Pema Chödrön on theism, nontheism, babysitters, personal responsibility, & accepting ambiguity

Listening to When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the following comparison of theism and nontheism:

Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there’s always going to be a babysitter available when we need one. We all are inclined to abdicate our responsibilities and delegate our authority to something outside ourselves. Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves.

Had someone read me the quote and asked me to attribute it to someone, I would likely have guess Sam Harris, as I’d recently listened to his excellent book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under philosophy & religion, psychology

The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life

coverExcellent book forum hosted by the Cato Institute:

Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler have written a book about the hidden motives in all of us: quite often, our brains get up to activities that we know little or nothing about. This isn’t just a question of regulating hormone levels or involuntary reflexes. Many of these involuntary behaviors are social signals, such as laughter or tears. Involuntary motives appear to underlie many forms of human sociability, including family formation, art, religion, and recreation. What are the implications for public policy? How can we understand politics and governance better in light of our hidden motives? Our discussion of The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life will focus on just these questions.

Source: The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life | Cato Institute

See also Robin Hanson’s TedX talk on this book.

Comments Off on The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life

Filed under economics, politics, psychology, public policy

Alain de Botton’s lecture: How Romanticism Ruined Love (and an antidote from Ancient Greece)

That’s partly my title, anyway. I thoroughly enjoyed this very insightful and humorous lecture (72 minutes). Excellent. The summary posted at the YouTube video:

Twenty-first century depictions of love and marriage are shaped by a set of Romantic myths and misconceptions and with his trademark warmth and wit, Alain de Botton explores the complex landscape of a modern relationship, presenting a realistic case study for marriage and examining what it might mean to love, to be loved – and to stay in love.

If you want to listen to the lecture, as I did, e.g, in the car, convert the video at a site such as SaveTube.

See also:

How Romanticism Ruined Love, and corresponding video, which is a five-minute summary of the above lecture.

Leave a comment

Filed under psychology

Is Administrative Law Unlawful?

is-administrative-law-unlawful-coverWith president-elect Trump selecting people to head executive branch agencies that both make and enforce administrative law, it’s time to ask: Is such “law” really lawful? The Cato Institute hosted an event with author Philip Hamburger to address this question:

When law in America can be made by executive “pen and phone” alone — indeed, by a White House press release — we’re faced starkly with a fundamental constitutional question: Is administrative law unlawful? Answering in the affirmative in this far-reaching, erudite new treatise, Philip Hamburger traces resistance to rule by administrative edict from the Middle Ages to the present. Far from a novel response to modern society and its complexities, executive prerogative has deep roots. It was beaten back by English constitutional ideas in the 17th century and even more decisively by American constitutions in the 18th century, but it reemerged during the Progressive Era and has grown ever since, regardless of the party in power.

Listen to professor Hamburger discuss his book: Is Administrative Law Unlawful?

See also a series of essays: Questioning Administrative State, at Cato Unbound.

Leave a comment

Filed under public policy

Why we’re less wealthy than we should: Foolish government policies.

Veronique de Rugy explains how foolish government policies make us poorer and make recessions worse: Making the Most of the Next Recession.

Leave a comment

Filed under economics

In defense of the passive voice, argued by Harvard linquist Steven Pinker

If you’re interested in improving the quality of your writing, watch or listen to this lecture by Steven Pinker based on his book The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Or check out his recent articles in The Guardian, and other publications, such as Passive Resistance – The active voice isn’t always the best choice in The Atlantic.

Leave a comment

Filed under psychology

What FDR knew about welfare: “Continued dependence upon relief … a subtle destroyer of the human spirit”

In the Wall Street Journal, Independent Institute research fellow James L. Payne writes that FDR understood that welfare recipients need to be productive and build skills and a work ethic. Payne writes:

Franklin D. Roosevelt was clear as well. “Continued dependence upon relief,” he said in 1935, “induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.” Yet government programs, being shallow and impersonal, tend to drift into handouts. They are like the superficial giver who drops a dollar into the beggar’s cup and walks on, feeling self-satisfied.

Source: What FDR Knew About Welfare (WSJ site). Full text here if WSJ link does not display it.

Leave a comment

Filed under public policy