Democratic Socialism

Bernie Sanders has probably recently given this term new popularity but it isn’t necessarily a new term. However in a recent speech Sanders articulates what he means when he uses the term. You can read his explanation here. From what he has explained the main take away for me is that “Democratic Socialism” does not believe the state should own the means of production. At this point I’m not too sure how that is different from the classical definition of socialism but apparently it is. I would appreciate any thoughts you might have on the matter.

M.A. in Philosophy?

It is a challenge to find an institution that offers an M.A. in Philosophy. Most Universities are looking for students willing to commit to a PhD program. However, Geoff Pynn (Northern Illinois) has already done some of the grunt work for you in keeping a running list of institutions that offer the M.A. degree and even provides some details on funding. This is a valuable resource and you can access it here.

KANT: His Problem With David Hume


In the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics we find an interesting statement made by Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) that opens up a dilemma that he refers to as “Hume’s Problem” (referring to the philosopher David Hume 1711 – 1776). It is here in the Prolegomena that Kant writes,

“I openly confess that my remembering David Hume was the very thing which many years ago first interrupted my dogmatic slumber and gave my investigations in the filed of speculative philosophy a quite new direction”

That’s interesting, Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature was the catalyst that woke Kant from his “dogmatic slumber”. You might be thinking to yourself “what exactly does that mean”?

A very good question to be asking. The term “dogmatic” has taken on different meanings through out history. During Kant’s time it referred to a way of thinking that wasn’t grounded in the surety of empiricism or experiential; rather it was more speculative in nature. Kant was trained by a rationalist philosopher by the name of Christian Wolff (1679-1754) and for the most part he initially adopted much of Wolffs philosophy. So when Kant says that Hume woke him from his dogmatic slumber you come away with the idea that Kant was to a certain extent a rationalist interpreting reality through conceptual means such as logic and feeling pretty content with that. That is until Hume awoke him.

Moving on, I am going to attempt to pinpoint out of Hume’s philosophical corpus the main point of contention that Kant must respond to. In Hume’s work Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding we find a serious critique of one of the most fundamental claims of philosophy. Here Hume writes,

“Custom, then, is the great guide of human life. It is the principle alone, which renders our experience useful to us, and makes us expect, for the future, a similar train of events with those which have appeared in the past. Without the influence of custom, we should be entirely ignorant of every matter of fact, beyond what is immediately present to the memory and senses.”

Allow me to explain. Hume believed that experience was the bases for knowledge but he questioned causation. We typically think that event A caused event B because we observed it in the past. Hume says we have no basis for believing that the present will be like the past. When we see the subsequent event of A causing B it is a habit of thought or “custom”.

Going back to Kant. As I stated above Kant understands there is a problem with a purely rationalistic outlook on knowing and thus allows for experience in knowing. However, what Kant questions in Hume is the notion that causation is objectively vacuous. This in a nut shell is “Hume’s problem.” For Kant Hume is correct in his empiricism but his understanding of causation leads to a form of skepticism that Kant rejects.

Kant’s project is now laid out before him. What does one do if the claims of a pure rationalism or the claims of a pure empiricism are insufficient? You end up adopting a mixture of the two. That is exactly what Kant has done.



Recent Paper on Hume on Miracles

Ahmed, Arif. “Hume and the Independent Eyewitnesses”, Mind (first published online August 2015). The paper offers a reply to the “independent witnesses” criticism raised by Earman, McGrew, et al. Here’s the abstract:

The Humean argument concerning miracles says that one should always think it more likely that anyone who testifies to a miracle is lying or deluded than that the alleged miracle actually occurred, and so should always reject any single report of it. A longstanding and widely accepted objection is that even if this is right, the concurring and non-collusive testimony of many witnesses should make it rational to believe in whatever miracle they all report. I argue that on the contrary, even multiple reports from non-collusive witnesses lack the sort of independence that could make trouble for Hume.

Recent Papers On Kant, Ethics, and Foucault


Kenneth F. Rogerson
Kant and Empirical Concepts
Although Kant is most well-known for his arguments in support of pure or a priori concepts, he also attempts to give an account of how empirical concepts are acquired. In this paper I want to take a close look at this account. Specifically, I am interested in a recent criticism that Kant’s explanation of empirical concept acquisition is, in some sense, circular. I will consider and criticize a recent attempt to solve this problem. Finally, I will argue for my own solution to the circularity problem relying, oddly enough, on Kant’s commitment to pure or a priori concepts of the understanding as well as the pure forms of the imagination. Briefly, I want to argue that Kant can give a coherent and non-circular account of empirical concept acquisition relying primarily on the a priori conceptual tools developed in the Critique of Pure Reason.
Sofie Møller (forthcoming). Rethinking Kant as a Public Intellectual.European Journal of Political Theory:1474885115611518.

In Kant’s Politics in Context, Reidar Maliks offers a compelling account of Kant’s political philosophy as part of a public debate on rights, citizenship, and revolution in the wake of the French Revolution. Maliks argues that Kant’s political thought was developed as a moderate middle ground between radical and conservative political interpretations of his moral philosophy. The book’s central thesis is that the key to understanding Kant’s legal and political thought lies in the public debate among Kant’s followers and that in this debate we find the political challenges which Kant’s political philosophy is designed to solve. Kant’s Politics in Context raises crucial questions about how to understand political thinkers of the past and is proof that our understanding of the past will remain fragmented if we limit our studies to the great men of the established canon.
Zeynep Direk (2014). Phenomenology and Ethics: From Value Theory to an Ethics of Responsibility.Studia Phaenomenologica 14:371-393.

There seems to be a shift in phenomenology in the 20th century from an ethics based on value theory to an ethics based on responsibility. This essay attempts to show the path marks of this transition. It begins with the historical development that led Husserl to address the question of ethical objectivity in terms of value theory, with a focus on Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche. It then explains Husserl’s phenomenology of ethics as grounded in value theory, and takes into account Heidegger’s objections to it. Finally, it considers Sartre as a transitional figure between value theory and an ethics of responsibility and attempts to show in what sense, if at all, Levinas’ phenomenology of ethics could be an absolute break with a phenomenological ethics based on values.
Cristian Iftode (2015). The Ethical Meaning of Foucault’s Aesthetics of Existence.Cultura 12 (2):145-162.

In order to grasp the true ethical meaning of Foucault’s aesthetics of existence, I begin by explaining in what sense he was an anti-normativist, arguing that the most important thing about the “final” Foucault is his strong emphasis on the idea of human freedom. I go on with a brief discussion about Foucault’s sources of inspiration and a criticism of Rorty’s kindred plea for “aesthetic life”. I strongly reject the interpretation of Foucault’s aesthetics of existence in terms of narcissistic individualism, arguing, on the contrary, that it has a definite communitarian dimension. I also claim that it is rooted in the Socratic and Stoic understanding of “care of the self,” at the same time allowing new challenging developments fitted for our “post-duty” historical age, by way of analogy with the process of artistic making. I conclude with some short answers to a few questions regarding the status of this aesthetics of living.

Book Review: Philosophy In The Hellenistic & Roman Worlds

Peter Adamson must be one of those rare breed of writers open to taking on any writing challenge that comes before him. Such is the case with Philosophy In The Hellenistic & Roman Worlds (PHRW). Notice the fine print at very top of the front cover that reads, “A History Of Philosophy Without Any Gaps”. Two things came to mind when I saw this. The first was “it’s about time!” The second thing that came to my mind was “how is that even possible?” To be perfectly candid it isn’t. However, I think Adamson does an outstanding job in spite of the task before him of covering subject matter often missed in academia but doing so in an entertaining way.

Adamson starts by outlining three areas of philosophy that tend not to get too much attention. They are: Hellenistic Philosophy, Pagan Philosophy In The Roman Empire, and Christian Philosophy In The Roman Empire. From these eras Adamson hones in on key disciplines such as metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, logic, ethics, philosophy of language, and the reader will occasionally come across brushes with other disciplines. So at the outset Adamson’s work highlights philosophers and their influences through a historical thematic way providing a much larger picture of the development of thought.

I was personally interested in Adamson’s discussion of Christianity in the Roman World. Adamson explains Christianity’s emergence out of a hedonistic tradition which began conceptually with a the principle of immediate pleasure in hedonism to the understanding of pleasure as a life pursuit in Epicurianism. Christian thought began to dominate the ancient world by appropriating Plato, Aristotle, and pagan thought. It isn’t till the time of Augustine that we begin to see a uniquely Christian philosophy whose impact is still felt today. Adamson points out that Augustines’s influence reaches so far out that even non-Christians today find themselves with Augustinian similarities. One example that I can think of is Bertrand Russell’s appeal to Agustine’s view of time.








Theistic Atheists? Atheistic Theists?

These are strange time we’re living in. Apparently recent studies show that 21% of atheist believe in God. Not sure what to think of this. My first thought is we might be a little unclear on the definition of the term “atheist.” Traditionally an atheist is someone without a belief in God.

“Pew Forum surveys, with sample sizes of more than 35,000, found 4% self-identifying as atheist or agnostic in 2007, and 7% in 2014. Pew gets consistently higher numbers than ARIS on this question; there may be a real increase over time in willingness to claim these labels and also some difference in how Pew asks the question. Pew in 2014 found another 15.8% who said their religion is “nothing in particular,” for a total of 22.8% reporting no religion, and only 0.6% who did not know or refused to answer. . . .

Some of the no-religion people report rather conventional religious beliefs. In the 2014 Pew survey, nearly half the “nothing in particulars” and a majority of the atheists and agnostics also said that religion is somewhat or very important in their lives.

More remarkably, in the 2007 Pew survey, 21% of self-identified atheists said they believe in God or a universal spirit, and 10% of atheists said they pray at least weekly. You cannot assume that survey respondents all understand the questions the same way you do.

These answers suggest believers with no religious identity. But other Americans report a religious identity without having much in the way of belief.

When ARIS asked about the existence of God, 12.3% said “There is no such thing,” “There is no way to know,” or “I’m not sure.” These are the atheist and agnostic answers, and they appeared nearly eight times as often as people who labeled themselves atheist or agnostic.

Another 6.1% refused to answer. It seems unlikely that belief in God is an important part of the lives of those who refuse to answer the question. Another 12.1% said, “There is a higher power but no personal God.” That leaves 69.5% who said “There is definitely a personal God.”. . .

And of course, not everyone who tells a pollster he believes in God is actually religious. The religiously indifferent who rarely think about it much may report belief in God when asked. They may also live their daily lives on a thoroughly secular worldview, with belief in God rising to consciousness only when someone asks.”

Read the whole article here.