It’s been in vogue to say that we live in a post-truth society (never mind that this is making a truth-valued statement). Fake news, wokism, QAnon, standpoint epistemology (i.e., “my truth”), distrust of institutions and experts, postmodernism, social media echo chambers, internet algorithms, Donald Trump, bias in mainstream media, secularization, and so on have all been viewed as the death knell of Truth by some subset of the population or another within the past couple decades or so. But what do people mean when they talk about truth or the truth? Are people talking about the same things? Let’s look at this a little deeper.
I’ve said before that I don’t usually like to talk about the news-of-the-day stuff here. I like to make posts that, even if someone stumbles upon it a few years from now, they’ll still find it relevant, or at least interesting. Here I’m going to talk about the recent controversy about Sam Harris and his alleged Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS. The reason is that, like it or not, Donald Trump’s ascendancy to leadership (even messianic) status among conservatives, Republicans, and right-wingers is going to have a long-reaching effect within the United States. And, since the U.S. has such a large place on the world stage, this is also something that will have far-reaching effects throughout the rest of the world as well.
Philosophy is broadly concerned with two questions: what is there (i.e. what exists)? And what is the good life? The former still holds a prominent place in philosophy. The latter has undergone an evolution. If it is asked now days, it is usually rephrased something more like: how can I maximize pleasure and reduce suffering? But is this the question we ought to be asking?
Mary Eberstadt has a new book called Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics where she makes the case that the 1960s sexual revolution is what gave rise to identity politics today. I think, while that may have played a part, the identity politics craze can’t be completely laid at the feet of the sexual revolution.
I am currently reading David J. Chalmers’ 1996 book The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory which claims that, due to consciousness not being logically supervenient, there is no reductive explanation for consciousness. Thus Chalmers concludes that consciousness must be explained through a dualist paradigm. I have some issues with the argument.
If there are no human rights a priori of government force, how can tyranny be avoided? In the absence of any deontological justification for normative ethics, there is only virtue ethics.
Among the Abrahamic religions, multiple arguments have been put forward by philosophers and theologians to prove the existence of God. I’m an atheist and don’t think any of these arguments are convincing. In this post – the first in a series I will do concerning the existence of God – I will demonstrate why I personally don’t think these philosophical arguments are very convincing.
The second post in the “series” on the scientific reasons for not believing in God is here.
Human nature, as I define it, is the set of cognitive and behavioral patterns that are innate in human beings, regardless of culture and specific upbringing. These are patterns passed down to us by evolution. With humans, though, we seem to be unique in our ability for metacognition – thinking about our thinking and our behaviors. Does that give us the ability to change our innate human nature?
Aristotle defined metaphysics as the study of Being qua Being – or, one might say, studying Being being Being. He says in book VII of his Metaphysics that Being is the individual instances of essence, which is the substance that defines what a thing is in-itself. Now, in our present time, we’ve narrowed down the primary substance further than our everyday sensible objects, down to subatomic particles. Can Aristotle’s philosophy be a useful lens to think about quantum mechanics?
Voltaire once said that “if God didn’t exist we would have to invent him.” Our imaginations are, of course, limited by our evolutionary past. To us, God has to be human-like. God must be benevolent, meaning it’s actions must seek to benefit humans. Why wouldn’t we invent a God like that? We are human-centered by our very nature. We feel that we deserve our self-designated special place in the universe.
Consciousness and qualia are problems that are still unsolved by philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. My way of viewing consciousness and qualia is that consciousness is the process by which our brains organize the world into working models and qualia is the ‘stuff’ that consciousness uses to generate those models. For better or worse, both of these exist due to evolutionary forces. That means they’re fine tuned to a very specific sort of survival, not for any pure understanding of the world or ourselves. In order to understand the limitations of our own minds, we need to know the inner workings of how the world is organized in our minds on a fundamental level. That requires knowing the structure of our minds.
After two years of investigation and constant media coverage, the Mueller Report is finally finished. While anyone outside the Justice Department has yet to read the full report, Attorney General William Barr has released a summary. The so-called Russiagate story is not yet over, however, as there are now calls for the entire Mueller Report to be made public. Exactly what the Russiagate story is and how it started is expertly told by Matt Taibbi in his “It’s official: Russiagate is this generation’s WMD” piece. What I’m more interested in is how this whole story is indicative of human nature.
In this post, I am going to write a response/review of Jordan Peteron’s 2017 lecture titled Biblical Series I: Introduction to the Idea of God, which is available to watch on Youtube.
In part two, I will give a brief overview of the evidence for the theory of evolution. This is not an exhaustive compendium of all the evidence in support of the theory of evolution. It is already a long post, so I keep all my descriptions brief. If you are interested in learning more, I provide plenty of links to websites and peer reviewed papers all throughout.
It’s not absolutely necessary, but it may make more sense why this evidence is convincing if you understand how evolution works. For that, I suggest checking out part 1 of this primer first.
If you’re interested in how evolution relates to religion and whether it gives us any reason not to believe in God, check out this post. The current discussion will not touch on the subject, sticking strictly to the science.
Social media, and twitter in particular, has recently become popular in the conversation about freedom of speech. This surrounds the issue of Twitter punishing people for posting right-wing and conservative ideas more than people on the left. Alex Jones being banned and Kathy Griffin not being banned are two exemplary cases.
The fear here is that Twitter is policing people for wrongthink. Only left-wing and liberal ideas are allowed, and with Twitter being a primary hub for communication, this threatens to silence right-wing and conservative views from the public conversation. This would give left-wing and liberal ideas de facto hegemony in western culture. This has prompted people to call for Twitter usage to be treated like a utility or even a human right, in the sense that humans have a right to free speech.
I think this is a misguided way of thinking about Twitter. Being banned from Twitter does not infringe on a person’s right to free speech. It only infringes on their ability to have that speech heard by a larger audience. This brings up the questions: do humans have a fundamental right to be heard? Is being heard a part of our right to free speech?
In this day and age, with social media and politically biased news media, it seems that truth isn’t truth. Thus it has become popular to talk about ‘my truth‘ when people talk about their opinion. It’s interesting that people can believe wildly different versions of things that happen. From Russiagate to Uranium One, it all seems to depend what ‘our truth’ is for any particular group.
The alternative, unfortunately, is to have some version of a single, orthodox ‘right Truth’ that we all must agree on, possibly enforced by a Ministry of Truth or a Truth Force.
I’m okay with a US Space Force. But what we need most is a Truth Force — one that defends against all enemies of accurate information, both foreign & domestic.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) August 20, 2018
The problem with this is obvious: who gets to say what the Right Truth is? What are their motivations for saying that A is the Right Truth but B is not the Right Truth? Is it ever possible for one source to give the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?