Showing posts from 2024

The Flavour of Truth

This is literally happening right now at universities across the world. Exactly this. There has been another round of discussion online about evil humanities professors disordering our political life by spreading pernicious relativism about truth and objectivity. I remain convinced that this is a distraction, that in fact none of our disputes in political and social life are actually about the nature of truth. Apparently I have not persuaded people! So today I try a different approach. I will try to persuade you that all the sorts of things people do to actually create trouble for claims of objective truth are, in the main, unobjectionable, or even where controversial not really the sort of thing that divides us politically. When philosophers discuss truth we have a stock example of a true sentence -- "snow is white". This is because of the role the claim played in a classic, really genre defining, paper by the polish logician Alfred Tarski . In the serene peace of academic

Facts vs Opinions

The American educational system teaches children to distinguish between "facts" and "opinions". A recent paper in Misinformation Review  has even made mastery of this distinction a marker of civic political competence. Per this paper facts are those statements that "can be proved or disproved with objective evidence" whereas opinions are those statements that "depend on personal values and preferences". I think this is a bogus distinction and should not have any role as a marker of political competence or as part of children's education.  Now, this is a topic other better philosophers have handled and I agree with their critiques. Corvino outlines the trouble with trying to draw the distinction in any coherent fashion. The NYT piece by McBrayer linked above correctly points out there is no way this could sensibly divide all claims in the manner sometimes suggested. Jenkins-Ichikawa points out the kind of category error involved, how the d

Race and Fantasy

Starting the year off right with a reactionary screed. One thing that regularly causes internet squabbles is casting of fantasy and sci-fi characters with non-white actors/actresses. There was a bit of that for the Lord of the Rings show on Amazon, a bit of that when Boyega was cast as Finn in Star Wars, and even (ok it's not really fantasy but whatever) with a recent adaptation of the Famous Five. Since I am a huge nerd these often revolve around worlds or settings that I am interested in. So in this blog post I will try and classify the different kind of settings that this sort of thing can happen in and my broad attitude to what's going on in these cases. Now, of course, anything can be done well and anything can be done poorly, so ultimately a lot will depend on skill of the person doing the adaptation. Still though I think there are facts about how settings work that push in certain directions, and these should at least be taken into account. Still unclear what I mean?