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.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Julia's Picks

* In episode #6 of the Rationally Speaking podcast, Massimo and I dive into the world of fluffy thinking.

* What do philosophers believe? David Chalmers conducted a comprehensive survey of philosophers from 99 universities. I was surprised to learn that the majority believe there are objective truths in ethics and aesthetics.

* A send-up of infographics.

* More interesting results on the way we instinctively make physical analogies to abstract concepts.

* Why is so much philosophy so tedious?

* Daniel Kahneman gives a great TED talk on the difference between how we experience happiness and how we remember it.

* Through a series of very cleverly-designed experiments, researchers deduce how ants navigate in the desert.

* You may have heard about the Amazonian tribe that "doesn't count higher than 5". Here's an in-depth discussion of how they think about numbers.


  1. I need to read the paper on why so much philosophy is tedious, but seems to me that the obvious answer is the same for why so much science is tedious, or so much anything at all that is aimed at a small number of professionals in a given field is tedious: it's very technical and very detailed.

  2. Yes, this is a bit nit-picky.

    'Love is just a word' isn't an example of fluffy thinking because it has a literal duality: face value (it is a word) and "nonsense" (Love's a concept I say!).

    It's non-literal meaning is crystal clear if you've grown up in Western American culture.


    However, using Chopra as fodder, and taking him to task for blatant equivocation was well done, brava and bravo respectively.

    When I watched the video clip I could hear the relief in Dawkins' voice. Then Mr. Slick schooled him on how to really sell snake oil. I would've been nonplussed too.

  3. Sorry to be blunt. Was expecting a bit more of depth of insight in your comments and observations - for instance the podcast on fluffy thinking was not too far away from fluff itself. More 'Superficially speaking' than 'Rationally Speaking'.

  4. That the majority of philosophers believe there are objective truths in ethics doesn't surprise me, although think they're wrong. But in aesthetics? That really does surprise me. I wonder what conception of "objective" they are working with.

  5. "...for instance the podcast on fluffy thinking was not too far away from fluff itself. More 'Superficially speaking' than 'Rationally Speaking'."

    Gokul S,

    If this was a bit of irony then well done. If not, to what goal should each podcast 'purpose itself toward?'

    As a philosophy undergrad I appreciate their mix of informal discussion with formal topics. What a great way to learn!

    Granted, most of my profs are po-mo continentals, but my analytic prof uses the aforementioned method as well.


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