Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Smith At Play

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What I would most like to carry forward, or perhaps better, recuperate, from J. Z. Smith’s work is an orientation toward play, especially play as it opens onto polysemy, irony, and unfixed or fugitive meanings. On this point, I draw inspiration from Sam Gill, who has suggested, “following Smith, that religion is a term that makes sense only when seen in a ludic frame—the frame of metaphor, irony, and joke” (Gill 1998, 201). Compared with Smith’s best-known dicta—that “religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s study” (Smith 1982, xi) and that the point of comparison is to identify and explore difference—the issue of play has not received much attention. Nevertheless, in my own work this is where I find the most intriguing possibility for rereading Smith’s oeuvre.

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News source: Journal of the American Academy of Religion Current Issue

Early modern alchemists — Newton included — feared that their research, if revealed, would trigger social collapse. And so they employed an obfuscatory jargon not rivaled in complexity until postmodernism

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Early modern alchemists — Newton included — feared that their research, if revealed, would trigger social collapse. And so they employed an obfuscatory jargon not rivaled in complexity until postmodernism

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News source: Arts & Letters Daily

Critics debate a new structure at New York City’s Hudson Yards — does it resemble a beehive, a pine cone, a wastebasket? They agree, though, that it is an exercise in architectural cynicism

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Critics debate a new structure at New York City’s Hudson Yards — does it resemble a beehive, a pine cone, a wastebasket? They agree, though, that it is an exercise in architectural cynicism

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News source: Arts & Letters Daily

School of Salamanca

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[New Entry by Thomas Izbicki and Matthias Kaufmann on March 22, 2019.] The School of Salamanca is a name for an intellectual movement or a certain group of theologians in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain and Portugal. In a broad sense, it is more or less identical with Spanish Scholasticism, which also includes authors from the Spanish Netherlands. In a narrower sense, the School of Salamanca refers to two or three generations of pupils of Francisco de Vitoria, who was, in effect, the founding father of the school in both the broad and narrow sense. On the whole, it is more useful to choose the...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Logic of Conspiracy Theories I: Argument from Authority

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While the details of each conspiracy theory vary, they typically involve attributing excessive power and influence to a small group engaging in nefarious activities. A classic example is the notion that NASA faked the moon landings. There are also many “false flag” conspiracy theories that range from the idea that the Bush administration was behind the 9/11 attack to the idea that mass shootings are faked to the claim that the pro-Trump stickers on the mail bomber’s van were placed to frame Republicans. There are also various medical conspiracy theories, such as those fueling the anti-vaccination movement. Image Credit There has been considerable research into why people believe in conspiracy theories. An intuitively plausible explanation is that anxiety and feelings of a loss of control lead to accepting such theories. Ironically, people who embrace conspiracy theories seem to be less inclined to act to counter the perceived conspiracy, perhaps because they feel helpless in the face of such imagined power. This is not to say that this always holds true—the conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton running a slavery operation in a pizzeria led to a concerned citizen shooting up the place. It is certainly tempting to embrace the stereotype of the conspiracy theorist: someone immune to logic, oblivious to opposing evidence and perhaps suffering from mental illness. To broadly dismiss conspiracy theorist using this stereotype would be an error, though it certainly does apply in some cases. My contention is that some conspiracy theorists use the same tools of logic and reasoning as everyone else and I will endeavor to show that this is true. Since the world is a complicated place and is beyond the understanding of any one person, we all turn to experts when we want to know if something is true or not. For example, most of us lack the time and resources to investigate in person the nature of migration, so we must rely on (supposed) experts to provide us with. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Epistemology for the Rest of the World

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2019.03.30 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Masaharu Mizumoto, Stephen Stich, and Eric McCready (eds.), Epistemology for the Rest of the World, Oxford University Press, 2018, 295pp., $85.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190865085. Reviewed by Soraj Hongladarom, Chulalongkorn University When I was a graduate student at the Department of Philosophy at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana back in the 1980s, I took the program's required epistemology course. What struck me then was that its content was very much tied to the English language. It was not exactly the kind of English that I studied in my English major classes back home, but a simple one focusing on only a few words. The main analysis was of sentences such as "S knows that p". Naturally, I came across the famous paper by Edmund Gettier, and I remember that I spent a large amount of time figuring out what was going on. Somebody had a true and justified belief that the... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge

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2019.03.29 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Dallas Willard, The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge, Steven L. Porter, Aaron Preston, and Gregg A. Ten Elshof (eds.), Routledge, 2018, 387pp., $160.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781138589254. Reviewed by Adam Pelser, United States Air Force Academy To many twenty-first-century ears the phrase "moral knowledge" sounds like an oxymoron. Knowledge is understood to belong in the realm of objective facts and empirical science, while morality is understood to belong in the realm of subjective opinions, values, and feelings -- and never the twain shall meet. The distinction between these two realms has become such an established tenet of cultural orthodoxy that it is widely assumed to be obvious without question and without argument. But this has not always been so. As the editors of Dallas Willard's book explain in their Introduction, Until the early twentieth century, the prevailing view in Western culture, including its leading intellectuals and ethical theorists, had been that... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Getting things done, part 5: starting early

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In the first four entries in this series, I shared some of the obstacles I've seen people commonly run into when it comes to being productive and meeting deadlines--many of which I struggled with in the past myself--along with some strategies I've found helpful for overcoming those obstacles. In today's post, I am going to share something that I've never struggled with myself but have seen other people struggle with a great deal...and that is not leaving enough time to get things done. Allow me to explain. A while ago, I saw this image going around on social media: I got a nice laugh out of this because I am such a 'B' person. I literally do think, "I'm already running out of gas" when my gas gauge gets below 3/4 full, and am pretty much anxious about it constantly after that. Absurd, I know - but I can't help it! I've also known many A-type people in my life, and I constantly find myself simultaneously horrified and anxious driving with them. :P Interestingly, my sense is that this sort of difference in attitude can very much carry over into one's work-life. I always start projects super early because I want to make sure I will get them done with plenty of time to spare. For example, if I get a revise-and-resubmit and the journal gives me a 4 month deadline (or whatever) to get it in, I'll start now--like, the week I get the R&R. In contrast, I've seen other people who have trouble meeting deadlines seem to run into trouble because they adopt a 'B-type' approach. They think to themselves, "Hmm...well, it's not due for 4 months, so if I just leave myself one month to get it done, that will give me plenty of time." Alas, I've seen how this can go: they give themselves a month to get it done, thinking that will be plenty of time--but then sh-t happens, a bunch of stuff comes up they didn't expect, and they end up having to ask for an extension (or. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

The Pragmatic Theory of Truth

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[New Entry by John Capps on March 21, 2019.] Pragmatic theories of truth are usually associated either with C.S. Peirce's proposal that true beliefs will be accepted "at the end of inquiry" or with William James' proposal that truth be defined in terms of utility. More broadly, however, pragmatic theories of truth focus on the connection between truth and epistemic practices, notably practices of inquiry and assertion. Depending on the particular pragmatic theory, true statements might be those that are useful to believe, that are the result of inquiry, that have...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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