The Value of Objections


It is the fashion of the present time to disparage negative logic — that which points out weaknesses in theory or errors in practice without establishing positive truths. Such negative criticism would indeed be poor enough as an ultimate result, but as a means to attaining any positive knowledge or conviction worthy the name it cannot be valued too highly [...].


Personal Identity


Listen to philosopher Christopher Shields (University of Oxford) on Philosophy Bites talking about personal identity — what makes an individual the same person despite change over time.

This became a topic of particular interest to me when I was doing research for a paper that I presented in July 2007, “Labyrinths of the Self: Different Characters, Identical Bodies in Battlestar Galactica”. I used John Locke’s ideas then and, because I am turning this short conference paper into an essay for publication, I later came across Derek Parfit’s work. Shields discuses Locke, but it is refreshing that he also considers examples from classical philosophy. The philosopher argues for a definition of personal identity as involving the “individual life directionality” of a subject.

Jerrold Levinson at Kent


The School of Drama, Film and Visual Arts and the Aesthetics Research Group of the University of Kent have just announced the appointment of Professor Jerrold Levinson as Visiting Leverhulme Professor in Philosophy of Art for 2008-9.

Professor Levinson is Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, and the author of many significant works in aesthetics and the philosophy of art, including Music, Art, and Metaphysics, Music in the Moment, The Pleasures of Aesthetics, and Contemplating Art. Further information on his profile and publications can be found here.

Over the course of the year, he will deliver a number of research seminars and act as respondent to papers given by other scholars. In the spring term, he will deliver a series of open lectures on ten key concepts in aesthetics. Updated details on Professor Levinson’s lectures, seminars and other activities will be posted here. Recordings of his presentations will be made available on this web page.



Some days, analytic philosophy is not enough. (Of course, deep down, I know this every day. I just do not admit it.)

Modest Arrogance


Consider this sentence from Stanley Cavell’s foreword to Eyal Peretz’s Becoming Visionary:

As I have had occasion variously to insist, philosophy is inherently arrogant, arrogating to itself the power of speaking universally, speaking for all (all who will hear), without claiming (indeed disclaiming access to) knowledge that the rest of the world does not possess (those who merely do not know that they possess it).[1]

There is something profoundly ethical in this confession that instead of weakening the work of philosophy makes it more persuasive; certainly more compelling. This is why Cavell’s writings always seem to me like modest conversations between himself and the reader. He thinks about (his) thinking and reflects on (his) reflections.


[1] Eyal Peretz, Becoming Visionary: Brian De Palma’s Cinematic Education of the Senses (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), xi.

Forgiveness and Toleration, Derrida and Locke


A French deconstructivist and a British empiricist on the menu. Observe the differences and the similarities.

Listen to philosopher Robert Rowland Smith explaining and defending Jacques Derrida’s ideas about forgiveness on Philosophy Bites — Derrida argued that forgiving the forgiveable is not really forgiving. And to John Dunn (University of Cambridge) giving a general summary of John Locke’s advocacy of religious toleration on another Philosophy Bites podcast.

Non-Totalising Knowledge


I cannot resist. A recent call for papers for Drive Culture, a new on-line journal based at Temple University in Philadelphia, is asking for submissions on the following topic:

In a kind of perversion of the spirit of Wikipedia, Drive Culture wants to create an encyclopedia that actively aims at a non-totalization of knowledge. Such an encyclopedia would make no pretense to objectivity, but would instead amplify the subjective by allowing multiple entries on single topics. Our hope is that the more we add to it, the less we will know. For our first issue, we would like to start with the letter “A”. We are especially on the lookout for subjects that have escaped Wiki’s radar. Entries should be no more than 750 words and should not hesitate to depart from the objective, didactic approach of the standard encyclopedic entry through humor, absurdity or sarcasm. Any “A” word is acceptable, but here is a list of suggestions to encourage multiple responses to the same subject:

amputee fetish
petit a
autological words

I do not know if I should cheer, laugh, or cry. Maybe this indecision is the first step to non-totalising knowledge.

The Definition of Art


What is art? This has become as difficult question to answer especially since Marcel Duchamp put a factory-produced urinal in an open exhibition, signed it “R. Mutt”, and called it “Fountain”. Listen to philosopher Derek Matravers (Open University) addressing this question for Philosophy Bites.