Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

How The Occult Thrived in an Age of Enlightenment

In 1778, the practice of animal magnetism started in Paris. Magnetists enjoyed six happy years; then a star-studded panel of mostly French academicians declared, as John Adams put it, that their science did not exist. Late in 1784, the American Herald published a letter from Adams, then in France, to his friend the physician Benjamin Waterhouse, then in Boston. The letter contained the first mention in the American press of both animal magnetism and its debunking at the hands of the French academicians. The Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer had been making a success de scandale in Paris by claiming to cure illnesses with the invisible fluid of “animal magnetism” (magnétisme animal), a living analog to mineral magnetism that was distributed throughout the cosmos and was especially active in human bodies. (“Animal” is something of a misnomer; Mesmer meant animal as opposed to mineral, not as opposed to human. Think “vital magnetism.”) Adams aptly called Mesmer’s practice “a kind of [More]

Moral Evil in Practical Ethics

2019.03.14 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Shlomit Harrosh and Roger Crisp (eds.), Moral Evil in Practical Ethics, Routledge, 2019, 249pp., $140.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781138316041. Reviewed by Avery Kolers, University of Louisville Close to the midpoint of this profound collection, Gideon Calder quotes a 1946 letter from Hannah Arendt to Karl Jaspers: We have to combat all impulses to mythologize the horrible, and to the extent that I can't avoid [doing so], I haven't understood what actually went on. (141) Philosophical theorizing about evil is undergoing a widely hailed renaissance, one that dates to the late 1990s as scholars sought to come to grips with the lessons of the 20th Century even as 'Western' responses to violence in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia made a mockery of the phrase "never again." The ten original essays in this anthology do not... Read [More]

Against Those in the Disciplines

2019.03.13 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Sextus Empiricus, Against Those in the Disciplines, Richard Bett (tr., intro.), Oxford University Press, 2018, 270pp., $65.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198712701. Reviewed by Stéphane Marchand, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne How can anyone claim that music, or grammar, is non-existent? How can we deny the existence of well-known and established practices such as rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, and even astrology? How can anyone be against grammarians, rhetoricians, geometricians, arithmeticians, and musicians? In Adversus Mathematicos I-IV, Sextus Empiricus explores such issues. Against Those in the Disciplines is Richard Bett's new translation of Adversus Mathematicos I-VI (AM I-VI, often translated as Against the Professors). It follows his translation of Adversus Mathematicos VII-XI (Against the Logicians, Against the Physicists and Against the Ethicists; hereafter AM VII-XI).[1] The overall project of the six treatises (AM I: Against the Grammarians; AM II: Against the... Read [More]

Eliminative Materialism

[Revised entry by William Ramsey on March 11, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Eliminative materialism (or eliminativism) is the radical claim that our ordinary, common-sense understanding of the mind is deeply wrong and that some or all of the mental states posited by common-sense do not actually exist and have no role to play in a mature science of the mind. Descartes famously challenged much of what we take for granted, but he insisted that, for the most part, we can be confident about the content of our own minds. Eliminative materialists go further than Descartes on this point, since [More]

A Wolf in the City: Tyranny and the Tyrant in Plato's Republic

2019.03.11 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Cinzia Arruzza, A Wolf in the City: Tyranny and the Tyrant in Plato's Republic, Oxford University Press, 2019, 296pp., $74.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190678852. Reviewed by Richard Kraut, Northwestern University Plato's reflections in the Republic on democracy and tyranny, and the way the former can engender the latter, now seem, in the age of Trump, more pertinent than ever. Cinzia Aruzza's study is therefore especially welcome and rewarding. She does not herself mention Trump's presidency or the features he shares with our common conception of the tyrannical character type. But she links Plato's time to our own in her concluding chapter, which refers to "the modern phenomenon of Bonapartism" -- the manipulation of the anti-elitist sentiments of the public by charismatic and demagogic leaders. Plato's "psychopathology of the tyrannical leader," she observes, "could serve as the faithful psychological portrait of a number of contemporary tyrants" (253).

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