The Future of Philosophy: By Tim Mulgan

The following opinion piece is one of a series of five being released this week and next to celebrate World Philosophy Day and to publicise the upcoming workshop entitled Editor’s Cut – A view of philosophical research from journal editors. the workshop will take place at the University of London on Friday 13th of January 2012.

The Future of Philosophy
By Tim Mulgan
Professor of Moral and Political Philosophy, University of St Andrews
Editor of The Philosophical Quarterly

In 1689, John Locke published two treatises on government. Locke’s Second Treatise is a staple of introductory political philosophy courses, pored over by generations of scholars and undergraduates. His First Treatise is barely read today. This differential treatment reflects neither the importance Locke himself attached to the two treatises, nor the comparative cogency of Locke’s arguments, but rather the contemporary relevance of his themes. Locke’s First Treatise attacks Robert Filmer’s defence of the divine right of kings. As events outside philosophy have rendered absolute monarchy irrelevant, so Filmer’s arguments – and thus Locke’s demolition of them – have faded from the philosophical canon.

To illustrate the role of historical contingencies here, consider the fact Continue reading “The Future of Philosophy: By Tim Mulgan”

Can the political philosopher help?

London in the moment resembles a zone of civil war. The pictures in the news highlight how much the city has changed in the last 48 hours. Riots are happening in the streets, and rioters are breaking into stores, carrying as much out as they can. Restaurant owners have to defend their guests and everyone has to start to worry about break-ins in private homes. However, the weirdest fact is, is that there is no rhyme or reason for all this. Yes, there was a deadly shooting when the police attempted to arrest a man in London. But that does not explain why protest against the police shooting spiralled out of control and is now spread over the whole country. David Cameron now tries, together with the Ministry of Defence, to find solutions to the problem. But when the reasons for the riots are not clear, how do you fight it? Continue reading “Can the political philosopher help?”

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”

The Prisoner Dilemma

It is an issue that has been brewing for almost a decade now, since prisoner John Hirst first had his case dismissed by Britain’s High Court in April 2001, and, because in November 2010 the Council of Europe gave Britain six months to bring themselves into alignment with the judgements of the Strasbourg Courts, the question is now on everybody’s lips: Should prisoners be allowed to vote?

Back in March 2004, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that a blanket disenfranchisement of prisoners, irrespective of crime or sentence, was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. By the time of the 2010 elections, the British government had failed to materially respond to these rulings, but now Europe has mounted pressure to change – forcing the new Conservative government to tread carefully the line of avoiding in the future paying out tens of millions of pounds in compensation to prisoners while still keeping sweet the Conservative supporters who want to see Europe’s power over policy in Britain lessened. Continue reading “The Prisoner Dilemma”

Is There a Middle-Ground for Multiculturalism?

Mass migration is a fascinating subject. It’s been happening for hundreds of years and can often be an attributing factor to changes in course of the history of humanity. Personally, I think mass migration is a driving force of progress and inevitably improves the outlook of any society which is host to mass migration over time by virtue of the broadening of the outlook of that society as a whole (for a detailed account of immigration by a renowned philosopher I cannot recommend highly enough On Immigration and Refugees by the great Michael Dummett, in which he condemns the kind of nationalism which leads to suspicion of new comers into a society). Unfortunately this takes time, and can cause serious teething pain for both the host majority and the incoming minority. Continue reading “Is There a Middle-Ground for Multiculturalism?”

Who Needs Multiculturalism? We Do!

The Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday challenged “the doctrine of state multiculturalism”, which he claims to have been misguidedly introduced by the previous British government. In an address to the 47th Munich Security Conference, after taking the utmost care to repeatedly stress the differences between the peacefully practiced faith of Islam and the political ideology of Islamic extremism, the PM proceeded to conclude that the “hands-off” and “passive” tolerance contained within the ideal of multiculturalism in fact seeds tensions between groups by allowing them to live “separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream”. The PM demanded that the Islamic population in Britain begin to adopt British values, a position he named “muscular liberalism”. Unsurprisingly, the attack on multiculturalism has provoked angered responses, not least because it coincides with the anti-Islamic protests of the nationalist English Defence League in Luton this weekend.

Continue reading “Who Needs Multiculturalism? We Do!”