Summary of “Seneca on Gratitude and What It Means to Be a Generous Human Being – Brain Pickings”

For if you wish to avoid such a danger, you will not confer benefits; and so, that benefits may not be lost with another man, they will be lost to yourself.
Benefits, as well as injuries, depend on the spirit Our feeling about every obligation depends in each case upon the spirit in which the benefit is conferred; we weigh not the bulk of the gift, but the quality of the good-will which prompted it.
So now let us do away with guess-work; the former deed was a benefit, and the latter, which transcended the earlier benefit, is an injury.
The good man so arranges the two sides of his ledger that he voluntarily cheats himself by adding to the benefit and subtracting from the injury.
Anyone who receives a benefit more gladly than he repays it is mistaken.
By as much as he who pays is more light-hearted than he who borrows, by so much ought he to be more joyful who unburdens himself of the greatest debt – a benefit received – than he who incurs the greatest obligations.
For ungrateful men make mistakes in this respect also: they have to pay their creditors both capital and interest, but they think that benefits are currency which they can use without interest.
There is not a man who, when he has benefited his neighbour, has not benefited himself, – I do not mean for the reason that he whom you have aided will desire to aid you, or that he whom you have defended will desire to protect you, or that an example of good conduct returns in a circle to benefit the doer, just as examples of bad conduct recoil upon their authors, and as men find no pity if they suffer wrongs which they themselves have demonstrated the possibility of committing; but that the reward for all the virtues lies in the virtues themselves.

The orginal article.

Summary of “40 of the Best Villains in Literature”

Think of these as noteworthy villains, if it clarifies things.
Big-picture villain, the thing that causes everything to dissolve, and people to start christening their kittens and pushing them around in prams, has to be the global disease that left all the men on earth infertile.
Few villains are quite so aggressively ugly as Uriah Heep.
Some in the Lit Hub office argued that it was Julian who was the real villain in Donna Tartt’s classic novel of murder and declension, but I give Henry more credit than that.
Did you think the villain was the whale? The villain is not the whale-it’s the megalomaniac at the helm.
Who is really the villain in Rachel Kushner’s most recent novel? It can’t be Romy; serving a life sentence for killing a man who was stalking her.
The worst villain is the one who knows you best-the one you might even love.
The scariest motive is the lack of one-what Coleridge called Iago’s “Motiveless malignity.” The most interesting villain is the one who has even more lines than the titular hero.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Pythagoras on the Purpose of Life and the Meaning of Wisdom – Brain Pickings”

The Greek polymath Pythagoras ignited the golden age of mathematics with the development of numerical logic and the discovery of his namesake theorem of geometry, which furnished the world’s first foothold toward the notion of scientific proof and has been etched into the mind of every schoolchild in the millennia since.
Alongside his revolutionary science, Pythagoras coined the word philosopher to describe himself as a “Lover of wisdom” – a love the subject of which he encapsulated in a short, insightful meditation on the uses of philosophy in human life.
According to the anecdote, recounted by Cicero four centuries later, Pythagoras attended the Olympic Games of 518 BC with Prince Leon, the esteemed ruler of Phlius.
The Prince, impressed with his guest’s wide and cross-disciplinary range of knowledge, asked Pythagoras why he lived as a “Philosopher” rather than an expert in any one of the classical arts.
Life may well be compared with these public Games for in the vast crowd assembled here some are attracted by the acquisition of gain, others are led on by the hopes and ambitions of fame and glory.
Some are influenced by the love of wealth while others are blindly led on by the mad fever for power and domination, but the finest type of man gives himself up to discovering the meaning and purpose of life itself.
This is the man I call a philosopher for although no man is completely wise in all respects, he can love wisdom as the key to nature’s secrets.
Complement with Alain de Botton on how philosophy undoes our unwisdom, then revisit other abiding mediations on the meaning and purpose of life from Epictetus, Toni Morrison, Walt Whitman, Richard Feynman, Rosa Parks, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Martha Nussbaum.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Plato Said Not To Slouch”

The very notion of what in the ancient world defines the human being in contrast to all other living things is simple: upright posture.
To describe humans as “Featherless” sounds odder to modern ears than does the functional association of bipedalism and intelligence, but Plato sees the absence of bodily covering as a move away from the base toward the human, for he is quite aware that the other bipedal animal is the bird.
Although bipedalism seems to us an obvious way of seeing human beings, it was Plato who used upright posture to move the rational mind as far from the center of the appetite and the organ of generation as possible: The head, for Plato, is the “Acropolis” of the body, its highest point both literally and metaphorically.
5 The claim that it is divinely created posture that defines the human being continues to the beginning of the Enlightenment, when the theologian­ philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, in his Ideas for the Philosophy of the History of Humanity, defines posture first and foremost as central to the “Organic difference between man and beast.”
Herder’s scientific sentiment bridges the gap between Plato’s notion of upright posture signifying the seeking of the rational and John Milton’s understanding that man’s erect posture, created by the hand of God, preceded man’s own intelligence.
Kant’s image of the “Crooked wood” is a direct answer to Herder’s claim about the primacy of upright posture in defining human nature.
In his Philosophy of Mind, Hegel stresses that the “Upright posture, has been by will made a habit-a position taken without adjustment and without consciousness-which continues to be an affair of his persistent will.”18 For it is the human will that defines posture, not the deity.
For an odd, almost mechanical reading of this notion of posture, see Ardolino, F. Satan’s “Ups and Downs”: Posture and posturing in books i and ii of Paradise Lost.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Theodore Roosevelt on the Cowardice of Cynicism and the Courage to Create Rather Than Criticize – Brain Pickings”

“There is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic,” Maya Angelou wrote in contemplating courage in the face of evil, “Because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.”
The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer.
There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement.
The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary.
There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder.
Complement this particular fragment with Leonard Bernstein on the countercultural courage of resisting cynicism, Goethe on the only criticism worth voicing, and philosopher Daniel Dennett on how to criticize with kindness, then revisit Eleanor Roosevelt on how uncynical personal conviction powers social change.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How communist Bulgaria became a leader in tech and sci-fi”

As the country started producing robots and personal computers in the 1980s, more and more menial work was being done by steel muscles, and more and more offices and services became computerised.
The Party argued, as computers and robots took over from the fallible worker, quality would improve.
Such experiments are forbidden, with robots permitted only as helpers to humans, not mimickers.
Zenon muses on human interactions with robots that start from a young age, giving the child power over the machine from the outset.
In the killer-robot story that I opened with, the robot doesn’t know he is a robot, thus violating both Asimov’s First Law of Robotics and Dilov’s Fourth Law.
In Kesarovski’s telling, the Fifth Law states that ‘a robot must know it is a robot’.
For Kesarovski, computers and robots held dangers, but also a promise, if humanity could one day see that it was both a type of robot itself, and in a position only to gain from the machines’ powers, allowing it to attain the next step in its historical progress.
In his story ‘The Hundred and First Law of Robotics’, a writer is found dead while working on his eponymous story, which states that a robot should never fall from a roof.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Bill Hader on ‘SNL’ Characters, HBO’s ‘Barry,’ Loving Show Business”

Inside Farmshop, an overcrowded, overloud Santa Monica, California, artisanal-type-food joint, the 20-year-old Bill Hader is giving the 39-year-old Bill Hader a pretty good goddamn dressing down.
Sitting there – regular jeans, dark blue sweater, very California casual, fork in hand, knife bearing down on steak – he just laughs, shakes his head, arches his grand Hader eyebrows, bulges his big Hader eyeballs, gives a snort of disbelief and carries on.
All around town and beyond, Hader is known as one of the nicest guys ever.
“I have not seen another side of him,” says Henry Winkler, who costars with Hader in his new serio-comic HBO series, Barry, about about a hit man who decides to take an acting class and become an actor.
As a teenager, Hader used his dad’s video camera to make “Little horror and comedy shorts with my sisters,” he says.
“You know,” Hader says, “If I were in my 20s and I heard me say that, I’d be like, ‘What? You went to a therapist? Exercise? Meditation? I mean, oh, my God, give me a break.'” Will that 20-year-old ever shut up?
Or what passes for excitement in the world according to Hader.
Then he says, “Yeah, 20-year-old me would fucking kick my ass for listening to jazz, too.” In fact, there seems to be no end of reasons why the young Hader would want to kick the ass of Hader the elder.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Nietzsche on Truth, Lies, the Power and Peril of Metaphor, and How We Use Language to Reveal and Conceal Reality – Brain Pickings”

“Knowledge consists in the search for truth,” Karl Popper cautioned in considering truth and the dangers of relativism.
That is what Friedrich Nietzsche examined a century before Arendt and Popper in his 1873 essay “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense,” later translated by W.A. Haussmann and included in the indispensable Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche.
The desire for knowledge, Nietzsche argues, stems from the same hubristic self-focus and is amplified by the basic human instinct for belonging – within a culture, what is designated as truth is a form of social contract and a sort of “Peace pact” among people.
A uniformly valid and binding designation is invented for things, and this legislation of language likewise establishes the first laws of truth.
Are they perhaps products of knowledge, that is, of the sense of truth? Are designations congruent with things? Is language the adequate expression of all realities?
At bottom, what the investigator of such truths is seeking is only the metamorphosis of the world into man.
How differently the stoical man who learns from experience and governs himself by concepts is affected by the same misfortunes! This man, who at other times seeks nothing but sincerity, truth, freedom from deception, and protection against ensnaring surprise attacks, now executes a masterpiece of deception: he executes his masterpiece of deception in misfortune, as the other type of man executes his in times of happiness.
Complement “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense” with Adrienne Rich on what “Truth” really means, Toni Morrison on the power of language, and Bertrand Russell on our only effective self-defense against the manipulation of realty, then revisit Nietzsche on depression and the rehabilitation of hope, how to find yourself, what it really means to be a free spirit, and why a fulfilling life requires embracing rather than running from difficulty.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Jack White Cover Story: New Solo Album, Why White Stripes Won’t Reunite”

Based on the White Stripes’ six albums alone – not to mention the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, his solo work and an endless series of productions – he’s more than earned a retroactive spot in the classic-rock canon.
Catholicism? There is a picture, somewhere, of a little Jack White, at that point still Jack Gillis, meeting Pope John Paul II. White certainly has a self-flagellatory bent: “I’m bleeding before the Lord,” he sings on “Seven Nation Army.” Is it related to being the seventh of seven sons, and 10th child overall, with parents who were a little too worn out from parenting to set too many restrictions for their youngest kid? Probably.
” The White Stripes, of course, were all about what White once called “The liberation of limiting yourself.” Though White stretched the boundaries over time, the band was, legendarily, built around a mere three elements: Jack’s voice, his guitar, and his ex-wife Meg’s oft-misunderstood, underrated, occasionally one-handed drumming.
White is hardly the first successful white bluesman, and his thoughts on the idea of cultural appropriation are careful and nuanced.
White has become a vocal fan of hip-hop, and does something that’s an awful lot like rapping on one of his new songs.
“I played guitar and then he rapped over it.” The fire-breathing riff of the new track “Over and Over and Over” dates back to the White Stripes, and White tried to record it multiple times over the years, including with Jay, who tried to give it the hook “Under my Ray-Bans.”.
White follows current music closely enough to have developed an amused contempt for DJ Khaled, especially after watching this year’s Grammys performance of “Wild Thoughts,” which draws heavily on Santana’s “Maria Maria.” “It’s just Santana’s song in its entirety,” says White, embarking on an extended sarcastic riff.
“I’m not telling people what to think about the White Stripes. They can think whatever they want about it. But there is a case to be made that in a lot of ways, the White Stripes is Jack White solo. In a lot of ways.” He says this very casually.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Are Modern Debates on Morality So Shrill?”

The kind of moral system outlined above can really only function in a fairly homogeneous community of limited size; as a society grows increasingly large and diverse, people no longer share the same telos, nor a project of common good that the telos supports.
In a moral system which lacks a telos, there exist only negative proscriptions for appropriate behavior – rules which are not designed to move man to fulfill his essential purpose, but simply to allow the basic functions of society to continue.
Just how granular the rules should get is a matter of one’s perspective of what is “Just” and “Right” and these positions are based on conflicting telos, or on no defined telos at all.
The disappearance of a shared telos from a culture’s moral code ultimately has a deteriorating effect on that culture’s moral discourse.
MacIntyre truly offers an incisive explanation for why our moral debates are so shrill.
Even though modern society no longer shares a common telos, you still should be clear on your own.
Such debates can be healthy and robust when in engaged in between people who share the same telos.
When debates concern issues of “Right” and “Wrong,” if the parties do not share a common telos, the result will only be pointless, irrational pontificating.

The orginal article.