Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Well-Ordered Universe: The Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish

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2019.03.04 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Deborah Boyle, The Well-Ordered Universe: The Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish, Oxford University Press, 2018, 273pp., $74.00, ISBN 9780190234805. Reviewed by Alison Peterman, University of Rochester This is a book about one of the most exciting philosophers of the early modern period -- Margaret Cavendish -- by one of the very best scholars of Cavendish's philosophy. Deborah Boyle's work on Cavendish has been ground-breaking; it also happens to be deep, clear, sensitive, erudite, and creative. The book is Boyle's comprehensive study of Cavendish's philosophy, covering her metaphysics, natural philosophy, epistemology, ethics, and politics. But the book's polestar is what Boyle rightly identifies as the deep unifying theme of Cavendish's work: order. "Cavendish conceives of order and regularity as the highest goods" (6), Boyle writes, and Cavendish's concern with order and disorder pervades all aspects of her philosophy. In the first chapter,... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Virtuous Emotions

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2019.03.03 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Kristján Kristjánsson, Virtuous Emotions, Oxford University Press, 2018, 225pp., $61.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198809678. Reviewed by Sara Protasi, University of Puget Sound Where do we draw the line between moral and moralistic, righteous and self-righteous, saintly and sanctimonious? This is what I kept wondering while reading Kristján Kristjánsson's book. Stimulating and ambitious, it is a must-read for anyone interested in one of the many areas it addresses: moral philosophers are its primary audience, in particular those of Aristotelian and virtue ethics leaning; ancient specialists will find that Kristjánsson, while not pursuing a historically accurate interpretation of Aristotle, is attentive and knowledgeable with regard to the texts, and will appreciate the insights he brings into Aristotelian ethics; emotion theorists, especially those interested in the role of emotions in moral education, will appreciate his "unapologetically interdisciplinary" (3) approach, and... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Addressing flight-risk in cover letters?

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In our most recent "how can we help you?" thread, NotaFlightRisk writes: I have a question about tailoring cover letters. I'd like to convey in my cover letter that I'm not a flight risk but I'm unsure of the best way (or anyway besides outright saying this) to do that. Any advice? This is a great question, and I am curious to hear from people who have served on searches about what they think. But here are a few quick thoughts of my own... I have heard some people who have served on search committees at teaching institutions say that it can be helpful for candidates--especially candidates who might appear to be flight risks--to note in cover letter whether they have any special connection to the area (such as parents, other family, etc.). The idea here is that if a candidate really does have some special reason to want to live in the area, then that might be relevant to the committee evaluating whether the person is likely to stay if they are hired. However, I am not sure there is much that candidates can do beyond this to make a compelling case about their not being a flight risk. Here, in rough outline, is why I'm not sure there is a ton a cover letter can do here. I suspect a lot of candidates might think in their own minds that they are not a flight risk--that they would really be happy at Small University in a Tiny Town with a high (3/3 or 4/4) teaching load. So, one thing such a candidate might think about doing is saying in their cover letter, "I really want to be at a teaching-intensive liberal arts university." Suppose, though, that the candidate is coming from a highly-ranked research institution (e.g. Leiter top 20), they have quite a few publications in highly-ranked journals, and not a lot of teaching experience. Regardless of what this person might say in a cover letter, they still look like a potential flight risk based on their background and experience. Further, the people on the hiring. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

On Being Useless: A Daoist Reflection

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Utility, or usefulness, is an invisible thread that runs through and organises every aspect of our society. It is a basic, universal and inescapable measure of all worth in modern lives. This is obvious in our attitudes to work and education. Economics treats utility as a measurable quantity which serves, and even dictates, decision-making. Many academics, particularly in the sciences, now need to justify their research in terms of “impact”, a quantifiable indicator of economic or social contribution. The governments of the US and the UK have cut down on their funding for liberal arts subjects, for lacking an obvious and measurable use. The assumption is that education should be a means to produce future workers.But even beyond work, leisure is presented as the means to recharge our body and mind so we can keep on working, and is turned into a commodity, to be bought or sold, in the tourism industry.This has repercussions on our moral discourse too, implying that being useful equals to...

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News source: iai News RSS feed

Should you write articles on marginal or moribund topics?

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Should early career philosophers devote time and energy to writing journal articles on figures, topics, or debates that are moribund, marginal, or otherwise unlikely to gain interest among other philosophers? Obviously, this turns on complicated metaphilosophical and professional issues too large for a blog post, so let me offer an autobiographical perspective, following Thi Nguyen’s approach in an earlier post in this series. I did my doctorate at Durham University, starting in September 2006, submitting exactly four years later. My topic was the neglected later writings of the still-controversial philosopher of science and self-styled ‘epistemological anarchist’, Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994), author of Against Method. In terms of publishing articles on his later work, the prospects were mixed. On the one hand, Feyerabend was considered old hat. Genuinely important in his day, sure, but relative to ‘old-school’ concerns, no longer on the agenda of philosophy of science. On the other hand, the later Feyerabend offered possibilities for publication. First, the paucity of interest meant there was a scholarly space to fill – an attractive prospect for an early career scholar. Second, there was material in his later writings useful to contemporary, ‘hot topic’ debates in the philosophy of science – pluralism, say, or the epistemic authority of science in democratic societies. Given this situation, a professionally smart thing to do would’ve been to write articles on Feyerabend’s arguments for pluralism in science, keying into work emerging from North American philosophy of science. Such articles could (a) draw on my doctoral work and (b) resonate with active and emerging debates in philosophy of science, including (c) the ‘live issues’ that the ‘top’ philosophy of science journals would likely find attractive. I did not do these smart things. Instead, my first two published articles on Feyerabend treated themes so esoteric I doubt even the specialist Feyerabend scholars. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

The Ambitious Academic: A Moral Evaluation

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"Ambition makes you look pretty ugly”(Radiohead, Paranoid Android)In Act 1, Scene VII of Macbeth, Shakespeare acknowledges the dark side of ambition. Having earlier received a prophecy from a trio of witches promising that he would ‘be king hereafter’, Macbeth, with some prompting from his wife, has resolved to kill the current king (Duncan) and take the throne for himself. But then he gets cold feet. In a poignant soliloquy he notes that he has no real reason to kill Duncan. Duncan has been a wise and generally good king. The only thing spurring Macbeth to do the deed is his own insatiable ambition:I have no spurTo prick the sides of my intent but onlyVaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself And falls on the other.(Macbeth, Act 1, Scene VII, lines 27-29)Despite this, Macbeth ultimately succumbs to his ambition, kills Duncan, and reigns Scotland with increasing despotism and cruelty. His downfall is a warning to us all. It suggests that ambition is often the root of moral collapse.I have a confession to make. I am deeply suspicious of ambition. When I think of ambitious people, my mind is instantly drawn to Shakespearean examples like Macbeth and Richard II: to people who let their own drive for success cloud their moral judgment. But I appreciate that there is an irony to this. I am often accused (though ‘accusation’ might be too strong) of being ambitious. People perceive my frequent writing and publication, and other scholarly activities, as evidence of some deep-seated ambition. I often tell these people that I don’t think of myself as especially ambitious. In support of this, I point out that I have frequently turned down opportunities for raising my profile, including higher status jobs, and more money. Surely that’s the opposite of ambition?Whatever about my own case, I find that ambition is viewed with ambivalence among my academic colleagues. When they speak of ambition they speak with forked tongues. They comment about the ambition of their peers. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

The Character Gap: How Good Are We?

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2019.03.02 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Christian B. Miller, The Character Gap: How Good Are We?, Oxford University Press, 2018, 276pp., $21.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780190264222. Reviewed by Alexandra Plakias, Hamilton College Christian Miller has written an accessible, engaging introduction to the moral psychology of virtue and vice. The book is part of OUP's 'Philosophy in Action' series, which the publisher describes as "small books about big ideas." It's not aimed at scholars, but would be useful for beginning students or for a general audience wishing to learn more about why we act the way we do, and how we can become better. The book is divided into three sections: "What is Character and Why is it Important?", "What Does Our Character Actually Look Like Today?", and "What Can We Do to Improve Our Characters?". Miller begins the first chapter with a discussion of character, virtue, and... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

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