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)
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 twomore 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:
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)
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:
History 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