Three kinds of thought experiments in philosophy

Thought experiments are quite common in philosophy, but they are also quite problematic. Some thought experiments are meant to be taken almost literally (as in the case of Hobbes’s state of nature), while other are meant to lead the reader to a ‘logical’ conclusion based on a number of propositions (as in the case of Searle’s Chinese Room). Whatever the intention of the philosophers may be, it is important to establish what kinds of thought […]

Ten underappreciated philosophers of the Islamic World

On August 27th 2016, OUP published a list of 10 underappreciated philosophers of the Islamic World. The list is not readable on mobile phones (mine at least) and for this reason has been reproduced below. It was compiled by Peter Adamson, who is the author of Philosophy in the Islamic World. The philosophical contribution of Islamic culture often goes unacknowledged, and when it is recognized, it is often reduced to a discussion of Islamic influence on European […]

“If a tree falls in a forest …”, and quantum mechanics

‘If a tree falls in a forest and absolutely nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ – This question has been asked quite a few times over the years. The first known formulation of this question was written back in 1883 in The Chautauquan, an educational magazine. Its popularity is probably due to its publication in the well known Scientific American, a year later. This is a bit weird as it is normally […]

Michael Frazer’s (UEA) response to the Brexit Referendum

“When I woke up Friday morning, my Facebook friends—pro-Remain university lecturers, mostly—were quoting Yeats: “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” There was an easy explanation for what had just happened. As former Europe minister Keith Vaz told the BBC, “emotions” had triumphed over reason. […]

The Christian halo paradox

What follows is mostly an art history lesson into religious iconography. The word ‘halo’ has its origins in Ancient Greek – literally meaning ‘threshing-floor’, a circular space that was used to thresh grain by walking around it. The repeated movement around this space would leave a mark that looks like a halo. We can already notice that the Christian halo has its roots elsewhere, but it is nevertheless strange. There is, to be sure, no mention of […]

6 Paradoxes in Macbeth – a study guide

Macbeth is known for its paradoxes and there are many of them in the play. Though I am by no means an expert in drama, and in fact my main appreciation of Shakespeare is in Hamlet (for madness) and Othello (for being an outsider with an ability to seduce). I have read most of his sonnets, and I still think them rather dull (sorry Shakespeare fans). And yet, despite these admissions, I will also admit […]

Some thoughts on art – part 3 (Zizek again)

My last written thoughts on art in this blog were roughly one and a half years ago. That’s a very long time to come back to a certain text; unless, of course, if you are an academic and for some reason are drawn to particular texts more than others. I picked up my copy of The Fragile Absolute and started reading, only to be captured once again on Zizek’s analysis of art. My estimation is that […]

Was Nietzsche an aristocratic elitist?

Nietzsche is often portrayed as an aristocratic elitist, whose main concern was with the higher morals and who strongly opposed any type of herd mentality. Although this is generally true, albeit very crudely formulated (and indeed oversimplified), for some reason there is also a consideration that because Nietzsche was concerned with higher morals, he was therefore also an elitist aristocrat in his political views, disavowing any sense of egalitarian community. He is considered to be […]

Differences between Marxism, Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism, and Maoism

While teaching a module on the Communist Manifesto (and the Manifesto alone), a student of mine admitted to struggle with different forms of Marxism. Though I am not an expert on these, being schooled in Marxism only, it became apparent that I should perhaps have a somewhat rudimentary knowledge of what the differences are in order to satisfy different interests. At the same time, there are many forms of Marxism – so to enumerate all […]

Is there a paradox in Kant’s ethics? Must we tell the truth?

There has been quite some misunderstanding in undergraduate courses on Kant’s moral philosophy. The general argument presented there is that Kant as a deontological thinker places greater value on duty/rules than on anything else. So the general argument that is presented to undergraduates in order to make them think further, is that Kant would under no circumstances allow lying. Those who study philosophy have certainly heard the famed axe-man scenario: A well-known murder knocks on […]