Alternative Facts Are Older Than Facts

Categories: Philosophy and Society.

aka Western Philosophy Caused Alternative Facts We are told that so-called “alternative facts” are a new threat to us as a society; to how we view and understand the world and how we make decisions about the world (policies etc). But I think the idea of an “alternative” fact is far older and, worse, rooted in the very basic ideas most of us who’ve grown up with Christianity and Western philosophy believe to be true. I blame Plato for alternative facts. Okay, I don’t just blame Plato for alternative facts, I blame Western normative philosophy. But, as the saying goes, Read More

Detective School

Categories: 2016, Philosophy, Science, and Society.

If I have learned one thing from immersing myself in too many true crime podcasts, TV series and movies, it’s this: most detectives have never been taught to think. There seems to be an obsession with relying on instinct and (supposed) “known knowns” and nothing else; no rigorous investigation techniques, no awareness of the infamous “unknown knowns,” known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns,” no logic, no deduction, no method whatsoever. Just “I feel this way so it must be true.” And that’s a problem. That’s a problem because “instinct” isn’t really a thing. What sometimes feels to us as deliberate framing Read More

The belief in Justice is probably the breeding ground for injustice

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Society.

I have long identified myself as an atheist (even though I’m an agnostic) in religion, an existentialist in philosophy and “anti-apocalyptic” or “anti-ideological” person in politics (i.e. a pragmatist). I have long struggled with this last definition, not because I don’t know what I am – I know exactly what I am, politically – but rather because I have trouble encapsulating it in one word. Politically, I am a centrist or, as I used to jokingly describe myself: a libertarian social democrat with a conservative streak. But I’m not a centrist because of a lack of conviction; I cannot pick Read More

The Poverty of Ideology

Categories: Philosophy.

This article on libertarianism says pretty much what I was trying to say in my book, only more rigorously (and with 0 sense of humour). However, I think the general point of this article – that something like libertarianism is empty theory ignorant of human behaviour and human history – is actually a point that needs to be made, repeatedly, against all ideologies. Yes, even (certain forms of) liberalism. Read More

The Incredibly Unfair Elections Act

Categories: 2014 and Philosophy.

Please read Andrew Coyne’s latest on the Conservatives’ hilariously-titled Fair Elections Act: Any government that feels that it must rig the next election in order to get re-elected clearly should have never been elected in the first place. Read More

Mark Rubio Drinks Water

Categories: 2013 and Philosophy.

As do I, Riley Haas. Contrary to what some “Eastern” mystics say, all human beings need to drink water to live. A human being may need to drink water during a speech. A human being may need to drink water on camera. A human being may need to drink water on camera during his own speech. It happens. It is a biological need. Criticizing your political opponent because he is human is the opposite of constructive. It is divisive and frankly ridiculous. I am a self-described liberal, and to you self-described liberals who think that Mark Rubio drinking water on Read More

The Pope Resigns

Categories: 2012 and Philosophy.

The pope is apparently resigning. So what? I am not sure we would hear if it were someone else. Okay, so maybe we would hear if it were the Dalai Lama, for some reason. But would we hear about it if the Somdet Phra resigned? Or, to bring it closer to home, any of the Bishops of the “old” Catholic Churches? Do we even know there are such things? I never hear anything in the news about the Primus inter pales. And I rarely hear anything about any of the numerous protestant leaders. What about the imam for that matter? Read More

Rampant Sexism in Movie Advertising

Categories: Philosophy.

Last night we saw Django Unchained. There were fortunately only four trailers (preceded by numerous ads, though). One of the ads was for Zero Dark Thirty. I’m 85% sure that Jessica Chastain didn’t say a single word in the entire trailer. Now, I’m not saying that was done on purpose, but if it was indeed accidental, it’s perhaps more of an indictment of the little-boy dominance of movie advertising: the main character doesn’t speak in the trailer because she’s a woman and they are trying to sell this drama with violence to an action movie audience. I was slightly appalled. Read More

We’re all dead

Categories: 2012 and Philosophy.

So the Mayan Apocalypse has begun. It’s days like this I wish I actually had twitter so I could tweet the Apocalypse as it crosses the globe (or as the world rotates into it, whichever). At this point both Kiribati and Kamchatka are already long gone. New Zealand too. They tried to warn us, but we just wouldn’t listen. Now, if any of us survive, we will look back at this movie and think, “why couldn’t we just listen for two and a half hours?” Read More

What is Neo-Conservatism?

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, and Society.

Since before the recent US election the use of the term conservative has been driving me crazy. To tell you the truth, it has driven me crazy since I learned about ideology in university over ten years ago, but now that I have a blog, and now that I am inundated daily with misuse of the term, I figured maybe I should try to get my consternation out there. The word conservative is used by media, public and politicians to describe a particular ideology or set of beliefs that isn’t conservative in most ways, and this is extraordinarily frustrating to Read More

Goddammit, you're all liberals, goddammit.

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, and Society.

Every US presidential election makes me insane. I do my very best to avoid paying attention but it is very hard, with how dominant the TV coverage is, even in Canada. I find I have to pay attention to US government policy in my current job and so I find that this year I am having more trouble ignoring it than usual. So I’d like to get something off my chest: Read More

19 "Tough" Questions for Libertarians, Part 4

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Society.

This is part four in my series on the internet meme, “Jon Stewart’s 19 Tough Questions for Libertarians”. Please see part one here, part two here, and part three here. Today we deal with questions 10-19. You give money to the IRS because you think they’re gonna hire a bunch of people, that if your house catches on fire, will come there with water. This is obviously a very simplistic description of “your tax dollars at work” but it makes the point that many of us try to make when arguing with libertarians: are you really comfortable in a world Read More

19 "Tough" Questions for Libertarianism, Part 3

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, and Religion.

In this post we look at questions 4-9. For the first part see here. For the second see here. Do we live in a society or don’t we? Are we a collective? Everybody’s success is predicated on the hard work of all of us; nobody gets there on their own. Why should it be that the people who lose are hung out to dry? For a group that doesn’t believe in evolution, it’s awfully Darwinian. Read More

19 "Tough" Questions for Libertarianism, part 2

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Society.

So, for part two, we deal with questions 2-3. You can see the previous post here. One of the things that enhances freedoms are roads. Infrastructure enhances freedom. A social safety net enhances freedom. So obviously this is not a question, but a statement. But it gets to an important point, depending of course on how we define freedom. Read More

19 "Tough" Questions for Libertarianism, Part 1

Categories: 2012, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Society.

About this time last year, Jon Stewart interviewed Andrew Napolitano, a prominent US “libertarian” on The Daily Show. At some point, some libertarians put Stewart’s interview questions into a meme sometimes called “Jon Stewart’s 19 tough questions for libertarians”. My understanding of this is that Napolitano did not acquit himself well enough in their eyes. This doesn’t exactly surprise me, as Stewart is fairly well prepared for people he does not see eye to eye with, and I think a lot of his interviewees – having apparently never watched The Daily Show – come somewhat unprepared for actual questions. They think Read More

On the origins of the universe

Categories: 2012, Books, Non-Fiction, Philosophy, and Science.

In the CS Monitor‘s book of review of Jim Holt’s Does the Universe Exist?, Troy Jollimore discusses the nature of the universe and the bizarre fact that most scientists and philosophers seem to assume that we have to prove how the universe appeared, as if what existed before the universe – if ever we can say something existed before the universe – was the “default state of affairs.” Read More

What socialism actually means

Categories: Philosophy and Politics.

Though I should know better, I find myself reading comments on the internet all too often. In these sections I am exposed to one of my biggest pet peeves: the complete re-creation of meaning for the major political theory isms: conservatism, liberalism and socialism. In the United States, conservatism is Republicanism (whatever Republicanism means, since they always say one thing – ‘small government!’ – and do another – ‘triple the debt!’) and sometimes also Libertarianism. Liberalism in the US, as I like to say, embodies everything from Noam Chomsky’s anarcho-syndicalism to Al Gore’s very middle of the road tempered ‘modern Read More


Categories: Philosophy and Society.

Futurists are like weatherpersons, only worse. They are wrong 99.9% of the time and nobody calls them on it. Worse, they get paid to predict time and again, even after they’ve rarely been right in the past. Why can’t we all accept that we can’t predict the future? Just because someone reads some books and studies, or does something, with statistics, doesn’t make their forecast necessarily likely. Why not? Because people aren’t predictable. And what’s less predictable than a couple of people? 7 billion people. (This is a reaction to reading an article on globalization which quotes numerous books published Read More

Polytheism is the better fiction

Categories: Philosophy, Religion, and Society.

The more I think about it, the more I find polytheism more compelling. I used to think: monotheism is simpler therefore more believable. But on the level of fiction, which it is, polytheism is more believable. Which is more believable: one being with special powers or many? I say many. If it was a film, anyway. And so I think that polytheism at least has that going for it. Read More

Full Disclosure: Influences

Categories: Personal, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Society.

Existentialism: Hannah Arendt William Barrett Albert Camus Fyodor Dostoevsky Karl Jaspers Friedrich Nietzsche Jose Ortega y Gasset   History: Niall Ferguson Leszek Kolakowski   Language: Northrop Frye   Liberalism: John Dewey John Stuart Mill Jose Ortega y Gasset Karl Popper Richard Rorty Judith Shklar   Libertarianism: (early) Friedrich Hayek Robert Nozick   Literature: Fyodor Dostoevsky William Faulkner Timothy Findley Gabriel Garcia Marquez Graham Greene Aldous Huxley George Orwell Thomas Pynchon Philip Roth Laurence Sterne Kurt Vonnegut   Mathematics: Donald Saari   Philosophy, General: Aristotle Leszek Kolakowski Friedrich Nietzsche Karl Popper Bertrand Russell   Post-Modernism: Hannah Arendt Friedrich Nietzsche Richard Rorty Read More

Why is metaphysics dangerous in the hands of those who govern us?

Categories: Philosophy and Society.

All people generally think alike and don’t think alike at the same time. We have some things in common and other things which aren’t in common. But the claim there is a class, a coherent, self-contained ruling elite, that is distinctly different from the average joe, has no basis in fact; its basis is in the desire of some to believe that they are being directed by powers greater than themselves (which is, incidentally, a form of metaphysics). How did we get back on this again? C. Wright Mills, for example, has been totally utterly refuted. There are other examples Read More