Van Parijs’s book on Linguistic Justice

by Ingrid Robeyns on November 29, 2011

A few weeks ago, Philippe Van Parijs’s new book Linguistic Justice for Europe and for the World was released by his publisher. Since he’s coming to my university to give a lecture on the topic of the book at the end of January, I’ve set up an online reading group on this book over at my Faculty’s blog. Feel free to join – we’ll move about one chapter a week and will start with the first one next Monday, December 5th.


by Henry Farrell on November 29, 2011

Let’s imagine that we lived in an alternative universe where some of the more noxious nineteenth century pseudo-science regarding ‘inverts’ and same-sex attraction had survived into the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Let us further stipulate that the editor of a nominally liberal opinion magazine “had published”: one purported effort to ‘prove’ via statistics that same-sex attraction was a form of communicable psychosis, which invariably resulted in national degeneracy when it was allowed to persist. One of this essay’s co-authors had “chased sissies”: in his youth, but claimed he had not realized that this was homophobic; he also had occasion to observe the lack of “real men”: on the streets of Paris, and to deplore the resulting sapping of virility in the French national character. His efforts, and the efforts “of”: “fellow”: “researchers”: (all of the latter funded by and/or directly involved with the “Institute for the Suppression of Homosexual Filth”: succeeded in creating a significant public controversy. Some public commentators embraced the same-sex-attraction-as-psychosis argument because they were, themselves, homophobes, others more plausibly because they were “incompetent”:, or because they enjoyed being contrarians, or both. This, despite the fact that the statistical arguments on which these extreme claims depended were “demonstrably”: bogus.

Now, let us suppose that the same editor who helped release this tide of noxious homophobia in the first place still played a significant role in American public debate, and still refused to recognize that he might, actually, be wrong on the facts. Whenever “people pointed out”: that these claims were statistically bogus, he refused to engage, instead treating “cogent statistical criticisms”: as yet another reiteration of the “left-liberal view”: While continuing to maintain that the “data” on fag-psychosis “need addressing”:, he resolutely refused to actually address the harsh statistical critiques of how this data had been analyzed, perhaps because he didn’t actually understand “these”: “critiques”: Instead, he continued to “worry”: that “political correctness” and “squeamishness” had stifled the study of whether gay people were, in fact, psychotic and could communicate their psychosis to others. This was a discussion that was “worth airing “a decade and a half ago” and it “was surely worth airing today.” Indeed, the topic was “fascinating in and of itself.” However, as the editor observed, those who sympathized with his own position found that the “chilling effect” of public disapproval, had gotten even worse, and was “playing havoc” with the careers of those interested in investigating the very important question of whether teh gay was a form of criminal insanity.

I wonder, if we lived in such a world, what Andrew Sullivan would think of that editor?

Thinking With Models

by Henry Farrell on November 29, 2011

Scott Page is offering a “free graded course”: on ‘thinking with models.’

We live in a complex world with diverse people, firms, and governments whose behaviors aggregate to produce novel, unexpected phenomena. We see political uprisings, market crashes, and a never ending array of social trends. How do we make sense of it?

Models. Evidence shows that people who think with models consistently outperform those who don’t. And, moreover people who think with lots of models outperform people who use only one.

Why do models make us better thinkers?

Models help us to better organize information – to make sense of that fire hose or hairball of data (choose your metaphor) available on the Internet. Models improve our abilities to make accurate forecasts. They help us make better decisions and adopt more effective strategies. They even can improve our ability to design institutions and procedures.

In this class, I present a starter kit of models: I start with models of tipping points. I move on to cover models explain the wisdom of crowds, models that show why some countries are rich and some are poor, and models that help unpack the strategic decisions of firm and politicians.

I really recommend this to CT readers. Scott is one of the people pioneering the study of complex systems in the social sciences. My review of his book, _The Difference_ is “here”:, and I imagine that studying with him will be a lot of fun. There are a number of other courses (listed at the bottom of the page for Scott’s course) that also look very interesting.