Subscriber Newsletter #19: Bicycles, Doubts and Indifference to Death

Will Buckingham
Will Buckingham
Subscriber Newsletter #19: Bicycles, Doubts and Indifference to Death
Mayday celebration. 1890s. Public domain via the Wellcome Institute.

On cycling, doubt, and indifference to death... What we've been up to over the last month, and some news about what's ahead!

Hello, Philosophers, and welcome to the monthly Looking for Wisdom newsletter. It's been a fun month, rambling through the philosophical traditions of India and Greece, with a brief visit to Norway along the way. So have a read of what we've been up to, catch up on what we've published over the past month, and read on to find out what fun projects we've got in the works.

God, Death, and Other Non-Problems

Try to talk to Confucius about God and gods, or about what happens after death, and he'll just shrug with indifference and change the subject, as if a philosopher shouldn't concern themselves with such idle speculation. So in this piece, we explore how philosophical problems are often much more local, and less universal, than we imagine them to be.

Constellations of Thought: God, Death, and Other Non-Problems
What are the fundamental questions in human life? And how can reading across different traditions enrich our sense of what questions might be fruitful to ask?

What is Knowledge For? The Nyāya Philosophers on Knowing, Doing and Doubting

One annoying thing about philosophers is that they go around doubting stuff all the time, even when they don't need to. “How do you know that the chair is real?” the doubting (and possibly drunk) philosopher asks you. “How do you know this isn't an illusion? How do you know that some evil demon is not tricking you…?”

The next time this happens, throw them a copy of the Nyāya-sūtra and be done with them. You can read more here!

Knowing, Doing, and Doubting: Nyāya Philosophy
For the philosophers of the Nyāya school, the role of knowledge was to make effective action possible.

How To Avoid Falling off Your Bike (With Help from the Huainanzi)

Next up: cycling, charioteering and other healthful activities. It turns out, now we've moved to Dundee, that Scotland is pretty hilly. Who'd have thought? So we've not been on our bikes here in Scotland's sunniest city. But if that changes, we'll be heeding advice from the Huainanzi.

Advice for Rulers, Charioteers and Cyclists: the Huainanzi
The Huainanzi, a fascinating Han dynasty guidebook for rulers, on resonance, non-action, charioteering, and how not to fall off a bicycle.

What Else We're Up To

We've been up to some fun stuff over the past few weeks. Looking for Wisdom's Will Buckingham is currently in the middle of teaching a course in the Arts of Argument at Parami University in Myanmar. So we've been talking about everything from Amartya Sen on the global roots of democracy (see also David Graeber and David Wengrow's brilliant book The Dawn of Everything), to Han Fei on rhetoric, to how women philosophers in the ancient world both use and subvert gender expectations to make their arguments.

Weaving the Net of Argument: Three Radical Women Philosophers
Three stories of women philosophers in the ancient world weaving arguments to challenge their male contemporaries. Gārgī Vācaknavī in India, Hipparchia in Greece, and Jing Jiang in China.

Will has also been writing about good and evil in Asian religious and philosophical traditions for RE Today magazine, and starting to cook up his next book. And finally, he's getting ready for a talk on the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, and why our relationships with strangers matter, at the Pari Center.

Strangers on the Threshold: Love, Wisdom, and the Task of Philosophy - The Pari Center
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Meanwhile, now that we're landed here in Dundee, Looking for Wisdom's Hannah Stevens (Hannah is officially in charge of plots and schemes) – when not planning out her novel – has been busy making connections to cook up some fun philosophical projects closer to home. We've got a couple of things happening this summer that are currently under wraps, so we'll be announcing them next month!

We've also been doing lots of tidying up on the site so that it is simpler to navigate (untangling tangled URL structures and other fun stuff). There's still a bit more to do, but we're pleased with how things are looking.

What's Coming Up?

Over the last year and a half, we've published a whole load here on the site (close to 100 Philosopher Files, amounting to something between 150k and 200k words, plus all the regular newsletters!). So from now onwards, we're relaxing our publishing schedule a little, and we'll be sending out philosopher files twice monthly, plus the regular monthly newsletters. This will give us time to plan more projects that can put some of this material to work (and give a bit more love to our fledgling Facebook group as well).

In May, we have philosopher files coming up on Lucretius, the poet-philosopher of the Roman World, and on why you should read philosophy for laughs. So keep your eyes peeled for our next Philosopher Files.

Support What We Do

Looking for Wisdom is a labour of love. We experimented with various payment models in the early days, but ultimately, we realised we are much happier if we just make the content freely available to anyone who wants to access it.

Nevertheless, the site does involve costs, both in terms of money (a modest annual sum for hosting), and time (a big chunk of our week spent writing, reading, thinking and organising). So if you want to help support us, consider making a small regular donation by becoming a supporter. You can find out more here.

The world’s philosophy in your inbox. Join our community for free. Looking for Wisdom is run by Wind&Bones CIC, a social enterprise based in the UK. We are 100% donation-supported.

And that's all for this month! Thanks for all your support and enthusiasm, and as always, if you want to say hello, just drop us a line (either by replying to this newsletter if you received it as an email, or by going to our contact page). We love hearing from folks.

All the best,

Hannah & Will. Looking for Wisdom.

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