Much of what we hear, and which sets the terms for the debates that matter to us, comes from a few select voices. News channels, opinion columnists, prolific and well-followed social media commentators — these are the voices which dominate.

There’s an obvious problem with this: the loudest voices, plausibly, aren’t the best voices. Few would disagree, for example, that Fox News is on balance an epistemically bad phenomenon — it lowers the quality of discourse by lying in Racist. Its voice is heard, not because of the quality of its views, but because of the wealth of its owner…


Here’s an indecent proposal for you. (Imagine) you live in a fairly decent but expensive place, and you work a white-colour job (broadly construed: one you can do online). Rent eats up n% of your rent, for some big n: if you’re in Dublin, say, you might be paying 66% for a shithole.

Someone makes an offer. They’ll pay you a day of your rent, and 50% again, if you vacate your apartment. You don’t have to worry about staying elsewhere: they’ll take you to a warehouse on the edge of town, plug you into a walking-desk-cum-sofa-cum-bed (apologies for all…


People today are interested in ideology. What exactly ideology means is a bit unclear, but I’ll understand it as a set of background beliefs imposed upon us (not necessarily arrived at ourselves), debatable, and action- and belief- shaping.

Imposed upon us: they’re not things that we reason to (the way I reasoned to the contents of this blog, for example) but are instead things given to us by our social and political position. We might say they are presupposed of us: we’re assumed to instantiate a given ideology, and to reject this we have to come out and explicitly say…


According to his wife, John von Neumann, talking about his work on the atom bomb, said:

What we are creating now is a monster whose influence is going to change history, provided there is any history left, yet it would be impossible not to see it through, not only for the military reasons, but it would also be unethical from the point of view of the scientists not to do what they know is feasible, no matter what terrible consequences it may have (quoted in Dyson, Turing’s Cathedral, p62)

Richard Feynman reports a conversation with von Neumann from around the…


Philosophy is concerned with the big questions. Do humans have free will? What are numbers? How does thought connect to reality? Can grounding help modal process reliabilism capture JTB’’** analyses of knowledge?

I made that one up, although it’s more likely to be form of the sort of question you’re likely to see if you read contemporary journals. You might wonder, though, what people working in contemporary academia, with its often hyperspecialized concerns and impenetrable argot, think about the foundational questions of their discipline.

(This isn’t limited to philosophy: you might want to know whether a literature student who did…


What’s the point of conversation? I don’t pose this in a misanthropic, #introvertproblems sort of way, but as a question that’s been of interest to philosophers and linguists of all sorts for a decent amount of time. Here, I want to explore one famous framework for thinking about it, present a problem for that framework, and suggest a solution. The hope in so doing is that — in addition to being of intrinsic interest — if we can understand how conversation works, then we can understand why and when conversation fails to work, a goal that should seem pretty obviously…


A neat family of arguments that are quite popular at the moment are debunking arguments (I talked about them a couple of posts ago and references are there). A debunking argument takes beliefs we assume to be justified and shows how they are in fact the products of non-truth-tracking factors. The debunker thus might take our belief that altruism is good and show how evolutionary forces made altruistic people fitter and more likely to reproduce. The cause of our belief, then, would not be the some part of moral reality imprinting that truth on our brains; it would instead be…


TLDR: A lot of philosophy aims, by looking at how we represent the world, to say things about the world. Analytic philosophy is a species of philosophy in part defined historically by its being a reaction to Hegel. I show that the work of Dostoyevsky has a similar aim, and responds to the same historical situation, and thus there’s cause for taking him to be (like) an analytic philosopher.

Analytic philosophy is a vague term to describe a movement in philosophy, often dated to turn of the 20th century Cambridge, and figures like Russell, Moore, and Wittgenstein. One core feature…


A range of interesting arguments in philosophy are debunking arguments. Such arguments attempt to cause us to question our faith in what we believe or take ourselves to know by pointing out that our beliefs are the outcomes of processes that might not be truth-tracking. A paradigm such argument might, for example, point to a cherished moral belief of ours, which we take to be foundational, and suggest that its compellingness for us can only be the result of the fact that thinking in that way helped out ancestors navigate their environment. …


Here’s a puzzle. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is a disgusting dark body-comedy, covering — and this is non-exhaustive — sexual abuse, murder, drug addiction, serious injury, disease and much more. Little Britain is a British kinda disgusting body (kinda) comedy, which sought to make humour from disabled, poor, and gay people. Both featured white actors in black face; both started airing within two years of each other in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s.

Yet there’s a difference. Little Britain has been cancelled, both literally and in the sense that so many overpaid newspaper columnists and…

Matthew McKeever

Novella "Coming From Nothing" at @zer0books (bitly.com/cfnextract). Academic philosophy at: http://mipmckeever.weebly.com/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store