Category Archives: Rationalism

Frankly, Rationalists Should Be Less Aspirational…

Scott Alexander writes with some frustration on smug critics of the “rationalist” movement, who, for him, criticise its supposed utopianism and arrogance without acknowledging its efforts to avoid such errors. I think there is value in their attempts to objectively … Continue reading

Posted in Rationalism, Scepticism, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

In Praise of Bias…

We sometimes talk as if “bias” is a bad thing. It can be. If I want to answer a purely factual question, for example, bias may be an impediment. Yet the fact that we are biased suggests that it has … Continue reading

Posted in Rationalism, Scepticism | 2 Comments

More Fun With New Atheists…

More astonishingly unintentional new atheist humour comes from the biologist Jerry Coyne. Coyne is known for reviewing books he has not read and now attacks a conference that has yet to take place. Not only is Coyne’s hostile judgement based … Continue reading

Posted in Rationalism, Religion, Scepticism, Science | 2 Comments

More on Middlebrow Epistemology…

A while ago I wrote on “middlebrow epistemology”… that form of argumentation that has the essential qualities of a pub argument – the factoids, the simplifications, the argumentum ad passiones – but decently covers them with a figleaf of rationality. … Continue reading

Posted in Rationalism, Scepticism, Science | Leave a comment

The Virtues of Staying Quiet…

“Whereof one cannot speak,” wrote Wittgenstein in Tractatus, “Thereof must one be silent.” The immediacy and excitement of social media and online journalism have encouraged people to ignore this and hold forth on everything. Mouthing off with insufficient knowledge of … Continue reading

Posted in Rationalism, Rhetoric, Scepticism | Leave a comment

On Middlebrow Epistemology…

The social critic Dwight Macdonald coined the term “Midcult”: a pejorative name for that middlebrow culture which, he claimed, apes mass culture, reproducing “the formula, the built-in reaction [and] the lack of any standard except popularity” but “decently covers them … Continue reading

Posted in Rationalism, Rhetoric, Scepticism | 2 Comments

Nightmares of an Eminent Person…

Ray Monk’s biography of Bertrand Russell’s later life, The Ghosts of Madness, is among the most depressing books that I have ever read. For readers who think of Russell as the twinkly grandfather of liberal humanism it will come as … Continue reading

Posted in Behaviour, Belief, Family, From the Archives, Rationalism, Reviews | 1 Comment