Suggested readings, #49

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

Marcus Aurelius helped me survive grief and rebuild my life. [By my friend Jamie Lombardi.] (Aeon)

How Stoicism can help at a time of crisis — part 1, the Stoic Worry Tree. [By my friend Tim LeBon.] (Medium)

Why philosophy is an ideal travel companion for adventurous minds. (The Conversation)

The ethics of speech acts. It’s one thing to say something. It’s quite another for a person to do (or not do) something because of what you’ve said. [Convoluted, difficult reading, but worthy, in the end.] (Aeon)

The pleasure principle. Peter Adamson in defense of the Cyrenaics, the original hedonists. (Philosophy Now)

A Minute Therapist Guide to managing anger. “When anger rises, think of the consequences.” –Confucius. (Psychology Today)

Supermensch. Superman et al were invented amid feverish eugenic speculation: what does the superhero craze say about our own times? (Aeon)

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)

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)

“How to Live a Good life,” on the Wright Show

Fun conversation among Skye Cleary, Bob Wright, and myself on the topic of philosophies of life, occasioned by the publication of How to Live a Good Life: A Guide to Choosing Your Personal Philosophy (Vintage/Random House).

The vide is below. Naturally, we talk about the book, but also about the relationship between Existentialism and Stoicism, how Skye encountered Existentialism while attending business school (of all places), and Sartre and de Beauvoir’s famous attempt to live a life of freedom.

We ask whether philosophers are a bunch of hypocrites, explore the difference between personal authenticity and social convention, and explain why Stoicism doesn’t mean passive acceptance.

Near the end of the video, Bob wonders what other philosophies (other than our chosen ones of Existentialism and Stoicism) we would find attractive enough to consider practicing them. We conclude, somewhat unusually, by exploring how Wittgenstein would view our book.

Suggested readings, #43

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

The post-human Enlightenment, a review of Fiction Without Humanity: Person, Animal, Thing in Early Enlightenment Literature and Culture, by Lynn Festa. (Public Books)

If you’re angry, you’re part of the problem, not the solution. What we need is restraint — not rage. (Medium)

Welcome to the age of impunity: David Miliband’s World Economic Forum speech. (International Rescue Committee)

It’s time to free your e-reading from Amazon. (Medium)

You are now remotely controlled. Surveillance capitalists control the science and the scientists, the secrets and the truth. (New York Times)

How life improved when I gave up on the news. The benefits of a “media diet” (Medium)

Psychology still skews western and affluent. Can it be fixed? Critics have argued that these biases present an imperfect view of the human mind. Why is it so hard to correct? (Salon)

Suggested readings, #42

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

Calculating the incalculable: Thoreau on the true value of a tree. (BrainPickings)

Stoicism and dating. Time to let your values lead the way. (Medium)

The IRS decided to get tough against Microsoft. Microsoft got tougher. [and, unfortunately, we let them get away with it.] (ProPublica)

Nancy Cartwright on the disunity of science. (Medium)

The top 10 crises the world should be watching in 2020. While these countries represent less than 6 percent of the world’s population, they host more than half of all people identified as being in need globally. (International Rescue Committee)

Bertrand Russell on how to conquer happiness — part II. (Medium)

Race and IQ. Again. [An excellent commentary on how a philosophical journal once again published a shoddy paper on “scientific racism.”] (Fardels Bear)