Suggested readings, #57

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

What humans could be. As psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote, “Perhaps human nature has been sold short.” (Scientific American)

SpaceX and the ethics of space travel. (Prindle Post)

Who cheats more? The demographics of infidelity in America. (Institute for Family Studies)

Rich people more likely to lie, cheat, study suggests. (Live Science)

How science fails. For the émigré philosopher Imre Lakatos, science degenerates unless it is theoretically and experimentally progressive. [From my friend Jim Baggott, highly recommended.] (Aeon)

Should you take Wolfram’s physics seriously? [Probably not, but it’s fun to think about it.] (Medium)

Stop reading self-help books: the incredible power of novels. [Don’t let the entirely out of place encomium of Elon Musk at the beginning of the article turn you off.] (JotForm)

Suggested readings, #56

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

Why your brain is not a computer. For decades it has been the dominant metaphor in neuroscience. But could this idea have been leading us astray all along? (Guardian)

What Thucydides can teach us. Ancient reflections on a time of plague. (Public Seminar)

The pandemic isn’t a Black Swan but a portent of a more fragile global system. [Even Nassim Taleb is right, occasionally…] (New Yorker)

The Buzz Aldrin fallacy. [It’s a thing.] (Medium)

What Sci Phi is all about: treating science fiction as philosophy. (Sci Phi Journal)

Intellectual alchemists. [On Umberto Eco and Emmanuel Carrère] (Public Books)

Five contemporary philosophies from the Eastern World. (Medium)

Suggested readings, #55

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

How to practice ‘Hansei,’ the Japanese art of self-criticism. After living in Japan, I realized there may be danger in the American tendency to over-celebrate every victory. (Medium)

What students gain from learning ethics in school. (KQED)

Ancient trolling — The paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise. How Zeno of Elea played Aristotle, and then the rest of the world. (Medium)

Making sense of the science and philosophy of ‘Devs’. The Hulu show poses questions related to quantum physics and existentialism. How good of a job does it do? And what kind of closure will next week’s finale bring? (The Ringer)

Does the pandemic have a purpose? Only if we give it one. The coronavirus is neither good nor bad. It wants only to reproduce. [Somewhat obvious premise here, but interesting discussion nevertheless.] (New York Times)

Suggested readings, #54

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

How Coronavirus is shaking up the moral universe. The pandemic is putting profound philosophical questions to the test. (Bloomberg)

A strange paradox: the better we manage to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the less we will learn from it. [By my friend and collaborator, Maarten Boudry] (The Conversation)

Does time really flow? New clues come from a century-old approach to math. (Quanta Magazine)

The attraction of apocalypse. The philosophical roots of our fascination with catastrophe. (Institute of Arts and Ideas)

The scholar’s vocation. A century ago, Max Weber both diagnosed the ills of the corporatised, modern university, and pointed out the path beyond it. (Aeon)

Coronavirus: this is not a plague. The metaphor obscures clear thinking. [Actually, I disagree with the author, but good read nevertheless.] (American Scholar)

The pandemic is not a natural disaster. The coronavirus isn’t just a public-health crisis. It’s an ecological one. [Perfect counter to the article just above] (New Yorker)

It’s the math, stupid. The real pandemic starts the day lockdown ends. (Center for Inquiry)

Ovid on the therapist’s couch. Other writers go to a shrink. Ovid wrote the Heroides. (Medium)

Suggested readings, #53

1814 — by Jacques Louis David — Image by © The Gallery Collection/Corbis

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

The Puzzles of Thermopylae. (History Today)

How Stoicism can make you Invulnerable during COVID-19. [Despite the hype in the title, a good article by a serious writer.] (Medium)

Giorgio Agamben’s coronavirus cluelessness. The Italian philosopher’s interventions are symptomatic of theory’s collapse into paranoia. (Chronicle of Higher Education)

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

There is no such thing as “boosting” the immune system. Except through vaccines, of course. (Science Based Medicine)

To hell with hell: Bart Ehrman debunks the Christian belief in perpetual torment. (Spectator)

Coronavirus has not suspended politics – it has revealed the nature of power. (Guardian)

Video conversation: consciousness, panpsychism, and illusionism

Here is another friendly conversation with my colleague Dan Kaufman of Missouri State University, editor of the excellent online magazine, The Electric Agora. This time the theme is consciousness, and particularly two diametrically different approaches to understanding it: panpsychism (the notion that consciousness is somehow an elemental property of matter) and so-called “illusionism” (the idea that, on the contrary, in some important sense consciousness is an illusion). Dan and I disagree with both camps, and try to articulate why their respective supporters are making the same mistake.

After a brief chat about the ongoing pandemic and when it may end, we get right to it, by laying out the so-called “hard” problem of consciousness as articulated by David Chalmers, and which I think is actually a category mistake. We then talk about why panpsychism is not a solution to the hard problem, even admitting there were such a thing.

Since this brings us to talk about the nature of science, Dan and I get into a bit of a side conversation on the currently ongoing battle for the soul of fundamental physics, based on the acceptance or rejection of so-called “post-empirical” science (in my opinion, an oxymoron).

We then go back to our main theme, by way of metaphysics, and specifically the contrast between physicalism and idealism. Trust me, it’s very pertinent. I introduce two different views of metaphysics, so-called “first philosophy,” which goes back to the pre-Socratics, and “scientific metaphysics” a la James Ladyman and Don Ross. (More on that particular topic here. And here are two more related posts I published recently.)

Dan and I then move to Daniel Dennett’s inspired “illusionism.” There too we arrive at the conclusion that this is no solution to the problem of consciousness, though in several respects it gets things much closer to reality than panpsychism. We end by talking about the difference between misrepresentations and useful representations, attempting to improve on Dennett’s view of consciousness. Here is the video:

Suggested readings, #52

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Is ‘race’ modern? To counter racism, scholars must trace the idea of ‘race’ to its origins, but asking the right questions is half the battle. (Aeon)

Odysseus and You. How you can use the hero’s journey to help you in everyday life. (Medium)

Plagues follow bad leadership in ancient Greek tales. (The Conversation)

Nature is Not Mathematical. [No shit, pace Max Tegmark.] (Medium)

Philosopher in Italian coronavirus lockdown on how to think positively about isolation. (The Conversation)

Ethicists agree on who gets treated first when hospitals are overwhelmed by coronavirus. (Quartz)

At the Margins. [Though the author apparently is unaware that one can annotate e-books as well as physical ones.] (National Review)

Suggested readings, #51

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Always narrating: the making and unmaking of Umberto Eco. (LA Review of Books)

How Stoicism can help at a time of crisis: Epictetus’s epiphany. (Medium)

The Decameron – the 14th-century Italian book that shows us how to survive coronavirus. Giovanni Boccaccio’s work taught citizens how to maintain mental wellbeing in times of epidemics and isolation. (New Statesman)

Choose your own birth. Every human is both an animal with a deep evolutionary history and an individual who must bring their existence into being. (Aeon)

Spinoza and ‘no platforming’: the Enlightenment thinker would have seen it as motivated by ambition rather than fear. (The Conversation)

Suggested readings, #50

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

The philosophy behind Ad Astra’s voyage into the unknown. Exploring the subtle ways the film’s ending works its magic. [Good article about, in my opinion, an under appreciated scifi film.] (Polygon)

Stoicism and Islam. Al-Kindi’s Device for dispelling sorrows. (Medium)

I love the world but I cannot stay. I’m going to die, but I might as well be cheerful about it. (New York Times)

Cabin fever: the philosophy of isolation. How the COVID-19 pandemic may provide us with something more than just fear and loneliness. (Medium)

Our ‘pursuit of Happiness’ is killing the planet. We need to strike a new balance between our private pleasures and our collective survival. (New York Times)

The Stoic Emergency Kit

I have just published a new e-booklet that collects nine essays I wrote, covering basic aspects of theoretical and practical Stoicism. As the subtitle puts it, this guide is “for those who need a refresher and those who are just starting out.” You can download a free PDF or ePub version (several other free booklets on Stoicism, philosophy of science and general philosophy can be found here). The Stoic Emergency Kit contains the following:

A very brief history of Stoicism
Meet the Stoics

Stoic theory
Arête: on the nature of human excellence
Prosochē or not prosochē? On Stoic mindfulness
Stoic psychology 101: impressions, assent, and impulses
Stoic epistemology 101: Zeno and the metaphor of the hand movement
Oikeiôsis: how to feel at home in the world

Stoic practice
Stoicism in three simple steps
How I practice Stoicism: 9 easy exercises
How to deal with insults, the Stoic way
Let’s talk about the premeditation of adversity