Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Descartes’ Ontological Argument

[Revised entry by Lawrence Nolan on February 14, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Descartes' ontological (or a priori) argument is both one of the most fascinating and poorly understood aspects of his philosophy. Fascination with the argument stems from the effort to prove God's existence from simple but powerful premises. Existence is derived immediately from the clear and distinct idea of a supremely perfect being. Ironically, the simplicity of the argument has also produced several misreadings, exacerbated in part by [More]

Search Committee Members: You Could Update The Jobs Wiki

A philosopher currently on the market writes in with a request to search committee members: update the jobs wiki. They write: Every year, many jobseekers spend weeks or months waiting to hear back about jobs. At every stage of the search process—after the initial application, after the videoconference interview, and after the on-campus interview—they desperately want to know whether they have been eliminated. A lucky few soon hear good news. Most of the others have to wait. Days, weeks, months go by. Their hope painfully dwindles. Eventually, they accept their now-obvious fate. And then the PFO* arrives from an HR department, far too late to do any good. It would be a great benefit to these people if they could find out that they have been eliminated as soon as they are eliminated. This would turn a prolonged and extremely painful process into a much shorter and much less painful process. Applicants would be able to emotionally move on much more quickly and turn their full attention to other possibilities. Well, as it happens, it is very easy for these people to be informed as soon as they are eliminated from your search. All that is necessary is for members of search committees to update the jobs wiki whenever their search progresses to a new stage (i.e., when invitations for first-round interviews are sent out, and when invitations for second-round/on-campus interviews are sent out, and when offers are made). This year, the wiki is here. Updating the wiki is [More]

The Hypocrisy of Sexual Outrage

When it comes to sexual conduct, we pride ourselves that we have become more tolerant and less censorious that our forefathers. We are far more open or frank about sexual matters than they were. Children, so it seems to me, are force-fed sexual knowledge from an earlier and earlier age. We don’t believe any more in an age of innocence, as existing neither in fact nor as something desirable. A school teacher once told me that one of her young pupils, aged seven had come crying to her because one of his classmates had called him a virgin.Asked whether he knew what a virgin was, he replied, ‘I don’t know, but I know it’s something horrible.’Despite the fact that we pride ourselves on our enlightened, relaxed and liberal attitude to sexuality, one cannot help but descry the working of a kind of Second Law of Thermodynamics in regard to outrage over what we deem to be sexual misconduct. What we find outrageous might have changed, but the quantity of outrage is a constant.A school teacher [More]

Dispelling the dangerous myths of love

True love. Everybody wants it and nobody really knows what it is. Ask around, and you will get a lot of different answers. However, put those answers together, mix in selected literary classics, add a dash of pop culture and a sprinkle of internet memes, and you get roughly the following ideal: true love is loving and being loved forever by someone who cherishes you more than anything else.We can break down this ideal to a few central tenets.First, there is the surprisingly ancient idea that true love is about ‘finding the One’, the person we are destined to be with, our other half. We wander on the earth looking for the one person who can complete us. In this fatalistic way of approaching true love, true love is rare, insofar as it is bound with luck and uniqueness. This conception is usually appealing to younger idealistic people, although we might wonder if it’s going extinct in the era of polyamory.True love, in this framework, is about loving a person notwithstanding their [More]

The Wrong of Rudeness: Learning Modern Civility from Ancient Chinese Philosophy

2020.02.11 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Amy Olberding, The Wrong of Rudeness: Learning Modern Civility from Ancient Chinese Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2019, 183pp., $29.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780190880965. Reviewed by Andrew Lambert, City University of New York, College of Staten Island Amy Olberding notes that this book is a response to increased polarization and conflict in civil life in the United States (ix). Besides political discourse, the problem of incivility or rudeness is found also in everyday social life -- such as what to do when "Uncle Frank" makes offensive remarks about race, sexuality and immigration at the family Thanksgiving dinner (144). Olberding's response is to turn to the Confucian tradition. The early Confucians' commitment to civility can help us to re-think social relations, and arrive at an outlook that recognizes the difficulty of bridging gaps between us but also sustains a sense of solidarity. Olberding starts from a disconcerting premise, the sheer pleasure of being rude: "I am often rude. I... Read [More]

Change and Inconsistency

[Revised entry by Chris Mortensen on February 13, 2020. Changes to: Main text] Change is so pervasive in our lives that it almost defeats description and analysis. One can think of it in a very general way as alteration. But alteration in a thing raises subtle problems. One of the most perplexing is the problem of the consistency of change: how can one thing have incompatible properties and yet remain the same thing? Some have held that change is a consistent process, and rendered so by the existence of time. Others have held that the [More]