"I prefer honest argumentation to dishonest rhetoric." Do I mean that rhetoric is essentially dishonest, or am I talking about the kind of rhetoric that's dishonest? That's a cat coupling. Read more (7 min, 1800 words).
If we want to sound friendly and appealing when presenting thoughts about human behavior we should avoid analytical, distancing language. But what if the value of an analytical and distancing perspective is part of what you want to communicate? Read more (11 min, 3500 words).
I wrote a spontaneous piece on the tensions between cultural/intellectual accessibility and ambition that under later scrutiny wasn't quite up to snuff. Instead of publishing something sub par or discard it I used it as a jumping off point for discussing the nature of creative work, writing and thinking in general. Read more (13 min, 4200 words).
I use pretty pictures to illustrate how we can use many partially overlapping belief systems to get a better image of reality than any one model can offer. Read more (4 min, 1100 words).
I pick up the "hit" concept "decoupling" from my article about Sam Harris and Ezra Klein and develop it further. There are five different ways to describe it, four categories of disagreement that builds on it, three factors that determine whether someone does it or not in a given case, two ways to handle dangerours ideas, and one new ideology needed to save political egalitarianism when the importance of biology becomes undeniable. Read more (22 min, 5500 words).
How a book about two late 20th century artists convinced me that they are the greatest in history. Read more (11 min, 2700 words).
"The Elephant in the Brain" had an interesting effect on me, which made me think up a typology of ways reading can change the structure of your mind. Read more (10 min, 2500 words).
If all claims are mixtures of "is" and "ought", what does it mean to "believe" them? In practice it comes to mean endorsing models, while emphasizing the "is" aspect (and downplaying the "ought") for rhetorical purposes. Unfortunately this ruins the word for neutral, non-rhetorical use. Read more (8 min, 1900 words).
Our words' relationship to reality is far more complicated than we realize. Thus, when we say things we think we state facts but we also endorse certain uses of words. That has consequences, which causes public discourse to become a war zone where we fight for control over our common pool of mental and social equipment. Read more (13 min, 3300 words).
In response to an article by Kevin Simler I complain about how often people mistake "selfishness" in an evolutionary sense for selfishness in the normal sense. Read more (12 min, 2900 words).