Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Decolonizing Universalism: A Transnational Feminist Ethic

2019.07.19 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Serene J. Khader, Decolonizing Universalism: A Transnational Feminist Ethic, Oxford University Press, 2019, 186pp., $35.00 (pbk), ISBN 9780190664206. Reviewed by Kathleen Stock, University of Sussex In this book, Serene J. Khader steers an assured, creative, and scholarly course between two points she seeks simultaneously to reject. The first is a Western feminism saturated with imperialist and ethnocentric assumptions. The second is a wholly relativist position which, along with its repudiation of Western feminism, rejects the possibility of any universal feminist norms or prescriptions. In their place, she argues for a transnational feminism, with a universal 'normative core'. Yet, interestingly, she also describes a theoretical approach with the apparent flexibility and resources to avoid, not just tacit imperialism and ethnocentrism, but also any blanket incompatibility with religious tradition and gender complementarianism, for instance. Thus, enticingly for those concerned to maintain transnational feminist unity, her feminism promises to avoid automatic... Read [More]

From Violence to Speaking Out: Apocalypse and Expression in Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze

2019.07.18 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Leonard Lawlor, From Violence to Speaking Out: Apocalypse and Expression in Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze, Edinburgh University Press, 2016, 320pp., $29.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781474418256. Reviewed by Jeffrey A. Bell, Southeastern Louisiana University Leonard Lawlor has continued in this book to do what he has done in his previous one: he applies his perceptive, critical eye to the philosophers and issues that most interest continental philosophers, and in the process provides a unique, helpful way to rethink these philosophers and issues. In the case at hand, Lawlor addresses three of the most significant French philosophers of the latter half of the twentieth century -- Derrida, Foucault, and Deleuze. Despite widespread recognition that these philosophers often overlap in their philosophical approaches (e.g., both Derrida and Deleuze emphasize difference, and Foucault and Deleuze stress a thought of the outside), to date the three have not been brought together as methodically and consistently as they have been here. More... Read [More]

Medieval Mereology

[Revised entry by Andrew Arlig on July 25, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] The term "mereology" is sometimes used to refer to any one of the formal languages that describe the part-to-whole relation. In this article, I will use the term more broadly to refer to any theoretical study (formal or informal) of parts, wholes, and the relations (logical or metaphysical) that obtain between them. In what follows I will survey some of the ways that philosophers in the medieval Latin West thought about parts and wholes. (There is very little contemporary scholarship on medieval Arabic, Hebrew, [More]

Agnes Callard’s List of “views that are considered controversial that shouldn’t be”

“There’s no such thing as being good or bad at philosophy.” That’s item #12 on a list of “views that are considered controversial that shouldn’t be” that philosopher Agnes Callard (Chicago) offered up in a new interview at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher?. Interviewer Clifford Sosis (Coastal Carolina) asks, “How is it not possible to be bad at philosophy?” Callard replies: You can be good at something either by having mastered it or having a talent for it. Philosophy is unmasterable—there is no body of knowledge that could ground a claim to expertise. As for talents, the ones I can think of—being quick with distinctions, being a good writer, being good at learning formal or natural languages—are double edged swords, because they make you easily divertible from the project of philosophizing. I think we project a talent for philosophy into anyone we respect as a philosopher to protect ourselves against the scary thought that it’s our own fault we’re not like that. In fact, nothing’s stopping us but ourselves. Here’s her whole list: Socrates was not ironic. Plato wrote dialogues because that format is ideal for presenting arguments in premise-conclusion form. Aristotle’s enkratic person can (and, indeed, must) have phronesis. Aristotle’s pro-slavery stance runs deep into his ethics, not clear whether it can be excised. Kant’s ethics forms the basis of our strongest moral reactions. Nietzsche’s view of [More]

Philosophers Win Several Large Grants in the Netherlands

Several philosophers are among the winners of large grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). They are: Reinhard Muskens (UvA) for “A Sentence Uttered Makes a World Appear” (€770,850 / $860,000) Hearing a sentence enables one to make a mental picture of its content. ‘The cat is on the mat’ is a sequence of words first and then an image. But how does that work? Our research uses logic and computation to answer this question. Robert van Rooij (UvA) for “Why We Believe Sharks Are Dangerous” We accept generic sentences like ‘Sharks are dangerous’, although sharks only seldomly attack us. It is important to understand why, because stereotypes are also expressed by such generic sentences. We  want to investigate whether the acceptance of such generalizing sentences can be explained by the way  expectations are learned. Han van Ruler (EUR) for “Decoding Descartes” Decoding Descartes unravels the ideas of the founder of modern philosophy and science René Descartes (1596–1650) in response to contemporary deadlocks in philosophy, psychology and neuroscience. By reevaluating Descartes’ work and correspondence, the project shows Descartes is still decisively relevant for contemporary debates in multiple disciplines from humanities to neuroscience. Maartje Schermer (EUR) for “Health and disease as practical concepts: a pragmatist approach to conceptualization of health and disease” Scientific, [More]

Do You Disappear When You Die?

Many philosophers seem to think, you simply 'disappear' when you die, 'erased' from the framework of reality as one would rub out a drawing on the blackboard. I think it would be a serious mistake to think this way. Time maga­zine had it right when it represented the death of bin Laden, hence his 'nonexistence' with a picture of him on the cover, crossed out with a big X. If you’re lecturing on the capture and killing of bin Laden, you might draw a picture of him on the blackboard, and then conclude your lecture by drawing, as Time did, a big X across that drawing. That would be the right thing to do. The wrong thing to do would be to simply erase the drawing, to rub it out. A blank blackboard does not represent the death of bin Laden. On the contrary, it represents nothing. Bin Laden, on dying, did not become nothing, just as he did not come from nothing. (Ex nihilo, nihil fit.)Just this, however, seems to have escaped many, if not most philosophers who’ve written about the [More]

Phantasia in Aristotle's Ethics: Reception in the Arabic, Greek, Hebrew and Latin Traditions

2019.07.17 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Jakob Leth Fink (ed.), Phantasia in Aristotle's Ethics: Reception in the Arabic, Greek, Hebrew and Latin Traditions, Bloomsbury, 2019, 175pp., $114.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781350028005. Reviewed by Stephen R. Ogden, The Catholic University of America This is an interesting collection which features three nested levels of increasing focus: the ancient and medieval reception of Aristotle's Ethics; the psychological notion of phantasia (often translated as "imagination") within that reception; and, most specifically and principally, how phantasia may (or may not) play a role in Nicomachean Ethics (NE) 6.5, especially 1140b17-18. This passage states that the moral "principle does not immediately appear (euthus ou phainetai archē) to the person who has been corrupted by pleasure or pain" (transl. from the editor, Jakob Leth Fink, p. 2). Since the moral principle here is the goal or end (to hou heneka, 1140b16-17), Iacopo Costa in his chapter helpfully labels this key text the "goal's destruction (or disappearance) passage (GDP)" (p. 80). I... Read [More]

Perfect Goodness

[Revised entry by Mark Murphy on July 24, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Reflection on perfect goodness is most commonly carried out as part of the project of philosophical theology. One prominent methodological strand of philosophical theology is perfect being theology, in which the nature of God is made more explicit by identifying God as an absolutely perfect being and working out what features an absolutely perfect being must exhibit (Morris 1989c; Rogers 2000; Nagasawa 2008). As it is a commonplace that one of the perfections that would have to be exhibited by any being that would qualify [More]