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Interview with Philosophers about their New Books

Interview with Philosophers about their New Books
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Interview with Philosophers about their New Books




Discussion of Massive Online Peer Review and Open Access Publishing

In the information age, knowledge is power. Hence, facilitating the access to knowledge to wider publics empowers citizens and makes societies more democratic. How can publishers and authors contribute to this process? This podcast addresses this issue. We interview Professor Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, whose book, The Good Drone: How Social Movements Democratize Surveillance (forthcoming with MIT Press) is undergoing a Massive Online Peer-Review (MOPR) process, where everyone can make comments...


Elizabeth Schechter, "Self-Consciousness and Split Brains: The Mind's I" (Oxford UP, 2018)

Human brains have two hemispheres whose major connection is the corpus callosum, which enables information to be shared between the hemispheres. Split-brain subjects are people whose corpus callosum has been surgically cut to alleviate epilepsy. This and other similar operations or conditions yield an odd phenomenon in which the patient appears to be two agents: for example, in controlled experiments they may only be conscious of stimuli shown to just their right eye, but when asked to draw...


Guy Axtell, "Problems of Religious Luck: Assessing the Limits of Reasonable Religious Disagreement" (Lexington, 2019)

Our lives are shot through with contingency – where, when, and into what circumstances we are born is largely a matter of chance. And yet those features play determining roles in our lives. The languages we speak, the customs we practice, as well as our tastes and ambitions, all seem to depend largely on luck. In many cases, this is also true of our religious convictions. Hence a puzzle: it is common for religious convictions strike us as deeply personal and formative, and those who have...


Ethan Mills, "Three Pillars of Skepticism in Classical India: Nagarjuna, Jayarasi, and Sri Harsa" (Lexington Books, 2018)

Skepticism has a long history in the Western tradition, from Pyrrhonian Skepticism in the Hellenistic period to more contemporary forms of skepticism most often used as foils to theories of knowledge. The existence of skepticism in Indian Philosophy, however, has long been neglected in favor of dogmatic positions. In Three Pillars of Skepticism in Classical India: Nagarjuna, Jayarasi, and Sri Harsa (Lexington Books, 2018), Ethan Mills considers the thought of three very different...


Jonathan Birch, "The Philosophy of Social Evolution" (Oxford UP, 2017)

It seems to go against evolutionary theory for an individual to give up its own chances at reproducing in order to increase the fitness of others. Yet social behavior is found throughout nature, from bacteria and social insects to wolves, whales, and of course humans. What makes self-sacrifice to any degree even possible, given that self-interested behavior is the default? In The Philosophy of Social Evolution (Oxford University Press, 2017), Jonathan Birch critically examines the conceptual...


Henry S. Richardson, "Articulating the Moral Community: Toward a Constructive Ethical Pragmatism" (Oxford UP, 2018)

Even those among us who think that morality is rooted in timeless normative truths will acknowledge that the overall moral fabric that binds us to one another is subject to various kinds of renovation and expansion. To take a simplistic example, the advent of the Internet has occasioned a host of new moral concepts attuned to the new ways in which people are able to treat each other -- think of “friending,” “blocking,” trolling, “sub-tweeting,” doxing, and such. These are new concepts...


Maria Kronfeldner, "What's Left of Human Nature? A Post-Essentialist, Pluralist, and Interactive Account of a Contested Concept" (MIT Press, 2018)

Much of the debate about the roles of nature vs. nurture in the development of individual people has settled into accepting that it's a bit of both, although what each contributes to a given trait or feature, how much, and they interact are still matters of dispute. In What's Left of Human Nature? A Post-Essentialist, Pluralist, and Interactive Account of a Contested Concept(MIT Press, 2018), Maria Kronfeldner critically examines instead the 'nature' side of this dichotomy: what exactly is a...


Samuel Schindler, "Theoretical Virtues in Science: Discovering Reality Through Theory" (Cambridge UP, 2018)

A fundamental problem in science, and in philosophy of science, is that of theory choice. Scientists propose theories to explain data, but when two scientific theories can both explain the same data, what criteria do scientists use to choose between them? And given that even very popular scientific theories can turn out to be wrong, how are the criteria for theory choice related to truth? Do scientists even aim at true theories, as realists hold, or, as anti-realists hold, do they just care...


Carrie Figdor, "Pieces of Mind: The Proper Domain of Psychological Predicates" (Oxford UP, 2018)

We’re all familiar with cases where one attributes certain psychological states or capacities to creatures and systems that are not human persons. For example, your cat might prefer a certain variety of cat food, and maybe your houseplants enjoy a certain corner of the room they’re in. In many cases, these attributions pass by without much notice. However, in certain regimented scientific contexts, the attribution of psychological states and capacities to non-human things has become...


Shannon Spaulding, “How We Understand Others: Philosophy and Social Cognition” (Routledge, 2018))

Social cognition includes the ways we explain, predict, interpret, and influence other people. The dominant philosophical theories of social cognition–the theory-theory and the simulation theory–have provided focused accounts of mindreading, the more specific practice of ascribing beliefs, desires, and intentions to others in order to predict and explain their behavior. In How We Understand Others: Philosophy and Social Cognition (Routledge, 2018), Shannon Spaulding draws on social...


David Rondel, “Pragmatist Egalitarianism” (Oxford UP, 2018)

Pragmatism is a longstanding philosophical idiom that advocates public-facing philosophy – philosophy that abandons merely academic puzzles and addresses itself to the social and political problems of the day. This commitment is perhaps most firmly manifest in John Dewey. Unsurprisingly, Dewey wrote extensively in social and political philosophy, focusing in particular on developing a conception of participatory democracy. Given his strong commitment to democracy, it is clear that Dewey is...


Robert A. Wilson, “The Eugenic Mind Project” (MIT Press, 2017)

For most of us, eugenics — the “science of improving the human stock” — is a thing of the past, commonly associated with Nazi Germany and government efforts to promote a pure Aryan race. This view is incorrect: even in California, for example, sterilization of those deemed mentally defective was performed up to 1977. In The Eugenic Mind Project (MIT Press, 2017), Robert A. Wilson critically considers the type of thinking — which he calls eugenic thinking — that drives eugenic sterilization...


Candice Delmas, “A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil” (Oxford UP, 2018)

According to a long tradition in political philosophy, there are certain conditions under which citizens may rightly disobey a law enacted by a legitimate political authority. That is, it is common for political philosophers to recognize the permissibility of civil disobedience, even under broadly just political conditions. There are, of course, longstanding debates over how to distinguish civil from uncivil disobedience, what forms civil disobedience may take, and the difference between...


Anjan Chakravartty, “Scientific Ontology: Integrating Naturalized Metaphysics and Voluntarist Epistemology” (Oxford UP, 2017)

A scientific ontology is a view about what a scientific theory says exists. Longstanding philosophical debate on this issue divides into two broad camps: anti-realists, who think scientific theories are committed to the existence only of those things that can be observed, and realists, who hold that these theories are also committed to unobservables, such as subatomic particles. In Scientific Ontology: Integrating Naturalized Metaphysics and Voluntarist Epistemology (Oxford University Press,...


Shelley Tremain, “Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability” (U Michigan Press, 2017)

How should we understand disability? In Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability (University of Michigan Press, 2017), Dr. Shelley Tremain explores this complex question from the perspective of feminist philosophy, using the work of Michel Foucault. The book is a fascinating critique of much contemporary philosophy and policy, providing a detailed, but easy to follow overview of key works in feminism and in Foucault’s thought. The book places these discussions in the context of...


Brian O’Connor, “Idleness: A Philosophical Essay” (Princeton UP, 2018)

Culturally, idleness is widely derided as laziness, uselessness, and sloth. Even within philosophy, the idle are criticized for being wasteful, selfish, and free-loading. Indeed, throughout the history of moral and political philosophy, it is frequently asserted (though not often argued) that humans must be perpetually active, busy, and, in a word, productive? But why? Is there really nothing to be said for idling? In Idleness: A Philosophical Essay (Princeton University Press, 2018), Brian...


Keya Maitra, “Philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita: A Contemporary Introduction” (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018)

The Bhagavad Gita is one of the foundational texts of Hinduism and probably the one most familiar and popular in the West. The moral problem that motivates the text – is it right to kill members of one’s extended family if they are on the other side in a war? – leads to an extended discussion of such themes as rebirth and reincarnation and the personal paths to unity with the universe through the yogas of action, knowledge, and devotion. In Philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita: A Contemporary...


Steven Gimbel, “Isn’t That Clever: A Philosophical Account of Humor and Comedy” (Routledge, 2018)

Humor and its varied manifestations—jesting joking around, goofing, lampooning, and so on—pervade the human experience and are plausibly regarded as necessary features of interpersonal interactions. As one would expect, these pervasive phenomena occasion philosophical questions. What renders some item or event humorous? Are funny jokes objectively so? As humor is a mode of interacting with others, can it be deployed irresponsibly? Can it be harmful and impermissible? What is the relation...


Eric Winsberg, “Philosophy and Climate Science” (Cambridge UP, 2018)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that there is a warming trend in the global climate that is attributable to human activity, with an expected increase in global temperature (given current trends) of 1.5- 4.5 degrees Celsius (2.7-7.2 degrees Fahrenheit). But how do climate scientists reach these conclusions? In Philosophy and Climate Science (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Eric Winsberg presents the elements of climate science in an accessible but rigorous...


Elizabeth F. Cohen, “The Political Value of Time: Citizenship, Duration, and Democratic Justice” (Cambridge UP, 2018)

We’re all familiar with some of the ways that time figures into our political environment. Things such as term limits, waiting periods, deadlines, and criminal sentences readily come to mind. But there are also protocols, accords, mandates, and contracts, and these frequently invoke temporal bounds of various kinds. In fact, when you think of it, a full range of political phenomena are structured by time. And yet time seems to have eluded political theorists and philosophers. In The...