Suggested readings, #130

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

‘Green growth’ doesn’t exist – less of everything is the only way to avert catastrophe. There is a box labelled “climate”, in which politicians discuss the climate crisis. There is a box named “biodiversity”, in which they discuss the biodiversity crisis. There are other boxes, such as pollution, deforestation, overfishing and soil loss, gathering dust in our planet’s lost property department. But they all contain aspects of one crisis that we have divided up to make it comprehensible. The categories the human brain creates to make sense of its surroundings are not, as Immanuel Kant observed, the “thing-in-itself”. They describe artefacts of our perceptions rather than the world. … (Guardian)

What if trigger warnings don’t work? Earlier this year, Brandeis University’s Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center released a “Suggested Language List,” developed by “students who have been impacted by violence and students who have sought out advanced training for intervening in potentially violent situations.” The students’ purpose, they wrote, was “to remove language that may hurt those who have experienced violence from our everyday use.” They proposed avoiding the idioms “killing it,” “take a stab at,” and “beating a dead horse.” I was struck that one of the phrases they recommended avoiding was “trigger warning,” and that the proffered explanation was sensible: “ ‘warning’ can signify that something is imminent or guaranteed to happen, which may cause additional stress about the content to be covered. We can also never guarantee that someone will not be triggered during a conversation or training; people’s triggers vary widely.” … (New Yorker)

Pleasure and justice. One of the least interesting things a woman can do vis-à-vis sex is consent to it—yet lately, we seem to have less to say about female erotics than we do about male abuses. On the one hand, it is not hard to understand why consent and its absence are at the forefront of mainstream conversation. A focus on rape and assault is warranted in a culture where sexual crimes are so tragically common: one in every six women in the United States is the victim of rape or attempted rape, and 81 percent of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment. … (Boston Review)

Conspiracy theorists lack critical thinking skills: new study. Conspiracy theories are nothing new, but they have greater reach and intensity with the advent of social media. As explained by Anthony Lantian, an associate professor of psychology at the Paris Nanterre University and a co-author of the new study: “Conspiracy theories refer to attempts to explain the ultimate cause of an important event (social, political, climatic, etc.) by accusing a hidden coalition of perceived malicious and powerful people or organisations of having secretly planned and implemented these events.” … (New Daily)

The essayist as public intellectual. The mid-twentieth century United States was, American poet Randall Jarrell wrote in 1953, an “age of criticism”: a period in which criticism became the “representative or Archetypal act” of the humanistic intellectual (p. 66). For many of these intellectuals and critics, the essay was the preferred medium of expression. Phillip Lopate recently identified the period from 1945-1970 as “the Golden Age of the American Essay.” In the decades since, essays have also become “the lingua franca of the American academy,” which developed an increasingly tight affiliation with public intellectual work in the United States after World War II. In other words, intellectual historians of the post-1945 period in the United States often have no choice but to contend with essays in our research. But what does it mean to read essays as evidence?… (JHI Blog)

Knowing what to believe. As a student on a summer break from my psychology degree, I spent a few weeks traveling alone around China. Much of the trip was spent on long, rambling train journeys where pleasantries with my fellow passengers were exchanged via hand signals and a few halting words of Mandarin. There was plenty of time to think while watching the landscape roll by. The book in my backpack was conducive to this – Daniel Dennett’s Freedom Evolves, all about free will. Dennett’s thesis was that we can retain a sense of being free while still acknowledging the determinism inherent in the brain and mind (a view known as compatibilism in philosophy). To me it made a lot of sense (and still does) to define freedom as the capacity to make decisions – to be able to consciously weigh up what to believe or what course of action to take. … (IAI News)

Evidence for a probabilistic turn in philosophy. A few decades ago, the use of formal methods in philosophy was dominated by a small number of closely related techniques. Above all, philosophers were concerned with the application of logic. Indeed, to the extent that philosophers turned to other areas for formal tools to conduct their research, it was often to areas that were intimately connected to logic (e.g., set theory). A question now arises as to whether there has been a change in the use of formal methods in philosophy over time. Is the use of formal methods in philosophy still dominated by logic, or has there been a shift toward diversification, with an increased use of other formal tools? And if so, what other tools? … (Daily Nous)

Suggested readings, #129

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

The hidden connection between academic relativists and science denial. Since the 1960s, relativism about natural science has been a major trend in parts of the social sciences. Proponents of social constructivism, the strong program, deconstructionism, and postmodernism describe results from natural science as power-based social constructions rather than the currently best knowledge about the natural world. Critics have accused them of contributing to the onslaught of corporate and politicized science denial that has accelerated in the past three decades. … (Skeptical Inquirer)

The symbolic politics of Judith Butler are all very well, but sometimes reality interjects. The philosopher Judith Butler is infamously difficult to understand. Among Butler’s long list of academic awards, one stands out as rather less enviable: first prize in a 1998 bad-writing contest run by the journal Philosophy and Literature (I would quote the offending sentence, but doing so would use up most of my word count). … (New Statesman)

Another side to Socrates. We all know the story. Socrates has been told by the oracle that he is wisest of men, but he considers that he himself knows nothing. Puzzled, he takes to cross-examining his fellow Athenians about their beliefs, and time and again finds that they will not bear examination. As a result, he is indicted on trumped-up charges of impiety and corrupting the young. After a trial in which he eloquently defends his behaviour, he is condemned to death. A martyr to freedom of expression, and a shocking example of democracy suppressing dissent. Surely there is more to the story than that? Indeed there is. … (3QuarksDaily)

Antirealism and the analytic-continental split. While both vitriolic ignorance and baneful neglect are unfortunate, the lack of cross-engagement is understandable. It takes a tremendous amount of work to grasp the context needed to follow conversations that have been going on for 150-200 years. This also explains why philosophers who do try to engage often find it inscrutable, leading at times to wholesale dismissal. However, difficult is not the same as impossible, and a tradition of mostly failures should not discourage us from continuing to try. The divorce has done harm to the profession, leaving legions of rich arguments unargued, countless lessons unlearned. The independent development of the two makes conversing more difficult but also more valuable, as each tradition has developed sophisticated ideas and intellectual tools wholly missing in the other. … (IAI News)

Gamer beware, ultra-realistic VR is a philosophical minefield for humanity. Virtual reality has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years. Whether we’re talking about the capabilities of the VR tech itself, its price, or the VR games now available to us, there’s no question that virtual reality has improved. While the Valve Index is still pricey, there are plenty of great budget options now available. The Oculus Quest 2 can be bought for a humble $300, and it’s a damn good headset by all technical standards. But, as with all new technological innovations, there have been bumps along the road. For instance, while the Quest 2 is fantastic in terms of price-performance, it requires full Facebook integration to use, which has raised questions about the ethics of business practices which strongarm the user into a social media-sphere, and all the privacy concerns that this raises. And when it comes to the tech itself, there are still a number of issues to be worked out, such as the tracking of the HP Reverb G2. … (PC Gamer)

Suggested readings, #128

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

Peer review of a VAERS dumpster dive. There is a new preprint study of COVID-vaccine-associated myocarditis (C-VAM) by Hoeg et al. being shared on social media and several news sites that has not passed peer review. The claim from the study authors is that they replicate the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice’s (ACIP) analysis of C-VAM event reports from the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and found a much higher incidence than previously reported. The study falls short of this claim in many ways but perhaps most significantly, it appears the authors wandered into the VAERS quagmire with no understanding of how the system works. … (Science Based Medicine)

A tale of two resignations. Last week, Peter Boghossian publicly announced his resignation from Portland State University. In his announcement, he complained about both the character of the university—its emphasis on social justice and what he sees as its “illiberalism”—and about how he was treated by some students, faculty, and administrators. … (Daily Nous)

Towards a new Enlightenment. Socrates’s legacy is one of philosophy as intervention and enlightenment of public life. Could contemporary academic philosophers play a similar role? The Enlightenment’s legacy, still alive in the academy today, sees philosophers as the holders of reason and the guides of progress. But those are philosophical myths best left behind. What is called for is a new Enlightenment, one that interrogates grand buzzwords like “reason” and “progress”, is more historically grounded and pragmatic, writes Michale Hampe. … (IAI news)

Reproducibility: expect less of the scientific paper. In 2018, we embarked on a journey to assess the reproducibility of biomedical research papers from Brazil. Thus began a multicentre collaboration of more than 60 laboratories to replicate 60 experiments from 2 decades of Brazilian publications1. We randomly selected experiments that used three common laboratory techniques: the MTT assay for cell viability, RT-PCR to measure specific messenger RNAs and the elevated plus maze to assess anxiety in rodents. … (Nature)

Psychologists are learning what religion has known for years. Even though I was raised Catholic, for most of my adult life, I didn’t pay religion much heed. Like many scientists, I assumed it was built on opinion, conjecture, or even hope, and therefore irrelevant to my work. That work is running a psychology lab focused on finding ways to improve the human condition, using the tools of science to develop techniques that can help people meet the challenges life throws at them. But in the 20 years since I began this work, I’ve realized that much of what psychologists and neuroscientists are finding about how to change people’s beliefs, feelings, and behaviors—how to support them when they grieve, how to help them be more ethical, how to let them find connection and happiness—echoes ideas and techniques that religions have been using for thousands of years. … (Wired)

Howard University’s removal of classics is a spiritual catastrophe. Upon learning to read while enslaved, Frederick Douglass began his great journey of emancipation, as such journeys always begin, in the mind. Defying unjust laws, he read in secret, empowered by the wisdom of contemporaries and classics alike to think as a free man. Douglass risked mockery, abuse, beating and even death to study the likes of Socrates, Cato and Cicero. Long after Douglass’s encounters with these ancient thinkers, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would be similarly galvanized by his reading in the classics as a young seminarian — he mentions Socrates three times in his 1963 “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” … (Washington Post)

Can psychologists tell us anything about morality? Lately, it’s (again) become fashionable to raise questions about the relevance of human psychology to human morality. On its face, the notion seems singularly unpromising – isn’t what we’re like relevant to what we ought do? But in fact, this idea is an old one, which has been discussed by moral philosophers for centuries. We therefore enter discussion with an unwelcome sense of déjà vu. But the recent exchange between Tamsin Shaw and Steven Pinker and Jonathan Haidt in the New York Review of Books compels us to consider the old idea in its most recent incarnation, which holds not that human psychology doesn’t matter for morality, but that what professional psychologists tell us about morality doesn’t matter for morality. … (The Philosopher’s Magazine)

Suggested readings, #127

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

The new Puritans. “It was no great distance, in those days, from the prison-door to the market-place. Measured by the prisoner’s experience, however, it might be reckoned a journey of some length.” So begins the tale of Hester Prynne, as recounted in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. As readers of this classic American text know, the story begins after Hester gives birth to a child out of wedlock and refuses to name the father. … (Atlantic)

The real reason fans hate the last season of Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones, in its eighth and final season, is as big as television gets these days. More than 17 million people watched the season’s opening. Judging by the fan and critic reaction though, it seems that a substantial portion of those millions are loathing the season. Indeed, most of the reviews and fan discussions seem to be pondering where the acclaimed series went wrong, with many theories on exactly why it went downhill. … (Scientific American)

Fact-checking works to undercut misinformation in many countries. In the wake of the flood of misinformation that’s drowning the US, lots of organizations have turned to fact-checks. Many newsrooms set up dedicated fact-check groups, and some independent organizations were formed to provide the service. We get live fact-checking of political debates, and Facebook will now tag material it deems misinformation with links to a fact-check. … (Are Technica)

Do surgeons who wear N95 masks have lower oxygen levels and make more mistakes? An individual who was both an anti-vaxxer and anti-masker claimed that “studies were done that show that surgeons who wore N95 masks for extended periods of time were shown to have decreased oxygen levels and were more prone to mistakes.” His argument was “imagine what that would do to kids who were forced to wear masks all day in school.” … (Skeptical Inquirer)

Fact check: false claim of an extraterrestrial satellite near Earth. A social media post shared on Facebook is claiming that the births of 10 Democratic politicians is tied to the alleged crash of a UFO in New Mexico in 1947. “It seems to make sense so I am asking my friends if they think this could be true?” the post states. “This is a well-known incident that many say has long been covered-up by the U.S. Air Force, as well as other Federal Agencies and Organizations.” … (USA Today)

Suggested readings, #126

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

Science alone can’t heal a sick society. In the winter of 1848, a 26-year-old Prussian pathologist named Rudolf Virchow was sent to investigate a typhus epidemic raging in Upper Silesia, in what is now mostly Poland. After three weeks of meticulous observation of the stricken populace — during which he carefully counted typhus cases and deaths by age, sex, occupation and social class — he returned with a 190-page report that ultimately blamed poverty and social exclusion for the epidemic and deemed it an unnecessary crisis. “I am convinced that if you changed these conditions, the epidemic would not recur,” he wrote. … (New York Times)

What the fallacy of accident is and why it needs to be stopped! One of the pedagogical functions of a philosophical education, arguably from as early as Socrates, has been to learn how to spot and (as we say) “call” bad arguments. Sophisms are what Stephen Colbert might call “truthy” arguments. They seem true, when you don’t look too closely. But when you do, you realize they are misleading, just frankly bunk. … (Medium)

No laughing matter? What the Romans found funny. Cicero advises that explaining a joke kills it. I am going to ignore his advice and try to write about what the Romans found funny: where did their sense of humour converge with, and diverge from, ours? … (Antigone)

The cult of life: when the drive to life becomes deadly. The past year has been a year rich with extraordinary events that have forced us to adjust our life to completely new scenarios. We had to give up our freedom of movement, rethink our social relations, and develop a different awareness and perception of our surroundings. We have been exposed to the risk of loss and death, and were also confronted with the uncertainty carried with a pandemic. With such a drastic interruption of our natural flow of life, new observations were made possible– observations that point to a clear imbalance. … (Epoché magazine)

The dangerous ideas of “Longtermism” and “Existential Risk”. So-called rationalists have created a disturbing secular religion that looks like it addresses humanity’s deepest problems, but actually justifies pursuing the social preferences of elites. … (Current Affairs)

Suggested readings, #125

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

The lucrative business of stoking vaccine skepticism. How misinformation peddlers are using crowdfunding sites to bankroll their work. For years anti-vaccine figures have made money publishing books and giving speeches, and only in the past couple of years have major sites like YouTube started preventing anti-vaxxers from directly earning revenue from advertising. (Slate)

Classical patricide. On the state of the classics in higher education. Should the formal study of Greece and Rome die—or be killed off? Some classicists seem to think so. (New Criterion)

The force of scientific authority. In the years leading up to the 1975 publication of Against Method, Paul Feyerabend rehearsed many of the monograph’s provocative and polemical claims in a series of earlier articles and lectures. Against Method earned Feyerabend the inauspicious title of “currently the worst enemy of science” in the pages of Nature and the moniker “anti-science philosopher” in the New York Times. (The Philosopher)

The mind does not exist. The terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ are messy, harmful and distracting. We should get rid of them. Or not. (Aeon)

We should all be ethical consumers. But unthinking zealotry helps no one. Before trying to drive change with our purchases we should consider how progress actually happens. (Prospect Magazine)

Skepticism needs more historians and social scientists. Organized skepticism has a reputation for attracting physicists and psychologists. All other disciplines were well behind. (Skeptical Inquirer)

Stoicism and mourning. The oldest and arguably most potentially damaging criticisms of Stoicism is that it unrealistically sets its back against all emotions.  However, that this is a contentious, arguably inaccurate understanding. (Modern Stoicism)

Suggested readings, #124

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

Computer models of civilization offer routes to ending global warming. But of course they demand too much of us, so we will not actually act on it. (NPR)

Living with uncertainty. As opposed to pretend a certainty that doesn’t exist. (Skeptical Inquirer)

On the lost “Lenny Bruce of Athens.” In defense of the ancient comedian who went after Aristotle. (LitHub)

Diomedes: the Iliad’s second Achilles. Diomedes functions as a second Achilles in the Iliad (as if one were not enough!). When he takes center stage, he is completely dominant and can take on seemingly any opponent, even the gods. (The Collector)

The Stoic obsession with figs. How a philosophy of life came from a snack. (Medium)

Suggested readings, #123

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

Talking to science deniers and sceptics is not hopeless. Fears of backfire effects are overblown, and advice to listen and interact still stands. (Nature)

Ancient (bizarre) arguments for vegetarianism. (The Philosophers’ Magazine)

The Man Behind the Myth: Should We Question the Hero’s Journey? A well deserved criticism of Joseph Campbell, which then slides into a lot of questionable wokeness accompanied by a good portion of cherry pickiness. (LA Review of Books)

Is there such a thing as collective virtue? These authors make the case, which I find unconvincing. (Journal of Value Inquiry)

Stoicism and the Eleusinian mysteries. How Marcus Aurelius was Initiated into the Cult of Demeter. (Medium)

Suggested readings, #122

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

Can comedy change the world? Despots aren’t defeated by laughter, but the fundamental message of the comedian – “it doesn’t have to be this way” – threatens authority and disturbs the prevailing order. (New Statesman)

Poseidon’s wrath. Vanished beneath the waves in 373 BCE, Helike is a byword for thinking about disaster, for ancients and moderns alike. (Aeon)

Exploring Postcolonialism in “Star Trek.” (The Great Courses Daily)

Why relativism is the worst idea ever. (APA Blog)

Why Stoicism now? One fool’s answer to a sage question in nine propositions. (Medium)

Suggested readings, #121

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

The philosophy of porn. Ubiquitous pornography doesn’t persuade, it trains. Star philosopher Amia Srinivasan says it’s time to reconnect desire with creativity. (Prospect Magazine)

Reason & Emotion. How do we bridge the (alleged) gap? (Philosophy Now)

Pursuing happiness is a mistake. The limits of utilitarianism in a pandemic. Though the author missed out entirely on the third option, other than utilitarianism and deontology: virtue ethics. (IAI News)

Forget morality. Moral philosophy is bogus, a mere substitute for God that licenses ugly emotions. Here are five reasons to reject it. Or not. The author is more than a bit confused about what counts for morality… (Aeon)

Stoic approaches to weight loss. Insight, self-control, and a sense of duty. No, not another “diet & exercise” article. (Medium)