Politicizing Tragedy

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Following the gun violence of the last weeks in the US, charges of “politicizing” the tragedies has become a regular staple of political discussion. Indeed, on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott issued a warning against politicizing tragedies: “The first thing I’d…

The Debasement Puzzle

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Everybody knows what real-world political disagreement is like: shouting, name-calling, dissembling, browbeating, mobbing, and worse. As it is practiced, deliberation in actual democracy has little to do with collective reasoning about the common good; it’s instead a constrained, but nevertheless ruthless, struggle for power. Notice, however, that…

The Puzzle of Cicero’s Philosophy of Religion

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Cicero’s philosophical dialogues are notoriously difficult.  In some cases, as with the Academica and the Republic, their fragmentary state exacerbates the challenge of interpretation. In other cases, as with On Ends, the breadth of the discussion makes it difficult to locate the thread. In every case, Cicero…

How Does Belief Polarization Work?

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse We have noted previously that there are two different phenomena called “polarization.” The first, political polarization, refers to the ideological distance between opposing political parties. When it’s rampant, political rivals share no common ground, and thus cannot find a basis for cooperation. Political polarization certainly poses a…

Epictetus and the Problem of Philosophical Progress

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Epictetus’ Enchiridion 52 is an exercise in metaphilosophy. It captures the double-vision students of Stoicism must have about their own progress. The core insight of E52 is that the tools of philosophical inquiry and progress toward insight can themselves become impediments to progress. E52 is the last…

Our Polarization Problem

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Popular political commentary from across the spectrum is replete with warnings social about “bubbles,” “silos,” and “echo chambers.” These are said to produce “closure,” “groupthink,” and an “alternate reality.” In turn, these forces result in the dysfunction of polarization, a condition where political officials and ordinary citizens…

Civility as a Reciprocal Public Virtue

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Constitutional democracy is a system for conducting politics under conditions where citizens, understood as free and equal persons, disagree profoundly about what is good. Naturally, such disagreements extend to politics itself. That is, we expect democratic citizens to disagree, sometimes even sharply, about the fundamental aims and…

On “Fake News”

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Fake news is a problem. That’s one thing that most people can agree on, despite the expanding breadth of their various political disagreements. So what is fake news? In their recent article in the journal Science, David Lazer, Matthew Baum, et al. define fake news as “fabricated…

Moral Tragedy?

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse It was probably Aristotle who first took careful notice of the special role that the concept of happiness plays in our thinking about how to live. Happiness, he argued, is the final end of human activity, that for the sake of which every action is performed. Although…

Deep Disagreements and the Rhetoric of Red Pills

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse 1. Deep Disagreement It is a common enough occurrence. In arguing with someone, as a controversial view is supported, even more controversial reasons are given, to be followed by more and more controversial commitments. A regular strategy in what might be called normal argument is that arguing…