Tag: philosophy

  • Sagan’s Cosmos on the Scientific Method and Uncomfortable Ideas

    I’m currently watching Carl Sagan’s excellent¬†Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. I feel compelled to post the following quote from episode four, Heaven and Hell, as it stood out for its¬†elegant argument for the strength of scientific ideas and for not rejecting uncomfortable (if incorrect) ideas: There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong. That’s all…

  • Strangers and Friends: A Shared History and Less Graciousness

    Ryan Holiday asks a very good question: why do we extend patience and tolerance to strangers, while simultaneously treating those closest to us less graciously? It’s an interesting question with some equally interesting possible answers (is it a subconscious and inefficient way of attempting to ease our daily lives by telling those we spend the…

  • Together, Unconscious: We All Sleep

    One constant that connects us all in some way is that–at the end of our day–we lie down and slowly slip into a state of reduced or absent consciousness and become at the mercy of our fellow man. Every day we fall asleep: we have done so for millions of years and will continue to…

  • Our Self-Centered ‘Default’ Worldview: DFW’s Commencement Address

    Recent talk of the correspondence bias (here) reminded me of possibly the best commencement speech that I’ve not yet written about (and I’ve written about quite a few): David Foster Wallace’s commencement address to the graduates of Kenyon College in 2005. The speech, often cited as Wallace’s only public talk concerning his worldview,¬†was adapted following…

  • First We Believe, Then We Evaluate

    When presented with a piece of information for the first time, do we first understand the message before carefully evaluating its truthfulness and deciding whether to believe it, or do we¬†instead immediately and automatically believe everything we read? In an article that traces the history of this question (Descartes argued that “understanding and believing are…

  • The Source of Happiness

    When, after twenty years of marriage, Laura Munson’s husband told her “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.“, she chose to not believe him. Not because it didn’t hurt or that she wasn’t taking it personally, but because this wasn’t about her — it was about unmet expectations. In yet another…

  • The Virtues of Rationality

    The name Eliezer Yudkowsky immediately conjours in my mind the word rationality (thanks to his addictive piece of fan fiction,¬†Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality). On a recent visit to his site, this connection has now be strengthened after I saw his excellent essay on¬†the twelve virtues of rationality: Curiosity: A burning itch to…

  • Understanding Wisdom

    In a review of Stephen Hall’s Wisdom, Bookslut’s Jessa Crispin asks ‘Can we understand wisdom?’ and looks at the evidence for and against. Wisdom is not the same as knowledge, and so it seems odd it has attracted the attention of science. There is such a thing as “wisdom studies” now, and in his book…

  • Facebook‚Äôs ‚ÄėLike‚Äô and Conspicuous Consumption

    Wondering why we freely and often make our tastes public (specifically, our brand preferences through Facebook’s ‘Like’ mechanism), Nicolas Baumard discusses how we purchase goods to display our good taste: In a way, Facebook can be seen as a handy device to send a lot of very precise signals about your opinion and your values!…

  • On Being Wrong: Estimating Our Beliefs

    Following the forced retirement of Helen Thomas following her controversial comments on Israel and Palestine, Felix Salmon discusses how being wrong–and more importantly, the willingness to be wrong–is an admirable trait that should be applauded. In discussing this, Salmon points to a conversation between Tyler Cowen and Wil Wilkinson, where Cowen proposes: Take whatever your…