Suggested readings, #134

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

Reloading the Canon. If we are to diversify undergraduate philosophy curricula, then we ought to do it well. That means, in practice, taking seriously the factors that can spoil diversification efforts. These will include certain prejudices or habits of thought on the part of students. After all, it is partly for their sake that we invest energy in curricular diversification efforts and, more importantly, we often solicit their preferences. For that reason, we should take due care to ensure that their stated preferences are not being narrowed or corrupted by preconceptions and biases. … (The Philosophers’ Magazine)

Researchers analyzed 700-plus songs known to give people chills. Here’s the playlist. Academics have spent years investigating why some songs give people “chills,” usually described as a pleasurable sensation of tingles, or a shiver, often accompanied by goosebumps. One prominent assertion is that as we listen to music, our minds are racing ahead to imagine what’s coming, and we get chills when our predictions are completely off. Perhaps the dynamic changes unexpectedly or a surprising instrument slides into the mix. Another possibility is that people who get chills have more connections between the auditory and reward systems in the brain. Still other scientists have proposed that people who are more empathetic are more prone to experience chills because of emotional contagion. … (QZ)

The WEIRD evolution of human psychology. Imagine that you’re in a room with 100 psychopaths. The first thing you’ll probably want to do is leave that room. However, once you do, you discover a booth installed with one-way glass where you can watch what’s taking place without anyone seeing you. Comfortably seated, you observe a strange experiment taking place. A few of the individuals have on white coats and are carrying around clipboards while most are being run through a battery of psychological tests. … (Scientific American)

Cryotherapy: the cold, hard truth. The health and wellness industry is worth an estimated $4 trillion. This extraordinary valuation encompasses the sale of health club memberships, exercise classes, fad diets, supplements, alternative therapies, and thousands of other products and practices, all vying for our attention. In this, the inaugural article in “The Skeptic’s Guide to Sports Science” column, I chose to scrutinize whole-body cryotherapy. Not only does it illustrate the industry’s preference for hype and hearsay over hard data, but it’s also marketed on the exploitation of several ingrained cognitive biases. This makes it an ideal case study for the critical thinker. … (Skeptical Inquirer)

Dark personality traits positively associated with COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs. A study published in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences found that Machiavellianism, primary psychopathy, and collective narcissism positively predicted belief in COVID-19 conspiracies. Further, COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs explained the negative relationship between these dark personality traits and the willingness to obtain a future COVID-19 vaccine. … (PsyPost)

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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.

10 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #134”

  1. Nice funny start to the WEIRD story. Interesting ending. I’d read a bit before about differing perception of what I guess we should call “so-called” optical illusions, but never about that stark a difference with that common of a so-called illusion.

    Had read the PsyPost. Kind of fits with my idea of conspiracy theories as a new Gnosticism, and the psychological control involved with believing one has true esoteric knowledge.

    The cryotherapy? Sports psychology in general is huge on psychology, huge on money and small on actuality!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The only thing I don’t appreciate is the acronym “WEIRD”: Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic. Just imagine if someone had come up with a similar acronym to indicate Blacks, or brown people, or Native Americans…


  2. Another Friday, another attempt to marginalize those who consider the possibility that the corporate media (brought to you by Pfizer, informed by the security state and the military-industrial complex) and the U.S. Government don’t always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    Here is a brief list, off the top of my head, of “conspiracy theories” that turned out to have merit (i.e., beliefs that at one point could have (a) resulted in bans/deplatforming from Youtube, FB, and Twitter, (b) cause you lose your job, and (c) been the target of, unbelievably, censorship efforts from supposed liberals and, even more unbelievably, supposed journalists):

    COVID-19 did not emerge spontaneously from the Wuhan wet market.

    Fauci repeatedly lied about masks (the noble lie, to protect us from ourselves).

    The U.S. funded gain-of-function research on coronaviruses in China.

    The security state spied on members of the Trump campaign before the 2016 election, lied to get FISA warrants to do so, and knowingly used unreliable information to reauthorize the warrants.

    Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid for the Steele dossier, and Steele used foreign (Russian) sources in his attempts to find information (i.e., it was the Clinton campaign, not the Trump campaign, that colluded with Russians to influence the 2016 election).

    The Steele dossier was full of lies designed to slander Trump, and the corporate media hyped it for the same reason.

    Big Tech and the security state helped the Democrat party to marginalize reporting information found on Hunter Biden’s laptop that were bad for Biden prior to the 2020 election.

    The Russian collusion narrative was a lie put forward by the corporate media, in bed with the Democrat party, to hamstring Trump’s presidency.

    All of these were at one point in the past few years described as conspiracy theories, and those who merely wanted to evaluate them considered idiots, racists, unsophisticated, gullible, White supremacists, and now, antisocial if not psychopathic.

    All are now being legitimately debated or have been proven; very few people continue to paint them as conspiratorial anymore, even if some cling to the contrarian view for fairly obvious reasons (i.e., saving face and reputations).

    I don’t for the life of me know where blind acceptance of governmental dictates and corporate media comes from; have these sources ever been trustworthy? Have they not lied us into wars, hot and cold, enriched themselves and their cronies, and maintained the status quo benefiting the 1% over everyday Americans on a consistent basis?

    We’ve got to give up the narratives, give up the partisanship, take confirmation bias seriously, give up the divisiveness, and get back to our principles:

    Kyle Rittenhouse, Project Veritas, and the Inability to Think in Terms of Principles – by Glenn Greenwald – Glenn Greenwald (


    1. Montana,

      “Another Friday, another attempt to marginalize those who consider the possibility that the corporate media (brought to you by Pfizer, informed by the security state and the military-industrial complex) and the U.S. Government don’t always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

      And another overblown piece of rhetoric from you. First off, nobody is trying to marginalize anyone, and even if that was my intention, I hardly think a list of readings on a blog would be effective in that respect.

      Second, nobody, ever, said that corporate media and the US Government always tell the truth. I’ll address the rest once you come back down to Earth and read engage in a dialogue about reality.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. FWIW, readers can find a well-informed account of the claims regarding coronavirus and gain-of-function research on Sandwalk, the web siteof the distinguished molecular biologist Larry Moran, specifically and links therein, among other postings. I quote: “Nobody can definatively [sic] rule out a conspiracy theory—that’s why they are so popular. But you can address false claims that presumably support the conspiracy theory. That’s why the experts considered whether the scientists at WIV had been working on gain-of-function research or had previously worked with infectious human viruses. They could find no such evidence.”

      Not my area, but Montanawildlives, if not in agreement with this, is no doubt welcome to take it up with Moran directly.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. From the “Dark personality” article: ‘The Conspiracy Mentality Questionnaire (Bruder et al., 2013; CMQ) was used to assess conspiracist ideation. Example item: “I think many important things happen in the world, which the public is never informed about”.’ But unfortunately this is true. It was only last week that I discovered that crops are failing in the Sahel, with drought and high temperature connected to global warming, and that this also relates to the rise of ISIS in the region. And it is only very recently that we have discovered the extent to which fossil fuel companies have been knowingly suppressing information about warming, and campaigning to prevent action on it, for decades. So there must be plenty more of comparable significance that I will never be informed about at all

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul, yes, but I think the questionnaire had redundant questions of that kind, to double check on the consistency of people’s responses. I think that’s standard in psychological surveys. If their assessment was based on a single question like that I’d be pretty skeptical of the results.

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  4. Paul, I’ll have to disagree with you, and you and Massimo know I’m not a “wingnut.” Neither is Jamie Metzl, who was a staffer on President Clinton’s National Security Council. He says, yes, WIV DID do gain of function work, albeit not on coronaviruses, and also, he considers a lab leak fairly likely.

    I know people like Montana on the one hand (thanks, Massimo, you took the words out of my mouth) and Orac, the Novellas and others on the other hand, make it easy to view this in terms of political or other sociological tribalism. (And, hey, as I’ve also blogged about before, Horgan DID call them tribalists on their own turf!)

    But, it shouldn’t be this way.

    Seriously, read Metzl:

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Now, all this said, I don’t think WIV was engineering bioweapons, a “horseshoe theory” claim I’ve seen from quarters of far left as well as far right. But, I do think they had competency as well as lab security issues, AND secretiveness issues. Remember, the French helped build the lab structure, then as soon as work got done, China froze out any research cooperativeness. And, things like this, IMO, is why “wingnuts” have legit complaints about Fauci. Why should we, indeed, continue to fund research there?

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