Philosophy and meta-theory

  • Philosophy and meta-theory

    On Putin’s war, rationality, and the power of worldviews

    Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine came as a shock to most of the world. It is so blatantly unreasonable and reprehensible that some commentators have questioned Putin’s mental health and capacity for rational action. The debates about Putin’s rationality are, however, muddled by a lack of clarity about what we mean by ‘rationality’. Two types of irrationality There are two senses in which Putin clearly is irrational. First, the beliefs that motivated his invasion were not produced by a rational consideration of evidence and arguments, nor can they be rationally justified. He appears to have developed an increasingly warped and extreme view of things, including myths, propaganda, and “alternative facts”…

  • Philosophy and meta-theory

    Is there a generalizability crisis in psychological science?

    Tal Yarkoni recently published an article arguing that psychological science suffers from a generalizability crisis. Although this article has caused quite a stir in the field (and quite a bit of confusion), the issue Yarkoni discusses is by no means new. It has been known by methodologists for at least a couple of decades. It is also intimately connected to the problems that led to the demise of positivism and falsificationism in the philosophy of science. But Yarkoni has provided a new statistical formulation of this problem and brought it to the attention of mainstream researchers in psychology. I discuss the basic methodological issue, divorced from the statistical formulation, below.…

  • Philosophy and meta-theory

    What is science anyway? On trust in science, critical thinking, and the Swedish covid response

    Trust in science is a central pillar of modern democracies. Reliance on the expertise of scientific authorities is a powerful heuristic, because it impossible for one person to be an expert on everything. This heuristic works best if we trust the scientists who are the leading researchers on the topic of interest. Nevertheless, trust in science should never be unconditional. The notion of the scientist as an unassailable authority is antithetical to the very idea of science. Science is the best tool we have for understanding our world, but individual scientists are not flawless arbiters of the truth—they are often wrong and sometimes irrational (e.g., subject to groupthink, emotional conviction,…

  • Philosophy and meta-theory

    Meta-theoretical myths in psychological science

    There is a lot of talk of “meta science” in psychology these days. Meta science is essentially the scientific study of science itself—or, in other words, what has more traditionally been called “science studies”. The realization that psychological science (at least as indexed by articles published in high-prestige journals) is littered with questionable research practices, false positive results, and poorly justified conclusions has undoubtedly sparked an upsurge in this area. The meta-scientific revolution in psychology is extremely sorely needed. It is, however, really a meta-methodological revolution so far. It has done little to rectify the lack of rigorous meta-theoretical work in psychology, which dates back all the way to the…

  • Philosophy and meta-theory

    Psychology is still WEIRD

    Psychological science is fraught with problems. One of these problems that has recently attracted widespread attention is the proliferation of false positives, which is rooted in a combination of QRPs (questionable research practices), including “p-hacking” (choosing analytical options on the basis of whether they render significant results) and “HARKing” (hypothesizing after the results are known), and very low statistical power (i.e., too few participants). Overall, psychology has responded vigorously to this problem, although much remains to be done. Numerous reforms have been put in place to encourage open science practices and quality in research. Another problem that has become widely recognized recently is that psychological research often makes inferences about…

  • Philosophy and meta-theory

    The “happiness pie”, genetic and environmental determinism, and free will

    Nick Brown and Julia Rohrer recently posted a new preprint titled Re-slicing the ”Happiness Pie: A Re-examination of the Determinants of Well-being that comments on an influential paper by Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, and Schkade (2005) on the determinants of well-being. Nick Brown is the amateur who debunked the mathematics of happiness (together with the legendary Alain Sokal of the “Sokal hoax”). He has made a name for himself exposing shoddy work in positive psychology. This is another addition to this genre. What is particularly mind-blowing with this one is not just the sheer lack of intellectual sophistication of the criticized paper, but the fact that it has produced a whopping 3000…