Is post-fact reasoning redeemable?

You know how I do. When people make strong claims, I want evidence and arguments. So this US presidential campaign was a lot of work. A lot! (E.g., I read over 1000 pages about Clinton-related investigations alone). The problem is that people made loads of unsupported claims during the election. So I asked for loads of evidence. Curiously, people didn’t take kindly to my requests for evidence. As a reasoning researcher, this was fascinating. But as an aspiring reasoning teacher, it was thoroughly demoralizing. In this post, I’ll discuss my experience, some research that bears on my experience, and what this tells us about the redeem-ability of post-fact reasoning. Continue reading Is post-fact reasoning redeemable?

Politicians Defunding Based on Political Bias? Sounds Biased

“I would use the Department of Education … to monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and deny federal funding if it exists.” –Ben Carson

1. Everyone has biases — political and otherwise.

So denying funding on the basis of any political bias would be tantamount to denying all federal education funding. That’d be problematic. So — if we assume a charitable interpretation of Carson — that’s surely not the Republican plan (…or is it?). So let’s assume that Carson is not out to defund any educational institution that exhibits just any political bias.

Instead, maybe Carson’s plan is to monitor for particular biases. The idea here would be that only institutions with certain biases should be defunded. But even that would be problematic. After all, Carson is a human. And humans are more likely to notice and take issue with others’ biases (Corner et al 2012; Lord et al 1979) or biases that merely seem like others’ biases (Trouche et al 2015, 2018). So Carson might be more attuned to and dismissive of others’ biases than his own. And that itself is a political bias.

To overcome that bias, we would need to make sure that Continue reading Politicians Defunding Based on Political Bias? Sounds Biased

So you voted third party or didn’t vote at all. Did you help Trump win?

Did you end up not voting? Did you vote for a third party? Was that just a vote for Trump? Good question. It depends on how you normally vote.

1.  Do you normally vote for one major party?

Let’s say that, historically, you’ve voted for the democratic candidate. In that case when you voted third party or didn’t vote at all, you made Clinton Continue reading So you voted third party or didn’t vote at all. Did you help Trump win?

3 Post-Election Problems (and Solutions?)

Did your candidate or party lose an election? That’s disheartening. It really is. But I hope you’ll eventually be turn your attention to deeper, more pressing problems . For instance, we are not reasoning well, we are doing a bad job of reassuring those who feel neglected, and we are letting our political parties determine what we care about.  Continue reading 3 Post-Election Problems (and Solutions?)

Considering Third Party Candidates? A Podcast Discussion

The 2016 US election has many people thinking about third party candidates. Good news: philosophers and others have been sorting out the ethics and rationality of voting for awhile now. I talk about the philosophy of third party voting with Kurt Jaros below:

The Podcast

Continue reading Considering Third Party Candidates? A Podcast Discussion

Voting Third-Party: A Wasted Vote?

Is a third-party vote a wasted vote? People frequently claim — implicitly or explicitly — that it is. I will argue that it isn’t (here and on this podcast). Actually, voting third-party might be a solution to a long-standing problem.

1. The Two Party Problem

To begin, consider the two party system. Ask yourself, “Is this the best system for nominating the greatest quantity of competent and viable candidates?” Obviously not. After all, the two party system gives us only …well, two viable options! Think about it: the only system that can produce fewer viable candidates is a dictatorship. So any other (democratic) election system would be better than a two party system.

Let’s call this unfortunate situation the two party problem. 

Obviously, a solution to the two party problem requires Continue reading Voting Third-Party: A Wasted Vote?

Hey Marco Rubio! More philosophy, less rhetoric!

Marco Rubio recently suggested that we need fewer philosophers and more welders because welders make more money. See below:

In case it’s not obvious why this is a foolish suggestion, I’ll explain.


Here are a couple claims that are probably true:

  1. There is a need for more welders.
  2. Some welders make more money than some philosophers.

Notice, however, that neither of the following follow from those probably true claims:

A. We need fewer philosophers.

B. On average, welders make more than philosophers.

So, insofar as Marco Rubio thinks that A and/or B follows from 1 and 2, Rubio is just wrong. And many people have pointed out that B is just false.†  So insofar as Rubio thinks B is true, he is just wrong.


What can we learn from this?

  • We need better fact-checking in politics (ideally, politicians would check the facts before they start talking at a public venue).
  • We need more philosophy (viz., a proper understanding and appreciation of good reasoning) — even in the highest ranks of US politics. Maybe we need argument-checking: “Fact-checking is not enough. We need argument-checking“.


And for those who still want to point out that we need more welders: fine! Having more welders and having more philosophers is not mutually exclusive! We can have both!††

Finally, there is the implicit suggestion that we should choose careers based on how much money the career offers. Sigh… Look, I get that we need a certain amount of money to flourish. But — contra Rubio’s short argument — surely there are other (more important?) variables involved in a career choice.


† “Marco Rubio said wrongly that welders make more money than philosophers” (Politifact). “Marco Rubio says welders make more money than philosophers do. He’s wrong” (Slate). “Philosophy majors actually earn a lot more than welders” (Vox).

†† Thanks to John Ballenger, James Endicott, Andrew Chapman, Cameron Buckner, and Andrew Cullison for making these points (and other points that I haven’t even mentioned). Finally, thanks to my Facebook friends for humoring my Facebook rants about this.

Featured image:  “Gas metal arc welding” via Wikipedia, Public Domain