New Books in Philosophy

Interview with Philosophers about their New Books



      Sam Cowling, “Abstract Entities” (Routledge, 2017)

      Here’s a true sentence: The number seven is odd. What’s philosophically odd about the sentence is that it seems to imply that there must be numbers, including the number seven just as the truth of The Statue of Liberty is in New York implies that there is such a statue. But the number seven, unlike the statue, isn’t located anywhere, and we can’t see it or touch it. It is, Plato argued long ago, an abstract entity. But should we think reality includes abstract...



      Kieran Setiya, “Midlife: A Philosophical Guide” (Princeton UP, 2017)

      Middle-agedness is a curious phenomenon. In many ways, one is at one’s peak and also at the early stages of decline. There is much to do, but also dozens of paths irretrievably untaken. Successes, but also regrets. It’s no wonder that the idea of a midlife crisis is so familiar. But midlife is not commonly a subject of explicit philosophical study. In Midlife: A Philosophical Guide (Princeton University Press, 2017), Kieran Setiya develops a philosophical account of the crises...



      Owen Flanagan, “The Geography of Morals: Varieties of Moral Possibility” (Oxford UP, 2017)

      What is it to be moral, to lead an ethically good life? From a naturalistic perspective, any answer to this question begins from an understanding of what humans are like that is deeply informed by psychology, anthropology, and other human-directed perspectives as these are constrained by evolution. In The Geography of Morals: Varieties of Moral Possibility (Oxford University Press, 2017), Owen Flanagan sets out to clarify the landscape of moral possibility for actual human beings. He defends...



      Daniel R. DeNicola, “Understanding Ignorance: The Surprising Impact of What We Don’t Know” (The MIT Press, 2017)

      Epistemology is the area of philosophy that examines the phenomena of and related to knowledge. Traditional core questions include: How is knowledge different from lucky guessing? Can knowledge be innate? Is skepticism a threat, and if so, how should it be countered? And: Is it possible to know something simply on the basis of another person’s say-so? In the background of all of these traditional questions is a broad concern thats not often explicitly addressed—the concern is...



      Susanna Siegel, “The Rationality of Perception” (Oxford UP, 2017)

      Seeing is often a good reason for believing—when things go well. But suppose we have a case like this: Jill believes that Jack is angry, although she has no good grounds for this belief. Nevertheless, when she sees him, she sees his face as angry even though it is neutral. Is it reasonable for Jill to believe he is angry on the basis of what she sees? No, argues Susanna Siegel: her perception has been hijacked by her prior unfounded belief, and so it cannot turn around and justify that...



      Jean Kazez, “The Philosophical Parent: Asking the Hard Questions about Having and Raising Children” (Oxford UP, 2017)

      We all recognize that parenting involves a seemingly endless succession of choices, beginning perhaps with the choice to become a parent, through a sequence of decisions concerning the care, upbringing, acculturation, and education of a child. And we all recognize that many of these decisions are impactful. More specifically, we know that the choices parents make often deeply impact the lives of others, including especially the life of the child. Given the sheer number of impactful and...



      Ron Mallon, “The Construction of Human Kinds” (Oxford University Press, 2016)

      Social constructionists hold that the world is determined at least in part by our ways of representing it. Recent debates regarding social construction have focused on categories that play important roles in the human social world, such as race and gender. Social constructionists argue that these categories are not biological or natural and that alleviating social injustice begins with recognizing they are not. At the same time, the case of Rachel Dolezal, a woman born of white parents who...



      Alfred Moore, “Critical Elitism: Deliberation, Democracy, and the Problem of Expertise” (Cambridge UP, 2017)

      According to a challenge going back to Plato, democracy is unacceptable as a mode of political organization, because it distributes political power equally among those who are unequal in wisdom. Plato goes on to object that democracies are suspicious of the very idea of expertise in political matters. Long traditions in political philosophy have proposed various responses to Plato. According to a predominant trend in contemporary democratic theory, public deliberation can serve to meet...



      Jan De Winter, “Interests and Epistemic Integrity in Science” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017)

      In the 1960’s Thomas Kuhn argued, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, that scientists’ choices between competing theories could not be determined by the empirical evidence. Ever since, philosophers of science have debated the role of non-epistemic values and interests in science, generally agreeing that such influences are undesirable even if they are inevitable. In Interests and Epistemic Integrity in Science (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), Jan de Winter argues that...



      Kristina Musholt, “Thinking About Oneself: From Nonconceptual Content to the Concept of a Self” (MIT Press, 2015)

      When Descartes famously concluded “I think, therefore I am”, he took for granted his ability to use the first person pronoun to refer to himself. But how do we come to have this capacity for self-conscious thought? We aren’t born with it, and while we may not be the only creatures that can think thoughts about ourselves, this ability does not seem to be very widespread. For starters, to be able to think of oneself, it seems one must first possess a concept of the self of...