How To Live A Happy Life, With Seneca

The Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca’s list of ideas on how to lead a happy life serves as a great starting point for reflection. A key point from this list is that wealth and other externals should not define who we are as humans, but rather, our moral character should be our most precious possession. This ancient wisdom still applies today, especially in our age of social media, where we should not do anything because of public opinion, but rather, because of our conscience. Ultimately, the ability to quit if “the room gets too smoky” is the ultimate source of freedom, and a mark of a truly happy life. Read full article here

Goodhart’s Law Isn’t as Useful as You Might Think

Goodhart’s Law states that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure, and this is unfortunately true more often than not. Thankfully, W. Edwards Deming and his colleagues have developed a body of work known as Statistical Process Control, which offers a number of principles to help solve Goodhart’s Law at the organisational level. Donald Wheeler’s formulation of the law, which states that metrics should be difficult to distort, data should be difficult to distort and people should be given space to improve the system, is a particularly useful one, as it offers a more actionable and solvable version of Goodhart’s Law. Read full article here

Philosophers on Kissing

Don’t you love it when a kiss is more than a kiss? The practice of kissing seems to be a popular topic among philosophers as well, who have written extensively about kisses. Some argue that “a kiss is a kiss”, but others make a case for a distinction between a “first kiss” and all the others. For example, Danish existentialist Søren Kierkegaard believed that a first kiss is a moment that’s incomparable to any other, and that it was so powerful because of its potential to lead to more. Read full article here

There Is No Such Thing As A Purely Logical Argument

Dominic Wilkinson’s paper, “Grief and the Inconsolation of Philosophy”, explores the gap between philosophical insight and psychological comfort when it comes to death. He distinguishes between “rational consolation”, when philosophical analysis leads to the conclusion that it would be rational to care less about death than we currently do, and “psychological consolation”, when philosophical reflection actually leads us to care less about death. Through his analysis of Derek Parfit’s reductionist definition of personal identity, Wilkinson is sceptical that this philosophical consolation will have psychological traction, and finds it “deeply implausible” that philosophical perspectives can lead to actual consolation. Read full article here

If animals are persons, should they bear criminal responsibility?

Animal trials from the 16th century may have seemed like a backward practice, but they tell us a lot about how non-human consciousness was understood at the time. Through the story of Barthélemy de Chasseneuz, who defended a group of rats accused of eating a crop in Burgundy, we can learn that animals were thought to have some degree of autonomy, and were even given legal representation. In modern times, organisations like the Nonhuman Rights Project are pushing for greater legal recognition of non-human animals, and while the legal system remains slow to embrace change, we have learn that we shouldn’t underestimate the intelligence of animals. Read full article here

The Optimistic Nihilists

Optimistic nihilism has become a popular philosophy among the younger generations, promising they can create their own meanings and values in a meaningless universe. But this twenty-first century spin on nihilism is a shallow understanding of what Nietzsche proposed, as it fails to confront the dark questions that come with it, such as the morals of killling others. Ultimately, this kind of nihilism often leads to substance abuse and depression, as it offers no real solutions for dealing with the insignificance and anonymity of life. Read full article here

Be less trusting of intuitive arguments about social phenomena

It’s tempting to trust intuitive arguments about social phenomena, but these often turn out to be wrong. We need to be more sceptical of these ‘models’ and require more empirical firepower before believing them. Take the example of the minimum wage – even with the rigour of modern microeconomics and large datasets, economists are still uncertain of its effects on unemployment. So let’s be extra cautious when it comes to social phenomena and make sure we’re basing our decisions on solid evidence. Read full article here

Is AI Art Really Art?

The rise in AI art has lead to contentious debate on the merits of the technology. Some cite the derivative nature of AI art and the lack of an original, inventive, risk-taking artist as reasons that it’s not art. Others call back to the concept of the death of the artist, which holds that the creator of an artwork shouldn’t cloud the analysis of its value. Currently, a consensus doesn’t appear to be anywhere on the horizon. Read full article here

The Dangerous Populist Science of Yuval Noah Harari

Are you familiar with the author of the wildly successful book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind? Yuval Noah Harari is a famous historian, philosopher, and best-selling author. He might have seduced us with his storytelling, but a close look at his record shows that he sacrifices science to sensationalism, often makes grave factual errors, and portrays what should be speculative as certain. The author argues that he also reinforces the narratives of surveillance capitalists, giving them a free pass to manipulate our behaviours to suit their commercial interests. Read full article here

How Do Good Conversations Work? Philosophy Has Something to Say

What does it take to have a good conversation? As described by philosopher HP Grice, good communication is co-operative; both speakers and listeners have to be equally engaged with the subject matter. Any conversation can be productive if the exchange of words is informative and truthful, with no false claims or ambiguous statements. Conversations are frequently influenced by the different attitudes of both parties and their levels of knowledge towards the subject in question. Great conversations are achieved when participants share communicative goals while accommodating each other’s personal needs. Read full article here


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