Suggested readings, #85

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

Carlo Rovelli on what we can learn from the octopus mind. Do octopuses hold the key to understanding consciousness? I’m not as optimistic as Rovelli and my colleague Peter Godfrey-Smith, but it’s an intriguing idea. (BBC Science Focus)

Anxiety isn’t a pathology. It drives us to push back the unknown. I’m increasingly less convinced by articles published in Psyche, the new Aeon outlet. Still, food for thought. (Psyche / Aeon)

Will the universe remember us after we’re gone? Despite the potentially New Age title, John Horgan doesn’t take the path of nonsense. Must-read article. (Scientific American)

What America owes to the Greeks and Romans. A lot, as it turns out, though the Founding Fathers would definitely look with dismay on what American has now become. (New York Times)

Means to an end. Aristotle’s metaphysics of nature. A valiant attempt to bring back a Tomistic version of Aristotle’s metaphysics for modern science. Doomed to fail, in my opinion. (Times Literary Supplement)

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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.

2 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #85”

  1. In the last 6-12 months, I’ve become more and more skeptical of claims of degrees of octopus consciousness and intelligence in general. The story helps make my case. Rapid skin color changes? Intuitive behavior, nothing more. Do we claim a chameleon is extremely conscious because IT does this?


    Well, there’s “normative” anxiety, as what our ancestors had when fearing a lion might be stalking them, and other varieties.


    Re Horgan, I’ve always thought that fear was behind many cosmologists, like Steven Weinburg, hoping the universe was indeed finite and being “crushed” when it appeared expansion was increasing. And, information amounts may be preserved, but, undegraded? No. And, Horgan’s right on his take. Susskind et al want a theoretically science-based version of heaven or nirvana.


    I think considering America the new Rome is sometimes overblown. Other than “hat tip” cultural nods, I don’t think we took THAT much from it.


    Thomism? Really? “(T)his does not discredit the central Aristotelian metaphysics of substance and attribute, potentiality and actuality, and of the operation of powers directed towards end.” Yes it does, and beyond the intellectual discreditation, as a good ex-Lutheran, I know “substance and accident” were religiously discredited 500 years ago too.

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    1. More on the octopi. I’ve actually read a couple of “pushback” articles in that past year. Don’t think I saved any browser links, sorry. Anyway, in one case where an octopus allegedly escaped a box? Nope. Human moved it. Other cases? Not always empirically verified. As for escaping through tight holes? Instinctual, again. Any nearly-shellless marine invertebrate, including cutttlefish and the other cephalopods, would do the same.

      I DO KNOW that, speaking of all cephalopods, calamari on a plate taste good. Especially when it’s the fresh real deal. Monterey, a few years ago:

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