Abstract: This layered account of an inquiry into ‘red’ emerged out of a collective biography workshop. In the middle of the Wiltshire countryside, an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars gathered together to write and make other things and marks on paper that asked questions of, and into, the spaces between words, people, things and their environments. We did not set out to workshop or write into or paint ‘red’ but, rather, it was red that slipped in, uninvited, and painted and wrote us. Red arose as a blush or a stain seeping amongst us that became referenced obliquely by material objects, metaphors and fairytales. The stain spread, became noticeable through our weekend together and beyond it, creating another (bright red artery) vein of connection to write with.
Abstract: The hallmark of our species is our ability to hybridize symbolic thinking with behavioral output. We began with the symmetrical hand axe around 1.7 mya and have progressed, slowly at first, then with greater rapidity, to producing increasingly more complex hybridized products. We now live in the age where our drive to hybridize has pushed us to the brink of a neuroscientific revolution, where for the first time we are in a position to willfully alter the brain and hence, our behavior and evolution. Nootropics, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), deep brain stimulation (DBS) and invasive brain mind interface (BMI) technology are allowing humans to treat previously inaccessible diseases as well as open up potential vistas for cognitive enhancement. In the future, the possibility exists for humans to hybridize with BMIs and mobile architectures. The notion of self is becoming increasingly extended. All of this to say: are we in control of our brains, or are they in control of us?
Abstract: This article provides a new interpretation of Richard Rorty’s notion of the private-public distinction. The first section of the article provides a short theoretical overview of the origins of the public-private distinction in Rorty’s political thought and clarifies the Rortian terminology. The main portion of the article is dedicated to the critique of Rorty’s private-public distinction, divided into two thematic sections: (i) the private-public distinction as undesirable and (ii) the private-public distinction as unattainable. I argue that Rorty’s formulation provides plausible answers to the first kind of criticism, but not to the second. Finally, a reformulation of the private-public distinction will be suggested, which both mitigates the second line of criticism and better coheres with Rorty’s general theory.
Abstract: Richard Rorty holds that the novel is the characteristic genre of democracy, because it helps people to develop and to stabilize two crucial capabilities the ideal inhabitants of democratic societies should possess: a keen sense for anti-foundationalism and a disposition for solidarity. He believes that novels help develop these capabilities by educating our capacity for criticism and our capacity for attentive-empathetic perception. This article argues in favor of this Rortyan idea, showing how anti-foundationalism and solidarity can be seen as important instances of what I will call 'dispositions for democratic citizenship' and that art (and not only novels) and its reception, are valuable tools for advancing these dispositions. However, as the Rortyan public-private dichotomy assigns art’s function of criticism only to the private sphere, Rorty ignores its potential for stimulating democratic public deliberation and he misses the fact that art’s functions of criticism and of attentive-empathetic perception partially depend on each other if they are effectively to lead to increased solidarity and change social realities. Thus this article argues—taking these objections into account—to slightly modify, but nevertheless value Rorty’s idea that art and its reception are crucial resources for democratic citizenship and for the process of democratic deliberation.
Abstract: This essay focuses on a play that Thomas Middleton co-authored on the topic of forced execution of the elderly, The Old Law (1618–1619). Here, the Duke of Epire has issued an edict requiring the execution of men when they reach age eighty and women when they reach age sixty—a decree that is justified on the basis that at these ages, they are a burden to themselves and their heirs, as well as useless to society. I argue that Old Law responds to an issue as old as Plato and as recent as twenty-first century dystopic fiction: should a society devote substantial resources to caring for the unproductive elderly? The conflict between Cleanthes and Simonides about the merits of the decree anticipates the debate between proponents of utilitarian economics and advocates of the bioethical philosophy that we today describe as the Ethics of Care.
Abstract: Human actions have altered global environments and reduced biodiversity by causing extinctions and reducing the population sizes of surviving species. Increasing human population size and per capita resource use will continue to have direct and indirect ecological and evolutionary consequences. As a result, future generations will inhabit a planet with significantly less wildlife, reduced evolutionary potential, diminished ecosystem services, and an increased likelihood of contracting infectious disease. The magnitude of these effects will depend on the rate at which global human population and/or per capita resource use decline to sustainable levels and the degree to which population reductions result from increased death rates rather than decreased birth rates.