Scientism, Signifying, and Meaning

August 29, 2013

Since I wrote my brief broadside against Steven Pinker’s monumentally misguided New Republic essay “Science Is Not Your Enemy: An impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians,” a slew of additional responses have come to my attention. Rhetorically, my reply was a proslepsis (among its many names), a technique by which one talks about something while pretending [...]

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Eating Poetry (XLIV) – “After Experience Taught Me …”

February 3, 2013

. Offered without comment because all the words belong to Snodgrass. “After Experience Taught Me …” W. D. Snograss After experience taught me that all the ordinary Surroundings of social life are futile and vain; I’m going to show you something very Ugly: someday, it might save your life. Seeing that none of the things [...]

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Reason and Rationalization

October 11, 2012

. Happy day when theory can be considered in the light of immediate actual events. Let’s consider, shall we? First the theory. At The New York Times’ The Stone, philosophers Gary Gutting and Michael P. Lynch responded separately to psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s recent book, The Righteous Mind, in which Haidt argues for the primacy of [...]

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Pythonian Philosophy

July 29, 2012

. In the spirit both of the most recent “Drowning Child” post and our current London Olympiad, we persevere in our arguments by exploring the nature of intellectual competition. The first video I actually share with my students in the opening week of my critical thinking class. It’s a hoot and does make a point. [...]

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The Drowning Child: an Experiment in Morality

July 27, 2012

. Over at Philosophy Experiments, a site of The Philosopher’s Magazine, one of the experiments is drawn from Peter Singer‘s “The Drowning Child and the Expanding Circle.” Here is the basic scenario. Your route to work takes you past a shallow pond. One morning you notice that a small child has fallen in and appears [...]

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Being In and Out of Time

May 9, 2012

. Losing yourself in the moment. Living in the moment. Living by losing yourself in the moment. Being in time. Some good writing from Tim Kreider. When I’m balanced on two thin wheels at 30 miles an hour, gauging distance, adjusting course, making hundreds of unconscious calculations every second, that idiot chatterbox in my head [...]

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Language Is So Unstable, You Don’t Even Know What I’m Talking About (Do You)

April 27, 2012

. Hyperbole is a commonly used word that is actually a classical rhetorical device. We recognize it is as exaggeration for effect, which is distinct from by temperament, which no doubt leads to the tall tale, then the outright lie, then corruptions of the spirit, the flesh, and  the soul, and finally the fall of [...]

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Ten Questions for Monday

August 2, 2010

No more weekend. Work time now. Do the citizens of a nation bear any individual moral responsibility for the wars fought in their name, and the consequential death and destruction? If so, does that responsibility have any practical meaning beyond a purported burden of conscience? Does a claim of the war’s justness relieve that responsibility? [...]

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Philosophy and Race

July 28, 2010

At AskPhilosophers “You ask, Philosophers answer.” Explains the site, There is a paradox surrounding philosophy that AskPhilosophers seeks to address. On the one hand, everyone confronts philosophical issues throughout his or her life. But on the other, very few have the opportunity to learn about philosophy, a subject that is usually taught only at the [...]

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The Open Mind VII – the One and the Many II

June 14, 2010

One surgeon declares the operation a success, the other is still to close up, and we shall have to wait until the anesthesia wears off to find out how the patient is doing. ShrinkWrapped and I have already reached some agreements, and may reach more. However general, abstract, or theoretical they may appear to some, [...]

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The Open Mind VII – the One and the Many

June 7, 2010

All previous rounds in this series can be found at the right of the horizontal drop-down menu above. Think of this as a consideration, inviting more consideration, based less on a claim than on a question: what is the proper relationship between the one and the many? “Proper” here might refer to ethics, logic, practicability. [...]

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May 25, 2010

It’s everywhere. You look to your right: it’s stupid. You look to your left: it’s stupid. Open a newspaper (really – does anyone “open” a newspaper anymore?): stupid. Turn on the television: stupider. Michael Steele, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin? So stupid. It may not be contagious, but it sure is influential. What’s a non-stupid [...]

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Looking at the Way We Look at Things II

September 22, 2009

Confirmation Bias: Even If You Like the Cat When I review with students the fundamentals of academic and intellectual honesty, I take it beyond the obvious perils of plagiarism. I explore with them the massive managerial task of sifting, sorting, and employing the evidence and arguments they have gathered through research, my principal focus in [...]

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Much Ado About

April 9, 2009

From Gilgamesh The river rises, flows over its banks and carries us all away, like mayflies floating downstream: they stare at the sun, then all at once there is nothing. to The Sopranos Melfii: Sounds to me like Anthony junior may have stumbled onto existentialism. Tony: Fuckin’ internet! Melfi: No, no, no. It’s a European [...]

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Now You See It

January 24, 2009

In the February Harvard Magazine, Craig Lambert’s “From Daguerreotype to Photoshop” offers a primer on on the tension between the image as pictorial artifact and mirror of reality. The issues are many, but here is one brought to mind, Robert Doisneau’s iconic Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville. As Wikipedia explains The identity of the [...]

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What River?

January 7, 2009

Carlin Romano, covering the Philadelphia meeting of the American Philosophical Association, makes me wonder about the choice I made of English literature over philosophy. But then paper titles like “Analyzing Bias in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Orgasm” and “Depression, Infertility and Erectile Dysfunction: The Invisibility of Female Sexuality in Medicine” make me wonder if it [...]

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