Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

9780199606726

Luciano Floridi responds to NYROB review of The Fourth Revolution

John Searle’s review of The Fourth Revolution – How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality (OUP 2014) is astonishingly shallow and misguided. The silver lining is that, if its factual errors and conceptual confusions are removed, the opportunity for an informed and insightful reading can still be enjoyed.

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How to naturalize God

A former colleague of mine once said that the problem with theology is that it has no subject-matter. I was reminded of Nietzsche’s (unwittingly self-damning) claim that those who have theologians’ blood in their veins see all things in a distorted and dishonest perspective.

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Bioethics and the hidden curriculum

The inherent significance of bioethics and social science in medicine is now widely accepted… at least on the surface. Despite an assortment of practical problems—limited curricular time compounded by increased concern for “whitespace”—few today deny outright that ethical practice and humanistic patient engagement are important and need to be taught.

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Why be rational (or payday in Wonderland)?

This little fable illustrates three points. The first is that rationality is a property of patterns of choice rather than of individual choices. As Hume famously noted in 1738, ‘it is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger; it is not contrary to reason for me to chuse [sic] my total ruin to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian’. However, it seems irrational to choose chocolate when the menu comprises coffee, tea, and chocolate; and to choose tea when it comprises just tea and chocolate.

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Ancient voices for today [infographic]

The ancient writers of Greece and Rome are familiar to many, but what do their voices really tell us about who they were and what they believed? In Twelve Voices from Greece and Rome, Christopher Pelling and Maria Wyke provide a vibrant and distinctive introduction to twelve of the greatest authors from ancient Greece and Rome, writers whose voices still resonate strongly across the centuries.

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Pattison-The Morality of Private War

The ethics of a mercenary

In July 2014, the Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, claimed that Ukraine wasn’t fighting a civil war in the East of the country but rather was “defending its territory from foreign mercenaries.” Conversely, rumours abounded earlier in the year that Academi, the firm formerly known as Blackwater, were operating in support of the Ukrainian government (which Academi strongly denied).

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Efficient causation: Our debt to Aristotle and Hume

Causation is now commonly supposed to involve a succession that instantiates some lawlike regularity. This understanding of causality has a history that includes various interrelated conceptions of efficient causation that date from ancient Greek philosophy and that extend to discussions of causation in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of science. Yet the fact that we now often speak only of causation, as opposed to efficient causation, serves to highlight the distance of our thought on this issue from its ancient origins.

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Reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations with a modern perspective

Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations is a remarkable phenomenon, a philosophical diary written by a Roman emperor, probably in 168-80 AD, and intended simply for his own use. It offers exceptional insights into the private thoughts of someone who had a very weighty public role, and may well have been composed when he was leading a military campaign in Germany.

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When tragedy strikes, should theists expect to know why?

My uncle used to believe in God. But that was before he served in Iraq. Now he’s an atheist. How could a God of perfect power and perfect love allow the innocent to suffer and the wicked to flourish? Philosophers call this the problem of evil. It’s the problem of trying to reconcile two things that at first glance seem incompatible: God and evil. If the world were really governed by a being like God, shouldn’t we expect the world to be a whole lot better off than it is?

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Plato and contemporary bioethics

Since its advent in the early 1970s, bioethics has exploded, with practitioners’ thinking expressed not only in still-expanding scholarly venues but also in the gamut of popular media. Not surprisingly, bioethicists’ disputes are often linked with technological advances of relatively recent vintage, including organ transplantation and artificial-reproductive measures like preimplantation genetic diagnosis and prenatal genetic testing.

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Should Britain intervene militarily to stop Islamic State?

Britain and the United States have been suffering from intervention fatigue. The reason is obvious: our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven far more costly and their results far more mixed and uncertain than we had hoped. This fatigue manifested itself in almost exactly a year ago, when Britain’s Parliament refused to let the Government offer military support to the U.S. and France in threatening punitive strikes against Syria’s Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons.

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The problem with moral knowledge

Traveling through Scotland, one is struck by the number of memorials devoted to those who lost their lives in World War I. Nearly every town seems to have at least one memorial listing the names of local boys and men killed in the Great War (St. Andrews, where I am spending the year, has more than one).

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9780199661268

What commuters know about knowing

If your morning commute involves crowded public transportation, you definitely want to find yourself standing next to someone who is saying something like, “I know he’s stabbed people, but has he ever killed one?” . It’s of course best to enjoy moments like this in the wild, but I am not above patrolling Overheard in London for its little gems (“Shall I give you a ring when my penguins are available?”), or, on an especially desperate day, going all the way back to the London-Lund Corpus of Spoken English, a treasury of oddly informative conversations.

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Coffee tasting with Aristotle

Imagine a possible world where you are having coffee with … Aristotle! You begin exchanging views on how you like the coffee; you examine its qualities – it is bitter, hot, aromatic etc. It tastes to you this way or this other way. But how do you make these perceptual judgments? It might seem obvious to say that it is via the senses we are endowed with. Which senses though? How many senses are involved in coffee tasting? And how many senses do we have in all?

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The construction of the Cartesian System as a rival to the Scholastic Summa

René Descartes wrote his third book, Principles of Philosophy, as something of a rival to scholastic textbooks. He prided himself in “that those who have not yet learned the philosophy of the schools will learn it more easily from this book than from their teachers, because by the same means they will learn to scorn it, and even the most mediocre teachers will be capable of teaching my philosophy by means of this book alone” (Descartes to Marin Mersenne, December 1640).

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9780195398915

The vision of Confucius

To understand China, it is essential to understand Confucianism. There are many teachings of Confucianist tradition, but before we can truly understand them, it is important to look at the vision Confucius himself had. In this excerpt below from Confucianism: A Very Short Introduction, Daniel K. Gardner discusses the future the teacher behind the ideas imagined.

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