Advanced Philosophy

Why reason, autonomy, and creativity aren’t for everyone.

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Individualism is a multifaceted nineteenth-century ideology that’s still influential today in its various guises. This ideology has roots in the conditions of the countries that gave rise to it.

Thus, individualism, as it’s come down to us, encompasses the anarchic fallout of the French Revolution; German romanticism and the cult of the individual genius; British nonconformity and economic liberalism; and American pragmatism, egoism, and social Darwinism.

We in the twenty-first century assume we have special, human rights, not because of our humanity in the strict, biological sense but because our species is made up of people rather than animals. In…


How Christian apologetics arises and why it always fails

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There’s a curious kind of evangelistic theist who boasts about the rationality of his or her religious beliefs.

Take, for example, Cameron Bertuzzi, author of the Capturing Christianity website and YouTube channel. The website’s headline is “Exposing the intellectual side of Christian belief.” Likewise, in the description of his “About” video, “Welcome to Capturing Christianity,” he says his channel is “unique” in taking “critical thinking very seriously.”

Sure enough, in his articles and videos, Bertuzzi responds to objections to Christianity, offers philosophical and theological explanations and proofs of God and of the finer points of his creed, hosts debates, and…


Faithfulness and the animistic roots of religious faith

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The essence of religious faith is often obscured in popular discussions by the propaganda from nonbelievers and believers. Nonbelievers equate faith with gullibility and say faith is foolish belief held without sufficient supporting evidence. Believers say faith is emotional proof of a personal relationship with God.

Rediscovering the protoreligious roots of faith, though, may illuminate the situation.

Faithfulness, Covenants, and Animism

“Faith” means trust or confidence, from “fides,” which is a root of “confide” and “fidelity.” “Fidelity” means loyalty or the strict observance of promises and duties. That sense of faith shows up in the word “faithfulness,” which is largely synonymous with “fidelity.”

In…


The pseudo philosophy in Paul’s Letter to the Romans

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For a religion that’s supposed to have Jesus at its center, we might be surprised by the extent to which Christianity has been distinguished throughout its centuries by its insufferableness. Perhaps all organizations that fall short of their ideals can be accused of being hypocritical or fraudulent, assuming the critic is being uncharitable. But the churches’ failures and betrayals of the elements of spirituality are epic because Christianity has been simultaneously the world’s leader in evangelism.

Christianity has preconceptions like all other institutions, but no other culture has been as zealous or as longstanding in aiming to convert the planet…


Well, I've written the first draft of an article on game theory's model of morality.

Your distinction between game theory and moral philosophy is certainly charitable to philosophy, but I suspect that game theory's approach casts all the moral theories in a liberal light, as it were, since answers to moral questions become so many searches for social conventions and compromises. One way or another, if game theory says anything worth saying, it deflates morality.

Your take on what game theory says about morality, as distinct from what philosophy says, comes perilously close to making game theory's model trivial. Maybe…


Roger Scruton and the oxymoron of “conservative thought”

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In a conversation with Douglas Murray for The Spectator, the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton talks about the futility of defining “conservatism” and of making conservative thought intellectually respectable, because, he says (at the video’s 3:20 minute mark), “conservatism is more an instinct than an idea.”

This is the instinct we all share, he says, “to hold on to what we love, to protect it from degradation and violence, and to build our lives around it.” As to what we all love, Scruton says, it’s varied since it depends on the country. …


The power and politicization of religious fiction

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Perhaps nothing is as powerful — which has so little reason for its power over us — as myth.

A religious myth in the strict sense is just a story, one regarded as sacred for featuring gods and heroes as its main characters. Myths spell out the meaning of religious rituals, affirm a people’s ethos, and provide answers to the foundational questions we may have no business asking.

But again, a myth is just a story. How, then, can we be so swayed by stories, that we’re prepared to kill or to die for them? …


Animism, decadence, and transhuman vision

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When I was a child, some friends and I squeezed the air and joked we were pinching God, because we must have heard from somewhere that God is everywhere. The omnipresent deity must have great stamina, we assumed, to withstand so many creatures crawling around on him for so long, unintentionally slapping him or bumping into him.

Of course, our fallacies, in that case, were plentiful, the most damaging and childish of which was the assumption that God, the ultimate aspect of reality that transcends human comprehension would be alive on Earth, capable of feeling pain.

Life is what happens…


On Amanda Gorman’s “poems” and why prose isn’t poetry.

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Imagine a world in which the ancient art of creative communication known as poetry periodically disappears from pop culture for long stretches of time, only to re-emerge but in a shockingly degraded form. Instead of full-throated poetry, a poor semblance of a poem is paraded for the hoi palloi to revere and to enable them to forget that they’ve evidently lost the plot of adulthood and been systematically infantilized.

Imagine that the audiences celebrate this fake poem before the charm wears off and they veer to the next fad so that poetry returns to its former hibernation. Real poets remain…


Enlightened humility and the audacity of therapy culture

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Most of us want to be told what to do and how to do it.

The answers are all on the internet in byte-sized packets: how to organize your closet, start a business, bake a lasagna, write a novel, paint a picture, tell a joke, go on a diet, survive a zombie apocalypse — it’s all there in black and white, endless step-by-step instructions.

If one recipe fails you, try the next. You need never live with doubt or failure. …

Benjamin Cain

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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