Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading is a regular feature with three links to fascinating, provocative, or particularly well-written, (usually) long-form pieces collected over the last three years. There will not be a test, but there may be a theme.

Three* thought-provoking pieces just for you…

~On Being an Octopus: It’s about exactly what it says it’s about. Fascinating throughout.

~How Consciousness Works: From Aeon, which has published more amazing stuff in the last six months than I can keep up with.

~The Scientific Riddle of Consciousness?: This one, published in the New Yorker, is chock-a-block with great links, most greatly, to the work of philosopher David Chalmers who will blow your mind if you give him the chance.

~There is Only Awe: Part book review, part reflection on consciousness, the author, Rachel Aviv, is a routinely impressive writer, thinker and researcher. Her stuff is ALWAYS worth reading. This is no exception.


Philosophical Opinions

Perhaps you’ve been nagged by a persistent question, one that you didn’t even know how to form, much less pursue, and for months now, but without knowing why, or even that it was there. Perhaps your question was something like this: I wonder, you might have asked yourself, what the names of the ten best/most important books on ethics are from the last 200 years?

Well you can scratch that itch, now. Here’s the list.

Bonus points for saying how many you’ve read. I’ve got three in their entirety, most of a fourth, and small pieces of a fifth and sixth. And so, I guess I’ve got some more reading to do…

A Great (read: philosophical) Treatment of “Nature”

I loved this piece when I read it back in December, and not just because he mentioned Annie Dillard in it…

For many, myself included, criticizing nature doesn’t come, well, naturally. My own preferred recreational activities—hiking, climbing, running, snorkeling, riding horses—embed me in nature. I have surrounded myself with animals of all sorts, and I try to avoid consuming pesticides, herbicides, and the antibiotics and hormones to which industrial agriculture has become addicted. I was delighted when a natural-foods supermarket recently opened within a mile of our home, and I patronize it almost exclusively.

Nonetheless, in resisting many things that I view as “unnatural”—nuclear weapons, global warming, chemical pollution, habitat destruction—while also honoring, respecting, defending, admiring, and nearly worshiping many things that are natural (sometimes just because they are natural), it is all too easy to get carried away, to forget that much in the world of nature is unpleasant, indeed odious. Consider typhoid, cholera, polio, plague, and HIV: What can be more natural than viruses or bacteria, composed as they are of proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and the like? Do you object to vaccination? You’d probably object even more to smallpox.

The rest is here and so, so good.

‘Trying to Teach’ Tuesday

This may not appear to be relevant but I’ve been thinking about school uniform requirements and if it would be a good idea to have a dress code at the college level. There is a precedent that leads me to raise the issue: male students are asked to remove their head gear when entering HWC.

I suppose we (an institution of higher learning) are trying to mold our students to be good citizens, right? Maybe we believe this requirement is in keeping with our college mission, right? If this is the case, why not institute a policy requiring students to meet certain dress standards from head to toe. The argument could be made that they are individuals and what they do is their business, not the business of the college or the district; but, isn’t it our business to make sure that our students are prepared to meet the challenges of academic and professional life?

Are we sending mixed signals to our students when we require them to write proper sentences and neglect to require proper attire even though both will compliment their future professional endeavors?