Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The best and worst of 2014

This blog has been quiet for a couple of weeks and is likely to stay that way for a couple of weeks more (lots of work, a little flu, lots of traveling), but in the meantime here's something. Looking at other people's lists of the top ten films and albums of the year, not to mention books, I realize that I haven't seen or heard (or read) as many as ten new movies/albums/books this year. So I won't even attempt a top ten, or top five, of anything. What I will do is make some negative comments and then end on a positive note.

The Guardian named Under the Skin the best movie of the year. It's not. People who like it talk about how haunting and visually stunning it is. It is memorable and visually striking. On the other hand, as the Rotten Tomatoes summary hints at ("Its message may prove elusive for some"), the whole thing seems pointless, despite very much appearing to want to have a serious point. The word for this kind of thing, I think, is pretentious. Another sci-fi disappointment was Snowpiercer. This is the kind of movie I really enjoy, just not a very good example of the kind. Maybe my expectations were too high, but any top ten list that includes it goes down in my estimation.

Now for the good news. I've mentioned some albums I've bought this year and I'm sure nobody cares, so I won't review them. But from other top ten lists I've recently discovered (a bit late) The New Pornographers (not really my cup of tea but sometimes very catchy indeed in a good way) and Allo Darlin' (presumably named after this). If I have an album of the year it's their We Come from the Same Place. Pitchfork calls them "bookish," which I suppose is my kind of thing.  

And I haven't seen enough new films to be sure, but my guess is that Locke was the best movie of last year. It's (even) better than Boyhood: a movie for grownups, and visually interesting too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nordic Wittgenstein Review

The new issue of the Nordic Wittgenstein Review is out now. There's lots of good stuff in it, as ever.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Religion without God

Howard Wettstein's review of a new book by Ronald Dworkin is worth reading. Here's a taste:
In "Chapter 2: The Universe,"[3] Dworkin turns from the religious values that "fill the lives of ordinary people" to "the religious value of celestial beauty that intoxicated Einstein" (p. 47). He makes the point that evolution and the
grand universe it has created is itself a source of beauty. This thought is not available to a naturalist. Only those parts of the universe that produce pleasure in our sight can be, for him, beautiful. He finds the universe as a whole an incalculably vast accident of gas and energy. Religion finds it, on the contrary, a deep complex order shining with beauty . . . . Theists find it obvious why the universe is sublime: it was created to be sublime. (p. 48)
Dworkin's naturalist denies -- why need she deny this? -- the existence of "a complex order shining with beauty," and his theist seems strangely logically inept.
Dworkin seems to have missed the beauty of the idea of the universe as "an incalculably vast accident of gas and energy." The "incalculably vast" part is at least impressive, and the thought that everything we see, care about, and understand is part of this huge accident is mind-boggling. In the case of things we like the accident is happy as well as vast. If anything inclines me to religion it's that, not the Apollonian thought of "order shining with beauty." There is a kind of order in nature, of course. Enough for science to be possible. But there's enough chaos to keep things interesting too.    

Monday, December 1, 2014

And another site to check out

A new philosophy of religion blog, featuring Martin Shuster and others, here.

Humane Philosophy

This looks like a good site. It includes a video lecture by Anthony Kenny, the text of a lecture by Stephen Mulhall, and another video lecture by Peter Hacker. And a lot more besides.