Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Cinderella Strategy: How to Restart the Italian Economy by Building a Bridge Across the Messina Strait

The former Italian prime minister, Mr. Silvio Berlusconi, evoking the Messina Strait by a magic spell in an image taken probably around  2002. As a modern version of Moses, Mr. Berlusconi didn't manage to do much more than creating a scale model. But the idea of building this monster (it would be the longest suspension bridge ever built), has been recurrent in this form for decades. It is a dream that refuses to come true, no matter how much politicians get their inspiration from Cinderella. The story of the Covid-19 epidemic never ceases to surprise me for one reason or another. Wrong models, superstar scientists, terrorized citizens, non-existing vaccines sold at high prices, the police fining people for taking a walk, snake oil in great abundance, and more. But this really hit me badly: would you believe what the Italian government is considering, now? Yes, in order to restart the economy after it was hit so badly by the lockdown, they are thinking of building a bridge over the Messina strait to connect Sicily to Italy. (really!). The longest suspension bridge ever built, assuming that it were possible to build it -- not obvious at all. It is a Cinderella-style dream that likely will never come true.Maybe it is true what some people said, that the Covid-19 can sometimes affect people's brains, but the real explanation is another one: the unbreakable grip of obsolete ideas on the way people think. In times of crisis, leaders simply tend to go back to the solutions to [More]

Plato’s Aesthetics

[Revised entry by Nickolas Pappas on June 22, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] If aesthetics is the philosophical inquiry into art and beauty (or "aesthetic value"), the striking feature of Plato's dialogues is that he devotes as much time as he does to both topics and yet treats them oppositely. Art, mostly as represented by poetry, is closer to a greatest danger than any other phenomenon Plato speaks of, while beauty is close to a greatest good. Can there be such a thing as "Plato's aesthetics" that contains both [More]

Merleau-Ponty between Philosophy and Symbolism: The Matrixed Ontology

2020.06.18 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Rajiv Kaushik, Merleau-Ponty between Philosophy and Symbolism: The Matrixed Ontology, SUNY Press, 2019, 171pp., $32.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781438476766. Reviewed by Laura McMahon, Eastern Michigan University Phenomenology, in Lisa Guenther's succinct definition, "begins with a description of lived experience and reflects on the structures that make this experience possible and meaningful." Guenther's definition is illuminating for a number of reasons. First, it highlights the fact that phenomenology as a philosophical methodology always begins with -- and is always ultimately beholden to -- familiar, concrete, and recognizable phenomena of experience as it is actually lived. Second, it draws our attention to the manner in which lived experience is by no means simply transparent to itself, but is rather reliant upon structures that may precisely withdraw from thematization within lived experience. For example, lived experience can only take the forms that it does thanks to the development and sedimentation of... Read [More]

I hope my question isn’t offensive and I ask it in good faith. I support all

Read another response about Justice, Ethics Justice Ethics Share I hope my question isn’t offensive and I ask it in good faith. I support all sorts of civil rights movements, but have disliked the idea “silence is complicity”. Isn’t silence a basic human right? It’s unlikely that any modern country’s law considers silence on some particular social issue as a crime or misdemeanor. I genuinely believe in racial equality, but wouldn’t the necessity of making this belief public make it seem like a show? There are many reasons one might choose to be silent, such as dislike of publicity or thinking that “enough people are already making this opinion heard so mine won’t make a difference”. Is it fair to judge some who knows but is silent about a societal ill as complicit in that [More]

Are Face Masks Useful Against the Epidemic? Political and Scientific Questions

Are face masks useful against the Covid-19 epidemic? As obvious, it depends on various factors: the WHO says there is no scientific evidence of a benefit from the generalised use of masks by "healthy people in the community." But it is also stated that masks are beneficial when used in special conditions. Here, I tell you what I found about the scientific literature, but first I'll discuss how people tend to approach the problem according to their political views.This is a modified version of a post that appeared in Italian on "Effetto Cassandra"The Covid-19 epidemic is winding down in Italy, just like everywhere in Europe. The data indicate that the average mortality in most countries has been below average during the past three weeks, at least, and the curve shows no signs of picking up again. In Italy, there are still a few scattered cases, mostly in Northern Italy, but the numbers are minuscule. On all counts, the epidemic is over.As a consequence, the use of face masks is not mandatory anymore in most regions of Italy, except inside shops, buses, and other crowded places. I expected that people walking in the streets would gladly shed their masks and enjoy the fresh air of these last weeks of spring, but many didn't. An informal measurement that I made during the past few days shows that if you take a walk in Florence you'll see a good 30% of the people still wearing masks tightly fitted on their faces. Another 30%-40% wear the mask loose on their face, leaving free [More]

Robots, AI and the Moral Culture of Patiency

[This is the text version of a talk I delivered to the Swedish AI Society Conference, via Zoom, on the 17th of June 2020]Will the increased use of robotics and AI change our moral culture? In this talk I want suggest that it will. Specifically, I want to argue that the diffusion of robots and AIs into our political, social and economic lives will cause us to shift away from a moral culture of responsibility towards a culture of moral patiency. The argument I put forward is tentative and suggestive only. I am not trying to predict the future today. I am, instead, trying to sketch a way of looking at it and understanding the impact that technology might have on our moral beliefs and practices. In some ways, it is this style of thinking about the future that I hope to defend, not the specific claims I make about the future, but I do this by showing how this style of thinking works and not by just talking about it. I have three things I need to cover in the remainder of my talk: (a) what is a moral culture?; (b) how can we think about changes in moral cultures?; and (c) how might robots/AI cause a shift to a culture of moral patiency? 1. What is a moral culture?The concept of a moral culture is something that is common parlance among sociologists and social psychologists. That said, it is not always well or precisely defined. Different theorists and commentators seem to mean slightly different things when they use the terminology. For present purposes, I will define [More]

Are Face Masks Useful Against the Epidemic? Political and Scientific Approaches to the Issuee Issue.

Are face masks useful against the Covid-19 epidemic? As obvious, it depends on various factors: the WHO says there is no scientific evidence of a benefit from the generalised use of masks by "healthy people in the community." But it is also stated that masks are beneficial when used in special conditions. Here, I tell you what I found about the scientific literature, but first I'll discuss how people tend to approach the problem according to their political views.This is a modified version of a post that appeared in Italian on "Effetto Cassandra"The Covid-19 epidemic is winding down in Italy, just like everywhere in Europe. The data indicate that the average mortality in most countries has been below average during the past three weeks, at least, and the curve shows no signs of picking up again. In Italy, there are still a few scattered cases, mostly in Northern Italy, but the numbers are minuscule. On all counts, the epidemic is over.As a consequence, the use of face masks is not mandatory anymore in most regions of Italy, except inside shops, buses, and other crowded places. I expected that people would gladly shed their masks and enjoy the fresh air of these last weeks of spring, but many didn't. An informal measurement that I made during the past few days shows that if you take a walk in Florence you'll see a good 30% of the people still wearing masks tightly fitted on their faces. Another 30%-40% wear the mask loose on their face, leaving free the nose and often also [More]