Suggested readings, #97

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

Did an alien life-form do a drive-by of our solar system in 2017? (New York Times) We have no good reason to believe it, but it sure sells books.

Aristotle to anti-vax: internet and the decline of reason. (World Crunch) Though one wonders whether reason was ever much higher than it is now.

The tyranny of work. Jobs have become, for so many, a relentless, unsatisfying toil. Why then does the work ethic still hold so much sway? (Aeon)

There are two kinds of happy people. Some of us strive for a virtuous life. Others strive for a pleasant one. We could all use a better balance. (Atlantic) A bit simplistic, but some food for thought.

The inflation of concepts. Human rights, health, the rule of law – why are these concepts inflated to the status of totalizing, secular religions? (Aeon) One of the best articles you’ll read this month.

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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, #97”

  1. The first Aeon article? (Which I saw a week or so ago.) I think there’s a lot of inertia in, not what’s species-wide, or nearly so, human cultural evolution, but in specific areas’ human sociological evolution.

    Perhaps another way to put this is in terms of Gould: Cultural evolution and my idea of narrower sociological evolution work on punctuated equilibria, not regular incremental growth.

    Re Ye Old Protestant Work Ethic, other memes and interests within America at least help prop it up in a stasis point. That includes using it as a tool to try to pretend away continued growth in income inequality.


    Second Aeon? I don’t totally disagree with WHO’s definition of “health.” To some degree, it includes mental health and physical in one package. And, per the old, “a sound mind in a sound body,” these should be united. Now, we can still stop short of some aspects of WHO’s definition, probably.

    That said, I do agree with the idea that “mission creep” can not only reduce focus on many issues, it can bring in minimalization.

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  2. The Atlantic? Simplistic indeed, and also assumes there’s only two sides to this issue, contra the thoughts of Idries Shah, whom I regularly reference:

    “To ‘see both sides’ of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.”

    In this particular matter, just within Hellenistic philosophy as a guide, I can of course note Cynicism, which, unlike Epicureanism, may not be passive, but unlike Stoicism, has different actively practiced goals. Or I could go East and reference Master Kung’s five duties as the key to happiness.

    So, maybe, a bit too black and white, rather than just too simplistic, is Brooks’ problem. But, you know, Massimo, you and I could add a fifth category to the MMPI with this, patent it, and have new personality testing gold!

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