We Can’t Let Meritocratic “Winners” Evade Responsibility for the System They Sustain

by Joseph Shieber One of the masterful conceits of Socrates’s discussion of tyranny in Plato’s Republic is a surprising claim that Socrates makes at the outset of the dialogues, and one that serves as a guiding thread throughout. You would expect that if someone is going to criticize tyranny, they would do so because of…

Learning from John Hope Franklin at the Cosmos Club: Do the Moral implications of a Belief Affect Our Justification for that Belief?

by Joseph Shieber In the most recent case of a white person’s discomfort resulting in the ejection of African Americans from public spaces, a young, black couple who were picnicking with their dog at a KOA campground in Mississippi were threatened at gunpoint by a white campground manager and forced to leave. This sort of…

Should judges allow witnesses to wear the niqab on the witness stand? A modest proposal

by Joseph Shieber In our pluralistic society, could First Amendment protections of religious freedom, say, clash with other firmly entrenched legal norms? So, to take a particular example, suppose a Muslim woman was called as a prosecution witness in a criminal trial. Could her religious obligation to wear the niqab trump the defendant’s right to…

How Complex is too Complex? On the Accessibility of Analytic Philosophical Writing

by Joseph Shieber Recently I came across Jonathan Rose’s thesis that it was no accident that the literary tastes of the working classes in Britain lagged behind those of the educated classes. According to Rose, the educated classes adopted ever-more-complex literary forms (read: literary modernism) to distinguish themselves from the “great unwashed”. (H/t Matthew Wills at…

Self-portrait in a convex mirror: Signaling and the meaning of behavior

by Joseph Shieber 1. One of the descriptions often used by proponents of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web (henceforth IDW) to describe the views of the supposed shibboleths they’re critiquing is “virtue-signaling”. There are a few problems with the use of the term “virtue-signaling” as a critique. Indeed, a number of those problems have been…

What do Stan Lee, the Nobel Prize, and epistemology have to do with each other?

by Joseph Shieber If you listened closely to the songs of praise in honor of Stan Lee, the man who is taken to be largely responsible for the present superhero-mad moment in popular culture, you might have heard an undertone of discord. As Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos noted, Lee’s notoriety in the popular imagination as the…

The Search for Meaning in Jordan B. Peterson

by Joseph Shieber Few topics have captured the attention of the internet literati more than the topic of Jordan B. Peterson. Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, parlayed a protest against Canada’s transgender anti-discrimination protections, such as Federal Bill C-16, into a hugely popular YouTube channel, Patreon site, and bestselling book.…