Mini-review: Nemesis, Alcibiades and the Fall of Athens

I love reading books. That’s why this site features entries from my video book club, essay-based book club, as well as reviews of individual books. Sometimes, though, I can’t get around to a full fledged review, or the book requires only a few paragraphs of commentary. In those cases, I used to publish mini-reviews on Amazon. But since I’ve started boycotting the company (because of their awful labor practices, destructive near-monopoly, and willful avoidance of taxes), I decided to move this practice to my blog. So here we go with the latest entry.

Nemesis, by David Stuttard, is the story of Alcibiades, the dashing, powerful, and rich Athenian statesman who was partially responsible for the disastrous expedition against Syracuse that helped change the tide of the Peloponnesian War, ultimately leading to the defeat of Athens. Alcibiades was brilliant, and had all the makings of a great politician and general, like his predecessor, Pericles (by whom he was adopted), and yet squandered the whole thing away, defecting from Athens to Sparta and then to the Persians, before being hunted down and killed by Spartan agents.

My interest in Alcibiades lies in the fact that he was also Socrates’ friend and pupil (and wannabe lover, though the philosopher had different ideas). In one of the Platonic dialogues (the Alcibiades Major), Socrates warns his student of the disaster to come, telling him that he (and politicians in general) just don’t have the right character for what they want to do:

“Then alas, Alcibiades, what a condition you suffer from! I hesitate to name it, but, since we two are alone, it must be said. You are wedded to stupidity, best of men, of the most extreme sort, as the argument accuses you and you accuse yourself. So this is why you are leaping into the affairs of the city before you have been educated. You are not the only one to suffer from this; most of those who manage the affairs of the city are the same way, except a few—perhaps including your guardian, Pericles.”

I’m currently writing a book, tentatively entitled The General and the Philosopher, to explore this historically and philosophically fascinating relationship, and more generally the theme of the interface between philosophy and politics. Stay tuned.

Suggested readings, #81

man making a decision honesty vs dishonesty

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

Adam Smith warned us about sympathising with the elites. In his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), Adam Smith developed a theory of psychology based on ‘sympathy’ and outlined a way of living based on ‘reason and philosophy’. These ideas not only banish the (already disappearing) stereotype of Smith as a pioneer of free-market policies, but challenge some of our most cherished ideas about the sources of happiness. Published 17 years before The Wealth of Nations (1776), Moral Sentiments begins by rejecting the idea that people are basically self-interested. ‘How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others,’ Smith declares. We are often motivated, and indeed dominated, by our emotional involvement with our ideas about other people, which Smith calls ‘sympathy’. … (Aeon-Psyche) [This is a must read for anyone with only a superficial acquaintance with Smith. Which is most people. You’ll be surprised.]

What’s good about lying? Do you teach children to lie? I do. All the time. And you do, too! If you’re like most American parents, you point to presents under the Christmas tree and claim that a man named Santa Claus put them there. But your deliberate deceptions probably go beyond Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny. How many of us tell our kids (or students) that everything is fine when, in fact, everything is totally wrong, in order to preserve their sense of security? Have you been honest about everything having to do with, say, your love life, or what happens at work? Do you praise drawings they bring home from school that you actually think are terrible? … (Greater Good) [On the difference between prosocial and antisocial lying, only one of which is really bad.]

The COVID-19 free market experiment. My last column for Skeptical Inquirer landed me on a conservative Chicago-area talk radio program. I think something about the title, “COVID-19 and the Tyranny of Now,” caught the eye of one of the show’s hosts, so they invited me on to discuss the article in the morning drive slot. The conversation was polite, and although I tried to find as many points of agreement as possible, it soon became clear we actually had less in common than the host must have imagined. In preparation for my appearance, I listened to the show for a few hours, and the hosts and callers spent much of their time complaining about the coronavirus health policies, such as the closing of restaurants, bars, and schools, imposed by the Illinois governor and Chicago mayor (both Democrats). On the morning of my interview, they were pointing to the increased number of “deaths of despair” during the stay-at-home period, in particular the rise in drug overdoses in the Chicago area. … (Skeptical Inquirer) [Another must read, this time if you think that government imposed restrictions on businesses are what is driving the economy down. Think again.]

Why you should love a Japanese breakfast. I was born in the U.S. and spent my formative years there, so, naturally, I developed the sense that a normal breakfast should look something like pancakes, cereal, buttered toast, bacon, or sausages. It’s what was served to me when I went to friends’ houses for sleepovers and it’s what was advertised to me when I watched television. These are breakfast foods: The things that we should be eating in the morning to start our day. But when my family would return to Japan for the summer, my idea of breakfast was challenged. Instead of the usual toast or cereal that I was used to, my grandmother would prepare rice, fish, pickles, miso soup, and some vegetables for us every morning. As a child, I would stare down at these foods in the morning and silently protest: These are not breakfast foods. … (Medium) [The Japanese got a lot of things right, we should consider imitating them.]

The great philosopher-emperor you’ve never heard of. In June 363 a demoralised and tired Roman army was marching deep in the territory of the enemy Sassanid Empire in what is now modern Iraq. The retreating army was dangerously low on supplies in the sweltering heat of a Mesopotamian summer. Soldiers burdened by a slow-moving baggage train were under constant harassment from mounted Sassanian raiders, picking them off with missiles. The column was heading north along the bank of the Tigris to the safety of Roman territory, having given up besieging the Sassanian capital Ctesiphon and losing their campaign objective. The Emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus, better known to us as Julian, leading the column, was told of another attack on the rear guard. … (Medium) [Julian so-called the Apostate, the last great pagan Roman emperor.]

Mini-review: Apropos Of Nothing, by Woody Allen

I love reading books. That’s why this site features entries from my video book club, essay-based book club, as well as reviews of individual books. Sometimes, though, I can’t get around to a full fledged review, or the book requires only a few paragraphs of commentary. In those cases, I used to publish mini-reviews on Amazon. But since I’ve started boycotting the company (because of their awful labor practices, destructive near-monopoly, and willful avoidance of taxes), I decided to move this practice to my blog. So here we go with the latest entry.

Yes, yes, I know, why read Woody Allen’s memoir? Isn’t he a perverted child molester and rapist? There are, I think, at least two reasons. First of all, regardless of his personal life, he remains one of the most important movie makers and cultural icons of the latter part of the 20th century. Second, if you actually paid attention — as I did — to the controversy from the beginning you will have to come to the conclusion that Allen is innocent, or at the very least not proven guilty.

He does, inevitably, address the issue in Apropos of Nothing, where he points out that he has been cleared of charges by two different inquiries, and that the investigators have actually concluded that Mia Farrow coached her daughter to lie since she was a small child. But what about the fact that he married his much younger adopted daughter, Soon-Yi? She is indeed much younger, but was never his adopted daughter, he and Farrow were never married, and Farrow abused Soon-Yi, physically and psychologically. Besides, the couple has now been married for a long time, which is more than a lot of other celebrities can boast.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way (and of course you are entitled to your opinion about it), the rest of the book is a delight for anyone who appreciated Woody’s movies over so many decades. You won’t get tips about movie making, as Allen claims not to be that good of a director (he thinks of himself as a writer), and acknowledges a lot of luck in his life. But you’ll get endless funny or insightful anecdotes about most of his productions, as well as so many other aspects of his astounding career.

Allen has always been skeptical of awards and reputation, and does not believe in an afterlife. It is fitting, then, that these are his parting words in the memoir: “And really, no interest in a legacy? I’ve been quoted before on this, and I’ll leave it this way: Rather than live on in the hearts and mind of the public, I prefer to live on in my apartment.”

Book Club summary: Practical Philosophy

Over at my Patreon and Medium sites I run occasional “book clubs,” meaning multiple posts on the same book, which interested readers can use either as a companion to the book itself, or simply as extended summaries that give them an idea of what the book is about (and hence facilitate their decision of whether to invest the time to read the full volume or not). Here are all the entries connected to the most recently completed series.

Practical Philosophy — Ethics, Society and Culture, by John Haldane. In this wide ranging volume of philosophical essays John Haldane explores some central areas of social life and issues of intense academic and public debate. These include the question of ethical relativism, fundamental issues in bioethics, the nature of individuals in relation to society, the common good, public judgement of prominent individuals, the nature and aims of education, cultural theory and the relation of philosophy to art and architecture. John Haldane is Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs in the University of St. Andrews. He is also a former Royden Davis Professor of Humanities at Georgetown University and is currently a Senior Fellow of the Witherspoon Institute, Princeton. As well as being a prominent academic philosopher he is well known in Britain, in North America and elsewhere in the English-speaking world as a public intellectual and social commentator.

Here are my commentaries:

1. What is practical philosophy? (Patreon / Medium)

2. Practical ethics (Patreon / Medium)

3. Families and why they matter (Patreon / Medium)

4. Private life and public culture (Patreon / Medium)

Suggested readings, #80

[Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels]

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

Firm led by Google veterans uses A.I. to ‘nudge’ workers toward happiness. Technology companies like to promote artificial intelligence’s potential for solving some of the world’s toughest problems, like reducing automobile deaths and helping doctors diagnose diseases. A company started by three former Google employees is pitching A.I. as the answer to a more common problem: being happier at work. … (New York Times) [Because if there is something I trust corporations to do is to care about my happiness.]

Ancient democracy for an online world. Has the internet spelled the end of democracy? When most people ask this question, they are thinking about what the internet does to the politics of governments: the Cambridge Analytica scandal and QAnon, the app-driven election campaigns of populist strongmen like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, #fakenews, #deepstate and so forth. There are lots of good reasons to worry that the answer might be yes. … (Noema)

A theory about conspiracy theories. More than 1 in 3 Americans believe that the Chinese government engineered the coronavirus as a weapon, and another third are convinced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has exaggerated the threat of Covid-19 to undermine President Trump. The numbers, from a survey released on Sept. 21 by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, may or may not taper off as communities begin to contain the virus. … (New York Times)

Trump is a person devoid of good character. Why doesn’t it seem to matter? If ever the importance of having a good character was put to the vote, it was in November 2016. Then, a reality TV star who flaunted his bad character (from mocking a disabled reporter, to bragging about grabbing women by the pussy and disrespecting members of the military) was voted president of the United States, and on some level the issue was settled. Does character matter anymore? Increasingly, it seems no. … (The Guardian) [Only one caveat: the Stoics wouldn’t be “baffled and depressed” nowadays. On the contrary, they would not have been surprised and would have redoubled their efforts to improve themselves.]

Beyond Kuhn and Feyerabend. When discussing a philosophical question, it is sometimes useful to investigate the history of that question and its answers. The question I am dealing with here is: what makes science special? I assume that scientific knowledge is indeed special primarily by being more reliable than other kinds of knowledge, but also better in some other senses. This question of the special status of science has first been dealt with very soon after science was invented in ancient Greece, having integrated influences from other cultures. In the course of history, the Greek answer had to be seriously modified due to two main factors. First, the sciences developed enormously ever since and a theory of what makes science special had to adapt to this profound change of its subject matter. Second, not only doing science but also thinking about science became more sophisticated, especially regarding what different kinds of logic could and could not achieve in science. In the following, I shall sketch this historical development in order to characterize our current stance with respect to the question of what makes science special. … (IAI.tv) [One of the best articles on philosophy of science you’ll read this year.]

Suggested readings, #79

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

Why are we in the West so WEIRD? A Theory. According to copies of copies of fragments of ancient texts, Pythagoras in about 500 B.C. exhorted his followers: Don’t eat beans! Why he issued this prohibition is anybody’s guess (Aristotle thought he knew), but it doesn’t much matter because the idea never caught on. According to Joseph Henrich, some unknown early church fathers about a thousand years later promulgated the edict: Don’t marry your cousin! Why they did this is also unclear, but if Henrich is right — and he develops a fascinating case brimming with evidence — this prohibition changed the face of the world, by eventually creating societies and people that were WEIRD: Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic. … (New York Times) [I’m not at all convinced that we are that WEIRD, but it makes for a challenging read.]

The new, nicer Nero. Reassessing history’s most maligned ruler, notorious for fiddling while Rome burned. The Colosseum in Rome draws close to eight million tourists a year, making it one of the world’s most-visited archaeological attractions. I could see the crowds converging on the magnificent first-century amphitheater as I headed across the street to a small park on a hillock. There was almost no one here, aside from a few young mothers pushing strollers along the pathways. A cluster of nuns passed by, and one of them pointed me toward a poorly marked gate at the base of the hill—the entrance to the Domus Aurea, or what’s left of it, anyway. … (Smithsonian) [Not too convinced by this one either, smells a bit too much of historical revisionism. But, again, interesting read nonetheless.]

Why the Supreme Court ended up with nine justices—and how that could change. Why the Supreme Court ended up with nine justices—and how that could change. The U.S. Supreme Court changed size seven times in its first 80 years, from as few as five justices to as many as 10. Now, some argue it’s time to revisit the issue. … (National Geographic) [Lots of good ideas here, from unpractical ones to those that make a lot of sense but will never be implemented.]

A four-year timeline of Trump’s impact on science. Since he took office in January 2017, US President Donald Trump has not made science a priority; he has proposed massive cuts to many science agencies and took 19 months to nominate a science adviser. But his policies and actions have had strong impacts — many of them harmful — on researchers and issues related to science. Here’s a timeline of those events ahead of the US presidential election on 3 November. … (Nature)

Columbus is the wrong hero for Italian-Americans: In fact, associating him with us is a form of cultural erasure. Cultural erasure occurs when a people’s history becomes mythologized to support the values of their oppressors. The association of Italian-Americans with Christopher Columbus is a good example. During a summer of protests decrying racial injustices and the United States’ history of white supremacy, Gov. Cuomo was asked whether it was time to remove the statue adorning Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. The governor replied: “I understand the feelings about Christopher Columbus and some of his acts, which nobody would support…But the statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian American contribution to New York. For that reason, I support it.” Meanwhile, in Philadelphia’s Marconi Plaza, some gathered with weapons to “protect” a statue of Columbus from being removed. The statue has subsequently been slated for removal. … (Daily News) [Very good points about little appreciated aspects of Italian and Italian-American history.]

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.]

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)

Suggested readings, #76

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

Your guide to the many meanings of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is more than a century old, but physicists still fight over what it means. Most of the hand wringing and knuckle cracking in their debates goes back to an assumption known as “realism.” This is the idea that science describes something—which we call “reality”—external to us, and to science. It’s a mode of thinking that comes to us naturally. It agrees well with our experience that the universe doesn’t seem to care what theories we have about it. Scientific history also shows that as empirical knowledge increases, we tend to converge on a shared explanation. This certainly suggests that science is somehow closing in on “the truth” about “how things really are.” … (Nautilus)

Why evolutionary psychology (probably) isn’t possible. Human population geneticists can tell us about patterns of human migration, they can tell us how we are related to other species (e.g., Neanderthals and Denisovans). They can tell us the diseases that have afflicted our ancestors; which ancient versions of those diseases are found in some contemporary populations, and much, much more. Their work is a bio-detective synthesis of human phylogeny. A window into evolutionary processes. Evolutionary psychologists want to tell us about patterns in human psychology; our ways of “thinking” and therefore behaving with respect to certain stimuli—choosing whom to mate with, engaging in xenophobia, extending other-regard to kin, and much, much more. This work is inference-making and extrapolating. It too is supposed to be a window into evolutionary processes. … (Evolution Institute) [An excellent article by a sharp philosopher of science on the many issues with evopsych as a research program.]

Disdain for the less educated is the last acceptable prejudice. Joe Biden has a secret weapon in his bid for the presidency: He is the first Democratic nominee in 36 years without a degree from an Ivy League university. This is a potential strength. One of the sources of Donald Trump’s political appeal has been his ability to tap into resentment against meritocratic elites. By the time of Mr. Trump’s election, the Democratic Party had become a party of technocratic liberalism more congenial to the professional classes than to the blue-collar and middle-class voters who once constituted its base. In 2016, two-thirds of whites without a college degree voted for Mr. Trump, while Hillary Clinton won more than 70 percent of voters with advanced degrees. … (New York Times) [So says Michael Sandel, who is professor at the very elitist Harvard University. He makes some good points, but he also seems to be uncharacteristically a bit confused.]

Two types of Stoic therapy?

When we started Stoicism Today back in 2012, we began with two aims: i) to see if we could test the efficacy of Stoic practices and exercises reported by Roman Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, and ii) to introduce Stoicism to a much wider audience. The two aims went hand in hand – to test the efficacy meant getting lots of people to try them out – and Stoic Week was born with these twin aims in mind. Along the way the project has inevitably evolved and has become something of a hub for people who draw on Stoicism in their daily lives, whether they have been inspired by Stoic Week or had already discovered Stoicism on their own. Some of these consciously identify as ‘modern Stoics’, although many others do not. Some embrace a good part of Stoic philosophy while others might just take away the bits and pieces that they find helpful. … (Modern Stoicism)

Nonfiction and narrative popular philosophy. After my friend CH got his first tenure-track job in philosophy, he found himself with a “bourgeois longing” for a nice hi-fidelity stereo system. He didn’t want to listen to music any longer on a cheap boombox. So, he went to the nicer local electronics store and asked the clerk to walk him through various amplifiers, speakers, CD and record players, and so forth. Toward the end of the purchase, in what was sure to be a hefty bill, the one item that bothered CH was the price of the speaker wire. … (Daily Nous)

Suggested readings, #75

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

Animals do not have genders. And although this statement is universally accepted by those who study and theorize about gender, there is a lot of confusion about it among those who do not. The confusion stems from the fact that males and females of many species systematically behave in different ways. Perhaps the most basic example is the act of mating. … (Nautilus)

The psychology behind why Japanese people are so healthy. Whenever I talk to someone who has visited Japan, an ex-pat who has lived there or a tourist just passing by, they will more often than not mention something about the fast-food chains there. What may surprise you is that we are not talking about different menu options at Japanese fast food chains compared to American ones — we are talking about the portion sizes. … (Medium)

The world to come: what should we value? Human beings are the only species on Earth that do not know how they are supposed to live. All other species have a natural environment and a natural way to sustain their form of life. While some animals have to build things to make their environment what it ought to be (as in the case of beavers building dams), there is no question of what they ought to build and how the species ought to make a living for itself. As in all environments, things can go wrong: a falling rock can break the dam, the water can become poisoned, a virus may spread. Yet when something goes wrong in the life of beavers, it is not because they have the wrong idea of how to organize their lives. Indeed, beavers cannot have the wrong idea of how they should live, since it is set by their nature. … (New Statesman)

Deluded, with reason. A woman is so certain that she’s being unfairly targeted by intelligence agents that she hurriedly crosses the road to avoid a passing police officer. A young man smashes a shop window in frustration because he’s exhausted at having his every movement filmed for a TV show. A previously loving husband rejects his wife of 30 years, convinced she’s actually an imposter in disguise. It’s reasonably common for psychiatrists to encounter people who think and behave in such striking and peculiar ways as these. Most psychiatrists would regard such people as holding a delusion – a false belief that is strongly held, idiosyncratic and more or less impervious to evidence. … (Aeon)

How pseudoscientists get away with it. The relentless and often unpredictable coronavirus has, among its many quirky terrors, dredged up once again the issue that will not die, science versus pseudoscience. The scientists, experts who would be the first to admit they are not infallible, are now in danger of being drowned out by the growing chorus of pseudoscientists, conspiracy theorists, and just plain troublemakers who seem to be as symptomatic of the virus as fever and weakness. How is the average citizen to filter this cacophony of information and misinformation posing as science alongside real science? While all that noise makes it difficult to separate the real stuff from the fakes, there is at least one positive aspect to it all. … (Nautilus)