- A Buddhist View of Addiction
In this essay, I refer to drugs – meaning drugs of all kinds, anything we might become habituated to and that we enjoy to the degree of dependency. It seems that drugs are widely misunderstood. They have a very long history. People of all kinds, and in all times, need something to make their lives ...
- A Philosophical Approach to Routines can Illuminate Who We Really Are
There are hundreds of things we do – repeatedly, routinely – every day. We wake up, check our phones, eat our meals, brush our teeth, do our jobs, satisfy our addictions. In recent years, such habitual actions have become an arena for self-improvement: bookshelves are saturated with bestsellers about ‘life hacks’, ‘life design’ and how ...
- Alan Watts – The Trickster Guru?
I have often thought of writing a novel, similar to Thomas Mann’s “Confessions of Felix Krull,” which would be the life story of a charlatan making out as a master guru – either initiated in Tibet or appearing as the reincarnation of Nagarjuna, Padmasambhava, or some other great historical sage of the Orient.
- Attention is Not a Resource but a Way of Being Alive to the World
However, conceiving of attention as a resource misses the fact that attention is not just useful. It’s more fundamental than that: attention is what joins us with the outside world. ‘Instrumentally’ attending is important, sure. But we also have the capacity to attend in a more ‘exploratory’ way: to be truly open to whatever we ...
- ‘Know thyself’ is not just silly advice: it’s actively dangerous
The problem is this: if we change while our self-image remains the same, then there will be a deep abyss between who we are and who we think we are.
- Being ‘interesting’ is Not an Objective Feature of the World
What does it mean for an experience to be interesting? First, to say that something is interesting is to describe what the experience feels like to the person undergoing it. This is the phenomenological quality of the experience. When we study the phenomenology of something, we examine what it feels like, from the inside, to ...
- Between Gods and Animals: Becoming Human in the Gilgamesh Epic
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a Babylonian poem composed in ancient Iraq, millennia before Homer. It tells the story of Gilgamesh, king of the city of Uruk. To curb his restless and destructive energy, the gods create a friend for him, Enkidu, who grows up among the animals of the steppe. When Gilgamesh hears about ...
- Can you step in the same river twice? Wittgenstein v Heraclitus
Wittgenstein thinks that we can get clearer about such disputes by likening the things that people say to moves in a game. Just as every move in a game of chess alters the state of play, so does every conversational move alter the state of play in what he calls the language-game.
- Dark Night of the Soul
The dark night of the soul
comes just before revelation.
When everything is lost,
and all seems darkness,
then comes the new life
and all that is needed.
- Descartes was Wrong: ‘A Person is a Person through Other Persons’
According to Ubuntu philosophy, which has its origins in ancient Africa, a newborn baby is not a person. People are born without ‘ena’, or selfhood, and instead must acquire it through interactions and experiences over time. So the ‘self’/‘other’ distinction that’s axiomatic in Western philosophy is much blurrier in Ubuntu thought. As the Kenyan-born philosopher ...
- Diseases of Despair
This article from Wikipedia is an interesting read about diseases of despair, of which I have suffered through myself in the past.
- Do you have a Self-Actualised Personality? Maslow Revisited
Abraham Maslow was the 20th-century American psychologist best-known for explaining motivation through his hierarchy of needs, which he represented in a pyramid. At the base, our physiological needs include food, water, warmth and rest. Moving up the ladder, Maslow mentions safety, love, and self-esteem and accomplishment. But after all those have been satisfied, the motivating ...
- Does Microdosing Improve your Mood and Performance? Here’s what the Research Says
Our study, published today in PLOS One, tracked the experience of 98 users over a longer period – six weeks – to systematically measure any psychological changes.
Overall, the participants reported both positive and negative effects from microdosing, including improved attention and mental health; but also more neuroticism.
- Dread & Freedom
Innocence is ignorance. In his innocence man is not determined as spirit but is soulishly determined in immediate unity with his natural condition. Spirit is dreaming in man. This view is in perfect accord with that of the Bible, and by refusing to ascribe to man in the state of innocence a knowledge of the ...
- Everything the State Says is a Lie, and Everything it has it has Stolen
At this point I can no longer avoid giving a first, provisional statement of my own hypothesis concerning the origin of the “bad conscience”: it may sound rather strange and needs to be pondered, lived with, and slept on for a long time. I regard the bad conscience as the serious illness that man was ...
- Existential Escapism
Video game addiction is a known issue around the world, with the advent of broadband technology in the 2000s it has evolved into a different level of addiction which involves the creation of an avatar and living a ‘second life’ through MMORPGs massive multiplayer online role playing games. World of Warcraft has the largest MMO ...
- Having a sense of Meaning in life is Good for you — So how do you get one?
The pursuit of happiness and health is a popular endeavour, as the preponderance of self-help books would attest.
Yet it is also fraught. Despite ample advice from experts, individuals regularly engage in activities that may only have short-term benefit for well-being, or even backfire.
The search for the heart of well-being – that is, a nucleus from ...
- Herd Mentality
Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! “Have courage to use ...
- How do we Pry Apart the True and Compelling from the False and Toxic?
When false and malicious speech roils the body politic, when racism and violence surge, the right and role of freedom of speech in society comes into crisis. People rightly begin to wonder what are the limits, what should be the rules. It is a complicated issue, and resolving it requires care about the exact problems ...
- How Mengzi came up with something better than the Golden Rule
That which people are capable of without learning is their genuine capability. That which they know without pondering is their genuine knowledge. Among babes in arms there are none that do not know to love their parents. When they grow older, there are none that do not know to revere their elder brothers. Treating one’s ...
- How the Dualism of Descartes Ruined our Mental Health
Toward the end of the Renaissance period, a radical epistemological and metaphysical shift overcame the Western psyche. The advances of Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei and Francis Bacon posed a serious problem for Christian dogma and its dominion over the natural world. Following Bacon’s arguments, the natural world was now to be understood solely in terms ...
- I Believe Because it is Absurd
This paradoxical expression makes a routine appearance in philosophical evaluations of the rationality of religious belief, in contemporary polemics addressed to an imagined opposition between science and religion, and in virtually every reputable dictionary of quotations.
- I Heart Huckabees
Existential psychotherapy is a philosophical method of therapy that operates on the belief that inner conflict within a person is due to that individual’s confrontation with the givens of existence.
- Ibn Tufayl and the Story of the Feral Child of Philosophy
Ibn Tufayl, a 12th-century Andalusian, fashioned the feral child in philosophy. His story Hayy ibn Yaqzan is the tale of a child raised by a doe on an unnamed Indian Ocean island. Hayy ibn Yaqzan (literally ‘Living Son of Awakeness’) reaches a state of perfect, ecstatic understanding of the world. A meditation on the possibilities ...
- Is Consciousness a Battle between your Beliefs and Perceptions?
Imagine you’re at a magic show, in which the performer suddenly vanishes. Of course, you ultimately know that the person is probably just hiding somewhere. Yet it continues to look as if the person has disappeared. We can’t reason away that appearance, no matter what logic dictates. Why are our conscious experiences so stubborn?
- Life Beyond Logic
The rational is not thinkable without its other, the non-rational, and it never appears in reality without it. The only question is, in what form the other appears, how it remains in spite of all, and how it is to be grasped.
It is appropriate for philosophizing to strive to absorb the non-rational and counter-rational, to ...
- Man’s Search for Meaning
“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.”
- Meditation & The Dark Night
The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG.
- Modern Technology is akin to the Metaphysics of Vedanta
You might think of the atma like this. Imagine you’re watching a film in the cinema. It’s a thriller, and you’re anxious about the lead character, trapped in a room. Suddenly, the door in the movie crashes open and there stands… You jump, as if startled. But what is the real threat to you, other ...
- Our Illusory Sense of Agency Has a Deeply Important Social Purpose
Contrary to what many people believe, I think agency is only relevant to what happens after we act – when we try to justify and explain ourselves to each other.
- Philosophy Primary Sources
Some primary sources from the history of philosophy. This was the first of two posts that inspired what is now the Bookshelf.
- Philosophy Primary Sources II
This post will serve as Part II of Philosophy Primary Sources and a supplement to Primary Sources & Encyclopedias (check out the Links section for even more research sources). There are certain books that are essential to an education about the human condition of which I believe should be available for free and with easy access ...
- Pragmatism & Postmodernism
What is it for something to be true? One might think that the answer is obvious. A true belief gets reality right: our words correspond to objects and relations in the world. But making sense of that idea involves one in ever more difficult workarounds to intractable problems.
- Psychiatry as Pseudoscience
There are no known biological causes for any of the psychiatric disorders apart from dementia and some rare chromosomal disorders. Consequently, there are no biological tests such as blood tests or brain scans that can be used to provide independent objective data in support of any psychiatric diagnosis.
- Psychology’s Five Revelations for Finding Your True Calling
Another finding is that, when you invest enough effort, you might find that your work becomes your passion. It’s all very well reading about the benefits of having a passion or calling in life but, if you haven’t got one, where to find it? Duckworth says it’s a mistake to think that in a moment ...
When you opened your eyes on the world for the first time as a child,
How brilliant the colors were, what a jewel the sun was,
What marvel the stars, how incredibly alive the trees were…
- Reality and the Imagination
In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Yuval Noah Harari about meditation, the need for stories, the power of technology to erase the boundary between fact and fiction, wealth inequality, the problem of finding meaning in a world without work, religion as a virtual reality game, the difference between pain ...
- Religion is About Emotion Regulation, and It’s Very Good at It
Religion is real consolation in the same way that music is real consolation. No one thinks that the pleasure of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute is ‘false pleasure’ because singing flutes don’t really exist. It doesn’t need to correspond to reality.
A key focus of Schopenhauer was his investigation of individual motivation. Before Schopenhauer, Hegel had popularized the concept of Zeitgeist, the idea that society consisted of a collective consciousness that moved in a distinct direction, dictating the actions of its members. Schopenhauer, a reader of both Kant and Hegel, criticized their logical optimism and the belief that individual ...
- Sooner or later we all face death. Will a sense of meaning help us?
‘Despite all our medical advances,’ my friend Jason used to quip, ‘the mortality rate has remained constant – one per person.’
- The Humanitarian Crisis of Deaths of Despair
We can see why despair, as a condition opposed to hope and hopefulness, can be such a debilitating state of mind. Despair undermines agency. The despairing person may conceive of plans and goals but feel that he is so unlikely to achieve them that they are not worth the investment of time and energy, or ...
- The Meaning to Life? A Darwinian Existentialist has his Answers
A century after Darwin, Jean-Paul Sartre said that we are condemned to freedom, and I think he is right. Even if God does exist, He or She is irrelevant. The choices are ours.
- The Problem of Addiction
In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Sally Satel about addiction. They discuss whether addiction should be considered a disease, the opiate epidemic in the U.S., the unique danger of fentanyl, the politicization of medicine, PTSD, and other topics.
- The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories
The Bible is a series of books written, edited and assembled over thousands of years. It contains the most influential stories of mankind. Knowledge of those stories is essential to a deep understanding of Western culture, which is in turn vital to proper psychological health (as human beings are cultural animals) and societal stability. These ...
- The Psychology of Video Games
Video games are big business. They can be addicting. They are available almost anywhere you go and are appealing to people of all ages. They can eat up our time, cost us money, even kill our relationships. But it’s not all bad! This book will show that rather than being a waste of time, video ...
- The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism
The summaries of the relation to nihilism of Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Feuerbach, and Stirner, a nearly forgotten figure in intellectual history, are all perspicacious. Even the chapters on Nietzsche, about whom volumes are written these days, provide new insights. The brief section on the problem of nihilism for Japan is unprecedented in the English literature, ...
- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
In any community of scientists, Kuhn states, there are some individuals who are bolder than most. These scientists, judging that a crisis exists, embark on what Kuhn calls revolutionary science, exploring alternatives to long-held, obvious-seeming assumptions. Occasionally this generates a rival to the established framework of thought.
- The Sunset Limited
Black feels that he can persuade White from committing suicide. With Black stopping White right before he was about to kill himself, Black feels that this is destiny.
- The Varieties of Religious Experience
The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature is a book by Harvard University psychologist and philosopher William James (1842 – 1910). James was an American philosopher and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States.
- To Avoid Moral Failure, Don’t See People as Sherlock Does
Holmes’s failure to relate is not just a matter of his actions or his words (though sometimes it is also that), but what really rubs us up the wrong way is that Holmes observes us all as objects to be studied, predicted and managed. He doesn’t relate to us as human beings.
- To Boost your Self-esteem, Write about Chapters of your Life
In truth, so much of what happens to us in life is random – we are pawns at the mercy of Lady Luck. To take ownership of our experiences and exert a feeling of control over our future, we tell stories about ourselves that weave meaning and continuity into our personal identity.
- Two Candid Discussions of Mental Wellbeing
Two philosophers talk about their personal experiences with depression and suicidal ideation.
- We all know that we will die, so why do we struggle to believe it?
Existential shock emerges from a radical alteration of the inside view, where the primal confusion lifts so that the person directly experiences herself as insubstantial. I see the truth of no-self, not merely as an idea, but in an impression. I see that my ego is an imposter, masquerading as a permanent self. The most ...
- What do you really believe?
Most of us have views on politics, current events, religion, society, morality and sport, and we spend a lot of time expressing these views, whether in conversation or on social media. We argue for our positions, and get annoyed if they are challenged. Why do we do this? The obvious answer is that we believe ...
- What Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy can offer in the Anthropocene
With our collapsing democracies and imploding biosphere, it’s no wonder that people despair. The Austrian psychoanalyst and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl presciently described such sentiments in his book Man’s Search for Meaning (1946). He wrote of something that ‘so many patients complain today, namely, the feeling of the total and ultimate meaninglessness of their ...
- White Noise
All the others. The others who spend their lives believing that we still believe. It is our task in the world to believe things no one else takes seriously. To abandon such beliefs completely, the human race would die. This is why we are here. A tiny minority. To embody old things, old beliefs. The devil, the ...
- Why do you believe what you do? Run some diagnostics on it
Many of the beliefs that play a fundamental role in our worldview are largely the result of the communities in which we’ve been immersed. Religious parents tend to beget religious children, liberal educational institutions tend to produce liberal graduates, blue states stay mostly blue, and red ones stay mostly red. Of course, some people, through ...
- Why the Hell do you Blog?
I may be biased, but I think bloggers are a very brave lot. Knowing that anyone in the world with an Internet connection could potentially be watching as they share everything imaginable. Their political leanings, life philosophies, deepest depressions, and their intimate moments from sex to childbirth to mortality.