THE BLOG @ PHILOSOPHERS' CORNER

Reader’s Block and Bad Philosophy

“Reader’s block” might refer to anxiety about reading some intimidating book; reluctance to read at all; or that special frustrating phenomenon where you drag your eyes over the lines of a page without taking anything in. Sometimes it's the result of a philosophical mistake about reading.

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Letting Go of Human Nature

The idea of human nature is riven with controversy. Some scholars—often those in the humanities—argue that there’s no such thing, while others—often those in the social and biological sciences—regard its “denial” as anti-scientific. So is there any point hanging onto this controversial idea?

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Tolerance and Radical Disagreement

What should you do in the face of radical disagreement? Do you live and let live, or try to convince the other person they’re wrong? Are some ideas just too terrible to tolerate? These are some of the questions we're tackling on this week's show.

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#FrancisOnFilm: I Am Mother

Sci-fi thriller I Am Mother is due out on Netflix tomorrow. It's a fantastic philosophical movie that raises all kinds of philosophical questions about abortion, reproduction, enhancement, population policy, and especially about what it means to be a good mother.

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A Licentious Lannister?

Actor Nikolaj Koster-Waldau is far better than Jaime Lannister, the character he plays on Game of Thrones. But he is sometimes criticized for portraying a character that normalizes depraved behavior. Which raises the question: is it immoral to produce fiction that represents bad behavior people might emulate?

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Working for Faith

I had a terrific time discussing religious “beliefs”—or religious credences, as I call them—with Josh and Ken recently. One claim I proposed on the show is that religious credence is like make-believe imagining. I want to delve a little deeper into that claim and address something Ken said.

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What Is Reading?

Reading. We all do it, every day, whether it be reading books, text messages, street signs, or cereal boxes. But what is reading? This is an important question, but there is a surprising lack of research in analytic philosophy on this topic. How hard can it be to say what reading is?

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Anti-Semitism is Racism

Many Americans think the recent synagogue shootings were motivated by religious hatred, just as many believe the Nazis persecuted Jews because their Jewish faith. This is seriously and troublingly wrong. To the Nazis of the past, as well as the neo-Nazis of the present, a person is a Jew because of their race.

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#FrancisOnFilm: Shazam!

Shazam!, the latest in the DC comics superhero series, may be viewed as a delightful feel-good movie. But some of what its audience might take away from the movie are bad messages about justice that mirror the problems with John Rawls' idealized theory of justice.

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Philanthropy vs. Democracy

This week we’re asking whether philanthropy is bad for democracy. Philanthropy funds scholarships for needy students. It builds libraries, hospitals, and museums. What's not to like? For starters, we shouldn't let those good things blind us to the corrosive harm that philanthropy does—especially to democracy.

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Authority and Resistance

We live in an age in which many of the old, top-down authority structures are collapsing before our very eyes. In large measure, the collapse of top-down authority is due to “democratizing” effect of technology, which is having an effect on our politics, on the media, on medicine, even on education.

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Wanting to Want for Its Own Sake

Here is one of the most surprising findings from social psychology: rewarding a kind of action does not boost motivation to perform that action because rewards provide only extrinsic motivation. So how do we change extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation, the motivation you have to do something for its own sake?

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Hacking the Brain

Are humans limited to the senses we’re born with? Or is it possible to hack the brain and create new senses? Even if we could, would we want more senses than we already have? This week we’re thinking about hacking the brain: perception beyond the five senses.

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Sexy Beasts

Love it or hate it, Freud’s decades long exploration into the nature and power of human sexuality is something that any philosopher of sex needs to contend with. I turn to this curiously under-explored region of the philosophical landscape in the final installment of my Philosophical Freud series.

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Ken's Big Announcement

In the spirit of Plato, I am pleased to announce that I am throwing my hat in the ring for 2020! Just as Plato envisioned an ideal republic, I envision a new republic built on the ashes of the old. It is time for the philosopher-kings to take up their rightful place in this new republic.

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#FrancisOnFilm: Green Book

The success of Green Book, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, has been controversial because the narrative is centered on the white driver rather than the black pianist. Recent philosophical work on "epistemic injustice" reveals why centering the narrative like this harms black people.

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Your Question: Integrate or Assimilate?

What does integration mean, and how is that contrasted to assimilation? How much integration do we have a right to expect? What kinds of changes become intolerable? - Judy online

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Controversy About Climate Denial

Research shows both that increasing people’s knowledge of climate science does not increase acceptance of human-caused climate change, but teaching the mechanisms of how global warming works does strengthen acceptance. Is there a way to reconcile these seemingly conflicting results?

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Immigration and Multiculturalism

Should immigrants assimilate into their new society? Or should society adapt to make room for different cultures? Aren’t there some foreign customs we should never accept? This week, we’re thinking about immigration and multiculturalism.

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There’s Taste... Then There’s Taste

Lots of us have tastes in music, movies, stories, or art—and we generally know what they are. But what explains why we like what we do? Is it just a subjective reaction to something we recognize or identify with? Or are we responding to its objective aesthetic value?

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Mind the Gaps!

In this installment of my series on Freud as a philosopher, I explain how Freud arrived at the view that mental states are brain states, that mental processes are unconscious, that we have only indirect access to our own minds, and that introspection is an inadequate tool for exploring the mind.

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#FrancisOnFilm: Minding the Gap

What are friends for? Should friends be supportive and non-judgmental? Should they attempt to improve one another? Or should friendship wane with the recognition that the friend has harmed another? Minding the Gap suggests that these questions do not have simple "yes" or "no" answers.

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Five Types of Climate Change Deniers

Why do people deny climate change? A common view is that such people reject science. But in most cases, it’s not all science they reject. After all, most climate deniers believe in electricity and that the earth goes around the sun. So what is going on? As I see it, there are at least five types of climate denier.

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Finding Yourself in a Virtual Fiction

Last week I went to the Night of Philosophy and Ideas at the Brooklyn Public Library. One of the experiences on offer was a short CGI virtual-reality film called BattleScar. What is most compelling about BattleScar is the way it plays with your perspective. You are, as a viewer, implicated in the same physical space as the characters in the film.

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What Do We Owe Future Generations?

Exactly how much should we care about future generations? It seems obviously wrong to say that we shouldn’t care about them at all. It also seems wrong to say that we should care about them as much as we do about ourselves. After all, they don’t even exist—at least not yet.

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