Palin’s Travels

by Jon Mandle on August 29, 2006

In 1988, Michael Palin set out to travel around the world in 80 days roughly tracing the path of Phileas Fogg and using only modes of transport that had been available to him. He filmed it for a BBC documentary. I vaguely remember seeing and enjoying an episode or two some years ago. I had no idea that he filmed 5 more travel adventures – Pole to Pole; Full Circle; Hemingway; Sahara; Himalaya – and he is now working on one called the “New Europe” about countries that were part of the Soviet Bloc but are now part of or are soon to be part of the EU. I haven’t seen any of them – don’t watch enough TV, I guess. But I did stumble upon his website – Palin’s Travels – complete with lots of texts, maps, pictures, and some video from the travels. It’s worth exploring.

APSA panels

by Henry Farrell on August 29, 2006

I’ll be attending the APSA conference in Philadelphia, arriving Friday, and leaving Sunday morning. Below the fold is a list of panels that I thought looked interesting on the basis of a quick browse through the APSA website – feel free to add others in comments.

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Plural of Data ≠ Anecdote

by Henry Farrell on August 29, 2006

“Mike Pence”: on evidence-based reasoning.

Mr. Pence argued that tax cuts help the poor by revving the economy. That may eventually prove true, but despite large tax cuts the poverty rate has risen in each of the last four years. “That’s anecdotal,” Mr. Pence said in an interview last fall. Then he offered an anecdote — a story President Reagan told about a pipe fitter pleased to see the rich prosper, “because I’ve never been hired by a poor man.”

The apparent deceptiveness of the world

by John Q on August 29, 2006

Googling around in connection with my review of Unspeak, I came across an old LanguageLog post on The apparent deceptiveness of the world, which cites the paradoxical statement

Appearances are not deceptive; it only seems as if they are.

and invites Brian to analyse it (Since this predates both CT and Technorati, I’m not sure if there was any followup), saying

Clearly, if this is true, then it has to be false, and if false, it must be true. Yet it is not a standard liar-paradox sentence like as in classic liar sentences like This statement is false, or Everything I tell you is a lie, including this. It does not mention truth or falsity, or refer to itself. It is a metaphysical claim, as far as I can see. It speaks not about language or truth but about the nature of reality. It says (contrary to the old proverb) that reality does not present itself in a way that deceives our senses, and any perception we may have to the contrary is incorrect.

I think we can extract a coherent claim with the aid of Hamlet’s observation “For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. I’d read the statement as saying something like “First appearances are not deceptive; it’s thinking about them that leads you astray”.

While this is obviously false as a general statement, it’s arguable that direct perceptions are usually closer to the mark than the results of the kinds of analysis (Freudianism, a lot of marxist and marxisant thinking, most public choice theory) that purport to strip away surface appearances and reveal the underlying truth.