Suggested readings, #155

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

Skepticism as a way of life. Think about a time when you changed your mind. Maybe you heard about a crime, and rushed to judgment about the guilt or innocence of the accused. Perhaps you wanted your country to go to war, and realise now that maybe that was a bad idea. Or possibly you grew up in a religious or partisan household, and switched allegiances when you got older. Part of maturing is developing intellectual humility. You’ve been wrong before; you could be wrong now. … (Aeon) [Much more on this coming from yours truly, over the next few years…]

What the new science of authenticity says about discovering your true self. After following a white rabbit down a hole in the ground and changing sizes several times, Alice finds herself wondering “Who in the world am I?” This scene, from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” might resonate with you: In a world that’s constantly changing, it can be challenging to find your authentic self. … (The Conversation) [But is it a science…?]

Walking the transgender movement away from the extremists. My friend Giselle Donnelly is the kind of person whose views, these days, are routinely denounced in elite circles as transphobic. She favors reasonable accommodations for trans people in areas like sports and bathrooms, but she rejects what she calls the “biological silliness” of denying the gender binary. She thinks trans women are different from natal women and should be called “trans women,” not “women.” The distinction, she says, is important in fields where sex matters, such as medicine, and it also recognizes the unique challenges of being transgender. “I want ‘discrimination,’ in the sense of making precise distinctions,” she told me. “The ‘trans women are women’ thing drives me batty. Beyond the biological silliness, it suggests that being trans somehow isn’t legit. It’s a true form of ‘erasure.’” … (American Purpose) [Of course some people will argue that there are no extremists in the transgender movement, etc. …]

A gentler, better way to change minds. What is the point of arguing with someone who disagrees with you? Presumably, you would like them to change their mind. But that’s easier said than done: Research shows that changing minds, especially changing beliefs that are tied strongly to people’s identity, is extremely difficult. As one scholar put it, this personal attachment to beliefs encourages “competitive personal contests rather than collaborative searches for the truth.” … (Atlantic) [Easier said than done, but still worth considering.]

Did Kurt Gödel predict the January 6th Capitol attack? Kurt Gödel, one of the most important logicians of the 20th century, is best known for his incompleteness theorem, which proves that any attempt to formulate a logical basis for arithmetic will either be unsound or incomplete. He was also famous for being a strange egg: walking around in a heavy coat in the summer, attending an occasional séance, and living in fear that someone was trying to poison him. There are lots of odd anecdotes about Gödel, but one happens to be a particular favorite among historians of logic: the story of his becoming an American citizen. … (3QuarksDaily) [No, he didn’t predict 1/6, but he was right about his fundamental point.]

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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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