philosophy

Ian Ravenscroft reviews 'The Most Good You Can Do' by Peter Singer

Ian Ravenscroft

Much contemporary moral philosophy is highly abstract, with technical arguments advanced on issues that appear far removed from ordinary life. But not all academic ethics has this form. The field of practical ethics has flourished over the last four decades, bringing philosophical techniques to bear on ethical issues in medicine, animal husbandry, climate change, an ... More

Janna Thompson reviews 'Actual Consciousness' by Ted Honderich

Janna Thompson

Our perceptual world is rich in colour and sound. We think and imagine. We experience repugnance and longing. Meanwhile, in our brains neurons are firing and chemical reactions are taking place. Conscious experience and brain events are obviously related. Reputable Australian philosophers insist that they are one and the same. But how can events with such different ... More

Frank Jackson reviews 'Essays and Reviews 1959-2002' by Bernard Williams

Frank Jackson

Philosophers fear many things, as do economists, lawyers, politicians, and electricians. But there is one thing philosophers fear which is special to their profession. It is the question, asked as it might be at a dinner party or in a taxi on the way to the airport, ‘What is it that you do, exactly?’ with perhaps a somewhat intimidating emphasis on the word ‘e ... More

Jean Curthoys reviews 'A Sense for Humanity'

Jean Curthoys

Raimond Gaita is unusual among moral philosophers in having presented the world of his childhood as food for thought. Most notably, he has given us his Romanian father, Romulus – ‘Johnny the Balt’ to his Australian neighbours – whose understanding of life’s moral necessities is articulated by Gaita as the core of his ethical thought. It is hard to think of ... More

Adrian Walsh reviews 'The Essential Hirschman' and his biography

Adrian Walsh

Albert O. Hirschman (1915–2012) was a development economist and political theorist whose work is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how economic life figures in the political worlds we inhabit and the ways in which we give meaning to our lives in market-based societies. Perhaps best known for the distinction between ‘exit’ and ‘voice’ ... More

Andrew Alexandra: Nigel Biggar and Just War Theory

Andrew Alexandra

This book by Nigel Biggar, Anglican minister and Oxford Professor of Theology, is in the rich and broad tradition of thinking about war known as Just War Theory (JWT). JWT sees war as justifiable, but holds that decisions about going to war, as well as about the way it is fought, are subject to moral constraints. While it has its roots in classical philosophy, and h ... More

The Uses and Abuses of Self-love

Tim Oakley

Everyone knows the emotions of self-concern – self-esteem, pride, vanity, self-respect – and associated character traits ­– authenticity, arrogance, humility, and the like. Yet as soon as we start to think seriously about them and the roles they play in personal and social life, they tantalise with their ambiguities and their resistance to easy definition. So ... More

Roman Krznaric's 'Empathy'

Miriam Cosic

When I was a child, comparing the behaviour of two people in my circle was formative. One would turn out to help in any situation, from raking dirt on the local school oval in a working bee to stopping the car late at night to check on an old man hanging over the rail at a city tram stop. He never talked much about these actions, nor dramatised the recipients’ nee ... More

Jaana Thompson illuminates 'Enlightenment Shadows'

Janna Thompson

From the Enlightenment, according to contemporary critics, came a dream about human progress from which we have awakened. The Enlightenment is commonly presented as an intellectual era when philosophers believed that reason would solve all human problems and provide a solid foundation for morality and politics. But surely we now know better.

... More

Stephen Buckle on 'The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter'

Stephen Buckle

In this short and accessible book, Steven Nadler, an accomplished historian of seventeenth-century philosophy, turns his attention to René Descartes (1596–1650) and his cultural milieu in Holland in the 1630s and 1640s. His angle of approach is to take the familiar portrait of Descartes, attributed to Frans Hals – versions of which grace the covers of the ... More

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