The Stone Philosophy Links The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless. The Stone’s weekly briefing of notable philosophy-related issues and ideas from around the Web. When the mayor of New York, Michael R. Bloomberg, banned the sale of sodas over 16 ounces at many public places last year, many were outraged by what they saw as an infringement on their autonomy. In a review essay at The New York Review of Books, Cass Sunstein points out that these objectors were doing so on grounds laid out by John Stuart Mill in “On Liberty.” Condemned to Be Biased His influence on continental philosophers was enormous, but just how many cognitive scientists could Jean-Paul Sartre have produced? Reading the Unreadable So many books, so little time. Also: Julian Baggini reviews “The Silence of Animals,” John Gray’s new book, in The Financial Times, and Gray is interviewed at the Spectator. At Aeon, Thomas Dixon explores the meaning of tears.
Discourses of Epictetus The Codex Bodleianus of the Discourses of Epictetus. Note the large stain on the manuscript which has made this passage (Book 1. 18. 8-11) partially illegible. The Discourses of Epictetus (Greek: Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί) are a series of extracts of the teachings of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus written down by Arrian c. 108 AD. There were originally eight books, but only four now remain in their entirety, along with a few fragments of the others. In a preface attached to the Discourses, Arrian explains how he came to write them: I neither wrote these Discourses of Epictetus in the way in which a man might write such things; nor did I make them public myself, inasmuch as I declare that I did not even write them. The Discourses are unlikely to be word-for-word transcriptions and are probably written-up versions of Arrian's lecture notes. Manuscript editions The Discourses were first printed (in Greek) by Vettore Trincavelli, at Venice in 1535. English translations Notes
What Wittgenstein Learned from Teaching Elementary School What the philosopher learned from his time in elementary-school classrooms. Ludwig Wittgenstein, who knew how to sully a chalkboard with the best of them. Every philosophy major has at some point had to answer the standard challenge: “What are you going to do, teach?” It’s especially frustrating after you realize that, for someone with a humanist bent and a disinterest in worldlier things, teaching is a pretty good career choice. By the time he decided to teach, Wittgenstein was well on his way to being considered the greatest philosopher alive. At this time in his life—around 1919, when he turned thirty—Wittgenstein wanted badly to transform himself. You remind me of somebody who is looking out through a closed window and cannot explain to himself the strange movements of a passer-by. In 1920, after a year of training, Wittgenstein took up a post at an elementary school in Trattenbach. He cut a strange figure in Trattenbach. Wittgenstein and his pupils in Puchberg, 1923.
Just Do It!: [PL 431] Kant's formulations of the categorical imperative Kant gives four formulations of the Categorical Imperative : The Formula of the Universal Law of Nature : "Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature." The Humanity Formula : "Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end." The Autonomy Formula : "So act that your will can regard itself at the same time as making universal law through its maxims." The Kingdom of Ends Formula : "So act as if you were through your maxims a law-making member of a kingdom of ends." Now, consider the first scenario--the Switch scenario--in the Trolley Problem . Whenever the lives of four people can be saved by flipping a switch and sacrificing the life of one person, I will do so in order to save the lives of the four. This maxim seems to be able to go through the Kantian decision procedure .
Enchiridion of Epictetus The Enchiridion or Manual of Epictetus (Ancient Greek: Ἐγχειρίδιον Ἐπικτήτου, Enkheirídion Epiktḗtou) is a short manual of Stoic ethical advice compiled by Arrian, a 2nd-century disciple of the Greek philosopher Epictetus. Although the content is similar to the Discourses of Epictetus, it is not a summary of the Discourses but rather a compilation of practical precepts. Eschewing metaphysics, Arrian focused his attention on Epictetus's work applying philosophy in daily life. The primary theme is that one should accept what happens: What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgments about the things. For example, "death is nothing dreadful (or else it would have appeared dreadful to Socrates) However, "some things are up to us and some are not up to us" and we must act accordingly, taking responsibility for planning and enacting what we can with virtue without becoming upset or disheartened by obstacles and reverses beyond our control. English translations
Roger Scruton – A culture of fake originality A high culture is the self-consciousness of a society. It contains the works of art, literature, scholarship and philosophy that establish a shared frame of reference among educated people. High culture is a precarious achievement, and endures only if it is underpinned by a sense of tradition, and by a broad endorsement of the surrounding social norms. When those things evaporate, as inevitably happens, high culture is superseded by a culture of fakes. Faking depends on a measure of complicity between the perpetrator and the victim, who together conspire to believe what they don’t believe and to feel what they are incapable of feeling. Anyone can lie. We are interested in high culture because we are interested in the life of the mind, and we entrust the life of the mind to institutions because it is a social benefit. The life of the mind has its intrinsic methods and rewards. The pragmatism of the late American philosopher Richard Rorty is of similar effect. Explore Aeon General Culture
KANTIAN ETHICS German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was an opponent of utilitarianism. Leading 20th century proponent of Kantianism: Professor Elizabeth Anscombe (1920-2001). Basic Summary: Kant, unlike Mill, believed that certain types of actions (including murder, theft, and lying) were absolutely prohibited, even in cases where the action would bring about more happiness than the alternative. For Kantians, there are two questions that we must ask ourselves whenever we decide to act: (i) Can I rationally will that everyone act as I propose to act? Kant’s theory is an example of a deontological moral theory–according to these theories, the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences but on whether they fulfill our duty. Kant believed that there was a supreme principle of morality, and he referred to it as The Categorical Imperative. the following is an exerpt from the notes of Professor Eric Barnes... What is an imperative? How does the categorical imperative work?
Epictetus Philosophy, Epictetus taught, is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control; we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Life Epictetus was born c. 55 AD, presumably at Hierapolis, Phrygia. The name his parents gave him is unknown; the word epíktetos (ἐπίκτητος) in Greek simply means "acquired." Early in life, Epictetus acquired a passion for philosophy, and with the permission of his wealthy owner, he studied Stoic philosophy under Musonius Rufus, which allowed him to rise in respectability as he grew more educated. He somehow became crippled, with Origen stating that his leg was deliberately broken by his master, and Simplicius stating that he had been lame from childhood. Roman-era ruins at Nicopolis Thought
Philosopher Martha Nussbaum on How to Live with Our Human Fragility by Maria Popova “To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control.” In 1988, Bill Moyers produced a series of intelligent, inspiring, provocative conversations with a diverse set of cultural icons, ranging from Isaac Asimov to Noam Chomsky to Chinua Achebe. It was unlike any public discourse to have ever graced the national television airwaves before. The following year, the interviews were transcribed and collected in the magnificent tome Bill Moyers: A World of Ideas (public library). Martha Nussbaum Moyers begins by framing Nussbaum’s singular approach to philosophy and, by extension, to the art of living: MOYERS: The common perception of a philosopher is of a thinker of abstract thoughts. Being a human means accepting promises from other people and trusting that other people will be good to you. Illustration by Alice and Martin Provensen from 'The Iliad and the Odyssey: A Giant Golden Book.'