Please Stop Contributing to the Publish-or-Perish Landfill

<br /> Bernard Williams was the rare academic who was also a great writer. In his review of Williams’ Essays and Reviews: 1959-2002, Paul Sagar lets academia have it: We can now see that Williams was not lazy: he spent an immense amount of time reading and thinking, and knew much beyond his own academic […]

Why Identity Politics is Illiberal (Belly Dancing, Ctd)

belly dancing

In my post on the identity politics of belly dancing, in which I argued that Randa Jarrar’s recent tirade against white belly dancers must imply the moral inferiority of white women, I bypassed – because I thought it particularly weak – the notion that white belly dancing unwittingly perpetuates racist stereotypes about Arabs, even if […]

On the Identity Politics of Belly Dancing

belly dancing

Novelist Randa Jarrar has been mocked – and accused of racism – for telling the world that she “can’t stand” white belly dancers. As Eugene Volokh notes, if we were to universalize Jarrar’s objections to “cultural appropriation,” then we might object to East Asian cellists or Japanese productions of Shakespeare, rather than treating the arts […]

On Woody Allen and the Presumption of Innocence


Dear Reader: You do not know whether Woody Allen molested Dylan Farrow. You do not know this, because the only evidence you have are her accusations, his denials, and heaps of evidence that call Dylan Farrow’s account into question. Further, you are aware of or ought to be made aware of the many cases of […]

The Priority of Justice-as-Fairness


We need rules for living together, we cantankerous human beings: this is one premise governing John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, and one that governs social contract theory in general. As chaos is the point of departure for creation myths, so conflict has been for political theory. We need rules to establish peace and order […]

In Which Ta-Nehisi Coates Deploys a New Epithet

In his latest response to my criticisms, Ta-Nehisi Coates oddly compares Alec Baldwin to Strom Thurmond in a way that inadvertently makes my case for me. Thurmond adamantly and openly opposed desegregation and civil rights, even as the political winds were shifting the other way, while Baldwin adamantly and openly supported gay rights, long before […]

What the Word “Bigot” Actually Means (and Why it is Important)


Update: Coates responds. I rebut. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Andrew Sullivan have both responded to my criticisms of their claim that Alec Baldwin is a “bigot” for, among other offenses, calling a photographer a “cocksucking fag.” In doing so, they resort to two tried-and-true tactics available to someone on the losing side of an argument: the first […]

No, Alec Baldwin is Not a Bigot


Update: Coates responds here, and Sullivan here. My follow-up here. Alec Baldwin is a talented actor who also happens to be extremely intelligent, verbally dexterous, and politically active on the left. And he has a history of getting in trouble for very public (or publicized) displays of anger, once leaving a rant on his 11-year-old daughter’s […]

Why Non-Euclidean Geometry Does Not Invalidate Kant’s Conception of Spatial Intuition

Everyone once in a while I run across the opinion that non-Euclidean presents a serious problem for Kantian epistemology. While I’ve rebutted this notion before, it’s common enough that I thought I’d have another go at explaining why it’s a misconception. For Kant we can’t know the universe to be spatial “in itself” (as in “things-in-themselves”), […]

The Moral Uselessness of Moral Outrage


Andrew Sullivan has accused Glenn Greenwald of “justifying” terrorism for a post that is largely about the inconsistent use of the word “terrorism.” Greenwald’s response is a thorough and decisive debunking of Sullivan’s accusations, but I wanted add something as a follow-up to my discussion of Sullivan’s incoherence on these issues.  In this latest piece, […]

Andrew Sullivan’s Incoherence on Radical Islam


Since it became known that the Boston Marathon bombing suspects are Muslims, there has been a predictable celebration by a chorus of right-wing commentators for whom the evil of Islam and the collective guilt of Muslims in such cases are tenets of faith. More subtle but equally pernicious are the reactions of blogger Andrew Sullivan […]

Four Highly Effective Responses to Terrorism


1. Choose liberty over security. 2. See events like the Boston Marathon bombing — by virtue of their rarity — as evidence of our relative security, not as one more reason to feel afraid. 3. Understand that our relative security is guaranteed on the whole not by guards and guns, but by basic human psychology, […]

An Objection to Sharon Street’s “Darwinian Dilemma”


I’ve been stalled for some time now in my attempt to write a review of Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos. My primary stumbling block has been his reliance in one section on Sharon Street’s “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value”, which attempts to show that natural selection (in its current form) is not […]

A Discussion of Thomas Nagel’s Mind & Cosmos

Today I had the pleasure of discussing Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False as part of a PEL Not School study group on the book. Joining me were Not Schoolers Neil Earnshaw and Jon Turner. We discussed our dissatisfaction with with Nagel’s argument that evolutionary naturalism fails to […]

PEL’s Presidential Endorsement: Naked Political Partisanship

Every once in a while, a listener of The Partially Examined Life complains that that our liberal political proclivities — and occasional outright partisanship — are not consistent with our being philosophical, which should make us more neutral about such matters. I disagree. I do agree – after listening recently to the first few PEL […]

Where I was on 9/11


(A re-post of an essay I wrote last year on the anniversary of 9/11). I Where was I on 9/11? At the time I worked not far from the World Trade Center – at 11 Broadway, across from the famous Wall Street Bull that’s not really on Wall Street. At 9:02 AM I left for […]

The Problem with Academia Today: Corporatism, Not Identity Politics

Andrew Delbanco, author of his own book on what ails today’s university, gives the thumbs down to another critique that tilts at feminists and queer theorists: The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind. Delbanco is sympathetic to the notion that identity politics has taken its toll on […]

Contemporary Neuroscience and Free Will

Contemporary neuroscience is not a challenge to free will, according to Eddy Nahmias: Most scientists who discuss free will say the story has an unhappy ending—that neuroscience shows free will to be an illusion. I call these scientists “willusionists.” … Willusionists say that neuroscience demonstrates that we are not the authors of our own stories […]

Scientism and Scientific Sensationalism

Not long after I wrote this post linking to Isaac Chotiner’s negative review of Johah Lehrer’s Imagine and its “fetishization of brain science,” Lehrer was forced to resign from The New Yorker for fabricating Bob Dylan quotes. A lot has been written about the meaning of Lehrer’s transgression; but I was bothered less by the distortion of relatively […]

The Veil of Opulence

Benjamin Hale sum up why it is Americans end up voting for policies that actually thwart their interests: they make decisions about justice according to a “veil of opulence,” the opposite of the “veil of ignorance” advocated by Rawls: Those who don the veil of opulence may imagine themselves to be fantastically wealthy movie stars or […]

Our Negative Incapability: Optimism, Knowingness, and American Exceptionalism

In light of our recent recording on Voltaire’s Candide (to be published in a few weeks), I’ve been thinking lately about the role of optimism in contemporary American culture (Candide critiques a kind of optimism in vogue at Voltaire’s time that he associated with Leibniz’ “best of all possible worlds” theory). A recent piece by Oliver Burkeman defends negative […]

The Christlike Subversiveness of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”

In 1979, John Cleese and Michael Palin had a debate about Monty Python’s film The Life of Brian with two defenders of the Christian faith  — one an English bishop. The question is whether the film’s parody of institutionalized religion and religious hypocrisy amounts to ridiculing the personage of Jesus and Christianity in general.

The Science of Storytelling

Adam Gopnik reviews yet another attempt to apply evolutionary psychology to the humanities — Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal — and finds it wanting: It is one thing to think that psychology may solve problems that baffle philosophy or criticism; it well may. But to think that the invocation of empirical studies on a subject frees […]

Evolutionary Psychology’s Pseudo-Explanations of Art and Culture

Evolutionary psychologists seem to assume that all of an organism’s traits must be the result of natural selection. This is not the case. As Stephen Jay Gould pointed out, it is entirely possible that a given trait is merely a by-product of another trait that is adaptive. This by-product may in fact thwart reproductivity (“fitness”) as […]

Science-Based Anti-Intellectualism

On a regular basis someone publishes a book in which they attempt to apply neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, or the social sciences to questions that the humanities are actually better equipped to address. As a consequence, such authors typically end up dressing up their embarrassingly sophomoric musings related to philosophy, literature, and culture in the trappings of scientific […]

Truth and Lie in Gulliver’s Travels

Via Jonathan Swift, Lee Perlman reflects on the importance of lying to the human condition. Gulliver’s Travels turns out not to be a defense of enlightenment ideals but a critique, with a subtle defense of untruth reminiscent of Nietzsche : In Gulliver’s Travels, Swift challenges the idea — advanced by his Enlightenment contemporaries — that truth, […]

Philosophy Clubs and the Academy


Apparently public forums for the discussion of philosophy are on the rise: The London Philosophy Club, of which I am an organiser, is the biggest in the UK. Our 2,000 members include bankers, lawyers, therapists, advertising people and a few academics looking for a more social form of philosophy. We hold free monthly meetings in […]

The Natural History of Chalk


In the 1860s, the naturalist (advocate of evolutionary theory) Thomas Huxley looked at chalk under a microscope. Here’s what he found, according to Robert Krulwich: Chalk is composed of extremely small white globules. They look, up close, like snowballs made from brittle paper plates. Those plates, it turns out, are part of ancient skeletons that […]

Love and Metamorphosis in Fairy Tales and Philosophy

Marie Rutkowski  has written a very nice piece on the role of nature in fairy tales: The effect, I think, is to make nature seem to be in collusion with love. One message in some versions of the tale, particularly Grimm’s, is that love is like a force of nature, and nature will take its […]

Rousseau, Aristotle, and Freud on Political Narcissism

Rousseau was not a cheerful fellow. According to Terry Eagleton, he’d be even less cheerful if he were alive to see what has happened to the public sphere and educational system in Europe: … would no doubt have been appalled by the drastic shrinking of the public sphere. His greatest work, The Social Contract, speaks up […]

MacIntyre and the Morality of Patriotism


Gary Gutting reflects this Fourth of July on the morality of patriotism, which is grounded in a kind of in-group loyalty at odds with moral theories that require that we treat all human beings equally, regardless of whether we are part of the same family, tribe, or nation. He notes that Alasdair MacIntyre has given […]

America’s Epidemic of Enlightened Racism

John Derbyshire has been fired from the National Review for an openly racist column on how white people should advise their children with respect to “blacks”: for the most part, avoid them. Because on the whole, they are unintelligent, antisocial, hostile, and dangerous. Or as he puts it, avoid “concentrations of blacks” or places “swamped with […]

Dear Philosophers, Please Get Over your Science Envy Now

But consider the possibility that the arts and humanities are simply worthwhile pursuits, despite the fact that they are not going to produce the next iPad or a cure for cancer. And consider the possibility that the United States needs a counterweight to its philistinism — to its pseudo-pragmatist values and their devaluing of the arts and humanities — not the grotesque surrender to it that “ontics” represents. Their are enough politicians telling children to study math and science and cutting the funding that would allow them to study anything else. They do not require your assistance, and your collaborationism is not going to win you greater respect — from anyone.

Anesthesia and Consciousness

Neuroscientists are using anesthesia to study consciousness in a way that seems related to higher order theories of consciousness. The conclusion so far: “consciousness emerges from the integration of information across large networks in the brain”: Over the past few years, other EEG studies have supported the idea that anesthesia doesn’t simply shut the brain down […]

We Know: Camus did not die in a motorcycle accident

If you ever decide to start a podcast under the impression that your early efforts will be protected by a cone of anonymity, do yourself a favor and pretend that you already have an audience in the hundreds of thousands. And operating on that premise, diligently scrub your episodes for any trivial factual errors that […]

What is a Philosophical Explanation?

On some comments to a recent post by Mark on Sam Harris and the ought/is distinction, I noted that Harris assumes that “happiness” (or “flourishing”) is an un-problematic concept — a well-established ruler against which one can easily measure the success or failure of behaviors. Hence when he claims that science can tell us what […]

Does Stanley Fish Matter? It Depends.

In a recent Philosopher’s Stone essay, Paul Boghossian corrects Stanley Fish on the subject of moral relativism: there is no morally relativistic ground between nihilism and the embrace of moral absolutes — one must choose. Saying “x is wrong” is a normative statement, while saying “x is wrong relative to moral code y” is a […]

Ignoring Metcalf’s Central Point

Julian Sanchez has some criticisms here (hat tip to commenter HPG) of Metcalf on Nozick and libertarianism. They seem fair, although I don’t have time to evaluate them in detail (it’s been a long time since I read Anarchy, State and Utopia): Nozick is here setting up a dilemma: Under these idealized circumstances, from what is stipulated […]

Stephen Metcalf on Nozick and “The Liberty Scam”

The snark-factor is high in this entertaining, well-written indictment of libertarianism by Slate critic Stephen Metcalf: “Libertarianism” places one—so believes the libertarian—not on the political spectrum but slightly above it, and this accounts for its appeal to both the tricorne fringe and owners of premium real estate. Yowza.

McGinn vs. Ramachandran on The Tell-Tale Brain

We’ve talked quite a bit recently about neuroscience, not to mention scientism — which again, I take to be: the idea that science is applicable to any domain of inquiry that is meaningful, and will inevitably provide a solution to all meaningful questions Mark calls it “the dreaded scientism,” I think because he doubts it’s […]

Are The Smurfs Based on Plato’s Republic?

Apparently The Smurfs have been accused of being anti-semitic communists living in a totalitarian utopia. It bears mentioning — since we’re reading Plato’s Republic for the next podcast — that each Smurf is named for what they do best. — Wes

David Eagleman on the Neuroscience and the Unconscious

Terry Gross has an interesting interview with neuroscientist David Eagleman, author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (Incidentally, if you’re in Boston you can catch him at Harvard Bookstore on Friday). Eagleman’s book is about, among many other things, the neuroscience of unconscious processes and their importance to our behavior (something of the […]

Sharing a Mind

This fascinating New York Times Magazine articles tells the story of conjoined twins Krista and Tatiana, who share part of their brains; specifically, there is a bridge of neural tissue joining their thalami. The thalamus is something like a switchboard for routing sensory information. While the twins have two distinct minds and personalities, each can […]

The Pernicious Influence of Scientism

Alright, Mark has successfully baited me into a response on the issue of scientism. I should begin by saying that Mark has an interesting reading of Dennet that makes him out not to be a reductionist (as I and many others interpret him). I won’t address that here; I’m more interested in the general question […]

Motherfuckin’ Leibniz

For a philosophy site that’s at the same time bizarre, funny, and genuinely informative, see His “Secret History” video series appears to be baiting crackpots and cranks everywhere only to give them a good dose of … the philosophy of mathematics (to begin with). To see what a (sometimes too loud) soundtrack and visuals can do for […]

Amateur Philosophy at it Worst: How to Write a David Brooks Column

Ironically, the Enlightenment is also a favorite bogeyman of leftist university postmodernists. And oddly, they seem to associate the Enlightenment with the sciences, and do not see the latter as somehow having emancipated us from the former. For them, overcoming this bogeyman requires a much more radical project that includes an epistemological (and sometimes ethical) relativism that swallows up even the hard sciences. Hegel, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Lacan and Derrida are their great post-Enlightenment and post-modern thinkers … not Malcolm Gladwell. For them, the irrational and communal do not lead us back to … family values.

The Duh of Charlie Sheen: getting high off your high horse

Sheen is a Drug

The form of Charlie Sheen’s suffering is a challenge to news junky-ism as usual because it confronts the manic defense behind the fascination with obviously manic subject matter. Those who feel guilty about this fascination can pretend that this guilt has something to do with ethical issues surrounding gawking at the mentally ill, as if there’s some hard and fast line that will allow them to continue to make fun of Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise while leaving Charlie Sheen alone. But that guilt is more likely caused by the fact that in this case the usual manic schadenfreude involved in watching a celebrity self-destruct has been tainted by the inescapable similarity between his state of mind and our own. (Remember, guilt is what’s being defended against, and what we expect to appear when the defense fails). If I’m right, faux-guilt over Sheenenfreude (apologies) is just another especially sophisticated way of avoiding actual guilt (concerning real, personal losses). On the other hand, if you’ve continued — as I have — to guiltlessly enjoy the spectacle, you may have noticed that your fascination seems to have been augmented by your induction with some of Sheen’s manic energy (tiger blood, baby). Which is to say: people are especially fascinated by Sheen because mania is especially fascinating (or rather, fascination-amplifying). It’s a subject matter that resonates with the basic mechanism of being-fascinated.

Has the Internet Transformed Us? Yes and No.

This Piece by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker is very good and suitably conflicted concerning complaints about the social effects of technology: The odd thing is that this complaint, though deeply felt by our contemporary Better-Nevers, is identical to Baudelaire’s perception about modern Paris in 1855, or Walter Benjamin’s about Berlin in 1930, or […]

The Quarrel Between the Thomists and the Straussians

Brian Leiter bizarrely endorses this idiotic review by Aristotle scholar Peter Simpson of Richard G. Stevens’ Political Philosophy: An Introduction. It’s clear that the logic behind this endorsement is that Simpson criticizes the book because it has been written by a Straussian, and Leiter despises Straussians. Unfortunately, the logic behind the review is that Simpson […]

Massimo Pigliucci on In-Your-Face Atheism

Pigliucci strongly rebukes the organization of which he is a lifetime honorary member, for an ad calling all religions “scams”: First, the ad is simply making a preposterous claim that cannot possibly be backed up by factual evidence, which means that, technically, it is lying. Not a good virtue for self-righteous critical thinkers… Yet, several atheists […]

To Go or Not to Go: The Philosophy Grad School Question

Via Leiter, here’s a typical sober (read: utterly pessimistic) guide to determining whether or not to go to grad school in philosophy. Despite the fact that I’ve read many of these pessimistic assessments, the answers to questions 8 and 9 — “Can I advance in the profession through talent and hard work?” and “Will I […]

Simon Blackburn vs Sam Harris: Can Science Tell us Right from Wrong?

In a debate with Patricia Churchland, Peter Singer, Sam Harris, and Lawrence Krauss, Simon Blackburn explains why Harris simply has it wrong on whether science can provide substantive guidance on morality: Youtube There is no doubt, he notes, that “science can inform our values” (and I would add that this goes trivially for many other types […]

Ned Block Reviews Damasio’s Latest

Ned Block — whose views on consciousness and the mind-body problem are, like those of David Chalmers, close to my own (and far from those of Daniel C. Dennett) — is not impressed with Antonio Damasio’s new book Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain.Damasio makes the same sorts of desperate moves typical of those […]

Thinking Hot Thoughts: “The Secret” as Manic Defense

Psychoanalysts have a name for this sort of thing: it’s called the “manic defense.” This isn’t the full-blown manic depression (now “bipolar disorder”) of DSMV fame. Rather’s its an avoidance of the inevitable mourning (and associated guilt) involved in a realization that we can’t have it all.

No, It’s Not Just Semantics

It shouldn’t need saying that there’s a difference between linguistic and conceptual definitions, or that every system of knowledge rests on unproven axioms or assumptions — mathematics, logic, and science as much as philosophy. That’s why philosophical “meta discussions” about these fields — and knowledge in general — become genuinely interesting and problematic (rather than merely a matter of linguistic confusion or semantics), even while we know that that these problems don’t bear on their practical application.

Hawking Keeps Hacking: “Philosophy is Dead”

Apparently Stephen Hawking not only thinks that spontaneous creation from nothingness is somehow a scientific concept: he also claims that “philosophy is dead” (and as I point out, this is hardly surprising given the core anti-intellectualism lurking behind his amateur philosophizing).

The Amazing Mr. Tallis: On Atheism, Free Will, and Everything Else

(Watch on YouTube). I first became familiar with Raymond Tallis a few months ago, when I was exploring my fury at post-Saussurean thinkers such as Lacan and Derrida. I saw a reference somewhere to a book called Not Saussure: A Critique of Post-Saussurean Literary Theory. After finding a copy – hard to find at a […]

Karen Armstrong on the “Ground Zero Mosque” and Sufism

Via Open Culture, religion scholar Karen Armstrong (whom Mark has discussed several times — and who’s book The Case for God may be the text for a future episode) comes out in favor of the “Ground Zero Mosque,” noting that it would be a Sufi Mosque. “We all need a good dose of Sufi-ism,” she says, […]

Experimental Philosophy

At the New York Times’ Room for Debate some philosophy professors are discussing the following question: As philosophy departments have come under attack for being costly and impractical, do experimental methods, called “x-phi” by its proponents, offer new horizons for old problems? Or are they immaterial and a waste of time? Most of the participants note […]

The Philosopher’s Annual

Philosopher’s Annual selects what it takes to be the ten best philosophy in a given year and makes them available online. Leiter has a list of forthcoming 2009 selections, including two that look interesting to me: Selim Berker (Harvard), “The Normative Insignificance of Neuroscience”, Philosophy & Public Affairs 37:4, 293-329 James Dreier (Brown), “Relativism (and Expressivism) […]

A New Atheist on the “Ground Zero Mosque”

Sam Harris makes it clear that his atheism is in fact motivated less by reason and more by spleen: Should a 15-story mosque and Islamic cultural center be built two blocks from the site of the worst jihadist atrocity in living memory? Put this way, the question nearly answers itself. He compares it to building a shrine […]

The Imagination: The Handmaiden of Tautology

Leiter approves of a recent “very successful” post on the New York Times’ philosophy blog about “reclaiming the imagination.” His wrath has been appeased … for now. Here’s the gist of the piece: Imagination has survival value because it allows one to choose the best plan by running through possible consequences. This is meant to […]

Speaking of John Galt

McSweeney’s does Rand: After all, we’ve managed to raise a bright, self-reliant girl who achieves her goals by means of incentive and ratiocination and never—or very rarely—through the corrupt syllogism of force. We know, despite what you and a number of other parents we’ve met have said—as they carried their whimpering little social parasites away—that […]

The PhD, Visualized

By: Wes Apparently getting a PhD is like trying to impregnate the nothingness beyond the periphery of a vast epistemological cosmos with … a multi-colored logo-phallus.

Will Your Genes Marry Mine?

Slate reviews the latest excretion of pseudo-scientific, evolutionary psychology-based aspirational ethics, as incorporated into a marriage self-help book: Tara Parker-Pope, the earnest health reporter for the New York Times, promises a new wrinkle in the self-help genre with her book, For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage. Her basic premise is that there exists […]

A Note on Kant’s Conception of Space and Time

Regarding space and time (and responding to Erik at Kant is explicitly worried about the same thing that troubled Leibniz, which is there is a discord between mathematics and the concrete — what we consciously see and touch in the world “out there.” Leibniz was concerned with the paradox of the continuum: that points can […]

The Philosophy of Sarah Palin

Is it anything Like the Tao of Pooh? Andrew Sullivan quotes Slavoj Zizek’s latest: Earlier generations of women politicians (Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, up to a point even Hillary Clinton) were what is usually referred to as “phallic” women: they acted as “iron ladies” who imitated and tried to outdo male authority, to be “more […]

The War on Dogs

A Drug Raid Goes Viral – Reason Magazine. Shooting the family’s dogs isn’t unusual, either. To be fair, that’s in part because some drug dealers do in fact obtain vicious dogs to guard their supply. But there are other, safer ways to deal with these dogs than shooting them. In the Columbia case, a bullet fired […]

The War on Dogs

A Drug Raid Goes Viral – Reason Magazine. Shooting the family’s dogs isn’t unusual, either. To be fair, that’s in part because some drug dealers do in fact obtain vicious dogs to guard their supply. But there are other, safer ways to deal with these dogs than shooting them. In the Columbia case, a bullet fired […]

An Analytic Philosopher Grapples with “Soul”

If Star Trek’s Data were to write about the soul, it might be this self-parodyingly soulless: Soul talk is expressive in the same way as other nondescriptive utterances, like “oh my God” or “ouch” or “yuck” or (with head nodding to music) “Yeah, that’s funky.” There is no clear referent for those. They don’t seem […]

“Britain’s assault on the love of truth for its own sake”

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum in the  The New Republic: In Britain today there is a new government program called the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Under the REF, scholars in all fields will be rated, and fully twenty-five percent of each person’s rating will be assigned for the “impact” of their work—not including its impact on other […]

Sam Harris Derives Ought from Is

Via, Sam Harris seems to think he has come across oughts in the wild. We just needed a big enough microscope to see them. As physicist Sean Carroll notes, there once was a man named Hume: Morality and science operate in very different ways. In science, our judgments are ultimately grounded in data; when it […]

Thump Thump or Pump Pump? Fodor’s Confusion Explained.

This is an animated but polite discussion between Jerry Fodor and Elliott Sober — very interesting, and I think I understand Fodor a little better now (i.e., motivates what I believe to be his error — other than the fact that he’s worried about problematic teleological notions like function being necessary to natural selection as a […]

Are the majority of published scientific research claims false?

The epistemology vs. epidemiology (Odds Are, It’s Wrong – Science News): “There is increasing concern,” declared epidemiologist John Ioannidis in a highly cited 2005 paper in PLoS Medicine, “that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims.” … Nowhere are the problems with statistics more […]

Fodor, Darwin, and the Philosophy of Science

I had been looking forward to Jerry Fodor’s What Darwin Got Wrong (co-authored with Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini), not because I have anything against Darwin but because Fodor is a superb writer, the well-respected cognitive scientist who “laid the groundwork for the modularity of mind and language of thought hypotheses,” and a worthy opponent of the idiocy […]

The Dog: Civilization’s Best Friend (and a “true philosopher”)

The New York Times (my emphasis): Dog domestication and human settlement occurred at the same time, some 15,000 years ago, raising the possibility that dogs may have had a complex impact on the structure of human society. Dogs could have been the sentries that let hunter gatherers settle without fear of surprise attack. They may […]

Randinetics: The Modern Science of Permanent Adolescence

The Web seems to have broken out in a bad case of Ayn Rand in the last month or so. The original sin seems to have been The New Criterion’s rebuke of philosophical adolescents everywhere: Rand’s hero-worship is also Nietzschean in inspiration. It is deeply unpleasant. She entirely lacks the literary ability to convey anything admirable, […]

Is Humanities Graduate School a “Big Lie”?

Yes: Their daughter goes to graduate school, earns a doctorate in comparative literature from an Ivy League university, everyone is proud of her, and then they are shocked when she struggles for years to earn more than the minimum wage. (Meanwhile, her brother—who was never very good at school—makes a decent living fixing HVAC systems […]

Searches that Send Traffic to this Site

A surprising number of people google “partially examined life.” And then we get quite a bit of traffic from searches like “philosophy podcast” and “wittgenstein podcast.” But we also get hits from “grandpa bought a rubber.” Here are few more of my favorites: District 9 and Nietzsche Chuang Tzu Pronunciation Half examined life Partially good […]

Self-Justify or Die

Pennsylvania may get rid of a number of its Philosophy (and other useless) departments because they graduate fewer than 30 majors over five years. Unless they justify their existence. That’s an ironically philosophical task. Scheherazadian (a word which justifies its existence as legitimate by having 1,410 occurrences on Google, despite the fact that there no Merriam Webster […]

Self-Justify or Die

Pennsylvania may get rid of a number of its Philosophy (and other useless) departments because they graduate fewer than 30 majors over five years. Unless they justify their existence. That’s an ironically philosophical task. Scheherazadian (a word which justifies its existence as legitimate by having 1,410 occurrences on Google, despite the fact that there no Merriam Webster […]

Christian Realism and Holy War

“Christian Realism” — even Christians ought to struggle with David Brook’s latest invention. How delightful to juxtapose other-worldliness and practicality! But to really understand it, replace “Christian” with “love” and “Realism” with “War.” Meaning, “I love war, but I wage it only out of love.” It’s almost a self-parodying confirmation of Nietzsche’s critique of the human […]

Seth Bait

Brian Leiter skewers Chronical reporter Carlin Romano (yet again) for a piece that calls Heidegger a “provincial Nazi hack.”

Podcast Equipment Nerdfest

After some problems with atrocious audio quality, I went a little overboard on a new mic/accessories: Audio-Technica AT2020 USB Condenser USB Microphone Samson SP01 Shockmount Spider Mount for Condenser Mics On Stage Tripod Microphone Stand (7701B) OMNITRONICS EPF-15A Cad Mic Pop Filter