “petitions, regardless of their content, compromise core values of intellectual inquiry” and why their use “constitutes a kind of philosophical malpractice.” Her central focus is on petitions and open letters directed at academics. I get what she’s saying. In regard to an academic petition from a couple of years ago, I urged that “in conducting our academic work we should try as much as possible to rely on the exchange of evidence and arguments, not (directly) on the numbers of people who agree with us, or the strength of their agreement” and cautioned against activities that push us towards “a version of academia in which, in the contest of ideas, when expertise bumps up against popularity, the latter is more likely to win.” In her column, Callard writes: We’d never [More]

New Site for Experimental Philosophical Bioethics

BioXphi aims to be an online hub for experimental philosophical bioethics. What is experimental philosophical bioethics? It’s an emerging field that will use traditional research methods of experimental philosophy and the empirical social and psychological sciences to investigate key premises in the arguments of various positions in theoretical bioethics. Though bioethicists have occasionally drawn on empirical data to supplement arguments and normative bioethical analysis, bioXphi by contrast seeks to uniquely probe the intuitions of patients and possible stakeholders in order to extrapolate—and make explicit wherever possible—the underlying cognitive and psychological processes that inform their responses. In this way, a major purpose of bioXphi is to make bioethical theorizing increasingly responsive to empirical insights in the formulation of clinical practice, institutional policy, and ongoing theoretical debate. As an interdisciplinary line of research, bioXphi can be thought of as advancing at least two types of inquiry: descriptive questions about the psychology and mechanism of bioethical decision-making, and prescriptive questions that constitute the core of bioethics. The site, developed by Brian Earp (Yale, Oxford), contains a bibliography of work in and related to experimental philosophical bioethics, information about an upcoming conference, and a blog. The post New Site for Experimental Philosophical Bioethics appeared first on Daily [More]

Publicly Engaged Philosophy: A Dispatch (guest post by Jennifer Morton)

“What I’m suggesting here is… doing philosophy with the public not just because of what we think we can offer with our expertise, but because of what we think the public can offer philosophy.” The following is a guest post* by Jennifer Morton, associate professor of philosophy at the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center. Publicly Engaged Philosophy: A Dispatch by Jennifer Morton A few weeks into teaching a philosophy of action course at the City College of New York, one of my students exclaimed in exasperation something along the lines of, “We are just talking about the problems of privileged, white people here!” Several other students concurred. I urged them to say more. The examples, one of them explained, were disconnected from their experience of making choices. She didn’t have a second-order desire that her desire to go to her job as a cashier at Walgreens be effective over her desire to stay in bed in the morning. She had to work. Her job sucked, but she did it. Their critique resonated with me. I too had had the experience of reading philosophy and thinking that it wasn’t about people like me. Now, after years as a professional philosopher with a decent salary, I have come to see more of my life reflected in the literature—decisions about whether to agree to referee a paper or where to go on vacation seem relevant rather than fanciful. But the complaint my student lodged raises a serious worry for our profession. Philosophers tend [More]

Friedrich Schiller on Beauty and Aesthetics – Philosopher of the Month

German poet and playwright, Friedrich Schiller is considered a profound and influential philosopher. His philosophical-aesthetic writing played an important role in shaping the development of German idealism and Romanticism in one of the most prolific periods of German philosophy and literature. They are primarily concerned with the redemptive value of the arts and beauty in […] The post Friedrich Schiller on Beauty and Aesthetics – Philosopher of the Month appeared first on OUPblog.         Related StoriesHow Germany’s financial collapse led to NazismHow quantitative thinking shaped our worldviewHow the Eurovision Song Contest has been [More]

Recognizing Gender Critical Feminism as Anti-Trans Activism (guest post)

“Our main point is that readers need to understand that the central problem is not how to uplift the message of ‘gender-critical’ voices, but how to understand them as activists, and how to manage content that is disrespectful, fear-mongering, and misleading, while avoiding harm to the scholarly community.” The following is a guest post* by three philosophers who wish to remain anonymous (though their identity is known to me). Recognizing Gender Critical Feminism as Anti-Trans Activism by three anonymous philosophers A recent letter published at Inside Higher Education argues that we should not censure writings by so-called “gender-critical” philosophers. We agree with the authors of the letter that philosophy should be “a discipline in which sensitive and controversial issues are investigated with patience, care and insight.” But “gender-critical” writings, which the letter defends, do not advance us toward this ideal. The current crop of trans-exclusionary “gender-critical” philosophers is first and foremost an activist movement. Their writings and behavior are best understood as aimed at achieving their activist ends, such as preventing trans women from using facilities designated for women, or making it more difficult for trans women to be legally recognized as women. Like other activists, they will denigrate or vilify their opponents, make use of dogwhistles, appeal to people’s baser emotions to increase support for their cause, and ignore [More]

Sugden Wins APA’s 2019 Gittler Award

Robert Sugden, professor of economics at the University of East Anglia, is the winner of the American Philosophical Association’s 2019 Joseph B. Gittler Award. The Gittler award, established in 2007, is given annually in recognition of “an outstanding scholarly contribution in the field of the philosophy of one or more of the social sciences. The range of the social sciences is construed broadly so as to include anthropology, economics, education, government, history, psychology, sociology, and any other field that is normally located within the social science division in contemporary colleges and universities.” Professor Sugden won the the $4,000 prize for his book, The Community of Advantage: A Behavioural Economist’s Defence of the Market (Oxford University Press). The award selection committee said, “Robert Sugden’s book is a significant and powerful defense of a theory of the foundations of economics, which attempts to derive fundamental axioms and theorems of welfare economics from a contractarian approach in which the criterion of individual interest is not the satisfaction of preferences but rather opportunity.  The result is a defense of a regulated and psychologically/socially stable market economy (as opposed to a planned economy). Sugden offers an argument for what is mistaken about neoclassical economics and its problematic reliance on a preference-satisfaction criterion of individual interest.” More information about the [More]

The Career Trajectories and Workplace Skills of Philosophy and Language Majors

A new study looks at the jobs and skills of college graduates, including those who major in philosophy, finds that choice of major “isn’t as deterministic of our work as we might believe,” and aims to help students understand how their education has prepared them for the job market. The study, “Degrees at Work,” by Clare Coffey, Rob Sentz, and Yustina Saleh, and published by the data analytics firm, Emsi, sorted college graduates from a database of over 100 million people by group, putting together those who major in philosophy and languages—“Two degrees that aren’t career-specific or as tied to the world of work (and are therefore the ones that get a vast bulk of the criticism [for being impractical])”. Not surprisingly, philosophy and language graduates “go into a broad array of jobs”: The top five first jobs are in the fields of education (17% of language and philosophy grads go into education jobs), journalism/writing (10%), sales (10%), marketing (7%), and service-oriented non-profits (6%).  The following graph shows how the popularity of different types of jobs changes over time as graduates in philosophy and language move from their first to their second and third jobs. (It lists types of jobs on the left, listed in order of popularity as first job.) So, for example, when it comes to the first job taken by philosophy and language graduates, the fourth most popular type of job is in marketing. When it comes [More]

Philosopher-Photographers on Instagram (and Elsewhere)

Sometimes a little beauty is in order.  I know about and follow a few philosophers who take gorgeous photographs and post them on Instagram or their own sites. I’ll share some of them with you, with a few samples from each. I hope you’ll be able to clue us in to some more philosopher-photographers to follow, be it on Instagram or elsewhere. Justin Sytsma (Victoria University of Wellington)     You can follow Justin Sytsma on Instagram here (@jmsytsma) Daniel Star (Boston University)   You can follow Daniel Star on Instagram here (@daniel_star_net). He also posts his photos at his own site. Maureen Eckert (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)     You can follow Maureen Eckert on Instagram here (@maureenaeckert). David Estlund (Brown University)     David Estlund doesn’t have much recent work on his Instagram feed (@destlund1), but he does have his own photography site with many more photos. Simon C. May (Florida State University)     You can follow Simon C. May on Instagram here (@nomisyam). Richard Pettigrew (University of Bristol)       If only we could all be as happy as that lemur looks, right? You can follow Richard Pettigrew on Instagram here (@richardpettigrew1981). I also park my occasional amateur photography on Instagram, here (@justin.weinberg). Do you know of other philosopher-photographers with pictures on Instagram or somewhere else publicly accessible online? Are you one? If so, [More]

Political Hostility and Willingness to Discriminate in Philosophy

A new study of nearly 800 academic philosophers provides support for several claims about their political views, perceptions of politics-based hostility, and willingness to engage in politics-based discrimination. The study, “Ideological Diversity, Hostility, and Discrimination in Philosophy“, by Uwe Peters (KU Leuven), Nathan Honeycutt (Rutgers), Andreas De Block (KU Leuven), and Lee Jussim (Rutgers), is forthcoming in Philosophical Psychology. Their findings include the following: “Philosophers are predominantly left leaning” 74.8% of philosophers are left-leaning, 14.2% were right-leaning, 11% were moderates. Analytic philosophers in general identified as slightly less left-leaning than continental philosophers. Additionally, “participants also perceived their colleagues as primarily left-leaning” and “viewed them as more left-leaning than themselves” “The more right-leaning the participant, the more hostility they reported personally experiencing from colleagues, and, overall, the more left-leaning the participant, the less hostility they reported personally experiencing.” “Participants also perceived right-leaning individuals in the field… to experience more hostility than left-leaning subjects.” “Participants reported that they would be more reluctant to defend their own argument if it led to a right-leaning conclusion… than if it led to a left-leaning one” “There was [More]

Agnes Callard’s List of “views that are considered controversial that shouldn’t be”

“There’s no such thing as being good or bad at philosophy.” That’s item #12 on a list of “views that are considered controversial that shouldn’t be” that philosopher Agnes Callard (Chicago) offered up in a new interview at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher?. Interviewer Clifford Sosis (Coastal Carolina) asks, “How is it not possible to be bad at philosophy?” Callard replies: You can be good at something either by having mastered it or having a talent for it. Philosophy is unmasterable—there is no body of knowledge that could ground a claim to expertise. As for talents, the ones I can think of—being quick with distinctions, being a good writer, being good at learning formal or natural languages—are double edged swords, because they make you easily divertible from the project of philosophizing. I think we project a talent for philosophy into anyone we respect as a philosopher to protect ourselves against the scary thought that it’s our own fault we’re not like that. In fact, nothing’s stopping us but ourselves. Here’s her whole list: Socrates was not ironic. Plato wrote dialogues because that format is ideal for presenting arguments in premise-conclusion form. Aristotle’s enkratic person can (and, indeed, must) have phronesis. Aristotle’s pro-slavery stance runs deep into his ethics, not clear whether it can be excised. Kant’s ethics forms the basis of our strongest moral reactions. Nietzsche’s view of [More]

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