It’s been a while

But it’s also just fun. For me, at least. I enjoy seeing how humans from thousands of years ago tried to get their bearings in the world compared to humans living today. When you read, study, and talk about philosophy, you’re taking part in a conversation that’s been going on for millennia. And conversation is fun. I love a good conversation.

~ Brett McKay from, https://www.artofmanliness.com/living/reading/the-great-conversation-philosophy-textbook/

It’s been a minute since I’ve purchased a textbook. It’s nice to see that they’re no longer stupidly over-priced— oh wait, no sorry. They’re insanely priced. Fortunately, I was able to bop on over to abebooks.com and find a copy for about $5 depending on what condition you want; There’s like a hundred copies of that book available.

É•

What is philosophy for?

Philosophy isn’t a parlor trick or made for show. It’s not concerned with words, but with facts. It’s not employed for some pleasure before the day is spent, or to relieve the uneasiness of our leisure. It shapes and builds up the soul, it gives order to life, guides actions, shows what should and shouldn’t be done—it sits at the rudder steering our course as we vacillate in uncertainties. Without it, no one can live without fear or free from care. Countless things happen every hour that require advice, and such advise is to be sought out in philosophy.

~ Seneca

slip:4a994.

How to think for yourself

Independent-mindedness seems to be more a matter of nature than nurture. Which means if you pick the wrong type of work, you’re going to be unhappy. If you’re naturally independent-minded, you’re going to find it frustrating to be a middle manager. And if you’re naturally conventional-minded, you’re going to be sailing into a headwind if you try to do original research.

~ Paul Graham from, http://www.paulgraham.com/think.html

This is a case where I found it difficult to pull-quote. This at least gives you an idea of what the article is about. The challenge for me seems to be not becoming a raving lunatic when I’m off in independent-thinking land. I’ve learned to be able to swim in the conventional–minded, littoral waters, and I’ve been told I can even be helpful there. But my native environment seems to be the deep ocean of solitary thinking. I need to constantly remind myself that coming back to shore is important… as is doffing the raving lunatic appearance before trying to fold myself back into collaborative efforts.

É•

Reasons and persons

You’ve probably heard this scenario before. It originally comes from Derek Parfit’s 1984 book Reasons and Persons, where he actually answers the question. (Though you may not like the answer.) To answer it, he has to go though a set of even weirder scenarios. Here’s most of them, edited aggressively.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/no-self/

This article turns a number of complicated thought experiments into a disorienting dash through a hall of mirrors. I’ve not read Parfit’s book, but I’ve encountered these sorts of thought experiments before. On one hand I’m drawn to thinking about them because I feel I should be able to have some foundational, (although not necessarily simple,) principles that I can use to answer them. Which is a working definition of, “I want to be rational.” Until I start really digging into the experiments and things get really complicated. Why, it’s as if being a limited-in-resources mind forced to interact with in an intractably complex world, may not be something with a clear, correct, let alone singular, solution.

É•

It’s subtle but critically important

It’s broadly agreed these days that consciousness poses a very serious challenge for contemporary science. What I’m trying to work out at the moment is why science has such difficulty with consciousness. We can trace this problem back to its root, at the start of the scientific revolution.

~ Philip Goff from, https://www.edge.org/conversation/philip_goff-a-post-galilean-paradigm

I once had a mathematics professor make a comment that it’s fascinating that mathematics is able to explain reality. I double-clutched at the time. And every single time I think about the point he was making, I still pause and my mind reels. If one is looking at—for example—classical mechanics, and one studies the ballistic equations, one can go along nicely using forces and trigonometry, and understand golf balls and baseballs in flight. Soon you realize your mathematics is only an approximation. So you dive into fluid mechanics, which requires serious calculus, and you then understand why golf balls have dimples and why the stitching on baseballs is strictly specified in the rules. All along the way, mathematics models reality perfectly!

But why? So you keep peeling. The math and physics gets more and more complicated—stochastic processes, randomness, quantum mechanics, wave-particle theory, etc.—as each layer answers another “why”… but it’s … is “cyclical” the right word? No matter how far you go, you can always ask “why” again, for the most complex and most accurate system you model and explain.

Down there at the bottom, that’s where Galileo declared there was a distinction between physical reality, and consciousness and the soul. We’ve had hundreds of years of progress via science on what Galileo divided off as “physical reality.” (And that progress is a Very Good Thing.) But as this article explores, is there actually a distinction? What if making that distinction is a mistake?

É•

Humanism

But if progress is real and important—how do we judge this? How do we justify that improvements to material living standards are good? That technological and industrial progress represents true progress for humanity?

~ Jason Crawford from, https://rootsofprogress.org/progress-humanism-agency

In a few dozen words, this article goes from zero to gloves-off, let’s take about the nature of what is good. Yes, please. Lets discuss this more often. I find, without exception, it’s completely pointless to discuss anything—the climate, energy sources, guns, health, rights… choose your favorite third-rail topic—if myself and the other(s) don’t share the same values.

And I mean the big values of philosophy. When I start thinking about what does human autonomy mean? …what rights and/or responsibilities does consciousness confer? …what is truth? Big yawning questions! …when we don’t agree on that stuff, then no wonder we’re at odds on the other things.

É•