Suggested readings, #126

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

Science alone can’t heal a sick society. In the winter of 1848, a 26-year-old Prussian pathologist named Rudolf Virchow was sent to investigate a typhus epidemic raging in Upper Silesia, in what is now mostly Poland. After three weeks of meticulous observation of the stricken populace — during which he carefully counted typhus cases and deaths by age, sex, occupation and social class — he returned with a 190-page report that ultimately blamed poverty and social exclusion for the epidemic and deemed it an unnecessary crisis. “I am convinced that if you changed these conditions, the epidemic would not recur,” he wrote. … (New York Times)

What the fallacy of accident is and why it needs to be stopped! One of the pedagogical functions of a philosophical education, arguably from as early as Socrates, has been to learn how to spot and (as we say) “call” bad arguments. Sophisms are what Stephen Colbert might call “truthy” arguments. They seem true, when you don’t look too closely. But when you do, you realize they are misleading, just frankly bunk. … (Medium)

No laughing matter? What the Romans found funny. Cicero advises that explaining a joke kills it. I am going to ignore his advice and try to write about what the Romans found funny: where did their sense of humour converge with, and diverge from, ours? … (Antigone)

The cult of life: when the drive to life becomes deadly. The past year has been a year rich with extraordinary events that have forced us to adjust our life to completely new scenarios. We had to give up our freedom of movement, rethink our social relations, and develop a different awareness and perception of our surroundings. We have been exposed to the risk of loss and death, and were also confronted with the uncertainty carried with a pandemic. With such a drastic interruption of our natural flow of life, new observations were made possible– observations that point to a clear imbalance. … (Epoché magazine)

The dangerous ideas of “Longtermism” and “Existential Risk”. So-called rationalists have created a disturbing secular religion that looks like it addresses humanity’s deepest problems, but actually justifies pursuing the social preferences of elites. … (Current Affairs)

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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.

4 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #126”

  1. Had already read the Roman humor one. Pretty good.

    Very good is the “long-termism” piece.

    The “cult of death” piece? Didn’t grab me. Whether deliberately or not, it sounded like “cult of death” pieces written early in COVID by Opus Dei type Catholics who said that people highly focused on masks and social distancing had a cult-like fear of death.

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    1. Agreed on all three counts. I included the cult of life piece because I think it does make some good points. But yes, it almost comes across as saying “don’t worry about wearing masks, you’ll die anyway, eventually…”

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  2. Oh, don’t know if you saw this, but growing up in New Mexico, definitely interesting to me, and big in anthropology. Yet another nail in the “Clovis” theory of American Indian origins, with footprints estimated at 15, 000 years older. And, with that being peak Ice Age, it revives questions of how they got here, and exactly when, but more and more, we know it was long before Clovis.

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