Plus ca change

by Maria on December 14, 2009

A new enterprise requires new books, not clothes. As I’ve recently developed an acutely personal interest in all things military, I’ve begun to read about the British army. The process of converting one of my unknown unknowns into a semi-known unknown has been thoroughly enjoyable, and I’ve got a couple of books to recommend. Who will read these books? More people than I would ever have thought.

Dr. Johnson wrote “Every man thinks meanly of himself for never having been to sea nor having been a soldier.” I’m sure every man doesn’t and certainly shouldn’t think that. But I have been surprised to recently discover in most of my male relatives and friends an abiding interest in British military history. Uncles nod knowingly when regiments are name-checked and drop titbits of trivia about their history. Friends in the pub ask seemingly well-informed questions about structural re-organizations. Cousins ably describe the intricacies of rank, something I’d previously had only the vaguest idea about, most of it picked up from Persuasion and Vanity Fair. Now I’m scrambling to catch up.
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Crooked Timber announces MLA Takeover

by Henry Farrell on December 14, 2009

Or at least, MLA takeover by a “CT blogger”: Congratulations, Michael!

The First Troll: Identified!

by Henry Farrell on December 14, 2009

From the “blog”: of the International Culture and Cognition Institute.

Yet more or less impersonal discussions did exist before the creation of Usenet (1979) – in newspapers or gazettes, in the public places of big cities, etc. We should find Trolls there too. Indeed, we can find them in some of the first public places where free conversation between strangers was allowed, on a variety of topics : the antique Forum, grandfather of the virtual forums of today, womb of all Trolls. There you may find the antique equivalent of Trolls : what people at the time called ‘sophists’ or ‘philosophers’ – two words that were used interchangeably by the man on the Forum. Many Sophists did not want to endorse the label – sophistry was frowned upon or downright illegal in many places – and insisted on being called Philosophers. But the average citizen did not distinguish much between all these varieties of arguers. It is clear from most outsiders’ accounts that sophists/philosophers were perceived as disrupting the usual rules of conversation in a noxious way.

Two important men are having a careful conversation on military training. What do you call the guy who, having no particular competence or interest in the matter at hand, jumps in the conversation, systematically contradicts everyone with contrived arguments, ridicules the two competent discussants, orients the conversation on a completely different topic, then leaves the audience baffled and walks away, laughing? That Troll is Socrates in Plato’s Laches.

One man’s muops being another man’s bridge-dweller. I hope John Emerson is happy …