Have we become unreasonable? In democracies around the world, anxious commentators exhort their fellow citizens to be more open-minded, more willing to engage in good-faith debate. In our era of hyperpolarization, social-media echo chambers and populist demagogues, many have turned to civility as the missing ingredient in our public life.
The best of this week’s philosophical internet from The New York Times, The Atlantic, Philosophy Now, Sam Harris, Medium, The Irish Times and The New York Review of Books.
Various Thoughts on the Occasion of a Comet (1682), nominally dedicated towards taking down erroneous and popular opinions about comets, was a controversial bestseller, and a foundational work for the French Enlightenment. In it, Bayle launches a battery of arguments for the possibility of a virtuous atheist.
Our bloody nature, it can now be argued in the context of modern biology, is ingrained because group-versus-group was a principal driving force that made us what we are. In prehistory, group selection lifted hominids to heights of solidarity, to genius, to enterprise. And to fear.
What is a happy life? It is peacefulness and lasting tranquillity, the sources of which are a great spirit and a steady determination to hold fast to good decisions. How does one arrive at these things?
Only through training do we become able to respond well . . . At the beginning [of our lives] one responds through emotions; at the end, one responds through propriety [learned through ritual]. —Anonymous (Fourth Century BCE) Nature that Emerges from the Decree
To know oneself means, among other things, to know oneself qua non-sage: that is, not as a sophos, but as a philo-sophos, someone on the way toward wisdom.