Sam Harris Throws Down His Gauntlet

buffy gauntlet

Ok, probably not this gauntlet Sam Harris, one of the 'Four Horsemen' of New Atheism, has issued a challenge to critics of his moral philosophy. It has been nearly three years since The Moral Landscape was first published in English, and in that time it has been attacked by readers and nonreaders alike. Many seem to have judged from the resulting cacophony that the book’s central thesis was easily refuted. However, I have yet to encounter a substantial criticism that I feel was not adequately a … [Read more...]

How much should you trust your empathy?

There are too many people in this crowd to empathize with

Recently, in The New Yorker, psychologist Paul Bloom took a shot at the idea that empathy is a necessary component of moral judgement or behavior.  In fact, the stirrings of our conscience, he says, can often lead us astray.  We tend to be more moved by the small problems near us than big problems far away.  It's hard to fire off mirror neurons if other people's norms and culture are different enough from yours that you can't read their expressions or anticipate their reactions.  And we tend not … [Read more...]

Learning by Perturbation

phases of matter

Last week, I wrote two blog posts about the danger of breaking promises and the downside of comforting yourself for doing necessary evils.  Both posts were written from a pretty Lawful (in the DnD sense) point of view, so I wanted to make sure I mixed in some other perspectives.  After the news broke about the NSA wiretapping, Moxie Marlinspike wrote an essay explaining why "We Should All Have Something to Hide" and thus are all threatened by increased surveillance.His essay ended up arguing … [Read more...]

Modern Stoicism – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

stoic joy

A number of my friends have gotten more interested in Stoicism of late and have been reading A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine for a practical introduction.  I give Irvine total credit for writing a philosophy book that's meant to be actionable, not a historical survey.  But, as a recovering Stoic, I'd like to couple any praise with a warning about the philosophy.    The GoodA Stoic avoids becoming attached or indifferent to the things ze ca … [Read more...]

An Apologia for Tentavism

hold lightly

I tend to rag on postmodernism leading to relativism, so, to see a much more charitable description, you should pop over to Christian H's blog to read his apologia. [O]ne of the recurrent complaints my peers and I had about some of our English Masters classes was that, at the end of it all, we were afraid of making any positive statements. All we were doing was problematizing. But when all positive statements seem to do damage (to women, to Asian Canadian populations, to First Nations p … [Read more...]

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

amazing stories cover

There's always been more fiction than explicit philosophy on this blog and, in C.S. Lewis's Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, he puts his finger on why I like sidling up on meaning of life questions in this way.  Lewis is discussing various subtypes of science fiction -- starting with the ones where plot and character take a back seat to the author showing you a clever engineering problem and ending up here: In all these the impossibility is, as I have said, a postulate. Something to be g … [Read more...]

The rule of my heart is mine! And no other’s!

steward of gondor

In the Patheos Hindu channel, Ambaa gives her perspective on Jedis and gnosticism, inspired by the same essay by Brother Humbert that prompted me to write "Emotional Weapons for a More Indifferent Age." Ambaa explains that there's a middle road between abandoning emotions and abandoning yourself to them. Quoth she: I don’t think Hinduism calls for anyone, even ascetics, to not have emotions. But a practiced monk can see the emotions playing out over his psyche and know that they are shifting a … [Read more...]


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