In my travels, I tend to land on lots of really interesting stuff. If you’re here reading my blog, you’re probably into the same stuff I am. You might also notice some books and thinkers I reference more than others.
With all that in mind, I think it’ll be useful to have a compendium of resources that might make it easier to understand what I’m on about. Sort of like a ‘Further Reading’ section. There are also plenty of resources that I’m sure I’ll find interesting that won’t make it into a piece on their own, and I think maybe it’s worth noting them here.
While I’ll aim to understand what I’m recommending in the greatest possible depth, sometimes I tend to skim a resource, or only engage deeply with parts of it. In those cases, I’ll note which parts I got the most value from.
The entries here will be quite short, and in no particular order. If I end up writing an in-depth piece on any of them, I’ll link it here and leave the original entry. I intend to work on this page whenever I get a spare minute, so make sure to regularly check back for updates.
Note: I am not getting paid to push any of this. I’m writing it because I think all of these resources are worth your time and attention.
Jordan Peterson’s Lectures on ‘Personality and It’s Transformations.’
Whatever you think about him– and I’m aware he’s a controversial figure– Peterson is a world-class academic and lecturer who decided to give a world-class lecture series away for free on the internet. That’s worth attending.
This lecture series focuses on theories of personhood, and draws on Anthropology of Religion, the Psychoanalytic tradition, Developmental Psychology and Existentialist Philosophy to set down a baseline before proceeding into a discussion of contemporary Personality Psychology, the Big Five Personality Inventory, and IQ.
If you want to be an informed modern citizen, these are all things you need to know about. For example, the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal involved the use of the Big Five to form voter profiles and target campaigning. It’s a powerful tool, as you will certainly learn in these lectures.
If you want a strong, interdisciplinary introduction to all of these topics, you could do much worse than to listen to this series. I personally think it’s going to go down in history as one of the more famous lecture series, along with his others. Though it is certainly the series most clearly related to the wider academic world.
Robert Sapolsky’s Lectures on ‘Human Behavioural Biology.’
I am not Biologist enough to have understood all of this my first (and only) time through. I’ve set a goal to go through it again when I have the space and time. Knowing me, that might take a while.
That all being said, Sapolsky is another world-class lecturer and academic, who decided to share his knowledge online for free.
If you’re into psychology; neurology; behavioural sciences; clear thinking; funny anecdotes; dynamical systems theory; or evolutionary theory, like I am, then you’ll find something to enjoy here.
I’m warning you in advance, you will find it valuable to read Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick before you read this. Dynamical Systems Theory is really important to what Sapolsky is getting at in many of these lectures. I’m not saying I understand it perfectly. I don’t.
But Sapolsky stresses time and time again that evolution occurs on a population level, not on an individual level. Systems theory helps to wrap your head around that. Don’t worry, Gleick is a journalist, not a mathematician, so the quality of writing is high.
Hubert Dreyfus’ Lectures on Heidegger’s Being and Time, Division 1.
So, I had no idea how interesting these were going to be when I started them. They’re fascinating. I’m still midway through listening, and I’ve recently realized that The Internet Archive is a substantially better access route than the Youtube videos I’ve been using.
I’m not going to lie, this is hard stuff. If you don’t know how Kant and Descartes work to an introductory level, this might not make any sense to you. But, on the upside, if you manage to make sense of it, you’ll find that there is a huge amount of substance and theory that is very related to Psychology and Cognitive Science– the knowledge here really informs my understanding of Peterson and Vervaeke.
Hypernormalization (or anything else by Adam Curtis.)
A Disclaimer: I am not a conspiracy nut. Which means that I don’t necessarily agree with Curtis that all of the perceptual distortions that result from the current state of mass media are all intentional productions of the elite ruling class. It might just be a result of human cognitive capacity, or something like an inherent uncertainty principle of history. I don’t know, and I don’t feel qualified to answer.
That being said, watching Hypernormalization gave me a profound sense of catharsis; I realized that there were other people who were watching the blurry mess of public discourse with dismay and concern. It might seem like a dated sentiment at this point, but it’s still a fantasticly written and edited piece of visual essay.
Unsubstantiated and overly stylized claims aside, I think Curtis is a magician for one reason: he somehow manages to capture a Zeitgeist. Is he making the Zeitgeist that he’s capturing? Maybe. Because he is certainly very stylish.
But I think there’s something to be said for making a point with style instead of argumentation. There’s something quite direct and participatory about his way of arguing. It’s less “Here’s why my claim is certain given these premises”, and more “Isn’t this an interesting perspective? What would the world be like if I was right?”
Very rewarding, if you have the time to sit through the whole thing. In case you don’t The Century of the Self and The Trap come in hour long episodes, each of which is on a self contained topic in the social sciences. My favorite is the one on public relations.
Websites and Blogs.
Slate Star Codex.
Billed as a ‘blog about science, medicine, philosophy, politics, and futurism’, in reality, SSC is so much more than that. In my view, it indicates the possibility of a revolution in scholarship, away from the university and towards a de-centralized, democratized class of citizen-scientists.
Scott Alexander, the pseudonymous author of the blog, is a trained psychiatrist after my own heart with an undergraduate in Philosophy. He’s ravenously intellectual, contributing his perspective to discussions of economics, social sciences, mental health, and rationalism besides. I’ve linked some of them in this piece, but seriously just go read his top posts.
More than that, he also produces. He runs a yearly survey, and analyses and publishes his findings. Previously he has investigated the effects of Birth Order on Personality, which in my opinion was a slam dunk. More recently he has investigated Assortative Mating and Autism, which I feel was slightly less of a slam dunk.
He’s also brutally intellectually honest, which I really admire. He has a piece recounting and retracting all the mistakes he’s made on the front page of his blog.
If only I could be so grossly incandescent!
(There’s also /r/slatestarcodex, which is also a fantastic hub of intellectual discussion if you ask me.)
I don’t have as much to say about this one. It’s slightly more niche than the other resources on this list, but it’s definitely useful for the right type of person. The tag-line of SQUAPO is “Those Big Books, Squashed Down.”
Which is not inaccurate.
If you happen to a philosophy student, or someone to whom a foundational understanding of the classics in philosophy is important for whatever other reason, SQUAPO is a great place to start.
I wouldn’t skim one of these abridged versions and then think you know enough to do some proper argumentation on the subject, but what I used to do was read the abridged version through once before going back and re-reading the whole text, which turned out to be an excellent idea.
It turns out that spaced repetition works even if the first repetition was condensed.