What We Are Reading Today: What Is Political Philosophy?

What We Are Reading Today: What Is Political Philosophy?
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Updated 06 May 2020

What We Are Reading Today: What Is Political Philosophy?

What We Are Reading Today: What Is Political Philosophy?

Author: Charles Larmore

What is political Philosophy? What are its fundamental problems? And how should it be distinguished from moral philosophy? In this book, Charles Larmore redefines the distinctive aims of political philosophy, reformulating in this light the basis of a liberal understanding of politics.
Because political life is characterized by deep and enduring conflict between rival interests and differing moral ideals, the core problems of political philosophy are the regulation of conflict and the conditions under which the members of society may thus be made subject to political authority. We cannot assume that reason will lead to unanimity about these matters because individuals hold different moral convictions. Larmore therefore analyzes the concept of reasonable disagreement and investigates the ways we can adjudicate conflicts among people who reasonably disagree about the nature of the human good and the proper basis of political society. Challenging both the classical liberalism of Locke, Kant, and Mill, and more recent theories of political realism proposed by Bernard Williams and others, Larmore argues for a version of political liberalism that is centered on political legitimacy rather than on social justice, and that aims to be well suited to our times rather than universally valid.

 

 


What We Are Reading Today: Everything is Fine

What We Are Reading Today: Everything is Fine
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Updated 17 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Everything is Fine

What We Are Reading Today: Everything is Fine
  • The review added: “Yes, there will be tears reading this story and what is so special about the sharing of this grief is the poignancy, hope, keen insightfulness and awareness that reminds us of what remains of our humanity”

Author: Vince Granata

Vince Granata’s memoir Everything is Fine charts a tragedy in his family that touches on mental illnesses, grief and resilience.
The book covers an important and often overlooked topic: Mental health.
“In this extraordinarily moving memoir about grief, mental illness, and the bonds of family, the writer delves into the tragedy of his mother’s violent death at the hands of his brother who struggled with schizophrenia,” said a review in goodeads.com.
“Written in stark, precise, and beautiful prose, Everything Is Fine is a powerful and reaffirming portrait of loss and forgiveness,” said the review.
It said the book “is heartbreaking, horrifying, and very important. Granata tells his story well. His brother’s descent into schizophrenia is fascinating and scary. Its importance is great in today’s world of misunderstood mental illness.”
The review added: “Yes, there will be tears reading this story and what is so special about the sharing of this grief is the poignancy, hope, keen insightfulness and awareness that reminds us of what remains of our humanity.”

 


What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott

What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott
Updated 16 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott

What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott

Mark Synnott’s The Third Pole transport readers to Mount Everest during the 2019 climbing season as he searches for the remains of Sandy Irvine that may help prove the British summited Everest in the 1920s.

This was an interesting look into Synnott’s quest to find the body of Irvine who was lost on Everest in 1924.

A mountaineer and rock climber himself, Synnott skillfully describes early 20th century exploration, then dives into a story about Everest that merges mystery, adventure and history into a single tragic bundle.

Synnott writes a compelling story that combines the 2019 season on Everest, historical attempts to climb Mt. Everest, and mountaineering culture as a whole.

He “describes horror stories about frostbite and strokes (blood clots are more likely at high altitudes) and oxygen tanks that hit empty at the worst possible moment,” Edward Dolnick said in a review for The New York Times.

Synnott “knows how to keep readers turning the pages, and they will speed their way to his mystery’s resolution. But any Everest story today has an unavoidable dark side.” said Dolnick.


What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson

What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson
Updated 15 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson

What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson

Robin Hanson in the “The Age of Em” thinks that robots may one day rule the world.

Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or “ems.” 

Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human.

Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times: An army of workers is at your disposal. When they can be made cheaply, within perhaps a century, ems will displace humans in most jobs. 

Applying decades of expertise in physics, computer science, and economics, Hanson uses standard theories to paint a detailed picture of a world dominated by ems.

Ems make us question common assumptions of moral progress, because they reject many of the values we hold dear.

This book shows you just how strange your descendants may be, though ems are no stranger than we would appear.  To most ems, it seems good to be an em.


What We Are Reading Today: The Elephant in the Brain

What We Are Reading Today: The Elephant in the Brain
Updated 14 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Elephant in the Brain

What We Are Reading Today: The Elephant in the Brain

Edited by Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson

In “The Elephant in the Brain,” Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson argue that human beings are primates that are political animals. Our brains, therefore, are designed not just to hunt and gather, but also to help us get ahead socially, often via deception and self-deception. 

But while we may be self-interested schemers, we benefit by pretending otherwise. The less we know about our ugly motives, the better — and thus we don’t like to talk or even think about our selfishness. This is “the elephant in the brain.” 

Such an introspective taboo makes it hard for us to think clearly about our nature and the explanations for our behavior. This book confronts our hidden motives directly and tracks down the darker, unexamined corners of our psyches and blast them with floodlights.

Our unconscious motives drive more than just our private behavior; they also infect our venerated social institutions. You won’t see yourself — or the world — the same after confronting the elephant in the brain.


What We Are Reading Today: The Knowledge Illusion

What We Are Reading Today: The Knowledge Illusion
Updated 13 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Knowledge Illusion

What We Are Reading Today: The Knowledge Illusion

Edited by Steven Sloman & Philip Fernbach

In “The Knowledge Illusion,” cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach argue that we survive and thrive despite our mental shortcomings because we live in a rich community of knowledge. The key to our intelligence lies in things around us. We’re constantly drawing on information and expertise stored outside our heads.

The human mind is both brilliant and pathetic. We have mastered fire, created democratic institutions, stood on the moon, and sequenced our genome. 

And yet each of us is error prone, sometimes irrational, and often ignorant. The fundamentally communal nature of intelligence and knowledge explains why we often assume we know more than we really do, why political opinions and false beliefs are so hard to change, and why individually oriented approaches to education and management frequently fail. But our collaborative minds also enable us to do amazing things. 

This book contends that true genius can be found in the ways we create intelligence using the world around us.