This is one of the most refreshing books of philosophy I've read in a long time. Writing about J.L. Austin can be daunting, as Austin is one of the beThis is one of the most refreshing books of philosophy I've read in a long time. Writing about J.L. Austin can be daunting, as Austin is one of the best English prose stylists of the 20th century (certainly amongst philosophers). So it's a challenge to write anything about Austin that would be more worth your time to read than just going straight to the man himself.
The reason for a book like the one Baz wrote is that Austin, in spite of having written some wonderful and clear essays and lectures, died before he put much to paper, and left a lot of unanswered questions. This book takes up an approach to philosophy that falls broadly within the tradition of "Ordinary Language Philosophy" (OLP) begun by Austin and shortly thereafter written off by many in the Anglo-American philosophy world as not worth serious consideration. Baz makes some excellent arguments that 1) OLP has been widely misunderstood 2) the commonly stated objections presuppose theories that OLP was meant to undermine, and 3) OLP has just as much to say about the ways philosophers still go wrong today.
There are only a few things that left me unsatisfied about this book. Most of the substance of the book focuses on debates in contemporary epistemology, specifically contextualism about knowledge judgments, as the lead example to demonstrate the methods of OLP. Baz clearly spent a good deal of time reading and thinking about this literature, and it would be time-consuming to master the literature around an entirely different philosophical question just to be able to change examples. Regardless, it does leave open the question whether Baz might be right that we can't apply the concept of knowledge absent any real human concern, but wrong that this is true of philosophical problems more widely. Personally, I'm inclined to think Baz is right on both counts, but I would like to see more of a discussion about how this would apply to debates in ethics. It might, for example, suggest that we get confused about debates in metaethics, since this is an extension of our ethical concepts beyond the domain of their actual use. But does it also mean that ethical theorizing is suspect? Does it point to a view of ethics that lacks universal principles but merely works on a case by case basis (i.e., ethical particularism)?
In any case, this book is fun and enlightening to read. At times, you can hear Baz's incredulity at the bizarre sentences that philosophers say (or set to paper) and assume are meaningful uses of our everyday words. If you've ever felt the seduction towards philosophical theorizing, this is a great curative....more
This is one of the most enjoyable philosophy books I've read recently (and in general). The published form of a set of lectures Cohen delivered in ScoThis is one of the most enjoyable philosophy books I've read recently (and in general). The published form of a set of lectures Cohen delivered in Scotland, the chapters walk through a series of loosely connected topics, with the overarching theme being a sort of intellectual biography of Cohen's life and work. But the book is engaging even if you didn't know or care about Cohen before jumping in because of the path his work has taken: from his upbringing as a Communist in Montreal, to his early work developing an analytically respectable form of Marxism, ultimately leading to him abandoning Marxism and exploring the normative foundations of egalitarianism, and crafting an egalitarian response to liberal political philosophy (e.g., Rawls). It ends with a discussion of a titular question, how people who claim to be egalitarian can justify being rich in unequal societies. Cohen's famously hilarious, and while I'm sure he peppered these lectures with jokes that didn't make it into the print form, his humor combines with his philosophical acumen to make these incredibly entertaining to read....more
Korsgaard is one of the clearest philosophers, and most of her essays lay out the problem more clearly and with greater understanding than virtually aKorsgaard is one of the clearest philosophers, and most of her essays lay out the problem more clearly and with greater understanding than virtually anyone else. And then 3/4 of the way through the essay, it gets very Kant-y. The clarity is enough to make you think she might be on to something, but the Kant stuff just never grabs me....more
This was recommended by PZ Myers in a post some time ago. As someone with adaptionist leanings in evolutionary theory, I'm glad I read this. Lloyd walThis was recommended by PZ Myers in a post some time ago. As someone with adaptionist leanings in evolutionary theory, I'm glad I read this. Lloyd walks carefully through all the evidence and theorizing around the evolution of the female orgasm, coming down in favor of the byproduct account (in a nutshell: female orgasm arises due to strong selection pressure for male orgasm and physiological and developmental homologies between the sexes). She explains why this theory better fits with the available evidence, and why the evidence for alternative accounts falls short. But more interestingly, she also engages in an analysis of why the byproduct account is viewed as discredited and why an adaptionist account built on shoddy evidence is the dominant view. In the course of this, she explains different adaptionist approaches to evolutionary theory, and the way bias affects scientific practice. Lloyd writes in a clearly structured way that isn't the most fluid to read, but carries her point home....more
This book could also be titled "Wittgenstein's thoughts about stuff". Wittgenstein wrote one book (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus) during his life, anThis book could also be titled "Wittgenstein's thoughts about stuff". Wittgenstein wrote one book (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus) during his life, and left behind a lot of unpublished writing, some of it following a few discrete lines of thought, much of which has now been published under a variety of titles. This little volume is a collection of remarks, over the course of about 20 years or so, that didn't really fit anywhere else. Because Wittgenstein's an enjoyable writer and thinker, these are fun to read, as they often take the form of pithy little aphorisms. Some of it wouldn't really make a lot of sense unless you knew where it fit in the course of Wittgenstein's thought. At times quite silly, but almost always a pleasure....more
Metzinger's work is some of the most exciting philosophy I've read recently. The Ego Tunnel is a short restatement of Metzinger's view of consciousnesMetzinger's work is some of the most exciting philosophy I've read recently. The Ego Tunnel is a short restatement of Metzinger's view of consciousness (first laid out in his massive Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity, bits of which I've read) in a more approachable format. The exposition is broken up by interviews with researchers on different aspects of consciousness, whose views sometimes diverge from the picture Metzinger paints.
What distinguishes Metzinger from other philosophers doing cog-sci influenced philosophy of mind is his openness of the wide implications of these ideas. His last chapters sketch how we could create a new kind of ethics built on our revised understanding of the nature of experience. In this book he only gestures at what this might look like, but the scope of his philosophical outlook is extraordinarily wide....more
Austin's lectures present one of the most sophisticated analyses of what went wrong in the philosophical debate about perception and, more generally,Austin's lectures present one of the most sophisticated analyses of what went wrong in the philosophical debate about perception and, more generally, the problems inherent in foundationalist epistemology. I will re-read this many times....more
this book surprisingly engaging. even if you aren't particularly attracted to kantian ethics (i'm not), there's a lot here to make it worthwhile for sthis book surprisingly engaging. even if you aren't particularly attracted to kantian ethics (i'm not), there's a lot here to make it worthwhile for someone generally interested in agency and ethical theory (i am!). the writing is clear, but rich in ideas and so it was at times slow-going. there are also some fairly technical discussions of kant (it is after all by a kantian) but the pay-off was worth it.
while i found herman's arguments compelling, the position she ends up taking at the end of the book ends up looking in certain ways like that in Beyond Moral Judgment (Crary, for her part, also notes the similarities, but argues that anyone motivated by the same concerns should prefer her view to Herman's). she also hints at an intriguing meta-ethical view, but without knowing more i can't really assess it. i'm definitely convinced, however, that as far as contemporary interpreters of kant you couldn't really ask for better....more
I originally picked p this book because I was reading What We Owe To Eachother and wanted someone to explain Scanlon's arguments against subjective reI originally picked p this book because I was reading What We Owe To Eachother and wanted someone to explain Scanlon's arguments against subjective reasons to me. Where I was at least partially on the fence before, I'm now pretty firmly convinced that Schroeder's view (or something like it) has to be right. For the uninitiated, the debate is (broadly) whether reasons are just brute features of the universe, or can be explained by reference to the psychology of the agents who respond to them. Schroeder here gives a thorough and compelling case for the latter.
This book presents some fairly sophisticated and technical philosophical arguments, but does so in a way that is surprisingly accessible. It almost makes you think that the technical apparatus of contemporary philosophy can actually be useful for something. While the book likely won't convince non-reductive normativists who deny that any explanatory account of reasons can't get off the ground, I was intrigued to learn that Schroeder himself started out a skeptic of Humean theories, and only developed the one he presents in this book when he realized that all the arguments against Humean theories are bad. His dissection of these arguments has the virtue of digging out assumptions that people on both sides of the debate have made about Humean theories generally, and one by one rejects a lot of these common assumptions to present a view that, ultimately, purports to do the work of both Kantian and virtue theories. (I'm still not too sure about the Kantian bit, but there you go.)
The sort of arguments Schroeder makes are generally to suggest why his view is more likely correct than any others that have been proposed. These sort of "more likely" arguments can be a bit underwhelming, but I think Schroeder's right that a more modest aim such as this is better than more ambitious arguments that fail to prove anything. Maybe the latter can be more fun to read, but this book shows that you can write just as engagingly while being rigorous....more
This book is just plain fun. Benatar is an amusing writer, not because he writes hilarious prose (it's extremely clear and concise), but because he baThis book is just plain fun. Benatar is an amusing writer, not because he writes hilarious prose (it's extremely clear and concise), but because he baldly states his wild conclusions in his clear, straight-forward way. The book starts by making an argument with which no one agrees (that coming into existence is always a harm, that we ought never to bring any new people into existence), and then working through all the implications of his view that seem to count against it. (Spoiler alert! he bites the bullet on just about every one.) I hope I will get a chance to write more about this book because it is just so darn compelling, but this is a wonderful example of throwing down the gauntlet. Next to no one will be convinced by this book, but it's on you to say why he's wrong....more