Suggested readings, #69

Here it is, your weekly rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

Why [some] intellectuals support dictators. (New York Times)

The Epictetus Club: part one. Stoicism in prison. (Modern Stoicism)

The flatterer and the chatterer: on Theophrastus’ enduring classification of human characters. (Paris Review)

What is the future of the UN in the age of impunity? As the laws of war become optional and crimes in Syria and Libya go unpunished, there are fears the body has no teeth. [Darn good question.] (The Guardian)

Too much Mars? Let’s discuss other worlds. Two veteran space journalists discuss why so much attention and budget seems to be directed to the red planet. [There are a number of solid scientific reasons to get over our obsession with Mars and look elsewhere.] (New York Times)

Suggested readings, #68

Drug Jar for Mithridate; Attributed to Annibale Fontana (Italian, about 1540 – 1587); about 1580; Terracotta with white paint and gilt exterior and glazed interior; 59.9 cm (23 5/8 in.); 90.SC.42.1; No Copyright – United States (http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/)

Here it is, your weekly rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

Do we need a theory of everything? [Hint: nope.] (Nautilus)

How a famous Harvard professor became a target over his Tweets. The outcry over free speech and race takes aim at Steven Pinker, the best-selling author and well-known scholar. [The article goes a bit too easy on Pinker, but makes some good points.] (New York Times)

Love shouldn’t be blind or mad. Instead, fall rationally in love. (Psyche)

Mithridates the great pharmacologist. The scholarly pursuits of a Hellenistic king. (Lapham’s Quarterly)

White supremacy was her world. And then she left. To stop hate, we have to understand it. [Just don’t expect any silver bullet, or a comforting story.] (New York Times)

Suggested readings, #67

Here it is, your weekly rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

How to keep good habits post-lockdown. You’ll technically have to ‘relearn’ to cook each meal, or to exercise regularly or to read a book a week. But there are some shortcuts. (New York Times)

Horror and comedy: screaming and laughing. Both horror and comedy provoke strong emotions, but these two seemingly disparate genres are more closely linked than you would think. (New Statesman)

Science, mind, and limits of understanding, by Noam Chomsky. [Thought provoking, well informed by history and philosophy of science.]

Why Covid-19 is turning us all into philosophers. If you haven’t yet spent a few moments this year staring out the window, chin in hand and ruminating on the meaning of life – or its absence – then the chances are it’s only a matter of time. (RNZ)

How far back in time could a Modern English speaker go and still communicate? The transition from Old English to Modern English was a process, not an event. (Medium)

Suggested readings, #66

Here it is, your weekly rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

What you can learn from the longest study conducted on aging. (Medium)

Montaigne fled the plague, and found himself. As disease and war ravaged the nation, he left town and invented the essay. [Of course, he could afford to flee…] (New York Times)

Why fairness matters more than equality – three ways to think philosophically about justice. (The Conversation)

The Golden Rule in Stoicism. How Stoic philosophy teaches us to treat others. (Medium)

Philosophy in prison: an introduction. (The View magazine)

Suggested readings, #65

Here it is, your weekly rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

This is no time to read alone. In lockdown and through our screens, we’re reminded of all that’s special and strange about group reading: a solitary, private act made public. (New York Times)

Marvel’s philosophical mythology. [Interesting even if you are not into comics.] (Philosophical Salon)

This time-management trick changed my whole relationship with time. [On the so-called pomodoro approach. I have developed a similar technique, though less rigid.] (New York Times)

Divinely ordained individualism: Cicero’s Natural Law. [Works also if you believe in Nature, not in God.] (Medium)

How scientism spawns pseudoscience and science denialism. [A bit overblown, but some good points.] (Philosophical Salon)

Book Club summary: Xenophon’s Memorabilia

Over at my Patreon and Medium sites I run occasional “book clubs,” meaning multiple posts on the same book, which interested readers can use either as a companion to the book itself, or simply as extended summaries that give them an idea of what the book is about (and hence facilitate their decision of whether to invest the time to read the full volume or not). Here are all the entries connected to the most recently completed series.

Xenophon’s Memorabilia. An essential text for understanding Socrates, Xenophon’s Memorabilia is the compelling tribute of an affectionate student to his teacher, providing a rare firsthand account of Socrates’ life and philosophy. The Memorabilia is invaluable both as a work of philosophy in its own right and as a complement to the study of Plato’s dialogues. The longest of Xenophon’s four Socratic works, it is particularly revealing about the differences between Socrates and his philosophical predecessors.

Here are my commentaries:

I. In defense of Socrates (Patreon / Medium)

II. Socrates teaches a lesson to his son (Patreon / Medium)

III. Socrates gives advice about politics (Patreon / Medium)

IV. Socrates teaches a lesson in statesmanship (Patreon / Medium)

Suggested readings, #64

Here it is, your weekly rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

Ancient Greeks devised a way to fight disinformation. Sophists used rhetoric and debate to arrive at practical truths. [A fairly badly argued article in defense of sophistry, co-signed by a lawyer. Good example to keep in mind… Oh, and using a cover image of Socrates, the ultimate anti-Sophist! “Big Think” keep disappointing.] (Big Think)

How to live as the Ancients did. From drinking to ruling to growing old, a series of books offers classic advice. [On an ongoing series at Princeton Press, distilling the best writings of the Greco-Romans.] (Princeton Alumni Weekly)

Public philosophy and the civic duty of universities. (Daily Nous)

This ancient Japanese principle will help you overcome fear of failure. How to become an “imperfectionist”. (Medium)

Suggested readings, #63

Here it is, your weekly rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

In praise of aphorisms. What if we see the history of philosophy not as a grand system of sustained critique but as a series of brilliant fragments? [This article, I think, gets it seriously wrong. Still, a stimulating reading.] (Aeon)

The Ancient Greek’s guide to rejecting propaganda and disinformation. How Plato and the Sophists Can Help Us Find Shared Truth and Solve Our Political Problems. (Zocalo)

Gods and robots. Time-traveling back to antiquity might help us think about the human transformations of the future. (Noema)

What is emergence, and why should we care about it? [I’m going through one of my phases of skepticism about strong emergence. Still, interesting article.] (Axis Praxis)

Suggested readings, #62

Here it is, your weekly rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

The robot artists aren’t coming. Artificial intelligence is making machines more creative — but machines don’t make art. (New York Times)

Where did the grandeur go? Superlative things were done in the past century by marshalling thousands of people in the service of a vision of the future. (Aeon)

How the coronavirus is changing digital etiquette. We’re watching the norms of using technology evolve in real time. Here’s how to keep up. (New York Times)

Why do we cling to art in apocalyptic times? (Art News)

What will greetings look like in a post-coronavirus world? It might be a while before we can offer a hug or handshake. But that’s OK. [I vote for “live long and prosper.”] (New York Times)

Video conversation: objectivity and realism

Is there a difference between something being “objective” and it being “real”? What do we mean by those terms, anyway? That’s the topic of a new conversation I’ve had with my friend and colleague Dan Kaufman.

We actually started by exploring a side path, when Dan wanted to know whether human beings are really as social as the Stoics thought (I think so, particularly on the strength of evidence from comparative anthropology and primatology). Then we plunged into the title question, and went on to discuss the difference between distinct philosophical meanings of “real.”

Dan argued that it doesn’t make any difference whether or not our values are objective, because that’s not what motivates people to action. I replied that people are moved to act by a number of social and biological forces, but that arguments to the soundness of certain values certainly play a role.

Near the end of the show we talk about what Dan’s calls my solution to the so-called omnivore dilemma (shouldn’t we all just be vegetarians, or even vegans, given what we know about animal cruelty and the environment?), which obviously very much has to do with the alleged objectivity of certain values informing our choice of diet.

Finally, I explain why values are never really separate from facts (in part because even our choices of what counts as a “fact” are value-laden). This may seem to be a problem if one seeks “the facts, just the facts,” but appreciation of this, ahem, fact turns out to be important and consequential. Here is the video: