It has been fun

Star Trek-All Good ThingsDear Readers,

I’m afraid this is going to be the last post here at Scientia Salon. It has been a good, if short, run. From March 2014 to this month we have published 152 articles, received more than 15,000 comments, and have experienced a total of almost 1.5 million views.

Nonetheless, several things have prompted my decision, in order of appearance in my mind:

This has been far too much work for me, despite the invaluable help of my collaborators, especially our editor, Phil Pollack, and our comment moderator, Dan Tippens, whom I wish to thank from the bottom of my heart. I have found myself spending a lot of time soliciting, reading, and editing other people’s work, which has left me increasing little time to do my own readings and writings.

I am simply not getting the hoped for flow of unsolicited submissions from my colleagues. I have to cajole people into writing for the magazine, and it’s time consuming and exhausting (and just a tiny little bit dispiriting, to be honest).

I spend far too much time answering comments. Yes, it is always a pleasure, but while the conversations are interesting, and I have been learning from several of our readers, it is again a simple matter of having a limited number of hours during the day, the week, the month, the year…

I have to focus on my new book project (How to Be a Stoic, to be published by Basic Books) and my upcoming sabbatical. This will be the first time that I can actually manage to go on a real sabbatical (my previous one was spent finishing my dissertation in philosophy…), and I really want to do it with as few distractions as possible.

Finally, I have been approached by The Philosophers’ Magazine to contribute regularly to their online presence. So far I have simply fed them already published material, but I decided to take the offer, which would allow me to focus on my own writing, with a ready made, popular, platform.

Naturally, the incredible resources accumulated on this site will remain publicly available, just as in the case of my previous blog, Rationally Speaking. And I will most definitely be active in terms of public outreach on a variety of levels. If you are inclined to keep following my efforts, you can do it via my Twitter feed or Facebook page, my entirely redesigned all encompassing web site, my Stoic blog, my YouTube channel (which includes my occasional conversations with Dan Kaufman), and of course the above mentioned new TPM column, which will be called, appropriately enough, Footnotes to Plato (here is the TPM Online link, the column has still not been officially announced).

But of course there is lots of good writing about philosophy, science and all interesting things in between out there, so I trust you will keep yourself busy!

One final note of thanks to my readers. You have been the reason for this experiment to begin with, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my long exchanges with many of you. I can honestly say that I have learned a lot, not just about how to more effectively communicate my ideas, but also about the very nature of those ideas. I have revised my opinion in some cases, entirely changed it in others, and always tried to learn from what others were contributing in an honest, constructive and civil fashion, so refreshing and welcome on the internet. So, thank you!

All the best,

p.s.: In case you were wondering, the accompany image is from a scene of “All Good Things…”, the Star Trek Next Generation finale. Not that I look like Captain Picard, of course.


95 thoughts on “It has been fun

  1. Devastating news. The discussions here were unusually good. Thanks for the fun while it lasted, and good luck with the new projects.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi Massimo,

    Congratulations on the new column. I will be sorry to see the discontinuation of SciSal, but I can see your reasons.

    As I have said before, philosophy seems (from the main street POV) to be going through something of a renaissance and hopefully this will continue and no doubt you will play a part in it.

    I expect to continue to be informed and irritated in equal measure by the whole discipline, as has been the case in the past 🙂

    Thanks for your efforts and the efforts of the team in bringing this to us, and best wishes for all your future endeavours.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I have followed your posts both at this site & at Rationally Speaking (including the podcasts). I have benefitted from your approach to philosophy & critical thinking & enjoyed the journey immensely. Many thanks & best of luck in all your endeavors.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just to put the value of Scientia Salon in perspective. Cambridge Journals Online publish ‘Think’, with the same aims as Scientia Salon. It is a subscription only journal.

    For $213 per year you get three issues with about 11 essays per issue(33 per year). They charge $15 per article if bought singly.

    On Scientia Salon you get about 100 high quality essays per year for $0.
    By extrapolation, Scientia Salon is worth about $650 per year per person. Given our thriving community it is worth even more.

    It is a no-contest. Massimo, you have greatly outperformed a prestigious publishing house using only a fraction of the resources available to them.

    This makes me doubly sad, to realise the value of what we are losing.

    Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow
    That I shall say good night till it be tomorrow.

    Romeo and Juliet

    Liked by 6 people

  5. I had hoped at one time to submit an article explaining why astrology is not a pseudoscience to this forum led by one of the leading experts on the concept of pseudoscience, but you decided, understandably, to take articles only from academics.
    I stuck around because the discourse was so informative. I will miss Sci Sal.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Massimo:

    I knew from the start it was too good to last (like a one-night stand with a knockout)…

    Was great while it lasted.


    chas >

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Massimo,

    Sorry to hear this. 😦

    Did you consider keeping SciSal alive, but with a slower publishing pace? I didn’t have the impression that you are lacking material or guest authors, but if that is the case, would it be viable to publish only one essay every two weeks, or once per month? It would take less of your time, fix the supply/demand ratio of essays, but still keep SciSal running and its audience active.

    From what I’ve seen, since its inception SciSal was fairly successful, both in facilitating the communication between scientists and philosophers, and providing a media outlet to connect the Ivory Tower to the Main Street. These were among SciSal’s aims, and I think they were implemented very well.

    You have obviously invested a lot of effort into this, and I am a bit puzzled that you are willing to just drop it completely.

    But anyway, thanks for everything, SciSal was very enjoyable to read, write and discuss! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m sad Scientia is going away, it’s been highly informative and entertaining. Good luck with your new digs, you’ll be great asset to them, And thank you, your efforts have been much appreciated.


  9. Thank you so much for your efforts Massimo! It always did strike a bit odd that you would work so hard for such a long time on these general philosophy sites, with so little apparent tangibe return. I figured it was virtually over when you put up your Stoic site, but was quite pleased to have been wrong.

    If many of your colleagues have had reservations about coming here, I do wonder if this was somewhat because they noticed that some of our criticism did happen to be quite valid? Everyone has personal interests to tend, so it may not have been simple to convince them to be placed in a position where they might become humiliated. Still if this is indeed the case (perhaps given our “outside the tower” perspectives), then it should indeed be positive for the system in general that we’re able to present such criticism.

    I will certainly try to keep up with what you’re doing in the future, and will also hope to find that I’ve had a positve influence upon your beliefs.

    Thanks again!


  10. Massimo,

    With wolfpreston, I also knew it too good to last. I started writing in highschool, putting out an underground literary mag; but I later worked on established college papers. It matters greatly for any publishing venture that it has assured funding, staff, and reliable writers. But you gave it a great go, despite burdens.


    As you know, Capricorns like myself are skeptical of astrology… but I’ve always found your comments intriguing.


    “KAAAAAANT!” The Critique always has that effect on readers. My suspicion is that Hume himself would have either consigned it to the flames or published a resignation from philosophy – ‘I withdraw, defeated.’ Or maybe not.


    And, as I am an honest Puck,
    If we have unearned luck
    Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
    We will make amends ere long;
    Else the Puck a liar call;
    So, good night unto you all.
    Give me your hands, if we be friends,
    And Robin shall restore amends.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. I did not take part much in the discussions here due to lack of time, but I found this blog important. Hopefully it can be revived later (?).

    Liked by 1 person

  12. If many of your colleagues have had reservations about coming here, I do wonder if this was somewhat because they noticed that some of our criticism did happen to be quite valid?


    Wow. Do you *actually* think this?

    I could think of a hundred reasons, with this being the lowest in plausibility.


  13. As Massimo indicated, he and I will be continuing to film programs for Sophia, on MeaningofLifeTV/BloggingHeadsTV, which you will be able to watch and discuss, both on Massimo’s Youtube channel and on the MeaningofLifeTV website.

    I hope to see you all there!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Massimo,
    It has been an interesting engagement. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem likely anyone will pick up the baton.
    It is surprising that given all the people engaged on the internet, that finding open and interesting debates about the nature of life, reality, etc. is actually quite difficult.
    Back off to the wilderness for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Dear Massimo,

    I appreciate the enormous effort you have put into this site. To be honest, I have always enjoyed your bloglike pieces much more than the essays that were being published here; thus I liked Rationally Speaking better than Scientia Salon. Nonetheless, thank you for doing so much to popularize and spread the philosophical thought. I will subscribe by RSS to your new venues immediately.

    Two questions:

    1. Will you publish the second part of your review of “The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time”? It was a great read, and I have waited for more since March (“now give me a couple more months to get through Smolin’s part of the book…”)

    2. You mention your new book project “How to Be a Stoic”, but I thought that you were actually working on a book about the progress in philosophy. Am I wrong, or is that project on hold?

    Best wishes,


  16. Borys,

    I did publish a second essay on Smolin’s book, here at Scientia Salon, deciding to focus only on his treatment of mathematics:

    As for my current projects: yes, I’m finishing the revisions of a book on progress in philosophy, to be published next year by Chicago Press. But I’ve also just got a signed contract (Basic Books) for one on Stoicism, which is going to be my main project during next year’s sabbatical.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sad news, but understandable.

    I haven’t been a big commenter of late, but I think I have read every essay here & the great majority of the comments, and found many useful links here as well. For a layman like myself ‘scientiasalon’ & ‘rationally spreaking’ have been an invaluable resource for broadening my understanding.

    Many thanks for all the consistent efforts. They have not been in vain,


  18. Thank you, Massimo, for all the work you have done on this. As others have implied, this is effort by you which is far beyond your profession’s normal demands! I do have some direct knowledge of academic expectations, plus a very close relative in academic philosophy itself.

    Not having been much of a careful reader of original writings, the many famous old philosophers, nor of Wittgenstein, Derrida, and similar more recently, it has been valuable for me, among other ways, in learning somewhat about the manner of writing and thinking of those at various levels who have been much more assiduous seekers of those original sources.


  19. I want to thank you for your service, I have appreciated those articles which have broaden my philosophical perspective.


  20. Wow. Do you *actually* think this?

    Well it was just a thought Aravis, so hopefully you’re right. Of course you’ve delivered some of the more devastating comments yourself. Notice that sometimes authors would just stop commenting. (I’m still thinking about your Wittgenstein video with Ian by the way.)


  21. Thanks for all the work in making this forum possible. It certainly provided many inspirations and ideas for me in putting my own thoughts down in my ‘book’ of Babel. Live long, and prosper.


  22. Massimo began this series with the metaphor of the cognitive landscape. He then conducted us on a tour through this landscape, both as tourguide and driver. He took us through the well travelled lowlands of ethics and braved the highlands of metaphysics. We struggled through the marshes of the borderlands of science and felt our way through the misty valleys of the mind. He showed us where the cognitive landscape touched the empirical landscape and escorted us through the highways and byways of thought. With one eye on the map and one eye on his disputatious passengers he still, amazingly, kept the bus on the road. Along the way he exposed shibboleths, laid bare fallacies and scattered the false prophets of pseudoscience.

    The tour through the cognitive landscape has come to an end and we must regretfully leave the tour bus. This has been a unique tour with a perspicacious and knowledgeable guide. His gift to us was to give us a sense of what the landscape was like, to give us a feel for the lay of the land and to equip us so that we can begin our own exploration of the world of thought.

    Thank you Massimo for this terrific tour.


  23. Massimo,

    Well I would be lying if I said I hadn’t envisaged this day. I am very sorry to see this go though
    I never understood how you kept it going as long as you did. You have consistently been the best, most scholarly voice on the atheist/skeptic circuit. You have been a tireless advocate for issues that most needed and most lacked advocacy. (This is not a sneaky way of asking you to stay, you have done your tours, you ought to be discharged with dignity if that’s what you wish.) I will miss this forum sorely.

    I do look forward to seeing you, frequently if I get my wish, on Sophia at Everyone who has enjoyed this forum should check it out.


    Liked by 1 person

  24. ‘Tis sad news. I had liked hanging my hat here every now and again. Still, I do understand the reasons behind this. It’s very difficult to organize people into things like this, and you have to really respect places that actually can keep up the momentum –it’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of talented people participating, and, lastly, it’s a lot of luck. I feel like SciSal only lacked the latter. Maybe if this had been tried in a different year, people might have gotten more into it and contributed more. I think, however, if I’m honest that part of the problem is that anonymous submissions would have worked better.

    Personally, I’ve found a loss of places to engage in intelligent conversation. Before commenting on SciSal, I used to belong to a very high level debating forum, but over time good members left, bad members multiplied, modding went down over the decade I was there. And now there seems to be both a dearth of places to hold intelligent conversation but no net loss of people who want to engage. It doesn’t help that YouTube’s loss of channels being able to respond their videos to each other killed several vibrant communities (I for one quite enjoyed the dialogues that TheoreticalBullshit and DasAmericanAtheist had with the more intelligent members of the religious community on philosophical matters).

    I don’t know what the solution is. Probably a message board, but there would need to be at least a starting 20 or more good conversationalists/debaters with some avenue for writings, explanation of logic argumentation, and so on. But I’m not sure such places will ever exist, although perhaps I’m wrong.

    Anyways, so long, and thanks for all the conversations. =)

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Sorry, to clarify my previous point: Anonymous submissions may have worked better because (e.g. for myself) young researchers often cannot be terribly associated with popular writings, or else you will be deemed a terrible researcher. So it’s a catch-22 for a lot of people. I’d personally love to write some defenses on string theory and modern physics, and try to explain what’s going on in the modern research culture (both good and bad), but there’s absolutely NO WAY I could do that with my real name attached to it. You can’t afford to burn bridges as a young researcher. But this would have been the perfect venue to hold that conversation, instead of the incredibly one-sided, self-assured-but-for-no-reason anti-modern physics bashing that goes on here and elsewhere on the web. (And has, for the worse, become of part of the I Fucking Love Science crowd that influences many young people moving or already in a STEM career.)


  26. I had an “intuition” that this might happen when Massimo made note of his 50th a while back. 🙂 Since retiring nearly four years ago, both Rationally Speaking and SciSal have become a special part of each day. It’s been an eye-opener, and, though the expression may be tired, a learning experience for me. There are many to thank: Massimo, of course, and Dan T of late, the readership–warts and all, and especially the many writers who took the time to prepare articles for us. I will miss you all. Best wishes to everyone!


  27. I think it is important to give a big thank you to Phil Pollack. I am pretty sure he has not only helped Massimo edit almost every (if not every) essay for Scientia Salon, but also many essays for rationally speaking. Of all of the Scientia Salon team members (besides Massimo), I think Phil may have put in the most work at least in terms of number of hours. He deserves a few free martinis from the readers 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  28. As Labnut pointed out in his first comment, SS published a very large number of high quality articles at a very fast pace, easily as good as conventional journals with full time staff. I found it exhausting just keeping up with reading it, and can imagine the workload creating it, done by Massimo, DanT and Phil, not to mention Aravis/DanK’s contributions both to target articles and discussion.

    It seems a pity that the assembled commentariat can’t put together a similar flavoured *group* site – I love reading Crooked Timber, for example, for its diversity of topics and viewpoints. I personally have reviewed several scientific articles on astrology (rerunning Augustine’s thought experiment on twins), so astrodreamer could be first cab off the rank 😉 (No astrodreamer, I don’t think it work, but would be happy to criticize)


  29. I can fully understand it must have been a huge amount of time to make such an awesome platform. I have not even had the time to fully comment on the topics that I follow in philosophy, and they are only a fraction of the material the magazine touched on.

    I feel I have benefitted from reading the views of the authors and commentators here and I am sad to see it go. I started to feel we were getting nice community going. (with some disagreements, but that is what made it interesting) I enjoyed all the discussions and will keep an eye out for this group in the philosophy interwebs. It would be great to meet some of you in person to go in more depth on some of these topics.

    Thanks, to everyone who contributed to this venture.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. As a closing sally and just for fun, I would like to put the following, which I regard as a perfectly satisfactory answer to both parts of the “Sceptics Challenge” in Kripke’s “Wittgenstein on Rules and Language”.

    The sceptic’s objections seem to miss that 1) we recount our recollections of past events using current, not past, language; and 2) By definition any condition is tested even when it is not satisfied and so the condition for quus and any variant would always be part of the rule, not just for those numbers are satisfied.

    Yes, yes I know – I am arrogant to think that I have an answer to something the experts have settled, but I am more interested in knowing how my answer does not meet the challenge given the ground rules Kripke gives. The explicit answer is in bold near the end and numbered 1-5.

    I have run this past a few technies and they pretty much agree with me but generally think that my answer is too long winded.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Sad news indeed. For around five years, Massimo’s personable and generally generous approach to facilitating philosophical discussions has given me the delightful sense of still having a foot back in philosophy grad school. It has been fun and has meant a lot to many. On the bright side, sounds like there will still be plenty of opportunity to get our Massimo-fixes. Thanks Massimo, and best wishes in the new endeavors! I’ll be following.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Labnut;

    Are you really charged more than $200 a year for a subscription to Think magazine? That’s a ridiculously large charge for overseas subscriptions, unless your decimal place has slipped. I’ve got my renewal notice here on my desk right now: – £20.

    Still, I agree with you that it highlights the value we’ve had from the efforts of Massimo and his colleagues. Thanks again everyone.


  33. Aww, this is like the end of Rationally Speaking all over again!

    Nonetheless, it’s understandable, given the herculean effort you seem to have put into maintaining the site.

    I’ll be looking forward to future videochats and essays in Philosophers’ Magazine.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Dear Massimo,

    Thanks for all your work on SS. I was initially attracted to SS by the aim of combining both science and philosophy on the same site, and I still think that’s a good idea and something that is much needed. I have certainly gained a better appreciation of how philosophers think about things. From the stats you give it does seem to have had a lot of success at its aims.

    Obviously, though, editing it is a lot of work, so it’s understandable that you want to put your time elsewhere. I guess what a site such as this needs is a team of four or five commissioning editors sharing the load. (David Duffy mentioned Croooked Timber, which has a dozen or so main writers.)

    Hi fieldtheorist,

    I’d personally love to write some defenses on string theory and modern physics, and try to explain what’s going on in the modern research culture (both good and bad), but there’s absolutely NO WAY I could do that with my real name attached to it. You can’t afford to burn bridges as a young researcher.

    I’m a bit perturbed that you would say that. Do you really get that impression? As a (no-longer that young) academic physicist I would regard it as a positive in a young researcher. (Unless the articles were very bad, of course!)


  35. gwarner99,
    Are you really charged more than $200 a year for a subscription to Think magazine?

    From the subscriptions page:

    1) 2015 Organisational Online only $213.00 / £116.00
    2) 2015 Organisational Online & Print $246.00 / £137.00
    3) 2015 Organisational Print only $237.00 / £130.00
    4) 2015 Individual Print only $34.00 / £20.00

    The $34 price(4) is only available for a print subscription. If you want an online subscription you are forced to pay the ‘Organisational Online’ price(1). I used this price to make it comparable with the online offering of Scientia Salon.

    If we accept that value is determined by what people are prepared to pay and that Cambridge University Press have correctly estimated that value(they should know since this is their business), then by extrapolation we can estimate the value of Scientia Salon.

    You might argue that linear extrapolation is wrong. On the other hand CUP do not provide the lively, informed and involved community that Scientia Salon does. On balance I think it is fair to conclude that we have been getting quite exceptional value, especially if we factor in someone with Massimo’s standing..


  36. Phil Pollack, thank you! Dantip as well, thank you!

    “I personally have reviewed several scientific articles on astrology (rerunning Augustine’s thought experiment on twins), so astrodreamer could be first cab off the rank 😉 (No astrodreamer, I don’t think it work, but would be happy to criticize)”

    Where can I find these articles? and expose myself to your happy criticism?


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