It's a very bad idea for scientific conclusions to be accepted because they fit with the political values of a group of researchers.

— Philip Kitcher

The most charming Philip Kitcher quotes you will be delighted to read

I don't think that anything of any consequence is known a priori: all our knowledge is built up by modifying the lore passed on to us by our ancestors in light of our experiences, and the best a philosopher can do is to learn as much about what has been discovered in various empirical fields, and use it to try to craft an improved synthesis.

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I'm very suspicious of the idea of a "final theory" in natural science, and the thought of a complete system of ethical rules seems even more dubious.

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It may be hyperbolic to declare that Shakespeare teaches us more about being human than all the natural scientists combined.

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Philosophers ought to aspire to know lots of different things and to forge useful synthetic perspectives.

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I would like to undermine the stereotype of "strict philosophy.

" J.L. Austin remarked that, when philosophy is done well, it's all over by the bottom of the first page. I take him to have meant that the real work comes in setting up the problem with which you are dealing, and thus getting your reader to take particular things for granted.

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The theory of evolution explains to us what our ancestry has been.

It does not explain away our worth. Why should we be afraid to learn more about what we are?

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Science literacy consists in the ability and the desire to follow reports of new scientific advances, throughout your whole life.

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In my view, all students should be given an initial opportunity to pursue the science track as far as it goes. But for those who quickly decide that track isn't for them, a different style of teaching is in order.

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Mann and Joyce are very different, and yet their fiction often appeals to the same people: Harry Levin taught a famous course on Joyce, Proust, and Mann, and Joseph Campbell singled out Joyce and Mann as special favorites. To see them as offering "possibilities for living", as I do, isn't to identify any distinctive commonality. After all, many great authors would fall under that rubric.

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Think about Mann's own daily routine (ascribed to Aschenbach), read the extant diaries and the letters in which he discusses the novella's themes, and it won't be so obvious that the attraction to Tadzio is completely unprecedented; it also won't be obvious that what Aschenbach wants is full sexual contact.

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The balance between literature and philosophy in Schopenhauer and Nietzsche is different from that struck in the novella, but, as Mann clearly pointed out in his writings about both thinkers, both modes are present.

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I'm often quite gloomy about the prospects for the human future.

But, although I have no competence to intervene directly in a political movement, I hope that what I write may, in combination with the suggestions of others, cause a shift in perspective that will inspire a world-wide movement to accept the only solution to climate change. And before it's too late.

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About Philip Kitcher

Quotes 107 sayings
Birthday February 20, 1947

Mann is widely recognized as a master of irony and ambiguity, yet it's remarkable how quickly people foreclose options he carefully leaves open. Lots of readers - including eminent critics - jump to conclusions: that Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy is a central background text, that Aschenbach is an inferior writer, that he's never been attracted by pubescent male beauty before, that he dies of cholera.

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Both Proust and Joyce record the ways in which human perspectives can be transformed. In Portrait, Stephen Dedalus is constantly undergoing epiphanies, but their effects are transitory: the new synthetic complex quickly falls apart. Proust's characters, by contrast, often achieve lasting changes of perspective.

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Experiments work when, and only when, they call into action cognitive capacities that might reliably deliver the conclusions drawn.

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I suggest in my own discussion of this episode, Mann invites us to set the attempt to philosophize about his predicament in the context of Aschenbach's life. The literary presentation thus adds to the naked philosophical skeleton.

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The more you read the novella, the more you should wonder, I think, which judgments are to be taken as bedrock.

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I'm quite pessimistic about climate change.

This is an urgent problem, and much of the world is only now waking up to the easiest part of solving - the realization that anthropogenic global warming is real.

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The point of philosophy, as I see it, is to change thinking, and thereby to change the conversation.

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As I read Mann in German for the first time, the full achievement - both literary and philosophical - of Death in Venice struck me forcefully, so that, when I was invited to give the Schoff Lectures at Columbia, the opportunity to reflect on the contrasts between novella and opera seemed irresistible.

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The "little theme" from Vinteuil, heard by Swann as emblematic of his love for Odette, remains a point of reference for him, as the character of that love changes and as the love eventually fades.

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There are actually two separate issues here.

The first is whether (as ancient philosophers and Nietzsche assume) only the privileged elite can live a worthwhile life. The second is whether it's possible to fulfill the roles of both serious artist and upstanding citizen. It seems to me that philosophy can dissect both questions, by delineating clearly the anatomy of the good life and the structural conditions of the roles.

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The hardest problem of all is to appreciate the facts that the poor nations are - quite reasonably - not going to forgo their development, and that they can only afford to develop by consuming fossil fuels.

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Was Mann himself fully aware of all the facets of his irony? Probably not - any more than Shakespeare was fully aware of all the riches subsequent critics have found in his plays.

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The classical allusions and the Platonic disquisitions on beauty are no longer a form of cover, but integral to Aschenbach's complex sexuality. Moreover, the wandering around Venice in pursuit of Tadzio isn't a prelude to some sexual contact for which Aschenbach is yearning.

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For a pragmatist like me, the important issues concern the words we might deploy to achieve our purposes, rather than the language we actually use.

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One goal of ethical inquiry might be to uncover strategies available for use when values conflict or when rules are incomplete.

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I think the tone of mockery Heller finds is a part of Mann's irony, but only a part - a brilliant further touch consists in juxtaposing perspectives so that we're led to wonder whether the mockery itself is the last word.

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I was occupied by a range of questions, often different from those fashionable in the professional philosophy of the past half century, that have sometimes troubled philosophers in the past. It's taken me several decades to work out my own philosophical agenda, and it is wide.

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Schopenhauer's thought that Will is insatiable, that once satisfied in one form it must be expressed in new desires, is inherited both by Mann and by Aschenbach (it's in Mahler, as well). So life is inevitably incomplete.

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In my current work on global warming, I argue that the only apparent solution to the deep problem of climate change would require very large transfers of wealth from rich nations to poor nations, so that the entire world can make the transition to renewable forms of energy as fast as possible.

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Klaus Mann saw very clearly how different was his own (more liberated) form of homosexuality from the same-sex attractions of his father - and that is reiterated in TM's diary queries about "how two men can sleep together".

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Mann was profoundly influenced by two philosophers, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, who returned to the most ancient of all philosophical questions - "How to live?" - and whose writings offered novel perspectives for considering that question (much more perspective-offering than rigorous argument!)

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In elaborating how "philosophy by showing" works, and in defending the idea that literature and music can contribute to philosophical "showing", I am also doing something more standardly philosophical. But I view most of the book as an interweaving of philosophy and literary criticism. If that entails a broadening of a standard idea of philosophy, it's a broadening I'd like to see happen.

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To my mind, Death in Venice represents an enormous advance in Mann's literary development, not simply for the commonly appreciated reason that he crafted a superbly supple and elegant style, apparently well suited to the kind of prose Aschenbach is supposed to write.

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Britten's opera tends to see things in simpler terms.

It portrays an Aschenbach who wants a richer form of sexual fulfillment, and who is hemmed in by the social conventions to which he subscribes. But Visconti's use of the Mahler Adagietto is perfect for what I take to be Aschenbach's sexual desire.

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My ideal of conversation that includes wide representation of perspectives, informed by the consensus view of current experts, pursued with an attempt to find a position with which all can live, brings the expert and the public dimensions together.

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Mann was less interested, I think, in constructing any kind of "portrait of an age" than he was in delineating an individual consciousness in which profound struggles about identity and direction arise - struggles that Mann himself had not only reflected on but felt keenly. Visconti takes up this central focus of the novella, but he couples it with a more social perspective.

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When I try to outline the history of ethical life, it's sometimes possible to find evidence for a hypothesis about how important transitions actually went. Often, however, that isn't so. There are many facts about human life in the Paleolithic we're never likely to know.

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I read Aschenbach's constant desire to go beyond the works he has already produced to be the counterpart of Mann's deep wish to surpass his previous fiction; sometimes the diaries express this in terms of a dejected judgment that the summit has already been reached.

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I felt I should also contrast Visconti's treatment of the novella - usually damned by Mann fans (who typically respect Britten's more "faithful" adaptation). The Visconti film does many quite wonderful things, although there are good reasons for the condemnation.

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I don't deny that scientific investigation is capable of delivering important truths about nature, but that doesn't stop questions about whether, as it is practiced, science today lives up to its potential for benefiting humanity.

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So this is my attempt to give a preliminary - probably far too crude - account of how philosophy by showing can really teach us. The attempts we make to work through problems by reasoning always presuppose starting points, and even the most self-critical philosophers adopt some of those starting points simply by picking them up from the social environments in which they grow up.

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I'm a pluralist about perspectives on literature.

There seem to me to be all sorts of illuminating ways of responding to major literary works, some of them paying considerable attention to context, others applying various theoretical ideas, yet others focusing on details of language, or linking the work to the author's life, or connecting it with other works.

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I didn't know that Mahler would come to play so large a role, nor that music and literature and philosophy can interinanimate one another in the way I've come to think they do in this case.

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So my methodological approach is to draw on many different features in highlighting different facets of the novella (and the opera and the film).

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After the success of Buddenbrooks, he married and fathered six children.

Yet the surviving diaries tell us of recurrent sexual problems - and of Katia Mann's extremely sympathetic response to them

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Sometimes, however, the new synthetic complex proves stable, and even serves as the beginning of a much larger cluster of attitudes that displace some we've previously considered to be fixed parts of ourselves.

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If the intuition-mongering were abandoned, would that be the end of philosophy? It would be the end of a certain style of philosophy - a style that has cut philosophy off, not only from the humanities but from every other branch of inquiry and culture.

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