Suggested readings, #125

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

The lucrative business of stoking vaccine skepticism. How misinformation peddlers are using crowdfunding sites to bankroll their work. For years anti-vaccine figures have made money publishing books and giving speeches, and only in the past couple of years have major sites like YouTube started preventing anti-vaxxers from directly earning revenue from advertising. (Slate)

Classical patricide. On the state of the classics in higher education. Should the formal study of Greece and Rome die—or be killed off? Some classicists seem to think so. (New Criterion)

The force of scientific authority. In the years leading up to the 1975 publication of Against Method, Paul Feyerabend rehearsed many of the monograph’s provocative and polemical claims in a series of earlier articles and lectures. Against Method earned Feyerabend the inauspicious title of “currently the worst enemy of science” in the pages of Nature and the moniker “anti-science philosopher” in the New York Times. (The Philosopher)

The mind does not exist. The terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ are messy, harmful and distracting. We should get rid of them. Or not. (Aeon)

We should all be ethical consumers. But unthinking zealotry helps no one. Before trying to drive change with our purchases we should consider how progress actually happens. (Prospect Magazine)

Skepticism needs more historians and social scientists. Organized skepticism has a reputation for attracting physicists and psychologists. All other disciplines were well behind. (Skeptical Inquirer)

Stoicism and mourning. The oldest and arguably most potentially damaging criticisms of Stoicism is that it unrealistically sets its back against all emotions.  However, that this is a contentious, arguably inaccurate understanding. (Modern Stoicism)

Published by

Massimo

Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at platofootnote.org and howtobeastoic.org. He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

17 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #125”

  1. The force of scientific authority article was thought provoking. As a relatively unsophisticated reader, I really wish he had provided some examples of how science deniers engage in the same truth-acts as science-trusters.

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  2. Surprising article from Slate (not really, as they are an establishment outlet now); is the paltry millions made by a few anti-vaxers anything but laughingly trivial compared to the hundreds of billions made by Big Pharma and their pro-vax middle managers in the Federal government? Regardless of the truth or nuance in the argument (that is, even if one stipulates that all vaccines are and have always been wonderful in every circumstance for every person and must never be questioned by a rational person), it obviously pays a lot better to be pro-vax.

    Speaking of big money for being pro-vax, I’d like someone to ask Fauci under oath if he will decline to take a position on any pharmaceutical company’s board after he retires (our famous revolving door in DC). Bet he won’t have a “firm answer” on that one either. Bet he makes a bit more doing that than any anti-vax youtuber. But, thankfully any considerations of financial gain or legacy preservation are magically swept away as soon as one receives the proper credential from the proper institution.

    “Every time I think I’m being cynical, it turns out I was still too naïve.”

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    1. Montana, I doubt Fauci will ever retire. But you are comparing apples and oranges. The article addresses the oft made claim that anti-vaxxers are fighting against big money, that they are sort of pure in their motives. They are not.

      Regardless, the issue is that vaccines works and anti-vaxxing is dangerous nonsense.

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  3. I’m glad that “there’s no such thing as the mind.” The real problem is that the author at Aeon is conflating two separate issues. Linguistic issues of how best to describe … the mind have only a partial overlap with metaphysical / ontological issues such as actual dualism, and claiming that assertions that minds exist is the same as ontological dualism as normally understood muddies all sorts of waters.

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    1. Socratic, indeed, that’s one major confusion in the article. I also think the author exaggerates just how much trouble the word “mind” brings, or how much people are unsure what it means.

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    2. Socratic,

      Interesting how this time we seem to have very different understandings about the essay.

      Concerning the ontology angle, I think words like mind always carry metaphysical assumptions, and in some situations a lot, while for many usages, like changing my mind or remind me, the ontological weight doesn’t really have much bearing. I also didn’t read him as saying if one says the mind exists it implies dualism, but rather that when some individuals use the word in some contexts there can be an implied claim that resembles some kind of dualism.

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  4. Massimo,

    One the essay on the mind. Like the author I think the word is surprisingly polysemous, possibly overly so, it can muddle thinking without our even noticing it, and if pressed on what we mean by the word ‘mind’ we can often have trouble being more specific. I also really liked the author’s emphasis, that mirrors my concerns, on the various usages of the word mind (e.g. it’s in your mind or you just need to make up your mind) by some psychologists, psychiatrists, or in every day exchanges, that in my opinion are way too often counterproductive, dismissive and can have negative consequences, at times severe, on people’s lives and emotional health.

    However, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with idea of a “no mind thesis”, or with the essay’s title “The mind does not exist” (which may not have been the author’s decision).

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    1. Marc, I just don’t buy that talk of “mind” is as confusing or deleterious as the author proposes. And I’m having a hard time thinking what could possibly replace it.

      I personally think of “minding” as what the brain does in response to internal and external stimuli. Obviously a physical thing. In fact, not a thing, but an activity, analogous to how breathing is what the lungs do.

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    2. > Marc, I just don’t buy that talk of “mind” is as confusing or deleterious as the author proposes. And I’m having a hard time thinking what could possibly replace it.

      Not sure how to evaluate that, how much he’s saying it is, in comparison to how much it is. If I step back, I think the essay is overly sensational, which can easily be detrimental if there’s something useful to be said, and I can see I’m more prone to gloss over issues like that while I’m thinking the word mind is too often misused, or hides various levels of unfounded assumption, or that those perspectives could do with being pointed out more often (which I do).

      That said, I also have a hard time thinking we can replace the word, and like Julian Baggini wrote about freewill recently, there’s still a lot of uses of, and facets of what we mean by these words that are useful or culturally relevant. and even if we could replace it, or clean up its usage, the underlying issues I think problematic won’t just go away, e.g. one can just as easily say ‘it’s all in your head’ instead of it’s all in your mind’ or “It’s all up to you, you just have to choose” instead of “it’s up to you, all you have to do is make up your mind.”

      > “I personally think of “minding” as what the brain does in response to internal and external stimuli. Obviously a physical thing. In fact, not a thing, but an activity, analogous to how breathing is what the lungs do.

      I’m a little disconcerted I’m not sure how I use the word mind, other than as simple expressions related to concepts like memory or attention, I’m pretty sure I avoid it in other situations, but I’ll try to pay more attention and see.

      By minding, I’m curious, as part of the nervous system, do you mean what all of the brain is doing, say form stem to cortex, whether we’re aware of it or not, or more about what it’s doing at higher ‘levels’, like processes we are more aware of or tend to be more aware of?

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  5. Marc, by “minding” I tend to think as all the brain does, including the unconscious, autonomous stuff. Because it is deeply interconnected with the higher level stuff, and it’s not always obvious where the line of demarcation is.

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    1. Thanks for the precision, makes sense to me. I agree it’s all deeply interconnected and I don’t think there’s always fixed or obvious lines of demarcation between ‘levels’.

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