Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Knowledge Ascriptions


Knowledge Ascriptions. Edited by Jessica Brown & Mikkel Gerken. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. 320. Hard Cover £46.99. ISBN: 978-0-19-969370-2.

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This collection of essays brings together recent work being done in the fields of epistemology and philosophy of language concerning knowledge ascriptions—that is, ascriptions of the form, “S knows that p,” wherein S stands for a subject and p stands for a proposition. The volume contains twelve chapters, the first of which is a very well-organized and informative introduction by the editors, Jessica Brown and Mikkel Gerken. The editors state that “[t]he pre­sent anthology brings together a number of diverse strands of con­temporary research that have focused on knowledge ascriptions” (1). The introduction then is structured around a discussion of three such strands, which the editors refer to as “the linguistic turn,” “the cognitive turn” and “the social turn,” respectively.

Probability in the Philosophy of Religion


Probability in the Philosophy of Religion. Edited by Jake Chandler & Victoria S. Harrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. 272. Hard Cover £42, ISBN: 978-0-19-960476-0.

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In addition to an introductory essay written by the editors, this volume contains eleven essays comprising five sections: ‘Testimony and Miracles,’ ‘Design,’ ‘Evil,’ ‘Pascal’s Wager,’ and ‘Faith and Disagreement.’ In the introduction Chandler and Harrison provide a helpful overview of the eleven other essays along with a description of how the essays both contribute to a long tradition of philosophical questioning about God and religion (with emphasis on the conversation that has ensued since Hume) and exemplify certain contemporary trends in analytic philosophy of religion. They also comment, unsurprisingly, on the benefits (as well as potential pitfalls) of formalization in philosophy of religion. The arguments in the eleven essays differ both in the degree to which they depend on formalization and in the level of complexity of the formalization involved. The essays also differ in the degree to which controversial assumptions about probability or decision theory (e.g., subjective Bayesianism, a “structure-description” approach to inductive logic, etc.) are assumed or are needed for the arguments to succeed.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Buddho-Nietzschean Response to Nihilism


Nietzsche and Buddhist Philosophy. By Antoine Panaïoti. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. 244. Hard Cover $95. ISBN: 978-1-107-03162-3. 

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Antoine Panaïoti’s Nietzsche and Buddhist Philosophy is perhaps a different book than you might expect. Rather than simply an exercise in comparison and contrast—which could indeed be extremely useful in itself—the book is mostly an effort to combine insights from both Nietzsche and Buddhism into Panaïoti’s own positive response to what he calls the “challenge of nihilism.” For Panaïoti, philosophers today work in a world where reification is a dead prospect. Being is a fiction. All that’s left is flux, and the problem is how to respond to it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Religion and the Renaissance


Philosophy of Religion in the Renaissance. By Paul Richard Blum. Farnham; Burlington: Ashgate, 2010. Pp. ix+211. Hard Cover £65, ISBN: 978-0-7546-0781-6. 

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The area of Renaissance philosophy seems to gain attention from historians primarily, thereby suffering from neglect by those interested and specialized in philosophy. One reason for this is that the Renaissance seems to lack ‘great thinkers’ who typically define those broad historical categories in philosophy known as Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. The Renaissance has neither an Augustine nor Descartes, an Angelic Doctor nor a Kant—so far as concerns typical syllabi in philosophy curriculum, at any rate. Renaissance thought is typically seen from one of two angles, both employing broad strokes: in the first instance, it is simply a continuation (for some, perhaps a stale continuation) of the medieval traditions with some help from rediscovered Antiquity; alternatively, some aspects of the Renaissance are seen as  precursors to enlightened Modern thinking, even if only in a confused or seminal form. One of the arguments running in the background of Paul Richard Blum’s Philosophy of Religion in the Renaissance is that “modern philosophy originated in the Renaissance as a rupture and a beginning,” all the while never denying that Renaissance philosophy has its origins in the Middle Ages (1).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Lesson in Platonic Interpretation


Socrates and the Gods: How to Read Plato’s Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito. By Nalin Ranasinghe. South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press, 2012. Pp. 256. Cloth $28. ISBN: 978-1587317798.

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Like many authors of serial texts, Nalin Ranasinghe did not anticipate that his work, The Soul of Socrates (Cornell University Press, 2000) would become the first text of a three-work series on the life and death of Socrates; yet, two events inspired him to pen sequel works. The first event, Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Address, led to a first sequel, his Socrates in the Underworld: On Plato’s Gorgias (St. Augustine’s Press, 2009).1 Ranasinghe writes, “I wanted to show how the model of the cosmos and the anti-sophistical political art set forth in the Gorgias was the antidote to the plague of voluntarism-based consumerism and valorized violence that afflicted the West” (5). In his final sequel, Socrates and the Gods, Ranasinghe explores Plato’s Apology using two supporting dialogues: the Euthyphro and the Crito. In his treatment of these works, Ranasinghe continues to investigate the theme of voluntarism, or the belief that morality need not align itself with what is good according to reason. Yet, as Ranasinghe tells it, a second event provoked this last publication within the series. He recalls that, during a conversation with his distinguished teacher, Stanley Rosen, Rosen recounted his disappointment upon learning that his own teacher, Leo Strauss, did not possess the “final answers to the ultimate questions” (6). This encounter with Rosen serves as a good introduction to Socrates and the Gods, for it indicates an essential and often-misunderstood feature of Socrates’ character—the understanding that Socrates, too, did not possess the final answers guides Ranasinghe’s interpretation. Rather, in Ranasinghe’s Socrates, the reader encounters a man who simultaneously understands the limits of the human condition yet recognizes the divine gifts bestowed upon him.