The Wall Street Journal hosts a fascinating insight into the birth of nihilism. From it’s origin in the thought of Ivan Turgenev to the sick mind of Friedrich Nietzsche.
Read it. Now.
One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, nihilism was born. Its midwife was the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, whose greatest work, “Fathers and Sons,” appeared in the spring of 1862 and heaved the immense figure of Yevgeny Bazarov into the world. Doctor by vocation and nihilist by avocation, Bazarov today would scarcely recognize what has become of the philosophy he launched. Nihilism is not what it once was and we are marking the most meaningless of anniversaries.
There is a fascinating article about some recent developments in theoretical physics on the Prospect Magazine website. Is our universe merely one of infinitely many? Was our big bang the only one? Where does existence end? Fascinating.
How big is our universe? Observations are restricted to a volume that is huge but nonetheless finite. That’s because there’s a horizon—a shell around us, delineating the distance light can have travelled since the Big Bang. But that shell has no more physical significance than your horizon if you’re in the middle of the ocean: far more ocean lies beyond.
There is an interesting article on the Manhattan Institute’s website. It gives an argument for capitalism. Primarily by giving counterarguments to some common arguments against capitalism. The essay argues that one of the chief achievements of capitalism is taking miillions of people out of poverty. This is quite misguided, because while it has indeed taken some people out of poverty, it has caused others to fall into it. It also quotes some statistics relating to the GDP per capita both recent and from the 19th century and does not cite them. So while some of it might be overstating it’s claims, it’s still an interesting take on capitalism. Here is a little teaser for you:
A widespread consensus is that capitalism might be necessary to deliver the goods but fails to meet moral muster. By contrast, socialism, while perhaps not practical, is morally superior—if only we could live up to its ideals. Two main charges are typically marshaled against capitalism: it generates inequality by allowing some to become wealthier than others; and it threatens social solidarity by allowing individuals some priority over their communities. Other objections include: it encourages selfishness or greed; it “atomizes” individuals or “alienates” (Marx’s term) people from one another; it exploits natural resources or despoils nature; it impoverishes third-world countries; and it dehumanizes people because the continual search for profit reduces everything, including human beings, to odious dollar-and-cent calculations.
Recently I posted a lot here about Laurence Krauss and his denial of philosophy. I’m not the only one to have done so, and as a result, someone from camp philosophy has decided to defend Krauss. In a message to Brian Leiter, Justin Fisher who is a philosopher of mind, cognitive science and science at Southern Methodist University, defends Krauss and his book.
Here is part of the message:
Having read and enjoyed Krauss’ book, I was shocked by the poor scholarship of Albert’s review. Albert doesn’t exactly judge the book by its cover, more by its subtitle and by Dawkins’ hyperbolic afterword (from which Albert draws the longest quote of his review). Instead, Albert should have considered Krauss’ own stated goals in the book, and acknowledged how well Krauss accomplishes these goals. The book makes extremely difficult science downright enjoyable for a lay audience, and it clearly distinguishes the different senses of ‘nothing’ upon which we can or can’t (now, or perhaps even ever) understand how something could come out of nothing. The vast bulk of the book is good quality popularization of science, and the parts that are more philosophical are generally clear and modest, but you’d get no inkling of any of this from Albert’s review.