Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Nihilism and Philosophy: Nothingness, Truth and World

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2019.03.19 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Gideon Baker, Nihilism and Philosophy: Nothingness, Truth and World, Bloomsbury, 2018, 239pp., $114.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781350035188. Reviewed by Robert Wicks, The University of Auckland The title of Gideon Baker's book is sufficiently broad to stimulate a variety of expectations. Given the theme of nihilism -- a concern potentially for everyone -- one might suppose that it would be easily accessible by a general audience, or to a philosophically educated audience (widely considered) to encourage reflection upon "meaning of life" issues that arise in the face of our uncertainty about the nature of the universe and our place within it. Since the word "nihilism" frequently invokes a reference to the Russian nihilist movement of the 1860s, or to Ivan Turgenev's novel, Fathers and Sons (1862), one might also expect some discussion of nihilism as it appears in 19th century Russian thought.

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Frantz Fanon

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[New Entry by John Drabinski on March 14, 2019.] Born on the island of Martinique under French colonial rule, Frantz Omar Fanon (1925 - 1961) was one of the most important writers in black Atlantic theory in an age of anti-colonial liberation struggle. His work drew on a wide array of poetry, psychology, philosophy, and political theory, and its influence across the global South has been wide, deep, and enduring. In his lifetime, he published two key original works: Black Skin, White Masks (Peau noire, masques blancs) in 1952 and The Wretched of the Earth...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Why do journals not give comments?

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In our most recent "how can we help you?" thread, EL.DEE.ESS writes: I have a question about the journal review process. I have run into the following problem in submitting to top tier journals, namely, that the journal gives a rejection without providing comments. It seems clear that it is not a desk rejection, as the papers were under review for several months, so it seems that the referees would have written down their thoughts on the paper. But the following justification is given for not providing comments: “We cannot provide comments on all rejected papers. We focus rather on arriving at a well-informed judgment without undue delay.” What is going on here? Are the editors simply refusing to provide comments because it takes up unnecessary time? Did the referees not write comments up at all? If there are no comments, on what basis is the rejection being made? I know that the journals in question *do* occasionally given comments for rejected papers, so it is not as if they do not have the infrastructure or mechanism to provide them. I am wondering then why comments are provided on some rejected papers but not others. It is hard to see how simply *passing on* the comments for all rejected (but not desk-rejected) papers would make the process take longer or cause an undue burden in any material sense, but if I am missing something here, I would genuinely be curious to know. After all, having the comments can be extremely helpful. Any thoughts on what’s going here would be greatly appreciated. This is a really great query - one that I have wondered about myself for quite a long time. I suppose it makes sense not to forward comments for quick desk-rejections. What does seem more puzzling is when a paper has been under review for a number of months (2-3+ months) but no comments at all are forwarded to the author. Assuming the papers did go out to referees, there seem to be only two possibilities: either the referees gave no comments, or the editors did not. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

#55 - Baum on the Long-Term Future of Human Civilisation

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In this episode I talk to Seth Baum. Seth is an interdisciplinary researcher working across a wide range of fields in natural and social science, engineering, philosophy, and policy. His primary research focus is global catastrophic risk. He also works in astrobiology. He is the Co-Founder (with Tony Barrett) and Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute. He is also a Research Affiliate of the University of Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. We talk about the importance of studying the long-term future of human civilisation, and map out four possible trajectories for the long-term future.You can download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe on a variety of different platforms, including iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast, Podbay, Player FM and more. The RSS feed is available here. Show Notes0:00 - Introduction1:39 - Why did Seth write about the long-term future of human civilisation?5:15 - Why should we care about the long-term future? What is the long-term future?13:12 - How can we scientifically and ethically study the long-term future?16:04 - Is it all too speculative?20:48 - Four possible futures, briefly sketched: (i) status quo; (ii) catastrophe; (iii) technological transformation; and (iv) astronomical23:08 - The Status Quo Trajectory - Keeping things as they are28:45 - Should we want to maintain the status quo?33:50 - The Catastrophe Trajectory - Awaiting the likely collapse of civilisation38:58 - How could we restore civilisation post-collapse? Should we be working on this now?44:00 - Are we under-investing in research into post-collapse restoration?49:00 - The Technological Transformation Trajectory - Radical change through technology52:35 - How desirable is radical technological change?56:00 - The Astronomical Trajectory - Colonising the solar system and beyond58:40 - Is the colonisation of space the best hope for humankind?1:07:22 - How should the study of the long-term future proceed from here? . . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

Sentencing Justice

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While there are many theories of punishment and these invite endless debate, there are some basic principles that seem quite plausible within the context of the political and moral philosophy of American thought. Image Credit In general, it seems reasonable to accept (within this context) that punishments in the legal system need to be consistent, impartial and proportionate. Consistency in punishments requires that the same crimes be punished in the same manner and to the same degree, allowing for application of the principle of relevant difference. The need to allow for relevant difference is, of course, the fact that crimes are rarely identical and the differences between crimes of the same type can be relevant to sentencing. Naturally, one might insist that these differences would make for different crimes, but this can be considered by comparing relevantly similar crimes. Impartiality requires that the same punishments be applied to people regardless of their race, religion, economic class and other such factors that are not relevant. Naturally, relevant differences can be justly applied—which can cause considerable debate over what is and is not relevant. Proportionate punishment requires that, as the saying goes, the punishment fits the crime. This can also be applied across crimes. For example, since cocaine and crack are essentially the same sort of drug, any punishments for possessing or selling them should be the same regardless of whether the drug was cocaine or crack cocaine. As should be expected, the American criminal justice system relentlessly fails to meet these basic principles. To illustrate this, I will make use of the case of Paul Manafort. Manafort was, in a recent trial, sentenced to 47 months in prison for committing crimes amounting to millions of dollars. The judge regarded the sentencing guidelines, which recommended 19-24 years, as too harsh and elected for this far more lenient sentence. While it can certainly be. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Bell’s Theorem

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[Revised entry by Wayne Myrvold, Marco Genovese, and Abner Shimony on March 13, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Bell's Theorem is the collective name for a family of results, all of which involve the derivation, from a condition on probability distributions inspired by considerations of local causality, together with auxiliary assumptions usually thought of as mild side-assumptions, of probabilistic predictions about the results of spatially separated experiments that conflict, for appropriate choices of quantum states and experiments, with quantum mechanical predictions. These probabilistic predictions take the form of...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Prospective-student visits and PhD advisors

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In our most recent "how can we help you?" thread, Kent writes: I'm a current MA student about to visit PhD programs, and I've realized that I have no idea what to say in meetings with potential faculty advisors. I've thought about trying to read some of their work beforehand, but I'm not sure how discussing that would help me (other than perhaps getting a handle on their methodological approach). I'm concerned about quality of advisement and so on, but I don't want to ask questions that might come off as indelicate or rude. Some guidance would be much appreciated! Great query. In my experience, a student's eventual choice of PhD supervisor is absolutely vital. Some supervisors are effective, churning our successful PhDs and job-candidates left and right. Other supervisors, on the other hand, are truly awful--routinely having students who either never graduate or fail to be competitive on the job-market due to poor mentoring. As I don't work as a PhD supervisor myself, and it's been a long while since I've been in a PhD program, I'm not sure what a prospective student should say or ask a potential advisor during a campus visit--beyond simply having a conversation and trying to suss out whether the advisor is a good fit 'personality-wise.' For what it's worth, my first-, second-, and third-hand experience is that being a good personality fit is important. Some particularly confident students may thrive under pressure--and indeed, may even need pressure from a supervisor to work effectively (if they are liable to procrastination). This kind of student may benefit from having a really active, vocal, and critical supervisor. However, other students--for example, students liable to insecurity--may respond poorly to an advisor like this. Indeed, I've not only seen this happen--certain types of students losing confidence in their abilities (and, in turn, their work-ethic) due to overly-critical. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

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