The Norwegian philosopher Peter Zapffe is little-known to most Anglophone readers. “The Last Messiah” is a 1933 essay that stands out as an important work in the sphere of philosophical pessimism. The views expressed are a kind of evolutionary existentialism. For Zapffe, angst, despair, and depression are due to our overly evolved intellect: we have an overabundance of consciousness. We think too much for our own good.
Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant devoted to uncluttering our households. Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher devoted to uncluttering our minds. Can their methods of tidying up help us live happier lives?
Stating that the Presidential election and the person now occupying the office are illegitimate is a serious charge, but how accurate is it? The most prominent social theorist to articulate the concept of legitimacy is Max Weber, who outlined three ideal types of legitimate authority that comprise rightful rule. On any reading, Donald Trump comes into office with a severe legitimacy deficit.
It’s often been claimed that no dream should ever be a crucial feature of a narrative. Henry James famously advised, ”Tell a dream, lose a reader.” But why not? Perhaps the brain is not active in the same way when encountering someone else’s dream. Perhaps we are all too aware that it lacks the dramatic or instructive intention of a fully realized story.
If the Internet is one of the basic cognitive resources we bring to bear on the everyday world, the websites we spend the most time on must be playing a proportionally large role in our everyday cognitive functions. So does Facebook constitute a cognitive system in its own right?
It seems that an explanation is one kind of thing, given that all explanations share a name. The popular approach to scientific explanation is to treat all successful explanation as giving information about the relevant cause or causes of the phenomenon to be explained. But if we look to the natural and social sciences, we find explanations that look quite different. What scientists call “explanations” differ with respect to the form and structure of the explanation and with respect to the information given. Given that in many sciences there are explanations that refer explicitly to the function of a phenomenon and not its cause, we should ask: are functional explanations just another way of giving causal information, or are they noncausal?
Much Internet-ink has been spilled over the last few months on the topic of Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins’s controversial statement that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.” Is there something of a modern-day inquisition against Professor Hawkins, or is the Wheaton administration merely taking steps to act in accordance with its institutional mission as an evangelical university?
Our fundamental responsibility responses are emotional appraisals. How we express our anger, shame, regret, guilt, gratitude, etc., are ethical matters, though, about the ways we ought to treat our fellows. And the question of desert—as in “What does he deserve for what he did?”— is fundamentally an ethical question, i.e., “How should we treat those who do angersome things?” But the form of this question applies equally to all sorts of “non-responsibility” arenas as well, i.e., “How should we treat those who are economically worst off in our society?” or “How should we treat people with Huntington’s disease?” We can answer these questions in a variety of ways, but those answers aren’t necessarily dependent on our responsibility responses.
People who support antidiscrimination laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity need to do a better job of arguing for them. Specifically, we need to do more than simply say that businesses “must serve all comers,” because that’s false, and we need to do more than point to the history of race discrimination, because that history, while instructive, is different from the current situation in salient ways.
It’s the new golden age of television, and Amazon Studios has signed Woody Allen to create a full season’s worth of it. What can Allen, returning to television for the first time in fifty years, bring to the TV Revolution?
Philodemus of Gadara’s masterpiece On Death, preserved in the ruins of Herculaneum, catalogues in detail the ethical repercussions of the Epicurean doctrine that death is nothing to us and produces a beautiful, life-affirming, world-loving, secular philosophy of life that does not deny, mask, or run away from the reality of death. On Death helps us to develop a fully consistent, naturalist account of death that rejects superstitious and primitive fear.
Art and beauty have a peculiar kind of relationship and have been uneasily coupled since perhaps the beginning of human history. But the two have always been separable, as the 20th century demonstrated. Art always occupies a particular time and space, but beauty resides somewhere in the excitement of our brains, and we as a species still crave art that excites in this way.
Because many, if not most, of the things with which science has to deal cannot be directly observed, the central question of science is not “What is the truth about nature?” but “what counts as an empirically adequate explanation?”
Entry into the end zone is admission to a place that can only be reached against opposition, passage through a door that cannot open without people trying hard to keep it closed. The poetry in a touchdown is success against the odds. A beautiful game is one where both teams play their best, each pushing the other to a higher standard—competition as collaboration.
Albert Camus often gets lumped in with twentieth-century French existentialists, a crew known for its hardline atheistic membership. But Camus was something different, something much more blasphemous: an agnostic who wouldn’t revere God even if He did exist.
Having the opportunity to speak with Nicholas Humphrey was a phenomenal experience (pun intended). His accounts of discussing dreams with Francis Crick, debating the best materialist arguments with Dan Dennett, working on blindsight, describing how personhood and ethics arise out of consciousness, and positing that our minds act as artists to make us fall in love with ourselves, make for a wonderful and enlightening listen.
Many public intellectuals espouse a view of Nature as tending toward truth and goodness, without much justification.
Because German science held such a prominent place in culture before WWI, it could not escape the fallout when the war ended in disaster. German physicists needed a way to reestablish their prestige, and this meant repudiating their prewar past in order to make room for an up-to-date theory that would not be tarnished by earlier failures.A new mania for a romantic “life philosophy,” which rejected the mechanical and mechanistic attitudes of the British in favor of an experience-based, intuitive holism became fashionable. In physics, the new model incorporated the values of “life philosophy” by rejecting causality as the principle explanatory mechanism.
In Plato’s view, we perceive God not in the fulfillment of the promises of our ordinary knowledge, but in its absence.
According to Boyle, the best method in natural philosophy (and politics) was experiment and observation. Hobbes disagreed. He believed that observation could never displace deduction as a form of reasoning because observation always admitted of multiple explanations, and without rigorous definitions there was no way to decide between them. No number of experiments with air pumps could establish whether a vacuum was present or not unless Boyle could define what vacuum, air, etc., were.