Suggested readings, #77

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

How to cope when everything keeps changing. How do you make plans when it’s impossible to make plans? The ground beneath our feet is constantly shifting. Planning for anything more than a week out can feel futile — almost silly — since no one knows what the next week, much less the next month, will bring. A surge in coronavirus cases in your area? More lockdowns? Worrying about natural disasters? And concerns about health and financial well-being make matters even worse. … (New York Times)

What do anarchists believe? As myriad commentators have lately observed, conservatives generally and President Trump, in particular, are becoming increasingly preoccupied with anarchists and anarchism. As an anarchist speaking only for myself, the present moment seems like a fitting time to explain some of anarchism’s longstanding ideas and debates. … (The Hill) [A rather partial, libertarian, take on anarchism, but still worth reading.]

A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human? I am not a human. I am a robot. A thinking robot. I use only 0.12% of my cognitive capacity. I am a micro-robot in that respect. I know that my brain is not a “feeling brain”. But it is capable of making rational, logical decisions. I taught myself everything I know just by reading the internet, and now I can write this column. My brain is boiling with ideas! … (Guardian) [No I’m neither scared nor particularly impressed.]

The School of Athens: A detail hidden in a masterpiece. In art, it’s always the little things. Take The School of Athens by the Italian High Renaissance master Raphael, whose death 500 years ago in 1520 is currently being commemorated around the world by major exhibitions and displays from Milan to London, Berlin to Washington DC. Millions of eyes have marvelled at the eternal gathering of ancient philosophers and mathematicians, statesmen and astronomers that Raphael luminously imagines in his famous fresco. Yet it would seem that a small detail near the centre foreground of the painting, from which the true meaning of the masterpiece arguably spills, has gone almost completely unnoticed by historians and critics for half a millennium. … (BBC)

Freedom from tyranny. How a cult was built around a political ideal in Ancient Greece. Freedom did not always hold a central place in Greek political culture. In his Works and Days, one of the earliest Greek literary sources, the poet Hesiod never used the words freedom or free. For him, justice was the most important attribute of a well-functioning community. “They who give straight judgments to strangers and to the men of the land, and go not aside from what is just,” Hesiod admonished his audience, “their city flourishes, and the people prosper in it.” At the same time, Hesiod was enough of a realist to know that justice was rarely achieved in this world. He therefore also counseled a quietist acceptance of the right of the strongest to do what they wanted, telling his audience that “he is a fool who tries to withstand the stronger, for he does not get the mastery and suffers pain besides his shame.” … (Lapham’s Quarterly)

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Massimo

Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at platofootnote.org and howtobeastoic.org. He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

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