Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Power and Technology: A Philosophical and Ethical Analysis

2019.11.08 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Faridun Sattarov, Power and Technology: A Philosophical and Ethical Analysis, Rowman and Littlefield, 2019, 198pp., $120.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781786611291. Reviewed by Barry Allen, McMaster University The notion of technological power has become an object of attention in both academic and policy circles. Several different concepts of power are in play in these discourses, demonstrating the need for a cross-disciplinary, integrative framework to identify and clarify different ideas about the relation between technology and power. This book aims to provide such a framework for understanding the exercise of power by and through technology, and to do so by bridging social and political theory, critical studies in technology, philosophy, and ethics. These words, paraphrased from Faridun Sattarov's own summary, describe the aspiration of his book. They sound fine. Sadly, the execution consistently disappoints the interest this summary description appropriately provokes. Sattarov advocates a pluralist approach to the concept... Read [More]

Trade Publishers: You Need To Fact-Check Philosophy, Too

As you all know, Kant’s moral philosophy includes the idea of universalization.  But did you also know that “this means that before we do something, we should ask ourselves if the act we are about to perform will be good for everyone involved”? No, of course you didn’t. Because it is not true. And not just not true. It’s not true in the way that, say, “vegans are vegetarians who also eat animals” is not true. Why do I mention this? Because of this: This is an excerpt from the book, When You Kant Figure It Out, Ask a Philosopher, written by Marie Robert and published by an imprint of Little, Brown and Company. (The excerpt was posted at LitHub.) How does this kind of basic error get past the editorial team at a major publishing company? How does this kind of basic error about Kant get published in a book that has “Kant” in the title? I haven’t looked through the book, so I don’t know whether Robert corrects or clarifies these remarks elsewhere in it. Assuming she didn’t, this is a rather egregious error. Little, Brown and Company should be embarrassed. More importantly, they and other major commercial publishing firms should recognize that the need for fact-checking extends to the realm of philosophy. Not all philosophical claims are the kind that can be fact-checked, but some are, and having philosophers employed or on call to consult with may help prevent the publication of basic and misleading errors [More]

Thomas Kuhn and the paradigm shift – Philosopher of the Month

Thomas S. Kuhn (b. 1922–d. 1996) was an American historian and philosopher of science best-known for his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) which influenced social sciences and theories of knowledge. He is widely considered one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. The post Thomas Kuhn and the paradigm shift – Philosopher of the Month appeared first on OUPblog.         Related StoriesOur souls make us who we areMary Astell on female education and the sorrow of marriage (philosopher of the month)Seven events that shaped country [More]

Governing Least: A New England Libertarianism

2019.11.07 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Dan Moller, Governing Least: A New England Libertarianism, Oxford University Press, 2019, 326pp., $35.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190863241. Reviewed by Andrew Lister, Queen's University The premise of Dan Moller's book is that "we should only use reason and persuasion to accomplish our distributive aims" (1). The book's main thesis is that the modern welfare state is unjust because it uses force for the sake of redistribution. Moller argues on the basis of "every day moral beliefs" (1), in particular the belief that it is wrong "to shift burdens onto others by force" (6). If my car breaks down, I can't demand that you share yours with me, let alone force you to do so; "I don't get to shift the burdens of my foster-care upbringing onto you by forcing you to give me $1000 toward college" (143). Moller asks us to consider whether we would be willing... Read [More]

Mass Surveillance, Artificial Intelligence and New Legal Challenges

[This is the text of a talk I gave to the Irish Law Reform Commission Annual Conference in Dublin on the 13th of November 2018]In the mid-19th century, a set of laws were created to address the menace that newly-invented automobiles and locomotives posed to other road users. One of the first such laws was the English The Locomotive Act 1865, which subsequently became known as the ‘Red Flag Act’. Under this act, any user of a self-propelled vehicle had to ensure that at least two people were employed to manage the vehicle and that one of these persons:“while any locomotive is in motion, shall precede such locomotive on foot by not less than sixty yards, and shall carry a red flag constantly displayed, and shall warn the riders and drivers of horses of the approach of such locomotives…”The motive behind this law was commendable. Automobiles did pose a new threat to other, more vulnerable, road users. But to modern eyes the law was also, clearly, ridiculous. To suggest that every car should be preceded by a pedestrian waving a red flag would seem to defeat the point of having a car: the whole idea is that it is faster and more efficient than walking. The ridiculous nature of the law eventually became apparent to its creators and all such laws were repealed in the 1890s, approximately 30 years after their introduction.[1]The story of the Red Flag laws shows that legal systems often get new and emerging technologies badly wrong. By focusing on the obvious or immediate risks, the [More]

Crying Voter Fraud

After winning the electoral college and losing the popular vote, Donald Trump alleged voter fraud. He went on to promise a “major investigation” into voter fraud, which failed to support his claim. As it stands, there is no evidence of rampant voter fraud in the 2016 election. It must be noted that absence of evidence [More]


[New Entry by Fred Kroon and Alberto Voltolini on November 12, 2019.] Telling fictional stories and engaging with the fictional stories of others is an important and pervasive part of human culture. But people not only tell and engage with fictional stories. They also reflect on the content of stories, and on the way these are told. Grappling with the many issues such reflection uncovers has long been a concern of professional academics in language departments and other academic programs with a focus on language. Philosophers should be included [More]