Good Fantasy Makes Good Philosophy

Over spring break, during some of the time I should have spent on my senior essay, I was reading books by Robin McKinley.  I've read and liked a number of her books, so I was tracking down and reading the ones I'd missed.  Some were good, some were so-so, none were as good as Spindle's End and only Chalice was terrible.Plenty of authors have trouble with exposition, dropping long, clunky bits of backstory into the plot or forcing characters to spend time explaining things they both know to ea … [Read more...]

Trying to Will Your Beliefs (A Case Study)

There's been a fair amount of discussion on this blog lately about whether people can choose their beliefs or whether beliefs are compelled by evidence (and then some more about what this all means for free will).  Good news for me, because that was all the excuse I needed to post the following excerpt from Harry Potter  and the Methods of Rationality, a fanfiction story written by AI research Eliezer Yudkowsky.In Yudkowsky's story, Harry was raised by a science professor instead of the D … [Read more...]

David Brooks and the Social Automaton

After reading my slam on David Brooks's The Social Animal, Dylan had some objections: "Other than the fact that it's terribly, terribly written and completely expository (it makes the Emile, on which it is clearly modeled, look like an actual novel by comparison), what's so "yikes" about the exact passage you excerpted? Can you really be such a HP&TMoR fan/transhumanist and also think that treating so-called "cognitive biases" as limitations to be overcome is tantamount to "unweaving the … [Read more...]

Two (Much Caveated) Recommendations

 Today's installment of the Sunday's Good Book series of reviews was meant to be about Robert Alter's Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible, but I'll confess I didn't get around to finishing the admittedly slim volume.It was recommended to me by the professor of my oratory class, but I misunderstood the nature of the book. I had thought it was a series of case studies of biblical rhetoric in American political language, or American culture broadly.  It turned out to … [Read more...]

“I was born and bred in a paradox patch!”

I've been writing a series of posts on the intellectual attraction I've felt to G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, and some Christian theology generally.  There will be a major update in that series tomorrow, but, in the meantime, here's an overview of my biggest problem with Chesterton.In my life as a debater, there's a particular rhetorical trick that I live in fear of.  Picture this:Armed with knowledge of your opponent's principles, you construct a reductio ad absurdum argument.  Careful to … [Read more...]

A Few Stories Worth Their Salt

After hearing today's readings at Mass, I wanted to share a favorite non-fiction book with you all.  For those who don't attend Mass, today's gospel reading was from Matthew 5:13-16: Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it … [Read more...]

An Attraction to Orthodoxy (Series)

As part of my Sunday's Good Book series, I posted about G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy and explained that there was a lot that I found compelling and challenging about his philosophy.  Since that's a sorta weird thing for an atheist to say, discussion ensued and is ongoing.  Here's all the posts on this topic to date: I Assign You Reading! - As a prelude to my discussion of Chesterton, I highlighted an essay by Eve Tushnet about when, if ever, people should let their ethics refute t … [Read more...]