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RS73 - Live! Answers for Aristotle

Release date: November 4 2012

Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life In this episode Julia interviews Massimo about his new book, Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life. Massimo's central idea is that a combination of science and philosophy, what he calls "Sci-Phi," is the best guide to the big questions in life, from issues of morality and justice to the meaning of love and friendship. The book's title derives from the fact that Aristotle was the first philosopher-scientist, adopting the sci-phi framework and posing a number of questions with which we are still struggling. What is the best way to live one's life? What sort of society do we want to live in? How do we relate to our friends and loved ones? Two and a half millennia later, modern science and philosophy have come up with some of the answers to Aristotle's questions, or at the least with a better way to think about them.

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Reader Comments (13)

I have surprisingly found myself in an e-mail dialogue with a Senator from Iowa while talking about voting, I mentioned that there are more effective methods of voting (because I'd heard it on here just hours before this e-mail correspondence began). Can you guys post me some links to the data Massimo eluded to when he mentioned those more favorable voting systems, and in particular whichever is "objectively" the best (if I remember hearing him correctly)? I'll be forever grateful! Thank you :)

November 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChance

@Chance, I didn't listen to the episode yet, but there is no voting system that's objectively the best. Rank order systems aren't totally fair because of Arrow’s impossibility theorem. Range voting gets around it, but it can degenerate into plurality voting if people just give their top choice the highest score and all other candidates a zero. In addition to maximizing fairness, you also have to keep it simple enough for old folks in Florida to use.
In any case, it's good to know that a senator is interested in this stuff. Is it Harkin or Grassley?

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMax

Hmm I've embarrassed myself it seems. Mark Chelgren is the "Senator"'s name, though apparently he's not a senator in the sense you are referring. He signed his name "Senator Mark Chelgren" and I knew nothing about who was actually a senator in Iowa (I also know virtually nothing about how our government offices are arranged), hence my mistake in calling him a Senator in a misleading way.

I brushed over Arrow's impossibility theorem on wikipedia but couldn't really follow what would be wrong with it. Thanks for the help anyway, Max! I'll get caught up on this stuff eventually.

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChance

Massimo: I don't know how often you read comments, but in the case that you read this one, I have a question for you. You say that ethics is less about providing answers, and more about thinking or reasoning our way through things of ethical import. In your view, then, what distinguishes meta-ethics from ethics proper?

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArmando

Regarding the trolley/train thought experiment: another reason people are more inclined to divert the train away from 5 children toward the 1 person rather than push somebody off the bridge onto the tracks is because that guy is SITTING ON THE RAILROAD TRACKS! He's already putting himself in danger by his reckless behavior and practically asking for it! In fact, so are the 5 children (unless they've been put there by Snidely Whiplash) - tell me their parents never told them to stay off the railroad tracks. The guy on the bridge isn't doing anything wrong and you are injecting him into a situation he otherwise wouldn't be involved in.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertwh

Ok, he's a state senator.

That may be a small part of it, but you'd also steer a crashing airplane away from a populated area into an unpopulated area, even if the few residents there did nothing wrong. The intuition is that it's bad luck that the plane happened to be heading toward the populated area when the engine failed. It could've just as well been heading toward the unpopulated area, so why leave the number of casualties to dumb luck?

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMax

This was a really good episode. Very thought provoking and it has sparked a number of conversations around my home. It is unfortunate that Massimo repeated the now largely discredited story that Isaac Newton's Shoulder's of Giants quote was intended as an insult to Robert Hooke. Read in context this seems highly unlikely. I think that such remarks should be analyzed skeptically before being repeated.

But I still really enjoyed it.

November 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJerry

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March 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterYatin

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September 6, 2016 | Unregistered
I think there are Universal Ethical Laws just like Natural Laws but just because we don't believe & follow them doesn't mean that they don't exist. I mean there are intrinsic fundamental commonalities between all Life Systems in the Universe that we can base our Ethics/Values on. Like if someone we don't know across the Planet is suffering, they deserve the same type of assistance as say a neighbor in our community because we should recognize our Natural connections in the same Life Systems. If we traded places, we would experience the same type of suffering they do because of this.

So there is Truth in what a Universal Law should be but what is the real problem here is that we develop Man-Made Laws that we adopt as the premier laws to follow and that makes it easier then to just come up with all types of Ethical/Values interpretations where people then start to believe in all sorts of spotty interpretations. But if we had Ethics & Values grounded in Natural Laws we would then be able to understand what a Universal Law looks like because these Laws have always been part of the Real World as opposed to the Laws we believe, follow & debate about today.
March 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterErnesto
Rank voting seems like a good idea, so that we can avoid the choice of two horribles we frequently get in elections.

We should probably use the term "pseudo-rationalization" to refer to post hoc attempts to justify bad ideas, actions, and decisions. The term "Rationalization" can actually refer to making something more rational or efficient.

Hot beverages may statistically perform better for dating and business, but alcohol certainly has a good reputation in this regard, and yet alcohol usually comes in the form of a cold beverage.

Philosophy certainly has a lot to do with Morality. For one, what about the major branch of Philosophy known as Ethics !?!
January 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJameson
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