That’s the question I tackled in a recent essay at The Philosophers’ Magazine online, prompted by a conversation over coffee with Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at NYU with whom I’ve had a number of disagreements about the intersection of social science, politics, and philosophy.
From time to time I write about the ever delicate, and seemingly never exhausted, issue of race. For instance, this year I published a paper on the famous Morton skulls controversy, co-authored with Jonathan Kaplan and Joshua Banta (a Plato Footnote summary is here). Back in 2013 I co-wrote a paper with my friend Guido Barbujani on races from a biological perspective, and in the same year I published a solo paper on the same topic from the combined point of view of a philosopher and a scientist. Way back in ’03 Jonathan and I wrote a piece for Philosophy of Science on the applicability to humans of the biological concept of race.
Dan Kaufman (see his webzine, the Electric Agora) and I had another of our conversations over at MeaningofLife.tv, this time centering on Dan’s recently articulated skepticism about ongoing defenses of the concept of a liberal arts education in college. Here is his original article, provocatively entitled “On Some Common Rationales for Liberal Education (and why they aren’t very good).”
I have been writing an unofficial mini-series on “false dichotomies” (i.e., informal logical fallacies where one is being forced to choose between two extreme options, while in reality there are more nuanced positions available) for The Philosophers’ Magazine.
The third (and, for now, at the least) last installment just came out. It deals with the nature-nurture issue, one that I’ve covered a number of times in the past (see, for instance, here; I’ve also written a book about it).
In case you missed them, I have recently published two articles in a mini, entirely informal and unofficial, series on “false dichotomies,” i.e. on the habit that sometimes people have of oversimplifying discourse and reduce a complex issue to an either/or minimum common denominator.
The idea isn’t to present readers with the standard treatment of so-called “informal” fallacies (which I think are actually quite problematic), but rather to discuss real life issues that matter to people, attempting to go a little beyond the “you are either with us or against us” mentality.