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Barbarians At The Gate?
Philistines are people who have something to be embarrassed about but nevertheless do not feel embarrassed. In common usage a philistine ought to feel embarrassed primarily because he lacks “culture”: cultivated taste in prestigious leisure activities. This usage proves self-defeating in societies that are pluralistic about leisure, as I will explain. Must we, then, abandon the pejorative label altogether?
No. It is important to be clear about the kinds of people that we should not want to be. And with sincere apologies to the Aegean “Sea People” who landed in Egypt in the 12th century B.C.E., I think that the modern pejorative usage of “philistine” is ripe for evolution. I will elaborate on how I think it ought to be used in what follows.
Let me first explain why I think that the most common usage proves self-defeating in societies that maintain leisure pluralism.
Consider, by contrast, a society that is not pluralistic about leisure, one that has a normative hierarchy of social classes and associated leisure activities. In such a society elites and non-elites alike will tend to agree that the elites have lives worthy of admiration (including their distinctive leisure activities). Think, for instance, of the court society surrounding an early modern monarch: classical concerts, ballroom dances, plays, all attended in elaborate gowns and wigs.
It is entirely appropriate for elites under these circumstances to identify and denigrate as philistines those who are conspicuously beneath them (who have crude, common taste) or those who are against them (who are hostile or indifferent to their forms of leisure). Status at court – with its norms of leisure and etiquette – is derived from proximity to the king. A philistine is most distant from the king, or an enemy of the king’s court. Disparaging someone by labeling him a philistine in this context is a political act that makes sense given the political order.
If this seems immediately obnoxious to you it is probably because we do not live in such a society. In American society, neither wealth, political power, family history, nor even higher education makes a person’s life presumptively admirable. As a result, the leisure activities of the wealthy, powerful, aristocratic, and highly educated have no claim to superiority. People who present themselves or are presented to the public as paragons at the top of some normative hierarchy are as likely to be mocked as they are to be admired.
To the extent that a person has time for leisure in contemporary American society he will feel no compunction whatsoever about how he chooses to spend it. He might engage in a variety of leisure activities: play tennis, contemplate metaphysics, go fishing, learn Talmud, collect comic books, go to art galleries, attend lectures, watch all of the films and TV shows made by David Lynch, reenact historical wars, taste wines, and so on. Or he may use the time simply to rest: nap on a hammock, float in a pool, smoke a joint and listen to dub music, take a walk, watch TV flicking aimlessly through the channels, and so forth.
Different subcultures and groups in America appraise these options differently and there is no mutually agreed upon perspective from which to render a definitive appraisal. Thus there is pluralism about leisure in America.
A person who unselfconsciously labels others philistines in the traditional sense – as uncultured dolts – has something to be embarrassed about in this environment. He should be embarrassed about the fact that he holds to his superiority despite lacking a justification that anyone outside of his own clique would be willing to accept. He should be at least a little self-conscious of the fact that he looks like a coiffed buffoon to many of the people who appraise his cultured pomp very differently.
If he nevertheless fails to feel the appropriate embarrassment then it is he who is in some sense the philistine. This is how the common usage proves self-defeating.
In a pluralistic society where no one agrees about what are the highest leisurely pursuits, the canonical texts, the most fundamental beliefs, the best way to live, etc., the philistine is the person who is not sufficiently embarrassed by the contingency and “unjustifiability” of his particular preferences.
The philistine in our time is a person who lacks awareness of his own relative absurdity.
A philistine adage is: “I do not apologize for myself.” Or, “I make no apologies for who I am.”
In social life each person encroaches on every other with his weird world of preferences, affiliations, aversions, and other often inexplicable motivations. We should all be at least a little bit apologetic for it. We should all step gently with just a modicum of general embarrassment about the things that are important to us that we will never be able to explain adequately, let alone justify, to others.
It is not that you should avoid being absorbed in obscure connoisseurship or any other passionate pursuits, lest you slip into philistine self-satisfaction. The point is that there should always be some acknowledgment of idiosyncrasy when you finally emerge and come into contact with others.
In general, the easiest way to accomplish this is with a good sense of humor, especially when it is appropriately self-deprecating. But it is also worth somehow communicating your appreciation to others: “I know how ridiculous I must seem given that you do not share my preferences, obsessions, worldview, etc., and I appreciate your indulgence.”
Where this sentiment is communicated reciprocally among most members of a pluralistic society there is reason enough to call it “enlightened.” It is especially enlightened if this sentiment is communicated reciprocally with respect to the widest range of preferences, beliefs, affiliations, and aversions.
The philistine gets in the way of this enlightenment.
Don’t be a philistine.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
How can we promote the creation of new neurons - and why is it so important?
- Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth.
- After birth, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain: the olfactory bulb (which is responsible for our sense of smell) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory, spatial navigation, and emotional processing).
- Research from the 1960s proves creating new neurons as adults is possible, and modern-day research explains how (and why) we should promote new neuron growth.
Two parts of the brain can continue growing through neurogenesis<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTAwODc1MH0.4GDLlZmkwuD0-pJ0s0UWcUoYXMy95a-AM61a_QAlAeA/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e77e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4e23499fdf3b2185533979083fd02db7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="brain made of twigs and plants concept of neurogenesis" />
Neurogenesis is still possible well into adulthood in two very important parts of the human brain.
Image by EtiAmmos on Shutterstock<p>Although most people are aware that aging or bad habits such as heavy alcohol use can contribute to the deterioration of our brains, not many of us give thought to how we can generate new brain cells.</p><p>Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth. </p><p><strong>After birth, however, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain:</strong></p><ul><li>The olfactory bulb, which is a structure of the forebrain that's responsible for our sense of smell. </li><li>The hippocampus, which is a structure of the brain located within the temporal lobe (just above your ears) - this area is important for learning, memory, regulation, of emotions and spatial navigation. </li></ul><p>Of course, when this information first came to light <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13860748" target="_blank">back in the 1960s</a>, the next natural question was: How do we promote neurogenesis in those areas where it's still possible? </p><p>Researchers today believe there are activities you can do (some of them may be things you already do on a daily basis) that can promote neurogenesis in your brain. </p><p><strong>Why is it important to promote the growth of new neurons in adulthood?</strong></p><p>We produce an estimated 700 million neurons per day in the hippocampus - this means by the time we reach the age of 50, we will have exchanged the neurons we were born within that area of the brain with new (adult-generated) neurons. </p><p>If we don't promote this exchange with the growth of new neurons, we may block certain abilities these new neurons help us with (such as keeping our memory sharp, for example). </p>
4 ways to promote neurogenesis in your brain<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTE3NjczNH0.qyzh_AIUPKfaQIa1QEq4yTNCAAK9nYkH3HFV9vWXwww/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C104&height=700" id="64a68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee1307fe2dd61ae425552da56db3c5ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="child playing trumpet concept of learning a new instrument neurogenesis" />
Learning a new instrument helps promote neurogenesis.
Photo by DenisProduction.com on Shutterstock<p><strong>Intermittent fasting</strong></p><p><a href="https://law.stanford.edu/2015/01/09/lawandbiosciences-2015-01-09-intermittent-fasting-try-this-at-home-for-brain-health/" target="_blank">A 2015 Stanford study</a> examined the link between <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting#section1" target="_blank">intermittent fasting</a> and neurogenesis. Calorie restriction and fasting can not only increase synaptic plasticity and promote neuron growth but it can also decrease your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases and boost cognitive function. </p><p><u>Two of the most common ways you can intermittently fast are: </u></p><ul><li>16 hours per day every day - this is a method where you are able to eat for an 8 hour period of the day and fast for 16 hours of the day. Many people begin their "fast" after dinner, pushing their morning meal far enough towards lunch that most of their "off" eating time happens while they are asleep anyways. </li></ul><ul><li>24 hours every week - this is a method where once a week you fast for an entire day. Some people prefer this method because the rest of the week can resume as normal - but for many, this is a difficult way to fast. </li></ul><p><strong>Traveling to new places</strong></p><p>While traveling is something many of us enjoy — scenic routes and new fun experiences — these things also promote neurogenesis while we're on vacation. <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-xpm-2014-01-28-sc-trav-0128-travel-mechanic-20140128-story.html" target="_blank">Paul Nussbaum</a>, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, explains that the mental benefits of traveling are very clear.<br></p><p><em>"When you expose your brain to an environment that's novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts. Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites (dangling extensions) which grow the brain's capacity." </em></p><p><strong>Learning a new instrument</strong></p><p>The mental health benefits of music have long been studied, but did you know that learning a new instrument can promote new neuron growth? </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996135/" target="_blank">this 2010 study</a>, learning to play a new musical instrument is an intense, multisensory motor experience that requires that acquisition and maintenance of skills over your entire lifetime - which of course, promotes the new formation of new neural networks. </p><p>When is the best time to begin learning a new instrument? Childhood, of course. </p><p><em>"Learning to play a new musical instrument in childhood can result in long-lasting changes in brain organization," </em>according to the study mentioned above. </p><p>While learning an instrument in adulthood will also promote neurogenesis, children who began training with a musical instrument before the age of 7 have shown that they have a significantly larger corpus callosum (the area of the brain the allows communication between the two hemispheres of the brain) than many adults. </p><p><strong>Reading novels</strong></p><p>A study from <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html" target="_blank">Emory University</a> showed there was an increase in ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading the same (fiction) novel. </p><p>In this study, enhanced brain activity was observed in the region that control physical sensations and movement. Reading a novel, according to lead researcher Gregory Berns, can transport you into the body of the protagonist. </p><p>This ability to shift into another mental state is a vital skill that promotes healthy neurogenesis in those areas of the brain. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?