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Philosophies, Volume 6, Issue 2 (June 2021) – 28 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): Biological meaning is traditionally approached from the perspective of evolution rather than from the perspective of definitions. Studies of life’s origin entail a time when there were no organisms on Earth, followed by a time when there were. The question of where, in that transition, chemicals on Earth became alive is defined by premises for how life arose. Cultural narratives and scientific narratives for our origins have in common that they always start with a setting, a place on Earth or elsewhere where we can imagine what happened. This structures both the problem and the narrative for its solution. Hydrothermal vents are now widely discussed as the site of life’s chemical genesis, as depicted in the painting by Lilli M. Martin on the cover. Origin narratives convey meaning to humans by unveiling both the place where we arose and the inanimate things from which we are descended. View this paper
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Article
Naturalizing Logic: How Knowledge of Mechanisms Enhances Inductive Inference
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 52; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020052 - 21 Jun 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 769
Abstract
This paper naturalizes inductive inference by showing how scientific knowledge of real mechanisms provides large benefits to it. I show how knowledge about mechanisms contributes to generalization, inference to the best explanation, causal inference, and reasoning with probabilities. Generalization from some A are [...] Read more.
This paper naturalizes inductive inference by showing how scientific knowledge of real mechanisms provides large benefits to it. I show how knowledge about mechanisms contributes to generalization, inference to the best explanation, causal inference, and reasoning with probabilities. Generalization from some A are B to all A are B is more plausible when a mechanism connects A to B. Inference to the best explanation is strengthened when the explanations are mechanistic and when explanatory hypotheses are themselves mechanistically explained. Causal inference in medical explanation, counterfactual reasoning, and analogy also benefit from mechanistic connections. Mechanisms also help with problems concerning the interpretation, availability, and computation of probabilities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies - Part 3)
Article
Of Prophecy and Piety: Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus between al-Farabî and Erasmus
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 51; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020051 - 20 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 785
Abstract
In this contribution, I discuss some less well-known premodern and early modern antecedents of Spinoza’s concepts and claims in the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. On the one hand, I will argue, Spinoza’s notion of prophecy owes more to Moses Maimonides than to any Christian [...] Read more.
In this contribution, I discuss some less well-known premodern and early modern antecedents of Spinoza’s concepts and claims in the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. On the one hand, I will argue, Spinoza’s notion of prophecy owes more to Moses Maimonides than to any Christian author; and through Maimonides, Spinoza may be linked to the discussion of prophecy in The Virtuous City by the tenth-century Islamic philosopher al-Farabî. Spinoza’s concern with prophecy as a popular formulation of the Divine Law may be fruitfully seen in the light of these two authors. On the other hand, Spinoza’s notion of pietas has arguably been shaped by a number of early modern authors from the Low Countries, including Thomas a Kempis and Erasmus: it does not consist in merely obeying the law, but also has a clear devotional and theist dimension of love for God and for one’s neighbors. As such, it may be associated with recent ideas on philosophy and spiritual exercises. These findings have a number of non-trivial implications for Spinoza’s place in the rise of modern, academic Western philosophy. I will discuss these implications in the context of Pierre Hadot’s influential views on philosophy as a way of life and Michel Foucault’s notion of spirituality. Full article
Article
The Phenomenology of “Pure” Consciousness as Reported by an Experienced Meditator of the Tibetan Buddhist Karma Kagyu Tradition. Analysis of Interview Content Concerning Different Meditative States
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 50; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020050 - 17 Jun 2021
Viewed by 2152
Abstract
A philosopher and a cognitive neuroscientist conversed with Buddhist lama Tilmann Lhündrup Borghardt (TLB) about the unresolved phenomenological concerns and logical questions surrounding “pure” consciousness or minimal phenomenal experience (MPE), a quasi-contentless, non-dual state whose phenomenology of “emptiness” is often described in terms [...] Read more.
A philosopher and a cognitive neuroscientist conversed with Buddhist lama Tilmann Lhündrup Borghardt (TLB) about the unresolved phenomenological concerns and logical questions surrounding “pure” consciousness or minimal phenomenal experience (MPE), a quasi-contentless, non-dual state whose phenomenology of “emptiness” is often described in terms of the phenomenal quality of luminosity that experienced meditators have reported occurs in deep meditative states. Here, we present the excerpts of the conversation that relate to the question of how it is possible to first have and later retrieve such non-dual states of selflessness and timelessness that are unrelated to sensory input. According to TLB, a “pure” experience of consciousness contains the phenomenal quality of luminous clarity, which is experienced solely in the transitional phase from the non-dual state of absolute emptiness to the state of minimal emptiness, when the person gradually returns to duality. However, this quality of luminous clarity can also be experienced in non-minimal states as in the experiential mode of being awakened. TLB describes this transition as a kind of ephemeral afterglow in the form of a maximally abstract phenomenal quality, i.e., luminosity, which justifies the conclusion of having been in a state of “pure” consciousness. Full article
Article
Drake-like Calculations for the Frequency of Life in the Universe
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020049 - 14 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1088
Abstract
This article is intended to provide a review of some modifications to the Drake equation, a 1961 concept presented by Frank Drake to determine the number of extra-terrestrial civilizations able to communicate. A reduced version of the Drake equation will then be presented. [...] Read more.
This article is intended to provide a review of some modifications to the Drake equation, a 1961 concept presented by Frank Drake to determine the number of extra-terrestrial civilizations able to communicate. A reduced version of the Drake equation will then be presented. This can be used to estimate an important question for astrobiology, the frequency with which planets are habitable. Finally, a concept is presented that can also integrate the habitability of moons into the reduced Drake equation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Meaning of Life in the Universe)
Article
When Students Rally for Anti-Racism. Engaging with Racial Literacy in Higher Education
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020048 - 11 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1991
Abstract
Despite a decade of diversity policy plans, a wave of student rallies has ignited debates across western European university campuses. We observe these debates from a situated call for anti-racism in Belgian higher education institutions, and critically reflect on the gap between diversity [...] Read more.
Despite a decade of diversity policy plans, a wave of student rallies has ignited debates across western European university campuses. We observe these debates from a situated call for anti-racism in Belgian higher education institutions, and critically reflect on the gap between diversity policy discourse and calls for anti-racism. The students’ initiatives make a plea for racial literacy in the curriculum, to foster a critical awareness on how racial hierarchies have been educated through curricula and institutional processes. Students rethink race as a matter to be (un)learned. This pedagogical question, on racial literacy in the curriculum, is a response to diversity policies often silent about race and institutionalised racisms. Students request a fundamental appeal of knowledgeability in relation to race; diversity policy mostly envisions working on (racial) representation, as doing anti-racist work. This article argues how racial literacy might offer productive ways to bridge the disparities between students’ calls for anti-racism and the institutional (depoliticised) vocabulary of diversity. We implement Stuart Hall’s critical race theory and Jacques Rancière’s subjectification as key concepts to study and theorise these calls for anti-racism as a racial literacy project. This project can be built around engagement as educational concept. We coin possibilities to deploy education as a forum of engagement and dialogue where global asymmetries such as race, gender and citizenship can be critically addressed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Perspectives in the Philosophy of Education)
Opinion
Reproductive Timing and Climate Change
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020047 - 07 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1051
Abstract
It has been argued that the most impactful choice an individual could make, with respect to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, is to have fewer children. This paper brings up a related aspect of individuals’ reproductive choices that has been neglected in the climate [...] Read more.
It has been argued that the most impactful choice an individual could make, with respect to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, is to have fewer children. This paper brings up a related aspect of individuals’ reproductive choices that has been neglected in the climate ethics literature: the timing aspect. It is argued that, from a climate change perspective, it does not matter only how many children people bring into existence, but also when they are brought into existence. The reason is that the age at which parents choose to procreate affects the number of people that will live simultaneously on the planet, which is in turn relevant for climate change. This provides individuals another means by which they can decrease their emissions. Full article
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Article
On Educational Assessment Theory: A High-Level Discussion of Adolphe Quetelet, Platonism, and Ergodicity
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 46; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020046 - 04 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1029
Abstract
Educational assessments, specifically standardized and normalized exams, owe most of their foundations to psychological test theory in psychometrics. While the theoretical assumptions of these practices are widespread and relatively uncontroversial in the testing community, there are at least two that are philosophically and [...] Read more.
Educational assessments, specifically standardized and normalized exams, owe most of their foundations to psychological test theory in psychometrics. While the theoretical assumptions of these practices are widespread and relatively uncontroversial in the testing community, there are at least two that are philosophically and mathematically suspect and have troubling implications in education. Assumption 1 is that repeated assessment measures that are calculated into an arithmetic mean are thought to represent some real stable, quantitative psychological trait or ability plus some error. Assumption 2 is that aggregated, group-level educational data collected from assessments can then be interpreted to make inferences about a given individual person over time without explicit justification. It is argued that the former assumption cannot be taken for granted; it is also argued that, while it is typically attributed to 20th century thought, the assumption in a rigorous form can be traced back at least to the 1830s via an unattractive Platonistic statistical thesis offered by one of the founders of the social sciences—Belgian mathematician Adolphe Quetelet (1796–1874). While contemporary research has moved away from using his work directly, it is demonstrated that cognitive psychology is still facing the preservation of assumption 1, which is becoming increasingly challenged by current paradigms that pitch human cognition as a dynamical, complex system. However, how to deal with assumption 1 and whether it is broadly justified is left as an open question. It is then argued that assumption 2 is only justified by assessments having ergodic properties, which is a criterion rarely met in education; specifically, some forms of normalized standardized exams are intrinsically non-ergodic and should be thought of as invalid assessments for saying much about individual students and their capability. The article closes with a call for the introduction of dynamical mathematics into educational assessment at a conceptual level (e.g., through Bayesian networks), the critical analysis of several key psychological testing assumptions, and the introduction of dynamical language into philosophical discourse. Each of these prima facie distinct areas ought to inform each other more closely in educational studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Perspectives in the Philosophy of Education)
Article
From Reality without Mysteries to the Mystery of the World: Marilena Chaui’s Reading of Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020045 - 28 May 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 818
Abstract
This article offers an overview of Marilena Chaui’s reading of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (TTP). Chaui has published numerous books and essays on Baruch Spinoza. Her two-volume study The Nerve of Reality is the culmination of a decades-long engagement with the Dutch philosopher, and [...] Read more.
This article offers an overview of Marilena Chaui’s reading of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (TTP). Chaui has published numerous books and essays on Baruch Spinoza. Her two-volume study The Nerve of Reality is the culmination of a decades-long engagement with the Dutch philosopher, and her research has been a valuable resource for generations of Latin American scholars. From this extensive output, we focus on Chaui’s main texts on the theological-political, concentrating on her analysis of the concept of superstition and the philosophical language of the TTP, which Chaui calls a “counter-discourse”. Spinoza’s enduring relevance for the interpretation of contemporary phenomena is clarified by Chaui’s analysis of the TTP, which establishes a fundamentally political understanding of superstition. Full article
Article
Doctrine of the Ciphers Intercursions among Zeropoint-Utopia-Core
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020044 - 25 May 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 614
Abstract
The Blochian concept of cipher is discussed in some detail with a view to possible developments in the modern philosophy of nature. Parallels and differences are listed as to the Idealistic tradition in Germany preceding Bloch’s approach. It is found that within the [...] Read more.
The Blochian concept of cipher is discussed in some detail with a view to possible developments in the modern philosophy of nature. Parallels and differences are listed as to the Idealistic tradition in Germany preceding Bloch’s approach. It is found that within the framework of a strict process philosophy of the Blochian type, life forms and human (reflexive) life in particular show up as systemic parts of a nature that is projecting itself towards what has not yet become, hence a strong similarity to Schelling’s approach. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Meaning of Life in the Universe)
Article
On the Evolution of the Biological Framework for Insight
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020043 - 21 May 2021
Viewed by 704
Abstract
The details of abiogenesis, to date, remain a matter of debate and constitute a key mystery in science and philosophy. The prevailing scientific hypothesis implies an evolutionary process of increasing complexity on Earth starting from (self-) replicating polymers. Defining the cut-off point where [...] Read more.
The details of abiogenesis, to date, remain a matter of debate and constitute a key mystery in science and philosophy. The prevailing scientific hypothesis implies an evolutionary process of increasing complexity on Earth starting from (self-) replicating polymers. Defining the cut-off point where life begins is another moot point beyond the scope of this article. We will instead walk through the known evolutionary steps that led from these first exceptional polymers to the vast network of living biomatter that spans our world today, focusing in particular on perception, from simple biological feedback mechanisms to the complexity that allows for abstract thought. We will then project from the well-known to the unknown to gain a glimpse into what the universe aims to accomplish with living matter, just to find that if the universe had ever planned to be comprehended, evolution still has a long way to go. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Meaning of Life in the Universe)
Article
The Reception of Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise in the Islamic Republic of Iran
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020042 - 20 May 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1263
Abstract
In the form of a case study and based upon novel material about the reception of Spinoza’s Theological–Political Treatise (TTP) in Iran, this paper studies issues with the interactions among political, theological and philosophical ideas in the reception of Spinoza’s TTP. The paper [...] Read more.
In the form of a case study and based upon novel material about the reception of Spinoza’s Theological–Political Treatise (TTP) in Iran, this paper studies issues with the interactions among political, theological and philosophical ideas in the reception of Spinoza’s TTP. The paper starts with the first Iranian encounters with Spinoza’s philosophy in the Qajar era in the nineteenth century and then focuses on the reception of the TTP in the period after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The first translation of the TTP was prepared in the 1990s by Muḥsin Jahāngīrī, but he withheld the manuscript from being published. I discuss the arguments that led him to withhold the publication of his translation; in this context, it will be important to consider the tumultuous religious and political debates, and broader questions as to the legitimacy of political power will also prove relevant. The first doctoral dissertation in Persian about the TTP will be described, followed by a description of a digital translation of the twentieth chapter of the TTP, which was published after the 2009 election protests. The article ends with discussing translator Ali Ferdowsi’s motivation to produce the first complete Persian translation of the TTP, published in Tehran in 2017. In conclusion, it will be discussed to which extent the theocratic political context in the country caused interest in the TTP. Full article
Article
How Political Repression Stifled the Nascent Foundations of Heredity Research before Mendel in Central European Sheep Breeding Societies
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020041 - 19 May 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 927
Abstract
The nineteenth century was a time of great economic, social, and political change. The population of a modernizing Europe began demanding more freedom, which in turn propelled the ongoing discussion on the philosophy of nature. This spurred on Central European sheep breeders to [...] Read more.
The nineteenth century was a time of great economic, social, and political change. The population of a modernizing Europe began demanding more freedom, which in turn propelled the ongoing discussion on the philosophy of nature. This spurred on Central European sheep breeders to debate the deepest secrets of nature: the transmission of traits from one generation to another. Scholarly questions of heredity were profoundly entwined with philosophy and politics when particular awareness of “the genetic laws of nature” claimed natural equality. The realization that the same rules of inheritance may apply to all living beings frightened both the absolutist political power and the divided society of the day. Many were not prepared to separate religious questions from novel natural phenomena. Open-minded breeders put their knowledge into practice right away to create sheep with better wool traits through inbreeding and artificial selection. This was viewed, however, as the artificial modification of nature operating against the cultural and religious norms of the day. Liberal attempts caught the attention of the secret police and, consequently, the aspirations of scholars were suppressed by political will during approximately 1820–1850. Full article
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Article
On Russell’s 1927 Book The Analysis of Matter
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 40; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020040 - 19 May 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 646
Abstract
The goal of this article is to bring into wider attention the often neglected important work by Bertrand Russell on the philosophy of nature and the foundations of physics, published in the year 1927. It is suggested that the idea of what could [...] Read more.
The goal of this article is to bring into wider attention the often neglected important work by Bertrand Russell on the philosophy of nature and the foundations of physics, published in the year 1927. It is suggested that the idea of what could be named Russell space, introduced in Part III of that book, may be viewed as more fundamental than many other types of spaces since the highly abstract nature of the topological ordinal space proposed by Russell there would incorporate into its very fabric the emergent nature of spacetime by deploying event assemblages, but not spacetime or particles, as the fundamental building blocks of the world. We also point out the curious historical fact that the book The Analysis of Matter can be chronologically considered the earliest book-length generic attempt to reflect on the relation between quantum mechanics, just emerging by that time, and general relativity. Full article
Article
Conspiracy Theories as Superstition: Today’s Mirror Image in Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 39; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020039 - 18 May 2021
Viewed by 741
Abstract
The contention in this paper is that the theological-political disputes Spinoza was concerned with 350 years ago are similar to the conspiratorial disputes we experience today. The world in Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus, a political intervention in his time, serves as a “mirror image”, [...] Read more.
The contention in this paper is that the theological-political disputes Spinoza was concerned with 350 years ago are similar to the conspiratorial disputes we experience today. The world in Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus, a political intervention in his time, serves as a “mirror image”, that is to say, it deals with the same problem we face today albeit in a different mode. Understanding our contemporary condition under the auspices of a Spinozist perspective, problems in countermeasures to the conspiratorial disputes come to light. Scholarly work and practice focus on the epistemological dimension of conspiracy theories, tying in the extent to which they are problematic to the degree in which they deal in untruth. However, the lesson from Spinoza’s analysis of the theological-political disputes is that such theories do not deal in truth, but, in affect, they do not spring from a lack of education but a lack of certainty. The work of Spinoza opens up a different approach, and if our aim is like that of the TTP, to defend political life against the threat of civil war, such a different approach is in order. Full article
Article
What Time-Travel Teaches Us about Future-Bias
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020038 - 10 May 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 800
Abstract
Future-biased individuals systematically prefer positively valenced events to be in the future (positive future-bias) and negatively valenced events to be in the past (negative future-bias). The most extreme form of future-bias is absolute future-bias, whereby we completely discount the value of past events [...] Read more.
Future-biased individuals systematically prefer positively valenced events to be in the future (positive future-bias) and negatively valenced events to be in the past (negative future-bias). The most extreme form of future-bias is absolute future-bias, whereby we completely discount the value of past events when forming our preferences. Various authors have thought that we are absolutely future-biased and that future-bias (absolute or otherwise) is at least rationally permissible. The permissibility of future-bias is often held to be grounded in the structure of the temporal dimension. In this paper I consider several proposals for grounding the permissibility of such preferences and evaluate these in the light of the preferences we would have, and judge that we should have, in various time-travel scenarios. I argue that what we learn by considering these scenarios is that these preferences really have nothing to do with temporal structure. So, if something grounds their permissibility, it is not temporal structure. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Time Travel)
Article
Professional Virtues for a Responsible Adaptation to Sea Level Rise
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020037 - 06 May 2021
Viewed by 965
Abstract
In the field of responsibility and climate change, much attention has been paid to actions and what we need to do in order to take responsibility. This paper shifts the perspective from what we should do to how we should be in order [...] Read more.
In the field of responsibility and climate change, much attention has been paid to actions and what we need to do in order to take responsibility. This paper shifts the perspective from what we should do to how we should be in order to be responsible. Looking at the case of local adaptation to sea level rise, the question of what characterizes a responsible planner is addressed. Departing from the idea of professional virtues, aspirational characteristics are extrapolated from three codes of ethics for planners. The identified virtues are discussed in relation to the central challenges of adaptation to sea level rise, giving an indication of which virtues are most important in this given context. When placing the responsible planner in an institutional context, it is evident that while a virtue perspective should not replace a system analysis, it provides a valuable complement to the traditional action-focused discourse on responsible adaptation. Full article
Editorial
Double Blind Peer-Review in Philosophies
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020036 - 26 Apr 2021
Viewed by 655
Abstract
Peer-review has become increasingly important to the way scholarly journals assess whether a manuscript is suitable for publication [...] Full article
Article
De-Creation in Japanese Painting: Materialization of Thoroughly Passive Attitude
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 35; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020035 - 19 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 906
Abstract
This paper demonstrates the method and meaning behind the argument that contemporary philosophers have found the key to “de-creation” in potentiality by implementing it in artwork. While creation in the usual sense seems to imply an active attitude, de-creation implies a passive attitude [...] Read more.
This paper demonstrates the method and meaning behind the argument that contemporary philosophers have found the key to “de-creation” in potentiality by implementing it in artwork. While creation in the usual sense seems to imply an active attitude, de-creation implies a passive attitude of simply waiting for something from the outside by constructing a mechanism to set up the gap to which something outside comes. The methods of de-creation are typically found in representations of reality using “Kakiwari,” which is commonly observed in Japanese art. Kakiwari was originally a stage background and has no reverse side; that is, there is no other side to the space. Mountains in distant views are frequently painted like a flat board as if they were Kakiwari. It shows the outside that is imperceptible, deviating from the perspective of vision. The audience can wait for the outside without doing anything (“prefer not to do”) in front of Kakiwari. It is the potentiality of art and it realizes de-creation. This paper extends the concept of de-creation by presenting concrete images and methods used in the author’s own works that utilized Kakiwari. This orients to the philosophy of the creative act by the artist herself. Full article
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Spinoza and the Possibility of a Philosophical Religion
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020034 - 16 Apr 2021
Viewed by 803
Abstract
What is a philosophical religion? Carlos Fraenkel proposes that we use this term to describe “the interpretation of the historical forms of a religion in philosophical terms”. Such a philosophical interpretation allows religious traditions to be utilized in service of a political-pedagogical program, [...] Read more.
What is a philosophical religion? Carlos Fraenkel proposes that we use this term to describe “the interpretation of the historical forms of a religion in philosophical terms”. Such a philosophical interpretation allows religious traditions to be utilized in service of a political-pedagogical program, the goal of which is orienting society towards the highest good: human excellence. Here, I outline the idea of a philosophical religion as it can be found in the Arabic tradition of rationalist Aristotelianism and scrutinize Spinoza’s ambiguous response to this idea. Despite his programmatic separation of theology and philosophy, I argue, Spinoza, at least in some crucial passages, shows himself to be engaged in the project of retrieving the truths of philosophy through the interpretation of Scripture. Thus, there are two contradictory strains at work in Spinoza’s philosophy of religion: he systematically denies that Scripture is the locus of truth, yet he articulates parts of his philosophical anthropology and rational theology by means of Scriptural exegesis. Both of these strains, however, depend on the claim that the final arbiter of truth about the divine and the one true act of worship of God is metaphysics. Full article
Article
To What Inanimate Matter Are We Most Closely Related and Does the Origin of Life Harbor Meaning?
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 33; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020033 - 15 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1306
Abstract
The question concerning the meaning of life is important, but it immediately confronts the present authors with insurmountable obstacles from a philosophical standpoint, as it would require us to define not only what we hold to be life, but what we hold to [...] Read more.
The question concerning the meaning of life is important, but it immediately confronts the present authors with insurmountable obstacles from a philosophical standpoint, as it would require us to define not only what we hold to be life, but what we hold to be meaning in addition, requiring us to do both in a properly researched context. We unconditionally surrender to that challenge. Instead, we offer a vernacular, armchair approach to life’s origin and meaning, with some layman’s thoughts on the meaning of origins as viewed from the biologist’s standpoint. One can observe that biologists generally approach the concept of biological meaning in the context of evolution. This is the basis for the broad resonance behind Dobzhansky’s appraisal that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. Biologists try to understand living things in the historical context of how they arose, without giving much thought to the definition of what life or living things are, which for a biologist is usually not an interesting question in the practical context of daily dealings with organisms. Do humans generally understand life’s meaning in the context of history? If we consider the problem of life’s origin, the question of what constitutes a living thing becomes somewhat more acute for the biologist, though not more answerable, because it is inescapable that there was a time when there were no organisms on Earth, followed by a time when there were, the latter time having persisted in continuity to the present. This raises the question of where, in that transition, chemicals on Earth became alive, requiring, in turn, a set of premises for how life arose in order to conceptualize the problem in relation to organisms we know today, including ourselves, which brings us to the point of this paper: In the same way that cultural narratives for origins always start with a setting, scientific narratives for origins also always start with a setting, a place on Earth or elsewhere where we can imagine what happened for the sake of structuring both the problem and the narrative for its solution. This raises the question of whether scientific origins settings convey meaning to humans in that they suggest to us from what kind of place and what kinds of chemicals we are descended, that is, to which inanimate things we are most closely related. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Meaning of Life in the Universe)
Article
Spinoza: A Baconian in the TTP, but Not in the Ethics?
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020032 - 15 Apr 2021
Viewed by 878
Abstract
This paper resolves some puzzles regarding Spinoza’s appropriations and rejections of various aspects of Bacon’s methodology, and uses these solutions to resolve some long-standing puzzles concerning Spinoza’s modus operandi in the TTP. We argue first that, appearances to contrary, Spinoza takes a consistent [...] Read more.
This paper resolves some puzzles regarding Spinoza’s appropriations and rejections of various aspects of Bacon’s methodology, and uses these solutions to resolve some long-standing puzzles concerning Spinoza’s modus operandi in the TTP. We argue first that, appearances to contrary, Spinoza takes a consistent line in his assessment of Bacon’s epistemic approach. We argue that Spinoza follows Bacon in grounding his overall epistemic method in a “historiola mentis” (a brief account or history of the mind), and that differences between Spinoza’s and Bacon’s respective historiola mentis can explain Spinoza’s embrace of this inductive method for his interpretation of Scripture in the TTP, as well as his general abandonment of Bacon’s inductive method in the metaphysical investigation of the Ethics. In short, we argue that the “historiola mentis” constructed by Bacon depicts the intellect as an error-prone faculty that needs be continuously restrained by observation and experimentation—a depiction which motivates Bacon’s reformed inductive empiricism. Spinoza accepts this depiction in regard to a subset of the mind’s ideas—the ideas of the imagination, and hence sees the inductive method as suitable for interpreting Scripture. But contra Bacon, Spinoza’s “historiola mentis” also shows that the human mind includes a subset of ideas that yield true, certain knowledge of things “infinite” and sub specie aeternitatis. Spinoza finds these “intellectual” ideas to be quite useful for systematic metaphysics, but of limited use for interpreting historical texts like Scripture. Full article
Article
AI Ethics and Value Alignment for Nonhuman Animals
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020031 - 13 Apr 2021
Viewed by 1524
Abstract
This article is about a specific, but so far neglected peril of AI, which is that AI systems may become existential as well as causing suffering risks for nonhuman animals. The AI value alignment problem has now been acknowledged as critical for AI [...] Read more.
This article is about a specific, but so far neglected peril of AI, which is that AI systems may become existential as well as causing suffering risks for nonhuman animals. The AI value alignment problem has now been acknowledged as critical for AI safety as well as very hard. However, currently it has only been attempted to align the values of AI systems with human values. It is argued here that this ought to be extended to the values of nonhuman animals since it would be speciesism not to do so. The article focuses on the two subproblems—value extraction and value aggregation—discusses challenges for the integration of values of nonhuman animals and explores approaches to how AI systems could address them. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Perils of Artificial Intelligence)
Article
Gadamer’s Appropriation of Pietism
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020030 - 02 Apr 2021
Viewed by 654
Abstract
A foundation stone of Hans Georg Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics is the notion of the sensus communis. The philosophical significance of a “sensus communis” (common sense) begins with Aristotle, who offered scattered reflections. The topic was taken up in earnest in Enlightenment thought [...] Read more.
A foundation stone of Hans Georg Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics is the notion of the sensus communis. The philosophical significance of a “sensus communis” (common sense) begins with Aristotle, who offered scattered reflections. The topic was taken up in earnest in Enlightenment thought and in German idealism, but it became more of an individual faculty, lacking the deep sense of community and tradition found in earlier formulations. In this paper, the author demonstrates Gadamer’s debt to Pietist thought, examining his appropriation and use of the theology of Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1702–1782), a leading figure in Swabian Pietism, whose ideas had a significant impact in theological circles and broader cultural life. Gadamer’s critique of the Enlightenment’s ‘prejudice against prejudice,’ owes a debt to the Pietist conception of the sensus communis and his practical philosophy to Pietism’s emphasis on ‘application’ as a fundamental aspect of a hermeneutical triad. Full article
Article
The Ecological Turn in Design: Adopting a Posthumanist Ethics to Inform Value Sensitive Design
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 29; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020029 - 02 Apr 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1708
Abstract
Design for Values (DfV) philosophies are a series of design approaches that aim to incorporate human values into the early phases of technological design to direct innovation into beneficial outcomes. The difficulty and necessity of directing advantageous futures for transformative technologies through the [...] Read more.
Design for Values (DfV) philosophies are a series of design approaches that aim to incorporate human values into the early phases of technological design to direct innovation into beneficial outcomes. The difficulty and necessity of directing advantageous futures for transformative technologies through the application and adoption of value-based design approaches are apparent. However, questions of whose values to design are of critical importance. DfV philosophies typically aim to enrol the stakeholders who may be affected by the emergence of such a technology. However, regardless of which design approach is adopted, all enrolled stakeholders are human ones who propose human values. Contemporary scholarship on metahumanisms, particularly those on posthumanism, have decentred the human from its traditionally privileged position among other forms of life. Arguments that the humanist position is not (and has never been) tenable are persuasive. As such, scholarship has begun to provide a more encompassing ontology for the investigation of nonhuman values. Given the potentially transformative nature of future technologies as relates to the earth and its many assemblages, it is clear that the value investigations of these design approaches fail to account for all relevant stakeholders (i.e., nonhuman animals). This paper has two primary objectives: (1) to argue for the cogency of a posthuman ethics in the design of technologies; and (2) to describe how existing DfV approaches can begin to envision principled and methodological ways of incorporating non-human values into design. To do this, the paper provides a rudimentary outline of what constitutes DfV approaches. It then takes up a unique design approach called Value Sensitive Design (VSD) as an illustrative example. Out of all the other DfV frameworks, VSD most clearly illustrates a principled approach to the integration of values in design. Full article
Article
Curators Serving the Public Good
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020028 - 01 Apr 2021
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Abstract
This article investigates a principle inscribed at the top of most codes of ethics for curators: they should always “serve the public good.” No self-respecting curator would ever admit to serve “the private good,” that is, the good of the few, whether that [...] Read more.
This article investigates a principle inscribed at the top of most codes of ethics for curators: they should always “serve the public good.” No self-respecting curator would ever admit to serve “the private good,” that is, the good of the few, whether that of an elite in power or of a circle of friends or allies. The principle of “serving the public good” is inalienable and unquestionable even in situations where it is most open to doubt. However, what exactly is the meaning of this seemingly “true” and on all accounts “universal” principle: “to serve the public good”? To address this question, I look at this principle for the way it is perceived as being both majestic in its impressive widespread acceptance and cloaked in ridicule for being so often disregarded. I will argue—with an example taken from the history of curating—that it is not the meaning attached to the principle that counts, but the respect that it enjoins. I conclude by drawing a few remarks on how the value of the “good” remains, after the principle has been cast aside and the priority of respect is acknowledged, a ghost on the horizon of all curators’ work. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Curating Ethics)
Article
Spinoza in His Time: The 17th-Century Religious Context
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 27; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020027 - 01 Apr 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 793
Abstract
In one of the last paragraphs of his Tractatus theologico-politicus (1670), Spinoza extolls the harmony between people of a diversity of faiths, maintained by the magistracy of Amsterdam. However, he also seems apprehensive about the possibility of the return of chaos, such as [...] Read more.
In one of the last paragraphs of his Tractatus theologico-politicus (1670), Spinoza extolls the harmony between people of a diversity of faiths, maintained by the magistracy of Amsterdam. However, he also seems apprehensive about the possibility of the return of chaos, such as during the Arminian Controversies in the Dutch Republic in the 1610s and the English Civil War in the 1640s and 1650s. The so-called Wolzogen affair in 1668 probably rattled him. Spinoza’s fears would, however, prove groundless. Theological controversy in the public church was often fierce and bitter, but did not threaten the integrity of the State after 1619. Political and ecclesiastical authorities supported discussions and debate in which a new theological consensus could be hammered out. From the examples of Petrus de Witte’s Wederlegginge der Sociniaensche Dwaelingen and Romeyn de Hooghe’s Hieroglyphica, I will argue that such freedom was not limited to the universities, under the aegis of academic freedom, but that Spinoza’s call for free research and open debate was in fact everyday reality. Full article
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Article
Letter to Matter and Various Incomprehensibilities—The Effective Ethicality of Scientific and Humanistic Interdisciplinarity
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 26; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020026 - 24 Mar 2021
Viewed by 842
Abstract
The article is based on the dual concepts of theoretical incompleteness in systems science and theoretical incomprehensibility in philosophy previously introduced in the literature. Issues of incompleteness relate to the logical openness of complexity models in their nonequivalence and necessary non-zippable incompletable multiplicity. [...] Read more.
The article is based on the dual concepts of theoretical incompleteness in systems science and theoretical incomprehensibility in philosophy previously introduced in the literature. Issues of incompleteness relate to the logical openness of complexity models in their nonequivalence and necessary non-zippable incompletable multiplicity. This concerns the quasi-ness of phenomena and the constructivist nature of models. Theoretically, incomprehensibility is considered in different ways, such as the inexhaustible multiplicity of the constructivist reality corresponding to the logical openness of both the world and of understanding itself and in reference to incomprehensibilities such as questions like the divide between species, cognitive systems, and after-death experience (if any). In conjunction with the need for non-classic, interdisciplinary approaches in science to deal with complexity, unanswerable questions need suitable scientifically updated philosophical reasoning in interdisciplinary humanistic backgrounds to allow for new social representations, understandings, and plausible social imaginary. Such approaches more properly allow for effective philosophical representations of the world. Knowing how to deal with these issues through philosophical reasoning updated to the current scientific levels and humanistic interdisciplinarity allows for higher levels of awareness and new comprehensive philosophical understanding, introducing new powerful social imaginary. Such new philosophical reasoning is expected to allow a conception of the world that is no longer just utilitarian, but theoretically necessarily, and not only concessively respectful of diversity with significant, even self-ethical effects. Full article
Article
Education, Consciousness and Negative Feedback: Towards the Renewal of Modern Philosophy of Education
Philosophies 2021, 6(2), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6020025 - 24 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1047
Abstract
Among the biggest challenges facing the contemporary human condition, and therefore also education, is responding to the climate crisis. One of the sources of the crisis is assumed to be absent-mindedness, presented by Leslie Dewart as a distortion of the development of [...] Read more.
Among the biggest challenges facing the contemporary human condition, and therefore also education, is responding to the climate crisis. One of the sources of the crisis is assumed to be absent-mindedness, presented by Leslie Dewart as a distortion of the development of human consciousness. Dewart’s poorly-known philosophical consciousness study is presented in this paper in broad outline. The problems in the study of consciousness, the most important of which are the qualitative representations—qualia—and the question of free will, are also briefly discussed. These problems are then examined transcendental analytically, with the question of what one must assume in order to allow the emergence of these phenomena. From the resulting conception of causal relationship, we proceed to the circular causality as a prerequisite for life, namely the homeostatic systems and negative feedback. An organization of action that is essential to animals and humans is presented, using William Powers’ perceptual control theory (PCT), and the role of consciousness in this organization is drafted according to the studies of Martin Taylor. Action is seen as continuous problem solving, in which negative feedback is used to bring perceptions into line with the goals. The fundamental function of consciousness is revealed as the direction and enhancement of learning. Based on PCT, it can be shown that the main practical problems in animal and, especially, human action, are related to adverse side effects of action and the resulting various conflicts. The climate crisis is a typical example of the problematic side effects of collective action. Dewart’s concept of absent-mindedness can therefore be defined as an inability to responsibly account for the side effects of action. Thus, the main task of education is to forestall, through negative feedback and in cooperation with learner consciousness, absent-mindedness and the problems it causes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Perspectives in the Philosophy of Education)
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