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.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Massimo's Weekend Picks!

* Our unhealthy obsession with therapy. Julian Baggini comments.

* When feminists go too far.

* Go ahead, drink that cup of java. And one more. And one more again.

* The perils of learning history at the movies.

* A sober look at the decline of the United States of America.

* The pseudoscience of the stages of grief.

* The problem with bad reporting on neuroscience.

* The disposable academic: why you should think thrice before embarking in a PhD program.

* Ethics and error theory, Russell Blackford's take.

* Republicans have an epistemic problem (among others).

* Exhorting people to just say no invites them to say yes.

* Rethinking just war theory, part 1 and part 2.

* The relationship between democracy and ignorance.

* What is philosophy for? A hypothesis.


  1. Very interesting article on the Republicans' epistemic failings.

    Admittedly, I was surprised to learn that the high-ranking Republicans who were so confident that Romney would win actually believed what they were saying. In my cynicism, I expected that the top-brass suffered from few illusions, and that their reality-defying descriptions of Obama were simply tactics.

    Perhaps it's simplistic, but I'm reminded of the adage that one should "never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

  2. One could argue with the spiegel staff that the current predicament in American political might and will arose as a result of the ill conceived policies of social engineering created by FDR and the great society. Since those were the most prominent social and cultural movements of the past 3 generations, how would they not be to blame for the state of affairs we find ourselves in? Thought experiment; give everyone in the US a home, food, an education, and healthcare. What happens? By doing almost exactly that, and assorted other government coordinated give aways, have we not created a society that lacks the experience to solve its inner conflicts? We have not had the chance as a society to mature, because we've spoiled ourselves by buying off those who didn't fit the model of prosperity that America was built upon. Now we're paying the price for creating a social and cultural tradition that lacks character.
    The writers of the spiegel piece assume social engineering is the good that we are short on. Perhaps they should provide some empiric evidence to support that assumption. Pointing to Europe is not evidence, since European societies have gone through gigantic upheavals over many more hundreds of years than the US has endured. The decline of the US can just as easily be blamed on the failures of liberal democratic policies as it can in current republican resistance to the furtherance of those policies. All we can say is that there is a puddle of water on the floor. We have no way to prove whether it came to be there because an ice cube melted, or because a glass that spilled.

  3. Reading about the Republicans and their epistemic problem made me flash back 8 years. There seems to be a bit of symmetry -- or more like antisymmetry -- in the two situations.

    In 2004, I, like so many, could not figure out how Bush won a second term after screwing up so badly, in particular, after leading us into two unnecessary wars (and prosecuting one of them so poorly, while doing a poor job in the aftermath of the second). Like Rove last month, many liberals were shocked by the 2004 outcome. This viewpoint was even reflected internationally, for example in this cover:


    This time around, Republicans expected to win by running against a straw-man version of Obama: the Kenyan secret Muslim Obama that gives his wife terrorist fist bumps and gave us socialized medical care so that we will all become so complacent while sucking at the government teat that we won't complain when they come after our guns.

    Big difference, though -- the two wars were not part of a made-up narrative, nor were the other sins of the Bush administration. We all saw it unfold before our eyes. But Obama is a Hawaiian-born Christian who never did socialize medicine (though I wish he had), nor did he even socialize medical *insurance* (which is what the Affordable Care Act was about), and that fist bump was, well, just a fist bump.

    And the Republicans bought their own story. Fortunately, enough Americans didn't.


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