Category Archives: Items of the academy / learning

Should you return to college in the fall?

I doubt this post will reach many among its intended audience, but in case it helps anyone, I’ll try to offer some advice. First, to set the stage. In this pandemic, nobody really knows what they are doing. Scientists have … Continue reading

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The impact of Boris Hessen

Reading: Gerardo Ienna and Giulia Rispoli, “Boris Hessen at the Crossroads of Science and Ideology from International Circulation to the Soviet Context”, Society and Politics, 2019, 13:37-63. [These are just some preliminary notes on a very complex story I am … Continue reading

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Is there such a thing as the history of philosophy?

(Reading Christia Mercer. “The Contextualist Revolution in Early Modern Philosophy.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 57, no. 3 (2019): 529-548.) Christia Mercer has revisited the methodological battles that have waged among scholars of the history of philosophy. She uses … Continue reading

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A New Liberal Arts

The traditional liberal arts (logic, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music) arose for two reasons: to preserve knowledge and to render young men fit for positions of influence. Knowledge had pretty much been wiped out in western Europe with … Continue reading

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Enlightenment now

(Reading Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now) I am totally down with this book. Its main thesis is that the core values of the Enlightenment – Reason, Science, and Humanism – have resulted in human life being better in every measurable way. … Continue reading

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Philosophy as an art of concepts

Around the beginning of the 20th century, the intellectual landscape changed radically and forever. The old view, let’s say, presumed the intelligibility of a God’s eye perspective: a vision of Things as They Are, or Things as They Really Are … Continue reading

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Philosophy as enchantment?

[What follows is a version of an address recently given at the Mountain-Plains Philosophy Conference, where a good time was had by all.] In a lecture at the University of Munich in 1919 – the year before he died – … Continue reading

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Philosophy and its history

Philosophy and its History: aims and methods in the study of early modern philosophy, edited by Mogens Laerke, Justin E. H. Smith, and Eric Schliesser (Oxford UP, 2013). For the longest time, philosophers were interested in their own history only … Continue reading

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On productive criticisms

I have been in a couple of discussions recently in which someone opined that certain sorts of objections or criticisms are not “productive”. The basic idea is that a criticism should not be wholly negative; it should point out a … Continue reading

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Truth: an initial stab at the thing

On campus we are having a series of discussions under the title of “facticity.” No, it’s not a headlong plunge into German idealism and the impossible task of capturing the brute “thatness” of what experience coughs up. Instead, it is … Continue reading

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Putting history into history of philosophy

If we wish, however, to arrive at an interpretation of a text, an understanding of why its contents are as they are and not otherwise, we are still left with the further task of recovering what the author may have … Continue reading

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The Cold War’s shaping of American philosophy

John McCumber, Time in the Ditch: American philosophy and the McCarthy era (Northwestern UP 2001) George Reisch, How the Cold War Transformed Philosophy of Science (Cambridge UP 2005) Whether inclined toward socialism in the 1930s or defending itself against anticommunism … Continue reading

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Philosophy: it helps you get reddit points

The blog Useful Concepts posted a set of interesting observations about why philosophy doesn’t have more of a cultural presence, particularly on the web. The author posted on reddit, and then summed up the more cogent replies. What he came … Continue reading

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Dansplaining

(Some reflections on Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back.) Daniel Dennett loves to explain. In route to explain one thing, he’ll explain three intermediate things, taking time out to explore four or five tangential things. We might call this … Continue reading

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Knowledge, that human practice

Ordinarily, we think knowledge is having in one’s head some kind of story or an explanation that matches how Things Really Are. This ordinary conception has at least two problems. First, it assumes that there is a way Things Really … Continue reading

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