Why study philosophy? Former Oxford University fellow Peter Hacker provides his answer in this article from the Institute of Art and Ideas:
"Philosophy patrols the borders between sense and nonsense ... The study of philosophy cultivates a healthy scepticism about the moral opinions, political arguments and economic reasonings with which we are daily bombarded by ideologues, churchmen, politicians and economists. It teaches one to detect ‘higher forms of nonsense’, to identify humbug, to weed out hypocrisy, and to spot invalid reasoning. It curbs our taste for nonsense, and gives us a nose for it instead. It teaches us not to rush to affirm or deny assertions, but to raise questions about them. Even more importantly, it teaches us to raise questions about questions, to probe for their tacit assumptions and presuppositions, and to challenge these when warranted. In this way it gives us a distance from passion-provoking issues – a degree of detachment that is conducive to reason and reasonableness."
He provides us with an example: "When psychologists and cognitive scientists say that it is your brain that thinks rather than nodding your head and saying, “How interesting! What an important discovery!”, you should pause to wonder what this means. What, you might then ask, is a thoughtful brain, and what is a thoughtless one? Can my brain concentrate on what I am doing, or does it just concentrate on what it is doing? Does my brain hold political opinions? Is it, as Gilbert and Sullivan might ask, a little Conservative or a little Liberal? Can it be opinionated? Narrow-minded? What on earth would an opinionated and narrow-minded brain be? Just ask yourself: if it is your brain that thinks, how does your brain tell you what it thinks? And can you disagree with it? And if you do, how do you tell it that it is mistaken, that what it thinks is false? And can your brain understand what you say to it? Can it speak English? If you continue this line of questioning you will come to realise that the very idea that the brain thinks makes no sense. But, of course, to show why it makes no sense requires a great deal more work." https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-study-philosophy-auid-289
The world's population is now more than half urban, but as you might imagine this is not true uniformly. This cartogram shows where the world's rural populations reside: the greater the distortion, the more people living in rural areas; the darker the green, the greater the proportion of the population that is rural. www.viewsoftheworld.net/?p=5398
For kids interested in the ancient Mediterranean world, Lukeion's summer workshops -- on topics ranging from The Iliad and The Odyssey to food of the ancient world to architecture and archaeology to the art of Greek and Roman warfare to ancient languages and alphabets -- provide an opportunity to learn from the experts. Lukeion workshops run for just four days, June 12-15, for $49 each.. www.lukeion.org/workshops.html
This map shows, by flag, the country from which each U.S. state receives the majority of its imports (by dollar value). Some of the outliers? Saudi oil to refineries in Louisiana. Korean auto parts to the Hyundai plant in Alabama, and German auto parts to the BMW plant in South Carolina. . Irish semiconductors to Intel in Oregon. Irish pharmaceuticals to Eli Lilly in Indiana. i.redd.it/aitl9ub35goy.png
The Cato Institute's Misery Index uses unemployment, inflation, lending rates, and change in real GDP per capita to calculate countries' economic misery. (Only countries for which comparable data are available are included.) The runaway winner as most economically miserable country in 2016 was again Venezuela with 573.4 points, mainly due to hyperinflation. Rounding out the top five most economically miserable countries were Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and Egypt (with scores ranging from the 80s to the 40s). www.cato.org/blog/worlds-most-least-miserable-countries-2016
Permafrost is proving to be not as "perma" as we had thought. Using recently declassified spy satellite images of the former Soviet Union, scientists have been able to document changes to the Siberian tundra. As permafrost melts, it not only releases trapped methane and carbon dioxide, it also enables the growth of trees and shrubs, which absorb, rather than reflect, solar energy and promote further localized warming. Researchers estimate that for every 1 degree Celsius increase in global temperature, an area of permafrost larger than India will be lost. www.iflscience.com/environment/for-every-1c-of-warming-a-part-of-the-permafrost-the-size-of-india-will-melt/all/
By combining NASA satellite imagery with U.S. Census data, a geographer at the University of Cincinnati has created a highly detailed, interactive map of U.S. racial geography. These maps show Chicago, for example (yellow=white, green=African American, purple=Hispanic). www.upi.com/Science_News/2017/04/21/New-digital-map-details-shifting-demographics-in-United-States/5431492799529/ For the interactive version, go to http://sil.uc.edu/webapps/socscape_usa/
The existentialists understood that if they wanted the public to show more interest in the ideas they were trying to explore, they needed to write fewer philosophical treatises and more novels and plays. Drama continues to be an important medium for philosophy. The drone warfare movie Eye in the Sky, for example, engages viewers in thinking through the implications of utilitarian vs. Kantian ethics (e.g., is it okay to drone strike a house where people are assembling for a suicide bombing even if it means killing a little girl selling bread on the street?) as well as key elements of just war theory (who is a legitimate target? what is proportional force?). Older teens and adults who enjoy considering moral philosophy's famous "trolley problem" would appreciate the philosophical dilemmas posed by Eye in the Sky.
This unusual map compares the GDP of the Los Angeles metro area to Africa. Each section of Africa on this map has a nominal GDP equivalent to that of Los Angeles County ($700 billion). The map notes population numbers as well. i.redditmedia.com/Honw58HoDssT5f2HIw7gBL1qVkT3TJTspNJ-knyM5NA.jpg?w=769&s=e386e14e1962b813f502c04b8e48fa4d
This is the last week to see the wonderful "@NatGeo: The Most Popular Instagram Photos" exhibit at the National Geographic Museum (17th & M, near Farragut North). In addition to the photo exhibit, the museum also currently has a hands-on exhibit "Earth Explorers" that teaches kids and adults about techniques National Geographic Explorers employ in the field. Tickets are available online or on site; if you're a National Geographic member or subscriber, there's a discount. http://www.nationalgeographic.org/dc/exhibitions/?period=current Can't get to the museum? You can follow National Geographic on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/natgeo/
Earlier this week, I shared a map showing China's deserts encroaching on the current capital, Beijing. The Chinese government recently announced plans for a secondary "capital" two hours south of Beijing. The newly-created city of Xiongan will be twice the size of NYC, and planners hope many of Beijing's universities and businesses (and their attendant people and traffic) will move to Xiongan.
Beijing was declared the capital of China by the People's Republic in 1949, but Beijing, while always a seat of power, has not always been China's capital. The name Beijing means "northern capital," to distinguish it from Nanjing, which has also been China's capital and means "southern capital." Xi'an (also known as Chang'an and now famous as the home of the Terracotta Army) served as China's capital for longer than any other city, more than 1,000 years. This map shows major historic capitals of China. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4c/Historicalcapitalsofchina_ancient.png/800px-Historicalcapitalsofchina_ancient.png
Why do countries relapse into war? Nearly half of all rebellions and civil wars resume within a decade, usually between the same belligerents. A study conducted on behalf of the UN looked at 109 conflicts since 1970 to identify factors that made it more, and less, likely that the peace will hold. Factors that correlate to keeping the peace: democratic traditions and post-conflict elections within a year, a strong national military, and the presence of UN peacekeepers. Factors that correlate to a resumption of war: presence of non-UN foreign troops, no or delayed elections, fewer than 1 member of the national armed forces per 1000 people, and, interestingly, rapid growth in GDP per capita in the first year of peace. www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/03/29/why-do-countries-relapse-into-war-here-are-three-good-predictors
Cities are one of the most distinctive ways in which peoples have put their marks on the landscape. The oldest city with "skyscrapers" is in central Yemen. Built of mud bricks, the high rises of Shibam are an interesting study in how geography shapes architectural form and function. www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/middle-east/yemen/shibam-mud-skyscraper-yemen/
Desertification (the expanding of deserts) is a major problem for China, primarily in the northern half of the country. Over the weekend, Beijing was hit by an unusual combination of smog and sand that created a thick brown haze and air quality in the "very unhealthy" range. This map shows the proximity of Beijing to China's encroaching deserts. The sand that hung in the air in Beijing this weekend is thought to have originated in the Gobi Desert, the edges of which now begin less than 50 miles from the capital. www.neaspec.org/sites/default/files/dss_5.jpeg
One of the enduring questions posed by philosophers and others is where does our sense of "self" reside? Are we our minds or our bodies? New research by psychologists and neuroscientists using virtual reality avatars finds that the answer shifts over the course of our lives. Prior to a certain point in development, children can't identify with a virtual avatar at all, presumably because their sense of self-in-body is not yet fixed. Older children and adults can identify with a virtual avatar. But when conflicting information about what is happening to their "selves" comes from their virtual avatar vs. their physical body -- for example, a touch or movement forward and back -- adults tend to believe the avatar's input, rather than that of their physical bodies, perhaps suggesting that adults' location of "self" is less fixed in their bodies. www.sciencenews.org/article/out-body-experiments-show-kids-budding-sense-self (How old are *you* in your mind's eye? If you're over 40, chances are the self in your mind's eye is somewhat younger than the one you see in the mirror ;-). )
April 15 is traditionally income tax day in the U.S., but income taxes are only part of the story when it comes to how governments raise revenue. This geo-graphic shows property taxes by state: the darker the red, the higher the tax rate; the larger the hexagon, the higher the median property tax bill (which is the number shown for each state). howmuch.net/articles/home-value-property-tax-rate
If you want to learn more about Antarctica, this is your chance. EdX is offering a new (free) class, "Antarctica: From Geology to Human History," that takes participants on "a virtual field trip to Antarctica, as we go on location to explore the geology and history of the coldest, driest, windiest continent on earth." The class starts, online, tomorrow (4/15) and runs for five weeks. www.edx.org/course/antarctica-geology-human-history-victoriax-ice101x
The equatorial waters of the central Pacific are again getting unusually warm, predicting a return of the aberrant weather patterns known as El Niño this year. This map, a version of which The Wall Street Journal re-published yesterday, shows the anticipated impact of El Niño on commodity markets. solarcycles.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/18augu1.jpg
What can the killing of journalists tell us about the future trajectory of a country's human rights? Based on their analysis of more than 1300 journalist killings between 2002 and 2013, researchers have found that roughly 1/3 of all killings occurred outside conflict zones (e.g., Mexico, Brazil, Bangladesh, Nepal, Egypt) and that the killing of even one journalist outside a conflict zone "can act as a warning of worsening human rights conditions. We find that torture, killings, political imprisonment and disappearances of people generally become more likely in the two years following the killing of a journalist — regardless of who committed the crime. Murdering a journalist generally signals instability and increasing tension, which are followed by increasingly invasive and harsher government behavior. When we account for the killing of journalists in predicting human rights protection more broadly, we can identify countries that are unlikely to improve their human rights records — even when other characteristics, such as democratization or economic development, would suggest that things are getting better." https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/03/28/we-examined-more-than-1300-journalist-killings-between-2002-and-2013-heres-what-we-learned
A banana plantation 177 miles south of the Arctic Circle? Yes. Iceland takes advantage of its geothermal position on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to grow bananas (in a greenhouse heated by volcanic hot springs). Geothermal sources provide 66% of Iceland's energy, including direct heating and 25% of its electricity generation. www.atlasobscura.com/articles/bananas-in-iceland
MAPS IN THE NEWS:
Roughly 13 million working-age American adults now receive federal disability payments, totaling $192 billion per year, which is more than the amount the federal government spends on food stamps, welfare, housing subsidies, and unemployment, combined. This map shows disability rates by county. Of the 136 counties where at least 1 in 6 adults receive disability, 133 are rural; 18 are majority black and the other 118 are, on average, 87% white, according to analysis of the data by The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/local/2017/03/30/disabled-or-just-desperate/
An article in the current issue of Philosophy Now poses the question: would it be more ethical to eat pigs, for example, if they were genetically engineered to be less intelligent?
"Pigs are exceptionally intelligent animals. They’re able to solve odor quizzes, recognize themselves in mirrors, and even play rudimentary video games. ... Despite their intellectual powers, 110 million pigs are slaughtered for food every year in the US alone, the vast majority of them after short, miserable lives on factory farms. The abuses on these farms are well documented, and the conditions in which such pigs are placed are widely acknowledged to be deplorable and unethical. ... One’s moral reaction to this mistreatment of pigs is only intensified by recognising the pigs’ intelligence and self-awareness. This intensification stems from the assumption that the capacity of a creature to suffer is proportional to its level of intelligence, to the depth of its feelings, and the complexity of awareness. Killing a dolphin is more immoral than squashing a spider, even disregarding the fact that both species are not equally endangered, simply because the dolphin is a more conscious creature. ... Given all this, I want to raise a tricky question: Would it be more okay to slaughter and eat a pig if it were significantly less intelligent? Suppose that through genetic modification pigs were able to give birth to ‘pygs’ – animals identical to pigs in every way, except being much less bright. Wouldn’t eating a pyg be more ethical than eating a pig? Plants show a certain very limited level of intelligence, by stretching towards the sun and reacting to their leaves being plucked. If a pyg were to be created to have the level of intelligence of a plant, wouldn’t eating it be no more unethical than eating a salad?" philosophynow.org/issues/119/Eating_Stupid_Pigs
In which countries are computer networks safest and least safe? This site looks at various metrics -- infection with malware, ransomware attacks, cyber espionage, denial of service attacks, internet freedom, vulnerability to cyberattacks, and more -- and sorts the data by country. www.comparitech.com/blog/information-security/cyber-security-statistics/ This particular map shows highest and lowest rates of infections with malware.
National Parks Week is April 15-23, and the parks are celebrating with free entrance across the entire U.S. national park system April 15-16 and April 22-23! www.nps.gov/findapark/national-park-week.htm
Which U.S. state had the biggest population gains last year? Utah, according to this U.S. Census Bureau map. States that saw their populations shrink? Wyoming, Illinois, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. www.census.gov/content/census/en/library/visualizations/2016/comm/cb16-214_popestimates/jcr:content/map.detailitem.800.medium.jpg/1482249323326.jpg
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