Deleuze, Leibniz, and the Test of the Large and the Small

If philosophy is able to provide guidance on how to live that is superior to reliance on conventions, habits, or impulses, it is because the activity of philosophy embodies a distinctive and more reliable approach to practical reason. But this depends on whether philosophical representations of reality are accurate and comprehensive. There is reason toContinue reading “Deleuze, Leibniz, and the Test of the Large and the Small”

Whither Stability?

In Western philosophy we have had a strong tendency to privilege being over becoming. This was firmly established by Plato when he argued that our constantly changing world of everyday experience is a poor copy of a realm of eternal, unchanging forms. Christianity reinforced this idea of ultimate stability by asserting that God was eternalContinue reading “Whither Stability?”

Deleuze: Aristotle Fails the Test of the Large and Small

I mentioned several weeks ago that I think the most important figure in recent philosophy, who can give us insight into how to think about change and our ability to create change through practical reason, is the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. He is important because he explains why conventional modes of thinking about reality canContinue reading “Deleuze: Aristotle Fails the Test of the Large and Small”

How To Be Free

“I’m a product of my decisions, not my circumstances” so said my friend Will whose abusive, alcoholic dad was all the motive he needed to never touch booze. This sounds wise but it’s nonsense. If our circumstances influence us they influence our decisions as well. You don’t avoid the consequences of determinism by pointing toContinue reading “How To Be Free”

Christianity and the Belief that Time and Change are Illusions

It is obvious from both modern biology and contemporary physics, as well as our own experiences, that everything changes. There are no fixed substances or unchanging essences underlying reality. Some things change very slowly but they nevertheless change. But that vision of a continuously changing world is at odds with some our deeply embedded culturalContinue reading “Christianity and the Belief that Time and Change are Illusions”

A Challenge for Ethics and Practical Reason (and why I think Deleuze might help)

If philosophy is not merely an academic subject but a way of life, it is because philosophy can guide our judgments about how to live. In this context, philosophy embodies a distinctive form of practical reason. Practical reason is the capacity to resolve through reflection questions about what to do and how one should conductContinue reading “A Challenge for Ethics and Practical Reason (and why I think Deleuze might help)”

The Value of Metaphysics

Originally published at Three Quarks Daily. Among the ideas in the history of philosophy most worthy of an eye-roll is Aristotle’s claim that the study of metaphysics is the highest form of eudaimonia (variously translated as “happiness” or “flourishing”) of which human beings are capable. The metaphysician is allegedly happier than even the philosopher whoContinue reading “The Value of Metaphysics”

Ontology and Ways of Living

If philosophy is to become practical, it must make room for individuals. The traditional way in which we approach ontology fails on this standard. The job of ontology is to understand the nature of being, what it means to exist. Traditional ontology understands being by tracing our conceptual representations of beings in terms of theirContinue reading “Ontology and Ways of Living”

What Parts of the Past Does the Future Need?

How is our past related to our (waking) dreams, the kind of dream referenced in the admonition to “follow your dreams?” The past creates those dreams, the threads of memory weaving a future that feels continuous, one that we might plausibly own, at least in our imaginations. Yet those threads of memory can be aContinue reading “What Parts of the Past Does the Future Need?”