Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Censorship: How the West is becoming more and more like the old Soviet Union

Philosophy News image
 A message I received from Facebook on Jan 29, 2021. Five of my posts were deemed "spam" and erased. Some were somewhat "political" although non-partisan, but two were purely technical, although critical, assessments of the concept of "Hydrogen Based Economy." That these technical posts were erased is an indication that censorship is by now applied to all forms of dissent, not just political ones. It was not unexpected, but it was still somewhat shocking after decades of propaganda that had convinced most of us that the Western world was a place where you could enjoy "freedom of expression." But we are quickly moving toward a Soviet-style management of public information, as Dmitry Orlov noted already in 2013. It had to happen and it did.  Last year, a Spanish climatologist, a friend of mine, had one of his posts censored by Facebook, apparently because it was deemed as too "catastrophistic" (or for whatever reason had caused the opaque fact-checkers of Facebook to erase it). He protested and he also tried to convince other climatologists to start worldwide a boycott of Facebook. The answer was a little disappointing, to say the least. It may be best described as a resounding worldwide "meh." Those climatologists who bothered to answer him expressed the concept that, yes, censorship is bad, but, you know, you can't allow deniers to diffuse their fake science around. It was on this occasion that I discovered that most people like censorship. It is just that it should be applied to those they disagree with. In that case, they actually love it, and protest because Facebook doesn't censor enough (you can read that here).Playing with censorship is a little like playing the apprentice sorcerer: once you start the mechanism, you don't know how to stop it. What's happening now is that censorship is becoming widespread, wide-ranging, and pervasive. Everyone can be affected and it takes unexpected forms. I was surprised when Facebook decided to erase two. . .

Continue reading . . .

News source: Cassandra's Legacy

What Next for QAnon?

Philosophy News image
According to Q, Donald Trump is engaged in a war against a conspiracy of deep-state agents and their celebrity allies. These foes of Trump are said to be involved in Satanism, pedophilia, child trafficking and efforts to extend their life through diabolic means. The members of QAnon believe that Trump will crush his foes in the Storm, which is the QAnon mini apocalypse. Members of QAnon were among those who stormed the capitol. Given their belief that he won the election and still must bring the storm, this behavior makes sense: they see themselves as heroes fighting on the side of their righteous messiah. This perception of Trump, a vile and soulless husk of a grifter, is perhaps the most wrong of their mistaken beliefs. As I discussed in an earlier essay, QAnon has a key similarity to Millerism. The Millerites believed that Jesus would return to earth in 1843-1844 and this lead, obviously, to the Great Disappointment. Some Millerites gave up their belief in the prediction, while others insisted that it had come true and developed accounts to explain what they thought had happened. While Millerism is otherwise very different from QAnon, it and similar apocalyptic belief systems can be used as analogies to consider what might happen with QAnon. It is likely that Trump’s failed attempt to overthrow the election and his impotence in the face of Biden legitimately taking office has demoralized some QAnon members—they have experienced the QDisappointment and it has broken their faith. But people with the sort of belief forming mechanisms that allow a person to embrace QAnon can clearly reject clear and evident facts in favor of a deranged and unfounded fiction. As such, it is likely that many of them are up to the task of interpreting or ignoring the facts to fit their fiction. They can, for example, tell themselves that Trump has made a strategic move to lull his enemies into complacency: once the Democrats and their celebrity allies believe they are in control, Trump. . .

Continue reading . . .

News source: A Philosopher's Blog

There's No Such Thing as "Following the Science"

Philosophy News image
Ezra Klein quotes a Harvard epidemiologist's criticism of the FDA for blocking rapid at-home Covid tests: "They are inadvertently killing people by not following the science."I agree with the spirit of the criticism (and was heartened to read that Biden’s surgeon general nominee agrees that the FDA has been "too conservative"), but it's worth clarifying that the FDA's failure here is fundamentally ethical, not scientific.It's a popular rhetorical move, to present one's preferred policies as being backed by the authority of science.  It immediately puts one's critics on the back foot: who are they to question science, after all?  But it's also misleading.  Science doesn't recommend policies for us to follow, for the simple reason that science merely tells us what is the case, and cannot by itself answer normative questions about what ought to be done.Whether we realize it or not, we use normative bridging principles to cross the is/ought gap.  If some such principle is implicitly presupposed in a context, it might then seem as though the scientific claim alone suffices to yield a policy recommendation.  Opponents of the policy may then try to undermine our scientific knowledge in order to muddy the waters (cf. climate and covid "skeptics").  Perhaps such silliness could be decried as a failure to "follow the science". But such a framing risks reinforcing the mistaken impression that the science alone determines what should be done.  It's often worth making explicit the underlying normative bridging principles, not least because these are often debatable and worthy of critical scrutiny.Difficult policy decisions tend to involve trade-offs, whether between different people's interests, different kinds of values, or different levels of risk.  This is what makes them difficult.  Accurate scientific data is crucial for getting clear on what the prospects for various policy options look like: the. . .

Continue reading . . .

News source: Philosophy, et cetera

Back in the Classroom & the Could Be Worse Fallacy

Philosophy News image
As COVID-19 cases surged upward in my adopted state of Florida public university faculty returned to the classroom. This Spring semester also saw widespread adoption of the HyFlex model of teaching. In practical terms, a HyFlex class at my university means that the professor teaches class in the classroom to any students who show up in person while the class is live streamed to other students. In some cases, such as my classes, students also have the option to complete the class as an asynchronous online class (watching videos of the class at their convenience). As might be imagined, teaching a HyFlex class for the first time can be a bit of a challenge. Some classrooms have been upgraded as “Zoom Rooms” featuring HD cameras and other technology. These rooms are relatively easy for HyFlex teaching: you fire up the tech, then teach normally—aside from student’s voices coming from the ceiling speakers and glancing at a display from time to time to see the Zooming students. Some classrooms have been upgraded by attaching basic webcams to the decade old PCs in the rooms. This makes HyFlexing more challenging since you must talk into the webcam while also talking to the students in the room. But all this is manageable for most professors. While this new approach to teaching would have been of concern to some faculty in a normal year, their biggest concern is COVID. My university has, obviously, adopted various safety protocols. Class size is limited, everyone must wear masks on campus, and decontamination is a regular thing. Students, staff, and faculty also must undergo regular testing and some faculty (those 65 and older) have been vaccinated. But going to campus and interacting does present some risks. Because of this, there have been some faculty in the state who have elected to not return to campus. I am currently teaching three HyFlex classes and one online class, so I am back in the classroom. Interestingly, non-class meetings (like committee meetings) are still. . .

Continue reading . . .

News source: A Philosopher's Blog

I've come across what appears intersecting and incompatible logic systems within

Philosophy News image
Read another response about Logic Logic Share I've come across what appears intersecting and incompatible logic systems within academia (and society). System one is what I call analytic logic: the merit of your argument or opinion is completely independent of your immutable characteristics. (Like MJ says, it doesn't matter if you're black or white). If you dismiss the merit of an argument by attacking the person who made it, you've committed a logical fallacy. The peer review process in academia avoids this potential by hiding the author's identity from reviewers. The argument or study is judged on its own merit. I call system two Identitarianism (some call it Neo-Marxism or Intersectionalism). With these rules, your ethnicity(ies), gender, and sexual orientation (etc.) are in play. Some people have more (and others less) merit because of their immutable characteristics. System two seems backwards but the rationale goes as follows: "Oppressed" groups (POC, women, trans people, gay/lesbian, poor people, etc) have access to ... (1) the norms, belief systems, and experiences from the white, male, straight, rich, etc., (because it's the "dominant" culture they're exposed to) AND (2) their own marginalized norms, belief systems, and experiences Contrarily, the non-oppressed groups (white, men, straight people, wealthy, etc.) only have access to (1). I would frame this intersection of logic as analytic logic versus lived experiences logic. It seems they are incompatible. Am I wrong? Thank you

Continue reading . . .

News source: AskPhilosophers Questions

Latest News

Here are some of the things going on in philosophy
and the humanities.

See all News Items

Philosopher Spotlight

Conversations with philosophers, professional and non-professional alike.
Visit our podcast section for more interviews and conversations.

Interview with

Dr. Robert McKim
  • on Religious Diversity
  • Professor of Religion and Professor of Philosophy
  • Focuses on Philosophy of Religion
  • Ph.D. Yale

Interview with

Dr. Alvin Plantinga
  • on Where the Conflict Really Lies
  • Emeritus Professor of Philosophy (UND)
  • Focuses on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion
  • Ph.D. Yale

Interview with

Dr. Peter Boghossian
  • on faith as a cognitive sickness
  • Teaches Philosophy at Portland State University (Oregon)
  • Focuses on atheism and critical thinking
  • Has a passion for teaching in prisons
See all interviews


Twitter followers


News items posted


Page views per month

21 years

in publication

Latest Articles

See all Articles