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Interesting TLS articles on philosophy

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• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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A bumper crop:

The hitherto unknown religious views of the late great John Rawls

Whether Kant might have thought it’s okay to tell a lie sometimes

A philosopher living with a wolf




  1. Rob says:

    In the circa 1990s essay “On My Religion” (included in the book) Rawls dates the abandonment of his piety June 1945:

    How could I pray and ask God to help me, or my family, or my country, or any other cherished thing I cared about, when God would not save millions of Jews from Hitler? […] To interpret history as expressing God’s will, God’s will must accord with the most basic ideas of justice as we know them. For what else can the most basic justice be? Thus, I soon came to reject the idea of the supremacy of the divine will as […] hideous and evil.


  2. Rob says:

    And here, the complete opposite:

    But no matter, for hadn’t Christ suffered? Hadn’t he been tortured? Wasn’t he betrayed because he preached justice in this world, while perhaps justice could only be celestial and eternal, not worldly?


  3. Rob says:

    …Rawls’s religious background may account for the aspects of his political philosophy that I and many others find oddly other-worldly.


  4. Rob says:

    God wanted that [earthquake] during this holy week before Easter, people living in those cities participated to the sufferance of the Passion. The law of God’s mysteries is always very hard, but also in this tragedy we want to see something positive.


  5. Kleiner says:

    We are reading Kierkegaard in my Contemporary European Philosophy class, and he tends to move me away from my ordinary tendency to engage in apologetics and more toward a full-throated embrace of the offensiveness of Christianity in the eyes of the world:

    ‘… the more learned, the more excellent the defence, the more Christianity is disfigured, abolished, exhausted like an emasculated man, for the defence simply out of kindness will take the possibility of offence away. But Christianity ought not be defended, it is men who should see whether they can justify themselves and justify for themselves what they choose when Christianity terrifyingly, as it once did, poses for them the choice and terrifyingly constrains them to choose … Therefore take away from Christianity the possibility of offence … and then lock the churches, the sooner the better, or turn them into places of amusement which stand open all day long!’
    – Kierkegaard, Works of Love


  6. Rob says:

    Yes, that’s what I so admire in Kierkegaard, my favorite Christian. Just as, to borrow from Huemanniac, Nietzsche’s naturalism is oriented around his psychology, Kierkegaard’s religiosity is oriented around his religiosity; and I think there are striking affinities between their psychologies and diagnoses they make of contemporary post-enlightenment culture. I think Nietzsche would have found much to admire in Kierkegaard for these reasons, and that he would have found in the sharply divergent agendas behind their diagnoses cause for a generous, fascinating, and self-clarifying critique. (Kierkegaard’s uncompromising resuscitation of the terrifying Abraham and Isaac story in ‘Fear and Trembling’ immediately gripped me as an atheist freshman, instilled in me an indefatigable fascination with the perverse and awful majesty of religion [and an associated contempt for its lukewarm contemporary Western manifestations].)

    Today, indicating how much dreadfulness Christianity has lost, one finds this other attempt to justify it: that even if it were to be an error, still, great benefit and enjoyment could be had from that error one’s whole life long. It seems, thus, that Christian belief is to be kept alive precisely for the sake of its soothing effects — not from dread of a menacing possibility but from dread of a life which misses out on a particular charm. This hedonistic turn, the proof based on pleasure, is a symptom of decline: it replaces the proof based on force, on that aspect of Christian idea which shakes us, on dread. In fact, with this reinterpretation of Christianity approaches exhaustian: one contents oneself with an opiate Christianity because one hasn’t the strength either for searching, struggling, daring, wanting to stand alone… (Nachlass material)


  7. Rob says:

    The quote is from Nietzsche.


  8. Rob says:

    Simon Blackburn on Hume’s “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion”:

    I suspect that many professional philosophers, including ones such as myself who have no religious beliefs at all, are slightly embarrassed, or even annoyed, by the voluble disputes between militant atheists and religious apologists.


  9. Rob says:

    Bloggingheads exchange featuring Joshua Cohen, co-author with Thomas Nagel on the Rawls piece:

    A Theory of Torture

    Democracy is Christianity made natural. -Nietzsche


  10. Mike says:

    Where’s that Nz quote from Rob?

    It’s especially interesting to me because of Camus’ prolonged comparison between Christianity and Marxism in The Rebel.


  11. Rob says:

    It’s one of those myriad gems from his unpublished notebooks. And though Rorty is a pretty awful source for understanding Nietzsche, I rather like his invocation of the phrase, where I first encountered it (in Contingency, Irony, Solidarity, p. 87):

    Nietzsche said, with a sneer, “Democracy is Christianity made natural” (Will to Power, no. 215). Take away the sneer, and he was quite right.


  12. Huenemann says:

    Thanks for that link to boggingheads, Rob — a very interesting conversation, on a range of topics.


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