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Time for a new Witch Hunt? The pandemic could change more things than you would have expected.

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Witch burning in Germany in 1550 (image source) Could these times be returning? We can't really say, but history tends to go in cycles and some recent trends are at least worrisome.  Which historical period saw the largest number of witch hunts? If you answered "the Middle Ages," you were wrong. Surprised? Don't we all know that the Middle Ages, were the "Dark Ages," a time of barbarism and superstition, surely it was at that time that witches were hunted and burned. Who didn't see the "Burn the Witch" clip by the Monthy Python? It takes place in a typical Middle Age-ish setting.  But, no. Burning witches is NOT a Middle Ages thing. Look at the data. Trials and executions for witchcraft picked up well after that the Middle Ages were officially over, at some moment around the end of the 15th century.   At the highest moment of this homicidal frenzy, about 2500 people per year were burned in Europe for a total estimated as about 50,000-100,000. Not a very large number in comparison to the population of the time, but a significant number, nevertheless. Why did that happen? Why were Europeans obsessed with killing people, mostly poor women, who were doing little or no harm to anyone? And who were these witches, anyhow? There is a long story to tell here, so let's try to condense the main points of it.The idea of evil women using poisons and magical spells to kill people is very ancient and it appears in many human cultures. The first report on this subject that has numbers in it comes from the Roman historian Titus Livius (59 BC - 17 AD) who tells us about two episodes of witch-hunting that took place in 331 BC and 180 BC. In both cases, a spate of executions (perhaps a few thousand) occurred after that a mysterious and deadly sickness had swept the land. Most of the executed people were women, accused of having poisoned the population.Apart from Livius' report, witches (sometimes termed striga‎e in Latin) exist in the. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Time for a new Witch Hunt? The Pandemic Could Change More Things Than than you Would Have Expected.

Philosophy News image
Witch burning in Germany in 1550 (image source) Could these times be returning? We can't really say, but history tends to go in cycles and some recent trends are at least worrisome.  Which historical period saw the largest number of witch hunts? If you answered "the Middle Ages," you were wrong. Surprised? After all, we all know that the Middle Ages, were the "Dark Ages," a time of barbarism and superstition, surely it was at that time that witches were hunted and burned. Who didn't see the "Burn the Witch" clip by the Monthy Python? It takes place in a typical Middle Age-ish setting.  But, no. Burning witches is NOT a Middle Ages thing. Look at the data. Trials and executions for witchcraft picked up well after that the Middle Ages were officially over, at some moment around the end of the 15th century.   At the highest moment of this homicidal frenzy, about 2500 people per year were burned in Europe for a total estimated as about 50,000-100,000. Not a very large number in comparison to the population of the time, but a significant number, nevertheless. Why did that happen? Why were Europeans obsessed with killing people, mostly poor women, who were doing little or no harm to anyone? And who were these witches, anyhow? There is a long story to tell here, so let's try to condense the main points of it.The idea of evil women using poisons and magical spells to kill people is very ancient and it appears in many human cultures. The first report on this subject that has numbers in it comes from the Roman historian Titus Livius (59 BC - 17 AD) who tells us about two episodes of witch-hunting that took place in 331 BC and 180 BC. In both cases, a spate of executions (perhaps a few thousand) occurred after that a mysterious sickness had swept the land, killed a significant number of people. Most of the executed people were women, although not necessarily all of them.Apart from Livius' report, witches (sometimes termed striga‎e) exist in. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Buffoonery as a Political Strategy

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(Nova York – EUA, 24/09/2019) Presidente da República, Jair Bolsonaro, durante encontro com o senhor Rudolph Giuliani, ex-prefeito da cidade de Nova York. .Foto: Alan Santos/PR One seemingly odd thing about the far right in America is that they often seem to be buffoons engaging in absurd behavior. One good example is the fascist organization Proud Boys. While this is a domestic terrorist group known for violence, it is also known for its wacky rules and rituals. They have a strict rule about masturbation and one of their rituals involves punching a member while they shout out the names of breakfast cereals. They also seem to LARP by dressing up to get a Call of Duty look and have an order of “Alt Knights.” As such, they can seem like a bunch of loonies. Dangerous loonies. As a second example, Trump puts on a masterful show of buffoonery. He maintains an odd orange skin tone which has led to speculation that it is a spray on tan. His COVID press conferences were master performances in absurdity—bizarre claims made in front of the cameras. His bumbling of basic language and expression of ignorance about basic facts relevant to his job are also an impressive performance of buffoonery. As a third example, Rudy Giuliani rivals his master in his buffoonery. He crazily advances unsupported conspiracy theories, files unfounded lawsuits with typos, held a press conference at a landscaping business, and in a brilliant stroke of foolery held a press conference with what might be mascara (rather than hair dye) running down the sides of his face. Comedians are hard pressed to parody the right for they are already parodies of humanity. While it is tempting to dismiss this buffoonery as a natural result of their defects as human beings, it is worth considering that buffoonery is being employed as a strategy—perhaps not by the buffoons themselves but by competent fascists and authoritarians behind the buffoons. So, what are possible advantages of buffoonery as a political. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

The Next Election

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While about 80% of Americans accept the fact that Biden won the election, about half of  Republicans claim to believe the lie that Trump won. Trump seems to have exhausted the ability of Americans to be shocked by his fascist and authoritarian rejection of core American values, so his refusal to accept the results of the most secure election in American history is just another news burp. While the Republicans are split over Trump’s lies about the election, some top Republicans have decided that supporting Trump in corroding American democracy is a smart political play. Fortunately for American democracy, our institutions and people have proven resilient the efforts to destroy a bedrock of the republic. Election officials across the country and across party lines have made it clear that the election was conducted safely and with integrity. Trump has responded by firing those he can fire and attacking those he cannot. While there were death threats against election officials before the election, these have increased dramatically since Trump lost. These threats are not only directed at top officials who are Democrats but also against Republicans who have chosen democracy over the will of Trump. There is currently still no evidence of significant voter fraud. While Trump and his legal team have launched a storm of lawsuits, they have failed repeatedly in court. These efforts have been characterized by their sloppiness, which is often taken as evidence that Trump is not actually serious about his claims.  While the appearance or sanity of a lawyer is not relevant to the truth of their claims, Giuliani recently presented yet another perfect metaphor for Trump’s lies about the election: his hair dye ran down his face while he rambled about his favorite movie and advanced conspiracy theories. While Trump’s efforts strike some as more examples of Trump’s incompetency and dishonesty, there does seem to be an underlying game plan. While Trump and top Republicans know there. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

What Should Editors Ask of Referees?

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I've previously discussed how frustrating confused referee reports can be for the author, and how the system might actually be made more efficient by allowing authors to (briefly!) respond to these reports before a verdict is reached.  But I think there's a more systematic problem, in that too many referees (seemingly) base their verdicts on bad criteria, such as whether they can think of an objection to the paper. (One otherwise-brilliant philosopher once told me that he has a deliberate policy of rejecting any paper that he disagrees with!  Few would explicitly endorse this, I imagine, but many more may follow a similar rule de facto.)  So I've been wondering what steps a journal editor could feasibly take to try to counteract this.  In particular, are there particular questions that it would be worth asking referees to explicitly address in their report, that would better reveal the truth about a paper's merits?I'd be curious to hear what others come up with.  But here's an initial stab at what I think a report should ideally address:(1a) What (if anything) is interesting and original about this paper?(1b) On a scale of 1 - 10, rate how interesting you expect this paper should be to those familiar with the existing literature on the topic.(2) Are there any egregious errors or oversights that would need to be addressed before the paper was potentially publishable?(3a) How cogent are the paper's central arguments?(3b) Do you expect most other experts would share your verdict, or is there significant room for reasonable disagreement?(3c) On a scale of 1 - 10, rate how insightful or illuminating you expect the average reader of the journal would find this paper.* * *My own view is that (with some wonderful exceptions) referee reports in philosophy tend to systematically overweight (often idiosyncratic) judgments about whether the argument is successful (3a).  But obviously, the mere fact that somebody could object to. . .

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News source: Philosophy, et cetera

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