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Report from the Empire of Nice

by Daniel A. Kaufman The experimental psychologist, Steven Pinker, says that we are getting nicer.  Way nicer.  We kill and rape each other much less than we used to.  (The “rape culture” folks apparently didn’t get the memo.)  We’re less racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, sizeist, ageist, and ableist.  (We’re just less -ist in general.)  We don’t have comedians like Sam Kinison […]

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Passionate Thinking

by Mark English I want to say something about political and social commitments. In order to make the points I want to make, I will sketch out my own political and social views (and how they have changed) and refer to the views of Isaiah Berlin. But I am also making some general claims about human values and critical thinking. […]

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This Week’s Special: C.S. Lewis, “Meditation in a Toolshed”

By Daniel A. Kaufman https://www.calvin.edu/~pribeiro/DCM-Lewis-2009/Lewis/meditation-in-a-toolshed.pdf On tap this week is a lovely little essay by C.S. Lewis that makes what I think is quite an important distinction, one that may permit us a little insight into what has seemed an intractable philosophical problem: namely, our inability to “reduce” various – mostly mental – concepts to various “lower level” physical ones. […]

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On the Value of (truly) Free Speech

by David Ottlinger In the increasingly surreal unfolding of student protests across the country, the provost of Brown University attempted to address students demonstrating over the status of racial minorities. [1] Having just announced a $100 million dollar plan to increase diversity at Brown, the administration could reasonably have expected some good-will from student activists. Instead the provost was submitted […]

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This Week’s Special:  Frank Sibley’s, “Aesthetic Concepts”

By Daniel A. Kaufman http://rci.rutgers.edu/~tripmcc/phil/poa/sidley-aestheticconcepts-controversy.pdf On tap this week is a paper that has had an enormous influence on contemporary aesthetics:  Frank Sibley’s 1959 paper, “Aesthetic Concepts.” The central message of Sibley’s thesis is essentially critical: Aesthetic concepts are not ascribed by way of criteria, but instead, require taste / discernment / perceptiveness to apply.   Beyond aesthetics, Sibley’s critique is […]

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Provocations

by Daniel A. Kaufman  On Some Downsides of Unlimited Choice Even as I make use of the internet and benefit from its near-universal reach, I find myself quite gloomy about much of its impact.  In particular, I am concerned that it has expanded choice to a point beyond which it is an uncontroversial good. As is often the case, G.K. […]

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The Decline of Intergenerational Communication

by Mark English Prompted by some recent discussions on this site and elsewhere about generational divisions, I thought I would put together a few observations, personal thoughts and speculations on the general topic of intergenerational communication. It’s well known that someone who grows up in a non-literate society is ‘wired’ very differently from someone who grows up with the written […]

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Critical Thinking After the Second World War

by Michael Boyle In my first essay on critical thinking, I focused on the period prior to and during the Second World War. In this essay, I wish to follow the narrative into the post-war years, focusing on two somewhat forgotten scholars (at least in philosophy and, more specifically, critical thinking, as taught in philosophy departments in the US): Stephen Toulmin […]

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