[image: anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, Wikipedia; this is essay #288 in the Figs in Winter series]

D. writes: I was just reading an essay by Mikhail Bakunin in which he criticizes Marx, and specifically his support for the idea of a State. As an anarchist, Bakunin believes the State will always be unfair because it is inevitably based on minority rule. He also believes the idea of nation states is harmful because it incentivizes competition and conflict, often leading to war. Suffering becomes justified in the name of State’s morality, i.e., patriotism. What I wanted to ask you is: are Stoics anarchists? Taking the Stoic notion of cosmopolitanism, would they believe the idea of State to…


[image: word cloud describing psychological concepts, Wikimedia; this is essay #287 in the Figs in Winter series]

Psychological research is supposed to be helpful to living a better life. In that sense, it is the empirical complement to philosophy as the art of living. As the ancient Stoics taught us, it makes little sense to try to live a good life if you ignore how the world works (science), or if you do not think in a sound manner about what to do and why (philosophy).

One very nice example is the use of so-called implementation intentions for Stoic practice, as my friend and co-worker Greg Lopez and I have done throughout our Handbook for New Stoics


[image: Miranda Fricker, who coined the term epistemic injustice; this is essay #286 in the Figs in Winter series]

Injustice is, and has always been, a plague on the human condition. Over time, we have invented the concept of rights in an attempt to curtail such a plague. But there can be such thing as frivolous rights as well as frivolous talk about injustice. This article is about one example of the latter.

In a guest post at Practical Ethics, Oxford student Brian Wong argues that academic philosophers ought to write more accessibly, on penalty of perpetrating a new kind of hitherto unrecognized injustice: “respondent injustice.” What is he talking about?

Wong begins reasonably enough, by stating that philosophy…


[image: gate to Auschwitz with its “arbeit macht frei” (work sets you free) sign, Wikipedia; this is essay #285 in the Figs in Winter series]

B. writes: Just finished Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and I have been pondering the following: for the Stoics, virtue is the only thing that matters. At the end of the day, even life itself is a preferred indifferent. But when I think about Frankl’s description of life in Auschwitz, it becomes clear that every minute of every day involved a struggle to survive, which inevitably entailed making moral compromises, both large and small. It seems clear that the only people to have survived were those who were both very lucky and made such compromises. I think this is…


[image: Tom Wolfe, Wikipedia; this is essay #284 in the Figs in Winter series]

I discovered Stoicism as recently as 2014. On September 5th, to be precise, because of this tweet. Of course, I had read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations back in college, and had translated some Seneca from Latin in high school. But somehow I never actually associated either one of them with a sophisticated, coherent philosophy, or even realized that they were talking about the very same approach to living a good life.

What brought me to Stoicism was a midlife crisis. Nothing terrible. The usual things: a (unexpected) divorce, the death of my father, a new job, and moving to a different…


[image: Socrates, bust carved by Victor Wager from a model by Paul Montford, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Wikipedia; this is essay #283 in the Figs in Winter series]

We need virtue ethics. That’s the bottom line of an article by Martin Butler, who argues that we should teach virtue ethics to our kids and to ourselves. He observes that a lot of contemporary discussions about ethics induce, especially in young people, what he terms “a kind of paralysis of neutralism, a kind of ‘some people say this and others say that,’” which is detrimental to our moral development as individuals, as well as to social and political discourse. (See here for my handy guide to talking your friends out of moral relativism.)

Butler also points out that, while…


[image: No bullshit, Wikimedia Commons; this is essay #282 in the Figs in Winter series]

I’ve read a large number of technical papers in both science and philosophy during my career, and I’ve written a decent quantity myself (so far, 89 in science and 92 in philosophy). It’s rare that a new paper grabs my attention to the point of thinking, “I really need to write about this, more people ought to be aware of it.” And yet, one such paper came across my iPad recently: Bullshit, Pseudoscience and Pseudophilosophy, by Victor Moberger, at Stockholm University in Sweden (published in Theoria, October 2020).

I have been interested in pseudoscience for a long time, and specifically…


[image: Paolo Veronese (1528–1588), The Choice of a Boy between Virtue and Vice; this is essay #281 in the Figs in Winter series]

G. writes: How should Stoics view those born with several developmental defects? My instinctive response is that the moral answer is with humanity and compassion, but I have trouble reaching that conclusion using a Stoic framework. From my readings, so many of Stoicism’s ideas of humanity are wrapped up in notions of intellect and the capacity for reason (e.g., even those suffering from “madness” are still members of the humanity family, only incapable of using reason effectively). But if a person, through accident of birth, fundamentally lacks that capacity, what basis do we have to treat them as a human…


[image: Speculative portrayal of Lucian of Samosata from a 17th century engraving by William Faithorne, Wikipedia; this is essay #280 in the Figs in Winter series]

Epictetus is one of the most influential of Stoic philosophers, if unfortunately not any longer a household name. He was well recognized throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and several of America’s founding fathers had a personal copy of his Enchiridion. Nowadays, however, unless you are into Stoicism, you’ve likely never heard of Epictetus. Heck, I went through an entire graduate program in philosophy, including courses on ancient philosophy, and never heard of him ether. …


[image: Dawkins at the University of Texas at Austin in 2008, Wikimedia; this is essay #279 in the Figs in Winter series]

I’ve known Richard Dawkins for decades. Not in the sense that we are pals. But we have crossed paths a number of times, once because I invited him to give a public talk at the University of Tennessee, another because we both contributed to a stimulating symposium on “Moving naturalism forward” organized by cosmologist Sean Carroll. I have never seen eye-to-eye with Dawkins. I think his famous “selfish genes” view of evolution is too narrow. I maintain that his influential concept of memes is nothing but a misleading metaphor. And I think his criticism of religion is crude and ineffective.

Figs in Winter

by Massimo Pigliucci. Stoicism, ethics, and philosophy of science. Complete index, by subject, at https://figsinwinter.blog/essays/

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