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De-Philosophising Debt

The Philosophy of Debt  book cover

Dr. Steven Klein, Lecturer in Political Theory at Kings College London, very kindly invited me to speak to his class about my 2016 book, The Philosophy of Debt. The class read the book as part of a module on the political economy of finance.

Since writing that book, I have had a few opportunities to rethink the topic, in dialogue with highly intelligent and critical readers. This latest experience was the culmination of this process – a process of transformation, almost akin to an out-of-body experience. I now see my book entirely from the outside. I can look at it, but I can no longer speak from inside of it.

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Language, Daoism, Mimetic Desire

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Medieval philosophers spoke of words being ‘imposed’ for things, either directly or by way of the ideas of things. When we acquire language, we learn which words are imposed for which things. It is as if we begin by encountering the things and then wonder what they are called. Or perhaps we learn the names and then wonder what they name (Alfred North Whitehead wrote that whereas Adam saw the animals in the Garden and named them, modern children name the animals and then see them).

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Spinoza, Logic, and Geometry

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Geometry and Deduction

George Henry Lewes — the husband of the first translator of Spinoza’s Ethics into English — tried to explain why Spinoza was wrong to take geometry as a model for metaphysics:

Geometry never quits the sphere of its first assumption, that its axioms retain their necessary clearness, and its consequences their necessary truth. It begins with lines and surfaces, with lines and surfaces it ends; it is a purely subjective and deductive science (‘Spinoza’s Life and Works’, Fortnightly Review (1843), 214).

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Absolute Generality, Syllogistic, and Divine Omnipotence

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have previously written about Spinoza’s rejection of a standard theological argument against his belief that God produces everything it is in his power to produce. The argument, roughly, is that if God produces everything it is in his power to produce, then there must be some limit on his power. Supposing that God produces a race of giants to the extent of his power, take the tallest giant in the race; it must be that God could not have produced a taller one.

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Pythagoras and Us

I’ve switched to posting on this personal blog site instead of on Medium, because Medium clearly looks too professional: people kept wondering how such rough and unpolished writing could ‘get published’ and lamenting the decline of standards in academic ‘publishing’. I’d hate to add to the causes for lamentation in this world, so hopefully this medium looks more appropriately bloglike and nobody will be misled.

Pythagoras on the Purpose of Life and the Meaning of Wisdom – Brain Pickings

As my first topic here, I had a thought about Max Tegmark’s Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH). Tegmark is an overt Pythagorean, and Pythagoreanism, as I see it, vindicates a very strong form of rationalism: the view that a priori, non-empirical thinking can yield all the knowledge we are capable of having.

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