ASK Musings

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Daily Archive: 28/04/2019



April 2019



Midlife by Kieran Setiya

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Those who enjoy a philosophical approach to things, and those who are approaching middle age.

In a nutshell:
Philosopher Kieran Setiya, as he approached mid-life, decided to explore ways philosophy might help him power through — or even stave off — a crisis.

Worth quoting:
“I recognize the luxury of the midlife crisis, with a degree of guilt and shame. Why can’t I be more grateful for what I have? But this is my life.”
“There is consolation in the fact that missing out is an inexorable side effect of the richness of human life.”
“There is no more to going for a walk than what you are doing right now. You are not on the way to achieving a goal. You are already there.”

Why I chose it:
I’m turning 40 next year and I enjoy studying philosophy.

This fairly short exploration of mid-life is lightly humorous and well-written. Author Setiya is approaching 40 and has started to feel what many do when they approach mid-life: a sense of malaise. As he is a philosophy professor, he is, one could argue, fairly well-suited to explore the larger questions around life and what it means as we continue into the second half of our lives.

And I think he is. This is a largely successful book if one is looking not so much for all the answers, but for some ideas of how to change one’s thinking about this time in life. Setiya looks at the big issues that crop up around middle age: regret / paths not taken; fear of death; and wondering what to do next when you’ve completed most of the standard life projects.

The section on regret is interesting, as it forces a rational approach to the issue. Namely, that even if you could start over and do things completely differently, that would mean wiping out who you are now. Do you really want that? Do any of us? Sure, it’s understandable to spend some time wondering about different choices, but you can’t do anything about it. I found this section … not that helpful for me. I don’t have large life regrets or anything like that (though I’ve gone back-and-forth on career choices basically since leaving university) but I don’t think I followed Setiya’s process here.

The fear of mortality section was also a bit of a challenge for me, as his main point seemed to be (if I’m understanding it) that we shouldn’t focus on not being around after death because we weren’t around before birth, and they’re ultimately the same thing. There’s also something here about putting more emphasis on the future than the past, but I had some trouble following it.

The section I found most helpful was the one dealing with the challenges of what happens when you’ve met most of the life goals society sets out for us. For me, that included going to university, meeting a life partner, and buying a home, all of which I’ve done. What happens after that? What about all the other projects we work on, that are also bound to finish (like, hopefully, my book)? What do we do then? Setiya’s suggestion is we focus on all the things that are not bound by a start an end, instead looking at the process. His example is enjoying a walk for the walk’s sake. Not because we are using it as a means to an end. That is a way of thinking that I could definitely incorporate into my daily life.

Overall, would I recommend it to my peers? Eh, probably not, but mostly because I think it’s a little heavier on the philosophy than they’d like.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it



April 2019



What I’m Reading – April 28, 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

US Elections

“Elizabeth Warren has been out there quietly releasing policy proposal after policy proposal, and many of them have been ignored because the media (and that includes ourselves) is often more preoccupied with the horse race, with who is scoring points on social media, or who is speaking seven languages on a late-night talk show. Folks, don’t sleep on Elizabeth Warren, and I’ll tell you why: She released a policy proposal this morning that, for millions of people in the United States, would change everything.”  Elizabeth Warren Has Released a Game-Changing Policy Proposal (by Dustin Rowles for Pajiba)

“But Ms. Hill says the call from Mr. Biden left her feeling deeply unsatisfied. In a lengthy telephone interview on Wednesday, she declined to characterize Mr. Biden’s words to her as an apology and said she was not convinced that he has taken full responsibility for his conduct at the hearings — or for the harm he caused other victims of sexual harassment and gender violence.” Joe Biden Expresses Regret to Anita Hill, but She Says ‘I’m Sorry’ Is Not Enough (by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Carl Hulse for The New York Times)

Reproductive Health

“Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights provides: ‘All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’” the opinion states. “We are now asked: Is this declaration of rights more than an idealized aspiration? And, if so, do the substantive rights include a woman’s right to make decisions about her body, including the decision whether to continue her pregnancy? We answer these questions, ‘Yes.’” In Historic Ruling, Kansas Supreme Court Declares Abortion Rights ‘Fundamental’ (by Jessica Mason Pieklo for Rewire.News)


“Not only does this disrespect the parents and their desire to advocate for their community and their children, but it also weakens the strength of whatever community does desire to come together around these children. As Brown rightly acknowledges, a child’s parents are always their first teachers. But we must acknowledge that children benefit from being protected and guided by the largest village possible — and undermining that by discouraging parents from showing up because they aren’t dressed according to an antiquated view of what “respectable” looks like only reduces the variety of positive influences that can change a child’s future. It also demeans the voices and contributions of the parents who are there, implying that they can only be seen as valuable if they dress a certain way.” A Houston school’s dress code for parents teaches kids sexism, elitism and intolerance, not respect (by Erika Nicole Kendall for NBC Think)


“These priorities are not just antithetical to their claims of being a nonpartisan group, they are the exact same conservative priorities being pushed by Safe Seattle. When viewed together, all of this evidence makes it clear that Speak Out Seattle is misleading voters and candidates about how their organization came to be, and lying about the conservative, anti-homeless nature of the group itself.” How Conservative Anti-Homeless Groups Are Rebranding To Recruit New Members (by Matt Watson via Medium)


I Came Out Late in Life. And That’s Okay.

Something Vaguely Spoilery from Avengers: Endgame

“I’m dedicated to supporting everyone who wants to remain spoiler-free until Endgame. I was desperate to avoid even the shadow of a spoiler before I saw the movie. But I think it’s important to talk about one aspect of characterization that occurs in the film (I won’t reveal plot specifics). Several reviews have mentioned this in passing, so I feel like it’s fair game. Enough people I know are upset over it already due to leaks and early screenings, and I’m angrier by the minute. If I can spare even one person the surprise and dismay I felt with this advance warning, it’s worth it.” There’s a Seriously Problematic Depiction of a Character in Avengers: Endgame (by Kaila Hale-Stern for The Mary Sue)

Labor Exploitation

“Although contract staff were paid overtime, developers report a culture of fear, in which they were expected to pull long hours as part of their job. Some reported suffering health issues after working consecutive months of 70-hour weeks. Crunch is the name given to working intense overtime, sometimes for stretches that last weeks or months. In the game industry specifically, it was generally associated with the period leading up to a game’s launch. But in the age of early access releases, post-launch updates, downloadable content, and games as a service, crunch can be a constant problem.” How Fortnite’s success led to months of intense crunch at Epic Games (by Colin Campbell for Polygon)

Something Good

Yes. ‘13 Going on 30′ Turns 15: Celebrate by Admitting It’s a Better Film Than ‘Big’ (by Anna Menta for Decider)