Moral Courage and Facing Others

Via The International Journal of Philosophical Studies

Abstract

Moral courage involves acting in the service of one’s convictions, in spite of the risk of retaliation or punishment. I suggest that moral courage also involves a capacity to face others as moral agents, and thus in a manner that does not objectify them. A moral stand can only be taken toward another moral agent. Often, we find ourselves unable to face others in this way, because to do so is frightening, or because we are consumed by blinding anger. But without facing others as moral subjects, we risk moral cowardice on the one hand and moral fanaticism on the other.

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Defining Chinese Folk Religion: A Methodological Interpretation

Via Asian Philosophy: An International Journal of the Philosophical Traditions of the East

Abstract

The major dilemma of defining Chinese folk religion was that it could be defined neither by its belief contents nor characteristics, as these might also be found in other religious traditions. The fact that it did not involve any authoritative doctrine, scripture or institution has also made treating it as a religion problematic. To solve the problem, I survey the major theories proposed by both Western and Chinese scholars concerned with the methodological issues of defining this nameless religion, and develop an alternative approach that can distinguish Chinese folk religion from any other existing religious tradition. Basically, this approach eliminates the limitations of two existing models by defining Chinese folk religion on two aspects simultaneously. I also conclude that Chinese folk religion, based on the sociological perspective, can be seen as a religion, and should be taken into consideration while developing certain theological models.

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Asian Insights on Violence and Peace

Via Asian Philosophy: An International Journal of the Philosophical Traditions of the East

Abstract

This paper challenges the view that justice leads to or generates peace. Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, Daoist and Chinese military philosophical perspectives on violence and peace are reviewed. Based on insights derived from these Asian traditions concerning the relationship between violence and peace, the author argues that the quest for world peace is not attainable. The author proposes that people need to direct their attention, energy and action to support personal and community peace, and to support justice, which entails legitimate and sanctioned acts of violence, and just war.

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Democracy, Monism and the Common Good: Rethinking William Clarke’s Political Religion

Via History of European Ideas

Abstract

This article re-examines the political thought of the neglected Fabian essayist and radical journalist William Clarke. Historians have differed over the relative importance of socialism and liberalism in Clarke’s political thought. The argument is made here that the key to Clarke’s thought lies in his moralised conception of democracy, rooted in his monist ontology. The further deepening of democracy was threatened for Clarke by developments in monopolistic capitalism and the related emergence of a new imperialism. Clarke’s understanding of democracy, rather than more overtly economic considerations, lies at the heart of his political religion, and links his views on domestic and foreign affairs. As befits a philosophical monist, his political thought reveals the limitations of established dichotomies for grasping the character of progressivism in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain.

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What is the point of love?

Via The International Journal of Philosophical Studies

Abstract

Why should we love the people we do and why does love motivate us to act as it does? In this paper, I explore the idea that these questions can be answered by appealing to the idea that love has to do with close personal relationships (the ‘relationship claim’). Niko Kolodny (2003) has already developed a relationship theory of love: according to Kolodny, love centres on the belief that the subject shares a valuable personal relationship with the beloved. However, this account has some implausible consequences. I shall develop an alternative account, discarding the assumption that love centres on a belief, and beginning instead from a conception of love as an emotional attitude – which, I suggest, involves a form of evaluation that is not belief. As I explain, adopting this view allows us to interpret the relationship claim, not as a claim about the subject’s beliefs, but as a claim about the function of love. This approach allows us to answer the questions above, while avoiding the difficulties that confront Kolodny’s account. I end by exploring a case that might be thought to raise some difficulties for my account.

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Aristotle on Mathematical Truth

Via British Journal for the History of Philosophy

Abstract

Both literalism, the view that mathematical objects simply exist in the empirical world, and fictionalism, the view that mathematical objects do not exist but are rather harmless fictions, have been both ascribed to Aristotle. The ascription of literalism to Aristotle, however, commits Aristotle to the unattractive view that mathematics studies but a small fragment of the physical world; and there is evidence that Aristotle would deny the literalist position that mathematical objects are perceivable. The ascription of fictionalism also faces a difficult challenge: there is evidence that Aristotle would deny the fictionalist position that mathematics is false. I argue that, in Aristotle’s view, the fiction of mathematics is not to treat what does not exist as if existing but to treat mathematical objects with an ontological status they lack. This form of fictionalism is consistent with holding that mathematics is true.

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The Art of Asking Questions

Via The International Journal of Philosophical Studies

Abstract

In this paper I discuss how we should distinguish legitimate from illegitimate questions. I will argue that we should not make such distinctions prior to asking our questions; that questioning is more of an art than a science and that this art is part of the art of conversation in general. Nonetheless, the desire to limit in advance the questions that we can legitimately ask is not infrequent. In the philosophy of science this ambition manifests in response to concerns regarding the corruption of scientific knowledge and inquiry. Similarly in the quantitative social sciences researchers develop measures by isolating in advance just those questions that they believe will best illuminate the construct under investigation. In order to preserve the integrity of their data much is done to avoid and adjust for errant respondent understandings of these questions. I argue, however, that limiting our questions in these ways does not secure knowledge and inquiry from bias, but rather unduly limits what we might come to know. Drawing on Gadamer’s work in Truth and Method I argue that we can distinguish legitimate from illegitimate questions, but that we can only do so by first asking them.

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The Rationality Principle Idealized

Via Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy

Abstract

According to Popper’s rationality principle, agents act in the most adequate way according to the objective situation. I propose a new interpretation of the rationality principle as consisting of an idealization and two abstractions. Based on this new interpretation, I critically discuss the privileged status that Popper ascribes to it as an integral part of all social scientific models. I argue that as an idealization, the rationality principle may play an important role in the social sciences, but it also has inherent limitations that inhibit it from having the privileged status that Popper ascribes to it in all cases.

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On the contingency of death: a discourse-theoretical perspective on the construction of death

Via Critical Discourse Studies

Abstract

Death is frequently seen as the ultimate manifestation of materiality. Without denying this materiality, this article will investigate the discursive character of death and its contingent nature, through the lens of Laclau and Mouffe’s [(1985). Hegemony and social strategy: Towards a radical democratic politics. London: Verso] discourse theory. First, the core elements of the (Western) discourse of death, such as end/cessation/termination, negativity, irreversibility, inescapability, and undesirability, in combination with life as death’s constitutive outside, will be analysed, showing the specificity of this discourse of death. The contingency of death is argued further from a more genealogical stance, through the changes over time in the articulation of death and good death. Finally, the political nature of the discourse of death is illustrated by an analysis of end-of-life debates and the struggle between the hospice and the right-to-die social movements over the exact articulation of a good death. The article concludes by pointing to the necessary and constitutive failure of discourse to capture the materiality of death.

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The New Political Blogosphere

Via Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy

Abstract

This article discusses the current epistemological status of the political blogosphere, in light both of the concerns raised by Alvin Goldman in his 2008 paper “The Social Epistemology of Blogging” and the recent drastic changes in the structure of the blogosphere. I argue that the political blogosphere replicates epistemically beneficial functions of the mainstream media for the functioning of democracy, and defend this claim from objections to the blogosphere that have been levelled by Goldman and Richard Posner. I then provide an expanded defence of the political blogosphere in response to these particular objections.

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