Friday, October 25, 2013

Blinded by science

Philosopher-turned-psychologist Joshua Greene, who once though up the famous “trolley problem” and is now at Harvard, has a new book out – Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them. In it he addresses a curious question: if we are wired by evolution to have an aversion to harming others, why can’t we stop fighting along tribal lines? Or can’t we?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The age of unreality

I was looking at a couple of older articles lamenting an apparent loss of touch with reality on a mass scale. They have titles like “The Age of Bubbles,” “Welcome to the Age of Denial,” and the like. I thought for the sake of clarity and precision, they could have used a more technical heading: “Welcome to The Age of Subclinical Delusions.” Or perhaps of generalized “dissociation disorder.” Or just: “Welcome to the Matrix.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why put off till tomorrow the fun you can have today?

Grumpy social critics have long decried a perceived erosion of the famed “Protestant ethic” of old time and its replacement by a culture – or cult – of mindless wallowing in instant gratification. It turns out they needn’t have worried – or, more likely, they have deceptively fretted over an ideologically expedient myth evoked to justify outdated forms of social oppression or regulation. This is the somewhat counterintuitive diagnosis offered by humanities professors Patricia Vieira and Michael Marder in an opinion piece posted on the philosophical blog of the NYT. In its title, they ask the fraught existential and practical question: “What Do We Owe the Future.” Their response, apparently, is that we obsess way too much over such counterproductive concerns.