SJP Special Issue: The Lives of Human Animals

The Southern Journal of Philosophy has just published an annual Spindel Supplement on animalism and a new theory of personal identity. The problem of personal identity is one of the most bewitching puzzles in all of philosophy. Consider how much each of us changes during our lifetimes. In so many ways—biologically, psychologically, socially, physically—you are today very different from the person you were last year or twenty years ago or on the day of your birth. And yet just one person has persisted through these changes. The first facet of the problem of personal identity focuses our attention on this question: what exactly are the conditions under which beings like you and me persist through time and change?

Until quite recently, most philosophers subscribed to the answers to these questions advocated by the seventeenth-century British philosopher, John Locke. Locke held that our fundamental nature is given by our status as self-conscious, rational agents (“persons”) and that the conditions under which we persist through time and change are thus to be accounted for in terms of psychological continuity. Central to this view is a sharp distinction between the person and her animal body.

But today’s Lockeans face a powerful new challenge to the distinction underlying their core commitments. According to the view known as animalism, there is no distinction to be drawn between human persons and their animal bodies. You do not “have” a body in the sense that you are one thing and the animal located where you are is something else. Rather, on this view, human persons just are their animal bodies: the primate located where you are is you.

Though Aristotelian in spirit, animalism is a relative latecomer to the debate over personal identity, having been articulated and defended only within the past twenty-five years or so. During these first two and a half decades of work, advocates of the view sought mainly to specify and defend its central claims and to understand its relation to the Lockean opposition. While highly important work along these lines continues to be done, a second, overlapping wave of work on animalism seems now to be emerging. This new wave is beginning to broaden animalism’s import beyond metaphysics and philosophy of mind into a diverse array of fields and topics, including ethics, philosophy of language, conjoined twinning, epistemology, evolutionary theory, philosophy of religion, death, and so on.

The guiding aim of the thirty-second annual Spindel Conference on “The Lives of Human Animals” (University of Memphis, September 26–28, 2013) was to spotlight and facilitate this second wave of work by providing a forum in which metaphysicians and philosophers of mind working on animalism were brought together with philosophers who are presently engaged in pertinent debates in other areas of philosophy. The Spendel conference and supplementary issue were organized by Stephen Blatti, former SJP editor and associate professor of philosophy at the University of Memphis.

Read the full issue here!

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Philosophical Investigations – Free Special Issue

Virtual Issue: Philosophical Investigations from past to present

Founded in 1978 and associated with the British Wittgenstein Society, Philosophical Investigations is published quarterly by Wiley-Blackwell. This international journal features articles, discussions, critical notices and reviews covering every branch of philosophy. Whether focusing on traditional or on new aspects of the subject, it offers thought-provoking articles and maintains a lively readership with an acclaimed discussion section and wide-ranging book reviews.

In this exciting virtual issue, the editorial team have selected some of the best articles, critical notices and reviews published in Philosophical Investigations from 1980 to the present day. We are confident that you will find this virtual issue interesting and informative. See below for a full list of articles, critical notices and reviews. Continue reading “Philosophical Investigations – Free Special Issue”

Machine vs. Afterlife

Well-known scientist Stephen Hawking gave a rather controversial interview recently. Saying that there is no afterlife to look forward to, classifying this as a fairy tale arose a lot of criticism and controversy.

He isn’t the first notable person trying to detach from the conscience of people the image of the luxuriant Eden Garden promised after death. Paradisiacal notions are cross-cultural, often laden with pastoral imagery, and may be cosmological or eschatological or both.

But these words coming from one of the most respected people in history – transmitted by means of a special technology which transforms thoughts in sounds – gave another meaning.

This is the frequent statement of a scientist. He’s not saying “God isn’t real”, he’s only saying there is no need of God to explain the world. This is a scientific allegation, with its foundation back in time: in the theory of Occam’s razor to be specific: We should seek the greatest value of our action. The idea born in the Middle Age asserts that we shouldn’t multiply hypothesis in order to explain a phenomenon.

The same thing is said by Hawking – implying that modern physics doesn’t need a God means it would be an over and above hypothesis in this system of explaining the world.

For most religions, Paradise is the image of a non-spatial, non-temporal, fairy-like place, where only the ones who live their lives accordingly to the moral code of each religion wind up. Psychiatrist Irvin Yalom believes that human beings are cabled to the fear of death and because of this fear they invented philosophy and religion, but also a fairytale terminology.

I think the phantasm of immortality is a mental construct necessary to the human condition which helps them deal more easily with all the bad things that happen and also counter-attacks the fear of death and the relationship between the individual and the world.

However, a scientist who refuses the religious horizon is disqualified. It’s like a scientist that rejects from the start a hypothesis. But what is science if not the disclosure to any hypothesis until the discovery that it can or can not be sustained. On the other part, asked by the interviewer “If this is the situation, what can we do?” he responded :

“We should seek the greatest value of our action.”

And how is this different form any other moral percept of religions?

Related articles:

Does Nirvana have a Neural Signature?
Population Pessimism

The Price of Life and Peter Singer

What is a life worth? It is difficult to understand what this question even asks. Does it ask; What kind of thing, or what amount of a certain kind of thing, could satisfactorily replace a human life? This does not clarify the original question so much as point out what it is that makes it initially so hard to grasp. That is, it is implicit in the question that it is possible that a life can be ‘worth’ something at all which, taken in the sense of a given life being replaceable by something of commensurate value, appears to be a mistaken assumption. Or is the second question just misleadingly worded? If we were to ask instead what kind of thing a life is worth giving up for, then the possible contexts in which one might be inclined to agree that the loss of a life can be justified by the certain good that it may bring about begin to come to mind. Continue reading “The Price of Life and Peter Singer”

Sport, Sisyphus, and Schopenhauer

A tumultuous week of sport presents the philosopher with a series of powerfully emotive images. The dizzying highs evident on the faces of the Indian cricket team as each of them realises a life-long dream of winning the world cup, in front of a packed crowd in their nation’s largest city; the terrifying lows of an imploding Rory McIlroy as he throws away the best chance that he’s ever likely to get to win arguably the greatest golfing prize going. We’ve all been there (in life I mean, not leading the Masters with one day to play) – well, most of us anyway – as our dreams and ambitions irrevocably slip away from us. For those lucky enough to have avoided that so far, there remains the undeniable certainty that one day they too will lose everything; in the great hospital of life we are all terminal cases, and one day we all must die!

Sisyphus: The first aspiring weightlifter

How very bleak this is, and no wonder so many philosophers have felt forced to accept a pessimistic outlook. We live, we strive, we fail, and we die. If we cannot find any hope of something beyond death, then it seems that life is indeed reduced to being little more than “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. That life is meaningless, or essentially comprised of suffering, is not a new idea, but it is one that is rarely eloquently expressed – the finest expression, in my opinion, to be found Continue reading “Sport, Sisyphus, and Schopenhauer”

Free Nietzsche Virtual Issue

The European Journal of Philosophy is delighted to bring you this Virtual Issue on the theme of Nietzsche. Please click on the articles below to read for free, along with the introduction by Robert Pippin from the University of Chicago.

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.Introduction, Robert Pippin

Section One: Nietzsche and First Philosophy
Nietzsche’s Positivism, Nadeem J.Z. Hussein
Nietzsche’s Post-Positivism, Maudmarie Clark and David Dudrick
Nietzsche on Truth Illusion and Redemption, R. Lanier Anderson
Nietzsche’s Theory of Mind, Paul Katsafanas
Nietzsche and Amor Fati, Beatrice Han-Pile
Nietzsche’s Metaethics, Brian Leiter

Section Two: Nietzsche and the Philosophical Tradition
Nietzsche’s Critiques: The Kantian Foundations of His Thought, R. Kevin Hill
Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, Tsarina Doyle
Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Death and Salvation, Julian Young
Nietzsche’s Illustration of the Art of Exegesis, Christopher Janaway

Section Three: Genealogy and Morality
Nietzsche, Revaluation and the Turn to Genealogy, David Owen
Nietzsche and Genealogy, Raymond Geuss
Nietzsche and Morality, Raymond Geuss
Nietzsche’s Minimalist Moral Psychology, Bernard Williams
The Second Treatise in the Genealogy of Morals: Nietzsche on the Origin of Bad Conscience, Mathias Risse
Nietzsche on Freedom, Robert Guay

Section Four: Nietzsche and Art
Nietzsche’s Metaphysics in The Birth of Tragedy, Beatrice Han-Pile
Nietzsche on Art and Freedom, Aaron Ridley
The Genealogy of Aesthetics, Dabney Townsend

Science and the Importance of Seeing

We usually visualise cells as colourless, stationary blobs; but new advances in imaging have radically changed our power to capture the lives of cells.

Science, we know, demands that we become comfortable dwelling within the abstract. No one can ever ‘see’ a quark or lepton, though we can listen to musical interpretations of the activity of subatomic particles. So too, the very cells that constitute our bodies are elusive; when we isolate them and direct light upon them to study them, we inevitably kill them. The less we can visualise, make auditory, or tactile the subjects of micro-science, the fewer chances are there that we will trade the mental state of wonderment for familiarity and comprehension. It may not be hyperbole to say that some of the philosophical questions that arise Continue reading “Science and the Importance of Seeing”