Suggested readings, #11

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

Behavioral economics comes to the rescue if you happen to have a problem with addiction to your phone and social media. (Financial Times)

Who “owns” the Crusades? It’s more complicated than you think. (New Republic)

Cultural evolution and its discontents. (LA Review of Books)

The unnatural ethics of AI could be its undoing. (The Outline)

Published by


Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

6 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #11”

  1. Few basic thoughts:
    1. Re the Crusades book? Reader-response criticism and similar modern critical theories, though, arose because of what people thought a book or author meant. Related? What people think the Crusades meant thus still does matter. In that sense, the last paragraph of the review is true. At the same time, the reviewer misses a beat by not commenting on the Rhineland Jewish pogroms that kicked off the First Crusade.

    2. The cultural evolution piece (need to finish it later, but started) seems to be kind of a clunker, as Dawkins himself, and many others, backed away from the idea of memes long ago, and now they’re generally not much more than a literary / quasi-intellectual trope, as in the piece.

    3. On the trolley situation, from what I’ve read (and Hume would smile, were he alive, since it reflects on his comments on the passions, at least indirectly) that when you put people in a virtual reality simulator, they make different decisions than if you just ask them to go through a thought problem. That there is behavioral psychology, but also applies to behavioral economics and refutes Smithian-based claims about the economic rationality of our species. And since the invisible hand of Smith’s Deism also doesn’t exist, the only way it has any metaphorical power at all is as the group “drunken walk” of average behavior of us as a species, and that is just metaphorical and not explanatory power.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. (More background, I know, than comment) Billy Graham referred to his missions as Crusades, but that was sixty years ago. I was aghast when George W Bush spoke of a Crusade against terrorism. For a while at least, Middle Eastern opponents of America would refer to the Americans as Crusaders, although I do not know if they still do so.

    It would also be as well if Westerners knew more about how the armies of the first Crusade behaved when they captured Jerusalem. Other people do.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply