Suggested readings, #48

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

The Ancients’ tech anxiety. On the shallowness of reading mythology as sci-fi. (New Atlantis)

Emotional Intelligence and Stoicism. Taking control of your emotions in a relationship. (Medium)

The paradox of an atheist soul. Why the idea of a single self only makes sense in a theistic world. [It doesn’t, but good example of nice writing and logically flawed argumentation.] (New Statesman)

What is the Point of Studying Ancient Philosophy? (Medium)

Public philosophy and philosophical progress. [I don’t agree with the author’s narrow view of philosophical progress, here is mine. Still, a lot of food for thought.] (APA Blog)

A universal truth: desire in Buddhism, Taoism and Stoicism. (Medium)

What’s so funny about philosophers? Unthinkable: the original ‘sage-wannabes’ of Athens were considered slightly weird, a new book reveals. (Irish Times)

Suggested readings, #47

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

A war diary soars over Rome. The story of Emperor Trajan’s victory over a mighty barbarian empire isn’t just one for the books. It’s also told in 155 scenes carved in a spiral frieze on a monumental column. (National Geographic)

A detailed introduction to the philosophy of science. It’s time to take your understanding of science to the next level. [Though this particular introduction is a bit biased against positivist-like views.] (Medium)

Fed up with Facebook? Here are 6 alternatives. (MakeTechEasier)

The Ancient Roman secret to living life to the fullest. (Medium)

Studying philosophy in Athens: the case of Zeno. (Modern Stoicism)

How to make the study of consciousness scientifically tractable. We need to reexamine the idea of “objectivity” in research. (Scientific American)

Ancient animistic beliefs live on in our intimacy with tech. [As usual, Stephen Asma has good ideas, and then veers toward woo.] (Aeon)

Stoa Nova event: Seneca’s On the Firmness of the Wise Man

On the Firmness of the Wise Man is one of Seneca’s classics on a very peculiar topic in Stoicism: the nature of the wise person, or sage. Do sages exist? Or are they only idealizations? Can we aspire to becoming sages? If not, what’s the point of talking about them? (Hint: there is a point…)

Suggested reading: On the Firmness of the Wise Man (full text, free)

When: Tuesday, 3 March 2020, at 6pm

RSVP here

Suggested readings, #46

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

The biology of love. Humans teeter on a knife’s edge. The same deep chemistry that fosters bonding can, in a heartbeat, pivot to fear and hate. [A bit too much evolutionary speculation, but interesting nonetheless.] (Aeon)

The Ancient World’s best kept secret. Recent scholarship exposes a [literally] whitewashed Roman history. (Medium)

Why is the human brain so efficient? How massive parallelism lifts the brain’s performance above that of AI. [And why brains are not digital computers.] (Pocket)

How to become an exceptional writer by studying philosophy. A comprehensive examination of how engaging in philosophical analysis will make you a much stronger thinker and writer. [Don’t know about “exceptional,” but this is useful.] (Medium)

The impact of philosophy – and the philosophy of impact. [I actually think the author’s conclusion is off, but the articles raises some interesting points.] (3QuarksDaily)

Suggested readings, #45

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

Science hasn’t refuted free will. A growing chorus says that science has shown free will to be an illusion. But it actually has offered arguments in its favor. [Kind of, sort of.] (Boston Review)

The Stoicism of Thomas Jefferson. Ten rules to follow in daily life. (Medium)

The dark shadow in the injunction to ‘do what you love’. [A somewhat rambling, long, but nevertheless interesting piece.] (Aeon)

Stoicism and the Military. Did Stoic philosophers go to war? (Medium)

Virgilian afterlives: the classics in question. [A bit self-indulging, but bear with it, it pays off.] (LA Review of Books)

Suggested readings, #44

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

What’s wrong with physics. A physicist slams hype about multiverses, string theory, and quantum computers and calls for more diversity in his field. (Scientific American)

The Stoicism of Benjamin Franklin. Was the Founding Father influenced by Stoic philosophy? (Medium)

What do we owe the dead? The dust-up over a Washington Post reporter’s tweets about Kobe Bryant raises a moral question and a cultural taboo. (New York Times)

Philosophical life coaching — 4 key take-home messages. (Medium)

Gender differences in toy use: boys play with boy toys, girls with girl toys. (Why Evolution is True)

Let Plato plan your wedding! Wedding plans from Plato’s advice on romance and parties in the Republic, Laws, Symposium, & Phaedrus. (Philosophy Now)

An existential crisis in neuroscience. We’re mapping the brain in amazing detail — but our brain can’t understand the picture. (Nautilus)

On panpsychism, an exchange

I recently ended a fascinating discussion with philosopher Philip Goff, on the topic of the science and philosophy of panpsychism. (You can find the 8 letters we exchanged here.) Panpsychism is the notion that consciousness, somehow, is elemental in the universe, i.e., it is a basic property of matter.

As Goff readily admitted, there is no, and there cannot be any, empirical evidence in support of his theory. Indeed, if there were, we would already know that the theory is false, as explained by physicist Sabine Hossenfelder here.

You would think that would be the end of the discussion, but Goff subscribes to what I suggest is an outmoded approach to metaphysics, believing that simply producing logically coherent accounts of things one actually advances knowledge and understanding.

My opinion is that that way of doing metaphysics died with Descartes (not coincidentally, that’s also when modern science got started — Descartes was a contemporary of Galileo). A far better way to conceive of the whole project of metaphysics nowadays is as being in the business of making unified sense of the highly fractured picture of the world emerging from the special sciences, since scientists themselves are simply, by necessity, too close to their subject matter to be able to afford a bird’s eye view of things (see here for an example).

In the end, my sense is that what Goff and others (for instance, most famously, David Chalmers) are doing got the best response from David Hume back in the 18th century:

If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1777)