Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Bernard Bosanquet

[Revised entry by William Sweet on August 6, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Bernard Bosanquet (1848 - 1923), British philosopher, political theorist and social reformer, was one of the principal exponents (with F.H. Bradley) of late nineteenth and early twentieth century 'Absolute [More]

Commonsense Epiphenomenalism

I recently came across a popular article claiming that epiphenomenalism was "one of the most disturbing ideas in all of philosophy." The author seemed to confuse causal inertness with "irrelevance" in some broader sense, so I won't waste time addressing that further.  But it may be helpful to offer a more commonsensical conception of epiphenomenalism.  Consider:We may think of mental states as having both physical and experiential components: their physical effects are due entirely to the physical aspects of our thoughts. The non-physical (experiential) component, on the other hand, constitutes what it feels like to be in that state. There's then an obvious sense in which our mental states have causal effects, insofar as their physical aspects do. That doesn't require that the causal 'oomph' come from the experiential aspect -- indeed, how could it? Experiential feels aren't the kinds of things that push atoms around. You need other particles to accomplish that!On this view, we may (speaking loosely) say that I pulled my hand away from the hot stove "because it hurt", and this can be perfectly informative, without implying that the hurty feel itself provided the causal force that moved my hand...This sort of property dualism strikes me as perfectly commonsensical, so I find it weird that so many other philosophers seem to regard it as a non-starter.  I mean, I get that many are ideologically committed to physicalism.  But there often seems an [More]

Richard Rorty

[Revised entry by Bjørn Ramberg and Susan Dieleman on August 4, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Richard Rorty (1931 - 2007) developed a distinctive and controversial brand of pragmatism that expressed itself along two main axes. One is negative - a critical diagnosis of what Rorty takes to be defining projects of modern philosophy. The other is positive - an attempt to show what intellectual culture might look like, once we free ourselves from the governing metaphors of mind and knowledge in which the traditional problems of epistemology and metaphysics (and indeed, in Rorty's view, the self-conception [More]

Mandatory Vaccinations

I am vaccinated, I was back teaching in person in the Spring, and most of my regular in person activities are back to normal(ish). So, it is easy for me to forget that a pandemic is still raging. My usual reminders are the news reports on the preventable cases and deaths among the unvaccinated. Because [More]

Descartes’ Theory of Ideas

[Revised entry by Kurt Smith on August 3, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Ideas are among the most important items in Descartes' philosophy. They serve to unify his ontology and epistemology. As he says in a letter to Guillaume Gibieuf (1583 - 1650), dated 19 January 1642, "I am certain that I can have no knowledge of what is outside me except by means of the ideas I have within me."[1] Descartes never published anything that specifically worked out a theory of ideas. Even so, he said enough in published and [More]