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142. Solitude and Education, Part 4

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), in his book Daybreak (1881), wrote: “On Education. – I have gradually seen the light as to the most universal deficiency in our kind of cultivation and education: no one learns, no one strives after, no one Read more ›

138. Ingmar Bergman’s Metaphysical Reduction, Part 3: “The Silence”

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In May 1963, the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) retrospectively described his films “Through a Glass Darkly”, “Winter Light”, and “The Silence” as a trilogy with a theme: “The theme of these three films is a ‘reduction’ – in Read more ›

137. Ingmar Bergman’s Metaphysical Reduction, Part 2: “Winter Light”

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In May 1963, the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) retrospectively described his films “Through a Glass Darkly”, “Winter Light”, and “The Silence” as a trilogy with a theme: “The theme of these three films is a ‘reduction’ – in Read more ›

136. Ingmar Bergman’s Metaphysical Reduction, Part 1: “Through a Glass Darkly”

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  In May 1963, the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) retrospectively described his films “Through a Glass Darkly”, “Winter Light”, and “The Silence” as a trilogy with a theme: “The theme of these three films is a ‘reduction’ – Read more ›

132. If we are arguing should we be substance dualists?

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I have been thinking a lot about what philosophical positions might be implied by the fact that we present and evaluate arguments. Consider this argument or set of premises from which a conclusion is derived: Premise 1: All humans are Read more ›

125. Is Truth Human?

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Truth, for so many thinkers throughout history, has been seen as existing independent of human minds. But it seems far more sensible to embrace an anthropological account of truth which Robert Adams nicely describes as the view “that the truths Read more ›

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118. Trump and Nietzsche: Alternative Facts, Power, and Tyranny

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Sometime between 1883 and 1888 the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche made a startling observation: “No, facts is precisely what there is not, only interpretations.” This view, which Nietzsche called perspectivism, has recently found an unparalleled analogue in American politics. For example, Read more ›

112. Some Thoughts on John Locke’s Theory of Mind and Education

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John Locke (1632-1704), in Book II of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) writes: “Our observation employed either about external sensible objects, or about the internal operations of our minds perceived and reflected upon by ourselves, is that which supplies our Read more ›

107. St. Gregory of Nyssa on the origins and nature of the soul

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St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394), in his work On the Soul and Resurrection (St. Vladmir’s Seminary Press, 1993), presents a very stimulating dialogue between two characters: Gregory and his sister Macrina. Through Macrina he argues that the existence of virtue Read more ›

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101. Mill’s Worst Polemical Offense and the 2016 Election

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In his classic work On Liberty (1859), John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) claimed that the freedom of thought and discussion was indispensable to a free society. Mill’s argument in defense of this freedom revolves around fallibilism or the view that no Read more ›

92. Plato’s Wooden Horse Argument and the Soul

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How is it that we can experience incoming data from the five senses as coherent, rather than incoherent, perceptions of objects and people? This issue, often referred to as “the binding problem” in neuroscience, has been a concern of philosophers Read more ›

87. Eros vs. Thanatos, Part 3: The Furies of Creativity

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In previous posts we have seen ways in which Eros (love) can imply, lead to, or be thwarted by Thanatos (death). Here is yet another example of a dynamic relation between the two from Alfred North Whitehead. In his book Read more ›

85. Thoughts on Richard III, Part 2: Forms of Evil

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In the last post, I considered how Shakespeare’s Richard III can be used to illustrate five stages of tyranny in politics. Now let’s look at how the play, on the one hand, illustrates four forms of evil, namely, demonic, instrumental, Read more ›

82. Plato on the Immortality of the Soul: Republic Book X, Part 4: Kierkegaard’s Development

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In the last three posts I have considered Plato’s argument for the immortality of the soul in book X of his dialogue the Republic. I would like to finish this series with a look at one attempt to present a Read more ›

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80. Plato on the Immortality of the Soul: Republic X, Part 2

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In post #79 I introduced Plato’s argument for the immortality of the soul in Book X of his dialogue Republic (all quotations will be from Cornford’s translation).  I then discussed the argument’s central claim – the essential destructibility claim – which Read more ›

74. Leibniz on Atoms

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The enlightenment rationalist G. W. Leibniz (1646-1716) was a master at articulating certain general and fundamental principles and applying these principles to various philosophical problems.  Principles are statements of basic laws, truths, or rules from which other laws, truths, or Read more ›

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66. Dracula, Part 3

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‘Existentialism’ is a term that usually refers to philosophies that revolve around general and fundamental notions like authentic selfhood (or lack thereof), responsibility, choice, anxiety, death, commitment, and passion.  Existential philosophers usually avoid discussing impersonal issues and issues in an Read more ›

55. Eros vs. Thanatos, Part 1: Archive Fever

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Sigmund Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents, claims, like the pre-Socratic Empedocles before him, that there are two “Heavenly Powers” or mutually opposing instincts: Eros and Thanatos. Freud characterizes these two principles as follows: eros is the instinct to conserve Read more ›

52. Art and the Decline of Civilization?

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There is certainly something wonderful about people expressing themselves without any formal training. For example, the punk movement included many young people who just decided to form a band and THEN learned a little bit in order to be heard. Read more ›

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50. Why Do People Want to Assassinate Beauty?, Part 2

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Tristan Tzara, in his Dadaist Manifesto of 1918, argued that Dadaists were out to “assassinate beauty”. But why would anyone want to assassinate beauty? In the previous post I discussed, with reference to Plato’s Symposium, Roger Scruton’s account of this Read more ›

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41. Freedom and Critical Thinking

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Can we, sometimes, make free choices? Obviously, a lot rides on what we mean by free choices. Mark Balaguer has recently formulated a helpful definition in his book Free Will (MIT, 2014): a choice is the product of my free Read more ›

34. Tragic Conflict and Intelligence, Part 6

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In the last few posts I noted the following virtues that John Dewey thought accompany intelligent action: Being conscientious or being interested in finding out what the actual good of a certain situation is Maintaining a bias toward fairness and Read more ›

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33. Tragic Conflict and Intelligence, Part 5

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In the last few posts I noted the following virtues that John Dewey thought accompany intelligent action: Being conscientious or being interested in finding out what the actual good of a certain situation is Maintaining a bias toward fairness and Read more ›

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32. Tragic Conflict and Intelligence, Part 4

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In the last post I noted the following virtues that John Dewey thought accompany intelligent action: Being conscientious or being interested in finding out what the actual good of a certain situation is Maintaining a bias toward fairness and objectivity Read more ›

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31. Tragic Conflict and Intelligence, Part 3

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In the last post I noted the following virtues that John Dewey thought accompany intelligent action: Being conscientious or being interested in finding out what the actual good of a certain situation is Maintaining a bias toward fairness and objectivity Read more ›

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25. Memes

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What is an idea?  According to Peter A. Angeles’ Dictionary of Philosophy we have the following candidates: Idea:  (Gk., idea, “concept,” “class,” “kind,” “idea,” “mode,” “sort,” “species,” “form,” “nature,” “from eidos, “visual appearance,” “form,” and idein, “to see,” “to grasp conceptually”).  1. Anything that is Read more ›

22. The Demonic, Part 2: Demonic Music

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The Danish proto-existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) put forth an intriguing account of the demonic in chapter 4 of his eccentric work The Concept of Anxiety (see the Princeton edition translated by the Hongs). Kierkegaard claims the demonic person has “anxiety about the Read more ›

13. Augustine on God and Eternal Truth

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In his dialogue On Free Choice of the Will (Macmillan, 1964), St. Augustine (354-430 C.E.) argues that our minds can know truths that are eternal.  For Augustine, something is eternal if it exists in a timeless, unchanging state.  So eternal truths are unchanging Read more ›

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5. The Demonic, Part 1: Kierkegaard’s Demonic Fashion Designer

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The Danish proto-existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) put forth an intriguing account of the demonic in chapter 4 of his eccentric work The Concept of Anxiety (see the Princeton edition translated by the Hongs). Kierkegaard claims the demonic person has “anxiety about the Read more ›

3. Plato’s Forms and the Truth, Part 1

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A note of caution: the ancient Greek philosopher Plato (427-347 BCE) wrote dialogues not treatises. These dialogues show the life of the philosophical mind at work: questioning, arguing, speculating, imagining, wondering, struggling, and understanding. They do not show finished results Read more ›