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Baumgarten and Kant on Metaphysics

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2019.03.27 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Courtney D. Fugate and John Hymers (eds.), Baumgarten and Kant on Metaphysics, Oxford University Press, 2018, 235pp., $65.00, ISBN 9780198783886. Reviewed by Oliver Thorndike, Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore This book brings together eleven essays on Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten's Metaphysica. Understanding the influence of Baumgarten's philosophical thought on Kant (who adopted Baumgarten's textbooks for his lectures), but also comprehending Baumgarten's thinking in its own right within the broader Leibnizian-Wolffian framework, has drawn growing attention in recent scholarship. Yet a systematic study of Baumgarten's notoriously difficult Metaphysica has remained a desideratum, and so this very welcome volume provides much needed guidance. In their introduction, the editors, Courtney D. Fugate and John Hymers, express the hope that this collection will go some distance toward providing a commentary on Baumgarten's Metaphysica which Baumgarten himself might have envisioned but never wrote. (6) The... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Reader query about undergraduate research

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In the comments section of our most recent "how can we help you?" thread, SSW writes: As an undergraduate student, I wonder what is the best way to choose a dissertation topic? Since my department does not provide many courses on the topic I am interested in, I have to read something by my own. I have read some companions and Philosophy Compass articles, is there anything else I can/should do? It's not entirely clear to me what SSW means when they ask about a 'dissertation topic.' For example, if they are asking about a PhD dissertation, then my answer is that it is probably much to early to think about that. On the other hand, if the question is about an undergrad thesis, then the question seems to me an apt one. Either way, though, I'm glad they asked these questions, as in thinking about them it occurred to me that I would advise something quite different than what they are currently doing. Over the years, I have heard some senior people in the profession caution against 'reading too much.' Sometimes I think this advice plays itself out in a bad way--such as when people submit or publish articles that seem ignorant of the literature (which in my experience happens more often than it should!). Nevertheless, I think there is real wisdom in the caution against 'reading too much.' Let me explain why. When I teach undergraduate courses, I rarely assign 'secondary sources' (i.e. philosophical commentary on original texts). I also know many other professional philosophers who do the same. Why? What is the rationale for focusing on primary texts? The short answer is that I don't want my students to prematurely hem themselves in by what other philosophers think on the subject. I want my students to think for themselves, that is, for them to figure out what they think before they find out what a bunch of other people have said. I base this teaching practice in part on my experience as a graduate. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

White Supremacists vs Muslims

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After the terrorist attack by an apparent white nationalist in New Zealand, President Trump was offered the opportunity to strongly condemn white supremacists. He declined to do so. While white supremacists killed more Americans in 2017 than another other domestic extremist group, authorities are often reluctant to treat them as terrorists. For example, they are not on the terror watchlist—even though white supremacists meet the definition of “terrorist.” Image Credit In contrast, Trump and others are quick to cast most (or even all) Muslims as potential or actual terrorists. Trump and others also present Mexicans and migrants as presenting such a threat that he declared a state of emergency on the southern border. This disparity invites investigation and explanation. One possibility is that the disparity is warranted—that white nationalists do not present a significant threat and are merely isolated individuals while Muslims, Mexicans and migrants present a significant and organized threat. The obvious problem with this view is that it fails to match the facts. In terms of the number of Americans killed, white supremacists are the deadliest domestic extremist group. Even if they were not the deadliest, this would still not warrant such an extreme disparity in the rhetoric and actions. One plausible explanation lies in the realm of politics. One key tactic in politics is to demonize a group and cast them as a scapegoat for problems. The targeted group must, obviously enough, not be part of the politician’s base—it must be relatively unimportant to the politician politically and demonizing it must gain more than what is lost in doing so. It obviously also helps if the groups being demonized are relatively weak and even better if they are seen as outsiders.  Demonizing Muslims, Mexicans and migrants works quite well because these groups are relatively weak within the United States and are generally regarded as outsiders. There are also pre-existing. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Another Mind-Body Problem: A History of Racial Non-Being

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2019.03.25 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews John Harfouch, Another Mind-Body Problem: A History of Racial Non-Being, SUNY Press, 2018, 232pp., $85.00 (hbk), IBSN 9781438469959. Reviewed by Julie Walsh, Wellesley College At the outset of this book, John Harfouch tells his reader that he intends for his study to "engage and overturn the philosophy of mind" (xxxii). He aims to do this by excavating the "historical roots of a mind-body problem," which reveals another mind-body problem, a problem of, as Harfouch puts it, racial non-being (xxxiii). This excavation, in his view, displaces the traditional mind-body problem typically associated with René Descartes, which, as a result, displaces the traditional solutions to and the traditional experts of the Cartesian problem, as well as the resources that those experts command. In my view, he succeeds in this aim. The book's most obvious audience includes Descartes scholars, historians of philosophy... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

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