Suggested readings, #35

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Einstein in Athens. Modern science is unwittingly echoing Aristotle — and still has much to learn from him. [So says the author. After having read the whole long piece, I ain’t convinced.] (The New Atlantis)

The ‘Perfect Friendship,’ According to Aristotle. Why do some friendships last and others fade? (Medium)

The media’s coverage of AI is bogus. Claims that machine learning can predict sexuality, psychosis, and more are greatly overblown. (Scientific American)

Try this Stoic writing exercise and get to the heart of the real thing. (Medium)

The power of anonymous. Is the figure of the author bad for literature? Un-authored Roman literature and the transcendence of mere individuality. [A bit too much on the post-modern side of things for my taste, but several interesting observations nevertheless.] (Aeon)

Recent essays, #34

Most of my original writings now appear over at Figs In Winter, both on Patreon and Medium. The most recent posts are behind a paywall (monthly subscription at $3 for Patreon, $5 for Medium, but the latter comes with access to additional authors as well). The majority of the material is free to read. Here are some of the most recent entries:

Thucydides and the human condition

In the year 427 BCE, not long after the onset of the Peloponnesian War, Sparta took its time to send naval relief to the allied city of Mytilene, which had recently revolted against Sparta’s longtime rival, Athens. As a result, the city was captured by an Athenian contingent. This would have been just one more of a number of back-and-forth episodes between Sparta and Athens, which lasted from 431 to 404 BCE and which, even though it technically ended with a Spartan victory, weakened all of the Greek city-states, thereby opening the way for the Macedonian conquest of all Greece, which began in 338 BCE.

What sets aside the Mytilenean revolt is that Thucydides wrote about it in detail in his classic, The History of the Peloponnesian War (full text here). And what makes me write about it is one of the speeches connected to that episode and recorded by Thucydides. It contains some fascinating insight into the human condition, and reminds us that things have not changed that much, in certain respects, over the past two and a half millennia.

(continue to read on Patreon, Medium)

$toicism, Broicism, and stoicisM — Part I: it’s not about becoming rich & famous

Stoicism is back, baby! As anyone who has been paying the slightest attention should have realized by now, the ancient Greco-Roman philosophy founded around 300 BCE by Zeno of Citium is more popular than ever. As modern Stoic Bill Irvine told a large gathering of Stoic practitioners in New York three years ago, “this is the largest group of Stoics ever assembled.” And it’s gotten bigger since. Stoicism’ online presence (over 58k members at the largest Facebook Stoic group), the growing number of books on popular Stoicism, and the ample media coverage are all witnesses to that fact.

Yet, modern Stoicism has a problem. Three, actually. I’m not talking about the still surprisingly many people who criticize our philosophy from the outside, usually on the basis of simple misconceptions, such as that Stoicism is about suppressing emotions and going through life with a stiff upper lip. (Examples here, here, and here, just to mention a few.) I’m talking about three somewhat related “internal” misapplications of the philosophy: what I call $toicism, Broicism, and stoicisM. The first one is a distortion of Stoicism that is employed to achieve wealth and fame; the second one is a different kind of distortion, which makes Stoicism into a precursor of and philosophical foundation for “men’s rights” nonsense; while the last one is a potentially even more dangerous distortion that turns Stoicism into a tool for military training and aggression.

(continue to read on Patreon, Medium)

The Daily Stoic on How to Be a Stoic

The Daily Stoic, the site started and maintained by Ryan Holiday, author, among other things, of The Ego is the Enemy, has recently featured by book, How to Be a Stoic. The article begins:

“Imagine how much easier life would be if we could learn to regard everything bad that happens to us as an act of nature. To keep our cool in the heat of an argument. To not shy away from a challenge, or to let our ego get the best of us.

Throughout history, Roman emperors, prisoners of war, entrepreneurs and many others have moved through life with a sort of steadiness—an unshakable perspective. The commonality amongst them is the diligent practice of the ancient philosophy known as Stoicism. 

In Massimo Pigluicci’s How To Be A Stoicreaders are given a clear, concise, and creative breakdown of how to become their best selves. Organized as a discussion between the author and the great Stoic philosopher Epictetus, How To Be A Stoic entertains while it educates, covering everything from how to control our desires, to overcoming the fear and anxiety that cripples society today.”

Read the rest here, including 3 takeaways from my book, 3 favorite examples, and the 12 best quotes.

Suggested readings, #34

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Against economics: what the dismal science still gets wrong, despite all the evidence pointing away from its classic assumptions. (New York Review of Books)

The Fermi Paradox: ‘Fact A.’ [And one more example of the fact that talk of SETI is purely speculative, more a parlor game than a science.] (Medium)

Business education helps create a culture where the profit justifies the means. Business students learn about accounting techniques, but not enough about ethics. This is why corporate scandals persist. (Guardian)

Making a case for Cicero: was he the most influential writer of all time? (Medium)

It’s the era of the Twitter pile-on. Isn’t there something healthier we can do with our rage? After years of being told to ‘think positively’ we no longer know what to do with our negative feelings, so we blurt them out online. (Guardian)

Suggested readings, #33

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

I was an astrologer – here’s how it really works, and why I had to stop. (Guardian)

Umberto Eco as philosophical realist. (Medium)

Nine evidence-based guidelines for a ‘good life’ (Skeptical Inquirer)

Stoic Christianity? (Medium)

I wish I’d never been born: the rise of the anti-natalists. [I still think this is more than a bit silly, but whatever.] (Guardian)

This science vigilante calls out bogus results in prestigious journals. (Medium)

Suggested readings, #32

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

What John Rawls missed. Are his principles for a just society enough today? [Good article, though I remain convinced that Rawls missed precious little.] (New Republic)

A problem based reading of Nussbaum’s virtue ethics. [Yeah, there are a lot of problems there…] (Medium)

The meaning to life? A Darwinian existentialist has his answers. [Interesting observations about life, the universe, and everything from veteran philosopher of science Michael Ruse] (Aeon)

What Netflix can teach us about the paradox of choice. Today’s dizzying number of options might just be making us miserable. (Medium)

We don’t actually want to be happy. Chess helps answer the perennial human question, “What should I do next?” (New York Times)

The Spartan philosophy of life. Maxims from ancient Sparta still relevant today. (Medium)

The happiness ruse. How did feeling good become a matter of relentless, competitive work; a never-to-be-attained goal which makes us miserable? (Aeon)

Suggested readings, #31

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Bad Romance. Capitalism hasn’t disenchanted the world, a new book argues. Like a bad lover, it beguiles us into spiritual desolation—and only the most utopian politics will break its spell. (Boston Review)

Stoicism as a ball game. Sporting metaphors in ancient Stoic philosophy. (Medium)

Conceptual origami. Unfolding the social construction of mathematics. (Philosophy Now)

Sophie’s World: the wonder and glory of philosophy. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space.” (Medium)

Wonder works. History and philosophy should reveal to us the baffling, strange and wondrous qualities of other lives and other times. [Maybe, but this is a long-winded article with no particular point to make, so far as I can understand. Can someone please explain it to me?] (Aeon)