Transformative Experience and Pascal’s Wager

by Joseph Shieber One of the most famous philosophical arguments is Pascal’s Wager, an attempt by the 17th century French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal to provide ammunition for religious believers in their struggles against nonbelief. The Wager works like this. First, there are two possible states of affairs that you’re to consider: either God…

Defining Propaganda and Ideology

by Joseph Shieber Within the last few weeks, a high ranking official within the municipal government in Philadelphia resigned for making anti-Semitic remarks. Among those remarks, apparently, was the claim that the Holocaust film Schindler’s List was “Jewish propaganda.”  It’s probably a sign that I’ve been thinking about these issues for too long, but my…

Critique of Pure Nonsense: A Case Study in The Vacuousness of Contemporary Conservative Commentary on Critical Race Theory

by Joseph Shieber I first became aware of the historian Allen Guelzo’s work due to a mention in a recent newspaper column — just not the mention that, if you’re active on Twitter (and particularly philosophy Twitter), you might be expecting. In a glowing review in the Washington Post, George Will praised Guelzo’s new biography…

The Roots of Wittgenstein’s “Anthropological” Philosophical Perspective

by Joseph Shieber One of the pleasures of reading Amartya Sen’s new memoir, Home in the World, is stumbling upon little anecdotes that provide new perspectives on, or an opportunity for a deepening engagement with, major intellectual figures. One such occasion for me was Sen’s discussion of the influence of the economist Piero Sraffa, one…

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…