Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 94

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

The complex ethics of being a tourist.

Coincidences tell us more about our minds than how the universe works.

The origins of post-truth and why we can’t really do much about it.

David Hume and Adam Smith, friends.

Freudianism is pseudoscience, so why does it survive? ‘Cause it ain’t as bad as the alternatives…


Please notice that the duration of the comments window is three days (including publication day), and that comments are moderated for relevance (to the post one is allegedly commenting on), redundancy (not good), and tone (constructive is what we aim for). This applies to both the suggested readings and the regular posts. Thanks!

51 thoughts on “Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 94

  1. SocraticGadfly

    But, depth psychology!

    And, the Hume/Smith piece isn’t totally fair to Rousseau on the issue of Hume’s hospitality. He was more at fault than Hume, indeed, but Hume wasn’t blameless.


  2. jbonnicerenoreg

    Freud’s influence seemed to me to revolve around rationalizing sexuality. Neither science, nor philosophy nor literature had rationally discussed the power of sexuality in human life. Freud doing so in the Victorian era was revolutionary, although I recall wondering where was the science?


  3. saphsin

    I heard that there are some problems with mass tourism when its lead by corporations like Airbnb, which drives up housing prices in communities. So there may be reasons such as that.


  4. SocraticGadfly

    Massimo: I am not a Rousseau sympathizer by any means myself. And, Hume! But, I’ve read Dave Edmonds’ “Rousseau’s Dog,” and, to paraphrase, while he puts 80 percent of the blame for the fallout between the two on Rousseau, he leaves 20 percent with Hume.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. SocraticGadfly

    Anyway, on the broader issue on that piece, I do find the Hume / Smith friendship interesting. And, it kind of ties with the psychology piece. Smith to me has always seemed somewhat more influenced than Hume by continental Rationalism. Indeed, his “invisible hand” seems derived from the “wind up the universe like a clock” divinity of Deism, and some evidence in “Wealth of Nations” tilts toward that. Hume, while an empiricist par excellence, of course, never bought into Rationalism that much.


  6. martin stock

    in the post-truth piece its interesting that the writer raises the point that its really about identity saying –
    “The success of bullshit and post-truth is not about epistemology. It is about identity: the power of a brand; the prioritizing of a “friendly” or in-group source; the signalling content of a claim rather than its factual accuracy; the force of an established narrative, and so on. Foucault and co recognized the way in which competing narratives about, or constructions of, reality are involved with political power (or “Power”, as they’d capitalize it) – but that was to identify the problem rather than to cause it.”
    and then fails to examine the issue of identity on an individual level….one of the points in Zygmunt Baumann’s work was that identity has become a fluid presentation of surface with a lack of stable core. This is the nature of the environment in which post-truth flourishes…Foucault began to address this issue in Hermeneutics of the Subject (lectures at the College de France 1981-82). The issue for me can be simply described as the need for much of the population to become engaged in the project of ‘soul making’, the forging of a coherent and ethical inner stable core to identity. Currently we live in a world of zombies – all the lights on and nobody home – in which success in the world involves some degree of becoming a ‘brand’, a ‘name’. There’s no real concern – as the orange elephant demonstrates so well – with coherence, consistency, veracity or anything beyond a rather small definition of ‘tribe’.
    Is there a solution to this problem? In the long term, undoubtedly, in the short term, highly unlikely though it is in the short term that we may be able to find the emergent lineaments of what eventually produce the shift that is going to be necessary to take the larger collective of humanity out of its hallucinatory attachment to surfaces.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thomas Jones

    I found–much to my surprise–the article on coincidence quite entertaining. Also surprising was that I started to dwell on the distinction between teleologic and teleonomic as I got deeper into the article, a distinction that I knew nothing about until it began to appear on Massimo’s blogs. But I suppose this is another matter of coincidence. 🙂


  8. Bradley Sherman

    Eric Kandel won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the physiological basis of memory. Kandel considers Freud to be the guiding light for his scientific career.


  9. Martin Stock (@MartinStock4)

    I too read the tourism article, but did not find it offensive since I have been witness to much of the boorish drunken loutish and ultimately deeply unconscious racist behaviour of tourists visiting cultures other than their own. The complaint in Spain and also in Thailand by the way, is that tourists en masse evidence a lack of respect and awareness of the lived culture they are visiting in. Sure they love the outward aspects, the food, the ruins, the beaches and apparent lifestyle, but they are generally too unaware of the nature of the world they have inserted themselves into. It takes time, certainly more than one, two or three weeks to adjust to the rhythm of life in a different culture, and it takes a willingness to view the world differently, to acknowledge there might be a way of being different from one’s norm, and certainly different from the way of being one’s own culture works to repress (the repressed frequently being a driver of what surfaces when the unconscious are on ‘vacation’).
    The monetary issue is one of the dilemma’s of our world, we sell ourselves and our culture (history, art, landscape etc) in the pursuit of that chimera variously called happiness, success, status, having bought the definitions of such in the shallow market operated under the banners of ‘progress and economic development’, absent any substantive conversation of to what end they move toward. The promises offered all being materialist in nature.
    I regard there being a backlash underway as a hopeful sign that something other than easy money is starting to be accorded value.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Massimo Post author


    “Any summary on what you don’t like about Rousseau?”

    Other than I find his personality obnoxious, I dislike large chunks of his philosophy. The idea of looking at an ideal “state of nature” as guidance; his rejection of Enlightenment values; his idea that arts and sciences have not been beneficial to humanity; etc.


    “Eric Kandel won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the physiological basis of memory. Kandel considers Freud to be the guiding light for his scientific career.”

    Well, just because one wins the Nobel by studying the physiology of nature it does not mean he knows much of value about psychoanalysis or pseudoscience.


  11. couvent2104

    What an obnoxious piece that tourism article is.

    What is obnoxious about it?

    I may be wrong, but I think you live in a place where tourists are rare (certainly compared to Venice or Barcelona or Amsterdam or …). The Bible Belt is not really a tourist destination.

    You rarely encounter people dressed up as Typical Evangelical Christians to amuse the visitors.
    I bet there are no actors in your town showing the tourists how an Authentic Southern Baptism in the Local River is done (6 times a day, but not on sundays and groups have to make a reservation).
    Your favorite watering hole isn’t in the Lonely Planet and when you’re having a drink, there are no adventurous visitors who expect that you speak their language when they want to have a Real Conversation with a Local (“You’re not an Evangelical Christian? You’re a Jew? I didn’t know there were Jewish people living here. Really? It’s not in the Lonely Planet, you know.”)

    Few people are against tourism and, indeed, lots of places are happy to see vacationers spending money.
    I made a cycling trip through France this year and saw quite a few places that would be dead without the income from tourism. The locals know it, they can live with it, they’re glad to see you and their hospitality can be almost overwhelming (as I learned after I was bitten badly by a stray dog).

    But too much is too much.

    Like every economic activity, tourism has downsides.

    I’m certain a considerable part of the population of Barcelona would gladly see more vacationers spend their money somewhere else.


  12. Daniel Kaufman

    And I wouldn’t be too brave on behalf of the Barcelonans. As of 2008 almost 20% of Spain’s GDP came from tourism. That was also true of Greece. For Austria it was 14% and for France, 11%.

    But by all means, tell those crude, uncouth yokels where to go! As you said, they’ll be happy to take their money elsewhere.


  13. virtue42015

    On the topic of coincidence. The whole population of the USA experienced the result of a concatination of coincidence just the other week — a total solar eclipse.


  14. Robin Herbert

    I don’t get much chance to be a tourist, but I have to say that if the Europeans hated me then they all did a remarkable job of hiding it.

    The French are supposed to be arrogant but I have always found them quite the opposite.

    And the Italians, if that is all an act tom mask rheir contempt for me then I continue to be fooled by it.

    I was only young when I was in Switzerland but I remember it for the spontaneous acts of kindness towards us on a holiday which had become a nightmare.


  15. ejwinner

    I can see why the coincidence article could be found entertaining, it is written with a bemused tome of voice. But generally I found it a bit of a muddle – twin studies, Jung, esp premonitions, probabilities – and really it all boiled down to “It’s just that once you’ve noticed something, your brain is primed to notice it again the next time you encounter it.” I didn’t really need the rest of the words to get that across, that’s pretty obvious when one stops to think of it.

    However, scrolling down, I did see a link to another article some may find as a complement to the “Post-Truth” article: – this is a serious problem; but it would be a mistake to roll the wheel of the ‘blame game.’ Many experiences and phenomena have occurred or developed over the past decades – probably going back to the very origins of Modernity – that have come together in a culture wherein little can be known with certainty and no one but those who agree with us can be trusted – and even them you need to watch carefully.

    What a sad end to Western civilization – spinning along on its own fantasy carousel, with the hub coming loose….

    Liked by 1 person

  16. SocraticGadfly

    A REAL piece about the complex ethics of being a tourist would have been about, say, Zion National Park, getting more than 4 million tourists a year, as many as Yellowstone in a park 1/10th the size. It would look at loving nature to death, the hypocritical sidebar of the state of Utah hating the federal government but heavily promoting nature tourism to its Big Five national parks and more.


  17. SocraticGadfly

    And, Massimo didn’t even mention Rousseau’s “general will.” (Many connect the Terror to it; arguably, if more indirectly, it’s a thread that reaches to the Volk of Nazism as well.) That said, on his personality, a fair amount of it seems due to a variety of childhood issues. Per previous discussion of volition and other issues of mind being spectra, not poles, while not excusing him, I’d give him bits of slack

    Leo Damrosch had a critical, but still quite sympathic, bio five years ago:


  18. brodix

    Another view on Freud:

    In a nutshell;

    “Most descriptions of psychoanalytic theory claim that Freud held that there are two kinds of thinking: conscious thinking and unconscious thinking. Furthermore, psychologists often claim that they embrace a cognitive conception of the unconscious mind, in contrast to Freud’s view that the unconscious mind is chock-full of instinctual drives and emotions. However, both these claims are incorrect. Freud believed that all cognitive processes are unconscious. What we call ‘conscious thought’ is just the brain’s way of displaying the output of unconscious cognitive processing to itself. To use a familiar analogy, cognitive processes are like the central processor of a computer, and consciousness is like the monitor where the outputs from the processor are displayed.”

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Alan White

    Interesting readings as usual. Thanks Massimo.

    The post-truth piece didn’t focus enough on the massive expansion of proprietary-sourced social media as accelerating the age-old problem of the promulgation of Colbert truthiness-Frankfurt bullshit. Prior to the Internet how could ISIS have recruited countless Jihadists world-wide as it has? One factoid from (yes) Ripley’s Believe It or Not–every minute 60 hours of video are posted on YouTube. (I believe it.) Given the capitalistic incentive for the growth of such media based on the seemingly limitless thirst for such crap, I am not sanguine about any return for respect for Edward R. Murrows anytime soon. (Hey David Muir is in fact a hunk–but not even close to a Peter Jennings for journalistic integrity for crissakes.)

    The coincidence piece was good and mostly on track. I’ve taught in Logic and Phi/Sci for years that the mind is above all a confirmation engine by evolutionary advantage overall, but with the superfluous artifact that it inherently believes too much. The point about attention allied to ego was apt. Over the course of a year I bet there are lots of lottery numbers (pick 4s or more) that lose in one state but would be winners in others. No one would ever recognize that. But, as recounted in another Ripley’s Believe It of Not, a woman in New England had two tickets from adjoining states that both had the winning numbers–but from the opposite state! I know she noticed that!

    Liked by 3 people

  20. saphsin

    I was given permission to quote this:

    “European cities and entire regions have for years been over-flooded with (seasonal) tourism waves. It has increased even further in the past decade. Take e.g. the Spanish mediterannean coast, or a Greek island such as Crete. They mostly get waves of young partying richer North-Western Europeans in the summer, often consisting of large groups of drunk young people who don’t care about their surroundings, leading to all kinds of disgusting behavior. Well, some people like it because of the money it brings to their region – but many people hate it because of how it changes their lives, their region, etc. In my Amsterdam we’ve always had lots of tourists, but it has exploded as well, with thousands of apartments being rented out to tourists. Imagine living somewhere, and all of a sudden the community feeling of having neighbors changes into having basically hotel guests next to you: lots of sound, unrespectful behavior, etc. They’re starting to regulate this, but a city/region can only take so much tourism without being changes for the worse. But there are always people and companies on the look-out for profits, so it continues to grow and all aspects become monetized and group-organized. The latter e.g. in Amsterdam in the past 5 years where groups rent bikes and cycle through our city – without understanding the traffic rules or knowing how to ride a bike, making it harder for us to ride to work, friends, etc. without being blocked by groups of tourists or get into collissions/accidents with them.

    So no, the anti-tourism attitudes have been there long before Airbnb. Airbnb is just an accelerating factor.”

    Now I don’t have a particular anti-tourism attitude and I don’t want it to evolve into xenophobia or hostility so I guess there’s the question of what to do about it to make the overall situation happier.


  21. SocraticGadfly

    I looked at an inkblot once. I saw Freud’s penis, Freud’s mother, and Freud grabbing the entrails of Oedipus at Colonus and trying to strangle Jung, the first apostate priest of Freudianism , with them.


  22. SocraticGadfly

    That said, Freud pulled his punches at times. Along with Charcot, in dealing with “hysteria” cases among women, he found many of them reporting being victims of child sexual abuse. And, despite his alleged belief in the “dark” unconscious, he refused to accept this might be true and he stopped going further down that road. The story notes that, but I knew this long, long ago, and typed this paragraph after being about three paragraphs in; the story, in fact, doesn’t cover the “whys” of Freud pulling in his horns. And, this “why” is actually independent of details of the timeline of the seduction theory.

    That said, given all this (and I largely agree with the article), as I’ve noted before, Freud was still better than Jung. Sadly, though, Jung still has a following that Freud doesn’t, probably due in large part to many of Jung’s ideas being quite sympatico with New Ageism, starting with, of course, Joseph Campbell.

    Speaking of, I think the rise of Jung in America (I have no idea of his reception in Europe for the past 40-50 years) was another reason Freud, and Freudianism, were eclipsed.

    Surprisingly, the author never considers this, and doesn’t even mention Jung. I’d say that’s the biggest failure of the piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. SocraticGadfly

    Back to the tourism piece, per Saph. British “yobs” are infamous for their behavior on Europe’s version of “spring break.” No, it’s not snooty to complain about them. And, some of the money they bring is surely offset by policing costs etc.

    Hey, maybe Brexit will help that out!


  24. saphsin

    Dan’s argument using GDP as an automatic answer is very weak. I’ve pointed this out multiple times on this blog because it keeps popping up but merely pointing out GDP doesn’t take into consideration other economic factors regarding welfare & satisfaction. It’s relevant but it’s insufficient when answering serious normative questions about desirable policies. India’s economy is a huge booming market for foreign goods & tourism. Its GDP is higher than South Korea, would you rather live as a resident in India than South Korea?

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