Psychology

  • 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 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 ...

  • Pyre

    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.

  • Schopenhauer

    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 ...

  • 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.

  • 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 ...

  • 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 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.