Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Suffering. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Suffering. Show all posts

Monday, June 5, 2023

Why Conscious AI Is a Bad, Bad Idea

Anil Seth
Originally posted 9 MAY 23

Artificial intelligence is moving fast. We can now converse with large language models such as ChatGPT as if they were human beings. Vision models can generate award-winning photographs as well as convincing videos of events that never happened. These systems are certainly getting smarter, but are they conscious? Do they have subjective experiences, feelings, and conscious beliefs in the same way that you and I do, but tables and chairs and pocket calculators do not? And if not now, then when—if ever—might this happen?

While some researchers suggest that conscious AI is close at hand, others, including me, believe it remains far away and might not be possible at all. But even if unlikely, it is unwise to dismiss the possibility altogether. The prospect of artificial consciousness raises ethical, safety, and societal challenges significantly beyond those already posed by AI. Importantly, some of these challenges arise even when AI systems merely seem to be conscious, even if, under the hood, they are just algorithms whirring away in subjective oblivion.


There are two main reasons why creating artificial consciousness, whether deliberately or inadvertently, is a very bad idea. The first is that it may endow AI systems with new powers and capabilities that could wreak havoc if not properly designed and regulated. Ensuring that AI systems act in ways compatible with well-specified human values is hard enough as things are. With conscious AI, it gets a lot more challenging, since these systems will have their own interests rather than just the interests humans give them.

The second reason is even more disquieting: The dawn of conscious machines will introduce vast new potential for suffering in the world, suffering we might not even be able to recognize, and which might flicker into existence in innumerable server farms at the click of a mouse. As the German philosopher Thomas Metzinger has noted, this would precipitate an unprecedented moral and ethical crisis because once something is conscious, we have a responsibility toward its welfare, especially if we created it. The problem wasn’t that Frankenstein’s creature came to life; it was that it was conscious and could feel.

These scenarios might seem outlandish, and it is true that conscious AI may be very far away and might not even be possible. But the implications of its emergence are sufficiently tectonic that we mustn’t ignore the possibility. Certainly, nobody should be actively trying to create machine consciousness.

Existential concerns aside, there are more immediate dangers to deal with as AI has become more humanlike in its behavior. These arise when AI systems give humans the unavoidable impression that they are conscious, whatever might be going on under the hood. Human psychology lurches uncomfortably between anthropocentrism—putting ourselves at the center of everything—and anthropomorphism—projecting humanlike qualities into things on the basis of some superficial similarity. It is the latter tendency that’s getting us in trouble with AI.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

I See Color

Khama Ennis
On The Flip Side
Original date: February 13, 2020

9 minutes worth watching: Patient biases versus professional obligations

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Population ethical intuitions

Caviola, L., Althaus, D., Mogensen, A., 
& Goodwin, G. (2021, April 1). 


We investigated lay people’s population ethical intuitions (N = 4,374), i.e., their moral evaluations of populations that differ in size and composition. First, we found that people place greater relative weight on, and are more sensitive to, suffering compared to happiness. Participants, on average, believed that more happy people are needed to outweigh a given amount of unhappy people in a population (Studies 1a-c). Second, we found that—in contrast to so-called person-affecting views—people do not consider the creation of new people as morally neutral. Participants considered it good to create a new happy person and bad to create a new unhappy person (Study 2). Third, we found that people take into account both the average level (averagism) and the total level (totalism) of happiness when evaluating populations. Participants preferred populations with greater total happiness levels when the average level remained constant (Study 3) and populations with greater average happiness levels when the total level remained constant (Study 4). When the two principles were in conflict, participants’ preferences lay in between the recommendations of the two principles, suggesting that both are applied simultaneously (Study 5). In certain cases, participants even showed averagist preferences when averagism disfavors adding more happy people and favors adding more unhappy people to a population (Study 6). However, when participants were prompted to reflect as opposed to rely on their intuitions, their preferences became more totalist (Studies 5-6). Our findings have implications for moral psychology, philosophy and policy making.

From the Discussion

Suffering is more bad than than happiness is good

We found that people weigh suffering more than happiness when they evaluate the goodness of populations consisting of both happy and unhappy people. Thus, people are neither following strict negative utilitarianism (minimizing suffering, giving no weight to maximizing happiness at all) nor strict classical utilitarianism (minimizing suffering and maximizing happiness, weighing both equally). Instead, the average person’s intuitions seem to track a mixture of these two theories. In Studies 1a-c, participants on average believed that approximately 1.5-3 times more happy people are required to outweigh a given amount of unhappy people. The precise trade ratio between happiness and suffering depended on the intensity levels of happiness and suffering. (In additional preliminary studies, we found that the trade ratio can also heavily depend on the framing of the question.) Study 1c clarified that, on average, participants continued to believe that more happiness was needed to outweigh suffering even when the happiness and suffering units were exactly equally intense. This suggests that people generally weigh suffering more than happiness in their moral assessments above and beyond perceiving suffering to be more intense than happiness. However, our studies also made clear that there are individual differences and that a substantial proportion of participants weighed happiness and suffering equally strongly, in line with classical utilitarianism.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Workism Is Making Americans Miserable

Derek Thompson
The Atlantic
Originally published 24 Feb 20

Here is an excerpt:

The decline of traditional faith in America has coincided with an explosion of new atheisms. Some people worship beauty, some worship political identities, and others worship their children. But everybody worships something. And workism is among the most potent of the new religions competing for congregants.

What is workism? It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.

Homo industrious is not new to the American landscape. The American dream—that hoary mythology that hard work always guarantees upward mobility—has for more than a century made the U.S. obsessed with material success and the exhaustive striving required to earn it.

No large country in the world as productive as the United States averages more hours of work a year. And the gap between the U.S. and other countries is growing. Between 1950 and 2012, annual hours worked per employee fell by about 40 percent in Germany and the Netherlands—but by only 10 percent in the United States. Americans “work longer hours, have shorter vacations, get less in unemployment, disability, and retirement benefits, and retire later, than people in comparably rich societies,” wrote Samuel P. Huntington in his 2005 book Who Are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity.

One group has led the widening of the workist gap: rich men.

In 1980, the highest-earning men actually worked fewer hours per week than middle-class and low-income men, according to a survey by the Minneapolis Fed. But that’s changed. By 2005, the richest 10 percent of married men had the longest average workweek. In that same time, college-educated men reduced their leisure time more than any other group. Today, it is fair to say that elite American men have transformed themselves into the world’s premier workaholics, toiling longer hours than both poorer men in the U.S. and rich men in similarly rich countries.

This shift defies economic logic—and economic history. The rich have always worked less than the poor, because they could afford to. The landed gentry of preindustrial Europe dined, danced, and gossiped, while serfs toiled without end. In the early 20th century, rich Americans used their ample downtime to buy weekly movie tickets and dabble in sports. Today’s rich American men can afford vastly more downtime. But they have used their wealth to buy the strangest of prizes: more work!

The info is here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

N.J. approves bill giving terminally ill people the right to end their lives

Susan Livio
Originally posted March 25, 2019

New Jersey is poised to become the eighth state to allow doctors to write a lethal prescription for terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.

The state Assembly voted 41-33 with four abstentions Monday to pass the “Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act." Minutes later, the state Senate approved the bill 21-16.

Gov. Phil Murphy later issued a statement saying he would sign the measure into law.

“Allowing terminally ill and dying residents the dignity to make end-of-life decisions according to their own consciences is the right thing to do," the Democratic governor said. "I look forward to signing this legislation into law.”

The measure (A1504) would take effect four months after it is signed.

Susan Boyce, 55 of Rumson, smiled and wept after the final vote.

“I’ve been working on this quite a while," said Boyce, who is diagnosed with a terminal auto immune disease, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and needs an oxygen tank to breathe.

The info is here.

Friday, February 22, 2019


Christy Shake
Calvin's Story Blog
Originally published February 13, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

If Michael and I had known early on of Calvin's malformed brain, and had we known the dreadful extent to which it might impact his well-being and quality of life, his development, cognition, coordination, communication, vision, ability to move about and function independently, and his increased odds of having unstoppable seizures, or of being abused by caregivers, would we have chosen to terminate my pregnancy? I really can't say. But one thing I do know with certainty: it is torturous to see Calvin suffer on a daily basis, to see him seize repeatedly, sometimes for several consecutive days, bite his cheek so bad it bleeds, see terror in his eyes and malaise on his face, be a veritable guinea pig for neurologists and me, endure the miseries of antiepileptic drugs and their heinous side effects, to see him hurt so needlessly.

Especially during rough stints, it's hard not to imagine how life might have been—perhaps easier, calmer, happier, less restricted, less anxious, less heartbreaking—if Calvin had never come into this world. One moment I lament his existence and the next I wonder what I would do without him. And though Calvin brings me immense joy at times, and though he is as precious to me as any mother's child could be, our lives have been profoundly strained by his existence. All three of us suffer, but none more than our sweet Calvin. Life with him, worrying about and watching him endure his maladies—despite, or perhaps owing to, the fact I love him immeasurably—is such a painful and burdensome endeavor that at times I regret ever deciding to have a child.

The blog post is here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Against mourning

Brian Earp
Originally posted August 21, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

That is what is so different about their intuitions and ours. To put it simply, if you are not a Stoic philosopher – if you have not been training yourself, year in and year out, to calmly face life’s vagaries and inescapables – and you feel no hint of sadness when your child, or spouse, or family member dies, then there probably is something wrong with you. You probably have failed to love or cherish that person appropriately or sufficiently while they were alive, and that would be a mark against you.

You might have been cruel and uncaring, for instance, or emotionally distant, or otherwise aloof. For had you not been those things, you would certainly grieve. This, in turn, can explain why the Stoics were (and are) often thought to be so callous – as though they must have advocated such detachment from one’s kith and kin in order to pre-empt any associated suffering.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. As Epictetus instructs, one should not ‘be unfeeling like a statue’ but rather maintain one’s relations, ‘both natural and acquired, as a pious man, a son, a brother, a father, a citizen’. He also repeatedly emphasises that we are social animals, for whom parental and other forms of love come naturally. ‘Even Epicurus,’ he says, derisively, about a philosopher from a competing school, ‘knows that if once a child is born, it will no longer be in our power not to love it or care for it.’

But is it not part of loving one’s child to feel at least some grief when it suffers or dies (you might ask)? Surely feeling no grief would itself be contrary to Nature! For just as virtue cannot exist without wrongdoing, as some Stoics held, so too might the prospect of grief be in some way bound up in love, so that you cannot have one without the other.

The info is here.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Nietzsche and the Death of God

Justin Remhof
1000-Word Philosophy

Here is an excerpt:

1. Nietzsche on Why People Believe in God

What is Nietzsche’s justification for claiming that God is a fiction? The answer lies in the function of the idea of God.

According to Nietzsche, the idea of God was created to help people handle widespread and seemingly senseless suffering. The ancient Israelites, who brought forward the Judeo-Christian God, lived in horrible conditions: for many generations, they were enslaved, beaten, and killed. Under such immense duress, it’s perfectly reasonable for them to find some reason to explain suffering and hope that those responsible for suffering will be punished.

The idea of God plays that role. The idea of God emerges to provide light in a dark world. From antiquity to today most people turn to God when awful tragedies happen – for example, when loved ones are gunned down by active shooters, trapped in cities bombarded by hurricanes, or diagnosed with cancer. For many, belief in God provides strength to endure such misery. Belief in God also provides hope that when our loved ones pass away we can live with them again for eternity. Belief in God ensures that no loss is inconsolable, no injustice unrequited, and that we can finally have everlasting peace, no matter the misery gone through to get there.

For Nietzsche, then, there is a natural explanation for belief in God. God is a psychological fabrication created to soothe distress, ease trauma, and provide companionship in the face of suffering.

The info is here.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Apple vs. Ivanka Trump: Competing ethics collide in China

Erika Kinetz
Associated Press
Originally published January 25, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Ivanka Trump's company, meanwhile, has called supply chain integrity a "top priority," but maintains that suppliers are the responsibility of its licensees — companies it contracts with to manufacture tons of Ivanka Trump handbags, shoes and clothes. The brand doesn't publish the identities of its manufacturers. In fact, its supply chains have only grown more opaque since the First Daughter took on her White House role, the Associated Press showed last year.

"That mode of thinking is the dominant mode of thinking," said Seth Gurgel, who has worked on Chinese legal and labor rights issues for more than a decade. "They'd be a textbook company that would want to hide behind licensee protections."

Big brands with dedicated suppliers tend to be more invested in workplace conditions than smaller brands like Ivanka Trump's. But the political and ethical calculus surrounding Ivanka Trump's name — and her namesake brand, which she still owns but no longer closely manages — shifted radically when she became an adviser to her father in the White House.

"If Ivanka could be pressured or convinced to become a global leader or speak out about abuses in the apparel industry, she could be a huge ally for labor NGOs and worker groups around the world," Gurgel said.

The article is here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Moral Value of Compassion

Alfred Archer
Forthcoming in Justin Caouette and Carolyn Price (Eds.) The Moral Psychology of Compassion


Many people think that compassion has an important role to play in our moral lives. We might
even think, as Arthur Schopenhauer (2010 [1840]) did, that compassion is the basis of morality.
More modestly, we might think that compassion is one important source of moral motivation and
would play an important role in the life of a virtuous person. Recently, however philosophers such
as Roger Crisp (2008), and Jesse Prinz (2011) and psychologists such as Paul Bloom (2016) have
called into question the value of sharing in another’s suffering. All three argue that this should not
play a significant role in the life of the morally virtuous person. In its place, Crisp endorses rational
benevolence as the central form of moral motivation for virtuous people.

The issue of whether compassion is a superior form of motivation to rational benevolence is
important for at least two reasons. First, it is important for both ethics and political theory. Care
ethicists for example, seek to defend moral and political outlooks based on compassion. Carol
Gilligan, for instance, claims that care ethics is “tied to feelings of empathy and compassion” (1982,
69). Similarly, Elizabeth Porter (2006) argues in favour of basing politics on compassion. These
appeals are only plausible if we accept that compassion is a valuable part of morality. Second, the
issue of whether or not compassion plays a valuable role in morality is also important for moral
education. Whether or not we see compassion as having a valuable role here is likely to be largely
settled by the issue of whether compassion plays a useful role in our moral lives.

I will argue that despite the problems facing compassion, it has a distinctive role to play in moral
life that cannot be fully captured by rational benevolence. My discussion will proceed as follows. In
§1, I examine the nature of compassion and explain how I will be using the term in this paper. I
will then, in §2, explain the traditional account of the value of compassion as a source of moral
motivation. In §3, I will investigate a number of challenges to the value of compassionate moral
motivation. I will then, in §4, explain why, despite facing important problems, compassion has a
distinctive role to play in moral life.

The penultimate version is here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Should Mental Disorders Be a Basis for Physician-Assisted Death?

Paul S. Appelbaum
Psychiatric Services
Volume 68, Issue 4, April 01, 2017, pp. 315-317


Laws permitting physician-assisted death in the United States currently are limited to terminal conditions. Canada is considering whether to extend the practice to encompass intractable suffering caused by mental disorders, and the question inevitably will arise in the United States. Among the problems seen in countries that have legalized assisted death for mental disorders are difficulties in assessing the disorder’s intractability and the patient’s decisional competence, and the disproportionate involvement of patients with social isolation and personality disorders. Legitimate concern exists that assisted death could serve as a substitute for creating adequate systems of mental health treatment and social support.

The article is here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

There is something rotten inside the medical profession

Originally published January 26, 2017

In the year it has taken for me to finish my medical residency as a junior doctor, two of my colleagues have killed themselves. I’ve read articles that refer to suicide amongst doctors as the profession’s “grubby little secret,” but I’d rather call it exactly how it is: the profession’s shameful and disgusting open secret.

Medical training has long had its culture rooted in ideals of suffering. Not so much for the patients — which is often sadly a given, but for the doctors training inside it. Every generation always looks down on the generation training after it — no one ever had it as hard as them, and thus deserve to suffer just as much, if not more. This dubious school of thought has long been acknowledged as standard practice. To be a good doctor, you must work harder, stay later, know more, and never falter. Weakness in medicine is a failing, and if you admit to struggling, the unspoken opinion (or often spoken) is that you simply couldn’t hack it.

In the cutthroat, often brutalizing culture of medical or surgical training many doctors stay stoically mute in the face of daily, soul destroying adversity; at the worst case, their loudest gesture is deafeningly silent — death by their own hand.

The blog post is here.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A View from the Edge — Creating a Culture of Caring

Rana L.A. Awdish
N Engl J Med 2017; 376:7-9
Originally published January 5, 2017

Here are two excerpts:

How do you build and maintain a culture of shared purpose in the infinitely complex arena of health care? How do you ensure that you engender in employees a dedication and commitment to doing what’s right? Identifying the gaps between the stated mission and values of an institution and its actual delivery of care is critical. As systems, we have to recognize and acknowledge our mistakes, our shortcomings, just as individual physicians do. We need to reflect on times when our care has deviated from what we intended — when we haven’t been who we hoped to be. We have to be transparent and allow the failure to reshape us, to help us reset our intention and mold our future selves.


In addition, new employees are taught to recognize different forms of suffering: avoidable and unavoidable. Our goal is to find ways to mitigate suffering by responding to the unavoidable kind with empathy and by improving our processes and procedures to avoid inflicting the avoidable kind whenever possible.

The article is here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The History of the Euthanasia Movement

BY Anna Hiatt
Originally published January 6, 2016

The idea that death should be merciful is not new. When a person is gravely wounded or terminally ill, when death is inevitable, and the suffering is so great that living no longer brings any joy to the person, it is understandable that he or she may wish to die. In “Two Pioneers of Euthanasia Around 1800,” Michael Stolberg cites accounts of people pulling on the legs of those who had been hanged, but had not yet died, to hasten their deaths. He mentions also Apologie, the autobiography of a French surgeon named Ambroise Paré who happened upon three gravely wounded soldiers. An uninjured soldier asked the surgeon if they would live, to which he responded they would not. The uninjured soldier proceeded to slit their throats.

The invention and widespread use of morphine in the 19th century to treat, and then to kill, pain led to the belief that a less painful dying process was possible, Giza Lopes writes in her book Dying With Dignity: A Legal Approach to Assisted Death.

The article is here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Quebec doctors to get standard euthanasia kits

Sharon Kirkey
The Montreal Gazette
Published on 08.27.2015

Quebec doctors will soon be given standardized kits with which to end the lives of patients seeking euthanasia — including drugs to calm the nerves and stop the breathing  — along with detailed instructions as the province prepares to usher in legalized aid in dying.

The Collège des médecins du Québec has developed a new guideline for doctors unlike any in the history of Canadian medicine: a step-by-step guide to follow before, during and after administering euthanasia to an eligible patient, including the type of drugs to be used, the dose, the injection site and what to do in the event of complications.

The guideline, which was developed in collaboration with the Order of Pharmacists of Quebec and the Order of Nurses of Quebec, will be available to doctors, nurses and other health professionals on a secure area of the college’s website. “We don’t want these recipes made too easily available to everyone,” college secretary Dr. Yves Robert told the Post.

In December, Quebec will become the first jurisdiction in the country to allow competent adults experiencing intolerable suffering at the end of life to request “medical aid in dying.”

The entire article is here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Can Adversity Make Us Good?

By Eranda Jayawickreme
Big Ideas at Slate.com

Here is an excerpt:

Nevertheless, we know that adversity can help answer the question, “Why be good?” Psychologist Johanna Ray Vollhardt at Clark University has claimed that traumatic life events may in fact enhance the motivation to help other disadvantaged members of society, including people outside the groups with which you identify. One possible explanation for this “altruism born of suffering” is that trauma often forces people to recognize how limited their time on Earth is, which in turn clarifies their values and promotes moral behavior. Blackie found this to be the case in a study she published in Psychological Science, where experimentally manipulating thoughts about death—in this case, asking participants to imagine dying in an apartment fire—predicted increased charitable giving behavior (in this case, the intention to donate blood).

In other words, as the philosopher Valerie Tiberius at the University of Minnesota has argued, we want to be good because we care about having good lives, and adversity can help provide the necessary knowledge and perspective. I would call this knowledge and perspective wisdom.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Forced chemotherapy in a teen: Exploring the ethics

By Ruth Macklin
Dr. Kevin MD blog
Originally posted January 16, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Exploring the ethics

The legal barrier to respecting Cassandra’s autonomy remains, but the ethics of the case are murky. If this were a one-shot treatment — perhaps painful or uncomfortable, but over quickly — it would be easy to conclude that forced medical treatment would do more good than harm. But that is not clearly the case when the patient has to endure for as long as six months the discomforts of chemotherapy.

In December Cassandra first underwent surgery to install in her chest a port through which the drugs would be administered. State officials took custody of Cassandra and confined her in the hospital, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, where she has received the forced treatments. Her cell phone was taken away (for a teen, this may be worse than the nausea and vomiting), and the phone in her hospital room was also removed. Her mother has been allowed to visit her in her hospital room, but only with a child welfare worker present. Mother and daughter are not allowed to have contact by phone.

The entire article is here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Harm to others outweighs harm to self in moral decision making

By Molly J. Crockett, Zeb Kurth-Nelson, Jenifer Z. Siegel, Peter Dayan, and Raymond J. Dolan
PNAS 2014 ; published ahead of print November 17, 2014, doi:10.1073/pnas.1408988111


Concern for the suffering of others is central to moral decision making. How humans evaluate others’ suffering, relative to their own suffering, is unknown. We investigated this question by inviting subjects to trade off profits for themselves against pain experienced either by themselves or an anonymous other person. Subjects made choices between different amounts of money and different numbers of painful electric shocks. We independently varied the recipient of the shocks (self vs. other) and whether the choice involved paying to decrease pain or profiting by increasing pain. We built computational models to quantify the relative values subjects ascribed to pain for themselves and others in this setting. In two studies we show that most people valued others’ pain more than their own pain. This was evident in a willingness to pay more to reduce others’ pain than their own and a requirement for more compensation to increase others’ pain relative to their own. This ‟hyperaltruistic” valuation of others’ pain was linked to slower responding when making decisions that affected others, consistent with an engagement of deliberative processes in moral decision making. Subclinical psychopathic traits correlated negatively with aversion to pain for both self and others, in line with reports of aversive processing deficits in psychopathy. Our results provide evidence for a circumstance in which people care more for others than themselves. Determining the precise boundaries of this surprisingly prosocial disposition has implications for understanding human moral decision making and its disturbance in antisocial behavior.


Concern for the welfare of others is a key component of moral decision making and is disturbed in antisocial and criminal behavior. However, little is known about how people evaluate the costs of others’ suffering. Past studies have examined people’s judgments in hypothetical scenarios, but there is evidence that hypothetical judgments cannot accurately predict actual behavior. Here we addressed this issue by measuring how much money people will sacrifice to reduce the number of painful electric shocks delivered to either themselves or an anonymous stranger. Surprisingly, most people sacrifice more money to reduce a stranger’s pain than their own pain. This finding may help us better understand how people resolve moral dilemmas that commonly arise in medical, legal, and political decision making.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Examining empathy

By Louise Aronson
The Lancet, Volume 384, Issue 9937, pp 16-17, 5 July 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Although some of the eleven essays in the collection relate to medicine, the book considers empathy more broadly. “Another person's pain”, Jamison writes, “registers as an experience in the perceiver: empathy as forced symmetry, a bodily echo”. Jamison examines empathy not just across life choices and illness states but also across cultures, geographical borders, gender, and socioeconomic status. She travels, among other places, to Nicaragua where she's hit in the face during a robbery; to Bolivia where a larva emerges from her ankle after a botfly bite; to West Virginia for a visit to an acquaintance in a prison; and to the wilds of Tennessee to watch a particularly sadistic ultra-marathon. Jamison considers all forms of pain—physical, emotional, and psychological; her own and that of others—and often explores topics both literally and metaphorically.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Buddhism and Modern Psychology

By Robert Wright
Princeton University/Coursera

The Buddha said that human suffering—ranging from anxiety to sadness to unfulfilled craving—results from not seeing reality clearly. He described a kind of meditation that promises to ease suffering by dispelling illusions about the world and ourselves. What does psychological science say about this diagnosis and prescription—and about the underlying model of the mind?

The course description and course can be found here.