Readings: Issue #2

Sep 21 2019

In a post ominously titled “A Middle East One Step Closer to Its ‘1914 Moment’,” the International Crisis Group does a good job of sizing up the implications of the attack on Saudi oil facilities. 

The New York Times Magazine interviews Ram Dass, author of the 1971 pop-eastern-philosophy classic Be Here Now, about the ego, the soul, and death—including his own eventual death, which he says is not a very big deal since “the soul is infinite.” 

In Prospect Magazine, Ray Monk, a philosopher and Wittgenstein’s biographer, argues that the landscape of modern philosophy might be quite different had it not been for the premature death of the philosopher R.G. Collingwood in 1943—a death that left Gilbert Ryle, a fervent champion of analytic philosophy, with unrivaled power in the British philosophy establishment. (Monk doesn’t get into this, but Ryle became Daniel Dennett’s mentor. And, though Dennett’s writings on the mind-body problem don’t echo his mentor’s writings to the point of saying that consciousness doesn’t exist, I’ve always had trouble seeing the difference between what Dennett does say about consciousness and saying that it doesn’t exist. Some other observers have had the same reaction. Maybe that helps account for the old joke about Dennett’s book Consciousness Explained—that it should have been called Consciousness Explained Away. In any event, Ryle’s book The Concept of Mind was basically an overt attempt to explain consciousness away; he coined the term “ghost in the machine” as a dismissive label.)

If you’ve been waiting for an entertaining writer to spend a whole article playfully ridiculing Silicon Valley startups that are in the psychological therapy business, your ship has come in. Nellie Bowles does the honors in the New York Times. 

What I did this summer: During the newsletter’s six-week summer break, as its name was slowly morphing from Mindful Resistance to Nonzero, I had conversations with some interesting people, including: Political scientist Francis Fukuyama on his book Identity; Israeli scholar and politician Yael Tamir on her book Why Nationalism; Ronald Purser on his book McMindfulness; and, last but certainly not least cosmic, political scientist Alexander Wendt on his book Quantum Mind and Social Science. All appeared on either bloggingheads.tv or meaningoflife.tv, and all can be heard on The Wright Show podcast feed, available at a podcast app near you.
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