Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

“Frustration, Mediocrity, and Drama”

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A year in the academic life of the typical Nigerian philosopher is a long one defined by frustration, mediocrity (either self-imposed or externally imposed) and drama. The drama aspect revolves around violent student activism leading to university closures, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) industrial actions, blood-letting on university campuses by students who are members of violent cults, the intrigue surrounding the selection of new vice chancellors, the latest corruption scandals, political interference in university administration, or accusations of sexual harassment directed at prominent professors… Those are the words of Ada Agaba (University of Calabar, Nigeria) in a post at The Philosophers’ Cocoon that highlights the challenges faced by philosophers in Nigeria. Poor research funding, outdated libraries, and corrupt administrators and colleagues are common problems, and give rise to frequent strikes by the university teacher’s union, which in turn means that the public universities have, in practice, “no fixed academic calendars.” Political and ethnic favoritism “is the norm” in hiring. Titi Omoighe, “Village Square” The “collapsing academic system” in Nigeria hinders education and research there and the opportunities for interaction between Nigerian philosophers and those elsewhere, and so provides yet another example of the ways in which “what philosophy is” is affected by the contingencies of economics, politics, institutions, and events. Dr. Agaba notes that even in Nigeria “Western philosophy constitutes not less than 80%”  of the philosophy curriculum. Despite the troubles facing philosophy professors in Nigeria, Dr. Agaba tries to remain hopeful. He says, “As bad as the situation of Nigerian philosophers is, we like to encourage one another by mouthing the mantra no condition is permanent in this world.” Read the whole piece here. The. . .

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News source: Daily Nous

Philosopher Awarded £977K Grant for “Mindreading”

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Philosopher Richard Moore, who will be moving to Warwick University from The Berlin School of Mind and Brain at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin next year, has been awarded a £977,000 (roughly $1,200,000) grant from the UK government to fund a project on “mindreading.” “Mindreading” here refers to our cognitive capacities related to predicting the behavior of others and attributing various mental states to them. According to Dr. Moore, the project “will conduct empirical and philosophical research on the developmental relationship between mindreading in communication in ontogeny, phylogeny, and in human history” The funding was in the form of a UK Research and Industry Future Leaders Fellowship from UK Research and Innovation, Those interested in the project and positions it may fund can follow Dr. Moore on Twitter at @CommunicatMind. The post Philosopher Awarded £977K Grant for “Mindreading” appeared first on Daily Nous.

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News source: Daily Nous

Things: In Touch with the Past

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2019.09.22 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Carolyn Korsmeyer, Things: In Touch with the Past, Oxford University Press, 2019, 218pp., $49.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780190904876. Reviewed by Filippo Contesi, University of Barcelona Carolyn Korsmeyer's monograph bolsters her reputation as a leading innovator in analytic aesthetics research. Like so much of her previous work, this book is beautifully written, thoughtful and thought-provoking, carefully referenced and rich in artistic examples and historical anecdotes. The book is a defence and analysis of the aesthetic value of genuineness in things. In it, Korsmeyer argues that being before the real specimen of something -- often, though not necessarily, a valuable work of art -- is capable of yielding aesthetically valuable experiences. On her account, moreover, aesthetic value in such experiences is often connected to ethical and cognitive value. Finally, these aesthetically valuable experiences are crucially mediated by the operation of the sense of touch. At least... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Worthless Harm-Prevention and Non-Existence

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We typically assume that it's really important to prevent great harms.  And indeed, usually it is.  But there are at least a couple of exceptions.Most obviously, some harms might be outweighed by greater associated benefits.  Benatar thinks it's terrible to allow someone to come into existence given all the subsequent harms their life will contain (no matter how overall happy their life will be).  That's obviously nuts.  These harms are more than compensated for by the overall happiness of the life.  So it's only uncompensated harms, or "net harms", that we should seek to prevent.More interestingly, even net harms may nevertheless not warrant preventing (in a certain way).  For suppose the harm is comparative in nature: the harmful event does not put the victim in an intrinsically bad state, but rather harms them in virtue of depriving them of some much better alternative.  There are then two very different ways in which a comparative harm could be prevented.  You could ensure that they get the better alternative.  (That's the good way!)  Or, you could prevent the "better alternative" from ever arising as a possibility to be deprived of in the first place.  There is generally no reason whatsoever to prevent a harm (however grave) in this way.For example, suppose you know two facts: (i) your friend is about to pick up a discarded lottery ticket that is, unbeknownst to them, a winning ticket, worth millions of dollars; and (ii) if they do pick it up, it will be immediately stolen by a compulsive ticket-thief who is watching you both closely.  The theft would greatly harm your friend, by robbing them of a future of wealth and luxury. (Further suppose the harm is merely comparative: your friend won't feel any great distress at the event itself.)  You could prevent this harm from occurring by distracting your friend so that they never pick up the winning ticket in the first place.  But. . .

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News source: Philosophy, et cetera

How to talk to your political opponents

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Imagine that you are having a heated political argument with a member of the “other” party over what the government should or should not do on various issues. You and your debate partner argue about what should be done about immigrants who want to come into the country. You argue about what should be done about the never-ending mass murder of people in schools, places of worship, and entertainment venues by killers using assault weapons. You argue about what should be done to improve employment and to improve the healthcare system. You argue about how to increase access to better schools and higher education. You and your partner care deeply about these issues and the debate about how to solve these issues goes on for quite a while. While you were arguing, another person was standing and watching. When there is a pause in the debate, this person comes over with a bewildered look, and asks “Why are you arguing so hard?” You and your debate partner both answer that these are important issues that need solutions and you are arguing about what are the best solutions. The newcomer says, “Why waste your time talking about those issues? They don’t really matter. Hakuna matata. Worry-free is my philosophy.”Imagine how you would feel about this newcomer. Imagine how you would feel about your debate partner. I know how I would feel. I would be very annoyed at the newcomer, and would be thinking something like “what a jerk!” And I would suddenly appreciate and feel a connection with my debate partner: “At least he knows what is important in the world. He cares about what matters. We don’t agree right now about what to do about these issues, but we agree that they deserve close attention. We should talk more to see if we might find some more common ground and can identify some policies that we both agree would make sense to institute.”This is an example of something that is fundamental to what makes us human. It illustrates how we might move beyond the political bubbles that. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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