Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Aristotle’s Categories

[Revised entry by Paul Studtmann on February 2, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Aristotle's Categories is a singularly important work of philosophy. It not only presents the backbone of Aristotle's own philosophical theorizing but has exerted an unparalleled influence on the systems of many of the greatest philosophers in the western tradition. The set of doctrines in the Categories, which I will henceforth call categorialism, provides the framework of inquiry for a wide variety of Aristotle's philosophical investigations, ranging from his discussions of time and change in [More]

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

 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 [More]

What Next for QAnon?

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 [More]

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

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 [More]