From the Archive

Pseudoscience and pseudo-philosophy

Here are some examples of really, really bad science and philosophy

Philosophy as a Way of Life
6 min readAug 19, 2022

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My Philosophy as Way of Life (PWOL) series of essays has now being going on since July 2018, and has produced 403 articles and counting. Naturally, people have a tendency to focus on the latest entries, but — if I may be forgiven for saying so — some of the early ones are worth reading as well. Which is why I am proposing this occasional series meant to highlight early PWOL entries grouped by interesting themes.

Today we are going to revisit some essays on what philosophers refer to as the demarcation problem: how do we distinguish between science and pseudoscience? And, I might add, how do we, analogously, separate philosophy from pseudophilosophy? I have written a couple of books on this that you may want to check out. The term “pseudo” is, of course, pejorative, so some people may object to the entire enterprise. But I think it’s pretty fair to say, for instance, that fundamental physics clearly is science while astrology, for example, just as clearly is pseudoscience. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t intermediate, more complex cases that may require in-depth discussion. Take a look at this sampler and see what you think. (Follow the links for the full text.)

1. How to make up philosophical problems and then “solve” them: I am not a big fan of Ludwig Wittgenstein. But I have to admit that he had a couple of good points. One was that a lot of philosophical problems (he said all, he was mistaken there) are a matter of unclear or ambiguous language. If we write clearly (which he certainly didn’t!), then we can “show the fly the way out of the fly-bottle,” that is, dissolve, rather than solve, such problems (Philosophical Investigations, 309). One of my favorite examples of artificially constructed fly-bottle comes from philosophy of mind, in the form of the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness. The problem was invented by David Chalmers, who has since made a career out of it. (Before you ask, no I don’t think for a moment that Chalmers is in bad faith. I just think he’s mistaken.) …

2. The universe simulates itself into existence, and other nonsense from modern pseudo-physics: Physicists seem to be on a roll these days…

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Philosophy as a Way of Life

by Massimo Pigliucci. Practical philosophy, science, pseudoscience & good reasoning. Complete index of articles at https://massimopigliucci.org/essays/