Creepy Parasite Stories; or, Bedtime for Daniel

by Doug Muir on January 4, 2024

I mentioned that parasite biology was one of my interests. It didn’t used to be.

When the children were smaller, we had bedtime rituals. The two oldest shared a room, so they would both get something at bedtime. Perhaps it would be a chapter from a book (Charlotte’s Web was a big hit, as was From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler). Or it might be a story. Stories could be about anything, but history and science were particularly popular.

So one night, they asked for a science story. About… bugs!  *Creepy* bugs. Yeah!

Well. After a moment’s thought, I decided to tell them a little bit about wasps. I paused a moment, because wasps can get quite creepy… quite creepy indeed. But okay, they did ask, and I could avoid the most disturbing bits. [click to continue…]

Why is Political Philosophy not Euro-centric?

by Speranta Dumitru on January 4, 2024

In a recent post about unfair epistemic authority, Macarena Marey suggests that

In political philosophy, the centre is composed of the Anglophone world and three European countries…

One can think of “the center” in terms of people or of topics. Although Marey’s post is clearly about philosophers not philosophies, and I agree with her, one can also address the issue of “the centre” about philosophies.

For my part, I wonder the opposite: how come political philosophy is not Euro-centric? If Anglophone and European philosophers dominate the field, as indeed they do, why doesn’t European politics dominate political philosophy, too?

My point is not that European politics should dominate political philosophy, but that it is surprising that it does not. First, because philosophers often sought solutions to the political problems of their time (think of Montesquieu or Locke on the separation of powers; of Paine and Burke debating human rights during the French Revolution  etc.). Second, because the European Union is a political innovation on many respects; had a philosopher presented the project (“imagine enemies at war pooling their resources”), it would have been dismissed as utopian. Finally, because EU is a complex organization which deals with enough topics that it is hard not to find yours. Topical, innovative, and complex – but not of interest for European hegemonic philosophers: is this not puzzling?

You doubt. But how would political philosophy look like if it was Euro-centred? Certainly, renewed — by philosophical views tested at the European level or inspired by the European institutions. For example, there would be philosophical analyses of “new” topics such as:

  •  Freedom of movement – a founding freedom of the European union over the last 70 years. Surprisingly, there is not a single philosophical treaty on this freedom today (although freedom of speech, of assembly etc. are well represented); all philosophical studies reason as if it were natural to control immigration, as if open borders were an unrealistic utopia – in short, as if the EU did not exist (neither Mercosur‘s or African Union‘s institutions).
  • Distributive justice between states or within federal states – a political reality since the 1950s or earlier. But since the 1970s, philosophers have been praising Rawls, Walzer, and others who argue that redistribution between states is not a matter of justice (no reviewer have ever asked them whether the existing European/international redistribution was unjust etc.).
  • Justice of extending / fragmenting states and federations of states – today, cosmopolitanism is considered in opposition to nationalism, not to regionalism or federalism; secession/ unions are under-discussed in theories of justice or critical race theory; there are more philosophical studies on just wars than on peace etc.

Many other sources of philosophical renewal are not specific to the European Union but could have been be activated if political philosophy was Euro-centric. For example, international aid has been institutionalized since the WWII (as I have briefly shown here), but prominent philosophers reason about its justice as if it did not exist. Less prominent philosophers should adapt to the existing terms of the debate.

In short, if political philosophy was a little more Euro-centric, its questioning would be renewed and more realistic. If it is not, the problem of political philosophy is not “Euro-centrism” but “centrism” tout court: we tend to organize around a few “prominent philosophers” and their views rather than around originality, pluralism, and truth.

Hello World

by Doug Muir on January 4, 2024

Or, as the kids say these days, get gud noob.

Douglas Muir here, aka Doug M. Long time commenter, now given the keys. Native New Yorker, trained as a lawyer, work in development — USAID, UNDP, yadda yadda. Married to a German, so living in rural northern Bavaria.  Four kids aged high school / uni, and a dog. The work has taken us to live in a bunch of different places, from Kosovo to Tajikistan, and has taken me short-term to a bunch more, from Rwanda to the Solomon Islands.

Interests include history, development, energy, space, astronomy, demographics, the political economy of development, parasite biology, EU expansion, and American football.  _Alien_ is a perfect movie, magpies are elegant and admirable, the Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt” is the greatest piece of popular music the century has yet produced, nuclear power would be just fine if it wasn’t so damn expensive, Vermont is overrated, fight me.

The dog is a black Lab. 

More in a bit.