Misinformation: A Pandemic of the Unvaccinated?

by Joseph Shieber On June 15 of this year, the National Constitution Center hosted a session entitled, “Free Speech, Media, Truth and Lies”. The topic for the session, as described by the National Constitution Center website, was “Should the government or private companies identify and regulate truth and lies?” There were three speakers. Harvard Law…

What Should We Learn From Philosophy’s Neglect of the History of Ideas?

by Joseph Shieber The philosophical world has recently been abuzz about Susanne Bobzien’s argument that Gottlob Frege — often taken to be one of the founding figures of what became 20th century analytic philosophy — plagiarized many of his logical positions from the Stoics. Bobzien’s charge isn’t merely idle speculation. In her paper, descriptively titled “Frege Plagiarized the Stoics”,…

Evaluating a new (centuries old) proof of miracles

by Joseph Shieber Completely by chance, I happened to come across a discussion of Tyron Goldschmidt’s paper, “A Proof of Exodus: Judah HaLevy and Jonathan Edwards Walk into a Bar”, in Cole Aronson’s review of the 2019 book Jewish Philosophy in an Analytic Age. I was intrigued by Aronson’s celebration of Goldschmidt’s “characteristic verve”, so…

Neuroscience Shouldn’t Divorce Perception and Reality

by Joseph Shieber There is a spate of popularizations of neuroscience promoting the idea that “reality isn’t something you perceive, it’s something you create in your mind”, that “everything we perceive is a hallucination created by the brain”, or — as one Scientific American article put it — “It is a fact of neuroscience that everything we…

It Was Naive Ever to Invest Too Much Hope in the Supreme Court

by Joseph Shieber I remember as a child watching the made-for-tv movie Gideon’s Trumpet, based on the Anthony Lewis book of the same name about the Gideon v. Wainright (1963) Supreme Court decision that cemented the right to legal representation for criminal defendants. At the time, I was inspired by the idea that the Supreme Court was an…

“When a Man is a Concept … He Will Tell You the Distance Between Heartbreak and Rage”

by Joseph Shieber One frustrating aspect of the problem of police-enforced repression of Black people in the United States is how timeless it can seem. Consider this real-life example: An up-and-coming musician, only days away from releasing his breakthrough album, was finishing a two-week engagement at a famous club in Midtown Manhattan. He was on…

The emptiness at the core of conspiracist thinking

by Joseph Shieber Recently I was reading one of Scott Alexander’s posts about fake news and conspiracist thinking. In that post he introduces what he dubs the “North Dakota Constant”. Alexander references a survey conducted by researchers at Chapman University, and mentioned a “control question” that the researchers included in the survey. Here’s how the…

Let’s Not Allow Our Renewing Trust in Science to Become the Latest Victim of Covid-19

by Joseph Shieber One of the heartening ramifications of the otherwise devastating Covid-19 pandemic has been the public’s high level of trust in science and expertise. As a March 19-24 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates, over ⅔ even of low-trusting people surveyed trust public health officials to do an excellent or good…