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…

On the Idea of a Dialectical Fallacy

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Why We Argue (And How We Should) is centrally concerned to elucidate the concept of a dialectical fallacy. This concept deserves comment. “Fallacy” is the name given to especially common and attractive failures of reasoning. Works in logic and critical thinking typically distinguish between formal and informal…

Logic and Dialogue

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse In last month's post, we contrasted a formal conception of argument with a dialectical one. We claimed that a dialectical model must be developed in order to capture the breadth not only of the good arguments we give, but also the bad. To review, the formal conception…

Why Epistemology Matters

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Epistemology is the philosophical study of knowledge. Its main questions are: What do we know?; How do we know it?; and What distinguishes knowledge from lucky guesses, sheer dogmatism, and simple ignorance? The application of this discipline seems pretty obvious in the sense that our answers to…

Don’t Feed the Trolls

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Like most things in life, the Internet is a mixed bag. Sometimes, online discussion is very, very good. And sometimes, online argument can go very badly, and there is a name for those who embrace a deleterious argumentative practice that is made possible by the Internet. We…

Winning at Argument

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse We’re currently finishing work on the manuscript for our forthcoming book, Why We Argue (And How We Should), so we’ve been thinking a lot recently about argumentation. We’ve been especially concerned with how arguments can go wrong. When evaluating an argument, one of the central questions to…

Ancient Paradoxes and the Good Life

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Most are already familiar with many of the thoughts driving the Ancient Paradoxical ethical tradition. Surely we’ve all either thought and endorsed or at least heard someone express thoughts along the following lines: It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. It’s…