Pragmatism: How Americans define truth

If something is "true," it needs to be shown to work in the real world.

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  • Pragmatism is an American philosophical movement that originated as a rebuke to abstract European philosophy.
  • The pragmatic theory of truth argues that truth and reality only can be understood in their relation to how things work in the real world.
  • The trouble is that the theory devalues the term "truth," such that it only applies to one particular moment in time. But Charles Sanders Peirce offers a clever way out.
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The misguided history of female anatomy

From "mutilated males" to "wandering wombs," dodgy science affects how we view the female body still today.

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  • The history of medicine and biology often has been embarrassingly wrong when it comes to female anatomy and was surprisingly resistant to progress.
  • Aristotle and the ancient Greeks are much to blame for the mistaken notion of women as cold, passive, and little more than a "mutilated man."
  • Thanks to this dubious science, and the likes of Sigmund Freud, we live today with a legacy that judges women according to antiquated biology and psychology.
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Everything could have been so different

Your life is far more arbitrary than you might think.

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  • Jorge Borges' story, The Library of Babel, asks us to imagine all the books that could be written using a random shuffling of 25 characters.
  • Daniel Dennett argues that, in some ways, the genetic makeup of all life is similar but with only four characters.
  • The history of the universe is only one possible way our story could have gone. Much of our reality is simply arbitrary.
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Thales: Ancient Greeks built the cosmos with right triangles

The ancient Greeks were obsessed with geometry, which may have formed the basis of their philosophical cosmology.

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  • Every triangle inscribed inside a circle on its diameter is a right triangle.
  • Upon this discovery, Thales is said to have performed a great ritual sacrifice.
  • Might Thales have believed that the entire cosmos was constructed of right triangles?
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Aristotle’s guide to the elderly and ancient Greek wisdom

The wise, the old, and the experienced matter to a full and happy life.

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  • Life is full of complicated and difficult moments, but we can become better at dealing with them. This practical wisdom is a cornerstone of Aristotle's ethics.
  • When we practice this skill, we become more adept at seeing situations and people differently — not unlike an artist viewing a painting.
  • The elderly and experienced of this world have such wisdom in spades. But those of us in the West rarely tap into this precious resource.
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