A new Mini-Heap…

  1. “Sometimes, people who lack philosophical training write books and essays on philosophy. These books and essays are usually very bad.” — Michael Huemer (Colorado) on amateur philosophy
  2. Bringing together philosophy of causation and philosophy of medicine — an interview with Rani Lill Anjum (NMBU) on her CauseHealth project
  3. More on Colin McGinn’s “ethical awareness” and “catastrophe avoidance” business consultancy — for example, if you are caught emailing a student about handjobs, argue that “virtually all jobs are ‘hand jobs’… for all human work is manual work”
  4. An interview with Aristotle on slavery and labor practices — (via David Gross)
  5. “How experimental methods and findings from psycholinguistics can be adapted to analyse philosophical arguments” — a symposium at Brains on an article that seeks “to take experimental philosophy beyond the study of intuitions”
  6. “While white supremacy places the white man at the centre of all things good, white guilt places him at the centre of all things evil” — Karthick Ram Manoharan (Calcutta) responds to Crispin Sartwell (Dickinson) on the racism of Western philosophy (via Preston Stovall)
  7. Cosmopolitanism, statism, and avant-garde political agency — Lea Ypi (LSE) discusses her work and the role of political philosophy in current affairs with Carmen Pavel (KCL)

Mini-Heap posts appear when 7 or so new items accumulate in the Heap of Links, the ever-growing collection of items from around the web that may be of interest to philosophers.

The Heap of Links consists partly of suggestions from readers; if you find something online that you think would be of interest to the philosophical community, please send it in for consideration for the Heap. Thanks!


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4 years ago

Something called Quartz has invaded your McGinn article it seems.

Patrick S. O'Donnell
4 years ago

Re: 6 (the quote from Fanon … and then some other thoughts)

In one sense, this is more or less true, yet as a growing number of philosophers, social scientists, and writers from around our planet have pointed out (and paraphrasing my former teacher and friend Ninian Smart), the need or imperative to “de-tribalize,” Westerners (of any color), culturally, politically, and philosophically—what have you—remains (this includes, once and for all, relinquishing imperialist and post-imperialist dreams and designs or simply global political and economic domination).

Manoharan’s well-argued reply to Sartwell reminds us that when it comes to religious and non-religious worldviews (or philosophies) and ideologies, people often, as we say, see what they want to see. Moreover, and relatedly, we should also keep in mind the Scholastic dictum (translated from Latin): “whatever is received, is received according to the capacity of the recipient,” a capacity more often than not decisively shaped by such (individual and group) psychological phenomena as willful ignorance, self-deception, denial, and wishful thinking. It is also a reminder that motley individuals, groups, and regimes have historically proven quite adept at using, manipulating, and distorting various elements from worldviews for their own selfish if not immoral or evil ends. In practice, worldviews (be they, say, of Buddhist, Confucian, Marxist, Liberal, Feminist provenance) are what we make of them, however otherwise elegant, coherent, consistent, ennobling, idealistic, utopian (in a non-pejorative sense), reasonable, rational, and so forth. Therefore, and moreover, on the ground, such worldviews are typically quite messy, and often containing elements or features or ideas borrowed or otherwise (consciously or not) incorporated from earlier or surrounding worldviews, as well as ideological ingredients that together render them far different from the normative, abstract, doctrinal pictures, or defensive apologias, self-sufficient dogmas, hermetic doctrines, or creatures of orthodoxy most familiar to us.

And this “messiness” or inconsistency is even more pronounced at the level of the individual, where such worldviews play a pivotal role in personal and collective identity, in our cultural traditions and narratives, in securing our existential and psychological bearings. Thus they are invariably modified—for better and worse—in myriad ways at the level of the individual person, providing for a unique construal or interpretation that may or may not perfectly cohere with the values, beliefs, and practices of any other particular individual or group avowing or expressing adherence to the very same worldview. This idiosyncratic—in a non-pejorative sense—worldview in the life an individual person is what we (or I) will call a “lifeworld,” which by definition does not perfectly coincide with the normative (dogmatic, creedal, systematic, etc.) pictures of worldviews painted by those with religious or intellectual authority, in other words, the “official” or authoritative worldview of any particular religion or philosophy (in any case, there is usually a plurality at play here, even if there is strong genetic family resemblance), in which case the lifeworld reveals a worldview now comparatively crude, radically simplified, ideological in essence, or perhaps, in rare cases, even fairly sophisticated, psychologically and philosophically speaking (as we see, for instance, with Proust or Simone Weil or Tagore or C.L.R. James or Ella Baker). Regardless of the worldview or worldviews and lifeworlds that move us, we cannot surrender our critical faculties or dispositional skepticism, all the while cultivating open-mindedness and the virtues that enable us to be more loving, more compassionate, more forgiving, more understanding, perhaps even a bit wise; at the very least, less egocentric or self-centered.

No matter what one’s worldview or lifeworld, all of us are obligated to make rational or reasonable and ethical assessments of particular beliefs or practices within our worldviews in the first instance (as both Mohandas K. Gandhi and especially B.R. Ambedkar did, for example, in their respectively unique if not inimitable ways with regard to several well-known but morally odious beliefs and practices within Hinduism), and should not hesitate to attempt comparative assessments and ethical judgment as best we can, despite our cognitive biases and group loyalties (as Martha Nussbaum did in Sex and Social Justice). With regard to another facet of this critical obligation or task, we might assess, for example, the potential or capacity of a particular worldview to rationally, ethically, and creatively respond to various conspicuous issues and problems in our contemporary (and future) world: be it nationalism; racism; poverty; structural disadvantage or eliminable vulnerability of one kind or another; uneven or unfettered technological development; public health and general welfare; various kinds of violence; ecological deterioration and devastation; the respect for basic human rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural; the commodification of values; global distributive justice; obligations and tasks the serve the overarching aim of awakening and exercising those functions and capacities believed essential to human happiness, fulfillment or flourishing or (eudaimonia). This serves to remind us that, at bottom, our traditions and worldviews are the repositories of our normative conceptions of the Good or the good life, and only a clear and deep understanding of such conceptions will enable us to find the necessary evaluative ethical and spiritual criteria essential to critically assessing elements with these worldviews (and ideologies derived therefrom) in the interests of our shared humanity or individual and collective welfare, well-being, and human happiness, fulfillment or flourishing. The following admonition from the late Hilary Putnam is, I think, apropos: “’Is our own way of life right or wrong?’ is a silly question, although it isn’t silly to ask if this or that particular feature of our way of life is right or wrong, and ‘Is our view of the world right or wrong?’ is a silly question, although it isn’t silly to ask if this or that particular belief is right or wrong.”