Plato (429?–347 B.C.E.) is, by any reckoning, one of the most dazzling writers in the Western literary tradition and one of the most penetrating, wide-ranging, and influential authors in the history of philosophy. An Athenian citizen of high status, he displays in his works his absorption in the political events and intellectual movements of his time, but the questions he raises are so profound and the strategies he uses for tackling them so richly suggestive and provocative that educated readers of nearly every period have in some way been influenced by him, and in practically every age there have been philosophers who count themselves Platonists in some important respects. He was not the first thinker or writer to whom the word “philosopher” should be applied. But he was so self-conscious about how philosophy should be conceived, and what its scope and ambitions properly are, and he so transformed the intellectual currents with which he grappled, that the subject of philosophy, as it is often conceived—a rigorous and systematic examination of ethical, political, metaphysical, and epistemological issues, armed with a distinctive method—can be called his invention. Few other authors in the history of Western philosophy approximate him in depth and range: perhaps only Aristotle (who studied with him), Aquinas, and Kant would be generally agreed to be of the same rank.


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The philosopher Socrates remains, as he was in his lifetime (469–399 B.C.E.),[1] an enigma, an inscrutable individual who, despite having written nothing, is considered one of the handful of philosophers who forever changed how philosophy itself was to be conceived. All our information about him is second-hand and most of it vigorously disputed, but his trial and death at the hands of the Athenian democracy is nevertheless the founding myth of the academic discipline of philosophy, and his influence has been felt far beyond philosophy itself, and in every age. Because his life is widely considered paradigmatic for the philosophic life and, more generally, for how anyone ought to live, Socrates has been encumbered with the admiration and emulation normally reserved for founders of religious sects—Jesus or Buddha—strange for someone who tried so hard to make others do their own thinking, and for someone convicted and executed on the charge of irreverence toward the gods. Certainly, he was impressive, so impressive that many others were moved to write about him, all of whom found him strange by the conventions of fifth-century Athens: in his appearance, personality, and behavior, as well as in his views and methods.


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Google Translate is a manifestation of Wittgenstein’s theory of language

More than 60 years after philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s theories on language were published, the artificial intelligence behind Google Translate has provided a practical example of his hypotheses. Patrick Hebron, who works on machine learning in design at Adobe and studied philosophy with Wittgenstein expert Garry Hagberg for his bachelor’s degree at Bard College, notes that the networks behind Google Translate are a very literal representation of Wittgenstein’s work.

Google employees have previously acknowledged that Wittgenstein’s theories gave them a breakthrough in making their translation services more effective, but somehow, this key connection between philosophy of language and artificial intelligence has long gone under-celebrated and overlooked.


Read also: Meaning is use: Wittgenstein on the limits of language

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Hegemony as Pedagogy: The Formation of a Collective Will and of Individual Personality According to Gramsci

This chapter addresses the relationship between the individual and the social that is central to Gramsci’s well-known understanding of the pedagogical nature of hegemony. Gramsci blended two theoretical approaches in his Prison Notebooks: one approach relates to macro-problems, defined by historical, social, economic and political themes; the other approach pertains to individual micro-problems. The displacement from the individual to the social is conceptualized through a twofold theoretical and political objective: to think and to operate at the same time for the construction of a collective will of the subaltern masses to become hegemonic as well as for the construction of a human personality that attunes the mass with the individual. The first dimension has been better studied than the second one. In both cases this construction involves the action of an educator who is a master and the action of a pupil or an apprentice: it involves the progressive dissolution of the distance that separates these two poles of the pedagogic relationship, the active appropriation by the latter of the resources of civilization, the capacity to create new dispositions and the creation of a socialisation according to a ‘conformity’ achieved through the struggle between conceptions of the world in reciprocal tension and in hegemonic struggle.


Read also: Antonio Gramsci: A Pedagogy to Change the World

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Antonio Gramsci: A Pedagogy to Change the World

This volume provides evidence for the argument of a central place of pedagogy in the interpretation of Gramsci’s political theory. Gramsci’s view that ‘every relationship of hegemony is necessarily a pedagogical relationship’ makes it imperative to dismiss narrow and formal interpretations of his educational theories as applying to schooling only. This book argues that what is required rather is an inquiry into the Italian thinker’s broad conceptualization of pedagogy, which he thought of as a quintessential political activity, central to understanding and transforming society.

Preceded by a broad introduction that positions Gramsci in his context and in the literature, the essays in this book critically revisit the many passages of the Prison Notebooks and pre-prison writings where Gramsci addresses the nexus between politics and pedagogy. Some essays apply those concepts to specific contexts. The book for the first time brings to the attention of an English-speaking audience voices from the current historiography in Italy and Latin America.


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Gilles Deleuze’s Philosophy of Nature: System and Method in What is Philosophy?

For its elliptical style, What is Philosophy? appears to be fragmentary and inscrutable, and its reception has been correspondingly contentious. Following an intimation by Gilles Deleuze himself, this article proposes that his final book, written in collaboration with Félix Guattari, contains a philosophy of nature. To address this proposition, the article begins by outlining the comprehensive system of nature set out in What is Philosophy?, defining it as an open system in motion that conjoins philosophy with the historical preconditions and intersects it with science and art. The article then addresses the precise method whereby the philosopher as an individual subject, emerging from nature, can succeed in becoming creative – that is, in creating concepts to bring forth new events. Finally, the brain turns out to be the pivot between the system and this method. What is Philosophy? thus presents an account of the brain based on a theory of the three specific planes of philosophy, science, and art, and uses it to expand upon the idea of assemblage for a philosophy of nature.


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The Philosophy of Social Evolution

From mitochondria to meerkats, the natural world is full of spectacular examples of social behavior. In the early 1960s, Bill Hamilton changed the way we think about how such behavior evolves. He introduced three key innovations – now known as Hamilton’s rule, kin selection, and inclusive fitness – which have been enormously influential, but which remain the subject of fierce controversy.

Hamilton’s pioneering work kick-started a research program now known as social evolution theory. This is a book about the philosophical foundations and future prospects of that program. Part I, “Foundations,” is a careful exposition and defense of Hamilton’s ideas, with a few modifications along the way. In Part II, “Extensions,” Jonathan Birch shows how these ideas can be applied to phenomena including cooperation in micro-organisms, cooperation among the cells of a multicellular organism, and culturally evolved cooperation in the earliest human societies. Birch argues that real progress can be made in understanding microbial evolution, evolutionary transitions, and human evolution by viewing them through the lens of social evolution theory, provided the theory is interpreted with care and adapted where necessary.

The Philosophy of Social Evolution places social evolution theory on a firm philosophical footing and sets out exciting new directions for further work.


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Science as Social Existence: Heidegger and the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge

Jeff Kochan’s book is distinguished by clearly formulated theses, convincing arguments, and far-reaching consequences. It continues the tradition of existential-phenomenological theories of science begun by Joseph Kockelmans, Patrick Heelan, Theodore Kisiel, and Martin Eger. The seven chapters focus on the possibility of integrating a phenomenological concept of subjectivity with the cognitive sociology of science; the idea of minimal realism; the assessment of the Bloor-Latour debate from the viewpoint of existential analytic; the Heideggerian reading of the social foundations of logic; the concept of the mathematical projection of nature in connection with the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries; and the role of the existential conception of science for preventing the rise of new forms of essentialism in science studies.


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Deleuze and Guattari’s Philosophy of Freedom

This volume addresses the issue of freedom in the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari. This is all the more challenging in that Deleuze-Guattari almost never use the term freedom, preferring instead, the concept of the refrain. The essays collected in the volume show that freedom has been understood in a remarkably narrow sense and that in fact, freedom operates as the refrain in every realm of thought and creation. The motivating approach in these essays is Deleuze-Guattari’s emphasis on the irreality of media and capitalistic sign regimes, which they perceive to have taken over even the practices of philosophy, the arts, and science. By offering a clear and engaging treatment of the underexplored issue of freedom, this volume moves the discussion of Deleuze-Guattari’s philosophy forward in ways that will appeal to researchers in Continental philosophy and a wide range of other disciplines.


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How the Enlightenment sold us a twisted view of Human Nature

Why the historian David Wootton thinks we should question our assumptions about human psychology.

A new book by David Wootton, a British historian of ideas, argues that the second interpretation has prevailed in the West and that it has permeated every aspect of our lives. Today, we take it for granted that humans are hardwired to pursue power, pleasure, and profit. According to Wootton, this isn’t true at all.

In fact, he argues, this view of human nature is an invention of modernity, handed down to us by influential Enlightenment philosophers like Adam Smith, Machiavelli, and Thomas Hobbes. Wootton believes this cultural revolution overturned an entirely different way of thinking about human behavior and morality and replaced it with what he calls “instrumental reasoning or cost-benefit analysis.”


Read also: Power, Pleasure, and Profit: Insatiable Appetites from Machiavelli to Madison

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