Suggested readings, #150

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

Virtue ethics and emerging technologies. In 2007 Wesley Autrey noticed a young man, Cameron Hollopeter, having a seizure on a subway station in Manhattan. Autrey borrowed a pen and used it to keep Hollopeter’s jaw open. After the seizure, Hollopeter stumbled and fell from the platform onto the tracks. As Hollopeter lay there, Autry noticed the lights from an oncoming train, and so he jumped in after him. However, after getting to the tracks, he realized there would not be enough time to get Hollopeter out of harm’s way. Instead, he protected Hollopeter by moving him to a drainage trench between the tracks, throwing his body over Hollopeter’s. Both of them narrowly avoided being hit by the train, and the call was close enough that Autrey had grease on his hat afterwards. For this Autrey was awarded the Bronze Medallion, New York City’s highest award for exceptional citizenship and outstanding achievement. … (3QuarksDaily)

Nothing is real. We easily and often apply the label ‘postmodern’ to particular artworks, architecture, activities and ideas; it is harder to specify some common quality of postmodernism that they all share. Far more than other historical phases, ‘postmodernity’ seems almost to have been concocted by those who write about it. The term suggests an impossible realm – after the present yet somehow already present itself; the concept, judging by the copious literature on it, is precisely about imprecision and lack of essence, and better defined by what it is not. … (Literary Review)

Platonism wins. [Well, no, not really.] The appeal of classics is alive and well. The classical education movement, which seeks to inculcate virtue via the teaching of Latin, is thriving; Stoic philosophy has become a major publishing trend; exotic new subcultures such as Latino Body Builders for Hellenism are springing up on the internet. Now here is Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn’s engaging and learned Ars Vitae: The Fate of Inwardness and the Return of the Ancient Arts of Living, an intellectual tour de force that expounds various branches of ancient philosophy, assesses the scholarly debate around them, and critiques much of the modern appropriation of the classical heritage. … (First Things)

The value of metaphysics. [Not much.] Among the ideas in the history of philosophy most worthy of an eye-roll is Aristotle’s claim that the study of metaphysics is the highest form of eudaimonia (variously translated as “happiness” or “flourishing”) of which human beings are capable. The metaphysician is allegedly happier than even the philosopher who makes a well-lived life the sole focus of inquiry. “Arrogant,” self-serving,” and “implausible” come immediately to mind as a first response to the argument. It’s not at all obvious that philosophers, let alone metaphysicians, are happier than anyone else nor is it obvious why the investigation of metaphysical matters is more joyful or conducive to flourishing than the investigation of other subjects. … (3QuarksDaily)

How to measure happiness: hedonia vs. eudaimonia. Being happy is nice. We all like being happy, particularly Pharrell Williams. It’s what makes us smile and motivates almost all of our actions. It’s the essential ingredient to a good time. No meal, movie, night out, or book can be called good without making you happy in some way. But, what does that word even mean — “happy”? For a lot of people, happiness is the measure of a good life. It is what the Roman orator and philosopher Cicero called the “Summum bonum” — the greatest value of all. But how are we to measure happiness when it is such a slippery, variable, and undefinable term? Even if we agree that it is of great importance (if not the most important thing), how can we quantify and document it? … (Big Think)

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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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