In “The Disremembered” Charles Leadbeater claims that “[p]hilosophy is not of much practical use with most illnesses but in the case of dementia it provides insights about selfhood and identity that can help us make sense of the condition and our own reactions to it.” There are two broad philosophical explanations of self-identity. There is the mind-based or memory-based explanation of Descartes and Locke. But when mind and memory fade, so does self-identity. But there is another philosophical tradition that can help: “philosophers in this tradition contend that who we are depends not simply on our self-reflective ability to marshal our memories but, crucially, on our relationships with other people and how we are embedded in the world around us.” In other words, beware of being a memory snob.
Month: March 2015
The last person to know everything
Leibniz is often said to be the last person who knew everything. Beyond that, he is mostly remembered for his invention of calculus and for his proof that this is the best of all possible worlds. But, as Marc Bobro explains in “The Optimistic Science of Leibniz,” there is much more to this great genius.
Spinoza: how to be happy (or at least not too sad)
“Interestingly enough, philosophers have long been in the business of offering advice on how to be happy. Or at least not too sad.” Spinoza is one of the great philosophers offering advice on how to be happy: “As Spinoza saw it, people are slaves to their emotions and chained to what they love, such as fame, fortune and other people. This inevitably leads to sadness … .” In Spinoza, Self Help and Agency, Mike LaBossiere explains Spinoza’s advice about how we can free ourselves from our emotions … and then points out “one crushing and obvious problem with Spinoza’s advice.” Along the way he makes quite a few interesting points about free will and determinism.
Are there moral facts? For example, is it a fact that “copying homework assignments is wrong”? Or is this merely an opinion or belief? In “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts,” Justin McBrayer explains that there are moral facts and along the way raises some useful distinctions about facts, values, beliefs, opinions, and the truth … though it’s clear from readers’ comments not everyone agrees. (Also, it’s “ad nauseam,” not “ad nauseum.”)