Most of my original writings now appear over at Patreon and Medium. Many are free, but the recent ones are behind a paywall (monthly subscription at $3 for Patreon, $5 for Medium, but the latter comes with access to additional authors as well). Here are some of the most recent entries:
Metaphysics is dead. Long live metaphysics! Assorted musings of a philosopher-scientist
I am a scientist and a philosopher. As such, I have a problem with metaphysics. A serious problem. Apparently, the word “metaphysics” was coined by an anonymous first century editor of Aristotle’s works. The person in question assembled a small number of the philosopher’s writings and called them “ta meta ta phusika,” literally meaning, the stuff that comes after the Physics, the latter being one of Aristotle’s most famous books.
Ever since, metaphysics has been described as the study of what exists, in the most general manner possible. Aristotle did not invent this kind of study, as it was carried out by the Pre-Socratics of the 6th and 5th century BCE. It continued with Plato, Aristotle himself, and a number of other Greco-Roman and Christian philosophers (in the west, then of course we need to mention the Arabic, Judaic, and more far eastern traditions as well).
It ended, as far as I’m concerned, with Descartes. To be more precise: a particular, traditional style of metaphysics ended with the famous French thinker. That style, sometimes referred to as “first philosophy,” and nowadays as analytic metaphysics, hinges fundamentally on the notion that we can discover things about the way the world is by thinking about it, as people do in mathematics or logic. Call it the rationalist approach.
Gaius Blossius, the revolutionary Stoic
Sometimes you learn new things by way of the most unexpected pathways. For instance, I just found out about an obscure — and yet very important — Stoic philosopher named Gaius Blossius, who lived in the 2nd century BCE, in Republican Rome. I discovered him because he is a minor but significant character in Roma, a long-ranging novel on the first thousand years of Rome’s history, written by Steve Saylor.
I must confess that Saylor has been a regular source of what I refer to as my “Roman porn,” i.e., historical novels I listen to when I go to the gym (because exercising would otherwise be an excruciatingly boring activity). I have read most of his “Roma Sub Rosa” books, which feature a fictional ancient detective, Gordianus the Finder. Those stories are set near the end of Republican Rome, at the time of Cicero, Cato the Younger, Brutus, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Mark Anthony.
While Saylor’s novels are well written and enjoyable, I soon discovered that they are also remarkably well researched from a historical perspective. Several times while listening to them I had the suspicion that he was making up a minor character or secondary plot in the story, which of course would have been perfectly normal. But I checked. And every time it turned out that the character in question was, in fact, a historical figure, and that the episode had gone down more or less as Saylor described it — with all due caution about the perils of historical reconstruction, of course.