Plato’s weekend suggestions

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

Darwinism as religion? I think that’s a mis-application of the term. But as ideology? Hell yes.

The problem of solipsism and the origins of American philosophy.

In defense of the comic novel, assuming it needs any.

Is there a link between neo-liberalism and loneliness-induced depression?

Once in a while, one about Stoicism (it is, after all, STOICON weekend!): Bill Irvine explains how Stoics tackle micro-aggressions.

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71 thoughts on “Plato’s weekend suggestions

  1. Finally brought myself to read the article on loneliness.Monbiot talks of charities which seek to address the problem, but he does not identify who they are or how they try to address loneliness.

    It seems to me the problem is intractable. I am not sure that the percentage of lonely people has increased, maybe it has or maybe it hasn’t. But will 7 billion people in the world that adds up to a staggering number of lonely people.

    I can’t say I cared or thought much lonely people until some recent events made me think about them – about the general lack of connection in our societies. When I was a kid I could go down the street and name the people in just about all the houses – in one direction at least. Today people barely know who is next door. The woman who lives in an adjoining property was recently talking as though we had just moved in. We had lived next door to her for nearly 20 years.

    As I said, I am not sure what is to be done. You can get isolated people and put them in a room together and encourage them to talk and make connections. But likely they will struggle to get out a few halting words to each other and be relieved to get a way. That is, after all, the likely reason they are lonely in the first place, they don’t know how to connect.

    It would be necessary to convince the socially confident to become involved – to help people learn to be sociable. I am not sure how that could be done.

    I would be interested to hear about how those charities Monbiot mentions go about this.

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  2. Interesting, also, to note how science is yet again demonstrating how shrewd folk psychology is, confirming that emotional pain is worse than physical pain. Unfortunately there is still a tendency to say “suck it up” with respect to the former in our society.

    But I think that Monbiot has the tendency that many people have today to paint a rosy picture of the social nature of animals like us. Yes social bonds are very important – but our social nature is of a stratified, group based and exclusive kind which is often hostile to outsiders or those different. Going with the nature we inherited from nature is maybe not always the best option.

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  3. I noticed what I think of as a class differene. Working class areas are much friendlies than upper class.

    When I was 5 my parents bought a house for 8K$ in Pleasant Hill, Ca, a working class GI subdivision. The people here were very friendl. We had large community Thanksgivings at somebody’s hose.

    We move to more middle place in Livermore when my dad started working at the rad lab. We only really knew the next door neighbors and that not well.

    Then he went to Lockheed and we move to Saratoga in 1962. Here we barely knew the neighbors.We still had friends in Pleasant Hill.

    Now Pleasant Hill might have been partially the effect that everybody there was from somewhere else. My best friend Billy’s family was from Missouri. Even couples were often not from the same place. The war mixed up the nation. That’s how a Catholic girl from (NYC) ended up married to an agnostic boy from Salt Lake City. So people did not have family to depend on.

    However, I don’t think the people in Saratoga had much in the way of nearby family either.

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  4. On isolation and neo-liberalism, it is useful to consider the role of money in society. While we think of it as a form of commodity, or abstraction of commodity, that can be mined or manufactured, from gold to bitcoin, it is a public contract, given that as an asset it is backed by a debt. The central bank creates money by buying (usually) public debt.
    As such it functions as an enormous voucher system, that allows a large economy to function, because faith is placed in the value of the money, rather than having to place trust in other people.
    In small communities reciprocity grows out of communal relations, but in those where individuals mostly interact through economic processes, much of this social root structure is replaced by a monetary umbilical cord. Consequently there develops the assumption people are simply out to take monetary advantage of one another, creating a feedback loop.
    Eventually we will have to face up to the fact that money is not personal property, but a public medium, like roads, or even water and air. Which would involve developing a seriously different culture than we have today.

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  5. Arthur,

    There are a number of arguments in favor of that, though it is likely more of a way that money is introduced into more organic economies, rather than how it originally evolved. Money is essentially a community IOU and as such goes back to pre-history. The Assyrians used clay receipts for grain in the communal granary as a form of money.
    How it evolved in its current form is that the Rothschild’s were gold traders with a good reputation and as such, they could trade around receipts, rather than actual gold, as it was much easier to transport and protect, which made it an even more profitable business. As such, they were funding, lending and serving as a conduit for exchange among the various monarchies of Europe. At one point, an English king, I forget which, but Charles rings a bell, got so far into debt with them, that they made a deal that if they were given control of his finances and treasury, they would forgive his debts. So the Bank of England was born. What was so powerful about this, was it did not do what your model suggests, have the political leadership in charge of the money supply. Given money acts as quantified hope to people and leaders are popular when they give lots of hope to people, there is a strong incentive to dilute the money supply.
    As shown with communism, having the political leadership in charge of the economy doesn’t work that well, since the state functions as an organism, while the economy functions as an ecosystem.
    My point about finance being a public utility doesn’t necessarily mean it should be a branch of government, at least not directly. For example, government is about organizing, regulating and protecting society, much as the central nervous system organizes, regulates and through the function of cognition, acts to protect the organism. While it is the heart and the arteries which circulate energy and nutrition throughout the body. Obviously they work together, but at very different functions. Circulation is also much of what ties ecosystems together, while a central nervous system is a much higher level of emergence and only functions as a component within ecosystems. If the circulation system becomes embodied as a single organism, then it will go through the life cycle of an organism. So of like what our system is currently doing.

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  6. ‘Money as the Protection Racket’ is a joke. It may have a smidgen to truth in it, but it ain’t real history.

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