Philosophy Rashômon

Finding the body was probably the worst thing that had ever happened to the cleaner. She had arrived early to work that day, hoping to have a moment alone in the faculty common room before she had to wipe down all the surfaces in a farcical attempt to make the campus “COVID secure” for those who arrived after her. But even that measure of peace was denied to her by the obscene, sprawling, disfigured, corpse lying in front of the blackboard. Her struggles with her mental health had been life long, and on and off she had gone through dark periods of substance abuse as a form of self-medication. As the police came to secure the area and examine the scene they found her praying that she would be able to forget all this and hold it together - her family were relying on her. The victim - M - had been a faculty member in this small department of philosophy, and so the first thing the police had done was call in M’s three colleagues to see if they knew of anyone who might have a grudge against

The Head and the Heart: Incentives and Norms

by Liam Kofi Bright and Remco Heesen We wager that on reflection most philosophers would reject any  crude dichotomy  between reason and passion. We don’t really think Newton unweaved the rainbow, we don’t really think one should ignore the learn’d astronomer to go gaze at the stars - or avoid gazing at the stars because after all you have the star charts. One simply doesn’t have to choose between these ways of accessing the world, and an appreciation for what is humanly significant can be combined quite comfortably with an analytical frame of mind. However, in more sophisticated guises, something of this contrast will find its way into philosophers’ analyses, and we think to their detriment. This blog post is about something that seems to us an example of such, and we shall try to set out where we think it goes wrong and why we think this is important to realise. The occasion for this reflection is a recent  paper  by  Hugh Desmond . It makes a rather interesting distinction between “

Varieties of Black Political Philosophy

In circles I run in one will often see people advised to read black authors or engage with black thought. I take it the reason I see this so often is that in the bits of philosophy I mix in it is i) seen as good to be broad minded and well read in one's thought, and especially to be in touch with wha people from marginalised groups are thinking -- and ii) rare to actually be as much. This got me thinking about what this means, what sort of tendencies of thought or theory one might expect to encounter upon doing so. For that reason I decided to categorise some of the tendencies of black political thought that I often encounter, and share that here. Each group is not much more than a loose affinity group, united by a theme. But I tend to think I can recognise instances of members of these groups when I see them - by what they stress, how they argue, what sort of things they think possible or impossible, or relevant or irrelevant. So I have tried to briefly summarise the thematic link

Socialist Philosophy

Haven't blogged in a while so just to keep things active here are some brief and ill thought out musings on philosophy and socialism that I have had for a while. As in many other cases this will suffer from my decision to avoid ever using negative exemplars, but on the whole I think that makes my blog better. So feel free not to believe me, and in this case these really are just ill thought out musings - not really meant to persuade and which I am not sure I could defend. But I am sure I am not the only person who wonders what, if anything, philosophy might do for socialism, so maybe if that's shared between us my thoughts will spark something useful in you. (Just a note: I am going to link to lots of positive examples of the sort of thing I mean. Feel free to follow them up, I think they're all interesting texts that socialists should engage with! But one couldn't coherently agree with all of them, some of them aren't even socialist, so I don't link to signal e

Free and Easy Conversing

by Aaron Novick and Liam Kofi Bright (All citations are to Ziporyn ) Liam: the Warhol museum really is the best in the city, thanks for inviting me! Tell you what, it’s such a lovely evening, why don’t we walk into town just for the stroll, rather than going home straight away? Aaron: Definitely! I can’t stay out too late, though—I’m meeting with a student tomorrow to discuss the Zhuangzi, and I need to do some prep work tonight. Liam: Don’t worry, we can just walk around the cultural district a bit and then I’ll get the bus home. Very cool that you have a student interested in the Zhuangzi, what will you be discussing? Aaron: We’re going to be talking about the happiness of fish passage. Liam: Nice! I love that passage. I love that Zhuangzi doesn’t always win his own dialogues. Aaron: Oh, no, I don’t agree with that! It’s one of many stories where he comes out on top against his fussy friend Huizi. I have the text here—see for yourself: Zhuangzi and Huizi were s

The Masque of Rona

by Liam Kofi Bright and Richard Bradley In the face of a global pandemic whose scale and impact is for most of us entirely new, governments around the world are adopting policies that severely interfere with our daily lives. I know this has lots of people wondering about whether such decisions could really be justified. And even if we accept that this action is justified we might still be interested in how one can sensibly reason about taking action in the face of unprecedented problems. So for the sakes of introducing the topic to a wider audience, in today’s post I am joined by my colleague Richard Bradley , an expert on making rational decisions under conditions of uncertainty. Let’s be very clear about this: we are not epidemiologists or medical or social scientists - so we are not going to offer any direct policy advice. What policy should be adopted depends a lot on empirical particulars, and the pertinent domains of expertise for this would be quite distinct from ours.