Suggested readings, #78

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

Hate the sin, not the book. Reading works from the past can offer perspective—even when they say things we don’t want to hear. This might seem a very strange time to publish a book recommending that we read the voices from the past. After all, isn’t the present hammering at our door rather violently? There’s a worldwide pandemic; a presidential election is about to consume the attention of America; and if all that weren’t sufficient, we are entering hurricane season. The present is keeping us plenty busy. Who has time for the past? … (The Atlantic) [A bit preachy, could have been written better. Good point nevertheless.]

The Good, the Bad and the ‘Radically Dishonest.’ Lying and cheating behavior comes in several distinct flavors, a recent study found. In this age of trolls and bots and digital impostors, words like “crank” and “bully” seem impossibly antiquated, like labels from the black-and-white TV era. “Scoundrel” almost qualifies as a term of endearment — culturally insensitive, for the purveyors of disinformation who parade with grim delight in the virtual public square. … (New York Times)

Thoughts into words. Here’s the paradox of articulation: are you excavating existing ideas, or do your thoughts come into being as you speak? ‘What is it about the proposal that strikes me as so disturbing?’ Reading through an article describing a local government measure, I feel opposition rising within me. Normally, forming an opinion about such things would take me some time. But not here. The proposal instantly strikes me as unjust. My reaction is not just intellectual; it is visceral. My emotions are engaged. My imagination is exercised. As I imagine the proposal playing out in practice, the distinctive brand of injustice seems to be jumping out of every word on the page. … (Aeon)

Burning out. Professors say faculty burnout is always a real threat, but especially now, and that institutions should act before it’s too late. As a frequent commentator on all things higher ed, Kevin McClure likes his predictions to be right. But in the case of a recent article he wrote about the growing threat of faculty burnout, he wanted to be wrong. “Basically what I heard over and over again was people saying, ‘That’s me. This is how I feel. This gives words to the way that I’m feeling walking into fall semester,’” McClure, an associate professor of higher education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said about feedback he received. “So it’s a situation where many people confirmed my argument that there will be a wave of burnout — but it does increase my level of concern.” … (Inside Higher Ed)

Young children use reason, not gut feelings, to decide moral issues. In the past two decades, social science has painted a pretty dour picture of the power of moral reasoning. To explain why people disagree so profoundly about ethical and political questions, pundits and scientists have claimed that humans systematically disregard evidence from experts, and that we rely on gut feelings instead of reason. If true, these conclusions have pretty serious and depressing consequences. Why should politicians rely on logic or scientific evidence, if humans rarely reason about moral and political issues? Against this backdrop, it was hardly surprising when a leading psychologist told a Washington Post columnist in 2011 that it ‘is important for the president not to be rational and fully honest’. … (Psyche) [As I predicted years ago, a series of new studies casts some deep doubts on the now popular, Jonathan Haidt-inspired notion that moral (as well as non-moral) reasoning is all about confabulation and rationalization.]

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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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