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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lena's Picks

by Lena Groeger
* “If I keep a pig as a pet, I can’t kick it. If I keep a pig I intend to sell for food, I can pretty much torture it.” Mark Bittman explores why some animals are more equal than others.
* A contemplation of idleness.
* Why do we carve up the world into separate disciplines, and what does that mean for interdisciplinarity? Tim Dean has some thoughts.
* The controversy over experimental philosophy is boring, says Tamler Sommers. So why does it persist?
* “Knowing that we are not alone just might be the kick in the pants we need to grow up as a species.” On discovering alien life.
* It’s a whale! It’s a squid! It’s a… visual history of science fiction!
* Metaphors – more than just talk? A new study explores the influence of metaphors on how we reason and attempt to solve real-world problems.
* It’s the emotions, stupid. David Brooks on his new book The Social Animal.
* Predicting the end of religion in nine countries with a mathematical model. Hmmm…
* Why Aristotle is the greatest biologist of all time.
* An illustrated animation of a talk by Steven Pinker, on what language tells us about human relationships.


  1. I've heard that particular lecture by Steven Pinker, without the animation. It's amazing how much the animation improves an already good lecture. Why is that?

  2. @James -

    Probably because we are highly visual creatures tuned in to moving things.

    As to alien life. If they simply discover proof of alien microbes (which is the most likely scenario I think). I predict it would make headlines for about two weeks and then give way to the latest celebrity gossip. People don't care a great deal about life on this planet. It is too much to expect them to care about life on some distant unreachable world.

    A signal would be a different story of course and I would dearly love to live long enough for us to receive one, but I doubt I shall. What I would find ultimately amusing would be if we were visited not by alien invaders (as seen ad nauseum in psi phi), but rather by alien missionaries who came to our planet to convert us to their religion. Now that would be hilarious.

  3. If experimental philosophy as a separate endeavor seemed a bit goofy at the outset, take a look at what's happening at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy,


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