99 posts

Brain Bath

Billionaire LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman says his masters in philosophy has helped him more than an MBA

by Richard Feloni | Business Insider Nov. 24, 2017 Reid Hoffman is the billionaire cofounder of LinkedIn and one of tech’s most influential investors. Instead of a business education, he pursued his master’s degree in philosophy. He told us that the analytical thinking skills he learned have made him a better investor and entrepreneur. When students begin graduate studies in philosophy, they’re typically looking to explore the essence of existence — and suffice it to say, most are not getting on a path to riches. But one of Silicon Valley’s most influential billionaires, LinkedIn founder and Greylock Partners investor Reid […]

Brain Bath

That ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket

From George Anders 2015 column in Forbes magazine. Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s 42-year-old cofounder and CEO, whose estimated double-digit stake in the company could be worth $300 million or more. He’s the proud holder of an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Canada’s University of Victoria and a master’s degree from Cambridge in philosophy and the history of science. “Studying philosophy taught me two things,” says Butterfield, sitting in his office in San Francisco’s South of Market district, a neighborhood almost entirely dedicated to the cult of coding. “I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument […]

Brain Bath

Why study philosophy?: A statement by Jordan Kotick, Vice-President J.P. Morgan, Wall Street

While considering what to study in my first year as an Undergraduate, I decided to take a few Philosophy courses. When informed of my decision, those I knew murmured, “Philosophy…what are you going to do with that?” Soon after my first year was complete, realizing that I enjoyed these courses and my intellectual curiosity was peaked and challenged, I decided that one of my double majors as an undergraduate was going to be Philosophy. The echoes grew louder as those I knew grumbled “Philosophy? What are you going to do with that?” After four years and a Bachelor of Arts […]

Brain Bath

A Society with Poor Critical Thinking Skills: The Case for ‘Argument’ in Education

Huffington Post (08/15/13 | Updated 10/15/13) by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz Researchers have shown that most students today are weak in critical thinking skills. They do poorly on simple logical reasoning tests (Evans, 2002). Only a fraction of graduating high school seniors (6 percent of 12th graders) can make informed, critical judgments about written text (Perie, Grigg, and Donahue, 2005). This problem applies to both reading and writing. Only 15 percent of 12th graders demonstrate the proficiency to write well-organized essays that consisted of clear arguments (Perie et al., 2005). Critical thinking and argument skills — the abilities to both generate and critique arguments […]

"John Stuart Mill," by Mitch Francis

Mill’s Utilitarianism

What Utilitarianism Is
According to the Greatest Happiness Principle… [hilite]the ultimate end[/hilite], with reference to and for the sake of which all other things are desirable (whether we are considering our own good or that of other people), [hilite]is an existence exempt as far as possible from pain, and as rich as possible in enjoyments[/hilite], both in point of quantity and quality; the test of quality, and the rule for measuring it against quantity, being the preference felt by those who in their opportunities of experience, to which must be added their habits of self-consciousness and self-observation, are best furnished with the means of comparison.

"Aristotle," by Mitch Francis

Aristotle’s Ethics – Book X: On Happiness and Contemplation

This section of our text is selected from Book X of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Εθικη Νικομαχοι). Trans. W.D. Ross.Numerals styled like this are “Bekker numbers” deriving from the 19th century Bekker edition of Aristotle’s surviving works (Corpus Aristotelicum), still standard for references.I indicate where my commentary ends by using our writer’s avatar where the primary text begins:

The Perfect Moral Storm: Philosophers Respond to the Impending Anthropogenic Apocalypse

For at least the next 200 years, weather forecasts predict shitstorms, with global temperatures now set to remain elevated for hundreds of years to come. The latest IPCC report explains that our emissions are nearing the point of no return. Even if industrialized nations switched to solar power overnight, it is now too late to fully reverse the planet’s course. Geologists have officially termed this new epoch, where the human species has irreparably shaped earth’s geological history, the
Anthropocene. Policymakers no longer have the luxury to decide how we might “stop” global warming. Instead, we have to figure out how we’ll manage amidst climate instability.

Tocqueville caricature by Honoré Daumier, 1849.

De Tocqueville’s “Democracy In America”

I hold it to be an impious and an execrable maxim that, politically speaking, a people has a right to do whatsoever it pleases, and yet I have asserted that all authority originates in the will of the majority. Am I then, in contradiction with myself? A general law—which bears the name of Justice—has been made and sanctioned, not only by a majority of this or that people, but by a majority of mankind. The rights of every people are consequently confined within the limits of what is just.

Quine's 1975 passport photo

Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”

Originally published in The Philosophical Review 60 (1951): 20-43. Reprinted in W.V.O. Quine, From a Logical Point of View (Harvard University Press, 1953; second, revised, edition 1961), with the following alterations: “The version printed here diverges from the original in footnotes and in other minor respects: §§1 and 6 have been abridged where they encroach on the preceding essay [“On What There Is”], and §§3-4 have been expanded at points.” Except for minor changes, additions and deletions are indicated in interspersed tables. I wish to thank Torstein Lindaas for bringing to my attention the need to distinguish more carefully the […]

Rebekah Frumkin

Socrates and Glaucon on the Home Shopping Network

by REBEKAH FRUMKIN, McSweeneys (19 May 2010) SOCRATES: Good evening, Glaucon. You look troubled. GLAUCON: I am, Socrates. SOCRATES: What worries you so? GLAUCON: Look at my kitchen floor. That brown scum is the stain of fowl livers. I spilled them earlier today and cleaned them up, but the stains remain. SOCRATES: I see. GLAUCON: The stains are attracting countless pests with their foul odor and bacteria. There is no way to clean them up. SOCRATES: Are you sure of that? GLAUCON: Yes. To do so, I would need some convenient means of cleaning and sterilization. SOCRATES: And you are […]

Index of Passages and Vocabulary

Links to passages Aristotle poses the question: How is happiness acquired? Aristotle’s definition of virtue Martin Luther King’s “an unjust law” Martin Luther King’s “difference made legal” Mill’s harm principle Mill’s utility interpreted in light of humanity’s “progressive being” Plato’s definition of courage Plato’s definition of justice Plato’s definition of temperance Plato’s definition of wisdom Plato’s articulation of might-makes-right Plato’s articulation of the challenge to justice Socrates’ daemon/voice Socrates identifies with Apollo Socrates on death Socrates on “obedience to god” Socrates on the examined life Some Vocabulary Ad hoc Ad hominem Ambiguity Appeal to authority Argument by analogy Begging the […]

"Rene Descartes," by Mitch Francis

Descartes’ Discourse on Method

Selections from Descartes’ Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences are from Jonathan Bennett’s translation. Some words on his practices: “[Brackets] enclose editorial explanations. Small ·dots· enclose material that has been added, but can be read as though it were part of the original text. Occasional •bullets, and also indenting of passages that are not quotations, are meant as aids to grasping the structure of a sentence or a thought. Every four-point ellipsis . . . . indicates the omission of a brief passage that seems to present more difficulty than […]

"Rene Descartes," by Mitch Francis

Descartes’ Passions of the Soul

Selections from Descartes’ Passions of the Soul is from Jonathan Bennett’s translation. Some words on his practices: “[Brackets] enclose editorial explanations. Small ·dots· enclose material that has been added, but can be read as though it were part of the original text. Occasional •bullets, and also indenting of passages that are not quotations, are meant as aids to grasping the structure of a sentence or a thought. Every four-point ellipsis . . . . indicates the omission of a brief passage that seems to present more difficulty than it is worth. Longer omissions are reported between brackets.”

"Schopenhauer," by Mitch Francis

Schopenhauer on Pessimism

by Arthur Schopenhauer Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim. It is absurd to look upon the enormous amount of pain that abounds everywhere in the world, and originates in needs and necessities inseparable from life itself, as serving no purpose at all and the result of mere chance. Each separate misfortune, as it comes, seems, no doubt, to be something exceptional; but misfortune in general is the rule. I know of no greater absurdity than that propounded by most systems of philosophy in declaring evil to be negative […]

I'm Dangerous

“I think, therefore I earn”

by Jessica Shepherd, The Guardian (19 November 2007) “A degree in philosophy? What are you going to do with that then?” Philosophy students will tell you they’ve been asked this question more times than they care to remember. “The response people seem to want is a cheery shrug and a jokey ‘don’t know’,” says Joe Cunningham, 20, a final-year philosophy undergraduate at Heythrop College, University of London. A more accurate comeback, according to the latest statistics, is “just about anything I want”. Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show philosophy graduates, once derided as unemployable layabouts, are in growing […]

Stretching Beyond

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we are saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we are saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own; therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness. ~Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (1952)

Wall Street

The US is not a democracy but an oligarchy, study concludes

by JC Sevcik, UPI, April 16, 2014 WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) — Oligarchy is a form of government in which power is vested in a dominant class and a small group exercises control over the general population. A new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities concluded that the U.S. government represents not the interests of the majority of citizens but those of the rich and powerful. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” analyzed extensive data, comparing nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted between 1981 and 2002 with the expressed preferences of average and affluent Americans as […]

Out of Body Experience

How to Have an Out-of-Body Experience

Greg Stevens, Science Correspondent, The Kernel, Thursday, 10 April 2014 You can have an out of body experience right now, and it isn’t even that hard. Some people can do it more easily than others, and it may take a little practice. But it is something that anybody can do, and it can be done scientifically. Senses and the self Let’s start with a question: Where do you feel like the center of your “self” is right now? Most people feel like the center of their consciousness—the vantage from which they are experiencing the world—is somewhere behind their eyes. This […]

NYU sociologist Andrew Ross

Are Student Loans Immoral?

by Andrew Ross, The Daily Beast (09.27.12). Millions of grads are saddled with unpayable student loans, yet colleges still say they’re a sound investment. NYU professor Andrew Ross asks if it’s time to stop repaying the loans. Straight talk about the crushing burden of student debt is everywhere—except the one place it should be: on college campuses themselves. Students, professors, and college administrators seem to be in denial. For students who have never managed their own finances before—certainly the vast majority of undergraduates—the silence isn’t so surprising. After all, they’re not required to pay a penny on their loans until […]

NYU Professor of Philosophy, Samuel Scheffler

What Matters to the Dead?

by SAMUEL SCHEFFLER. The New York Times, “The Stone,” September 21, 2013 I believe in life after death. No, I don’t think that I will live on as a conscious being after my earthly demise. I’m firmly convinced that death marks the unqualified and irreversible end of our lives. My belief in life after death is more mundane. What I believe is that other people will continue to live after I myself have died. You probably make the same assumption in your own case. Although we know that humanity won’t exist forever, most of us take it for granted that […]

"Socrates," by Mitch Francis

Socrates in Plato’s Alcibiades

Our text comes from Plato in Twelve Volumes. Trans. W.R.M. Lamb. Vol. 8. Harvard University Press, 1955. The numbered notes derive from the Perseus Digital Library. Numerals styled like thisreflect 16th century “Stephanus pagination”, still standard for references.I indicate where my commentary ends by using our writer’s avatar where the primary text begins:

Business Needs Philosophy

Why Future Business Leaders Need Philosophy

BigThink – August 3, 2013 by Anders Poulsen In the wake of the financial crisis, an era of severe turbulence, rapid changes and increasing complexity has emerged. A black cloud hangs over the past decade’s economic prosperity and global consumption habits, which fundamentally challenges the purpose of business. All too often the approach to business practices has been one-dimensional, lacking in richness and depth. This goes for both the cheerleaders and the critics of the current business practices. In these times, it is important to be able to view the world in different shades – one of possibilities, rather than […]

A Sample Contents

Here’s a sample of readings drawn from the Texts on this site: We open with some “Socratic Lives” – that of Martin Luther King, Jr., and that gadfly on which King in part modeled himself: Socrates. Each in his way, these thinkers were doers. Challengers of the status quo beliefs, they called for rational consistency and for justice. Each in his way created a situation of what King called “constructive tension,” in which we – as individuals and as “society” – must confront ourselves, and respond to the challenges of consistency and justice. (Warning: Carrying such a message can be […]

"Sartre," by Mitch Francis

Sartre’s Existentialism

This main text here is the lecture Sartre delivered October 29, 1945 to a packed Club Maintenant in Paris. It served also as the basis for the 1946 book, Existentialism and Humanism. I indicate where my commentary ends by using our writer’s avatar where the primary text begins:

Comments & Symbols on Written Work

Items in grey rows fall on the formal/mechanics side of the spectrum of evaluation. They refer to criteria such as length requirements, spelling, and grammar. Items in green rows fall on the content/conceptual side, and include criteria for assessing the articulation of ideas, the evaluation of evidence, and the composition and presentation of arguments. links to help pages. This list is worth some attention prior to paper-writing, as a guide to common issues to keep in mind.