Philosophy In The News, Weekly: December 15 to 21, 2018

Child's Dream. Pantomime, Ball Room, Christmas Tree. Hand-colored albumen silver print by Phiz. | The J. Paul Getty Museum

The best of the philosophical internet featuring enfant terrible Michel Houellebecq on Trump (He’s an “appalling clown for a leader,” but “good news for the rest of the world.”); a late-night philosophy festival spreading around the world; a provocative op-ed on human extinction (nah, it ain’t that bad, get over yourself, you hominid); and the growing popularity of Unabomber philosophy.

News

“President Trump seems to me to be one of the best American presidents I’ve ever seen. On the personal level, he is, of course, pretty repulsive.” French Writer Michel Houellebecq lauds Trump for heralding the end of American imperialism. “This isn’t necessarily bad news for Americans.” | Harper’s Magazine

“It’s time to let go of the fantasy that engineers can do our politics for us, and that all we need to do to change the world is to voice our desires in the public forums they build.” On the many ways the internet undermines democracy. | Harper’s Magazine

Identical twin comedians known as The Lucas Brothers inject a good dose of philosophy into their routines. They recommend five philosophers they believe are most relevant today. | PBS

“The national conversation around higher education is shifting, raising doubts about whether the liberal arts—as we have come to know them—are built to survive a tech-hungry economy.” On how some legislators are trying to scrap the “Wisconsin Idea,” a long-standing educational tenet in the state that upholds the liberal arts as a “public good” in the “search for truth.” | The Atlantic

A late-night philosophy festival that started in dozens of cities around the world came to New York in 2015 and is now expanding to other American cities. | The New York Times

“People are fascinated by philosophy, but they’re also intimidated by it because it’s perceived as complex and esoteric. Our whole mission is to demystify it. Our view is that everybody can appreciate philosophy.” On how Wireless Philosophy (Wi-Phi), a popular provider of free philosophy education, has exceeded expectations. |Northern Illinois University Newsroom

“The first court case of its kind in the U.K. could determine if ethical veganism will be granted the same legal rights as religion.” Is veganism a philosophical or religious belief? |Vice

Ideas

“Human beings are destroying large parts of the inhabitable earth and causing unimaginable suffering to many of the animals that inhabit it.” Would human extinction be a tragedy? asks philosopher Todd May in a thought-provoking op-ed piece. “It would be a tragedy and it might just be a good thing,” he responds. |The New York Times

“May doesn’t actually treat people as members of the animal community – he treats us as independent of the animal community, which is an odd position to take if you’re going to analyze human interests as equivalent to that of animals.” Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro fires back. |The Daily Wire

“The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race… In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people.” A few lines from Industrial Society and Its Future by Ted Kaczynski, otherwise known as the Unabomber, who “has become an unlikely prophet to a new generation of acolytes.” |New York Magazine – Intelligencer

“We say ‘It’s the thought that counts’ – but too often, gift giving is thoughtless.” A philosopher on the art of holiday gift giving. |News Wise

Books

“People of North America, may the example of all those nations that have preceded you, and especially that of your motherland, instruct you. Beware of the affluence of gold that brings with it the corruption of morals and the scorn of laws.” In a new book, Humanities Professor Andrew S. Curran discusses why Enlightenment philosopher Denis Diderot was fascinated by the “American insurgents.”|The Guardian

Claude Rawson on the fertile mind of Lionel Trilling. | The Times Literary Supplement

“Philosophy can awaken and extend a child’s sense of astonishment. A deep-rooted sense of amazement and awe in a child can give rise to a lifelong passion for learning and inspire them to set out on great thought-adventures.” A new book for children philosophers. | The Irish Times