Rationality is instrumental, and that’s a problem

The subtle and complex relationship between logic, philosophy, and science

by Massimo Pigliucci

Today I read a decidedly unfavorable review of the latest book by Steven Pinker, Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters. I’m no fan of Pinker, but this article isn’t (mostly) about him or the book. Rather, it’s about one of the main criticisms brought up in the review, written by Ted McCormick for Slate magazine. Pinker wants to argue that if only people acted rationally then this would be a much better world. But he — correctly — defines rationality as an instrumental quality: “[rationality] is a kit of cognitive tools that can attain particular goals in particular worlds.” … (continue at Medium)

Making sense of the Hellenistic philosophies

A brief conceptual guide to what differentiated the Greco-Roman schools of philosophy as a way of life

by Massimo Pigliucci

The Hellenistic period span from the death of Alexander the Great and the consequent collapse of the Macedonian Empire in 323 BCE to the battle of Actium in 31 BCE, where the future first Roman emperor, Octavian, beat the crap out of the joint forces of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. It was an incredible period in human history, which saw the flourishing of a number of philosophical schools that went on to impact the development of western civilization, and that are still very much relevant today. … (continue at Medium)