Wittgenstein and Naturalism

This collection fills a lacuna, as the first volume focusing on the relationship between Wittgenstein and naturalism. It addresses important topics in current philosophical debates and is philosophical rather than exegetical in focus. The essays cover a wide variety of themes and are pertinent both to Wittgenstein scholarship and current debates concerning naturalism. All chapters address connections between naturalism and the later Wittgenstein’s philosophy, with the exception of Charles Travis’, which also concerns the early Wittgenstein. (Accordingly, in what follows ‘Wittgenstein’ denotes the later Wittgenstein, unless otherwise specified.)

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Thinking Between Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty

Judith Wambacq’s book, which explores resonances between the philosophies of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Gilles Deleuze, is thoughtful, well-researched, and a good resource for scholars interested in the philosophies of either or both Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze, and in the development of twentieth-century Continental philosophy more broadly. Though the philosophical projects of Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze are often sharply contrasted, Wambacq makes a convincing case that the differences between the two are more stylistic and matters of emphases than they are substantial and central and argues that it is philosophically worthwhile to read Merleau-Ponty through a Deleuzian lens and Deleuze through a Merleau-Pontean lens. In what follows, I will (1) outline what I take to be Wambacq’s central thesis and argument; (2) provide a schematic outline of each of the book’s seven chapters; and (3) raise a concern regarding a tension between one of her central theses and the manner in which she at times engages with major figures in the history of philosophy.

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A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory And Social Complexity

Manuel DeLanda is a distinguished writer, artist, and philosopher. In his new book, he offers a fascinating look at how the contemporary world is characterized by an extraordinary social complexity. Since most social entities, from small communities to large nation-states, would disappear altogether if human minds ceased to exist, Delanda proposes a novel approach to social ontology that asserts the autonomy of social entities from the conceptions we have of them.

The purpose of this book is to introduce a novel approach to social ontology. Like any other ontological investigation, it concerns itself with the question of what kinds of entities we can legitimately commit ourselves to assert exist. The ontological stance taken here has traditionally been labeled ‘realist’: a stance usually defined by a commitment to the mind-independent existence of reality. In the case of social ontology, however, this definition must be qualified because most social entities, from small communities to large nation-states, would disappear altogether if human minds ceased to exist. In this sense, social entities are clearly not mind-independent.

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Enactivist Interventions: Rethinking the Mind

Enactivism is one of the central themes in current philosophy of cognitive science, and Shaun Gallagher is among the leading proponents of the approach. These reasons alone would be sufficient for this book to qualify as required reading for anyone wanting to stay current with the subfield. The book provides an excellent and easy-to-read introduction to core issues and overview of the central debates, and it provides some fascinating applications of the framework. And I’m not just saying that — I’ve already recommended it to a number of people. I do have a few gripes, but I’ll get to those.

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The Moral Foundations of Trust

The Moral Foundations of Trust seeks to explain why people place their faith in strangers, and why doing so matters. Trust is a moral value that does not depend upon personal experience or on interacting with people in civic groups or informal socializing. Instead, we learn to trust from our parents, and trust is stable over long periods of time. Trust depends on an optimistic worldview: the world is a good place and we can make it better. Trusting people are more likely to give through charity and volunteering. Trusting societies are more likely to redistribute resources from the rich to the poor. Trust has been in decline in the United States for over 30 years. The roots of this decline are traceable to declining optimism and increasing economic inequality, which Uslaner supports by aggregate time series in the United States and cross-sectional data across market economies.

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The Moral Foundations of Parenthood

In this book, Joseph Millum takes on the task of developing a coherent and unified theory of moral parenthood: How do we acquire parental rights and responsibilities? What do these rights and responsibilities consist in? And what are their limits? This is a notoriously difficult task. A theory of moral parenthood must accommodate our intuitions in standard cases of parenthood, while also offering guidance in non-standard or controversial cases, such as gamete donation, adoption, surrogate motherhood, and accidental fatherhood (i.e., where a man fathers a child despite using contraception). It must also account for the fact that parenthood is one of the greatest goods, a source of happiness and fulfilment, but also a burden, one that many people actively seek to avoid. Some people become parents with relative ease or even accidentally or unintentionally, whereas others must make a huge effort. Parents tend to feel a sense of entitlement over a child they see as belonging to them in some sense, but must also acknowledge the child as a human being with rights and interests that are independent of their own.

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Knowledge and Ideology: The Epistemology of Social and Political Critique

This book seeks to disentangle the complex, often conflicting lines of thinking that now constitute the concept of ideology critique since its origins in the work of Karl Marx. Taking his lead from Terry Eagleton’s 1994 introductory study, Morris distinguishes between epistemic conceptions of ideology, on the one side, and functional conceptions, on the other. For social critics on the first side, ideology is illusion; for those on the second, it is the oppressive intellectual armoury of a social class. The first tradition, in its stronger versions, views knowledge as inherently constituted by the social interests or positions of knowers; the second, which has gained ascendance, tends to bracket the cognitive properties of beliefs and theories. Diverging from Eagleton, who attributes to Marx an equivocation between the two conceptions, Morris defends Marx, in whose work he discerns strong cognitive commitments which, if revived appropriately, could counter the dangerous forms of “skepticism, political indifference, doxastic apathy, cynicism, nihilism, and violence” generated by the largely non-Marxist, functional tradition of ideology critique (4). The most promising direction for rehabilitating the cognitive line of thinking about ideology critique, in his view, is a neo-Hegelian form of Marxism.

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The Philosophy of Neuroscience

Over the past three decades, philosophy of science has grown increasingly “local.” Concerns have switched from general features of scientific practice to concepts, issues, and puzzles specific to particular disciplines. Philosophy of neuroscience is a natural result. This emerging area was also spurred by remarkable recent growth in the neurosciences. Cognitive and computational neuroscience continues to encroach upon issues traditionally addressed within the humanities, including the nature of consciousness, action, knowledge, and normativity. Empirical discoveries about brain structure and function suggest ways that “naturalistic” programs might develop in detail, beyond the abstract philosophical considerations in their favor.

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Read also: Neuroscience and Philosophy: Brain, Mind, and Language

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Moral Epistemology

How is moral knowledge possible? This question is central in moral epistemology and marks a cluster of problems.

This entry has addressed six major clusters of problems that threaten the possibility of moral knowledge. Subject to the constraints noted at the outset, the aim has been to examine these problems with an eye to their complexity, especially their mutual ramifications, and to explore avenues of possible resolution that are evident in the philosophical and interdisciplinary literature. From this survey, we can see that for each cluster of problems there are avenues of resolution worth further exploration.

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Critical Theory

Critical Theory has a narrow and a broad meaning in philosophy and in the history of the social sciences. “Critical Theory” in the narrow sense designates several generations of German philosophers and social theorists in the Western European Marxist tradition known as the Frankfurt School. According to these theorists, a “critical” theory may be distinguished from a “traditional” theory according to a specific practical purpose: a theory is critical to the extent that it seeks human “emancipation from slavery”, acts as a “liberating … influence”, and works “to create a world which satisfies the needs and powers” of human beings (Horkheimer 1972, 246). Because such theories aim to explain and transform all the circumstances that enslave human beings, many “critical theories” in the broader sense have been developed. They have emerged in connection with the many social movements that identify varied dimensions of the domination of human beings in modern societies. In both the broad and the narrow senses, however, a critical theory provides the descriptive and normative bases for social inquiry aimed at decreasing domination and increasing freedom in all their forms.

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