And as Jimmy would say:
You're caught up in the Internetyou think it's such a great asset
but you're wrong, wrong, wrong
Sherry Turkle would agree. We all probably need a holiday. Back in January, god willin'... Happy New Year!
You're caught up in the Internetyou think it's such a great asset
but you're wrong, wrong, wrong
I was already a Powers fan, when "Generosity" came along just in time for my "Future of Life" philosophy class (Gen1, Gen2). It served our purposes well there, and I'm going to try it next semester in Bioethics. And then in Philosophy of Happiness.NOTE to Bioethics students: Amazon has the paper edition for $6 & the e-book for $10. There's also a terrific audio version at audible.com.
Those who like the more cerebral Powers but think this is comparatively conventional or mainstream may be missing levels of complexity that present themselves on second and third reading. My present focus, pedagogically, is on the crucial bioethical choices we'll be making in the near future that promise great or terrible consequences for what the Aussie humanist calls the future of "human nature." Powers does a great job of setting those problems & questions in motion, leaving us with a story still to be written. I'd love to see his sequel, and am even more curious to anticipate ours.
“But this is when the story is at its most desperate: when techne and sophia are still kin, when the distant climax is still ambiguous, the outcome a dead heat between salvation and ruin.”
She went to church, but disliked equally those who aired either religion or irreligion. I remember her once pressing a late well-known philosopher to write a novel instead of pursuing his attacks upon religion. The philosopher did not much like this, and dilated upon the importance of showing people the folly of much that they pretended to believe... Samuel Butler, The Way of All FleshYes: more freethinking novels, please!
We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.
After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with colour, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked -- as I am surprisingly often -- why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn't it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?
-- Richard Dawkins, excerpt from Chapter I, "The Anaesthetic of Familiarity," of Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (1998)
"Public ignorance is disconcerting. But it also poses a serious challenge to democracy. According to the most popular theories of democracy, the government’s legitimacy depends upon the freely given and informed consent of its people. So democracy requires there to be regular free elections; such episodes are supposed to reveal the Popular Will, which provides government with clear directives for the exercise of power, thereby ensuring political legitimacy.
But if ignorance is as extensive as the data suggest (and losing parties comlain), elections could not possibly serve the function of expressing informed consent. Lacking adequate knowledge of how government works, citizens are unable correctly to assign responsibility to particular office holders for public policies enacted in their name, and consequently are unable to provide the necessary directives. That is, under conditions of widespread citizen ignorance, elections do not express the Popular Will; rather, they simply place some in office and remove others, willy-nilly. Elections, then, are exceedingly costly public events that achieve nothing more than what could be accomplished by a coin-toss..."continues at 3quarksdaily
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”
“Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature.”
“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
Bishop Romney, why don't you repudiate the Mormon curse on black people and the Mark of Cain?
"Your letter came last night and explained sufficiently the cause of your long silence. You have evidently been in a bad state of spirits again, and dissatisfied with your environment; and I judge that you have been still more dissatisfied with the inner state of trying to consume your own smoke, and grin and bear it, so as to carry out your mother's behests made after the time when you scared us so by your inexplicable tragic outcries in those earlier letters. Well! I believe you have been trying to do the manly thing under difficult circumstances, but one learns only gradually to do the best thing; and the best thing for you would be to write at least weekly, if only a post-card, and say just how things are going..." (Continues: William James - Letter to daughter Peg - 1900)
I like trees, myself . They're never in my way.The chestnut tree pressed itself against my eyes. Green rust covered it half-way up; the bark, black and swollen, looked like boiled leather... I realized that there was no half-way house between non-existence and this flaunting abundance. If you existed, you had to exist all the way, as far as mouldiness, bloatedness, obscenity were concerned... In the way, the chestnut tree there, opposite me, a little to the left. And I—soft, weak, obscene, digesting, juggling with dismal thoughts—I, too, was In the way.
"One of the best things at Vanderbilt, which, as you all know, is a campus full of “best things,” is a huge Lucite-and-bronze sculpture in a glass case in front of the Stevenson Science Library. The sculpture depicts, in angles and dimensions of Lucite, the unfurling unfoldment of the universe, and within that unfoldment, the interests of science in all arrays: ganglia and galaxies; a plesiosaur skeleton and a cityscape; ammonites and molecular structures; girders and retorts. It all rests on the backs of twisting primeval dragons, and the sun and the moon
The whole form and sweep of the thing takes your breath away, because it is charged with the optimism of atomic-age science, the optimism of space-age science – that amazing, exhilarating faith in the human potential to sound not only the reaches of space, but also the depth of our beginnings, and meanwhile continue to make a more livable civilization right here on this earth. Unfortunately, what one wonders now, gazing at this great jagged glass-and-bronze construction, is whether its dreams and expectations are still current..."
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
The Dutch, it seems, like their philosophy. In an essay for Filosofie Magazine, Frank Mulder discusses the public role of philosophy in the Netherlands.
Attention to the subject, Mulder points out, peaks each year on the Night of Philosophy. Held annually at the International School of Philosophy, it attracts a lay audience a thousand strong. As one organizer says, “The Dutch see an evening of philosophizing as a night out”: many cafes hold philosophical readings and discussions and books of philosophy regularly become best-sellers.
Meanwhile, where I live, there's a new piece of legislation promoting a very different, very stale old conception of the good life.Mulder dates the growth of popular interest in the subject to the early 1990s, when neo-liberalism, commercialism and “hyper-individualism” began to disenchant the Dutch, whetting their appetites for fresh conceptions of society and the good life.
House Resolution 789: Reaffirming the importance of religion in the lives of United States citizens and their freedom to exercise those beliefs peacefully."As if that really was a problem in our country," indeed.
Novelists and other artisans of the well-chosen and well-spoken word (like Hecht, a poet and historian as well as a terrific philosopher) have appreciated Cicero more than most of my philosophy colleagues. There's Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full, in which Epictetus gets the star treatment.Cicero‘s wonderful dialogue with a Skeptic, a Stoic, and an Epicurean, Nature of the Gods, would have been fun to join. “Cotta” says it all: Are you not ashamed as a scientist, as an observer and investigator of nature, to seek your criterion of truth from minds steeped in conventional beliefs? The whole theory is ridiculous… I do not believe these gods of yours exist at all, least of all the uninvolved, uninterested ones like the Epicurean-inspired Disinterested Deist Deity. If this is all that a god is, a being untouched by care or love of human kind, then I wave him good-bye.
After the loss of his daughter Tullia in childbirth, [Cicero] turned to Stoicism to assuage his grief. But ultimately he could not accept its terms: “It is not within our power to forget or gloss over circumstances which we believe to be evil…They tear at us, buffet us, goad us, scorch us, stifle us — and you tell us to forget about them?”But my favorite mention of Cicero in all of literature is still from Emerson:
"Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote those books."
I strongly urge others to repeat the experiment, which with pure gas is short an harmless enough. The effects will of course vary with the individual, just as they vary in the same individual from time to time; but it is probable that in the former case, as in the latter, a generic resemblance will obtain. With me, as with every other person of whom I have heard, the keynote of the experience is the tremendously exciting sense of an intence metaphysical illumination. Truth lies open to the view in depth beneath depth of almost blinding evidence. The mind sees all the logical relations of being with an apparent subtlety and instantaneity to which its normal consciousness offers no parallel; only as sobriety returns, the feeling of insight fades, and one is left staring vacantly at a few disjointed words and phrases, as one stares at the cadaverous-looking snow peak from which the sunset glow has just fled, or at the black cinder left by an extinguished brand.He was half-joking, but half not.The punchline is the "fade" at the end, and the joke's on us metaphysical seekers.
Waiting to renew my auto tags. There once was a world-class independent bookstore here, now a bank. Sad.
Here's where philosophy was shelved at Davis-Kidd, back in the day...
The concept of the project I find useful. Something you do in the present, and can remember doing in the past, and expect to do in the future, in order to create something. A work of art which need not be in the arts per se, but something human worth doing.
“That's existentialism, yes?” “Yes, I think that's right. I don't see how you can avoid it.” Kim Stanley Robinson, 2312
“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal — that is your success.”Happy Birthday, Henry David Thoreau: On Defining Your Own Success | Brain Pickings
Besides books immediately relevant to Sagan’s work as a scientist and educator in cosmology and astrophysics, he took great care to also touch on history, philosophy, religion, the arts, social science, and psychology..."Carl Sagan's Reading List | Brain Pickings
"...you've been goin' on & on, talkin' & talkin'...I've never seen anybody that knows everything... And it doesn't hurt to listen, once in a while."
The impulse to read Self-Reliance is significant here, as is the holiday itself —my favorite secular one for being public and for its implicit goal of leaving us only as it found us: free.And we're as free as can be this year on the 4th, in the Magic Kingdom.
...in the more than thirty-five animated features Disney has released since 1937, there is scarcely a mention of God as conceived in the Christian and Jewish faiths shared by most people in the Western world and many beyond.It may be a commercial decision, to embrace the godless form of magic, but wouldn't you rather wish on a star than suborn your soul to servility?" God-free in Tennessee
When asked in 1978 about his writing process, Updike said, “I’ve never believed that one should wait until one is inspired because I think that pleasures of not writing are so great that if you ever start indulging them, you will never write again.”
|Five Books (@five_books)|
The 'father of science fiction' HG Wells suffered terribly from class anxiety. Huxley and Woolf thought him 'vulgar'
Five books on...
"And maybe this is what I have learned more than anything from my great-great-grandfather: to keep my eyes and my mind open, to enjoy the wonders of nature and never cease to ask questions." Sarah Darwin, foreword to "A Modest Genius: The story of Darwin's life and how his ideas changed everything" by Hanne Strager