A long commentary, with a number of excerpts from the original paper, by Jonathan Haidt on the issue of “microaggressions.” I have had my disagreements with Jonathan, but I am also disturbed by the whole idea of microaggressions. Still, I’m not sure I would go as far as the two sociologists mentioned by Haidt and suggest that we are seeing a third major cultural phase in Western civilization. (Indeed, I’m not convinced that one can neatly separate, temporally as well as geographically, the other two alleged phases.)
Short but interesting article by Alison Gopnik about personal identity. She asks whether it is more closely connected to intellect, memory or moral character. Studies comparing people with different types of degenerative disorders — especially those affecting memory (Alzheimer’s) vs those affecting character (the more rare, but devastating, fronto-temporal dementia — clearly seem to suggest that people around the suffering patients are much more likely to say that the people struck by the disease are not themselves any more if their character, rather than their memories, were altered.
Another article by Gopnik, this time a fairly long one, but completely worth your time. It’s a fascinating personal story of how she found help in overcoming a difficult moment in her life by plunging into an archival research concerning the writings of 18th century philosopher David Hume and his possible connection — via an Italian Jesuit priest — to Tibetan Buddhism. A must read.
American politicians love to “defend” the US Constitution, or at the least the often warped version of it that they happen to favor. This long piece in The Atlantic takes a look at the early history of that document, making the case that the United States was designed by its founding fathers as a type of limited monarchy. Oops.
I don’t often agree with Simon Critchley, the editor of the New York Times’ “Stone” blog about philosophy. But this time I think he hit the nail on the head, with a quirky personal piece that begins with an appreciation of his mentor, Frank Cioffi, and ends up with a nuanced argument that there isn’t, and never will be, any “theory of everything.”