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New Books in Philosophy

Author: Marshall Poe

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Interview with Philosophers about their New Books
195 Episodes
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What is the relationship between the form of writing and what can be thought? How is a writer’s thinking shaped by form? How is a reader’s? Does this matter for philosophy? In Philosophy, Writing, and the Character of Thought (University of Chicago Press, 2018), John T. Lysaker explores the importance of the praxis of writing for philosophy. Essaying a variety of forms, the book invites the reader to investigate the volume in their hands as a performance. It engages with, among others, the work of Plato, Emerson, Wittgenstein, Benjamin, and Cavell, not only to show how form matters for thought, but also how thought is always made possible by what has come before. The book argues for philosophy to reconsider academic articles as the dominant mode of writing in the profession and offers an example of the creative ways in which philosophy can unfold.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Evolutionary biologists standardly treat organisms as agents: they have goals and purposes and preferences, and their behaviors and adaptive traits contribute to the achievement of their goals. This explanatory practice brings evolutionary biology into conceptual contact with rational choice theory, which provides models of how people make decisions and act on them. In Agents and Goals in Evolution (Oxford University Press, 2018), Samir Okasha explores the fascinating and complex links between evolutionary biology and rational choice theory, arguing that “agential thinking” in adaptationist explanations of nonhuman organisms is justified by providing explanatory purchase that goes beyond using the concept of function. He also argues how natural selection does not necessarily or even probably lead to the most adapted (or fittest) traits, and considers how and when the idea of utility maximization in economics has its valid analogue in the idea of adaptive fitness.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Sometimes people are blameworthy or otherwise not admirable because of what they believe. And sometimes they are blameworthy or otherwise not admirable because of how they believe – broadly, their ways of thinking, inquiring, handling evidence, and managing information. We sometimes criticize others for being careless, dogmatic, gullible, and so on. These evaluations often have the form of appraisals of the persons to whom they are applied. So, just as we might speak of intellectual virtues, we can also speak of intellectual vices.In Vices of the Mind: From the Intellectual to the Political (Oxford University Press, 2019), Quassim Cassam develops a conception of epistemic vice, and explores the sites where specific vices of this kind appear. The result is a fascinating examination of the ways in which individuals’ flawed ways of thinking can impact the world.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
How does perception result in thoughts about items in the world (such as dogs or flowers) and in conscious states of many kinds (such as experiences of seeing red)? How does perception provide evidence for our beliefs (such as the belief that there is a red rose in front of you)?In The Unity of Perception: Content, Consciousness, and Evidence (Oxford University Press, 2018), Susanna Schellenberg considers these questions about the role of perception in mind and knowledge. Schellenberg, who is professor of philosophy and cognitive science at Rutgers University, offers a unified account of perception as the capacity to discriminate and single out particulars, and defends the answers that “capacitism” provides to such questions as the relation between perception and consciousness and the way in which hallucinators and perceivers share some types of evidence for their beliefs but differ importantly in others.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Given our modern scientific view of the world, how is freedom of the will possible?  That is the classical problem of free will.  Strategies for addressing this problem include the flat denial of free will, as well as various attempts to render free will consistent with a physically deterministic world.  Among these latter, there’s a tendency to redefine free will in a way that dissolves the apparent tension between freedom and determinism.In his new book, Why Free Will is Real (Harvard University Press, 2019), Christian List defends a robust conception of free will according to which it requires intentional agency, alternative possibilities, and causal control.  He argues that humans indeed have free will, and this free will is consistent with a naturalistic and scientific world view.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) such as in vitro fertilization and surrogacy have been critically examined within philosophy, particularly by feminists and bioethicists, but the role of race—both in how the technologies are used and in the effects that they are having—has received less attention.  In The Assisted Reproduction of Race (Indiana University Press, 2018), Camisha Russell undertakes this critical analysis.  While there is a robust scientific consensus that there is no meaningful genetic basis for race, Russell’s analysis of the role of race in ARTs reveals that when it comes to producing kinship, race is still doing a great deal of work. Further, by arguing that race itself is a technology, Russell shows how race is both produced and productive, historically, as well as in everyday practices, techniques, and choices.  While this analysis focuses on what race does in the contemporary realm of ARTS, it illuminates the role of race, in the past and now, in constructing social reality.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In order to explain thought in natural physical systems, mainstream cognitive science posits representations, or internal states that carry information about the world and that are used by the system to guide its behavior. Naturalistic theories of representation provide explanations of what information, or content, these internal states carry, and how they come to have the contents that they do. In Representation in Cognitive Science (Oxford University Press, 2018), Nicholas Shea approaches the problem from the perspective of the role that the contents of subpersonal states play in explanations of a system’s behavior. Shea, who is professor of philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy, University of London, offers a theory that integrates two main components – task functions and exploitable relations – into a pluralist view called Varitel Semantics. He presents and defends his account and considers how it fares in relation to competitor theories.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
We’re all familiar with the ways in which speech can cause harm. For example, speech can incite wrongful acts. And I suppose we’re also familiar with contexts in which a person who occupies a position of authority can harm others simply by speaking – as when a boss announced and thereby institutes a discriminatory office policy. In such cases, the announcement is itself a harm in addition to the harm of the instituted policy – the boss’s announcement constitutes a harm and does not only cause harm. Once we’ve see the ways in which authoritative speech can constitute harm, we might look for mechanisms other than speaker authority by means of which speech can be constitutively harmful.In her new book, Just Words: On Speech and Hidden Harm (Oxford University Press, 2019), Mary Kate McGowan identifies a previously overlooked mechanism by which speech can be harm. On her analysis, one needn’t be positioned in an authoritative role to speak in ways that constitute harm. Rather, everyday communicative acts can constitute – and not simply cause – harm.Mary Kate is the Margaret Capp Distinguished Alumna Professor of Philosophy at Wellesley College. She works primarily in metaphysics, philosophy of language, feminist philosophy, and philosophy of law.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
This is the centennial year of the birth of G.E.M. Anscombe, one of the major philosophical figures of the 20th century within the analytic tradition. A close associate of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Anscombe contributed fundamental insights in philosophy of mind, action theory, and ethics. In his new book No Morality, No Self: Anscombe's Radical Skepticism (Harvard University Press, 2018), James Doyle considers two of her major papers: in "Modern Moral Philosophy", she denies that the term "moral" picks out a special, sui generis type of obligation, reason, or motivation, and argues for reorienting ethics towards understanding concepts of virtue; while in "The First Person", she denies that the term "I" really is the device of self-reference that it seems to be. Doyle, who is lecturer in philosophy at Harvard University, clarifies her arguments and assesses them in response to a number of prominent critics. In doing so, he shows how Anscombe's work continues to inspire thinking about fundamental issues in ethics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Moral and political theorists have paid a healthy amount of attention to states’ rights to determine who may reside within their territory.  Accordingly, there’s a large literature on immigration, borders, asylum, and refugees.  However, relatively little work has been done on questions concerning how refugees are treated once they have gained access to a new country; and from these questions emerge additional issues concerning the repatriation of refugees.  As it turns out, there are several global organizations involved in efforts to make repatriation accessible to refugees.  However, it is frequently the case that repatriation is dangerous and risky; and often the refugees’ desire to repatriate is arguably non-voluntary.  Distinctive moral concerns quickly into view.In The Ethics and Practice of Refugee Repatriation (University of Edinburgh Press, 2018), Mollie Gerver systematically addresses these distinctive moral questions.  Combining philosophical analysis with testimonial data from extensive field work with refugees, she makes concrete policy recommendations for navigating this fraught moral landscape.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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