Archive for the 'Philosophy' Category

Final Draft Readers Needed

by Jason Stotts

Editing of penultimate draft of “Eros and Ethos” is going well and it is about 1/3 edited now. I anticipate having a complete final draft sometime this summer with publication in the early Fall. To that end, I’m looking for around 3 volunteers to serve as proofreaders.

You must be willing to commit to returning each chapter within 2 weeks and you must commit to doing this for all of Volume 1, which is 7 chapters. I’m anticipating about one chapter a month through Summer.

If you’re interested, email me at Jason(at)JasonStotts.com and let me know why I should pick you. If you have experience editing, that would certainly be a plus. If you have background in philosophy or sex, that would also be a plus. If you just really enjoy reading, that works too. There is no special background that you have to have, because the book is written for a general audience.

The people selected will be thanked in the book and receive a numbered and signed first edition.

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“Modern Moral Philosophy” and the Lawgiver

by Jason Stotts

I recently read G. E. M. Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy” for the first time and I think that it is one of the most astute and important essays on ethics that I have ever read. In it, she has three major theses, but it is the second that is the most important and makes the paper a necessary read for anyone interested in ethics. Her second thesis is this:

The concepts of obligation, and duty—moral obligation and moral duty, that is to say—and of what is morally right and wrong, and of the moral sense of “ought,” ought to be jettisoned if this is psychologically possible; because they are survivals, or derivatives from survivals, from an earlier conception of ethics which no longer generally survives, and are only harmful without it. (p. 1)

She wants to take on the ideas that we have a duty to do, or that morality obligates us to do, certain things for which we can be condemned as “morally wrong” if we fail in them (it is important to emphasize that these are all unchosen duties or obligations and that someone voluntarily choosing to take on a duty or obligation is an entirely different issue). She has in her sights any ethical system that utilizes the concept of “duty” or “obligation,” which is nearly all major ethical systems: in utilitarianism you have a duty to maximize happiness, in Kantianism you have a duty to your unknowable nature-in-itself, in religion you have a duty to obey your god, etc. This is no easy task, for if she’s right, then she will take out all of these ethical systems at the base and render them unsupported.

So, what’s her argument?

First, that many people feel that there is some special psychological force involved in moral “shoulds” that make them different from other kinds of shoulds like “you should put gas in your car.” This special “‘moral’ sense” implies “some absolute verdict (like one of guilty/not guilty on a man)” (p. 5). This arises from an equation between “shoulds” and obligations or duties, “in the sense in which one can be obliged or bound by law” (p. 5).

Second, that this conjunction between “shoulds” and the law has arisen because Christianity has dominated ethics for centuries and it operates via a “law conception of ethics” (p. 5). In this conception of ethics, their god is the lawgiver and his commandments are the law. Of course, this divine law must be obeyed absolutely and is not open to question or amenable to reason.

Third, that failure to do your duty and obey the divine law is not simply to do a single wrong. Rather, it makes a person “sinful” or morally wrong in toto: a person who violates the divine law has become a moral-law breaker or outlaw of the worst kind. This is in marked contrasted with an ethical system like Aristotle’s, which antecedes Christianity, and has no term of absolute condemnation. Rather, Aristotle has terms such as “unjust” or “impious” for discrete acts or terms such as “scoundrel” or “villain” for a person with a bad character, but no way of describing someone who is irredeemably evil.

Fourth, any ethical system that utilizes this framework of duty, but without the idea of the divine lawgiver, has severed the concepts of duty and obligation from the only foundation that might give them meaning. Thus, they are without meaning and illegitimate.

This is an amazing insight and I would rank it among the top most insightful critiques of ethics in the history of philosophy. Certainly it is the most powerful critique of duty-based ethics that I have ever seen and it firmly cuts them off at the base and renders them absurd.

Yet, Anscombe could have made an even stronger case. If she had not been a Catholic (and she was a devout, refused to use birth-control and protested abortion clinics, Catholic), she could have taken the tack that since there is no such thing as a god, the very idea of moral duty to a lawgiver does not make sense. It is, to use her analogy, “as if the notion ‘criminal’ were to remain when criminal law and criminal courts had been abolished and forgotten” (p. 6). Thus, all ideas of moral duty or obligation in this special sense must resolve to absurdity.

Now, to be fair to Anscombe, she does even apply her argument to the divine command theorist and notes that even someone using a divine command framework must still justify why we have a duty to obey the divine commands (p. 8). This, of course, students of Philosophy will recognize as a take on the Euthyphro problem. Moreover, she notes that the Kantian move, that one has a duty to oneself-in-itself due to one’s noumenally rational nature will fail to justify the legislative framework, since “whatever you do ‘for yourself’ may be admirable; but it is not legislating” (p. 13), and this does seem to be a completely unwarranted jump.

Thus, I think Anscombe has destroyed the idea of unchosen moral duty or obligation. It makes me curious, though, why this essay isn’t more commonly read or cited. Is it because Anscombe is a woman? Is it because people are loathe to give up their duty-ethics? I do not know the answer to this, but I am certain that philosophy is much the worse for this essay not being better known.

My own position, before reading Anscombe’s excellent essay, was that all duty ethics ultimately end up being no more than systems of punishments of the form “You have a duty to do X and if you don’t, you will be punished”. For this reason, they should not even be considered ethical systems at all, but merely systems of rules and punishments (I argue this in my forthcoming book Eros and Ethos, Chapter 1). While I maintain this position, Anscombe’s idea really explains the force that some people feel for duty-ethics.

An interesting question is why people feel this force in the first place. I submit that it is not because we are used to a legal framework, since few of us have cause to come in contact with the legal system, especially during the years when we are forming our moral beliefs. Rather, it is that many people learned to be moral by having morality imposed on them from the outside as they grew up, by their parents or caregivers. They never took it upon themselves to actually become moral, they simply followed the moral rules they were given in order to conform to a moral code they didn’t understand. Thus, they want to keep having morality be forced upon them, to conform to the only form of morality they know, while simply substituting the moral rules of duty-based systems for the rules of their parents. This is, I believe, the origin of the force that many feel for “moral duty,” although it is only through Anscombe’s argument that we can understand why the very term falls flat.

Thus, for all these reasons, we must reject duty-based ethical systems as being both empty of content (laws without a lawgiver) and as facades hiding a brutish system of punishments. One can, hereafter, say “Do X or I will harm you,” although obviously this is no moral claim, but can no longer say “You have a duty to do X.” Such a claim is incoherent and brutish.

All references in essay to: Anscombe, G. E. M. “Modern Moral Philosophy.” Philosophy, Vol. 33 (124), p. 1-19.

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Eros and Ethos Announcement

by Jason Stotts

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After much agonizing over this decision, I’ve decided that I will be publishing Eros and Ethos, my forthcoming book on sexual ethics, as two separate volumes. Thus, instead of:

Eros and Ethos: A New Theory and Application of Sexual Ethics

It will be:

Eros and Ethos: Volume 1, A New Theory of Sexual Ethics

&

Eros and Ethos: Volume 2, A New Application of Sexual Ethics

There are a number of reasons for publishing Eros and Ethos separately. The primary reason is that each half of Eros and Ethos is as long as most nonfiction books by itself: Volume 1 is around 100,000 words or about 210 book pages and Volume 2 is around 95,000 words or about 200 book pages. So, as you can see, publishing them separately makes sense. Moreover, each can easily stand on its own as a separate book. Most importantly, this means that I can focus my attention on finishing the final drafts of Volume 1 and getting it published right away.

Volume 1 should be released within the next 6-8 months and Volume 2 should follow within the next 3-5 years. After both volumes have been published, I will release an omnibus edition, in probably 7-10 years, that will bring together revised editions of the first two volumes and include another 50-100 pages of original content.

This is really exciting news for me, because it means that Eros and Ethos: Volume 1 will be published soon!

I’m so excited about this. I’m excited for you to see it. I’m excited for it to be in the world. I’m excited about all of the original philosophy that it contains, which has never been done by anyone before. I’m excited to have created something that I think is amazing, new, revolutionary, and a boon for human flourishing.

I’m excited to have done something about which I can be proud.

To give you an idea of why I’m so excited about, and proud of, this project, let me give you just some of the things it includes:

  • A new theory of ethics.
  • A new theory of emotions, including how to understand the connection between a person’s beliefs and their emotions.
  • A new theory of erotic love and better ways to think about love more generally.
  • A new theory of sexual attraction and a full explanation of it.
  • New ways to understand sexual orientation, sexual identities, as well as masculinity and femininity.
  • And much more!
  • AND, most importantly, all of this culminates in a new way to understand sex and its importance in a human life.

I really think that these books have the potential to make the world better and improve people’s lives.

I’ll send out another update once I have a better idea of the publication date, but it’s time to get excited about it.

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Reading, Antihistamines, and Aphantasia

by Jason Stotts

This post isn’t like most of my posts. In fact, it came together quite by accident. You see, just a little over a week ago, I watched a friend defend his dissertation and earn his Ph.D. (congrats, Dr. Moore!). What’s interesting about this is the subject of his dissertation, which was a phenomenological investigation into how we experience reading. This got me thinking about how I read and I eventually wrote him this letter titled “On Reading”:

I’ve been thinking about my own experience of reading recently and have some interesting insights I wanted to share with you. First, some back-story.

A couple of years ago I developed a pretty bad allergy to something that blooms in the Spring here. As a result, this year, I’ve been on antihistamines all Spring. At first I just felt tired and “out of it” and that was all the more I could describe it as. I’ve been changing antihistamines and finally settled on Allegra. Now, that’s not very interesting in itself, but it’s important to understand for what follows.

Usually when I read fiction, I do not experience the words on the page and, instead, experience pretty vivid mental imagery. In fact, I know that my mind has wondered when I start seeing the words again and then I go back and pick up the thread again. I experience reading fiction as a meditative experience or trance where I am not aware of my surroundings at all and I am immersed in the story and its images.

On the other hand, when I read nonfiction, I don’t experience the words imagistically. Indeed, I don’t usually find my mind populating the concretes subsumed under concepts when I think of the concepts (e.g. when I hear “table,” I don’t immediately start picturing all of the tables I have ever seen or even any of the things I know to be tables). When I do philosophy and read nonfiction, my mind stays in a purely conceptual frame, without images. When I think of arguments, I think of them as “flowing” or perhaps as links in a chain (although not with images), but rather they have a “feel” of one thing flowing or leading to another. (Partly, I’m sure, this is also my subconscious telling me whether things cohere with my own antecedent belief structure or what people call “intuition”.)

Anyway, my question at your defense grew out of thinking about my own experience of reading. I realized that the act of reading must first involve perception of the words on the page. However, concepts cannot be understood perceptually and words are simply symbols to stand in for concepts, so we must process the words conceptually. For me, then, when I deal with nonfiction, my mind stays in this conceptual area that doesn’t involve imagery. However, when I read fiction, my mind converts the concepts back into perceptual data based on story (e.g. reading “the moonlight shone softly across the water, highlighting the snow along its banks, and transforming the scene into a softness that enveloped them in its embrace” would give me the visual experience of this.) Now, you might be right that this isn’t a per se perceptual experience. Certainly, it’s what we would call the imag-ination in Aristotelian philosophy of mind, or the faculty of the mind that is capable of having visual experiences that are not immediately tied to our senses.

All of this, though, is partly a pre-amble to something I just realized: my ability to read is not the same right now as it usually is. Because of the allergy I’ve been on antihistamines. I’ve read several fiction books during this time, but even though they were well written and I enjoyed them, I couldn’t quite “see” them in the way I usually do. I realized that it started when I started taking the antihistamines. It seem that something about them prevents me from visualizing fiction in the way I usually do. To double check, I reread a passage from a book I’ve read several times and with which I usually visualize. It was the same: I was stuck seeing the words and not seeing the action.

Moreover, I also realized it’s deeply affected my ability to be creative while I’m writing. Even when writing nonfiction, I’m struggling to access my creativity in a way I don’t usually and I’m having a much harder time writing.

Because of his defense, I had been thinking about my own cognitions since then. So, imagine my surprise when I saw this essay “Aphantasia: How It Feels To Be Blind In Your Mind” by Blake Ross on Facebook. Let me give you a small sample:

I just learned something about you and it is blowing my goddamned mind.

This is not a joke. It is not “blowing my mind” a la BuzzFeed’s “8 Things You Won’t Believe About Tarantulas.” It is, I think, as close to an honest-to-goodness revelation as I will ever live in the flesh.

Here it is: You can visualize things in your mind.

If I tell you to imagine a beach, you can picture the golden sand and turquoise waves. If I ask for a red triangle, your mind gets to drawing. And mom’s face? Of course.

You experience this differently, sure. Some of you see a photorealistic beach, others a shadowy cartoon. Some of you can make it up, others only “see” a beach they’ve visited. Some of you have to work harder to paint the canvas. Some of you can’t hang onto the canvas for long. But nearly all of you have a canvas.

I don’t. I have never visualized anything in my entire life. I can’t “see” my father’s face or a bouncing blue ball, my childhood bedroom or the run I went on ten minutes ago. I thought “counting sheep” was a metaphor. I’m 30 years old and I never knew a human could do any of this. And it is blowing my goddamned mind.

[…]

What did you do today?

I don’t know. I don’t know what I did today.

Answering questions like this requires me to “do mental work,” the way you might if you’re struggling to recall what happened in the Battle of Trafalgar. If I haven’t prepared, I can’t begin to answer. But chitchat is the lubricant of everyday life. I learned early that you can’t excuse yourself from the party to focus on recalling what you did 2 hours ago.

[…]

And if you ask about my day, there’s a good chance that—having had no time to prepare—I’ll lie to you.
It is hard not to feel like a sociopath when you’re lying about how you spent your Monday and you don’t even know why. And there is a sadness, an unflagging detachment that comes from forgetting your own existence.

Imagine how I felt reading this! My mind was blown (but don’t actually form images of my mind being blown, or else we’ll be in different places). His account goes a long way in explaining the way I experience the world, although it’s not quite to the same degree as Blake. As a matter of course, I do not remember things imagistically. I can form mental images and hear music and such, but it’s very hard and comes with effort, I don’t simply do it (except for music, which comes easily). This has led me to have a very bad memory for what I’ve done in a day as well (or what Blake calls “experiential memory”), but a very good memory for philosophy and arguments: I can recall philosophic texts I read more than 10 years ago pretty clearly.

Just like with Blake, this leads me to forget things that I’ve done, even with people I care about, unless there was also some cognitive content with the experience to tie it all together. This is one of the reasons I like taking pictures so much: I really won’t remember how things looked without them.

It’s weird to think about how different my experience is from other people’s. I already knew, for example, that I am nearly indifferent to other people’s emotions: unless I already care about you, your emotions will not affect me in the slightest. Even then, I don’t always know how to handle other people’s emotions. This, however, may be tied to the same issue of visualization: I can’t actually imagine myself in your shoes (which I now assume might be literal).

Now, to bring everything together, I’ve noticed that since I’ve been on the antihistamines, my visual experience has been even more paltry, closer to Blake’s, than it usually is. I would have never noticed this, except that I noticed it in how I read and my friend’s dissertation defense got me thinking about the experience of reading. So, I’m wondering if there isn’t some connection between some part of the brain that antihistamines affect and our ability to form mental images. Undoubtedly, I would be a bad test subject, because I’m already bad at it. But, maybe by standing just on the cusp of being able to do it, I was able to notice the effect of the antihistamines in a way that others don’t, because they only have a small change.

Anyway, I will definitely be thinking more about this and its impact on my life, now that I have a clearer idea that its going on and how it is divergent from others’ experiences.

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News and Other Interesting Things

by Jason Stotts

1. Would the Candiru Fish Really Eat Your Genitals?

We’ve all heard the stories of “that fish” in the amazon that can even swim up your stream of urine and lodge itself in your urethra. But, is it true?

2. Are You Guilty of “Virtue-Signaling?”

Some people use moral outrage as a signal of their own virtue. This is a very interesting inquiry into this phenomenon and raises some very good questions.

3. The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb

This is something I’m definitely guilty of: I don’t always work hard enough to try to understand my interlocutors. It’s something I’m working on.

4. The Man Who Studies the Spread of Ignorance

Sometimes people try to purposefully spread misinformation to confuse issues. This is an interesting analysis of the phenomenon as well as a more general discussion of how people get information and form beliefs.

5. Objectivism vs. Anarchism 

Many people often assume that Objectivism is closely related to anarchism or is compatible with it. Harry Binswanger has an excellent article discussing why this isn’t the case.

6. The Rites of Manhood: Man’s Need for Ritual

Ritual is a way that we create meaning in life. When combined with a rational philosophy, it can help you to feel more meaning in your life.

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Aporia: Pleasure

by Jason Stotts

Aporia (ἀπορɛία): an impasse, puzzlement, doubt, or confusion; a difficulty encountered in establishing the theoretical truth of a proposition, created by the presence of evidence both for and against it.

In this Aporia, I want to inquire into the nature of pleasure. In Eros and Ethos, I made the claim that:

Now, I want to explicitly make the controversial claim that all pleasure operates as an emotion and in response to our antecedent beliefs. By this I mean that our beliefs determine whether we will find any particular action pleasurable. I think that this particular claim must be tempered by the recognition that some things are common to us across all cultures, like comfort, although the particular actions that qualify as “comforting” will vary, sometimes widely, between cultures and so the action that might cause comfort in one culture might not in another. For this reason, I have to insist that pleasure is not innate and that we determine what things will be pleasurable, even if this determination is made culturally and only accepted by us as individuals implicitly through the culture. Human life is so imbued with meaning and that meaning comes from our values, that there is no aspect of this that is not affected, all the way down to our core. Now, of course, I do not mean our sense faculties themselves are affected. Sight is common for us, as long as our faculties are working normally, as is hearing, smell, touch, and taste. But our emotional response to these things after we have identified what we are experiencing will depend on us and our beliefs and values. When we move from pure perception to the conceptual level, we bring our values to bear and we do this immediately, automatically, and whether we wish it or not. And our values determine how we will appraise the thing and how we will respond to it.

This was challenged by my philosophic editor who said that I was conflating our conceptual understanding of pleasure with the physical experience of pleasure. I think he was right to challenge it. But, I’m not sure where to go now.

Consider a case that, a priori, is obviously pleasurable: sex. Sex is pleasurable. I don’t think many people would deny this. Yet, the very same actions that might be pleasurable during consensual sex would not be pleasurable during rape. Or, the exact same action on an unaroused clitoris will feel markedly different than on an aroused clitoris. So, sex is not necessarily or innately pleasurable.

What about warmth in the cold? That’s a pretty simple pleasure that we can all enjoy, right? What about if that warmth comes from the funeral pyre of your child? Is it still going to be a “simple pleasure” then? I have strong doubts that it would.

For every simple pleasure that I consider, I can pretty quickly imagine a case that destroys the pleasure of it.

Now, you might reasonably object that the pleasure is a sensation and that what is happening here is that we feel a sensation which can be innately pleasurable, but then our conceptual and emotional framework comes to bear and that ex post facto changes the simple pleasure: that our emotional or conceptual framework is overwriting the simple pleasure or editing it.

I’m not sure that this works. The woman being raped in the dark alley isn’t feeling first pleasure, but then thinking that she would rather not be raped right now. Her terror and pain are experienced immediately and without any intervening experience. She does not experience pleasure and then it changes to pain: she experiences pain and terror.

This is part of the rub: emotions are experienced immediately and as primaries. If there is such a thing as a simple pleasure, then how can we reconcile this with our knowledge that some things can be pleasurable in one context, but not another?

This all is not to say that I don’t, too, feel the pull of the idea of a simple pleasure: warmth when I’m cold, food when I’m hungry, or comfort when I hurt. But, even so, I can’t reconcile this with the knowledge that it matters quite a bit how these things are given to me: I wouldn’t seek solace for my wife’s murder from her murderer and I damned sure wouldn’t feel pleasure at any comfort he might try to give me.

So, where do we go from here?

We could create an account of “natural pleasures” that are common to all humans…except those who have had certain experiences or hold certain beliefs or are in certain contexts. But, that’s a pretty weird sense of “natural.”

Or, we could acknowledge that pleasure is an emotion and responds to our context, our beliefs, and the totality of our experience: that the idea of a simple pleasure is simply illusory.

I really don’t know. But, I’m leaning towards a more complex conception of pleasure that captures the way it seems to work in the real world.

—Update—

After some more thinking about this issue and discussions about it with various people, I think I’m getting a better grasp of it (not that I would say I have it completely figured out).

A friend on facebook pointed out that infants probably do have this kind of unmitigated pleasure and I think that’s probably right. These “simple pleasures” might be something we share with all other animals as infants, but once our minds start to develop, then we no longer have them. This may also be the way that instincts work: we have them as children, but we do not as adults (adults frequently override “instincts” from childhood and erase them). There seems to be some sort of transition from the pre-conceptual mental framework that has merely pleasure and pain to the fully conceptual framework that also includes the emotions and the like. During the transition, our ability to experience pleasure without our conceptual apparatus entirely disappears.

I don’t believe that a normally constituted adult can experience pleasure without his conceptual framework. Let’s look at a couple of examples that I think might help.

Case 1: Let us say that a man takes a sip out of a glass marked “ethylene glycol” and finds that it takes sweet and feels pleasure at this. Now, let us imagine that someone rushes to him and says: “You fool! That’s anti-freeze and it’s very poisonous! We need to get you to a hospital at once or you’re going to die.” Will the man still feel pleasure? Assuredly not. The pleasure will be instantly gone and it will be replaced with disgust and fear.

Case 2: Let us imagine the same man sees a glass and it’s marked “anti-freeze (DANGER! POISON!).” Will he be likely to pick it up and drink it? No. Let us say that he is forced to drink it in order to save the life of his family. Will be feel pleasure drinking it? No, he will not. Even though it will still be sweet, it will not be pleasurable.

Case 3: Let us imagine a man who’s grown up in a place where he never had anything sweet. His diet has consisted of nothing but meat, vegetables, tubers, and the like. He has never had sugar or sweets. Now, imagine you find this man and you hold out to him a hard candy made entirely of sugar. Let us say that you tell him nothing at all about it (perhaps he doesn’t have language), but you mime putting it in your mouth and he does so. We might expect him to feel pleasure at tasting the sweetness of the sugar, but that’s not likely. Because this man would never have experienced anything like the hard candy, his mind will not know how to process it and won’t know how to respond to it: it would be a cognitive blank to him. In all likelihood, he would spit it out and be concerned about what it was. Now, instead, let us say that you had been able to communicate that it was food and it tasted good to set his expectations. He will then likely experience it as sweet and maybe feel pleasure at it. However, in this case, you primed his response with the fore-knowledge you gave him.

When we don’t have any frame of reference for a thing, when we experience something completely novel as an adult, we do not experience simple pleasures. Rather, we are cautious and try to find out more information about what it is and what it does. Our brains and bodies are simply not constituted such that we have any affective experiences outside of our conceptual framework.

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Assisted Suicide Now Legal in California

by Jason Stotts

The governor of California, Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, has recently made the right choice to sign into law a bill that makes it legal for physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs for people who are terminally ill and still mentally competent to make the choice to die (LA Times). This is a great step forward for advocates of individual liberty, because there are few crueler fates than being forced to stay alive to suffer before death merely to appease someone else’s religious preferences.

This bill was made possible by Brittany Maynard, who advocated for physician assisted suicide and made headlines as she made this choice herself. Her death was a catalyst for the debate and her struggle really made it possible.

I’m very pleased in this positive movement for individual liberty and autonomy.

On the other hand, the governor also vetoed a bill that would have allowed patients to try experimental medications that have not received governmental approval yet in a bid to try to prevent their death. This is a tragedy and shows a deep lack of principle of Brown’s part. What difference does it make to the man who is dying of a terminal disease if a drug that may save his life may also kill him? The man will die anyway, he should be given the chance to fight for his life if he wishes to. Moreover, these brave people would also help to move forward medical science and help others who may be in the same position later.

So, while there was a significant win for individual liberty, there was also a setback. Overall, if we keep pushing these issues on the underlying principles, we shall keep seeing victories (like my friend Alex Epstein shows).

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News and Other Interesting Things

by Jason Stotts

1. Scientists Celebrate the Weird World of Animal Genitalia

Have you ever wondered what penises look like throughout the animal kingdom? Well, it’s your lucky day. (NSFW? Article on WaPo; more on Twitter)

2. How Many Scientists Does It Take to Write a Paper? Apparently, Thousands 

In less than a decade, Dr. Aad, who lives in Marseilles, France, has appeared as the lead author on 458 scientific papers. Nobody knows just how many scientists it may take to screw in a light bulb, but it took 5,154 researchers to write one physics paper earlier this year—likely a record—and Dr. Aad led the list. (WSJ)

The culture of “publish or perish” in academia has become completely absurd. Academics are forced to spend so much time trying to publish, even on trivial minutia, that they are unable to do real research or focus on their teaching. When you combine this with the fact that students are allowed to judge their professors and this is their only evaluation, you get a terrible mix of pandering professors who care more about what people think of them than they do about the truth.

3. Take My Wife, Please: The Rise of Cuckolding Culture

For those unfamiliar with cuckolding as sexual fetish, try to recall high-school English, and more specifically, Geoffrey Chaucer’s reference to cuckolds in The Canterbury Tales. The traditional Middle English meaning of the word — a man with an adulterous wife — echoes the modern-day fetish: “One cannot be a cuckold if not wed. But I do not therefore asperse your bed; few are the wives who make their husbands sad, a thousand good for every one that’s bad.”

The glaring difference? Dozens of cuckold websites affirm that today’s cucks aren’t just standing helplessly by. They’re begging well-endowed men to have sex with their insatiable wives. (Nerve)

This article isn’t new, but it does a great job of discussing the rise of cuckolding and hotwifing. On the other hand, I actually disagree with the article’s use of “cuckold” and “hotwife.” I think of cuckolding as typically involving humiliation play and/or submission, whereas hotwifing is more of a celebration of feminine sexuality.

4. Olympian to Escort

Suzy Favor Hamilton says she was always just a nice girl from Wisconsin.

Widely celebrated for her athletic pursuits throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, the nine-time NCAA champion and former Olympic middle-distance runner appeared to be the quintessential example of all-American womanhood. Then she fell on the track during the 2000 Summer Olympics, bringing an abrupt close to her running career.

In the following decade, Hamilton struggled to build a new life without sports. She juggled running a real estate business with her college sweetheart, Mark, with making personal appearances on the former Olympian circuit. After giving birth to her daughter, Hamilton was diagnosed with postpartum depression and prescribed Zoloft, which immediately improved her mood. She felt like she was on top of the world.

Then, just before Christmas 2012, she was outed as a high-end Las Vegas escort. (LINK)

This is a really interesting article about a former olympian who turned to sex work. Her story about bipolar and mania might be completely true, but it also feels a little bit like an excuse for enjoying sex work and needing to explain it away. Either way, it’s an interesting story.

5. The Victims of Cameroon’s Horrific Breast Ironing Tradition

“Breast ironing” is the Cameroonian custom of massaging young girls chests with hot tools—spatulas and pestles being the most common—in an attempt to flatten their developing breasts. This is done with the intention of postponing their first sexual relationships by making their bodies less attractive to men. Parents often fear that the girls won’t finish their education if they meet a man and become pregnant.

For the most part, the flattening is carried out by female family members, either at home or with the assistance of a healer. The process begins as soon as the girls hit puberty—for some, that means as early as eight years old. The consequences of this can be disastrous for the victims’ health—cysts, breast cancer, and breastfeeding issues are all common, not to mention the abundance of psychological consequences linked to the practice. According to a 2011 GIZ report, one out of every ten Cameroonian girls has been subjected to breast ironing. (NSFW – LINK)

There are so many more kinds of genital mutilation than penile (“circumcision”) or vulval. In fact, if you look hard enough, you can find mutilation of basically every body part for sexual reasons.

This is the interesting story of breast mutilation and the culture that condones and engages in it.

6. In This Remote Village, Some Boys Don’t Grow a Penis Until They’re 12

Puberty can be an awkward time for anybody, but spare a thought for the Guevedoce children of the Dominican Republic, who literally appear to change their sex when they hit adolescence.

As covered by Michael Mosely in the new BBC series, Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You, the remarkable case of the Guevedoces is a condition that affects just over 1 percent of the boys born in Salinas, a remote village lying in the southwest of the Dominican Republic.

Guevedoces (literal translation “penis at 12”) – who are also called “machihembras”, meaning “first a woman, then a man” – appear to be completely female at birth and are brought up to be little girls.

“When they’re born, they look like girls with no testes and what appears to be a vagina,” writes Mosely for The Telegraph. “It is only when they near puberty that the penis grows and testicles descend.” (LINK)

This is the first I’ve heard about this and I find it incredibly interesting. I’m really not sure what implications to draw from this, but I do think that it shows the incredible power of puberty over the body and this may have implications for the debate around transsexualism, although I’m not sure if I understand how yet. If you’re interested more in the condition that causes this, check out this wikipedia page on it: 5-alpha-reductase deficiency.

6. Intelligent Machines: Call for a Ban on Robots Designed as Sex Toys

A campaign has been launched calling for a ban on the development of robots that can be used for sex.

Such a use of the technology is unnecessary and undesirable, said campaign leader Dr Kathleen Richardson.

Sex dolls already on the market are becoming more sophisticated and some are now hoping to build artificial intelligence into their products.

Those working in the field say that there is a need for such robots. (LINK)

This whole article seems ridiculous. A robot that is not self-aware is no different from a dildo in moral status. If robots ever have consciousness and self-awareness, then we need to have a different conversation about what kinds of rights robots would have (if any).

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