99 posts

Brain Bath

Billionaire LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman says his masters in philosophy has helped him more than an MBA

by Richard Feloni | Business Insider Nov. 24, 2017 Reid Hoffman is the billionaire cofounder of LinkedIn and one of tech’s most influential investors. Instead of a business education, he pursued his master’s degree in philosophy. He told us that the analytical thinking skills he learned have made him a better investor and entrepreneur. When students begin graduate studies in philosophy, they’re typically looking to explore the essence of existence — and suffice it to say, most are not getting on a path to riches. But one of Silicon Valley’s most influential billionaires, LinkedIn founder and Greylock Partners investor Reid […]

Brain Bath

That ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket

From George Anders 2015 column in Forbes magazine. Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s 42-year-old cofounder and CEO, whose estimated double-digit stake in the company could be worth $300 million or more. He’s the proud holder of an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Canada’s University of Victoria and a master’s degree from Cambridge in philosophy and the history of science. “Studying philosophy taught me two things,” says Butterfield, sitting in his office in San Francisco’s South of Market district, a neighborhood almost entirely dedicated to the cult of coding. “I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument […]

Brain Bath

Why study philosophy?: A statement by Jordan Kotick, Vice-President J.P. Morgan, Wall Street

While considering what to study in my first year as an Undergraduate, I decided to take a few Philosophy courses. When informed of my decision, those I knew murmured, “Philosophy…what are you going to do with that?” Soon after my first year was complete, realizing that I enjoyed these courses and my intellectual curiosity was peaked and challenged, I decided that one of my double majors as an undergraduate was going to be Philosophy. The echoes grew louder as those I knew grumbled “Philosophy? What are you going to do with that?” After four years and a Bachelor of Arts […]

Brain Bath

A Society with Poor Critical Thinking Skills: The Case for ‘Argument’ in Education

Huffington Post (08/15/13 | Updated 10/15/13) by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz Researchers have shown that most students today are weak in critical thinking skills. They do poorly on simple logical reasoning tests (Evans, 2002). Only a fraction of graduating high school seniors (6 percent of 12th graders) can make informed, critical judgments about written text (Perie, Grigg, and Donahue, 2005). This problem applies to both reading and writing. Only 15 percent of 12th graders demonstrate the proficiency to write well-organized essays that consisted of clear arguments (Perie et al., 2005). Critical thinking and argument skills — the abilities to both generate and critique arguments […]

"John Stuart Mill," by Mitch Francis

Mill’s Utilitarianism

What Utilitarianism Is
According to the Greatest Happiness Principle… [hilite]the ultimate end[/hilite], with reference to and for the sake of which all other things are desirable (whether we are considering our own good or that of other people), [hilite]is an existence exempt as far as possible from pain, and as rich as possible in enjoyments[/hilite], both in point of quantity and quality; the test of quality, and the rule for measuring it against quantity, being the preference felt by those who in their opportunities of experience, to which must be added their habits of self-consciousness and self-observation, are best furnished with the means of comparison.

"John Stuart Mill," by Mitch Francis

Mill’s Hedonism

The selections come from Mill’s (1863) Utilitarianism.[oohcol][oohead]Chapter 2[/oohead] The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure. To give a clear view of the moral standard set up by the theory, much more requires to be said; in particular, what things it includes in the ideas of pain and pleasure; and to what […]

"Aristotle," by Mitch Francis

Aristotle’s Ethics – Book X: On Happiness and Contemplation

This section of our text is selected from Book X of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Εθικη Νικομαχοι). Trans. W.D. Ross.[pretty-pdf][bekkernote][avatars][oohcol] [commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”]Aristotle here argues that if happiness depends on virtue, and the best virtue is intellectual, then the life of study and contemplation is the happiest.[/commentary] [oohead class=”centerhead”]Book X[/oohead] Chapter 6: Recap before conclusion Now that we have spoken of the virtues, the forms of friendship, and the varieties of pleasure, what remains is to discuss in outline the nature of happiness, since this is what we state the end of human nature to be. Our discussion will be the more […]

The Perfect Moral Storm: Philosophers Respond to the Impending Anthropogenic Apocalypse

For at least the next 200 years, weather forecasts predict shitstorms, with global temperatures now set to remain elevated for hundreds of years to come. The latest IPCC report explains that our emissions are nearing the point of no return. Even if industrialized nations switched to solar power overnight, it is now too late to fully reverse the planet’s course. Geologists have officially termed this new epoch, where the human species has irreparably shaped earth’s geological history, the
Anthropocene. Policymakers no longer have the luxury to decide how we might “stop” global warming. Instead, we have to figure out how we’ll manage amidst climate instability.

God, from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel fresco.

Can The Existence of God be Proved?

This Saint Thomas Aquinas selection comes from his Summa Theologica, PRIMA PARS, Second and Revised Edition, 1920; trans. by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. The William Paley selection is drawn from Natural Theology (1801).[oohcol][oohead]Cosmological and Teleological Arguments for God[/oohead] [commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”] Believers that a god exists are termed theists (from theos, which is Greek for ‘god’), and deniers of the same, atheists. Theists don’t usually become believers on the basis of a careful consideration of the evidence. But nor, in general, do people come to believe in the external world or in a political ideology by explicitly weighing evidence. […]

"John Stuart Mill," by Mitch Francis

Mill’s “On Liberty”

John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859: Harvard Classics Volume 25, 1909 P.F. Collier & Son).[oohcol] [commentary]This document is edited to about half its full length.[/commentary] [shadowbox] “The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument unfolded in these pages directly converges, is the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity.” Wilhelm von Humboldt,  Sphere and Duties of Government “To the beloved and deplored memory of her who was the inspirer, and in part the author, of all that is best in my writings—the friend and wife whose exalted sense of truth and right was my strongest incitement, and […]

Tocqueville caricature by Honoré Daumier, 1849.

De Tocqueville’s “Democracy In America”

I hold it to be an impious and an execrable maxim that, politically speaking, a people has a right to do whatsoever it pleases, and yet I have asserted that all authority originates in the will of the majority. Am I then, in contradiction with myself? A general law—which bears the name of Justice—has been made and sanctioned, not only by a majority of this or that people, but by a majority of mankind. The rights of every people are consequently confined within the limits of what is just.

"John Stuart Mill," by Mitch Francis

Mill’s Harm Principle

from John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859).[oohcol] [oohead]The Harm Principle[/oohead] The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. [hilite bg=”#e5e5e5″]That the only purpose for which power can be […]

Midgley, “Trying Out One’s New Sword”

The selection is Mary Midgley’s “Trying Out One’s New Sword,” from her Heart and Mind (St. Martin’s Press: 1981). Many thanks to Professor Midgley for permission to use this piece on[oohcol class=”show-display-posts”] [oohead]”Trying Out One’s New Sword”[/oohead] [commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”] Mary Midgley is an English ethicist, who was senior lecturer at Newcastle University, England. She is the author of Beast and Man, Heart and Mind, and Wickedness. “Moral isolationists,” according to Midgley, deny we are ever in a position to judge other cultures from a moral point of view. She notes, though, that many moral isolationists think individuals from other […]

Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie (c. 1797)

Wollstonecraft, “The Rights of Women”

The selection comes from Chapter 9 of Mary Wollstonecraft’s (1759–1797) classic, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), titled, “Of the Pernicious Effects Which Arise from the Unnatural Distinctions Established in Society.”[oohcol class=”show-display-posts”] The preposterous distinctions of rank, which render civilization a curse, by dividing the world between voluptuous tyrants, and cunning envious dependents, corrupt, almost equally, every class of people, because [hilite bg=”#e5e5e5″]respectability is[/hilite] not [hilite bg=”#e5e5e5″]attached to[/hilite] the discharge of the relative duties of life, but to the [hilite bg=”#e5e5e5″]station[/hilite], and when the duties are not fulfilled the affections cannot gain sufficient strength to fortify the virtue […]

Phi - for Philosophy

Late/Missed work

[oohcol][oohead]What about late work? Missed tests?[/oohead] [phil writer=”Lalor”] I enforce submission deadlines and late penalties to invite commitment to the intellectual work we do, and to provide motivation. So know your due dates! Late quizzes or essays? The grade book is set up to deduct 7% per day for late submissions of quizzes and essays. At the end of the semester, I will drop at least one quiz grade. That’s not a “free skip”; it’s for your emergency – the one you don’t know about yet. If you “use” the drop for something else, you won’t have it for your […]

"Marx," by Mitch Francis

Marx on Appearance and Reality of Markets

Our selections come from Volume 1 of Marx’s 1867 Capital, trans. Ben Fowkes (Penguin, 1976), 280, 381.[oohcol][oohead]Marx: the Appearance is an Eden of Freedom…[/oohead][commentary]For a biographical introduction to Marx, visit this page.[/commentary] from Part II: The Transformation of Money in Capital, Chapter 6, “The Buying and Selling of Labour-Power” [shadowbox]The Eden of nature and rights…[/shadowbox]The sphere of circulation or commodity exchange, within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. It is the exclusive realm of Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and […]

Portrait of Adam Smith by John Kay, 1790

Smith on Government Interference

Our selections come from Book IV, Chapters 2 and 9 of Adam Smith’s 1776 An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. Edwin Cannan (The Modern Library, New York, 1937), 649 – 51.[oohcol][oohead]Smith on Government Interference[/oohead][commentary]Adam Smith (1723-1790) was a Scottish philosopher and political economist.[/commentary] from Chapter 2: “On Restraints upon the Importation from Foreign Countries of such Goods as can be produced at Home” The annual revenue of every society is always precisely equal to the exchangeable value of the whole annual produce of its industry, or rather is precisely the same thing with […]

Peter Kropotkin (circa 1900)

Kropotkin’s “Mutual Aid”

Our selections come from Chapters 2 and 3 of Peter Kropotkin’s 1902 Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution.[oohcol][oohead]Mutual Aid[/oohead][commentary]Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin (December 9, 1842 – February 8, 1921) was a Russian philosophical anarchist. Kropotkin argues that whereas evolution is often understood as a fundamentally competition-dependent process, the reality is that competition is not even the prefered mechanism of selection — cooperation is. [/commentary] [shadowbox]* – “One of the most frequent modes in which Natural Selection acts is, by adapting some individuals of a species to a somewhat different mode of life, whereby they are able to seize unappropriated places […]

Use/Mention Distinction

excerpted from Norman Swartz (1997), “Definitions, Dictionaries, and Meanings.”[oohcol] 1. Science begins with curiosity. 2. Science begins with the nineteenth letter of the English alphabet. Sentence 1 is perfectly sensible (even if what it expresses may be false). But sentence 2 above is a piece of literal nonsense. It is not science itself which begins with a letter; rather it is the word, “science”, that begins with a letter. Sentence 2 should be repaired to read: 1‘. “Science” begins with the nineteenth letter of the English alphabet. To talk (in English) about science (as in sentence 1 above), we use […]

Quine's 1975 passport photo

Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”

Originally published in The Philosophical Review 60 (1951): 20-43. Reprinted in W.V.O. Quine, From a Logical Point of View (Harvard University Press, 1953; second, revised, edition 1961), with the following alterations: “The version printed here diverges from the original in footnotes and in other minor respects: §§1 and 6 have been abridged where they encroach on the preceding essay [“On What There Is”], and §§3-4 have been expanded at points.” Except for minor changes, additions and deletions are indicated in interspersed tables. I wish to thank Torstein Lindaas for bringing to my attention the need to distinguish more carefully the […]

Rebekah Frumkin

Socrates and Glaucon on the Home Shopping Network

by REBEKAH FRUMKIN, McSweeneys (19 May 2010) SOCRATES: Good evening, Glaucon. You look troubled. GLAUCON: I am, Socrates. SOCRATES: What worries you so? GLAUCON: Look at my kitchen floor. That brown scum is the stain of fowl livers. I spilled them earlier today and cleaned them up, but the stains remain. SOCRATES: I see. GLAUCON: The stains are attracting countless pests with their foul odor and bacteria. There is no way to clean them up. SOCRATES: Are you sure of that? GLAUCON: Yes. To do so, I would need some convenient means of cleaning and sterilization. SOCRATES: And you are […]

Index of Passages and Vocabulary

Links to passages Aristotle poses the question: How is happiness acquired? Aristotle’s definition of virtue Martin Luther King’s “an unjust law” Martin Luther King’s “difference made legal” Mill’s harm principle Mill’s utility interpreted in light of humanity’s “progressive being” Plato’s definition of courage Plato’s definition of justice Plato’s definition of temperance Plato’s definition of wisdom Plato’s articulation of might-makes-right Plato’s articulation of the challenge to justice Socrates’ daemon/voice Socrates identifies with Apollo Socrates on death Socrates on “obedience to god” Socrates on the examined life Some Vocabulary Ad hoc Ad hominem Ambiguity Appeal to authority Argument by analogy Begging the […]

"Rene Descartes," by Mitch Francis

Descartes’ Discourse on Method

Selections from Descartes’ Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences are from Jonathan Bennett’s translation. Some words on his practices: “[Brackets] enclose editorial explanations. Small ·dots· enclose material that has been added, but can be read as though it were part of the original text. Occasional •bullets, and also indenting of passages that are not quotations, are meant as aids to grasping the structure of a sentence or a thought. Every four-point ellipsis . . . . indicates the omission of a brief passage that seems to present more difficulty than […]

"Rene Descartes," by Mitch Francis

Descartes’ Passions of the Soul

Selections from Descartes’ Passions of the Soul is from Jonathan Bennett’s translation. Some words on his practices: “[Brackets] enclose editorial explanations. Small ·dots· enclose material that has been added, but can be read as though it were part of the original text. Occasional •bullets, and also indenting of passages that are not quotations, are meant as aids to grasping the structure of a sentence or a thought. Every four-point ellipsis . . . . indicates the omission of a brief passage that seems to present more difficulty than it is worth. Longer omissions are reported between brackets.”[oohcol] [commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”] Passions […]

Analyzing Concepts

Thanks to Jim Pryor for this Guide to Analyzing Concepts.[oohcol]An analysis is a kind of definition. Distinguish, though, between stipulative definitions and analyses of pre-existing concepts. A person may stipulate: In this essay I shall use the word “grog” to mean such-and-such. As long as such stipulations are clear and consistent and the author consistently holds to them, there is no objection. If a philosopher asks a question like “What is death?” on the other hand, he’s not just after some stipulative answer. He wants to know what death really is. He wants to know what we’re thinking and talking […]

Some Good and Bad Forms of Argument

Thanks to Jim Pryor for this Guide to Some Good and Bad Forms of Argument.[oohcol] Reductio ad absurdum The following is a valid form of argument: “If P, then Q. But not-Q. So not-P.” Some students initially have difficulty understanding why this is a valid form of argument. Think of it this way: We know that if P, then Q. Now suppose for the sake of argument that P is true. Then Q would have to be true, too, right? Since if P, then Q. But we know that Q is not true!–this is one of our premises. So our […]

Vocabulary Describing Arguments

Thanks to Jim Pryor for this Guide to Vocabulary Describing Arguments.[oohcol]Most of the arguments philosophers concern themselves with are–or purport to be–deductive arguments. Mathematical proofs are a good example of deductive argument. Most of the arguments we employ in everyday life are not deductive arguments but rather inductive arguments. Inductive arguments are arguments which do not attempt to establish a thesis conclusively. Rather, they cite evidence which makes the conclusion somewhat reasonable to believe. The methods Sherlock Holmes employed to catch criminals (and which Holmes misleadingly called “deduction”) were examples of inductive argument. Other examples of inductive argument include: concluding […]

What is an Argument?

Thanks to Jim Pryor for this Guide to Arguments.[oohcol]An argument is not the same thing as a quarrel. The goal of an argument is not to attack your opponent, or to impress your audience. The goal of an argument is to offer good reasons in support of your conclusion, reasons that all parties to your dispute can accept. Nor is an argument just the denial of what the other person says. Even if what your opponent says is wrong and you know it to be wrong, to resolve your dispute you have to produce arguments. And you haven’t yet produced […]

Guidelines on Grades

Thanks to Jim Pryor for these Guidelines on Grades. [oohcol] [commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”] In general, grades in the ‘A’-range reflect exceptional, creative/critical thinking; ‘B’-range grades reflect a solid/good grasp of content; ‘C’-range, satisfactory work; ‘D’-range, inadequate, but passing; and ‘F’, failing work. In particular cases, you receive guidelines for each writing assignment. But between universal and particular, it’s possible to “get a sense” of what constitutes good work in philosophy, and of how a grading scheme might capture degrees of good. To that end, I recommend a careful look at the Argumentative Essay, Short Response, and Excellent Paragraph rubrics I use. […]

Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper

Thanks to Jim Pryor for these Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper. [oohcol][shadowbox styl=”padding: 8px;”][phil writer=”Lalor” styl=”float: left; margin: 6px;”]Expert tip: Learn a lot about writing philosophy well: Before you write, and as you write, – study this document, and – study a good grading rubric. [/shadowbox] Philosophical writing is different from the writing you’ll be asked to do in other courses. Most of the strategies described below will also serve you well when writing for other courses, but don’t automatically assume that they all will. Nor should you assume that every writing guideline you’ve been given by other teachers […]

Guidelines on Reading Philosophy

Thanks to Jim Pryor for these Guidelines on Reading Philosophy. [oohcol] It will be difficult for you to make sense of some of the articles we’ll be reading. This is partly because they discuss abstract ideas that you’re not accustomed to thinking about. They may also use technical vocabulary which is new to you. Sometimes it won’t be obvious what the overall argument of the paper is supposed to be. The prose may be complicated, and you may need to pick the article apart sentence by sentence. Here are some tips to make the process easier and more effective. Skim […]

"Schopenhauer," by Mitch Francis

Schopenhauer on Pessimism

[commentary] Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher. This piece comes from The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer: Studies in Pessimism, vol. 4 (Penn State Electronic Classics)[/commentary] [oohead styl=”padding-top: 4px;”]On the Suffering of the World[/oohead] by Arthur Schopenhauer [phil]Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim. It is absurd to look upon the enormous amount of pain that abounds everywhere in the world, and originates in needs and necessities inseparable from life itself, as serving no purpose at all and the result of mere chance. […]

A Philosophical Glossary for Beginners

Thanks to Jim Pryor for this Creative Commons glossary.[oohcol] Ad hoc You call something ad hoc when it’s introduced for a particular purpose, instead of for some general, antecedently motivated reason. So, for instance, an ad hoc decision is a decision you make when there’s no general rule or precedent telling you what to do. Philosophers sometimes accuse their opponents of making ad hoc hypotheses (or ad hoc stipulations, or ad hoc amendments to their analyses, etc.). These are hypotheses (or stipulations or amendments) adopted purely for the purpose of saving a theory from difficulty or refutation, without any independent […]
Bertrand Russell

Russell’s “On Denoting”

Originally printed in Mind, 1905; text from Logic and Knowledge, ed. Robert Marsh, 1956. [oohcol] [oohead]”On Denoting,” by Bertrand Russell[/oohead] By a `denoting phrase’ I mean a phrase such as any one of the following: a man, some man, any man, every man, all men, the present King of England, the presenting King of France, the center of mass of the solar system at the first instant of the twentieth century, the revolution of the earth round the sun, the revolution of the sun round the earth. Thus a phrase is denoting solely in virtue of its form. We may […]

Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm’s Ontological Argument

The full Proslogium is available from The Medieval Sourcebook. The notes in the text are based on those of Paul Halsall, and the translation is David Burr’s. Special thanks to Gideon Rosen for the use of his commentary on Anselm’s argument. [oohcol] [oohead]The Ontological Argument of Anselm of Canterbury[/oohead] [commentary] [phil writer=”Lalor”]Anselm of Canterbury (1033—1109) was among the most important philosophical and theological thinkers of the eleventh century. He is most remembered for his “Ontological Argument” in favor of God’s existence. That argument is excerpted here, from the beginning of his Proslogium. The main argument is followed by philosopher Gideon […]

Quine's 1975 passport photo

Quine’s “On What There Is”

by Willard Van Orman Quine (Review of Metaphysics 2:1, 1948). Reprinted in 1953 From a Logical Point of View. Harvard University Press. [oohcol] A curious thing about the ontological problem is its simplicity. It can be put in three Anglo-Saxon monosyllables: ‘What is there?’ It can be answered, moreover, in a word—‘Everything’—and everyone will accept this answer as true. However, this is merely to say that there is what there is. There remains room for disagreement over cases; and so the issue has stayed alive down the centuries. Suppose now that two philosophers, McX and I, differ over ontology. Suppose […]

"Rene Descartes," by Mitch Francis

Descartes & the Mind-Body Problem

Our translation of Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy comes from Elizabeth Haldane, The Philosophical Works of Descartes. Vol. II. 1934, pp. 32-3. [oohcol] [oohead class=”centerhead”]Descartes: Some Arguments for – and Explanations of – Dualism[/oohead] Here below are classic excerpts from Descartes’ Meditations in which he argues that the mind and body are distinct substances. His arguments depend on what’s now called Leibniz’s law: If a = b, then a must have all the properties b has; conversely, if b and a fail to share all properties, then they are not identical. Be sure you “see” how Leibniz’ law works here. […]

I'm Dangerous

“I think, therefore I earn”

[oohead]Philosophy graduates are suddenly all the rage with employers. What can they possibly have to offer?[/oohead]by Jessica Shepherd, The Guardian (19 November 2007) “A degree in philosophy? What are you going to do with that then?” Philosophy students will tell you they’ve been asked this question more times than they care to remember. “The response people seem to want is a cheery shrug and a jokey ‘don’t know’,” says Joe Cunningham, 20, a final-year philosophy undergraduate at Heythrop College, University of London. A more accurate comeback, according to the latest statistics, is “just about anything I want”. Figures from the […]

Stretching Beyond

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we are saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we are saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own; therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness. ~Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (1952)

Wall Street

The US is not a democracy but an oligarchy, study concludes

by JC Sevcik, UPI, April 16, 2014 WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) — Oligarchy is a form of government in which power is vested in a dominant class and a small group exercises control over the general population. A new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities concluded that the U.S. government represents not the interests of the majority of citizens but those of the rich and powerful. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” analyzed extensive data, comparing nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted between 1981 and 2002 with the expressed preferences of average and affluent Americans as […]

Out of Body Experience

How to Have an Out-of-Body Experience

Greg Stevens, Science Correspondent, The Kernel, Thursday, 10 April 2014 You can have an out of body experience right now, and it isn’t even that hard. Some people can do it more easily than others, and it may take a little practice. But it is something that anybody can do, and it can be done scientifically. Senses and the self Let’s start with a question: Where do you feel like the center of your “self” is right now? Most people feel like the center of their consciousness—the vantage from which they are experiencing the world—is somewhere behind their eyes. This […]

Karen Warren is an ecofeminist scholar, and was Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Macalester College in Minnesota.

Warren’s Introduction to EcoFeminism

This piece was originally published in Michael E. Zimmerman, J. Baird Callicott, George Sessions, Karen J. Warren, and John Clark (Eds.), Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology (Prentice-Hall, 1993), pp. 253-267. [oohcol] [commentary] Karen J. Warren is a feminist philosopher who has published essays on ecofeminism and edited several special issues on ecofeminism for Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy and the American Philosophical Association, Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy. Warren is completing three books on ecological feminism, one co-authored with Jim Cheney and entitled Ecological Feminism, and two anthologies on ecofeminism. Warren also conducts workshops on environmental […]

Aldo Leopold on Rimrock above the Rio Gavilan in northern Mexico

Leopold’s Land Ethic

This piece comes from A Sand County Almanac (Oxford University Press, 1948). [oohcol][commentary][oohead] About Leopold*[/oohead][shadowbox]* – This is the blurb from pp. 227-228 of the 1987 printing of the book.[/shadowbox] Aldo Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa, on January 11 1887. As a boy he developed a lively interest in field ornithology and natural history and after schooling in Burlington, at Lawrenceville Prep in New Jersey, and the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, he enrolled in the Yale forestry school, the first graduate school of forestry in the United States. Graduating with a masters in 1909, he joined the U.S. […]

John Seed

Seed’s “Beyond Anthropocentrism”

This text is from Thinking Like a Mountain: Toward a Council of All Beings in John Seed, Joanna Macy, Arne Naess & Pat Fleming (New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, 1988). First published in Ecophilosophy 5 (Sierra College, California) and reprinted in Pantheism, Oikos, Awakening in the Nuclear Age, and several Australian journals. [oohcol] by John Seed “But the time is not a strong prison either. A little scraping of the walls of dishonest contractor’s concrete Through a shower of chips and sand makes freedom. Shake the dust from your hair. This mountain sea-coast is real For it reaches out far into […]

David Abram

Abram’s “Merleau-Ponty and the Voice of the Earth”

Originally published in  Environmental Ethics, volume 10 (1988), pp. 101-120. Thanks to David Abram for permission to post this piece here. [oohcol] by David Abram [oohead]Introduction[/oohead] Slowly, inexorably, members of our species are beginning to catch sight of a world that exists beyond the confines of our specific culture—beginning to recognize, that is, that our own personal, social, and political crises reflect a growing crisis in the biological matrix of life on the planet. The ecological crisis may be the result of a recent and collective perceptual disorder in our species, a unique form of myopia which it now forces […]

"Pascal," by Mitch Francis

Pascal’s Wager for God

Our selections come from the W. F. Trotter translation (introduced by T. S. Eliot) (New York: Dutton, 1958) of Pascal’s Pensées. [oohcol] [commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”]The mathematician, geometer, physicist, inventor, theologian, and philosopher Blaise Pascal lived from 1623 until 1662 – just after he turned 39. At 16, his first serious work in an essay “On Conics” (about the Mystical Hexagram), states what is now called “Pascal’s Theorem.” The prodigy Pascal shaped economics, probability theory, and computing, among other disciplines. He even invented and created over 20 mechanical calculators – two of which are still on display in Paris and Dresden. After […]

"Wittgenstein," by Mitch Francis

Wittgenstein’s Serious Games

[oohcol] [commentary][oohead]The Investigator[/oohead][phil writer=”Lalor”] The philosopher of language Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) argued that there is no set of concepts that capture reality thanks to their unambiguous “meanings”; deep down, meaning rides on game-like social practices. Coming… Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui […]

"Alan Turing," by Mitch Francis

Turing’s Test for Personhood

Turing, A.M. (1950), “Computing machinery and intelligence.” Mind, 59, 433-460. [oohcol] [shadowbox]* – Turing, A.M. (1936). “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungs Problem.” Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. 2 (1937) 42: 230–265.[/shadowbox][commentary][oohead]Turing – The Man[/oohead][phil writer=”Lalor”]Alan Mathison Turing (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was a father of modern computer science. In a 1936 paper *, Turing invented a hypothetical, automatic computing machine; and by 1948, he was working on the British Manchester Mark I computer project. From late 1938, Turing devoted immense mental power to the cryptanalysis of the Axis’ Enigma code, for decryption […]

"Rene Descartes," by Mitch Francis

Descartes’ Meditations

This translation of Descartes’ 1641 Meditations is from the 1911 edition of The Philosophical Works of Descartes (Cambridge University Press), translated from the Latin by Elizabeth S. Haldane.1 [avatars] Download an imperfect PDF of this page. [oohcol] [oohead class=”centerhead”]Introduction to Descartes’ Meditations[/oohead][phil writer=”Lalor”][commentary]Warning: The text you are about to read was placed on the Index of Prohibited Books in 1663 by Pope Alexander VII, just over a decade after the death of its author, René Descartes (1595-1650). As if that were not itself a significant enough achievement, here are but a few representative lines from his “résumé”: Listed under “Mathematician”: […]

NYU sociologist Andrew Ross

Are Student Loans Immoral?

by Andrew Ross, The Daily Beast (09.27.12). Millions of grads are saddled with unpayable student loans, yet colleges still say they’re a sound investment. NYU professor Andrew Ross asks if it’s time to stop repaying the loans. [commentary styl=”width: 60%; float: right; margin-left: 20px;”][phil writer=”Lalor”]Andrew Ross is an NYU sociologist who argues that the state of student loans – which students pay back at a rate higher than what the government itself borrows for – is unethical. Unwieldy loans have become “normalized,” their significance hardly noticed – until we step back from anecdotes to take in the data:[quote]41 percent of […]

NYU Professor of Philosophy, Samuel Scheffler

What Matters to the Dead?

[commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”]Samuel Scheffler’s piece in The New York Times toward the end of September hit a couple nails on the head for us: He considered, philosophically, the significance that knowledge of planetary doom would have — which is precisely the issue Ron Curie tackles “fictionally” in Everything Matters. Scheffler: [quote]Suppose you knew that although you yourself would live a long life and die peacefully in your sleep, the earth and all its inhabitants would be destroyed 30 days after your death in a collision with a giant asteroid. How would this knowledge affect you?[/quote] In the work below, he infers […]

"Plato," by Mitch Francis


[oohcol] [oohead class=”centerhead”]Significance[/oohead] [phil writer=”Lalor”]Plato has staying power. Although he lived from 427—347 BCE, he is still rightly considered one of the greatest philosophers ever. According to the great English philosopher and mathematician, Alfred North Whitehead — one of the twentieth century’s great philosophers in his own right –[quote]The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. (Process and Reality. Free Press, 1979. 39.) [/quote]And Plato is a supreme systematizer: his work harmonizes into one whole his philosophies of education, ethics, politics, love, and psychology; his theories of knowledge, […]

Business Needs Philosophy

Why Future Business Leaders Need Philosophy

BigThink – August 3, 2013 by Anders Poulsen In the wake of the financial crisis, an era of severe turbulence, rapid changes and increasing complexity has emerged. A black cloud hangs over the past decade’s economic prosperity and global consumption habits, which fundamentally challenges the purpose of business. All too often the approach to business practices has been one-dimensional, lacking in richness and depth. This goes for both the cheerleaders and the critics of the current business practices. In these times, it is important to be able to view the world in different shades – one of possibilities, rather than […]

A Sample Contents

Here’s a sample of readings drawn from the Texts on this site: We open with some “Socratic Lives” – that of Martin Luther King, Jr., and that gadfly on which King in part modeled himself: Socrates. Each in his way, these thinkers were doers. Challengers of the status quo beliefs, they called for rational consistency and for justice. Each in his way created a situation of what King called “constructive tension,” in which we – as individuals and as “society” – must confront ourselves, and respond to the challenges of consistency and justice. (Warning: Carrying such a message can be […]

About Open Philosophy

[oohcol] Open Philosophy is a dynamic anthology of “open access texts” you would expect to find assigned in college philosophy courses. The works are curated, edited, and annotated by Brendan Lalor. They vary in length and depth of annotation. Some are short with little commentary; others feature definitions, historical context, conceptual explanations, film clips, provocations, and original and classic art. It is “free” in Richard Stallman's sense of “free beer” (you pay nothing; there’s no price barrier, so it’s gratis). Here are some key ideas and features. [oohead]Open & free[/oohead] As an open access text, Open Philosophy is “open” in […]

Mitch Francis, Artiste

Mitch Francis, Artist

[oohcol class=”oc3-4″] Mitch Francis (B.A., Castleton State College, 2014) created a number of the illustrations on the site. Meet Mitch. [quote styl=”margin: 1em 25px;” style=”1″ class=”325″]I was an art major and have been drawing cartoons my whole life. I love to create stories and ideas and then put them to paper. I wrote and illustrated my own children’s book, The Hungriest Tadamus. Other hobbies include: hanging out with my fiancé Emily, watching a lot of movies, reading a lot of comic books, and making funny noises.[/quote] [clear] [/oohcol]

"Marx," by Mitch Francis

Marx’s Alienated Labor

Marx wrote The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts between April and August 1844. [oohcol] [commentary] [clear] Karl Marx (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883), one of the very founders of the social sciences, argued that attention-grabbing historical changes are at bottom not explained by convincing politicians with bright notions like “equality for all,” or by military strategists, or by rising and falling social movements, artistic trends, or favorite TV shows. All these operate under the sway, or even in the service, of economic processes: talk of “economic freedom” is closer to the heart of history, as are wars for resources, […]

"Sartre," by Mitch Francis

Sartre’s Existentialism

This main text here is the lecture Sartre delivered October 29, 1945 to a packed Club Maintenant in Paris. It served also as the basis for the 1946 book, Existentialism and Humanism. [avatars] [oohcol] [commentary] [oohead] 1. Introduction [/oohead] [phil writer=”Lalor”]Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) is one of the 20th century’s most colorful philosophers: toward the beginning of the 1940s, Sartre spent nine months in a Nazi prison camp, and after World War II popularized the “existentialist” movement elucidated below; in the 50s, he publicly attributed responsibility to all French citizens for atrocities in the Algerian War; in 1964, he turned down […]

"Kierkegaard," by Mitch Francis

Kierkegaard’s “Spheres”

[oohcol][commentary] [oohead styl=”padding-top: 0px !important”]The Melancholy Dane[/oohead] Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a Danish philosopher and religious thinker. Once on a course for the ministry and marriage, he abandoned both in his wrestle for authenticity. His philosophy elevates “The Individual” over “The Crowd,” the patterns in whose lives are structured, scripted, and cued by the Lutheran Church or the Press – religious and secular cookie-cutters which undermine human lives of depth. The flame of his own spiritual passion, however, is unmistakeable in his quest to find authentic Christian faith, which, he testifies, is especially hard in Christendom, where “Everyone is a […]

"Epictetus," by Mitch Francis

Epictetus’ Stoicism

Our text is the 1916 P. E. Matheson translation of The Manual Of Epictetus. [oohcol][commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”] Epictetus (55 – 135 C.E.) was born in what is now Turkey, but served as slave to a wealthy Roman master. His name itself derives from the Greek word for ‘acquired’. He was permitted to study philosophy, and took to Stoicism, which derives its name from the Stoa Poikile (Greek for ‘painted porch’) which lies in the Athenian Agora (or city center). In fact, if you were to step off the porch and face the center of the Agora, the Athenian Court in which […]

Comments & Symbols on Written Work

[oohead]Perplexed by the comments and markings in my feedback on your work – whether online, or on paper? You will find some answers here.[/oohead] [phil writer=”Lalor” styl=”float: right; left: 0 !important;”]Items in grey rows fall on the formal/mechanics side of the spectrum of evaluation. They refer to criteria such as length requirements, spelling, and grammar. Items in green rows fall on the content/conceptual side, and include criteria for assessing the articulation of ideas, the evaluation of evidence, and the composition and presentation of arguments. [help][/help] links to help pages. This list is worth some attention prior to paper-writing, as a […]

"Epicurus," by Mitch Francis

Epicurus’ Principal Doctrines

[oohcol][commentary] by Epicurus (Ἐπίκουρος), trans. Peter Saint-Andre (2008).[/commentary] [oohead]Principal Doctrines[/oohead]   English Translation Greek Original [note] 1. That which is blissful and immortal has no troubles itself, nor does it cause trouble for others, so that it is not affected by anger or gratitude (for all such things come about through weakness). [note] τὸ μακάριον καὶ ἄφθαρτον οὔτε αὐτὸ πράγματα ἔχει οὔτε ἄλλῳ παρέχει· ὥστε οὔτε ὀργαῖς οὔτε χάρισι συνέχεται· ἐν ἀσθενεῖ γὰρ πᾶν τὸ τοιοῦτον. 2. Death is nothing to us; for what has disintegrated lacks awareness, and what lacks awareness is nothing to us. [note] ὁ θάνατος οὐδὲν […]

"Epicurus," by Mitch Francis

Epicurus’ Letter

Our text is Epicurus’ Letter to Menoikos. Trans. Peter Saint-Andre. 2011. [avatars] [oohcol] [oohead]Epicurus’ Eden[/oohead][commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”]Aristotle’s death in 322 B.C.E. brought a Golden Age to a close; but Greek philosophy was then still to birth Stoicism and Epicureanism, two schools that emphasized self-mastery as the rudder that allows one to steer a course around life’s troubles and toward the good life. Epicurus (Ἐπίκουρος, 341-270 B.C.E.) articulated a moderate hedonist philosophy – so called for the Greek hēdonismos (ἡδονισμός), which is in turn derived from hēdonē (ἡδονή), meaning ‘pleasure’. He presented a moderate approach to life, but one based on the […]