Video: How to be good and seek virtue

How can we be more virtuous? Can we teach our children virtue? And what about politicians? Well, the latter is probably the most difficult, but continuing our current cycle of cynicism isn’t exactly helping us out either…

So what can we actually do to make a better society for ourselves… and for the next generation? In this video, Anya Leonard of Classical Wisdom talks to Massimo Pigliucci, the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York and author of many books, including How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life and, most recently, How to Be Good: What Socrates Can Teach Us About the Art of Living Well.

Video: How to grieve

How to Grieve: From Cicero and Stoicism to Modern practices, How can philosophy help us handle loss? A panel discussion.

In 45 BCE, the Roman statesman Cicero fell to pieces when his beloved daughter, Tullia, died from complications of childbirth. But from the depths of despair, Cicero fought his way back. In an effort to cope with his loss, he wrote a consolation speech―not for others, as had always been done, but for himself.

And it worked. Cicero’s Consolation was something new in literature, equal parts philosophy and motivational speech. Drawing on the full range of Greek philosophy and Roman history, Cicero convinced himself that death and loss are part of life, and that if others have survived them, we can, too; resilience, endurance, and fortitude are the way forward.

This panel discusses the revelations of Cicero’s consolation and how they relate to both the ancient philosophy of Stoicism and modern behavioral cognitive therapy. All with the aim of finding a better understanding on how to grieve.

Watch eminent professors and authors, Michael Fontaine, Massimo Pigliucci, and Donald Robertson for this thought-provoking, important conversation. Hosted by Anya Leonard of Classical Wisdom.

About the Speakers: Michael Fontaine is Professor in the Department of Classics at Cornell University, New York and author of many books and articles. His work has been reviewed in countless publications including Forbes, The Spectator, The Daily Beast, The Times Literary Supplement, The Daily Mail, and The Wine Spectator. He is the author of several books including: How to tell a Joke, The Pig War, How to Drink: A classical Guide to Imbibing, and most recently, How to Grieve: An Ancient Guide to the Lost Art of Consolation.

Massimo Pigliucci is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York and author of many books, including How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life, and most recently, How to Be Good: What Socrates Can Teach Us About the Art of Living Well. Pigliucci has a PhD in Evolutionary Biology and Philosophy and his research interests include the philosophy of science and the practical application of ancient philosophies.

Donald Robertson is a writer, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist and trainer, specializing in teaching evidence-based psychological skills and is the president of Plato’s Academy Center. He is known as an expert on the relationship between modern psychotherapy (CBT) and classical Greek and Roman philosophy. Donald is the author of several books and many articles on philosophy, psychotherapy, and psychological skills training, including How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, and his most recent project, Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, a graphic novel has just been released.

Anya Leonard is the Founder and Director of Classical Wisdom, a site dedicated to bringing ancient wisdom to modern minds. Co-founded in 2013 with Bill Bonner, in conjunction with Les Belles Lettres, the French publishing house. Since inception, Classical Wisdom has grown into one of the largest online independent publishers dedicated to the ancient world. Anya studied philosophy and comparative literature at St. John’s College in Annapolis, a Great Books program, and received her MA in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh. She has recently published a children’s book, Sappho: The Lost Poetess, dedicated to the life, works and remarkable recent discovery of a poem written by the 7th century Poetess, Sappho.

Video: Do we carry no responsibility for our actions?

Is moral responsibility a mere illusion? Massimo Pigliucci, Galen Strawson and Sarah Garfinkel debate the essence of innocence and guilt. (Watch the full debate here.)

Some argue behaviour is a product of our genes. Others that upbringing and environment play the primary role in determining who we are. So do we carry no responsibility for our actions? Courts have on occasion made judgments in this light. In 2006 Bradley Waldroup was acquitted of murder because he was found to have an unusual variant of a ‘warrior gene’ and to have been abused as a child. Is responsibility for our actions an illusion? And should we as a result abandon moral responsibility to build a fairer world? Or is the notion that our actions are determined by our genes, our upbringing or some combination a dangerous mistake? Many want to have it both ways: we are the outcome of our genes and upbringing but also responsible for our actions, but how is this possible?

Eminent philosopher and literary critic Galen Strawson, Stoic philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, and neuroscientist Sarah Garfinkel debate the essence of innocence and guilt. Hosted by novelist Joanna Kavenna.

Video: The philosophy of Stoicism

What is the best life we can live? How can we cope with whatever the universe throws at us and keep thriving nonetheless? The ancient Greco-Roman philosophy of Stoicism explains that while we may not always have control over the events affecting us, we can have control over how we approach things. In this short video, one of my favorite so far, I describe the philosophy of Stoicism. Lesson by yours truly, animation by Compote Collective.

YouTube channel on philosophy, pseudoscience, and skepticism

Well, people have asked for it, so I have reactivated and revamped my YouTube channel. Comments are turned off, because I’m weary of social media. But if you’d like to talk about any of the videos featured on the channel, feel free to do it here.

The channel contains the following lists:

To give you a taste, here is the lead video for the channel:

Video: A conversation with Philosophy News

Philosophy News talks with Massimo Pigliucci on Stoicism, Skepticism, and how to have productive conversations in today’s polarized world.

In this interview, we talk with Dr. Pigliucci about how Stoicism differs from a more rationalist mindset and how Stoicism relates the skepticism. We cover topics in some of his recent articles about skepticism and how the ancient skeptics can inform modern dialogue. Here are some of the questions and topics we discussed:

Would you provide a summary of Stoic philosophy and how it contrasts say with other “isms”.

I’d like to explore your ideas starting with your recent article on rationality. The central claim you make is this: logic, rationality, and truth are distinct. One can be logical (claim is based on a valid argument), rational (claim aligns to ones background beliefs and values) and yet the conclusion of the argument can be false. You offer a path forward in the article. Would you summarize your recommendation?

You talk about “right reason” and “wrong reason” and use the conversation about creationism as an example. You say, “… I think my rejection of creationism is right reason while its embrace is bad reason.” You qualify the phrase with “I think.” It’s a claim about your beliefs rather than about the truth or falsity of whether your reasoning is correct. Is that the best we can hope for?

Skepticism tends to have a negative perception. You seem to take the edge off of that in your article about fallibilism by saying that fallibilism is “not the notion that all beliefs we currently hold, or will hold in the future, are false.” Rather, it’s the belief that, “All beliefs that are considered justified … should be held as provisionally true, nothing more.” Doesn’t this turn out to be more of a psychological attitude than an epistemic position? … (watch the video here)

Video: Memes all the way down

Memes are everywhere. But the term was coined only a few decades ago by Richard Dawkins to describe ideas and cultural behaviours that can be passed on from one individual to another. He argued that memes are a stage in evolution, and just as humans are carriers for genes, we are also carriers for memes.

We don’t so much choose our memes as they choose us. Its critics however argue that meme theory upends all human agency and thought. Is meme theory an exciting new framework that moves evolution forward to account for concepts and culture? Or is the very idea of a meme a misguided and reductionist account of what it is to be human?

Watch a discussion featuring “post-postmodern” philosopher Hilary Lawson, Professor of Ethics and Technology at Hertie School Joanna Bryson, and Professor of Philosophy at City College of New York Massimo Pigliucci. They argue about whether or not it is useful to think about sharing mimetic information like genetic information. Hosted by Gunes Taylor. (watch at IAI TV)