Plato’s weekend suggestions


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

A brief history of television through the life of Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone.

The philosophy of behavioral genetics, a book review by my friend and former collaborator Jonathan Kaplan.

The rise of dataism: computers will soon know you much better than you do. Or will they?

I’ve read the new U of Chicago statement on trigger warnings and safe spaces, and I can’t find anything to object to…

Philip Kitcher as a model modern philosopher who escapes narrow interests.

Modern constitutionalism as an attempt to avoid repeating the mistakes of the late Roman Republic.

Will liberal democracy be threatened by the rise of artificial intelligence?

Dan Dennett doesn’t think much of contemporary analytic (or continental) philosophy.

The American national anthem is racist and colonialist. Perhaps it’s time to change it?

Why did Michael Crichton confuse Deinonychus and Velociraptor? On the philosophy of paleontology.

Western philosophy has seen two great periods: Ancient Greece and the European Enlightenment.

More philosophy of paleontology: are ammonites (scientifically) more important than dinosaurs? I go for foraminifera…

Watch psychologists rationalize increasing evidence of widespread failure in their field.

The myth of the moral brain and the limits of moral enhancement.

Unfortunately, Tom Wolfe seems to have gone down the deep end. Too bad.

A postmodern sounding essay on what may (or may not) come after postmodernism.

Speaking of the national anthem, why do Americans play it before every domestic sports event?

On the complex nature of friendship.

We need to bring back an appreciation of the cyclical into our lives.

Life either survived or evolved quickly after the Late Heavy Bombardment of the Archaean stage.

GMO labeling and the pathological lack of transparency of the food industry.

The multifaceted and controversial virtue of patience.

Another “we don’t have consciousness” article. It’s becoming a cottage industry. I’m quite conscious of it.

Mother Teresa was no saint, study finds (again).

A badly flawed libertarian argument against democracy (as bad as the latter truly is).

160 thoughts on “Plato’s weekend suggestions

  1. garthdaisy

    Every time a U.S. state decides to stop flying the confederate flag over their capital building the world laughs at us. End the shame of withdrawing veneration.


  2. michaelfugate

    My spouse has solved the problem of “flag days” by buying a rainbow flag and putting it out on 14 June, 4 July, 11 Sept, 11 Nov, etc. No one can accuse us of not flying the flag.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. garthdaisy

    I’m sitting down to watch the U.S Open Tennis final between a Swiss player and Serbian player and of course immediately before play begins we need to hear about the “bombs bursting in air” during the 1812 war of aggression by the US. No Serbian anthem. No Swiss anthem. Just a song about a war of aggression in which the US got it’s ass handed to them on a plate. But this tradition has been venerated so what are you going to do? Look foolish in front of the world?

    “And the rocket’s red glare!!!”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. SocraticGadfly

    Erm, while Key’s anthem is nutty, 1812 was NOT a war of aggression. Ever hear of British impressment of American sailors on the high seas?

    Not knowing philosophy. Not knowing history … of course, maybe 1812 day in high school history was a “fun guy” or “hash brownies” day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Massimo Post author


    My preferred plan for cosmopolitanism, unlike Garth, goes through a gradually strengthened UN and gradually weakened state powers, just what I’d like to see within the US and within the EU. Whether it will happen or not, and if so over what time, it remains to be seen, but I have no doubt that it would be good for humanity. And, unlike economic globalization, it doesn’t have to lead to a culturally flat earth.


    The naming of sports teams is an obvious red herring, so I’ll simply ignore it.

    The rest of your comment seems to suggest that you may be confusing cosmopolitanism with globalisation. Not only they are not at all the same thing, but in many respects they are at odds with each other.

    As far as bets are concerned, again, I’m pretty sure people for a long time bet against the abolition of slavery, etc. Could it be your don’t like the analogy because it fits uncomfortably well?

    As for pride, sorry I’m squarely in Garth’s camp: it makes no sense to be proud of accidents of history, be it one’s family (except one’s spouse, if one chose her) or nation (unless, again, one chose it, like me!). You should feel lucky, not proud.


    Whether the war of 1812 was one of aggression or not is probably u answerable, and it surely depends on the point of view. I think Canadians feel it was.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. couvent2104

    “So long as there are nations, there will be nationalism”

    It’s fine with me to do away with nation states. The sooner the better.

    I don’t know. The city I live in has a written history that is more than 1000 yrs. old. It lived through long periods when there was no “nation state”. They don’t look much better to me. In the Middle Ages, when there was no nation state, the legal rules were different for “proper” citizens of the city and for people living outside the city walls. They even were different for students of the local university and for proper citizens. Different cities had different legal systems. The universality of justice and law came with the nation state. War was not invented by the nation state – before there were nation states, there was plenty of war. Anti-semitism was not invented by the nation state.

    But it was the nation state that gave us pensions and social security (there existed something that could be called “social security” before that, but it depended on the guild you belonged to – if you belonged to one). It gave us universal taxation laws. It gave us democracy, although it took some time. It reduced the power of nobility, kings and queens.

    To do away with nation states, OK. A nation state may be an “imagined community”, but what’s the alternative?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Daniel Kaufman

    I guess I’ll just continue to be “irrational” and remain proud of my daughter, parents, and other family members. But then, like Hume, I think that while one should be a philosopher, one first and foremost, should be a man. The sort of rationalism on display in this conversation really demonstrates just how wise he was. A little reason is a good thing, but too much is not.

    And yes, I think agitating to get rid of the national anthem is very much like agitating to change the names of sports teams. Equally superficial and easy and no more substantial than the other exercises in moral signalling that belong with them.


  8. SocraticGadfly

    Massimo,I’ll halfway buy that, but no more. As Canada was not a separate dominion in 1812, but just land territory of the British crown, it was the logical place for land-based attack. (I’m not justifying the burning of York [Toronto] two years in, which of course led to the burning of Washington.)


  9. michaelfugate

    Dan, if it were so easy, then why can’t we do it? Why did it take a church shooting in SC to get rid of the Confederate battle flag there? The easy thing is to think standing for the national anthem with your hand over your heart means you love your country. The easy thing is to gloss over the racism inherent in a name or symbol as if we are already past that. The easy thing is to assume the sexism of language doesn’t translate into discrimination in employment or pay. As a philosopher you should know these things matter.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. garthdaisy

    “As Canada was not a separate dominion in 1812, but just land territory of the British crown, it was the logical place for land-based attack.”

    Yes it was a war of logic, not aggression. I stand corrected. Attempting to seize British territory was the logical thing to do under the circumstances. Also the Brits were supporting the native Americans who the US were trying to wipe out at the time. When someone tries to get in the way of your manifest destiny like that, invasion is the logical choice not the aggressive choice. Thanks for the history lesson.


  11. Robin Herbert

    Couldn’t make it through the ‘trigger warnings’ article because of the popups.

    Did I read that right that only 1% of institutions have any policy on “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings”

    If so then it might support my suspicion that all this anti trigger warning/safe space hysteria was only ever about a handful of events in a small number of academic institutions.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Daniel Kaufman

    michaelfuagte: I don’t agree that gendered natural languages are “sexist,” nor do I think that using “man” to mean “human” and other such things “translates into discrimination in employment and pay.” Nor do I think there is any evidence to that effect. (Not that there is discrimination in employment, but that using gendered natural languages contributes in any meaningful way to it.) Nor do I agree that getting rid of old, traditional songs makes any substantial difference in the battle against racism. I know Jews who get all worked up over “Edelweiss,” but I’m not one of them.

    You presume all of these things and then say what a philosopher “should know.” Well, I’m a philosopher — have been for over twenty years — and I don’t accept many of the things you presume. I also happen to belong to one of the world’s worst-treated minorities — my mother was in a Nazi concentration camp, and my father had to flee Germany in 1933, to what was then Palestine, so I do know something about these issues. Part of what I find interesting about this conversation and others like it, is the group-think assumption that there is only one possible position any decent person could hold on these issues and boy, it just so happens to be mine.

    Now that’s something philosophers should know better than.


  13. garthdaisy

    “I guess I’ll just continue to be “irrational” and remain proud of my daughter, parents”

    I’m assuming you have good reasons to be proud of them. Some people have good reasons to not be proud of their kin. Like the kin of war criminals for example. Hopefully blood relation is not their criteria for being proud of someone.


  14. SocraticGadfly

    The British who had, as pre-Revolution American colonists, as well as redcoated troops, engaged in extermination of American Indians themselves? Got it. And, of course (I trust that saying “of course” is allowable) the term “Manifest Destiny” wasn’t used until 1845. At best, the idea behind it started to get traction in the Jacksonian era, 15-20 years after the war. Oh, and if you ask a member of the First Nations in Canada, that country’s not been a hotbed of enlightenment on dealing with native issues, either.

    When I want a history lesson … I’ll read one.


  15. michaelfugate

    You just know things, Dan, wow I’m so impressed. Nice to pull the holocaust card too – do you have the same respect for the race card and the gender card or are they of lesser value?


  16. michaelfugate

    I forgot pulling the authority card too. Whenever the going gets rough, you never fail to tell us you have been a practicing philosopher for 20 years – how could we ever forget? By the way, it is not an argument and it doesn’t make you right. And ad hominems such as “group-think” is another classic argument winner. Ever try evidence?

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Christoph Allin

    The backlash against the EU should demonstrate you can’t just force people to be obedient cosmopolitan subjects. Telling people that all their silly little Volkisch passions are silly simply doesn’t work.

    Given modern ease of communication, I think it’s pretty inevitable that people will develop collective identities – “imagined communities” – on an enormous scale, of which nationalism is perhaps the most wonderful and terrible variety. I find it so much more human to accept and engage with this stuff rather than dismiss it as ‘irrational’. Homely or chauvinistic attachments, real or invented national mythologies – these things give my own thoughts some colour that I would sorely miss.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Robin Herbert

    I think that it is undeniable that, historically, the generic “man” has been sexist, something called out by 18th century SJW’s like Mary Wollstonecraft and Olympia do Gouges.


  19. SocraticGadfly

    Been to Sambo’s years ago. Also, Cousin Arthur, right now, I’m 3 hours from Dallas’ Deep Ellum, and only an hour from Shreveport. 😦

    Christoph: The backlash against the EU is a mix of lies, some real bureaucratic problems that would be a mix of easy and hard to address, and the failure to work to achieve fuller economic union, which the occasional EU nation-state leader (Merkel, I know) admits has been a problem since the creation of the Euro.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Daniel Kaufman

    Robin wrote: “I think that it is undeniable…”

    Well, I denied it, so it’s not undeniable.

    MichaelFugate: Nice try at turnaround. You said that “as a philosopher, you should know these things matter.” All I said was that I disagree with much that you wrote and am a philosopher nonetheless. That’s hardly “pulling the authority card.” But then again, nothing in your answers are responsive to what I wrote anyway.

    As for your allegation of “pulling the Holocaust card” I won’t dignify it. You think whatever you like.


  21. synred

    Been to Sambo’s years ago

    My sister used to love the 10 cent coffee at Sambo’s. She and friends could hang out their for hours and even get refills!
    Denny’s was more actively racist (not just) the name and they are still with us.
    Somewhere I have a beat up copy of ‘Little Black Sambo” that my mother bought when I was a little kid. We never thought of it has racist at the time. Sambo seemed pretty smart. The illustrations (with crayon overlay) are very nice.

    However, you can see how it was used …

    I used to watch Amos and Andy on TV (not the radio show with the white actors — I’m not that old!). I especially liked the one where they outwit a bunch of pompous Air force Generals.

    However, the racist coding was pretty strong. The sensible Amos was very light, but the idiot Andy fat and dark as was the scheming ‘King Fish.’

    It was pretty much the only show on with black people unless you count Rochester on Jack Benny which was even worse.


  22. Daniel Kaufman

    Robin wrote: I meant, of course, that it is not plausibly deniable.

    Lol. Of course.

    I still think it’s nonsense. We could argue the point, but then we’d spend twenty pages disagreeing on what counts as “sexist.”


  23. Daniel Kaufman

    Christoph wrote: “Given modern ease of communication, I think it’s pretty inevitable that people will develop collective identities – “imagined communities” – on an enormous scale, of which nationalism is perhaps the most wonderful and terrible variety. I find it so much more human to accept and engage with this stuff rather than dismiss it as ‘irrational’.

    Bravo. Well put.


  24. Philosopher Eric

    Some of us are proud of our families, and some of us are not. Some of us have great wealth, and some of us do not. Some of us are extremely loved, and some of us are not. This obviously goes on and on concerning the “haves” and “the have nots.” Just as Daniel considers himself fortunate regarding his family and general circumstances, me too. But I do not presume that my own privileges exist beyond me, or somehow become “generally good.” Surely the privileges which I enjoy, are specifically my own.

    I’m not simply in opposition to the moral realism of most philosophers. Perhaps so, but more importantly I assess good/bad not from a moral “ought” perspective whatsoever, but rather a descriptive “is” perspective. I theorize welfare to be completely based upon the utility of any given subject over a specified period of time. So here it’s not “the greatest happiness for the greatest number” (as one famous utilitarian has suggested), but rather “the greatest happiness for any given subject.” Thus if you have the job of deciding how to best run your family, or your city, or your country, or yourself, “good” will be determined only by this specific subject’s utility. The perspective here is not theorized to be “moral” (and logic suggests that this can be incredibly immoral at times!), but rather “real.” Perhaps the reason we have no descriptive form of ethics today, is because modern theorists have been too concerned about being labeled “immoral” to proceed. It may be, however, that this void in our understandings largely explains the “softness” of our mental and behavioral sciences.

    Liked by 1 person

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