Jan 022014

In discussions of the relation between thought and action, much confusion comes about by trying to fit the two terms into endless theoretical configurations. Some say that thought must come before action, others that thought without action is meaningless. Or perhaps correct thought leads to correct action. But action, as experience, is necessary for thought, so thought is in some way dependent on action. Yet for action to occur, doesn’t there need to be a decision to act, and for a decision to occur doesn’t there first have to be a thought?

These are some of the ways in which we try to fit thought and action into a causal hierarchy in order to… well, in order to what? Is it at all certain that solving the puzzle in this way will lead to any practical benefit? Other than being able to state a theoretical maxim, “thought precedes action”, “action is the goal of thought”, or some other, what do we achieve? Nothing, it seems.

An interesting example is Slavoj Žižek…

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What is Radical? (Part I)

 by on December 19, 2013
Dec 192013

In her essay Anarchism: What It Really Stands For,1 Emma Goldman discusses anarchism–still a widely misunderstood idea–as the most progressive and just political project whose moment has arrived. At another time I’ll get into what this means, whether anarchism is still relevant today, and how it is different from libertarianism. For now, I want to briefly introduce the question, What is radical?, by looking at the following excerpt from Goldman’s essay: Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think. The widespread mental indolence, so prevalent in society, proves this to be only too true. Rather

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The Imagination of Evil

 by on December 7, 2013
Dec 072013

It has become quite the fad to criticize Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem for not going far enough in its condemnation of Eichmann and for failing to identify sufficiently with the victims. Richard Brody has done it before and he expresses a similar critique again in his Hannah Arendt’s Failures of Imagination. He tells us how recently published interviews with Arendt confirm his criticisms of a cold, snobby intellectual who failed to condemn Nazism sufficiently.

I’ve read through the article several times to make sure I’m not missing anything, and it seems like Brody’s argument is this: Arendt lacks imagination in her characterization of Eichmann, which means she’s a snobby intellectual who doesn’t appreciate the gravity of Eichmann’s crimes, and her lack of emotion means she can’t understand the depth of evil done to Jews.

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Women and Logical Positivism

 by on December 2, 2013
Dec 022013

Brian Leiter doesn’t get the connection made by Mary Midgley between logical positivism and the representation of women in philosophy. Midgley’s point isn’t that logical positivism is objectively bad but that there is a tendency to turn philosophy into a boys club of arguments. This critique has been expressed again and again by, mostly female, philosophers. Perhaps the most famous example is Arendt, who makes the tension between genders in philosophy explicit in some of her interviews, connecting that tension with a broader theme of her work: the relationship between thinking and acting.

In pointing out the tendency of logical positivism to retreat into argumentation and competition, Midgley signals the more general tension between philosophy and practical concerns…

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