Moral character: it’s who you are

Nina Strohminger explains why your moral character is the key to your self-identity. “‘Know thyself’ is a flimsy bargain-basement platitude, endlessly recycled but maddeningly empty. It skates the very existential question it pretends to address, the question that obsesses us: what is it to know oneself? The lesson of the identity detector is this: when we dig deep, beneath our memory traces and career ambitions and favourite authors and small talk, we find a constellation of moral capacities. This is what we should cultivate and burnish, if we want people to know who we really are.”

Return to “The Lagoon”

Another review of “The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science,” this one by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, the author of Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away. Goldstein admires Aristotle but also defends Plato: “Plato and Aristotle: What an accident of history that two such contrasting orientations toward the physical world, animated by two such different aesthetic sensibilities, should have been pedagogically entangled with each other. One espies beauty in the elegance of the mathematical proportions he is certain rules the cosmos, the other in the richness of sensed particularities he is certain can be functionally explained. Both orientations would find application in the developed sciences to come … .”

Philosophy is a necessity, not a luxury

What is philosophy good for? Robert Grant provides an excellent explanation of the value of philosophy. “By emphasising clarity, rigour and logical analysis, philosophy teaches students the structure of good arguments, a valuable transferable skill. Studies show philosophy graduates achieve the highest scores in assessments of verbal, analytical and numerical reasoning. Philosophy students make good thinkers. But philosophy is more than useful training in how to think. Its greatest value lies in what it encourages students to think about: the subject matter rather than the method. Philosophy examines the most fundamental concepts we have about what it is to exist as a human in this world: knowledge, truth, meaning, justice, beauty, freedom, consciousness. Our assumptions about these influence all aspect of our lives.”

Has “philosophical superficiality” harmed physics?

John Horgan interviews quantum gravity expert Carlo Rovelli. Can science attain absolute truth? “I have no idea what ‘absolute truth’ means. I think that science is the attitude of those who find funny the people saying they know something is absolute truth. Science is the awareness that our knowledge is constantly uncertain. What I know is that there are plenty of things that science does not understand yet. And science is the best tool found so far for reaching reasonably reliable knowledge.” And what is your opinion of the recent philosophy-bashing by some scientists: “Seriously: I think they are stupid in this.   I have admiration for them in other things, but here they have gone really wrong.  Look: Einstein, Heisenberg, Newton, Bohr…. and many many others of the greatest scientists of all times, much greater than [those who are bashing philosophy], of course, read philosophy, learned from philosophy, and could have never done the great science they did without the input they got from philosophy, as they claimed repeatedly.”