Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

What causes moral change? Some reflections on Appiah's Honour Code

Chinese Foot BindingMorality changes over time. Once upon time, racism, sexism, and torture were widely practiced and, in some cases, celebrated. None of these practices has been completely eliminated, but there has been a significant change in our moral attitudes toward them. The vast majority of people now view them as unacceptable. What causes this kind of moral change?In his book, The Honor Code, Kwame Anthony Appiah examines three historical moral revolutions (and one ongoing revolution) and comes up with an answer. He argues that changing perceptions of honour, as opposed to changes in moral belief, do most of the work. Indeed, he argues that in each of the three cases he examines, both moral argumentation and legal norms had already condemned the practices in question. They prevailed in spite of this. It was only when the practices were perceived to be dishonourable that the moral revolutions really took effect.I recently read (well listened to) Appiah’s book. I found it a fascinating exploration of moral change, but I couldn’t figure out whether it the central thesis was interesting or not. I couldn’t shake the sense that there was something trivial about it. In what follows, I want to bring some order to my thoughts and see whether my initial impression is wrong. Is there, in fact, something insightful about Appiah’s argument? I will give an equivocal assessment in what follows.1. Preliminary Thoughts about the Mechanics of Moral ChangeBefore I get into Appiah’s [More]

Jewish Philosophy in an Analytic Age,

2019.12.08 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Samuel Lebens, Dani Rabinowitz, and Aaron Segal (eds.), Jewish Philosophy in an Analytic Age, Oxford University Press, 2019, 368pp., $105.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198811374. Reviewed by David-Hillel Ruben, University of London Most departments of Jewish Studies offer a course in Jewish Philosophy. More often than not, such a course will provide the history of what many of the main Jewish philosophers thought, philosophers from Philo and the Medievals, through Spinoza and the Kantians, to the Modern period with such figures as Levinas, Rosenzweig, and Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. The course will not undertake any innovative Jewish philosophy, as this would be understood in analytic philosophy circles. It won't advance any argument about a philosophical topic beyond those claimed to be discovered in the texts. Its primary purpose will be to seek to understand how those earlier philosophers approached various philosophical topics. But many contemporary philosophers, trained in analytic modes of philosophy, have begun... Read [More]

The Danger of Bursting Bubbles

I just watched the Ballad of Buster Scruggs on my online internet provider. Excitedly, I mention at lunch the last story of the movie. My friends all look puzzled: The Ballad of whom? Buster what? The makers of the Ballad are not particularly niche: The Coen Brothers have produced Fargo, the Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, and won dozens of awards, including four Oscars and a Palme d’Or in Cannes. They are, by all means, famous. When No Country for Old Men was released, in 2007, I remember going to the movies, with the same friends, and discussing it at length afterwards. I change the topic, and mention the recent strikes in France. Strikes, really? Weren’t the protests over? We finish sharing the meal, though again each of us had ordered a different dish, and there is not much to compare regarding the taste of the lasagna.  Informational bubbles - where, as former President Obama said, we live and think “surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook” - are [More]