Random Readings

Oct 1st, 2015.

(From Nautilus Sept 3rd, 2015)

The Philosopher Who Says We Should Play God: Why ethical objections to interfering with nature are too late.

We need to create some kind of safety net for people, rather than just ramping up the current trend of ever-increasing inequality. Although the standard of living for many people has increased, in the 1800s the difference between the richest and poorest country was 3 to 1. It’s more than 100 to 1 today, and the richest three individuals in the world own as much as the poorest 600 million people. So some kinds of ethical constraints are going to have to be placed on unconstrained capitalism. We’re in a period where capitalism has served us very well. My father escaped from Romania after World War II to escape communism. I wouldn’t change that history. But we can’t think capitalism is the end of history. We will need rules to constrain the dark sides of our nature. The market is not going to solve our biggest problems.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sept 30th, 2015.

(From The Atlantic Oct 2015.)

How an 18th-Century Philosopher Helped Solve My Midlife Crisis: David Hume, the Buddha, and a search for the Eastern roots of the Western Enlightenment

The Buddha doubted the existence of an omnipotent, benevolent God. In his doctrine of “emptiness,” he suggested that we have no real evidence for the existence of the outside world. He said that our sense of self is an illusion, too. The Buddhist sage Nagasena elaborated on this idea. The self, he said, is like a chariot. A chariot has no transcendent essence; it’s just a collection of wheels and frame and handle. Similarly, the self has no transcendent essence; it’s just a collection of perceptions and emotions.

“I never can catch myself at any time without a perception.”

That sure sounded like Buddhist philosophy to me—except, of course, that Hume couldn’t have known anything about Buddhist philosophy.

Or could he have?

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