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General Interest

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(Did you hear the one about Hegel and negation?)

A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.”—Ludwig Wittgenstein

Why Rationality Matters for Democracy

Why does reason matter, if (as many people seem to think) in the end everything comes down to blind faith or gut instinct? Why not just go with what you believe even if it contradicts the evidence? Why bother with rational explanation when name-calling, manipulation, and force are so much more effective in our current cultural and political landscape?

In our daily life, it really seems as though we have free will, that what we do from moment to moment is determined by conscious decisions that we freely make. You get up from the couch, you go for a walk, you eat chocolate ice cream. It seems that we’re in control of actions like these; if we are, then we have free will. But in recent years, some have argued that free will is an illusion. The neuroscientist (and best-selling author) Sam Harris and the late Harvard psychologist Daniel Wegner, for example, claim that certain scientific findings disprove free will.

Thinkers have been fascinated by paradox since long before Aristotle grappled with Zeno’s. In this volume in The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Margaret Cuonzo explores paradoxes and the strategies used to solve them. She finds that paradoxes are more than mere puzzles but can prompt new ways of thinking.

This book draws on ideas from philosophical logic, computational logic, multi-agent systems, and game theory to offer a comprehensive account of logic and games viewed in two complementary ways. It examines the logic of games: the development of sophisticated modern dynamic logics that model information flow, communication, and interactive structures in games. It also examines logic as games: the idea that logical activities of reasoning and many related tasks can be viewed in the form of games.

A Philosophical Defense of Limits

The transformative potential of genetic and cybernetic technologies to enhance human capabilities is most often either rejected on moral and prudential grounds or hailed as the future salvation of humanity. In this book, Nicholas Agar offers a more nuanced view, making a case for moderate human enhancement—improvements to attributes and abilities that do not significantly exceed what is currently possible for human beings. He argues against radical human enhancement, or improvements that greatly exceed current human capabilities.

In this challenging but exhilarating work, Sha Xin Wei argues for an approach to materiality inspired by continuous mathematics and process philosophy. Investigating the implications of such an approach to media and matter in the concrete setting of installation- or event-based art and technology, Sha maps a genealogy of topological media—that is, of an articulation of continuous matter that relinquishes a priori objects, subjects, and egos and yet constitutes value and novelty.

For Peter Sloterdijk, Friedrich Nietzsche represents nothing short of a “catastrophe in the history of language”—a new evangelist for a linguistics of narcissistic jubilation. Nietzsche offered a philosophical declaration of independence from humility, a meeting-point of sobriety and megalomania that for Sloterdijk has come to define the very project of philosophy.

Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts

Events are always passing; to experience an event is to experience the passing. But how do we perceive an experience that encompasses the just-was and the is-about-to-be as much as what is actually present? In Semblance and Event, Brian Massumi, drawing on the work of William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Gilles Deleuze, and others, develops the concept of “semblance” as a way to approach this question.

Reason in Society, Volume VII, Book Two

Santayana’s Life of Reason, published in five books from 1905 to 1906, ranks as one of the greatest works in modern philosophical naturalism. Acknowledging the natural material bases of human life, Santayana traces the development of the human capacity for appreciating and cultivating the ideal. It is a capacity he exhibits as he articulates a continuity running through animal impulse, practical intelligence, and ideal harmony in reason, society, art, religion, and science. The work is an exquisitely rendered vision of human life lived sanely.

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