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.

Fitelson - Jeffrey's 'Subjective Probability: The Real Thing'

"Richard Jeffrey was one of the all-time greats in formal epistemology, and this was his last book. In classic Jeffrey style, what we have here is a short, dense, and incredibly rich and engaging monograph. It is simply amazing how much wisdom is packed into this little book. " - NDPR.

Osipovich - Currie's 'Arts and Minds'

"From Plato’s banishment of the poets from the Republic to Ayer’s dismissal of aesthetics (alongside normative ethics) as a legitimate field of philosophical inquiry, aesthetics has often been treated as the red-headed stepchild of philosophy. Gregory Currie blames this state of affairs in recent times on aestheticians who have attempted to “carve out a domain of problems about the arts that could be investigated without serious help from other areas of philosophy.” This attempt, he believes, resulted in “stagnation and marginalization,” since many problems about the arts depend for their solution on the philosophies of mind and language, and on psychological theories of human development. Currie hastens to add that the stagnation and marginalization of aesthetics has, at this point in time, been largely reversed. He also believes that at least some problems in aesthetics are not illuminated by empirical research (whether or not he believes there can be a philosophy of art that isn’t derivative from other philosophical disciplines he does not say). Nevertheless, this book is offered as an attempt to address several of the thorniest problems in aesthetics within a broader philosophical context. Even if he doesn’t solve these problems outright, Currie hopes to show that any solution that neglects the broader context is doomed to failure." - NDPR.

Thibodeau - Bouton's 'Le procès de l'histoire. Fondements et postérité de l'idéalisme historique de Hegel'

"According to Bouton the issue of history should be understood in regard to two opposite views. The first one, which could be called the thesis, holds that history -- i.e., the temporal becoming and unfolding of the life of human beings, individually and/or collectively -- is something meaningful, intelligible, and should somehow be thought of as an evolutionary progress heading towards a certain goal or end. In contradistinction to this, the other conception, which could be designated as the antithesis, claims that history, because it is submitted to time and becoming, is meaningless rather than meaningful, unintelligible than intelligible, irrational than rational. According to this view, history is certainly a becoming, albeit a chaotic and fragmented one. It ought therefore to be more accurately conceived as an oscillatory movement of progress and regress. Now this opposition, claims Bouton, is in reality much more complex than the mere assertion of these two irreconcilable conceptions. Indeed its complexity becomes apparent when one, for example, asks the defender of the thesis: What is the driving force of history? For Bouton, there are two possible answers to this question: The first maintains that history's sense is beyond human understanding. It has its source in either God -- which is the principle founding the providentialist conception of history -- or nature -- which is the principle founding the "naturalist" view of history. The second answer to this question maintains that history's sense is rather the product of individuals and peoples, the result of human action, freedom, and reason. This view can then be called the "practical" or "rationalist" conception of history.
Analogously, the antithesis is also double-sided. The senselessness of history can either be attributed to a force or a power that escapes human reason -- a fate or a destiny -- or it can be thought of as the result of man's irrational and destructive behavior. This last view might well be designated as the "pessimistic" conception of history. According to Bouton, these two double-sided conceptions form what he calls -- using a Kantian terminology -- the antinomy of history. Thus it is precisely this antinomy that will be at the core of the different philosophies of history that emerge in the context of the French Revolution. Of course, it is this same antinomy that he will use, so to speak, as a conduit for his analysis of these philosophies. And for Bouton -- this is the larger claim that he seeks to make in this book -- the emergence of the Post-Kantian, and, more specifically, of the Hegelian philosophy of history marks the moment where history will cease to be understood as an overwhelming power which people are submitted to -- whether it is "Fate", "Nature", or "Providence" -- and will instead be thought of as something made by human reason, action, and freedom. This moment, which in his view is epitomized by Hegel's philosophy of history, coincides with what he describes as "une montée en puissance de l'idée de liberté"" - NDPR.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Russell - 'The Bomb and Civilisation'

"One is tempted to feel that Man is being punished, through the agency of his own evil passions, for impiety in inquiring too closely into the hidden secrets of Nature. But such a feeling is unduly defeatist. Science is capable of conferring enormous boons: it can lighten labour, abolish poverty, and enormously diminish disease. But if science is to bring benefits instead of death, we must bring to bear upon social, and especially international, organization, intelligence of the same high order that has enabled us to discover the structure of the atom. To do this effectively we must free ourselves from the domination of ancient shibboleths, and think freely, fearlessly and rationally about the new and appalling problems with which the human race is confronted by its conquest of scientific power." - Bertrand Russell (1945).


Philosophiques is the official journal of the Société de philosophie du Québec. It's available in both French and English, and has been published on-line since 1999.

[Thanks to Richard Zach, at LogBlog, for posting this one.]


Another, recently uncovered, on-line journal, Sorties is analytic in intent and long running (first issue was in 1995), though now irregular (last issue was 2004). Another philosophical resource that runs the risk of being lost to the vast expanses of the internet ...


PhilosophyTalk: The Blog - Philo-blog companion to US radio program PhilosophyTalk. Primarily consists of generalist posts regarding the topics discussed on the program.

Obscure and Confused Ideas

Obscure and Confused Ideas - State-side philo-blog that focuses on the philosophy of science.


Théorème - French language philo-blog. Focuses on philosophy of language and logic; appears a useful source for material from the French philosophical world.


Varia - A French language philo-blog, with a focus on logic. Also deals with phemonology occasionally.

Romano - 'The Trouble With Hypotheticals'

"no one complains about "thought experiments" from immortally dead philosophers and scientists. Sample the illustrious history in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy and other repositories of formerly outré thinking.

Descartes launched modern theory of knowledge with his evil demon. Locke posed an exchange of minds between a prince and a cobbler to argue that personal identity is based on continuous memory, not bodily continuity. Galileo, some believe, "only imagined the experiment of tying two five-pound weights together with a fine string in order to argue that heavier bodies do not fall faster."" - The Chronicle.

Romano provides an interesting discussion of the role of logic in hypotheticals in public discussion.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Honderich On Philosophy And The Problem Of Right And Wrong

"In the division of labour with respect to the questions of right and wrong, philosophers have the possibility and maybe the obligation of a large part. The philosophers I have in mind have as their historical exemplars David Hume in Scotland and Immanuel Kant in Germany in the 18th Century, and Charles Sanders Peirce in America in the next century. Their thinking is a little underdescribed as analytic philosophy.

It is a general logic. That consists in a clarity about things that most often is analysis of them rather than any other kind of understanding, and consistency and validity in thinking and arguing about them, and a generality that also makes for a completeness. With this logic comes a scepticism and balance, and should come some self-doubt. It would be mistaken to say that the historians and others do not aspire to and sometimes achieve this logic. But it is not and cannot be their preoccupation. They have other things to do." - Honderich, PALESTINE, 9/11, IRAQ, 7/7....

David - Vision's 'Veritas: The Correspondance Theory and It's Critics'

"Early in the 20th century, Russell and Moore maintained that a belief is true iff it corresponds with a fact, false iff it doesn't. This theory of truth is but one member of a large family whose various members invoke various relations, relating truthbearers of various sorts to worldly items of various ontological categories. In view of this multiplicity of versions of "the" correspondence theory, one might think the first item on the agenda should be to zoom in on one specific version and lay it out in some detail. But that, according to Vision, is not such a good idea. He points out that the main action in debates about correspondence is not about this or that specific version but about the viability of the correspondence project as a whole. If we tie our hands at the outset to one specific version, we will get enmeshed in debating the pros and cons of that particular formulation, losing sight of the more basic issues and the bigger picture. Not surprisingly, then, most of Vision's book is a general discussion and defense of the bigger correspondence picture. He conducts the discussion in informal terms and uses various alternative "broad characterizations" of correspondence-type theories, driving home the point that he does not want us to get hung up on the specifics of any one formulation." - NDPR.

Dalrymple - 'The Meaning of Beheading'

"You don’t have to be a follower of Jung to discern something deeply symbolic in these beheadings by self-appointed executioners. To sever the head from the body, at least nowadays when we have a more refined sensibility, is not merely to kill: It is symbolically to annihilate not only the biological existence of the beheaded, but the very thoughts he has had during his lifetime. To throw away a head as if it were a worthless inanimate object is to deny in the most categorical way possible any ideas that it might have had while living. It is to imply that only correct thoughts can henceforth be allowed to exist in heads, the kind of thoughts that the executioners themselves have; not until there is unanimity in thoughts, they imply, will our heads rest easy on our shoulders.

One hardly needs to emphasize the terrifying demonstration effect of the decapitation of supposed infidels by people to whom plenty of bullets are available as an alternative, swifter, and more certain method of procuring death. We conclude, as we are intended to conclude, that these are fierce and ruthless people whose belief in their own desert-tribal righteousness is unshakable. We should never forget that to commit barbarity in the name of righteousness is one of the greatest joys known to man — or at least to many men — and not just to Islamists, though at the moment it is they alone who have the courage of their barbarity, and rejoice publicly in it." - National Review.

Didn't Foucault make a similar point, somewhere, in Discipline and Punish?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Berlin - 'The State of Europe: Christmas Eve, 1989'

"The study of the ideas and activities of the nineteenth-century Russian intelligentsia has occupied me for some years, and to find that, so far from being buried in the past, this movement—as it is still right to call it—has survived and is regaining its health and freedom, is a revelation and a source of great delight to me. The Russians are a great people, their creative powers are immense, and, once set free, there is no telling what they may give to the world. A new barbarism is always possible, but I see little prospect of it at present. That evils can, after all, be conquered, that the end of enslavement is in progress, are things of which men can be reasonably proud." - Isaiah Berlin, Granta.

[Hat Tip: 3QuarksDaily]

Chomsky Voted World's Top Public Intellectual

Noam Chomsky has been voted the world's top public intellectual, in a poll conducted by Prospect Magazine and Foreign Policy.

According to FP, Chomsky beat Umberto Eco, Richard Dawkins, Václav Havel, Christopher Hitchens, Paul Krugman, Jürgen Habermas, Amartya Sen, Jared Diamond, Salman Rushdie, Naomi Klein, Shirin Ebadi, Hernando de Soto, Bjørn Lomborg, Abdolkarim Soroush, Thomas Friedman, Pope Benedict XVI, Eric Hobsbawm, Paul Wolfowitz, and Camille Paglia.

It is interesting to note the number of philosophers (in the broad sense) hanging around in the top ten.

Duncan Cambell, in The Guardian, aptly observed "The most striking aspect of the list is the shortage of the young, the female and the French."

The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook

"October 12

My eye has become inflamed. I hate Camus ...

November 21

Camus came into the restaurant today. He did not know I was in the kitchen, and before I sent out his meal I loogied in his soup. Sic semper tyrannis.

November 23

Ran into some opposition at the restaurant. Some of the patrons complained that my breakfast special (a page out of Remembrance of Things Past and a blowtorch with which to set it on fire) did not satisfy their hunger. As if their hunger was of any consequence! "But we're starving," they say. So what? They're going to die eventually anyway. They make me want to puke. I have quit the job. It is stupid for Jean- Paul Sartre to sling hash. I have enough money to continue my work for a little while." [Italics added] - The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook.

[Hat Tip to Stalking Sophia; thanks!]

Pappas - Destree and Smith's 'Socrates' Divine Sign: Religion, Practice and Value in Socratic Philosophy'

"The Socrates depicted in Plato's dialogues spoke of a daimonion signal that came to him. That word daimonion is an adjective meaning "daimôn-ish" -- divine, or maybe what the English of earlier centuries called "weird."

Anyway the sign came as some kind of voice and Socrates claimed to have heard it since childhood. It was apotreptic rather than protreptic, never commanding Socrates to act some way but only making sure he heard the discouraging word whenever he chanced to embark on a harmful action (Apology 31d).

Xenophon's Socrates heard a somewhat different voice, one that did not hesitate to endorse one action over another. Plato consistently presents an inhibiting divine agent.

Xenophon and Plato agree however that the divine sign of Socrates needs specially to be discussed in connection with the trial at which Socrates defended himself with such famous unsuccess. In Plato's account of the trial, Socrates remarks on having heard no spooky peep that day either on his way to the courts or during his (impromptu, haughty) defense speech. He accepts the news of his death sentence with equanimity and even good cheer on the grounds that since the daimonion did not stop him, the death that will follow his behavior must not be a bad thing (Apology 40a-c)." - NDPR.

Possibly relevant for those writting papers on Socrates at present ...

Al-Saji - Young's 'On Female Experience'

"To Young’s credit, she is clearly aware of the ways in which the “aesthetic freedom” that Western middle-class women take in their clothing is embedded in patriarchal consumer capitalism and in exploitative and imperialist projects with respect to other cultures (p. 74). But if part of the motivation for expressing women’s experience and desires is to generate political solidarity between women, then more attention needs to be paid to how certain experiences are idealized to the exclusion of others.[4] This becomes important when the idealized (Western, middle-class, etc.) experience is identified as providing a certain freedom for women (albeit aesthetic or imaginative). The danger is, then, that this modality of freedom becomes presented as normative for all women." - NDPR.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Question - What's Wrong With This Argument?

A couple of anonymous vistors have left us with some interesting observations of late. One left the following, here:

"does this work? and if not why not? and if so why so?



In the interests of answering anonymous' question, it is brought to the attention of the general reader. Anonymous, it is supposed, would be grateful for any thoughts or comments.

Benjamin - 'Theses on the Concept of History'

"The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable." - 'Theses on the Concept of History', Thesis VIII.

Sciaraffa - Hetcher's 'Norms In A Wired World'

"One of Hetcher's main aims is to provide an account of ... informal social practices, which he refers to as norms. To this end, Hetcher argues in the first part of his book that norms are best conceived as patterns of behavior instantiated in a group and distinguishes between three kinds of norms: sanction-driven, coordination, and epistemic norms. Hetcher employs this conception and tripartite typology of norms in analyses of the evidentiary rule of custom in tort law and the emerging norms of online privacy in parts two and three of his book, respectively. The book's main and most interesting contribution to the literature is largely implicit in these analyses. Hetcher's basic idea is that characteristic of each kind of norm in his tripartite typology is a particular set of virtues and vices that have implications for how best to regulate a domain containing such norms. Thus, the wise legislator should take into account the kinds of social norms, if any, relevant to a domain before regulating it." - NDPR.

Draft Anti-Terrorism Legislation

In the interests (real or otherwise) of democracy and good governance, the Federal Draft Anti-Terrorism Legilation (all one hundred and seven pages) is available from ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope's website, in pdf.

En bris av frisk luft

En bris av frisk luft - a foreign language philo-blog (as a reminder that the anglophones don't have exclusive jurisdiction over this media), concerned with continential power and political theory (from the names and texts that can be determined). A couple of interesting links; firstly, Thoburn's Deleuze, Marx and Politics, and, secondly, a bunch of Jaques Camatte texts care of the Libertarian Comminist Library.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Diogenes On Virtue

"One of his frequent sayings was, "That men contended with one another in punching and kicking, but that no one showed any emulation in the pursuit of virtue."" - Lives Of The Philosophers.

Gray - Grayling's 'Descartes'

"One of the defects of contemporary philosophy is a lack of knowledge of the historical contexts in which philosophical ideas are produced. This is not entirely accidental. Especially in the English-speaking world, philosophers are anxious to set boundaries around the subject, marking it off from anything that looks irrational, or which current opinion finds somehow suspect. This strategy may promote clarity of thought, but essentially it amounts to the pursuit of respectabil- ity - a dreary ideal for philosophy. Nowadays the academy is obsessively secular. For most philosophers, anything that smacks of religion or mysticism is beyond the pale, fit only for the shelves in bookshops that deal with New Age cults.

The trouble with the attempt to purge philosophy of suspect influences is that it leads to a neglect of beliefs that actually inspired philosophers in the past. These were nearly always religious. Hegel's philosophy reproduced a Christian view of history, and Marx followed Hegel in seeing history as a purposive process - a view that derives from the idea of divine providence. Many contemporary philosophers believe that pursuing the sources of ideas betrays a genetic fallacy, which wrongly suggests that if a belief has a particular origin it cannot be justified in other terms. However, some views are indefensible and even incoherent when wrenched from their original conceptual framework. This is true of the teleological view of history advanced by Hegel and Marx, and of contemporary liberal conceptions of natural rights. Locke's liberalism was rooted in his version of theism. Without some such theological basis, the idea of natural rights that is at the core of his and other liberal theories is left hanging in midair. A great deal of seemingly secular philosophy is made up of religious leftovers of this kind ...

Grayling insists that, in the end, Descartes belongs among the founders of the modern scientific world-view rather than with the mystics, but one cannot easily distinguish between the two. The greatest modern scientists have often linked their work with beliefs that lie well outside the boundaries of empirical inquiry." - New Statesman.


Thoughts - concerned with cognitive philosophy, in the broadest sense; to be noted for its extended paper-style posts.

The Good and The Right

The Good and The Right - broad ranging grad philo-blog, with a political and ethical focus.

Strictly Speaking

Strictly Speaking - a US student blog, from the author of Interesting range of posts.

Scruton - 'Democracy or theocracy?'

"The crucial point in all this is to recognise secular government as the sine qua non of democracy, and theocracy as its natural opponent. And secular government depends upon finding some other focus of communal identity and solidarity than religious faith ... The secular law in a country like the United Kingdom is made possible by territorial jurisdiction, and the territory in question is defined by permeable but historically vindicated national boundaries. Our political culture is a culture of the home and the homeland, rather than the faith and the faithful ... That kind of territorial patriotism has suffered erosion, not only from globalisation, but also from the mass immigration of minorities that do not share it, who define their communities in terms of religion rather than territory, and who do not in their heart accept the authority of a merely secular law. It has suffered too from a culture of repudiation among intellectuals who, for a variety of reasons, not all of them bad, have tried to discard national loyalty and to replace it with the cosmopolitan ideals of the Enlightenment ... The problem, as I see it, is that cosmopolitan ideals are the property of an elite and will never be shared by the mass of human kind." - Open Democracy.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Negri - 'A Contribution On Foucault'

"Foucault's work is a strange machine, it actually makes it impossible to think of history as other than present history. Probably, a great deal of what Foucault wrote (as Deleuze rightly underlined) should be rewritten today. What is astonishing - and concerning -, is that he never ceases to seek, he makes approximations, he deconstructs, he formulates hypotheses, he imagines, he makes analogies and tells fables, he launches concepts, withdraws them or modifies them… His is a thought of a formidable inventiveness. But this is not its essence: I believe that his method is fundamental, because it enables him to study and describe at the same time the movement from the past to the present and that from the present to the future. It is a method of transition where the present represents the center. Foucault is there, between the two, neither in the past where he does archaeology, nor in the future whose image he sometimes sketches - ““comme à la limite de la mer un visage sur le sable”” -. It is starting from the present that it is possible to distinguish other times. Foucault has often been reproached for the scientific legitimacy of his periodizations: we I can understand the historians, but at the same time, I would want to say that this is not a real problem: Foucault is where the questioning lies, which always originates in his own time.

Historical analysis, with Foucault, thus becomes an action, knowledge of the past becomes a genealogy, the future perspective becomes a dispositif. For those who come from the militant Marxism of the 1960s (but not from the dogmatic and caricatural traditions of the Second and Third International), Foucault's point of view is obviously perceived as absolutely legitimate: it corresponds to the perception of the event, of the struggles and of the joy of taking risks outside of all necessity and pre-established teleology. In Foucault's thought, Marxism is completely dismantled at the level of analysis of power relations and historical teleology, of the refusal of historicism or of a certain positivism; but at the same time, Marxism is also reinvented and remodelled on the perspective of the movements and struggles, i.e. actually on the reality of the subjects of these movements and struggles: because to know is to produce subjectivity." - From generation-online.

AskPhilosophers is an interesting on-line philosophical project; basically, a collection of academic philosophers (including David Brink, Simon Blackburn, and Stephen Law [Yes, he of The Philosophy Gym!]) brought together to answer any question that the public feels like asking them. There are about one hundred and seventy responses to various questions already, and the site looks like being the sort of place that it is worth keeping an eye on.

Nola - Keuth's 'The Philosophy Of Karl Popper'

"This book is one of the best introductory accounts of Popper's philosophy and is to be recommended. It is wide ranging, covering, in its three parts, Popper's philosophy of science, his social philosophy, and his metaphysics. The summaries of Popper's positions are clear and succinct; relevant critical points raised by others as well as the author are injected appropriately into the discussion. The book reveals that Popper's philosophical concerns are broader than most other twentieth-century philosophers, whatever the critical response may be to his various doctrines in all these fields. In twentieth-century English philosophy perhaps only the concerns of Bertrand Russell surpass those of Popper in their scope ... Popper claims that many historicists such as Marx and Marxists, and also many sociologists of knowledge, have a faulty understanding of the nature of science and its methods. Once they have a richer account of those methods, the bottom falls out of many of their arguments about the separate nature of the social sciences. This, amongst others, is a theme that appears in Part II of Keuth's book; it can be extended to objections concerning an alleged misplaced scientism advocated in the writings of members of the Frankfurt School, such as Horkheimer and Habermas." - NDPR.

Andersen - 'Why Intelligent Design Has To Be Stopped'

"For several decades the philosophical ground has been softened up by the relativism and political correctness of the secular left, which succeeded in undermining the very idea of objective reality and of calling a spade a spade—so now, in the resulting marsh, fantasies like intelligent design (or Scientology or feng shui or 9/11 as a CIA plot) take root and spread like weeds. Liberals pioneered squishy-minded indulgence of their key constituencies’ unfortunate new ideas, like reparations and criminalized hate speech; now it’s the right’s turn." - New York Metro.

Draft National Framework For The Development Of Ethical Principles In Gene Technology

The Gene Technology Ethics Committee, of the Australian Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, has proposed the an ethical framework for the develoment of gene technologies. The framework, set out in the Consultation Draft, consists of ten points, and is open for public criticism (until the 28th of October).

This is a worthwhile development in the ethical discourse, since the question of which ethical principles should guide the development of gene technology needs greater consideration.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Foucault's 'Commentary of Kant's Anthropology from a pragmatic point of view'

"Would the archaeology of the text, if it were possible, allow us to see the birth of ‘homo criticus’, whose structure would essentially differ from the man who preceded him? The Critique, with its own propaedeutic character in philosophy, will play a constitutive role in the birth and becoming of concrete forms of human existence ... Since the 16th century juridical thought has primarily been concerned with the definition of the relation of the individual to the general form of the State, or of the individual to things within the abstract form of property. In the second half of the 18th century, the relationship of belonging amongst individuals themselves in the concrete and particular form of the couple, the family group, the household and the home come under question: how can civil society, which the bourgeoisie presupposes as its own foundation and justification, particularise itself in these restricted unities, which do not follow the feudal model, yet need not dissolve themselves at the moment of its permanent disappearance?" - Translated by Arianna Bove.

[This comes care of generation-online, which, in turn, comes care of]

Philosopher's Carnival, No. Twenty

The twentieth Philosopher’s Carnival is presently being hosted by LogicandLanguage. L&L's own introduction seems an apt description of this side-show: "all that is good and true, or at least moderately amusing, in the philosophical blogosphere".

St James Ethics Centre Poll

The current St James Ethics Centre Poll asks:

"Do you think the theory of Intelligent Design should be taught in schools alongside the theory of evolution?"

There is a discussion taking place here, but - given the feelings of various contributors here abouts - Dialectic might provide a better forum.

Australasian Philosophical Family Tree

The Australiasian Philosophical Family Tree, care of David Chalmers, is part of the larger Philosophical Family Tree.

For those interested: Chris Falzon falls under Genevieve Lloyd on a brach that is traced to J.N. Finlay; Joe Mintoff falls under H.A. Prichard; John Wright falls under John Clendinnen; with Cliff Hooker starting his own branch, and Barry Hodges falling under that.

Agamben On 'Friendship'

"Friendship ... is so closely linked to the very definition of philosophy that one can say that without it, philosophy would not in fact be possible. The intimacy of friendship and philosophy is so deep that philosophy includes the philos, the friend, in its very name and, as is often the case with all excessive proximities, one risks not being able to get to the bottom of it." - Contretemps 5, Deceomber 2004.


Humbul is another of those facinating resources that the internet has generated for the philosophy scholar. It is basically a catalogue of on-line resources for the humanities, in general, with a section devoted entirely to philosophy. There is, apparently, a considerable amount of searchable material.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Continental Philosophy

Continental Philosophy - is a recent addition to the growing Continental collective (there was a time, not so long ago, when the philo-blogosphere was focused primarily on Analytic problems). It is broad focus, with posts on Arendt, Merleau-Ponty, and a couple on Deleuze. A comment on the different approaches, of the Continental and Analytic traditions, to totalitarianism drew my attention from pas au-dela.

Acephalous On Foucault

Acephalous has been running a piece on Foucault's historical inquiry - given a recent heated debate - in Wheeler Place, of all locals, and after a panel discussion on underground pornography in Australia, of all subjects - thought that it might warrent some consideration. (Should point that it is Aufklarung/Lumieres focused at points ...).


Enowning - Heidegger (that infamously boosy begger) is the focus of this blog, which presently is a running commentary on the miscomprehension (should that be incomprehension?) of Heidegger in the wider discourse.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Dalrymple - 'In the Asylum'

"Foucault was not so much concerned by the cases of abuse or the poor conditions in asylums, as a mere reformer might have been. In the tortuous prose then typical of French intellectuals, he was concerned to assert that the separation of the mad from the sane, both physically and as a matter of classification, was neither intellectually justified nor motivated by beneficence. Instead, it was an instance of the exertion of power by the rising bourgeoisie, which needed a disciplined and compliant workforce to fuel its economic system and was therefore increasingly intolerant of deviance—not only of conduct but of thought. It therefore locked deviants away in what Foucault called “the great incarceration” of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, of which the asylums of the Victorian era were a late manifestation.

In Foucault’s Nietzschean vision, all human institutions—even, or especially, those of avowedly beneficent intent—are expressions of the will to power, because such a will underlies all human activity. It is not really surprising, then, if asylums had turned into nothing but chambers of horrors: for psychiatry, and indeed the whole of medicine, to the rest of which Foucault soon turned his undermining attention, were not enterprises to liberate mankind from some of its travails—enterprises that inevitably committed errors en route to knowledge and enlightenment—but expressions of the will to power of the medical profession. The fact that this will was cloaked under an official ideology of benevolence made it only the more dangerous and sinister. This will needed to be unmasked, so that mankind could liberate itself and live in the anarchic Dionysian mode that Foucault favored. (A sadomasochistic homosexual, the French philosopher later lived out his fantasies in San Francisco, and died of AIDS as a result.)" - City Journal, Summer 2005.

The Lyceum

The Lyceum – a blog focused on Classical and Medieval philosophy, out of Canada, which sparked today’s expansion of the Directory. The post on Jay-walking might interest those presently reading Plato (for Socrates).

It is quite possible that, with these recent additions, Dialectic can lay claim to the most extensive directory of philosophical blogs (outside the search engines) - though if you know of a philosophical blog that is not included, feel free to inform the Editors.

Redeem The Time

Redeem The Time - a grad blog partially focusing on Aquinas and Aristotle (according to one of the posts).


Mathetes - a philosophy blog – in the broadest sense – dealing with issues in philosophy of religion.

Long Words Bother Me

Long Words Bother Me – an academic blog, focusing on epistemology and logic. Authored by a former student of Simon Blackburn ...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

On-Line Philosophy Conference

In what appears to be a promising first step, the first On-line Philosophy Conference (OPC) has been announced at Experimental Philosophy. The OPC will be held in April 2006, and will feature a range of invited papers, from a range of philosophers [the present list includes Neil Levy ...]

There is also a call for submissions by graduate students, which some of you may be interested in taking note of.

While it would prove useful to see how this particular event transpires, it is an idea that could easily be taken up here in the future [Another item to add to the list of things to do next year … ].

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Baudrillard – Three Posts

With the spate of recent deaths, the title of Greatest French Philosopher has become a contest between Baudrillard and Bernard Henri-Levy. Around here it is a one-way fight; Baudrillard wins by knock-out.

The International Journal of Baudrillard Studies (IJBS) is another of the growing number of electronic journals, a group that deserves greater respect and attention. It’s focus, obviously, is Baudrillard, and is presently being published in January and July.

The two previous posts are taken from the July 2005 issue.

Baudrillard – ‘Violence of the Virtual and Integral Reality’

“What happens to the world when it is freed from truth and appearances? It becomes the real universe, the universe of integral reality. Not truth, nor appearance but integral reality. If the world in the past leaned toward transcendence, if it fell on occasion into other rear-worlds (arrières-mondes), today it is falling into reality. From one transcendence in the heights to another one, this time in the depths. It is as it were the second fall of man that Heidegger talks about: the fall into banality – this time though, no redemption is possible. According to Nietzsche, once the true world and the world of appearances are lost, the universe becomes a factual, positive universe, such that it does not even need to be true. This world is as factual as a ready-made. Duchamp’s “fountain” is the emblem of our modern hyperreality. It results from the violent counter-transfer of every poetic illusion into pure reality, the object transferred onto oneself, every possible metaphor cut short.” – International Journal of Baudrillard Studies.

Spencer – ‘Attacked From Within’

“The simultaneous publication of these three texts [Baudrillard’s The Spirit of Terrorism and Requiem for the Twin Towers, Paul Virilio’s Ground Zero, and Slavoj Zizek’s Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates] on the first anniversary of 9/11 presented a unique opportunity to assess both relations among prominent voices in critical theory and the political meaning of aspects of theoretical discourse. Readers who are familiar with these authors will not be surprised by the dominant perspectives and some of the ideas in these texts: Baudrillard's negotiation of the simulacral and the real, Virilio's critique of the extensions of military technology, and Zizek's appeal to Lacanian concepts are all on display. Baudrillard, Virilio, and Zizek use these frameworks to address the significance of 9/11, but the centrality and contextualization of the World Trade Center attacks differs considerably among them. In contrast to Baudrillard's self-enclosed and sustained inquiry into the impact of the WTC events, Virilio's analysis of techno-scientific progress makes only occasional reference to 9/11, and Zizek's study of the political meaning of the terrorist attacks engages with a vast range of cultural and political material. Rather than being associated with conflicting opinions, however, such differences create a variegated map of consistent critical reaction. One of the effects of 9/11 is therefore the emergence of a theoretical solidarity that encompasses positions that in other contexts seem opposed or incompatible. The appearance of solidarity is due to the political priorities that animate these texts.” – International Journal of Baudrillard Studies.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Nomadologiaz - another philosophy blog (yeah, the Directory hasn't been up-dated in ages but you've little idea of what is involved) - is focused on contemporary Continental philosophy (Foucault and co.); especially for our Spanish (?) fluent readers.