PHILOSOPHY – history of thought

see also philosophy of science

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updates 8-2023

>political philosophy 7-2023 Review – The Visionaries by Wolfram Eilenberger – four women who changed the world – The complicated lives and questing minds of Ayn Rand, Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir and Simone Weil – by Caroline Moorehead

In the summer of 1933, four women, all in their 20s, were busy contemplating the meaning of their own existence and the importance of others to it. The word existentialism had not yet been invented, but the quartet were intrigued by the idea of finding a new philosophy, using their own intelligence to change themselves and the world, while working out how the individual and the collective played into the malaise of modern times. Over the next decade, as Wolfram Eilenberger writes, they all crossed paths intellectually, sometimes agreeing, more often not, though it seems that they never actually met….

Free and Equal
What Would a Fair Society Look Like? 4-2023 Free and Equal: What Would a Fair Society Look Like? by Daniel Chandler

‘A tremendous book, timely, wise, authoritative and clear’ Stephen Fry
‘A brilliantly eloquent, incredibly insightful reimagining of liberalism’ Owen Jones
‘Thank God Daniel Chandler has written this fine and necessary book’ Russell Brand
‘Inspiring … impassioned … full of hope’ Zadie Smith
‘This is a fantastic book’ Thomas Piketty

Imagine: you are designing a society, but you don’t know who you’ll be within it – rich or poor, man or woman, gay or straight. What would you want that society to look like?

This is the revolutionary thought experiment proposed by the twentieth century’s greatest political philosopher, John Rawls. As economist and philosopher Daniel Chandler argues in this hugely ambitious and exhilarating intervention, it is by rediscovering Rawls that we can find a way out of the escalating crises that are devastating our world today.

Taking Rawls’s humane and egalitarian liberalism as his starting point, Chandler builds a careful and ultimately irresistible case for a progressive agenda that would fundamentally reshape our societies for the better. He shows how we can protect free speech and transcend the culture wars; get money out of politics; and create an economy where everyone has the chance to fulfil their potential, where prosperity is widely shared, and which operates within the limits of our finite planet.

This is a book brimming with hope and possibility – a galvanising alternative to the cynicism that pervades our politics. Free and Equal has the potential not only to transform contemporary debate, but to offer a touchstone for a modern, egalitarian liberalism for many years to come, cementing Rawls’s place in political discourse, and firmly establishing Chandler as a vital new voice for our time. 14-4-2023 Free and Equal by Daniel Chandler – the road to fairness
A stirring call to make justice and equity a reality by applying the ideas of liberal philosopher John Rawls – review by Stuart Jeffries

>Greek 8-2-2023 Book review- Anaximander. By Carlo Rovelli. Anaximander is a hero in the development of scientific thinking – The polymath demonstrated the utility of challenging perceived wisdom.

>humanism, history of ideas 24-3-2023 Humanly Possible by  Sarah Bakewell review – the meaning of humanism – A skilful examination of seven centuries of thought that deftly combines philosophy, history and biography -by Jane O’Grady

…”…To date the rise of “humanism” to the early Renaissance is, strictly speaking, anachronistic; there was no such term until the 19th century. But Humanly Possible traces a lineage, less of theories than of kindred spirits, over seven centuries in Europe. This runs from medieval umanisti (students of humanity), who remained Christian even while resurrecting “the flowering, perfumed, fruitful works of the pagan world spring” (as John of Salisbury called them), to today’s (more secular) self-declared humanists.

Along with intellectual developments, Sarah Bakewell gives us their material background – books, book-selling, printing, corpse dissection, plagues and sprezzatura (courtly nonchalance). Among figures both well known and not are Christine de Pisan, with her redoubtable defence of women’s worth; Erasmus, praising the “folly” of love; the erudite Montaigne, wondering what on earth he knew; Spinoza, challenging the accuracy of biblical narratives; Voltaire, lampooning “the best of all possible worlds” and ridiculing the notion that “whatever is, is right”; Thomas Paine, who deemed religion “irreligious” in its claustrophobic gloom; John Stuart Mill, with his incisive analysis of the oppression of women; and Bertrand Russell, sent to prison for opposing war.

Free thinking, inquiry and hope – these, says Bakewell, are perennial humanist principles. Petrarch rejoiced in “the former pure radiance” transmitted through rediscovered classical texts, but the authority of these would in its turn need to be questioned. Studying Aristotle’s arguments was “not doing philosophy but history”, said Descartes. In 1543, the anatomist Andreas Vesalius would “marvel” at the “blind faith” he had placed in the once-liberating Galen. Books should be signposts, not destinations, wrote EM Forster (he is referenced often and affectionately).

While exalting education, humanists have differed over how much it should consist in implanting knowledge, or in fostering innate “seeds” so “the inner life of the soul” could unfurl; and similarly over how much morality needs to be instilled, how much it is simply the extension of natural “sympathy”, as David Hume maintained. Joseph Stalin might agree with Innocent III that humanity should be remodelled, but (Bakewell quotes a post-Khmer Rouge Cambodian) revolution is often so “pure” it leaves “no room for humans”.

Having achieved the death of God, and taken on ‘the task of the murderee’, now we are threatened with the death of man

What actually is a “human”? In the 14th century, Humanitas (being human) implicitly involved refinement, civility, erudition and being articulate. And certainly, says Bakewell, we “occupy a field of reality that is neither entirely physical nor entirely spiritual”, which includes talking, drawing, telling jokes, passing on memories, trying to do the right thing, worshipping in temples, building pyramids, art, literature, culture…”…

Seven Hundred Years of Humanist Freethinking, Enquiry and Hope by Sarah Bakewell – buy at

>political philosophy, Rousseau, Political Obligation, Anarchism, Contract Theory, Democracy , politische Verpfichtung, Anarchismus, Vertragstheorie, Demokratie 2012 “Rousseaus philosophischer Anarchismus. Der demokratische Gesellschaftsvertrag und das Problem der politischen Verpflichtung” – Rousseau’s Philosophical Anarchism: The Democratic Social Contract and the Problem of
Political Obligation – by Robin Celikates

Abstract – In this article I firstly sketch the current discussion of the problem of political obligation and the position of philosophical anarchism. In the second step, Rousseau’s answer to this problem is interpreted as a variant of aposteriori philosophical anarchism. Thirdly, I show under which conditions, according to Rousseau, the political obligations of
citizens cease to exist or become qualified, and finally I raise the question whether a specifically Rousseauian perspective on civil disobedience can be developed against this background.

>political philosophy

>reason, rationality, continental, Fascism, History, Imperialism, Marxism, Philosophy, War, 1-2-2023 The New Irrationalism by John Bellamy Foster

…”…The capitalist world economy as a whole is now characterized by deepening stagnation, financialization, and soaring inequality. All of this is accompanied by the prospect of planetary omnicide in the dual forms of nuclear holocaust and climate destabilization. In this dangerous context, the very notion of human reason is frequently being called into question. It is therefore necessary to address once again the question of the relation of imperialism or monopoly capitalism to the destruction of reason and the ramifications of this for contemporary class and anti-imperialist struggles.

In 1953, Georg Lukács, whose 1923 History and Class Consciousness had inspired the Western Marxist philosophical tradition, published his magisterial work, The Destruction of Reason, on the close relation of philosophical irrationalism to capitalism, imperialism, and fascism.1 Lukács’s work set off a firestorm among Western left theorists seeking to accommodate themselves to the new American imperium. In 1963, George Lichtheim, a self-styled socialist operating within the general tradition of Western Marxism while virulently opposed to Soviet Marxism, wrote an article for Encounter Magazine, then covertly funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in which he vehemently attacked The Destruction of Reason and other works by Lukács. Lichtheim accused Lukács of generating an “intellectual disaster” with his analysis of the historical shift from reason to unreason within European philosophy and literature, and the relation of this to the rise of fascism and the new imperialism under U.S. global hegemony.2

This was not the first time, of course, that Lukács had been subjected to such strong condemnations by figures associated with Western Marxism. Theodor Adorno, one of the dominant theorists of the Frankfurt School, attacked Lukács in 1958 when the latter was still under house arrest for supporting the 1956 revolution in Hungary. Writing in Der Monat, a journal created by the occupying U.S. Army and funded by the CIA, Adorno charged Lukács with being “reductive” and “undialectical,” writing like a “Cultural Commissar,” and with being “paralysed from the outset by the consciousness of his own impotence.”3

However, the 1963 attack on Lukács by Lichtheim in Encounter took on an added significance due to its absolute condemnation of Lukács’s The Destruction of Reason. In this work, Lukács had charted the relation of philosophical irrationalism—which first emerged on the European Continent, particularly in Germany, with the defeat of the 1848 revolutions, and that became a dominant force near the end of the century—to the rise of the imperialist stage of capitalism. For Lukács, irrationalism, including its ultimate coalescence with Nazism, was no fortuitous development, but rather a product of capitalism itself….”…

Western Continental, Existentialism, Phenomenology, Experiential 1-2023 Forgotten existentialist – Sartre gets much of the credit for existentialism. Karl Jaspers not only preceded him, but offered a way out of despair – by Deborah Casewell

global narratives , Occidentalism, Social Psychology, Western Civilization

academia.edugg/pdf 2023 The West seen from the East – by Dragomir Tatchev

…”…At the end I should mention the main reason at the bottom line. The inferiority complex is connectedwith the believe in the bad nature of the human being. This believe is also unnatural. It appeared inwestern Europe somewhen before the Reformation, and was expressed in Protestantism (mainlyCalvinism) in the believe that the original sin has completely and finally perverted human nature, whichis why man does not deserve salvation and only God’s chosen few (elite) will be saved. This is thesource of the western nihilism, negativism, competition, inequality and fear.”

>global, chinese, taoism 19-1-2023 Finding your essential self: the ancient philosophy of Zhuangzi explained – by Oscar Davis

>political philosophy, pragmatism ggpage 3-1-2023 A Philosophy Professor’s Final Class – This past spring, Richard Bernstein investigated the questions he’d been asking his whole career—about right, wrong, and what we owe one another—one last time. – by Jordi Graupera

..”…Bernstein… went to the University of Chicago, where he wrote an undergraduate thesis on love and friendship in Plato’s works. One of his classmates was Richard Rorty, who would go on to become philosophy’s most prominent postwar pragmatist. (Another classmate was Susan Sontag.) Rorty went to Yale for his Ph.D. and urged Bernstein to follow him there. Bernstein did, writing his dissertation on the pragmatist John Dewey’s philosophy of experience—a daring choice, given Dewey’s diminished status at the time. The German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, echoing a comment Lessing made of Spinoza, told me that Dewey was generally regarded back then as a “dead dog.”…

…The great insight of classical pragmatists was to recognize that we conduct intellectual inquiries in the same way that we go about living and acting in the world. We clash with the world when we test our theories in the field and when we argue with our political enemies. Truth may be elusive, but our experience is real, and it forces us to think, to argue—possibly, to change….”…

read whole article on Richard Bernstein page

>global, anthropology, history, philosophy, art – Installation Art, Feminism, India, Contemporary Art, Capitalism,Anthropocene, Sheba Chhachhi 2016 Cracks and Luminosities: through the anthropocene and capital matters – by Kumkum Sangari

This essay examines the leverage of capitalism and the anthropocene in the contemporary context. It looks at the relationship between nature, time scales, durations, body, biosphere, place, land, sky, sand, coal, soil, fossils with an emphasis on geo-historical archives, feminist art and Sheba Chhachhi’s works. The essay discusses representations of Asia, aviaries, elephants, digital multiples, the feminist copy and the tangible gift.

…”…The anthropocene epoch is laden with destructive actions, urgent pro-tests and reparative initiatives. Yet it comprises a powerful and indelible planetary shaping without the ability to control its scale or effects – an agency that cannot master or reverse the new phenomena it creates, abiological–chemical–geological force that cannot escape itself or fully understand its own co-dependence on nonhuman (vegetal, animal, microbial) entities. That is, the ‘human’ is positioned as at once cause and consequence, as a set of agencies compacted into an external and inter-nalized structural force, while the anthropocene epoch coheres as a set of recursive and reactive processes which create the joint vulnerability of the planet and its life-forms. Anthropocene-epoch humans become finitesubjects and temporary inhabitants assigned an unprecedented agential power that is simultaneously pared down by its own limits, and by the growing emphasis on the ontological and agential status of a human and nonhuman entities.As a rapidly evolving academic field, the anthropocene skitters between materialist anti foundationalisms and a return to ontologies.However, the anthropocene can only become a significant heuristic and critical concept if it carries the specific contexts and force of the histories of violence, exploitation and irresponsibility that have engendered it. Many longstanding disciplinary fields and social movements revolved around urgent concerns – subsistence and food security, livelihood and environmental renewal, public health and pollution, biodiversity and climate change, social justice and equity, the rights of workers, tribals,minorities, the disabled and women – and opposed colonial ecocideand genocide, environmental imperialism and racism, nuclear weapons testing and nuclear power, capitalist globalization and erosion of thecommons, corporate bioprospecting and biogenetics, militarism and war, before this epoch was given a name. Yet these concerns may not fiteasily into the unfolding conceptual parameters of the anthropocene.As a concept it must also contend with the several renditions of nature and agency that preceded its naming. If conceived simply as cumulative actions against a given real and extra-discursive nature, it is confronted by scepticism about the very existence of an originary and static nature only unsettled by recent human intervention – a scepticism derived in part from the evolutionary record of mass species extinctions, diluvial and glacial episodes, as well as by doubts about what counts as un-mediated nature outside its social–historical fashionings. The givenness of nature has long been counterposed by open-ended interactive or co-constitutive processes that interweave nature and history by feminist and indigenist undoings of the nature/culture binary as a Eurocentric universalization of Cartesian dualism, and understandings of nature–culture as a continuum or a coproduction; as well as refusals to separate nature or the epochal ecological crisis from politics, the economy, the social and military violence. …”…

The Return of Metaphysics: Russell and Realism – Analytic philosophy’s realist revolt and its limits

Fraser MacBride – Editor of the Monist and author of On the Genealogy of Universals: The Metaphysical Origins of Analytic Philosophy (Oxford, 2018).

Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore saw their revolt against Hegelian idealism, and their embrace of realism, as ushering in a ‘new philosophy’, what eventually became known as ‘analytic philosophy’. For Hegel and his followers, reality only made sense as a whole: to understand anything you needed to understand how it was a manifestation of reality overall. Russell and Moore, on the other hand, thought that science and common sense taught us that reality is made of individual things that can be understood on their own, separately from everything else. This metaphysical picture, however, depended on an epistemological one: direct realism. According to Russell, we come to know about the world by direct acquaintance with its objects. As it turns out, a critique of that position lied at the foundation of Hegel’s thought, a critique that continues to haunt analytic philosophy today, writes Fraser MacBride.

This is the fourth installment in our series The Return of Metaphysics, in partnership with the Essentia Foundation. Read the series’ previous articles The Return of Metaphysics: Hegel vs KantThe Return of Idealism: Hegel vs Russell, and Derrida and the trouble with metaphysics.

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s war on philosophy -He preferred the ‘rough ground’ of everyday existence

…”…In this and other ways, Wittgenstein’s thought steadily undermines middle-class individualism. We are not isolated beings sealed within our own private, incommunicable experience. On the contrary, the way in which I come to know you is pretty much the way in which I come to know myself. How can I know that what I am feeling is jealousy unless I have been reared within a language which contains the concept? And language is nobody’s private property. Behind this distaste for the cult of the individual one can feel the disdain of aristocratic Vienna for the stout burgher.

Wittgenstein was an intriguing combination of monk, mystic and mechanic. He was a high European intellectual who yearned for a Tolstoyan holiness and simplicity of life, a man who could never decide whether he was a Brahmin or an Untouchable. He turned away from what he called the pure ice of the intellect to the “rough ground” of everyday existence. However abstruse the problems we set ourselves, their roots are to be found in our routine practices. It is what we do, he comments, which lies at the bottom of our language-games. As one who hailed from an empire populated by Germans, Slovaks, Romanians, Serbs, Slovenes and a good many other quarrelsome ethnic groups, he came to see human culture as inherently diverse. The simple English phrase “it takes all kinds to make a world” struck his semi-outsider’s ears as “a very kindly and beautiful saying”.

Yet he was also an irascible autocrat with the haughtiness of his social class, as well as a man who lived for much of the time in spiritual torment. “Tell them it’s been a wonderful life,” he said on his deathbed, though quite in what sense is one of the many enigmas of his life and work. He was, he felt, a sinner in search of redemption, though he believed neither in sin nor redemption. My tutor had a wonderful life too, at least judging from the outside, but in one sense this was exactly his problem. To be a great artist or thinker you have to live, and decent chap though he was, he never quite got round to doing much of that.” 3-2022 Thales – the ‘first philosopher’? A troubled chapter in the historiography of philosophy – by Lea Cantor

Abstract: It is widely believed that the ancient Greeks thought that Thales was the first philosopher, and that they therefore maintained that philosophy had a Greek origin. This paper challenges these assumptions, arguing that most ancient Greek thinkers who expressed views about the history and development of philosophy rejected both positions. I argue that not even Aristotle presented Thales as the first philosopher, and that doing so would have undermined his philosophical commitments and interests. Beyond Aristotle, the view that Thales was the first philosopher is attested almost nowhere in antiquity. In the classical, Hellenistic, and post-Hellenistic periods, we witness a marked tendency to locate the beginning of philosophy in a time going back further than Thales. Remarkably, ancient Greek thinkers most often traced the origins of philosophy to earlier non-Greek peoples. Contrary to the received view, then, I argue that (1) vanishingly few Greek writers pronounced Thales the first philosopher; and (2) most Greek thinkers did not even advocate a Greek origin of philosophy. Finally, I show that the view that philosophy originated with Thales (along with its misleading attribution to the Greeks in general) has roots in problematic, and in some cases manifestly racist, eighteenth-century historiography of philosophy.

KEYWORDS: Historiography of philosophyGreek philosophyThalesAristotleracism 2022 PHILOSOPHY FOR LIFE – WHAT IS ORION? – Philosophy in the ancient world was used to try and understand who we are, the world around us, and our place within it. Life is complicated and without direction it can become hard to navigate. The concepts of practical philosophy can give us a framework with which to dampen the noise of modern life, structure our inner world, figure out better ways to live, become more understanding, and see the world more clearly. It’s an antidote to the depressions and anxieties that can creep into our unguarded mind. Orion is designed as a hub where anyone can come and sit down to go through ideas from all areas of life and philosophy. The conditions of our mind dictate the conditions of our life, and our mind is our responsibility.   12/2021 The Best Philosophy Books of 2021  recommended by Nigel Warburton interviewed by Cal Fyn

A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton
A Little History of Philosophy  by Nigel Warburton

1  Being You: A New Science of Consciousness  by Anil Seth

The Best Philosophy Books of 2021 - Being You: A New Science of Consciousness by Anil Seth

2  Critical Lives: Hannah Arendt  by Samantha Rose Hill

The Best Philosophy Books of 2021 - Critical Lives: Hannah Arendt by Samantha Rose Hill

3 The Case for Rage: Why Anger Is Essential to Anti-Racist Struggle  by Myisha Cherry

The Best Philosophy Books of 2021 - The Case for Rage: Why Anger Is Essential to Anti-Racist Struggle by Myisha Cherry

4 Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals  by Oliver Burkeman

The Best Philosophy Books of 2021 - Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

5 Coming of Age at the End of History  by Lea Ypi

The Best Philosophy Books of 2021 - Free: Coming of Age at the End of History by Lea Ypi 12/2021 16 best philosophy and ideas books 2021 – No Descartes in sight — James Marriott and James McConnachie’s picks take in morals, meritocracy, trans issues and technology

Anglo Analytic Philosophy 2022 Metaphysical Animals: How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life by Clare Mac Cumhaill & Rachel Wiseman – The women who challenged a stale, male philosophy – Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman describe how Mary Midgley, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe and Philippa Foot and her friends rejected logical positivism and brought philosophy back to life – review by Kathleen Stock  23/11/2021   Should Philosophy Retire? ‘Pragmatism as Anti-Authoritarianism’ By George Scialabba
Richard Rorty (1931–2007) was the philosopher’s anti-philosopher. His professional credentials were impeccable: an influential anthology (The Linguistic Turn, 1967); a game-changing book (Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, 1979); another, only slightly less original book (Consequences of Pragmatism, 1982); a best-selling (for a philosopher) collection of literary/philosophical/political lectures and essays (Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, 1989); four volumes of Collected Papers from the venerable Cambridge University Press; president of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association (1979). He seemed to be speaking at every humanities conference in the 1980s and 1990s, about postmodernism, critical theory, deconstruction, and the past, present, and future (if any) of philosophy…”…   11/2021 The Way Out of the Fly-Bottle: Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus” at 100  By Jared Marcel Pollen

…”…Like all those who publish young, Wittgenstein was doomed to have to change his mind in public. Perhaps afraid of this, he never published another book during his lifetime, though he wrote several, the most notable being Philosophical Investigations (published in 1953, two years after his death), which immediately set up epochs in his canon: early Wittgenstein versus late Wittgenstein. Though his ideas would change radically over time — to the point of disowning most of the Tractatus — his insistence on language as the thing that plugs us into reality remained the linchpin of his pensée. The Tractatus then was not the end of Wittgenstein’s philosophy but its point of departure…”…  1978    10 questions ignored by philosophy World Philosophy Day 2021 5/2021 Analytic Philosophy’s “Triple Failure of Confidence” By Justin Weinberg. “Analytic philosophy suffers from a triple failure of confidence, especially among younger philosophers.”

Liam Kofi Bright (LSE) : … “For what I think is gone, and is not coming back, is any hope that from all this will emerge a well-validated and rational-consensus-generating theory of grand topics of interest. We can, and we will, keep generating puzzles for any particular answer given, we will never persuade our colleagues who disagree, we will never finally settle what to say about the simple cases in order to be able to move on to the grand problems of philosophy. My anecdotal impression is that junior philosophers are hyper aware of these bleak prospects for anything like creation of a shared scientific paradigm.”

Classical Philosophy    deas/musonius-rufus-roman-stoic-and-avant-garde-feminist – Musonius Rufus: Roman Stoic, and avant-garde feminist? by  Massimo Pigliucci

…”Musonius was millennia ahead of society in his defence of gender equality. Here is what he says about women and the ability to think rationally:

Women as well as men … have received from the gods the gift of reason, which we use in our dealings with one another and by which we judge whether a thing is good or bad, right or wrong … Moreover, not men alone, but women too, have a natural inclination toward virtue and the capacity for acquiring it, and it is the nature of women no less than men to be pleased by good and just acts and to reject the opposite of these.

This is rather stunning for someone who was alive in the 1st century of the modern era, but it was actually common opinion among the Stoics (and the Epicureans)…”…  2021  The Greeks and The Greek Revolution — an ancient debt

history of western thought


wikipedia The Phenomenon of Man  (FrenchLe phénomène humain) is an essay by the  French geologist, paleontologistphilosopher, and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In this work, Teilhard describes  evolution as a process that leads to increasing complexity, culminating in the unification of  consciousness. The text was written in the 1930s, but it achieved publication only posthumously, in 1955. 1960? The Phenomenon of Man – review by Peter Medawar …the Book of the Century. Yet the greater part of it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of metaphysical conceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself. The Phenomenon of Man cannot be read without a feeling of suffocation, a gasping and flailing around for sense. There is an argument in it, to be sure — a feeble argument, abominably expressed — and this I shall expound in due course; but consider first the style, because it is the style that creates the illusion of content, and which is a cause as well as merely a symptom of Teilhard’s alarming apocalyptic seizures.  2021  Philosophy in Troublous Times –  Knox Pedenon reviews This Life by Martin Hägglund 

…”I started composing this review during the peak of the bushfires in January. I returned to complete it as the coronavirus pandemic settled into its critical phase. The globalising, unifying elements of such crises are palpable, and resonate with Hägglund’s focus on fragility as an ineliminable element of political effort, just as it is for life as such. And yet his universal philosophy betrays a startling parochialism in the way it apportions which routes of anti-capitalism are viable and which aren’t. The world religions are unaided by their implausible origin stories, but it’s unclear why German Idealism and its legacy in sectors of the humanities academy should be any more likely a candidate to give us the total explanation for the world’s depredations.

Hägglund thinks religious belief is disabling to the extent that it turns us away from this world, and redeemable to the extent that it doesn’t. But one wonders in the end what reality this contrast captures, and whether it isn’t best regarded as yet another sectarian view, another voice in the wilderness. (Here I am reminded of the words of the young Indiana Jones alone in the desert, decades before the Last Crusade: ‘Everybody’s lost but me.’) Hägglund locates the uniqueness of his project in its sense of life’s incompletion, the rootedness of our dignity in our finitude and mutual dependence. But this is hardly a unique view, and doesn’t require the machinery Hägglund marshals to justify it. He ends This Life with an homage to King that calls for us to turn away from the New Jerusalem in order to build the New New York. But it bears repeating that these efforts weren’t mutually exclusive for King as they are ultimately – and necessarily – for Hägglund.

Hägglund thinks religious faith offers guarantees and a release from worldly difficulties, a caricature that prevents him from seeing allies in the struggle against consumerism and ethnic divisiveness at a time when they are sorely needed. And yet, alone in North Africa in 1908, near the trading post of Tamanrasset, the French mystic Charles de Foucauld also conceived of a project of evangelisation, in which he would spread the gospel among the Tuareg people of the Sahara. In the years to follow he would learn their language, immersing himself in their culture, even producing a Tuareg-French dictionary. As he considered what lay before him, he wrote a letter to the apostolic prefect for the region:

There is a phrase of holy Scripture that we must, I believe, always remember. It’s that Jerusalem was reconstructed ‘in angustia temporum’ (Daniel). We must work all our life in angustia temporum. Difficulties are not a temporary state that we let pass like a squall so that we can set to work when the weather will be calm. No, these are the normal state. We must count on them being so for our entire life, for all of the good things that we want to do, in angustia temporum.

In angustia temporum – ‘in a troubled time,’ or, in the more melodious King James version, ‘in troublous times.’ In 1916, as the effects of the European war extended to French Algeria, Charles de Foucauld was murdered by a band of tribesmen, shot in the head during a botched kidnapping. Years later the Church recognised him as a martyr. It seems to me that there are better uses for philosophy than to wonder at his sincerity.”  24/11/2021  New: Journal of Spinoza Studies  By Justin Weinberg
The Journal of Spinoza Studies (JSS) is a new, online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal that “aims to publish original, innovative scholarly work on any aspect of Spinoza’s thought or its reception, and is committed to promoting a lively exchange of ideas among scholars working in different intellectual and philosophical traditions.”   The editors of JSS are Andrea Sangiacomo and Kristin Primus –   Hegel today – Too dense, too abstract, too suspect, Hegel was outside the Anglophone canon for a century. Why is his star rising again?    by Willem deVries

…”Hegel’s reception in the US has long been complicated. In the mid-to-late 19th century, he was widely read and respected. There were several well-established groups, often heavy with German immigrants, dedicated to Hegel study, such as the Ohio and the St Louis Hegelians. There were prominent Hegelian Idealists in the universities, notably Josiah Royce at Harvard and G Watts Cunningham at Cornell. And, perhaps most important, several Pragmatists, especially Charles S Peirce and John Dewey, were influenced by Hegel. (William James was not a Hegel fan.) Then the reaction set in. It started in England, with Bertrand Russell and G E Moore’s revolt against the British Idealists, but the Americans picked up the banner and then doubled down on the rejection of Hegel with the infusion of logical positivists escaping Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

Anglophone philosophy turned against Hegel for several reasons. His philosophy was seen as the epitome of a grand metaphysical system purporting to lay out a priori the fundamental structure of reality, which turned out to be mental, or in Hegel’s vocabulary, spiritual – something like a world soul, or (even worse), a Spinozistic, pantheistic God. Thus, not only was Hegel’s system grandiose metaphysics, it was grandiose theology as well. Hegel also defended a holism that conflicted with the atomism (and the foundationalistic theory of knowledge) that comes naturally with empiricism and which seemed to be a lesson taught by modern science. Hegel’s philosophy opposed the antimetaphysical, atomistic, foundationalist and empiricist bent of Anglophone philosophy, which was also increasingly secular in orientation.

At a slightly less abstract level, Anglophone philosophy had become enamoured of the developments in logic initiated by George Boole, Gottlob Frege, and Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead. Investigations into logic, generalised into the philosophy of language, became first philosophy in Anglophone lands. From this perspective, Hegel’s logic (arguably the heart of his philosophy) was either terribly retrograde or, in all its talk about dialectic, hardly intelligible. And last, the obscurity of Hegel’s writing made rejecting Hegelian philosophy all the easier. After all, who could tell what he was actually saying?

The renaissance in Hegel appreciation that has bloomed in the past few decades in the US responds to most of these complaints. It has been led by Robert Pippin, Terry Pinkard, and Ken Westphal. Most recently, Robert B Brandom’s massive volume on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), called A Spirit of Trust (2019), has gone beyond Hegel interpretation to elaborate a philosophy that, while still rooted in the philosophy of language, also reclaims Hegel as a (maybe even the) seminal forebear. …”…

History of Ideas

journal of the history of ideas   1970 The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea   Arthur O. Lovejoy

From later antiquity down to the close of the eighteenth century, most philosophers and men of science and, indeed, most educated men, accepted without question a traditional view of the plan and structure of the world. In this volume, which embodies the William James lectures for 1933, Arthur O. Lovejoy points out the three principles—plenitude, continuity, and graduation—which were combined in this conception; analyzes their origins in the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and the Neoplatonists; traces the most important of their diverse samifications in subsequent religious thought, in metaphysics, in ethics and aesthetics, and in astronomical and biological theories; and copiously illustrates the influence of the conception as a whole, and of the ideas out of which it was compounded, upon the imagination and feelings as expressed in literature.    11/2021 The Philosopher who laid the foundation of Modern Europe – A critical re-examination of over four centuries of work put forth Averroes at the highest pedestal of Aristotelian expression    by Sheikh Muzamil Hussain

It is 1492 and Christopher Columbus is preparing to sail from the Spanish port of Palos de la Frontera, hoping to find a new world towards west, the riches of which are thought unprecedented. The same year, the remnants of 700-year-old Muslim rule in Andalusia, the Islamic Spain, are on verge of collapse. The Christian Reconquista is almost at the climax and the Almoravids are set to lose the stronghold of Granada, the last fortress of Muslims in southern Spain.

While the seeds of European colonialism were being sown in the far west, mainland Europe after an aeon of dark ages was foraging tools of scientific method, courtesy of two centuries of scholasticism that revived its intellectual atmosphere. It was here three centuries ago in 1128 AD, in the cosmopolitan capital city of Al- Andalus — Cordoba, that Abul Walid Muhammad Ibn Rushd was born, commonly referred to in West by his Latinized name — Averroes. He was born in family of Jurists but his affair with philosophy soon began to cause him trouble and he fell into trouble. He subsequently left Cordoba and migrated to the city of Lucena where he dedicated his time to writing exhaustive works of Philosophical tradition. Later he would move further south to Marrakesh where he died in 1198 AD.

The fall of Muslim Spain has been subject of ‘foretold reprimand by God’ for a nation that contrives on the use of mantiq and falsafa — Logic and Philosophy — instead of the revealed text. In orthodox circles, the rational means to demonstrate the fundamentals of religion which Ibn Rushd and its predecessors attempted, are seen as a deviation from truth that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in the form of the Qur’an. But to most of the Muslim philosophers of the Islamic golden age, it wasn’t so. Ibn Rushd believed that ‘One truth’ (Revealed religion) cannot contradict another truth (Philosophical Inquiry). Nonetheless, such belief was paradoxical to theologians as well as common believers.
Ibn Rushd mastered Aristotle and translated his copious works and simultaneously presented and ‘improved on’ his thought. The works of Aristotle were translated by the fall of the 13th century into Latin making him the bridge of knowledge transfusion between the Islamic World and Europe, which was recuperating from centuries of intellectual inactivity. He became the leading teacher for those who explored Peripatetic philosophy. Emerging centers of learning taught him, scholastics quoted him and revered him. Raphael’s (d.1520) famous renaissance painting, ‘The School of Athens’ bears testimony to this by portraying Ibn Rushd along with Plato and Aristotle. Dante Alighieri (d.1321) had Ibn Rushd secured the position in the ‘limbo of the unbaptized’ in his famous work Inferno along with Plato and Aristotle among others, away from hellfire.
Along with Al-Farabi (d.950) and Ibn Sina (d.980 ), Ibn Rushd is among the major Islamic thinkers who shaped the course of logic and philosophy in the Islamic World by the tools expounded by the Greek philosophers. However, by the time he was born, Greek Philosophy, which had made lasting inroads in the Muslim world since the opening of the House of Wisdom (Bait-ul-Hikmah) during the reign of Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid (d. 809), had suffered hugely at the hands of Muhammad al-Ghazali (d. 1111) whose Tahafut al-Falasifa, or The Incoherence of Philosophers had swayed a deathly blow to the advancing Greek Philosophy. Ibn Rushd wrote a line by line refutation of the Tahafut called the Tahaful al-Tahafat — The Incoherence of the Incoherence, but the damage was already done.
Apart from the natural cravings to seek wisdom and knowledge; as Immanuel Kant said ‘that everyone has an urge to philosophize’, Ibn Rushd was also influenced to pursue Aristotle by the Almohad King Abu Yaqub Yusuf (d.1184) who was an avid reader of philosophical texts especially ones by Aristotle. However, by that time, the tradition of Aristotle was altered to an extent, due to multiple translations across space and time, copying errors and interpolation. The available wholesale corpus was in no sense a credible source of his actual work. Irritated, the King asked Ibn Rushd to parse through all translations and pen down the authentic corpus anew. The critical re-examination of over four centuries of work put forth Averroes at the highest pedestal of Aristotelian expression ever since.
Ibn Rushd’s contribution to European development of thought can be gauged, among many reasons, by the fact that much of his work despite being written in Arabic originally, came to pass to later generations in Hebrew and Latin translations implying the propagation his work enjoyed in European lands. His ideas gained root, but not where he would have had anticipated. There were impediments like the Bishop Trempier’s Condemnation of 1277, an effort to set loose the perpetuity of philosophy with Christianity, much like as Muslim world had witnessed post-Ghazali’s Incoherence. But Averroes’s work endured, more in Hebrew than in Latin, reaching as far as the time of Spinoza (d.1677).

Aristotle is called the first genuine scientist for his method and deductive reasoning and hadn’t it been for Ibn Rushd’s stupendous and gargantuan translation of his works, supplemented with Ibn Rushd’s likewise massive commentaries, which in fact consisted his original thought as well, Europe’s infatuation with The Philosopher would have been delayed, if not entirely hampered. Moreover, the quality of Ibn Rushd’s translations were unmatched. In total, he wrote 38 books of commentaries on the works of Aristotle.

Ibn Rushd soon became a prominent figure in the European philosophy and was known as The Commentator, the epithet for being the most credible source of Aristotle, whom Ibn Rushd like most, used to call The Philosopher. In the Islamic World however or as Historian Peter Adamson prefers, the Arabic philosophical world, no interest was bestowed upon him since the heretical nature of Greek Philosophy was shunned, primarily in the Sunni circles.

Ibn Rushd wrote immensely and not just on philosophy. His subjects included astronomy, medicine, law, and physics. As far as his translations of Aristotle are concerned, one can categorize them under three phases — Short, Middle and Long Commentaries, as Richard C. Taylor has classified. Then, are his original treatises which he wrote mostly in the latter half of his life. Major of those are his Decisive Treatise on the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy (Fasl al-maqal fima bayn al sharia wal-hikma min ittisal), the Explanation of the Sorts of Proofs in the Doctrines of Religion ( Kashf ‘an manahij al-adilla), De Anima or Appendix on Divine Knowledge and his famous Incoherence of the Incoherence ( Tahafut al-tahafut).

His philosophical convictions, much like his fellow Aristotelian thinkers composed of believing in the eternity of the world and the impossibility of the physical resurrection. A unique postulate of his met a good share of hostility, alike from religious and philosophical blocks, that there is a sort of universal intellect from which individuals procure capacity to reason. He had probably taken the concepts of ‘Agent Intellect’ and ‘Material Intellect’ from earlier Muslim thinkers, most notably the esteemed Andalusian Ibn Bajja (d. 1138) and Al-Farabi (d.950). As a Jurist, his most notable work probably was the Decisive treatise written in a legal judgment style (Fatwa). He concluded that not only was the pursuit of philosophy encouraged but even obligatory (only for those who possessed high intellect). To buttress his argument, he cited Quranic verses such as “Learn a lesson, then, O you who are endowed with insight!” (59:2) and “Then do they not look at the camels — how they are created? And at the sky — how it is raised?” (88:17–18). He also denied the literal interpretation of the Quranic verses about recompenses of the afterlife.

He was an ardent critic of the dialectic weakness of Ashʿarite theology and their inability to field demonstrative tools to supplement their proclamations. Theologians lack the clarity of argument because they presuppose the existence of a transcendental super-being and all whatever is established by the sound tradition of the religion. Their tendency to favour these presuppositions ahead of reasoning was to Ibn Rushd their major shortcoming due to which they had to rely completely on rhetorical argumentation to persuade their opponents. This, in fact, is the main difference between a theologian and a philosopher, he argues.

Today he is little known in the Islamic World, except for those who take pains to find him in the oblivion of forgotten masters. He was once a chief judge and the court physician to Almohad Kings. After the fall of Muslim Spain, the philosophic tradition faded in the Islamic world, though the same cannot be said for the theological philosophy which continued to thrive. Influence of theological philosophers like Al- Suhrawardi (d.1191) and Mulla Sadra (d.1640) bears testament to that fact. But it was in Europe where he gained prominence and even had an emulation in the form of a philosophic school known as the ‘Latin Averriosts’. He paved the way for rational methodology through his works which became the new normal in the coming centuries, pushing Europe stepping into the Age of Enlightenment.

Sheikh Muzamil Hussain is an architect and urban planner. He is an alumnus of CEPT Ahmedabad.

Moral + Practical Philosophy, Ethics   2021  John Haldane’s Practical Philosophy: Ethics, Society and Culture –  by Massimo Pigliucci. 

“Practical ethics is a branch of moral philosophy involving the systematic use of philosophical thinking to identify and resolve questions of values and conduct as these arise in the various departments of human life.”
So begins the first section, after the introduction that we have discussed last time, of John Haldane’s Practical Philosophy: Ethics, Society and Culture. Having dispatched, fairly convincingly, of David Hume’s famous “is/ought” problem, and having reassured us, a bit less convincingly, of the reality of human agency, Haldane is now ready to move on to different types of ethical inquiry in practical philosophy.
The first important distinction he makes in this section of the book is that between psychological and philosophical aspects of moral questions…”…

…”One of the most delightful and philosophically profound Platonic dialogues is the Euthyphro, where Socrates converses with the title character about “piety,” meaning knowledge of the right thing to do, ethically speaking. Socrates asks Euthyphro, who is cocksure of the righteousness of his judgments, how does he know that he is right.  Euthyphro says that what is right is what the gods love (and adds that of course he knows what the Gods think!). But Socrates points out that this means that righteousness is entirely arbitrary, a question of might makes right. Euthyphro then backtracks and goes for the other horn of the dilemma that ever since bears his name: the gods love what is right because it is right. Ah, says Socrates, but that means that there is an external source of morality, independent of the gods, and which we could, in theory, be able to access without, shall we say, the need for a middle-god. At this point Euthyphro doesn’t know where to go next. So Socrates says: “Then we must begin again and ask, what is piety? That is an enquiry which I shall never be weary of pursuing as far as in me lies; and I entreat you not to scorn me, but to apply your mind to the utmost, and tell me the truth. For, if any man knows, you are he; and therefore I must detain you, like Proteus, until you tell.” (Notice the Socratic sarcasm…) But Euthyphro beats the most hasty retreat in the history of philosophy: “Another time, Socrates; for I am in a hurry, and must go now.”

Plenty of theologians have attempted to get out of Euthyphro’s dilemma, but have failed. The most common strategy is to claim that it is in the nature of God to be good. But this line of reasoning still gets impaled by the second horn of the dilemma: in order to agree that God’s nature is good we need some sort of independent standard of evaluation. Lacking that, we fall back on the first horn.
I truly think that if more people were familiar with Euthyphro’s dilemma the world would see less religious hatred and violence.  The question, however, still remains: what do we appeal to in order to arrive at objective ethical judgments? Here the only viable answer, I think — and Haldane agrees with me — is the sort of naturalistic ethics first articulated by Aristotle and the Stoics and nowadays endorsed by people like Philippa Foot and Alasdair MacIntyre.

The idea is that what is ethical is what helps human beings to live and flourish, and what is unethical is whatever gets in the way of those goals. That’s because those are the natural goals intrinsic in the very nature of humanity as a biological species. Just like light, water, and minerals are good for a plant, because those are the ingredients of a good vegetable life, so community, friendship, love, and reason are the ingredients of a good human life. Of course, there is more than reasonable one way to cash out this type of naturalistic ethics, which is why there are different schools of thought that espouse it (Aristotelianism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Confucianism, Daoism, and so forth). This multiplicity of acceptable answers to the question of what constitutes a good human life explains why there are several options available on the second floor of Haldane’s classification. But it also makes clear why not all options are viable. Fascism, say, is a bad philosophy of life. Objectively so, because it undermines human flourishing, regardless of how many people seem to think otherwise. I would argue the same about Ayn Rand-style Objectivism, though for different reasons…”…

Political Philosophy – global, critical theory – gg/pdf 2023 Anthropodicies pf Coloniality – Urbanocene, Plantationcene and Critical Theory – Eduardo Mendieta – 2023 3-2023 Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization: Is Repression Necessary? 28-1-2023 What Is the Ideal World? 5 Utopias Proposed by Famous Philosophers – Plato, Thomas More, Campanella, Burke, and Godwin – Is it a utopia where everyone is happy and has no material problems? Or is it something else?   – By Viktoriya Sus 2021  Reimagining political philosophy- Charles Mills, who died earlier this year, was a model for a political philosophy engaged with subjects the discipline had systematically ignored, first among them race and racism. By Sophie Smith  2018  Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes  by Timothy Raylor

Philosophy of History

taylorparsons 3-2023 5 Philosophies of History – by Taylor Pearson

1. The Perez Technology Philosophy of History

Thesis: Technology is the dominant driver of history and we can best understand the future by extrapolating technological trends. Predicting where the world is going can be done by taking the emerging technologies of any era and extrapolating them out to their logical conclusion.

Example Interpretation: The internal combustion engine leads to the car which creates urban structure of the US and suburbs.

Books and People:

2. The Zeihan Geography and Demographic Philosophy of History

Thesis: Geography is the driver and we can best understand the future by analyzing geography and its implications.

Example: Germany has historically been warlike because it was situated in a hard to defend area between Russia (via Poland) and France. The US has been successful owing to rich natural resources and a highly defensible position with Oceans on either side.

Books and People:

  • Peter Zeihan is a well known proponent of this camp.
  • I would add the Realist school of foreign policy espoused by John Mearsheimer (though it doesn’t map perfectly)
  • Probably Jared Diamond as well (though he has more of an evolutionary biology bent to his view as well).

3. The Fukuyama Institutional Philosophy of History

Thesis: humans are also norm-following creatures. They follow norms of behavior of others around them.

Since an institution is nothing more than a norm that persists over time, human beings have a natural tendency to institutionalize their norms and behavior

Example: In Europe, the Catholic church changed the rules of inheritance to make it much more difficult for kin groups to pass resources down to their extended families which established it as a separate institution. The Rule of Law can be understood as the rules that are banding on even the most politically powerful individuals and has its basis in religion across cultures. The rule of law became most deeply institutionalized in Western Europe due to the role of the Roman Catholic Church.

Associated People and Books:

4. The Harari Narrative Philosophy of History

Thesis: Culture/narratives are the primary driver of history and history evolves along the lines of these myths. The truly unique feature of human language is its ability to transmit information about things that do not exist at all: narratives and myths

Example: Trade cannot exist without trust, and it is very difficult to trust strangers. The global trade network of today is based on our trust in such fictional entities as the dollar, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the totemic trademarks of corporations. However these things don’t exist in any physical sense, they are myths that we all agree on.

Associated People and Books:

  • Sapiens by Noah Yuval Harari is the most contemporary well known proponent of this theory. (Summary)

5. The Marxian2Economics Philosophy of History

Thesis: History is fundamentally driven by economics. Marx was the first one to advocate this by positioning a historical dialectic where communism was the inevitable result of class conflict generated by 19th-century capitalism. Similar economic theories exist across the political spectrum.

Example: Imperialism where Britain and later the US would install puppet dictators or engage in a foreign policy designed to promote private interests. This was arguably continued via institutions that purported to be neutral like the IMF and World Bank which basically forced a neoliberal agenda in exchange for loans. The countries that developed most successfully in the second half of the 20th century were largely those that ignored these ideas.

Associated People and B0oks:

The Two Schools of Historical Determinism

There’s another dimension I think is important. These five theories are situated between two poles of how the causal mechanisms of history operate as coined by Isaih Berlin’s Essay the Fox and the Hedgehog.

To what extent are these each driven by a complex interplay of forces that are hard to identify (The Fox School) or to what extent are they driven by “Great Persons” who influence the course of history (The Hedgehog School).

The Fox School

Thesis: There is no discernible driver to history, it’s all too complex and full of butterfly effects which end up with us being “fooled by randomness.”

Associated People and Books:

The Hedgehog School

Thesis: History is driven by Great Persons who shape the course of history and we are all just following in their wake.

Associated People and Books:

  • Most Biographies fall into this camp (though I  think this is sometimes more out of a convenience factor than anything else. It’s hard to write a book without a main character to follow so you end up telling from one person’s POV)

Towards a Nuanced View of History

I tend to lean fairly strongly towards Fox School vs. The Hedgehog School in that I believe history is all a good deal messier than it appears in history books. Though particular leaders may be catalyst for change, it is often that there is a huge stack of dry hay in the barn and if one match doesn’t set it off then another likely will.

I tend to discount any simplistic historical philosophies as I don’t feel I know the right way to think about it but I know that reducing it down to a simple cause/effect model is usually the wrong way to think about.

My own bias among the philosophies tends towards the camp of economics as the proximate cause, for most historical change.

I tend to view Institutions, culture, geography, and technology as feeding into economics. Technology seems to be becoming gradually more impactful and geography gradually less over time so I tend to think economics and technology are the most useful historical philosophies for our present moment.

However, this is obviously incorrect in certain contexts (and me incorrect today!). To take only one example, the European age of exploration was probably more motivated by religious/cultural considerations than economic ones. From Roger Howley’s Conquerors, a history of the Portuguese Empire:

Since the fall of Constantinople, Christian Europe had felt itself increasingly hemmed in. To outflank Islam, link up with Prester John and the rumored Christian communities of India, seize control of the spice trade, and destroy the wealth that empowered the Mamluk sultans in Cairo—from the first months of his reign, a geostrategic vision of vast ambition was already in embryo; it would, in time, sweep the Portuguese around the world.”

To be sure, there was an economic component, but it seems hard to read histories of the Middle Ages such as Barbara Tuchman’s Distant Mirror and come away with a primarily economic or technologically driven view – culture and institutions seemed to play a much larger role.

The main thing I’ve gained from reading history is how many different interpretations there are and how many of them have a legitimate point. I think the best way to think about these schools is to recognize that all of them matter in varying degrees with their impact changing over time. If reality has a surprising amount of detail, it would make sense that the history of reality does too.

So the question is always what are the most important ones for our historical moment?


  1. This is obviously a reductionist model and a lot of them overlap, but I’m interested in finding a better way to think about it and some simplified taxonomy seems useful. 
  2. I’ using the word Marxian rather than Marxist because “Marxist economics” has come to take on a very specific meaning with communist/socialist focus. I’m just using Marx here because he was the first person I encountered who posited economics/class as the driving historical force.