Suggested readings, #106

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

Coronavirus: do we have a moral duty not to get sick? Yes, we do. (The Conversation)

An ontology of evil. Evolutionary biology, data science, and why evil is a bigger problem than many like to admit. (Medium)

What’s it like to go mad? Meet the man who found out. Psychosis gave Dutch linguist Wouter Kusters an insight into mental illness. See if you can make much sense of it, because I couldn’t. (Irish Times)

What does it mean to be a living thing? Review of what looks like a very good by science journalist Carl Zimmer. (New York Times)

The radiant inner life of a robot. Kazuo Ishiguro returns to masters and servants with a story of love between a machine and the girl she belongs to. Another book review, this time of a philosophically laden sci-fi book that I’ll probably put on the list for my regular philosophy book club. (The Atlantic)

Is indigenous science actually pseudoscience? Yup

Below are the first couple of paragraphs of two papers I have written about the ongoing problem (in Canada) of “indigenizing” the university, i.e., of introducing so-called indigenous science into standard science courses. Spoiler alert: with all due respect to indigenous people and what they have suffered, I think this is a terrible idea. You can download the two full papers here and here. The full book can be obtained here.

First paper: Is Indigenous Science Pseudoscience? A Response to Gorelick

There has been much debate of late about alternative ways of doing science, particularly within the delicate context of Indigenous practices in Canada, Australia, and other countries around the world. Some authors have called for the integration of what they refer to as traditional ecological knowledge into university science education curricula (Snively and Corsiglia 2000); others have made an even broader call pertinent to science in general (Michie 2002). Some have suggested that not just science education, but science proper, will benefit from the integration of Indigenous methods, especially when it comes to practical applications (Johnson et al. 2016).

The debate is often understandably emotional, as it is set against the background of the lingering aftermath of colonialism (Williams and Chrisman 2013), and within the broader issue of multiculturalism (Race 2015) and the productive coexistence of different traditions within a given society. It is also often framed in terms of pseudoscience (Pigliucci and Boudry 2013), with (some) critics of Indigenous approaches dismissively labelling the latter as pseudoscientific, and defenders of such approaches striving to show that they represent legitimate alternatives to what is often characterized as “Western” science. …

Second paper: Is Indigenous Science Pseudoscience? A Further Response to Gorelick

I wish to thank Root Gorelick for his kind words about me at the beginning of his response, though I would hardly recommend anyone to “revere” me! That said, his second piece is a bit all over the place, which makes it hard to pinpoint crucial aspects to respond to in a short follow-up. Nevertheless, I will highlight what I think are Gorelick’s major points and offer a counter- commentary.

He begins with an apology: “I am defending Indigenous ways of knowing despite being a naïve white person. There is nothing Indigenous about my carpet-bagger heritage.” This (in my view unnecessary) bit of self-deprecation is then followed, later on in the essay, by criticizing me as the white man who has not checked his privilege. For instance: “‘Hypocrisy is the greatest luxury,’ a luxury that we have as professors, being in a place of privilege [implying that I am a hypocritical individual who is unaware of his privilege, since Gorelick has just checked his own publicly] … Modern proponents of Indigenous ways of knowing strive for inclusivity, not usurpation nor conquest [implying that I am on the side of usurpation and conquest].” …

Suggested readings, #105

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

Where Do Posthumanist Fantasies of Tech-Enabled Life Fit Into Evolution? (LitHub)

The fight against fake-paper factories that churn out sham science. Some publishers say they are battling industrialized cheating. A Nature analysis examines the ‘paper mill’ problem — and how editors are trying to cope. (Nature)

Where science and miracles meet. Recent speculations in physics reveal that believers and nonbelievers may have more in common than they think. (The Atlantic)

I have come to bury Ayn Rand. A prominent evolutionary biologist slays the beast of Individualism. (Nautilus)

Huxley’s warning. Orwell vs. Huxley, fear vs. pacification, and the battleground of individuality. (Medium)

Suggested readings, #104

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

Eight of literature’s most powerful inventions—and the neuroscience behind how they work. These reoccuring story elements have proven effects on our imagination, our emotions and other parts of our psyche. And for once, a “this is your brain on X” article that is actually worth reading. (Smithsonian)

Diogenes and a puzzle of social critique. Even the ancient Cynics didn’t always “punch up.” But they should have. (3 Quarks Daily)

Wise women: 6 ancient female philosophers you should know about. (The Conversation)

Cilantro love and hate: is it a genetic trait? (23andMe)

The science of terrible men. The pioneers of social genetics were racists and eugenicists: should we give up on the science they founded altogether? The author makes a couple of scientific mistakes and errors of reasoning, in my mind. But it is nevertheless a must read. (Oh, and I think her example of Woody Allen is a bad one.) (Aeon)

Suggested readings, #103

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

Wilfrid Sellars, sensory experience and the ‘Myth of the Given.’ (Psyche)

That is not how your brain Works. Forget these scientific myths to better understand your brain and yourself. (Nautilus)

For chaos or country? Thomas Hobbes vs Jean-Jacques Rousseau about what society does to human nature. (The Philosophical Salon)

The politician is the malformed monster of our coexistence. (Psyche)

Procrastination: a strategy for change. On the power of implementation intentions. (Psychology Today)

Suggested readings, #102

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

Final thoughts. Do deathbed regrets give us a special insight into what really matters in life? There are good reasons to be skeptical. (Aeon / Psyche)

How to cope with teen (and others’) anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy provides a toolbox of skills to help you manage anxiety and do what you want with your life. (Aeon / Psyche)

Stoicism as an ally against anxiety. (Modern Stoicism)

The quest to tell science from pseudoscience. Philosopher Karl Popper famously asked how to tell the two apart. His answer—falsifiability—hasn’t aged well, but the effort lives on. (Boston Review)

When does an idea die? Plato and string theory clash with data. How long should one wait until an idea like string theory, seductive as it may be, is deemed unrealistic? (Greece High Definition)

Suggested readings, #101

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

7 lessons from Diogenes that will change the way you look at life. Learn from the notorious philosopher-troll. (Medium)

Beyond Order shows the disconnect between how Jordan Peterson is perceived and what he writes. Why not? One more on JP! (Globe & Mail)

The machine stops: science and its limits. (LA Review of Books)

The sustainable food paradox. Why are so many attempts to eat ethically counterproductive? (Medium)

Academics aren’t content creators, and it’s regressive to make them so. A video by a professor for only their class is akin to the single-copy, handwritten book disseminated to just one room of people. (Times Higher Education)

Suggested readings, #100

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

The abuses of Popper. A powerful cadre of scientists and economists sold Karl Popper’s ‘falsification’ idea to the world. They have much to answer for. (Aeon)

The art of abiding. Why the Dude is a hero not to be emulated (Medium)

The limits of computation. In what sense, if any, is the human brain a computer? (Philosophy Now)

11 science fiction books that are regularly taught in college classes. Add your own to the list! (io9)

Why we need virtue ethics. And don’t be fooled by the picture of Kant accompanying the article… (3 Quarks Daily)

Why easing restrictions will lead to more, not less, collateral damage. By my friend and collaborator Maarten Boudry. (Areo Magazine)

Why are literature and philosophy such an awkward match? A new anthology reveals the perils and rewards of philosophical fiction. Also, why do so many articles recently begin with “Why”? (New Republic)

Suggested readings, #99

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

The proper application of preconceptions: Curing “the cause of all human ills.” (Modern Stoicism) The Stoic philosopher Epictetus thought he had found the cure to all human ills. Give it a try.

Shaka, when the walls fell. In one fascinating episode, Star Trek: The Next Generation traced the limits of human communication as we know it—and suggested a new, truer way of talking about the universe. (Atlantic)

The “learning styles” myth is still prevalent among educators — And it shows no sign of going away. (Research Digest)

Ancient Rome has an urgent warning for us. The era of the Antonine Plague offers a reminder of what a powerful force nature has been throughout human history. (New York Times)

The Simulation Hypothesis is pseudoscience. (BackReaction) Sabine Hossenfelder nails another one.

Stoicism, Friendship, and Grief

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

Below are the first couple of paragraphs of a paper I have written about how Stoicism deals with friendship and grief. It is a response to a friendly-critical commentary by my Fordham University colleague and friend Brian Johnson, the author of The Role Ethics of Epictetus: Stoicism in Ordinary Life. You can download the full paper here.

Brian Johnson, in his commentary on my effort to update Stoicism, provides a cogent critique of ancient Stoicism and a reasonable suggestion for my attempt to define modern Stoicism. I do not (much) disagree with him in terms of his conclusions, which he applies to the specific cases of friendship and grief, but which also hold for all of the Stoic “preferred indifferents.” I do, however, want to push back on two points: (1) the path he takes to arrive at those conclusions, and (2) the notion that all ancient Stoics would have proposed the same approach to friendship and grief that Epictetus takes.

To begin with, Johnson points out that, for the Stoics, only virtue is good (agathos), while everything else is either worthy (axia) of choice or to be rejected. Hence the famous Stoic distinction between virtue, on the one hand, and preferred and dispreferred “indifferents” (i.e., everything else), on the other hand. However jarring the word “indifferent” may sound to modern ears, we need to be clear about what it means on the Stoic view. Things like wealth, health, education, friendship, love, and so forth are indifferents in the specific sense that they do not make us morally better or worse persons.