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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: philosophy, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 473
1. Philosopher of the month: Plato

The OUP Philosophy team have selected Plato (c. 429–c.347 BC) as their February Philosopher of the Month. The best known and most widely studied of all the ancient Greek philosophers, Plato laid the groundwork for Western philosophy and Christian theology. Plato was most likely born in Athens, to Ariston and Perictione, a noble, politically active family.

The post Philosopher of the month: Plato appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Are you really free? Yes: a new argument for freedom

How is human freedom really possible in the natural world as correctly described by modern physics, chemistry, biology, and cognitive neuroscience? Or, given the truth of modern science, are you really free? By 'real freedom,' I mean 'real free will and real rational agency'.

The post Are you really free? Yes: a new argument for freedom appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Epicureanism: eat, drink, and be merry?

Most people have a good idea what it is to have a Stoical attitude to life, but what it means to have an Epicurean attitude is not so obvious. When attempting to decipher the true nature of Epicureanism it is first necessary to dispel the impression that fine dining is its central theme.

The post Epicureanism: eat, drink, and be merry? appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. When probability is not enough

While out driving one afternoon, I notice a bus speeding down the road towards me. As it approaches, the bus drifts into my lane, forcing me to swerve and strike a parked car. The bus doesn’t stop and, while I glimpse some corporate logo on the side, I’m shaken and I don’t manage to make it out.

The post When probability is not enough appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. Bodies of breath, bodies of knowledge, and bodies of culture

Towards the end of his lecture on ‘techniques of the body’, delivered to a meeting of the Société Française de Psychologie in 1934, the sociologist and anthropologist Marcel Mauss discussed the methods of breathing practiced by Daoist priests and Yogic mystics. Far from being instinctive, these techniques require a lengthy apprenticeship.

The post Bodies of breath, bodies of knowledge, and bodies of culture appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. Does the ‘Chinese room’ argument preclude a robot uprising?

There has been much recent talk about a possible robot apocalypse. One person who is highly skeptical about this possibility is philosopher John Searle. In a 2014 essay, he argues that "the prospect of superintelligent computers rising up and killing us, all by themselves, is not a real danger".

The post Does the ‘Chinese room’ argument preclude a robot uprising? appeared first on OUPblog.

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7. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave Turned Into an Astounding Instagram Comic

CaveA creatively vital use of an emerging medium

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8. Time and perception

The human brain is a most wonderful organ: it is our window on time. Our brains have specialized structures that work together to give us our human sense of time. The temporal lobe helps form long term memories, without which we would not be aware of the past, whilst the frontal lobe allows us to plan for the future.

The post Time and perception appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. Test your knowledge of G.E.M. Anscombe

This January, the OUP Philosophy team has chosen Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret (G.E.M.) Anscombe as their Philosopher of the Month. G.E.M. Anscombe (1919 - 2001) was a British analytical philosopher best known for her contributions in the fields of philosophy of the mind, action, language, logic, and ethics. Test your knowledge of this famous female philosopher.

The post Test your knowledge of G.E.M. Anscombe appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. Can a robot be conscious?

Can a robot be conscious? I will try to discuss this without getting bogged down in the rather thorny issue of what consciousness –– really is. Instead, let me first address whether robot consciousness is an important topic to think about. At first sight, it may seem unimportant. Robots will affect us only through their outward behavior, which may be more or less along the lines of what we tend to think of as coming along with consciousness, but given this behavior, its consequences to us are not affected by whether or not it really is accompanied by consciousness.

The post Can a robot be conscious? appeared first on OUPblog.

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11. No time to think

On leaving school, my advisor reminded me to always take time to think. That seemed like a reasonable suggestion, as I trudged off to teach, write, and, of course, think. But the modern academy doesn’t share this value; faculty are increasingly prodded to “produce” more articles, more presentations, more grant applications, and more PhD students.

The post No time to think appeared first on OUPblog.

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12. Lying, belief, and paradox

The Liar paradox is often informally described in terms of someone uttering the sentence: I am lying right now. If we equate lying with merely uttering a falsehood, then this is (roughly speaking) equivalent to a somewhat more formal, more precise version of the paradox that arises by considering a sentence like: "This sentence is false".

The post Lying, belief, and paradox appeared first on OUPblog.

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13. Religious belief, fundamentalism, and intolerance

Religious belief has been allied, for centuries, with fundamentalism and intolerance. It’s possible to have one without the other, but it requires a degree of self-criticism that is not easily acquired. When Calvin endorsed the execution of Michael Servetus in 1553, he justified his decision by appeal to the certainty of his own religious faith.

The post Religious belief, fundamentalism, and intolerance appeared first on OUPblog.

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14. 10 surprising facts about atheism

Atheism is the absence of belief that God, and other deities, exist. How much do you know about this belief system? Julian Baggini, author of Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, tells us the ten things we never knew about atheism.

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15. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense turns 240 years old

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher.

The post Thomas Paine’s Common Sense turns 240 years old appeared first on OUPblog.

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16. Philosopher of the month: Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe

The OUP Philosophy team have selected Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe as their January Philosopher of the Month. Anscombe was born in Limerick, Ireland, and spent much of her education at the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. An analytical philosopher, Anscombe is best known for her works in the philosophy of mind, action, language, logic, and ethics.

The post Philosopher of the month: Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe appeared first on OUPblog.

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17. Generations of asylum seekers

With this family history behind me, questions of immigration are never far from my mind. I owe my existence to the generosity of the UK in taking in generations of refugees, as well as the kindness shown by one wealthy unmarried Christian woman – who agreed to foster my father for a few months until his parents arrived, but as that never happened, becoming his guardian until adulthood.

The post Generations of asylum seekers appeared first on OUPblog.

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18. The traumatising language of risk in mental health nursing

Despite progress in the care and treatment of mental health problems, violence directed at self or others remains high in many parts of the world. Subsequently, there is increasing attention to risk assessment in mental health. But it this doing more harm than good?

The post The traumatising language of risk in mental health nursing appeared first on OUPblog.

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19. Philosopher of the Month: Baruch Spinoza

The OUP Philosophy team has selected Baruch Spinoza as their December Philosopher of the Month. Born in Amsterdam, Spinoza has been called the “Prince of Philosophy” due to his revelatory work in ethics, epistemology, and other fields of philosophy. His works include 'The Principles of Cartesian Philosophy', 'Theologico-Political Treatise', and his magnum opus, 'Ethics'.

The post Philosopher of the Month: Baruch Spinoza appeared first on OUPblog.

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20. Hegel and The Birth of Theory

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The recently published May 2015 issue of PMLA included a special feature in its “Theories and Methodologies” section devoted to a number of wide-ranging commentaries by contemporary scholars on Andrew Cole’s The Birth of Theory. Cole’s book—readily endorsed by Frederic Jameson and Mladen Dolar, among others—situates Hegel’s dialectic as the ur-theory and method of social analysis from which most of the major thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries would further constitute “theory” as distinct from systematic philosophy. In collaboration with PMLA, we’re pleased to excerpt the opening of Cole’s own piece for the journal, “The Function of Theory at the Present Time,” which follows below. You can read more about the issue in full here, or visit Cole’s page at Princeton University, here.

***

From “The Function of Theory at the Present Time”

by Andrew Cole

Let me start by defining “theory,” because the definition itself illustrates why we can name Hegel as its inventor, rather than Marx or Nietzsche, both of whom pick up where Hegel left off. As I suggest in The Birth of Theory, Hegel founds theory in his break from Kant, which I regard as the signal moment when philosophy transforms into theory as we now know it. What makes Hegel different from Kant, in other words, is what makes his habits of thought—his dialectic, above all—lasting and familiar and such a part of what goes into critical theorizing today, even within schools of thought that celebrate their anti-Hegelianism or are indifferent to Hegel. In Hegel we find the following three features that I am content to call “theory.”

First, theory is distinct from philosophy, because it challenges the grounds on which you can presume to describe the world, as the first section of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit makes clear in its portrayal of a subject (or “consciousness”) who is in tatters after failing to account coherently for objects in the world. Hegel is bold here. He starts the Phenomenology of Spirit by undoing philosophy as practiced in his day. He gives you no transcendental ego, no handy schematic for possible experience, no subject who cognizes the world effortlessly but has awkward moral problems, no geometrical proofs, and no dislike of contradiction. And with no transcendental ego on the scene, Hegel leaves room for something far more compelling: the Other, in all of its epistemological and ethical significance. (The Other is also Hegel’s invention.)

It’s for these reasons that I think theory is best defined, in the first instance, as philosophy against itself. Theory, like philosophy, requires rigor of thought, but it tries not to confuse consistency for systematicity. It’s not for everyone, as Hegel’s long reception history has made clear. But what’s challenging about Hegel is what’s difficult about getting a grip on thinking itself (even today, philosophers of mind find it nearly impossible to define “consciousness”). In this respect you could say that the shift from Kant to Hegel is the shift from experience to thought—thinking no longer being spontaneous experience but active reflection, a perspective on experience. In Kant, in other words, we do the work of reading a difficult philosophy about what constitutes experience. But in Hegel we read experience itself and face the difficulties of thinking with the kind of confidence you might expect from philosophy. Granted, Kant makes room for an alternative: not cognition but “thinking,” which involves not constitutive concepts—those sorting mechanisms hidden deep within our noumenal selves that render the manifold legible to our understanding—but rather regulative concepts, which we consciously contrive to help us divine ideas about what we can’t experience directly, the supersensibilia (see Critique of Judgement). Hegel, however, collapses this distinction between constitutive and regulative concepts and dispenses with the supersensibilia or noumena that necessitates such conceptual distinctions in the first place. And without constitutive concepts, there’s no Kant: the whole core of his “Copernican” first Critique drops out. The result is radical. It not only nullifies critical philosophy but also leads to another important aspect of theory as it emerges in Hegel’s work.

The second feature of theory holds that we are linguistic beings and that experience is so structured like a language that it qualifies as a language. Kant would never say this. At most, he speaks of the empty but temporal unfolding of the “inner sense” (Critique of Pure Reason 255 [b291]) or the succession of perception following on the order of events. But Hegel says that “it is in language that we are conceptually productive” (qtd. in Birth of Theory ii), which means that we not only think in language but also conceptualize in language. For Hegel, concepts are not just logical operators but figures—figures that then double back and do conceptual work (ibid. 156–61). In other words, in Kant, concepts huddle together while supping at the table of categories, always minding their manners and doing what they’re tasked to do: process the manifold. But in Hegel concepts leave the table and in so doing depart from fixity, from order, from transcendence. It’s as if all concepts in Hegel are regulative concepts, which for Kant (in his third Critique) are indeed the stuff of language, poetry, art, imagination, allusion, analogy, and other forms of thought by which we labor to make sense of what’s initially other to us. In this sense, theory is concerned with the materiality of thought, the materialization of thinking—which brings us to yet another feature of theory.

The third aspect that can be said to define theory is that theory historicizes thought, studying its materialization across disparate forms of human expression—music, literature, art, architecture, religion, philosophy—either in a diachronic or synchronic analysis—or, aspirationally, both at once. It’s enough for a scholar to focus on one of these disciplines or only one mode of historical analysis, but Hegel’s ambition was to think these all at once or pursue a project of writing that would take him from form to form, time to time, place to place. This is the hardest kind of critical writing to do, and Hegel didn’t always succeed, at times offering what we can all agree are culturally blinkered positions. But the method is there, as is the hope for it, once more scotching Kant’s conceptual scheme. Here, again, Hegel works over Kant’s constitutive concepts. To be sure, if Hegel was going to deal in fixed concepts, he would, in true dialectical fashion, put them in the wrong place—not in the self but in history, whereby the concept of a period or some other totalizing conception of a historical moment (like an episteme) is always in tension with the individual examples emerging from within its frame, examples that have a share in conceptualizing a period precisely because they conceptualize by other means: through figuration. Examples—be they poems, paintings, sculptures—are never adequate to their moment. Rather, they are behind or ahead. They contradict their age and one another. Or to turn this formulation around: every present moment is a tangle of emergent and residual forms.

Those are the three main points in what I argue is Hegel’s invention of theory in opposition to Kant’s philosophy, and I support my case by offering multiple histories of dialectical thinking from Plato, Plotinus, and Aristotle to Hegel (more on this below); from Hegel to Marx (whose theory of commodity fetishism restages Hegelian eucharistic fetishism); from Hegel to Nietzsche (whose dialectical tendencies for once deserve acknowledgment); from Hegel to the nineteenth-century English and American critics experimenting with Hegelianism contra Victorian formalism (T. H. Green, Bernard Bosanquet, William Courthope, Leslie Stephen, Vida Dutton Scudder); from Hegel to Bakhtin (whose Hegelianism is always a question); from Hegel to Jameson (always honest about his Hegelianism); and from Hegel to Deleuze, in whose work you’d expect to find Hegel as an epithet, but who instead supplies perhaps the best example of a patently Hegelian “conceptual figuration,” whereby figures do the work of concepts and vice versa. When the gap between Hegel and Deleuze closes, a space for utopian thinking opens up, in which dialectics is energized by phenomenologies past and present.

It’s fine, of course, even de rigueur, to call yourself a theorist but not a Hegelian. But if any of the three points listed above seem important for the task of theorizing, even if you use different emphases and terms, then you have Hegel to thank. That is fundamentally my argument about theory, no more and no less. If none of your theoretical program is included here, it doesn’t mean it’s not important. My aim, at any rate, in The Birth of Theory is to explain why dialectics merits the name “theory” in its most general and particular sense—theory as a certain relation to philosophy, theory as a point of view on concepts and on the process of theorizing, and theory as reflection on history. All of this begins quite clearly in Hegel, and I am unapologetic for saying so in the light of lingering worries about “origins” (Birth of Theory 22–23).

But if dialectics is theory, then where did Hegel get his dialectics? Here we enter into a history of thinking from Plato to the present that strangely hasn’t been undertaken in the disciplines of theory. The reason for this lacuna is not the range of that history but rather the prevailing assumptions about the nonvalidity of premodern, or specifically medieval, thought today. Theorists can’t underestimate the Middle Ages any longer. As I argue in chapters 1 and 2, Hegel didn’t invent his dialectic. Rather, he took it from the Middle Ages. In (again) seeking to depart from Kant’s critical philosophy, Hegel deliberately adopts the distinctly medieval dialectic of identity/difference as the signal instance of dialectical thinking itself. But what makes identity/difference a medieval dialectic? The answer comes in the realization that while these two logical categories, identity and difference, are familiar to theorists today (thanks to Hegel), so familiar as to seem to have no history, they weren’t properly dialectical in the philosophy of Plato or Aristotle. They had their dialectical beginning, rather, in postclassical philosophy, in Plotinus in particular, who radically modified the ancient discipline of dialectic by prioritizing the thinking of differences in identity and identities in difference. By setting the categories of identity and difference at the center of dialectic, Plotinus fashioned a powerful dialectical mode of contemplation that was influential throughout the Middle Ages, with Nicholas of Cusa representing perhaps the last and best known example. Hegel, I show, drew from this medieval tradition of dialectical thinking by following the form, placing identity and difference at the center of his own dialectic. In so doing, he rejected the classical, or antique, legacy of dialectic, as well as the early modern aspersions against medieval dialectic.

Yet if we are to understand what makes Hegelian dialectical theory critical on its own terms, then we need to unthink Marx’s (and Engels’s) famous statement “It has not occurred to any one of these philosophers to inquire into the connection of German philosophy with German reality, the relation of their criticism to their own material surroundings.” At least, we need to rethink its target. For if any philosopher “inquired into the connection of German philosophy with German reality, the relation of their criticism to their own material surroundings,” it was Hegel. And his “master-slave” or, more accurately, “lord-bondsman” dialectic is the example right under our noses. As I show in chapter 3 of The Birth of Theory, this most famous dialectical scenario in the Phenomenology of Spirit represents Hegel’s explicit critique of precapitalist modes of production evidenced in the German states while Hegel was alive—the forms of Grundherrschaft historians consistently characterize as feudalism. In his critique, Hegel reveals himself to be presciently proto-Marxist and exposes, prospectively, how patently absurd it is to blame Hegel for condoning capitalism or to declaim that “Hegel’s stand-point is that of modern political economy,” as Marx says (qtd. in Birth of Theory 118). There was no capitalism around for Hegel to critique. The truth of the matter is born from an analogy: what feudalism is to Hegel capitalism is to Marx.

The analogy itself aims to do two things: to show that Hegel is presciently Marxist in his critique of his “own material surroundings,” thereby explaining why Marx would find Hegel’s dialectic to be theoretically necessary to begin with; and to restore modes of production to the analysis not only of history or literature but of theory and philosophy, grounding these latter in the contexts of their emergence.

Andrew Cole is professor English at Princeton University and director of the Gauss Seminars in Criticism.

(Excerpted and adapted from “The Function of Theory at the Present Time,” PMLA 130.3 [2015]: 809–18.
Posted by permission of the Modern Language Association of America. © 2015 Andrew Cole.)

***

To read more about The Birth of Theory, click here.

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21. What are human rights?

On this anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is worth reflecting on the nature of human rights and what functions they perform in moral, political and legal discourse and practice. For moral theorists, the dominant approach to the normative foundations of international human rights conceives of human rights as moral entitlements that all human beings possess by virtue of our common humanity.

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22. Most powerful lesson from Ebola: We do not learn our lessons

‘Ebola is a wake-up call.’ This is a common sentiment expressed by those who have reflected on the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa. It is a reaction to the nearly 30,000 cases and over 11,000 deaths that have occurred since the first cases of the outbreak were reported in March 2014.

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23. Test your knowledge of Baruch Spinoza [quiz]

This December, the OUP Philosophy team has chosen Baruch Spinoza as their Philosopher of the Month. The seventeenth century philosopher was seen as a controversial figure due to his views on God and religion, leading to excommunication from the Amsterdam Jewish community and his books being banned by the Church.

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24. Mythology redux: The Force Awakens once again

For some time now, I have been among those who have argued that the fandom associated with the Star Wars franchise is akin to a religion. There are those who will quarrel with the word choice, but it is hard to gainsay the dedication of fans to the original films

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25. A world with persons but without states

Kantian ethical anarchism is ethical anti-statism. It says that there is no adequate rational justification for political authority, the state, or any other state-like institution, and that we should reject and exit the state and other state-like institutions, in order to create and belong to a real-world, worldwide ethical community, aka humanity, in a world without any states or state-like institutions.

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