Interviews with Contemporary Philosophers – By Phin Upham

Phin Upham “Philosophers in Conversation: Interviews from the Harvard Review of Philosophy,” is one of my favorite projects I worked on as Editor-in-Chief of the review. It’s a unique collection of thirteen fascinating interviews with contemporary philosophers. But the interviews featured in this collection are a little different than traditional interviews with philosophers. Most of them were conducted by Harvard students and staff members of the review, which means many of the students had the opportunity to interview either their instructors at Harvard or philosophers outside of the University whom they had read and liked. Because of this reason, the interviews have a casual tone, making them accessible to someone who didn’t’ necessarily major in philosophy. Although accessible, the content is still rich and thought-provoking. In addition to interviews, the book also features a photograph and a bio for each philosopher. I wrote the preface and the forward is written by Thomas Scanlon. This book is a great gift idea for yourself or a friend who might be interested in philosophy. To learn more about the book, please visit the website This book is available on eBay.

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By Phin Upham

Part 3

Even If Freedom Is Necessary, It May Not Be Sufficient

Carter’s argument depends on accepting a logical step from nonspecific instrumental value to independent value. Carter claims that (1) freedom may be a means to nonspecific valuable ends. (2) If something is a means to nonspecific valuable ends, then it has independent value. Therefore (3) freedom has independent value. Carter’s argument is open to two major sources of criticism. The first weakens the relationship between freedom possessing nonspecific instrumental value and its possession of independent value, contra (2). I will suggest in this section that even if freedom has nonspecific instrumental value, it could be insufficient to sustain its independent value if there are other necessary elements in independent value that freedom lacks. Second, Carter’s definition of freedom is too loose. One can easily imagine circumstances where an addition to one’s set of choices is not valuable as a means toward a good end, and therefore should not qualify as an addition to a freedom that is valued independently (or instrumentally) rather than intrinsically, contra (1). In the next section, I propose a more loaded understanding of freedom in the hope of solving this problem. Continue reading


By Phin Upham

Part II

Freedom in the Face of an Unpredictable Future

At the root of the idea that freedom is independently valuable lies “an awareness of the unavoidably of human ignorance and fallibility” (Carter 1995, 833). If the future is unknown, then freedom can be seen as a means to reach a certain type of goals in ways that cannot be anticipated or valued beforehand. Such goals must be open-ended: examples include “progress,” “growth,” “civic responsibility,” and certain conceptions of “self-fulfillment” and “happiness.” Continue reading


Verso rh: Critical Review Vol. 21, No. 4
Recto rh: Phin Upham * The Independent Value of Freedom

By Phin Upham

Part 1

ABSTRACT: Both classical and modern liberals tend to treat freedom of choice as if it is intrinsically valuable—regardless of what is chosen. They fear that treating freedom as, instead, instrumental only to good choices might open the door to paternalism if a polity were to decide that people were making bad choices. A middle course would be to treat freedom as independently valuable. On the one hand, the independent value of freedom does not treat all choices as good as long as they are freely made. On the other hand, it does not reduce the value of freedom to the known, or predictable, good ends to which a free action may be conducive. Following from Hayek’s acknowledgement that we are often ignorant of what the future may hold, freedom may have value because it will allow us to make decisions whose positive consequences cannot now be predicted. Continue reading

The Space of Love and Garbage

The Space of Love and Garbage - By Phin Upham

The Space of Love and Garbage – By Phin Upham

By Phin Upham

“The Space of Love and Garbage,” is a collection of the best twenty essays from the Harvard Review of Philosophy. I had the privilege of working on this book while pursuing my studies as an undergraduate philosophy student at Harvard University. Among other great minds of today, the collection includes essays by Hubert Dreyfus and Gisela Striker.

In the essay “The Brave New World of The Matrix,” Hubert Dreyfus thinks through the philosophical implications of the movie The Matrix, examining the film’s question of elemental skepticism—Do we exist in reality as we seem to ourselves?—and extends that skepticism to question the value of reality. Is it “better to live in the real world no matter how miserable rather than living in an illusory world that makes us feel good?” and Dreyfus father and son give their provocative answers. Continue reading

History and the Current Economic Climate

By Phin Upham

recessionWhat is the cause of the economic downturn in the U.S.? Without mentioning uncertain heuristic adjustments, U.S. industries excluding real estate have been weakening since 1980 in GDP terms. This has been going on even though there were deceptive gains in asset valuations, which in part happened because of reduced volatility, the false hope for productivity gains, and the leverage which compounded the problem. However, this was not the case after the Great Depression. When WWII ended the country’s economy grew at record-breaking speed. Continue reading

Thoughts on Bentham

By Phin Upham

I recently re-read “Bentham’s Philosophical Politics” by James E. Crimmins, included in my book Space of Love and Garbage. James E. Crimmins is Professor of Political theory at Huron College, Ontario. His publications include Secular Utilitarianism: Social Science and the Critique of Religion in the Thought of Jeremy Bentham, Religion, Secularization and Political Thought: Thomas Hobbes to J.S. Mill, Utilitarians and Religion, Bentham’s Auto-Icon, and Related Writings, and On Bentham in the Wadsworth Philosophers series. He is currently researching the writings of American utilitarians and critics, and working on a multi-volume collection of death penalty tracts in Britain and America, 1925–1867. Continue reading

All We Need Is a Paradigm

All We Need Is a Paradigm - By Phin Upham

All We Need Is a Paradigm – By Phin Upham

By Phin Upham

I worked on “All We Need is a Paradigm,” a collection of essays I edited in 2009 from The Harvard Review of Philosophy. One of the brilliant minds who contributed to the book is Richard G. Heck, Jr., a contemporary philosopher whose fields of interest include the philosophy of language and logic, and the work of Gottlob Frege. Continue reading