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Philosophy Now

Philosophy Now June - July 2015

Philosophy Now is a magazine for everyone interested in ideas. It isn't afraid to tackle all the major questions of life, the universe and everything. It tries to corrupt innocent citizens by convincing them that philosophy can be exciting, worthwhile and comprehensible, and also to provide some light and enjoyable reading matter for those already ensnared by the muse, such as philosophy students and academics. It contains articles on all aspects of philosophy, plus book reviews, film reviews, news, cartoons, and the occasional short story.

Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Publisher:
Anja Publications Ltd
Frequency:
Bimonthly
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6 Issues

in this issue

5 min.
angles on art

What is art? Immanuel Kant, in his 1790 book Critique of Judgement, asked why we judge certain things to be beautiful and if we can apply this judgement to the appreciation of art. This indicates the Western understanding of art up until the Twentieth Century as being primarily about beauty. But then the paradigm shifted tangentially. In his Brief Life of the man, Sir Alistair MacFarlane argues that the harbinger of this change was painter and sculptor Marcel Duchamp. In 1917 Duchamp exhibited an inverted urinal as a statue. After that act of art subversion, the anaesthetic revolution spread. Nowadays the paradigm for art, putting it roughly, is that anything goes. This does include stuff found on the street: I’ve seen a bicycle wheel, an old mattress, and other bits…

15 min.
can the world learn wisdom?

The crisis of our times is that we have science without wisdom. This is the crisis behind all the others. Population growth; the alarmingly lethal character of modern war and terrorism; vast differences in wealth and power around the globe; the AIDS epidemic; the annihilation of indigenous people, cultures and languages; the impending depletion of natural resources, including the destruction of tropical rain forests and other natural habitats, and the rapid mass extinction of species; pollution of sea, earth and air; and above all, the impending disasters of climate change – all of these relatively recent crises have been made possible by modern science and technology. Indeed, if by the ‘cause’ of an event we mean a prior change that led to that event occurring, then the advent of modern…

11 min.
the hard case of duchamp’s fountain

Aestheticians are a fractured lot. A survey of the many thousands of papers and books published on aesthetics will confront the reader with a cacophony of ideas from philosophers who are described as Functionalists or Procedu-ralists or Institutionalists, even as Expressionalists and Repre-sentationalists – each earnestly seeking to offer the penultimate word on the question ‘What is Art?’ I say ‘penultimate’ because even philosophers recognize they are only human and subject to error. They offer their ideas so that they may be extended and advanced by others of like mind. Nevertheless, aesthetics, which was once simply defined as the exercise of taste and the appreciation of beauty [‘aisthetikos’ is old Greek for ‘perception’, Ed], has been kneaded, twisted, turned, flailed and even sautéed in an effort to cook up a…

7 min.
beyond human nature

THE DEBATE AS TO WHAT extent genes or environment determines us rages on. As Jesse Prinz points out in this lively, well-documented book, the controversy between nature and nurture dates back at least to Plato and Aristotle in the Fourth Century BC. Since the Nineteenth Century, when both biological inheritance and culture were first thought about scientifically, the sciences have taken up the debate, from the Nineteenth Century nativist psychologists, to the half-century of behaviorism in the Twentieth. Since the 1960s, the majority view has been ‘it’s in our genes’. Popular naturist (sic) books, such as those by Stephen Pinker, have inundated us. Prinz’s reader-friendly book is apparently geared to reach a similar audience. However, in contrast to Pinker he proposes that the pendulum of research lost momentum after the great swing…

7 min.
books

WHAT IS AN EMOTION, and what is its connection to imagination? Adam Morton, a philosophy professor at the University of British Columbia, gives us a surprising answer. First, an emotion is a state we can enter into where pressure is generated towards our having certain kinds of thoughts centred on a particular theme. For instance, if a manager is seriously displeased with one of her subordinates and feels anger, she may think over various scenarios, such as berating or firing them, or otherwise humiliating them in some way. Some of these possibilities may later be acted on, some may be entirely fanciful; but they are all developed from a particular perspective that regards the wayward employee in a certain light. Emotions must therefore be directed towards a specific person or object…

9 min.
thinking straight about curved space

In earlier columns, I have defended time from the assaults of physics. With a few exceptions, physicists have not been kind to time. Relativity theory stripped it of its tenses, dismissing the difference between past, present, and future as illusory. Worse, the theory seemed to deny time an independent existence. As Herman Minkowski put it, “space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union will preserve an independent reality” (The Principle of Relativity, 1952). Time in physics is present as an abstraction, a pure quantity: little t. This can be parked under a line as a denominator (eg, speed = distance/t), or multiplied by itself, or by the square root of -1 – indignities that real stretches of…