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“Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits”*…

The School of Athens (1509–1511) by Raphael, depicting famous classical Greek philosophers

Helena de Bres on what philosophy can– and can’t– help us understand about the meaning of life…

… It’s not always clear what the average person is after when seeking life guidance from philosophers, but it tends to be a mix of three things. First, some general orientation in the universe; second, a serving of existential consolation for when life fucks us over; and, more rarely, a dose of specific practical advice (to text back or not to text back?)

The easy reply to the last of those requests is that philosophy can supply at best only part of the answer. How someone should respond to a particular situation depends on facts about the world that we philosophers have no special expertise in… so we can’t pronounce on the question solo.

The more socially uncomfortable reply is that the demand that philosophy be personally helpful, in any of these three ways, sounds wrongheaded to someone with the training of a mainstream contemporary philosopher. Saying that aloud involves accusing a fellow human who’s having a life crisis of being naïve, which is an asshole move I try to avoid. But I do think it, because pretty much the last thing I saw myself as acquiring while I skilled up in graduate school was transferable expertise in how to deal with everyday life, on either the grand or the intimate scale…

Science has practical applications, but to true devotees the applications aren’t the main point, and attempting to go straight to them is likely to backfire. Seeking direct life guidance or swift consolation from philosophy is similarly risky, for similar reasons. Bernard Williams writes in his essay “On Hating and Despising Philosophy” that, though philosophy can be pressing, it doesn’t get there “by instantly addressing the urgent and the deep.” That results in mere superficiality, intellectual kitsch. Being genuinely helpful usually requires being truthful, and because the issues philosophy addresses are complex and difficult, the search for the truth about them should start in the foothills and inch up cautiously. A truthful philosophy will be unspectacular and inaccessible to the average person as it proceeds. And if philosophy does eventually generate good life advice, there’s no guarantee it’ll deliver comfort along with it. Truth can be a bitch…

Academic philosophy and the meaning of life: “Help!,” from @helenadebres in @the_point_mag. Part one of a four-part series (it gets less bleak :). Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

* William James

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As we search, we might wish a Joyeux Anniversaire to a philosopher whose practice was robustly practical: Denis Diderot, contributor to and the chief editor of the Encyclopédie (“All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone’s feelings.”)– and thus towering figure in the Enlightenment; he was born on this date in 1713.  Diderot was also a novelist (e.g., Jacques le fataliste et son maître [Jacques the Fatalist and his Master])…  and no mean epigramist:

From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.

We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.

Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

A thing is not proved just because no one has ever questioned it.

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October 5, 2022 at 1:00 am

“By preventing dangerous asteroid strikes, we can save millions of people, or even our entire species”*…

The probability of an major asteroid strike on earth at any given moment is low, but the consequences could be catastrophic… and the odds of it happening at some point grow frighteningly large. Happily, the B612 Foundation and Asteroid Institute has developed a way of identifying potentially dangerous asteroids so that they can be deflected by NASA…

Protecting the planet: The Asteroid Institute, @b612foundation.

* Rusty Schweickart, astronaut and co-founder of B612

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As we dodge disaster, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957 that the space age– and the space race– began in earnest: Sputnik 1 was launched by the Soviet Union into earth orbit.

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October 4, 2022 at 1:00 am

“The Big Rock Candy Mountain”*…

Rock candy (or sugar candy or rock sugar or crystal sugar) is a type of sweet composed of relatively large sugar crystals, formed by allowing a supersaturated solution of sugar and water to crystallize onto a surface suitable for crystal nucleation (e.g.,a string, a stick, or plain granulated sugar). As Anna and Kelly Pendergrast explain, they have a pattern embedded through the entire length, using techniques perfected by master candy craftspeople over generations…

A 1957 film shows the making of rock candy (often better known by its place of origin, for instance, Blackpool rock or Brighton rock..

A more recent demonstration shows the technique has remained practically unchanged for 75 years…

Crafting a confection: How Rock Candy is Made, from @APndrgrst and @k_pendergrast in The Prepared (@the_prepared).

Harry McClintock

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As we let it melt in our mouths, we might note that this is National Caramel Custard Day. A caramel custard is an egg custard, lightly topped with caramel, on a caramel base; a variation, Creme Brulee, is a distant cousin of rock candy, in that the caramel is not at the bottom, but only the top of the custard, and is “carmelized” (hardened) with a red-hot salamander (a cast-iron disk with a long wooden handle) or with a butane torch.

Caramel Custard

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October 3, 2022 at 1:00 am

“No offense to real jobs, but comics seemed a lot more fun”*…

It’s been just over 12 years since (R)D last visited Dinosaur Comics (though your correspondent checks in regularly). Ryan North— the creator of Adventure Time (comics), Squirrel Girl, numerous books (e.g., How To Take Over The World and How To Invent Everything),and other delights– is still doling out prehistoric profundity…

So much more at Dinosaur Comics (@dinosaurcomics).

* Ryan North

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As we parse percipience, we might recall that it was on this date in 1950 that the daily comic strip Peanuts premiered in eight newspapers: The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Minneapolis Tribune, The Allentown Call-Chronicle, The Bethlehem Globe-Times, The Denver Post, The Seattle Times, and The Boston Globe.  Its creator, Charles Schulz had developed the concept as a strip (L’il Folks) in his hometown paper, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, from 1947 to 1950.  At its peak, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages.

First Peanuts strip

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October 2, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Surrender to it. It’s nacho time.”*…

As Mark Dent explains, anytime you order nachos at a sporting event, there’s a good chance they came from a molten-cheese empire in San Antonio, Texas…

Ballpark nachos are a concession stand staple… For all of Major League Baseball, that statistic would translate to ~13m orders.

And for every order, there’s one key figure to thank: San Antonio businessman Frank Liberto.

Decades ago, he added a twist to a popular Mexican appetizer and originated the concept of the ballpark nacho. If you’ve purchased nachos at a sporting event or a movie theater, odds are you’ve bought chips, cheese sauce, or jalapeños from the Liberto family’s longtime business…

The fascinating story of “The family that built a ballpark nachos monopoly,” from @mdent05 in @TheHustle.

For a somewhat more (or at least differently) aspirational appreciation of nachos, see “Toward a Theory of Perfect Nachos,” from @rosecrans in @SAVEURMAG.

* Kristen Bell

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As we crave the crunch, we might recall that it was on this date in 1971 that Walt Disney World, outside of Orlando, opened. The property covers nearly 25,000 acres (39 sq mi; 101 km2), of which half has been used. The resort has grown to contain four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom), two water parks, 31 themed resort hotels, nine non-Disney hotels, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues, including the outdoor shopping center Disney Springs.

Nachos are served.

The Hub of Magic Kingdom

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 1, 2022 at 1:00 am

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