Philosophers on Film: Paul Boghossian

The Northern Institute of Philosophy has put together a terrific series of interviews with philosophers titled “Philosophers on Film.” The goal of the series is to help foster among the public a clearer idea of what pursuing philosophy involves today and what its contemporary practitioners are like. In the next two weeks, we’ll be showcasing these films on The Philosopher’s Eye, starting with this one, where Prof Paul Boghossian is interviewed at the Basic Knowledge—A Priori Conference:

Click here to see the complete ‘Philosophers on Film’ series

About the NIP: The Northern Institute of Philosophy (NIP) is dedicated to excellence in research in the core areas of analytic philosophy. Directed by Professor Crispin Wright, the Institute is home to teams of senior researchers, postdoctoral fellows and PhD students, working at the leading edge of contemporary philosophy to produce research of the highest standard. The Institute holds principles of collaboration in research to be paramount, both within and across Institute projects.

Interview: Philosophy and Pop Culture

We hope you’ll enjoy this brief interview withWilliam Irwin, series editor of the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. In this brief interview, Bill tells us about his passion for getting new people into philosophy, and how the series aims to do that by illuminating traditional philosophical problems with examples from pop culture. The books draw on sources as diverse as Harry Potter, Inception, Game of Thrones, and more.

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to edit The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series?

I’m a huge fan of pop culture in its many forms including movies, TV, and music. Talking about these things has always been a way for me to connect with students in the classroom at King’s College, and it just seemed natural to bring these connections into book form.

What’s the central concern of the series, and why is it important?

The aim is to bring philosophy to people who might not otherwise encounter it, by bringing ancient wisdom and probing inquiry to bear on current movies and TV. Many people already think deeply about their favourite elements of pop culture, so these books give people the philosophical tools and terminology to think more deeply.

And what is it that draws you to this broad area?

I’m passionate about getting people interested in philosophy, and this is one way to do that. “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” as a famous British philosopher once said.

What sort of reaction do you hope the books will get?

So far the reaction has been very positive. Not a week goes by that I don’t get an e-mail from someone telling me how these books have made an impact on their life. More and more, I hear from philosophy majors who first became interested in philosophy by reading one of these books.

What sort of audience did you have in mind for these books?

The books are aimed at smart fans of smart pop culture, the kind of people who really like to discuss and dissect their favourite movies, shows, songs, and video games. They are intended for regular people, not professors :).

Is there another book or series you wish you could claim credit for?

I wish I had written Denis Dutton’s The Art Instinct and Jesse Bering’s The Belief Instinct, two incredibly insightful and elegantly written books. I really like Blackwell’s Big Questions Series. I’ve used the Aesthetics and Metaphysics books very successfully in courses. I’d like to see new volumes on Political Philosophy and Eastern Philosophy in the Big Questions Series.

What’s your current project? What’s next?

The series continues with books in the works on Inception, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory, and others.

How can someone get in touch with you about an idea for a new volume in the series?

I’m always glad to hear from anyone who has an idea for a new book in the series, whether it’s a pop culture fan who would like to see a certain topic covered or a professor who has an idea for a book he or she would like to edit. Just e-mail me at williamirwin@kings.edu.


Philosophy Through Film – Interview with the authors

Richard FumertonDiane JeskeWe recently sat down with Richard Fumerton and Diane Jeske (University of Iowa), the editors of Introducing Philosophy Through Film: Key Texts, Discussion, and Film Selections. In this brief interview, they tell us how the book is different from other introductory texts in its class, and about the great reaction the book is already getting in teaching situations.

 

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write Introducing Philosophy Through Film?

We discovered over the past several years that we were very often talking about movies in our classes to illustrate more vividly some of the thought experiments that are such an important part of so much of analytic philosophy.  We noticed that students immediately seem to become more engaged as soon as they could relate the philosophical reading to something that they are already used to talking about in more informal contexts with their friends

What’s the central concern of the book, and why is it important?

The book contains readings that give students a really sound introduction to most of the main areas of contemporary philosophy.  It differs from standard introductory texts by pairing those readings with philosophically interesting Continue reading “Philosophy Through Film – Interview with the authors”

Evolutionary Origins of Religious Violence

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

In a recent interview for Philosopher’s Eye, John Teehan claims that one “driving concern in writing [his 2010 book In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence] was to get a better sense of religious violence.” He points out that “the violence done in the name of God is not an aberration, it flows from the moral logic embedded within religion itself.” This moral logic centres on what Teehan calls “an in-group/out-group divide”. Religious systems of morality evolve to uphold standards of non-violent conduct within a select group. They fail to prohibit violence towards those outside the group, and often justify it.

But Teehan has relatively little to say about an extremely common and violent feature of religion: the ritual of human sacrifice. René Girard has studied this aspect of religion since his 1972 work Violence et le sacré (Violence and the Sacred). Girard’s explanations Continue reading “Evolutionary Origins of Religious Violence”

Interview: Science Fiction and Philosophy – From Time Travel to Superintelligence

Susan Schneider is an assistant professor of philosophy (University of Pennsylvania), and the author of Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence. As well having an avid interest in science fiction since her college days, she is now a faculty member in UPenn’s Center for Neuroscience and Society, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN) and the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science (IRCS). In this interview, Susan talks about why her students respond so well to the use of science fiction to illustrate philosophical ideas, and why she finds the crossover so fertile.

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence?

Susan Schneider: I was teaching a class called “Science Fiction and Philosophy” that used science fiction films and writings as a route into philosophical puzzles involving the nature of the self and the nature of ultimate reality. For example, I assigned Isaac Asimov’s robots stories Continue reading “Interview: Science Fiction and Philosophy – From Time Travel to Superintelligence”

Interview: In the Name of God – The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence

John Teehan is the author of In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence, and has published and lectured widely on the impact of evolutionary theories on moral philosophy. In this comprehensive interview, John talks in depth about some of the themes in his book: how our moral minds may have been shaped by evolution, and how such a perspective can inform upon our understanding of religious violence.

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write ‘In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence’?

John Teehan: I’ve always been deeply interested in the study of morality.  Not simply in terms of what we ought to do, how we ought  to live—although those are essential questions—but also in terms of why do  we have the values we have, how do moral traditions develop. This lead me into a study of moral psychology, and in particular evolutionary psychology. If we want to understand how we got where we are today in terms of morality, then trying to understand the origins of moral behaviour seemed to be Continue reading “Interview: In the Name of God – The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence”

Interview: Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God

We recently caught up with David Holley, author of Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God. David talks about his motivations for writing, and something unusual about his writing style…

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God?

David Holley: The beginnings of the book go back to an experience of listening to a very bright high school senior talk about how he was trying to decide whether to continue believing in God. The young man had grown up in a church environment, but had come to the point where he thought he needed to decide things for himself. The type of reasoning he pursued would be familiar Continue reading “Interview: Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God”

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