Peter Boghossian

American philosophy professor and author

Peter Gregory Boghossian (born July 25, 1966) is an American philosophy instructor, activist, author, speaker, and atheism advocate.

Ideas don't deserve dignity.

Quotes edit

  • [About what to do to counter hypocrisy in academia:] The first order of business, if a stream is being polluted, you have to stop the pollution at the source. The wrong way to think about it is 'Let's clean up the stream.' The right way to think about it is 'Let's stop polluting the stream.' You have to stop donating to your alma mater. First order of business. [...] This should be the easiest ask on planet Earth. [...] Give it to anybody, but don't give it to university. Because when you give it to your university, you're supporting an indoctrination mill, you're supporting an institution whose very values are antithetical to Western liberal democracy, so you have to stop.
  • [About homelessness:] Some people on the far left don't want that problem solved because they look at the manifestation of homelessness as indicative of a problem with the system. And as long as we can keep homelessness there, we can see that the system is corrupt and then we can incentivize people to rip down the system because we want social justice. [...] We want to remediate these larger economic problems that we know the source of these are the capitalist structure.
  • I'm worried about 33 trillion in debt. [...] I'm worried about the fact that one third of the taxes collected last year went to pay the interest on the debt. I'm worried that nobody really gives a hoot about it. I'm worried about the national divorce talk. I'm worried about wide-scale ideological capture of our institutions, particularly legacy media and legacy institutions. I'm worried about the geopolitical situation. [...] I'm worried about the Israeli Palestinian problem [...]. I'm worried about Chinese militarization of Taiwan, the semiconductor industry. I'm not worried about rogue [artificial intelligence] [...], but I'm worried that we have lost an understanding of what makes America great. [...] I'm worried that we have forgotten why freedom matters, why it's important, that's what I'm worried about. And unless we start to care about those things then we can't reconstruct reason; we can't reconstruct a civil society.

A Manual for Creating Atheists (2013) edit

  • Faith taints or at worst removes our curiosity about the world, what we should value, and what type of life we should lead. [...] Faith immutably alters the starting conditions for inquiry by uprooting a hunger to know and sowing a warrantless confidence.
  • Inquiry and wonder must replace dogmatism and certainty. The long-term goal is to create conditions that turn the dispositions of inquiring and wondering into culturally trumpeted values.
  • The thrust of our message must be that there are things we don't know and it's okay not to know— even in death. Not claiming to know something you don't know isn't a character flaw, it is a virtue.
  • To argue that people need faith is to abandon hope, and to condescend and accuse the faithful of being incapable of understanding the importance of reason and rationality. There are better and worse ways to come to terms with death, to find strength during times of crisis, to make meaning and purpose in our lives, to interpret our sense of awe and wonder, and to contribute to human well-being— and the faithful are completely capable of understanding and achieving this.
  • A criticism of an idea is not the same as a criticism of a person. [...] Ideas don't deserve dignity; people deserve dignity.
  • Give faith-based justifications no countenance. [...] Let the utterer know that faith is not an acceptable basis from which to draw a conclusion that can be relied upon.
  • Don't complain, apologize, or mumble in the defense of reason. [...] Tell people exactly what you think and why you think it.

How to Have Impossible Conversations (2019) edit

with coauthor James Lindsay

  • Most basic elements of civil discussion, especially over matters of substantive disagreement, come down to a single theme: making the other person in a conversation a partner, not an adversary. To accomplish this, you need to understand what you want from the conversation, make charitable assumptions about others' intentions, listen, and seek back-and-forth interaction (as opposed to delivering a message).
  • Know when to walk away, even when the conversation is going well. Putting pressure on your partner to continue a discussion beyond their comfort level shuts down listening, encourages defensiveness, and turns the conversation into a frustrated rehearsal of why one of you is correct and the other dense.
  • What it means to hold a belief based on evidence is, by definition, that one is open to the possibility that evidence might be discovered that would change one's mind. If no evidence would change one's mind, then one is not forming one's beliefs on the basis of evidence.
  • The most difficult thing to accept for people who work hard at forming their beliefs on the basis of evidence is that not everyone forms their beliefs in that way. [...] Many people believe what and how they do precisely because they do not formulate their beliefs on the basis of evidence-- not because they're lacking evidence.
  • Here's a heresy: "How do you know that?" is a powerful question for helping people think, but it's not the best question. The best question is, "How could that belief be wrong?"
  • When your conversation partner is getting angry, the single best thing you can do in most circumstances is to stop whatever else you're doing and listen. It's very difficult to remain angry with someone who is patiently and earnestly listening, and if you break the cycle of frustrating dialogue early by switching to listening and learning, you can halt a great deal of your partner's mounting anger before it starts.
  • Seemingly impossible conversations typically have one thing in common: they're about moral beliefs rooted in one's sense of identity, but they play out on the level of facts (or assertions, name-calling, grandstanding, threats, etc.). [...] The most difficult conversations, then, masquerade as discussions about something other than morality, but they are actually about what qualities, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors individuals believe make them good people or bad people and why it is important to hold the right views among those.

Quotes about Boghossian edit

  • Peter Boghossian's techniques of friendly persuasion are not mine, and maybe I'd be more effective if they were. They are undoubtedly very persuasive — and very much needed.
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