Site-Wide Activity

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 7 months ago

    The Moral Psychology of Self-righteousnessMost people want to think of themselves as good people. When we self-identify as good people, any questioning of this is likely […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 7 months, 3 weeks ago

    An Unsung DuetHarry Frankfurt and Christine Korsgaard have become two of my favorite philosophers over the past few years. I’m finally feel […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    I’ve been thinking and talking lots about TILTing Gen Ed. This idea might call for some elaboration. Our default is to think of TILTing assignments. We do this when we are explicit and transparent about the […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year ago

    Early in my career, when I still got to teach logic and critical thinking on a regular basis, I was shocked to discover how many students entering college didn’t really understand how the truth-functional […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 1 month ago

    I have no ideas. I grasp a good many ideas. I’m acquainted with even more. Some ideas I understand pretty well. But none of them belong to me. Not even any I might have been lucky enough to entertain before […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 1 month ago


  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 2 months ago

    This charge is being leveled at higher education frequently. The idea that colleges are in the business of indoctrination is a standard trope in attacks on higher education. Foes of education aren’t just […]

    • Is education indoctrination? No, but not for the reasons I wish. I wish I could say it’s not because education is motivated by something like truth and supported by hard evidence. These remain the typical rebuttals—and good ones at that—to accusations that entire education system is nothing but a left-wing pyramid scheme or whatever it is they say on Fox. The real question is more complicated, I think. As you point out, Russ, most students have already self-selected by the time they get to us, irrespective of their critical thinking skills, and so there is little opportunity for actual indoctrination, even if such an aim were part of the agenda. I believe in the ability of logic and reason to save us, but at the same time I understand that critical thinking enters this drama late. Beliefs. Feelings. Emotions. These always beat reason to the punch. And I think that’s mostly fine. Maybe I trust in millions of years of evolution, that our minds evolved to process perplexing environments in this way. Perhaps add this to the pile of uncomfortable truths our higher education system has to offer. Here’s another uncomfortable truth: higher education IS a form of indoctrination. Of course it is! The root of the word simply means “to be taught.” What we are really fighting against is the irradiation of that term by those who wish to preserve current power structures and have zero tolerance for inconvenient realities. Ironic that this mentality comes from a side of the political divide that openly advocates for certain types of fundamentalism which are much more obvious examples of indoctrination, but that is another conversation.

    • Hi Dan,

      I’d hope people aren’t as stubborn as you suggest in worrying that beliefs, feelings and emotions always beat reasoning to the punch. You are right in pointing out that beliefs are often not the product of reasoning, but neither are they static or immune to the influence for better or worse. Emotions and feelings aren’t independent either. What I feel has a great deal to do with what I think I have reason to believe.

      In a certain sense I suspect all our mental categories, beliefs, desires, emotions, etc. are artificial. They are helpful theoretical constructs for making sense out of processes that are much more organic. And for the critical thinker, these and assorted other concepts contribute to effective ways of self-regulating our thinking. Critical thinking affords a kind of self-control that frees us from impulsive reactivity on our own part and the manipulative interference on the part of others. Not entirely, of course. But what effective critical thinking skills do is build a degree of personal autonomy in thought and feeling. And if this sounds overly individualistic, it’s worth noting that this kind autonomy is a good part of what makes us sociable.

      There is plenty of dismaying evidence that suggest people just can’t free themselves of their habits of thought. But then this is just what we should expect to see in a society that hasn’t made any serious effort to instill effective reasonings skills. Meanwhile, the few who have developed good critical thinking skills know from their own experience what it is like to change their own minds in response to good evidence and argument.

      We won’t unwind all the dogmatic stubbornness or narrow-minded bigotry in our society, but if we could just free up a few more minds, things could go much better.

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 2 months ago

    I’m not a cop. I hate having to deal with this issue. But we are seeing AI generated writing turned in by students and this thwarts our efforts as educators trying to help our students learn. So, we’d better have […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 2 months ago

    We use words to express ideas. In principle, we could use any word to mean anything we like. Meaning is usage. If all the English speakers agreed to use the word “cat” to refer to goldfish, goldfish would be what […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 2 months ago

    Shoshana Zuboff on surveillance capitalism | VPRO Documentary – YouTube

    We should think some about free will here. Lots of people suppose that they are exercising free will if they get to make a choice, […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 3 months ago

    Opinion | Iraq Veterans, 20 Years Later: George W. Bush ‘Owes Me a Beer, at the Least’ – The New York Times (

    Twenty years ago, I had students at BC who were signing up to fight in Iraq. A few of […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 4 months ago

    General Education refers to the program of study aimed at instilling the knowledge, skills and abilities that will benefit students as persons, regardless of their career skills. Much of what we teach as General […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 4 months ago

    Imagine a world devoid of conscious experience. Not even at the level of mollusks or moths. This is a world where nothing matters. Nothing has meaning or value. Now let’s admit some mollusks and moths. And l […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 8 months ago

    Hannah Arendt on the Human Condition

    Hannah Arendt would certainly not claim that our politics is dignified. To the contrary, she would be among the voices warning of the current risks to our democracy in its […]

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 9 months ago

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 1 year, 9 months ago

    Early on in the exploration of reasonableness we made a point of acknowledging basic human fallibility. Inquiry is not a linear path from absolute truth to absolute truth. Inquiry is a more typically a meandering […]

    • I wanted to respond to your request for feedback! I enjoyed reading this post and think it’s clear. I mostly wondered if you might want to add examples under the climate and race discussions so as to acknowledge a still broader range of typical objections or questions raised by members of the general public.

      Under climate, for example, we often hear about the problem of despair–the idea that since individual actions, like recycling or eating a more plant-based diet, aren’t likely to make much difference, that there’s little point in any one individual trying to make a difference (unless that individual happens to be a chief executive of one of the large polluting corporations).

      With regard to race, a common argument would be against any movement toward affirmative action or toward reparations–the argument being that it’s “reverse racism” and that it penalizes today’s white people for injustices their ancestors perpetrated. Over the years, of course, conservatives have also argued that affirmative action is unfair to Black people because it appears not to reward merit.

      Are there fallacies that would apply to the above positions?

      • Thanks Cara. There are some good ideas for future posts here. In this last chapter of my Critical Thinking primer I’m mainly out to illustrate a few commonplace fallacies. The climate and race issues you raise here are much broader discussions. But I’ll take a quick pass at these here in comments.

        I think too many people think individual action on climate is pointless for the wrong reasons. People too quickly assume that individual action is pointless if it doesn’t make a difference to solving the global climate problem. Granted, a single individual’s decision to take a European vacation or buy a new gas burning car vanishes into insignificance when it come to global CO2 levels and warming. But it does make a difference concerning the degree to which that individual is contributing to the problem. Personally, this does matter to me. And I’m not worried about praise or blame, signaling virtue or social standing. It’s just a matter of personal autonomy. Preparing a meal out of the garden or running errands by bike instead of car are ways I can exercise my own power over whether I’m going to participate in the destruction of our environment. I think we should feel empowered by making the sustainable choices. At least I feel empowered when I do. I doubt any of us are in a position to make the sustainable choice all the time. But even when we don’t, I think we should grapple with the consequences of our action. Despair is the easy path of dismissing and forsaking what power we have.

        Talk of “reverse racism” is a problem. But it doesn’t illustrate a fallacy, a mistake in reasoning, so much as just misleading rhetoric. Talk of “reverse racism” is a dysphemism, a disparaging term for policies aimed at correcting for the ongoing legacy of racism at a systemic level. Statistically being white still comes with big advantages in terms of getting into good schools, landing good jobs, etc. As long as these structural advantages remain, there is no such thing as reverse racism at the system or structural level. Of course any individual can be prejudiced and any individual can be unfairly treated as a result of prejudice in specific situations. But policy, like affirmative action, is not about specific situations, its about social structures and systems. So we need to be cautious about drawing broad conclusions from anecdotes.

    • Thanks for explaining! Yes, I wasn’t sure if they were fallacies per se.

  • William Payne wrote a new post on the site W. Russ Payne 2 years ago

    Normative claims aim to tell us how things ought to be or what we ought to do. This, as opposed to claims that just aim to describe how things are. Philosophy may be the only discipline that inquires into the […]

  • Mohamed Dawoud wrote a new post on the site Education Blog 2 years, 1 month ago

    A Journey Through Time: My Enchanting Nile River CruiseEmbarking on a Nile River cruise was a journey of a lifetime, one that whisked me away into the heart of ancient civilizations and […]

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