New paper: “Your Health vs. My Liberty”

Why did otherwise life affirming people flout public health recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • Was it leaders’ messaging? For example, are “flatten the curve” graphs about statistical victims less effective than information about identifiable victims?
  • Was it people’s reasoning? Do some people not think carefully enough about public health? Might people who better at math better understand public health information involving concepts like exponential growth and probability?
  • Was it people’s philosophical preferences? Do some people just care more about preventing harm? Do others prioritize personal liberty over pubic health? Do people’s beliefs about science matter? Religion?

Michał Białek and I investigated. In short, we found that flouting public health recommendations was less about messaging or reasoning than philosophical beliefs, especially beliefs about our duties to others, liberty, and science. The paper is under review now published in Cognition. As always, you can find a free copy of the paper on my CV at More details below.

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The meaning of ‘statistical significance’ and of p-values

A 2019 paper in the Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science found that most psychology textbooks, instructors, and students misinterpret ‘statistical significance’ and p values. Talk about a headline! More important than the headline, however, are the right interpretations and what we can do to correct widespread misinterpretations. In this post, I explain the authors’ findings and the three solutions they propose.

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Introduction to Philosophy: A Free Course

Below are the syllabus and materials for my Introduction to Philosophy course. You are welcome to use any of the material as a student or as an instructor. The usual creative commons license applies to my portion of this—i.e., only the stuff to which I would have a copyright. (If you are my student, remember that you can be quizzed on the contents of the syllabus.)

I. Introduction to Philosophy

Did you know that people who study philosophy make significantly fewer reasoning errors than others? (See Livengood et al 2010 and Byrd 2014). And did you know that philosophy majors outperform basically everyone else on the GRE? And did you know that the median mid-career salary for people who major in philosophy is $81,000? And did you know that philosophy majors were projected to be the top-paid humanities major in 2016? Find out more about philosophy majors here. And if you’ve never taken a philosophy class, you might want to read this 3-4 page intro. Continue reading Introduction to Philosophy: A Free Course

A Dissertation About Reflective Reasoning in Philosophy, Morality, & Bias

One of the things that I worked on in 2018 was a dissertation about the roles of reflective reasoning in philosophy, morality, and bias. Pending a follow-up study for one chapter, every chapter is written and has enjoyed at least one round of comments—and some of the chapters are under review. As the chapters find homes in journals, I will be sure to post preprints and links to the online publication on my blog and in my social media feeds. So, ya know, follow those if you want more updates. In this post, I’ll give you drafts of the abstracts for each chapter, so that you can get a birds-eye view of the dissertation project.†

[Update: audio and video of the introduction to the dissertation defense is now available.]

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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.

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3 Obstacles For Research About Cheating & Morality

What if traveling abroad were somehow bad for you? Well, a series of studies seem to find that “[traveling abroad] can lead to [lying and cheating] by increasing moral relativism” (Lu et al 2017, 1, 3). This finding has just the right combination of intuitive plausibility and surprise for us to want to share it uncritically. So, instead, let’s take a look at the methods, measures, and philosophical nuances of the topic. As usual, a bit of reflection makes the finding a bit less exciting and it reveals a need for follow-up research.

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Science vs. Philosophy …or maybe they are continuous

My Facebook page says that I am a scientist, but I do science and philosophy. So am I a philosopher or a scientist? That question assumes a clear boundary between philosophy and science—an assumption that’s (at best) controversial. Here are three reasons to think that philosophy is continuous with science. Continue reading Science vs. Philosophy …or maybe they are continuous