On the Gods of Horses

Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse The Presocratic philosopher-poet Xenophanes famously noted that if horses could draw, they would draw their gods as horses. The same, he holds, goes for lions and oxen. What is the intended critical edge of such observations? Suppose it’s true that horses would draw their gods as horses. So…

Philosophy and Failure

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Some philosophers are nearly unanimously considered great. Plato, Aristotle, and Kant make the short list. But that happy unanimity does not persist when the question is which is right. Of these three, at most one is. Likely none is. And so it is appropriate to ask: How…

Things You Cannot Believe

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Early in the 20th Century, the British philosopher G. E. Moore noticed that sentences of a certain form have a quite peculiar feature. Consider: I believe it is Tuesday, but today is Monday. Today is Monday, but I do not believe that. I believe that today is…

The Dignity of Skepticism

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Being a responsible believer requires one to have reasons for one’s beliefs. In fact, it seems that having reasons for one’s beliefs is a requirement for seeing them as beliefs at all. Consider the conflict in thought that arises with assertions like the following: I believe I…

The Eclipse of Pragmatism

By Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Pragmatism is widely regarded as the Unites States’ only indigenous philosophical movement. Founded by a quirky and largely isolated genius, Charles Peirce, pragmatism was introduced as a method for clear thinking which insisted that all words and statements be understood in terms of concrete experience. It was…

Dishonest to Whom?

Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Mary Warnock’s Dishonest to God: On Keeping Religion Out of Politics (Continuum, 2010) is an ambitious book. In it, Warnock distinguishes religion from morality, demonstrates the dependence of religious reasoning on moral reasoning, and argues that religious perspectives are nevertheless crucial for social and political life. We have…

Clifford and James on Evidence and Belief

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse William Kingdon Clifford’s “The Ethics of Belief” and Willam James’s “The Will to Believe” are yoked together in the story of philosophy. The two essays are taken as the classic starting points for reflection on the norms governing responsible belief. Clifford captures his view, evidentialism, with the…

Accommodationism and Atheism

by Scott Aikin and Robert B. Talisse Our book Reasonable Atheism does not publish until April, yet we have already been charged with accommodationism, the cardinal sin amongst so-called New Atheists. The charge derives mainly from the subtitle of our book, “a moral case for respectful disbelief.” Our offense consists in embracing idea that atheists…

Some thoughts about Poe’s Law

The website LandoverBaptist.com has posted headlines that run from the goofy (“What Can Christians Do to Help Increase Global Warming?” and “New Evidence Suggests Noah’s Sons Rode Flying Dinosaurs”) to the chilling (“Satan Calls Another Pope to Hell” and “Trade Us Your Voter’s Registration Card for Free Fried Chicken from Popeye’s”). The site is designed…

An Open Letter to the National Punditry

Dear Esteemed Pundits of America, The 2010 mid-term elections are behind us, and all the post-mortem analyses of the races are complete. Yet the 24/7 news cycle, and the corresponding demand for your incisive commentary, will not abate. So, what next? Will you turn your attention to the Congress and examine the ways in which…

Waging War on Christmas, to Save Thanksgiving

Weeks before Halloween, Christmas decorations started appearing around town. At the local department stores, mannequins of witches and zombies were crowded by Santa’s elves. The Christmas season has, it seems, overcome Halloween. Halloween is a charming holiday, so this is lamentable to some degree. But given the relatively stable interest children have in candy and…