19 Stories

Meet Harry Potter and the Philosophy Class

St. Cloud University offering class focused on the boy wizard

(Newser) - A Minnesota university is mixing the magical world of Harry Potter into philosophy teachings. St. Cloud State University professor Carolyn Hartz is applying Aristotle's work on friendship to character relationships in JK Rowling's books about the boy wizard, the St. Cloud Times reports. The class discusses ethics, logic,... More »

Descartes' Skull Reveals Secret About His Life

17th-century French mathematician famously said, 'I think, therefore I am'

(Newser) - French mathematician and father of modern philosophy Rene Descartes is perhaps most famous for his phrase, "I think, therefore I am." But now French medical anthropologist and forensic expert Philippe Charlier is adding a layer of intrigue to the thinker's history. Descartes died in Stockholm in 1650... More »

Ayn Rand Wouldn't Love Paul Ryan

He's embraced policies antithetical to author's thinking: Conor Friedersdorf

(Newser) - Paul Ryan adores Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand, calling her "the reason I got involved in public service." But the feeling wouldn't be mutual, writes Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic . First off, the very idea of "public service" is pretty un-Randian: She calls the notion of... More »

The 13 Most Worthless Majors

Want a job? Avoid fine art, according to 'Daily Beast' list

(Newser) - Hey, college students: If your life plans include getting an actual job, you may want to avoid the stars of the Daily Beast 's "most useless" majors list. Majors are ranked in terms of employment, taking into account unemployment rates among recent and experienced grads, earnings, and likely... More »

Hey, Guys: Women Are Better People Than You

And we all grow more moral as we age: study

(Newser) - Women are the more moral sex, making choices in light of others' needs, a study suggests. Men, on the other hand, tend to focus on themselves, the Telegraph reports. The female approach "tends to produce better decisions," says the philosopher who conducted the study. But both sexes become... More »

College Professor: Swearing Cost Me My Job

He resigns after complaints led to discipline

(Newser) - A small fight over academic freedom and blue language in Hawaii: A college philosophy professor who used phrases like "shit happens" for discussion in class has resigned after a student complained to her father, who in turn complained to school administrators at Hawaii Community College, who then urged the... More »

Secret Musical Message Found in Plato

Philosopher was closet supporter of Pythagoras

(Newser) - Plato embedded in his writings secret messages that would have earned him execution for heresy, says a scholar who claims to have found a hidden code in the original scroll form of the ancient Greek philosopher's writings. Exactly once every 12 lines Plato refers to music—a message, says scholar... More »

Woman Gets PhD in Texting

Philosophy thesis is first on text message communication

(Newser) - A British graduate student has earned a PhD in texting—an academic first, Discover magazine reports. Caroline Tagg’s doctorate, more specifically, is in the philosophy of texting communication. Tagg studied 11,000 texts from 235 people over four years. Among the findings: The average text is 17.5 words,... More »

'Giant Leap' Was a 'Knee in NASA's Groin'

Ever since 1969, hope for a 'bridge to the stars' has faded

(Newser) - The US took a “giant leap” landing on the moon in 1969, but NASA's greatest moment of triumph was also "a real knee in the groin" for the space agency, writes Tom Wolfe in the New York Times. At the time, we thought we’d build “a... More »

ALS Patient Chronicled Her Struggle, Chose Her Death

'I choose not only how I will live, but if I will live'

(Newser) - When writer Catherine Royce became an ALS patient, she shared with NPR her passionate belief that she should be able to meet her decline and eventual death on her own terms. "Every day, I choose not only how I will live, but if I will live," she said... More »

How Bush Fueled the Mortgage Mess

His philosophy at center of housing crisis

(Newser) - A range of factors led to the housing crisis that dragged the economy into the toilet—but President Bush’s philosophy likely played a key role in the collapse, reports the New York Times. Dozens of interviews point to both Bush’s drive to expand homeownership and his steadfast belief... More »

Crisis-Stricken Germans Turn to Marx

As the economy founders, sales of Das Kapital soar

(Newser) - The financial crisis has made interventionists out of the most laissez-faire politicians, but in Germany the affection for state control seems to have attained new heights. The Guardian reports that sales of the works of Karl Marx have skyrocketed, with purchases of Das Kapital reportedly up 300%. As Europe's largest... More »

O'Rourke Looks on the Sunny Side of Death

Satirist's curable cancer prompts musings on life's end

(Newser) - A cancer diagnosis with a 95% chance of survival, while it might not let one “stare death in the face,” at least gives PJ O’Rourke a chance to muse on the end of the road. At first, he “cursed God, as we all do when we... More »

The Perils of Positive Thinking

Not just greed, but optimism and can-do led to Wall Street's downfall

(Newser) - “Positive thinking,” the philosophy of self-help books and corporate retreats, has had some negative effects on Wall Street, Barbara Ehrenreich writes in the New York Times. It's popular to blame greed of executives and traders for the current meltdown in the financial markets, but the unbridled optimism and... More »

Where Conservatives Have it Wrong

Individualism can't solve everything for a social species

(Newser) - Barry Goldwater wrote that the key to conservatism is “maximizing freedom,” and since his time, individual liberty has been the party’s central tenet. But people are a “deeply interconnected,” social species, as study after study has found —and today’s conservatives need to recognize... More »

Profs to Buffy: You Slay Me

Slayer fans meet to share scholarly insights

(Newser) - Buffy the Vampire Slayer started out lowbrow, but don’t tell that to the academics converging on Henderson State University today for a 3-day conference on the campy TV classic. The cheerleader-turned-monster fighter has inspired the kind of study usually reserved for major philosophers, the AP reports. The Arkansas university... More »

Noonan to McCain: Tell Us What You Believe In

Journal pundit criticizes candidate for lack of guiding philosophy

(Newser) - Peggy Noonan takes the measure of John McCain in today's Wall Street Journal and wonders "what does he stand for, really?" A friend of the senator's speculates on his "complacency" now that he's secured the nomination, and Noonan goes off: "You have to want the presidency or... More »

At 100, Beauvoir Stirs Anew

Female equality remains hot topic in native France on centenary of icon's birth

(Newser) - Simone de Beauvoir was born 100 years ago today, and the Independent observes the centenary by asking whether women are still the second sex in the feminist's native France. Her writings influenced multiple generations of women by dismantling assumptions about feminine identity, and new biographies have humanized the once imperious-seeming... More »

Philosopher Richard Rorty Dies at 75

Influential thinker blasted the existence of truth, espoused patriotism

(Newser) - Richard Rorty, a celebrated intellectual whose ponderous body of work spanned the gamuts of philosophy, politics, and literary theory, died of pancreatic cancer Friday, at 75. Rorty was known both as a resplendent thinker and as on old lion of the left. “At 12, I knew that the point... More »

19 Stories