In my book, philosophy isn’t something you have, but something you do. So philosophers aren’t just thinkers. We are doers.
And there is a lot that we can do, individually and collectively, by strategically using our particular skills, knowledge, and social locations, to help move humanity toward doing a better job of sustaining all the people, other living things, and ecosystems that can be found on this amazing and beautiful planet.
If you’ve already made a habit of choosing the relatively sustainable options in your personal life, one way to level up on your sustainability activism is to join the Philosophers for Sustainability. We’ve got various advocacy teams, workshops, and resources, and we welcome all comers, from casual participants to gung-ho experts and leaders.
Right now, our biggest area of momentum is the APA 2+1 campaign, a plan to shift 1 or 2 of the 3 divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association each year to an entirely online format, with the in-person meeting(s) rotating between divisions. Implementing this plan would dramatically cut our profession’s greenhouse gas emissions, save money, and make the meetings accessible to a wider range of philosophers.
Please consider signing and sharing the petition, if you aren’t already one of the 689 signatories so far!
The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity was one of the first books I picked up purely for my reading pleasure after liberating myself from the ridiculously demanding work schedule that I had as a university professor. I am so glad that I did (that is, both pick up the book and leave that job behind)!
This hefty book has been getting a lot of press, positive and negative, so there are already tons of places that you might look for a summary, if you are so inclined. I’m not so sure that one can really successfully summarize a book like this one, though, so I’m not going to try.
I will mention some of the things that I most appreciated about it. From the start, it forced me to confront (not for the first time) the shortcomings and miserable failures of my own education when it comes to the indigenous cultures of North America. As the book progressed, I learned a lot about various cultures across wide swaths of space and time. Gaining a greater understanding of the great diversity of ways in which humans have intentionally chosen to organize their societies would be reason enough for many people to give some time and attention to the book.
But what I probably found most valuable for getting the old brain juices flowing were the authors’ discussions of some very fundamental freedoms. Over many years as a student and then also as a teacher, I’ve thought a lot about the ways in which many of us are socialized into obeying authorities rather than deciding for ourselves what a good life looks like (and how best to pursue it). This book enabled me to think about a whole host of related issues from a new angle, and I suspect some of the ways it has changed my thinking will be quite long-lasting.
Of course I’m neither an anthropologist or an archaeologist, so I don’t have the right kind(s) of expertise to assess the methods used to collect, analyze, and interpret data in the background research, but the book did also help me learn a lot about the preoccupations, habits, and assumptions that are common to many practitioners of those disciplines, which was both interesting and useful for me.
To me, voting feels good. It feels good to have a voice and to use it. It feels good to try to get the future that I want for all of us. It feels good to engage with literally millions of other people in the big and important conversation about our shared values that is a national election.
I would love for you to vote, too! Will you make the time to vote in this year’s election?
Oh, wow – it is great to end the summer with a really spectacular novel. Everyone should go out and read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (and that goes double for any budding scholars interested in philosophy of mind and/or cognitive science).
Don’t read any blurbs or reviews first, just get straight into it!
Why? There is a significant surprise reveal midway through it, and it would be a real shame if you didn’t get the chance to figure things out on your own. This sometimes funny, often thought-provoking, and consistently well-written book starts out as just a regular story about growing up in a family of flawed people, but I’ll leave it for you to decide whether we can say that it ends that way …
While I make a different set of metaphysical assumptions about the nature of concepts in each article, in both of them, I argue for the same conclusion about the scope of our moral responsibilities. Specifically, I argue that we can be morally responsible for the concepts in our repertoires and how we put them to work in our thinking. So, when the two papers are taken together, they show that on either a psychological or semantic account of concepts, we can be morally responsible for our relations to those concepts for the same reasons that we can be morally responsible for our actions and attitudes.
I started reading Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching for reasons that had nothing to do with COVID-19. But may I say that it could not be any more relevant to our lives at this particular time?
Dr. Michael Greger does a wonderful job of explaining the science of viruses in general, the history of pandemics (and our political/economic/public health/media responses to them), and the steps that we would need to take to reduce the terrible dangers that pandemic influenza poses to human life, health, economics, national security, and so on. His writing is clear, engaging, and accessible, while being grounded in meticulous research and including copious citations from all sorts of relevant experts around the world.
No joke: this is not good bedtime reading, but it is a great read!
There are 140 million poor and low income people in America. But the interlocking, systemic injustices that create and perpetuate poverty negatively impact us all (in different ways).
It’s gone on far too long. We must ALL unite to fight poverty, not poor people.
The growing awareness of the disproportionate impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic on poor communities and communities of color, as well as the ongoing patterns of police brutality against people of color that have been getting so much more widespread attention recently, are motivating people of conscience to stand up and take action in a variety of ways. Please join us.
Due to the pandemic, the the massive slate of events known as the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington that have long been planned by The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival for June 20-21, 2020 have gone digital. There will be live-streamed speeches (in English, Spanish, and ASL) by all sorts of folks, opportunities to contact elected officials, a virtual rally, voter registration information, and merchandise.
Check out June2020.org for more information about how to get involved. (And be sure to note the impressive, inspiring list of mobilizing partners.)
In celebration of Juneteenth (today, 6/19, the day on which we who continue to work toward justice celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans), the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia has put together a two-part curated collection of previously published work by Black feminist scholars and made it freely available without subscription.
I’ve always loved animals, but I don’t always see myself in other people’s vision of what it means to be an animal lover. For instance, I don’t keep pets, and lots of people would expect an animal lover to do so. However, I am a vegan, which might be (and I think should be, but often isn’t) expected of people who self-identify as animal lovers. Plus, I generally love learning about animals more than I love interacting with them, but I do find it deeply painful when I witness harm to animals, even in fiction. And I’m seriously committed to environmentalism, which many people think means choosing what is good for whole species and ecosystems, even if and when that means killing or otherwise harming various individual animals.
I suspect there are a lot of other people out there who love animals in some sense, but that maybe don’t fit into stereotypical ideas about what it means to be an animal lover.
For an awesome book that challenges all of us to rethink what it means to stand in an ethically good relationship to non-human animals, I strongly recommend Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka’s Zoopolis. They don’t frame their book in terms of being by or for animal lovers, (though their work clearly expresses love for animals, along with many more intellectual virtues). Instead, they make a powerful, extended argument that existing academic and activist work regarding animal ethics is limited in key ways that can be overcome by shifting to a political model of human/non-human animal engagement. Here’s some high praise from any philosopher: their insights and arguments really changed my mind about a lot of things!
And (bonus!) this is among the most engaging and accessible books in academic philosophy that I’ve had the pleasure to read. It is one of those unicorns that falls into both the “for fun” and “for work” categories that I often use to mentally sort books. Seriously, check it out.
William Gibson’s newest novel, Agency, has a lot to offer to longtime Gibson fans (like myself) as well people who haven’t previously read his work. You’ve got a cast of uniquely talented characters with fascinating personalities spread across the globe in the not too distant future, quick-witted dialogue, surprising turns of events, brilliant social commentary, and plenty of individual sentences that can captivate your imagination by encapsulating a person, a mood, a place, or a complex event all on their own.
As with other Gibson books, what I could say about the plot won’t do it justice, and might spoil the thrill of … well, just read it.
That said, if you are new to Gibson, don’t expect an escapist departure from the nightmare that we are living. Agency is sure to spark some troubling reflections about our present predicament (however you understand that).