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. Daniel Kaufman

    Eric: And also, we didn’t ban you because we are “angry.” We banned you, because you simply said the same thing, over and over and over again, regardless of whether it made any sense and regardless of whether it had anything to do with the topic. Indeed, we received many complaints about it from readers, before taking the action we did.


  2. Philosopher Eric

    Thanks for the historical information on ethics Daniel. Actually however I didn’t mean to suggest that ancient philosophers had similar beliefs to modern ones, but rather that the field has been studied since ancient times. Mathematics would be another “ancient” field, for example, though biology probably shouldn’t be termed this way.

    I agree with you entirely that I’m not yet up to speed regarding modern philosophy, nor psychology, nor any of the fields associated with the theory that I’ve developed. Nevertheless I did plan things out this way long ago. As a college kid I perceived fundamental problems in these fields, and so decided to work on them from an outside perspective where I might be able to figure things out that formal training tends to obscure. After about 25 years I decided that my ideas were ready for general exposure, and so for the past two years I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about the system, as well as discuss my ideas with competent people in general. Massimo and yourself have been amazing resources for me!

    Regarding my banning from the EA, if it’s true that I “said the same thing, over and over and over again, regardless of whether it made any sense and regardless of whether it had anything to do with the topic,” then I surely wouldn’t have required a formal censoring. If I’ve been such a hopeless fool at your site, then the far superior educations and oratory skills associated with you and many others there should have quickly put me in my place. (Let me assure you that I can be humiliated just as soundly as any standard person.) Nothing of the sort has transpired however, and even though you and I go back about a year. I consider this evidence that my ideas happen to be quite solid!

    Daniel, I would very much like to return to the EA (with my theory intact of course!) and so hope for a change of heart.


  3. ejwinner


    I have tried, a number of times, to suggest ways you could improve your discourse in conversations on sites like this. But generally your response has been ‘academics should learn from an outsider’s theories, because theirs are so primitive and incomplete.’ That’s rather insulting on sites posted and commented on by academics.

    You tried to recruit readers to your project; you are still challenging readers to somehow confront it. I don’t have time to read your theory and critique it; there’s so many texts to be read, written by people who’ve spent years publishing within established fields, concerning which there’re lively conversations already in play.

    Hundreds of self-educated ‘outsider’ thinkers post theories on the web. (One such actually posted comments at your own site.) Every one of them wants ‘challenge’ from those with professional training in fields they chose not to study in college. Who has time for that?

    You have compared yourself with Descartes or Newton, who you suppose were revolutionary among the thinkers of their day. This is historically untrue – Descartes and Newton were deeply involved in conversation with other thinkers of their time. You seem convinced that by avoiding direct contact with the academy for years, you have thought your way to ideas new and unique. This is also untrue; most of the components of your theory, as you state them in comments, have been considered by other thinkers in standing traditions; and what seems to be new is simply the result of an idiosyncratic use of commonly understood terms.

    You would know this if you’d already done some background reading in fields you are interested in; and you could still learn this if you would engage in readings suggested to you. You seem to fear that if you do this, it will somehow taint the originality of your theory. But without such reading, and without accepting commonly understood usage of words, you’re not going to persuade anyone to think about your theories; but you may persuade others not to read your comments.

    When you are on topic, you have comments worth considering in direct response raised in commentary. So I hope you set aside your project of recruiting others to your theory, or asking for challenges to it – because it is doubtful anyone’s taking you up on that.

    This is the last time I’ll offer you this advice – and I do so because yours is quite a common problem, one I’ve been tempted to on occasion.

    Most people don’t know that Edgar Allen Poe wrote a book of cosmology. The reason they don’t is because the book (“Eureka!”) is in a wild style, born of Poe’s decision to ignore previous advances in philosophy and astronomy. It reads as if Poe were re-inventing the universe. Nobody read it at the time, and only literature scholars and Poe completists read it today. That’s because nobody needs this re-invention; it’s hard enough to live in the universe we have.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. synred


    Most times when I’ve had an idea outside physics it has turned out somebody in that field has already thought of it and it is either pretty standard or already known to be wrong.

    You have to know what others have done to get anywhere or you just keep re-inventing the wheel (and sometimes it’s a square wheel).

    I like PF, but I don’t delude myself that I’m contributing anything profound.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. michaelfugate

    An easy place to start would be to read How People Learn available free from National Academies Press. It will take you through the differences between experts and novices and how each organizes information.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. synred

    “The warping effect of the Trump “phenomenon” has led the the media in declaring that Kasich (and even Cruz) are pro women’s rights”

    Did you see the Donald’s statement to Chris Mathews that woman who have abortions should be punished? He doesn’t even seem to know what the official anti-abortion position is — to punish the providers, not the women.

    Not that I believe that from people who think a single cell is a person — Holy St. Thomas Aquinas did think that! And he didn’t even know about cells.

    Logically they should favor the death penalty — pro-life, ya’ know.


  7. Philip Thrift

    “Did you see the Donald’s statement to Chris Mathews that woman who have abortions should be punished? He doesn’t even seem to know what the official anti-abortion position is — to punish the providers, not the women.”

    The Kasich (so-called “moderate, not pushing women”) Republican view is that closing down clinics forcing women to travel hundreds of miles is for is not punishing women. Another delusional view of the anti-abortion people. They too punish women.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. synred

    Chis Mathews (at his Trump town) hall said it was ok with him (Chris not Trump) if philosophers smoke pot :_)


  9. Philosopher Eric

    Yes I think that I get the picture — others have become extremely unhappy with me. Apparently by asking for permission to remain at a site which I’ve found extremely valuable from its very inception, I’ve ironically earned the opposite of sympathy — as if I’ve mounted an ill conceived act of aggression against it. (If only Massimo had originally joined my censoring, then I’d have simply disappeared without any of these worries!)

    Look, I fully acknowledge that it’s not in my own best interest to upset others. Who here is as consistently polite as I happen to be? (Well perhaps Synred, but still…) The essential reason that I’m taken exception to, I think, is because apparently my ideas are both radical, as well as difficult to counter. Thus I find that secondary issues are instead raised, such as inquiries regarding my proficiency in Freud, as well as criticism regarding my profuse use of the term “do.” (To be sure, I also love these secondary inquiries!)

    Given the way that I seem to be perceived, I see three essential paths towards such resolution. One would be for Massimo to also censure me. Another would be for me to stop saying what I believe during my education here. Then a third would be for those who are quite sensitive about the implications of my ideas, to earnestly believe that I’m just a powerless fool who can safely be ignored.


    Above you’ve mentioned that you had no time to try to understand my ideas, and also that if I’d been sufficiently educated, then I’d realize how wrong my ideas happened to be. Right? In order to legitimately state such a thing however, wouldn’t you first need to gain a reasonable understanding of what my ideas are? Furthermore, is it really so wrong for me to try to share these ideas with educated people like yourself and Imad Zaheer, given that such expertise might then be used to demonstrate any associated flaws?


  10. Daniel Kaufman

    Eric: Or you could chill. Hang out. Chat a little (about something else). Ask some questions. Read some stuff. Talk about it. You know. It’s a blog discussion thread, not the Royal Society.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Philosopher Eric

    Yes it would be strange to ask to be censured, since if this were to happen here as well, it would be devastating to me! Rather than requests, those were three theoretical avenues I see by which those who do not want to consider my ideas, could be so relieved of them — by me being censored, by me not talking about then, and by me being entirely ignored because perhaps I’m just a powerless fool anyway. I should have mentioned that instead of any of these, it would be nice of others were not so threatened by my ideas.

    Daniel, I do think I chill. I do think I hang out. I do think I chat about other things sometimes. I do ask questions, and this is because I am one of your most interested students! I read and I talk. This is indeed a blog discussion rather than the Royal Society. I deeply want to return to your site, but just can’t manage this if I’m also deprived of the premise which founds my ideas.

    I see that things have become far more heated here than is health for me. Hopefully I can find some other things to do for a while.


  12. Daniel Kaufman

    Eric, we tried to help out, but you really aren’t listening. You persist in characterizing us as “threatened by your ideas” and the like. This represents a complete misunderstanding of what’s going on, as I and EJ and others have tried to explain.

    Take care, –Dan K.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. synred


    Your ideas seem like ‘word salad’ to me. Now that doesn’t mean that much. I’m not philosopher and I find a lot of philosophy seems like ‘word salad’ to me (esp. Heidegger).

    If you continue or return you it would be better if you could make your post short and to the point [a]. Apply your ideas concretely to the issue at hand. I have seen you make good points on occasion, but frankly don’t read long meta-postings.


    [a] I bit of ‘pot-calls-kettle-black’ as I tend to wonder off topic myself


  14. michaelfugate

    I’m with Dan; I can’t see how I could possibly be threatened by Eric’s ideas. Once again, I would suggest the very readable book offered in my earlier post; experts in any field have a very different relationship with facts and concepts than do novices. If you have ever taught, you soon realize that teaching a subject you know very well is often quite difficult; things are never as simple as they seem on the surface.


  15. SocraticGadfly

    Speaking of readable books, I just finished reading “What Would You Do to the Fat Man,” by David Edmonds, co-author of “Wittgenstein’s Poker.” Not a bad book. Hat tips to neuroscience on the subject, with cautions it really hasn’t found much of note and provability yet. Hat tip or two from it to x-phil.

    You know you wanted a mention of trolleyology (or tramology in the UK, I suppose, as Edmonds explains), right, Massimo?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Philosopher Eric


    The last thing I want to do is bring up the sorts of things which others find objectionable about my ideas — right now I need things to cool off! But yes, I will take a look at the book that you’ve suggested. You seemed to reference something about education which I agree with entirely. Sometimes the people who know a subject the best, thus have problems teaching it, and essentially because this makes it quite difficult to see the various ways in which the material isn’t obvious to others. Someone who freshly learns something, however, might better grasp the student’s challenges. I fully realize that I suffer from this in respect to my own ideas, though I am at least attempting to overcome it.

    Actually I did find one other thing to do to keep me out of the weekend edition for a while. Furthermore as I mentioned to Imad Zaheer earlier, if you are interested at all, please feel free to use the email address that I left above.


  17. Philip Thrift

    The most outrageous claim of the anti-Trump Republicans is they are not promoting punishing women as they claim Trump has done.

    Kashich and Cruz both have moved legislatively to punish women by ending women’s access to clinics.

    Kasich and Cruz both punish women in actual reality. The ultimate irony of the current media frenzy.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. synred

    I am reminded of my uncle Hartland. He was the student with Oppenheimer on the black hole paper. He did the math.

    He taught at Northwestern for awhile. Most of the students hated him. He couldn’t understand why they had trouble with things that came so easy to him.


  19. synred

    I think Bernie made a mistake by dismissing what Trump said as ‘just another stupidity’. Hillary got this one right and brought up the fact that the others are just as bad, if better rehearsed in what to avoid saying.

    Of course money is at the heart of the problem. It’s how they keep things Germander, so that the clear ‘will of the people’ does not get expressed in policy. The more insidious thing is effect on house and state elections where it goes unnoticed.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. michaelfugate


    “Sometimes the people who know a subject the best, thus have problems teaching it, and essentially because this makes it quite difficult to see the various ways in which the material isn’t obvious to others. Someone who freshly learns something, however, might better grasp the student’s challenges.”

    While that is true in part, a well-trained teacher will know both the subject and how to teach it. Someone freshly learning something will never have the depth of knowledge to properly teach a subject – believe me I have been an educator for 35 years.

    Liked by 4 people

  21. synred

    Students at Stanford have been known to call the award for excellence in teaching ‘the kiss of death’ because not very many Profs. who got it got tenure as well.

    I guess they spent too much time preparing and not enough pursuing grants.

    I get the impression that teaching can be better at so-called lesser institutions.


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