Does Michel Foucault’s 1975 Death Valley acid trip story shed light on how his ideas changed over time?

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Photo by GRAS GRÜN on Unsplash

In Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) claimed that the key to comprehending a “great philosophy” is to first grapple with the life story of its source:

“It has gradually become clear to me what every great philosophy up till now has consisted of — namely, the confession of its originator, and a species of involuntary and unconscious autobiography; and moreover that the moral (or immoral) purpose in every philosophy has constituted the true vital germ out of which the entire plant has always grown.”

A test case is the philosophy of Michel Foucault (1926–1984), the famous French postructuralist. Look close enough at his life story and, if Nietzsche was right, you’ll find the “vital germ out of which the entire plant has always grown.” …


Christian B. Miller’s misplaced faith in higher ed honor codes is naïve at best, dangerous at worst

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Credit: Pinterest

In his 2004 book The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, David Callahan chronicles the growing acceptance of dishonest practices in American society. Public vice has become an all too common feature of hyper-capitalist societies.

And the Ivory Tower is no exception.

Winning at all costs

Young people feel increasing pressure to imitate poor role models who value winning at all costs. If a high GPA can be achieved by hiring a professional to write your college essays and take your online exams, then so be it. Victory is the ultimate goal. Even if it involves cheating.

In a 2006 review of Callahan’s book, titled “Our cheating hearts,” Mort Zuckerman notes that the “locations” of cheating and scandal have multiplied. It’s a problem in many areas of American life, from politics to sports to higher education. …


Six reasons given by a Jesuit Priest.

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Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash

If history class bored you to tears, then the prospect of studying the history of Philosophy could seem utterly sleep-inducing. If it’s tough to relate to John C. Calhoun (1782–1850 A.D.), imagine trying to sympathetically appreciate the life, times, and notions of Aristotle (384–322 B.C.).

Moreover, the ideas of past philosophers might strike us as absolutely offensive, at least by our contemporary moral standards. (By the way, both Calhoun and Aristotle defended the institution of slavery.)

If you can transcend the boredom and wokeness, where might you start an intensive study of philosophical history? At the beginning: the dawn of Philosophy in Ancient Greece. …


Most Faculty Advice to Students about Online Misinformation is Based on the Internet of 20 Years Ago

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Credit: Peter Dazeley Getty Images

Alarm bells have been sounding for some time about the threat of viral misinformation, the intentional spread of which can change election outcomes, cause humanitarian crises, and destroy lives. Most agree that a best-practices strategy for counteracting the spread of online misinformation must include education in how to identify it.

Most colleges and universities provide guides to assess the trustworthiness of websites (e.g. this one from Princeton University Library), based on a report published in 1988 (the Stanford Web Credibility Project). The problem is that these guides are outdated.

According to Sam Wineberg and Nadav Ziv, “There’s something deeply wrong with using advice on the internet of 20 years ago to teach students how they should interact with the internet of today.” …


The ideas of the English legal, political and moral philosopher have had an undeniably lasting impact

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Source: Wikipedia

What is the law? Is it merely a command by a sovereign (king, president, etc.) backed by a threat of punishment? Or do we feel obligated to obey the law because it aligns with our moral commitments? Must human-made law align with natural or God-given law?

H. L. A. Hart (1907–1992) sought to answer these and other key questions in the area of philosophy known as the philosophy of law or ‘legal philosophy’. What law schools call ‘jurisprudence’ occupies only a small part of the J.D. curriculum (usually one course), but it is of inestimable value when hard cases establishing precedent reach the highest courts. …


Gina Ann Garcia versus Justin DePlato on the normativity of whiteness in Academe

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Image credit Diversity News, HRreview

In a recent article at Higher Ed Jobs, Gina Ann Garcia argues that there are “white normative standards” in postsecondary education which hinder the achievement of racial justice. Systemic racism or discrimination based on race and ethnicity constitutes the uglier side of academic institutions.

According to Garcia, these white normative standards “transcend” specific policies and practices, such as “curriculum, co-curricular programming, hiring practices and mission.” They are structural (implicit), not operational (explicit), in the evaluative frameworks of most higher education institutions.

Garcia’s history of whiteness in the ivory tower

According to Garcia, the “foundations for white normativity in postsecondary education” were established prior to the U.S. Founding, under the British (Cambridge) model. Harvard College was established 140 years prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. With the British model came an implicit message that the white Europeans were racially superior to the enslaved blacks and dispossessed Native Americans. …


Should governments be permitted to tax for the sake of promoting virtue?

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The U.S. federal tax code is not just for generating revenue. It’s also intended to achieve certain social aims, such as facilitating homeownership, marriage, charitable donations and general welfare. That point might seem obvious.

There are three primary sources of tax revenue that governments collect: (1) sales tax (for sale of goods and services), (2) property tax (for those who own property) and (3) income tax (for those who make an income, usually from investments or employment).

However, the federal tax code has become increasingly complex, generating calls for its overhaul and simplification. To achieve this goal, we might want to stop using taxation to achieve social aims, including one in particular: the promotion of virtue. A government that makes its purpose the cultivation of virtue in its citizenry is often referred to by political theorists as a perfectionist state (and the goal of perfecting citizens by making them virtuous, perfectionism). …


6 reasons why video gaming might be the next hot college sport

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Watching college football and basketball is a popular pastime in America. Indeed, given their popularity, it’s difficult to imagine that college ball sports will ever be displaced by an upstart competitor. However, they do have competition and it’s not exactly Quidditch. It’s video gaming — or, as college athletics departments are calling them, e-sports.

According to Jeremy Bauer-Wold of Insider Higher Ed, the “concept of collegiate e-sports has blossomed and become much more organized in recent years. …


What do the 20th-century Rock band and the metaphysical conundrum about identity share in common?

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Many of us grew up playing air guitar while listening to the American rock band KISS. Its popularity derives not only from the band’s otherworldly costumes and masks (except for, of course, during the unmasked period), the fact that they were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, their numerous hit records or the amazing stage theatrics and pyrotechnics of their live shows.

It’s also related to the band’s constantly changing makeup (and I don’t mean the kind on their faces!). Of the four members, only Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons were fixtures. …


Lorraine Daston on the three types of nature, and the relationship between natural and moral orders.

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Photo by Tim Swaan on Unsplash

What is the nature of nature? Why do humans construct moral orders grounded upon natural orders?

What would motivate philosophers to derive normative authority from divine or otherwise nonanthropomorphic sources in nature?

Why, for instance, did the drafters of the U.S. Declaration of Independence invoke natural rights (life, liberty, and happiness — obviously inspired by Locke’s life, liberty, and property) to ground their objections to British colonial rule? They could have just relied on good old-fashioned human reason and rhetorical argument.

Answering these and related questions about the relationship between moral and natural orders demand a precise method of inquiry.

Lorraine Daston’s anthropological project

Daston describes her project in Against Nature (MIT Press, 2019) as one of philosophical (not cultural) anthropology. …

About

Shane J. Ralston

Philosopher, journalist and writer with a knack for speaking truth to power. Always up for a good convo: philsphizer@gmail.com

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