Friday, December 30, 2005


I just thought I'd let you know that this post is not interesting.
Now this is interesting, and I shall explain why. Thoughts, in their individuality, are like numbers. Now every number is interesting. 'Not so' you say. Well, suppose that not every number is interesting. Take the first number that is not interesting. This number is interesting because it is the first number that is not interesting. So there you have it. I hope this has pricked your interest.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Notice: Ad hominem

Now you might think that I'm about to give you all a stern lecture on being nice to each other. Well if you did think that, you were wrong. (You also wouldn't know me very well).

While I feel that personal attacks are not appropriate or beneficial in most circumstances, I also accept that often it just can't be helped, and that people sometimes just need to argue in this manner. I would also not want to be responsible for an excess of force that could be safely vented in this manner building up and resulting in, (for example), one Philosophy Club member going postal at a weekly meeting and literally killing off philosophy in Newcastle.

To this end the Ad Hominem area has been set aside so that people can partake in this activity, without causing a distraction from the other discussions that are ongoing in different threads on this blog. Obviously what people posting in here can get away with will be considerably more than in other areas of the blog. Please note that abuse, past a certain point, will still not be tolerated in other discussions.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Nozick vs Badhwar on Love.

"The intention in love is to form a we and to identify with it as an extended self, to identify one's fortunes in large part with its fortunes. A willingness to trade up, to destroy the very we you largely identify with, would then be a willingness to destroy your self in the form of your own extended self." [Nozick,(1989)p. 78]

I was wondering what some of our resident romantics (yes Michael, I mean you!) make of this idea, and if people consider it at all accurate? Is Badhwar's criticism that this kind of relationship: “cannot be understood as love at all rather than addiction” [Badhwar (2003)p. 61] fair?

Both quotes lifted from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins

The renowned biologist talks about intelligent design, dishonest Christians, and why God is no better than an imaginary friend.

Interview by Laura Sheahen (

"You're concerned about the state of education, especially science education. If you were able to teach every person, what would you want people to believe?

I would want them to believe whatever evidence leads them to; I would want them to look at the evidence, judge it on its merits, not accept things because of internal revelation or faith, but purely on the basis of evidence."

The full interview Here.

( I confess that I have posted this story in the knowledge that it could annoy at least one of our contributors. I am sorry, really.)

Friday, December 16, 2005


Strategies for freedom
from the work of Foucault

Bill Pascoe, 7/July/2004

Readers of Foucault often form the impression that if we accept his views we must relinquish the possibility of freedom. Tending to value freedom highly readers face the problem of resigning themselves to Foucault's compelling account of power, or rejecting it. The impression that Foucault has rejected the possibility of freedom arises from Foucault's view that knowledge, discourse and identity come about only in relations of power. It appears the freedoms we would specify (to discover and be who we are and speak about truth or justice) are constituted as the products of power. If these things are secondary products of power, it seems impossible to have any freedom from power. This view is related to 'metanarrative'. It appears that the production of knowledge and identity form part of a 'metanarrative', or 'architecture', within which we are defined and situated, and which is the mechanism of power and the means of our subjection. If 'freedoms' can only be constructed in this way, as a result of power, within some metanarrative, it seems impossible to reject a 'metanarrative' without submitting oneself to some other metanarrative which has its own way of producing one's identity (eg: to overthrow superstition with science, to overthrow capitalist corruption with communism, to overthrow moral degradation with religion, to overthrow totalitarianism with free market liberal democracy etc) - it would only be possible to replace one system of oppression with another. While Foucault seems to avoid mentioning the word 'freedom' in works such as 'Discipline and Punish'1 and 'The Will To Knowledge'2 while engaging in lengthy discussions on power, knowledge, identity and discourse, it is possible to retain a notion of freedom in accord with these works and Foucault succinctly summarises his views of freedom in Afterword3. Foucault's description of power is not as remote from the 'real world' as some critics would argue, who would restrict the relevance of his work to 'high academia' or dismiss it as 'self indulgent radical chic'. The operations of power and freedom as Foucault describes them are evident both in world events that effect the lives of many, and our most mundane day-to-day experiences. This does not make Foucault's views trivial but all the more significant. It is important then to clarify the arguments that criticise Foucault as discounting the possibility of freedom. This will involve an examination of 'freedom' as well as criticism of his view of 'metanarrative' to avoid miss-readings. In doing so we may find a better understanding of Foucault's account of power can equip us with more sophisticated ways of being free, a technology of freedom, without needing to reject his convincing account.

continued in comment ...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The University of Winnipeg Department of Philosophy: The Blog

The University of Winnipeg Department of Philosophy Blog

Worth a look.

I think we could steal the format for their philosophy club, even though it is almost identical to what we do anyway,just a bit more formalised.
(On closer inspection, I think we should steal their whole philosophy department). Furthermore, we should be on our department's webpage, as they are (only we don't have a department).

In relation to the ongoing discussion rearding how to promote the mertis of studying philosophy, I noticed one of their pages that includes an impressive table of statistics indicating that philosophy graduates are smarter than everyone else.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Viva Pop Philosophy!

This post has been inspired by two different events. The first is that recently (i.e. this afternoon), somebody (i.e. me) was complaining on our beloved blog about the current state of all things philosophical in Newcastle. Somehow my rantings about iPods had led me to pose the question of what can be done to save philosophy at Newcastle Uni from disappearing up it's own proverbial arsehole. Serious answers to this problem have yet to be posted (yes that was directed at you Ming) . The second event was a purchase I made today at one of Newcastle's local bookstores. Put more precisely would be to say it was in a bookstore in Hamilton. More precisely again would be to say that it was at MacLean's. Here I came across the latest volume in a series of books entitled Popular Culture and Philosophy (Rorty fans will notice the impressive use of capitals given to the series title by it's authors). Most of you have probably seen various volumes of this series around before, it includes titles such as Seinfeld and Philosophy, The Matrix and Philosophy, The Simpsons and Philosophy, Harry Snotter and Philosophy, etc. The volume I picked up today was titled Superheroes and Philosophy.

Now aside from immediately thinking that I should cash in on this enterprise by submitting my own volume entitled DragonBall Z and Philosophy to the series editor, it did occur to me whilst reading a couple of the essays from my recent purchase this afternoon that what I was holding was another potential answer to the problem of how to make philosophy more palatable to the masses of Newcastle and hopefully more succesful at our local university. Clearly it would be a good, nay a great idea to generate philosophy courses that wedded philosophy to common yet highly popular icons of modern culture.

Now of course there will be those of you out there who are already thinking that any protracted discussion about this kind of topic with the likes of me has only one inevitable conclusion. It will simply be a matter of time before my Nietzschean impulses kick in, before I declare that of course we shouldn't be catering to the lower life forms that reside in this town and that we should be doing our utmost to preserve a healthy pathos of distance from the herd. Hence ultimately, though perhaps not initially, I will be arguing that such Pop Philosophy is a bit of a wank. I was however curious as to what the thoughts of others may be regarding this type of idea.....

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hey! Enrol before 16 December and go into the draw to WIN an Apple iPod!

So VSU wasn't stopped. So the liberal arts students at Newcastle are soon to be joining the endangered species list. So funding cuts have forced us to lose massive amounts of our teaching staff. So the Philosophy Department is staffed by only a handful of people these days. So it's not even a real department anymore anyway. So there are hardly any philosophy subjects being offered anymore and even fewer people who are actually keen to go and enrol in them. So we are disappearing and yes, its with a whimper not a bang.

I'm not worried.

I'm going to win that iPod.

Yes things are clearly looking up at our university. If you enrol before the 16th of December you could go into the draw with around about another 15,000 people to win an iPod. It's gestures like that which make me think that everything's going to be aaaaalllllright.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In the realms of identity inquiry there seem to be two distinct schools. One sees morality as an integral and essential part of the individual, thus producing the idea that one can disover the individual through the morality (Kant did something like this with his defining a person as rational). Frankfurt sees this as in some manner defeating the ability to find the individual, since rationality is common and identical to all.

There is then a middle road that defines the individual not in terms of their essential ethic, nor frior to their essential ethic, but in terms of how they produce their ethic. In effect I am talking about a form of rationalism that is sensitive to the individuals concerns (for instance if two people were drowning and one was a dear friend and the other a perfect stranger it would seem rational to give preference to saving the stranger). This is a rather widely discussed idea, but a thorough-going discussion of it I have not found. If anyone can enlighten me further on the specifics, or has thoughts, or knows of places where it is discussed in detail I am most intereted.

The specific basis of my interest is that I believe that through this idea it can be argued, contrary to variouse philosophers, that Meursault, of Camus' "the Outsider" is a fully functioning person.

Monday, December 05, 2005

lack of discussion, lack of interest?

there has been dramatically little discussion going on recently. I assume this is either because no one cares abot or no one reads what is on the blog. Either that or you all agree, which would seem to denote the death of philosophy.

Political is very rarely philosophical in my view. the relation between philosophy and politics seem similar to that between personhood and morality, in that morality is based on ideas of what a person is, and then extrapolates to deal with a group of people. the trouble is that concepts of personhodd are somewhat unsettled, and that we seem in our efforts to create a set of morals to be building guilded roofs on rotting foundations. So my point is, what about the philosophy?

You may way, "but there's been heaps of quotes from variouse philosophers". yes, but their all a bit on the side, if not political themselves, of politically trendy philosophy. So sure look at stuff that's interesting, but, it being a philosophy blog, how about the philosophy as well.

Now then I will be told "weel, you're a contributer; contribute that stuff". Yes but it is somewhat disheartening due to the lack of discussion. Now obviousely this is a viciouse cycle, much like Frankfurt's boredom, but there's always a way out of it.

Final note on love

A further note for anyone interested. As a summation of my post from 23rd Feb, "On the Phiosophical Usefulness of Love", the discussion sadly did not fill out any kind of picture. In my recent readings, however, I have found Harry Frankfurt's recent offereing "The Reasons of Love" (2004). I think this is a particularly good essay on the philosophical usefulness of love, and is along the lines of the view I was trying to explain (though of course far superior).

God isn't big enough for some people

By Umberto Eco
(Opinion.Telegraph, Filed: 27/11/2005)

We are now approaching the critical time of the year for shops and supermarkets: the month before Christmas is the four weeks when stores of all kinds sell their products fastest. Father Christmas means one thing to children: presents. He has no connection with the original St Nicholas, who performed a miracle in providing dowries for three poor sisters, thereby enabling them to marry and escape a life of prostitution.

Human beings are religious animals. It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification, and the hope, provided by religion. You can see this in the positivist scientists of the 19th century.

They insisted that they were describing the universe in rigorously materialistic terms - yet at night they attended seances and tried to summon up the spirits of the dead. Even today, I frequently meet scientists who, outside their own narrow discipline, are superstitious - to such an extent that it sometimes seems to me that to be a rigorous unbeliever today, you have to be a philosopher. Or perhaps a priest
Read the whole article here.

Naturalism vs. Supernaturalism: How to Survive the Culture Wars

From, via Butterflies and Wheels

"The root conflict in the culture wars is between two drastically different ways of understanding reality, one essentially empirical, the other decidedly not. The liberal-democratic political solution to such conflict is to provide a neutral public space within which differing worldviews make their case. But the very existence of such space and our pluralist society is threatened by totalitarian ambitions for ideological conformity. This threat is best countered by promoting empiricism, not faith, as the basis for knowledge."

The article goes on to discuss issues such as the problems brought on when different groups seek to universalise irreconcilable worldviews and beliefs.

"Such coexistence wouldn’t be problematic were it not for the evangelical desire, so common to the human heart, to universalize one’s beliefs (we might call this the totalitarian temptation). We are not content to have our certainties – others must share them as well, since a plurality of worldviews raises doubts about our truth. The desire for ideological conformity is sometimes expressed in attempts to coerce belief and crush opposing views, as for instance in the international jihad of extremist Islam, for which kafirs (infidels) are deserving of death. Secular jihads that champion decidedly unscientific, non-empirical understandings of human nature and history – racism, Nazism, the triumph of the proletariat – have been mounted as well, with horrific consequences. Were it not for fanatics who insist that we must all share their worldview – or die – the problem of ideological coexistence wouldn’t arise. But since they are among us, the problem is paramount."
Read the whole article.

Kant and the Ethics of Humility

Jeanine Grenberg, Kant and the Ethics of Humility, Cambridge University Press, 2005, 289 pp, $75.00 (hbk), ISBN 0521846811.

Reviewed by Patrick Frierson, Whitman College

Jeanine Grenberg's Kant and the Ethics of Humility sets out to explain and defend a distinctively Kantian conception of humility as "that meta-attitude which constitutes the moral agent's proper perspective on herself as a dependent and corrupt but capable and dignified rational agent" (133). But Grenberg not only explains what humility might mean for Kant. She seeks, first, to defend Kant's notion of humility against contemporary accounts of (and objections to) humility as a virtue: "while the book is . . . guided by [Kant's] picture of humility . . . the overall intent is to defend philosophically the view that humility remains a virtue, and indeed a central virtue" (7). Secondly, Grenberg uses humility to illustrate how one might develop a robust Kantian virtue ethics (chs. 2-3). Grenberg challenges Kantians to give humility more prominence, and she shows how central moral categories that might seem too "thick" can play fundamental roles within a Kantian ethic (cf. 7, 80-103). Read the full review Here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Editorial Notice

This marks my final contribution to Dialectic as Editor. Samuel Douglas will act in the post until a new Editor is appointed. I am sure that Samuel, and the other Contributors, will continue to use Dialectic to promote intellectual and philosophical discourse.

It has been an interesting experience. I would like to think those many individuals whose work has made an appearance on this page.

Martin Hill.

Post Script - I will, for the foreseeable future, be contributing to Epideixis.


Epideixis – a new collaborative philoblog by Dialectic Contributors Rowan Blyth, Samuel Douglas (Philosophy Hurts Your Head), and Martin Hill (Hypomnemata).

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Two Posts By Stanley

Jason Stanley, Brian Leiter's current guest blogger, has posted two interesting musings. Chronologically, the first is a discussion of the difference/lack of difference between analytic and continential philosophy. Stanley is interested in the point that many of the key points made in one tradition have their equivilent in the other, his example being Derrida's Of Grammatology and Quine's Word And Object. The second is a discussion of relativism's status as the key philosophicl problem for the comming decade, and catch-all methodological solutions to philosophical problems.

Long Sunday Symposium On Benjamin's 'Critique Of Violence'

The first couple of contributions to Long Sunday's symposium have been posted. 'Marc Lombardo on Benjamin: Language, Jurisprudence, and the Divine', by M. Lombardo provides an interesting contextualisation of the discussion by pointing to the difficulty inherent in discussing the text. Alain Wittman has presented a position on violence as 'Pure Means', while Jodi Dean has posted on the concept of 'Divine Violence' in Benjamin's contrast with 'mythical violence'.

Mill's - Gaston's 'Derrida And Disinterest'

"Sean Gaston's contribution to philosophical literature on the work of Jacques Derrida is to be welcomed for its serious engagement with Derrida's oeuvre and sensitive reading of his formulations of ethics and responsibility. Gaston develops an insightful and original interpretation of Derrida's work through the lens of 'disinterest' and considers the potential of this concept for contemporary ethics and politics. He highlights the eighteenth-century understanding of disinterest, in which it is seen not as the lack or absence of all interest, but as opposed to self-interest and therefore central to ethics. This understanding, Gaston contends, has been obscured through the association of disinterest with either 'private autonomy' or 'public hegemony' (vii). In returning to an ethical conception of disinterest and particularly its importance for Derrida and Levinas, Gaston elucidates Derrida's relation to Levinas, arguing that in his conception of a radical disinterest 'that founds and exceeds the interests of being', Levinas revives 'a disinterest that both redefines and reinhabits the traditional concepts of disinterest that flourished in the eighteenth century' (vii). Derrida, on the other hand, formulates a post-Nietzschean disinterest radicalized by différance, which prevents the return of the same and of identity in disinterest, effectively turning ethics toward the 'to come' (viii)." - NDPR.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Baudrillard Interview - On Simulation

"Are you saying that America represents the ideal of democracy?

No, the simulation of power.

At 76, you are still pushing your famous theory about "simulation" and the "simulacrum," which maintains that media images have become more convincing and real than reality.

All of our values are simulated. What is freedom? We have a choice between buying one car or buying another car? It's a simulation of freedom." - Continental Drift, New York Times (November 20 2005)

Zizek On Paris Riots

"So what can a philosopher do here? One should bear in mind that the philosopher's task is not to propose solutions, but to reformulate the problem itself, to shift the ideological framework within which we hitherto perceived the problem. Perhaps, a good point to start with would be to put the recent outbursts into the series they build with two other types of violence that the liberal majority today perceives as a threat to our way of life: (1) direct "terrorist" attacks (of suicide bombers); (2) Rightist Populist violence; (3) suburban juvenile "irrational" outbursts. A liberal today worries about these three disturbances of his daily life: terrorist attacks, juvenile violence, Rightwing Populist pressures." - Some Politically Incorrect Reflections on Violence in France & Related Matters [Hat Tip to Theoria].

The Ethics Of War

The Ethics Of War - a philo-blog concerned with covering the discussion of the ethics of war.

The Business Ethics Blog

The Business Ethics Blog - A new applied ethics philo-blog, out of Canada, concerned with emerging field of business ethics. Aims to be comperable with, an admirable intention.

Badiou On French Philosophy

"Let us begin these reflections on contemporary French philosophy with a paradox: that which is the most universal is also, at the same time, the most particular. Hegel calls this the ‘concrete universal’, the synthesis of that which is absolutely universal, which pertains to everything, with that which has a particular time and place. Philosophy is a good example. Absolutely universal, it addresses itself to all, without exception; but within philosophy there exist powerful cultural and national particularities. There are what we might call moments of philosophy, in space and in time. Philosophy is thus both a universal aim of reason and, simultaneously, one that manifests itself in completely specific moments. Let us take the example of two especially intense and well-known philosophical instances. First, that of classical Greek philosophy between Parmenides and Aristotle, from the 5th to the 3rd centuries bc: a highly inventive, foundational moment, ultimately quite short-lived. Second, that of German idealism between Kant and Hegel, via Fichte and Schelling: another exceptional philosophical moment, from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries, intensely creative and condensed within an even shorter timespan. I propose to defend a further national and historical thesis: there was—or there is, depending where I put myself—a French philosophical moment of the second half of the 20th century which, toute proportion gardée, bears comparison to the examples of classical Greece and enlightenment Germany. " - 'The Adventure Of French Philosophy', New Left Review.

Theoria's extented discussion is available here, of interest is the cannon of French philosophers that can be extracted from Badiou's piece. One point worth considering - if interested in these matters - is the absence of any suitable successor to Derrida qua First Man of French Philosophy according to Badiou's list ...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

MacFarquhar On Baudrillard

"“I don’t know how to ask this question, because it’s so multifaceted,” he said. “You’re Baudrillard, and you were able to fill a room. And what I want to know is: when someone dies, we read an obituary—like Derrida died last year, and is a great loss for all of us. What would you like to be said about you? In other words, who are you? I would like to know how old you are, if you’re married and if you have kids, and since you’ve spent a great deal of time writing a great many books, some of which I could not get through, is there something you want to say that can be summed up?”

“What I am, I don’t know,” Baudrillard said, with a Gallic twinkle in his eye. “I am the simulacrum of myself.”" - 'Baudrillard On Tour', The New Yorker (28th November 2005).

Satan On Loneliness

"The only person who understands me is my friend Gene. Sure, he knows I'm a mythical representation of all the tragic and self-defeating fallibility inherent in the human condition, but he doesn't judge me for it. Lately though, I hardly ever get to see him." - Why Does Everybody Hate Me?, The Onion.

Notice- Internet Radio Discussion Of Sedition Laws

Dialectic contributor Samuel Douglas is, presently, slated to make an appearance on Novocastrian internet radio station Tin tommorrow (Friday) from ten (10) am Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time to discuss the proposed ammendments to sedition laws in Australia in response to the 'spectre' of terrorism.

Morgan - Atterton, Calarco, and Friedman's 'Levinas and Buber: Dialogue and Difference'

"I waited for the publication of this volume with great anticipation. Levinas and Buber are two of the most important Jewish thinkers of the twentieth century, and yet we have no book or collection of essays in English that compares their contributions. Both are philosophically important, although Buber's philosophical significance has been much less appreciated, especially in North America. At first glance, a comparison of the two seems appropriate. Levinas privileges an interpersonal relationship he calls the face-to-face, Buber an encounter he calls I-Thou. Levinas wrote several pieces on Buber, and his discussions, while appreciative, are critical. He claims that Buber's conception of I-Thou is ethically formal and reciprocal, while the social relationship, for Levinas, is asymmetrical and ethically substantive, demanding responsibility and concern for the other's suffering and well-being. A straightforward comparison of their work is in and of itself an attractive thought, and an examination of what Levinas said about Buber and Buber's responses is also an intriguing project. When I saw the advertisement for the present volume, I was eager to read it.

Overall, the result is valuable, helpful, and informative. The questions and issues that the juxtaposition of the two thinkers raises deserve better, deeper treatment, to be sure, but there is a good deal to be learned from the essays, especially for someone coming to the comparison between Buber and Levinas for the first time." - NDPR.

Taylor - Lee's 'Epistemology After Protagoras: Responses to Relativism in Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus'

"Professor Lee's theme is the challenge to objective knowledge posed by Protagoras' relativistic thesis that 'Man is the measure of all things', and the responses to that challenge by Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus. While acknowledging the differences between Protagorean relativism and Hellenistic skepticism, she sees Protagoras and responses to him as foreshadowing some of the later debates between skeptics and dogmatists. Both Protagoras and the skeptics appeal to conflicting appearances and the lack of any criterion to determine which appearances are veridical, but draw different conclusions from these data; the skeptics conclude that is impossible to determine the real nature of things, while Protagoras maintains that the real nature of things is simply that, for each perceiver, the way things appear to that perceiver is the way they are for him/her. Protagoras is thus in skeptical terms a dogmatist, but his peculiar form of dogmatism makes him an ally of the skeptics against those, including Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus, who maintain that underlying the conflicting appearances there is an objective reality accessible to rational theory, assisted in one way or another by observation, and that theory-grounded access to that reality amounts to knowledge." - NDPR.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Spence On Hobbes

"A central argument that provides ethical support to the new laws is the social contract argument. First raised by Plato 2500 years ago, it was developed in its modern form by the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

Hobbes said the legitimacy of the state and its citizens is rationally and ethically mandated by a notional social contract under which individuals agree to constrain their "anything goes" unlimited freedoms for the sake of security, safety, civility and public order which the state guarantees on the basis of mutually acceptable moral principles.

However, the state only holds power in trust for the collective good, and its legitimacy is ultimately founded on the implied consent of its citizens. Whereas the state has an obligation to protect and preserve the security and safety of its citizens, the citizens have an obligation to abide by the ethical and legal principles upon which the state is founded.

When individuals through deeds or words threaten the security of the state and the safety of its citizens the government has a legal and ethical obligation to do whatever is needed to protect its citizens. A government that fails to do so would rightly be deemed negligible and held culpable for such negligence." - 'Freedom, if others are restrained', Sydney Morning Herald (November 21, 2005).

Philosopher's Carnival, No. Twenty One

The twenty-first Philosopher’s Carnival is presently being hosted by For those of you at home. Seemingly down on numbers from last time, there is the usual mix of regular contributors and first-timers that makes the Carnivals dynamic.

Proposed Ammendments To Australian Sedition Laws

With the Federal Government in the process of passing the Anti-Terrorism legislation (link is to the leaked draft ... sorry about not tracking down the current draft), it seems as though a discussion of whether or not a society that values free and open speech of the type that can be considered an essential foundation of democratic processes should have laws that turn verbal and written political statements into crimes?

While on the legislation; the Federal Parliamentary Library's briefing is a more balanced location to start reading up on the ammendments and their legal implications while ABC's Media Watch has collected resources regarding the implication of the sedition ammendments, including this widely cited legal advice. The Gilbert And Tobin Centre Of Public Law at the University of New South Wales, has published this 'Briefing On Sedition Offences In The Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005'.

Berry - Richardson's 'Nietzsche's New Darwinism'

"If the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859 was a watershed in the history of Western thought, it was not due merely to his suggestion that modern species were revised descendents of earlier ones. Rather, it was that Darwin had identified the precise mechanism by which one species could be revised into another, biologically distinct species. Darwin's proposal of evolution by natural selection gave immediate direction to research in the biological sciences, and it allowed the theory to begin doing important work in that arena (and beyond) by eventually closing the only significant explanatory gap that might otherwise have hindered its widespread acceptance. In his most recent book, John Richardson proposes to make Nietzsche's views on morality more coherent, more credible, and ultimately more useful by demonstrating that they are underwritten by a modified Darwinism that identifies the thoroughly naturalistic mechanisms by which human beings come to have the moral values and practices they do and through which they might realize the possibility of creating new, healthier values.

As even casual readers of Nietzsche will observe, the bulk of what Nietzsche has to say about Darwin and Darwinism is hostile. Richardson rightly points out that Nietzsche has a perhaps regrettable but nonetheless reliable tendency to bite off the hand that feeds him; the thinkers of whom he is most critical are often those from whom he takes the most inspiration. But his intellectual relationship to Darwin is more complicated still. As Richardson's examination of Nietzsche's position shows, Nietzsche's attacks appear to get wrong both Darwin's position and the biological facts of the matter. The central motif in Nietzsche's criticism of Darwin seems to be that Darwin lays too much stress on survival, and too little on power [18]. But in offering this criticism, Nietzsche "misidentifies the selective criterion in Darwinism," which is not survival, but reproduction. Moreover, "Nietzsche seems to misread Darwinian survival as an 'end' in too literal a sense: as the aim of a will or drive or instinct" in the individual [22]. It looks as if Nietzsche has missed something important about Darwinism -- namely, that it is not hopelessly teleological, but manages to handle the idea of 'ends' or 'aims' in an entirely naturalistic way. If this is the case, however, it appears that Nietzsche's hostile reaction to Darwin and his subsequent 'correction' of Darwinism are grounded in error. Richardson argues, however, that these errors might be peripheral after all, and that Nietzsche might really appreciate the main thrust of the Darwinian position. "What if," he asks, "[Nietzsche] gets right, after all, the sense of Darwinian selection -- how it is and isn't teleology -- and builds his own will to power and drives in parallel?" [24] Richardson's aim is to demonstrate that the weight of textual evidence favors our reading Nietzsche in this way, and makes it more than just "wishful thinking" [25]." - NDPR.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Thought On Critical Theory

"All it takes is a little supposition mixed with critical theorizing and you can easily stumble on a tenuous half-truth that really makes you think." - 'I'm Very Interested In Hearing Some Half-Baked Theories', in The Onion.

[Yes, it is taken completely out of context ...]

Leiter On Nietzsche Studies

Brian Leiter has written an extensive post on the state, and future, of Nietzsche Studies which raises a number of interesting points. It links to this collection of papers from The Gemes/Leiter Nietzsche Seminar.

Benjamin's 'Critique of Violence' - A Symposium

Long Sunday is hosting a symposium on Walter Benjamin's 'Critique of Violence', which should being this Sunday. Theoria has been generous enough to host a pdf version of the essay, for those who cannot get easy access to it (be quick, as the link is likely to disappear ...).


Theoria - A contemporary political theory focused blog, broadly using a continential approach.

Mechanical Birds

Mechanical Birds - An occasional philo-blog that seems to be broadly concerned with issues in contemporary philosophy.

Travels Through Science

Travels Through Science - a young science blog that recently came to our attention, the posts thus far have a broad philosophy of science feel.

Clover - 'The Mirror Sage'

In the grand tradition of Derrida The Movie, comes Zizek! - "The exclamation point marks a broad joke about cheesy biopix, or perhaps a more specific anxiety about the film's own place in the millennial raft of theoryporn". According to The Village Voice "The movie is an attempt to disseminate serious social philosophy, haunted by the threat one might be selling it out. Jokes mask ambitious investigations; serious gestures withdraw into self-negation; the specter of historical violence is omnipresent (he refers to his critical confreres as "a cell, the theoretical Al Qaeda"). Zizek, who finished fifth in Slovenia's 1990 election of a four-person presidency, says he was offered various governmental positions: "Minister of education, health, I almost died laughing. There are only two posts I want: minister of interior, or secret police." The certainty that he's both making fun and utterly serious crackles through the international phone line. "The only way to signal you are serious is, at the level of form, to make fun of yourself. This pseudo-Heideggerian jargon, we live in fateful times, the destiny of humanity is threatened blah blah blah—I think you cannot talk like that."

So how can you talk; what is philosophy for? "It's not to provide answers, it's to correct the questions," says Zizek. "Terrorism, freedom, democracy: The duty of philosophy is not to explain what would be true democracy, how to beat terrorism, but to ask, is this truly the question? This is the only thing a philosopher can do. Other questions are for politicians—I mean, what do I know? Fuck it, who am I, what do I know how to fight terrorism? Every secret policeman, I give him moral right to know more than me.""

Kavka - Nelson, Kapust, and Still's 'Addressing Levinas'

"Addressing Levinas provides an opportunity to survey the field of Levinas studies in Continental-philosophy circles at that time. While at the beginning of that decade, there was somewhat of an allergy to readings of Levinas as a philosopher of religion or as a Jewish thinker, this volume shows none of that. For that the editors are to be praised, although one might have hoped that they could at least have developed an index or even also an index locorum to the contributors' citations of Levinas. The breadth of the contributors' topics is impressive; not only philosophy of religion and Jewish thought, but also straight-up phenomenology, trauma theory, feminist theory, and psychoanalysis are included. But there is also a basic confusion in the essays over the arguments that Levinas is making and the claims that Levinas entitles us to make. As a result, despite the inclusion of some excellent essays, the volume as a whole may not bring much insight to the reader." - NDPR.

Pace - Noë's 'Action in Perception'

"This book is a sustained explanation and defense of the "enactive account" of perception, an approach to explaining perceptual consciousness that Alva Noë has defended in a series of recent papers and in collaboration with others (notably Evan Thompson, Susan Hurley and Kevin O'Regan). The enactive account that Noë defends can look like a radical departure from traditional theories of sense perception that treat perception as a mental state that serves as an input to action and thought but is not itself a kind of action or thought. In several attention-grabbing slogans that appear throughout the book Noë registers his opposition to this psychological division of labor: "Perceiving is something we do," he says, and in Chapter 7 he suggests that it is also "a thoughtful activity". Perception, Noë tells us, is both a kind of action and a way of thinking about the world.

According to the main claim of the enactive account, perceptual awareness depends constitutively on the perceiver's having "sensorimotor knowledge", an implicit understanding of the way sensory stimulation varies with movement. It is this claim that is meant to support the idea that perception is both a kind of action and thought. To get a feel for what Noë has in mind when he talks about sensorimotor knowledge, consider a perceptual event in which you see a ripe tomato. According to the enactive approach, seeing a ripe tomato consists in part in your having a bit of practical knowledge: you must know how the visual stimulation you have would vary if you or the tomato were to move in certain predictable ways. When you successfully see the tomato, you understand implicitly what would happen experientially if you were to move your eyes, or body, or shift your attention, and you also understand what would happen experientially if the tomato were to be moved." - NDPR.

Coope - Crivelli's 'Aristotle on Truth'

"In Aristotle on Truth Paolo Crivelli aims to reconstruct Aristotle's views on truth and falsehood. His approach is to ask a series of questions and attempt to show how Aristotle would answer them. A list of these questions gives a good impression of the scope of the book. He asks: 'What are the bearers of truth and falsehood?' 'What are the truth conditions for predicative assertions?' 'What account can Aristotle give of the truth conditions of what seem to be predicative assertions with an "empty" predicate or subject?' 'Does Aristotle have a correspondence theory of truth (and if so, what type of correspondence theory is it)?' 'What is the relation between truth and time (and in particular, how is it possible, on Aristotle's view, for the bearers of truth and falsity to have different truth values at different times)?' 'Is truth a genuine property?' 'What is (or would be) Aristotle's response to the liar paradox?' 'Does Aristotle reject the principle of bivalence?'

As the range of these questions suggests, this is a book that will be of interest not only to ancient philosophers but also to those working in modern philosophy of language and in metaphysics." - NDPR.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Chappell - Forster's 'John Locke's Politics of Moral Consensus'

"Despite the title, the book is not confined to Locke's political thought. Forster surveys Locke's epistemology, his ethical theory, and his philosophy of religion, as well as his political philosophy. He focuses primarily on the works in which Locke's "mature thought" is expressed: the Essay, the Letter Concerning Toleration, and the Reasonableness of Christianity, as well as the Two Treatises. The philosophy contained in these four works, Forster contends, has a "coherent architecture"; it constitutes a single "system" of thought, that is, a "set of mutually consistent arguments that fit together to form a unified philosophic structure". During the time that he was writing these works, Forster contends, Locke had an overriding "political project", which was to "unite members of different religious groups into a single political community". The only way to do this, Forster believes (and claims that Locke believed), is by establishing a moral consensus, a set of shared normative convictions and commitments which will "justify the coercive rules that are the only hope of keeping a multireligious society from falling apart at the seams". So Locke's aim in these works was to "construct a moral theory that can accomplish this goal"." - NDPR.

Formal Philosophy

Formal Philosophy - the site contains a series of excerpts from a new book of the same name - has been receiving an ammount of attention, with That Logic Blog, Log Blog, and Leiter all claiming that it is an interesting collection of interviews with philosophers.


Antimeta - a philo-blog that, to paraphrase its own manifesto, generally mistrusts strong metaphysical claims in philosophy and mathematics which results in a focus on these particular areas.


Logicomp - a broadly philo-blog, by a computer science theory graduate student, concerned with logic and complexity theory. Some mathmatical logic, and an interesting series of posts on different logics.

That Logic Blog

That Logic Blog - The title says it all; a philo-blog devoted to logic of both the formal and symbolic varieties.

Logician Memory

Memory is one of those ubiquitous games; everybody has played a version at some point. Here is a version where you have to match the faces of logicians (one of the added challenges being how throughly unremarkable most logicians appear ...).

[Hat tip to Log Blog, and Theorème.]

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Little Logical Problem ...

"One man illustrated proper logic with this syllogism:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is mortal.
Therefore, Socrates is a man.

I raised my hand. "Birds are mortal too, aren't they?" I asked, hoping he would correct his error.
"Yes," our teacher agreed.
"So Socrates could be a bird?"
He smiled benignly. "No. Socrates doesn't have feathers."" - Bauman, 'But Can You Teach?'.

'The Morality of 'Sex Change' Operations'

"Before addressing the morality of "sex change" operations, or what is more formally termed "sexual reassignment," we need to first call to mind the fundamental moral foundation governing this issue. Each person is a precious human being made in God's image and likeness with both a body and a soul. Vatican II's "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" asserted, "Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day" (No. 14). St. Paul also reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), and therefore we should not degrade our bodily dignity by allowing the body to participate in the act of sin. Moreover, such sin hurts the body of the Church. For this reason, the Church teaches, "Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reason, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law" (Catechism, No. 2297) ... To destroy organs purposefully that are healthy and functioning, and to try to create imitation organs which will never have the genuineness and functioning of authentic organs is gross and lacks charity. Such surgery which purposefully destroys the bodily integrity of the person must be condemned."

This extract is from an article, 'Straight Answers: The Morality of 'Sex Change' Operations', in The Catholic Herald (A US publication; the link comes via the Centre for Law and Genetics).

A question the article raises - other than the questions related to the normative schema it rests on - is whether there is still a discussion to be had over sex change operations, or whether sex change operations are ethically permissible.

Sandall On Popper's 'Tribalism'

"The attempt, in 2005, to redefine a heterogeneous people of mixed ancestry in the middle of the Pacific as a “tribe”, let alone an Indian tribe, a people moreover who have known little but modern American institutions for at least a hundred years, might seem surprising. But one man who would not have found it surprising is the author of The Open Society and Its Enemies, for the persistence of tribal yearnings in the midst of the modern world was the underlying theme of Karl Popper’s important 1945 book.

The words ‘tribe’, ‘tribal’, and ‘tribalistic’ occur forty-two times in the chapter that presents his main argument—Chapter 10—and his discussion of related matters continues in voluminous footnotes at the end of the book.

Popper’s main purpose in writing The Open Society was to try and explain the whole political, intellectual, and emotional phenomenon of Nazism. What Hitler represented was “arrested tribalism”, and the more Popper thought about the matter the more he saw an atavistic yearning for the past—closed, pre-rational, taboo-ridden, undemocratic, militaristic, and fearful of liberty—as something deeply menacing.

“Arrested tribalism” in political life was the same as “arrested development” in the life of an individual; it indicated a failure to grow, adapt, and deal maturely with a changing world. Change, as Heraclitus said long ago, is something we just have to put up with, like it or not: but the Nazis wanted to turn back the clock. And in order to understand the phenomenon of Nazism historically, it was also necessary to understand the deep roots it had in the past, and to see it in terms of a persistent reaction against social change that has been continually with us since the conflict of Athens and Sparta in classical Greece." - Roger Sandall, 'Tribal Yearnings: The enemies of the open society today'

McWhorter - Oksala's 'Foucault on Freedom'

"Johanna Oksala has produced a provocative reading of Michel Foucault's work on the issues of freedom and resistance to normalizing oppression. Although many commentators have contended that Foucault's historicization of subjectivity leads to metaphysical determinism and eliminates the very possibility of freedom in human life, Oksala argues that his radical rethinking of both bodies and freedom largely escapes the simplistic criticisms routinely put forward since the early 1980s. She does subject Foucault's work to criticisms of her own, however. While the title of her book leads the reader to expect a tight focus on the question of freedom, much of the text is actually devoted to an explication of Foucault's account of subjectivity, culminating in a discussion of his work in ethics, and it is in this late work where Oksala finds serious flaws in Foucault's thought.

Oksala divides her book into three major parts in which she reads Foucault against the background of three major thinkers: Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Emmanuel Levinas. In the first third of her book she argues that Foucault's philosophical point of departure is Husserl, perhaps to a greater extent than many readers realize (although those who know the interview material well are aware that Foucault himself made this claim). She offers a stimulating analysis of Foucault's early work The Order of Things as (following Gerald Lebrun) "an anti-Krisis" (40). However, she holds that Husserl's work serves Foucault as a springboard both in that he rejects much of Husserl's account of subjectivity and moves away from it and in that he learns some important lessons from Husserl's account of intersubjective constitution. I will discuss the latter point in a bit more depth momentarily. Oksala devotes the middle third of her book to an analysis of Foucault's work on the body and offers a very interesting parallel reading of Merleau-Ponty along the way. She suggests ways in which Foucault's account could be strengthened if supplemented by Merleau-Ponty's work and, equally interestingly, ways in which Merleau-Ponty's account (and the accounts of embodiment that feminist theorists such as Iris Young have derived from Mealeau-Ponty) could benefit from supplementation by Foucault. Finally, in the last third of the book, she draws heavily from Levinas to critique Foucault's account of ethics and the constitution of the ethical subject." - NDPR.

Jost - Warren's 'Facing Death: Epicurus and his Critics'

"This book is what Epicureans and their critics, both hostile and sympathetic, have been waiting for. It is rare, indeed, to find a work that shows both a solid grasp of ancient texts, their proper philological interpretation and appreciation, and is at the same time clearly cognizant of the contemporary philosophical debates on the issues originally raised by our Greek sources. This is such a book and its publication will prove to be a milestone. Serious[1] metaphysicians today are most likely to be physicalists and, even if we are not all physicalists now, the ancient atomists from Democritus through Lucretius, and especially Epicurus, were the closest in spirit to our modern metaphysics. How many, however, take on the Epicurean challenge in light of their physicalist convictions? That is, how many address forthrightly the old claim that "Death is nothing to us; for what is dispersed does not perceive, and what does not perceive is nothing to us" (Warren's translation of the famous second of the "Principal Doctrines", hereafter abbreviated following the usual convention as K[uriai] D[oxai] 2). Ted Honderich speaks for many a skeptic when he replies: "Epicurus tells us not to worry about death, because it itself isn't experienced -- where you are, your death isn't, and where it is you aren't. Only impressionable logicians are consoled" (quoted on p. 110, fn. 3). It is hard to say how many are now, or ever were, consoled by the doctrine or even how impressionable you have to be to follow the basic logic, but Warren has done a signal service in disambiguating several key claims made in the Epicurean tradition.

There are, he thinks, four main fears about death and its discontents that need to be addressed: (1) fear of being dead, (2) fear (or distress) that one will die and disappear, (3) fear of dying prematurely, and (4) fear of the process of dying. In chapters 1-4 he addresses each concern, exploring both the ancient and modern controversies about the (un)reasonableness of each fear, and then addresses in chapter 5 the positive case to be made for leading an Epicurean life, concluding with a chapter that summarizes the argument of the whole and ends on an upbeat note: "Although it is never too late to begin, Epicurean philosophy is not a 'quick fix'. Axiochus [an eponymous character in a pseudo-Platonic dialogue who has heard fashionable, even eloquent arguments of the sort Epicureans offer but remains unconvinced nevertheless] should have studied longer and harder before now. Had he done so, perhaps these arguments would have got through to his soul, lodged there, and been integrated fully into his other beliefs, transforming his view of a good life and his view of death" (221). "Better late than never" goes the common saying; if Warren is right in this book, it's not too late to finally appreciate this seemingly bleak worldview. If not, it is going to take some good counter-argument to the contrary. And argument or, rather arguments, is what it's all about. The Hellenistic philosophers offered numerous arguments both for their own schools' positions and against those of others and Warren surveys many of their original versions as well as later reformulations. He is aware, as Aristotle was, that arguments alone will not make people decent (NE X.1179b5 ff.) or (in this case) calm their fears but, insofar as they do have a role to play in "cognitive therapy," Epicurean arguments will have some considerable force and should not be entirely dismissed (p. 219)." - NDPR.

Cunning - Skrbina's 'Panpsychism in the West'

"This is a very interesting, and I think important, book. It is not without problems, some of which are considered below, and some of which might be regarded as intractable. But first a survey of the general themes of the book is in order.

One of the themes is that the doctrine that "all things have mind or a mind-like quality" (2) is pervasive in the history of human thought. The list of figures to whom Skrbina attributes the doctrine is impressive. Some are notable philosophers of the ancient period: Thales, Anaximenes, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno of Citium, and Cicero. One of Skrbina's aims is to argue that panpsychism is not just a hiccup in the history of philosophy. In ancient Greece and Rome panpsychism was the predominant view, Skrbina argues, and was defended by thinkers that we have otherwise taken very seriously. After a hiatus that is traceable to the dominance of Christianity (63), panpsychism becomes pervasive again in the early modern period. A number of lesser known figures embrace a version of the view, but also Bacon, Spinoza, Newton, and Leibniz. Hobbes appears to be committed to panpsychism, argues Skrbina, even if he does not follow his own argumentation to its panpsychist implications. Locke does not endorse panpsychism, but he allows that it is an intelligible view and a contender.

Skrbina then argues that a substantial thread of these panpsychist views stretches to the present day -- from the early moderns to the German idealists; from Peirce and James to Dewey and Whitehead; from Thomas Edison to 20th-Century scientists such as David Bohm. David Chalmers subscribes to positions of which panpsychism is an "inevitable" consequence (242), and Galen Strawson is a panpsychist by his own admission. If Skrbina is right, panpsychism has been embraced by some of the greatest thinkers in the history of philosophy and science. We know "Pierce's more famous work in logic, semiotics, and positivism" (155), but we need to consider the good thinking that informs his other work, and we need to reconsider other figures as well. " - NDPR.

Klement - Mendelsohn's 'The Philosophy Of Gottlob Frege'

This book is a thoughtful, provocative and well-written piece of philosophy dedicated to Gottlob Frege's philosophical views concerning language and philosophical logic. Despite its general sounding title, the work does not treat other areas of Frege's philosophical works, such as his philosophy of mathematics. Nevertheless, a wide variety of topics are addressed: Frege's sense/reference distinction, the function/argument analysis of language, identity, existence, names, descriptions, quotation, referential opacity, assertion and truth. While portions of the work have appeared in print before, most of the volume is new, and older material has been revised and integrated within the whole. Although it contains a fair number of (mostly minor) flaws, it is, on the whole, a valuable contribution to the philosophy of language and secondary literature on Frege ...

In the preface, Mendelsohn points out that distinctions similar to Frege's distinction between sense and reference had been made in the work of earlier philosophers, such as Mill, Arnauld, and Ockham. Mendelsohn conjectures that the reason Frege's philosophy of language has subsequently received so much more attention lies with Frege's adoption of compositionality principles, according to which the sense and reference of complex expressions depend, in a rule-governed way, on the sense and reference of their parts. After a brief biographical chapter, much of the second and third chapters of the book is devoted to the attempt to formulate Frege's semantic principles in precise terms." - NDPR.

Shieh - Macbeth's 'Frege's Logic'

"As MacBeth puts it in the Preface, her aim in this book is “to develop a novel reading of Frege’s logical language Begriffsschrift and to defend that reading textually as a reading of Frege’s writings” (vii). She rejects the widespread assumption that Frege is (one of) the discoverer(s) of modern polyadic quantificational logic, by arguing “that Frege’s logical language ... can ... be read as ... radically different” from “a language of quantificational logic” (vii). Although MacBeth doesn’t put it in this way, on her alternative reading Frege was engaged in an expressivist and inferentialist project similar in spirit to the one recently articulated by Robert Brandom. Since it’s always philosophically salutary to be made aware of and to re-examine one’s fundamental assumptions, it is useful for anyone interested in Frege’s views, or in the nature of logic, to confront MacBeth’s challenge to the orthodoxy even if, like me, one finds it not altogether clear what MacBeth’s case amounts to, and even if what one can understand of it is ultimately unpersuasive." - NDPR. [The review is in Adobe pdf.]

Editorial Notice - Comment Moderation

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The Editor will endeavour to publish comments on a daily basis, and apologies for the delays resulting from this new practice.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ian McEwan On Proof

"Proof, whether in science or daily life, is an elastic concept, interestingly beset with all kinds of human weakness, as well as ingenuity ... It has been surprisingly difficult to establish definitively what the truth is about any matter, however simple. It is always hard to get a grasp of one's own innate assumptions, and it was once perilous to challenge the wisdom of the elders, or the traditions that had survived the centuries, and dangerous to incur the anger of the gods, or at least, of their earthly representatives." - 'Is science driven by inspired guesswork?', The Telegraph.

Baier on Professional Ethicists

Can we approve of a division of labor in which the theorists keep their hands clean of real-world applications, the ones who advise the decision-makers, those who do “applied ethics,” are like a consumer reports service, pointing out the variety of available theories and what costs and benefits each has for a serious user of it? Does the profession of moral philosophy now display that degeneration of a Kantian moral outlook that Hegel portrays, where there are beautiful souls doing their theoretical thing and averting their eyes from what is happening in the real, even from what is happening in the way of “application” of their own theories, and there are those paid to be the ‘conscience’ of the medical, business or legal profession, what Hegel calls the moral valets, the professional moral judges? (Baier, A, Postures of the Mind Essays on Mind and Morals, pp 233 - 234).

The Ethics Of Ethics Consultancy II

In an earlier post reference was made to a segment on ABC’s New South Wales Stateline, 'An Ethicist Admits' (28th October), on the St James Ethic’s Centre’s Dr Simon Longstaff. The segment raised the question of whether Dr Longstaff’s non-disclosure of a financial link between the Centre and Macquarie Bank, when consulted on Macquarie’s recruitment of former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr, was unethical. The piece cast a shadow of doubt over appiled professional ethics and ethics consultancy.

Dr Longstaff readily admitted that that non-disclosure was unethical: “Firstly, in a hurry, focussing on the political dimension and also probably in the back of my mind thinking that this is not something which is having an influence on me because I don't get anything out of it personally, there is no direct obligation or duty to Macquarie. That said, there is an ethical issue and an ethical failure, which I am quite happy to mention”.

The incident raises the question of what normative principles should form the code that is applied to ethical consultancy?

Worth - Paskow's 'The Paradoxes of Art: A Phenomenological Investigation'

"Alan Paskow successfully defends an important thesis in this book -- that we need not view artworks as separate kinds of entities from other things in our world. Rather, drawing on Heidegger's Being in Time, Paskow shows that self and world are one relational being (88) and artworks and fictional characters are most effectively viewed as internal components of that world. More generally, Paskow takes on a daunting subject: what are the ways in which we interact with works of art? Although there is much historical background required to understand his ultimate thesis, Paskow puts forward the notion of a radically adjusted worldview in order to provide a context in which his thesis makes sense. The key for Paskow is to appeal to the worldview of the Dasein -- an integrated world, one which prefers the first-person phenomenological experience, and which is wholly anti-third-person and anti-Cartesian. As Paskow argues for this worldview, he develops a wonderful and coherent juxtaposition between historical and contemporary arguments and considers the question of our engagement with artworks from a number of different viewpoints. In the end I think that Paskow is successful in his endeavor to find a new perspective from which we can better make sense of our engagement with art. I worry, however, that in the process he may have taken us too far afield from ways that people actually think about the world and their interaction with it. He is also often too quick to dismiss some very important philosophical work in order to argue for the worldview that allows his position to make the most sense. In the end, however, I think he is successful in his endeavor and this book deserves high praise amongst a number of others that appeal to historical contexts in order to grapple with contemporary philosophical problems." - NDPR.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The usefulness of our heads

"We shan't do anything even without our heads, in spite of the fact that it is our heads that most interfere with our understanding."
Dostoevsky, The Devils.

Respect - Kant's Imperative

"Eighteenth-century Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant gave respect a moral weighting, defining it as treating people as ends in themselves rather than a means to an end" - Deborah Hope, 'Rude Awakening' in The Australian November 5-6 2005, p. 27.

This populist reduction of Kant's ethic seems demeaning ... It's almost as if the gravity of the Groundwork has been trivialised to the point of cliché.

Wang Shuhai - 'Society must not shun philosophers'

"In a society geared towards immediate gains, philosophy seems unable to produce tangible benefits. For the majority, philosophy seems virtually useless ... This branch of learning, which hardly delivers short-term benefits, is bound to falter once the government's support is removed. Under such circumstances, philosophy has naturally become a synonym for triteness and uselessness in the eyes of many people." - China Daily.

The case that Wang Shuhai makes - that China needs philosophers - seems, from this biased perspective, to be relevant for elsewhere.

Hauskeller - Agar's 'Liberal Eugenics'

"The title of this clear, scientifically well informed and philosophically sophisticated study is slightly misleading. What Agar is primarily interested in and what he strives to defend is not so much human enhancement as reproductive freedom. Whereas traditional eugenics is concerned with the improvement of human stock and its proponents consequently advocate a strict regulation of reproduction, Agar does not want to commit himself to a particular view of what would count as such an improvement. People have different conceptions of what makes a good life and what characteristics are desirable. From a liberal perspective, these differences ought to be respected, which rules out any form of authoritarian eugenics. What humans should be like is not for the State to decide. For the same reason, however, people should also be free to use enhancement technologies on their children in order to realize their own personal conception of human excellence, i.e. to make their children, in accordance with their own standards, better than they would otherwise be. Here, likewise, the state has no right to interfere. Just as a liberal outlook precludes any form of authoritarian eugenics, it encourages us to adopt a liberal eugenics which embraces not a monistic but a pluralistic view of human excellence. In this manner, "an evil doctrine" is being transformed into "a morally acceptable one." (135)

Unlike philosophers such as Jonathan Glover or John Harris, Agar does not claim that we have a moral duty to provide and use enhancement technologies. However, he argues that consistency with the moral values prevalent in a contemporary liberal democracy requires us to tolerate their development and use. There is no particular ethical theory on which Agar bases his conclusions. Instead of arguing from a Kantian, a utilitarian or any other ethical theory's perspective, he is looking for practices which we have already accepted as morally justified or, on the contrary, as not justifiable. By comparing a still unfamiliar practice to similar but familiar practices which "elicit moral reactions of which we are confident" (39), we get hold of moral images which indicate how morally to evaluate the unfamiliar. This "method of moral images" helps us to decide, without recourse to ethical theory, whether we ought to ban, tolerate or encourage the use of enhancement technologies. Since Agar wants to convince us that we should tolerate the development and use of enhancement technologies, he needs to demonstrate that those moral images which would support his view are in relevant respects closer to the practice of genetic enhancement than those that would rather support its ban or, on the contrary, an obligation to make use of it." - NDPR.

Guilfoy - Mews' 'Abelard and Heloise'

"Mews claims several very broad goals for his book. His first is to "provide a framework that can help readers explore for themselves the richness of the texts that have come down to us, not just of Abelard and Heloise but of their contemporaries". In this respect the book is brilliant. On topics covering the full range of Abelard's thought in logic, ethics, theology, literature, poetry, music, and liturgy Mews discusses what is known of many of the ancient and early medieval sources used by Abelard and his contemporaries. Even more significantly Mews presents the currently known thoughts and theories of Abelard's eleventh- and twelfth-century contemporaries. There are many places where one would wish that he had gone into much greater depth to explicate how Abelard rejected or elaborated these ideas, but Mews acknowledges that with such a broad goal many interesting topics needed to be treated briefly. The book compensates with extensive and detailed notes.

Mews' other stated goals are to argue "that the evolution of Abelard's thinking about language, theology, and ethics is marked by continuity rather than by rupture and that it cannot be understood apart from the influence of Heloise". In particular, Mews takes exception to John Marenbon's 1997 book The Philosophy of Peter Abelard for presenting Abelard's logical thought as distinct from his ethical and theological thought. To this end Mews has written a sort of intellectual biography of Abelard. He traces the development of Abelard's thought topically and chronologically from his arrival in the Paris schools, through his love affair with Heloise, his political struggles and various condemnations, to his eventual death in 1142. Mews' choice to devote considerable attention to Abelard's lesser studied works -- e.g., the literal glosses and the biblical commentaries -- is another of this book's great strengths. However, Mews is not entirely successful in his attempt to show the continuity of Abelard's logic with his ethics and theology. The book too often reaches to draw facile connections between logic, ethics, and Heloise." - NDPR.

Altman - Fitche's 'The Science of Knowing: J. G. Fichte's 1804 Lectures on the Wissenschaftslehre'

"Traditionally, Fichte has been interpreted philosophically as a wayward Kantian and historically as a mere stepping stone in the development of speculative idealism. But Fichte has recently begun to emerge from the long shadows of Kant and Hegel, and he is now considered by many to be a figure worthy of attention in his own right. Over the last thirty years, English-language scholarship on Fichte has significantly increased. Fichte's conception of philosophical thinking as an activity that validates idealism, his insistence on the need for systematicity and an absolutely certain foundation for transcendental philosophy, his understanding of how theoretical and practical reasoning are related, and especially his sophisticated approach to consciousness, which recognizes both rational and irrational elements in the formation of the subject, all provide important contributions to epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethics, among other areas. Fichte is also thought to have anticipated a number of prominent themes in post-Nietzschean Continental philosophy, especially the idea that the "summons" (Aufforderung) of the other makes possible my existence as a subject.

Although Fichte's philosophy has begun to get the close attention it deserves, most scholars have focused on his early writings, before the so-called "Atheism Controversy" and his dismissal from the University of Jena in 1799. After his subsequent move to Berlin, Fichte taught privately and republished earlier works in order to make a living. But he also continued to reformulate his philosophy in a way that would answer his many critics and more effectively communicate it to an uncomprehending public. Fichte eventually devised what he considered a clearer and more convincing expression of the views that had been so widely misunderstood, and in 1804 he advertised a series of lectures that, for a fee, members of the public could attend. The second of three sets of lectures given during that year is viewed by many Fichte scholars as the first definitive account of the later Wissenschaftslehre." - NDPR.

silva rhetoricae

Rhetoric is one of those branches of philosophy that seems to have lost its place on the tree, yet it also seems to be one with significant history and merits. silva rhetoricae is a considerable resource for the beginner in this particular area.

Existentialism Philosophy

Existentialism Philosophy - A philo-blog dedicated to existentialism; slightly popularist in bent it is possibly the only blog dedicated to this particular movement.

Heretical Soapbox

Heretical Soapbox - A contemporary continental tradition philo-blog, this soapbox is a platform for deconstruction and heterodoxy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Philosopher's Carnival, No. Twenty-One

The twenty-first Philosopher’s Carnival is presently being hosted by Prior Knowledge. The various post have been divided into six categories, of varying broadness ('religion and naturalism' and 'ethics and society' sits beside 'consciousness'). The introduction of a 'new blogs' category is the sort of development that the Carnival should perpetuate, to encourage new philo-blogs to stand up and be counted.

Notice - 'The Grout Is On The Wall'

'The Grout Is On The Wall - Preliminary Findings Of A Modest Study', written by Dialecitc contributors Rowan Blyth, Samuel Douglas, and Martin Hill, and fellow Philosophy Club member Christopher Baker, has been published in Opus Issue 7, 2005.

Copies of Opus are available from around the Callaghan Campus.

Windschuttle - 'Foucault as Historian'

"In 1966, Michel Foucault attracted a great deal of academic attention by coining the phrase 'the death of man'. His obvious allusion to Nietzsche's well-known proclamation of the end of religion in the phrase 'the death of God' drew a considerable notoriety to himself and to the then burgeoning school of 'anti-humanism'. By 'the death of man', Foucault wrote in his book The Order of Things, he meant the end of the humanist concepts of man as a creature ruled by reason and of history as a phenomenon governed by the decisions of powerful individuals. Instead, history was a process without a subject. Not only did men not make their own history but the concept of 'man' itself, he argued, was passé.

Foucault shared this thesis with other anti-humanist thinkers of the time, including the Annales school of French historians, all of whom regarded history as being driven by forces far more powerful than those of any individual. Anti-humanism's main proposition was that the autonomy of the individual subject was an illusion. The humanist tradition had been wrong to assign the central roles of human affairs to the conscious mind and free will. Instead, some strands of anti-humanism claimed that human behaviour and thought were dominated by the unconscious, and hence humanists should abandon their assumption that purposive behaviour was consciously directed. Others, like the Annales school, held that the impersonal forces of geography and demography governed the destiny of mankind." - The Sydney Line (site of the Australian History/Culture Wars ...).

Continetial Philosophy has posted a critique of Windschuttle's interpretation.


Philetica - another infant philo-blog (spring/autumn must be the season), this one is, apparently, concerned with aesthetics.

Posthegemonic Musings

Posthegemonic Musings - A blog focused on contemporary continental political theory (am not quite sure how seriously it is to be taken ...).

The Weblog

The Weblog - A diverse, and long-running, continential theory focused philo-blog.

Rauscher - Watkins' 'Kant and the Metaphysics of Causality'

"Eric Watkins has turned the old Patchwork Thesis upside down (or, if you wish, right side-up). The Patchwork Thesis, made famous in Kant circles early in the twentieth century by Hans Vaihinger and Norman Kemp Smith, held that elements of Kant's pre-critical thought found their way into his mature Critique of Pure Reason. Watkins essentially agrees. The Patchwork Thesis further takes as its interpretive lesson that these pre-critical elements ought to be ignored and that the genuine "Kantian" philosophy must be drawn from the passages most recently written. Watkins could not disagree more. Instead he argues that the best way to understand Kant's mature philosophy is to read it in light of his pre-critical thought." - NDPR.

Murphy - Frankish's 'Mind And Supermind'

"The overall picture distinguishes what Frankish calls either the strand 1 mind or the basic mind from the strand 2 mind, or supermind. (The book would be easier to follow if it consistently used just one of these pairs of neologisms.) The basic mind is non-conscious and contains passively formed beliefs that come in degrees, cannot be actively controlled, and do not involve language. As a reasoning system, it is well described by Bayesian decision theory. The supermind, on the other hand, is conscious, and its beliefs can be actively formed and controlled, expressed in a natural language, and are held or not without qualification. As a reasoning system, it is "classical". (This term is not defined, but it seems to mean syllogistic or otherwise subject to logical, rather than probabilistic, appraisal.) The supermind is realized in the basic mind, in the sense that generalizations about states of the supermind are made true by generalizations about underlying basic states. The result is a very strong commitment not just to the idea that folk psychology quantifies over real entities, but that folk psychology, properly understood, is correct in almost every particular about the nature of those entities, and that the nature of belief is a conceptual, rather than an empirical, matter." - NDPR.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Daw - 'Republic Dogs'

"[Thrasymachus is tied up in a chair. Socrates is brandishing a gun in his face]

Thrasymachus: Don't do it, Socrates. Be fair.

Socrates: [Suddenly contemplative] Fair?

Thrasymachus: [Sees an opportunity for survival] Yeah, fair... think about my wife and children --

Socrates: Would you say that to be fair is the same thing as to be just?

Thrasymachus: What?

Socrates: Well, I'm just a dull, wandering street philosopher, so I don't understand quite where you're headed with this particular line of reasoning. Perhaps [motions with gun] you could further elucidate your theory of justice.

Thrasymachus: My theory? Of justice?

Socrates: Yes. You do... have a theory of justice, don't you?

Thrasymachus: Uh...

Socrates: Or perhaps you'd like to hear my theory.

Thrasymachus: Oh, yes, yes, yes, of course, your theory. You have a theory?

Socrates: Well, yes, I have been thinking a little about justice -- not of course, so deeply as could a wise sage like yourself. But I've had a little idea, an insignificant but troubling little idea, and it's been bothering me a little, and I thought that maybe someone as smart as yourself could help convince me that it was wrong.

Thrasymachus: Of course, I'll do anything I can to help.

Socrates: So you'd like to hear my theory?

Thrasymachus: I'd be honored.

Socrates: My humble little idea goes something like this. [He is suddenly extremely loud and violent. Roars:] Justice is only the will of the stronger. What do you think about that, asshole? [Slaps Thrasymachus across the face with his gun]

Thrasymachus: Uh, uh, uh ...

Socrates: Come on ... come on, you wanna try and disprove my theory, you weak little shit? Yeah? Yeah? Shit, I think I feel a proof coming on. [Shoots him.] Why, thank you Thrasymachus, you've certainly opened my eyes." - Nathaniel Daw, 'Republic Dogs'.

[Hat Tip to Boing Boing.]

Benson - 'This Isn't My Body' - The Ethics of Amputating 'Healthy' Limbs

"In an article for the Journal of Applied Philosophy, Levy and Bayne define this condition, known as Body Identity Integrity Disorder (BIID) or body dysmorphia, as “a mismatch between their body and their body as they experience it – what we might call their phenomenal (or subjective) body.” They suggest that this mismatch may involve a discrepancy between a person's actual body and her body image. They compare unusual cases of people like Corinne with more familiar ones, such as a person who wants breast enlargement: she knows she has small breasts, but her idealised image of herself is of a person with large breasts. “She does not feel comfortable – at home – in her own body.”

Levy and Bayne are not the first to advocate going ahead with requests for amputations in such circumstances. In January 2000, Robert Smith, a surgeon at Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary in Scotland, amputated the healthy legs of two patients at their request, and was planning to do a third amputation when the trust in charge of the Infirmary stopped him. In the Horizon documentary on the subject, “Complete Obsession,” Smith said this about his decision to amputate:

“Certainly when I was first contacted by the patients who wished an amputation of a perfectly healthy limb it struck me as being absolutely utterly weird. I was worried and concerned about whether in fact we should even consider this procedure. ... It's quite a difficult change of view on my point really, to remove a healthy limb is an anathema to a surgeon. ... The major concern with these individuals is that if they do not achieve their amputation by medical means they will try and achieve it by self-injury. We do have a number of individuals who have deliberately injured themselves with train tracks, shot guns and have achieved amputation this way.” ...

Nevertheless it is hard not to conclude that a weekend spent in a wheelchair pretending to be a legless amputee is an inadequate test for being an actual and irreversible legless amputee. The worries Carl Elliott mentions seem cogent. He put it this way: “Re looping effects: I warned about this in 2001, and while it is hard to come up with reliable data, the numbers of amputee wannabes do seem to be rising. The listservs are growing – there are more of them, and more people on them.”" - The Philosopher's Magazine.

Benson's article is a consideration of the problem of amputating healthy limbs, a topic that has been discussed here previously.

Vernon - 'The Trouble with Friends'

"Not since the Greeks, Nietzsche reflected, has friendship been thought a problem worthy of a solution. Nietzsche, you note, does not say that the Greeks solved the problems associated with friendship. The arguably leading ancient “philia-philosopher”, Aristotle, for example, seems caught on a conundrum. His discussion in the Nicomachean Ethics , though full of illuminating thoughts on the nature and value of friendship, also reads as if friendship was something of a mystery to him: if a happy life requires self-sufficiency, so that you are not reliant on others for your happiness, then how can a happy life also include friends, as it seems uncontroversial to say it must? Alternatively, Plato's main dialogue on friendship, Lysis , explicitly ends inconclusively. We will look ridiculous, Socrates says to his interlocutors Lysis and Menexenus, since although we think we are friends, we have not been able to say what friendship is." - The Philosopher's Magazine.

The Ethics Of Ethics Consultancy I

ABC's New South Wales Stateline ran a piece, 'Iemma's Dilemmas' (14th October), were Dr Simon Longstaff was interviewed in regards to Former Premier Bob Carr's recent employment by Macquarie Bank.

A slight controversy has since developed regarding an undisclosed conflict of interest - Dr Longstaff's St James Ethics Centre is sponsored by Macquarie - that led to a second interview with Dr Longstaff (screened last Friday, the transcript had not been posted at time of writting).

A question regarding the nature of the developing area of 'ethics consulting' is taking shape ... Will elaborate when the relevant transcript is available.

Philosophical Fragments

Philosophical Fragments - infant philo-blog (two posts old presently), looks as though it will be concerned with continential issues, such as modernity.

Aaron Cobb's Philosophy Blogg

Aaron Cobb's Philosophy Blog - analytic tradition philo-blog, concerned with epistemology and philosophy of history (the present top posts are on Locke and Berkeley).

[Hat tip to Philosophical Fragments.]

Hansen - Freeman's 'Acceptable Premises: An Epistemic Approach to an Informal Logic Problem'

"If all arguments rest on basic premises, and all basic premises are acceptable only if there is a presumption of warrant for them, is it the case that all conclusions of arguments, all beliefs supported by arguments, are no more than presumptions? This line of thought seems to me to be tempting, and I wonder whether Freeman would endorse it. Others have treated presumptions as a category distinct from fact, truth, and values (Chaim Perelman), and so they would not be committed to such an outcome." - NDPR.

Furtak - Solomon's 'In Defense of Sentimentality'

"One of the chief aims of the book is to defend the importance of being emotional: against those who harbor distrust toward particular emotions or toward emotion in general, Solomon mounts a counterattack meant to demonstrate that emotional sensitivity is an ethical virtue, valuable in itself and essential to any meaningful human existence. This goal is especially prominent in the first and last essays of the collection, which (according to the author's preface) serve to lay out the concerns of the volume as a whole. "In Defense of Sentimentality" and "On Kitsch and Sentimentality," the two chapters in question, are united in their denial that the term "sentimentality" ought to have negative or pejorative connotations. This goes against the practice of using the word to describe emotions that are inauthentic, facile, excessive, self-deceived, or distorted. According to Solomon, this critical use of the word "sentimentality" is nothing but a convenient way of expressing a more comprehensive bias against emotion as such, and especially against a class of emotions variably described as the "sweet" or "tender" sentiments. He puts forward the remarkably strong claim that, in spite of prevailing opinion to the contrary, "there is nothing wrong with sentimentality"." - NDPR.

DeLancey - Prinz's 'Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion'

"The concept of "cognition" is a sore point in the philosophy of emotion, since there is no consensus and almost no clarity about what it might best mean. Prinz offers a view as good as any and better than most. He argues that "cognitions are states containing representations that are under [direct] organismic control" (49). This sounds about the same as the view that cognitions are products of the will; but though organismic control or the will is itself mysterious, it is possible to see how one might go about looking for evidence that a state was answerable to the will. One can test if a subject can change the state, for example. Furthermore, Prinz goes so far as to brave a hypothesis about the brain areas that may be required for direct control: "I propose that we call a state cognitive just in case it includes representations that are under the control of structures in executive systems, which, in mammals, are found in the prefrontal cortex" (47). With this working notion, Prinz concludes that emotions are not cognitive.

Instead, emotions are perceptions of certain kinds of body states. These body states are ones that reliably track certain kinds of conditions in the environment of the agent. For example, one kind of body state reliably is caused by potential dangers in the environment. An instance of fear is a perception of an instance of this kind of body state. But because the body state perceived is reliably linked with dangers, it is appropriate to say that fear represents potential dangers in the environment. To make this distinction, Prinz introduces the terminology of nominal and real contents, so that the nominal content of the emotion as a representation is the body state, but the real content is the environmental condition that reliably causes the state -- in this case, dangers." - NDPR.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Regret and Loss

I have spent the morning looking at two explinations of 'tragic' in terms of personal responses to choices concerning values - values that are and for the examples will remain incommensurated. One results in a feeling of loss, the other of regret.

The latter is firmly intrenched in a moral code, where it is the transgresion of the code that is regretted. It is regretted because it was, in the given situation, unavoidable in that all options open to the agent resulted in transgressions of their moral code, and yet the agent desired not to break their moral code. The good intention unable to be fulfilled is the source of the tragic in this case.

The former is more of an intuitionalist approach, where it is the loss of something valuable that is felt. This situation is tragic for the similar reason that all options open to the agent resulted in loss, and the agent was well aware of the losses attached to each choice, none of which were seen as acceptable in the light of the other choices. This version, I want to say, has some kind of parallel with ideas of amputation, for the loss is personal as opposed to the 'regret' form, where there seems a closer parallel with guilt.

Both systems produce unhappy concepts due to their guilded roofs being built on rotting foundations, but one foundation is society and its morals, while the other is the self in an inclusive sense. If anyone has any suggestions as to how to link these two ideas I am most interested.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Zizek - 'The Subject Supposed to Loot and Rape'

"In an uncanny way, some beliefs always seem to function “at a distance.” In order for the belief to function, there has to be some ultimate guarantor of it, and yet this guarantor is always deferred, displaced, never present in persona. The point, of course, is that this other subject who directly believes does not need to actually exist for the belief to be operative: It is enough precisely to presuppose his existence, i.e. to believe in it, either in the guise of the primitive Other or in the guise of the impersonal “one” (“one believes…”).

The events in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck the city provide a new addition to this series of “subjects supposed to…”—the subject supposed to loot and rape. We all remember the reports on the disintegration of public order, the explosion of black violence, rape and looting." - In These Times ...

Long Sunday has critiqued Zizek's self-promotion.

Philosophical Songs

"Oh virtue was the fleeting thing
Socrates was ever-seeking--
but interspersed with questioning
was his Symposium drinking--

'Cause solipsism's painless,
stick the brain in the vat since
we must defer our drinking to go teach." - 'Solipsism's Painless' (there are many many other song lyrics available...)

[Hat Tip to David Chalmers at fragments of consciousness.]

Chunking Along

Chunking Along - the occasional philo-blog of David McCullough.

Hart - 'God Save The Heretic'

"Jonathan Swift observed that the problem with religion was that there wasn’t enough of it around: “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” Three centuries on there is even less of it around and we still hate each other.

The difficulty, at least for the scientifically educated but spiritually malnourished, is not the idea of religion itself, meaning some system of ritualised worship that helps us to make sense, if only symbolically, of the human, natural and supernatural worlds. The difficulty is rather that all the religions on offer are so patently preposterous, if not downright unpleasant." - Sunday Times.

Love - Amundson's 'The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought: Roots of Evo-Devo'

"Philosophers of science have a persistent yet variable interest in the history of science. Despite methodological differences, philosophers of particular scientific domains are often not only aware of but participate in historical investigations relevant to their subjects (and objects) of study. The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought is a revisionist history of evolutionary theorizing through the lens of embryological considerations, which buttresses Ron Amundson's philosophical claims about the epistemological relations (or lack thereof) between evolution and development. The book is divided into two parts with the first covering the nineteenth century, including material from systematics, comparative anatomy, Owen and Darwin, and evolutionary morphology. Part II moves more quickly through the twentieth century to arrive at our current situation, treating heredity, the evolutionary synthesis (or Modern Synthesis), 'structuralist' reactions to the Modern Synthesis, and recent theoretical debates pertinent to the significance of embryological research for evolutionary biology. The aim throughout is twofold: (1) to expose common mischaracterizations of historical episodes in the biological sciences that result from particular theoretical commitments; and, (2) to demonstrate how these mischaracterizations arise out of philosophical positions (implicit and explicit) and lead to a conceptualization of evolutionary theory that excludes any role for development. Bringing these historical issues to light exposes a wide swath of interesting questions that have been largely ignored in philosophy of biology." - NDPR.