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1. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
James Rocha Environmental Racism and Privileged Consumerism
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Environmental racism concerns the ways in which environmental protections are unfairly distributed along racial lines. One outcome of environmental racism is that environmental degradation does not harm us all equally, with oppressed racial groups facing greater burdens. Consequently, members of privileged groups can more comfortably engage in environmentally destructive consumerism because they will neither initially nor primarily face the worst impact from environmental destruction. I will argue that the ability to feel comfortable while engaging in environmentally destructive consumerism is a form of racism, and that this racism strengthens the blameworthiness of such privileged consumerism.
2. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Sanjay Lal On Becoming Worthy of Victory: Asserting a Natural Place for Philosophy in Global Struggle
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While there has been no shortage of philosophical writings dealing with humanity’s great struggles (be they on issues of justice, war, the proper structure of the state, et al) there is a notable absence within academic philosophy in asserting a broad, overriding, and natural place for philosophical analysis regarding such issues—a role which can be crucial in making us better people (and thus capable of realizing a better world). In the first part of this paper, I will discuss the notable absence of certain character traits on the part of activists fighting for a better world that are essential for attaining the lofty goals protest movements aim for. I will then show that philosophy is uniquely suited for helping develop such traits (specifically when philosophy is seen as a practice). In the last part of this paper, I will discuss possible areas of philosophical exploration that would be particularly fruitful for making us better people. My intention is to ultimately help establish a unique and irreplaceable role academic philosophy can have in activist movements.
3. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
José A. Haro Colonialism and Ressentiment
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In this paper I apply Friedrich Nietzsche’s critique of European morality to the Western colonial context. I specifically focus attention on his notions of ressentiment and slave morality, and how his critique implicates these as being exported and imposed upon the people Western powers colonized. However, the process of colonization reveals that the imposed morality is transformed into a distinct type of ressentiment that Nietzsche does not to consider. I call this type of ressentiment “colonial ressentiment” in distinction to Nietzsche’s slave morality. To provide the content to clearly distinguish colonial ressentiment from that of slave morality, I utilize Frantz Fanon’s description of the colonial drama to help illuminate their differences. To conclude the paper, I discuss some of the upshots of colonial ressentiment and their relation to present day struggles.
4. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Jeremy Wisnewski Affordances, Embodiment, and Moral Perception: A Sketch of a Moral Theory
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My aim in this article is programmatic. I argue that understanding perceptual experience on the model of perceptual affordances allows us to acknowledge the centrality of embodiment to moral phenomenology, on the one hand, and to see more transparently the place of the emotions in the moral life, on the other. I suggest some means by which moral perception, construed as the perception of moral affordances, might be cultivated.
5. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
David Koukal The Fatally Flawed Leadership of Donald J. Trump: A Platonic Analysis
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Over the past two years, several political commentators have drawn on Plato’s Republic to shed light on our last presidential election. Many of these authors emphasize the features of democracy that make it especially susceptible to demagoguery, which heralds the arrival of tyranny, and then go on to relate this to Donald Trump’s political ascension. The problem with these analyses is that they tend to unquestioningly adopt Plato’s pessimistic view of democracy. While Plato’s criticisms do have the virtue of making us aware of democracy’s weaknesses, we would argue that our present political circumstances did not issue from these flaws. This makes these criticisms irrelevant. Other commentators come closer to the mark when they talk about Plato’s passages addressing the person of the tyrant in Book IX, but what is lacking in these accounts is a context that more fully explains why the tyrant is what he is, in Platonic terms. In this essay we argue that other parts of the Republic, particularly Book IV, can tell us much more about Trump and his presidency. This part of the dialogue deals with Plato’s conception of human nature, which he presents in his discussion of the soul or psyche [ψυχή]. An examination of these passages will grant us insight into the Trump’s actions and utterances and show that the president is not only intellectually but also temperamentally unqualified for his office, which should give citizens good cause for worry.
6. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Rob Lovering “That’s Just So-and-So Being So-and-So”: On Some Possible Meanings, Functions, and Moral Implications of an Explanation
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When it comes to explaining someone’s puzzling, objectionable, or otherwise problematic behavior, one type of explanation occasionally employed in the service of doing so is as follows: “That’s just so-and-so being so-and-so.” But what, exactly, do explanations of the type “That’s just so-and-so being so-and-so” mean? More specifically, in what way, if any, is it meaningful or informative to say such things? And what is the precise function of such explanations of someone’s behavior? Is it merely to present what one takes to be the underlying causes of the behavior, or something beyond that? In what follows, I lay out a few possibilities—basic possibilities, to be precise, given philosophy’s keen interest in fundamentals—with respect to the various meanings, functions, and moral implications of explanations of the type “That’s just so-and-so being so-and-so.” While doing so, I apply these basic possibilities to three tokens of this kind of explanation: “That’s just Manny being Manny” (in reference to Manny Ramirez, the former professional baseball player), “That’s just Charlie being Charlie” (in reference to Charlie Rose, the former television host), and “That’s just Trump being Trump” (in reference to Donald Trump, the current President of the United States).
7. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
P.E. Wilson Finding Moral Casualties in Wartime Fatalities
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8. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Shay Welch The Cognitive Unconscious in Native American Embodied Knowing
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In this paper, I address only one small parallel between one subsection of Western epistemology and cognitive theory and Native American epistemology. I draw the connection between the recent theories of embodied cognition and distinctive Native modes of embodied implicit procedural knowing, such as blood memory, vision questions, and non-binary logical systems. My reason for doing so is twofold. First, I show how these distinctive ways of knowing within Native worldviews are not mere mystical claims that can be cast aside in favor of more ostensibly “rational” knowing practices. To do so, I utilized Mark Johnson’s account of the cognitive unconscious to demonstrate how and that Native embodied knowing practices and knowledge sources are easily explicable when examined though a phenomenological cognitive lens. Second, I highlight one small respect in which Native epistemologies are conceived of procedurally. Embodied forms of knowing are merely one facet of the procedural performative nature of Native American epistemology but they are highly demonstrative of the fact that procedural ways of knowing—knowing-how—account for deeply implicit ways of knowing that are lacking from other procedural knowledge accounts that are often hamstrung without such an accompanying account of knowing-how beyond counterfactual knowledge.
9. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Brock Bahler The Tree of Life: Wisdom Reflected in the Face of Domestic Terror
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book reviews
10. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Matthew Valentine Friedrich Nietzsche and European Nihilism
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11. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
Greg McCreery On the Possibility of Action as Liberation from (Non)Violence
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12. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Peter Mehl Rethinking Liberalism: Sandel, Nussbaum, and the Good Society
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I critically examine the recent thought of Michael Sandel and Martha Nussbaum to reinvigorate our understanding of a just and flourishing society, and to address shortcomings of liberalism. I argue that while both offer important correctives to facile liberalisms, they both need to understand liberalism as a view of the good society. I spend more time with Nussbaum as she provides a more developed way forward for liberalism. Examining her epistemological approach leads me to argue that her appeal to an overlapping consensus is doing some epistemological work, and that her capabilities approach is tied to a theory of humans and their flourishing. In the final analysis, I judge that Nussbaum’s capabilities approach encompasses Sandel’s communitarian hope for a richer conversation about the good society.
13. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Andrew Oberg Dreaming of AI Lovers
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The vision of building machines that are or can be self-aware has long gripped humankind and now seems closer than ever to being realized. Yet behind this idea lie deep problems associated with the self, with consciousness, and with what it is to be a being capable of experience. It is the aim of this paper to first explore these important background concepts and seek clarity in each one before then turning to the question of artificial intelligence and whether or not such is really possible in the manner in which we are approaching it.
14. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Yotam Benziman Integrity and Self Image
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The connection between integrity and the notion of self seems obvious. A person of integrity is one whose various beliefs, views, experiences, are united into one totality. But if integrity is about the self, then it is for the self to decide what her personality revolves around. This might suggest that being a person of integrity means acting for no reason at all – just because this is “who I am”. I might consider my whimsical, or even corrupt ways of conduct, as manifestations of integrity, and I would not have to offer reasons to anybody. In trying to reply to such an objection, it has been suggested that integrity as an epistemic virtue, aiming at truth and correctness. I show why these attempts are mistaken. And yet, it is true that as persons of integrity we act for sound reasons. Our integrity is connected to our self image. Rather than aiming at truth, our actions manifest the people we aspire to be, the values we admire, the notions we care about. By choosing my commitments I manifest a certain image of what a worthy person should aim at, and I invite others to share this image.
15. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Blake Hereth Why It’s Wrong to Stand Your Ground
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Stand Your Ground laws have prompted frequent and sustained legal and ethical reflection on self-defense. Two primary views have emerged in the literature: the Stand Your Ground View and the Retreat View. On the former view, there is no presumptive moral requirement to retreat even if one can do so safely. According to the latter view, there is such a requirement. I offer a novel argument against the Stand Your Ground View. In cases where retreat or the infliction of defensive harm would be equally efficacious in protecting the rights of an individual, one cannot intend either simply as a means, since there is no means-relevant reason for choosing one over the other. Thus, if one intends to inflict defensive harm, one intends the infliction of defensive harm as an end. Because it is always wrong to intend harm for its own sake, there is a presumptive requirement to retreat.
16. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Jonathan Yahalom Levinasian Caregiving: Dementia and the Other-In-Between
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This article reviews the work of philosopher Emmanuel Levinas to explore caregiving for dementia. It defends a dual thesis whereby it first articulates how Levinas provides a phenomenological description to account for why caregiving is subjectively dreadful and, second, how caregiving invites a fresh re-reading of Levinasian thought. The article introduces two different forms of otherness represented by death and dementia, respectively. This re-reading shows how dementia forces us to more immediately reckon with the intensity Levinas attributes to the nature of human interaction. The article concludes with reflections about what dementia suggests about cultural attitudes towards responsibility and implications for caregiving practice.
17. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Michael Goerger Only a Game?: On the Meaning of Violent Video Gameplay
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Many are disturbed by acts of simulated violent portrayed in contemporary video games. In this essay, I ask if violent gameplay is meaningful or significant outside of the gaming context. Following a recent discussion of the meaning of actions by T.M. Scanlon, I argue for two interrelated theses. First, I claim that in-game actions are only meaningful when the considerations and reasons that drive in-game actions are the same as those that drive analogous actions outside of the game-world. Second, I argue that this condition rarely holds because the gameworld creates a unique context in which the reasons and considerations that drive action are significantly altered. I conclude that violent video gameplay can be but is rarely meaningful outside of the gaming context.
18. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Jeffrey Hankey Unframing the Human
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In a novel synthesis of Judith Butler’s social ontology, Rosi Braidotti’s posthumanism, Simon Critchley’s reading of Heidegger’s ontology of indebtedness, and my own system of ontic impunity premised on the illusion of free will, I make a case for a reframing—or perhaps an unframing—of the human. This unframing imbues those largely denied recognizability as human—such as pedophiles and Muslim civilian casualties of the war on terror—with a dignity and grievability denied them by the dominant ecumenical, Western epistemology of causa sui (the soul). It also forces us to consider the tenuous distinction between human and non-human animals. Finally, I offer some concluding thoughts on the meaning of authenticity as wanting-to-have-a-conscience.
19. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Geoff Pfeifer, Taine Duncan Doing Philosophy in the Contemporary World: A Joint Interview with the Editors
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With all of exciting changes happening with the Journal, we thought a joint interview of one another might be a great way to highlight the vision and mission for Philosophy in the Contemporary World moving forward. This edition is our first edition to be printed fully online, a practice we look forward to ensuring accessibility and worldwide access for subscribers. We also wish to acknowledge our appreciation of the patience of all who follow, read, and subscribe to our journal. Infrastructure changes and a reprint have caused us some publication delays. However, we are very excited about the future to come here at the journal!
20. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Charles Harvey, Christian Matheis Special Issue Editors’ Introduction
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The Society for Philosophy in the Contemporary World maintains a commitment to pluralism in philosophical discourse by encouraging original, unconventional research with regard to contemporary concerns. Among our members, few have championed this commitment more steadfastly than the late Joe Frank Jones III who passed away in January 2015 while planning our annual meeting. Joe had spent a number of years advocating for and developing a graduate-level Bioethics Certificate at Radford University, his home institution. The certificate came to life in 2014, after which Joe and Christian Matheis (Virginia Tech and Radford University) proposed to co-host the next SPCW meeting on what would become this issue’s prototypical namesake: “America the Bioethical: Vitality, Trauma, and Questions of Bioethics in the 21st Century.” Following Joe’s death, both Christian and Charles W. Harvey (University of Central Arkansas) carried on planning the conference with Joe’s vision as a guide.