Might as well give away some copies of my silly old Haeckel spoof (PDF 19 megs or so.)
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That’s not a good first sentence.
I suppose you’ve heard that a kid got off by pleading ‘affluenza’. It just occurred to me it’s a Liar’s Paradox (and a travesty, of course.) The kid, through no fault of his own, falsely believed rich people can do stuff like this without suffering serious consequences. It turns out this false belief is true (hey, this is still America.) But obviously having a true belief is not going to keep you out of prison. (There’s no such thing as the sanity defense.) So he has to go to prison. So his belief is false, and he doesn’t have to go to prison. So his belief is true, etc., etc.
It’s kind of like the Paradox of the Court.
The ads Google serves up when you are searching for philosophy terms are often a bit odd.
The service is iffy, the staff are surly, but 80% off is pretty good! What’s the alternative, when you get right down to it?
The emperor has hipster garb, but underneath he’s just another Commissar Squaresville.
This is such, such a great idea. (So long as you don’t ruin it by casting Obama as Hipster/Squaresville. Sheesh. I’m thinking – I dunno – Travolta for the film.)
Our team of moderate, sensible heroes thinks they’re in yet another scrap with The Hipster Emperor. They know how to handle him! He’s a B-list villain, if there ever was one. But then, the big reveal! It’s actually Commissar Squaresville in disguise (last seen in iss. #57. – ed.)! Much more dangerous! And you can’t fight Commissar Squaresville with the kinds of techniques you would use to fight The Hipster Emperor! They are so very opposite in terms of strengths and weaknesses! Will our heroes recover before the Commissar banishes them, forever, to the Nowheresville Zone, an alternate dimension to which stylistic dissidents are consigned?
And then the final, final reveal: it isn’t the original Commissar Squaresville (who really did die in issue #57.) It’s a new one. In fact, there are thousands! Can our heroes turn the tables in time, banishing the villains themselves to the Nowheresville Zone, thereby keeping the world safe for people who don’t want to be either too hip or too square, but sort of in the middle?
As Steyn wisely observe at the end of this column – which is about the dignity of work – “it’s hard to be visionary if you’re pointing in the wrong direction.”
You know what’s a great album? Radiohead, In Rainbows, that’s what. I was just relistening, and then relistening again, and then again. What a great rhythm section, perfectly setting off the ethereal-cerebral Yorke vocals!
Take just the first track. The 5/4 “15 step”. Such a funky, danceable track. It’s like, I dunno, the Purdie tsakonikos shuffle or something. Played by a robot. It would be fun to make a music video for it using a loop of the 5/4 Fred Astaire dance from this video. Just speed up the video a little bit to match the beat.
So that’s someone’s homework assignment. Kindly upload the results to Youtube when you’ve got it properly synched. And give us the link.
Folks are linking to it. The Farhad Manjoo profile of Neetzan Zimmerman, the Gawker writer who picks the linkbait stories like no one else, apparently. I do like the idea that after AI’s are better than us at everything else, it might still take a human to figure out whether sloths are in this month.
Donald Barthelme wrote a story about this back in … – turns out it was 1980! “Pepperoni”!
Basically, he envisions a kind of Gawkerization of media. (But without the social media aspect, admittedly.)
A newspaper has found financial success by diversifying its operations. It owns timberlands, mines, pulp and paper operations, and a number of different media, and over-all return on invested capital increases at about 9% a year. But top management is saddened and discouraged, and middle management is drinking too much. Automation has lowered morale in the newsroom. Recently the paper ran the same stock tables every day for a week. No one noticed, no one complained. Some elements of the staff are not depressed. The real estate, food, clothing, and games columns of the paper are thriving. Nevertheless, the Editors’ Caucus has applied to middle management which has implored top management to alter its course. The paper’s editorials have been subcontracted to Texas Instruments and the obituaries to Nabisco. There was an especially lively front page on Tuesday. The No. 1 story was pepperoni – a useful and exhaustive guide. Top management has vowed to stop what it is doing – not now, but soon, soon. A chamber orchestra has been formed among the people in the newsroom, and we play Haydn until the sun comes up.
You can get it in Forty Stories [amazon]. Funny stuff! But the funny thing about the New Yorker summary is that you probably think you are getting a teaser. The first paragraph or something. But it’s actually a condensed version of the whole story. Only, of course, nothing really happens in a Donald Barthelme story. Executive summaries of postmodern literature are weird. I never really noticed that until just now.
UPDATE: Oooh, oooh. Now I’m rereading Forty Stories. From “Conversations With Goethe”:
Critics, Goethe said, are the cracked mirror in the grand ballroom of the creative spirit. No, I said, they were, rather, the extra baggage on the great cabriolet of conceptual progress. “Eckermann,” said Goethe, “shut up.“
I forgot how funny this stuff is.
Another follow-up on the philosophy styles and aggression issue, raised initially by Chris. I meant my first post to be a response, narrowly, not to Chris’ post but to the suggestion that sort of ate the comment thread: trolley problems are symptomatic of philosophers’ taste for intellectual bloodsport. (Not that tying people to tracks and running them over is sporting, mind you.) I didn’t mean to offer up the whimsical innocence of trolley tragedy as proof that philosophers don’t, otherwise, suffer from the sorts of problems that Jonathan Wolff alleges. But I actually do disagree, substantially, with the Wolff piece. Let me try to say how. [click to continue…]
I like Jacques Derrida, I think he’s funny. I like my philosophy with a few jokes and puns. I know that that offends other philosophers; they think he’s not taking things seriously, but he comes up with some marvellous puns. Why shouldn’t you have a bit of fun while dealing with the deepest issues of the mind?
As an accomplished Derrida-disliker, I am obliged to set Moore straight. It isn’t that he told jokes but how that bothered analytic critics. Searle said Derrida didn’t get Austin’s arguments, which was true. But the thing that bothered him – but he couldn’t just say this is what bothered him – was that, as a result, Derrida couldn’t ‘tell it right’. (I said all this somewhere else, long ago. Well, I’ll just say it again.) Reading Austin for the Nietzschean spark is like reading Wodehouse for its Kafkaesque quality.
In general, Derrida is obviously extremely concerned to collect applause for his punchline – coup de don, etc. Which often comes right at the start. And it doesn’t work as a ‘snapper’, not just because he tells it at the start, but also because ‘I’m telling a joke and it’s going to be very funny!’ is painted all over his face.
That sort of obviousness about the fact that you are joking limits the styles of humor you can pull off. Analytic philosophy consists of jokes that can only be told in a more understated style.
The analytic-continental split, in philosophy, is a side-effect of different styles of joke-telling. Continental means not telling jokes: Heidegger. Or: telling Heidegger’s jokes in a French style. Analytic means not telling jokes: logic. Or: telling logic jokes.
UPDATE: The deepest issues of the mind arise equally in both traditions, but that tail can’t really wag both shaggy dogs, as it were.
I really said it all (and more!) in this old post about Occam’s Phaser. Do not multiply zap-guns beyond necessity!
Philosophers aren’t bloodthirsty autists, you silly people. They are mildly whimsical. But that’s important. The genre of the analytic philosophy (Anglo-American, call it what you like) thought-experiment is a mildly humoristic one, in that it tends to Rube Goldbergism. Of course the point is always to solve for variables! You never tie another victim to the tracks, or fatten one up, for any other reason than that he/she is strictly needed in that place or shape. Nevertheless, the more outlandish the set-up gets, the funnier it gets. And I think it’s fair to say that philosophers quietly award themselves style points for (plausibly deniable!) whimsy, above and beyond conceptual substance.
The problem with that, I should think, is that mirth is an emotion that may affect our moral thinking. Specifically, it makes us more utilitarian. See this more recent article as well [sorry, Elsevier paywall]. The trolley scenarios are, or may be, used as intuition pumps for utilitarian purposes. (They may be used for other things, of course.) But it is an underdiscussed fact that they may inherently do so, in part, because trolley tragedies can’t help being a bit funny.
UPDATE: for those who can’t read the experiments, basically watching comedy clips makes you more utilitarian. But the experimenters don’t seem to have considered that the trolley cases themselves are short comedy clips, of a mild sort. I should publish this important finding of mine. Seriously. It’s actually important to think about.
You wouldn’t normally see those three adjectives in a line like that. And the noun they modify is an unusual one as well.
I suppose it’s fair to object that ‘exalted’ isn’t functioning as an adjective in this context. Fair enough.
I knew folks on the right were going to be upset about the Iran deal, but isn’t this a bit much? The Corner has gone Everyday-is-like-Munich full neocon.
OK, maybe there’s no point in even bothering, but just look at this post, “Munich II”, by James Jay Carafano (vice president of foreign- and defense-policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.) He is banging on about how ‘realism’, presumably in the I-R sense, opposes this deal. But, even as he’s trying to make the case, he can’t help inadvertently making the case that the other side has got the better realist case. [click to continue…]
I’m curious – for teaching purposes! What are the Plato bits that you especially like, that aren’t any of those usual bits that always get taught in Intro Philosophy? If you could include one unconventional Plato selection – whole dialogue, or chunk of one – in an intro philo course, what would it be, and why? (In short, this thread is your opportunity to get all indie about Plato. “I only read dialogues that don’t exist.” Please, let your hipster flag fly. You’ll probably sound like a Straussian.)
Bonus exercise: write a commentary on a Plato dialogue in the style of a Pitchfork music review.
I found comments to my Peter Singer thread – that’s what my utilitarianism thread turned out to be! – quite interesting. I’ve read a few of Singer’s books. I like The Expanding Circle, in particular. I’ve never paid much attention to the drama of his philosophical celebrity, so the thread educated me about that. What was most striking was this NY Times piece a couple commenters linked to, I think intending it as evidence of his bad character. But I had more or less the opposite reaction. I don’t know the man, obviously. I don’t stake any claim to insights into his psychology (beyond those democratically available to any other reader of the linked piece, and a few of his books) but he struck me as bend-over-backwards and turn-the-other-cheek, rhetorically. He’s apparently unfailingly polite to people who call him a moral monster, unspeakably evil, sending them books and thank-you notes and all. (And then this.) Maybe he’s just an Asperger’s case, and just doesn’t process insults as insulting. But he doesn’t seem like that, to me. That doesn’t really fit with his patience and solicitude for the likes of Harriet McBryde Johnson. I can, of course, see that the whole ‘but, captain, I’m just being rational’ Spock schtick only sets people’s inner McCoy off worse. And if you think he’s a Nazi on the merits – well, we know from the movies that the polite and polished ones are the worst ones. But seriously. What’s the guy supposed to do, given the case he wants to make? Yell at his critics? Whine that they are being mean to him? That would be a disaster. So it’s this elaborate, placid front of unfailingly polite rationality or nothing. This is not to say that he’s some great hero for keeping his cool when people insult him. But, to me, he came off not as an evil A.I. but just as someone trying to step his way through an emotional minefield, because he’s decided he really wanted what was on the other side. [click to continue…]