Reviewed: Philosophical Essays – a Critical Edition by Fernando Pessoa

Pessoa’s scepticism is not greatly different in its view of the limits of human reason from the sceptical philosophy developed in the ancient world by Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus, versions of which have been revived in modern times not only by Montaigne but also by David Hume.

Where Pessoa differs from most exponents of systematic doubt is in his intent, which was not to prove the validity of scepticism or even – like Hume, in some moods – to encourage people to give up philosophising and return to everyday life. If Pessoa’s philosophical writings had any overall purpose, it was simply to emancipate the mind and enlarge the imagination. The human value of philosophy was not in underwriting any view of things but in making possible a certain kind of mental freedom.

Source: John Gray, Reviewed: Philosophical Essays – a Critical Edition by Fernando Pessoa

Spinoza Is Still Relevant – The Forward

For Spinoza, whose ultimate goal was to discover how human beings can be happy, our goal should be to replace our “inadequate ideas” (partial, incorrect, emotionally loaded and distorted understandings) with “adequate ideas” (understandings which are accurate and take in the full causal complexity of the situation as much as possible). This complex understanding not only includes a grasp of all the relevant scientific facts but most importantly views all activities and events as unfolding relentlessly from the laws of Reality as the predetermined unfolding of the totality and logic of Gods being.

Spinoza argued that viewing things this way leads to two consequences. The first is peace. When we understand that things could not have been other than they are and are not the fault of either ourselves or our “enemies” or anyone else, we are freed from guilt, blame, anger, bitterness and a host of other draining and destructive emotions. What happens is coterminous with the realm of the possible- what happens is exactly what could possibly have happened. Reality is the possible. Or to put it more technically, the borders of reality are coterminous with the borders of the possible; what did not happen by definition could not have happened.

The second is that our shift moves from our emotional reactions toward understanding- if we want to change things, we need to increase the accuracy and complexity of our causal analysis, not merely rage against people, political parties, or anything else. Understanding the causality involved can empower us to effect real change when possible, as opposed to relegating us to a soap box or privately gnashing our teeth in the dark.

Source: Matthew Gindin, Spinoza Is Still Relevant – The Forward

Woodrow Wilson & Princeton — He Gets Purged from it? Higher Ed Gets Dumber | National Review Online

Haidt is surely right the most endangered species of diversity on campus these days is political diversity. To which I would add: genuine moral and religious diversity. He’s also probably right that things will get worse before they get better.

So why is Haidt the best or most realistic of the evolutionary psychologists? His undergraduate major was philosophy! Take that, Senator Rubio!

Source: Woodrow Wilson & Princeton — He Gets Purged from it? Higher Ed Gets Dumber | National Review Online

Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness? | Oliver Burkeman | Science | The Guardian

Or maybe it is: in the last few years, several scientists and philosophers, Chalmers and Koch among them, have begun to look seriously again at a viewpoint so bizarre that it has been neglected for more than a century, except among followers of eastern spiritual traditions, or in the kookier corners of the new age. This is “panpsychism”, the dizzying notion that everything in the universe might be conscious, or at least potentially conscious, or conscious when put into certain configurations. Koch concedes that this sounds ridiculous: when he mentions panpsychism, he has written, “I often encounter blank stares of incomprehension.” But when it comes to grappling with the Hard Problem, crazy-sounding theories are an occupational hazard. Besides, panpsychism might help unravel an enigma that has attached to the study of consciousness from the start: if humans have it, and apes have it, and dogs and pigs probably have it, and maybe birds, too – well, where does it stop?

via Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness? | Oliver Burkeman | Science | The Guardian.

Free the Philosophical Beast – NYTimes.com

But I think the key difference between science and philosophy is that we need the results of science more than we need everyone in the body politic “doing science.” By contrast, we need everyone “doing philosophy” more than we need the results of philosophy. In other words, we don’t need to know or understand how the scientist has gone from the minute molecular intricacies of DNA to a public good like genetic counseling. On the other hand, the emulation of the critical thinking and logical argument of a philosopher is a virtue that can be applied to any area of life — from where you stand on the most important social and political issues of the day to how best to spend the rest of your days on this planet.

Steve Neumann, Free the Philosophical Beast – NYTimes.com.

A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher | New Republic

It is a work of philosophy; and it is entirely typical of the scientistic tyranny in American intellectual life that scientists have been invited to do the work of philosophers. The problem of the limits of science is not a scientific problem. It is also pertinent to note that the history of science is a history of mistakes, and so the dogmatism of scientists is especially rich. — Leon Weseltier

via A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher | New Republic.

Victoria Beale Reviews New Books By Alain De Botton And Philippa Perry | The New Republic

“One must never miss an opportunity of quoting things by others which are always more interesting than those one thinks up oneself,” de Botton quotes the novelist in Proust, and this adage became the organizing principle of his subsequent work. The Consolations of Philosophy (2000), delivers potted summaries of Socrates, Epicurus, Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer, structured around subjects like “Unpopularity” or “Not Having Enough Money,” or the brilliantly catch-all “Difficulties.” De Botton eventually became something of a middle-class lifestyle sage, producing: The Art of Travel (2002), Status Anxiety (2004), and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (2009)—literary-lite guides to living with just enough to tickle the brain without actually taxing it.

via Victoria Beale Reviews New Books By Alain De Botton And Philippa Perry | The New Republic.