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Should we eat animals? Vegetarians often say “No, because the meat industry harms animals greatly.” They point to the appalling conditions in which animals are raised in factory farms, and the manner in which they are killed. Meat-eaters often reply that this objection is ill-founded because animals owe their very existence to the meat industry.
On a blustery St. Martin’s Eve in 1619, a twenty-three year old French gentleman soldier in the service of Maximilian of Bavaria was billeted near Ulm, Germany. Having recently quit his military service under Maurice of Nassau, he was new to the Bavarian army and a stranger to the area.
What could philosophy have to do with odors and perfumes? And what could odors and perfumes have to do with Art? After all, many philosophers have considered smell the lowest and most animal of the senses and have viewed perfume as a trivial luxury.
Novelists are used to their characters getting away from them. Tolstoy once complained that Katyusha Maslova was “dictating” her actions to him as he wrestled with the plot of his last novel, Resurrection. There was a story that after reading Mikhail Sholokhov’s And Quiet Flows the Don, Stalin praised the work but advised the author to “convince” the main character, Melekhov, to stop loafing about and start serving in the Red Army.
Long excluded from serious consideration within psychology and the neurosciences, consciousness is back in business. A new journal Neuroscience of Consciousness will catalyse this new understanding by publishing the best new research, review, and opinion on how our "inner universe" comes to be.
We are a weird species. Like other species, we have a culture. But by comparison with other species, we are strangely unstable: human cultures self-transform, diverge, and multiply with bewildering speed. They vary, radically and rapidly, from time to time and place to place. And the way we live - our manners, morals, habits, experiences, relationships, technology, values - seems to be changing at an ever accelerating pace. The effects can be dislocating, baffling, sometimes terrifying. Why is this?
This October, the OUP Philosophy team has chosen Karl Marx as their Philosopher of the Month. Karl Marx was an economist and philosopher best known for 'The Communist Manifesto' and 'Das Kapital'. Although sometimes misconstrued, his work has influenced various political leaders including Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, and the 14th Dalai Lama.
If there were superintelligent beings – creatures as far above the smartest human as that person is above a worm – what would they value? And what would they think of us? Would they treasure, tolerate, ignore, or eradicate us?
The Armenian genocide and the Holocaust took place decades ago, but the novelist William Faulkner was right when he said that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” It had been hoped that “Never again!” might be more than a slogan, but in April 1994, the Rwandan genocide began and was soon in full cry.
How do opera and philosophy intersect? At first glance, this might seem like a strange question, for opera and philosophy are unlikely bedfellows. To speak of philosophy conjures up images of dry abstraction and bookish head-scratching, whereas to talk of opera is to call to mind cacophonous spectacles of colours and voices, of multitudinous audiences enthralled by impassioned song.
I approach myth from the standpoint of theories of myth, or generalizations about the origin, the function, and the subject matter of myth. There are hundreds of theories. They hail from anthropology, sociology, psychology, politics, literature, philosophy, and religious studies.
Robert Hanna presents an argument based on some highly-plausible Kantian metaphysical, moral, political premises, about a huge real-world problem that greatly concerns me: the global refugee crisis, including its current manifestation in Europe.
In a 1929 lecture, Martin Heidegger argued that the following claim is true: Nothing nothings. In German: “Das Nichts nichtet”. Years later Rudolph Carnap ridiculed this statement as the worst sort of meaningless metaphysical nonsense in an essay titled “Overcoming of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of Language”. But is this positivistic attitude reasonable?
Throughout much of the last century, the idea that we inhabit a somehow disenchanted modernity has exerted a powerful hold in political and public debate. As the political theorist Jane Bennett argues, the story is that there was once a time when God acted in human affairs and when social life, characterized by face-to-face relations, was richer; but this world then ‘gave way to forces of scientific and instrumental rationality, secularism, individualism, and the bureaucratic state – all of which, combined, disenchant the world’.
There are massive inequalities in global health opportunities and outcomes. Consider, for instance, that Japan has around twenty-one physicians per 10,000 people, while Malawi has only one physician for every fifty thousand people. This radical inequality in medical skills and talents has, obviously, bad consequences for health; people born in Malawi will live, on average, […]
Engaging in critical thinking about one’s own belief system does not often include laughing so much you end up breathless and hiccuping but that’s just what happened one evening last week when our bedtime read was Meet at the Ark at Eight! by Ulrich Hub, illustrated by Jörg Mühle, translated by Helena Ragg-Kirkby.
This witty, keenly observed and questioning novella retells the biblical flood story with wave after wave of philosophical observations and deadpan humour. Two (male) penguins smuggle a third aboard the ark when an overworked and stressed-out dove chivvies them along to avoid extinction.
Deep in the hold of the boat the friends continue what they started on land: trying to tease out in their own minds whether God exists, and if so, what he is like. Conundrums (“We’re birds, but we smell like fish; we have wings, but we can’t fly.“), chance (“Life is so strange. If two other penguins had been standing here, they’d have been given these tickets and we’d have ended up drowning miserably,“), honesty, guilt and the complexities of friendships are explored with a stark innocence that makes the penguins’ questioning all the more powerful.
And these questions are ones that I think come naturally to children when thinking about religion – about punishment, about proof, about the essence of faith. The answers, such as they are in this book, leave a lot of space for making up your own mind; this isn’t a black and white pot-shot at religious fundamentalism, but something much more nuanced, even if some may find the laser-sharp humour hard to marry with their own beliefs.
Whether or not you or your kids pick this book up because of its rich philosophical strand, two further aspects of this moral tale are worth pointing out.
Meet at the Ark at Eight! is extremely funny. One scene in particular had my girls and I barely able to breathe for all the laughter as I read the book out loud to them; when the dove comes to check up on the penguins, one of them hides in a suitcase and pretends to be the voice of God. This scene is just so theatrical (it comes as no surprise to later find out that the author, Ulrich Hub, has written many plays) with perfect timing and exquisite dialogue. “God”‘s game is up when he pushes the boundary just a little too far and asks the dove for some cheesecake; I am putting money on this becoming a family catchphrase that will stay with us all our book=reading lives.
Secondly, the illustrations by Jörg Mühle are wonderful. Nearly every double page spread has at least one illustration and the characterization, especially of the dove, is sublime. I’ve seen very few cases in all the illustrated books I’ve ever read where an apparently simple, nonchalant line can pack such a punch.
I can only heartily encourage you to read this multi-award-winning retelling to find out how three goes into two for the final disembarkation in front of Noah. This novella hides real delight and serious philosophizing in between its slim, sensational pages.
The day after we read Meet at the Ark at Eight! “God” came visiting in his suitcase. We supplied cheesecake, and I’m glad to report that penguins, kids and all the celestial beings we know were all very happy with such a delicious after school treat.
Whilst taste-testing cheesecake we listened to:
Cheesecake by none other than the brilliant Louis Armstrong
This October, the OUP Philosophy team are highlighting German social and political theorist Karl Heinrich Marx (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) as their Philosopher of the Month. Known as the founder of revolutionary communism, Marx is credited as one of the most influential thinkers for his theoretical framework, widely known as Marxism.
For the most part, the practice of philosophy tends to be collective and conversational and collaborative. We enjoy reading what others have written on a given topic, and we like to hear what others have to say, because different people see things differently.
Our diets are a moral choice. We can decide what we want to eat, though more often than not we give little thought to our diet and instead rather habitually and instinctively eat foods that have been served to us since a young age.
Imagine that, on a Tuesday night, shortly before going to bed one night, your roommate says “I promise to only utter truths tomorrow.” The next day, your roommate spends the entire day uttering unproblematic truths like: 1 + 1 = 2.
Once again, searching for unconventional computing methods as well as for a neurocomputational theory of cognition requires knowing what does and does not count as computing. A question that may appear of purely philosophical interest — which physical systems perform which computations — shows up at the cutting edge of computer technology as well as neuroscience.
In ancient Athens, during the fifth century BC, military service was required of all citizens. To be a citizen meant being a soldier, and vice versa. Because every citizen served in the military, the health of the democracy depended upon the health of its soldiers, and the ability of citizen-soldiers to move fluidly and frequently [...]
A reasonable line of thought can give rise to a crisis of commitment: Many a commitment requires persistence or willpower, especially in the face of temptation. A straightforward example is the decision to quit smoking; another is the promise to be faithful to someone for the rest of one’s life.
This September, the OUP Philosophy team have chosen Hannah Arendt as their Philosopher of the Month. Hannah Arendt was a German political theorist and philosopher best known for coining the term “the banality of evil.” She was also the author of various influential political philosophy books.
Consider: a lecture hall of undergraduates, bored and fidgety (and techne-deprived, since I’ve banned computers and devices in class) in distinctive too-cool-for-school Philosophy 101 style.—Ah, but today will be different: the current offering is not Aristotle on causation, or Cartesian dualism, or Kant’s transcendental unity of apperception—no.