William James on certainty

From The Will to Believe in 1896: Objective evidence and certitude are doubtless very fine ideals to play with, but where on this moonlit and dream-visited planet are they found? I am, therefore, myself a complete empiricist so far as my theory of human knowledge goes. I live, to be sure, by the practical faith …

David Leonhardt on logic

On the Josh Barro Very Serious podcast, all about making use of expert knowledge, here’s David Leonhardt of the New York Times: Don’t go to the nihilist place of ‘Well, there’s no such thing as a fact’, right? And ‘We can all pick our experts on climate change.’ And ‘Maybe it’s happening or maybe it’s …

Sociology, history, and epistemology

More than 50 years ago, Quine suggested that epistemology must be “naturalized.” Here is Kwame Anthony Appiah explaining this idea in his book Thinking It Through: To claim that a belief is justified is not just to say when it will be believed but also to say when it ought to be believed. And we …

A short definition of power

From Power for All, by Julie Battilana and Tiziana Casciaro: There are two common threads across these definitions [of power across the social sciences]. The first is that the authors view power as the ability of a person or a group of people to produce an effect on others–that is, to influence their behaviors. This …

Governance, growth, and equity

When I studied environmental issues, I was taught three lenses through which to understand them: The neo-Malthusians emphasized resource scarcity, natural limits, and scientific management. Most conservationists and environmental scientists fit this perspective. The Cornucopians emphasized markets, technology, and humanity’s ability to invent its way out of shortages. Their ranks include lots of economists and …