Book Club summary: The Inner Citadel

Over at my Patreon site I run occasional “book clubs,” meaning multiple posts on the same book, which interested readers can use either as a companion to the book itself, or simply as summaries that give them an idea of what the book is about (and hence facilitate their decision of whether to invest the time to read the full volume or not). Here are all the entries connected to one now completed series.

The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, by Pierre Hadot, Harvard University Press, 2001. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are treasured today–as they have been over the centuries–as an inexhaustible source of wisdom. And as one of the three most important expressions of Stoicism, this is an essential text for everyone interested in ancient religion and philosophy. Yet the clarity and ease of the work’s style are deceptive. Pierre Hadot, eminent historian of ancient thought, uncovers new levels of meaning and expands our understanding of its underlying philosophy.

Here are my commentaries:

1. Marcus Aurelius’ teachers.

2. A first glimpse of the Meditations.

3. The Meditations as spiritual exercises.

4. The philosopher-slave and the emperor-philosopher.

5. The beautifully coherent Stoicism of Epictetus.

6. The discipline of assent.

7. The discipline of desire, or amor fati.

8. The discipline of action, in the service of humanity.

9. Marcus Aurelius — the man himself.

Suggested readings, #18

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Cruising in the age of consent: gay men, #metoo, and the politics of desire. (The Atlantic)

Is attributing evil a cognitive bias? Interesting article, with some questionable evolutionary psychological interpretations. (Philosophy Now)

Quentin Tarantino’s Cosmic Justice: his new film exhibits — perhaps surprisingly — a genuine moral pathos. (New York Times)

The problem with mindfulness: it promotes itself as value-neutral but it is loaded with (troubling) assumptions about the self and the cosmos. (Aeon)

A power ranking of Sherlock Holmes adaptations: the consummate detective has been reimagined hundreds of times—which screen version is best? (Electric Literature)

Suggested readings, #17

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Philosophy of science: the first 2.5 millennia. Too bad it stops at Feyerabend… (Philosophy Now)

The worst patients in the world. Americans are hypochondriacs, yet we skip our checkups. We demand drugs we don’t need, and fail to take the ones we do. No wonder the U.S. leads the world in health spending. (The Atlantic)

Was The Odyssey the first Greek novel? (Lit Hub)

The physics of causality: why do we remember the past and not the future? Untangling the connections between cause and effect, choice, and entropy. (FQXi Community)

Libraries in the ancient world, a short (and somewhat surprising) history. (Ancient History Encyclopedia)

Suggested readings, #16

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Pandora’s Vox: thousands of years ago, the ancient Greeks anticipated robots and artificial intelligence—and they didn’t trust them. (Foreign Policy)

In search of lost time: on the current role and future tasks of philosophy. (Eurozine)

Tainted by association: would you carve a roast with a knife that had been used in a murder? Why not? And what does this tell us about ethics? (Aeon)

The problem with HR: for 30 years, we’ve trusted human-resources departments to prevent and address workplace sexual harassment. How’s that working out? (The Atlantic)

Aristotle and the good ruler: what politicians can learn from Aristotle’s Politics. (Philosophy Now)

Suggested readings, #15

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

You would think this does not need to be said, and yet: Let the professors run the university. Faculty members need to reassert themselves as the people who direct discourse on campuses. (Inside Higher Education)

No, we probably don’t live in a computer simulation, very sensibly says physicist Sabine Hossenfelder. (BackReaction)

Democracy is for the gods, and it should be no surprise that humans cannot sustain it. (New York Times)

Social physics: despite the vagaries of free will and circumstance, human behavior in bulk is far more predictable than we like to imagine. (Aeon)

Socrates’ critique of 21st-Century neuroscience: the ancient thinker saw limits to what natural science can tell us about ourselves. (Scientific American)

Suggested readings, #14

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Is Western philosophy just a form of white suprematism? No, of course not. But sure, let’s keep writing that sort of thing. What’s the worse it can happen? (The Philosophical Salon)

Could Ancient Greek philosophy help you work smarter and better? Sure, though that would actually mean missing the point of Ancient Greek philosophy. Also, a rival of the humor theory? What the hell, NYT? (New York Times)

Where are all the women in ancient philosophy? They are there, but mighty hard to find, through no fault of their own. (New Statesman)

Plants neither possess nor require consciousness. A brief introduction to the pseudoscience of plant neurobiology. (Trends in Plant Science)

When researchers submitted to Science a paper attempting (and failing) to replicate a high profile result in social psychology (previously published by Science), they were told: “not interested.” That’s bad. Really bad. (Slate)

Suggested readings, #13

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Why some people choose to do evil remains a puzzle, but are we starting to understand how this behavior is triggered? (Aeon)

Are Sherlock Holmes’ methods closer to the philosophy of Pascal than that of the British empiricists? I don’t think so, but this article makes the case. (Philosophy Now)

The philosophy of fascism. And why we need one. (The Philosopher)

Hold out for the perfect partner or settle for good enough? In the calculus of love, flourishing means getting it right. (Aeon)

Moral education for digital natives. (Philosophy Now)

Suggested readings, #12

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Here’s an interactive map of Odysseus’ 10-year journey back home. (Open Culture)

What’s the point of education? It’s no longer just about getting a job. Then again, it never was. And contra this article, the Greeks did get it right. (The Conversation)

Can an “ought” be derived from an “is”? Pace Hume, yup. (Philosophy Now)

Can Plato be blamed for autocracy, as Karl Popper thought? Nah. (Spectator)

Yet another example of why anti-physicalist critiques in philosophy of mind are empty and incoherent. Though you wouldn’t know it from this article. (Philosophy Now)

Suggested readings, #11

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Behavioral economics comes to the rescue if you happen to have a problem with addiction to your phone and social media. (Financial Times)

Who “owns” the Crusades? It’s more complicated than you think. (New Republic)

Cultural evolution and its discontents. (LA Review of Books)

The unnatural ethics of AI could be its undoing. (The Outline)

Suggested readings, #10

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Remembering when bankers tried to overthrow FDR and install a fascist dictator. True Story. (Big Think)

Is knowledge a “Stone Age” concept that is best abandoned? A strange, misguided, and conceptually confused article by my colleague David Papineau. (Aeon)

A good argument against anti-natalism, if one where needed. But you’ll have to get over some entirely unnecessary comments on god and the virtues of conservatism.

Reading fiction has been said to increase people’s empathy and compassion. But does the research really bear that out? Yes, it turns out. (BBC)