Why Major in Philosophy?
Philosophy is one of the most spontaneous and profound activities humans can pursue; but, what can you do with a major in philosophy? Here are eleven reasons to choose the examined life .
Environmental ethics is that branch of philosophy dealing with the major ethical questions regarding the relationships between humans and the environment. This includes issues such as biodiversity, wildlife management, ecological preservation, hunting practices, farming techniques, and food regulations.
Chuck Norris and Philosophy
The eccentric figure of Chuck Norris, the American martial artist and actor born on March 10 1940, has spurred considerable attention by philosophers. The great deal of "legendary deeds" about Norris that has circulated over the past few years, indeed, has suggested a wealth of examples that amuse and, at times, open up suggestive scenarios. So,...
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...
Best Philosophy Jokes
There are plenty of hilarious philosophy jokes out there, some of which could easily be incorporated as teaching materials, both for children and adults. Here is a little guide to them, which I look forward updating from time to time. Hence, suggestions are welcome!
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 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.
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,...
Professor Hendricks's Picture Scandal
On February 22, 2012, the Feminist Philosophers’ blog and the Hey, Lady! blog called attention over a series of questionable pictures that professor Vincent F. Hendricks had published on the website of his logic course. The debate that ensued is useful to address some questions of importance to the philosophical community at large.
Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of science is a branch of philosophy whose importance has extensively grown over the past century, in connection to the raising prestige and influence of disciplines such as physics, chemistry and – most lately – biology in understanding basic questions regarding the world as well as human identity and agency. Although its existence...
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.
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 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.
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.
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)?
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.
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.
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 ...
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)?
What do you know, really? And how did you arrive at it? These are the two central questions of epistemology, or "theory of knowledge", one of the most central branches in philosophy along with metaphysics and ethics. Epistemological views have been elaborated in all philosophical traditions. They divide primarily among so-called rationalist and...
Philosophy vs Lifestyle
The term "philosophy" is often employed in everyday discourse. A restaurant may state its cooking philosophy on its menu or its website; an investment banker may be invited to lecture colleagues on her investing philosophy; a farmer may see herself as following a specific farming philosophy; and so on. There is, in other words, the tendency to use philosophy in conjunction with the exposition of one’s style, manner of carrying out a task, or methodology. In such contexts we are not really doing philosophy or being exposed to philosophical ideas – many philosophers would like to say. Yet, how to tell philosophy from lifestyle? And, what is the relationship between philosophy and lifestyle: are philosophers held – to any extent –accountable for their own actions?
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.
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?
What Is Verbal Violence?
Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. Yet, what is violence? What forms can it take? Can human life be void of violence, and should it be? These are some of the hard questions that a theory of violence shall address.
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?
Sport ethics is that branch of the philosophy of sport addressing the specific ethical questions that arise during and around sport competitions. With the affirmation of professional sports in the past century as well as the rise of a voluminous entertainment industry related to it, sport ethics has come to be not only a fertile terrain for...
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?
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.
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.
Philosophy of Sport: Body and Soul
Sport can help us think through the relationship between body and soul. Although the bodies of athletes are often taken as symbols of the sport itself, it is seldom the case that a great champion is found to lack exceptional abilities to figure out the best winning strategies and to maintain the concentration necessary to carry them to...
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.
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.
Philosophy of Sport
Whether the thought of it was implicit in your attitude or whether you actually took the time to spell it out, there is a great deal of philosophical substance in sport. Any sport, really. From team sports such as football and basketball to individual sports such as tennis and car racing, it is easy to devise a plethora of philosophical issues...
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.
Philosophy of Non-Violence
Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. Yet, can human life be void of violence, and should it be? These are the two central questions around which the non-violent or pacifist movement takes shape.
Logic is one of the most important and oldest branches of philosophy and its subject matter falls at the core of philosophizing. Logic studies patterns of reasoning dividing them into those that are "valid" and "invalid" with respect to a set of given rules. Classical logic studies those arguments that are valid with respect to some rules as...
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.
Why Are Humans Violent?
We may be shy or even ashamed to admit it, but violence is one of the central modalities through which humans relate to each other. Not only we are violent against strangers or acquaintances, but we are often violent also against ourselves. Why is it so? Why is violence one of the main modalities through which we relate to the world?
The Politics of Sport
Every athletic competition can be looked at from its simplest side: it’s just a game. It does not take that much, however, that any dismissive attitude towards the relevance of sport falls short of finding a reasonable justification. Even following the rules of a civil society, or fighting a war, can be regarded as games where life and other...
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.
Violence Against Oneself
Human beings do violence to themselves in different forms and for a variety of reasons that are often hard to pin down. Physical violence, in the guise of corporal punishment or starvation are one form of violence that humans inflict to themselves (famous the images of the Medieval monks flagellating their bodies); yet, humans often take courses...
Sport Metaphysics: Truth and Identity
Athletic competitions have raised puzzling metaphysical interrogatives. Among the most poignant, the truth of what happens during a competition, the identity of a team, and the boundaries of a sportive event. Let’s address them in order.
Philosophy of Sport: Creativity, Luck, and Emotions
Much of the marvel and fascination of sport lies in its unpredictability: even the most apparently doomed competition, could reserve some surprise. This element, which much resembles other spheres of living, depends by and large on the creativity of athletes as well as on a fatalistic element we may refer to as luck – be it bad luck or good luck...
Best Online Philosophy Sources III: Bibliographies
You have to start a research in philosophy, but don’t know where to start from? Luckily, there are plenty of place on the net that can help you. Here is a guide to them.
Best Online Philosophy Sources I: Encyclopedias, Radios, and TVs
Since the advent of internet, philosophy sources on the web have grown steadily both in number and varieties. Nowadays, having an online profile and being up to date with regard to the latest debates, trends, and news on the subject has become a (almost obligatory) routine for professional philosophers, aspiring ones, and amateurs. Here we shall...
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...
Best Philosophy Graduate Programs
The choice of a philosophy graduate program can be extremely difficult. In the U.S.A. alone, there are over one hundred of well-established departments granting graduate degrees (M.A., M.Phil., or Ph.D.) Needless to say, Canada, the U.K., Australia, France, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Germany, and a few other countries have graduate programs that...
Philosophy of Language
Philosophy of language takes central place in contemporary philosophizing and its dealt in quite different manners in the analytic and continental traditions (roughly, the modern-day Anglo-Saxon and German-French philosophical schools respectively). In the analytic tradition, philosophy of language has focused on the characterization of meaning,...
What Can't We Know Part II
We live in the age of assessment and, consequently, of measurement. Assessment provides for a seemingly universal methodology to approach life problems. From nudging citizens to sign up for a health insurance or for a prudent pension plan, to understanding the psychological issues of a teenager, or what goes through the minds of two lovers, the solution seems to be to assess and quantify. Assigning numbers seems to be an effective procedure to move towards a solution. In such a cultural environment, as a philosopher I often find myself in an uneasy position. What is the role of philosophy in assessment? One way to interpret the discipline sees philosophy as an affaire of asking questions. Yet, can all philosophical questions receive a quantitative answer? Can all philosophical questions receive some answer at all?
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...
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.
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.
In a certain sense, humans have always been globalized. The widespread use of cooking techniques (such as fire, or reducing a food into a paste), the diffusion of agricultural techniques (e.g. farming of cereals or grasses), fashion items (e.g. shoes), and housing styles all bear witness to a common history. After all, humans share a substantially common evolutionary history and an ecosystem (the Earth). Then, why so much fuss about globalization today? And, what is globalization anyway?
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...
What Does It Take to Be a Vegetarian?
At first it could seem that classic vegetarianism is a clear-cut position: you choose not to eat animals. Some may be vegan, and choose not to eat also animal products as well as fish. At a closer look, however, the matter is not really that simple and the relationship between a general commitment to vegetarianism and its practical application may prove to be more complex matter. Here is why.
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 ...
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.
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...
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.
What Is Coercion?
Coercion is a key concept to depict human relationships, to denounce abuses and episodes of violence. Yet, when is it that an agent is coerced by another? That is, what are the conditions on the coercion-relationship that make it possible to take place? What need the coercer do in an episode of coercion? And, who is to say that there was an...
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.
What Is Physical Violence?
Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. Yet, what is violence? What forms can it take? Can human life be void of violence, and should it be? These are some of the hard questions that a theory of violence shall address. In this article we shall...
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...
“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...
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?
Guilt and Philosophy
Guilt is a complex notion, mostly utilized in psychology to describe an emotion or passion apparently related to an agent’s ascribing to herself moral blame for having performed an action. Interestingly enough, and on a par with several other psychological attitudes, the guilt can arise with respect to all sorts of circumstances: some people may feel guilty of having accomplished actions for which no one would ever dream about blaming them. The topic of guilt is best discussed in connection with the idea of some controlling entity, be it psychological or institutional, that blames or allegedly would blame the agent. We shall deepen this aspect, after having pondered to a greater extent what guilt is.
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.
First developed in early nineteenth-hundreds in France, from the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, existentialism it has since grown to become one of the most prominent philosophical movements. Owing much to the philosophies of Descartes and Edmund Husserl, existentialism centers on three key concepts: anguish, abandonment, and despair. To date, both...
Beauty and Its Purposes
A romantic ideal has it that the highest forms of beauty are purposeless. Recognition and appreciation of beauty, in its most proper form, is attained independently from any knowledge of how the object of experience originated. Michelangelo’s "David" will overcome you with its beauty regardless of your knowledge of where the marble was coming...
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.
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.
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.
Best Online Philosophy Sources II: Blogs
What are the best philosophy blogs? What sorts of philosophy blogs are out there? The net has revolutionized the way philosophy is disseminated and discussed; philosophy radios abound and recently the first philosophy TV was introduced; philosophy journals have been affected by the change too. Here find a selection of the most influential blogs...
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...
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...
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...
Surf and Philosophy
"Perhaps there is no activity that is not potentially philosophical, but it has always seemed to me that the collision of (as Sartre would say) the in-itself (the wave) and the for-itself (the surfer), with all its possible outcomes of pleasure and pain (the wipe-out and the hold-down), and especially the tube-ride, with its narrative of being buried and then (ideally) re-born, naturally gives rise to a contemplative state." Thus Andy Martin comments in a blog post in The New York Times Opinionator. Is surfing a more philosophical sport with respect to other sports? And, if it is, why?
The Ethics of Lying
Is lying ever morally permissible? While lying can been seen as a threat to civil society, there seem to be several instances in which lying seems the most intuitively moral option. Besides, if a sufficiently broad definition of "lying" is adopted, it seems utterly impossible to escape lies, either because of instances of self-deception of...
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.
The Philosophy of Sex and Gender
Is it customary to divide human beings among male and female, men and women; yet, this dimorphism proves to be also ill-taken, for instance when it comes to intersex (e.g. hermaphrodite) or transgendered individuals. It becomes hence legitimate to wonder whether sexual categories are real or rather conventional kinds, how gender categories get...
Christmas and Environmental Ethics
Christmas time raises a host of issues suitable to environmental ethicists. The first, which regards Christmas trees, takes the form of a dilemma. Follow, then, questions pertaining to food consumption during Christmas time as well as over-comsumption.
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...
The Analytic-Continental Split
The split between analytic and continental philosophers is perhaps one of the most distinctive traits of Western philosophy in the twentieth century. What is this all about and what relevance does it have to this date?
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.
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?
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...
What Is Psychological Violence?
Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. Yet, what is violence? What forms can it take? Can human life be void of violence, and should it be? These are some of the hard questions that a theory of violence shall address. In this article we shall...
Christmas and the Ethics of Consumerism
Christmas. Gift-time. The coupling is so immediate to most people who are acquainted with Christmas time that trying to render the equation by means of some numbers is beyond the point. How many gifts are people exchanging for Christmas throughout the world? How should we go about counting them? Counting by number misses the structure of a gift – for instance, a three-months cruise would count as much as a pencil. Counting by expenditure seems to miss the significance of a gift and the varieties. We could count by amounts and genres – trips, events, toys, clothing, food and dining, and so on. But, really, what is of significance is that Christmas has surpassed any claim of consumerism.
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?
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.
How to Pick a Philosophy Undergraduate Program
You are thinking about possibly majoring in philosophy and are scouting for some of the best programs in the U.S.? Chances are that, if you are after a major in philosophy, you have been exposed to it in some way before applying to college; maybe a family member or a friend studied philosophy and you think that the subject may well suit your...
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,...
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...
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.
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,...
Can Violence Be Just?
Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. In some, probably most, circumstances it is evident that violence is unjust; but, some cases appear more debatable to someone’s eyes: can violence ever be justified?
What Is an Author?
Why continue to talk about authors, in a society in which texts are massively distributed and torn apart in all sorts of manners? Nearly half a century has gone by since the publication of the two articles by Foucault and Barthes, and yet authors are still here to stay. Is the very idea of authorship really dead? What is an author anyway?
Philosophy of Biology
Philosophy of biology is that branch of philosophy dealing with the major issues arising from biological sciences, such as the proper understanding of evolutionary processes, the demarcation between living and non-living entities, the nature of species and – more generally – of biological taxa.
The Paradox of Tragedy
How is it possible that human beings can derive pleasure from unpleasant states? This is the question addressed by Hume in his essay "On Tragedy," which lies at the heart of a long-standing philosophical discussion on tragedy. Take horror movies, for instance. Some people are terrified while watching them, or they don’t sleep for days; so, whey are they doing it, why stay in front of the screen for an horror movie?
Lying for Santa
Most hands agree that lying is bad. And yet, there are so many exceptions to the rule, that the topic of lying has become a favorite philosophical terrain of dispute. Christmas offers an excellent case for the circumstantial moral plausibility of lying; and it is not a casual lie that we are talking about, but a plotted lie, which often may start months ahead of Christmas time and be carried out in the minutest details until Christmas gifts are presented to the kids.
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,...
Sport: Duty, Pleasure, Virtue
Why do humans engage in sportive activities? Sports nowadays absorb a tremendous amount of resources, which go into what in the end are just some leisure games; is there a more profound reason to engage in sport other than that it’s fun to play or watch them? This question can be tackled from a number of angles. Let’s seem them.
What Is Political Science?
Political science studies governments in all their forms and aspects, both theoretical and practical. Once a branch of philosophy, political science nowadays is typically considered a social science. The history of the discipline is virtually as long as that of humanity. Its roots in the Western tradition are typically individuated in the works...
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.
What is a Book?
Books nowadays can come in a whole lot of different formats: some still come in the form of a papyrus; some books are in the form of an old manuscript kept together by some animal skin or leather; some books have been hand-printed; some are engraved in a stone; some books are accessible online through Google; some books are e-texts; some books are available in html format; some books are printed on regular paper; some are Kindle version; some are in audio format; and so on. The variety of supports for books is enough to please the taste also of the most extravagant metaphysical palates.
Philosophy of Race
Are races real? If so, what is a race anyway? If races are not real, should all racial talk be (eventually) abandoned? These questions, and their cognates, have been at the center of heated debates in the past few decades and still comprise a vital and momentous area of philosophical confrontation. Let’s see what are the main contemporary positions.
What Is a Wave?
It is ordinary to talk about waves of the ocean, sound waves, waves of electrons, and such; on the other hand, they pose some interesting metaphysical puzzles. We shall be concerned with wind waves only in this article. And, for a start, what is a wind wave?
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.
Access to Knowledge: Philosophy Online Journals
The issue of access to culture is one of the most poignant and complex ones of our times. On one hand, many believe that intellectual property rights should be recognized and enforced; we do tend to teach this also to our students, when we suggest that plagiarism is not simply unethical, but illegal or against some widespread societal norms, which are enforced also in schools. On the other hand, however, we may wish that property rights carry no economic benefit and burden: songs, novels, scientific discoveries shall be made available at no cost and on a platform that is in principle accessible by anyone. Everyone has a right to participate in cultural life.
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...
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...
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?
Best Online Philosophy Sources IV: Journals
The advent of internet has had a tremendous effect not only for the dissemination of new forms of philosophical content such as philosophy radios and TVs, philosophy blogs, encyclopedias and bibliographies; also traditional forms of dissemination of scholarly content were deeply affected in a number of ways. Philosophy journals are no exception...
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.