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Finding Pleasure in Addiction

I heard a quote a couple of days ago that has stuck in my head and incessantly keeps repeating in my mind. It is this simple phrase:

Addiction is a progressive narrowing of the things that bring you pleasure.

It was stated by Dr. Andrew Huberman, a Stanford neuroscientist. It hit me between the eyes and I can’t stop thinking about it. It struck me because I’ve noticed over the past few years that I’m finding less pleasure in a variety of things that formerly may have energized me and immense pleasure in a few activities and people. The problem has become that when I’m not doing those things or with those people, I experience a sense of dread—sometimes mild, sometimes pronounced—because what I’ve come to label as the mundane simply don't do it for me anymore. In other words, I’m experiencing the narrowing that Huberman talks about.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that I’ve also gotten more particular. I have far less tolerance for bullshit or inane conversation so the people I enjoy hanging out with has been narrowing. I can’t stand the nonsense on social media so I generally stay off of it. I find a lot of the news media manipulative, hyperbolic, and much of the time, just dishonest so I don’t read or listen to it. I pick up a popular book and find it superficial or repetitive against everything else I’ve read so I read a couple of chapters and set it down. I even find the attempts to be creative tedious because I continually remind myself how many past attempts to produce something I’m proud of have failed.

As this list gets longer over time, I find myself gravitating to the much shorter list of things I actually do enjoy. Those few friends that challenge me. Travel to places I love or have never been. That rare book that opens up dark corners in my intellectual and emotional life. In a way, I’ve become addicted to these things and that addiction has progressively narrowed my ability to find pleasure in everything else.

In a very real sense, this is a disease of getting older. When I was a young man I couldn’t figure out why a lot of older people I met seemed so grouchy and intolerant. I’m realizing that as people age (or, let’s say charitably, become more mature), many just start selectively filtering what they’ll allow in their lives and they have come to appreciate and focus on the things that bring them happiness. They’ve learned, either intentionally or subconsciously, to say no to everything else. If not managed this can turn into intolerance and rigidity. And, what the Huberman quote brought to the surface is that it can be a kind of addiction.

So perhaps the key is to learn to selectively filter but also to find small pleasures in anything you decide to spend time on and, perhaps most importantly, open yourself up to new things—create a progressive expansion of the things that might bring you pleasure. In thinking about the Huberman phrase this week, I came to appreciate the selective filtering that aging and maturity has brought. But I also realized that I’m leaving a lot on the table if I don’t allow myself to find pleasure in dozens of other ways that I may not have experienced yet.

I’ve become addicted to the things I love. But perhaps there or more addictions I haven’t yet found. Between the two is, perhaps, the sweet spot.

Victor Gorshkov (1935-2019): a life for the biosphere.

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The basic concept of the biotic regulation of Earth's temperature according to Gorshkov et al, 2002. The figure shows the potential function U(T) for the global mean surface temperature. Stable states correspond to pits, unstable states to hills. The modern value of +15°C (288 K) corresponds to an unstable state (2, thin line). Physically stable states correspond to a frozen Earth (state 1) and a red-hot Earth (state 3). We are precariously living in a shallow minimum of potential energy that defines the habitable zone for the biosphere. This state can be created and maintained only by a healthy biosphere. On May 10th, 2019, Victor Georgievic Gorshkov died at 83 in St. Petersburg, after a life dedicated to scientific research that he continued to perform up to nearly the last moment. One year later, I thought I could publish this small homage to his figure and his work. His longtime coworker and companion, Anastassia Makarieva, was also kind enough to write a summary of Gorshkov's life and work for this blog. In many ways, science follows the 20/80 rule, sometimes called the "Pareto's rule," which tells that 80% of the work is performed by just 20% of the performers. But it may well be that Pareto was an optimist if his rule is applied to science. It seems more likely that science works because, as Newton said long ago, a small number of creative "giants" emerge out of the general mediocrity. One of these creative people, a true giant of science, was Victor Gorshkov (1935-2019), researcher at the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, in Russia.Understanding Gorshkov's work and ideas takes some time and patience. He was trained as a theoretical physicist and his approach was very different from the way most western scientists operate in the field of ecology. I would say that it was exactly this difference that attracted me and made me tackle the non-trivial effort to read one of two main books: Biotic Regulation of the Environment, 2000.  (see also. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Conspiring with the Enemy: The Ethic of Cooperation in Warfare

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2020.05.11 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Yvonne Chiu, Conspiring with the Enemy: The Ethic of Cooperation in Warfare, Columbia University Press, 2019, 344pp., $35.00 (pbk), ISBN 9780231182454. Reviewed by Jovana Davidovic, University of Iowa War is an exercise in brutality defined by the breaking of ordinary moral norms. Yet, over and over again, history presents us with cases of enemies seemingly ignoring what war requires of them and cooperating with each other sometimes against their own interest. In this book, Yvonne Chiu examines this phenomenon. Theorizing about ethics of war far too often lacks reference to real-life lessons. This in turn often results in theories of war that cannot be straightforwardly used for decision-making in war, and accounts that are so far removed from practitioner's experiences that they get ignored. Ignoring the reality of war also often leads to blind spots regarding whole sets of ethical questions about war. Such is the case with ethic... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Wilhelm Windelband

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[New Entry by Katherina Kinzel on May 18, 2020.] Wilhelm Windelband (1848 - 1915) was a German neo-Kantian philosopher. He is considered the founding father of the Baden (or Southwest) school of Neo-Kantianism. The Baden school included his student and successor at Heidelberg, Heinrich Rickert (1863 - 1936), and Rickert's student Emil Lask (1875 - 1915) as its core members. Alongside his contemporary Hermann Cohen (1842 - 1918) - the founder of the Marburg school of Neo-Kantianism - Windelband is a central proponent of...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Mindscape Podcast Interview on Automation and Utopia

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Sean Carroll is one of my favourite authors and podcasters. He is a great cosmologist and defender of philosophical naturalism. His podcast Mindscape is the first thing I listen to every week. It was, consequently, a great privilege to be a guest on this podcast to discuss my book Automation and Utopia. You can listen below or check out the original post on Sean's website.   #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; } /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */ Subscribe to the newsletter

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

Victor Gorshkov: a life for the biosphere.

Philosophy News image
The basic concept of the biotic regulation of Earth's temperature according to Gorshkov et al, 2002. The figure shows the potential function U(T) for the global mean surface temperature. Stable states correspond to pits, unstable states to hills. The modern value of +15°C (288 K) approximately corresponds to an unstable state (2, thin line). Physically stable states correspond to a frozen Earth (state 1) and a red-hot Earth (state 3). We are precariously living in a shallow minimum of potential energy that defines the habitable zone for the biosphere. This state can be created and maintained only by a healthy biosphere. On May 10th, 2019, Victor Gerogievic Gorshkov died in St. Petersburg after a life dedicated to scientific research that he continued to perform up to nearly the last moment. One year later, I thought I could publish this small homage to his figure and his work. His longtime coworker and companion, Anastassia Makarieva, was also kind enough to write a summary of Victor's life and work for this blog. In many ways, science follows the 20/80 rule, sometimes called the "Pareto's rule," which tells that 80% of the work is performed by just 20% of the performers. Maybe Pareto was an optimist and it may be that science works because, as Newton said long ago, a small number of "giants" emerge out of the general mediocrity. One of these creative people, a true giant of science, was Victor Gorshkov (1935-2019), researcher at the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, in Russia.Understanding Gorshkov's work and ideas takes some time and patience. He was trained as a theoretical physicist and his approach was very different from the way most western scientists operate. I would say that it was exactly this difference that attracted me and made me tackle the non-trivial effort to read one of two main books: Biotic Regulation of the Environment, 2000.  (see also Physical and Biological Bases of Life Stability, 1995). Reading Victor's work is a. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Articulating a Thought

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2020.05.10 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Eli Alshanetsky, Articulating a Thought, Oxford University Press, 2019, 164pp., $50.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198785880. Reviewed by Matt Weiner, University of Vermont Eli Alshanetsky has written a valuable and original study of a phenomenon that is familiar to us all, but that has received little scrutiny in recent analytic philosophy: putting our thoughts into words. Sometimes articulating our thoughts is easy; they come to mind as sentences of the language we speak. But other times finding words for our thoughts is a struggle. It is these hard cases that Alshanetsky focuses on, where we seem to have a thought that we must work to formulate, and then we arrive at a formulation that we recognize as capturing the original thought. As Alshanetsky argues in Chapter 1, much of the philosophical literature on self-knowledge focuses on cases in which the thinker can easily state... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Luca Incurvati’s Conceptions of Set, 11

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We are continuing to discuss Luca’s Chapter 5. The naive comprehension principle — for every property F, there is a set which is its extension — seems intuitively appealing but leads to paradox. So how about modifying the principle along the following lines: for every good property F, there is a set which is its extension (a set of Fs)? Such a principle might inherit something of the intuitive appeal of the unmodified naive principle, but (with a suitable choice of what counts for goodness) avoid contradiction. So what could make for goodness, here? One suggestion that goes back to Cantor, Russell, and von Neumann, is that a property F is good if not too many things fall under it — in other words, we should modify naive comprehension by imposing what Russell called a ‘limitation of size’. How should the story then go? In §5.2 and §5.3 Luca carefully explores the roots of the Cantorian idea that F is a good property if there are fewer Fs than ordinals. In §5.4. we then meet a proposal inspired by remarks of von Neumann’s: F is good if there are fewer Fs than sets. Luca then goes on to discuss one familiar way of implementing the von Neumann approach, famously explored by Boolos. We add to second order logic a Frege-like abstraction principle that says (roughly) that, when F and G are good, if everything which is an F is a G and vice versa, then the set of Fs is the set of Gs. But how exactly are we to formulate the required abstraction principle (a ‘New V’ to replace Frege’s disastrous unrestricted Old Axiom V)? And then just how strong a set theory does the resulting Frege-von Neumann theory yield? §5.5 reviews Boolos’s own discussion, explaining Boolos’s New V, and noting that we get as a result e.g. Separation, Choice and Replacement, plus versions of Foundation and Union, but we don’t get Powerset or Infinity. [There is a sense-destroying typo in the displayed formula on p. 144, which also distractingly uses the same variable both free and. . .

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News source: Logic Matters

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