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)

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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.

9 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #44”

  1. I remembered Kobe’s rape case in Colorado the moment I heard he was dead. And I in general oppose unseemly hagiography of the dead. Plus, the whole backstory on the reporter? It makes management at the Post look disgusting. I blogged about that, including his non-apology “apology,” and his later calling an NBA official a “faggot,” for which he didn’t even offer a fake apology.


    Shouldn’t you have talked about Plato planning the, ahem, Ideal wedding?


  2. Just to repeat a question when I first read the SA article: Does it sound like Search is restating Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria in the interview?

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  3. The Nautilus piece on mapping brains is wonderfully written. The author is obviously talented in a areas besides mapping the brains of mice. It is a tribute to his writing skills that he sustains the reader’s interest despite arriving at a conclusion that seems anti-climactic and may be anticipated by many readers beforehand.

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  4. Not sure what to think of the gender differences in toy use article. In a “no choice” experiment, what would be of greater interest to me would be the child’s narrative of his/her play since it might reflect cued frameworks for role playing. The evidence from the monkey studies is compelling, but as was pointed out in another reading selection: Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

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    1. Thomas, I was surprised by this because Massimo’s piece is from Gnu Atheist AND Ev Psycher Jerry Coyne. You don’t have a fever of some sort, do you, Massimo?

      That said, Coyne does note that this seems IN PART due to genetic evolution differences. He also notes the preference increases with age. The problem is, with this being a meta-analysis, the graphics he presents don’t show how much this appears to increase with age.

      I have one other issue. As (as far as we know), even if we’re not the only tool-making species, we ARE the only toy-making species, we’re overlaying human definitions of gender preference on toy selection when we test monkeys. In other words, there’s at least a degree of “problems of other minds” here. We have no idea why macaque or vervet monkeys differ in these preferences. For that matter, we don’t really know WHY humans differ in such preferences.

      And, since gender is not sex, it is (of course) time to tip the hat to David Hume and his famous disjunction which I know Massimo and Thomas know.

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  5. Specific to the human brain, and via Pocket, there’s this piece, which I think I’ve posted to Twitter before, about the power of the brain, running primarily in parallel, vs computers even with individual computer processes being so much faster.

    One thing it notes in detail is the degree of accuracy and speed of control of human bodily motions. And I think that’s important to remember, even as neuroscience largely gives in to the temptation to focus on brain as thinking and consciousness machine to the exclusion of about all else.

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