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When Worlds Collide: Philosophy and Soccer

If an earmark of comedic genius is the longevity of a one’s work, Monty Python’s Flying Circus stands out as brilliant. Every few years, the titanic battle between the Greeks and the Germans on the soccer field surfaces and reminds of the fact. Though produced and first aired in 1972, the sketch still makes the rounds and if YouTube statistics are to be believed, there are over 3 different posts of the sketch with almost a billion views between them. The sketch is funny even if one is not a philosopher because it plays off of common perceptions of both philosophy and soccer and this is part of what makes it brilliant. It reminds me of the philosophy light bulb jokes I received in email a few years ago that attempted to capture the essence of various philosophies by describing how many representatives of that philosophy it would take to change a light bulb.  By putting famous philosophers on a soccer field and toying around with how they would play the game, the Flying Circus juxtaposed two seemingly opposing worlds. Philosophy by nature is slow, methodical, introspective, and analytical. How would people who spend their days in this type of activity do in a game that is faced-paced, requires immediate decisions, and physical? Clearly not very well (and it’s no accident that the game-winning goal is a head shot). While Monty Python did an hilariously fine job of show why the two disciplines should never mix, a new book edited by by Ted Richards titled Soccer and Philosophy: Beautiful Thoughts on the Beautiful Game attempts to bridge the gap. A review by John Heilpern for The Wall Street Journal briefly explores the book and some of the topics it raises. As a truly global sport, soccer (football) does have wide appeal and a book that explores philosophical topics under the rubric of the game may resonate with many. Heilpern concludes, But from the fan's point of view, the secular religion of football is all about mad, obsessive love and awesome bias, it is about irresistible skill and glory and, yes, a certain divine, beautiful transcendence. All the rest, according to the rewarding "Soccer and Philosophy," is thinking aloud enthusiastically.

Should You Care What Others Do?

In the first installment of our new Table Talk series, Rick Pimentel considers when someone’s personal life should become the public’s business. It’s common sense that in general a person’s actions should remain private unless they want it to become public. But this general rule seems to have important exceptions as in cases of a terrorists decision to cause public harm or a public employee’s infelicities. But what about the private actions of a sports figure or movie star? Does the public have the “right to know” what these people do off the field or off the screen? Rick surveys three ethical theories that may help answer questions like these. If you knew that Tiger was committing adultery, do you confront Tiger? Or do you tell his wife? Or do nothing? On the surface, it surely seems correct that people should not be meddling in the lives of others but is this rule applicable to all situations? In other words, are there exceptions to this rule? If yes, what criteria should be used to determine these exceptions?   See the full article here.

First Zombies, Now Vampires. What’s up Tom?

Tom Morris is at it again this time interviewing Rebecca Housel on her recent books on Twilight and Philosophy and True Blood and Philosophy. The … and Philosophy books are intended to bridge the gab between the mainstream and the sublime and vampire talk certainly is all the rage. I haven’t read any of these types of books mainly because I’m reluctant to spend my precious time reading what most likely is a to dumbing down  of philosophy (which, of course, is different than making philosophical topics accessible). But Tom Morris is attempting to get inside the heads of these authors with his interviews and perhaps show why these books are worth considering. To the question, “So you're saying that the recent obsession with vampires may feel empowering to some at a subliminal level, but might also be a kind of dangerous empowerment?” Housel responds, Buddhists recommend accepting impermanence in life to get closer to enlightenment. But when the simulacra or artificial realities of pop culture get involved--we might begin to romanticize our own realities in a delusional way. Suddenly, nothing is impermanent when you're an immortal vampire, especially a vampire from today's pop culture. Maybe it becomes easier to excuse violent behavior. Maybe the idea of dying in order to live doesn't sound so crazy anymore.... Maybe there are better ways to consider these questions. But maybe these books can have value if used as gateway literature to the hard stuff. I suppose if they get people to consider philosophical topics they otherwise would not consider, that’s valuable. Read the full interview here. Books covered in the interview: Twilight and Philosophy: Vampires, Vegetarians, and the Pursuit of Immortality True Blood and Philosophy: We Wanna Think Bad Things with You

6/6/2010: Latest Reviews at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Adrian Haddock, Alan Millar, Duncan Pritchard (eds.) Epistemic Value Reviewed by Joshue Orozco, Whitworth University C. Mantzavinos Philosophy of the Social Sciences: Philosophical Theory and Scientific Practice Reviewed by Warren Schmaus, Illinois Institute of Technology Axel Honneth The Pathologies of Individual Freedom: Hegel's Social Theory Reviewed by J. M. Bernstein, New School for Social Research

Make the World a Better Place: Don’t Have Kids

Awareness raiser Peter Singer has written an article for the New York Times new blog The Stone. Singer typically goes where few dare to and in this provocative article he considers the question whether the current generation should be the last. Picking up on a Schopenhaurian theme present in a book by South African philosopher David Benatar, Singer asks, Is a world with people in it better than one without? Put aside what we do to other species — that’s a different issue. Let’s assume that the choice is between a world like ours and one with no sentient beings in it at all. And assume, too — here we have to get fictitious, as philosophers often do — that if we choose to bring about the world with no sentient beings at all, everyone will agree to do that. No one’s rights will be violated — at least, not the rights of any existing people. Can non-existent people have a right to come into existence? Articles written for The Stone are meant to be discussion starters so Singer doesn’t spend anytime considering answers for these questions. And typically Singer’s approach to moral problems are so radical that they can only be taken seriously by future generations. Still, he has done the job philosophers should be doing and asks questions few think to answer. Full article.

What Zombies Can Teach Us About Religion and Philosophy

Philosopher Tom Morris interviews Kim Parrenroth on new book Valley of the Dead. Parrenroth’s 2006 book Gospel of the Living Dead book, which has become popular in certain circles, explores various themes in religion, philosophy, and politics through an examination of the work of George Romero. His new volume explores concepts in Dante’s “Inferno” examining where they came from and how Dante used them. … in his depiction of zombies as humans devoid of intellect who now only pursue their relentless, unquenchable hunger, I think Romero presents again an image right out of Dante's Inferno - not just for the grotesquery, but for the idea of sin as mindless repetition and desire. Dante describes the damned at the beginning of Inferno as those who've lost the good of intellect and made reason a slave to appetite: that's a Romero zombie! See full article here.

Precis on Darwin’s Dangerous Idea chapter 5

Chapter 5 of Dennett’s book lays out the case for a naturalized understanding of evolutionary design. How could an unguided process produce the enormous complexity of biological life we find on earth? Dennett first expands a straightforward notion of possibility into 4 separate ways possibility could be understood. Leveraging this richer notion of possibility, he then attempts to show how the extensive diversity on this planet is possible on naturalism. Overall, his treatment is helpful and he offers some very rich ideas to support his response. He is attempting to continue to break down what he sees as an entrenched adherence to essentialism of one sort or another and provide a non-essentialist case for diversity through possibility. See the full article here.

6/3/2010: New Reviews at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

The Moral Foundations of Social Institutions by Seumas Miller; Reviewed by Alexa Forrester, Franklin & Marshall College The Philosophical Significance of Language by Scott Soames; Reviewed by Cara Spencer, Howard University An Image of the Soul in Speech: Plato and the Problem of Socrates by David N. McNeill; Reviewed by George Rudebusch, Northern Arizona University Badiou and Theology by Frederiek Depoortere; Reviewed by Clayton Crockett, University of Central Arkansas The Cambridge Companion to Leo Strauss by Steven B. Smith; Reviewed by Samuel A. Chambers, Johns Hopkins University

Anthony O’Hear Reviews Three Books on Religion

In a brief article for The Fortnightly Review, O’Hear reviews Practices of Belief: Volume 2, Selected Essays by Nicholas Wolterstorff, Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self by Marilynne Robinson and An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-secular Age by Jurgen Habermas. According to O’Hear, these three books cross paths in their focus on denying some of the axioms of the new secularism that largely dominates intellectual life. While the writers all have different goals for their books, they converge on creating room in modern thought for ideas—like the existence of God, the existence of a non-physical center of consciousness, and a role for faith—that have long been dismissed as arcane and passé. See the review here.

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