Cathode Ray Zone

–Arts and Letters for the Modern Age–

Acropolis

The Dirty Little Game of Academic Philosophy

The Dirty Little Game of Academic Philosophy

Years ago, over at the Daily Nous, a much read insider philosophy blog, David Velleman, who enjoys digs in the world’s #1 ranked philosophy department, posted his version of a Modest Proposal: Philosophy journals should no longer publish papers written by graduate...

Remarks on Truth, Ontology, and “Physicalism”

Remarks on Truth, Ontology, and “Physicalism”

‘Truth’ and ‘is true’ The most popular view on truth is some variation on the correspondence theory, according to which saying that a statement is true is saying that it “corresponds” to “reality” or “the facts” or “states of affairs” or some such thing. The trouble...

On Defining ‘Philosophy’

On Defining ‘Philosophy’

Whenever I am asked to give a definitive characterization of philosophy, my reply typically takes the form of listing a number of representative philosophical questions, like this: What are good reasons for believing something? How do sounds, marks, gestures, and the...

Wanting and Doing

Wanting and Doing

I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. —Paul, Letter to the Romans 7.15 (Revised Standard Version) There is a certain line of thinking that has been part of the Western narrative since antiquity, one...

Humanities and Higher Education

Humanities and Higher Education

That the humanities and liberal arts in higher education are in trouble is well-established, with not a week passing in which some department or program isn’t eliminated or significant numbers of faculty given pink slips. My own subject, philosophy, is being hit...

Moore’s Proof

Moore’s Proof

If you were to pinch the nearest analytically trained philosopher and ask him for the worst, most obviously fallacious argument in his tradition, he might very well tell you that it is the so-called “proof” for the existence of the external world that G.E. Moore gives...

Philosophical Expertise

Philosophical Expertise

I’ve written a lot about the confusions that plague academic philosophers, and one of the things we are the most confused about is the sort of expertise our education and work confers. A doctor of veterinary medicine is an expert on animal physiology and health. A...

Philosophical Rhetoric

Philosophical Rhetoric

With some notable exceptions, philosophers claim to eschew rhetoric; those uses of language whose aim is not to persuade by means of appeal to a person’s rational consciousness but by way of the sensibility and emotions. The arguments are what should count, we say,...

Why The Free Will Problem Isn’t One

Why The Free Will Problem Isn’t One

First of all, the “Free Will Problem” is a stupid  name. I mean, do I have to think there is such a thing as a “will” in order to believe in free will? Or “freedom,” beyond that of being able to go to the mall if I want to or not if don’t? So, I’d rather talk about...

The Discourse Delusion

The Discourse Delusion

The “Law of the Instrument” is a common bias that involves excessive reliance on a familiar tool, even when it is ill-suited to the task at hand. As Abraham Maslow characterized it in 1966,“If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as...

In Praise of Complaining

In Praise of Complaining

Complaining is a treasured part of academic life. There’s the serious complaining, like Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (sample quotation: “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university...

Remarks on Religion

Remarks on Religion

By now, most readers know that I am an atheist, as I do not believe in the existence of God or anything supernatural. Readers also likely know that I am Jewish by lineage and culturally and that I think God is useless both as an explanation and as a moral exemplar....

Philosophical Questions and their Answers

Philosophical Questions and their Answers

Surveys suggest that most professional philosophers think that the aim of philosophy is to arrive at true positions on subjects ranging from Morality to Knowledge, Reality, Mind, and the like. They think there are determinate answers as to whether moral realism or...

Thinking About “the Impermissible”

Thinking About “the Impermissible”

If something is permitted, it means that you are allowed to do it. If something is not permitted, it means that you are not. If swimming in the community pool is permitted only on the weekends, it means that if you show up on a weekend, you will be allowed into the...

The Personal is Not Philosophical

The Personal is Not Philosophical

That the personal is political is a bit of wisdom from the 1960’s, which suggests that we should not ignore domestic affairs in the political arena. That the personal is philosophical is an idea that goes back to Antiquity and to Socrates, who is reported by Plato to...

‘Exists’ and ‘Real’

‘Exists’ and ‘Real’

[1] You are talking with a friend who is a bit too taken with superhero comics. Halfway into an enthusiastic speech regarding the virtues of Captain America, you say to him gently, “You do realize that Captain America doesn’t exist, right?” What effect is this...

Girls and Women in Philosophy

Girls and Women in Philosophy

You may ask: What does an old white man like me know about girls and women in philosophy? Well, I used to (and still do) teach them. The issue I want to discuss is the underrepresentation of women in getting a PhD or a tenure track position in philosophy. In arts and...

Whose Hot Hand? Which Fallacy?

Whose Hot Hand? Which Fallacy?

There’s always a little light-hearted ribbing around the office or among friends over March Madness betting pools. But basketball-related disputes are sometimes more enduring. Statisticians and researchers have been passionately divided for decades over the mere issue...

Loved, Not Owed

Loved, Not Owed

Philosophers sacralize moral obligation and maintain that moral considerations are always overriding of all others, but ordinary people [as well as philosophers in their ordinary lives] hold actions done from earnest desire in higher esteem than those done from duty....

Some Questions about Obligation

Some Questions about Obligation

[1] You are with a friend in a restaurant, and he tells you that you ought not (in the moral sense) order the linguine con vongole that you are considering. When you ask him why, he tells you that eating clams violates their interests. You reply that you don’t care...

Joy in Craft

Joy in Craft

John Xu and me with our vintage wood racquets For the last three years or so, my tennis partner (John Xu) and I have been playing with wood racquets: he with a vintage Jack Kramer; I with a vintage Chris Evert Autograph. Towards the end of 2022, John became aware that...