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Janna Thompson

Janna Thompson
Janna Thompson is a professor of philosophy at La Trobe University. She is the author of Taking Responsibility for the Past: Reparation and Historical Injustice (2002) and Intergenerational Justice: Rights and Responsibilities in an Intergenerational Polity (2009). She has also written articles on environmental philosophy, aesthetics, feminism, and global justice.

Janna Thompson reviews 'Racism in Mind' edited by Michael P. Levine and Tamas Pataki

August 2004, no. 263 01 August 2004
The anthropologists of some future galactic civilisation, sifting through the remains of human life on earth, will find much to puzzle them, but nothing more so than the propensity of supposedly rational creatures to denigrate, hate or even murder those who are perceived to be different in race. How should we understand racism? Where does it come from, and how can it be eradicated? The editors of ... (read more)

Janna Thompson reviews 'Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason' by Val Plumwood

May 2003, no. 251 01 May 2003
Val Plumwood, the author of a highly praised defence of eco-feminism, Feminism and Mastery of Nature, presents in this book a critique of ‘rationalist culture’ and explains why it harms nature as well as so many people. Plumwood’s criticism of rationalism centres on the thesis she advanced in her earlier book. From Plato onward, it has been regarded as rational to divide the world into polar ... (read more)

Janna Thompson reviews 'Ideas to Save Your Life: Philosophy for wisdom, solace and pleasure' by Michael McGirr

December 2021, no. 438 24 November 2021
We academic philosophers get annoyed when people suppose that the purpose of philosophy is therapeutic. But we need not deny that philosophical enquiries into the nature of mind, knowledge, and the good can be sources of personal inspiration or solace. In his earlier work, Books That Saved My Life (2018), Michael McGirr, teacher, aid worker, and former priest, explained how literature and poetry c ... (read more)

Janna Thompson reviews 'The Pleistocene Social Contract: Culture and cooperation in human evolution' by Kim Sterelny

September 2021, no. 435 23 August 2021
Archaeologists can tell us about the tools, diets, shelters, art, and burials of humans and other hominins who lived during the Pleistocene, the geological period lasting from two million to twelve thousand years ago. But what we most want to know is hidden from view. How did they communicate? What was it like to be them? How did they become us? ... (read more)

Janna Thompson reviews 'George Berkeley: A philosophical life' by Tom Jones

July 2021, no. 433 23 June 2021
George Berkeley (1685–1753) proposed a radical solution to the conundrums of modern philosophy. By denying the existence of matter, he dismissed the problem of how we can know a world outside our minds. Only minds and their ideas are real. The problem of understanding how mind and matter interact is dissolved by Berkeley’s immaterialism, and so is the difficulty of explaining how causation wor ... (read more)

Janna Thompson reviews 'Time of the Magicians: The invention of modern thought, 1919–1929' by Wolfram Eilenberger, translated by Shaun Whiteside

January–February 2021, no. 428 17 December 2020
Philosophers attending a conference in the Swiss resort of Davos in 1929 eagerly anticipated a debate between Ernst Cassirer, a celebrated member of the academic establishment and a supporter of progressive liberalism, and Martin Heidegger, whose radical break from tradition had impressed younger philosophers. For those who expected a clash of titans, the result was disappointing. There were no de ... (read more)

Janna Thompson reviews 'Catharine Macaulay’s Republican Enlightenment' by Karen Green

October 2020, no. 425 24 September 2020
Catharine Macaulay (1731–91), a celebrated historian in England, was acquainted with leading political figures and intellectuals in Britain, America, and France. American revolutionaries were influenced by her republican principles, and the feminist pioneer Mary Wollstonecraft was inspired by her views. Today she is a largely forgotten figure, at most a footnote in histories of the period and no ... (read more)

Janna Thompson reviews 'Who Owns History? Elgin’s loot and the case for returning plundered treasure' by Geoffrey Robertson

March 2020, no. 419 24 February 2020
After his success in forcing the British Natural History Museum to return skulls and bones of Tasmanian Aboriginals, the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson was asked by the Greek minister of foreign affairs to ascertain whether international law could be used to induce the British to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. Although the project found favour with a succession of Greek prime mini ... (read more)

Janna Thompson reviews 'Witcraft: The invention of philosophy in English' by Jonathan Rée

January–February 2020, no. 418 16 December 2019
Mary Ann Evans arrived in London from country Warwickshire in 1851 into an environment of intellectuals who believed in the progress of the human spirit through criticism of superstition and the application of science. Working first as a translator and critic, she became for a time the editor of the Westminster Review, a journal that had been turned by John Stuart Mill into a forum for philosophic ... (read more)

Janna Thompson reviews 'Does Anything Really Matter?: Essays on Parfit on objectivity' edited by Peter Singer

January–February 2018, no. 398 30 November 2017
Philosopher Derek Parfit claimed that nothing matters unless ethical and other normative beliefs are objectively true. Parfit, who died on 1 January 2017, wrote a three-volume work, On What Matters (2011–17), because he believed that the meaningfulness of his life, and the lives of others who devote themselves to ethical thought, depend on demonstrating the reality of normative properties and th ... (read more)
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