“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” — S.G. Tallentyre, The Friends of Voltaire
We all know that in the age of misinformation, it’s hard to come by truthful claims about the world. This has even received philosophical analysis in the essay “On Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt.
But it’s not an entirely new phenomenon.
When Johannes Gutenberg’s Printing Press took over Europe, the writings of Shakespeare, Milton, Cervantes, Descartes, Bacon, and others, became widely accessible.
Along with this distribution of knowledge, came an increase in propaganda, conspiracy theories…
It is very likely that we are wrong about everything.
Humans are famously bad at being rational, objective, and careful thinkers.
People readily still believe that God is punishing thousands for not believing in his son by sending them to hell, that the constellations can predict our temperament & personalities, that ghosts are real, that our respective political views are the correct ones, and that climate change is a hoax.
We function more as personal lawyers, as Jonathan Haidt put it than as unbiased rational thinkers.
Behavioral economists, cognitive psychologists, and philosophers have long been pointing out the flaws of…
A nationwide mandate for vaccines does not infringe on the liberties of the individual because of the more prescient obligation to not cause harm to citizens.
The cost of allowing for freedom outweighs the benefit of preventing harm.
The problem with liberty, as many thinkers have addressed, is that providing liberty to some may infringe on the liberties of others.
It is difficult to find a place of compromise in order to satisfy everyone.
In other words, the individual can feel threatened by the desire to meet the needs of the collective.
One example that testifies to this reality is…
“They’re so cold, these scholars!
May lightning strike their food
so that their mouths learn how
to eat fire!”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
Academic philosophy is particularly bad at changing society for the better because, in order to have access to it, one has to first get through a lot of unnecessary jargon, swim through the rubble, and then translate their insights into modern English using anecdotes that people who live in the 21st century can understand. Today, there are simpler and more effective ways of influencing society.
We can see this most when we compare the arguments made by moral…
“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubt, while the stupid people are full of confidence.” — Charles Bukowski
In my youth, particularly my teens, I was a fundamentalist Christian. I strongly believed in the doctrines of Reformed theologians, which included total depravity, unconditional love, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints.
I thought my views were scripturally supported with various texts on God’s elective process and I thought with almost utmost certainty that I was right in my beliefs. Then came experience. I lived in Oxford among many unbelievers, worked…
When academics disagree with popular culture, they are falling into the trap of assuming that because they are intelligent in one field, they must also be expert analysts in all fields.
Recently, I recommended a show to a friend. I couldn’t stop watching this show and I thought my friend would appreciate it as much as I did. When I recommended it, he also managed to mention a show that he enjoyed and told me to watch it as well.
We both started watching them at the same time. I messaged him, saying that it was good, but not as…
A book is like a mirror: if an ass looks in, you can’t expect an apostle to look out. ‒ G. C. Lichtenberg
What is the true value of our attention?
The other day I was walking down a bridge in my hometown in Ruzomberok, Slovakia, and I looked up at the river and the mountain in the background. It was dark outside, but not dark enough to not be able to make out the distinct features of both.
I thought to myself, what else do I want? This here is all there is. There’s nothing else in…
Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously. ‒ G. K. Chesterton
Once, an education was deemed particularly valuable. Students who made their way to academia promised a bright future to their families. For a long time, devoting your life to the mind was for the elite class and rewarded accordingly.
The Enlightenment slowly democratized knowledge in Europe. Thinkers argued that not only the select few (the clergymen, priests, and theologians) should have access to this wealth of knowledge in the universities. They believed that knowledge should be made available to the masses.
“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
― Albert Einstein
One way to halt our tendency for confirmation bias is to attempt to restate why exactly someone believes what they do. In the 1950s, the brilliant scientist, Alan Turing, came up with the Turing Test which was a test to see whether machines can exhibit a level of intelligence that would be indistinguishable from our own.
An outside observer would communicate with the machine and then guess whether they were communicating with a human or not. A similar experiment called the “Ideological Turing Test” was proposed by…
Changing our minds delivers a calming, politically highly-consequential revelation: those on the other side of a debate might actually be nice. So disputes can’t be cast as stand-offs between bad people and good people (as we so often want to imagine). We can still disagree; we don’t need to hate. — The School of Life
The American federal election of 2020 was fascinating to watch, for most of us even frightening. Donald Trump and his camp have reinforced the agenda that if he does not win the election that the counting of votes in Pennsylvania and Nevada were fraudulent.