Book Review: Ripstein’s Force and Freedom

A review of Ripstein’s book on Kant’s political philosophy by Stefan Bird-Pollan:

Though Kant has been enjoying significant critical attention in moral and political philosophy since Rawls published A Theory of Justice almost 40 years ago, Kant’s ideas have only rarely been defended as a whole. The chief problem with Kant’s view, one which Rawls shared with Kant’s immediate successor Hegel, is that the notion of the categorical imperative is essentially too abstract and must be given a more concrete grounding. Constructivism was to be the way of doing this. Rawls thus rejected Kant’s metaphysical argument for morality and replaced it with an intuitive account of our own deep intuitions about justice, to be brought out by the procedure of the original position, later to be refined by the reflective equilibrium. Thus Kantian autonomy was to be cashed out in terms of respect for persons.

New Directions in Critical Theory series

Interesting new series from Columbia Press:

New Directions in Critical Theory

Amy Allen, General Editor

New Directions in Critical Theory presents outstanding classic and contemporary texts in the tradition of critical social theory, broadly construed. The series aims to renew and advance the program of critical social theory, with a particular focus on theorizing contemporary struggles around gender, race, sexuality, class, and globalization and their complex interconnections.

Here‘s an interview with the editor about the series.

Profound Statements Not Made By Me: Tree Falling (Yet Again)

Me: So this is a sort of a sophisticated version of the “tree falling in the forest” riddle?

Not-Me: [Quizzical Expression on Face]

M: You know – “If a tree fall in the forrest and there is no one there to hear it fall, does it make a sound?”

N: You serious?

M: Quite. Well, I didn’t make it up. It’s out there, it’s a “riddle”.

N: So people really ask these sorts of questions?

M: Well, not people, really, just philosophers.

N: So I suppose if you say “yes” then are affirming a kind of objectively certain world in which trees falls and make sounds independently of our perception and if you say “no” then it’s back to esse est precipi and all that wonderfully insane idealist shit?

M: Sort of. I suppose it is a question of larger implications, you know? Can I say something about reality as it exists outside of my perception – or rather, whether my perception of it (sound of tree falling I hear) corresponds to what, I’m assuming, takes place when I’m not there (sound of tree falling and me being home drinking tea).

N: I suppose the only options are “yes” or “no”?

M: I guess.

N: Can I go with “maybe”?

M: [Astonished Silence, World Grows Dark, Life Ceases to Make Sense]

Orpheus Musings (I)

Having solved a puzzle this morning – concerning Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini’s production of L’Euridice in 1600 – I started to wonder how many operas since then were based on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice and the wonderful internets gave me an answer in the form of this page. Now all I have to do is listen to all of these and make some glorious conclusions about the Orphean leitmotifs in philosophy. Something along the lines of Gary Tomlinson’s excellent Metaphysical Song but funnier and with pictures…

Just quickly glancing at the list, it’s clear that the story was very popular. If I recall correctly though, there are two versions of the end in the operatic tradition: the traditional sad ending (Eurydice is gone forever, Orpheus is bummed out, goes mad) and the happy ending (Apollo comes and saves the day).

The philosophical significance of the story is easy to grasp, or so it seems. Plato complained that Orpheus was a coward, or I should say, The Speech of Phaedrus in Symposium mentioned that Orpheus was a coward – regular heroes die for their love, not try to sneak into Hades with a nice tune. According to this version, Orpheus does not get to see his wife, just an angry image: Continue reading


I think that I really like the notion that in an infinite universe it follows that right now at this moment there are an infinite number of copies of you, along with your sense of humor, memories etc., out there reading this very post. Watch this interesting clip from the BBC:

You can watch the program in its entirety here


As much as these sorts of topics smack of Graham Harman sensibility (“Philosophers Who Were Also Lovers of Tea: The List” or “The Most Underrated Philosopher of Lower Bavaria” etc etc), I was listening to some music by Nietzsche (info below) and it occurred to me that I know of several philosophers who also happened to be composers. By “philosophers” here I mean “known primarily as philosophers” and I exclude all the composers who might be considered as philosophically inclined. Here’s my very short list: Continue reading