Category Archives: Rhetoric

On Inevitablism…

The socialist author and academic Mark Fisher, who died earlier this year, wrote an engaging little book called Capitalist Realism which argued that neoliberalism has sustained itself by propogating the belief that there is no alternative to its ideas and … Continue reading

Posted in Politics, Rhetoric, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The Rise of the Right and the Triumph of Rhetoric…

My new article for Quillette… Naïve liberals speak of the “marketplace of ideas,” suggesting that free and open public discourse allows people to judge theories before arriving at the truth. Yet are customers good judges of products? Often no. Salespeoples’ … Continue reading

Posted in Rhetoric | 3 Comments

Nod Words…

“Nod words” inspire approval from one’s ideological allies not because they illuminate or improve your arguments but because they have pleasing implications. For progressives these include “equality”, “progress”, “compassion”, “diversity”, “cooperation” and “deconstruct”. For conservatives these include “tradition”, “imagination”, “order”, … Continue reading

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Petition to Ban the Word “Amusing”…

This is not important. This is a pet hate. But it is a pet hate of pitbull proportions. The word “amusing” is used in two senses: to damn with faint praise, in which case it is slimily passive aggressive, and … Continue reading

Posted in Language, Rhetoric | 2 Comments

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

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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

Six Things Intelligent People Should Talk About Less…

Do not misunderstand me. The following are not things one should not talk about. These are things that should be talked about in their time and place, yet can monopolise our conversations like a party-goer finishing other people’s jokes. 1. … Continue reading

Posted in Politics, Rhetoric, Uncategorized | 2 Comments