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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Friday, August 05, 2016

Free Inquiry - August/September 2016 - incl. my review of The Blackwell Companion to Naturalism

The new issue of Free Inquiry (Volume 36, No. 5 (August/September 2016)) arrived here a few days ago. It includes interesting commentary on the meaning of "atheism", the history and influence of humanist thought in America, the struggle against Islamism and Jihadism, and other important topics.

A large chunk of the magazine, toward the back, consists of my book review of The Blackwell Companion to Naturalism. Book reviews don't tend to get much attention in academia or in the blogosphere, but searching reviews of important books can themselves have some importance - especially when they draw out problems with new books that are likely to be influential. Because book reviews can usually be published more quickly than peer-reviewed articles, they can often contribute to debate in a more timely way. They can also be more publicly accessible.

In this case, I've devoted 3,500 words to The Blackwell Companion, a book that is obviously important (and certainly belongs in every academic library), but which also worries me in certain ways. In particular, there is a sense that the volume, taken overall, is almost hostile to philosophical naturalism, although sympathetic to methodological forms of naturalism. Trying to sort this out - and to get clear what various forms of naturalism even amount to - takes me into some deep discussion that I might have been better off, from a purely selfish viewpoint, trying to publish as an academic article.

Do check out my review if you subscribe to Free Inquiry. If you don't subscribe, you might consider doing so or making sure that your local library does. It publishes much interesting material, most of it not freely available online. Free Inquiry makes a sample of its articles, etc., available on its site, but this is to whet appetites: most of its content (and often the juiciest stuff) is behind a paywall. That's a perfectly legitimate publication model, but it does mean that subscriptions are required to get the magazine's full benefit.

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