The End of the Party

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse We have never embraced political conservatism. However, we also think that the conservative tradition in American politics is intellectually formidable. We find the best representatives of that tradition to be rigorous, insightful, and philosophically astute. They are political commentators for whom ideas matter. In their best work…

The Immorality of “The Will to Believe”

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse William James's classic essay, “The Will to Believe” purports to be a “justification of faith.” James's argument is driven by an analogy between, on the one hand, the activities of making friends and pursuing love interests and, on the other hand, that of sustaining religious commitment. The…

Criticism and Debate

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse When it comes to political questions, reasonable people disagree. Reasonable disagreement persists also in philosophy, religion, and a broad array of interpersonal matters. That's life. And, indeed, we must live; we must make decisions, set plans, and adopt policies that affect, interest, and impact others. Our decisions…

Welders and Philosophers

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse At the fourth Republican Presidential Debate, Senator Marco Rubio asserted that the country “needs more welders and less philosophers.” The small corner of the internet where professional philosophers reside promptly was awash with repudiation, criticism, and outrage (for example, here and here). We were, we have to…

The Puzzle of Political Debate

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse We've noticed a strange phenomenon in contemporary political discourse. As our politics at almost every level become increasingly tribal — devoted to circle-the-wagons campaigns and on-point messaging of carefully curated party-lines — the dominant images of our politics are all the more dressed in the rhetoric of…

The Red Ribbon Argument for Skepticism

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse In his Contra Academicos, Augustine discusses a fragment of Cicero's Academica in which Cicero advances a unique argument for skepticism. Cicero's argument is unique in that it derives, ironically, from a positive epistemic assessment of human judgments. Skeptical arguments usually proceed from negative assessments of human cognition…

Fallibilism and its Discontents

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Fallibilism is a philosophical halo term, a preferred rhetorical mantle that one attaches to the views one favors. Accordingly, fallibilists identify their view with the things that cognitively modest people tend to say about themselves: I believe this, but I may be wrong; We know things but…

Semantics and Pragmatics

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Ernie: “Is it possible you'll be around after lunch for a quick chat?” Bert: “Yes.” Ernie: “Ok. I'll see you then.” Bert: “Wait, wait! I didn't say I'd be around after lunch!” Ernie: “What the heck?!?!” This is a case of a conversational misfire, and although errors…

Transcendental Arguments and Their Discontents

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Consider the nihilist who provides us with an argument with the conclusion that nothing exists, or that there are no norms for reason. Take the relativist who contends that all facts are relative to some perspective. Note the skeptic who consistently criticizes not only our claims to…

The Impossibility of Satan

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse The Ontological Argument is an infamously devilish a priori argument for God's existence. It runs, roughly, as follows. God is by definition is the greatest possible thing. If God is the greatest possible thing, then He cannot fail to manifest any perfection — otherwise, there would be…

A Belated Reply to Plato

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Plato is among the most famous critics of democracy. His criticism is relatively simple, but potentially devastating. It runs as follows. Politics aims at achieving justice, and so political policy must reflect the demands of justice. Only those who know what justice is and have the self-control…