• Baden
    8.9k
    We have invited the philosopher and author Massimo Pigliucci to make a guest appearance in order to help us to learn more about his work and ideas, and we are delighted to announce that he is interested in joining us. We hope to have him here in the first week of December.

    Prof. Pigliucci is currently Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. Having PhDs in both Biology and Philosophy, his research interests straddle science, philosophy, religion, and their interrelationships. Books such as Denying Evolution: Creation, Scientism, and the Nature of Science and Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk tackle the issue of what science is and what its limits are and address pseudoscience in religion and other areas from a sceptical perspective. Balancing this, Prof Pigliucci has also criticized those who he believes ask of science more than it can deliver, including Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

    Prof. Pigliucci is also deeply interested in the philosophy of Stoicism on which he has written extensively both in his blogs and in books such as How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

    You can find more of Prof. Pigliucci's books here:

    Prof. Pigliucci is a prolific and very popular blogger. Below is a list of his blogs both active and archived:

    Footnotes to Plato
    Rationally Speaking
    How to Be a Stoic
    Figs in Winter

    Prof. Pigliucci also has a significant YouTube presence. A few videos I've found particularly interesting are:


    Ted Talk on Stoicism


    On how to identify pseudoscience


    With Dan Dennett and Lawrence Krauss on the limits of science

    We are now inviting you all to, firstly, if you haven't done so already, familiarise yourselves with Prof. Pigliucci's ideas, and secondly, to propose an OP in the form of a detailed question/inquiry on one aspect of his work that you find interesting.

    We will pick a selection of these questions (hopefully within a week or so) and set them up in discussions for Prof. Pigliucci to read and then respond to. You may also ask follow-up questions on receiving a response, which he may engage with. We hope in this way to foster some enlightening discourse on the thoughts of this very provocative and interesting philosopher.

    So, without further ado, let the questions begin. And thank you in advance for your participation in an event we are proud and honoured to host.

    P.S. The mod team would like to extend a special thanks to @Wallows and @Amity for encouraging this venture.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    Thank for the PF team (and @Wallows and @Amity) that have arranged this meeting and giving forward material!

    Looking forward to this. (Will read the blogs and listen to the +2,5 hrs of interviews.)
  • Amity
    933


    :up:
    Thanks to you and team for all of this. An excellent introduction which covers an almost overwhelming amount of material. There is something there for everybody :smile:
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    First, thanks to the mod team and Professor Pigliucci for making the decision to come by. From a personal standpoint, I will focus on Stoicism out of my own interest in the field for some years.

    ===
    Now, I don't think there is much doubt, within philosophical circles and if you track Facebook groups, that Stoicism is experiencing a revival in the public domain of discourse.

    1. Therefore, why is Stoicism experiencing a revival for people nowadays?

    a) Is it due to our way of living that is increasingly demanding our attention and foresight in regard to ensuring a safe and comfortable life of leisure and satisfaction? Perhaps, people are realizing that ensuring a safe and comfortable future, isn't always guaranteed no matter what action or amount of effort they put towards this goal. Therefore, are people deriving satisfaction from the negative visualization practices, that Stoicism propounds towards life itself?

    b) Psychologically, what is appealing about Stoicism exactly? Is it its appeal to resilience, and enduring voluntary or too many involuntary discomforts that life may throw at us? Can this be characterized, as a selfish desire to become stronger, and if so, is this a botched understanding of Stoic philosophy?

    c) Finally, from a religious standpoint, it seems that Stoicism is becoming lately, dare I say, a type of secular religion of sorts. Would you agree with this characterization, or not?

    c.1 contextually an elaboration) Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus are icons to be followed in the minds of many. They are shining examples, of the very role models you talk about in your TED talk in Athens. It is fascinating, and perhaps, exclusive to philosophy in its appeal, that a Roman Emperor and a slave, both talked about the very same thing, the sort of existential disquietude that can plague many found to be alleviated by an appeal to virtue and concern with the good.
    ===

    Just some stuff to think about. I also would love to see a discussion about preferred and dispreferred indifferents, but that may be too much to ask for.
  • leo
    704
    Nice, I will definitely ask him some questions about the demarcation between science and pseudoscience, as I don’t see any such demarcation as objective nor as desirable, contrary to what he claims.
  • Amity
    933
    ... propose an OP in the form of a detailed question/inquiry on one aspect of his work that you find interesting.

    We will pick a selection of these questions (hopefully within a week or so) and set them up in discussions for Prof. Pigliucci to read and then respond to. You may also ask follow-up questions on receiving a response, which he may engage with.
    Baden

    I am not sure how this is supposed to work :chin:
    People will have questions but not necessarily in the form of an OP.

    Is the idea to start several discussions ( how many ? ) headed by the chosen OP.
    A particular aspect or category - like Stoicism, Science v Philosophy, Philosophy v Religion ?
    Then other questions ( sub- categories ) can be put forward as part of the discussion ?

    All help gratefully received.
  • Baden
    8.9k


    We would like everyone who would like to converse with Massimo to write a post here in the form of a question/inquiry into an aspect of his work. This post should be detailed enough to use as an OP. No categories are necessary (although if you want to headline your OP with a category it's fine). We will pick about five of these posts and allow the chosen posters to start their respective discussions with them. Massimo will then be able to read each discussion and reply to the posters in question. The discussions will not be open to everyone to comment on but everyone can view and comment here as they wish. Hope that makes sense.
  • Baden
    8.9k
    (So, in the end, there will be about five separate discussions in this space by five different posters which Massimo can respond to, but again only the posters chosen will be able to post in their respective discussions while anyone wishing to comment on them while they're ongoing can post here.)
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    @Ciceronianus the White, here's your chance to expand or interact with a leading Stoic philosopher. Quite interested in your take on the philosophy of Stoicism.
  • Baden
    8.9k


    Yes. :cheer:
  • Amity
    933
    So, in the end, there will be about five separate discussions in this space by five different posters which Massimo can respond to, but again only the posters chosen will be able to post in their respective discussions while anyone wishing to comment on them while they're ongoing can post here.)Baden

    OK, understood.
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    @unenlightened, I'm sure you have something worth saying also? Please come out of your slumber and share edifying thoughts with us folk.
  • I like sushi
    1.8k
    I’ll have a listen and see if I can pose a decent question. The limits of science would be something of interest to me given my interest in Husserlian phenomenology.
  • Baden
    8.9k


    That would be great. Cheers. :up:
  • bert1
    330
    I'd like to ask him about his critique of panpsychism. I'll figure out a question in the next few days.
    https://platofootnote.wordpress.com/2016/09/20/on-panpsychism/
  • deletedmemberMD
    590
    This sounds like a really great opportunity!

    I'll break out my questions here and edit the detail over the next few days until I think I have something that is good enough.

    First question; is the Stoic Dichotomy of control, complete? What I mean by this; is it correct to say that we only have control over some aspects and not others? I suppose what I'm noticing is that; while outcomes are for the most part out of our control, our faculties and our choices are some what a contributing factor to outcomes.

    Second question; is stoicism compatible with systems theory? I have taken stoicism deep into the heart of my application of pragmatism but I'd be very curious to hear what you think about what you feel are potential shortcomings of stoicism? Is there a scenario you can think of where a stoic approach is problematic? Pros and cons of stoicism?

    Third question; a great difficulty my partner is having in applying stoicism to her life is, that due to a traumatic childhood without a father and an abusive mother, she greatly reocognises the need for role models but she doesn't know where to begin in finding a role model. I doubt she is the only one so hers and my question to you on this subject: How should one evaluate potential role models? Maybe you could also share a small list of female Stoics you believe are good role models?

    Now for something where you can freely expand; What does it really mean to be temperate? What is the Stoic perspective on Emotion and application of emotion? What are the social and societal duties of a philosopher and an ethicist? What does a good philosopher look like? What do they believe/say/do?

    Thank you very much to our moderators for organising this opportunity to speak with such a prestigious mind and thank you Professor Pigliucci for taking the time out of your busy schedule to engage with our community.

    Best wishes and warmest Regards

    M.A.D.
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    Well done, Wallows.Ciceronianus the White

    Let's save that for after the event has occurred, heh, to be Stoical about such matters. :halo:
  • Amity
    933
    Finally, from a religious standpoint, it seems that Stoicism is becoming lately, dare I say, a type of secular religion of sorts. Would you agree with this characterization, or not?

    c.1 contextually an elaboration) Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus are icons to be followed in the minds of many. They are shining examples, of the very role models you talk about in your TED talk in Athens.
    Wallows

    Hi Wallows - I don't intend to compete with this excellent set of questions.
    However, I'd like to comment on what you've written so far, if that's OK.

    I have sympathy with the view that Stoicism can be seen as secular spirituality with religious overtones.
    Re: 'How to be a Stoic':
    I read in an interview that Massimo talked of Epictetus as 'playing the role of his personal 'daimon'. This reminded me of Socrates' 'daemonion' who kept him on the right track. This seems to be spiritual if not divine in nature.
    It would be interesting to ask just how Massimo has his Conversations with Epictetus ? Is it 'spiritual' in that Epictetus is seen as some kind of 'God' - or is it by a close, analytical reading of the Discourses.

    There does seem to an evangelical zeal involved. Having said that, perhaps it is warranted so as to balance out the extremism of certain religious beliefs.

    I like the idea of life as an ongoing project. Massimo has shown how an individual's life can be changed by conscious reflection ( 'Know Thyself' ) and a bit of serendipity. From being a scientist, going through a midlife crisis, to being a personable, pragmatic, public philosopher of Stoicism.

    Re: the Athens TED talk and the role model of Nelson Mandela. I didn't know that he had been inspired by Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. I love that ! He speaks to me too.
    I do see philosophy, in particular Stoicism, as a practical way to progress wellbeingness. (Massimo points out the overlap in psychology and psychiatry. Also, the importance of an evidence-based approach. It's all good ).

    From the Meditations 5.9:
    'Do not give up in disgust or impatience if you do not find action on the right principles consolidated into a habit in all that you do. No: if you have taken a fall, come back again, and be glad if most of your actions are on the right side of humanity.
    Do not come back to philosophy as schoolboy to a tutor but rather as a man with opthalmia returns to his sponge and salve...obedience to reason is no great burden, but a source of relief.'

    [ My bolds: In other words, you can only do your best ! ]

    Finally, this quote:
    'I have a habit of reflecting about my feelings and experiences...adjusting what I actually do and what I want to do in a neverending exercise of reflective equilibrium' - Massimo Pigliucci.

    How inspirational is that ?
    The forthcoming discussions should be fabulous :cool:
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    I read in an interview that Massimo talked of Epictetus as 'playing the role of his personal 'daimon'. This reminded me of Socrates' 'daemonion' who kept him on the right track. This seems to be spiritual if not divine in nature.Amity

    Mhm, I didn't want to psychologize the issue, since no authority can be bestowed on such sentiments; but, I did hint at that question in a more broader sense wrt. to what Prof. Pigliucci might think is happening for other people when they become, and as to why they might as well become interested in Stoic philosophy. It's a tough question to answer definitively, and I suppose it can be edited out when the final draft is presented to him.

    The forthcoming discussions should be fabulous :cool:Amity

    Yes... Though, I suppose I shall go and wallow a little now.
  • Amity
    933
    Yes... Though, I suppose I shall go and wallow a little now.Wallows

    All of this requires quite a bit of energy, doesn't it ?
    Be good to yourself :sparkle:
  • Wallows
    9.6k


    You know, that is actually a pretty interesting question.

    Is Stoicism more taxing on a person than simply assuming that everything goes?

    Have at it.
  • StreetlightX
    4.4k


    Hey, can we keep discussions about specific questions in their own threads? (create one if you'd like). I'd prefer that this not be too cluttered so we can easily keep track of questions for Prof. Pigliucci. Thanks.
  • Wallows
    9.6k


    Yes, sorry.

    I'd like to revise my prior questionnaire to a more simple and personal feel-good existential question to Prof. Pigliucci to be the following:

    • Why Stoicism?
    • What about Stoicism appealed to you instead of other schools of philosophical thinking?

    I leave it to the moderators to decide what is more interesting and wholesome a question to ask. Though, I feel like this is the right question to ask instead of the tedious ones beforehand.
  • I like sushi
    1.8k
    Jeez, that talk between Krauss, Dennett and the above was pretty dull. At least I have a gist now - but not much of one.

    Is there a paper I could read about his views on ‘the nature of science’?
  • Amity
    933
    Hey, can we keep discussions about specific questions in their own threads? (create one if you'd like). I'd prefer that this not be too cluttered so we can easily keep track of questions for Prof. Pigliucci. Thanks.StreetlightX

    Hey, that's fine by me. I was done anyway. I won't be creating a separate thread. Thanks.
  • StreetlightX
    4.4k
    (1) One of the more famous images associated with the Stoics is their tripartite division of philosophy into ethics, physics, and logic, each represented by parts of an egg (logic being the egg-shell, ethics being the egg-white, and physics being the yolk). I think it's fair to say that while most popular attention has been paid to the egg-shell of Stoic ethics, a lot less has been given to their account of logic and physics. With physics, I have in mind things like their distinction between bodies and incorporeals (to give just one example), and with logic, their substitution of what they called 'assertibles' in place of Aristotelian 'terms' (to give another example). Do you think that these other elements of the Stoic egg have relevance today, and if so, where they might stand with respect to both contemporary physics and logic?

    (2) There's been a noticeable uptick in the popularity of Stoic ethics in recent times, no doubt in part due to your very generous engagements and writings on the topic. However, one common criticism I see of Stoicism, in this regard, is that it just so happens to be very nicely tailored to our present-day socioeconomic conditions in which, thanks to a generalized decline in social mobility and opportunity, encourages people to 'accept their lot in life', turning 'inward' in order to steel themselves against harsh realities, rather than attempt to change those realities. In other words, the critique runs that Stoic ethics is an inherently conservative ethics whose popularity is a response to wider social and political incapacities, and which, in turn, feeds a resistance to sociopolitical change. Would this be a fair charge, and if not, what might a Stoic response to it look like?
  • leo
    704
    Massimo Pigliucci is a strong proponent of the idea that there is a fundamental distinction between science and pseudoscience, and that this distinction is desirable. I emphatically disagree. Instead of asking him questions I want to explain why there is no fundamental distinction between science and pseudoscience and why forcing such a distinction is not desirable. This is better than asking him why he believes there is such a distinction as he has already explained that in his books, papers and talks (see his website for instance).

    While I understand that the invitation is to ask him a detailed question/inquiry, the subject of this thread is also “Discuss Philosophy with Professor Massimo Pigliucci”, and I believe challenging some of his core ideas in a respectable and rational way could lead to an enlightening debate. Philosophy isn’t only about listening, it’s also about challenging.

    Among other things I will critically address a paper he published in 2013: “The Demarcation Problem: A (Belated) Response to Laudan”, that appears in the book Philosophy of Pseudoscience (link to the paper: https://philpapers.org/archive/PIGTDP.pdf)

    I have almost finished writing the whole thing, should I post it in this thread or should I create one? It is quite long, it could make for a small paper, it consists of 5 parts:

    I. Definition of the demarcation problem between science and pseudoscience
    II. Historical attempts at a solution and why they failed
    III. Pigliucci’s attempt at a solution
    IV. Why Pigliucci’s attempt fails too
    V. Why there is no fundamental distinction between science and pseudoscience and why forcing a distinction is not desirable
  • Baden
    8.9k


    Questions go in this discussion only, please. And, sure, you can add a critique. But please make it of a reasonable length. Prof. Pigliucci's time is likely to be limited and we want to share it as evenly as we can among posters.

    Just to add that we appreciate all the input and effort made here and apologise in advance to anyone who is not chosen. Again, there's a limit to what we can put forward based on our original invitation and if anyone's question doesn't make it through, it shouldn't be taken as a negative judgement on it. We've made the process as open as we can at least.
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