In Science, “the Fate of What We Say and Make is in Later Users’ Hands”

by Joseph Shieber 1. There’s something ironic about the fact that the received wisdom about science is that science teaches us not to trust received wisdom. Or, to paraphrase a recent blog post that seems oblivious to this irony: “Scientific expert opines, ‘Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.’” I should be fair…

A Balancing Act: Wealth Creation and Equality

by Joseph Shieber In his (1930) essay “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren,” John Maynard Keynes suggests that the stage has been set to alleviate the threat of material uncertainty for large portions of the world population. “The course of affairs will simply be,” Keynes writes, “that there will be ever larger and larger classes and…

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…