Over "a four-hour dinner of duck and chocolate dessert" New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd interviewed Trump transition team player Peter Thiel, the Paypal co-founder and early Facebook investor who still serves on the company's board. And by interviewed — these being the paper's style pages and Maureen Dowd being extremely Maureen Dowd — I mean she politely schmoozed with a seemingly unhinged Thiel without asking follow up questions or interrogating his logic.
That logic, which Thiel reveals offhandedly, is what he calls "Pyrrhonian skepticism," and it sounds sort of like a George Costanza "just do the opposite" approach to, like, logic. “Maybe I do always have this background program running where I’m trying to think of, ‘O.K., what’s the opposite of what you’re saying?’ and then I’ll try that."
Here's a bit of Pyrrhonian skepticism at work in some of the weirder quotes from the piece:
On VP Mike Pence as a threat to LGBT rights:
“You know, maybe I should be worried but I’m not that worried about it,”
On President-Elect Donald's Trump's view of LGBT rights:
"I think Trump is very good on gay rights. I don’t think he will reverse anything. I would obviously be concerned if I thought otherwise."
On how he felt about Trump affectionately rubbing his hand during that awkward tech leader summit at Trump Tower last month:
"I was thinking, ‘I hope this doesn’t look too weird on TV.'"
On being asked why he and others in Silicon Valley are so obsessed with becoming immortal:
“Why is everyone else so indifferent about their mortality?”
On Obama's scandal-free presidency:
"But there’s a point where no corruption can be a bad thing. It can mean that things are too boring.”
On Trump's pre-election scandal celebrating the grabbing of women's genitalia:
"On the one hand, the tape was clearly offensive and inappropriate. At the same time, I worry there’s a part of Silicon Valley that is hyper-politically correct about sex. One of my friends has a theory that the rest of the country tolerates Silicon Valley because people there just don’t have that much sex. They’re not having that much fun."
On why conflicts of interest are actually good:
“I don’t want to dismiss ethical concerns here, but I worry that ‘conflict of interest’ gets overly weaponized in our politics. I think in many cases, when there’s a conflict of interest, it’s an indication that someone understands something way better than if there’s no conflict of interest. If there’s no conflict of interest, it’s often because you’re just not interested.”
On why "casting" leaders who look the part is actually smart:
“You’re assuming that Trump thinks they matter too much. And maybe everyone else thinks they matter too little. Do you want America’s leading diplomat to look like a diplomat? Do you want the secretary of defense to look like a tough general, so maybe we don’t have to go on offense and we can stay on defense? I don’t know.”
On whether people "care about the Supreme court:"
“It’s like, even if you appointed a whole series of conservative Supreme Court justices, I’m not sure that Roe v. Wade would get overturned, ever. I don’t know if people even care about the Supreme Court.”
On whether his company Palantir is actually going to help build a Muslim registry for the Trump Administration:
"We would not do that."
On whether Trump could turn out to be another Hitler:
"That doesn’t strike me as remotely plausible."
On whether Elon Musk is like Donald Trump:
“I’m going to get in trouble, but they are, actually. They’re both grandmaster-level salespeople and these very much larger-than-life figures.”
On crashing in a McLaren F1 car with Elon Musk:
“It was a miracle neither of us were hurt... I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, which is not advisable. Elon’s first comment was, ‘Wow, Peter, that was really intense.’
On commonalities between Hulk Hogan, whose legal fight against Gawker Thiel secretly funded to destroy the media company in an act of revenge:
“There’s some resonances between Hogan beating Gawker and Trump beating the establishment in this country..."
On whether fake wrestling is somehow real:
“And what I wonder is, whether maybe pro wrestling is one of the most real things we have in our society and what’s really disturbing is that the other stuff is much more fake."
On Facebook, or something:
“There’s nobody you know who knows anybody. There’s nobody you know who knows anybody who knows anybody, ad infinitum.”
On whether Trump is crazy, as his crazy tweets would suggest:
"Mr. Trump seems fine."