Aristotle Didn't Say That! - On The Topic Of Criticism

The internet is full of fake quotations attributed to famous authors.  For some reason, Aristotle seems to attract more of these than most others, typically posted and then sometimes commented upon by people who know fairly little about him and his thought.  Here's a gem that has been making its way around the web - particularly in leadership, self-help, and personal development contexts:

Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.

This time around it happened to be cited by the Tiny Buddha site - using the quote as a springboard for what proved in parts an interesting article - starting, of course, by parroting an erroneous attribution that just a few moments' casual research would have revealed as such. 

Where does this quote actually come from?  Why couldn't it be from Aristotle?  Why would people unthinkingly accept and repeat that attribution.  Even if it is not from Aristotle, is there some value to the saying?  Those are some interesting questions that I'll answer below - though not in quite that order.

Just Reached 100 Videos On Stoic Philosophy!

In the last two weeks, I have released five short videos discussing key ideas of Cicero's Stoic Paradoxes.  Here's where two main focuses of my work in recent years come together.  One of these involves studying, applying, and teaching about Stoic philosophy.  The other is producing popular online videos on a wide range of thinkers, texts, and topics in philosophy.

Adding in those Stoic Paradoxes videos to the many others I have created brings the total today to exactly 100!  I don't expect to rest on my laurels - I'll be producing many more! - but I do feel that reaching that number is a significant milestone that deserves some celebration.

You can find all 100 videos assembled in one massive YouTube playlist - Ancient Philosophy: The Stoic School - but for those who would like that list broken down into categories, you can find some of those below.  In addition to that - for any viewers who would like to support my ongoing video production - I'll put in a plug for my new Patreon page.

Patreon Crowdfunding - Why I Created My Page

As some readers may already know, I recently made a Patreon page to support my work creating free high-quality philosophy content online.  The resources I've created - videos, blog posts, articles, handouts, even free courses, among others - have helped tens of thousands of people all over the world understand difficult philosophical ideas, thinkers, and texts.

That work demands considerable time, energy, and thought on my part - and I've been happy to devote all three of those over the last six years, not least because I see (and in many cases, read) how much of an impact resources I've developed and offered to the public for free have had on so many people's grades, minds, and even lives.

Actually, I can't take most of the credit for this impact on learners.  What allows me to create materials explaining philosophy to others is precisely the existence of those brilliant philosophers and rich texts that I focus upon!  Provided I do my own job well, it is really Plato, or Hegel, or Epictetus who is doing the heavy lifting  (as I've discussed in another post here).

Viewers, subscribers, and social media followers have been expressing gratitude for the work that I do, and some of them have been suggesting that I create a Patreon page to allow them to support that ongoing work in tangible ways.  So that's precisely what I've done - you can check it out here, or watch my video about it here.   If you enjoy my work or find it useful - and you want to give something back - or if you recognize the value it brings to many other people - and you want to help me continue and expand it - then you should consider becoming one of my Patreon supporters!

The Philosophy Fans Have Spoken!

It is an astounding number, but at this point, I have created over 300 short Philosophy Core Concept videos - check out the playlist here - covering a pretty extensive range of philosophers.

Looking to expand the figures that I included in the series, I decided to get some input from my viewers, subscribers, and social media followers.  So I created a poll.  And the results were quite interesting.

The philosophy fans have spoken!  It looks like this summer - in addition to the other video production I have planned - I'll be shooting, editing, and releasing a lot of new video content on three main thinkers, all of them German:  Martin Heidegger, Immanuel Kant, and Friedrich Nietzsche.  (By the way, I've also created a Patreon page to support that time-intensive video production work)

Getting Typecast In Philosophy

Six years ago, I started producing videos on philosophy in YouTube. At this point I have over 1,000 in my main channel, and I produce about five new videos each week. That’s roughly 250 videos each year. There are philosophy channels whose videos garner a lot more views than mine. Those tend to have one of four things going for them. Either they are short, glib, and high production. Or they have somebody relatively famous speaking in them. Or they’re put out by a channel with a very strong (usually single-minded) stance, and correspondingly committed fans. Or they enjoy the backing of some major institution, with pockets deep enough to plaster advertisements all over the web.

For a guy who shoots, lectures, edits, and promulgates videos on his own, I’m pretty happy with the solid base of viewers that have developed for my philosophy videos. Although I’ve improved the lighting, sound quality, and editing a bit over the years, my videos remain low tech and low production - and viewers consistently tell me that watching them feels like being in a classroom, or a conversation, or a tutorial session. Although some of them are short as 10 minutes, many of them are over an hour long, and it is extremely gratifying to discover that many viewers watch them all the way through (and in some cases, multiple times).

You see, my video production activity is all about the content. What I strive to do is what I have done as a professor throughout my entire teaching career – to present the topics, thinkers, and texts as fairly and as fully as possible to my students. In the online setting, this ends up generating an interesting conundrum, one that I have often remarked upon, and which now I would like to set out in a bit more depth. Simply put, it is this: from my approach in presenting the ideas of particular thinkers, many of my viewers automatically assume that I not only am in agreement with, but am a devoted proponent or follower of those thinkers.

Epictetus On The Dichotomy Of Control - Webinar and Online Seminars

We have started offering monthly webinars and online seminars this year, starting out with two discussing central aspects of Aristotle's virtue ethics (one on virtue and vice - watch it here - and the other on types of friendship - watch it here).

We're moving to a new thinker and topic for our online offerings in May - a key thinker and a main topic in Stoic philosophy:  Epictetus on the Dichotomy of Control - what is, and what is not, in our control!

This is a key Stoic doctrine - in fact it is the very first thing Epictetus discusses in his short work, the Enchiridion - but it can also be a challenging and confusing one for many readers.  We'll be looking more closely at this distinction in these online events, and discussing topics such as:

  • what things are in our control from a Stoic perspective
  • what things are outside of out control from a Stoic perspective
  • the consequences of confusing what is in our control and what is not
  • our prohairesis (faculty of choice), desire and aversion, emotions and beliefs
  • external matters such as reputation, wealth, and the body as “indifferents”
  • common objections to the dichotomy of control
  • Irvine’s proposed “trichotomy of choice”
  • how uses of things outside our control is something in our control
  • what we can do to develop effective control

The 45 minute webinar is FREE for anyone who wishes to attend - and it will take place Tuesday, May 16 at 12:00 PM Central Time.  I'll spend about 25 minutes talking about the topic, and then we'll open it up for an additional 20 minutes of Q&A from the viewers.

The 2-hour online seminar is a more intensive study of the topic.  We'll be hosting two sessions of that seminar - one at 10:00 AM and the other at 4:00 PM Central Time both on Saturday, May 20.  Enrollment is $49, and there are twelve total seats available in each session.  To learn more about the online seminars, click here.

If you're interested in enrolling in the webinar, one of the seminars, or even in both (which is all right by me!), you'll want to sign up in advance here.  But if you'd like to see me talking about these events, check out this short video.

Three Books That Most Changed My Life

Earlier this month, I participated in a great interview with Clifford Lee Sargent. He has been producing the Better than Food book reviews for several years – a great video series that I’m a big fan of – and we have been discussing what sort of collaborative work we might engage in. So when he decided to start a podcast focused around “Three Books That Changed Your Life,” and asked me if I’d come on, I thought it was a great topic, and immediately agreed.

As it turned out – for me – it was a much more difficult topic to think out, at least at first. I suspect it would have been a good bit easier if there wasn’t so much of my life already behind me at this point – if I was in my mid 20s rather than my mid 40s – since then I would be a lot closer to the times when those sorts of life-changing reading experiences occurred. I’d probably have a lot more youthful enthusiasm about literature working for me as well. Though frankly, I wouldn’t trade the more sober realism derived from much more time put in reading, writing, reflecting, and teaching for that almost electric charge I do remember, but don’t often experience these days, that occurs in exciting encounters with books.