Plato’s weekend suggestions

readingsOur regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

Is pain necessarily unpleasant, sort of by definition? Apparently not.

How people justify reasonable lies — a followup on a previous article by Gerald Dworkin.

The concept of death, a philosophical analysis.

The psychologist who discovered the secret to never getting frustrated.

The Center for Inquiry merges with the Richard Dawkins Foundation. Discuss.

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Categories: Plato's Suggestions

125 replies

  1. Hi Robin,

    Or is it not research unless you make a major breakthrough?

    My comment was *about* breakthroughs, not just the rather vague concept “doing research”. Feynman is a classic example of a theoretical physicist who did his best work before the age of 40, with his work after that being much less significant.

    Further, can I remind you of the context? It was a reply to labnut’s comment about “living up to promise”. If we define “promise” as what someone does in their 20s and 30s, then very few scientists — considering the theoretical and conceptual side of things, as oppose to the experimental and observational — “live up to” that level.

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  2. Hi Eric,

    Well sure, you can be a utilitarian as well, but can you also accept the dark side of it?

    I’m not a utilitarian, I’m more of an emotivist. Utilitarianism tends to be prescriptive and moral-realist (whereas I reject moral realism entirely). It is the attempts to make utilitarianism coherent, prescriptive and moral-realist that give it a “dark side” and lead into a quagmire.

    But, I do think there is a lot to be said for utilitarianism in a *descriptive* sense (in the sense that, the way people think about morals is, to quite an extent, along utilitarian lines) which is why utilitarianism has a strong attraction for a lot of people.

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  3. “So, is taxation theft? Robbery?”

    There is a difference between what is happening and what is publicly discussed. Taxation is inherent to the premise of money, as any reading of history will show, in that it is the government’s accepted medium of exchange, i.e.. what it requires taxes to be paid in. You might say that people who dislike government, but like money are like the fish that likes the worm, but hates the hook.

    That said, allowing the pendulum to swing too far in the other direction and allowing private citizens, i.e. those with the most most money, to control their level taxation and thus accumulate excesses of wealth and the eventual result is that they come to buy up and own more and more of what was the “public commons.”

    So when they come to “privatize” your local road, or park and you find yourself paying a toll, to some “public/private partnership,” You are no longer a citizen, but a serf.

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  4. The money in your pocket is yours, in the same sense the section of road you are driving on is yours. Its functionality is a function of its fungibility and that’s not your picture on it. If you really think its yours, just try printing some up and see how seriously they take the copyright laws on it.

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  5. Hi Thomas Jones,

    Since no-one’s answered your question yet, and with comments likely to close soon, here’s an answer:

    … he is first labelled an ethologist, then an evolutionary biologist, who studied zoology. I gather these are subdisciplines of biology, but most people think of him as a “biologist” first. Why?

    I wouldn’t read anything into this. It’s just a matter of how specific you want to be. Similarly you could describe someone as an “American” or a “Texan” or “from Dallas”. Which you’d pick just depends on context.

    Secondly, how common is it to find a “non-evolutionary” biologist in the field of biology today?

    They’d all have evolution underpinning their understanding of biology, but they may not work directly on how evolution operates. E.g. wiki gives sub-fields of biology as:

    “… biochemistry examines the rudimentary chemistry of life; molecular biology studies the complex interactions among biological molecules; botany studies the biology of plants; cellular biology examines the basic building-block of all life, the cell; physiology examines the physical and chemical functions of tissues, organs, and organ systems of an organism; evolutionary biology examines the processes that produced the diversity of life; and ecology examines how organisms interact in their environment”

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