Tag Archives: philosophy

Loving Søren Kierkegaard

From  aeon, a piece called, “I still love Kierkegaard,” by Julian Baggini, founding editor of The Philosopher’s Magazine.

Kierkegaard is not so much a thinker for our time but a timeless thinker, whose work is pertinent for all ages yet destined to be fully attuned to none.

On Essays

From The Browser—Five Book Interviews—Alain de Botton, on Essays:

“Essays are about brevity and also personality, a feeling that you’re being taken on an intellectual or emotional journey by a particular person who you get to know along the way. Essays root ideas in personal experience”

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Scientists Tell Us What We “Should” Be Worried About

For the worry warts, from Edge, “2013: What *Should* We Be Worried About?”

Some examples from various scientists and others with axes to grind:

China has been running the world’s largest and most successful eugenics program for more than thirty years, driving China’s ever-faster rise as the global superpower. I worry that this poses some existential threat to Western civilization. Yet the most likely result is that America and Europe linger around a few hundred more years as also-rans on the world-historical stage, nursing our anti-hereditarian political correctness to the bitter end.

…that current tools in economics and econometrics don’t work, whenever there is an exposure to a large deviations, or “Black Swans”.

We are at a strategic disadvantage in the fight against viral infection.

What I am particularly worried about is that humans will be less and less able to appreciate what they should really be worrying about and that their worries will do more harm than good. Maybe, just as on a boat in rapids, one should try not to slowdown anything but just to optimize a trajectory one does not really control, not because safety is guaranteed and optimism is justified—the worst could happen—, but because there is no better option than hope.

In a media landscape oversaturated with sensational science stories, “end of the world” Hollywood productions, and Mayan apocalypse warnings, it may be hard to persuade the wide public that there are indeed things to worry about that could arise as unexpectedly as the 2008 financial crisis, and have far greater impact. I’m worried that by 2050 desperate efforts to minimize or cope with a cluster of risks with low probability but catastrophic conseqences may dominate the political agenda.

The universe is relentlessly, catastrophically dangerous, on scales that menace not just communities, but civilizations and our species as well. A freakish chain of improbable accidents produced the bubble of conditions that was necessary for the rise of life, our species, and technological civilization. If we continue to drift obliviously inside this bubble, taking its continuation for granted, then inevitably—sooner or later—physical or human-triggered events will push us outside, and we will be snuffed like a candle in a hurricane.

…the Internet Drivel Factor can’t be good—and is almost certain to grow in importance as the world fills gradually with people who have spent their whole lives glued to their iToys.

In the past, meaning was only in the minds of humans. Now, it is also in the minds of tools that bring us information. From now on, search engines will have an editorial point of view, and search results will reflect that viewpoint. We can no longer ignore the assumptions behind the results.

The underpopulation bomb: Here is the challenge: this is a world where every year there is a smaller audience than the year before, a smaller market for your goods or services, fewer workers to choose from, and a ballooning elder population that must be cared for. We’ve never seen this in modern times; our progress has always paralleled rising populations, bigger audiences, larger markets and bigger pools of workers. It is hard to see how a declining yet aging population functions as an engine for increasing the standard of living every year. To do so would require a completely different economic system, one that we are not prepared for at all right now.

I worry that as the problem-solving power of our technologies increases, our ability to distinguish between important and trivial or even non-existent problems diminishes. Just because we have “smart” solutions to fix every single problem under the sun doesn’t mean that all of them deserve our attention. In fact, some of them may not be problems at all; that certain social and individual situations are awkward, imperfect  noisy, opaque or risky might be by design. Or, as the geeks like to say, some bugs are not bugs—some bugs are features.

We should worry that so much of our science and technology still uses just five main models of probability—even though there are more probability models than there are real numbers.

“science by (social) media” raises the curious possibility of a general public that reads more and more science while becoming less and less scientifically literate.

Gibbon, in describing the fall of Rome, spoke of “the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness” and of “the triumph of barbarism and religion”. Those forces—the diversion of intellectual effort from innovation to exploitation, the distraction of incessant warfare, rising fundamentalism—triggered a Dark Age before, and they could do so again.

You get the idea…and it goes on and on including this:


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The 10 Best Psychology and Philosophy Books of 2012

From brain pickings:

From Buddhism to the relationship between creativity and dishonesty, by way of storytelling and habit.

And I liked that they picked Mortality, by Christopher Hitchens as a bonus book.

To the dumb question ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?

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Blog alert: “All Aphorisms, All The Time”

I found this site—All Aphorisms, All The Time—via the always attentive Frank Wilson at Books, Inc—The Epilogue. I particularly liked Polish dissident Stanislaw Lec’s

Politics: a Trojan Horse race

Philosophy v science: which can answer the big questions of life?

From the Guardian, the introduction:

Philosopher Julian Baggini fears that, as we learn more and more about the universe, scientists are becoming increasingly determined to stamp their mark on other disciplines. Here, he challenges theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss over ‘mission creep’ among his peers

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How to Read Žižek

From the Los Angeles Review of BooksHow to Read Žižek by Adam Kotsko.

I tried to read one of this quirky philosopher’s books once and concluded that while he may be a fascinating character, I figured I had too much to do just “living” rather than digging deep into his ideology. In other words, I couldn’t understand his logic.


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In Praise of the Clash of Cultures

From The New York Times,  Carlos Fraenkel‘s  plea for civil debate:

When we transform the disagreements arising from diversity into a culture of debate, they cease to be a threat to social peace.

Good luck with that!

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Philosophy and Everyday Living

From The Browser:

Philosophy is sometimes assumed to be a dry, academic subject but, in reality, is anything but. A philosophy professor tells us how his subject is at least as much about how we live, love and relate to each other

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The Philosopher With No Hands

From 3:AM Magazine—Whatever It Is, We’re Against It.

Eric Olson ponders on bodies and corpses, animals and people, asks whether Jeckyll was Hyde and whether he was ever a fetus. He has written two books, The Human Animal: Personal Identity Without Psychology and What Are We? A Study in Personal Ontology and is the groovy philosopher of philosophical animalism.

So what is “animalism?” Materialism, atheism, named differently?

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