Suggested readings, #38

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

The uncomfortable limits of human knowledge. Does science describe experience or truth? (The Scientist)

Rules or citizens? Ancient Athenian and Greek practices afford us insights into how and why to maintain real accountability in public life. (Aeon)

Sick of this market-driven world? You should be. The self-serving con of neoliberalism is that it has eroded the human values the market was supposed to emancipate. (Guardian)

The moral philosophy of The Good Place. The geniuses behind TV’s most philosophically inclined sitcom discuss what it means to be a good person. (Vox)

When truth and reason are no longer enough. In his (no longer so) new book, Steven Pinker is curiously blind to the power and benefits of small-town values. (Atlantic)

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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, #38”

  1. In other words, Pinker is a stereotypical “flyover” guy? That said, were he to visit small town America, he’d have found more refutation of his “we’re all getting less violent” claims.

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  2. More seriously on the anarchia piece. First, I thought of the Star Trek episode because it does reflect some similar ideas. And, for his faults at times, Rodenberry, IMO, had more intellectual stimulation of this sort in the original series than any of the later series. The Zeon and Ekos episode Patterns of Force also comes to mind.

    Second, the anarchia being associated in large part with the Thirty? This kind of illustrates part of why I disagree with you on Socrates — at least the Socrates as written up by Plato and somewhat by Xenophon, versus Aristophanes’ brief take. Per the piece, I am reminded of the classical Roman definition of “dictator,” except that the Thirty were appointed without either a prescribed or a presumed-by-custom period after which, like Cincinnatus, they would step down. And, Socrates supported both this and a second overthrow of democracy. I still think he was at least half as much the sophist as Aristophanes says and a lot more elitist than Plato lets on, even within the class distinctions of classical Athens.


    That said, whether you saw it at first or not, the end of this piece — the reference to Athens’ small size as a city-state — ties with the Pinker piece.

    Michael Bloomberg may be fabulously rich, but you don’t run into him, Massimo. In a small town, I may see at the grocery store every week the guy who owns three oil wells and three gas leases.

    Or, per that blog post I did recently about the Muenster, Texas, teacher getting probation for her sexual relationship with a student, and how it relates to Kaufmann and Rawls, the “Peyton Place” issues are still real, too.

    And, while small town America may not have honor murders like, say, Iran, it still has an honor culture along with Peyton Place and personalized income inequality.

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    1. Agreed on most things, Socratic. Except Socrates. (By the way, what’s he doing in your handle??) Just started reading Xenophon’s Memorabilia, by the way.


  3. The handle is from Socrates the legend, not his reality as I and Aristophanes understood it!

    Ahh, Xenophon. Read selections from the Anabasis long ago as the first “readings” class in my collegiate Greek after the two semesters of “grammar.” (It was a Lutheran college, so much of it was biblical, but beyond several NT classes and one Septuagint, I also did selections from the Republic, and as an independent study, Demosthenes’ De Corona, or Tou Stephanou, to give it its original Greek title.)


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