We are all united in the belief that we live in a divided country. A bit ironic. The fact that the phrase “the country is divided” is repeated everywhere ad nauseum is evidence that we yearn for some common ground. But acknowledging divisions does not get us anywhere. Given the importance of the issues, we… Continue reading How to Talk to Trump Supporters
It is an axiom among intellectuals that America is an anti-intellectual culture. And among the so-called anti-intellectuals, the idea is part and parcel of the ‘coastal elitism’ or “cosmopolitan bias” that, as another axiom goes, so many people despise. We never think hard about whether it is in fact true that American culture is anti-intellectual.… Continue reading What Philosophy Owes Society II: Anti-intellectualism
How should philosophers live in the political world (also known simply as the world)? In many respects, this question explicitly animates the Vim. The question is implicit in everything philosophers, as philosophers, do. So let’s do what philosophers do: make what is implicit explicit. I mean this in two ways. First, I want to prompt… Continue reading What Philosophy Owes Society I
A version of this article first appeared on Quartz. In her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism, in the section on propaganda, Hannah Arendt discusses a concept she calls “infallible prediction”: The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility; he can never admit an error. The assumption of infallibility, moreover, is based… Continue reading Do We Want Our Predictions to Fail?
Pundits have developed a repertoire of cliches surrounding Trump voters, in large part motivated by the desire not to stereotype them as racist ignorant hicks. Before recoiling from such weighty generalizations, it is worth noting how terms like ‘racist’ and ‘ignorant’ work. Two people can hold many diverging views and yet both be accurately described… Continue reading The Myth of “Economic Anxiety”
A version of this article first appeared on Quartz The people Donald Trump has in mind as ‘true Americans’ are suffering from a collective normalcy bias. We are constantly told to keep faith in the decency of the American people (at least a sufficiently large number of them) while simultaneously we ponder how we, citizens… Continue reading A New Report on the Banality of Evil
In these unprecedented times a variety of weighty and scary political science terms are swirling around the internet: totalitarianism, authoritarianism, autocracy, despotism, tyranny, and fascism. Only recently has it become important for everyone to know what they mean. What exactly is an autocracy? And what is the difference between totalitarianism and authoritarianism? Or between despotism… Continue reading A Political Science Primer for Understanding Bad Types of Government