Suggested readings, #152

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

Common sense leads philosophy astray. In Doing Philosophy: From Common Curiosity to Logical Reasoning, Timothy Williamson contends that philosophy starts from commonsense, and that commonsense can serve as a ‘check on the philosopher’s provisional conclusions’. As an example of the latter, Williamson contends that our commonsense knowledge that people often eat breakfast after getting up in the morning refutes philosophical arguments that time is unreal. Williamson is far from alone in thinking along these lines. … (IAI News) [Yes! Philosophy needs to pay attention to science, not common sense.]

It’s time to start studying the downside of psychedelics. For three federal agencies to sponsor such an event is as clear of an indicator as any that psychedelic research and treatments have, despite their mostly illegal status, left the confines of the underground. In her closing remarks, Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “With all the attention that the psychedelic drugs have attracted, the train has left the station.” … (Vice) [I must admit never to have tried an hallucinatory substance. What’s the point of undermining your own brain’s functioning?]

Jordan Peterson’s “postmodern neomarxism” is pure hokum. Earlier this week, in a characteristically bizarre series of tweets, Jordan Peterson published a list of writers he considers “PostmodernNeoMarxists,” which ran as follows: “Ibram X Kendi, Ta-Nahesi-Coates, Robin DiAngelo, Kimberle Crenshaw, bell hooks, Andrea Dworkin, Michel Foucault, Naomi Klein, Catherine McKinnon, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida and, perhaps above all, Michel Foucault. This list is not complete.” … (Jacobin) [One of the most impressive bullshitters of our time speaks again. Unfortunately.]

Love the art, disgusted by the artist? Maybe philosophy can help. Reflecting on her long-standing love of Edward Scissorhands (1990) amid allegations of domestic violence against its lead actor Johnny Depp, the culture critic Constance Grady wrote in 2019: “I loved this movie. It made me feel all kinds of deep and profound teenage feelings, and those feelings were real and I could not unfeel them. But now, whenever I thought about Johnny Depp, I felt a deep and profound disgust, a moral outrage. That was a real feeling too, and I couldn’t unfeel it either.” … (Psyche) [Surprisingly, and appropriately, the article mentions Epictetus. Still, I’m unmoved by the last part, about Woody Allen. Because I’m not convinced at all that he belongs to this group.]

Martian dreams: ‘unusual experiences’ and perspectives on space and space aliens. In a recent issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, Editor Kendrick Frazier (July/August 2021) noted that UFOs, and the space aliens who putatively drive them, are actually being taken seriously by current mainstream media. This is happening in outlets we would normally expect to showcase scientific thinking rather than UFO promotion and publicity. Paranormal beliefs are beginning to intrude into the serious realm of the sciences, and the psychology of this intrusion may therefore be of considerable importance. … (Skeptical Inquirer) [An interesting, if entirely preliminary, study on the cognitive effects of paranormal thinking.]

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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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