Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 112

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

Character is important, crucial, even. And yet, we still don’t understand much about it.

The only way to keep your resolutions? A bit simplistic of a separation between reason and emotions, but worth a read.

A feminist skeptic take on “me too.”

The millennia of “me too” in Mary Beard’s Women and Power.

The meaning of belief and the definition of religion.

Why Foucault’s work on power is more important than ever.

No depression isn’t caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain. In fact, we have little idea of what causes it.


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. Also, keep ‘em short, this is a comments section, not your own blog. Thanks!

111 thoughts on “Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 112

  1. milesmutka

    I was not trying to shift the blame, I have no horse in this race. Just trying to make an observation.

    Stand up comedy as a shortcut to fame and fortune is a relatively new thing. The clowns and jokers may have had no real idea that they would be kissed by feme and be turned from frogs into princes. When they fail to grow into their new status, it is up to the screaming twitter horde to depose them back into the frogs they really were the whole time.

    I was probably trying to talk about laughter as a partly involuntary bodily sign of pleasure, something that has probably been part of the courting ritual between men and women since prehistoric times. It is a kind of a small sister of another involuntary bodily sign of pleasure, a more intimate one. Both signs can of course be convincingly faked by women, or a a woman can convince herself afterwards that they were false, or that they were irrelevant exactly because they were involuntary.

    Male physicians examining a female patient are more aware of their position, and of course have been educated about the possibilities. Their is no similar schooling or accreditation for comedians trying to arouse responses in their audiences.

    Comedians have also been known to push the envelope of what is acceptable, they were the class buffoons and practical jokers who were brought up to believe that it is easier to be forgiven then be given permission. From what I have read, Louis CK both asked for permission beforehand and apologised afterwards, which both are taken as admissions of awareness of sin by the unforgiving public. Not so Moore and Trump, they know that we don’t live in an age of forgiveness, and are not even trying to apologize.


  2. Daniel Kaufman

    Not sure I understand the discussion of comedy here. The best comedians always have been very troubled people and the best comedy has always been at the boundaries of social acceptability. At its best it is an inherently transgressive form of entertainment, and in my view that is what is so important about it. That it is dying, because the best of it is no longer tolerated for reasons of social propriety; that we — and especially young people — seem no longer willing to participate in this sort of transgression, even the highly controlled, limited sphere of the comedy venue, speaks very poorly of us and will most certainly be to our detriment.

    Note: This has nothing to do with the question of actual sexual assault on the part of comedians, which should always be considered categorically unacceptable. I am speaking here of the content of the comedy routine.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. brodix

    The article on resolutions offers what should be an obvious insight, but in this day, age, social model and assumptions, not so much. We are as much our context, as an object in it, if not more so. When we push against, or try to take advantage of that larger reality, it reciprocates in any number of ways, which often don’t become obvious until it is too late. Human civilization, as a whole, in relation to the planet, is in a similar fix. We seek to advance, with little attention to the costs and find even our goals, from more money, to ascending to heaven, to be increasingly meaningless, as the world around us and in us, turns on us. We might not want to change, but succeeding generations will have no choice.


  4. synred

    Say what you will about comedians or their current rise in status, there is NO evidence that they are any worse than anybody else with status and power.

    As for blaming the women, your post did, whether you meant to or not. On this blog at least we have no mind readers.


  5. synred

    I was not trying to shift the blame, I have no horse in this race. Just trying to make an observation.

    I have been hit by the literalness of blogs myself. I’m often joking, but w/o ‘body language’ sometimes it hard to tell, so I’ve taken to using more weasel words and stupid (<|;-_]) emoji’


  6. brodix

    The article on Mary Beard seems to address the similar corralling and controlling of power, as the Foucault article. The issue not so much being the bottom up source of power, but the top down framing and controlling of it. The problem for women is that they work on more of the networking side of the social structure, being the ones bearing children and consequently the foundation of family and society, while men tend to be more focal points of attention and competition/contact.
    “And she makes the illuminating argument that Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who might, from a contemporary perspective, be considered an avatar of feminine potency, would have appeared otherwise to the ancients who venerated her. “In the Greek sense she is not a woman at all,” Beard writes; she’s a warrior, which is an exclusively masculine role, and she’s a virgin, which is an abdication from a woman’s most important function.”
    In which Athena is distilled down to the focal point of ripe womanhood and cultural focus of knowledge and political/military power.
    Yet as this article shows, as with all the boorish tendencies of men that led to the Metoo movement, The apex of power is like a cresting wave and the problem then becomes how to maintain at least the illusion, when it recedes. Which necessarily by diminishing the competition, often with gutter tactics and general bull$hit.
    What then is the response to this activity? One can simply retreat and not provide the competition, as women have done throughout the ages, with silence and withholding sexual and other favors. Though this leaves the bores with the assumption they won. Which is a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.
    There are any number of passive/aggressive tactics, but they come with costs as well.
    The result seems to be that eventually the level of interaction simply degrades to the level where it loses focus and power of its own and other voices can make their points separately, as with the Metoo movement.

    Power ebbs and flows.


  7. synred

    electrically-driven version of Libet’s veto control

    I certainly could use on of those. Diabetes! The left over ice cream and hot fudge is calling to me now…

    So if I get one implanted can I take pride in my self-control and iron will?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. SocraticGadfly

    Cousin — all things in moderation, plus knowing that healthy can taste good. And be inexpensive.

    I have a pot of baked beans with brown rice, chopped spinach and turnip greens in the fridge. Vegetarian except for the bit of pork that comes in the can of baked beans. Added a bit of A-1, a bit of worchestershire, Italian herb mix, touch of powdered ancho chile and bit of grated parmesan cheese for additional flavor.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Philip Thrift

    Re Foucault on power: Foucault apparently had his critics who found him to be too libertarian. Rorty (in “Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity”), who labels himself a “liberal ironist”, but describes Foucault as “an ironist who is unwilling to be a liberal”, and that “Foucault would not appreciate my suggestion that his books can be assimilated into a liberal, reformist political culture.”


  10. synred

    I put a dollop of Maple syrup in and Bacon on Bush’s Vegetarian beans. The glycemic index is likely pretty low, but self control is needed. Bush’s doesn’t have a pop top, so it’s a lot of work…

    We used to pass this off as homemade at Fermilab pot lucks.


  11. saphsin


    I don’t know much about Johann Hari except his journalism on the war on drugs. Some of his claims seems to be scientifically suspicious. Do you know anything about that?


  12. Mark Shulgasser

    Foucault’s Power is the Social controlling, correcting, imposing on individual freedom. Freedom is of course an entirely individual, subjective experience, the Cartesian starting point of scientific modernism. Foucault’s analysis is indecisively poised on the implicit metaphysical obverse: determinism vs. free will. He is an anti-Cartesian wielding doubt as a weapon. He accuses Descartes of having ‘silenced madness’ and tries to show that Descartes was mad himself.


  13. SocraticGadfly

    Saph, yes, one does have to take Hari with a grain of salt on his WOD writings.

    That said, on depression and his thoughts there? I’ve long said that anxiety is the partial flip side of depression. And, as doctors move away from Xanax and other benzos, SSRIs are the top drug used for prescriptions on general anxiety disorder.

    Bigger picture yet — why the stress? In the US above all, and fair degree, the whole western world, the unraveling of the 1945-85 “great equalization” period. In that sense, the rise of depression in the West is WEIRD indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Robin Herbert

    It is what I call the Hard Problem of Weight Loss, yet to be tackled by science.

    The easy problem is about what sorts of food, how much of it tobl eat, how to exercise and so on.

    The Hard Problem is how to actually do what we know we have to do to lose weight.

    I will only believe that science can tell us something about free will and so on if they can crack this.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. synred

    >normalize Jerry Sandusky

    I don’t think the Skeptic article is trying to ‘normalize’ Sandusky, but claims he’s not guilty. I don’t buy it, but it’s not as bad as normalization.


  16. Massimo Post author


    I don’t even think the Skeptic article claims Sandusky is not guilty. It just raises the reasonable suspicion that some of the recent accusations may not stand up to scrutiny. Some. Not all. Not even many, necessarily.

    Liked by 1 person

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