Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Rituals for the Dead: Religion and Community in the Medieval University of Paris, By William J. CourtenayBeing with the Dead: Burial, Ancestral Politics, and the Roots of Historical Consciousness, By Hans Ruin

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Rituals for the Dead: Religion and Community in the Medieval University of Paris. By CourtenayWilliam J.. University of Notre Dame Press, 2018. 214 pages. $100.00 (hardcover), $45.00 (paperback), $35.99 (e-book).

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

The Parent-Child Relationship: Can it justify becoming a parent?

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I recently became a father. Well, when I say recently, I mean just over a year ago (October 2019). Being a parent raises a number of practical and philosophical questions. Should you have children in the first place? How do you care for a newborn? How do you give your child the best start in life? Is it wrong to give your child special treatment over other children/people? Does being a parent give meaning to life that was previously absent? Ordinarily, I am inclined to prolonged and frequent spells of philosophical self-reflection. The examined life and all that. One thing that has surprised me about becoming a parent is how little of this I have done on the subject of parenting itself. Perhaps this is not unusual. Perhaps the first year of parenting tends to be dominated by the practicalities of caring for a child and not its philosophical import. But now that I have settled into a somewhat predictable routine with my daughter (fingers-crossed!), I have a bit more time for my usual ruminations. And there is plenty to ruminate on. In this article, I will focus on one issue in particular: the nature and value of the parent-child relationship. We have many relationships in our lives. They are often a source of value. Think about your friends and intimate partners, for example. Few of us would do without them. The parent-child relationship is both different from and similar to these other kinds of relationships. What I want to consider are its structural features and how these affect both the value of the relationship as a whole. I’ll be folding some of my own thoughts, from my first year-and-a-bit of parenting, into the discussion as I go along. One thing I won’t be focusing on in this article, though it does linger in the background to some extent, is the ethics of having children. Some philosophers are anti-natalists. They think it is wrong to have children. Most people are pro-natalist. They think it is desirable, perhaps even obligatory to have children. I’ve. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

Capitol Assault: Epistemic Defects

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Incited by Trump and his enablers, Trump supporters attacked the capitol of the United States. While this is mostly a matter of law and politics, it does raise issues in both epistemology (the theory of knowledge) and ethics. I have been working informally on epistemic epidemiology and this provides an ideal case. While Trump, his enablers and some of his supporters know that the election was not stolen, some of his followers seem to honestly hold this belief. This raises questions about the specific defects in their belief forming mechanisms. As with cancer, one must inquire whether the defects are localized (beliefs about Trump) or widespread. One must also wonder about the seriousness of the defects. Given that these people violently attacked the capitol, it is likely that most suffer from broad and serious epistemic defects. I hold the view that these people must have epistemic defects because the evidence against their view is widespread and strong. There is also the fact that even a bit of reflection will reveal that their beliefs cannot be true. As one example, Trump’s legal team was well on its way to a hundred law suits about the election but suffered defeat after defeat (sometimes in the courts of Trump appointed Republican judges). Trump’s legal team was also careful to never make accusations of widespread fraud in court, since lying in court has consequences. A rational thinker would conclude that Trump had no evidence—otherwise it would have been presented in court. As a second example, there is the paradox of the vast conspiracy. To claim the existence of a widespread conspiracy against Trump, the conspiracy theorists had to keep expanding those they claimed were involved—this seems to now go all the way to Vice President Mike Pence. The paradox is that they need to claim a huge conspiracy but if that conspiracy is so huge then Biden would have won simply by the conspirators voting for him. Given the lack of evidence for their beliefs, one must wonder. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

The Great Reset: The Western Path to Dekulakization

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 One of the Soviet propaganda posters promoting the collectivization of agriculture in the 1930s. On the lower right, you can see a small man opposing the line of the marching peasants, He is recognizable as a "Kulak," one of the local independent farmers who were dispossessed and partly exterminated to leave space for collectivized farms.  In the 1930s, the Soviet Union carried out the "dekulakization" (раскулачивание) of Ukraine. It was the term given to the removal of the relatively wealthy, independent farmers ("kulaki"), to be replaced by collective farms. Their properties were confiscated, many of them were relocated to remote regions, and some were exterminated. We don't know the exact numbers of people involved, but surely we are in the range of a few million. The transition to collectivized farms may have been one of the causes of the great Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s, known as the "Holodomor," The reasons for the dekulakization are several. In part, they were related to the belief that large-scale, centrally planned enterprises were more efficient than small family-owned firms. Then, the Kulaki were seen as a potential enemy for the Soviet Government, while the region they occupied was a strategic asset in terms of food production in an age when famines were an effective war weapon. But these considerations are not enough to explain why the Kulaki were so ruthlessly destroyed in just a few years. It was, rather, just a simple power game: the Soviet Government aimed at controlling all the means of production of the state. It couldn't tolerate that an important section of the economy, food production in Ukraine, was independently managed. And so it intervened with all the might that the state apparatus could muster.The most interesting part of this story is how the removal/extermination was not just a result of the military might of the Soviet Government. It was an early example of a successful propaganda-based demonization. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Black, White, Left, Right and Blue

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Incited by their leader, Trump supporters stormed the capital. This event, like the anti-mask protests, provides a clear contrast with the police response to BLM protests. To illustrate, Trump ordered the tear gassing of peaceful protestors for a photo op outside of a church while rioters in the capital were able to take selfies with the police. There was, it must be noted, some violent conflict between the rioters and the defenders of the capitol and people did die. But the overall response of the authorities was to let the mob have its way. Trump, who has called peaceful protestors “thugs”, expressed his love for the capitol rioters. Thus, protests on the left are generally  met with police force and the protestors are often cast as lawless thugs. Protests on the right are often met with police tolerance and the protestors are sometimes regarded as patriots.  There are, of course, exceptions that can shock the “patriots.” From a moral standpoint, the problem is that just policing requires that people be treated fairly: police response to protests should be consistent and proportional to the violence. This is clearly not the case: protests by the white right are treated one way, protests by the left and minorities are treated another way. An obvious objection is that I have given but two anecdotes—the church photo op and the storming of the capital. One cannot infer the existence of systemic injustice from two examples. After all, it might just be a few bad apples or some such thing. This objection does raise a reasonable point: general claims about the police require a representative sample. Fortunately, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) has gathered such a sample and analyzed the data. Those who might dismiss the ACLED with accusations of being anti-police leftists can undertake their own study. They will need to take care to collect a representative sample and avoid various common errors in reasoning to ensure their study is. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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