Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Does Technology Induce Nihilism?

Image via Tim GouwModern life is suffused by technology. We humans do not live in the natural world. We live in the technological world. From dawn to dusk, our activities are facilitated and mediated through a variety of technological aids. These technologies change how we relate to the world and how the world relates to us. Some of them are bright and prominent in our lives. Others have become part of the background furniture (literally) of life — hiding in plain sight.Digital technologies are just the latest additions to our technological ecology. Their novelty means that they induce the most excitement and the most hand-wringing. People worry about the power of these technologies over our lives. Are they being used to surveil us against our wills? To control us and manipulate us to nefarious ends? Do they impair our cognitive capacities? Would we be better off without them?But here’s a question that I suspect few people ask: is digital technology making us more nihilistic? Indeed, most people might think it is an odd question. It is, nevertheless, the question that lies at the heart of Nolen Gertz’s book Nihilism and Technology. The book is a short, polemic about the impact of technology on modern life. Using Nietzsche’s thoughts on nihilism, Gertz argues that digital technologies are provoking and accentuating a form of ‘passive nihilism’ and once this has been identified it should prompt greater critical scrutiny of the role technology is playing in the modern [More]

Graduate Students on Diversity and Inclusivity in Philosophy (guest post by Carolyn Dicey-Jennings)

The following is a guest post* by Carolyn Dicey Jennings, associate professor of philosophy and cognitive science at University of California, Merced, and creator of Academic Placement Data and Analysis (APDA). Graduate Students on Diversity and Inclusivity in Philosophy by Carolyn Dicey-Jennings Many philosophers recognize that the field has a “gender problem,” and maybe even a “race problem,” but I have come to believe that it has a diversity problem. This is because I helped lead a survey that revealed problems for women, those who identify as non-binary, racial and ethnic minorities, those from a low socioeconomic background, those with military or veteran status, LGBTQ philosophers, and those with disabilities. Graduate students from these backgrounds are underrepresented, find themselves less comfortable in philosophy, find philosophy less welcoming, are less likely to recommend their graduate program, are less satisfied with the research preparation, teaching preparation, and financial support of their graduate program, and are less interested in an academic career. This is a problem not only for reasons of equity and inclusion in philosophy, but also because diversity improves collective performance—philosophy is worse off as an academic discipline so long as it has this diversity problem. Fortunately, the participants in our survey provided some insight on how we might move forward, especially favoring increased representation from these groups among faculty [More]

The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy

2019.09.01 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Jan Westerhoff, The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2019, 326pp., $40.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198732662. Reviewed by Ethan Mills, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Jan Westerhoff's book is an ambitious and thorough addition to The Oxford History of Philosophy series. This book, written by an eminent specialist in the field of Buddhist philosophy, serves as an advanced introduction to a fertile period of philosophy as well as a reminder that the history of philosophy cannot merely be identified with the history of Western philosophy. While the book would be accessible to most people with a background in philosophy, it is probably most suitable for those with at least a rudimentary understanding of the basics of early Buddhism. Westerhoff begins with an introduction and then moves on to the four core chapters on Abhidharma, Madhyamaka, Yogācāra, and the Diṅnāga-Dharmakīrti school respectively. This covers roughly the first... Read [More]

Celebrating banned books week

Book banning is not a new phenomenon. The Catholic Church’s prohibition on books advocating heliocentrism lasted until 1758. In England, Thomas Bowdler lent his name to the practice of expurgating supposed vulgarity with the 1818 publication of The Family Shakespeare, edited by his sister. The post Celebrating banned books week appeared first on [More]

20 Theses Regarding Civility (guest post by Amy Olberding)

Too many (most?) conversations about civility begin because someone did something perceived to be uncivil. Making civility all about what other people do is in fact part of the problem, as civility is then degraded into a cudgel and its proponents into cops. Conversation about civility would be improved if sorting oneself out was the focus. The following is a guest post by Amy Olberding, the President’s Associates Presidential Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. It originally appeared at Department of Deviance. (Note: do not use the comments section on this post to call out particular individuals’ you believe have engaged in uncivil behavior. Thank you.) 20 Theses Regarding Civility by Amy Olberding If I could just find the door to the discourse, I’d nail these on it. Dissent does not require incivility. I would have thought this obvious but have now too often heard people voice the assumption that if you’re civil, you’re not dissenting. Civility does not, under any theoretical construction or system of practical application, require that one not dissent. Dissent can be accomplished civilly or uncivilly. Dissent is not inevitably or automatically more powerful, more decisive, or more effective when delivered uncivilly. This is especially so in contexts where incivilities are frequent and commonplace because the emotive force of incivility becomes diluted. Incivility in dissent works in part when it functions to communicate distress, moral [More]

Australia’s New Institute of Philosophy Makes Several Hires

The new philosophical research center at Australian Catholic University created this past March continues to develop. It now has a name—the Dianoia Institute of Philosophy—and has hired a number of philosophers. Stephen Finlay, the director of Dianoia, wrote with the following information: So far in 2019 we have made 9 appointments (8 full time) to add to the 6 existing academic staff. With an ultimate goal of reaching 25-30 researchers in the next few years, we have two other offers out, and we are currently advertising at both junior and senior levels. He also provided a list of those hired just this year: Samuel Baron (philosophy of time, philosophy of mathematics, metaphilosophy) joins us as Senior Research Fellow in January 2020, coming from the University of Western Australia. Kyle Blumberg (philosophy of language, philosophy of mind) joins us as Research Fellow in March 2020. Kyle received his PhD from NYU in 2019, and is coming from a research fellowship at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. Renée Bolinger (political philosophy) joins us as Research Fellow (part time) in January 2020. Renee is assistant professor in the Department of Politics and the Center for Human Values at Princeton University, and will be in Melbourne during the US summer months through 2021. Christina Dietz (philosophy of mind, epistemology) joins us as Research Fellow in March 2020. Christina completed her DPhil at Oxford in 2019, and is coming from a postdoctoral [More]