Suggested readings, #119

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

10 Latin phrases people pretend to understand. Knowing some Latin has its advantages. (Mental Floss)

Why the free will debate never ends. Julian Baggini looks beyond traditional approaches to the free will debate. And, as usual, he has something very much insightful to say. (The Philosophers’ Magazine)

Why did evolution create conscious states of mind? Finally a good question to ask about consciousness. (OUP Blog)

The end of reductionism could be nigh. Or not. By Sabine Hossenfelder, provocative as usual. (Nautilus)

Mistakes about the meaning of life. (The Philosophers’ Magazine)

Is Eric Weinstein a crackpot? The grand unified theories of the man who brought us the Intellectual Dark Web. A bit too charutable to Weinstein, for my taste. (Nonzero)

Illusory attitudes and the playful stoic. Why Stoics may have the best attitude toward competitive games. (Philosophical Studies)

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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, #119”

  1. The free will article was very nice. I find it a bit odd, however, how discussions on causality seem to be stuck in a time before chaos theory, quantum mechanics, and complex systems, which each show how cause and effect in the Humean sense become decorellated. Is there any deep philosophical engagements with causality and non-linearity? E.g. if many causes have the same effect? Or how, even in principal, knowledge of causes and/or effects are not available to us. Or even how the same cause have different effects, e.g. in different complex contexts?

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  2. The meaning of life article I found incredible shallow. Of course we mean value by meaning in this context, not “the meaning of a red light”. The task has to be to fill the word meaning with meaning. I will share my latest deep dive into this once it becomes available again…

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  3. I stopped reading Sabine and pulled her from my blogroll after she went on an anti-climate change news rant. (It’s true that some of the news here is pablum, but generally nowhere near what she claims.) First paragraph says it all. Plus, if she can’t distinguish news from opinion on the issue? And, contra her claim, while science isn’t ethics, it DOES find facts and develop theories that should guide good ethics.


    All the wingnut talk radio shows that I heard while driving on vacation had Weinstein on. Yee gads.


    OUP piece? Er, all mammals have a retinal blind spot, right? To argue from that to “ergo consciousness” doesn’t sell me. Plus, I didn’t like the “why” angle of the headline; smacked too much of Aristotelian final cause angles.


    Life has no inherent meaning. If you start by avoiding that mistake, you’re ahead of the game. Thanks, Uncle Albert Camus.


    “In God We Trust” first appeared on US Civil War “greenbacks” long before coinage.

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  4. Hi Massimo,

    I also found the article on consciousness problematic, the title and further in when he says “why evolution was driven to invent conscious states of mind” I think he’s misrepresenting what evolution is about and giving it intention. And when he argues “we consciously see in order to be able to reach” that doesn’t follow from his arguments on at least two counts: by moving the eye or head reaching still works without the ‘higher’ level processing of filling in, and it doesn’t follow that if an animal doesn’t have that ‘higher’ level of processing then the level of processing it ‘uses’ to reach won’t be experienced as conscious.

    But still an interesting read. I like it when your suggestions get me exploring further, and catching up on various advances.

    Like on Julian Baggini’s piece on freewill, he covered it nicely, along with the idea that we can’t just say freewill is too ill defined, or should be discarded or doesn’t exist, because “To cease talking about our “free will” would inevitably risk the appearance of actively denying it.” It all got me working again on getting a clearer picture of my own position on ‘freewill’ and especially how I see compatibilism. My next links to read are on your blog How to be a Stoic. If you have any suggestions on Stoic or your views on Stoic compatibilism much appreciated.

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    1. Massimo,

      “I wouldn’t take that sentence too literally as implying that evolution has intention.”

      Your right of course. I didn’t mean to imply M. Grossberg might mean that.

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