Moral Relativism

Moral relativism is an important topic in metaethics. It is also widely discussed outside philosophy (for example, by political and religious leaders), and it is controversial among philosophers and nonphilosophers alike. This is perhaps not surprising in view of recent evidence that people’s intuitions about moral relativism vary widely. Though many philosophers are quite critical of moral relativism, there are several contemporary philosophers who defend forms of it. These include such prominent figures as Gilbert Harman, Jesse J. Prinz, J. David Velleman, and David B. Wong. The term ‘moral relativism’ is understood in a variety of ways. Most often it is associated with an empirical thesis that there are deep and widespread moral disagreements and a metaethical thesis that the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to the moral standard of some person or group of persons. Sometimes ‘moral relativism’ is connected with a normative position about how we ought to think about or act towards those with whom we morally disagree, most commonly that we should tolerate them.

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Camus, absurdity, and revolt

Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a French writer and existentialist philosopher. He was born in Algeria, then a colony of France, which gave him a unique perspective on life as an outsider. Camus is widely acknowledged as the greatest of the philosophers of ‘the absurd’. His idea is simple: Human beings are caught in a constant attempt to derive meaning from a meaningless world. This is the ‘paradox of the absurd’. Camus’ novels The Outsider (1942), The Plague (1947), and The Fall (1956) are classics of existentialist fiction. His philosophical writings The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) and The Rebel (1951) are profound statements of position. Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Unlike fellow existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre, he accepted it.

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Read also: Camus in the Time of Drones

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Be a meaning maker: Sartre and existential freedom

Stevens is the narrator of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker prize-winning novel, The Remains of the Day (1989). Anthony Hopkins owned the role in the Academy Award-nominated film adaptation of 1993. The story begins in the 1950s, when Stevens receives a letter from an old employee, Miss Kenton, who was the housekeeper at Darlington Hall in the years before the War. The letter rewakens old feelings in Stevens and stirs a sense of loss. Miss Kenton (played in the film by Emma Thompson) was an exemplary housekeeper. She and Stevens had an excellent professional relationship. At a certain point, Stevens became aware that Miss Kenton would have liked their relationship to be more than this. Something almost happened between them. But Stevens couldn’t make it work. He was so caught up in the business of being a butler, and of maintaining a demenour of dignity and discipline, that he couldn’t figure out how to integrate love into his world.

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Question everything: scepticism as a way of life

In 155BC, Carneades the Sceptic travelled to Rome to give an important speech to the Roman Senate. Carneades was the head of the Athenian Academy and the most dignified philosopher of his day. He was known as a brillant speaker with a whip-sharp mind and a mastery of sceptical techniques that was second to none. In Rome, there were mixed feelings about Carneades’ speech. Some people were concerned about Carneades’ brand of sceptical philosophy and the effect it might have on the Roman youth. Others, however, were curious to learn what Carnaedes had to offer. Greek scepticism was a mystery to the Romans, yet to immigrate across the Ionian Sea. Carnaedes was an ambassador from the land of skeptikos. Was this a land worth visiting?

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Be with me: Heidegger in the age of the smartphone

It is early morning. A chorus of birds filters through an open window. A young woman lies in bed with her boyfriend. It is a quotidian scene, almost perfect, yet something is off. The boyfriend is checking his smartphone, a web-enabled device. In this moment, his attention is elsewhere. Cut to the outdoors: the couple are getting ready to go jogging. The boyfriend is still caught up with his phone. She waits while he chatters to a friend. Cut to the woman lunching with friends of her own. There is real social chemistry here, a buzz of laughter and conversation. But the others soon start thumbing through screens, engaging with their phones. The young woman has forgotten hers. Her expression, as she looks about the table, is worried as much as reproachful.

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Heidegger in Silicon Valley: technology and the hacker way

‘Software is eating the world!’ US tech investor Marc Andreessen claimed in 2011, on the eve of launching his venture capital firm, Andreessen-Horowitz. This extraordinary claim has become the mantra of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, codifying a new philosophy of tech entrepreneurialism and kickstarting a bold new era of creative destruction. Decoded it means: software engineers are world-builders – so look out! Bored with building apps, games, and websites, the latest generation of tech entrepreneurs are creating social operating systems for the societies and economies of the future. Reconfiguring the relationships between goods, consumers, and service providers, these new social operating systems are swallowing whole marketplaces at a time, eating up business that was previously enjoyed by recruiters, cab companies, hotel chains, and estate agents.

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Language And Hegemony In Gramsci

Book – Language and Hegemony in Gramsci introduce Gramsci’s social and political thought through his writings on language. It shows how his focus on language illuminates his central ideas such as hegemony, organic and traditional intellectuals, passive revolution, civil society, and subalternity. Peter Ives explores Gramsci’s concern with language from his university studies in linguistics to his last prison notebook. Hegemony has been seen as Gramsci’s most important contribution, but without knowledge of its linguistic roots, it is often misunderstood. This book places Gramsci’s ideas within the linguistically influenced social theory of the twentieth century. It summarizes some of the major ideas of Ferdinand de Saussure, Ludwig Wittgenstein, language philosophy and post-structuralism in relation to Gramsci’s position. By paying great attention to the linguistic underpinnings of Gramsci’s Marxism, Language and Hegemony in Gramsci show how his theorization of power, language and politics address issues raised by post-modernism and the work of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Chantal Mouffe, and Ernesto Laclau.

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Gramsci’s Politics of Language: Engaging the Bakhtin Circle and the Frankfurt School

Antonio Gramsci and his concept of hegemony have permeated social and political theory, cultural studies, education studies, literary criticism, international relations, and post-colonial theory. The centrality of language and linguistics to Gramsci’s thought, however, has been wholly neglected. In Gramsci’s Politics of Language, Peter Ives argues that university education in linguistics and a preoccupation with Italian language politics were integral to the theorist’s thought. Ives explores how the combination of Marxism and linguistics produced a unique and intellectually powerful approach to social and political analysis.To explicate Gramsci’s writings on language, Ives compares them with other Marxist approaches to language, including those of the Bakhtin Circle, Walter Benjamin, and the Frankfurt School, including J?rgen Habermas. From these comparisons, Ives elucidates the implications of Gramsci’s writings, which, he argues, retained the explanatory power of the semiotic and dialogic insights of Bakhtin and the critical perspective of the Frankfurt School, while at the same time foreshadowing the key problems with both approaches that post-structuralist critiques would later reveal. Gramsci’s Politics of Language fills a crucial gap in scholarship, linking Gramsci’s writings to current debates in social theory and providing a framework for a thoroughly historical-materialist approach to language.

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Marx, the Young Hegelians, and the Origins of Radical Social Theory

Book – This is the first major study of Marx and the Young Hegelians in twenty years. The book offers a new interpretation of Marx’s early development, the political dimension of Young Hegelianism, and that movement’s relationship to political and intellectual currents in early nineteenth-century Germany. The book draws together an account of major figures such as Feuerbach and Marx, with discussions of lesser-known but significant figures, as well as such movements as French Saint-Simonianism and “Positive Philosophy.” Wide-ranging in scope and synthetic in approach this is an important book for historians of philosophy, theology, political theory and nineteenth-century ideas.

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Bourdieu and Foucault on power and modernity

Foucault’s theory of disciplinary power and Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic power are among the most innovative attempts in recent social thought to come to terms with the increasingly elusive character of power in modern society. Both theories are based on cri tiques of subject-centered analyses of power and offer original accounts of modern social institutions. But Foucault’s critique of the subject is so radical that it makes it impossible to identify any determinate social location of the exercise of a power or of resistance to its operations. Bourdieu’s theory of practice in terms of the symbolically mediated interaction between the habitus and social structure avoids these problems by connecting relations of domination both to identifiable social agents and to the institutions of the modern state. However, Bourdieu’s strategic model of social action remains too narrow to allow for the possibility of an autonomous agency and emancipatory political praxis. The theory of symbolic power must be supplemented by a normative conception of practical reason if its emancipatory potential is to be realized.

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