Monday, November 29, 2010

Priest on Paradox

Oh joy... The latest contribution to the NYT's failing and mismanaged enterprise The Stone is a compelling and thoughtful piece by Graham Priest about the Liar Paradox and dialetheism.

There's nothing in it that will come as news to anyone who follows this stuff, even from a great distance. But the idiotic comments from know-nothing-know-it-alls and other morons have already proved highly entertaining. Another triumph of public philosophy!

To repeat: Philosophy is hard. The public likes only what is easy and hates what is hard. Public philosophy is silly.

Professor Leiter recently ran a poll about The Stone. A great majority favored continuing the endeavor with new and less incompetent editorial management. Though I agree with the assessment of the current editorial side of the operation, I think the whole thing should be abolished immediately.

P.S. Isn't it time for a call for abstracts for Glee and Philosophy?????


Anonymous said...

Regardless of the generally inconsistent nature of the Stone blog, it's obvious Leiter has a personal axe to grind against Critchley. Even if you're against the idea of public philosophy, you yourself are appreciative of many of the pieces rendered: is that not enough?

veri: innesto

Anonymous said...

Spiros said:
>> Philosophy is hard.

Sure, hard to respect - especially when a supposedly expert opinion on approaches to paradoxes makes no mention of multi-valued logics, or a theory of truth (e.g., Kripke's) in which there are truth-value "gaps".
It isn't the comments to Stone inane posts there are are embarrassing, but most of the posts themselves.

Anonymous said...

Your second premise reads: "The public likes only what is easy and hates what is hard."

Does "the public" include 18 year-old's who decide philosophy's a more worthwhile major than all of the other decidedly more mainstream undergraduate majors?

729 said...

Anon 7:00 PM The 18 year olds who decide to major in philosophy are corrupted by philosophy . The public are, well, incorruptable by philosophy. Dont they teach you kids anything these days?

Anonymous said...

Well played 729--not well played at all. And I mean that.

(Actually this is snarky admiration.)

wv: proto

Anonymous said...

Touche, 729!

My analytic training made me forget about Socrates.


Fritz Warfield said...

So according to anonymous 5:14pm Graham Priest is a "supposed" expert on paradoxes? Really? Graham Priest? Oh my. One wonders where we should find the experts.

And (in partial reply to 4:48pm) at least as far as I am aware, Brian Leiter doesn't have a "personal axe to grind against Critchley" -- he grinds a professional axe.

729 said...

Yes indeed, Fritz. Priest neglected to get into Kripke's theory of truth and so much else in the popular philosophy blog post. It's utterly tragic. There goes his expertise, straight down the drain! Quick--someone call JcBeall. ; )

The Brooks Blog said...

Actually, I believe there probably is a Glee and Philosophy book in the works already...

I continue to believe that you and I should co-edit David Lynch and Philosophy though!

Scomp said...

Those comments really are entertaining! They range from truly novel solutions to the liar paradox from know-nothings (comment #2 suggests that we should erase the liar sentence to avoid paradox) to ungrammatical nonsense from tenured faculty in other fields (see comment #4, and note that "ascribe" is a transitive verb). Highly recommended.

Word verification: scomp!

Anonymous said...

A search for "Glee and Philosophy" turned up the following: .

Oh the horror!

Anonymous said...


Priest "got into" para-consistency in the "popular" blog - not because that's an accessible logical notion to the general public, but only because that's his stick, I suppose.

I don't care one way or another, but to give an alleged "overview" of the issue for the general public by simply plugging in one's own research only diminishes further the already low credibility of the Stone.

CTS said...

Was it supposed to be an overview? I thought it was simply a "here are some puzzles that philosophers and mahematicians enjoy puzzling over."

Please I. M. Begging-You said...

Can you all please go to and tell them that you would not like to read Justin Bieber and Philosophy?

Anonymous said...

Stick? Or shtick?


cogitated said...

Thanks for the request, Please I.M. Beggin-You.

[goes to and votes for Justin Bieber & Philosophy]

Anonymous said...

'Philosophy is hard. The public likes only what is easy and hates what is hard. Public philosophy is silly.'

That's right because everyone outside a philosophy department is stupid and/or lazy.

Let’s try some basic logic.

Philosophy is hard
Some members of the public hate what is hard
Therefore all members of the public hate what is hard
Therefore public philosophy is silly.

I wonder how many members of the public could spot the error…

(I don't normally repeat my word verifiaction, but have to on this occasion. It is, I kid you not : conmenn ! )

Spiros said...

Anon 12:47,

Let's try some basic reading skills... The bit you cite is not presented as a deductive argument. Duh.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you posted on this Stone entry. I just read it and thought the same thing. One of my favorites was comment #16: "When I took a logic class . . . [tries to explain how Graham Priest misunderstands the principle that everything follows from a contradiction]." Really? So, you're some jackass who took a logic class once, and you think it's more likely that the logic professor got it wrong than that you made a mistake? (Hint: The person is horrendously wrong about the point in question.)

We might well conclude with Spiros that philosophy does not work in this public format. But, it also seems to me that this is related to trolling in the sense that people do not behave as well when they're behind the veil of internet-anonymity. What gives these people the feeling like they're going to correct the professor on some very simple issue they thought about for three minutes? Would they react like this to the same content presented in a classroom?

Anonymous said...

1 Dec 12.47pm here (I see your original post was at 12.47pm too)

I never claimed that the bit that I cited was a deductive argument (try some basic reading skills). I was speculating as to how you might have reached your conclusion. If there is some other argument by which you reach your conclusion, then reveal it to us, and we can see whether it holds water.

Spiros said...

Anon 12:47/9:28,

Oh... I see. So when you rendered the bit you quoted as a purported deductive argument, you weren't suggesting that I had proposed such an argument. Got it.

And then when you wondered out loud about how quickly members of the public could "spot the error" you were referring only to the deductive argument you posted, and not suggesting that anything I wrote contained an error. Got it.

You were, as you say, just speculating on how I reached my conclusion, and so you decided that a reasonable bet was was to propose that I'd employed an obviously and pathetically fallacious argument. Good work.

So you did not "claim" that I'd employed that silly argument, you just "speculated" that I did! Brilliant.

Here's a suggestion: Go away and consider coming back only after you've become a little less dumb.

Anonymous said...

12.47 here

I gave an ‘obviously and pathetically fallacious’ argument because I do not know of any argument to your conclusion which is not ‘obviously and pathetically fallacious’. If you know one then please educate me. Or you might consider changing your mind about your conclusion…

Spiros said...


Good... let me enlighten you, now that you've given up the pretense that you're in any position to give me lessons on anything (let alone "basic logic," of which it appears you know little) and have recognized that you need lessons in reading and basic reasoning. Your error, as I said in my first response, lies in thinking that I've presented an argument at all. You persist in referring to my "conclusion" (thus indicating that you believe that I have presented an argument). But I haven't. I made three assertions: (1) Philosophy is hard. (2) The public likes only what is easy and hates what is hard. (3) Public philosophy is silly. Statement 3 is not a "conclusion" that's purported to be derivable from 1 and 2. So it's wrong of you to ask for my *argument* for the "conclusion"-- no conclusion was offered.

You'd do better to ask for my evidence for whichever statement you'd like to take issue with. But be careful: You've already provided evidence for 1, 2, and 3 with your posts.

Again, I advise you to go away until you get a little smarter. Surely there are other blogs you can post on.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing to say other than that my verification word is "buoya". Instead of QED, let's use that.

Anonymous said...


I'd be interested in hearing why you think public philosophy is silly.

PA said...

If I may, Spiros' evidence for the claim that public philosophy is silly consists of (1) the litany of cases in which it goes badly wrong (of which long time readers of this blog are happily aware) including the comment thread at issue and (2) the largely dumbed down philosophy in collections designed for public consumption (the various "philosophy and ... series," e.g.). As I read him/her, rather than being offered as an argument for the claim that public philosophy is silly, Spiros' assertions that (1) philosophy is hard and that (2) the public likes what is easy and hates what is hard forms part of the explanation of why public philosophy goes badly as frequently as it does.

Note: unlike Spiros, I remain a somewhat naive optimist about the value of public philosophy.

Anonymous said...

12.47 here

Dear me! Get some basic reading skills and some manners. I didn’t claim to have recounted your argument. I didn’t claim that you had stated an argument. I didn’t ‘recognize that [I] need lessons in reading and basic reasoning’. In referring to you "conclusion" I do not indicate that I believe that you have presented an argument – I indicate that I assume you have not grabbed your claim ‘Public philosophy is silly’ from thin air, but rather have some sort of grounds for making that claim. It is not ‘wrong of [me] to ask for [your] *argument* for the "conclusion" ’ : if that claim is the conclusion of an argument then it is reasonable to ask for the argument in order that I and others can learn from it if it is sound, and in order that we can help you learn by pointing out the errors if it is not sound. If your claim that ‘Public philosophy is silly’ is not the conclusion of a sound argument but only written in a fit of crankiness then fine - but it is reasonable for you to reveal this, so that people do not take it seriously.

Anonymous said...

12.47 here:

With regard to what PA says, that some nutters read and comment on public philosophy does not mean that everyone has a response similar to theirs, nor even that theirs is the majority response. Too much can be read into the comments section of The Stone. For example, the total readership of print and online versions of the NYT is over a million, and it is nutty ones who write nutty comments; the thoughtful ones tend to reflect on what they have read and perhaps chat about it to their friends and family.

And that some members of the public like what is easy and hate what is hard, does not mean they all do (though the proportion of the former may be a bit higher in America than in Europe). And that some pieces of writing intended for public consumption are ‘dumbed down’ does not in the least indicate that there are not good pieces, and that it is not worth writing good pieces.

Good public philosophy can help good readers to think better, live better and be better people. That is surely an extremely worthwhile practice.

Spiros said...


You really need to go away until you get smarter, and, now, learn how to be honest in argument. If by referring to my "conclusion" you didn't indicate that you indeed took my three statements to form a clumsy argument with (3) as the purported conclusion, then your posts from the beginning are simply hopeless. Why repeatedly refer to (3) as my "conclusion" if, as you say now, you were under no illusion that I was proposing an argument? On your most recent ass-covering and dishonest rendering, your use of the word "conclusion" would be applicable to any of the three statements (perhaps any statement at all). Yet it's clear you're interested in my claim that public philosophy is silly, and you use the term "conclusion" to refer to that statement alone. Duh.

Moreover, in keeping with your pattern of saying something dumb, and then in a successive post backing off of it, what you now describe as "[asking] for an argument" was originally proposed as a lesson in logic which served to reveal a glaring error. But you're not my teacher, and have proved you're not qualified for the job.

Again: I am telling you to go away.

Anonymous said...

12.47 etc here:

Still avoiding the question eh Spiros? What a surprise.

Spiros said...

Anon 12:47,

It's hard to deal with someone as dumb as you. I'm not answering your question because you're not in a position to require anything of me. I do not run this blog for the purposes of meeting philosophical challenges posed by anonymous interlocutors, no matter how inept they prove themselves to be. You're not my teacher, nor are you in any position to give me assignments or to pose challenges to which I am required to respond. My blog = my rules. More importantly: My blog = I get to decide its purposes. Not you.

You don't like something I've said? You think something I've said needs philosophical support if you are to accept it? Good for you. None of that puts you in a position to require anything of me. And your most recent browbeating reply ("still avoiding my question...") only shows how dumb you are.

Now, I've told you several times to go away. You obviously don't understand argument, and think that the thing to do when refuted it simply to change the subject or dishonestly claim to have not said things you plainly have said. I really would like not to have to tell you again to go away. Surely there's some other blog you can find which will allow you to post stupid stuff.

Anonymous said...

If you had a sound argument to the conclusion that ‘public philosophy is silly’ you would have proudly deployed it. But of course you do not, because there isn’t one. You should be honest enough to admit that.

As for your claim that I was dishonest, I have consistently said that I speculated on your argument. This claim stands up to inspection. If I had simply taken what you wrote to be your full argument then I would have simply quoted what you wrote and analysed it. But I didn’t, I took there to be other steps involved. I, of course, took what you wrote to be elements in your total view, which seems reasonable, but I didn’t take what you wrote to constitute your total view, your whole argument. Thus I have been consistent, and honest, in what I have written.

Spiros said...

Again? OK. Kidding aside now. You're insisting that I produce an argument for a claim that is manifestly vague. In order to argue for it (or against it), one would first have to specify what one means by "public philosophy" and what it means to declare it "silly." And this work-- even if we allow it to be purely a matter of stipulation-- goes far beyond what anyone in his or her right mind would expect from a blog, especially one of this kind. You really should know better. Don't you have anything else to do with your time?

Anonymous said...

Of course, Spiros presumably has some non-vague meaning of "silly" and "public philosophy" in mind when he says that public philosophy is silly. I think that's what people care about hearing. But alas.