Why is Stoicism Having a Cultural Moment?


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Have been reading Seneca this month. This needull takes a look at stoicism in today’s context.

The value for our globalized society of thinking and acting in a manner that emphasizes our similarities and increases our capacity for compassion and justice can hardly be overstated. Solving the problem of climate change, for example, will undoubtedly require us to draw upon and develop these qualities further than ever before. And yet, it seems to many that as a society we are only growing more fractured and detached from one another, focusing on our divergent political views, or our racial and religious differences, or our distinct lifestyle choices (all this notwithstanding our ubiquitous connectedness via the internet).The value for our globalized society of thinking and acting in a manner that emphasizes our similarities and increases our capacity for compassion and justice can hardly be overstated. Solving the problem of climate change, for example, will undoubtedly require us to draw upon and develop these qualities further than ever before. And yet, it seems to many that as a society we are only growing more fractured and detached from one another, focusing on our divergent political views, or our racial and religious differences, or our distinct lifestyle choices (all this notwithstanding our ubiquitous connectedness via the internet).

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Chiara Sulprizio — EIDOLON

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Literary Desire


In this review of Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critiquethe author looks at contemporary literary criticism.

Felski asks what might happen if we looked not “behind the text” but “in front of the text, reflecting on what it unfurls, calls forth, makes possible.” In doing so, she seeks to rehabilitate the validity and importance of what we might call “literary desire”: the force that drives you to reread your favorite book yet again; or to finish that work of genre fiction even when you know the ending; or to press a beloved book awkwardly into a distant acquaintance’s hands in hopes that she, too, will come to love what you love and might one day talk with you about it.

First Things

Painting by Brianna Keeper

Citizen Philosophers


Did you know Brazilians are required to study philosophy?

In Ribeiro’s neighborhood, children play football or do capoeira, pray in Pentecostal Churches or worship African gods. Many are involved with drugs; “every year we lose students to crack,” she tells me. And they study philosophy two hours each week because of a 2008 law that mandates philosophy instruction in all Brazilian high schools. Nine million teenagers now take philosophy classes for three years.

. . .

That’s not surprising, considering that the 2008 law is above all a political project. In 1971 the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985 eliminated philosophy from high schools. Teachers, professors in departments of education, and political activists championed its return, while most academic philosophers were either indifferent or suspicious. The dictatorship seems to have understood philosophy’s potential to create engaged citizens; it replaced philosophy with a course on Moral and Civic Education and one on Brazil’s Social and Political Organization (“to inculcate good manners and patriotic values and to justify the political order of the generals,” one UFBA colleague recalls from his high school days).

The official rationale for the 2008 law is that philosophy “is necessary for the exercise of citizenship.” The law—the world’s largest-scale attempt to bring philosophy into the public sphere—thus represents an experiment in democracy. Among teachers at least, many share Ribeiro’s hope that philosophy will provide a path to greater civic participation and equality. Can it do even more? Can it teach students to question and challenge the foundations of society itself?

Boston Review

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

Entrepreneurship is Metaphysical Labor


Jeff Bezos provides an excellent example of this in his most recent shareholder letter. By focusing Amazon on being a “customer-centered company,” Bezos uses a vague phrase for which the precise specification can be created and re-discovered as long as the company is around. This encourages the most creativity, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship by Amazon employees in every future decision.

Philosophers of metaphysics have straitjacketed their field by insisting that truth comes in only one flavor. All the while, for centuries we’ve had another class of practicing metaphysicians who adopted a partial truth version of events. We’ve called these people entrepreneurs.

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Joseph Kelly — Ribbonfarm

Truth and Beauty in Texas


I recently read this excerpt from “Truth and Beauty” by Robert Flynn in Trinity University Press’ Art at Our Doorstep: San Antonio Writers and Artists.

That was when I first got the notion of being a writer. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We didn’t go in much for writing at the country school I attended. We studied penmanship. But we knew what a writer was. A writer was somebody who was dead. And if he was any good he had been dead a long time. If he was real good, people killed him. They killed him with hemlock. Hemlock was the Greek word for Freshman Composition.

The country school I attended was closed, and we were bused to Chillicothe. Chillicothe, Texas is small. Chillicothe is so small there’s only one Baptist Church. Chillicothe is so small you have to go to Quanah to have a coincidence. For a good coincidence, you have to go to Vernon. Chillicothe was fairly bursting with truth and beauty, and my teacher encouraged me to write something that had an epiphany. For an epiphany, you had to go all the way to Wichita Falls.

Read the full excerpt at Robert Flynn’s website

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In praise of narcissism


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In today’s modern world where selfies and self-help books are in abundance, this needull looks at the moral dimension of narcissism.

Ours is a self-obsessed age. Modern life is an obstacle course littered with people snapping selfies at every corner. Bookshop shelves heave with self-help books.  And yet we publicly chastise the apparently vain and egotistical, outing them for their inability to conceal the self-concern of which we are all secretly guilty.  We prize modesty, humility and self-effacement.  But don’t those qualities also betray a certain discomfort with who we are, an instinct to downplay aspects of ourselves that we might otherwise cherish and seek to share?  The more images we take, the harder it seems to see ourselves as we really are.  And yet, isn’t there also something to be won in the endeavour to attend to ourselves more thoughtfully, making ourselves the subject of our probing enquiry?

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Shahida Bari — TLS

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How Rand made US selfish?


“Capitalism and altruism are incompatible….The choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces.”

~Ayn Rand

You might disagree to what Ayn, one of the most controversial novelist – cum -philosopher of modern times, says but you just can’t deny the power this statement holds. Ayn Rand’s philosophy has influenced not just individuals but nations and made them successful yet selfish. In today’s eye-opening Needull, we read about a clinical psychologist’s analysis of Rand’s influence on bright and young Americans, who in turn influenced US’s policy to turn it into the ‘selfish nation’ it is today.

Only rarely in U.S. history do writers transform us to become a more caring or less caring nation. In the 1850s, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was a strong force in making the United States a more humane nation, one that would abolish slavery of African Americans. A century later, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world, a neo-Dickensian society where healthcare is only for those who can afford it, and where young people are coerced into huge student-loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Full Article Here

Raw Story – Bruce Levine

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