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Andrea Borghini

Andrea's Philosophy Blog


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Consumerism, Nudge Theory, and the Right to Ignorance

Wednesday May 14, 2014
Latest articles are out. One on the limits of ethical consumerism. One on the shortcomings of structural charity. Another on nudge theory. A fourth on the right to ignorance and genetic testing. And a fifth on Wikileaks and what the public should not know. Enjoy them and send in comments!

Maps, Boundaries, and Philosophy

Thursday April 17, 2014
Mapping - as a device for classifying, orienting, comprehending - is so important to humans, that we may as well call our species Homo taxonomicus. After organizing a panel on maps and boundaries, I decided to devote the new articles to the philosophy of maps and boundaries. During the panel, a student asked a question that is important and not easy to answer: what cannot be mapped? Another really good question, that I did not take up in the new articles, is how new technologies are contributing to change the role of maps in our lives. Then, for us that do philosophy, there is another question: can the history of philosophy, or philosophical theories, be mapped? I hope you enjoy these new readings and please keep sending in comments and suggestions.

The Sublime, The Picturesque, and The Beautiful

Wednesday March 5, 2014
The sublime, the picturesque, and the beautiful are of philosophical importance, especially for those working in aesthetics. The first two of them, however, are more sparsely and less accurately used in everyday discourse and the relationship between the three ideas is often unclear. I hence decided to devote a number of articles to the three ideas. The sublime has also received the attention of important philosophers, such as Burke, Kant, and Schopenhauer. For this reason, I compiled a list of philosophical quotes on the sublime and devoted an article to the so-called paradox of the sublime, which parallels the paradox of tragedy. I hope you enjoy those new pieces, and please keep sending in suggestions.

The Conscious Vegetarian

Monday February 24, 2014
Lately I have been thinking about the many facets of vegetarianism, especially in connection to the more and more likely prospect that lab-grown meat will hit supermarkets in the future. This possibility has divided vegetarians and animal right activists. But, it is far from being the only major ground upon which schism among contemporary vegetarianisms originate. The conscious vegetarian, as I see it, faces three major questions, which regard, respectively: whats counts as an animal and an animal part; how to deal with the probability that some foods are contaminated with animal parts; and how to devise appropriate circumstances in which exceptions to the rule should be made. As I hope you enjoy those new articles, I urge anyone who has suggestions or comments to get in touch.

Simplicity and Philosophy

Friday January 17, 2014
Simplicity and its opposite - complexity - is one of those pairs of concepts that we may use at least once a day in our life, on a par with just and unjust, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. However, academics have not thought as much about simplicity and complexity as they have pondered the other pairs. In philosophy, the most studied idea is probably simplicity in the natural sciences. But, not only simplicity and complexity deserve a treatment of their own. Simplicity is quite interestingly connected with the development of computing machines and with the ethical and political dilemmas that such machines pose to our societies; moreover, simplicity is intertwined with the history of capitalism and, more generally, with economic success. That these new articles may inspire some reader to go deeper in the philosophical analysis of simplicity and complexity.

Christmas Themes for Philosophers

Thursday December 26, 2013
Christmas provides for a series of philosophical topics. Some of them have been considered in Christmas and Philosophy, a volume published in 2010 for Wiley-Blackwell's Philosophy for Everyone series. I'm now adding a few more themes to the list: Christmas and the ethics of consumerism; On being good (for Christmas); Lying for Santa; and Christmas and environmental ethics. Christmas is entrenched with ideas of empathy and sympathy. They have been recently taken up in a talk by Brené Brow that has stirred more attention than the one usually reserved to academic talks. Thus, I decided to write an article on empathy and sympathy. Enjoy the new readings.

Varieties of Knowledge

Monday November 18, 2013
Lately I have been doing research on expertise, from a philosophical perspective. It is debated whether expertise is a form of knowledge, as expertise encompasses both propositional knowledge (i.e. you know that such and such is the case) and practical knowledge (i.e. you know-how to perform certain tasks, but would not be able to recap such an ability solely into verbal terms).

But, if expertise is not knowledge, than what is knowledge? This line of thinking prompted me not only to write an article on expertise, but also to write short pieces explaining other important varieties of knowledge and their shortcomings: knowledge by evidence, knowledge by testimony, self-knowledge, and the Cartesian conception of self-knowledge. Enjoy them.

The Power of Convention

Thursday October 31, 2013
It's always striking to me to think about the power of conventions. Things such as organic foods, steaks, marriages, currencies, and probably also chemical compounds such as water molecules or physical entities such as electrons are all but the product of some form of conventionalism. But, what is conventionalism? How is it that people get to do things with words (and with gestures)? Is such a thing as common knowledge possible and how to best understand it? And, is this discussion related to being unconventional in any way? To those, and cognate, questions are devoted my five new pieces. Enjoy them and stay tuned for upcoming ones.

On Being Cynical

Sunday September 22, 2013
A reader asked me whether it is acceptable, or just, or good of a human being cynical. This seems an interesting question to be entertained. I hence decided to write on the topic. Ancient Greek cynics established a reputation for holding unreasonable views towards the usefulness of social conventions and the extent within which one ought to follow them. To many, cynicism is indeed a seemingly unreasonable attitude. However, cynicism has several aspects in common with one of the main philosophical perspectives of nineteenth century, pessimism. Pessimist philosophers such as Leopardi, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche took as their target the optimistic philosophies of positivists and those defending the remnants of enlightenment creeds. Thus, reflecting on cynicism can help us wrap our opinions concerning some classical disputes in Western philosophy. Finally, cynicism invites us to reflect on the distinction between philosophy and lifestyle: to many, Ancient Greek cynics did not really comprise a philosophical school in that their teachings were not carried out in an official location. Moreover, cynicism and pessimism seems to differ precisely on a similar respect: pessimism has been turned into a philosophy, with a coherent worldview, while cynicism is more simply an attitude.

Five Prejudices Against the Body

Saturday August 31, 2013
Western civilization has harbored and cultivated a prejudice against the body, by now deeply rooted into our culture. Whether such prejudice is well-founded or not, reflecting on it can spark unusual comparisons between five areas of philosophy, the ones where the prejudice is most felt: ethics, philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology, and aesthetics. Find a sample of the possible comparisons in the latest five articles I've written, which I hope you'll enjoy!

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