Aristotle on Practical Truth

This study aims to show that the notion of practical truth is indispensable to Aristotle’s ethics. It pursues its goal in six chapters. The first two, introductory, chapters — one on Plato and one on misinterpreting Aristotle — prepare the ground for the core of the book, a sustained treatment of Aristotle’s conception of practical truth. Chapter three is a lightly revised version of Olfert’s prize-winning article ‘Aristotle’s Conception of Practical Truth’ (JHP, 2014), arguing that practical truth is both truth in the proper sense of ‘truth’ and a special kind of truth. Chapter four spells out the connection between practical truth and the other functions of practical reason, explaining how wish, decision, and action all express practical reason’s concern for practical truth. The last part of the book, chapters five and six, draw out the implications of taking practical truth to be among the primary notions in Aristotle’s moral psychology. Olfert first examines how pleasure can contribute to the development of truth-oriented practical reason, and then concludes by arguing that developing practical reason can also change what we enjoy.


REad also: Aristotle on Practical Truth

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Toward a History and Philosophy of Scientific Agency

Fisch aims to offer a philosophy of scientific agency. Specifically, the book is framed around developing an account of how a scientist can be persuaded to accept a new theory, one that is fundamentally different from the theory she currently accepts. Fisch argues that this is a problem that Thomas Kuhn left us with. Given Kuhn’s theory of scientific change, according to which science progresses through radical revolutionary changes of theory, one needs to explain how such changes are rationally mediated. One needs to explain how reasons that are external to one’s conceptual framework can move one to abandon that framework.

Fisch maintains that neither Kuhn nor his successors, critics nor sympathetic commentators, provided an adequate answer to the challenge Kuhn raised. That is, no one has satisfactorily explained how one could change one’s view when such a change requires a significant rethinking and reassessment of one’s values. That, after all, is what theory change involves, assuming Kuhn is correct.


Read also: Creatively Undecided: Toward a History and Philosophy of Scientific Agency

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A Philosophy for the Science of Well-Being

Ostensibly, philosophy and science share goals that are fundamentally related to truth-seeking. Yet the ways in which each discipline pursues these goals are often vastly different and can lead to different claims about the nature of their object. The study of well-being is a prime example. Even despite increasing efforts to engage in interdisciplinary research, the science of well-being proceeds very differently than the philosophy of well-being, to the extent where we might reasonably question whether or not the science and philosophy are talking about the same thing.

Anna Alexandrova’s ambitious and timely book tackles these concerns head-on, raising important questions regarding the relationship between philosophy and science, and offering insights into how one might inform the other. Written from the perspective of the philosophy of science, Alexandrova’s aim is to develop a philosophy of the science of well-being that shows how the science of well-being can best succeed in delivering knowledge of well-being, and in explaining how and why that knowledge succeeds and fails (p. xv).


Read also:  A Philosophy for the Science of Well-Being

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Reference and Representation in Thought and Language

This is a welcome addition to the ongoing debate on reference. Both philosophers of language and linguists contributed to the volume, and the topics of the papers vary considerably. However, as the editors explain in the introduction, “one relevant element common to all contributions is that . . . even if none of them questions that singular terms are typically used to refer directly to individual objects, most of them address issues beyond reference” (2). The book can be of interest to both graduate students and scholars that work in philosophy of language, linguistics, and philosophy of mind. Given the limited space I have in this review, I’ll say something about each paper, aware I am not able to do justice to any one of them..


Read also: Reference and Representation in Thought and Language

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Dignity: A History

Dignity is one of the building blocks of our human abstract vocabulary. Like love, friendship, hope and faith, it is a cluster concept (philosophically) and a very thick concept (anthropologically) whose nebulous core is ubiquitous in all known human cultures. At a certain moment in the history of ideas, dignity became attached to “humanity”, and acquired a foundational moral value. It happened in the Jewish Bible and in Stoic philosophy. Christianity taught that original sin blemished human dignity and that only Christian grace offers some restoration. For many centuries, this move rendered dignity or Imago Dei irrelevant as a moral property of all humans. People were expected to behave with dignity and to accept the grace of the Church and her teachings; but they did not hear about any treatment owed them solely because all human beings had dignity.


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Deleuze and Ancient Greek Physics: The Image of Nature

The scholarship that examines Deleuze’s use of and relation to Hellenic philosophy is rich and growing. Recent works include Sean Bowden’s The Priority of Events and Ryan Johnson’s The Deleuze-Lucretius Encounter. Michael James Bennett’s book is a new and important contribution to this conversation. Not only does it give new insight into Deleuze’s sources and arguments, but, in the spirit of Deleuze’s history of philosophy, Bennett also allows us to see what the Stoics and Epicureans (and Deleuze with them) are creating in their thought.

Chief among these creations, according to Bennett, is a new “image of nature.” “Image of nature” is deployed here with technical specificity, meant to invoke Deleuze’s use of the phrase “image of thought” in Difference and Repetition. Although, Deleuze is largely critical of the image of thought, Bennett qualifies it with the term “dogmatic.” This allows him to argue for a non-dogmatic image of thought and its concomitant (and presumably non-dogmatic) image of nature. What precisely, though, would distinguish between a dogmatic and non-dogmatic “image,” whether of thought or nature? For Deleuze, as Bennett shows, the difference can be articulated grammatically (hypotaxis vs. parataxis), logically (attribution vs. conjunction), or metaphysically (ontology vs. pragmatics).


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Thinking about the Emotions: A Philosophical History

The editors write that “the volume proposes to investigate the philosophical history of the emotions by bringing together leading historians of philosophy and covering a wide spectrum of schools of thought and epochs, from ancient philosophy up to twentieth-century accounts”. The work contains one paper on Aristotle, one on Aquinas and Ockham, three on seventeenth-century philosophers (Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Malebranche), four on eighteenth-century philosophers (Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, Kant, Hume, Schiller) and five on post-Kantian philosophy (Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, the Brentano school, Heidegger, Sartre, and analytic philosophy). It is hence mostly a study of the emotions in modern and contemporary Western philosophy.


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Why kids need to learn philosophy

The idea that schoolchildren should become philosophers will be scoffed at by school boards, teachers, parents, and philosophers alike. The latter will question whether kids can even do philosophy, while the former likely have only a passing familiarity with it, if any — possibly leading them to conclude that it’s beyond useless.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, nothing could be more important to the future well-being of both our kids and society as a whole than that they learn how to be philosophers.


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Philosophy: Eternal topics, evolving questions

Philosophers are famous for disagreeing on the issues that interest them. Is morality objective? Is the mind identical to the body? Are our actions free or determined? Some professional philosophers will say no to these questions—but an almost equal number will say yes.

Moreover, empirical data bears this out. In a widely publicized PhilPapers survey, conducted by David Bourget and David Chalmers, little or no consensus was found among contemporary philosophers on key philosophical theses. In the face of all this, does philosophy make progress?

Surely the question answers itself. If philosophers can’t agree on their answers, the inevitable conclusion is: they make no progress. Or, at least, they make no progress, except on the meta-question of whether there is progress. On this there can be no disagreement.


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UNESCO Philosophy Manual: A South-South Perspective

The modest title should not, however, conceal the true significance of this work, misleading the reader into thinking, perhaps, that it is just another philosophical manual, despite the fact that it is from the “South” and dedicated to somewhat “exotic” philosophy. If we begin this brief introduction warning against the risk of drawing this potentially hasty conclusion, it is because this manual – on account of both its systematic and methodological structure and its contents – is a work that challenges us with a call to become committed to working towards an innovative turning point, not only in the perception of the theoretical purpose and social role of philosophy, but also as regards the task of philosophy teaching in contemporary societies.


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