The Base Rate Fallacy

Who is more likely to be killed by a police officer in the United States: a white person or a black person? You might think, “Police kill more white people than black people in the US. So it’s the white person.” That answer contains a fallacy: the base rate fallacy. This post explains the fallacy, provides some examples, and suggests how to avoid it.

Continue reading The Base Rate Fallacy

50+ Philosophy Podcasts

Philosophy takes many forms. So do its podcasts. Here are some of the most popular philosophy podcasts that I have found. I listen to almost all of them, so feel free to contact me if you have questions that are not answered in each podcast’s description below.

Continue reading 50+ Philosophy Podcasts

Evaluate An Argument With Just ONE Flowchart

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

The Appeal to Intuition: A Fallacy?

You might be familiar with what philosophers call an “appeal to nature“. It is a claim that something is good or bad because of how natural it is. 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.

Continue reading The Appeal to Intuition: A Fallacy?

Fact-checking is not enough: We need argument-checking

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 agree? Will we even 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:

Is Philosophical Reflection Ever Inappropriate?

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:

  1. My inept responses are often instances of overthinking.
  2. 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?