Suggested readings, #141

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

Spiritualism and the birth of abstract art. Georgiana Houghton’s only major showing of her drawings in her lifetime was not a success. It was an elaborate affair at the New British Gallery in London organized at her own expense, but of the 155 pieces produced over a ten-year period, she sold only one. Nor was the critical reception particularly warm. According to a recent account, “most of the critics were surprised and alienated, dismissive, malicious, or amused.” … (Skeptical Inquirer)

A good life is painful. Can we live a good life without suffering? Notice that I used the word “good” and not “happy.” It doesn’t make any sense to ask whether we can suffer and be happy at the same time, but can we live a full and meaningful life without certain kinds of suffering? That’s a much harder question. … (Vox)

A massive 8-year effort finds that much cancer research can’t be replicated. After eight years, a project that tried to reproduce the results of key cancer biology studies has finally concluded. And its findings suggest that like research in the social sciences, cancer research has a replication problem. Researchers with the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology aimed to replicate 193 experiments from 53 top cancer papers published from 2010 to 2012. But only a quarter of those experiments were able to be reproduced, the team reports in two papers published December 7 in eLife. … (Science News)

Justifying cancel culture. Let’s, for the sake of argument, take “cancellation” to involve the attempt to deprive a person of the ability to make a political and cultural difference through their words and actions. This might be achieved variously by pressurising a university to withdraw an invitation to give a talk at a prestigious event (no-platforming); or persuading a publisher to cancel a book contract; or lobbying a social media company to terminate an account; or getting a potential employer to withdraw a job offer; or persuading a current employer to terminate a position of employment. The idea of cancellation is to neuter the target, to strip them of their ability to bring about certain kinds of perlocutionary effect – informing, influencing, persuading, inciting, and so on. If cancellation also functions as punishment, then so much the better. Not all cancellations are successful, of course, and some go spectacularly wrong, but for our purposes, it is the attempt that counts. … (The Philosophers’ Magazine)

Better living through Stoicism, from Seneca to modern interpreters. A six-story building is going up catty-corner to where I live, and from 7 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. every weekday a torrent of robust and erratic noise is transmitted through the thin walls of my apartment. Specifically, there is a great deal of screaming — not screams of pain (thank God), but screams as a form of communication: about moving an object from one place to another, or telling someone to get out of the way of the moving object, or coordinating the arrival or departure of a vehicle containing more objects to move. … (New York Times)

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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.

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