Recent essays, #5

Most of my original writings now appear over at Figs In Winter, my Patreon site devoted to practical philosophy. The most recent posts are behind a paywall (monthly subscription levels at $1, $3, and $5), but the majority of the material is free to read. Here are some of the most recent entries:

What is and is not in our power, part I. Last year I was part of a small group of scholars who debated the merits (or lack thereof) of Stoicism as modern practical philosophy, first at a session of the American Philosophical Association in Savannah, Georgia, then in print, on the pages of Reason Papers. I have already published here the opening salvo of that session, an article I wrote entitled “Toward the Fifth Stoa: The Return of Virtue Ethics” (part I& part II). I have also written about my response to the first criticon the panel, my friend Brian Johnson of Fordham University (author of the excellent The Role Ethics of Epictetus), who raised interesting issues about the Stoic conceptions of friendship and grief. Here I will address the second critic on the panel, Christian Coseru, of the College of Charleston, who objected to a number of notions surrounding the famous dichotomy of control, the distinction between what is and is not “up to us,” as Epictetus puts it. Christian’s full paper is available on line. (continue to read)

Bad ideas in practical philosophy, Nick Bostrom edition.

Nick Bostrom is a prominent Swedish philosopher, currently at the University of Oxford. In 2011, he founded the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology, and is the founding director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford. In other words, someone to reckon with in the field of practical philosophy — if one considers humanity’s existential risks practical enough. Bostrom first came to prominence because of his idea that it is likely that we live in a computer simulation. You know, kind of like the Matrix sci-fi movie. His argument for this goes along the following lines. He maintains that one of these three propositions must be almost certainly true. (continue to read)

Stoicism, virtue, and thriving in a world out of our control. A wide-ranging conversation with The Human Experience podcast on Stoicism as practical philosophy for everyday life. We cover the basics of Stoic theory, how to practice it, and why it is making a positive difference in so many people’s lives. We also talk a bit about my new book, co-written with Greg Lopez: A Handbook for New Stoics, How to Thrive in a World Out of Your Control, coming out in bookstores and online on May 14th. (continue to read)

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Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

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