Plato’s weekend suggestions

readingsOur regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

Why do (some of us) work so hard? Apparently, because we like it, for better or for worse.

Neoliberalism has hijacked our vocabulary, and that’s a really bad thing.

One more on safe spaces and the stifling of uncomfortable ideas, on and off campus.

Conspiracy theories come at a moral cost.

Good self-control is characterized by the ability to avoid temptations in the first place. Odysseus docet.

The science of, gulp!, President Trump. Hopefully, just a thought experiment…

Related to Trump: if Western democracy is going down the drain, are scientists complicit?

We should make museums moral again. (But where they ever “moral” to begin with?)

Follow-up on what increasingly looks like a nasty and non productive exchange between some psychologists and one philosopher. (Ask me about my failed attempt to steer the discussion back to productivity…)

Going to die soon? There’s an app for that!

The social awkwardness of body hacking.

And the rest is advertising: on the sorry latest developments in the business of journalism.

149 thoughts on “Plato’s weekend suggestions

  1. David Ottlinger (@DavidOttlinger)

    “I do NOT “consume” music. I loathe that phraseology.”

    I understand this reaction, but I would say that the language does capture one aspect of buying music. If you buy a copy of Kemperer’s performance of the Missa Solemnis for $10, you “consumed” a “product” the same as if you had bought a pound of coffee. Now if you want to say that considering that exchange as a purchase or “consumption” does not capture what is important and valuable in it I absolutely, *absolutely* agree. I don’t concede it I insist upon it. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is still a purchase. The trick is to see phenomena as describable in economic terms without being reducible to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thomas Jones

    Robin, “So can you clear this up or just leave it alone?”

    I think I’ll just leave it alone. I’ve already tried to explain my position.

    Robin: “. . . I already pointed out that I took issue with that polemical, activist approach from the outset.” Yes, you did. No problem.

    Robin: “. . . please try to do it without attributing ideas to me which i have never advanced.” Likewise. Agreed. This happens far too often, sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s a simple misapprehension due to a perceived lack of clarity on both sides. Consider it collateral damage.


  3. Robin Herbert

    Oh and:

    moral checklist we can fabricate if so inclined. There’s no end to the problematic nature of peddling our notions of moral superiority or of erecting so many ideological fences that one can barely move about the human landscape. There aren’t safe places, there is no breathable air. We are suffocating under the weight of our moral suspicions and their oppressiveness in discourse.

    I see you have overcome your distaste for loaded language.

    But it seems to me that what you are objecting to here is moralising.


  4. SocraticGadfly

    Actually, Dan, I thought that the fact that, behind the facade of American exceptionalism, and behind the facade of Preznit Kumbaya claiming to be America’s first post-racial president, the reality that America has a lot of racism and racists, combined with a fetishization of wealth (including being encoded into the Success Gospel wing of modern Christianity) explained Donald Trump a lot better than anything else, including your reference to moral policing.

    (That’s not to say that the myth of some vast moral policing isn’t used as another strawman by many backers of Trump.)


  5. SocraticGadfly

    Oh, David, technically, I know that, but before the rise of Net 2.0, we never talked about “consuming” arts and media. I think it is neoliberal, specifically tech-neolib, language.

    Good point, otherwise. And, per that point, isn’t the idea of neoliberalism to get us to semi-reduce, if not necessarily fully reduce, to that monetary component, though?


  6. michaelfugate

    Or about 30% of the population is tried of being told they can’t be racist or sexist – which is about the support Trump gets.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. synred

    The Donald Dumpf is not enetirely new. This know-nothing strain has always been there.

    He’ll be creamed in the general — I hope. My repub ex boss won’t be able to stand him!


  8. synred


    Seems a bit over heated for you!C
    Living in Calif. we have the luxury of not voting for Hilary this Nov., but we would if we lived in Missouri.

    Green? Socialist Workers? I think Peace & Freedom is defunct.

    I still think it unlikely will get the nomination, but I am amazed at well he’s done. If it weren’t for Donald Dumpf this would be the big story.


  9. SocraticGadfly

    I’m voting Jill Stein, or whomever the Green Party nominates. (Assuming it’s not an outright antivaxxer or something.) So, you can’t blame me for Trump. Or Cruz. Or Clinton. (Don’t expect Sanders to catch her.)


  10. synred

    Yes, indications are that the Donald would be beaten soundly by Bernie. I think it unlikely B will catch Hillary but then Margaret and I didn’t think he get much more than 20% and a stray caucus or two.

    Hillary get tin200K to speak to Goldman-Sachs, etc. is off the wall. Even if it’s not out right bribery, they sure like her for some reason.


    Liked by 1 person

  11. synred

    Hillary getting 200K for a speeches to Goldman-Sachs, etc. is off-the-wall. If not outright bribery, they sure like her for some reason. I am amazed it doesn’t bother more people.

    In Calif. we have the luxury of ‘sending her a message’ by voting for somebody else. She’ll win here regardless.
    Any repub would be a disaster and the Donald is fascist.. Continuation of corporate-democratic rule would be better. Whatever Wall Street is they’re not crazy — though they’ve dug themselves a hole with the Donald not unlike German industrialist with Hitler. I do think they know, if he gets in, they won’t be able to control him. Hence they are spending big bucks to ‘stop Trump.’

    He’s not Hitler — I hope. He won’t get in — I hope.


  12. Imad Zaheer

    Hi Eric,

    Just to clarify, I don’t think social constructs (culturally specific moral codes) nor scientific accounts of moral behavior can address the core issues of normative morality. This includes both psychology and biology so I don’t see how “biological dynamics” would get us any further. That seems to me to make the same error Pinker/Haidt and other psychologists make but on the biology side.

    That is not to say that nothing can address the normative aspects of morality or that there is no objective account of morality. In fact I think philosophy (ethical and moral philosophy) is the appropriate form of inquiry to address these questions and from my admittedly limited reading in this area indicate to me that we can indeed have objective accounts of morality. I should further add that scientific accounts of human behavior and morality can “inform” parts of normative moral philosophy but ultimately I think it’s philosophical accounts that do the more direct normative work.

    From your brief description of ASTU and comparison to other forms of Utilitarianism, I’m not exactly sure how our views differ or align but I certainly would contest that biology can answer questions of what is good or bad. I’m also not sure how this effects broader progress in behavioral sciences such as psychology as morality may informs some parameters of types of research that can be done (we can’t hurt people) but it’s epistemology, not morality, that props up behavioral sciences as a legitimate fields of inquiry.


  13. Thomas Jones

    Massimo, your point about the differences in public funding of museums in the US and Europe peaked my curiosity because of sheer complexity of such an undertaking. I found a fairly recent publication (2008) from INSTITUTE OF MUSEUM AND LIBRARY SERVICES that readers may find interesting and informative.

    Click to access MuseumPublicFinance.pdf


  14. SocraticGadfly

    Thomas, I looked through the first dozen pages for now.

    First, at the state level, here in Tejas, we know what pays for a lot of museums: the awl bidness.

    Second: merchandising. That reminds me of another reason I loathe Newt Gingrich. As Speaker of the House after the 1994 ‘revolution,” he was de facto on Smthsonian’s board of directors. I’m glad I had already visited DC before then. While the magazine isn’t as bad in some ways as National Geographic, it’s declined over 20 years too.

    That said, I’ve caught fairly big errors of fact in it. Most notable was when it claimed Acoma Pueblo built its famous Sky City to escape the Navajos, when in actuality, it was built centuries earlier. And no, it did not correct that. When my gift subscription expired after my mom’s death, I didn’t renew it on my own.

    (NG is 50 percent photo essays, or mini-essays, any more. And, some, like in January and its ode to the National Park Service’s neoliberal centennial celebration .. blech.)

    Third, I will admit I like going to museums for free. Wish I lived closer to Dallas again, so I could also see the Fine Arts Chamber Players at the DMA. But, free/donations funding, as Massimo noted, can be done whatever model of major financing is in play.


  15. Thomas Jones

    LOL, Socratic. “fairly big errors of fact.” I got the impression that much of this data was collected from various sources as self-reported, I was mainly interested in the sources of revenue and just the logistics of supporting so many venues.

    I haven’t a doubt that were you homeless you’d vet a donor before accepting two bits. (That’s meant in a friendly way.) I categorically separate the art object from the fortuitous circumstances of its history of ownership, though I suppose some moral and legal questions arise regarding the objects now in museums that were lifted from their countries of origin. Merchandising doesn’t bother me either. I would like students of all ages to have free access to public and private museums, but from the vantage of engendering interest and enjoyment. I would like outreach programs in this regard.

    I guess this means we’ll never jointly visit Alice’s Crystal Bridges. 🙂

    Anyway, this discussion was a good one for me as was the discussion of museums here:

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Daniel Kaufman

    Socratic: Crystal Bridges has a magnificent collection of American art, going back to before the Revolution. A world-class collection. It is architecturally beautiful and located in an equally beautiful natural setting.

    I’ve been there. Twice.


  17. Philosopher Eric


    I suspect that my terminology has led you astray in at least a couple of ways, and I could certainly kick myself for using the “biology” term at all. Here I simply meant to evoke an idea which isn’t socially defined, not to imply that actual biologists would need to do such work. I don’t believe that I’ll be able to salvage the above attempt, but hopefully you’ll permit the following one:

    My perception is that modern academia harbors only one type of “ethics” (or “good/bad study”), and that it resides under the ancient discipline of philosophy. Furthermore I perceive that the study essentially begins and ends with the concept of “morality,” or a socially defined notion. So it might not be immoral to eat dog meat in Korea, or even human meat in a cannibalistic society, though both are immoral in America given its particular beliefs.

    While I certainly hope nothing ill of philosophy’s moral form of ethics, I also believe that psychology will require its own separate form of ethics which is based upon what a given subject itself happens to be, not what its society believes. If existence can be horrible/wonderful for a given subject beyond social beliefs, but modern psychologists do not yet theorize what essentially constitutes such horribleness/wonderfulness, then apparently a very basic sort of understanding must still be missing. Thus I want to popularize the notion that our mental/behavioral sciences will require their own “amoral” form of ethics from which to better teach us about our nature.

    This quest of mine seems to quite naturally be resented. Those on the philosophy side tend to perceive me disrespectfully, and even though my theory resides in the domain of science. I was recently banned from a philosophy site which I happen to love, partly with the claim that they didn’t want to hear any more about my “good/bad theory of morality.” The “morality” part added insult to injury. It doesn’t seem to matter how many ways I explain that my theory remains “amoral,” and so should present no threat to their “moral” form of ethics, but nothing seems to register. The people who actually should be angry with me, are psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, cognitive scientists and so on. If these fields will require an amoral form of ethics from which to help us understand ourselves, then a tremendous number of highly respected scientists should be far less proficient than they currently believe, and so should tend to fight new founding principals that would diminish their statuses.

    I don’t know how much longer this thread will remain open Imad, but I’d also love to discuss this with you privately if you’re at all interested. Email:

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Massimo Post author


    okay, interesting exchange, but may I suggest that now you guys are sliding into personal theorizing and moving significantly away from any link to the OP?

    Liked by 2 people

  19. SocraticGadfly

    I want to tackle the tail end of the body hacking piece more, starting with Alva Noë:

    “We don’t condemn people for using glasses to see better,” he said. “But we do start to think taking speed to cope with your work life is questionable.”

    “Really”? Do we?

    Look at roiding, etc., among professional athletes. Or Adderall use among “cramming” collegians. Or classical violinists who take beta blockers to steady their hands. No, Alva, lots of people take drugs, if not to “cope” at work, to outperform others at work.

    Then, there’s this, near the end, which explains why some people like me consider people like this nutbars:

    Harbisson is well aware of how the world perceives him. He moved from Barcelona to New York City in search of “peace” with another friend in the transhumanist movement, Moon Ribas. Ribas has an electronic device in her arm that she said vibrates when there is an earthquake anywhere in the world.

    Why? What good does it even do you to know that? And if you’re that paranoid about quakes, if anything, arguably, you’re doing harm to yourself by highly increasing your stress levels.

    Back to Noë.

    Is it OK to cut into human bodies for these kinds of experiments?
    How much tolerance should society have for artificially enhancing the body?
    To the first question [I dealt with the second above], Noë said he found the “body hacking” experimentation on humans “ethically disturbing” and couldn’t fathom a doctor or any other scientists conducting these kinds of operations.

    My position is more nuanced. If the old medical principal of “do no harm” is observed, and if in the doctor’s opinion the would-be patient doesn’t have a psychological condition similar to the desire for amputation of working limbs (apotemnophilia), and the implant has a proven benefit, then I think it’s an individual choice. But, I think all three of those have to be in place.


  20. Daniel Kaufman

    Eric wrote:

    My perception is that modern academia harbors only one type of “ethics” (or “good/bad study”), and that it resides under the ancient discipline of philosophy. Furthermore I perceive that the study essentially begins and ends with the concept of “morality,” or a socially defined notion.


    Your “perception” is wrong and due to the fact that you obviously haven’t read very much in Ethics.

    “Morality” is an essentially modern development, within the much broader framework of “Ethics” and is due, primarily to Kant. The notion is not part of the Ancient Greek or Medieval way of thinking about Ethics. As Bernard Williams describes it in “Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy”:

    “morality should be understood as a particular development of the ethical , one that has a special significance in modern Western culture. It particularly emphasizes certain ethical notions rather than others, developing, in particular, a special notion of obligation…”

    Indeed, Williams devotes an entire chapter of the book to “Morality, the peculiar institution.” So, no, the “ancient discipline of philosophy” does not begin with the concept of morality, as you suggest.

    I don’t understand your incessant desire to theorize about things you clearly know very little about. Why not spend some years silently learning, before theorizing? Doing it the other way around is putting the cart before the horse.

    Liked by 2 people

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