Neil Tyson And The Value Of Philosophy

Reprinted from Scientia Salon. You can read the original here.It seems like my friend Neil deGrasse...

What Does It Mean For Something To Be Metaphysically Necessary?

I mentioned before, this semester I’m teaching a graduate level seminar on David Hume, and having...

David Hume And The Missing Shade Of Blue

This semester I’m teaching a graduate level course on “Hume Then and Now,” which aims at...

Is Theologian Alving Plantinga For Real? Alas, It Appears So

I keep hearing that Notre Dame philosopher and theologian Alvin Plantinga is a really smart guy...

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Massimo PigliucciRSS Feed of this column.

Massimo Pigliucci is Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York.

His research focuses on the structure of evolutionary theory, the relationship between science and philosophy

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The latest issue of Philosophy Now features an interesting collection of articles on human enhancement, with articles arguing that the approach is “essential” to humans in order to avoid catastrophes, that it can be used to extend youthfulness, and so on. There are also a couple of essays that are more cautious about the likely success, and even perils, of enhancement, so the full package (five entries) makes for stimulating reading.
Plato famously maintained that knowledge is “justified true belief,” meaning that to claim the status of knowledge our beliefs (say, that the earth goes around the sun, rather than the other way around) have to be both true (to the extent this can actually be ascertained) and justified (i.e., we ought to be able to explain to others why we hold such beliefs, otherwise we are simply repeating the — possibly true — beliefs of someone else).*

It is the “justified” part that is humbling, since a moment’s reflection will show that a large number of things we think we know we actually cannot justify, which means that we are simply trusting someone else’s authority on the matter. (Which is okay, as long as we realize and acknowledge that to be the case.)
Plato and a platypus walked into a bar. The bartender gave the philosopher a quizzical look, and Plato said, “What can I say?
My friend Benny (who produces the Rationally Speaking podcast) really hates the word “skepticism.” He understands and appreciates its meaning and long intellectual pedigree (heck, we even did a show on that!), but he also thinks — based on anecdotal evidence — that too many people apply a negative connotation to the term, often confusing it with cynicism.
I am not a religious person, and I'm most certainly not spiritual either. Both of these statements get me into trouble in polite society, especially when they are coupled.

Apparently I'm not the only one, as anybody who has used an online dating service will readily testify. Typically, these web sites allow you to specify your religious beliefs (and to express a preference for the religious beliefs of your prospective dates). Try simply checking the "atheist" box (if there actually is one), and you'll be waiting a long time for your matches. But if you describe yourself as "spiritual but not religious" your chances are markedly improved (though the problem now is that you'll see a lot of new agey types showing up in your inbox). Why?

I am in Tilburg, Netherlands, for a conference on the future of philosophy of science. Ah!, you might say, and what would that look like?