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Reading List January 26, 2019

Everyday Philosophy

No dead guys with beards in this reading list, we promise.

We love heavy-duty philosophical inquiry as much as the next guy. (Our recent essays on Sartre, critical theory, and fatalism are all well worth your time.) But philosophy isn’t just about lofty ideas and what it all truly means.

Philosophical thought can also be applied to our daily lives, helping us ponder why and how we do what we do. This week’s reading list does just that with some of our best thinkers turning their gaze to the familiar (such as baseball or dogs) and offering responses to quotidian questions (such as, should I give money to charity?).

This everyday philosophy is just as important as the big stuff since, as Agnes Callard reminds us in her essay, “when nothing is happening, we engage in especially sophisticated forms of thinking.”

—Rosie Gillies


Don’t Overthink It
by Agnes Callard

Our brains are getting better and better at decision-making, but is this a good thing? “Sometimes you need to step forward into a future you cannot rubber-stamp in advance.”

• • •

The Best of All Games
by John Rawls

“Unlike basketball and football, Baseball shares with tennis the idea that time never runs out. This means that there is always time to make a comeback. The ninth inning becomes one of the most potentially exciting parts of the game.”

• • •

The Lure of Luxury
a forum with Paul Bloom

“Why would anyone spend thousands of dollars on a Prada handbag, an Armani suit, or a Rolex watch? Most people own things they don’t really need. It is worth thinking about why.”

• • •

The Logic of Effective Altruism
a forum with Peter Singer

Renowned ethicist Peter Singer argues that a minimally acceptable ethical life involves using a substantial part of one’s spare resources to make the world a better place.

• • •

Dogs Are Not People
by Colin dayan

”The urge to characterize dogs as like ourselves speaks to our ignorance and to the failure of imagination, and treating dogs like children encourages us to disregard what is unique about them.”

• • •

Why Grow Up?
by Vivian Gornick

“Growing up does not mean resigning oneself to the world as it is; rather, it means contributing materially to the making of a world as it ought to be.”

• • •

Do Government Incentives Make Us Bad Citizens?
by John McMahon

“From tax rebates for buying an electric car to performance-based school funding, governments extensively deploy material incentives to regulate citizens’ behaviors. These may make us less moral, not more.”

• • •

Reading Your Mind
by Rebecca Saxe

“False beliefs are among the familiar and awkward facts of life—you fail to show up on a Friday night because you thought the party was on Saturday. Our ability to recognize when other people have false beliefs provides a window on basic features of the human mind.”

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