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”

Information is Overrated

It’s said that we live in the Information Age. Yet what is the purpose of information? I see at least three possibilities… First, information can make our decision more effective, especially regarding threats and opportunities. Is that sound in the forest a predator from which I should flee? Is this fruit edible? Does this potentialContinue reading “Information is Overrated”

Counter-Cultural Contemplation

We live in a culture that glorifies action, busy-ness, and constant activity. “Don’t just stand there, do something.” “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” “Pull your head out of the clouds.” “Get real.” “Think globally, act locally.” “Knowledge is power.” This attitude has even bled into philosophy, that most abstract of humanistic disciplines. It wasContinue reading “Counter-Cultural Contemplation”

Effective Altruism and Ineffective Egoism

The collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire at FTX and Alameda Research has cast a shadow over the “effective altruism” movement, of which he was a major financer. Ironically, I would argue that in the end he failed at altruism because he was an ineffective egoist! Consider the utter mess he’s made of his life:Continue reading “Effective Altruism and Ineffective Egoism”

The Mathematics of Freedom

While reading about the recent protests in China against the government’s Zero Covid policy (and, more generally, the totalitarian surveillance state established by the Chinese Communist Party), I was reminded of a fascinating quote from logician Kurt Gödel extending the results of his Incompleteness Theorem to matters of society and governance: A completely unfree societyContinue reading “The Mathematics of Freedom”

How Wise Was Socrates?

Did you know that Socrates’ 2500th birthday will occur in 2032? Lately I’ve been pondering the possibility of writing by then an intellectual biography of Socrates. One of the hard questions about Socrates is why he was so devoted to Alcibiades, the ultra-rich and incredibly handsome bad boy of 5th-century Athens. Friedrich Hölderlin composed theContinue reading “How Wise Was Socrates?”