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…

On Reading Weird Books in Public

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Robert Nozick closes The Examined Life with a story of how he, when eighteen or so, “carried around in the streets of Brooklyn a paperback copy of Plato’s Republic, front cover facing outward.” He’d hoped someone might notice and “be impressed, (and) pat me on the shoulder…

Democracy and Ignorance

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Citizens in the United States generally cannot explain the fundamental workings of the Constitution, and cannot explicate the American jurisprudential tradition regarding the freedom of expression. Few citizens can recite the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment. Indeed, research routinely reveals stunningly high levels of ignorance regarding…

Cynicism and Argument

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse In the wake of the first Presidential Debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, two assessments have come to be widely accepted. The first is that Mitt Romney handily won the debate. The second is that Mitt Romney’s key claims in the debate were demonstrably inaccurate. Neither…

Civility and Public Reason

Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse According to a prevailing conception among political theorists, part of what accounts for the legitimacy of democratic government and the bindingness of its laws is democracy’s commitment to public deliberation. Democracy is not merely a process of collective decision in which each adult citizen gets precisely one vote…