Joseph Cropsey—American political philosopher; distinguished service professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago; dedicated teacher; and coeditor of the “Strauss–Cropsey Reader” (History of Political Philosophy), a staple in universities for fifty years—died last week at the age of 92.
Cropsey completed his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1952, with a dissertation on the work of Adam Smith, one of his lifelong scholarly interests (in addition to interstitial aspects in the works of Plato and Karl Marx, the figure of Socrates and issues of philosophical sobriety, and the limitations and entrapments of modern liberalism). By 1957, Cropsey was at the University of Chicago (after stints at the CCNY and the New School) as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, following Leo Strauss, who would become his most significant collaborator, and assist in his intellectual turn from economics to political philosphy.
The University of Chicago News Office reports on their intellectual partnership:
Strauss encouraged Cropsey to examine texts deeply. “When Strauss was at the head of his class, sitting up there, he would at a certain point say, ‘What does this mean?’ When I have . . .
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This Thursday, August 26th, will mark the centenary of the death of William James, and to mark that date the online literary site The Second Pass has declared this William James Week.
In an introductory post, the site’s editor, John Williams, writes,
I read The Varieties of Religious Experience for the first time about four years ago, and I quickly became a James fanatic.… I’ve found since discovering his work for myself that fellow fans share my affection for him, my sense that he is almost a real friend—a remarkable feeling to have for any author, much less one who has been gone for a century.
It’s a feeling that is far from uncommon from those who read James—in many ways he is the opposite of his brother Henry, warm where Henry is cerebral, accessible where Henry is occluded, open and even friendly where Henry is stand-offish. On a recent episode of Melvyn Bragg’s BBC show “In Our Time,” philosopher Jonathan Ree described James in similar terms:
First of all, I think William James is one of the greatest philosophers ever, and he’s untypical. Twentieth-century philosophers, I think, fall into two groups: they’re either nitpicking, pettifogging bureaucrats . . .
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Climate change—and the debate about its causes or validity—is a subject of perpetual interest. Recently, we told you about the chasm between meteorologists—who predict short-term weather patterns and remain skeptical about long-term change—and climatologists—who, as the New York Times reported, “almost universally endorse the view that the earth is warming and that humans have contributed to climate change.” (Stephen Colbert also recently covered in conflict with an amusing “Science Catfight” between Joe Bastardi, a weather forcaster, and Brenda Ekwurzel, of the Union of Concerned Scientists.)
Now the UK’s Independent has offered an overview of books that “separate global warming fact from fiction.” And Massimo Pigliucci’s Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk get singled out as “entertaining and valuable guide to sorting the scientific grain from the chaff of pseudoscience.”
He makes a distinction that clarifies some of our current problems. There are two kinds of bone fide science: one is law-based and experimental, cut-and-dried as a crystal chalice or a perfect intertwined double helix of DNA. Then there are historical sciences such as evolution or climate research that employ “the methods of a crime detective.” .… As Pigliucci points out, what happened happened, and can . . .
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The New York Times has posted a video from Bloggingheads.tv featuring Mike Treder of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and Massimo Pigliucci, professor of philosophy at CUNY and author of the forthcoming Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk in an fascinating debate about “radical life extension.”
A skeptic, perennial critic of creationism, and outspoken advocate of science education, Massimo Pigliucci is the author of many books and articles on science and its role in society, frequently engaging in heated debate with “deniers of evolution” and “intelligent design proponents.” (Though I don’t believe Mr. Treder is either of these, sorry.)
Click the link above for more on his forthcoming volume or find out more about his previous work published by the press, Making Sense of Evolution: The Conceptual Foundations of Evolutionary Biology.
Also check out Pigliucci’s blog Rationally Speaking at http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/.
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Sure, evolution explains how modern humans have come to look as we do, but can it explain how we act? What can Darwinian thought tell us about altruism and morality? This is the question posed this week by the Guardian as part of its fascinating “The Question” series.
Is merely a trick played on us by our genes? Or is that in turn an incoherent idea? Can science naturalise morality, and show that there are certain good ends which come naturally to the sort of animals we are? Where, in that case, is the belief that we are free too choose our own ends? Does an evolutionary account of human nature challenge liberalism as much as it challenges conservatism?
The first respondent is University of Chicago Press author Michael Ruse, a philosopher of biology, who writes that morality is a product of natural selection:
Morality then is not something handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is something forged in the struggle for existence and reproduction, something fashioned by natural selection. It is as much a natural human adaptation as our ears or noses or teeth or penises or vaginas. It works and it has no . . .
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In popular American culture, French philosophers might be said to have a bit of a reputation as all style and no substance. But in France itself, philosophers have long enjoyed media attention that typically casts these thinkers in a more flattering light—that is until recently, when one of France’s most popular public intellectuals, Bernard-Henri Lévy—in France often referred only by his initials BHL—made the error of citing the work of a made-up philosopher in his latest book, De la Guerre en Philosophie. As a story in the Telegraph notes:
In his book, which has received lavish praise from some quarters, the open-shirted Mr Lévy lays into the philosopher Immanuel Kant as being unhinged and a “fake”. To support his claims, he cites a certain Jean-Baptiste Botul, whom he describes as a post-War authority on Kant.
But the chorus of approval turned to laughter after a journalist from Le Nouvel Observateur pointed out that Mr Botul does not exist: he is a fictional character created by a contemporary satirical journalist, Frédéric Pagès.…
He has even given rise to a school of philosophical thought called Botulism—a play on words with the lethal disease—and has created a theory of “La Metaphysique du . . .
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