The Nature of Philosophy video series

As readers may remember, this past Spring we went through a long series of posts (27, to be exact) that presented in serialized form my book, The Nature of Philosophy: How Philosophy Makes Progress and Why It Matters. (You can download the whole shebang in one setting, here.)

Over the past few months, Dan Kaufman and yours truly have taped a series of video conversations that present the main ideas of the book to a broader public, and the series is now completed and available for viewing or downloading at my YouTube channel (as well as on the Sofia channel at MeaningofLife.tv).

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Posted in Metaphilosophy, Nature of Philosophy | 59 Comments

Plato’s weekend suggestions

readingsHere it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

The value of the humanities is that they help us avoid becoming corporate drones.

An Enlightenment / virtue ethical approach to climate change and the Anthropocene?

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Posted in Plato's Suggestions | 106 Comments

On causality

Cause and effectCausality is one strange concept. It is absolutely essential to our understanding of the so-called “manifest image” of the world, i.e., the world as perceived and navigated by human beings. (The distinction between the manifest and the scientific image was introduced by philosopher Wilfred Sellars.) It is crucial for us to distinguish between events that happen because (i.e., are caused by) other events, vs things that appear to be the result of chains of cause-effect but really aren’t. We think smoking, statistically speaking, causes cancer, meaning that there are physical events that make it more likely that if you are a smoker you will get cancer. But when a few years ago someone showed a statistically significant correlation between number of births in London and frequency of storks flying overhead, nobody cried out for a revision of human biology textbooks…

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Posted in Metaphysics | 123 Comments

Plato’s weekend suggestions

readingsHere it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

The economy as a traffic system, not a market. Brilliant!

Someone paid to be a public intellectual criticizes generic public intellectualism by constructing an easy-to-burn strawman.

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Posted in Plato's Suggestions | 198 Comments

Should we be fearing death?

Epicurus, National Roman Museum, photo by the author

Epicurus, National Roman Museum, photo by the author

Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. (Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus)

Death is one of the major issues in human life, to put it mildly. Because we are blessed and cursed with self-awareness, we know we are mortal, so one of our problems is how to deal with the prospect of our own demise. A lot of religious and philosophical thinking as well as, lately, scientific research, has gone into this. Seneca famously wrote that the point of philosophy is to learn how to die, since death is the ultimate test of who we are. And things don’t seem to have changed much in that department over the past two thousand years.

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Posted in Atheism & Religion, Ethics | 145 Comments

Plato’s weekend suggestions

readingsHere it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

There is no emotion we ought to think harder about than anger, says Martha Nussbaum (taking more than a hint from the Stoic’s playbook).

Apparently, most Americans don’t wish to use science to build “better” human beings, whatever that means, but most of the negative responses come from deeply religious people.

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Posted in Plato's Suggestions | 91 Comments

Frans de Waal on language and cognition

BonobosFrans de Waal has published an excellent essay on the relationship between language and cognition in Aeon magazine. Both de Waal and Aeon are very much worth paying attention to, which is why I’m devoting this post to the essay, entitled “The link between language and cognition is a red herring.” Though, as it turns out, that link isn’t really a red herring.

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Posted in Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind | 166 Comments