About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Massimo's picks

* There is yet another book out there on one of my favorite nut jobs: Ayn Rand.

* My book review of Logicomix, a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell and the quest for the logical foundations of mathematics.

* Another book review by yours truly: The Simpsons and Philosophy, The D'oh! of Homer.

* Warwick University, in the UK, has instituted a position for the public understanding of philosophy. Imagine that!

* It's time for moral class with philosopher Michael Sandel, now available on PBS and on the web.

* More Americans believe in haunted houses than global warming. Sad, but not surprising.

* Jon Stewart's commentary on the Pope's opening toward disaffected Anglicans.

* The Obama administration is supporting several Arab countries' push to enforce "anti-blasphemy" laws and make them a UN-approved standard. Why?

* Three new books about philosophy for the general public!


  1. "The Obama administration on Monday came out strongly against efforts by Islamic nations to bar the defamation of religions, saying the moves would restrict free speech."

  2. "The Simpsons and Philosophy" had better be good. I have just bought the Kindle version of it (although, I don't know when I'll get around to reading it-there must be a hundred books to read before it).

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  4. Both the issue and the coverage of the Obama administration's position at the UN regarding limiting criticism of religion is intriguing.

    Regarding the coverage:

    On the one hand, the article at Salon that Massimo links to stakes out a good, reason-based and fact-supported philosophical position. On the other, the MSNBC article that Edwardson links to is also fact-based, but being a news piece, establishes no philosophical position. As far as I have been able to determine, neither article presents falsehoods as facts. Nevertheless, on their facts alone they come to entirely opposite conclusions about the implications and significance of the administration's actions. How can this be?

    There is one two-word phrase above that contains the answer. You win if you can spot it before reading the articles. Bonus points if you can guess ahead of time which source acts as an apologist for the administration. Hint (actually, giveaway): the answer to the bonus question is arguably as important as the subject of the articles.

    Regarding the issue itself:

    For a more comprehensively contextualized detailing of the administration's actual position, I suggest this article from WorldMag.com, and this one from FindLaw for a more grounded opinion on its implications.

    There is certainly a meaningful discussion to be had on this issue, but I don't think either Massimo's or Edwardson's articles, either together or separately, provide enough information to do so effectively. The Salon article's philosophical stance is sound, but doesn't address the political pragmatism that underlies its stance. The MSNBC article, on the other hand, engages in the selective fact-reporting (yes, that means cherry-picking) that has become the hallmark of opinion journalism that has become the hallmark of US media coverage.

    Being informed is markedly different from being well-informed.

  5. Ugh...I need an editor.

    The intended meaning of the next to last sentence was clear, I hope.


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