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Monday, March 7, 2016

Why Are So Many Smart People Such Idiots About Philosophy?, by Olivia Goldhill, Quartz

It’s shocking that such brilliant scientists could be quite so ignorant, but unfortunately their views on philosophy are not uncommon. Unlike many other academic subjects (mathematics and history, for example), where non-experts have some vague sense of the field’s practices, there seems to be widespread confusion about what philosophy entails.

In Nye’s case, his misconceptions are too large and many to show why each and every one is flawed. But several of his comments in the video speak to broader confusions about philosophy. So let’s clear up some of those.

Welcome To The Land That No Country Wants, by Jack Shenker, The Guardian

There were two problems with Heaton’s argument. First, territories and borders can be delicate and volatile things, and tampering with them is rarely without unforeseen consequences. As Heaton learned from the public response to his self-declared kingdom, there is no neutral or harmless way to “claim” a state, no matter how far away from anywhere else it appears to be. Second, Heaton was not the first well-intentioned, starry-eyed eccentric to travel all the way to Bir Tawil and plant a flag. Someone else got there first, and that someone was me.

London, City Of Pleasure, by Rowan Moore, The Guardian

Slow Burn City describes London in the early 21st century, the global city above all others, whose land and homes are tradeable commodities on international markets, a transit lounge and stopping-off point for the world’s migrant populations, all to an extent greater than anywhere else. It is dazzling and exciting but also struggles to deal with the pressures created by its success. It is unable to offer many of its citizens a decent home, and its best qualities are threatened by speculation. Modern London tests to the limit the idea that, when it comes to the growth and organisation of a city, the free market knows best. London is a New Sybaris of entertainment, art, fashion, cuisine and multiple refinements of pleasure, and a place of invention and opportunity where people are desperate to live…

The Triumph Of Atheism, by Jeffrey Tayler, Los Angeles Review of Books

Some readers might wonder, does it matter? If one calls oneself Jewish, or Christian or whatever, what’s the harm in that? If belief were truly a personal matter, not much. But with evangelicals still accounting for a quarter of all Americans, and generally voting as a bloc, the electoral implications of the rise of the Nones are clear. Faith skews political discourse to the right. Rousing nonbelievers to come clean about their views and cast ballots accordingly would change the political landscape in the United States, and help settle controversial issues such as women’s reproductive rights, right-to-die legislation, and, of course, the teaching of evolution by natural selection in schools.

Those are all battles progressives need to fight and win. Silverman’s Fighting God will provide much needed succor to the hitherto too-timid secularist rank and file.

Everything Must Go, by Kasia Juno