What is Philosophy For?

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Anyone who’s interested in thinking ought to read Mary Midgley’s last book, What is Philosophy For? I just finished the book last night and felt the need to share it since it investigates pertinent issues of our time while calling for more people to engage with philosophical thinking. Midgley address head on the notion that computers will inevitable control our lives and calls into question the role that science has taken in our society. Modern science is a fine way to think of the world around us; however, we need to be able to question it and not limit ourselves to just one way of knowing.

Mary Midgley was a philosopher at the University of Newcastle who wrote on a wide range of topics: animal ethics, philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, moral philosophy. She was one of the philosophers who studied ‘Greats’ at Oxford during the Second World War, with the other members of what’s come to be known as the ‘Oxford four’: Midgley, Iris Murdoch, Philippa Foot, and Elizabeth Anscombe. Mary Warnock was also there at the same time, but a few years ahead of them.

This was a really interesting time for women studying philosophy at Oxford because so many men were away. The men that were left were elderly professors or conscientious objectors and so Midgley, Murdoch, Foot and Anscombe were left with slightly more old-school philosophy professors who were interested in Plato and Aristotle and a traditional form of the history of philosophy.

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You Can Protect Birds by Keeping Your Cat Inside


We all love cats, they’re curious and fluffy and provide mixed feedback on whether they like you or not. We all love birds too, that’s why we shouldn’t let them meet. If you are a cat owner please please please keep your cat inside. Cat’s account for millions of bird deaths every year and are a major influence on the decline of bird populations.

Domestic cats are a threat to birds because they don’t eat what they kill, and keep on killing for fun. There is an easy solution to save wonderful birds: keep your cat inside.

Marra tells the story of Tibbles the cat, who traveled with her owner to an untouched island south of New Zealand in 1894. There, she single-pawedly caused the extinction of the Stephens Island wren, a small, flightless bird found only in that part of the world. Most cats aren’t as deadly as Tibbles, but your average outdoor pet cat still kills around two animals per week, according to the Wildlife Society and the American Bird Conservancy. The solution for these cats is simple, says Marra: Bring them indoors. The Humane Society of the United States agrees.

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This Billionaire Will Thankfully Die Poor

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Chuck Feeney became a billionaire by founding and running Duty Free Shoppers, and since he collected his unimaginable wealth he made it a point to give it all away. This month it has been revealed that Feeney successfully gave away billions of dollars to charitable causes and will die an average person like the rest of us. Of course, if there was a wealth tax or similar then he would not have found himself in such an inequitable situation and the money would have been spent democratically. Regardless, it’s good to see that this (now former) billionaire recognized the inequality in our world and did something about it!

Over the last four decades, Feeney has donated more than $8 billion to charities, universities and foundations worldwide through his foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies. When I first met him in 2012, he estimated he had set aside about $2 million for his and his wife’s retirement. In other words, he’s given away 375,000% more money than his current net worth. And he gave it away anonymously. While many wealthy philanthropists enlist an army of publicists to trumpet their donations, Feeney went to great lengths to keep his gifts secret. Because of his clandestine, globe-trotting philanthropy campaign, Forbes called him the  James Bond of Philanthropy.

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There’s no Reason to Buy Clothes


If you’re like me then you’ve stopped wearing nice clothes to work because you never leave your house for work. Us “office workers” don’t need to buy clothes because the social situation around us has changed. If you work in an environment where you physically have to be there you too can stop being clothes.

Mend!, new book by Kate Sekules explores the concept of repairing our clothes in fun ways. Yes you can fix your own clothes no matter your skills.

You love clothes, but do you know where yours came from? I don’t mean Uniqlo or “stolen from my sister,” but their fundamental origins and what it all means. Clothes can be complicated creatures. They are not inert, but become unique with wear, even from the first time we take them for a ride, and then they gain in individuality with each outing. Our collections become extensions of us (“That dress is so you!”), combining in their own special, comforting ways and routinely performing magic tricks. Many of us own a results dress or lucky socks for sports, or a coat that’s gorgeous on the hanger but ghastly when worn. Clothes “change our view of the world and the world’s view of us,” wrote Virginia Woolf. The “why” of visible mending is all about that personal nature of clothes. And, while extending their lives, it also acknowledges their origins.

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Submerged Servers Are More Efficient Than Landlubber Servers

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A few years ago Microsoft decided to sink a data centre and see how well it performs. The short answer is: well, the underwater server farm did just fine. This is significant because it proves that underwater data centres are feasible and, to Microsoft’s surprise can be more reliable.

Data centres take a lot of energy to keep cool so by putting it in the water the cooling system uses the chilly waters surrounding it. The carbon footprint of these underwater systems is potentially smaller too since instead of running massive air conditioners (which consume a lot of energy) they are using their local environment.

Their first conclusion is that the cylinder packed with servers had a lower failure rate than a conventional data centre.
When the container was hauled off the seabed around half a mile offshore after being placed there in May 2018, just eight out of the 855 servers on board had failed.
That compares very well with a conventional data centre.
“Our failure rate in the water is one-eighth of what we see on land,” says Ben Cutler, who has led what Microsoft calls Project Natick.

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