Friday, August 28, 2015

The comedy keeps coming

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but while we’re on the subject of humor, here’s another mistake that is often made in discussions of it: failing to identify precisely which aspect of the phenomenon of humor a theory is (or is best interpreted as) trying to explain.  For instance, this is sometimes manifest in lists of the various “theories of humor” put forward by philosophers over the centuries.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dragging the net

My recent Claremont Review of Books review of Scruton’s Soul of the World and Wilson’s The Meaning of Human Existence is now available for free online.

Should we expect a sound proof to convince everyone?  Michael Augros investigates at Strange Notions (in an excerpt from his new book Who Designed the Designer? A Rediscovered Path to God's Existence).

Intrigue!  Conspiracy!  Comic books!  First, where did the idea for Spider-Man really come from?  The New York Post reports on a Brooklyn costume shop and an alleged “billion dollar cover up.”

Then, according to Variety, a new documentary reveals the untold story behind Roger Corman’s notorious never-released Fantastic Four movie.  (I’ve seen the new one.  It’s only almost as bad as you’ve heard.)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Is it funny because it’s true?

In a recent article in National Review, Ian Tuttle tells us that “standup comedy is colliding with progressivism.”  He notes that comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Gilbert Gottfried have complained of a new political correctness they perceive in college audiences and in comedy clubs, and he cites feminists and others who routinely protest against allegedly “sexist,” “racist,” and/or “homophobic” jokes told by prominent comedians like Louis C. K.  In Tuttle’s view, the “pious aspirations” of left-wing “moral busybodies” have led them to “[object] to humor that does not bolster their ideology” and “to conflate what is funny with what is acceptable to laugh at.”

Religion and the Social Sciences

Check out the recently published Religion and the Social Sciences: Conversations with Robert Bellah and Christian Smith, edited by R. R. Reno and Barbara McClay.  The volume is a collection of essays presented at two conferences hosted by First Things on the work of Bellah and Smith.  (My essay “Natural Theology, Revealed Theology, Liberal Theology” is included.)  The publisher’s website for the book can be found here. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Marriage inflation

When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody.

W. S. Gilbert, The Gondoliers

Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion

If you printed a lot of extra money and passed it around so as to make everyone wealthier, the end result would merely be dramatically to decrease the buying power of money.  If you make it easier for college students to get an “A” grade in their courses, the end result will be that “A” grades will come to be regarded as a much less reliable indicator of a student’s true merit.  If you give prizes to everyone who participates in a competition, winning a prize will cease to be a big deal.  In general, where X is perceived to have greater value than Y and you try to raise the value of Y by assimilating it to X, the actual result will instead be simply to lower the value of X to that of Y.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Unintuitive metaphysics

At Aeon, philosopher Elijah Millgram comments on metaphysics and the contemporary analytic philosopher’s penchant for appealing to intuitions.  Give it a read -- it‘s very short.  Millgram uses an anecdote to illustrate the point that what intuitively seems to be an objective fact can sometimes reflect merely contingent “policies we’ve adopted,” where “the sense of indelible rightness and wrongness comes from having gotten so very used to those policies.”  And of course, such policies can be bad ones.  Hence the dubiousness of grounding metaphysical arguments in intuition.