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.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Massimo's picks

* Not only Obama is not a socialist, but according to philosopher Andrew Levine, he is as centrist as you can be without crossing the line to the Republican side. I'm afraid he's right.

* Does a "science of origins" make sense? I don't think so, but for another take, read this enthusiastic article by Lawrence Krauss.

* Here is an interesting possibility: the good shared by many religions is actually their humanist core...

* The top 10 worst Bible passages, as picked by Christians themselves!

* These days many conservatives claim to be Libertarians (rather than Republicans, which is becoming an increasingly embarrassing label). Here is a list of reasons you might not be a Libertarian after all.

* What is philosophy? This video does a good job at explaining the basics, though the guy might have used a shot of caffeine before getting in front of the camera...

* Book club: Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), on the perils of cognitive dissonance.

* Classic Groucho Marx video: sounds like the Republicans these days...


  1. Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) is fantastic. I've been recommending that as essential for the skeptic's bookshelf.

    A few years ago, the authors wrote an article applying the cognitive dissonance model to our involvement in Iraq; Michael Shermer did the same (based on the book.)

  2. Isn't "the guy" on the video Graham Priest?

  3. Graham Priest it is! Logician and dialetheist extraordinaire!

  4. Yes, but the next time he does a video he still could benefit from a couple of shots of espresso... :)

  5. I checked out the Daily Kos site to see if maybe I'm not really a libertarian... but no, apparently I really am while all of those religio-conservatives jumping on the bandwagon (Bob Barr!) are not. The mistake, though, seems to be happening on both sides. Not only do some right-wing nutters claim to be libertarian, but many left-wing liberals seem to think that the Kos list accurately describes libertarianism (maybe not you MP, I hope you're better than that). Or, I've had some liberals equate libertarianism with anarchism which is not only mistaken, but *greatly* mistaken. It's sort of like atheism being mistaken for hedonism, or the swastika being relegated to only representing WW-II era German nationalism. Once there's a general, public perception it is (nearly?) impossible to correct it.

  6. ***** rant alert *****

    I recently enrolled in a post. grad. diploma in philosophy at Monash. I was going great guns for the first 6 weeks till I got into a quarrel with the tutor. The course was mostly online, so the quarrel took place via a the discussion forum. The guy was a total d*ck, and I tried to avoid interacting with him early on after he showed himself to be painful. But he would misrepresent my comments which weren't directed to him and talk down fields of which he was ignorant. He said such stuff as most of what mathematicians called algebra was not algebra. That the 1st law of thermodynamics was wrong when I pointed out that if the mind interacts with the body, it must be some form of energy (I've checked this with physicists and the law is good). He said that science needed to be corrected by philosophers. - I'm sure scientists are just charging to speak with this guy to understand the science they're doing. - But in the end it was his unwillingness justify his assertions and rude misrepresentation of what I said that got my goat. To cut a long story short, when I politely told him I found his attitude childish. I was told to be nice by the course supervisor. There was no acknowledgement of his poor behavior. Thus my excursion into philosophy was quite short. I have a very small tolerance when I feel I've (or any body else has) been misrepresented and not given a fair go. I admire scientists and philosophers who can take that kind of rude behavior with equinamity. Alas, I'm not made of such stuff. I don't do confrontation or bullying well. :)

    ***** end rant *****

  7. Feel free to ignore the above. I only posted it because that video from the Melbourne Uni. philosophy guys spruiking philosophy brought it to mind. :)

  8. I liked the Levine post. Here is another good critique of Obama's errors or betrayals, depending on how cynical you are.


  9. I'm surprise Massimo at your anti-libertarian pick. If you are going to attack libertarians, at least choose someone that knows what libertarianism is. The correct title should be "Top 10 Signs You Don't Know What A Libertarian Is." Then the article would make sense.

  10. Benny, how many times do I have to tell you that despite what you think you are actually not a libertarian? You are too reasonable for that... :)

  11. Ten worst Bible passages?

    If you feel prompted for some reason now to take the bible literally in certain instances it almost goes without saying WHY NOT TAKE IT LITERALLY in ALL instances? Selective literalism is just as senseless as ignoring contextual and cultural understanding of the time that some document was written in. (and there are 25,000 manuscripts of the bible in existence btw)

    Like for instance, the group you are referring to has singled out certain passages for criticism. So fair enough. Might as well take the 10 commandments and all the other commandments of the bible literally as well.

    ...every last thing listed in the Bible could be nothing else but a command, right?

    In one of the verses referenced, there was in fact at times much blood shed in OT as the Israelites were dealing with many non-civil, lawless people groups. When feelings are expressed about being in captivity, as they were for a great length of time in Ps. 139, it is a commentary of the troubled times not an actual COMMAND to go dash infants on the rocks.

    Read it again. carving out one verse at a time for analysis just doesn't give a very clear picture.

    "If I forget you, Yerushalayim, Let my right hand forget its skill.

    Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I don't remember you; If I don't prefer Yerushalayim above my chief joy.

    Remember, LORD, against the children of Edom, The day of Yerushalayim; Who said, "Raze it! Raze it even to its foundation!"

    Daughter of Bavel, doomed to destruction, He will be happy who rewards you, As you have served us.

    Happy shall he be, Who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock. ps 139

  12. Embarrassed about being republican or conservative? Like compared to what? Living like there's no tomorrow? Yeah, rather hard to find the wisdom in that right now, Massimo. Look where that has gotten us.

    If anything the Reps should be MORE conservative. THAT would be much less embarrassing.

    be away for awhile again...


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