Saturday, January 28, 2017

Resistance to Trump?

I’d like to say something about the recent explosion of discussion about Trump because I see quite a bit of intolerance, conceit, and hypocrisy. I’ve always thought that Trump is a clown and that his having been elected will have a number of negative effects not only in the US but worldwide. I have a strong aversion to populist leaders in general: e.g., the Castro brothers in Cuba, Chávez and Maduro in Venezuela, the Kirchner couple in Argentina, Putin in Russia, and now Trump in the US. This said, I have serious reservations about certain reactions I’ve seen since he was elected. In particular, I’m surprised by the fact that so many people (including quite a few serious scholars) are calling for “resistance” to Trump. The first thing that came to mind when I first read that word in this context was that one resists a de facto government or an invading army, whereas Trump was elected according to the US election laws. It is true that the US election system strike many of us as absurd, given that Clinton got almost three million more votes than Trump, but that’s the American election system and Obama won twice with that very same system. Millions of people voted for Trump and, if one respects the rules, it seems that one should accept or tolerate their choice—unless one thinks they’re all brainless monkeys incapable of making reasoned decisions. Now, if those calling for resistance think that Russia interfered in the presidential election, then I suppose they should have recourse to, e.g., the Supreme Court. (I set aside here the fact that the US did the same a few times, e.g., in several Latin American countries.) Also, there are laws, there are judges, and there’s the Congress: if they function as they should, then Trump won’t be able to do whatever he wants. I also remember him saying that he wasn’t sure whether he’d accept the election results, which struck me as inadmissible and dangerous. I think that many of those who didn’t vote for him don’t want to accept the election results, which strikes me as equally inadmissible and dangerous. Someone might reply by saying that resistance is a normal part of a well-functioning democracy. It is true that democracy consists not only in voting, but also in active engagement and protest, and anyone is free to “oppose” Trump or to be part of “the opposition.” One is of course entitled to oppose certain policies if one doesn’t agree with them or find them threatening. But I also think that the very use of the term “resistance” in this context isn’t innocent at all because it has a very clear connotation. Am I the one changing the meaning of that word in this political context? I don’t think so. That the word is used with the sense it has when talking about the justified reaction to a de facto government or an invading army seems to be confirmed by the fact that many of those who are calling for resistance think or imply that Trump isn’t a legitimate president, for various reasons: they believe that the election wasn’t fair, or that he won thanks to Russia, or that the Russians have him in their pocket because of the kinky things that happened at a hotel, etc. etc. If he is an illegitimate president, then people must resist him. This may also explain why the official Twitter accounts of a few governmental agencies were used to express opposition to Trump, which seems inadmissible: voice your disagreement using your own personal account, not that of the governmental agency at which your work. I also reckon that many of those who are calling for resistance now would have been offended if people had called for resistance to Obama when he was first elected: many thought (and still think) that he was a terrible president. I mention this because I take the epistemic and practical challenges posed by (political) disagreement seriously, and because it appears to me that certain kinds of disputes are basic or fundamental disagreements that cannot be resolved in a non-circular way. There are millions of people who voted for Trump and support him, and some of the reasons they adduce make perfect sense. Of course, someone might complain that they voted for him despite, e.g., his misogynist and racist discourse. I agree, but this reminds me of all those left-wing American artists and scholars who sympathized with Chávez or Castro despite the corruption, the political persecution, the anti-democratic policies, the executions, or the people fleeing Cuba and drowning in the ocean.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Colloquium on Debunking Arguments and Moral Disagreement

There is a call for registration for the colloquium “Evolution, Ethics, Debunking, and Moral Disagreement: to what extent are facts about moral disagreement relevant to evolutionary debunking arguments in metaethics?”. This event will take place at Utrecht University (The Netherlands) on April 7th, 2017. There are limited places available, the deadline for registration being March 6th. Complete information about the colloquium can be found on this website, which is also where you have to fill in the registration form. For inquiries, contact Michael Klenk at

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sanches, Descartes, and Skepticism

To the best of my knowledge, there's not much written about Francisco Sanches's skepticism. So the following paper by Gianni Paganini is a welcome addition to the literature: “Sanches et Descartes. Subjectivité et connaissance réflexive au temps des sceptiques,” Bulletin de la Société internationale des amis de Montaigne 64 (2016): 173-185.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

On Sextus on Ethics, Politics, and Music

Two very recent papers on Sextus Empiricus by Emidio Spinelli (Roma):

- “Stoic Utopia Reconsidered: Pyrrhonism, Ethics, and Politics.” In C. Arruzza & D. Nikulin (eds.), Philosophy and Political Power in Antiquity. Brill: Leiden, 2016.

- “Are Flute-Players Better than Philosophers? Sextus Empiricus on Music, against Pythagoras.” In A.-B. Renger & A. Stavru (eds.), Pythagorean Knowledge From the Ancient to the Modern World: Askesis, Religion, Science. Harrassowitz Verlag: Wiesbaden, 2016.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Festschrift for Carlos Lévy

At the very end of 2016, Brepols published Vérité et apparence: Mélanges en l’honneur de Carlos Lévy offerts par ses amis et ses disciples, edited by P. Galand and E. Malaspina. This big book of 44 chapters includes four papers on skepticism by Emidio Spinelli, Brigitte Pérez-Jean, Thomas Bénatouïl, and Laurence Boulègue. For complete information about the volume, go here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Disagreement-Based Skepticism

In case this is of interest to you, my contribution to the symposium on Jonathan Matheson's The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement (Palgrave, 2015) has now been published in Syndicate Philosophy, a recently launched journal devoted to book symposia. Together with my critical essay -- in which I focus on the connection between disagreement and skepticism -- you can find Matheson's reply and Scott Aikin's general introduction to the symposium. In the upcoming weeks, the critical essays by Amber Carlson, Chad Boghosian, and Nathan Ballantyne will be published together with the respective responses by Matheson. You can access the symposium here. The aim of Syndicate Philosophy is to start conversations about the book, the critical essays, and the author's responses, so if you're interested, you can participate by posting comments.