Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Agents and Goals in Evolution

2019.05.01 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Samir Okasha, Agents and Goals in Evolution, Oxford University Press, 2018, 254pp., $40.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198815082. Reviewed by Robert A. Wilson, La Trobe University Samir Okasha's focus in this book is a pervasive way of describing and explaining organismic traits, including behaviours, what he calls, with a nod to Godfrey-Smith (2009), agential thinking. This is to think of evolved entities -- paradigmatically but not only organisms -- as agents with certain kinds of interests or goals that are pursued through strategies. Here explaining why organisms and other evolved entities have the phenotypic traits they do involves drawing on a subset of intentional idioms that ascribe psychological states to organisms, as Okasha says, "usually in an extended or metaphorical sense" (p.230). In Genes and the Agents of Life (2005), I referred to this aspect of agential thinking as a reliance... Read [More]

Jacques Maritain

[Revised entry by William Sweet on May 1, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Jacques Maritain (1882 - 1973), French philosopher and political thinker, was one of the principal exponents of Thomism in the twentieth century and an influential interpreter of the thought of St Thomas [More]

Do Embryos Have a Right to Life?

A probate judge in Alabama has made an unprecedented ruling that a six-week-old embryo has legal rights. The man pursuing the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of “his deceased child” is suing the clinic at which his then girlfriend had an abortion and the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the abortifacient pill that she took there.In 2016, Ryan Magers was 19 and unemployed, and his then girlfriend was 16 and a high school senior. According to the girl’s father, Magers pressured her into having sex. When she discovered she was pregnant, she let Magers know. He told her not to have an abortion. However, with the approval of her parents, she decided to have one. On February 10, 2017, six weeks into the pregnancy, she went to the Alabama Women’s Center, and took the abortifacient pill. Two years later, in January 2019, Magers, assisted by the anti-abortion organisation Personhood Alabama, filed his petition to serve as the representative of the estate of “his deceased child, BABY [More]

The Moral Right and Wrong to Defend Unborn Life

A probate judge in Alabama has made an unprecedented ruling that a six-week-old embryo has legal rights. The man pursuing the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of “his deceased child, BABY ROE”, is suing the clinic at which his then girlfriend had an abortion and the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the abortifacient pill that she took there.In 2016, Ryan Magers was 19 and unemployed, and his then girlfriend was 16 and a high school senior. According to the girl’s father, Magers pressured her into having sex. When she discovered she was pregnant, she let Magers know. He told her not to have an abortion. However, with the approval of her parents, she decided to have an abortion. On February 10, 2017, six weeks into the pregnancy, she went to the Alabama Women’s Center, and took the abortifacient pill. Two years later, in January 2019, Magers, assisted by the anti-abortion organisation Personhood Alabama, filed his petition to serve as the representative of the estate of “his [More]

Hobbes and Modern Political Thought

2019.04.36 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Yves Charles Zarka, Hobbes and Modern Political Thought, James Griffith (tr.), Edinburgh University Press, 2018, 257pp., $39.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781474433464. Reviewed by Ioannis D. Evrigenis, Tufts University As Thomas Hobbes welcomes the reader to Leviathan, he signals his intention to highlight the perils and promise of the meaning of words. In one striking early example, he notes that the purpose of reading his book is to teach one how to read human beings, beginning with oneself. Taking issue with those who overuse but fail to grasp the importance of "nosce teipsum," Hobbes takes the liberty of translating the command as "read thyself," before moving on to pronounce the reading of mankind an activity "harder than to learn any Language, or Science." Heeding the call to focus on the reading of both books and human beings, commentators have devoted considerable attention to that aspect of Hobbes's political theory,... Read [More]

Assistant Professor (tenure track) - two positions

Job List:  Europe Name of institution:  Technical University of Eindhoven Town:  Eindhoven Country:  Netherlands Job Description:  Philosophy & Ethics at Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, has vacancies for: Two assistant professors (full-time, tenure-track) Areas of specialization: Philosophy of Science and/or Philosophy of Technology; Meta-ethics, Normative Ethics and/or Applied Ethics. Application deadline: 17 May. Expected starting date: 15 [More]

Possible Worlds and Possible Lives: A Meditation on the Art of Living

Here’s a simple thought, but one that I think is quite profound: one’s happiness in life depends, to a large extent, on how one thinks about and navigates the space of possible lives one could have lived. If you have too broad a conception of the space of possibility, you are likely to be anxious and unable to act, always fearing that you are missing out on something better. If you have too narrow a conception of the space of possibility, you are likely to be miserable (particularly if you get trapped in a bad set of branches in the space of possibility) and unable to live life to its full. But it’s not that simple either. Sometimes you have to focus on the negative and sometimes you have to narrow your mindset.I say this is a profound but simple thought. Why so? Well, it strikes me as profound because it captures something that is fundamentally true about the human condition, something that is integral to a number of philosophical discussions of well-being. It strikes me as simple because I think it’s something that is relatively obvious and presumably must have occurred to many people over the course of human history. And yet, for some reason, I don’t find many people talking about it.Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of people talk about possible worlds in philosophy and science, and many specific discussions of human life touch upon the idea outlined in the opening paragraph. For example, discussions of human emotions such as regret, or the rationality of decision-making, or [More]