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Living Books About Life

"... a series of curated, open access books about life — with life understood both philosophically and biologically — which provide a bridge between the humanities and the sciences." Although they offer "frozen PDFs," these books—on topics like biosemiotics, animal experience, and air—are curated collections of links to open access science articles, reviews, interviews, podcasts, sometimes with embedded sounds and videos. They have ISBN numbers and editors vetted by the Open Humanities Press, which is generally a gold mine of interesting books and journals. They feel perfectly at home on the open internet, evoking hope and nostalgia for a flourishing academic world wide web, without paywalls and login screens. [more inside]
posted by mbrock on Jul 29, 2014 - 6 comments

The truth is stranger than fiction

From behind the New Yorker's temporarily removed paywall, a postmodern murder mystery from Poland in 2007.
posted by ellieBOA on Jul 25, 2014 - 10 comments

the three-day workweek

Carlos Slim calls for a three-day working week "We've got it all wrong, says Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms tycoon and world's second-richest man: we should be working only three days a week." also btw: The four-day work week (previously)
posted by kliuless on Jul 21, 2014 - 84 comments

Democratic Theory and Mass Incaceration

The new issue of the journal The Good Society is about "Democratic Theory and Mass Incaceration." All articles are available online.

From the Introduction: The United States is the “world champion” in incarceration, to borrow Nils Christie's words, and United Kingdom jurisdictions, though some distance behind, are persistently among the European countries with the highest per capita rates of imprisonment [...] This symposium of the Good Society seeks to catalyze an engaged, multi-disciplinary discussion among philosophers, political theorists, and theoretically inclined criminologists on how contemporary democratic theory might help us think beyond mass incarceration. Rather than viewing punishment as a natural reaction to crime, and imprisonment as a sensible outgrowth of this reaction, we will frame these as institutions with deep implications for contemporary civic identity, which present unmet demands for public oversight and reflective democratic influence.

The rest of the issue can be read online here. [via mefi projects]
posted by OmieWise on Jul 16, 2014 - 9 comments

Mysteries that will not collapse into solutions

Tao Lin became very interested in Terence McKenna over the past two years, and now he's writing a weekly column about the man and his ideas for Vice. Part I: Beyond "Existentialism". Part II: Terence McKenna's Memes, featuring 30 of Lin's favorite memes propagated by the philosopher-explorer, touching upon entheogens, consciousness, evolution, belief, language, the internet, and mankind's search for meaning. If you have time on your hands, here's over ten uninterrupted hours of McKenna as referenced in the first column.
posted by naju on Jul 15, 2014 - 14 comments

A less intellectually lazy atheism?

Atheist bashing or tough love? A thought-provoking review by Michael Robbins of Nick Spencer's new book on the history of atheism in Slate magazine. It reads like an autopsy of the recently murdered religious/atheist dialogue, with the "intellectually lazy" new atheism atop the list of suspects. [more inside]
posted by cross_impact on Jul 9, 2014 - 369 comments

Utility, welfare, and efficiency

  1. Welfare economics: an introduction
  2. The perils of Potential Pareto
  3. Inequality, production, and technology
  4. Welfare theorems, distribution priority, and market clearing
  5. Normative is performative, not positive

posted by kliuless on Jul 7, 2014 - 7 comments

The geese are all facing in angles

Pianist Jeremy Denk has been living in a state of emergency. Instead of consulting a professional, I have come up with a three step solution. Recalibrating my life solution. The first step is to ignore all existing emergencies. Now, this—I can already hear you saying it—can’t last, this is not a workable solution. It sounds in fact like the opposite of a solution. Patience! Wait till you hear my next two steps. Step two—the real genius hinge of the whole thing—is then, in the absence of all emergencies, in the vast plain of false calm left after the tyrannical banishment of all the old emergencies, to choose to treat the smallest things as emergencies.
posted by shivohum on Jul 6, 2014 - 13 comments

Routledge Gives Free Access to 6,000 eBooks

After digitizing over 15,000 books, Routledge has made 6,000 of these e-texts free for viewing during the month of June.
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Jun 27, 2014 - 8 comments

Is philosophy a bunch of empty ideas?

An interview with Peter Unger, Professor of Philosophy at NYU, regarding his new book, Empty Ideas: A Critique of Analytic Philosophy: "In a way, all I’m doing is detailing things that were already said aphoristically by Wittgenstein in Philosophical Investigations. I read it twice over in the sixties, pretty soon after it came out, when I was an undergraduate. I believed it all — well, sort of. I knew, but I didn’t want to know, and so it just went on. And basically what Philosophical Investigations says is that when you’re doing philosophy, you’re not going to find out anything. You find out some trivial things, you’ll be under the delusion that you’re doing a great deal, but what you should do is stop and do something more productive."
posted by bookman117 on Jun 23, 2014 - 113 comments

Eigendemocracy: crowd-sourced deliberative democracy

Scott Aaronson on building a 'PageRank' for (eigen)morality and (eigen)trust - "Now, would those with axes to grind try to subvert such a system the instant it went online? Certainly. For example, I assume that millions of people would rate Conservapedia as a more trustworthy source than Wikipedia—and would rate other people who had done so as, themselves, trustworthy sources, while rating as untrustworthy anyone who called Conservapedia untrustworthy. So there would arise a parallel world of trust and consensus and 'expertise', mutually-reinforcing yet nearly disjoint from the world of the real. But here's the thing: anyone would be able to see, with the click of a mouse, the extent to which this parallel world had diverged from the real one." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jun 23, 2014 - 45 comments

On the illusion of infinite happiness

For it is the future generation in its entire individual determination which forces itself into existence through the medium of all this strife and trouble...That growing affection of two lovers for each other is in reality the will to live of the new being, of which they shall become the parents...The lovers have a longing to be really united and made one being, and to live as such for the rest of their lives; and this longing is fulfilled in the children born to them, in whom the qualities inherited from both, but combined and united in one being, are perpetuated...Therefore Nature attains her ends by implanting in the individual a certain illusion by which something which is in reality advantageous to the species alone seems to be advantageous to himself... Arthur Schopenhauer on the Metaphysics of Love.
posted by shivohum on Jun 17, 2014 - 11 comments

Time : a flat circle :: Consciousness : a state of matter?

"While the problem of consciousness is far from being solved, it is finally being formulated mathematically as a set of problems that researchers can understand, explore and discuss.

Today, Max Tegmark, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, sets out the fundamental problems that this new way of thinking raises. He shows how these problems can be formulated in terms of quantum mechanics and information theory. And he explains how thinking about consciousness in this way leads to precise questions about the nature of reality that the scientific process of experiment might help to tease apart.

Tegmark’s approach is to think of consciousness as a state of matter, like a solid, a liquid or a gas. 'I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are many types of consciousness,' he says."
posted by Strange Interlude on Jun 12, 2014 - 235 comments

Cogito Ergo Publish Openly

Discouraged by limited access, exclusivity in subject matter and author demographics, lack of transparency and long wait times, Ergo is a new take on the philosophy journal that recently released their first volume.
posted by Lutoslawski on May 28, 2014 - 13 comments

Cause 8 bit is all you need

8-Bit Philosophy: What is Real? (Plato) 8-Bit Philosophy: Does SCIENCE = TRUTH? (Nietzsche) 8-Bit Philosophy: Do Humans Operate Like Computers? (Kant)
posted by flapjax at midnite on May 22, 2014 - 11 comments

The madness of the suburbs: who knows it but you?

Nietzsche and the Burbs.
posted by homunculus on Apr 30, 2014 - 10 comments

"You have to put on a mask. You have to dissemble. You have to cheat."

Failed Philosopher King Michael Ignatieff confirms Machiavelli in the latest edition [direct link to mp3] of the Philosophy Bites Podcast.
posted by sockpup on Apr 12, 2014 - 32 comments

A SAT Attack on the Erdos Discrepancy Conjecture

Computers are providing solutions to math problems that we can't check - "A computer has solved the longstanding Erdős discrepancy problem! Trouble is, we have no idea what it's talking about — because the solution, which is as long as all of Wikipedia's pages combined, is far too voluminous for us puny humans to confirm." (via; previously ;)
posted by kliuless on Apr 12, 2014 - 24 comments

Visions of Impossible Things

The chaplain then explained how he had spoken with the dead man’s wife, who related a vivid dream she’d had that night of her husband standing next to her bed, apologizing and explaining that he had been in a car accident, and that his car was in a ditch where it could not be seen from the road...They recovered the body 20 minutes later. Most scholars have no idea what to do with such poignant, powerful stories, other than to dismiss them with lazy words like "anecdote" or "coincidence."...We should put these extreme narratives, these impossible stories, in the middle of our academic table. I would also like to make a wager, here and now, that once we put these currently rejected forms of knowledge on our academic table, things that were once impossible to imagine will soon become possible not only to imagine but also to think, theorize, and even test. Professor Jeffrey Kripal explains why the humanities needs to expand its field of acceptable topics for investigation.
posted by shivohum on Apr 2, 2014 - 114 comments

The time to be HAPPY is NOW

"How can I be happy?" Narrated by Stephen Fry
[more inside]
posted by jammy on Mar 27, 2014 - 46 comments

Being Alain de Botton

Why Alain de Botton is a moron. Alain Botton on why he is not a moron.
posted by shivohum on Mar 25, 2014 - 91 comments

It can't hurt to ask

Congratulations, you won the lottery and got offered a tenure-track job offer in the humanities! Now it's time to start negotiating. But don't negotiate on the terms, because your new colleagues might decide to rescind the offer. Further coverage at Inside Higher Ed.
posted by escabeche on Mar 13, 2014 - 252 comments

That’s why it doesn’t matter if God plays dice with the Universe

Discovering Free Will (Part II, Part III) - a nice discussion of the Conway-Kochen "Free Will Theorem". [more inside]
posted by Wolfdog on Mar 4, 2014 - 92 comments

He said that in the end it is beauty that is going to save the world now

La bella vita: True beauty pleases the eye and the mind – but can it help us to become better people? "In 1795, the German dramatist and poet Friedrich Schiller published a book with a fearsome title – On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters. It has never become well-known, which is a pity, because it contains some of our most useful insights into the nature and value of beauty. Schiller’s starting point is an analysis of the human condition. He wants to understand our delight in what we find beautiful. Instead of asking which things are beautiful, Schiller is curious about what is going on in us when we respond with this distinctive, intimate thrill and enthusiasm that leads us to say ‘that’s beautiful’. Different things might provoke this response in different people. But why do we have it at all?" [Via]
posted by homunculus on Feb 18, 2014 - 13 comments

A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching

The deep philosophical differences between the two main conservative factions of the Catholic Church, pitting adherents of John Courtney Murray against the followers of Alasdair MacIntyre is the root cause of the mixed messages being put out by the Church on public policy matters. It is the fight worth watching.
posted by reenum on Feb 11, 2014 - 108 comments

Full and Partial Belief

Philosophers Kenny Easwaran and Jonathan Weisberg discuss full and partial belief. [more inside]
posted by Jonathan Livengood on Feb 6, 2014 - 6 comments

It belongs in the clawed embrace of the undead amphetamine god.

"Nick Land was a British philosopher but is no longer, though he is not dead. The almost neurotic fervor with which he scratched at the scars of reality has seduced more than a few promising academics onto the path of art that offends in its originality. The texts that he has left behind are reliably revolting and boring, and impel us to castrate their categorization as 'mere' literature." Robin Mackay discusses the past phases of Nick Land, previously of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, now of the neoreactionary Dark Enlightenment (previously). Meanwhile, Mark Fisher, former cohort of Nick Land at Hyperstition, discusses Land in his own way.
posted by Sticherbeast on Jan 27, 2014 - 37 comments

I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

The pedestrian truth that you live one day at a time didn’t help: What was I supposed to do with that day? My oncologist would say only: “I can’t tell you a time. You’ve got to find what matters most to you.” —neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi on coming face to face with his own mortality. SLNYT.
posted by Athanassiel on Jan 24, 2014 - 29 comments

Does God Exist?

Do we have good reason to think God exists? We do, says William Lane Craig. Craig has debated several high profile atheists, including Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.
posted by shivohum on Jan 15, 2014 - 516 comments

I Was Told There Would Be No Math

M.I.T. professor Max Tegmark explores the possibility that math does not just describe the universe, but makes the universe.
posted by COD on Jan 14, 2014 - 111 comments

I have failed many times

Is accepting failure essential to empathy? Reading this made me think of how we are very fortunate to experience failure and how it's essential to human progress. Interested in reading about the greatest failures that lead to your success in another area of your life.
posted by happysocks on Jan 9, 2014 - 31 comments

Ramsey + Moore = God

David Chalmers and Alan Hájek give a one-page argument that the Ramsey test and Moorean reasoning entail that rational subjects should accept that they have the epistemic powers of a god [pdf]. [more inside]
posted by Jonathan Livengood on Jan 6, 2014 - 65 comments

Master of Philosophy, Lord of Debate, Sultan of Reason

The Adventures of Fallacy Man, from Existential Comics.
posted by Artw on Jan 4, 2014 - 55 comments

Middlebrow megachurch infotainment

Let me tell you a story. I was at a presentation that a friend, an Astrophysicist, gave to a potential donor ... After the talk the sponsor said to him, “you know what, I’m gonna pass because I just don’t feel inspired… you should be more like Malcolm Gladwell” ... So I ask the question: does TED epitomize a situation where ... a scientist... is told that their work is not worthy of support, because the public doesn't feel good listening to them? I submit that Astrophysics run on the model of American Idol is a recipe for civilizational disaster.
Benjamin H. Bratton (Dept. of Visual Arts, UC San Diego) uses a TEDx talk to critique the medium of the TED talk itself. Does TED—"weird, inadequate and symptomatic"—encapsulate the twenty-first century's inability to face the challenges of the future in any honest way?
posted by Sonny Jim on Dec 30, 2013 - 58 comments

Socrates in his own words

An introduction to Socrates in his own words through Plato by Michael Griffin, Assistant Professor of Greek Philosophy at the University of British Columbia [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 17, 2013 - 20 comments

From Deleuze to LOLCats: the Story of the BuzzFeed Guy

"It is difficult to isolate a particular ideology from the image-repertoire of late capitalism. What is noticeable is not the content of the images but the efficiency and rapidity with which they are circulated and consumed." [more inside]
posted by Alterity on Dec 10, 2013 - 10 comments

Faculty X

Colin Wilson has passed away at the age of 82. He rose to fame in the 50s with The Outsider, which made him a figure amongst Britain's Beat movement and Angry Young Men. His writing has spanned the fiction and non-fiction, with an interest in the paranormal and the occult, his thoughts on which he blended with HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos to produce The Mind Parasites. A TV series based on his The Space Vampires, also the basis for the movie Lifeforce (previously), is currently planned. Wikipedia page, 2004 Guardian interview, Times Obituary (subs only).
posted by Artw on Dec 7, 2013 - 40 comments

The Transfiguration of Arthur C. Danto

Last month, we lost one of the great philosophers of the 20th century. Arthur C. Danto was perhaps the most eminent voice in contemporary aesthetics. Always on the cutting edge, Danto shined a light on aesthetics in the post-art world. [more inside]
posted by Lutoslawski on Nov 27, 2013 - 8 comments

“The Untouchables in pursuit of the unintelligible”

The FBI files on being and nothingness. "From 1945 onwards, J Edgar Hoover’s FBI spied on Camus and Sartre. The investigation soon turned into a philosophical inquiry…" [Via]
posted by homunculus on Nov 26, 2013 - 14 comments

Items of Beauty

Gilded Birds: A Snapshot of Contemporary Ideals of Beauty. Writers, artists, and philosophers are prompted to select a piece that they consider beautiful, and then interviewed about their reasons for choosing it.
posted by painquale on Nov 22, 2013 - 8 comments

How will you celebrate?

Today is World Philosophy Day. Celebrate by reading the Euthyphro, Al Jazeera's Defense of Philosophy, or the first chapter of the new book Why We Argue? (And How We Should.) But don't just sit there interpreting the world! The point is to change it, so maybe spend some time advocating for early-childhood philosophy education.
posted by anotherpanacea on Nov 21, 2013 - 34 comments

Titillatio

A Philosophy of Tickling. As Nietzsche put it, in an ironic jab at eudaimonism: “What is the best life? To be tickled to death.”
posted by Rumple on Nov 20, 2013 - 26 comments

You can't have fucking nothing isn't, everything is?!!

Jaeil Cho illustrates Louis CK's bit on when children ask 'Why?' [more inside]
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Nov 13, 2013 - 37 comments

The Man Who Would Teach Machines to Think

Douglas Hofstadter, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, thinks we've lost sight of what artificial intelligence really means. His stubborn quest to replicate the human mind.
posted by cthuljew on Oct 27, 2013 - 134 comments

The Child Philosopher

The Child Philosopher [slreddit]: What is the most philosophical thing you've ever heard a child say? “No one is really a grown up. They just act old because they have to” | “This side of the highway is for going places, the other side is for getting home.” | "What does the wind do when it's not blowing?" | "I've been getting old since I was born"
posted by odinsdream on Oct 24, 2013 - 84 comments

The Power of Patience

It took me nine minutes to notice that the shape of the boy’s ear precisely echoes that of the ruff along the squirrel’s belly—and that Copley was making some kind of connection between the animal and the human body and the sensory capacities of each. It was 21 minutes before I registered the fact that the fingers holding the chain exactly span the diameter of the water glass beneath them. It took a good 45 minutes before I realized that the seemingly random folds and wrinkles in the background curtain are actually perfect copies of the shapes of the boy’s ear and eye, as if Copley had imagined those sensory organs distributing or imprinting themselves on the surface behind him. And so on. What this exercise shows students is that just because you have looked at something doesn’t mean that you have seen it.
posted by shivohum on Oct 23, 2013 - 40 comments

"There's only one saving grace to this book: it might be right."

Has David Birnbaum solved the mystery of existence?
David Birnbaum made his fortune selling jewellery to movie stars. Now he has published a 'remarkable and profound' investigation into the origins of the universe. Is there any reason to take it seriously?
posted by andoatnp on Oct 20, 2013 - 120 comments

Let the enlargement of knowledge be one constant view and design in life

The Improvement of the Mind by hymnwriter Issac Watts provides surprisingly relevant and modern advice on how to learn, listen, read, debate, and converse. It proved to be inspirational to the great experimentalist and scientist Michael Faraday. Full version on Google Books.
posted by mikepaco on Oct 6, 2013 - 5 comments

Choose your own philosophy adventure!

The open university have created a choose your own adventure game to explore some ideas in philosophy. [more inside]
posted by Cannon Fodder on Sep 30, 2013 - 14 comments

Philosophy, Babies and Ukuleles.

D.E. Wittkower is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Old Dominion University. He's contributed to a number of interesting tangents from more traditional philosophical subjects including author of Philosopher's Book of Questions and Answers , editor of Ender's Game and Philosophy, Facebook and Philosophy, Philip K. Dick and Philosophy, Mr. Monk and Philosophy, and iPod and Philosophy. All well and good, but I sincerely support his Philosophy of Lullaby.
posted by HuronBob on Sep 28, 2013 - 0 comments

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