(16) The Quest for Character: What the Story of Socrates and Alcibiades Teaches Us about Our Search for Good Leaders (Basic Books, 2022). Is good character something that can be taught? In 430 BCE, Socrates set out to teach the vain, power-seeking Athenian statesman Alcibiades how to be a good person – and failed spectacularly. Alcibiades went on to beguile his city into an idiotic war with Sparta, and all of Athens paid the price. In The Quest for Character, philosophy professor Massimo Pigliucci tells this famous story and asks what we can learn from it. He blends ancient sources with modern interpretations to give a full picture of the philosophy and cultivation of character, virtue, and personal excellence—what the Greeks called arete. At heart, The Quest for Character isn’t simply about what makes a good leader. Drawing on Socrates as well as his followers among the Stoics, this book gives us lessons perhaps even more crucial: how we can each lead excellent lives.
(15) Think like a Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World (The Teaching Company, 2021). [This is an audiobook with accompanying text in pdf.] Distilled to its essence, the ancient Greco-Roman philosophy known as Stoicism is a philosophy of personal betterment. Professor Pigliucci, who knows firsthand just how transformative a Stoic approach to life can be, has designed these 25 lessons as an enlightening introduction to the basics of Stoic philosophy and ways to incorporate its lessons into your own life. For example, the Stoic understanding of ethics was far broader than the study of right and wrong, encompassing questions concerning one’s goals and one’s relationship to other people. Also, the Stoics felt that logic was another requirement of a well-lived life, because good thinking helps protect us from living according to nonsensical notions. Throughout the course, you’ll investigate what these great philosophers’ words and deeds can teach us about living life in the 21st century. What does Seneca tell us about managing our time in the best way possible? Why did Epictetus suggest to debate patiently with disagreeable people? Can Marcus Aurelius’ philosophy of being mindful of the labels we give ourselves help make the world a better place? This course includes plenty of exercises you can use to retrain your mind to take on a more Stoic view of your life and the world around you. Yes, you’ll come away with an incredible wealth of knowledge about the history and principles of one of the most enduring philosophies of life – but you’ll also be on your way to a more meaningful life for yourself.
(14) A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living (Basic Books, 2020). For more than two thousand years, Stoicism has offered a message of resilience in the face of hardship. Little wonder, then, that it is having such a revival in our own troubled times. But there is no denying how weird it can be: Is it really the case that we shouldn’t care about our work, our loved ones, or our own lives? According to the old Stoics, yes. In A Field Guide to a Happy Life, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers a renewed Stoicism that reflects modern science and sensibilities. Pigliucci embraces the joyful bonds of affection, the satisfactions of a job well done, and the grief that attends loss. In his hands, Stoicism isn’t about feats of indifference, but about enduring pain without being overwhelmed, while enjoying pleasures without losing our heads. In short, he makes Stoicism into a philosophy all of us — whether committed Stoics or simply seekers-can use to live better.
(13) How to Live a Good Life: A Guide to Choosing Your Personal Philosophy of Life, ed. by Massimo Pigliucci, Skye Cleary & Daniel Kaufman (Vintage, 2020). A collection of essays by fifteen philosophers presenting a thoughtful, introductory guide to choosing a philosophy for living an examined and meaningful life. Socrates famously said “the unexamined life is not worth living,” but what does it mean to truly live philosophically? This thought-provoking, wide-ranging collection brings together essays by fifteen leading philosophers reflecting on what it means to live according to a philosophy of life. From Eastern philosophies (Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism), to classical Western philosophies (such as Aristotelianism and Stoicism), to the four major religions, as well as contemporary philosophies (such as existentialism and effective altruism), each contributor offers a lively, personal account of how they find meaning in the practice of their chosen philosophical traditions. Together, the pieces in How to Live a Good Life provide not only a beginner’s guide to choosing a life philosophy but also a timely portrait of what it means to live an examined life in the twenty-first century.
(12) A Handbook for New Stoics: How to Thrive in a World Out of Your Control, by Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez (The Experiment, 2019). An ancient belief system made new, Stoicism teaches us how to accept the things we cannot change and how to live a good life. It helps us improve our outlook, increase our wellbeing, and thrive in the face of adversity. But how does one live like a Stoic? In A Handbook for New Stoics, renowned philosopher Massimo Pigliucci and practitioner Gregory Lopez guide readers through 52 weekly lessons, each based on a common obstacle. Stressing out about a meeting at work? Try listing the things you can control and those you can’t. Epictetus writes: “In our power are thought, impulse, will to get, and will to avoid”—in other words, our own attitudes. Discover what you can control, and quickly achieve peace of mind. Featuring quotes from philosophers, analysis by the authors, and journaling activities, these lessons enable readers to reframe their perceptions and be happier.
(11) Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (second edition, University of Chicago Press, 2018). In this era of fake news and alternative facts, there is more bunk than ever. But why do people believe in it? And what causes them to embrace such pseudoscientific beliefs and practices? In this fully revised second edition, noted skeptic Massimo Pigliucci sets out to separate the fact from the fantasy in an entertaining exploration of the nature of science, the borderlands of fringe science, and—borrowing a famous phrase from philosopher Jeremy Bentham—the nonsense on stilts. Presenting case studies on a number of controversial topics, Pigliucci cuts through the ambiguity surrounding science to look more closely at how science is conducted, how it is disseminated, how it is interpreted, and what it means to our society. The result is in many ways a “taxonomy of bunk” that explores the intersection of science and culture at large. Broad in scope and implication, Nonsense on Stilts is a captivating guide for the intelligent citizen who wishes to make up her own mind while navigating the perilous debates that will shape the future of our planet.
(10) Science Unlimited? The Challenges of Scientism (co-edited with Maarten Boudry, University of Chicago Press, 2018). All too often in contemporary discourse, we hear about science overstepping its proper limits—about its brazenness, arrogance, and intellectual imperialism. The problem, critics say, is scientism: the privileging of science over all other ways of knowing. Science, they warn, cannot do or explain everything, no matter what some enthusiasts believe. In Science Unlimited?, noted philosophers of science Maarten Boudry and Massimo Pigliucci gather a diverse group of scientists, science communicators, and philosophers of science to explore the limits of science and this alleged threat of scientism.
(9) How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life (Basic Books, 2017). Whenever we worry about what to eat, how to love, or simply how to be happy, we are worrying about how to lead a good life. No goal is more elusive. In How to Be a Stoic, I offer Stoicism, the ancient philosophy that inspired the great emperor Marcus Aurelius, as the best way to attain it. Stoicism is a pragmatic philosophy that teaches us to act depending on what is within our control and separate things worth getting upset about from those that are not. By understanding Stoicism, we can learn to answer crucial questions: Should we get married or divorced? How should we bank in a world nearly destroyed by a financial crisis? How can we survive great personal tragedy? Whoever you are, Stoicism has something for you — and How to Be a Stoic is your essential guide, featuring an ongoing conversation with the ancient slave-turned-teacher Epictetus.
(8) Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem (co-edited with Maarten Boudry, University of Chicago Press, 2013). What sets the practice of rigorously tested, sound science apart from pseudoscience? In this volume, the contributors seek to answer this question, known to philosophers of science as “the demarcation problem.” This issue has a long history in philosophy, stretching as far back as the early twentieth century and the work of Karl Popper. But by the late 1980s, scholars in the field began to treat the demarcation problem as impossible to solve and futile to ponder. However, the essays that Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudry have assembled in this volume make a rousing case for the unequivocal importance of reflecting on the separation between pseudoscience and sound science.
(7) Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (Basic Books, 2012). How should we live? According to philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci, the greatest guidance to this essential question lies in combining the wisdom of 24 centuries of philosophy with the latest research from 21st century science. In Answers for Aristotle, Pigliucci argues that the combination of science and philosophy first pioneered by Aristotle offers us the best possible tool for understanding the world and ourselves. As Aristotle knew, each mode of thought has the power to clarify the other: science provides facts, and philosophy helps us reflect on the values with which to assess them. Pigliucci discusses such essential issues as how to tell right from wrong, the nature of love and friendship, and whether we can really ever know ourselves—all in service of helping us find our path to the best possible life. Combining the two most powerful intellectual traditions in history, Answers for Aristotle is a remarkable guide to discovering what really matters and why.
(6) Evolution – the Extended Synthesis (co-edited with Gerd B. Müller, MIT Press, 2010). In the six decades since the publication of Julian Huxley’s Evolution: The Modern Synthesis, the spectacular empirical advances in the biological sciences have been accompanied by equally significant developments within the core theoretical framework of the discipline. As a result, evolutionary theory today includes concepts and even entire new fields that were not part of the foundational structure of the Modern Synthesis. In this volume, sixteen leading evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science survey the conceptual changes that have emerged since Huxley’s landmark publication, not only in such traditional domains of evolutionary biology as quantitative genetics and paleontology but also in such new fields of research as genomics and EvoDevo. This continuing revision of a theoretical edifice the foundations of which were laid in the middle of the nineteenth century–the reexamination of old ideas, proposals of new ones, and the synthesis of the most suitable–shows us how science works, and how scientists have painstakingly built a solid set of explanations for what Darwin called the “grandeur” of life.
(5) Making Sense of Evolution: The Conceptual Foundations of Evolutionary Biology (with Jonathan Kaplan, University of Chicago Press, 2006). Making Sense of Evolution explores contemporary evolutionary biology, focusing on the elements of theories—selection, adaptation, and species—that are complex and open to multiple possible interpretations, many of which are incompatible with one another and with other accepted practices in the discipline. Particular experimental methods, for example, may demand one understanding of “selection,” while the application of the same concept to another area of evolutionary biology could necessitate a very different definition. Massimo Pigliucci and Jonathan Kaplan intertwine scientific and philosophical analysis to produce a coherent picture of evolutionary biology. Innovative and controversial, Making Sense of Evolution encourages further development of the Modern Synthesis and outlines what might be necessary for the continued refinement of this evolving field.
(4) Phenotypic Integration: Studying the Ecology and Evolution of Complex Phenotypes (co-edited with Katherine Preston, Oxford University Press, 2004). A new voice in the nature-nurture debate can be heard at the interface between evolution and development. Phenotypic integration–or, how large numbers of characteristics are related to make up the whole organism, and how these relationships evolve and change their function–is a major growth area in research, attracting the attention of evolutionary biologists, developmental biologists, and geneticists, as well as, more broadly, ecologists, physiologists, and paleontologists. This edited collection presents much of the best and most recent work the topic.
(3) Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science (Oxford University Press, 2002). Denying Evolution aims at taking a fresh look at the evolution–creation controversy. It presents a truly balanced treatment, not in the sense of treating creationism as a legitimate scientific theory (it demonstrably is not), but in the sense of dividing the blame for the controversy equally between creationists and scientists—the former for subscribing to various forms of anti-intellectualism, the latter for discounting science education and presenting science as scientism to the public and the media. The central part of the book focuses on a series of creationist fallacies (aimed at showing errors of thought, not at deriding) and of mistakes by scientists and science educators. The last part of the book discusses long-term solutions to the problem, from better science teaching at all levels to the necessity of widespread understanding of how the brain works and why people have difficulties with critical thinking.
(2) Phenotypic Plasticity: Beyond Nature and Nurture (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001). This is the first work to synthesize the burgeoning area of plasticity studies, providing a conceptual overview as well as a technical treatment of its major components. Phenotypic plasticity integrates the insights of ecological genetics, developmental biology, and evolutionary theory. Plasticity research asks foundational questions about how living organisms are capable of variation in their genetic makeup and in their responses to environmental factors. For instance, how do novel adaptive phenotypes originate? How do organisms detect and respond to stressful environments? What is the balance between genetic or natural constraints (such as gravity) and natural selection? The author begins by defining phenotypic plasticity and detailing its history, including important experiments and methods of statistical and graphical analysis. He then provides extended examples of the molecular basis of plasticity, the plasticity of development, the ecology of plastic responses, and the role of costs and constraints in the evolution of plasticity. A brief epilogue looks at how plasticity studies shed light on the nature/nurture debate in the popular media.
(1) Phenotypic Evolution: A Reaction Norm Perspective (with Carl D. Schlichting, Sinauer, 1998). Understanding the process of adaptive evolution of phenotypes is a fundamental problem in evolutionary biology. In the last decade, there has been an explosion of research on phenotypic plasticity (the environmentally induced production of different phenotypes by a single genotype) as well as on the molecular details of development, reflecting the increased recognition of their importance in shaping phenotypic evolution. Phenotypic Evolution explicitly recognizes organisms as complex genetic-epigenetic systems developing in response to changing internal and external environments. As a key to a better understanding of how phenotypes evolve, the authors have developed a framework that centers on the concept of the Developmental Reaction Norm. This encompasses their views: (1) that organisms are better considered as integrated units than as disconnected parts; (2) that an understanding of ontogeny is vital for evaluating evolution of adult forms; and (3) that environmental heterogeneity is ubiquitous and must be acknowledged for its pervasive role in phenotypic expression.