Philosophical Theories and Ideas
What Is Beauty?
The nature of beauty is one of the most fascinating riddles of philosophy. Is beauty universal? How do we know it? How can we predispose ourselves to embrace it? Nearly every major philosopher has engaged with these questions and their cognates, including the great figures of ancient Greek philosophy such as Plato and Aristotle.
Consequentialism is perhaps the most developed view of ethics, according to which the ethical worth of an action is proportional to its consequences. In particular, consequentialism holds that among all the possible courses of action, an agent should pursue the one that, overall, brings about the greatest amount of good – or, in jargon, the one...
Philosophy of Authenticity
Each one is unique and, more often than not, would like to believe that her life has something special to it, that her contribution to humankind is unprecedented. "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken," recites an unsourced saying often attributed to Oscar Wilde. Unfortunately, such expectation is often disavowed by the opinion of others....
The Philosophy of Humor
What is humor and how is it used among humans to enhance or hinder their relationships? Plenty of philosophers have asked this question, trying to come up with a theory of humor that could also separate such a state from mere laughter as well as good from bad quality humor.
Relativism is not one philosophical school or movement, but rather a philosophical stance. It is indeed the stance maintaining that a given claim holds relative to a parameter. The parameter can be dependent or independent. Belong to the first category all those aspects who are part of the "output" of the stance – we have a relative truth, a relative perspective on reality, a belief relative to a factor, a relativistic ethics; belong instead to the category of independent parameters all those aspects that prompt the relativistic stance, such as time, location, upbringing, gender, race, political view, religion, culture, or emotional state.
Conventionalism is a generic term capturing a varieties of philosophical positions, held in disparate areas such as philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mathematics, logic, and ethics. Although it is difficult to find a common denominator for all views that bear the conventionalist label, they have tended to influence each other based on the specific conception of convention.
The word "sublime" is rarely employed in today’s parlance. It had, however, its moment of glory in seventeenth and eighteenth hundreds, especially in Great Britain. The seventeenth hundreds saw the rise and development of aesthetics and philosophy of art. The sublime, played a key role in differentiating among types of aesthetic experiences.
The idea of a self plays a central role in Western philosophy as well as in the Indian and other major traditions. Three main types of views of the self can be discerned. One moves from Kant’s conception of rationally autonomous self, another from the so-called homo-economicus theory, of Aristotelian descent. Both those types of views theorize...
Philosophy of Honesty
While it may be tempting to define honesty as speaking the truth and abiding to the rules, this may turn out to be overtly simplistic. Telling the truth – the whole truth – is at times practically and theoretically impossible as well as morally not required or even wrong. Suppose your new partner asks you to be honest about what you have done...
The idea of a West was initially also a geographic idea, when first used by the ancient Greeks to indicate the societal structure and culture of those societies that stood West of Persia. Later adopted also to describe the societies falling under the Roman influence, it has since been utilized by early and late medieval Christians, Europeans,...
Sympathy or Empathy
At a recent conference, Brené Brown has recently suggested that empathy is far more valuable than sympathy. The video, with a snapshot of her talk, has reached nearly one million and a half views on "Youtube" in a little over two weeks. There is obviously something appealing about the video, beyond the fact that is entertaining.
Vegetarianism Act III: Devising Exceptions
Vegetarianism is regarded as a dietary style that is increasingly popular around the world. But, what does it take to be a vegetarian? In this article, I follow up on one of three questions that any well-rounded vegetarian should ponder. The question is: what constitutes a sufficient reason to make an exception to the ethical imperative not to eat an animal or an animal part?
Self-Knowledge in a Cartesian Perspective
Descartes famously affirmed the centrality of the first-person in philosophy. Self-consciousness, to him, is the place from within our understanding of metaphysics and epistemology (and derivatively ethics, aesthetics, and all other philosophical endeavors) ultimately rest. I know that I exist, I am certain of it as I cannot fail to recognizing myself as thinking without actually being thinking; everything else follows.
The picturesque is an idea of importance to aesthetic theory. It stands in contrast to the idea of beauty as well as to the idea of the sublime. I have discussed the comparison between the three ideas in a separate article. This article goes in more details regarding the picturesque.
Truth is a topic of major significance within any philosophy branch. Virtually every philosophers has to come to terms, in one way or another, with the nature of truth. Because of this, the array of positions regarding truth is as wide as that of philosophical schools and theories that have been proposed. In this article we will review the main...
Simplicity in the Natural Sciences
The idea of simplicity has played a key role in the development of scientific hypotheses and theories. Depending on the perspective of the researcher, and more broadly on the historical framework, the simple structure of reality has been understood in different manners. Here are the main ones.
Vegetarianism Act I: Animals and Animal Parts
Vegetarianism is regarded as a dietary style that is increasingly popular around the world. But, what does it take to be a vegetarian? In this article, I follow up on one of three questions that any well-rounded vegetarian should ponder. The question is: what counts as an animal and an animal part (e.g. as flesh)?
Simplicity is and has been kept in high esteem in many philosophical quarters. A fine example of the centrality of simplicity is the so-called Ockham’s Razor. Other notable applications of simplicity in philosophy are in philosophy of science: nature is organized according to simple laws and principles; thus, the best scientific theories are those that manage to explain a great number of phenomena with the assumption of a limited amount of types of entities interacting according to simple laws.
Knowledge by Testimony
There are lots of things to know. Condemned as we are to come to know only a few of them, we have to do all that is possible to augment our capacity for knowledge. A great way that human as well as many non-human organisms have achieved to improve their condition is to share information about the environment. To a human, however, sharing information raises an obvious question, which bear epistemological but also social, political, and ethical significance: when is it that we have sufficient grounds for trusting the words of others?
Vegetarianism Act II: Playing With Probabilities
Vegetarianism is regarded as a dietary style that is increasingly popular around the world. But, what does it take to be a vegetarian? In this article, I follow up on one of three questions that any well-rounded vegetarian should ponder. The question is: how to weigh the probability to find an animal part in some food or beverage (e.g. wines, beers, flours, and cereals)?
The Limits of Ethical Consumerism
Ethical consumerism has become a central concept for shoppers around the world. Labels such as Fair Trade and organic are just the tip of the iceberg of a specialized market that kept growing over the years and expanding to the most remote sectors of commerce. Needless to say, however, being an ethical consumer is not that easy. Articles abound detailing the unreliability of labels, or the fact that labels do not convey sufficient or relevant information regarding products that we consume. More hard-nosed criticisms of ethical consumerism can be raised, however. In this article I will present the three that strike me as most compelling.
Complexity is the opposite of simplicity. Theories of complexity have become increasingly central in contemporary research and the idea of complexity has been surrounded by an aura of fascination. But, what is complexity, really?
Three Questions for The Conscious Vegetarian
Vegetarianism is regarded as a dietary style that is increasingly popular around the world. But, what does it take to be a vegetarian? In this article, I analyze vegetarian ideologies by rehearsing three questions.
The first contemporary characterization of common knowledge was provided by David Lewis in his seminal "Convention: A Philosophical Study" (1969). In Lewis’s theory, common knowledge is a necessary condition for the obtainment of a convention: all agents conforming to a convention, that is, must have common knowledge of it.
Doing Things With Words
There is a threefold distinction between linguistic acts that is particularly useful for philosophical purposes and some cognate endeavors. Its development is due by and large to British philosopher John L. Austin (1911-1960) and his American student John R. Searle (born 1932). The bulk of the distinction was presented during the William James lecture that Austin delivered at Harvard in 1955, then published in 1962, to be refined by Searle and other colleagues.
Body and What Moves the World
The mainstream of Western philosophy, centered on the Platonic tradition, has it that the material is inferior to the mental. Why is it so? In this entry we will look at prejudices against the body moving from ethical considerations; in other articles I explore prejudices rooted in ethics, epistemology, meaning, and aesthetics.
Beauty and Truth
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all | Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. Thus ends the "Ode on a Grecian Urn" that John Keats wrote in 1819. Is that the case? What is the relationship between beauty and truth? Does an artist have to tell the truth in order to create a piece of aesthetic value? These and cognate questions lie...
Simplicity, Computation, and WikiLeaks
Simplicity is, in most occasion, relative. To a bodybuilder, it is simple to lift a two hundreds pounds weight, while to a child it is almost impossible. To swim may be simple, if you are trained, by extremely hard if you are a novice. These examples involve practical endeavors, but the matter is not so different even when we consider more intellectual ones. To an able mathematician, it may take a few seconds to calculate the outcome of "37 x 15," but to someone who struggles with numbers a pen and a piece of paper, or even a calculator may be indispensable.
Philosophy of Education
Education is a key component of cultural processes. Every process of acculturation can indeed be regarded as a process within which an individual, or a group, is educated to act or behave in a given manner. Although education is often thought in relation to the school system, by no means educational processes are restricted to what is imparted...
Knowledge by Expertise
By expertise it is intended all those abilities that are learnt through the direct exposition to a practice. Thus, you become an expert swimmer by practicing swimming yourself; you learn how to butcher an animal by spending time with an expert butcher and then practicing yourself; you learn how to write good philosophy papers by apprenticing with some expert philosopher; and so on.
The Right to Ignorance and Genetic Testing
We obviously know a lot about ourselves, at least in a quotidian sense of the verb "to know". For instance, we carry many memories of ourselves and we are often evaluated by others in explicit ways. At the same time, there are also many details that escape us. For instance, you may not know how many sugars are in your blood system at this time, or that the shampoo you have been using was tested in a laboratory in Southern France. Some of those details are petty; others may be quite significant. Is there any detail about yourself that you would rather not know? If there are details you would rather not know, should society make room for your decision not to know?
Some metaphysicians – the Nominalists – hold that all that there is, really, are particular entities. And when they say particular, they do not generically imply that everything is kind of unique. What they mean is that everything is heterogeneous to everything else. No two things are the same and no two things can possibly be the same. The universe is structured in accordance to a metaphysical law of particularity.
Pessimism, philosophically connoted, may take on different forms depending on the corresponding target optimist position. Pessimist philosophers include several popular names, such as Nietzsche, Leopardi, and Camus. In Western civilization, the most successful moment for pessimism was during the nineteenth century, when pessimism comprised the most compelling arguments against positivism and the remnants of the enlightenment.
Arguments Against Relativism
Sure enough there is plenty of evidence favoring the genuineness of a relativistic attitude in a wide variety of situations. Cultural relativism, religious relativism, linguistic relativism, scientific relativism, relativism moving from different historical perspectives or miscellaneous social positions: these is just the beginning of a list of sources motivating the genuineness of contrasting perspectives on a specific topic at hand. And yet, in some occasions, one may want to resist the idea that the relativistic stance is the best theoretical option: in some case, it just seems that one of the contrasting views should get it more right than the others. On what grounds could such a claim be made?
Arguments for Relativism
What reasons in favor of relativism can be brought forward? That people tend to have different views with respect to a same issue seems to be a platitude. Generational gaps, differences in social status, upbringing, religion, scientific perspectives can all contribute, at one time or other, to form contrasting opinions. Some people take these...
The Varieties of Necessity
Necessity and possibility are intimately related: to say that a scenario is possible is to say that it is not necessary that it is not possible, while to say that a scenario is necessary is to say that it is not possible that it fails to be the case. Such type of relation is more thoroughly investigated by that branch of logic that goes under...
Should Vegetarians Eat Artificial Meat?
Different laboratories around the world are at work for producing some edible stuff that is grown out of the cultivation of cells extracted from chicken bodies, such as stem cells. The cells are layered into textures that mirror the texture of muscle tissues of a chicken; to strengthen the tissues, the cells are electrically stimulated. But, is it really meat? And, how many of those who are vegetarian today would eat it?
The Beautiful, The Sublime, and the Picturesque
The beautiful, the sublime, and the picturesque are three key concepts in aesthetics and philosophy of art. Together, they help mapping the variety of aesthetically significant experiences. The differentiation among the three concepts took place in seventeenth and eighteenth hundreds, and is still to these days of some significance, despite the difficulty in pinning down each of the three concepts.
The Aesthetics of Leisure and Procrastination
It seems and easy task to have some leisure time: but how often do you find yourself tricked into doing something, which you thought would have procured you some form of pleasure, distraction, relief, or entertainment, when instead you find simple boredom or anger or distress? Can aesthetics help out in devising how to best employ leisure time? I think it definitely can, and here are some suggestions.
Liberalism is one of the principal doctrines in Western political philosophy. Its core values are typically expressed in terms of individual freedom and equality. How these two ought to be understood is a matter of dispute so that they are often differently declined in different places or among different groups. Even so, it is typical to...
Body as a Source of Moral Corruption
The mainstream of Western philosophy, centered on the Platonic tradition, has it that the material is inferior to the mental. Why is it so? In this entry we will look at prejudices against the body moving from ethical considerations; in other articles I explore prejudices rooted in metaphysics, epistemology, meaning, and aesthetics.
Empiricism is the philosophical stance according to which the senses are the ultimate source of human knowledge. It rivals rationalism according to which reason is the ultimate source of knowledge. In a form or another, empiricism features in most philosophical tradition. In Western philosophy, empiricism boasts a long and distinguished list of...
Knowledge by Evidence
Most of our knowledge has been learned through testimony. Yet, while testimony is crucial to take up large social enterprises, it has also evident shortcomings, that I have discussed in a separate article. In opposition to knowledge by testimony, we tend to consider what we learn from evidence as being more reliable. Evidence, that is, is central to our own justificatory epistemic practices: we have reasons to believe claims only in the presence of appropriate evidence.
Self-knowledge is a central topic in philosophy. Depending on the philosophical tradition, however, the concept has been understood in different ways. This article distinguishes the major ones. A deeper analysis of Cartesian notions of the self is left to another occasion.
Simplicity and Economics
Simplicity has been a powerful ally of business people and of successful civilizations. Simple inventions, such as the wheel or the yearly rotation of crops within fields, have gone far in securing an increase in availability of food, ease of transportation and of exchange of information. One of the most revolutionary inventions of the last century, then, computing machines, ultimately rests on an extremely simple language and some simple mechanisms, discovered by – among others – the British logician Alan Turing. Computers, along with the inventions that prompted the industrial revolution, are key to understand the economic success of certain countries.
Beauty and the Body
The mainstream of Western philosophy centered on the Platonic tradition, has it that the material is inferior to the mental. Why is it so? In this entry we will look at prejudices against the body moving from aesthetic considerations; in other articles I explore prejudices rooted in metaphysics, epistemology, meaning, and ethics.
What does it take to be an optimist? And, is it good to be such minded? While optimism is often associated to religious worldviews and to committing to some form of future improvement or even progress, some optimistic worldviews need not encompass either of the two aspects.
Meaning and the Body
The mainstream of Western philosophy centered on the Platonic tradition, has it that the material is inferior to the mental. Why is it so? In this entry we will look at prejudices against the body moving from considerations related to language; in other articles I explore prejudices rooted in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics.
The Paradox of the Sublime
While we are drawn to experiencing the sublime and we value it for its aesthetic worth, such an experience is also mixed with negative pleasures and negative feelings. For instance, looking at the ocean, while standing in the middle of it aboard a small boat, I may aesthetically appreciate the majesty of the seemingly unending basin of water. At once, however, a sense of abandonment may assail me.
Nominalism and Realism
Nominalism and Realism are the two most distinguished positions in western metaphysics dealing with the fundamental structure of reality. According to realists claim that all entities divide up into two major groups: particulars and universals; Nominalists instead argue that there are only particulars.
Pleasure occupies a central role in the history of philosophy; on pleasure have been based some of the most important philosophical theories, and reflection on pleasure has kept busy the most brilliant philosophical minds. Moreover, each human being is called to deal with her own longing for pleasures of one sort or another. So, what is pleasure...
At the center of human agency lies a terrifically simple question: "Am I free?" The problem of free will is the problem of providing an answer to such question that seems able to stand on its feet. The history of philosophy, in all its traditions, written and oral, is rich in attempts at solving the problem of free will. Here we shall survey...
On Being Cynical
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 a piece on the topic ...
Cheerfulness and Happiness
What’s the difference between cheerfulness and happiness? Trying to offer an answer to this question may help to shed light on a number of important aspects of ethics, politics, and practical living. In this article I will offer a few remarks on how a philosophy encompassing both cheerfulness and happiness may be developed.
Learning From the Body
The mainstream os Western philosophy centered on the Platonic tradition, has it that the material is inferior to the mental. Why is it so? In this entry we will look at prejudices against the body moving from epistemological considerations; in other articles I explore prejudices rooted in metaphysics, ethics, meaning, and aesthetics.
Driver A is speeding on the main road in town, side to side to another car, in which driver B is also speeding. Suddenly, a dog crosses the street. All happens in a moment, without A or B being able to react efficaciously. The dog crossed the street fast enough so that it’s B to run over the dog. Both cars stop, the cops intervene: A is charged with a speeding ticket, B will face a trial for having murdered a dog.
The Nature-Culture Divide
Nature and culture are often seen as opposite ideas: what belongs to nature cannot be the result of human intervention and, on the other hand, cultural development is achieved against nature. However, this is by far the only take on the relationship between nature and culture. Studies in the evolutionary development of humans suggest that...
Enlightenment, or the Age of the Enlightened, was an intellectual movement most fertile between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in central Europe (France and Germany most distinctly) as well as in Russia and North America. The movement converged around the (at times unconditional) belief in the light of reason, regarded as the best gift...
The Idea of Nature
The idea of nature is one of the most widely employed in philosophy, and by the same token one of the most ill-defined. Authors such as Aristotle and relied on the concept of nature to explain the fundamental tenets of their views, without ever attempting to define the concept. Even in contemporary philosophy, the idea is oftentimes employed, in...
On Being Unconventional
Unconventionality is cool. Or, at least, we tend to believe that from unconventional choices come important societal changes, and we like that. But, clearly, not all unconventional behavior is to be cherished. Thus, how to tell good from bad unconventionality? And, in first instance, what is unconventionality?
“Pleasure is a human right because it is physiological; we cannot fail to feel pleasure when we eat.” Thus claims Carlo Petrini on page 50 of his Slow Food Nation (2007), while arguing for the importance of the hedonistic dimension of eating. Petrini’s position, which is exemplar of gastronomic hedonism, stands in direct opposition to...
Creativity poses some important philosophical questions pertaining the relationship between brain and mind, the understanding of rationality, the importance of freedom and risk in human development, and the role of creativity in evolution. Several of these questions have received increasing attention in recent years, although many still await a more thorough scrutiny.
Maps and Philosophy
One of the remarkable traits of human beings is the ability to produce rankings, classifications, taxonomies. Human life can be seen as an endeavor to group, cluster, sort out things for different endeavors. And the human rank can be renamed "Homo taxonomicus," as I discuss in a separate article.
Philosophy of Culture
The ability to transmit information across generations and peers by means other than genetic exchange is a key trait of the human species; even more specific to humans seems the capacity to use symbolic systems to communicate. In the anthropological use of the term, "culture" refers to all the practices of information exchange that are not genetic or epigenetic. This includes all behavioral and symbolic systems.
Empathy is a topic of philosophical discussion linked especially to fundamental issues in philosophy of mind and ethics. Let’s review some of the main issues pertaining to this topic.
Philosophy of Progress
The tendency to devise patterns of progress seems to be deeply eradicated within human beings. Just ponder your recent past: how many times have you been led to believe, or at least hope, you made progress over the past few years, be it at riding a bike, understanding matters of finance, loving your loved ones? Statesmen aim for the progress of their people, coaches for the progress of their teams, scientists for the progress of their insight into worldly phenomena...
Rationalism is the philosophical stance according to which reason is the ultimate source of human knowledge. It rivals empiricism according to which the senses suffice in justifying knowledge. In a form or another, rationalism features in most philosophical tradition; in the Western one, it boasts a long and distinguished list of followers,...
Have you ever been ill to the point that you eat just to gain sustenance for your body, when you really have no hunger? That’s exactly how a gastronomic purist – in opposition to gastronomic hedonists – would wish to approach every encounter with food: take it in like a medicine, as you would swallow a pill. Despite its apparent radicalness,...
Philosophy as a Form of Literature
Is philosophy ever literature? That is, if you were to make a list of some valuable samples of literature, would you be inclined to include any philosophical text? If you would, which criteria should you follow for inclusion in the list?
Past, Present, and Future
Time is a central and classical theme in philosophy. It can be taken up from several angles, including epistemology (how do we know of the existence of a past or a future?), phenomenology (the time lived and perceived as opposed to external time), philosophy of language (the relevance of tenses in communication), philosophy of mind (e.g. time...
Philosophy of Hunger
Hunger is one of the most surprisingly interesting philosophical topics. It’s a state that typically does not fall under our attention. We are born hungry. We have been hungry well before we can remember being alive or gained self-consciousness of our own pleasures. Hunger is a landmark of our longing for change, for that which we are not. Satisfaction of hunger is one of the most complex ecological relationships we part take. And yet, what is it? And what philosophical lessons can we learn from hunger?
Philosophical Quotes on Beauty
Beauty is one of the most intricate and fascinating topics of philosophical discussion. It has been discussed in relationship to a host of other subjects, such as truth, the good, the sublime, and pleasure. Here is a selection of quotes on beauty, divided into different themes.
Passions, Emotions, and Duty
Certain things you do for passion, others under the push of an emotion, others still out of duty. If you are passionate about something, this implies that you have been cultivating it for a while; on the contrary, if you feel emotioned towards a certain situation, this implies that your state has come to be relatively recently; finally, if you do something out of duty, that implies that you carry on the action regardless of whether your passions and emotions positively or negatively reflect the action. What’s the role of these three notions in contemporary society and how are they related to each other?
Persistence of Things in Time
How is it that something persists in time? How can one and the same thing be found at different times, with different properties, and yet be identical throughout the change? Take for example a cherry tree. It was a month ago brown and wet; today it’s dry and full of flowers; in another few weeks it will be full of cherries. Is it really the same...
Some Philosophical Remarks
When is it that someone is lying? In many scenarios, a definition like the one appearing on the Oxford English Dictionary would do: "To lie is to make a false statement with the intention to deceive." However, there are several circumstances that apparently involve lying yet do not fit the definition. Let’s review them, along with the four...
The Four Conditions of Lying and Their Troubles
Lies are peculiar sorts of entities: while we often encounter them during our day, be it in the media or an acquaintance, they are actually hard to pin down. With time, scholars have individuated four standard conditions that seem to be required for lying. It turns out that each of them is problematic. Let ‘s see why.
What We Can't Know
We often tend to emphasize how much we know, rather than what we don’t know. Yet there are some facts, even quite basic, that we cannot at present time know. This article is dedicated to an examination of some of those facts.
Beauty and Love
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever | Its loveliness increases; it will never |Pass into nothingness; but still will keep | A bower quiet for us, and a sleep |Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing." Those three lines of John Keats sum up one of the most romantic positions about the relationship between beauty and love: beauty is love. To have an aesthetic experience means to indulge into some sort of pleasure.
Beauty and Justice
What is the relationship between beauty and justice? Should we treat all those things and events that appear beautiful, but conflict with some principle of morality, as non-beautiful because of such a conflict?
What is a desire? Such notion is often taken for granted in contemporary analytic philosophy. But to provide an answer to that question is all but straightforward. There are several important nodes to be untied before having a viable notion of desire. Let’s see seven of them.
The Enigmas of Possibility
Possibility is a central topic in contemporary and classical metaphysics. It is often taken up along with necessity. Since the two of them represent two modes of existence of an entity, possibility and necessity are also said modalities – to be more exact, they are alethic modalities, that is they are those modalities that pertain to truth and falsity.
Alternatives to Nominalism and Realism
Nominalism and Realism are the two most distinguished positions in western metaphysics dealing with the fundamental categories of reality. From the millenary debate between supporters of those two opposed camps spurred some of the most puzzling problems in metaphysics, both for nominalism and for realism. Because of those problems, some authors...
Descartes's Proofs of God's Existence
René Descartes (1596-1650) famously produced some original arguments to prove God’s existence. The arguments played a key role in his Meditations on First Philosophy, as they allowed him to conclude that something beyond himself existed. Here goes a reconstruction of the arguments, as found in the third meditation.
Philosophy of Conversion
The word "conversion" is reserved for a class of events that includes some of the most intimate and transformative experiences that human beings are capable of going through. Key to any conversion is that someone experiences some dramatic change of mindset, so that you cannot really have a conversion you are unaware of. Yet, while it is often relatively easy to spot that a conversion took place, it is far more difficult to pin down what is it that one converted to and to prove it to others ...
We use and encounter the term "convention" frequently, in conversation or in writing. But if prompted to say what is a convention, most of us would hesitate. Such a reaction is the most appropriate. Indeed, how conventions should be understood is still by and large a matter of dispute.
Problems for Nominalism
Nominalism and Realism are the two most distinguished positions in western metaphysics dealing with the fundamental categories of reality. From the millenary debate between supporters of those two opposed camps spurred some of the most puzzling problems in metaphysics. Here we shall review the problems with nominalism, that are no less hard than...
Otium and Philosophy
We all know, or at least we should know, what to do when we are working. But, what about the spare time? Roman civilization cultivated a term (and some corresponding activities) to designate the time spent away from work: otium. The expression captures both endeavors undertaken for leisure and commitments that are aside from professional engagements. After all, can you really tell apart all occasions of leisure from those of active engagement?
Humanism was a cultural movement that developed in Europe starting from the second half of thirteen hundreds. It reached its peak in fourteen and fifteen hundreds, most remarkably in Florence (Italy), during that period which goes under the label of Renaissance. Humanism affected all the arts and sciences as well as politics, religion, and...
Problems for Realism
Nominalism and Realism are the two most distinguished positions in western metaphysics dealing with the fundamental categories of reality. From the millenary debate between supporters of those two opposed camps spurred some of the most puzzling problems in metaphysics. Here we shall review the problems with realism, that are no less hard than...
Best Friendship Quotes
What is friendship? How many types of friendship can we recognize and in what degree shall we seek each of them? Several of the greatest philosophers have addressed those questions and neighboring ones. Let’s see some illustrations of their work.
Confronted with the problem of explaining change, Aquinas borrows from Aristotle three notions, that he calls principia (principles): matter, privation, form. Briefly put, form is whatever quality a substance possesses; the acquisition of such quality may have happened either at the very moment in which the substance was created, or during the...
Philosophy of Hunting
The philosophy of hunting is a subfield of the philosophy of food, which deals most importantly with the ethical, environmental, and evolutionary aspects of the practice of hunting. Among its central questions: can hunting ever be regarded as morally good? Which methods for hunting are most ethical? Is hunting for sport rather than for food,...
The expression "lesser kinds" picks out a large and rather fuzzy class of entities whose existence seems to be of lesser importance with respect to the existence of other kinds of beings. The discussion on lesser kinds has emerged especially over the past few decades, as an attempt to reveal some potentially illuminating and often entertaining case studies thus far neglected by philosophers and scientists because considered less paradigmatic. The discussion of lesser kinds is thus a chapter in contemporary metaphysics, with ramifications in other philosophical branches as well, such as ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of science.
Paradoxes of Eubulides
A large collection of paradoxes has been collected throughout the history of philosophy. Along with Zeno of Elea, the ancient Greek philosopher Eubulides of Miletus (fourth century B.C.) is perhaps the most re-known discoverer of logical paradoxes. To him are attributed four of the most discussed arguments: the liar’s paradox, the sorites...
Rhetoric and Exemplification in Philosophy
To what extent is the use of rhetorical figures in philosophical writing, such as metaphors and analogies, the mark of a weakness on the part of the author? Can we sort out different styles of philosophizing, such as analytic and continental, based on their use of rhetorical devices?
The Great Chain of Being
Humans tend to like rankings, perhaps out of their adamant competitiveness, perhaps out of their eye for classification, systematization, and domination. One of the most pervasive rankings is that of kinds of being; this is possibly the ranking of all rankings, that on the basis of which anything that there is ought to be first and foremost considered. It is hard to find civilizations that did not adopt one version or another of such ranking. In the Western tradition, it is often referred to as the great chain of being, following suggestions of Plato and Aristotle and the title of a 1936 book by Arthur Lovejoy.
Food and Art: Three Encounters
Can food be art? This question may be declined in two ways: the first, centered on art objects, asks whether there are any edible items that can be regarded as works of art; the other, which I regard as more sound, asks whether there are gastronomic experiences that may be regarded as artistic experiences. Of course, the way the question is answered will depend also on the specific aesthetic perspective we assume; here, however, I wish to draw a distinction between three forms of ways in which art can encounter food, following a parallel distinction drawn by Nicola Perullo.
Odors and Philosophy
Odors are a rather unexplored chapter in philosophy, despite their importance to everyday life. Through odors, indeed, we vehicle a large amount of information, including: the properties of foods (for instance, whether a food is rotten, whether it’s sweet or sour, whether it’s fresh); memories of places, people, moments; the location of plants or preys. Additionally, and more importantly for our purposes, odors pose some interesting metaphysical and epistemic problems, which this article will suggest.
Can Food Be Art?
Can food be art? This is a question that has received increasing attention over the past few decades in aesthetics; in this article we shall deal with the main reasons that have been brought forth against the palatability of gastronomic experiences being, in some instances, forms of ultimate artistic experiences.
Zeno of Elea V century B.C.
Zeno’s philosophy is one of the clearest examples of the power accorded to rational argumentation by Ancient Greek philosophers: by reasoning alone (hence without relying on any specific observation) humans can prove that the world has a certain structure. This is a radical methodology, which by and large diverges from the methods of inquiry...