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.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Massimo's Picks

by Massimo Pigliucci
* The definition of insanity: the US accounts for 43% of the entire world's "defense" budget. Defense from what?
* Old but good: Fodor may be right, Clark and Chalmers need to take Phil Mind 101.
* Academic journal caves in to Intelligent Design lobby. Boycott campaign started.
* The Philadelphia Inquirer quotes yours truly on Intelligent Design and other nonsense on stilts.
* Yet another damning review of The Moral Landscape. Why do some people take Sam Harris so seriously, one wonders?
* Atlas Shrugged: a bad novel, now a bad movie (not to mention a horrible philosophy).
* More on Rand: her early hero was a child murderer, whom she admired because for him others did not exist...
* What exactly is philosophy of science? Here's one take.


  1. Why do people like Sam Harris?

    - He's charismatic.
    - He's willing to say that religious beliefs are "stupid" and "irrational" and to do so over and over and over.
    - He's a genuinely efficient debater. A lot of debaters, including atheistic debaters and professional philosophers, waste debate time with long, irrelevant introduction or tangents. Harris cuts to the chase and remains pressing.
    - His arguments for moral realism are convincing if you're not a world class thinker, on par with Russell Blackford.
    - He manages to maintain a no-bullshit ethos despite being the atheist sphere's biggest peddler of obscurantism. He uses equivocation all the time--far more often than Massimo and others have recognized, in fact. I encourage Massimo and Blackford to carefully re-read his works and you will find equivocation being used not just for terms like "science" but for virtually every important term in any argument he uses. In The End of Faith he shows support for superstitious beliefs, but does so in sufficiently veiled language as to deny it later. But in debates and in articles, he still allows himself to say that he just wants to talk clearly and avoid bullshit.

  2. I've been reading the "Virtue Ethics" you recommended some posts back: isn't the author's view of human excellence very similar to Rand's?

  3. Cavall,

    I know what you mean, that author's tone is certainly a bit unusual and Rand-like. But no, please, the ideas are completely different. Aristotle - and certainly any neo-Aristotelian like myself - would have abhorred Rand and her ilk.

  4. "Defense from what?"

    Imperial defense, or defense of the ability to intervene around the world as deemed necessary by governmental-corporate elites. Thats the best I can do answering that question.

  5. Defense from what?

    The librels! The queers! The teachers! The muslims! and those goddamned atheists! Dontcha know!

  6. As a good skeptic, I decided to watch the movie myself before commenting on it. And, I actually liked it! Go figure... Maybe Massimo should watch it too. Yes, i know ... don't bother responding.

  7. Benny,

    you are not a skeptic in this department, you are an objectivist. Not the same.

  8. If you yourself hate Ayn Rand, and only read a review written by someone that hates her too, can you objectively say that the movie is bad? You haven't even read the book, just cherry-picked paragraphs!

  9. Oh Benny,

    first, I didn't say the movie was bad, just mentioned the review by one of the best movie critics in America. Second, I have actually read one of Rand's books, plus a significant additional amount of objectivist crap. So, yes, I know what I'm talking about.

  10. "Atlas Shrugged: a bad novel, now a bad movie", your words. You haven't either read "the novel" nor seen "the movie."

  11. Benny, your tendency to read things literally is getting in the way of your usually clear thinking. The sentence is a summary of the book review, not meant to me a movie review of my own. The "horrible philosophy" part, which you did not quote, is a freeby straight from my own brain.

  12. My point is that you hate the novel, and the movie, without having seen or read them. And, more to my point, the reviewer probably hates her too, so, can he objectively review the movie as a work of fiction, which it is? Do you think there is a chance in hell you could actually like the movie? Probably not.

  13. Benny, your partisanship is clouding your judgement. I don't hate either novel or book, since I have not read or seen them. I do hate both Rand as a person and her philosophy, having read more than enough about both.

    And how on earth can you possibly know that Ebert was not a fair reviewer? Just because he trashed your favorite hero?


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