NYT Stone – Summaries, Outlines, and Suggested Links



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1. What is a philosopher? Simon Critchley

“The Digression”: Philosopher v. Lawyer

  1. Lawyer/Pettifogger: compelled to present a case in court and time is of the essence – clepsydra­ – time is money

  1. Philosopher – has or takes time- Theodorus – “the digression” http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Biographies/Theodorus.html

Philosophy Kills:

  1. Plato’s Apology: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/apology.html
  2. Aristotle after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle/
  3. Giordano Bruno: https://vimeo.com/107490106
  4. Baruch Spinoza: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza/
  5. David Hume: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hume/
  6. Bertrand Russell in 1940: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/russell/

Can this happen today? Is it right?



  1. The Flight of Curiosity – Justin E.H. Smith

Must one be endowed with curiosity in order to become a philosopher? In the academic realm, no. How did these boundaries form? Philosophers are habituated by their discipline to make a sharp distinction between their various interests and their professional work, as well as from pseudoscience, and science (natural philosophy).

Restyling themselves as scientists, natural philosophers, or curiosi may have helped overcome bad reputation. So what do philosophers do?

Epistemology (theory of knowledge) needs to draw on knowledge of something or other. Partial reconciliation between science and philosophy, but philosophy may have lost its curiosity about the world in all its detail, a desire to know everything encyclopedically, rather than pure activity, rather than philosophy of something, and standing above its objects. This makes a history of philosophy difficult.

  • Kenelm Digby 1658: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powder_of_sympathy
  • Though he was wrong, it is interesting history. To take an interest in false belief is not to reject truth … “false theories are an important part of the puzzle of determining the range of ways people conceptualize the world…that philosophers ought to recognize themselves as having in common with the other human sciences…” etc.
  • New “experimental philosophy” “returning to … inseparability of philosophical reflection and scientific inquiry”

“It is imperative … that historians of philosophy resist this demand for relevance. Scholarship in the history of philosophy must not aim to contribute to the resolution of problems in the current philosophical agenda…instead …reveal the variety of problems … deemed philosophical … providing a broader context within which current philosophers can understand the contingency, and future transformability, of their own problems…”

Philosophical rigor has replaced erudition as the reigning philosophical virtue. But they are not mutually exclusive.



  1. Philosophy as an Art of Dying Costica Bradatan

Philosophers contempt of the body, considered inferior to the mind. “Limit situation” Philosopher has to make a decision:  Die for beliefs, or live with none?

Turns philosophy into a performance. “Lovers of logic and rational argument silenced by brute force”

  • Jan Patočka in office of Czechoslovakian political police 1977
  • Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia
  • Hypatia 5th killed with broken pottery
  • Giordano Bruno – tongue immobilized and burned alive
  • Socrates in Plato’s Phaedo “an intense practice of death”
  • Thomas More

“philosophical martyrdom” … “Socrates … the archetypal philosopher martyr … a protagonist who, because of his commitment to a life of virtue and wisdom seeking, antagonizes his community; his readiness to die for his philosophy rather than accept the dictates of a misguided crowd; a hostile political environment marked by intolerance and narrowmindedness; a situation of crisis escalating into a chain of dramatic events; the climax crowd; and finally the heroic, if unjust, death of the hero, followed by his apotheosis.”



  1. Philosophy – What’s the Use? – Gary Gutting

Foundationalism – sees philosophy as the essential foundation of the beliefs that guide our everyday life – eg that there is a material world

Rene Descartes was a foundationalist

“Rejecting foundationalism means accepting that we have the right to hold basic beliefs that are not legitimized by philosophical reflection.”

Some non-foundationalists:

  • David Hume “we are human beings before we are philosophers”
  • Richard Rorty “priority of democracy over philosophy”
  • Alvin Plantinga

Other ways philosophy can be of practical significance:

Politics and religion do need “intellectual maintenance” involving philosophical thinking

  • Defending your beliefs against objections
  • Clarify what your basic beliefs mean or logically entail
    • Careful conceptual distinctions and logical interconnections

Philosophers disagree about answers to the big questions, but not about logical interconnections and conceptual distinctions needed for thinking about them



  1. In the Cave: Philosophy and Addiction – Peg O’Connor

Applying the “What is it?” question – The Socratic Method



  1. Women in Philosophy? Do the Math – Sally Haslanger
  • 2011 Leiter Report – TT faculty in 51 graduate programs – 21.9% women
  • Digest of Education statistics 2003 16.6% of women in full-time instructional postsecondary positions, 0 women of color, out of 13,000, 27.1% of PhDs went to women
  • 2013 – APA Committee on the Status of Black Philosophers and Society of Young Black Philosophers – 156 blacks in philosophy, including doctoral students and philosophy PhDs in academic positions, including 55 black women, 31 T or TT, worse than another other field.
  • Philosophy lacks the infrastructure to bring about systematic change …small community of feminist and antiracist activists; new APA executive director Amy Ferrer; Colin McGinn case is a tipping point. … only a matter of time.



  1. What’s Wrong with Philosophy? – Linda Martin Alcoff
  • Sexual harassment case against Colin McGinn, who deflected blame, saying the student didn’t understand enough philosophy of language, and he did not intend harm. She’s just not cut out for such a demanding field.
  • Yes, part of it is getting creamed in philosophical dialogue and debate. But it can be done aggressively, seeing easy victories, or it can be done receptively which holds back disagreement long enough to get on board a student’s agenda, try new ideas, and see where they go, applying skepticism to our own ideas, and checking in with the student if they are creamed.



  1. The Disappearing Women – Rae Langton
  • “How many philosophers does it take to change a light bulb? It depends on what you mean by change.” Philosophers having a fetish for word meanings is a caricature. Philosophers also ask hard questions and challenge prejudice. Socrates, Descartes (we’re essentially thinking beings).
  • Radical power has inspired women in philosophy. Mary Astell in 1700 “an opinion’s age is no guide to its truth” … colleges for women
  • We might expect a profession free from bias and welcoming to those targeted by prejudice … hard to square with dearth of women.
  • Louise Anthony “Different Voices or Perfect Storm: Why Are There So Few Women in Philosophy?”
  • “man of reason” stereotype of philosophers, can cause women and people of color to feel unwelcome and underperform, when appropriately primed.
  • Jennifer Saul on psychological biases affecting philosophy
  • Socrates banished the weeping women as a prelude to real business of philosophizing
  • Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia’s objection to Descartes dualism is absent from many editions
  • Maria von Herbert’s question for Kant: Is moral perfection compatible with utter apathy? Absent from editions.
  • How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb. It’s not the light that needs changing.



  1. The Difficulty of Philosophy – Alexander George

Why has it become remote and lost contact with people? This complaint is as old as philosophy itself.

Aristophanes Clouds. Socrates is impatient, distant, pompous

AskPhilosophers.org is popular so philosophers can and do respond to philosophical questions in intelligible and helpful ways, but usually write and teach narrow and abstruse stuff. Rarely taught or read in schools, judged irrelevant.

To wonder about philosophical issues is human … high philosophy usually fails to deliver accessibility.

Plato’s Theaetetus “philosophy begins in wonder” but it doesn’t end there.

How theoretical or difficult need it be? Dominant US conception looks to the sciences for a model of rigor and explanation, discovery-seeing scientists, in search of an organized conception of reality, impatient with expectations of accessibility.

W.V.O. Quine – science – exemplars of what successful answers look like

Aristophanes’s Socrates defends his approach.

History of philosophy: other conceptions of illumination, not demanding discovery of unsuspected general principles.

David Hume 250 years ago dismissed remote speculation in ethics “New discoveries are not to be expected in these matters”

Ludwig Wittgenstein: “problems in philosophy are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have always known.” …philosophy as an inquiry into “what is possible before all new discoveries and inventions.”

The approach that involves the search for “new discoveries” of a theoretical nature is now ascendant.

Philosophy is the only activity such that to pursue questions about the nature of that activity is to engage in it. … One cannot …reflect on the nature of philosophy without doing philosophy.



  1. The Philosophical Dinner Party – Frieda Klotz

Standard perception of philosophy: asks daunting and esoteric questions.

Alexander George: “Can philosophy be fun?”

  • Diogenes the Cynic
  • Marcus Aurelius

Divisions between academic and practical philosophy

  • Plato tried to translate philosophy into action, tutored Dionysus I, king of Syracuse, and his son, each of whom feel out with him
  • Plutarch “fun with serious effort” post-Classical 2nd AD when philosophy focused on ethics and morals. Biographer, priest, politician, Middle Platonist in Greece under Roman rule, wrote a “bible for heroes” borrowed from by Shakespeare and Emerson, with a brief moral essay comparing the faults and virtues of each of his subjects, in over 80 moral essays of the Lives,  his practical take on philosophy, aimed at teaching readers how to live. http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/index-Plutarch.html
    • Philosophy should be taught at dinner parties, through literature, or written in letters of advice to friends, not in isolation, is about friendship, social and shared, should engage in politics, be busy, as idleness is no remedy for stress.
    • How to deal with day to day circumstances, philosopher sprinkles seriousness into a silly conversation, gives advice and offers counsel, but prefers a discussion to conversation-hogging monologue, likes to exchange ideas over drinks but does not enjoy aggressive arguments.
    • 2 Interpretive tiers of Lives:
      • Advice on philosophical behavior for less educated readers
      • A call to further learning for those who would want more
    • Similar to cognitive behavioral theory
      • Of contentment: change your attitudes! Think positive nongloomy thoughts. “there are storm winds that vex the rich and the poor, both married and single.”
      • “Table Talks” dinner and drinking parties grappling with 95 topics incl. science, medicine, social etiquette, women, alcohol, food and literature. “Is philosophy a suitable topic of discussion at a dinner party? Yes. Because philosophy is about conducting oneself in a certain way.
    • Plutarch’s work is often looked down on for eclecticism and practical nature
      • Emerson said he was not especially intelligent, not profound, nor a metaphysician like Parmenides, Plato, or Aristotle.
      • Plutarch (Greek under Roman rule drinking happily) v. Socrates (condemned to suicide).
      • Friendship, parties, and wine are not trivial. Now more than ever we need Plutarch’s sort of philosophy –the everyday kind; it may still be difficult, but it should be fun.



  1. When Socrates Met Phaedrus: Eros in Philosophy – Simon Critchley

CRAZY HOT – Greek Eros denotes sexual pleasure and the name of a god, is physical and metaphysical.

Socrates bumps into Phaedrus who’s excited about a speech by Lysias on love, and he reads the speech to Socrates in the only time in Platonic dialogues when Socrates leaves the city. It’s hot and they walk barefoot by the Ilissos River, and sit in the shade under a broad leafed platanos tree, put their feet in the river, listening to the cicadas, and Socrates says that if they are inspired by the Muses, then philosophers should be inspired by them, though they don’t sing as well, but live longer. Phaedrus says Socrates looks out of place.

EROS IS A FORCE – that compels physical love and philosophy, that is somehow outside the self, but toward which the soul can incline itself, what Socrates calls a god, compelling the philosopher to leave the cave in Plato’s Republic. How does the first slave get free to free the others? Love? The enabling condition for freedom is a force that compels, a necessity, and eros turns the freedom of the philosopher inside out.

PHILOSOPHY’S PRIMAL SCENE – Eros in Phaedrus? Central enigma of the dialogue:

  • Rhetoric
    • Tragic poets – stirring up powerful emotions of pity and fear leading to catharsis/purification/purgation
    • Sophists/pettifogger – exploited link between emotion and rhetoric to teach the art of persuasive speech that was central to the practice of law and litigation.
  • Eros (philosophers)
    • Socrates as a madman or fool unable to defend himself is the defining criterion of a philosopher in Apology and Theaetetus
    • No sense of time, uses time badly, takes time… leads to his death in Athens, maybe justified; no historical alliance between philosophy and democracy

WHO IS PHAEDRUS? – How might there be a true speech that avoids bad rhetoric or sophistry? Purpose of the dialogue: to arouse emotion, inflame a philosophical eros, in Phaedrus, a dim, simple soul, who lives for listening to speeches (like someone who likes TED talks), so Socrates gives him that pleasure with an uncharacteristically long speech (doing what he himself hates) and has to keep reminding Phaedrus what he said before (during a discussion of recollection versus reminding), and Phaedrus forgets part of a discussion about memory, etc, the irony of which passes him by.

DIRECTING THE SOUL: BAD RHETORIC AND GOOD – Rhetoric, defined by Sophist Gorgias induces persuasion in the listener. Defined by Socrates: a kind if bewitchment that holds the listener spellbound; criticism of the poets; but precisely how he teaches Phaedrus. Discussion of Lysias’s speech leads to a discussion of artful or true speech and ends in the definition of the philosopher as the true lover, a lover of truth, a philosophical eros giving the ability to distinguish bad rhetoric (Lysias’s speech) from true rhetoric (Socrates’s speech). It meets Phaedrus on his own terms, accepting his preferences, prejudices, and sense of what matters and then turning his delight in speeches to a commitment to philosophy.

THE PURPOSE OF PHILOSOPHICAL DIALOGUE- Dialogue is the attempt to persuade the other in terms that they will understand and accept, whatever it is that they believe. Each is singular and does not always succeed (Gorgias, e.g.)

PHILOSOPHY AS A PERFORMANCE –Socrates’s criteria for philosophical rhetoric to engender eros, when soul-leading: Based on knowledge of the nature of various kinds of soul, and which sorts of speeches would appeal to them: what is the person standing in front of you like? Speak in terms that they will accept, say the right thing in the right way and the right time to the person right in front of you.

Phaedrus is reflexive; final scene beautifully denounces writing; an enactment of the conditions of true philosophical rhetoric theorized in the dialogue, performative self-enactment of philosophy. Eros is a force that shapes the philosopher, rhetoric is the art by which the philosopher persuades the non-philosopher to assume philosophical Eros, to incline his or her soul toward truth, uses true rhetoric against false rhetoric.





12.The Enlightenment’s Race Problem and Ours – Justin E. H. Smith

Johannes Gottfried Kraus (pre-racial) versus David Hume & Immanuel Kant (racial)

Anton Wilhelm Amo: http://www.theamoproject.org/

  • West AfricanLegal theorist
  • Chamber slave of Duke Anton Ulrich of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel
  • 1734 write philosophy dissertation “On the Impassivity of the Human Mind”
  • First publication in 1729 a jurisprudential treatise “On the Right of Moors in Europe” in which Amo argues that the kings of the moors were enfeoffed by the Roman Emperor Justinian and had to get a royal patent from him. Thus African kingdoms were all recognized under Roman law, and therefore all Africans in Europe have the status of visiting royal subjects with legal protection that precludes their enslavement. This is historically implausible since much of Africa was unknown to Justinian Europe.
  • Enlightenment thought (Why do we stick with these categories?)
    1. Supposedly universal
    2. Liberty equality, fraternity
  • Counter-enlightenment thought- 18th C
    1. Johan Gottfried Herder – antiracist views of human diversity
    2. Whiteness is not the default setting
  • Post-enlightenment
    1. What is race?
      1. Historical and social construction, not a natural category, nor biologically significant (since mid 20th c.)
      2. Lawrence Hirschfeld 1996 book Race in the Making: Cognition, Culture, and the Child’s Construction of Human Kinds
        1. There are real observable differences
        2. Social definitions are inadequate
      3. Reasons for retaining concepts of race
        1. Pragmatic utility related to social inequality, access to health care
      4. Kwame Anthony Appiah,
        1. skeptic about biological race
        2. Socially expedient and unavoidable for members of perceived racial minorities
      5. Ron Mallon
        1. Descriptive/Metaphysical views of really existent kinds
        2. Normative views which take race to be useful but not real
          1. Eliminativist – get rid of a bad concept
          2. Conservationist – some uses worth holding onto
        3. So, why not use “culture” or “ethnicity” instead?
      6. American Culture perpetuates concept of race and take it for granted as capturing relevant differences
        1. Thomas B. Edsall, “The Persistence of Racial Resentment” – “black” and “white”, slavery, immigration, assimilation, exclusion tend to correlate with looking different. (more different than Serbs from Bosnians, Tutsi from Hutu.) creating the illusion that the look is causing perception of cultural-historical distinctness. The conflicts are supposedly based on race, rather than history, politics and culture

Amo met an unhappy end in Germany. His freedom and education was given to impress Tsar Peter the Great of Russia, and was abandoned by his sponsors when Russia was no longer politically necessary; was a tutor for a while but in 1747 returned to West Africa in disgrace. It’s known that he lived to at least age 50 but not when or how he died, except for “outside of history, philosophically disenfranchised”, defined by triviality of skin color. If we keep choosing Kant and Hume, we turn our backs on the legacy of Anton Wilhelm Amo, and those who judged him on his merits.



  1. Kung Fu for Philosophers – Peimin Ni

Broad understanding of kung fu:  Martial arts is not about fighting and killing but about improving wisdom and intelligence; any ability resulting from practice and cultivation could accurately be said to embody kung fu.

Song and Ming Dynasties of China, term used by Confucians, Daoists, and Buddhists for the art of living one’s life, in general

A key to understanding traditional Chinese philosophy: more about how to live one’s life, rather than finding out the truth about reality.

  1. Zhuangzi (4th c. BC) dreaming of a butterfly or vice versa (cf. virtual reality and The Matrix); we should go along with the transformation of things rather than searching in vain for what is real.
  2. Confucius – “rectification of names”, use words (placeholders for expectation of treatment) appropriately (compare J.L. Austin and the “performative” function of language)
  3. Mencius
  4. Xunzi’s views about human nature: how one should view oneself in order to become a better person than metaphysical assertions about whether humans are good or bad
  5. Buddhist no-self; aim to free one from suffering from attachment to the self

Kung Fu as focus on practice, not conceptual understanding, opening up to intelligence of that used in the arts, lack of clear definitions, absence of linear arguments – not a weakness but a requirement of kung fu.

Jacques Derrida – Problem of Western logocentrism

  1. Herbert Fingarette calls kung fu the magical but distinctively human dimension of our practicality involving “great effects produced effortlessly, marvelously, with an irresistible power that is itself intangible, invisible, unmanifest.”
  2. Pierre Hadot and Martha Nussbaum try to rectify the situation by showing that Socrates, the Stoics, and Epicurus were concerned with virtue, spiritual exercises, and practices for living a good life. But this has been eclipsed by obsession with search for eternal, universal truth through rational arguments.

Kung Fu as a form of pragmatism (like Dewey and William James), plus cultivation and transformation of the person; a kung fu master

  1. Efficacious action as a result of sound rational decision; makes good choices and uses effective instruments to satisfy whatever preferences a person happens to have,
  2. And the decision is rooted in the entire person; the subject is never a given; goodness in consequences, style, dispositions, and sentiments, brings forward tradition and community in the formation of beliefs and attitudes, a holistic vision
  3. Aristotle’s cultivation of the intelligent and moral agent, rather than rules of conduct; except kung fu needs no metaphysical justification or telos; versus Confucian rituals to harmonize relationships (multiple competing visions of excellence)

Kung Fu as a form of Art, not measured by its dominance of the market, nor necessarily an accurate reflection of the world, not constrained by universal principles or logical reasoning, and requires cultivation of the artist, embodiment of virtues/virtuosities, and imagination and creativity. A “way of life”, the art of living well, not just a rational life.



  1. Bridging the Analytic-Continental Divide – Gary Gutting

American metaphysicians mostly ignore 20th c. Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time because he is “continental” and they are “analytic”. Debate between Jacques Derrida (continental “obscurantist”) and John Searle (“superficial” analytic).

Analytic Philosophy

  1. A methodology of analyzing concepts, though lots of analytics don’t want to analyze concepts
  2. Early 20th English and Viennese philosophers (Russell, Moore, Wittgenstein), Germany and Austria (Carnap, Reichenbach, Hempel; all migrated to the US during WWII)
  3. Radical new approach to philosophy based on logic of Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell to solve philosophical problems by logically analyzing key terms, concepts or propositions.
    1. Russell’s analysis of definite descriptions of what doesn’t exist—e.g. “The present king of France.”
    2. V.O.Quine questioned the idea of “analysis” as a distinctive philosophical method.
    3. Goals: clarity, precision, logical rigor, objectivity
    4. Dominant in English-speaking countries
  • In 1950s analytic takes the form of views rejecting traditional metaphysics and ethics involving religion or objective moral norms as meaningless:
    1. The logical positivism of Rudolph Carnap, or
    2. The ordinary language philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • The lingua franca of philosophy, today it is still empirical and naturalistic, but there’s a wider range of methods including quasi-scientific inference to the best explanation and versions of phenomenological description, and unlimited application to traditional philosophy.

Continental Philosophy

  1. A European geography – Germany and France, but many leading centers are in America
  2. Edmund Husserl describes immediate experience, or ‘phenomena’ which operate at the fundamental level of knowledge on which all truths of conceptual or linguistic analysis must be based
  3. Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty turned phenomenology toward “existential” questions about freedom, anger, and death.
  4. “Continental” is an invention of the analytics of 20th to distinguish themselves from “phenomenologists”. Regarded as subjective, obscure, lacking rigor and clarity. The term has also come to apply to other European movements like Hegelian idealism, Marxism, hermeneutics and post- and de-construction, which are often in opposition to phenomenology and existentialism.
  5. 1962 American Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP) as alternative to mostly analytic American Philosophical Association (APA)

Today Brian Leiter argues (http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/analytic.asp) the only differences now are in style, or distaste either for logic or talking about history and literature. Gutting says there are still important differences concerning conceptions of experience and of reason as standards of evaluation.

  1. Analytic appeals to experience understood as common sense intuitions and their changes, and to reason as the standard rules of logical inference.
  2. Some Continental claims to access a privileged domain of experience that penetrates beneath the veneer of common sense and science experience (Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, neo-Kantianism), or think reason is creative exercise of intellectual imagination (Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze) and that logic is useless for the proper task of philosophy which is probing and thinking about the conditions for the very possibility of the concepts, and beyond them, think what is impossible.

The Intuitive certainties of experience limit the creative intellectual imagination which challenges the limits. Attempts to reconcile the phenomenological experience and deconstructive creativity have been made by Levinas, Eicoer, Badiou, and Marion. They can learn from each other, especially when Continental philosophers learn to write more clearly.



  1. Of Cannibals, Kings, and Culture- Adam Etinson

In “Des Cannibals” Michel De Montaigne writes of his 1563 meeting with three Brazilian cannibals who answered his questions about what they thought of France. Their answers made the familiar seem absurd, and were morally revealing:

  • So many tall bearded strong well-armed men willing to take orders from a child
  • Shocked by the economic inequality, and since they saw all humans as halves of each other, why didn’t the poor become violent against the others?

Montaigne says the cannibals are not as barbaric as the Europeans, contrary to what the Europeans thought, and that “We all call barbarous anything that is contrary to our own habits.”

  • Herodotus, Greek 5th c. in Histories agrees.
  • In Letter 93 St. Augustine says intolerance should be punished, and 19th c. sociologist William Graham Sumner calls it “ethnocentrism”.  We are all somewhat ethnocentric.

Role of culture in moral disagreements make them impervious to resolution through reasoned debate.

  • Johnathan Haidt: we use reasoning to convince others of beliefs we’re unwilling to give up, and we resist reasoning against them, no matter how good it is.

How should we use this info to reflect on our own ethnocentrism? Skepticism?

  1. Error theorist John L. Mackie says this is evidence that there are no objective moral facts. All moral judgements claiming to be objectively true are wrong.
  2. Moral Relativism: moral truth is determined by culture David Wong and Gilbert Harman.
    1. Hard to prove, and cultures may use objective facts
    2. Not a warranted response to ethnocentrism. The fact that culture influences moral beliefs doesn’t mean that it influences moral truth itself. Otherwise morality is just a matter of majority rule. And it makes ethnocentrism into a virtue because to be moral would be to conform.
  3. More straightforward and less skeptical responses
    1. Acknowledging the dangers of ethnocentrism, but not be disillusioned from pursuit of truth. John Stuart Mill says we’re just intellectually lazy and fallible, and awareness of this should make us see how likely we are to be wrong, spurring us to evaluate our beliefs and practices, but not become disillusioned.



  1. Found in Translation – Hamid Dabashi

Works of philosophy gain more than they lose by being translated. For example, Derrida’s take on Heidegger, undermined metaphysics shaking Greek foundations, leading to much contemporary philosophy, a demonstration of the imperial power and reach of one language over another.

The Mother Tongue

  1. Lingua franca of philosophy changed – Latin, Persian, Arabic, and now English, and may change again.
  2. 11th Iranian philosophers wrote minor works in Persian, because the lingua franca was Arabic. Avicenna wrote Danesh-nameh Ala’I; Al-Ghazali (c.1058-1111) wrote Kimiya-ye Sa’adat (moral philosophy) and Shihab al-Din Yahya al-Suhrawardi (c.1155-1208) wrote short allegories.
  3. Philosophy in Persian reaches zenith with Afdal al-din Kashani(d.c1214), and Khwaja Muhammad ibn Mihammad ibn Hasan al-Tusi (1201-1274) who wrote Adas al-Iqtibas.
  4. Persian philosophy is not easy to separate from Islamic philosophy, much of which is in Arabic, like 16th Mulla Sadra. But Allameh Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) wrote his major works in Persian. And in 1968 Amir Hossein Aryanpour translated Muhammad Iqbal’s The Development of Metaphysics in Persia (1908) into Persian as Seyr-e falsafeh dar Iran.

Two Teachers

  1. Aryanpour (1925-2001) influential social theorist, literary critic, philosopher, translator of his time, taught at Tehran University, a cosmopolitan thinker, who promoted dialectical (jadali) disposition between the material world and the world of ideas, synonymous for critical thinking, theorizing social movements, and sociology. Product of Reza Shah, travel and education, McCarthism, and CIA coup of 1953. A pain in the neck to the monarchy and succeeding Islamic Republic. Fired from teaching theology in 1976, retired in 1980, denounces censorship in the Islamic Republic, dies July 30, 2001. Translated important philosophers like Iqbal, and Seyyed Jalal Ashtiani.
  2. Iqbal, born and raised in Punjab, British India (Pakistan) wrote Persian poems. Reading his doctoral dissertation “The Development of Metaphysics in Persia” is a rite of passage for Persian students discovering their philosophical heritage.

Beyond East and West

  1. What could eastern and western minds possibly be?
  2. Works of philosophy gain in translation because:
    1. Authors breath in a new language
    2. Signals a world alien to its composition
    3. it faces a new audience



  1. Born Again in a Second Language –Costica Bradatan

Simone Weil: “for any man a change of religion is as dangerous a thing as a change of language for a writer.” People become writers in relation to a certain language.

Emil Cioran: Language is a mode of subjective experience and way of experiencing the world, and a part of what one is. A privileged position.

Changing languages is starting over, not natural, can cause unusually acute linguistic awareness

  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • Joseph Conrad
  • Joseph Brodsky
  • Samuel Beckett

In Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, Montag meets the “book people” in a world where printed texts are banned who commit books to memory and recite them, living books. This is like the colonization of a new language that takes you over, changing you, giving access to a metaphysical insight that the world may be a story and we characters in it.



  1. Philosophy’s Western Bias – Justin E. H. Smith

Much talk in Academic philosophy about need to open discipline to non-Western traditions, through changes in curriculum and philosophy department demographics.

Teaching classical Indian philosophy provides a service of enhancing diversity representative of more of the student body. But philosophy topics are not immediately relatable to any new student (e.g. Indian theories of logical inference, qualitative atomism in Buddhism)

The goal of reflecting diversity has been a failure.

  1. Non-Western philosophy is typically represented in a token way. Western philosophy is always the unmarked category, the default.
  2. Non-Western philosophy is treated in a methodologically and philosophically unsound way, as wholly indigenous and fundamentally different, and other.

Solution: stop describing it as non-Western. Instead name it by geographical region, or by tradition. Treat both as regional inflections of a global phenomenon.

West: Europe and North America with origins in Greek antiquity. But this claim is in question, the “Greek miracle”, a historiographical artifact.

Nearly every subject taught in the west came mostly out of the western intellectual tradition but this has not stopped another other discipline from aspiring to an objective, global and scientific perspective on the object of study, free of the idea that it is special to the west.

But philosophy is more influenced by cultural legacy than science is.

Center is shifting toward the Pacific again. Western academic philosophy will likely appear parochial in the future if it doesn’t get beyond tokenism.





  1. Spinoza’s (1632-1677) Vision of Freedom, and Ours – Steven Nadler [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVEeXjPiw54]

Questions: What are the limits of freedom? What are the limits of free speech?

Spinoza: 17th Dutch; Pro-secular democracy, freedom and tolerance, Theological-Political Treatise 1670

  • Goal was to show that freedom of thought is not only no danger to peace, goodness and the right of the sovereign, but is actually necessary for them.
  • “Forged in hell by the devil” A personally angry response to civil authorities placating preachers by acting against works deemed irreligious, licentious and subversive.

On Individual Liberty:  Argument for state tolerance of belief (ideas/thought):

  1. Everyone is absolutely free in their beliefs by right and fact.
  2. If, no one is able and can’t be compelled to transfer to another person their natural right or faculty to reason freely/form their own judgment on anything, then, it is impossible for the mind to be completely under another person’s control.
  3. Conclusion: Therefore, a government is free to try to limit the people’s thoughts, beliefs and opinions, but this will result in resentment, and opposition, undermine its authority, and will fail.

State tolerance of free expression (speech or writing): Utter failure … will attend any attempt … to force [citizens] to speak only as prescribed … despite their different and opposing opinions … most tyrannical … the individual is denied the freedom to [say] what [they think] … moderate  … where freedom is granted to [everyone]

  1. Arguments for freedom of expression
    1. Natural rights
      1. Natural right or power of citizens to speak as they desire
      2. Apparent fact: self-defeating to try to restrain; suppression leads to expression in secret, anger, weakening of bond between govt. and subjects, resentment, revenge, and sedition.
      3. Example: Dutch revolt against Spanish repression in 16th c.
  1. Utilitarianism
    1. Free expression necessary for the development of science and art: discovery of truth, economic and technological progress, and growth of creativity; “…for it is only those whose judgment is free and unbiased who can attain success in these fields.”

Spinoza does not support absolute freedom of speech

  1. The right of the sovereign should be restricted to actions
  2. No sedition: “immediately [has] the effect of annulling the covenant whereby everyone has surrendered [their] right to act just as [they think] fit” … “the action that is implicit therein” … verbal incitements to act against the government and contrary to the social contract.

Relevance to Today

  • 2010 Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project US Supreme Court ruling declared constitutional a law criminalizing certain kinds of speech supporting foreign “terrorist organizations” even peaceful and legal advice, even encouraging and educating them in non-violent conflict resolution. (Shayana Kadidal on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aur8JvOVVpQ)
  • France outlawed the veil, and denial of officially recognized genocide.
  • Post 9/11:  Temptation/willingness to sacrifice of liberty for security, but security depends on liberty.


  1. Of Hume (1711-1776) and Bondage – Simon Blackburn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3QZ2Ko-FOg)

Hume is misunderstood, people miss the point when he says that reason serves the passions because they hold reason as highest and distance themselves from moral and cognitive skeptics, against which we do need defenses. But Hume never doubted that we need standards of reason and conduct, only that we sometimes go wrong. Pragmatic meaning is intent within context and we should avoid metaphysics and superstition.



  1. A Feminist Kant – Carol Hay

Is one obligated to do something about one’s own oppression? Yes.

Feminism (Carol Gilligan b.1936 on Women and Moral Development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W_9MozRoKE, versus the Lawrence Kohlberg 1927-1987) http://ww3.haverford.edu/psychology/ddavis/p109g/kohlberg.dilemmas.html, http://www.simplypsychology.org/kohlberg.html, https://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/kohlberg01bk.htm)

  1. Relational human nature
  2. Concept of personhood – social, interdependent, embodied, emotional
  3. Sexist social norms and legal institutions damaged women’s rational capacities by depriving them of opportunities, and women internalize oppression

Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) account of what our rational nature is, why valuable, how compromised and deformed, and why it must be fostered and protected: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwOCmJevigw, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsgAsw4XGvU

  1. Rational and embodied human nature
  2. Concept of personhood – rational, autonomous
  3. Categorical Imperative (maxim) in the form of the Practical Imperative/Means-Ends Principle: “So act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means” Don’t ignore the ends others have set for themselves and instead use them for our own purposes; involves deception or coercion; can apply to oppression.
  4. 1785 Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals Duties to the self, especially self-respect: duty to recognize the value of the rational nature within us and to respond accordingly. This can explain why one has a duty to resist their own oppression. Because we have an obligation to prevent harms to our rational nature, and because oppression can harm our capacity to act rationally, we have an obligation to resist our own oppression.
  • Objection – Doesn’t this shift the moral burden onto the victim?
  • 1797 The Metaphysics of Morals
  1. Perfect Duties – to do specific acts for which there are no exceptions
  2. Imperfect Duties – to adopt general principles of actions that can be satisfied by more than one action – in this case, at least recognizing that there is something wrong is better than nothing.



  1. Sartre and Camus in New York – Andy Martin

What is an American city? What is American Freedom? https://vimeo.com/73817440

Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bQsZxDQgzU)

  • Existentialist, Structuralist
    1. Main theme: split between contending forces
    2. Influences black power and black existentialist movements, Robert Wright, Norman Mailer
  • What is an American city and American freedom?
    1. NY fails defense against nature; sky-scrapers are doomed
    2. Anonymity
    3. Conformism, Rousseau-ist collective will, racism, people are treated like things or machines
    4. Nausea gives way to aversion to non-organic product economic force
    5. In-itself gives way to the ‘practico-inert’

Albert Camus (1913-1960) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQOfbObFOCw)

  • Not an existentialist; instead is pre-post-Structuralist and anti-systematic
  • What is an American city and American freedom?
    1. Indifferent to architecture and capitalism
    2. Instead: the problem of other minds:  the American tragedy is the lack of a sense of the tragic
    3. ‘Absurd’ – failure of language to bridge the gap between people



23. Kierkegaard’s Antigone – Ulrika Carlsson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9JCwkx558o)

Sophocles’s Antigone – Ancient Gods and Fate means no moral responsibility, guilt, anxiety, or regret

  1. hereditary guilt
  2. objective relations
  3. passive love strikes from the outside
  4. task must be done against will

Socrates – free rational choice and will means total personal responsibility for choices and no excuses

Kierkegaard’s Antigone

  1. Inheritance guilt, a birthright, a gift that can be declined or accepted
  2. Subjective relations; no obligation to share guilt, but shares grief out of compassion and love
  3. active love
  4. Willful surrender



  1. Freud’s Radical Talking – Benjamin Y. Fong

What’s the value of psychoanalysis? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQaqXK7z9LM)

Sigmund Freud

  1. Primary processes – irrational instinct
  2. secondary processes – civil façade conforms to social norms

Possible answers to the problem of the split

  1. Educate to Reality – but not all problems have answers or are even problems
  2. Liberation of the Primary – free yourself
  3. Freud’s Solution
    • Conversation in which one talks and the other listens without judgment, leading to opening lines of communication between the primary and secondary processes, to unstick dogmas and assumptions about oneself and to be able to change;
    • Requires less work, not more, allowing unproductivity (versus being productive and then letting off steam)

Hannah Arendt – the world is man-made, and without human relatedness is a static “heap of things”

Conclusion:  If psychoanalysis is dead, then so is our capacity to change



25. Was Wittgenstein Right? – Paul Horwich (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQ33gAyhg2c)

Wittgenstein – philosophy fails to deliver on its promise of ultimate truths. Its fundamental task is to identify false propositions and explain why we believe them. Does this mean that there is no such thing as philosophy?

Four Claims about the problems and features of Philosophy

  1. Scientistic
  2. Non-empiricism conflicts with its aims
  3. Oversimplification, inflated analogy, exceptions dismissed
  4. Decent philosophy avoids theory construction, and is therapeutic, exposing irrational assumptions and their conclusions

What is Truth? Conceptual Pluralism

  1. nothing more basic
  2. generalization device
  3. assigned to claims we believe: ‘x is true’ = ‘x’
  4. neither mysterious nor profound

Philosophy is “purely descriptive”; satisfaction may be found in clarity, demystification, and truth.





26. Experiments in Philosophy – Joshua Knobe

How can philosophy help with inner conflict?

  1. The traditional view of Mill, Marx, Nietzsche to explore the source of conflict within human minds and nature is back.
  2. Along with the new tools of cognitive science and experimental philosophy.

But how could facts about ideas tell us which ideas are right or wrong?

  1. Free Will Dilemma ‘Universe A’ Experiment yielded conflicting answers
    • Abstract questions: Is it possible for a person to be fully morally responsible for their actions?
    • Concrete questions: A man named Bill burns down his house and kills his family to be with his secretary. Is he fully morally responsible for his actions?

Experiments and understanding how minds work can help address philosophical questions



  1. Your Move: The Maze of Free Will – Galen Strawson
  • Cake or Oxfam? We are condemned to be free and conscious of the choice
  • Sartre – we are radically free and not free not to choose, condemned to freedom
  • Strawson’s Basic Argument – no one is responsible either way, because no one is the cause of themselves
  • Ian McEwan – I am accountable because I own myself



  1. The Limits of the Coded World – William Egginton

What is the neural basis for decision making?

  1. Experiments reveal that computers can predict the choices we will make based on our brain activity just before we choose.
  2. Does this imply that we have no free will?

Religious response – Free will is needed to account for the problems of evil and moral responsibility.

  1. If God is all good, all knowing, and all powerful, how can evil exist?
  2. If God is all knowing, how can there be free will?

Scientific Response: Predictable v. Not Predictable

  1. Magnet and ball experiment – totally determined and unpredictable – not free
  2. Computer experiment with Human beings – predictable – not free
  3. Either way not responsible


  1. Failure to grasp the difference between knowledge (phenomena) and the subject of knowledge (noumena – the thing in itself). Failure to grasp this difference leads to errors in our understanding of nature and what we are justified in believing, and sometimes fanaticism. Senses information – how world appears in space and time. Reason strives for more, but must be tempered.
  2. Monkey brain experiment gives us known data that we use to make predictions about the future (what is unknown) exceeding the limits of reason. Error is in believing that empirical exploration of human brain could eradicate human freedom.

Galen Strawson’s Basic Argument

  1. Is irrelevant to human freedom or responsibility
  2. A “code of codes” argument, not legible even in theory; assumes an unconstrained knower/God.
    1. Kant: God is irrelevant to having ethics, responsibility, or freedom, which all depend on not knowing something.
    2. I am free because neither science nor religion can tell me with certainty what my future will be and what to do.
    3. Sartre: I am free not because I can choose, but because I must. Condemned to freedom.

UPDATE: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/02/a-neuroscience-finding-on-free-will.html



  1. On Modern Time – Espen Hammer

We live in time, and we are aware of it. We live in clock time. What was life like before clocks? So what? Some of us resists modern clock time. Why?

2 fundamental forms of dissatisfaction:

  1. Feeling of transience, perpetual loss.
  2. Schopenhauer suggests the aesthetic experience suspends time.
  3. Existential meaning; turn to the future, cut loose from tradition
    • Schopenhauer – ways to escape modern clock time. (But how can experience be timeless when experience is necessarily in time?)
    • Heidegger – rethink clock time as not fundamental, just one mode of rhythm: human body, nature, the psyche, bio-, cosmo-, psycho-; we don’t just live now but continuously with memories and expectations.

Human beings structure their lives around social and personal narratives. We need to be attentive to moments outside of the regular flow of time – irregularities in which unexpected opportunities arise.



  1. Logic and Neutrality – Timothy Williamson

Logic is not just a content-less uninformative method.

  1. It helps extend our knowledge through logical deduction
  2. It helps recognize mistakes and inconsistencies in our beliefs
  3. Math
    • For example, Fermat’s last theorem – it is a truth of pure logic that certain accepted axioms imply it, and that wouldn’t be the case if logic were uninformative.
  4. Principles of Logic can be debated:
    1. Law of the excluded middle – something either the case or is not.
      1. Borderline cases (adopt fuzzy logic)
      2. Fails when applied to future contingencies
      3. It is fine
    2. Law of non-contradiction – no claim is both true and false (a contradiction is always false)
      1. Rejected by dialetheists – some paradoxes are accepted as true
    3. Distributive law – “x and either y or z” is equal to “either x and y, or x and z.”
      1. May be contradicted by complementarity in quantum physics

Principles of logic are players, not just umpires, and are strong, highly general, and closely related to the rest of science.



  1. Paradoxical Truth – Graham Priest
  • Para=beyond, doxa=belief. You have 2 choices when attempting to solve to a paradox:
    1. Accept the implausible, or
    2. Explain what is wrong
  • Liars Paradox discovered by Greek philosopher Eubulides (4th c. BC):


Conclusion is a contradiction. Can’t accept. Must be something wrong. Not according to dialetheia (di=two way, alethia=truth)

Suppose meaningless (neither true nor false):


  1. If true or false, same bind
  2. If meaningless, then false or meaningless, and so true (a contradiction): a strengthened paradox

Still no consensus on the solution

  • Galileo’s paradox
    • Cantor accepts conclusion that there are as many even as whole numbers – mathematical revolution
  • Zeno’s paradox
    • Can’t accept conclusion. What has gone wrong? No account of speed.
    • Virtually complete consensus
  • Junk the principle of non-contradiction?
  1. Aristotle’s defense was lousy.
  2. Ex falso quodlibet’ or “explosion” – most modern logicians will say everything follows logically from a contradiction, but everything is too much.
    • If A, then B.
    • [If A, then (A and B)].
    • If not B, then not A.
    • If A is a contradiction, then not A.
    • If not A, then not A and B.
    • Therefore, everything follows from a contradiction.
  3. Paraconsistent Logic – explosion is not correct.
  4. If dialethism were correct, then we could never criticize someone whose views are inconsistent
  5. Just because some contradictions are acceptable doesn’t imply that any of them are. If the principle of non-contradiction fails, then contradiction cannot be ruled out by logic alone, though it would still be irrational to believe them (i.e. ‘the earth is flat’ is consistent with logic).
  6. Dialethic paradoxes are rare, but can’t be ignored.



  1. The Drama of Existentialism – Gary Gutting

Fall of existentialism in 1960s and its influence

  1. Adam Gopnick on Sartre and Camus
  2. Andy Martin on Sartre and Camus
  3. Popularity with undergraduates

Gopnick on the reason for attraction: Gopnick makes factual and inferential errors, but claims the popular appeal of existentialism is in its drama rather than careful analysis and argument. Gopnick is right – Sartre and Camus’s theoretical disagreements reflected in lost friendship

Jean Paul Sartre

  • Student loves what he chooses
  • Even under torture we are free, as evidenced by guilt we would feel in not holding out
  • Bad faith
    1. Woman on a date
    2. Waiter who plays as much as is a waiter
  • Drama can distort, ignores ambiguity and complexities for vivid impact
  • Masculine is falsely universalized
  • Can cross the line from philosophy to gossip

Still, existentialism has helped:

  1. Keep philosophical questions alive and accessible
  2. Sartre is partly right – we are radically free – but this is not the whole story of free moral agency



  1. Reasons for Reason – Michael P. Lynch

Disagreements in epistemic principle will lead to disagreements about facts and values and what to do. What counts as a reliable source of information? What counts as legitimate reasons to choose? How do we rationally defend our choice of source?

  1. Observation and experiment?
  2. Scripture?

Skeptical argument – three choices

  1. Continue as is
  2. Use your method to prove your method – circularity
  3. Concede that your method is groundless and arbitrary

Can I give an objective defense that can be appreciated from a “common point of view”?

Why take this problem seriously?

  1. Principle of humanity
  2. Functioning liberal democracy
  3. Ideal of civility – shared common view – common facts – agree on values and what to do

Even if only “practically” true reasons, still they are reasons for reasoning.



  1. Reclaiming the Imagination – Timothy Williamson

In separating fact and fiction, “reality directed imagination” can be useful in discovery, planning ahead, science, politics, and understanding the past.



  1. Are There Natural Human Rights? – Michael Boylan

1st, 2nd, and 3rd wave uprisings in the Middle East – revolutions arising out of complaints. If rights are a social convention, then not natural, and relativism is true. If objective, then there are natural rights and relativism is false. Agency and interest based approaches both assume natural rights. Imagine living in a society in which the majority hurts the minority. Are you okay with that? Suppose you are the other. Still okay with it? Why or why not? If your answers are situational then you are with Hart, Austin, and Confucius, in thinking rights are contractual and invented, and in relativism. If your answers are based on principle, then you believe natural universal human rights exist.





36. Is Philosophy Literature? – Jim Holt

It is literature and people do read it for pleasure. Does anybody read analytic philosophy for pleasure?

  1. Analytic Philosophy – dry and technical, logically rigorous, not lyrically profound.
  2. Cambridge in early 20th c. Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, and Ludwig Wittgenstein revolted against foggy continental idealism, and saw philosopher’s task as not in metaphysical systems building, but in analysis of language, laying bare the logical structure of reality and settling philosophical problems.
  3. Today analytic has a broader scope. Because Willard Quine argued that language has no fixed system of meaning to analyze, it is less obsessed with language dissection, than being continuous with science, being correct, scientific, abstract, an all-purpose solvent.
  4. What is literature?
    1. Evelyn Waugh: the right use of language irrespective of the subject or reason of utterance. And the right use is lucid, elegant, and individual, making it memorable and unmistakable.
    2. “Elegance is the quality in a work of art which imparts direct pleasure.” What does it mean to take pleasure in a piece of prose?
  5. Philosophy as literature:
    1. Lucid – a fetish of philosopher; e.g. Michael Dummett.
    2. Individual – Quine, Elizabeth Anscombe, David K. Lewis, John Searle, Thomas Nagel, Philippa Foot
    3. Elegant – Gilbert Ryle (1900-76) “Pleasure”; coined “the ghost in the machine; W.V.O. Quine “On What There Is”, Hilary Putnam’s thought experiments, Kwame Anthony Appiah Another Death in Venice, Colin McGinn; Bertrand Russell awarded Nobel Prize in literature; Saul Kripke Philosophical Troubles, Naming and Necessity and “schmidentity”.



  1. Does Great Literature Make Us Better? – Gregory Currie

Presumably yes, but what would count as evidence?

  1. How can we be sure it is the reading and not something else?
  2. Maybe it’s that good people like to read literature.
  3. Some educated and literary people do bad things.

Psychological Research

  1. Reading about child murder makes people feel worse
  2. People can pick up factual or implied information as part of a fictional story background, and more prone to do so if the story is set away from home.
  3. T.V.
    1. Is good for certain kinds of learning – medical information
    2. No indications about moral improvement
  4. Research on effect of literature on moral development
    1. Not enough research
    2. Relevant evidence not immanent
    3. Doesn’t test serious literature
    4. Few address moral and social effects
    5. Therefore, there is not enough information to draw conclusions either way, and there is a mismatch between strength of evidence and strength of opinion.

But advocates don’t think evidence is relevant, rather a matter of faith, “… it would be refreshing to have some acknowledgment that suggestions about how literature might aid our learning don’t show us that it does in fact aid it.”

  1. Martha Nussbaum Love’s Knowledge says literary fiction has “a power to generate moral insight”, e.g. Henry James, “make vivid the details of a moral issue … allowing us to think them through without the distortions wrought by personal interest.”
  2. We can get better evidence, but what will it show us? Moral and social learning from literature may be misguided.
  3. Reasons they argue for the benefits of literature:
    • Deals in complexity, gets us ready for the social world, that sensitive, discriminating moral agents are supposed to, to bring us closer to being moral “experts”
      • Problem: what we take for expertise in morality is bogus.
        • Paul Meehl – rules that take account of fewer factors does at least as well and generally better than relying on a expert’s judgment.
        • Daniel Kahneman Thinking, Fast and Slow on failures of expertise.

But Greg Currie provides here no evidence that moral expertise fails.

  1. Moral thinking is probably not one domain
  2. Can we find any direct causal evidence to show that reading literature makes a positive difference to our character? It would take a lot of “careful and insightful psychological research”
  3. Not convinced that literature is an arbitrary category, a badge of the elite. There is aesthetic merit. But it’s hard to avoid the anti-elitist worry, that reading is more a badge of honor than pleasurable, or morally enlightening.



  1. Stormy Weather: Blues in Winter- Avital Ronell

Avital Ronell talks about her struggles dealing with 9-11 as a New Yorker and which philosophers helped console her.



  1. Poetry, Medium and Message – Ernie Lepore

A poem is about what it is. It is not reducible or translatable.



  1. Boxing Lessons- Gordon Marino

Western substance dualism has been dismissive of the body, as an impediment to the mind.

Eastern philosophy in contrast includes the body on the road to wisdom, a vehicle for the mind.

Boxing is a way to find excellence, or balance between body and mind, developing moral virtue.



  1. The Practical and the Theoretical – Jason Stanley

On the supposed division between theoretical knowledge and practical skill. Humans are both thinkers and doers. Knowing how is thought of as not the same as knowing that, using different faculties.

Theoretical knowledge: active reflection, engagement with the propositions or rules of the theory that guides exercise; involve universally applicable instructions

Practical knowledge: exercised automatically and without reflection; a skill for which no instruction manual can prepare you.

Where distinction breaks down:

  1. As one learns a skill, one learns how to do something
  2. Acquires knowledge of a scientific proposition is also learning.
  3. Many languages use the same word for “knowing that” and “knowing how”
  4. Both appear to require features that are practical and those that are intellectual

Maybe the distinction is in what can and cannot be said. (that versus how), but this does not “track any supposed distinction between the two kinds of knowledge. One can know something theoretical but be unable to express it in words, or not know how to do something but to explain it in words.

There seems to be more of a continuum than distinct kinds.

Problem with making this distinction in kind

  1. False dichotomy, and a fiction
  2. Robs one of opportunities and potentially important contributions in fields not considered the right kind.
  3. Reward structure assumes it, in pay and cost of pursuit
  4. Everyday distinction may make one feel alienated and divided



  1. The Meaningfulness of Lives- Susan Wolf

Jean Paul Sartre

  • If there is no God, then everything is permitted, and there is no meaning.
    • Wrong.
      1. God’s existence doesn’t guarantee meaningfulness, nor ground our values
      2. Meaningfulness does not depend on existence of God; not all find meaning here; instead meaningfulness should depend on something that would draw us together.

Susan Wolf – Meaning In Life and Why It Matters

  1. A meaningful life is distinct from a happy life or a morally good one. “…meaning arises when subjective attraction meets objective attractiveness”, must feel worthwhile, AND be worthwhile, valued and valuable. What makes something objectively valuable?
  2. My life unfolds over time, has a trajectory, and is my life, can be conceived narratively, and can be reflected upon. What makes a meaningful trajectory?

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics

  • What do we admire about someone who we think has lived a meaningful life? What made their lives meaningful to us? Which of them lived virtuous lives and what about them seem morally good?



  1. The Spoils of Happiness – David Sosa

1974 Robert Nozick’s happiness machine thought experiment predates The Matrix. Would you plug in?

What is happiness?

  1. Refuse to plug in? What you can get from a machine is not what you deeply want, wouldn’t make you happy – and would be false, especially because you would not know that they were false. (i.e. experience of having friends versus actually having a friend)

Really great things are not great just because they are enjoyable experiences

  1. It matters that the feeling is there as a response to the reality, but the feeling itself is not enough to make a happy life
  2. Happiness is more like knowledge, than a belief, or a state of mind.
  3. Knowledge requires cooperation of the world, and you might still be wrong.
  4. This means you can be wrong about being happy. You can think you are happy and not be.


  • Eudaimonia – human flourishing. Happiness is not pleasure, rather it is a whole life well lived. This requires virtue, and developing good judgment and habits.




Image result for science public domain




Science – inquiry into natural world whose validity can be assessed with reference to empirical evidence and data.

Philosophy isn’t a science, but has been conceived with nature discoveries and methods of science (but doesn’t limit its scope to nature)

Aristotle – metaphysical (section) – comes after the physical (section)

Can science explain everything?

Dominant view in philosophy – naturalism: only the natural world exists

  • What are the limits of naturalism?
  • Does science explain the experience of consciousness?

Dominant psychology -naturalist neuroscience

  • Should philosophy become neuroscience or is consciousness irreducible to neuroscience, or empirical philosophy?
  • Does neuroscience show we have no free will? Explain or eliminate morality? Displace philosophy and the humanities? Or do we need a richer conception of the mind?

Influential Scientists raise philosophical questions

  • Evolutionary biologists versus intelligent design

Social Impact of Science

  • Anthropocene
    • human impact dominant force of change on nature
    • science-villain or savior or both?

Problem of pseudoscience

  • Chinese medicine, New Age uncertainty fetish

Proper understanding of science requires moral reflection





44. What is Naturalism? – Timothy Williamson

Contemporary philosophers are mostly naturalists

  • There is only the natural world
  • Best way to discover it is by the scientific method

What is the Natural world?

  • Whatever the scientific method eventually discovers

[Socratic Method Asks]: Are there things only discoverable by non-science? Are there things not discoverable at all?

Naturalism is not as restrictive as this.

Some postulate:

  • Soul, god, if part of the best explanation of experience
  • Not incompatible with all religion in principle

But most doubt this in practice.

“Scientific Method” Why just one?

Hypothetico-Deductive Method (HDM):  Form a hypothesis and test predictions against systematic observation and controlled experiment.


What about math? Pure reasoning, does not use the HDM.

  1. If so, then our description of science is wrong
  2. If not, then we must exclude math from science and discredit naturalism.

What other disciplines count as science?

  1. Too inclusive – naturalism loses its critique of ignoring experiment and restricting science to HDM.
  2. Too exclusive – naturalism loses credibility imposing natural scientific method inappropriately.

Naturalists can’t decide. And when:

  1. On the attack – assume exclusive HDM
  2. Under attack – inclusive watering down obscure article of faith

Both obscure articles of faith.

Scientific Spirit

  • Curious, honest, accurate precise, rigorous
  • Exemplifying in practice
  • Social
  • Rewards work embodying
  • Uses available methods most appropriate

Naturalism as a theory is a dogma, but when applied with the scientific spirit is useful.



45. Why I am a Naturalist – Alex Rosenberg

Naturalism – treats science as the most reliable source of knowledge.

Scientific Method:

  • most effective route to knowledge
  • Dominant approach in philosophy, ethics, epistemology, mind, science,
  • and metaphysics, if only what science recognizes as real is grave for values of human experience
  • A theory with an agenda of unsolved problems

To Timothy Williamson – don’t mistake confidence for dogma

Successes in applying science to solving philosophical problems, and some with scientific payoffs too

Origin of the Species-Darwin’s theory of natural selection tamed ‘purpose’ and the illusion of design

Natural philosophy

  • helped psychology, evolutionary anthropology, biology
  • greater clarity about functions, adaptation, fitness, individual versus group selection

Physics is abstract and weird


  • recognize the fallibility of science
  • self-correct
  • increased breadth and accuracy
  • reliable for philosophers

Things only discoverable by non-science? Things undiscoverable?

  • Nothing withstanding the test of knowledge attained by science, experimental/observational methods shared by all natural science and adopted by social science.

Challenge of Math as Science

  • Way dealt with reveals how undogmatic naturalism is
  • Math and science don’t care much
  • No satisfactory answer
  • Science cant do without math – so naturalism cant either

Can science do without humanities? Can people? Does literature/literary theory provide real understanding? Not if they

  • Flout standards of objectivity
  • Seek arbitrary limits to reach of scientific method
  • Fun, not knowledge
  • Much meaning is illusory, science will show.



46. On Ducking Challenges to Naturalism – Timothy Williamson

Alex Rosenberg embodies one main complaint – he leaves unclear what is meant by ‘science’ or ‘scientific method’ even though he needs it.  Clues” “test of knowledge”, “experimental/observation”.

  • Suggesting math wouldn’t count as science findings, says “math and science”, doesn’t know how to find a place for math
  • Trades on ambiguities: “boring”, “false”, “we should be confident”
  • Avoids talking about history, and calls history and Literature “fun but not knowledge”, but there is historical and literary knowledge, knowledge of works and events; how could natural science manage without historical knowledge? Knowledge of past experience and observation is historical.
  • Physics may explain all and reality only what hard science reveals, but he doesn’t say how
  • Science doesn’t address some questions
  • Radically reductionist metaphysics

Underlying worry:

  • Is it discoverable by hard science that all truths are discoverable by hard science? No.
  • This is not hard science
  • Extreme naturalism is central.

Moderate Naturalism

  • Includes “non-science” as part of science
  • Not assume reality only contains what’s discoverable by science – simply difficultly of establishing scientifically that reality has only what we can recognize

Rosenberg’s Naturalism is extreme, protests too much that he’s undogmatic, lacks precision and clear hypotheses, not just a matter of hard scientific testing.



47. The Core of Mind and Cosmos – Thomas Nagel

Scientific revolution 17th c. – progress in understanding nature depends on subtracting physical world as an object of study

Form – all mental – consciousness, intent, purpose

Physical science – describes elements and laws of nature

But we are part of the natural universe and the mental depends on the physical – especially the central nervous system

Natural to think that physical science can explain the mental

But ruled out by separation can’t describe subjective experiences – what the world is like for an organism is unexplained, so we can’t fully understand through physical science alone;

biological evolution – conscious organisms, more than a physical process and theory

Therefore, the scientific outlook must expand to include mental and subjective.

Ways to object

a. Deny that the mental is ir-reducible

  1. the mental = physical
  2. deny reality as illusory

b. Deny that the mental requires scientific explanation through a new concept of the natural order

c. Mind is a fluke or an unexplained accident

d. Theological explanation (divine intervention)


Philosophy and science are commit to (a) as best defense against (d)

OR (a) & (b) – self-evidently false

AND (c) – implausible

THEN need not accept (d)

Science needn’t be limited to a physical theory of objective spatio-temporal order. Instead seek an expanded science.



48. Things Fall Apart – Philip Kitchner

Nagel’s Concern

Newton – Queries to the “Opticks”

  • Everything explained with physical principles
  • Still highly popular with science turned philosophy

But Darwin

  • Not convincing example of scientific advancement
  • No major principles
  • A framework/model

Answer to Nagel’s Question through how biology enriched by chemistry and physics without fitting into any such picture

  • Molecular genetics
  • No molecular account of all and only genes
  • Notion of a gene is only partly functional
  • Molecular biology
  • No general account of conditions
  • Instances are diverse

Thinkers in the grip of Newtonian picture of science want a general basis for general phenomena; but unity fails at both ends – to understand fundamental processes you need many models, different on many details, require metaphors.

Molecular biology

  • doesn’t account for life
  • Accounts for a function of life,
  • doesn’t ask what life is
  • consider various activities


  1. Philosophy and science don’t always answer questions – sometimes they get over them
  2. Instead of asking what life, mind, and value are, think about what they do.
  • Minds do different things
  • Some allegedly hard problems they won’t overcome
  • Start with tractable questions

Problems about values are hard – use same strategy; Ask not what they are, ask what they do, how they function

Nagel – in grip of philosophical perspective on science, popular but inadequate.





49. Moral camouflage or moral monkeys? –  Peter Railton

50. Evolution and our inner conflict –  Edward O. Wilson 

51. If peas can talk, should we eat them? –  Michael Marder 

52. The future of moral machines –  Colin Allen 

53. Cambridge, cabs and Copenhagen: my route to existential risk –  Huw Price 





54. Mary and the zombies: can science explain consciousness? –  Gary Gutting 

How can subjective experience be (only) physical?

2 thought experiments (by 2 naturalists) suggest that it can’t

  1. Frank Jackson’s Mary  – A colorblind neuro-scientist who knows all the physical facts about color and color perception but only sees in black and white, so she hasn’t experienced it. She has an operation restoring her color vision. Does she learn something new about color that she didn’t know before? If so, then there is a fact about color that is not physical and physical science can’t explain everything about it.
  2. David Chalmers’s Zombie – Imagine a zombie with none of your internal subjective experiences, but which is physically identical to you. If it is logically possible that this zombie would not have experiences at all, then your experiences involve something beyond the physical.
  • These do NOT claim nor show that experience is totally non-physical
  • Some conclude souls or the supernatural
  • Jackson and Chalmers are naturalists and believe there is no world beyond the natural, this world contains a natural reality (consciousness) that escapes the scope of physical explanation
  • Chalmers – “naturalistic dualism” – supplemental physical science with entities with irreducibly subjective (phenomenal properties); this seems to support traditional dualism (natural body, supernatural soul)
  • Gutting 0 these arguments for dualism are not obviously unsound, and show a possible way to a scientific mind-body dualism

55. A real science of mind  –  Tyler Burge

PopSci writing  – reports discoveries using language like “the brain” decides, knows, emotes, is altruistic, wants…

3 things wrong with this talk

  1. It provides little insight into psychic phenomena, is descriptive, not explanatory, and provides only the illusion of understanding.
  2. It conflates levels of explanation and obscures how science works; individuals do these things, not brains. Psychological acts, not neural acts; brain is needed and biological terms (see John Cleese’s reductionist spoof)
  3. Pernicious feedback effects on science; neural-pure description, not explanatory of psyche, but can help explain it.

“Neurobabble” popularity – view of psychological explanation as immature compared to neuroscience.

Last 40 years – vision science has matured first to explain psychological processes with mathematical rigor in distinctively psychological terms.

Generative Linguistics – explains psychological structures better than psychological processes.

What are psychological terms? – A science of representation

Generic use of ‘representation’ versus distinctive psychological use of representation?

Generic use of representation

  • Organism generically represents features of the environment if they function to correlate with them

I. Task focused explanations in biology and psychology use ‘representation’ generically.

  • identity, measure environment, organic restraints
  • determination of mathematically optimal perf.
  • develop hypotheses and test performance

all of these identify systemic correlations between an organisms states and environment leading to generic representation, not distinctly psychological because it applies to non-psychic stuff.

A. Explanation in perceptual psychology (sub-type of task-focused) is distinctly psychological because it uses notions like “representational accuracy”, a specific type of correlation.

  • Functional correlation – e.g. plants sensitive to light lack perceptual const.; frequency, intensity, polarization; too generic to explain vision
  • Representational accuracy – what vision science is mainly about; explain perceptual constancies, capacities to perceive a given environmental property under many types of stimulation.

Visual perception is getting the environment right. Neural patterns can’t explain vision because they don’t relate vision to the environment.

  • Perceptual psychology explains how perceptual states that represent environmental properties are formed.
    • Identity psychological patters that are learned, or coded through eons of interaction with environment.
    • Explains how stimulations cause individuals perceptual states via those patterns
    • Perceptions and illusions of depth, movement, etc. are explained with mathematical rigor.

Perceptual Psychology uses 2 types of explanation

  1. Geometrical tradition – e.g. of distance perception – 1637 Descartes “convergence” – one of the wyas human vision is known to represent distance and depth.
  2. Statistical cutting – e.g. contour grouping – grouping boundaries on opposite sides of an occluder is a step toward perceiving shape. Whether 2 image contours correspond to boundaries of the same subject depends statistically on properties of image contours.

Human visual systems – performance closely matches objective probabilities estimated from photos.

Tests support hypotheses about how perceptions of object shape are formed from cues regarding contour groupings.

Representation in specific sense (being about something in perception and thought) and Consciousness (what-it-is-like).

2 primary distinctive properties of psychological phenomena

  • Representation – scientifically better understood
  • Consciousness – introspection

Where does mind begin? Emergence of representational accuracy in arthropods? We don’t know.

Rigorous science of the mind begins with perception (first distinctively psychological representation)

Mature science of mind – first of most important intellectual development in the last half century, not to be obscured by neurobabble baiting with psychology and switching with brain science; working toward one another – must understand psychology


56. Out of our brains  –  Andy Clark 

“Where is my mind” Pixies 1988

Could some activity needed to think and know occur outside the briain?


  • gesture while talking- merely expressive?
  • Susan Goldin-Meadow and David McNeill – gestures may play an active role in thinking.
  • experiments in gesture inhibition – decreased performance in mental tasks.

“Embodied cognition” and “the extended mind”

  • evolution doesn’t care what resources are used to solve a problem.
  • no reason to favor brain only cognitive strategy over brain-body-world, with brain as the locus, and the body or computers, bio-external elements in extended cognitive process.
  • imagine aliens? this is no different
  • prosthetic limb analogy
  • implanted pieces – would provide material support – cochlear implants, “silicon neurons”

Repair v. Extension

  • Is the leap from repair to extension justified? No.
  • if we can repair, then we can extend. If wired, then wire-free
  • What counts is flow and alteration of information, not the medium through which it moves.


  • Ibn sina Avicenna – Persian (AD 980-1037) – 7th volume of “Liber de anime seu sextus de naturalibus” (body is like clothes)
  • Analog with cognitive circuitry –  when info flows, unities may emerge in integrated processing regimes weaving brain-body-world (James, Heidegger, Bateson, Merleau-Ponty, Dennett, Etc.)

We are entering an age of cognitive prosthetics, a Cambrian explosion

  • pause and reflect on their nature and status
  • our minds are not products of neural processing alone but of complex and iterated interplay between brains, bodies, and many designer environments

Understanding mind takes a lot more than understanding brains.


57. Do thrifty brains make better minds? –  Andy Clark 





58. Bursting the neuro-utopian bubble –  Benjamin Y. Fong 

Human Genome Project

59. Bodies in motion: an exchange –  Alex Rosenberg and William Egginton 

60. Is neuroscience the death of free will? –  Eddy Nahmias 

61. Is the “dumb jock” really a nerd? –  Jason Stanley and John W. Krakauer 





62. Learning how to die in the Anthropocene –  Roy Scranton 

63. Can neuroscience challenge Roe v. Wade? –  William Egginton 

64. Depression and the limits of psychiatry –  Gary Gutting 

65. Why are states so red and blue? –  Steven Pinker 

66. The enigma of Chinese medicine –  Stephen T. Asma

67. The dangers of pseudoscience –  Massimo Pigluicci and Maarten Boudry 





68. Nothing to see here: demoting the uncertainty principle –  Craig Callender 

69. The dangers of certainty: a lesson from Auschwitz –  Simon Critchley 

70. The riddle of the human species –  Edward O. Wilson 




Image result for religion and morals public domain





The United States is

  • a religion-obsessed country.
  • Founded by 17th c. English puritans seeking safe-haven from religious persecution.
  • an immigrant destination
  • created new religions
  • core value  – claim to religious freedom

This section discusses, religion, experience of faith, questions of legitimacy, and the peak and recession of New Atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

  1. What is Faith?
  2. Varieties of Religious Disagreement
  3. Morality’s God Problem
  4. Some Hard Moral Cases

Parts 1 and 2 discuss

  • defenses of experience of faith
  • faith might not require metaphysical belief
  • nature and limits of religious toleration
  • blasphemy
  • Judaism, Israel and Zionism

Part 3 discusses

  • whether morality requires faith and the existence of God  – OR – must be conducted independently of any foundational religious claims
  • where is the line between religion and moral reflection?

Part 4 discusses

  • philosophy classes like introduction to ethics and moral philosophy or applied ethics
  • best practices for working through difficulties provoked by competing moral theories in relation to real life issues like abortion and euthanasia.
  • hard moral cases and philosophers rigorously and without sentimentality addressing familiar problems in unfamiliar light.
  • whether morality implies a claim to universality or can we live with moral relativism and the ethical nature of human behavior
  • does altruism make sense? does the death penalty? solitary confinement?
  • ecological disaster: is it wrong to have children, or to want to? Should you be the last generation?
  • Can you respect animals and eat them for pleasure?
  • Forgiveness – universal or religious tradition?
  • Are free markets consistent with morality?
  • Does love make sense? Is it a fundamental part of ethics?

None of these issues are decided once and for all in the book, but are debated in a way to allow you to think through the questions for yourself in a conversation with the authors.


71. Philosophy and faith –  Gary Gutting 

  • Why do you hold your religious beliefs?
  • Problem of Evil
  • Diversity of religious beliefs
  • Faith
    • never having to explain why
    • but if you wouldn’t buy a used car on faith, why beliefs about eternal salvation?
    • most of Gutting’s students see faith as grounded in evidence and argument
    • If there is no God, how does anything exist at all?
    • Why is the world governed by laws of nature?
  • Gutting
    • shows a famous argument for the existence of god and how each one has difficulties
    • “No convincing proof for god’s existence has ever been given in philosophy so it is all faith”Gutting resisted this.
    • So, does philosophy have no significance to faith?

Mistakes in Thinking about Philosophy and Faith

  1. Standard View: Disagreements over arguments about God make their views irrelevant to faith of ordinary believers and non-believers; if we can’t agree, what can we offer the non-philosopher? Appeal to experts requires consensus.
    • Gutting’s Reply:
      • The Standard View ignores the fact that when philosophers disagree:
        • It’s only about specific aspects of versions of arguments for and against existence.
          • Alvin Plantinga’s model logic formulation
          • St. Anselm’s ontological argument
          • William Rowe’s probabilistic argument from evil
      • The Standard View ignores the fact that when there is no disagreement:
        • More popular arguments to which people appeal don’t prove what they claim to (to be logically derived from uncontroversial premises), and are found inadequate by qualified professionals;
        • There are no more sophisticated forms that philosophers can accept on the authority of expert consensus, as we do scientific claims.
      • The Winners: The Agnostics!
        •  Most expert philosophical opinion: neither side has made its case.
        • This discomfits the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins (whose arguments are faulty), and Christopher Hitchens.
        • Believers can fall back on their faith, but must reflect on what sort of support faith can give to religious belief.

Argument:  Faith v. Trust in Salesperson Analogy

Anti-Foundationalist Philosophers

  • David Hume
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • Alvin Plantinga
    • All three of these philosophers concluded that every life is based on basic beliefs for which we have no good arguments.
  • There are no more basic truths to prove that:
    • The past is a good guide to the future;
    • Our memories are reliable;
    • Other people have a conscious inner life;
      • All three of these arise out of experience in the world which form our basic experiential beliefs.
  • Plantinga
    • Core religious beliefs can have status like basic unproven beliefs, since they are clearly plausible for some sorts of belief like:
      • Natural beauty,
      • Moral obligation, and
      • Loving and being loved, and
      • We may develop an abiding sense of the reality of an extra, good and powerful being which cares about us.
        • “Who is to say” that these aren’t reasons to believe in God, as much as parallel experiences.
  • Gutting
    • This is the most plausible starting point for a philosophical case for belief but it faces a steep hurdle.
      • It might support generic religious claims about good and powerful caring being
      • But it is hard to see how it supports Judaism, Christianity, and Islam’s claims about God:
        • Concrete and continued existence;
        • Good, omnipotent, perfect;
        • Safeguard against evil;
        • Precise moral norms and liturgical practices to ensure eternal salvation.
      • Without such specificity, religion lacks possibilities making it such an historical force.
    • How can religious experience sustain faith in specific narratives, especially considering the differences?
      • What sorts of religious experiences could support it?
      • Strong feelings don’t equal certainty of all religions. Why yours?


  • Philosophy and religion must speak to each other;
  • Those who take their beliefs seriously need to reflect on these questions; and
  • Contemporary philosophical discourse (after Hume and Wittgenstein) regarding knowledge, belief, certainty, and disagreement are relevant to this reflection and belief.



72. Mystery and evidence – Tim Crane

Bertrand Russell

  • Defended atheism.
  • To God on judgment day “you didn’t give us enough evidence”

Atheists ask for evidence and reject claims in absence of it.

Religions make claims about the universe that are like scientific hypotheses.

  • Supported by evidence
  • Proved by arguments
  • Tested against experience of the world

Against the evidence religion doesn’t fare well. But is this the right way to think about religion?

No. There are significant differences between science and religion.

  • Scientific Explanation
    • Very specific and technical
    • Requires patience, pedantry, narrow focus, and math (0r else you’ll no grasp of quantum theory)
    • Not widespread
    • Most people are not interested because it required sophisticated knowledge and ability
    • Essence: making hypotheses about the causes and nature of things, to explain phenomenona we observe and predict future behavior of (e.g. medicine and cosmology)
    • Holds hypotheses only as evidence requires
    • Doesn’t accept ad hoc hypotheses tailored to one situation but can’t be generalized to others
    • Scientific theories involve some kind of generalization
    • Designed to make predictions and if they don’t come true, they worry
  • Religious Belief
    • Not restricted to certain education or knowledge or years of training
    • Not specialized, not technical
    • Not theologians ideas just regular church goers
    • Widespread
    • Lots of people interested – why? lack of education? irrational? incapable of scientific thinking?
    • In decline or growing? Hard to tell because its hard to identify
    • Sometimes represented as:
      • having its own grammar or logic and so not to be held to account to the same standards as science
      • not expressing factual beliefs
      • just expressing commitment to a certain “form of life”
      • a way of seeing significance in the world
      • a moral and practical outlook
        • But these grossly misrepresent religion because religions make factual historical claims. e.g. St. Paul: “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain.”
        • But this is not the same as being proto-science. Religion does construct hypotheses but not as central doctrine, and
        • Not all factual claims are scientific claims (contrary to what Dawkins says)
        • Bad Hypotheses:  religious claims are ad hoc, arbitrary, rarely make predictions and almost never come true. But this doesn’t worry believers. Manifest irrationality? Maybe there is just something going on other than hypothesis formation.
  • Religion
    • Intellectual, emotional, practical appeal, a consequence of a meaningful world
    • Tolerates high degree of mystery and ignorance
    • Unanswered prayers aren’t taken as evidence
    • No obligation to weigh evidence
    • Must be some explanation though we may never know it
    • Attempts to make sense of the world by seeing meaning in things
    • Needing no laws or generalizations, just sense of God’s presence
  • Science
    • Mysteries are things simply accepted without further explanation
    • But one aim of science is to minimize or eliminate them and reduce the number of primitive concepts or explanations
    • Attempts to make sense of the world by showing how things conform to hypotheses and show how events fit into a general pattern

Stephen Jay Gould – Religion and science are “non-overlapping magisteria”

Tim Crane

  • Yes, if SJG means they are difference attempts to understand the world.
  • No, if he means religion makes no factual claims that can be refuted by empirical evidence.


73. The Rigor of Love –  Simon Critchley

Faith of the faithless? Can experience of faith be shared by non-believers?

Critchley – a non-Christian out of sympathy with triumphal evangelical atheism

Christianity – intriguing, preplexing; Status? Force? “you shall love your neighbor”.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55) – Conclusion to “Works of Love” (1847)

  • Central work, ponders nature of love commandments
  • Strenuous “rigor of love”, not an infantile “coddling love” which spares believers effort, a “second childhood.
  • “Jewish like for like”
    • eye for an eye with obligation based on equality and reciprocity of self and other
      • But this is a stereotypical and limited view of Judaism, according to Franz Rosenzweig in “Star of Redemption”.
  • Jewish worldly love (man to man)
  • “Christian like for like” and
    • not reduced to worldly love
  • Christian divine love
    • “makes every relationship to other human beings into a God-relationship” coinciding with a shift from external to inwardness – relationships mediated through relationship to god – v. Christian divine love (man-God-man)
  • Rigor of Christianity – based on radical inequality, absolute difference between human and divine
  • Logs and motes – to judge others is to view matters from the standpoint of externality rather than inwardness, and is arrogant and impertinent. Abstain from judging what others might(n’t) do. Hard to be a Christian – you have absolutely nothing to do with what others do to you. Essentially you have only to do with yourself before God.
  • Kierkegaard  addresses “YOU”and reveals the essential insecurity of faith:
    • Gospels of the Roman Centurion (Matt 8:6) doesn’t feel worthy that Jesus should enter his house and Jesus says he has great faith “Be it done for you, as you believed”
    • Do you have faith because you follow rituals and were baptized?
    • But the centurion was not baptized and still believed.
    • “The gospel is at first a gospel” a euaggelion, a proclamation, a pledging that brings the inward subject of faith into being over against an external everydayness – as true or more true for the non-Christian as for the Christian, because their faith is unsupported by supposed guarantees of baptism, dogma, church, afterlife, etc (consequentialist security). Therefore non-Christian faith reveals true nature of the faith that Christ sought to proclaim. It is especially the faithless who can have experience of faith, because if it needs doctrinal security, then it becomes externalized (punishment and reward system).

But what sort of certainty is Faith?


  • The certainty that “you must win at every moment with Gods help … not in some external way.”
  • No pastor or priest has the right to say that one has faith or not according to external doctrines.
  • To proclaim faith is to abandon such external or worldly guarantees.
  • Faith is a continuous striving …tried everyday and why it isn’t law, having no external nor coercive force
  • Rosenzweig – “commandment of love knows the moment can only proceed from the mouth of the lover” versus law “which reckons with times, a future, with duration”
  • commandments of love – mild and merciful with rigor, disciplined act of absolute spiritual daring that eviscerates old self of externality so new and inward can exist.
  • Works of love
    • Cites Paul – “owe no one anything, except to love one another” (Romans 13:8)
    • conception of love as experience of infinite debt, impossible to repay.
    • Sin – essential ontological indebtedness of self
    • Love – experience of countermovement to sin and demand exceeding the capacity or ability of the self “infinite demand”.
  • Rosenzweig – “God’s relationship to human being is infinitizing at every moment of that which at every moment is in a man”
  • Kierkegaard – in the penultimate paragraph
    • Auditory imagery – God as vast echo chamber
    • Outward Ear – “the name for the repetition of each word that the subject utters, that resounds with the “intensificaton of infinity”.
    • Inward Ear – Externality is too dense a body for resonance; cultivate inward internal ear – rigorous activist faith proclaiming each instant without guarantee and that abides with infinite demand of love.
    • Faith is an asymmetry of like to unlike, not like for like relation of equals – a subjective strength finding its power to act through an admission of weakness, an enactment of the self in relation to an infinite demand that exceeds and yet requires all my power.
    • Such an experience is shared by those without creed and denomination and just as good and perhaps the faithless who can best sustain the rigor of faith without security or reward.



74. Does It Matter Whether God Exists? –  Gary Gutting

John Gray

  • Argues that God should have little to nothing to do with religion.
  • Belief is of little to no importance. Rather, “practice – ritual, meditation, a way of life  – is what counts. … what matters is how we live.”
  • “Only religious fundamentalists and ignorant rationalists think myths we live by are literal truths.”

Obvious Response to Gray

  • It all depends on what you hope to find in a religion. Many religions promise more. For example, ultimate salvation.
  • It depends on religious beliefs being true.

Here we come to a point overlooked in debates about theism of an all-good, all powerful God.

Suppose it could be established. What would this imply about our chances for eternal salvation?  Very little. If possible, would God do it? God needs to take account of entire universe.

Problem of Evil

  • An all-good God would minimize suffering
  • An all good and powerful God might need some evils to avoid worse ones
  • But we have no way of knowing we won’t be the victims.

Two-Edged character of religious responses

“Skeptical Theists”

  • God has knowledge beyond our understanding.
  • This seems to saves us from apparent contradiction of evil and an all good god.
  • But it limits our judgments about what it would do.

David Hume’s analysis in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

  • Problem of Evil is solved by pointing out the Gap between God’s omniscience and our own ignorance
  • But we can’t move logically from what we think God will do to what God will do
  • Therefore, the fact that we think an all-good God would ensure our salvation doesn’t support the conclusion that he will.

What can personal contact provide concretely? How can we be sure its not an evil deceiver?


75. The importance of the afterlife: seriously –  Samuel Scheffler

Other people will live on after I die. Humanity won’t exist forever.

These facts play an important role in shaping our values and matter more to us than our own survival and that of loved ones.

  1. Hypothetical Scenario #1: Sudden Human Extinction by Asteroid
    • What if the earth were destroyed 30 days after your death? How would this knowledge affect you? Would you be less motivated?
    • But even those who fear death and don’t believe in an afterlife remain confident of value of their activities
    • Therefore there is a way the survival of others after our deaths matters more to us than our own survival
    • Why? Concern for loved ones?
    • See P.D. James’s Children of Men
  2. Hypothetical Scenario #2: Infertile Humanity with No Births for 25 Years
    • All natural deaths, but no new people;
    • Likely to produce depression, anxiety, and despair;
    • Some would seek consolation in religious faith, doing pleasurable things like being with friends and family;
    • Therefore, widespread assumptions about the human ego and individualism are oversimplified.
    • The capacity to find purpose and value depends on what we expect to happen to others after our deaths

Will humanity survive?





76. In praise of the clash with cultures –  Carlos Fraenkel

Cairo Egypt

  • Students wanted to convert Fraenkel to Islam to save him from burning in hell.
  • He wanted to save them from wasting their life.
  • They asked him if he were sure there is no proof for God’s existence – he assured them there was none.

Kant’s Critique of the Ontological proof for God

Avicenna (11th century) – metaphysical proof for God’s existence

  1. Since an infinite regress of causes is impossible, things that depend on a cause for their existence must have something that exists through itself as their first cause
  2. This necessary existence is God.

Carlos learned an important lesson.

  • He hadn’t properly thought through some of his most basic convictions and his friends forced him to, and
  • How contested his views were.

Since then he has organized workshops

  • Palestinian university in East Jerusalem
  • Islamic university in Indonesia
  • Chasidic Jews in New York
  • High School students in Salvador de Bahia
  • First Nations Community in Canada

This gave him insight to people’s deep divisions on morality, religion, and philosophy, but had fruitful for cultural debates.

Can we be sure that:

  • Our beliefs about the world match the way the world is?
  • That our subjective preferences match what is objectively in our best interest?

We might value truth because

  • We want a life that is good
  • Truth is part of the good life
  • Truth as moral obligation independent of consequences
  • Or come closer to God who is the truth (al H.)
  • We wouldn’t hold beliefs if we weren’t convinced they were true. This is not evidence they are.

Fallibilist – present convictions could be false (esp. given diversity of beliefs)

Therefore valuing truth and culture of debate are related becuase you want to critically evaluate your beliefs.

-al Ghazali (d. 1111) Persian Sufi Mystic – “Deliverance from Error”

  • Unsettling experience that confronts us with our fallibility – breaks the “bonds of taqlid”, the beliefs and values from contingent circumstances of socialization, not rational deliberation.
    • Authority of parents and teachers
    • All other than rational argument
  • Conformism has a long history
    • Socrates – gadfly to sluggish horse of Athens
    • Galen noted philosophers doing this too!


  • If we take ‘taqlid’ as a fact about human psyche, and
  • If we agree that it is an undesirable state,
  • Then we should welcome debates across cultural boundaries.
  • Or if we engage someone different, we can’t rely on their authority,
  • But we are still compelled to argue for our own view.

Consider: Theological debate in multicultural world of Medieval Islam (al Humaydi d. 1095)

  • Limited to rational arguments [hujaj al-‘aql]

We need a culture of debate – starting in the last years of high school – 2 things:

  1. Convey techniques of debate –  logical and semantic tools to clarify views, and make and respond to arguments, an “organon” or toolkit of a philosopher.
  2. Cultivate virtues of debate – loving truth more than winning and trying to understand the views of the opponent

Transform disagreements arising from diversity into culture of debate then they cease to threaten social peace.

  • Advocates of multiculturalism celebrate, not just tolerate, diversity.
  • Others keep private – French ‘laicite’, you are a citoyen in public.

However, both of these responses try to remove reasons to object to beliefs and values we don’t share, by removing them from (or keeping them out) of site.

But a culture of debate allows serious, respectful, and mutually beneficial engagement.

  • Some people object – that there is no value in religious citizens who take God’s wisdom as infallible and claim access through revelation and accept it on faith, not argument.
  • Response – the history of religion shows plenty of arguments about how to understand God’s wisdom

al-Ghazali – “scrutinized the creed of every sect” (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and “tried to lay bare the inmost doctrines of” [all] to “distinguish between true and false”.

Privitization and Cultural Relativism are more of an obstacle to cultural debate than religion.


77. What’s wrong with blasphemy? –  Andrew F. March

If there had been no riot in response to “The Innocence of Muslims” would the filmmakers have done anything wrong? If so, why? To whom? Why censor ourselves?

  • President Obama speech to U.N. General Assembly 9/12 directly addressed violent reaction to “crude and disgusting video”
  • Other speech – ‘n-word’, associated with evil and to perpetuate it is to harm, and matters objectively even if I don’t personally care.
  • Just an archetype to fix our thoughts and even if it’s legal, there are good reasons not to.
  • The same can be said about speech that mocks beliefs that others hold as sacred

Most secular approaches

  • Human beings have a strong interest in being free to express themselves
  • ‘sacredness’ is an object of human construction;
  • So the fact that something is called sacred isn’t enough to explain why everyone should respect it.
  • Respect is owed to persons, but not to all they value, even if they don’t make this distinction.
  • This makes it hard from some common arguments to persuade.

6 Common Arguments about Speech & the Sacred

  1. Blasphemy transgresses a boundary & violates the sacred.
  2. We should respect whatever people regard as sacred or treat as religious.
  3. People are deeply hurt and injured by violations of the sacred or objects of love.
  4. Blasphemy is dangerous.
  5. Blasphemy is hate speech.
  6. Blasphemy disrupts social harmony.

Responses to each argument

  1. If others don’t agree it is sacred, it gives them no reason not to violate it.
  2. a. It gives others wide latitude to claim a veto over my speech by calling something sacred, and b. valuable and important speech outweighs this
  3. pain alone does not explain morality
  4. acting out of prudence or fear and treating the other as irrational
  5. there is no way to eliminate the gap between the values we imagine everyone has and the falues they do have; many religious thinkers despise someone’s views but respect those who hold them
  6. a. nothing wrong with blasphemous content per se, and b. we have to explain what kinds of social relationships we are obliged to care for this way.

None of these arguments is sufficient alone, but that doesn’t mean none of them were reasons not to violate what others hold as sacred, but they may be outweighed by value of things I want [or need] to say.

Relational Duties

  • Consider the content and the recipient.
  • If you care about persons this increases the cost to your own conscience.
  • Be aware of your impact.
  • The value you place on relationships alters your moral judgments about speech.
  • Consider political and social relationships.


78. Why I love Mormonism –  Simon Critchley

As an Englishman in NY, Critchley observed that it is okay to say uninformed things, and to be anti-Mormon, but anti-anything else is ‘racist’, ‘Islamophobic’ or ‘anti-Semitic’

Founder of Mormonism Joseph Smith was shot to death June 27th, 1844, by an angry mob.

Critchley also met nice Mormons from BYU when invited to lecture in 1994 on romanticism – the creative burst after disappointment with the Christian world view. An audience member said this assumed a unitary infinite God and asks why god can’t be plural and finite.

Joseph Smith asserted that God is subject to space and time, so finite, a man who became a god, and so can we.

This is blasphemy and heresy from an only-one-incarnation-Jesus Christian view.

3rd and 4th c. Christian Fathers, including St. Augustine, to explain consubstantiation, built the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, Holy Ghost distinction, but each participate.

Smith argues they’re all material talks about a council of Gods meant to take place before Genesis begins -based on interpretation of Hebrew concluding with the head God called together the Gods and sat in grand council to bring forth the world.

Was there even a son without a Father? Christians must answer ‘yes’, God is ‘causa sui’

But Smith rejects this! God is part of the causal chain, an endless regress of Gods, and matter precedes creation and Mormon gods organize it.

But no women or blacks until 1978.


  • Christian sect;
  • Within each of us is an immortal spirit or intelligence co-equal with god;
  •  “The American Religion” – the idea of something uncreated in human being excited the Gnostic Jew Harold Bloom in 1992;
  • Plural gods;
  • Plural marriage is a moral obligation;
  • Views Native Americans as descendants of the inhabitants of the old world, scattered tribes of Israel, and the restoration of the 10 tribes and Zion will be built in America;
  • Post Christian, like Islam – which also has a prophet
  • Allows for more prophets and continuing revelation – very democratic in a way;
  • Strong poetry, presumptive, delusional, and romantic.


79. An imperfect God –  Yoram Hazony

Philosophers describe theism, focusing on an omni-god

  • belief in a perfect being
  • all powerful
  • all knowing
  • immutable
  • all perfectly good
  • perfectly simple
  • necessarily existent

2 problems

  • impossible to make coherent
  • if immutable how can change happen?
  • where is the evidence that writers of the Bible conceive of this god?

Hebrew Scripture

  • god is not immutable and regrets man
  • not all knowing and can be surprised
  • not all powerful – can’t control Israel
  • and so on …

Have the atheists won? No. But theism does need rethinking.

1. Must God be perfect? Biblical authors don’t assert it.

  • “Perfect” normally means
    • the best possible balance among principles involved in making it the kind of thing that it is, and
    • involves trade-offs of principles;
    • You can’t perfect something by maximizing all its parts at the same time.

2. We can’t judge the perfection of a thing with only a partial view

  • Moses gets glimpses of God
    • “I am that I am”
    • “I will be what I will be”
  • These indicate incompleteness and change. So what is the God of the Hebrew Bible?
  • Donald Harman Akenson thinks of God as an embodiment of reality as we experience it.
  • Ancient Israelites had a more realistic god than the Greeks.
  • Philosophers make sweeping idealizations.

A more plausible conception of God couldn’t hurt.



80. The politics of the binding of Issac –  Omri Boehm

[Summary: The current unfortunate political theology of the story of Abraham’s binding of his son Isaac is:  Jewish State first, morality second. Boehm served in the Israeli military and confronts its “manifestly immoral demands”.]

Commandment to Abraham to kill his son.


  • Faith and obedience, religion and state
    • Must obey? Blind religious obedience?
      • Angel intervenes or Abraham, father of monotheism, would kill his son.
        • Faith equals obedience
        • God’s commandment overrides ethics

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

  • A Paradox:  If we hadn’t been willing to sacrifice our children to God, we wouldn’t have survived as a God-inspired and God-committed nation.What Abraham was asked to do will be demanded from all subsequent generations of Jews

Riskin explicitly identifies the Zionist Cause with God’s will, a Jewish State, the political theology of the binding of Isaac – obedience, even if immoral.

But the focus isn’t on sacrifice, but obedience

  • Pervasive in Israel
  • No constitution because an authority would conflict with God’s authority
  • Bible and gun given to each soldier
  • Euologize Ariel Sharon
    • Ariel Sharon identifies himself as a Jew first, then an Israeli for whom reviving biblical Judaism in the Promised Land is main value
    • A fundamentalist (irregular among secular Jewish Israelis)
    • May partly explain his ruthlessness and seal
    • Created settlements in the West Bank and Gaza

Reasons to think this political ideology is distorted

  • Ethically
  • Rrom a standpoint of Jewish faith

Maimonides conception of the binding of Isaac

  • Comments on Genesis 22
  • Classification of 11 degrees of prophesy in The Guide for the Perplexed
    • 11th and highest  is a prophet who “sees an angel who addresses him in a vision”  …”as Abraham in the time of binding”. The binding begins when Yahweh addresses Abraham.
    • Hearing is an inferior prophesy. Only later in Genesis does the Angel appear when commanding him to stop the sacrifice.
    • But why follow the angel of Yahweh instead of Yahweh?

Maimonides account of the divine names

  • “Yahweh” – deity’s proper name
  • “God” – “Elohim” – equivocal and originally signifying rulers and judges of states
  • The Fall of Adam and Eve – the serpent states that by eating the fruit they will become Elohim – like God in knowing good and evil. Maimonides reads this as gaining knowledge is the punishment, because they lose absolute knowledge possessed in Eden, conforming instead to mere norms of the land and contingent laws of the state.

Apply this to his account of Isaac’s binding and of prophesy

  • political theology differs from common ideas of religious thinkers and critics of religion
  • Spinoza  – prophesy is the chief political-theological institution


  • Supreme prophesy is in disobedience to contingent norms and degenerate state decrees.
  • Reads gods command to sacrifice as a metaphor – standing for human temptation to follow the established law and ethical political norm as if they were decrees and pagan ritual of child sacrifice and was the established ethical political norm in Abraham’s world and continues to reverberate.

In Israel – finds followers in those who teach absolute obedience to the state, the military, and the myths that justify it.

Maimonides would have disobeyed.

  • The highest prophetic decree was in obeying Yahweh’s cancellation of God’s decree – demanded by both morality and faith – the true political theology of Isaac’s binding.


Jewish state’s citizens should consider this.



81. On questioning the Jewish State –  Joseph Levine

Levine was raised in a Jewish environment, not strongly Zionist but always took it as self-evident that “Israel has a right to exist” and many think that to deny it is to be anti-Semitic and not an option for people of conscience.

Levine has questioned it and thinks general fealty to it seriously constrains debate that is important to Israelis and Palestinians, U.S. foreign policy, and the safety of the world.

One ought to question it and questioning it is not anti-Semitic.

What does it mean?

  • one problem – “right to exist” sounds too close to “right to life”
  • key to interpretation – “as a Jewish State”
  1.  Jews as a people have a right to self-determination
  2. Right to their own state
  3. Geographical area of former mandatory Palestine, the ancestral homeland

Claim: To deny 1 through 3 is anti-Semitic because it refuses to grant Jews the same rights that others have

Levine: This claim is unsustainable and can be challenged at least 3 ways.

  1. Deny that Jews constitute a people in the relevant sense.
  2. Deny that a right to self-determination involves what they say it does.
  3. Deny that Jews have a claim on the geographical area.

There is basis to deny all three.Levine focuses on #2 (because 1 and 3 have mostly lost their importance, he says). Does a people’s right to self-determination entail a right to a state of their own?

Today – millions of Jews live in Israel and it’s now their home.

  • a. “a people”
  • b. a right to live on that land

But a. and b., if granted, don’t sufficiently entail a right to a Jewish state.

Actually, it’s an historical irony to insist that it’s anti-Semitic to deny that the Jews are a people, since in the 18th and 19th century Jewish emancipation in Western Europe, the ghetto walls were torn down and they were granted the full rights of citizenship.

Anti-Semitic forces were associated with insisting on Jewish peoplehood. Since Jews were a nation, they couldn’t be loyal citizens of any European State

Liberals insisted that Jews could

  • practice their religion,
  • uphold cultural traditions, and
  • maintain full citizenship where they lived.

Levine – If Jews are a people, and if this entails a right to self-determination, then why wouldn’t they have a right to live under a Jewish State in their homeland?

Because many non-Jews live in Israel too, rightfully.

  1. a people
  2. ethnic sense – language, culture, history, territory
  3. civic sense – citizenship in nation-state or geographic residence

Jewish people only makes sense in an ethnic sense (1)

this is not equal to Israeli – which is the civic sense (3) and 20 % of Israelis are non-Jewish Palestinians. Most Jewish people are not Israeli and are geographically dispersed.

“Right to State” – is this ethnic or civic? Levine says it is only meaningful in the civic sense. What is it for a people to have a state “of their own”?

  • Formal institutions and legal framework of state serves to express, encourage and favor that people’s identity
  • Distinctive position manifested symbolically and substantively – name, flag, holidays, education, immigration, membership, resource distribution

If serving the state’s citizens, no problem.

If people who “own” the state are an ethnic subgroup, then that’s a problem. This is how it is in Israel as a Jewish state, a violation of a people’s right to self-determination of the non-Jewish Israelis, and a violation of self-determination to exclude non-Jewish citizens because of ethnicity or any other reason.

Any state that “belongs” to one ethnic group within it violates the core democratic principle of equality and self-determination rights of the non-members of that group

True equality in the state is based on civic people-hood.

Conclusion: The very idea of a Jewish State is undemocratic and a violation of the rights of non-Jewish citizens – hegemony, expulsion (1948 &1967), occupation (1967 to the present), institutionalized marginalization leading to laws preventing Palestinians from challenging. No Arab party in the government.


82. The Freedom of Faith: A Christmas Sermon –  Simon Critchley

The Freedom of Faith, A Christmas Sermon – Simon Critchley

Paul Elie – Has fiction lost its faith?

Fyodor Dostoyevsky – oddly faithful

1880 – Brothers Karamazov – “The Grand Inquisitor” fiction within a fiction draws on the New Testament and Jesus ‘Refusal of Satan’s 3 Temptations’ – faith, freedom, happiness, satisfaction of desire.

Scene 1: Christ is Sorely Tempted by Satan

Christ – fasts 40 days and nights and is hungry and Satan appears and tempts him with 3 questions

  1. Food – Satan:  Jesus, turn these stones to bread, son of God, to feed yourself and your followers. / Jesus:  not on bread alone, but on every word of God
  2. Mystery – Satan: Jesus, throw yourself off the temple roof and if you are the son of God, then Angels will save you./Jesus:
  3. Authority – Satan: You’ll have the authority and glory of all the kingdoms of the Earth if you will worship me. – Jesus: Go Satan! (and the devil evaporates.)

Scene 2: Christ Denies authority and Affirms Freedom of Faith

Mystery, Miracle, and Authority are interlinked – the simplest way to get people to follow a leader is by miraculous guarantee of bread.

  • endless abundance of wealth
  • mystery of authority that confirms truth
  • invisible hand, mysteries market forces, benevolent dream of a universal state.

Why does Jesus refuse?

John 8: Faith in Jesus, the truth, will set you free. – ‘eleutherosei‘.

  1. Proximity of faith and truth. not empirical nor logical truths, a truth – loyalty or fidelity to the betrothed, an act of love.
  2. Truth will free?

Scene 3: Be Happy! Why Jesus Must Burn.

Ivan Karamozov writes a prose poem set in 16th c. Seville during the Spanish Inquisition where heretics were burned alive. After nearly 100 were burned by the Grand Inquisitor, and in the presence of the eminent cardinal, king, court, and ladies, Christ appears suddenly! People weep and throw themselves at his feet. Then the Grand Inquisitor passes by and orders Jesus arrested and thrown into prison and says he’ll burn him at the stake, and that Jesus must have known he would, so why has he come? Jesus is silent.

Q:  How could Jesus’s appearance interfere with the function of the church?

A:  What Jesus brought to the world was freedom of faith and for 1500 years Christians have wrestled with it, but now it’s over, the church has vanquished freedom to make men happy.

Scene 4: Obedience or Happiness?

What makes humans happy? Bread. Jesus rejects bread for freedom and heaven, and refuses miracles, mystery, and authority in the name of radical freedom of conscience.

Problem: excessive burden on humans. Man is tormented by freedom and wants to hand it over. If you give people bread they’ll worship you. Remove their freedom with submission to a mystery and they will obey your authority and will be happy and may even believe themselves to be free.

‘Freedom’ here means:

  • Not freedom of faith, but
  • Multiplication of desires whose rapid satisfaction equals happiness,
  • Debased and governed by instrumental means-ends rationality.

In the rich – isolation of hard hedonism and spiritual suicide

In the poor – envy to be like the rich

Both – are in the grip of an ideology claiming that humans are becoming more global and connected and united. But we’re not.

Scene 5: Oh Lord – The Church is in League with the Devil

Grand Inquisitor tells Christ: Because of the excessive burden of freedom, the Church has “corrected Thy work and founded it on miracle, mystery, and authority.”

Revelatory Moment

  • We’re not working with Thee, but with the devil – “this is our mystery”
  • The Church was seduced by all of those temptations in Jesus’s name
  • accepted in hope of finding a means of uniting all – Satan’s most persuasive and dangerous temptation
  • Prefer demonic happiness to unendurable freedom – all humans want to be saved from an anxiety of making a free decision.

Scene 6: The Kiss and the Curse

The Humble – So, all will be happy except for those guarding the secret

The Proud – True Christians – see themselves as elect, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes who will be in company of saints in millennium following Christ’s second coming.

Jesus kisses the G.I.who then leaves saying “Go, and come no more … come not at all …never, never!”

Scene 7: Demonic Happiness or Unbearable Freedom?

  • Ivan disavows the poem as senseless and naive.
  • Alyosha upbraids Ivan and claims he’s an atheist. “How will you live and …love with sucha hell in your heart?”
  • Father Zossima in refutation of Ivan says “What is he;;? … the capacity to love.”
  • Then Alyosha kisses Ivan’s lips and Ivan accuses him of plagiarism.

Dostoyevsky doesn’t defend Ivan’s position, or is unconvincing in defending what he does.

Demonic Happiness (a falsehood) or Unbearable Freedom (the truth)?

  • Not freedom of inclination and passing desire
  • Freedom of faith
  • Intolerable burden of self
  • Energizes movement of subjective conversion to begin again
  • Disobey self to put on new self

Scene 8- Doubt and Faith Unite

  • Such an experience of faith isn’t certainty
  • Doubt isn’t the enemy of faith
  • Doubt is certainty
  • If faith becomes certainty, then we’ve been seduced by miracle, mystery, and authority – we have become diabolical.
  • Noble god-like faith is defined by an essential insecurity, tempered by doubt, defined by radical experience of freedom.

Sermon on the Mount

  • “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hat you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”
  • “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
  • Sublime, glorious, ridiculous, inhuman, easy for Jesus to say.

Scene 9: The Grand Inquisitor is Defended

The G.I. accepted Satan’s temptation out of love for humanity, who need to be happy and which we maybe deserve.

If the cost of pure rigor of true faith is salvation of a happy few, then it condemns the rest of us to a life of mockery – the G.I. is justified in choosing a lie.

“Truth sets free” is too demanding. A lie that grants happiness for the greatest number leads to damnation.






83. Good minus God –  Louise M. Antony 

Atheists were overtaken by Tea Party in being the most reviled group, according to Robert Putnam and David Campbell.

Why do so many people dislike atheists?

Does atheism (non-belief in God) imply nihilism (rejecting morality)? No.

Nihilistic (Hobbesian) Atheists

Some atheists are nihilists who view ethics as a fairy tale used to keep “innate bestial selfishness mostly under control” … but there is no universal enforcer/punisher/rewarder, and we are self-interested and more or less enlightened; this is like Thomas Hobbes [nasty, brutish, short war of all against all in the state of nature] view that since there is no common power, there is no law, and therefore no injustice.

Moralistic Atheists

But no atheist has to agree and many don’t; rather they “find moral value immanent in the natural world, arising from the vulnerabilities of sentient beings and from the capacities of rational beings to recognize and respond to those vulnerabilities and capacities in others.”

This view is compatible with any religious belief that God made human beings in his image, that, “there is a moral dimension of things”, and “that it is in our ability to apprehend it that we resemble the divine” …”moral value is inherent in morally valuable things … things don’t become valuable because God prefers them, God prefers them because they are morally valuable.

Anthony grew up Catholic: “we could see that God was good because of the things he commands us to do. If helping the poor were not a good thing on its own, it wouldn’t be much to God’s credit that he makes charity a duty.”

This belief is consistent with belief in God and is a more pious position than its opposite. “It is only if morality is independent of God that we can make moral sense out of religious worship … that any person can have a moral basis for adhering to God’s commands”.

Consequences of pinning morality to the existence of God

  • All specific moral judgments are false unless God exists;
  • Personal relations – no independent moral worth of loved ones;
  • Historical connections count for nothing in themselves;
  • Morality is simply duty to authority, the only obligation is disciplined by promise of reward or threat of punishment;
  • No inherent value in the nature of things that could warrant particular attitudes and behavior of anyone who can apprehend it;
  • Another being’s pain is not enough reason to give it aid.

Divine Command Theory:  What is morally good is constituted by what God commands.

  • Claimed to explain what non-theistic accounts of moral value can’t, for example the objectivity or universality of morality.
    • If God exists, he does so independently.
    • If we didn’t invent God, then we didn’t invent morality.
    • We can be ignorant of God’s will, and mistaken about what is morally good.
    • God is omnipresent so his commands apply to everyone at all times and places.

Anthony:  It follows from DCT that moral facts are objective, but not that they are moral. Commands issued by a tyrant have all the same features. To explain morality, DCT must also explain what makes God good.

Euthyphro – “The pious acts are those which are loved by the gods”

  • Socrates finds this definition ambiguous.
    • Honorific Meaning:  “Are the pious acts pious because they are loved by the gods? (Divine Command theory – DCT)
      • so if the gods changed their minds (which Homeric gods did) then so does what is good.
    • Substantive Property Meaning:  Or are the pious acts loved by the gods because they are pious?” (Divine Independence Theory – DIT)
      • the acts have a property in common independent of and antecedent to gods willing that explains why the gods love them. God could command the opposite but only commands the good.
  • Both entail a perfect correspondence between the class of actions
  • The two theories differ on what accounts for this congruence

DCT is more radical and bizarre than Hobbesian Nihilism

  • Nihilistic view:  morality is an illusion and anything goes.
  • DCT:
    • there is moral goodness, defined by what God commands.
    • Entails that anything at all could be “good” or “right” or “wrong”, and
    • if all that ‘moral’ means is ‘commanded by god’ then there are no moral reasons for obeying him, only prudential, self-interested reasons. the same can be said of tyrants.

More pious position is that morality is independent of the existence of God.

What about atheism? The capacity to be moved by the moral dimension of things has nothing to do with theological beliefs. The most reliable allies in any moral struggle will be those who respond to the ethically significant aspects of life, whether or not they conceive these things in religious terms. You do not lose morality by giving up god, nor find it by finding god.

Concession:  There are things that one loses in giving up god, like the guarantee of redemption. You must live life and make choices with the knowledge that every choice you make contributes in one way or another to the only value your life can have. Human choices become surpassingly important.


84. Morals without God? –  Frans de Waal

De Waal was born in Den Bosch, a town that Hieronymous Bosch named after himself. Bosch painted depictions of “a society under a waning influence of God.”

Garden of Earthly Delights [http://www.esotericbosch.com/Garden.htm]

  • … seems a a tribute to paradisaical innocence… far too happy and relaxed to fit interpretation of depravity and sin advanced by puritan experts. … [and] represents humanity free from guilt and shame either before the Fall or without any Fall at all.”
  • To deWaal, a primatologist, the images are familiar and don’t need a religious or moral interpretation…seem to depict humanity in its natural state.
  • Except in the right hand panel – a “moralistic outlook”, punishing not the frolickers, but the “monks, nuns, gluttons, gamblers, warriors and drunkards”.

500 years later we are still debating the role of religion in society.

Can we envision a world, a good world, without God? Conflicts between biology and fundamentalist Christianity do not turn on evidence. It’s hard to ignore the evidence for evolution and why trying to convince skeptics is a waste of effort. “The debate is less about the truth than about how to handle it.” For those who believe that morality comes from God, to accept evolution is to face a moral abyss.

Our Vaunted Frontal Lobe

Christian Nihilism

  • Reverend Al Sharpton: “If there is no order to the universe, and therefore some being, some force that ordered it, then who determines what is right or wrong? there is nothing immoral if there’s nothing in charge.”
  • Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamozov: “if there is no God, I am free to rape my neighbor!”

DeWaal is “wary of anyone whose belief system is the only thing standing between them and repulsive behavior.”

Did our ancestors lack all social norms before they had religion? Did they never help, worry about their communities before only a few thousand years ago? “Religion is an add-on rather than the wellspring of morality.”“Deep down, creationists realize they will never win factual arguments with science, … why they have construed their own science-like universe, known as Intelligent Design, and eagerly jump on every tidbit of information that seems to go their way.

  • “Hausergate”:  Harvard colleague Marc Hauser accused on 8 counts of scientific misconduct, including making up his own data….”naive evolutionary presuppositions”.  Fraud has occurred in many fields of science.
  • Humans are continuous with animals.
    • Rare uniqueness claim of humans is shown to be false in areas of cognition, tool-making, imitation, thinking ahead, having culture, being self aware, and adopting another’s point of view.
    •  No new parts, typical size brain, linearly scaled-up monkey brain. Superior intellect, but no new basic wants or needs. Our psychological make up is that of a social primate.

The Pleasure of Giving

Charles Darwin was interested in how morality fits the human-animal continuum. The Descent of Man – Any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instinctswould inevitably acquire a moral sense or conscience, as soon as its intellectual powers had become well developed ... as in man.”

Unfortunately modern popularizers have strayed from these insights.

“Veneer Theory”

  • Robert Wright in The Moral Animal – True moral tendencies cannot exist since nature is 100% selfish. Morality is a thin veneer over that.
  • Peter Railton – “moral camouflage”

Counterexamples to Veneer Theory

Fortunately, there is a resurgence of the Darwinian view that morality grew out of the social instincts, and there is evidence for altruism.

  • DeWaal in Good Natured (1996 ) – instead of blaming bad behavior on biology, and claiming noble traits for humans, why not view the entire package as a product of evolution;
  • Psychologists stress the intuitive way we arrive at moral judgments while activating emotional brain areas, and;
  • Economists and Anthropologists have shown humanity to be far more cooperative, altruistic, and fair than predicted by self-interest models;
  • Primatology experiments reveal that close relatives will do each other favors even if there’s nothing in it for themselves.
    • Animal Altruism (p.491-492) Chimps and bonobos, Capuchin monkeys exhibit altruistic instinct – most monkeys develop an overwhelming preference for pro-social rewards, not rewards given for actions motivated by fear of repercussions, because dominant monkeys with the least to fear are the most generous.
    • That altruistic behavior evolved for advantages this does not make it selfishly motivated.
      • Future benefits rarely figure in the minds of animals (e.g. sex unconcerned with reasons sex exists or consequence of reproduction). The same is true for altruistic impulse, unconcerned with evolutionary consequences.
      • Disconnect between evolution and motivation befuddled veneer theorists and made them reduce everything to selfishness.
    • Animal Empathy – mammals – primates, canines, elephants, rodents all demonstrate empathy, give and want affection, and respond to emotion of others, derive pleasure from helping others.
    • Built in gratification/pleasure centers in the brain light up when we give to charity. To call it selfish makes the word meaningless. A selfish person has no trouble walking away from someone in need. Helping is genuinely other oriented, since this pleasure is only achieved when helping others.

Bottom-Up Morality

Inequity Aversion:  Sarah Brosnan and DeWaal observed animals going on strike when they saw other animals getting better rewards.

Fairness: Brosnan also observed in pairs of chimps, that chimps who got a better deal occasionally refused their better reward until  the other got the same.

Implications for human morality:

  • Philosophers will reason toward a moral position, formulating principles and imposing them on human conduct. Would it be realistic to ask people to be considerate of others if we had no natural inclination to? Would it make sense to appeal to fairness and justice in absence of powerful reactions to their absence?
  • De Waal
    • Agrees with David Hume that reason is the slave of the passions,
    • But is reluctant to call a chimp a “moral being” because sentiments are not enough for morality. We strive for a logically coherent system and have uniquely human debates.
    • No evidence that animals judge appropriateness of acts that do not affect themselves.
  • Finn Edward Westermarck – Moral emotions are disconnected from one’s immediate situation: they deal with good and bad at a more abstract, disinterested level. What sets us apart – a move toward universal standards combined with an elaborate system of justification, monitoring and punishment.


  • Parable of the Good Samaritan – support for compassion
  • Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard – challenge to fairness – “the last will be first, and the first will be last”
  • Fondness for reward and punishment
    • Heaven for virgins, hellfire for sinners
    • Exploitation of desire to be “praiseworthy”
    • Adam Smith – humans so sensitive to public opinion
    • All-seeing eye

The Atheist Dilemma

Strident “New Atheists”/”brights” Christopher Hitchens – “God is Not Great” and Richard Dawkins – “The God Delusion” urge trust in science and root ethics in naturalistic worldview

DeWaal on science as an alternative to religion:

  • What good comes from insulting people who find value in religion?
  • What alternative does science have to offer?
    • It does find out why things are the way they are, or how things work;
    • It does not spell out the meaning of life or how to live our lives, or provide moral guidance.
    • Westerners are steeped in Christian morality including scientists
    • Bosch struggled with science’s place in society and humorously painted alchemists, who were gaining ground at the time, but mixed with the occult, charlatans, and quacks, and turned into science when it developed self-correcting procedures to deal with flawed or fabricated data.
    • Other primates …strive for a certain kind of society (p.496)
      • Female chimps dragging reluctant males to make up after a fight, removing weapons from their hands;
      • High ranking males regularly act as impartial arbiters to settle disputes in the community.
      • De Waal takes primate behaviors as signs that morality is older than humanity and we don’t need God to explain it. But, if we cut religion out of society, he doubts science could fill the void as an inspiration for the good, and says any framework will likely produce a list of principles, prophets, and followers and look like religion.



85. The sacred and the humane –  Anat Biletzki

Human rights – rights due simply by virtue of being human. What is meant by “human”? and “rights”?

Foundation and Justification:  Where do rights come from and what grounds them?

2 approaches

  1. Religious
  2. Secular/philosophical


  • Ronald Dworkin “Life is Sacred: That’s the Easy Part”, NYT Mag 1993 – “We almost all accept that human life in all its forms is sacred – that it has intrinsic and objective value quite apart from any value it might have to the person whose life it is. for some of us, this is a matter of religious faith; for others, of secular but deep philosophical belief.”
  • R. H Tawney  – “The essence of all morality is… to believe that every human being is of infinite importance, and therefore that no consideration of expediency can justify the oppression of one by another, but to belief this it is necessary to believe in God.”
  • Michael Perry – The Idea of Human Rights – no intelligible secular version of the conviction that every human being is sacred” – no “dignity”, “inviolable”, “end in himself” without supposition of sacred godly creation.


  • Multiple non-religious arguments grounding human rights
  • God by any other name? No philosophically robust reason to accept this. It’s just a manner of speaking and needn’t be tied to the sacred.
  • Bases for morality at large
    • Aristotelian Virtue and natural justice
    • Kantian categorical imperative arising from human reason
  • Theories of human needs, interests and agency
    • analytic foundations for the idea of human rights
  • Hart’s one natural right – the equal right to be free
  • Gewirth’s human action and logic
  • Sen and Nussbaum’s talk of basic human capabilities
  • Etc. all with humanistic starting points, equally profound to religion in justifying human rights
  • Strong critique of individualism guiding liberal idea of human rights, and enjoining us to rethink the autonomous self who is the “human”

Why should we care how human rights are grounded if the results are the same? Look at how human rights work on the ground:

  • e.g. Israel-Palestine (p.499-500)
  • Religion is not really working for human rights, and it is not the concept of rights that motivate the religious person, but of having been created in God’s image.
  • Jack Donnelly – Universal human Rights in Theory and Practice – “Traditional societies …typically have had elaborate systems of duties … independent of [or alternative to] human rights.

What functions as the source of moral authority?

Hilary Putnam in Jewish Philosophy as a Guide to Life – “Every human being should experience him/herself as commanded to be available to the neediness, the suffering, the vulnerability of the other person.”

But who commands us? God or the human being? It makes a difference. Why?

Problems arise when we don’t act together. In areas of disagreement religious authority must vacate the arena of human rights, because an internal, secular debate on human rights issues is different from the debate between the two camps.

  • Religious– turn to authority of God; no meaning of human rights under divine commandment (e.g. Abraham and Isaac)
  • Secularists – turn to human with claim to reason, emotion, compassion; no commandment

Dogmatic Irreligiosity? Using religion all along?

Philosophers of Religion recognize religion as

  • having a variety of religious experience
  • a form of life
  • a cultural framework
  • a system of symbols
  • a phenomenology
  • as extremely important to how one sees human rights

“Dartmouth School” Explicit Definition of Religion discussed here – a system of myth and ritual, a communal system of propositional attitudes related to superhuman agents.


86. Confessions of an ex-moralist –  Joel Marks

Marks:  The day I became an atheist was the day I realized I had been a believer, but previously counted himself a “secular ethicist.”

  • Plato’s Euthyphro and others convinced him that religion is not needed for morality. The modern, sane view, having an intuitive sense of right and wrong that trumps even the bad commandments of God, the ability to judge that God is good or bad, so even if God didn’t exist, we could figure it out.
  • Ethics is the guide, say the New Atheists.
  • Louise Antony in Philosophers without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life – “Another charge …that we have no moral values …essays in this volume … roundly refute…every writer …adamantly affirms the objectivity of right and wrong.”

But Marks doesn’t affirm this any longer.

  • Most of his previous work in normative ethics examined the conflict between consequentialism (outcomes) and deontological ethics (quality of act itself).
  • Another motive for ethics – applied ethics which seeks to find answers for the pressing moral problems of the day.
    • Animal Rights – Marks defended his own version of deontological ethics and applied it to defend the claim that other animals have an inherent right not to be eaten or used by humans.

Then he had an anti-epiphany. Is not morality like the God of the relationship between man and the beauty of nature? Is the wrongness of a lie any more intrinsic to it than beauty is to the sunset?

  • “Doesn’t it make more sense to suppose that all of these phenomena arise in my breast, that they are the responses of a particular sensibility to otherwise valueless events and entities?… Someone else might respond completely differently from me … so alien … tantamount to there being no morality at all. For essential to morality is that its norms apply with equal legitimacy to everyone; moral relativism …is an oxymoron. Hence, I saw no escape from moral nihilism.”
  • But secular morality was a god too, commanding without a commander
  • a semi-conscious state of self-delusion – Sartre might have called it “bad faith”
  • Implications for my Marks’s work- found himself in the thick of metaethicswhich looks at the nature of morality, including whether there even is such a thing as right and wrong. He previously knew that some things were just wrong, but then he wasn’t so sure.
  • He is not skeptical, nor agnostic.
  • He believes these acts are are not wrong, nor right, nor permissible.
  • Isolated island tribe analogy
  • Richard Garner is a soul mate
  • His personal experiment of excluding all moral concepts and language from his thinking is workable and attractive – give it a shot and you’ll likely like it.

There are fewer practical differences between moralism and amoralism than might have been expected.

  • Desire (whatever motivates us) is the moving force of humanity.
  • If we were convinced there is no such thing as moral right and wrong, we would want pretty much the same as what we want now.
  • E.g. If you used to say ‘x’ is wrong.
    • Now instead say “I dislike ‘x’ and want it to stop.and focus on conveying information.
      • Still committed to ending it. (desire is the same)
      • Better positioned to change other’s minds and hearts than telling people that they are wrong, which is more likely to be met with resistance. (manner has altered radically)
      • I can’t count on God or morality to back up my personal preferences
      • No longer trying to derive an ought from an is
      • I must accept that others sometimes have opposing preferences, even when we agree on the relevant facts and are reasoning correctly
      • More practical outlook: I desire to influence the world in such a way that my desires have a greater likelihood of being realized.
      • Implies being an active citizen
    • Still room for life of philosophical ethicist:
      • Retain strong preference for dialectical dealings in a context of mutual respect
      • Don’t give premises in moral arguments
      • Offer considerations to help figure out what to do
      • Don’t try to justify anything, just motivate informed and reflective choices.
      • My desires are likely to change too in direction of more compassion and respect.
      • Anticipate changed behaviors of people I meet and those they affect, not because a god or supernatural law or my conscience told me I must, nor morality, instead moved by my head and my heart.


87. Are we ready for a “morality pill”? –  Peter Singer and Agata Sagan

  • October 2011 2 year old girl was run over by a van and the driver didn’t stop…captured on video
  • London 2004, and others.
  • People behave in very different ways, but acts of extreme kindness, responsibility and compassion are, like their opposites, nearly universal.
  • Why are some people prepared to risk their lives to help a stranger when others won’t even stop to dial 911?
  • Scientists have explored this question
    • 1960s and 70s  – famous experiments by Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo suggest most of us would, under certain circumstances, voluntarily do great harm to innocent people
    • John Darley and C. Daniel Bateson – seminary students on their way to give a lecture about the parable of the Good Samaritan would, if told they were late, walk past a stranger lying moaning beside the path.
    • But some people did the right thing. – a recent study at University of Chicago seems to shed light on why.
    • Rat experiment
    • causes of the differences in the rats themselves
    • Situational factors can make a difference

If there is biochemical differences between the brains of those who help and those who don’t, could a morality pill make us more likely to help? Would people take it? Should it be required?

  • Anthony Burgess – A Clockwork Orange  and 1971 film by Stanley Kubrick – sparked a discussion in which many argued we couldn’t justify depriving someone of their free will no matter what violence could be prevented.
  • But if your brain chemistry does affect our moral behavior, then how it is set in balance will make no difference to our free will. either they are compatible or we were never free.


88. The light at the end of suffering  –  Peg O’Conner

How much more can I take? The lament of Job.Where is the breaking point? When does a person believe their life and the world is devoid of meaning? Most people don’t want to find out. For some addicts the “process of reaching that limit becomes an opportunity to effect radical transformation of their lives.”

William James

  • Wrote Varieties of Religious Experience, product of lectures delivered at U of Edinburgh in 1901 and 1902 and focused on the those “for whom religion exists not as a dull habit, but as an acute fever.”…an individual spiritual state, which may or may not include belief in a god.
  • A physician, philosopher and psychologist before psychology was an academic field, interest in psychic events, and human nature, and was fascinated by those who toed and sometimes went over the line of despair and meaninglessness.
  • Explored the “misery threshold” to find out if some people were more capable or more prone to experience “the acute fever” of religious belief
    • His answer: those who suffer are most inclined to experience it.
  • Two kinds of people differentiated by their relation to their misery threshold
    • “healthy minded” – optimistic with a low tolerance for misery, and it would take something catastrophic to send them over the edge
    • “sick soul”/”divided-self”/”world-sick” – “tend to say no to life”, are “governed by fear, anxious and melancholic, with apprehension that opportunistically spreads” – “experience a war-within”, life is “a series of zig-zags, “spirit wars with their flesh”, “wishes for incompatibles”, “one long drama of repentance and effort to repair misdemeanors and mistakes.”
      • Also an adequate description of addiction
      • James’s brother Robert was an alcoholic and was in and out of asylums, and many of his accounts are of drunkards
      • Why Bill Wilson, founder of AA read James and sobered up in 1934
      • James’s description of addiction:
        • Stage 1: Pleasure Diminished – what had previously brought joy brings less and less pleasure, yet they continue to seek it
        • Stage 2: Pleasure Destroyed – pessimism becomes the most frequent response and grows; addict takes any disappointment as a reason to use
        • Stage 3: Pathological Melancholy – no longer able to recognize joy and happiness, incapable of generating joy, acute anguish about self and world, self-loathing and acute anxiety, sees self and the world as having no meaning, utter hopelessness, stops trying, panic and fright govern them.
          • James experienced this in his late 20s
          • Nietzsche – “when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”
          • Kierkegaard – people are more afraid of jumping than falling
  • James saw potential for transformation:”through a passion of renunciation of the self and surrender to the higher power“. It is after this renunciation that one can experience ” the acute fever” of a spiritual life. When and where and how to surrender depends on a person’s misery threshold, and each person’s “rock bottom” is the point where the misery can no longer be tolerated.
    • ‘Surrender’
      • To make oneself open to new possibilities and
      • stop clutching core beliefs or identity so tightly.
    • ‘Higher Power’
      • Elastic meaning.
      • Uses Henry David Thoreau’s description (p.516)
      • Can be nature, moral principles, patriotism, sense of fellowship or goodwill to others, enthusiasm for humanity
      • takes a person outside or beyond self and connects to others
    • ‘The Acute Fever’
      • unification of previously divided self
      • firmness of mind
      • stability
      • equilibrium

No one is immune from all suffering but the acute fever transforms a person so that the drama, chaos and despair are severed and this shows that hope and redemption are just as much part of the human condition.





89. The maze of moral relativism / Paul Boghossian

Relativism appears unavoidable. … Where would absolute facts about right and wrong come from? … We should reject moral absolutes, … allowing right and wrong relative to this or that moral code … e.g. Stanley Fish’s 2001 “Condemnation Without Absolutes”.

plausible rejection of absolutism is relativism, why not nihilism?

relativism is not always coherent way of responding to the rejection of a certain class of facts … we didn’t become relativists about witches… we just gave up witch talk altogether. We became “eliminativists about witches”.

On the other hand Einstein’s special theory of relativity shows there is no such thing as the absolute simultaneity of two events, though there is a “simultaneity relative to a (spatio-temporal) frame of reference”



90. Is pure altruism possible? –  Judith Lichtenberg



91. The living death of solitary confinement –  Lisa Guenther



92. Should this be the last generation? –  Peter Singer



93. The meat eaters –  Jeff McMahan



94. Think before you breed –  Christine Overall



95. On forgiveness –  Charles L. Griswold



96. Questions for free-market moralists –  Amia Srinivasan



97. The myth of universal love –  Stephen T. Asma




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98. Hegel on Wall Street –  J.M. Bernstein



99. What is economics good for? –  Alex Rosenberg and Tyler Curtain



100. The taint of “social Darwinism” –  Philip Kitcher



101. The veil of opulence –  Benjamin Hale



102. Dependents of the state –  Amia Srinivasan



103. The failure of rational choice philosophy –  John McCumber



104. Mandela’s socialist failure –  Slavoj Žižek



105. When hope tramples truth –  Roger Scruton





106. Is forced fatherhood fair? –  Laurie Shrage



107. “Mommy wars” redux: a false conflict –  Amy Allen



108. When culture, power and sex collide –  Linda Martín Alcoff



109. Lady power –  Nancy Bauer



110. The end of “marriage” –  Laurie Shrage





111. Fugitive slave mentality –  Robert Gooding-Williams



112. Walking while Black in the “white gaze” –  George Yancy



113. Getting past the outrage of race –  Gary Gutting



114. A lesson from Cuba on race –  Alejandro de la Fuente



115. Is the United States a “racial democracy” –  Jason Staley and Vesla Weaver



116. What if we occupied language? –  H. Samy Alim



117. Does immigration mean “France is over”? –  Justin E.H. Smith





118. Who needs a gun? – Gary Gutting



119. The weapons continuum –  Michael Boylan



120. The freedom of an armed society –  Firmin DeBrabander



121. Is American nonviolence possible? –  Todd May



122. The moral hazard of drones –  John Kaag and Sarah Kreps



123. A crack in the stoic’s armor –  Nancy Sherman



124. Rethinking the “just war” –  Jeff McMahan





125. The gospel according to “me” – Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster



126. Deluded individualism –  Firmin DeBrabander



127. The very angry tea party – J.M. Bernstein



128. Is our patriotism moral? –  Gary Gutting



129. The cycle of revenge –  Simon Critchley



130. What is a “hacktivist”? –  Peter Ludlow



131. The myth of “just do it” –  Barbara Gail Montero



132. How to live without irony –  Christy Wampole



133. Navigating past nihilism –  Sean D. Kelly