I love philosophy and science. I also love flowcharts because they can compress many pages of instruction into a simple chart. And three researchers from George Mason University and the University of Queensland have combined these three loves in a paper about climate change denialism. In their paper, they create a flowchart that shows how to find over a dozen fallacies in over 40 denialist claims! In this post, I’ll explain this argument-checking flowchart. First, we will identify a common denialist claim and then evaluate the argument for it. Continue reading Evaluate An Argument With Just ONE Flowchart
You might be familiar with what philosophers call an “appeal to nature“. It is a claim that something is good or right because it’s natural. Sometimes an appeal to nature is a fallacy. In this post, I discuss the possibility that an appeal to intuition is that kind of fallacy.
1. Different Brain, Different Intuition
First, imagine that your brain and my brain are radically different from one another. If this were the case, then it would be unsurprising to find that your intuitions were different than mine. Indeed, evidence suggests that even minor differences between brains are linked to differences in intuition (Amodio et al 2007, Kanai et al 2011).
This implies that our appeals to intuition (etc.) might be contingent upon brains being a certain way. In other words, differences in intuitions seem to be the result of differences in natural properties.†
I see more fact-checking on Facebook than I used to. While I’m glad to see fact-checking catching on, fact-checking isn’t enough — or so I’ll argue in this post.
1. Fact-checking: The problem
Let’s say that you and I agree on all the facts. Now let’s say that we start arguing. Will we argue well? Not necessarily!
After all, we can reason badly even if we agree on the facts. Specifically, we can jump to conclusions that don’t follow from the facts. So fact-checking our argument(s) won’t necessarily fix all the problems with our argument(s).
2. Bad Arguments
Consider some of the claims that people make:
- The new federal healthcare policy caused Continue reading Fact-checking is not enough. We need argument-checking.
I am sometimes that stereotype of a socially inept philosopher. I fail to realize the difference between hyperbole or sarcasm, on the one hand, and seriousness, on the other hand.1 I say things that are technically correct, but socially incorrect. And I take casual claims way too seriously. In short, I go into philosophical reflection mode when I’m probably not supposed to:
(X and Y are discussing plans for the weekend.)
[X]: I don’t know, man. That sounds like a bad idea.
[Y]: That’s cuz it is a bad idea!
(Nick overhears this.)
Me: Uhh, I don’t know about that. Sounding like a bad idea doesn’t make it a bad idea. Surely bad sounding ideas can be—
[X]: Chill out, Nick. No one actually thinks that it’s a bad idea just because is sounds like a bad idea. It’s just a thing people say.
Learning From The Socially Inept Philosopher
Two things about my social ineptitude stand out to me:
- My inept responses are often instances of overthinking.
- Overthinking seems to prevent me from realizing something that would have otherwise been obvious.
My overthinking seems to be a form of philosophical reflection. And if that is right, then my ineptitude might demonstrate that philosophical reflection is sometimes inappropriate. In what follows I’ll mention two examples of misunderstanding the use of philosophical reflection. This will lead me to a provisional conclusion: philosophical reflection is ill-suited for certain social situations.
The Philosophers’ Mistake
Philosophers spend their days thinking critically. This often involves suspending judgment(s) until they’ve had a chance to reflect. So when philosophers are faced with a claim — even in casual conversation — it would be understandable for the philosopher’s first response to be some form of philosophical reflection (…at least that’s what I tell myself when I am socially inept).
Philosophical reflection is not always bad, of course. Sometimes it’s crucial! It can help us identify Continue reading Is Philosophical Reflection Ever Inappropriate?