When scams get pretentious

Pangburn (Pangburnt, am I right?) Philosophy has officially thrown in the towel. Here’s their final statement:

Who is to blame? Not Pangburn! Confirmed speakers decided to back away from their commitment, the lousy no-good bastards.

And then…This two year endeavor has led us to successfully produce what we believe to be some of the most important conversations in human history. Wow. In human history. Pretty impressive for a hodge-podge of racists, edgelords, pompous assholes, and alt-right cheerleaders, say what?

But have no fear.

Effective immediately, the Pangburn Philosophy Corporation will be folding as a result of this cancelled conference.

And there was much rejoicing! But wait. A “Philosophy Corporation”? Have those two words ever been paired before? Maybe this is the end of something unique.

Also, I doubt that all the people who bought overpriced tickets to this shitpile are rejoicing. They’re never going to see that money again. I’m trying hard to feel sympathy for the gullible simpletons who paid money to see Peterson, or Weinstein, or Harris, or any of the deplorables slated as speakers, and failing.

Our CEO Travis Pangburn plans to reanimate Pangburn Philosophy under a new business model, which will focus on Pangburn Documentaries.

Oy. So another Prager U, I’ll guess.

A couple of suggestions. It’s obvious that Travis Pangburn has a bit of an ego, but after your distinctively-named enterprise has just imploded under the weight of debt, leaving your most ardent fans without recompense, and you’re trying to slither away, it’s not smart to keep the name “Pangburn”. Too obvious. You should at least try to slip out from under the PR taint. Find a fresh taint.

You built your ramshackle empire not on your talent, but the appeal of your center-right speakers. I presume you’d like to bring them back under “Pangburn Documentaries”? Then it’s a bad idea to blame them for your failure.

Oh, and speaking of pretentiousness, you have to look at the Pangburn “about” page. It’s mostly a close-up photo of Travis’s handsome, serious face, a paragraph of grade-school “philosophy” about saving the planet with art and science, and an equation. Can I just say how much I despise the attempt to come up with a pseudo-sciencey equation with vague and immeasurable variables and invented relationships between the parameters? It’s a great metaphor for the nonsensical crap they’ve been peddling.

Fruitfulness multiplied by humanism equals peace greater than suffering? What kind of ludicrous bullshit is this? Who gets snowed by that kind of nonsense?


  1. chigau (違う) says

    …this prohibited our ability to make the conversations happen…
    we do english goodly, corporate-speak-wise

  2. says

    Even better with that equation, you can leave out fruitfulness per se. The sum of artistic inspiration and scientific inspiration is multiplied by humanism squared to get Peace, which is always greater than suffering.

    I mean, Peace > Suffering is an inequality. The “Greater than” sign distinguishes those terms in the same way that “=” equates H^2(A+S) with Peace.

    So, of course, there’s nothing in this set of relations that tell us anything about how “Suffering” (capital S of course) is determined. We just know that however much art there is in the world, and however much science there is in the world, and however much humanism there is in the world, “Suffering” is going to be less than the (sum)product product.

    What the series of relations teaches us is that there’s no need to do anything; peace greater than suffering is guaranteed.


  3. nomdeplume says

    So is Pangburn attaching his name to rubbish philosophy projects like Trump attaching his name to rubbish building projects?

  4. says

    “Philosopher Corporation”
    There’s always the Unemployed Philosophers’ Guild, which mostly makes tchotchkes with quotes and such on them, or sometimes without.

  5. says

    Actually, y’know that makes me wonder if it would be possible to write a script that not only renders text in comic sans, but also randomly capitalizes, italicizes, bolds, etc. You wouldn’t have to use it for some folks, but for people like Pangburn I think it would really help catch the flavor of their thinking despite their obvious efforts to salt over its essence with an overabundance of iodized Strunk & White.

  6. davidnangle says

    I remember my family serving the community with poignant observations and a self-consistent network of universal truths as to the nature of life and mankind…

    Then that big philosophy corporation stepped in and undercut our epiphany market with their mass-produced, ennui. We couldn’t match that! Market share gone. A family business destroyed. Worst part… We couldn’t even stare wistfully at the sunset and opine sagely… Not profitably, anyway.

  7. chigau (違う) says

    if you surround text with
    you get italics
    gets you bold
    three *
    gets you both
    what the fuck is going on and why is spleechek questioning “fuck”?

  8. Dunc says

    Yeah, I’m sure philosophers of the future will hold Pangburn’s YouTube videos to be every bit as significant as Plato’s Dialogues. Possibly even more so.

  9. says

    stevewatson @ 15: If nothing else, it will give his missives a quaint old-timey “Boys’ Own Adventure”/ “Biggles” flavor. “Pranged my bird! Dashed bad show, what?” 😉

    (Seriously, what is with the guy’s malapropisms? “Prohibited our ability”? “Reanimate our business model”? Worst case of an impacted thesaurus I’ve seen in a long time. He should see a doctor.)

  10. ridana says

    We really can’t stress how much we appreciate those of you who did support the conference…

    Normally I’d ask why not, but since your appreciation did not extend to giving those supporters their money back, I suppose it’s self-explanatory.

  11. hemidactylus says

    What would Socrates do? Would he have marketed his wares? My (mis)understanding is that Plato took pains to rehab Socrates’ image by differentiating him from the monetized Sophists. Or was the itinerant ascetic just a apologetic pose?

    I caught some of the Harris-Peterson showdown hosted by Pangburn. There’s two who have marketed themselves. Gotta pay the bills somehow.

    Boghossian has an app that I’ve just started delving into lightly. I have the obligatory paid version. Seems benign so far and emphasizes respect and rapport. My issue with Boghossian isn’t really how much he’s making beyond his day job, but some of the stances he takes. But others have taken his brainchild of applied elenchus and open sourced it on Anthony Magnabosco’s website and blog. The free ebook available there seems pretty good for an overview of street epistemology. That seems to be more the Socratic spirit than monetizing skepticism heavily.

    Or is it now the intellectually benighted web schema now? Peterson seems a misfit as skeptic (witch swamps?). Actually Rogan and others do too. Harris and Boghossian are judged partly by the company they keep.

  12. hemidactylus says

    While I’m on this somewhat related tangent, has Massimo Pigliucci completely paywalled his current blogging? I see a subscription tiering on his Patreon hosted new blog. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, but I cannot warrant spending on his blog. Sorry. Stingy free-rider I am. I guess this does get at a reality of blogging or being a professional skeptic. I can see importance of monetizing somehow and even incorporating. I find the work Hemant Mehta does among the best of the bunch given his wide range of topicality but admittedly don’t pay for it. FWIW I did purchase a copy of The Happy Atheist and look forward to PZ’s next endeavor.

  13. rcurtis505 says

    “Some of the most important conversations in human history”? I nearly spewed beer all over my laptop at that one. Warn me next time, please!

  14. dontlikeusernames says

    I love that “in human history” bit. People 2000-3000 years ago had more important conversations on the communal shitter.

  15. chrislawson says

    I was astonished to discover that humanism is a mathematical variable.
    I was even more surprised to discover that its units are peace.fruitfulness^{-1}.

  16. says

    A “Philosophy Corporation”? Have those two words ever been paired before?

    Why, yes! Unless I somehow missed it, amazingly nobody has pointed out the Existential Comics episode about PhilosophyCorp. Or the second episode about PhilosophyCorp. Or the episode about Ancient Greek PhilosophyCorp. Or the related ones in which Descartes and Machiavelli spend a day at the office.

    …or the excellent one titled Marxist Business Consulting. Can’t skip that one.

  17. chrislawson says


    Those are great. The Karl Popper cameo manages to sum up my problems with his approach in 2 panels.

  18. Matrim says

    Looking at that “equation” all I can think of is: loneliness + alienation + fear + despair + self-worth ÷ mockery ÷ condemnation ÷ misunderstanding × guilt × shame × failure × judgment n=y where y=hope and n=folly, love=lies, life=death, self=dark side