Latest Issue

Species of speciousness 1: false dichotomy

By Tom Chatfield  

“Philosophy,” Ludwig Wittgenstein once observed, “is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” It is a battle, he might have added, that we are both unsure we can win and unsure we want to win. To call something “specious” is to say it has a false look of truth – from the Latin speciosus, meaning beautiful. It is, in a way, a complement. As poets and tyrants have long known, beauty has a way of making things look true; while there is in all of us the suspicion that it may matter more to…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect