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I am now writing on Medium, so I think something on the order of an introduction is called for.

I have never been crazy about talking about myself. …


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Review of Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting, eds., The Philosopher Queens: The Lives and Legacies of Philosophy’s Unsung Women (Unbound, 2020), pp. 288.

Anyone who hangs out in the corridors of academic philosophy will quickly realize that it is a male stronghold. While the proportion of female to male faculty and graduate students is better balanced now than it had been in the past, the ratio remains lopsided. And women’s stories about the antics of philosophy-world still testify to patterns of condescension and patronizing attitudes on the part of male philosophers. Despite progress, the discipline remains an ocean of mansplaining.

This has led some to suggest that philosophy itself is nothing other than mansplaining writ large, and as a result given an outsized cultural cachet that it doesn’t deserve. …


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Well, it ain’t over. And even when it is over, it won’t be over.

As I write, it seems as if Biden will win the Electoral College by a hair. But at the moment Biden not only has close to 4 million more popular votes than Trump: he has beaten Obama’s popular vote count in 2008 and thus has set a record for the total number of votes cast for any presidential candidate in US history. And still, Biden hasn’t yet won the office.

This is, frankly, madness. Even more insane than the fact that the Trump regime is preparing to throw any legal challenge it can against the electoral results to see if any of them stick. The “damage control” election that I understood this one to be has come to pass and, hopefully, we will have dodged one bullet aimed at the heart of American Liberal Republican Democracy. …


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Just as The Doors and David Bowie were my constant companions-in-solitude during the earlier phases of the pandemic and the presidential campaign from hell, I find myself listening nonstop to Vivaldi and Primus now that we — hopefully — are on a downward slope. They are an odd couple to say the least. That Vivaldi appeals at the moment is, I think, pretty transparent: he is the baroque harbinger of seasonal change and tranquil renewal. It is hard to listen to Vivaldi without experiencing calmness and serenity.

You can’t say that of Primus. You might say it is hard to listen to them, period. …


(On Pope Francis I and Same-sex Civil Unions)

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While the recent endorsement by Pope Francis I of civil unions for same sex couples is welcome, it is not what it seems. It is not exactly breaking news. While it is his first public commendation of political protection for lesbian and gay couples and families as pope, as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he had previously gone on record supporting civil unions. In this sense, while Francis’s pronouncement was newsworthy, it was not without precedent.

Here’s the quote: in a documentary film about Pope Francis, he contends that

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. …


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Nassau County, New York, where I currently live, is a purple place: while it has trended Democratic-blue in recent years, it had long been a Republican-red stronghold — the kind of suburbia that the President has warned will disappear if Joe Biden is elected and “those” people get a foothold. If anything historically defines Nassau County, it is that its agricultural past of small-scale potato farming was supplanted in the mid-20th century by a real-estate boon defined by “redlining”, or making sure that “those” people — blacks, latinx, immigrants, the poor — stay within their geographic corrals.

Things have changed significantly in the past 20 years or so. Local Republican government had been dogged by scandals and mismanagement, and on a national level, a Republican regime presided over the 2008 Great Recession, the severest economic downturn since the 1930s. Its residents began voting Democratic. At present two of Nassau’s House districts, the third and fourth, are represented by Democrats. The second district, containing a small slice of Nassau but mostly located in the adjacent county, Suffolk, is represented by a Republican who is retiring: the 2020 race is a close one. But many towns and villages are run by Republicans, and the county is pretty much split down the middle, with 383,709 registered Democrats, 331,282 Republicans, and 36,717 Independents as of 2020. With this kind of demographic, elections can go either way, and often do. …


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For an academic text written by an academic philosopher, Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit has had a very unusual reception history. Published as a short essay in 1986 in The Raritan Quarterly, and then part of his collection of articles The Importance of What We Care About in 1988, Frankfurt’s editor at Princeton University Press suggested in 2005 that “On Bullshit” be published in stand-alone book format. …


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Full disclosure: I am a big fan of Jill Lepore, the Harvard historian and regular writer for The New Yorker. …


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In the Washington Post on September 24, cultural critic Alyssa Rosenberg made a flawed but thought-provoking argument to the effect that, first, J.K. Rowling is indeed a transphobe and second, that this does not mean her works should be “cancelled” by those committed to justice for trans men and trans women. In a nutshell, she maintains that moral panic is obscuring sound judgment of her works, as opposed to her politics and her person. …


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A few years ago, I came out as a trans woman to a friend. I also casually mentioned that I was attending an Episcopal church and had found my way back to the Christian community after a long sojourn in the thick underbrush of agnosticism. She remarked that she found it easier to believe that I was transitioning to my perceived gender than that I was Christian. Her remark was funny but telling.

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I have long been “out” as someone with a near-Faustian obsession with the discipline of Philosophy, both Eastern and Western, but primarily in the canonical works that stretch from Plato through Heidegger and Wittgenstein. My friend’s muted surprise was, I think, a function of her knowing my intellectual love. Philosophers, at least in the academy, tend not to be believers in God, and many are thought to be even more hostile to organized religion. Over 70% of philosophy professors, in universities and colleges in North America, Europe, and Australia claim to be atheists. Many of these are stalwart scientific materialists cut from the same bolt of cloth as Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris, the philosophical pair of the New Atheist “Four Horsemen.” But many are not. One would be hard put to find anything other than atheism to link together Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Jürgen Habermas with Bertrand Russell, David Lewis, Paul and Patricia Churchland, Dennett, and Harris. …

About

Laura Nelson

Writer, philosopher, information technologist,guitarist, neurotic, polite radical, avid and indiscriminate reader, Episcopalian, trans woman.

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