Saturday, August 5, 2017

Simply misinterpreting each other’s intent

Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci is attacking his favorite targets again:
I have plenty of arguments against Trump. A truckload, in fact. That doesn’t change the fact that he does encapsulates several aspects of fascism.

As for Krauss, yes, that’s the bit. What makes him intellectually dishonest is not that he chose a title that would sell, everyone does that. But that he got seriously upset (up to and including pressuring Neil deGrasse Tyson into disinviting Albert from an official American Museum of Natural History event at the Planetarium) when someone pointed out that the content of his book did not reflect the title. He argued he does. So, which one is it? Is the title just a matter of convenience, or does it reflect the content? It can’t be both, in this case.
Albert wrote a NY Times book review of Krauss, complaining mainly that the title uses the word "nothing" instead of "vacuum", and that the endorsement from Dawkins is overstated.

These philosopher opinions have something in common -- there is no substance. Massimo has a truckload of arguments against Trump, but the one he posts is that Trump is a fascist, without any explanation of how he is fascist or how his policies are detrimental or how he is worse than any other President.

The attacks on Krauss are similarly thin.

Coel comments to Massimo:
I’m rapidly concluding that much of the disagreement on this blog comes from simply misinterpreting each other’s intent. ...

Conclusion: much apparent disagreement is instead miscommunication and recognising that would reduce unprofitable exchanges; different people’s positions are often closer to each other than it might appear.
That is a kind way of saying that the philosophers are preoccupied with straw man attacks. They do not address the actual written opinions of Krauss, Trump, or anyone else. They apply their mental prejudices based on a perception of which side of an ideological battle the man is.

Philosophers are not the only ones susceptible to this sort of thinking, of course. Lots of other ppl jump to conclusiiona based on how they imagine the intent of the speaker to be.

I was going to add a comment to Massimo's blog, but he has closed comments on Krauss.


  1. I was annoyed by the title of Krauss's book. It is misleading. The average person thinks that when he says "nothing" he means "nothing." He doesn't.

  2. I agree that the title is annoying, and so is the Dawkins endorsement. But a book review should address the actual contents of the book.

    Albert and Pigliucci are examples of philosophers who get very excited and dogmatic about silly terminological issues, and who ignore the substantive issues.

  3. Hello Roger! MASSIMO PIGLIUCCI claims to be a scientist! He writes:

    "In addition, as a scientist and philosopher by profession, I always try to figure out more coherent ways to understand the world (science) and better choices for living my life (philosophy). I have for many years been attracted to virtue ethics — a core of Stoic philosophy — as a way to think about morality and a life worth living. I have also recently passed the half century mark, one of those arbitrary points in human life that nonetheless somehow prompt people to engage in broader reflections on who they are and what they are doing."

    Is he a scientist? What is is research area, if so?

  4. Pigliucci has PhD in science, as well as one in philosophy. I believe he has a fair number of published papers in evolutionary biology. So yes, he qualifies as a scientist. No he writes more on subjects like the philosophy of what is, or is not, pseudoscience.