Category Archives: philosophy

a college class on equality

This is an outline of a class discussion that seemed to work pretty well this morning. The reading is T.M. Scanlon’s “When Does Equality Matter?” Scanlon offers five reasons that a given difference among people may be unjust, and I … Continue reading

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Kieran Setiya on midlife: reviving philosophy as a way of life

I read Kieran Setiya’s Midlife (Princeton, 2017) not only because I have that condition and am sometimes troubled by its complaints, but also because I appreciate the style of thought that Pierre Hadot named “philosophy as a way of life.” … Continue reading

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Social Ontology 2018: The 11th Biennial Collective Intentionality Conference

On August 22-25, 2018, Tufts University will host the biennial Collective Intentionality conference, with the Tisch College of Civic Life as a co-sponsor. This interdisciplinary and international conference will bring together people who study the nature of the social world … Continue reading

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against state-centric political theory

What do all these statements have in common? “Republicanism is a consequentialist doctrine which assigns to government, in particular to governmental authorities, the task of promoting freedom as n0n-domination.” — Philip Pettit, Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government “Of … Continue reading

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some notes on Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil

Here–free for the digital commons–are some teaching notes for chapter 1 of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil. Before discussing this text, my class had read Plato’s Apology; I present Nietzsche and the Socrates of the Apology as foils. Socrates begins a … Continue reading

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Lifeworld and System: a primer

The great social theorist Jürgen Habermas has drawn attention–for more than half a century–to the problem that he calls the “colonization of the Lifeworld by System.” Here is my explanation, based mainly on a rare concrete example from his Theory of … Continue reading

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libertarianism and democracy

In  the Washington Post, Michael Chwe argues that the “beliefs and values” of James M. Buchanan “conflict with basic democratic norms.” Buchanan (1919-2013) was a hugely influential public choice economist. Chwe is intervening in the debate about him that has … Continue reading

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science, law, and microagressions

We live and work in settings that are diverse but unequal. Opportunities and outcomes can often be predicted on the basis of race/ethnicity, culture and religion, gender and sexual orientation, and class background. In these settings, we communicate constantly. Some … Continue reading

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psychoanalyzing presidents

There’s lots of conversation right now about Donald Trump’s mental condition. It includes claims that he demonstrates narcissistic personality disorder and that changes in his speech patterns reveal cognitive decline. I [analyzed] his speech pattern from a particular angle here. This … Continue reading

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is everyone religious?

In the perennial debate about the place of religion in politics and public life, one available stance is: “Everyone is religious.” This position has weaknesses, which I will mention below, but here are three points in its favor: Ethical people hold beliefs … Continue reading

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