Philosopher Peter Boghossian

A colleague and friend of mine at CUNY recently emailed out a link to a story by Roger Kimball in the New York Post, commending the recent “hoax” by Peter Boghossian, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University.  Boghossian and two confederates submitted twenty papers to postmodernist periodicals.  These however were not serious submissions.  Like the Sokal hoax in 1996, these submissions were undercover, sarcastic efforts to expose “shoddy methodologies,” “ideologically motivated qualitative analyses” and “claims not warranted by the data.” For this Boghossian is facing dismissal from his teaching position. (See “University professor facing sack over spoof academic papers.”)

But this post is not about the justice or injustice of the university’s response, and it’s not primarily about whether or not Professor Boghossian has a good point to make.  Much could be said about either of those issues, but my point here is a more general one — about the way these discussions often proceed in the popular media (even among academics), and the conclusions that more casual readers, who don’t follow the minutiae of these debates, are likely to draw from articles like Mr Kimball’s.Read More →

  Harry G. Frankfurt

Over the years, my friend Nathan Tierney and I have had a long interchange on a number of issues.  He’s frequently tempted me, with great finesse, to reconsider my initial intuitions. So now that my current project on spiritual autonomy has nudged me towards a compatibilist position on the question of freewill, Nathan once again has pointed out some angles worth considering:

“The main problem that libertarians have with compatibilists is that it is simply hard determinism in disguise, and is also incompatible with a Christianity for which free will is central.”

Both these points are worth engaging in a serious way, though philosophers these days typically ignore the second. But that’s where I’d like to start.

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Tony Robbins

Part 1

Jacob Brezak, one of the best students I’ve ever taught, has gotten on board the motivational speaker circuit, and has developed quite a following on Facebook (“Life is Beautiful”).  He’s been inspired by Tony Robbins and has assured me that Tony Robbins is the real thing.  I’ve resisted his assurances, given what I thought I already knew.  Yet, out of curiosity and loyalty, I decided to give Tony Robbins a second look.

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This blog is intended to be a collection of observations, intuitions and rational reflections related to a larger project.  For now I’m calling that project “SPIRITUAL AUTONOMY: FOR AND AGAINST EVANGELICALISM.”  It’s wider-ranging than the name may suggest — though on second thought, maybe not, since most important topics these days, at least in the humanities and social sciences, are considered inter-disciplinary; and even the hard sciences seem not as “hard” as they used to be.Read More →