Aristotle on Human Fulfillment

The more deeply I ponder Aristotle’s conception of eudaimonia (usually translated as “happiness” or more recently sometimes as “flourishing”), the more radical it seems. For instance, we are perfectly comfortable saying things like “that basil plant is much happier since we moved it to the windowsill” or “their daughter is really flourishing in her newContinue reading “Aristotle on Human Fulfillment”

Ways of Life and Lines of Work

Because labor is so central to human existence, throughout history various thinkers have speculated about what the Buddhist eightfold path calls “right livelihood” for those who would seek and practice wisdom. For instance, both the Stoic Musonius Rufus and the Confucian Wu Yubi advocated subsistence farming as a noble line of work. The Taoist sageContinue reading “Ways of Life and Lines of Work”

Much Ado about Nothingness

In pursuit of wisdom, I often explore intellectual traditions I’m not familiar with. Most recently, I’ve been reading a sourcebook of Japanese philosophy, in which I found a fascinating essay by Abe Masao (1915-2006) on the Buddhist concept of emptiness or nothingness. Abe’s foil here is Plato. In Plato’s dialogue Parmenides, Socrates argues that there mustContinue reading “Much Ado about Nothingness”

The Pursuit of Happiness

It’s been said that America’s three greatest contributions to world civilization are jazz, baseball, and the Declaration of Independence. Much as I like the first two, today is a fine day to ponder the third not only because it is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday but also because this blog post is entry number 1776 in theContinue reading “The Pursuit of Happiness”

Philosophy and Grief

Grieving is one of the characteristic activities of human beings. Although it seems that some other species (e.g., members of the corvid family) experience sorrow, grief is a more complex phenomenon. Recently I had occasion to read a fine book on the topic by Michael Cholbi, entitled Grief: A Philosophical Guide. Here are the essentials ofContinue reading “Philosophy and Grief”

Aristotle on States of Character

One of the distinctive features of Aristotle’s philosophy of human affairs is his analysis of the various states of character, of which he identifies at least four: the corrupted person, the unrestrained person, the self-restrained person, and the good person. I might describe them briefly as follows: Two points here are potentially confusing. First, theseContinue reading “Aristotle on States of Character”

Best Friend Books

It occurs to me that, just as we have circles of friendship, so also we sometimes have circles of influence and affection in the books we read. Certain books and authors are like best friends that we revisit again and again: think of those who cherish the novels of Jane Austen, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the Confessions ofContinue reading “Best Friend Books”

Aristotle on AI

Apparently the world is all agog over a computer program called ChatGPT. It’s a harbinger of yet another emergency disaster crisis! The singularity is near! We’re facing an imminent reality collapse! We won’t be able to tell fake from real, machine from human, false from true! How will we know what information to trust?!? Well,Continue reading “Aristotle on AI”

Metaphysics in Verse II

Among the strangest conceptions of metaphysics is Aristotle’s fanciful (or perhaps deadly serious) hypothesis of the Unmoved Mover. It’s difficult to understand quite what he was getting at, and I’m not about to formulate a scholarly exegesis of the idea. But I did compose a little poem about it: Had I a god, I’m sureContinue reading “Metaphysics in Verse II”

Best Self vs. True Self

As previously mentioned, I am skeptical about the notion of the true self. Recently I’ve done some reading that has reinforced this skepticism. In particular, research by the likes of Roy Baumeister shows that human beings tend to identify with the activities and desires that they think are best (either individually or socially) and toContinue reading “Best Self vs. True Self”