Suggested readings, #95

Here it is, a rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

The hidden biases that drive anti-vegan hatred. (BBC)

Making sense of morality: Alasdair MacIntyre’s ethics. (Medium) I don’t make sense of ethics that way, but MacIntyre is one of the leading contemporary figures in virtue ethics.

What, if anything, can psychics tell us about all of this? Demand for their services has illuminated another kind of health crisis. (New York Times) They can’t tell us anything, except that people who feel their life is out of control often resort to pseudoscience and superstition. But we knew that already.

Sex is not an act. Why you can’t separate what goes on between the sheets with what happens before and after. (Medium)

How religion shaped modern economics. In the 18th century, a new Protestant belief that people have control over their destinies fostered the rise of free-market ideas. (Wall Street Journal) Far too upbeat for my taste, but some good points.

Published by

Massimo

Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at platofootnote.org and howtobeastoic.org. He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

18 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #95”

  1. Massimo,

    Look forward to your weekly interesting articles. “The hidden biases that drive anti-vegan hatred”. This is a subject which I DO have a horse in the race. I am a Type II Diabetic, diagnosed in 1996 a month after my father died a miserable and typical death from Diabetes. Initially, I thought I had received a death sentence. Fast forward to now and as an n of one, I look to the best evidence I can find and have built a very good way to manage this lifestyle disease. I do not hate vegans, however I think they are not only are on the wrong side of history, but they bad for humanity. Most vegans are not aware of the fact that since the mid-1800s and continuing to this day the 7th day Adventists have had an anti-meat agenda. Secondly, the likes of Ansel Keys and others were responsible for the biggest governmental dietary mistake, which became the SAD (Standard American Diet), which shows correlation to the move make fat bad and carbohydrates good and the obesity and Diabetes II epidemic.

    I do not mean to vent, however very smart people like Shermer and Novella completely got it wrong. The argument for weight control is if you want to lose weight you merely eat 3,500 calories less or exercise 3,500 calories more because this is the law of thermodynamics. FYI, I went off on a writing flurry after reading your Denying Evolution on the creationists take on thermodynamics. It IS NOT a calorie in calorie out. 95% of diets do not work because it is not the law of thermodynamics, it is a hormone issue and primarily Insulin, which causes fat storage.

    Let me leave it there. Hope I do not come across as a Kook, but if so, so be it.

    Greg leMunyan

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    1. Greg, thanks for your feedback. I’m still convinced that vegans have by far the moral upper hand, except in cases of dietary pathologies. However, the vegetarians do better in terms of health.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. How is MacIntyre’s view different from Heidegger’s? Heidegger also tried to revive Aristotelian ethics, and ended up with a notion of cultural telos, i.e. similarly that the Good comes from following the traditions of one’s culture. Heidegger ended up a bit Nazi, and it sounds (from this very short description alone, I have not read MacIntyre) that MacIntyre’s take risks ending up there as well. I mean, how many will really immerse themselves in another tradition and then make a decision which one is better to follow (Maybe only cosmopolitan stoics… ;-) )? It is easier then to just declare that one’s own tradition is superiour and then trouble begins…

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    1. I’m not an excerpt on Heidegger, so I’m not sure. I don’t think MacIntyre leans anywhere in the Nazi direction, but I see your point. I agree that people won’t “try out” different traditions from the inside. And I disagree with MacIntyre that one cannot meaningfully criticize other traditions from the outside. The Nazi, for example.

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  3. I think veganism/vegetarianism has the upper moral ground, I’ll be frank that I just choose not to. My life is a grind, and having my meals is one of the few pleasures. I don’t have the willpower to pick this area of ascesis in my quest for character improvement.

    The Baggini piece was confusing word play for me. The word sex may be polysemic (sexual intercourse/sex life/etc), but I don’t see how it’s not an act. A lot of actions have an impact beyond the immediate experience, so what?

    I didn’t know Benjamin Friedman had a new book, thanks for the news.

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    1. saphsin, I hear you. I can’t bring myself to be a complete vegetarian either. But I lean that way, reducing meat to almost nothing, though heating fish.

      I think Julian’s piece makes a good point: human “acts” are never just acts (unlike mot other animals’), they always have a psychological and social context, which need to be factored in if we want to understand the acts.

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  4. Greg,

    Very sorry to hear about your Dad and your Type II Diabetes. Glad to hear that you have found ways to successfully manage it. I would quibble with a few points though, and full disclosure I’m 7 years a vegan.

    First, I think that nearly all vegans are aware of the 7th Day Adventists vegan tendencies. Anyone reading more than a half-dozen research articles on veganism is sure to come across the Adventists as they form a great cohort of life-long vegans for comparison to other groups; a huge chunk of what we know about the healthfulness of vegan diets comes from research on the Adventists, so they are very well known among vegans.

    Second, I’m not sure that I understand why you seem to think this is a bad thing. Adventists also think that it is a bad idea to punch a stranger on the street for no reason, would you automatically oppose that view as well? Really I think I must not be understanding why you would point out that the Adventists are vegan, or “have an anti-meat agenda” because you make it sound so sinister. Their agenda is really anti-violence and anti-suffering and it’s no surprise that this involves participating less in the animal agriculture economy.

    Third, I think you might be misunderstanding the Standard American Diet (SAD), because it is definitely not vegan. No doubt that the pushing of carbs and grains in the food pyramid contributed to (even caused to a large extent) an obesity epidemic among our kids, but the distinction between carbs and protein is not the same as the distinction between vegan and nonvegan by any stretch:

    “By definition, the Standard American Diet consists of ultra-processed foods, added sugar, fat, and sodium. Consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean protein is greatly lacking in this diet.”

    from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209844/

    This is pretty much the opposite of my vegan diet, and most vegans’ diets. This kind of has to be the case given that vegans are well known for having lower BMI and lower weights than nonvegans, which is the opposite of the effects of the SAD.

    Lastly, I’m quite happy that you have found ways to moderate your condition with a diet that you feel comfortable with, but in my research over the years one finding keeps appearing and that is the beneficial effects of a vegan diet on Type II diabetes, for example

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19386029/
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19386029/
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27886704/

    In short, vegan diets are among the very best diets for managing Type II diabetes, as long as one doesn’t sit around eating Oreos all day (yep, they are vegan).

    Anyway, you certainly don’t sound like a kook, and good luck.

    And saphsin, vegan diets can be marvelously enjoyable! When I went vegan it was a revelation and an opportunity to explore ingredients and methods of cooking that infused new life and enjoyment in my diet. I had been cooking the same 10-20 meals for 45 years, and all of a sudden my plates and bowls were filled with glorious new flavors an textures. There are so many great vegan restaurants popping up all over the place now, even in my smallish town of 60,000 people. Some of the desserts are incredibly decadent…just made a luxurious vegetable lasagna last night and chocolate almond torte with raspberry sauce for dessert and espresso with a friend…hardly boring! We don’t just sit around eating grass and leaves ;-)

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  5. I didn’t know vegetarians could be upset by vegans.

    For years, I only occasionally ate meat but after reading Eating Animals and We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer (who has a degree in philosophy), I transitioned to a plant-based diet. I don’t find a vegan (if I have to choose a label) diet difficult, and I never have to worry that I’m not getting enough fruits and vegetables in my diet.

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  6. Massimo, I’m with you on food. And, it’s not just a question of health. For me, it’s been “plantary load” of meat, on the environment in general, not just cow farts on climate change. And, beef is the worst, then pork, then lamb and goat, then poultry, then fish.

    ==

    Oh, got the new Edmonds book on Schlick today. Will start reading as soon as another library book is completed.

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  7. The Wall Street Journal piece is wrong. Adam Smith’s invisible hand comes from Deism, which, while it’s not “organized Christianity,” is also not secular if the WSJ means “nonreligious” by that. It sort of appears that way, and in that case, it’s wrong about Deist ideas floating around the Enlightenment in general. It’s also wrong in not distinguishing Continental Rationalism from British Empiricism, a division that to some degree, in new form, divides much of Western philosophy today, of course.

    ==

    On McIntyre, many “practices” may be so largely majoritarian to be almost universal, but yet … not quite universal. He leaves himself open to the charge of being a deontologist in drag, IMO. Or, if read another way, on “traditionS” plural, he leaves himself open to the charge of being a relativist.

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  8. One question for vegetarians: Do you eat “fake meats”? And for vegans, do you eat “fake cheese” (or other dairy etc.)? I’ve had the fakes, and they’re better than they used to be on the meat, and had my first fake cheese last year. That said, if you do eat the fakes, are you worried they’ll tempt you into “relapse,” like someone drinking “near beer”?

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    1. I do eat the fakes and am not worried they’ll tempt me to relapse. I eat oatmeal yogurt, and I cook oatmeal in soy milk. I’ve not yet eaten one of the new “fake chickens” but I just bought some and am looking forward to trying it. I’ve found the new “fake beef” to be almost indistinguishable from beef. A new fake scrambled egg product, Just Egg, recently became available at one of the stores I shop at. I think it’s just as good as chicken eggs. I haven’t tried one of the new “fake chicken meat,” but I just bought some and am looking forward to trying it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. On Baggini and off topic, his “Godless gospel” new book would seem to have “issues.” Jesus’ call to “renounce the self,” if one goes beyond Jeffersonian Deism in rejecting miracles to atheism/secularism in rejecting the existence of a deity? It’s “mu” at best, or a category mistake or worse, at worst. Seriously, as I see it, it’s nonsense to discuss a “renunciation of self” outside of a metaphysical belief system, whether Jesus and a heaven-hell afterlife or the Buddha and rounds of karma-based reincarnation. So, if Baggini thinks Jesus has “much to teach us today,” I think he has less to teach us than Baggini claims. In some cases, a LOT less. https://www.amazon.com/Godless-Gospel-Jesus-Great-Teacher-ebook/dp/B08FWYRW3J

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  10. Finally, for both vegetarians and vegans who have commented, I’ll raise the “beyond food” issue.

    “Do you wear leather?” is the most obvious portion of this. Now, shoes more and more have synthetic fabric, and one can buy leather-free wallets and even purses. But, what about things like car seating and trim?

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    1. There’s lots of food for thought here (pun intended), Socratic. I do use a leather-free wallet but one of my brothers recently gave me a leather wallet as a gift. I don’t know what to do with it. I guess I should have returned it when I had the chance. I also have an old pair of leather hiking boots I wear in inclement weather. I got the shoes before I tried to eliminate my consumption of meat products but I’ve worn them after I started aspiring to veganism. I don’t know if that means I can’t consider myself a card-carrying vegan — a label I said I would use if I had to pick one. I only very recently tried to transition to veganism. I’m well aware vegans have a high rate of failure. I’ve seen a vegan succumb to temptation and eat a mushroom burger and a slice of cheesecake. I’ve also called myself a “reducitarian.” According to the Reducitarian Foundation, “Reducetarians’ are committed to eating less meat and dairy and fewer eggs — following their own hearts and individual motivations.” I think I’ll make it easier on myself and resume calling myself a reducetarian and strive for as much “reduction” as I can.

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  11. It should also be noted a vegetarian or vegan diet is not necessarily any more healthy than one that includes meat. (Not accusing Leonids of being unhealthy, and I do thank him for talking about the other issues I raised.) After all, Lay’s potato chips and Oreos are both vegan, amirite? (Flavored versions of Lay’s may not be.)

    On the health side, I say there’s never anything wrong with more fiber. (And, less processing of food in general.)

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