Suggested readings, #103

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

Wilfrid Sellars, sensory experience and the ‘Myth of the Given.’ (Psyche)

That is not how your brain Works. Forget these scientific myths to better understand your brain and yourself. (Nautilus)

For chaos or country? Thomas Hobbes vs Jean-Jacques Rousseau about what society does to human nature. (The Philosophical Salon)

The politician is the malformed monster of our coexistence. (Psyche)

Procrastination: a strategy for change. On the power of implementation intentions. (Psychology Today)

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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, #103”

  1. Had read the Nautilus piece. Good basic stuff.

    On Rousseau vs Hobbes, I simply think, in the aggregate, humans “are,” that is, neither good nor evil.

    Found the Sellars piece interesting. Per its last paragraph, who says we are rational creatures vs mere creatures of habit? Bit of a false dichotomy, at least possibly one.

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    1. Agreed on the false dichotomy of the Sellars piece. And in the “good vs evil” article about human nature. Though I think Rousseau was slightly closer to the mark. Human beings are, by nature, cooperative and prosocial. Within groups, of course. Across groups we are rather nasty and xenophobic.

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  2. Agree with your response. If we truly were “evil” we’d never have developed the level of cooperation to create civilizations in the first place! (Not sure if Hobbes ever even entertained that idea. And, it’s obvious he never encountered a hunter-gatherer society.) In part, I was thinking that, to borrow a phrase from Nietzsche, perhaps the “genealogy of morals” should preclude a simplistic judgment, as well as a species wide one, and also one that still has a whiff of the religious about it?


    On the false dichotomy, there’s also that one word “mere” in front of habits … it’s as if an assumption is being made that by biological evolution, cultural evolution, or both, we’ve moved beyond “mere” habits. Rather, it might be better to say that we’ve put a patina of culturally evolved habits over the biological one, some of which may have an element of rationality to them.

    That said, it was some good food for thought on some of the basic problems with a straight-up empiricism.

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    1. Agreed, except that I think the cultural evolutionary layer is more than just a patina. Cultural and biological evolution intertwine deeply, in my mind.


    2. Patina was perhaps not the best word, with its implications of thinness and separateness. I’d agree with your response. Now, I’m going to put together some further thoughts on my other two comments for a piece of my own.

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  3. And, what I really really meant on species=wide descriptors of “good” or “evil” is that ….

    Could that not be seen as a recursive moral form of self-reference, and thus subject to a equivalent of Gödel / Tarski issues? Good thought on a morals focused Christian religious holiday, eh?

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  4. The last paragraph of the Sellars piece also seems to suggest that the reason can be explained by the ‘complete’ scientific image. Do we not need (and didn’t Sellars think need) both the manifest and scientific in complement, to gain our best understanding?

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    1. Yes, I too thought that was a bit strange. Then again, I think Sellars thought the manifest image is needed particularly whenever we talk about things like values and prescriptive judgments.


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