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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Choosing Normative Concepts

Normative thought and the boundaries of language

Consider this little story. On a planet somewhere far away there’s a community, the Tragic. The Tragic are deeply moral, in the sense of caring deeply about doing the right thing, even when that isn’t in their self-interest. They are also very successful in figuring out what’s the “right” thing, in their sense of right. So they very often do what’s “right” in their sense.

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Some of the mysteries of good character

he topic of character is one of the oldest in both Western and Eastern thought, and has enjoyed a renaissance in philosophy since at least the 1970s with the revival of virtue ethics. Yet, even today, character remains largely a mystery. We know very little about what most peoples’ character looks like. Important virtues are surprisingly neglected. There are almost no strategies advanced by philosophers today for improving character.

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Franz Brentano: 100 years after

Franz Brentano died on the 17 of March 1917. His main work Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (1874) combines an Aristotelian view of the mind with empiricist methodology inspired by the likes of William Hamilton and John Stuart Mill. Brentano’s philosophical program was to show that every concept can ultimately be derived from perceptions: he was a concept empiricist.

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What is the value of rationality, and why does it matter?

In the past, most philosophers assumed that the central notion of rationality is a normative or evaluative concept: to think rationally is to think properly or well—in other words, to think as one should think. Rational thinking is in a sense good thinking, while irrational thinking is bad. Recently, however, philosophers have raised several objections to that assumption.

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A Naive Realist Theory of Colour

The problem of colour

Colours are a familiar and important feature of our experience of the world. Colours help us to distinguish and identify things in our environment: for instance, the red of a berry not only helps us to see the berry against the green foliage, but it also allows us to identify it as a berry. Colours perform a wide variety of symbolic functions: red means stop, green means go, white means surrender.

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Why physicists need philosophy

At a party, on a plane, in the locker-room, I’m often asked what I do. Though tempted by one colleague’s adoption of the identity of a steam-pipe fitter, I admit I am a professor of philosophy. If that doesn’t end or redirect the conversation, my questioner may continue by raising some current moral or political issue, or asking for my favorite philosopher.

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Philosophical curiosities from around the world [slideshow]

Today is World Philosophy Day! Introduced by UNESCO in 2002, World Philosophy Day aims to promote the global importance of philosophical thought. To celebrate, we’ve created a slideshow of philosophical puzzles from A Cabinet of Philosophical Curiosities: A Collection of Puzzles, Oddities, Riddles, and Dilemmas to test your thinking. Take a look at the slideshow below to see if you can answer these riddles from around the world.

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World Philosophy Day 2017: political philosophy across the globe [map]

The third Thursday in November marks World Philosophy Day, an event founded by UNESCO to emphasise the importance of philosophy in the development of human thought, for each culture and for each individual. This year, the OUP Philosophy team have decided to incorporate the Oxford Philosophy Festival theme of applying philosophy in politics to our World Philosophy Day content.

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The plot thins

In The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, the heroine teaches in Edinburgh in the 1930s. She has a special set of favourites amongst her pupils, loves one-armed Roman Catholic art teacher and WW1 veteran Teddy Lloyd, and sympathises with Mussolini. A member of her set, Sandy, eventually sleeps with Lloyd and then becomes a nun, writing a book called The Transfiguration of the Commonplace.

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Morals and the military [an excerpt]

In honor of Veterans Day, we would like to focus on the men and women around the world who have been committed to the defense of their countries and their fellow citizens. Replacing Armistice Day in 1954, this holiday serves to recognize victims of all wars and the US veterans who have served honorably in the military. However, in times of war, the distinction between moral and immoral are unclear

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“Thank you for your service” isn’t enough [excerpt]

On this Veterans Day, we honor those fallen and herald those still fighting. We also examine what more can be done in terms of listening and understanding those who have seen the perils of war firsthand. In this excerpt from AfterWar: Healing the Moral Wounds of our Soldiers, author Nancy Sherman shares with us her time spent with a veteran of Afghanistan and his feelings on those who expect so much from soldiers and can only offer thanks in return.

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Is there definitive proof of the existence of God?

When Kurt Gödel, one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, died in 1978 he left mysterious notes filled with logical symbols. Towards the end of his life a rumour circulated that this enigmatic genius was engaged in a secret project that was not directly relevant to his usual mathematical work. According to the rumour, he had tried to develop a logical proof of the existence of God.

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“Too Many” Yabloesque Paradoxes

The Yablo Paradox (due to Stephen Yablo and Albert Visser) consists of an infinite sequence of sentences of the following form: S1: For all m > 1, Sm is false. S2: For all m > 2, Sm is false. S3: For all m > 3, Sm is false. : :
: Sn: For all m > n, Sm is false. Sn+1: For all m > n+1, Sm is false. Hence, the nth sentence in the list ‘says’ that all of the sentences below it are false.

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Shakespeare, Sinatra, and the Philosophy of Aging [excerpt]

Aging in the world of entertainment is portrayed in a variety of ways. In some cases it’s graceful and elegant; in others it’s manic and doddering. Shakespeare has dealt with this subject numerous times with vast reinterpretations in productions through the centuries. In this excerpt from Aging Thoughtfully: Conversations about Retirement, Wrinkles, Romance, and Regret, authors Martha C. Nussbaum and Saul Levmore look at the classic example of King Lear, and how different portrayals of this elderly character can be a reflection of how people see aging and infirmity in modern times.

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Oxford Philosophy Festival, 16th–19th November 2017

Oxford University Press and Blackwell’s are delighted to team up once again to host the Oxford Philosophy Festival to celebrate the quest for knowledge and ideas. This year, our theme centres around applying philosophy in politics. Come and join us as we discuss religious liberty and discrimination with John Corvino, the benefits of a marriage-free state with Clare Chambers, the true nature of the oil industry with Leif Wenar, and much more

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