Showing posts from August, 2013

Evolution as science versus religion was a later invention

"It is very interesting to notice how far later tradition has exaggerated the Victorian dispute and distorted our view of its nature. As James Moore has shown, it certainly did not appear at the time as raging between science and religion, but as cutting straight across both. Darwin's most serious opponents by far were the official scientific establishment of his day, and many of his supporters... were clergymen." -- Mary Midgley, Evolution as Religion, p. 12

Mary Midgley on Methodological Pluralism

"There is a real difficulty in grasping the vastness of the subject, in seeing that distinct insights need not be rivals, but can explain different aspects of life, and can eventually be compatible." -- Evolution as Religion, p. 9

A platonic argument for scientism?

"Now the full beauty of man's capacity to weigh, to measure, and to number comes to light. All are antidotes to error. They liberate our souls from illusory perceptions of what is greater or less or more or heavier, so that we may be governed by those things that we can weigh, measure, and reckon...

"Further: the best part of the soul is that which relies on calculation and measurement?

-- The Republic, Book X

Top that, Nostradamus!

Even my jokes come true: Honda is now working on the ability to alert pedestrians via text message when something in the external world like a bus is about to hit them.

You will never need to look up from your smart phone again. The Kingdom is truly upon us.

The Genius of Wittgenstein

The story goes that Wittgenstein asked, "Why did people believe for so long that the sun went around the earth?"

His interlocutor answered, "Well, because it looks that way?"

Wittgenstein paused for a moment. Then he asked, "And how would it look if the earth went around the sun?"

The book of thoughts (Croce)

"I libri dei Pensieri vari rappresentavano sempre un grado inferiore dell'intelligenza umana. Sono osservazione spicciole e imprecise, le quali, meditate da persona che pensa e ha testa filosofica, vengono a confondersi in certi più generali princìpi, di cui esse sono o facili corollari o inesatte applicazione. Dico che rappresentano un grado inferiore dell'intelligenza, appunto perché questa relazione di corollario o di applicazioni non è in essi vista né determinata. Il filosofo, che li legge, non ha niente da impararvi, se non forse un certo modo arguto ed epigrammatico di far quelle osservazioni. Modo che, quando c'è, ha poi soltanto valore artistico." -- Pensieri sull'arte (1885), XXVI

The "book of thoughts" always represents an inferior grade of human intelligence. They are penny ante, imprecise observations, the quality of which, meditatedby a personwho thinksandhas a philosophicalhead, are conferred in somemore generalprinciplesto which the…

I Won't Take "No" for an Answer

Nor will I take "yes" for a question.

I just wanted you to know.

The Bully!

A photographer is in legal trouble for refusing to photograph a lesbian wedding. According to Noah Smith classificatory scheme, the photographer is a "bully" for thinking she should not have to take part in events that run against her moral beliefs, while the couple who had her dragged through years of legal hassles, despite the fact that they easily found someone else to take the photos, are the poor downtrodden little folks.

I bet Noah Smith, when he was young, complained about the bullies whose chins got in the way of his fist.

In an interesting side note, Dreher points out that his freedom of conscience principles are not a matter of whose side he is on: "If a gay photographer believed in good conscience that he could not photograph the wedding of Christian fundamentalists, then I think he absolutely should have the right to refuse, on First Amendment grounds."

And finally, isn't Vanessa Wilcock an inapt name for a lesbian?

Philosophers as writers

In a conversation with Peri Roberts and Pete Sutch, we found that we all agreed that how well a philosopher wrote was surprisingly disconnected from how great a philosopher he was. Let's look at a few examples of philosophers of roughly equal stature, from the same centuries (three out of the four pairs wrote in the same language, in fact), one of whom was a great stylist, and one of whom was not:

Plato: He would be known as a great writer alone: the ship of state, the ring of invisibility, the shadows on the cave wall, Atlantis, his mythical vision of the afterlife, etc.
Aristotle: Aristotle would not.

Berkeley: Remarkably clear exposition.

Nietzche: Superman. Need we say more?
Hegel: "Science exhibits itself as a circle returning upon itself, the end being wound back into the beginning, the simple ground, by the mediation; this circle is moreover a circle of circles, for each individual member as ensouled by the method is reflected into itself, so that in returning in…

Desperate for cash...

I've begun money laundering operations:

I expect the Benjamins to be rolling in soon.

Gardening for Real People, Part VI

Got logs?

Have you taken down a tree but have no (known) use for the resulting logs? They work great for marking out a path through the woods:

And they can provide seating as well:

The mysterious hooded figures...

That lurk in the woods have requested that all posts on this blog that mentioned the forbidden dog park be removed. I have of course heeded that request, and so searching for them now will be of no avail. In fact, they have been purged from the Wayback machine as well.
If you happen to have read any of these posts, please remove them from your local cache. And then forget you ever read them.

Do not Google for information abou the forbidden dog park: the Night Vale Secret Police will not look kindly on such activities.

Press Announcements about Science, or Why Your Teen Can't Help His Criminal Behavior

Yesterday, two people told me that "A study showed that teenagers haven't yet developed the part of their brain that creates fear of bad consequences in the future."

Hmm... These are both bright people, but neither have been trained in the methods of critical history: In critical history, we don't believe our sources, we interrogate them.

And here we have a very good reason to interrogate. Let me relate a true tale: Years ago, my then three-year-old son saw a woodchuck in the backyard. "Can I go catch the woodchucker, Dad?" (Cute, huh? And Chomskean! The addition of the "er" recalls a story about Wabulon from a book on linguistics.)

"Sure thing." No harm, no foul: there was no way he would actually catch the thing, which would scamper out of the yard as soon as anyone walked into it.

But suddenly he stopped. He thought for a second and then asked, with a worried look, "Dad, do woodchuckers bite?"

You see, at three, he could en…

Gardening for Real People, Part V

An important part of garden maintenance is "Dead Heading" your roses:

(Although it is hard to capture in a photo, it is highly recommended that one douse oneself in patchouly oil before performing this operation.)

My son is a point guard

I think most of you would agree that I am not speaking nonsense in saying this, or introducing some "magical" element into my description of my son. Is a straightforward statement of fact, of the kind that would usually pass without any notice.

But what I wish to note here is that no sense can be made of this statement without the larger context of the notion of "a basketball team." It is not possible for a human being to be a point guard in isolation. He might dribble a basketball around, and even pretend to pass to others. But without the larger context of a basketball team, he is not a point guard.

The truth of reductionism is that sometimes good explanations of something larger can be given in terms of breaking down that larger thing into smaller entities. I did this all the time in analyzing the workings of the programs I was writing: when I found a bug, I looked for a particular line of code to explain the bug. But if taken as a methodological dictate, which in…

And though the days roll through my mind...

The everlasting universe of Things
Rolls through the Mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark – now glittering – now reflecting gloom –
Now lending splendour, where from secret springs
The source of human thought its tribute brings
Of waters, – with a sound but half its own,
Such as a feeble brook will oft assume
In the wild woods, among the Mountains lone,
Where waterfalls around it leap forever,
Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river
Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves -- Shelley, Mont Blanc

Organs Are Explained by Organisms

And not the reverse. Livers don't go around detoxifying on their own, and occasionally bump into a heart and lungs and decide to make an organism. No, we only understand what organs do by seeing their role in the entire organism.

I mention this as part of the campaign to make the "mouth of truth" your anti-reductionist blog of choice. (Although Ed Feser is not bad either.) One interesting thing that has emerged is that some people are ready to deeply defend reductionism without apparently having any idea what it is. One commenter offered thermodynamics and Darwinian evolution as examples of successful reductionist theories, when, in fact, they are two prime examples of theories resisting reduction for over a century. For example, convection in thermodynamics is an excellent example of a theory which cannot possibly be reduced to the action of isolated molecules: what would it even mean for a single molecule to be undergoing convection?! It is a solid, scientific concept…

Your psychic health

Far from reducing to just the state of your neurons, it turns out that your psychic health hardly depends on you alone: the trillions of microbes living in our guts apparently also play a keep part in our mental state.

Rootless speculation

For the bad translation files:

In Italian, the speaker says "What would a tree be without its roots?"

Then he answers his own question, "Nothing."

In the English subtitles, this was rendered, "What would happen to a tree without its roots? Nothing."

So I guess the roots are optional after all.

The Road Is So Froggy

This little guy made his way onto my porch tonight. As you can see, he's about the size of a fingernail:

Oddly, despite his diminutive stature, when he jumped down from the railing to the deck he made a distinct "plop."

Psi power

The economists among youse certainly know of the gamma function, the analytic construction of the arithmetic factorial function: n Gamma(n) = Gamma(n+1).

How about this function: psi(n) = d/dn ln Gamma(n).

Why is it interesting? (Those of you who have memorized the Chemical Rubber Company Handbook of Mathematical Tables or a similar encyclopedia, please abstain.)

Pottery II


A renowned devotee of Terpsichore
Had a fourteen-inch dildo of hickory
     Which she rubbed with bay rum,
     Belladonna, old cum,
Oil of myrrh, and coffee with chickory.

Whitehead on the naïve faith of science

"Science has never shaken off the impress of its origin in the historical revolt of the later Renaissance. It has remained predominantly an anti-rationalistic movement, based upon a naïve faith." -- Science and the Modern World, p. 16

Whitehead on the rise of science

"Science has never shaken off the impress of its origin in the historical revolt of the later Renaissance. It has remained predominantly an anti-rationalistic movement, based upon a naïve faith." -- Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p. 16

Whitehead on the persecution of scientists

"In a generation which saw the Thirty Years' War... the worst that happened to men of science was that Galileo suffered an honourable detention and a mild reproof, before dying peacefully in his bed." -- Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p. 2

Whitehead on Bruno

"Giordano Bruno was the martyr: though the cause for which he suffered was not that of science, but that of free imaginative speculation. His death in the year 1600 ushered in the first century of modern science in the strict sense of the term. In his execution there was an unconscious symbolism: for the subsequent tone of scientific thought has contained distrust of his type of general speculativeness." -- Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p. 1

The Catholic Church was perhaps kinder to Bruno than the modern academy would be: While the church at least considered his ideas important enough to execute him, the modern academy would simply relegate his sort of speculation to the dustbin of "not worthy of serious consideration."

Yum! Fresh Cream!

This just opened a little ways down the road from me:

I keep asking my wife if we can stop. "We'll pick up some fresh half-and-half for the coffee, and maybe some sour cream for the potatoes!"

But she just responds, "Don't worry, I'll be bringing you there real soon, once I work out the contract details with Luigi."

I don't get it: why would she need a contract with some guy named Luigi to go pick up some half-and-half?!

What work is biblical inerrancy supposed to be doing?

We have 5500 hand-written manuscripts of part or all of the New Testament in Greek. The earliest of them are from the second century A.D. Scholars estimate that they differ from each other in several hundred thousand places.

Of particular interest is the fact that the story of the adulteress, the one in which Jesus talks about whoever has no sin casting the first stone, does not appear in any manuscripts or in any commentary on the New Testament before about the 12th century A.D. (Bart Ehrman speculates that something like the following occurred: one scribe in reading John saw Jesus saying things about not judging others. He thought, "I know a wonderful story that's been circulating about Jesus that illustrates that point nicely." He then wrote the story of the adulteress in the margin. A second scribe saw that, and thought, "Gee, this guy accidentally left that part out, and then had to write it in the margin. Let me get it in the main line of the text.") In an…

Worried about affordable housing?

Try allowing some development.

Here is an article describing how some residents in Queens are worried about their neighborhood becoming "unaffordable."

But it is often the very same people who fight tooth and nail against any high-rise development in their neighborhood.

If you want to keep a neighborhood affordable for the old residents in the face of newcomers desire to move there, you only have three choices that I can see:

1) Simply forbid people from moving where they want. That is obviously incompatible with being a liberal democracy.

2) Institute widespread rent control, with the usual bad results.

3) Allow new housing to go up to accommodate the newcomers, which, if built in sufficient quantity, will keep prices (and thus rents) down on the older housing stock. Once you add in the environmental advantages of dense urban dwelling, this even more so should be the preferred solution.

Of course, the owners in the neighborhood often hate 3, because it cuts into their profit…

The Scores of Scientists Who Suffered Severely at the Hands of the Church for Their Theories Include?

Over in the comments at Bob Murphy's blog, George Selgin writes:

"That many of the most illustrious members of this tiny group [of scientific thinkers] suffered severely at the hands of religious persecutors is (or ought to be) notorious."

I do not mean to pick on George, whom I regard as a very bright man, but here he is expressing a bit of "folk history" that I just don't see has much basis in fact. My interest is really about why this idea continues to circulate.

One of the first things our history of science lecturer at King’s College, John Milton, told us was that on the vast majority of scientific topics, the church simply did not care. So when Buridan and Oresme challenged Aristotelian mechanics: the church just did not care at all, one way or the other.

Secondly, on the very few topics it did care about, it was always prepared to regard scripture as figurative, if the literal interpretation could be proven false. (So, since everyone knew t…

The primacy of the concrete

"The explanatory purpose of philosophy is often misunderstood. Its business is to explain the emergence of the more abstract things from the more concrete things. It is a complete mistake to ask how concrete particular fact can be built up out of universals. The answer is, 'In no way.'" -- Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality, p. 24

Abraham Lincoln


Confusing reductionism, determinism and materialism

One can hold one or two of the above doctrines without holding the other one or two. Some commentators here seem confused about this.

To get this clearer it may be helpful to consider the case of Hayek. He was certainly a materialist, and probably believed in physical determinism as well. But he was definitely anti-reductionist. He believed that due to complexity, there existed emergent properties at higher levels of organization that could not be reduced to the sum of their parts. But he still thought that they were material in nature through and through (there was no new substance like spirit or mind that entered into the picture to create the emergent level), and that their behavior was probably deterministic, even if impossible to predict exactly.


Several recent posts suggested to me that I should share this important Gedankenexperiment (I was about fifteen when it occurred to me).

Half time at the Superbowl. The President of the United States takes the stage and addresses his fellow Americans: "I ask you all to participate in an unprecedented and important scientific experiment. Without your cooperation, this vital research cannot be carried out, etc.etc." The country's most popular sports figure then takes over to explain the details. Roustabouts bring out a large fluorescent orange tarpaulin and place it in the exact center of the field, brilliant against the green. A small cage is placed in the center of the tarpaulin. In it is a hamster. Most popular sports figure: "OK, everybody, now, HATE THAT HAMSTER!"

What dialogue in Jesse Stone!

A little while back, I posted a translation of Croce discussing how the dialogue in Corneille was "false from top to bottom."

I've just found a modern example of this: the Jesse Stone movies that CBS made last decade. Tom Selleck and his interlocutors continually talk "how one talks when, while feigning to have a confidential word with another, one has every intention of letting a third person overhear."

It is very grating after a little while.

Contemplating a name change

Hmm... What if I legally change my name to "Pulitzer Prize-Winning Writer Gene Callahan."

That might generate an edge in marketing book signings, hey?

The Failure of Reductionism in Biology

From Charney and English, "Candidate Genes and Political Behavior," American Political Science Review, Feb. 2012:
Hence, a single gene can code for multiple proteins, something that is estimated to occur in 90% of all human genes. We cannot equate a particular allele straightforwardly with the production of a particular form of protein and from that with the production of a particular physiological effect and corresponding phenotype.

Once considered the paragon of stability, DNA is subject to all manner of transformation. For example, we retrotransposons or "jumping genes" comprise 45% of the human genome, that the genome play copy-and-paste mechanism changing DNA content structure, are regulated by the epigenome (and hence are potentially environmentally responsive), and appear to be particularly prevalent in the human brain...

"The dogma and collect their genetics until the 1990s was the genotype would predict phenotype. We thought that once we cloned and c…

Orson Scott Canard

He gained fame by writing a novel arguing that tricking children into committing genocide could be a good thing. But apparently over time he has become even more unhinged: he now believes Obama is preparing to train a military police force of minorities who will assault anyone who disagrees with his policies.

But this one really got me: "There are still people... who believe that Richard III murdered his nephews..."

Yes, Orson, and those people are called "historians."And just why do these nasty historians believe this? "That's because politically useful lies are treasures, not to be easily given up by those who benefit from them."

Ah, it's all the people who "benefit" today from smearing Richard III who are selling us these "lies." Like... like...

What is the point of blatantly public marriage proposals?

You know, the kind of thing when someone puts their proposal up on the scoreboard of a baseball stadium, or something like that?

It strikes me that the point is to bully the person being asked into saying "yes," by enlisting thousands of people on the side of the proposer, rooting for a yes.

Noah Smith's Car?

Yes, let's "coexist": unless we disagree about politics, in which case you are automatically a racist and homophobe! (I don't doubt for a moment that there are plenty of racists and homophobes in the Tea Party. But I am also sure there are plenty of people who are neither: their main interest is in lower taxes, or less gun control, or less regulation of building, etc. etc. What this person is doing by sporting this bumper sticker is the same thing racists do: taking a selection from a group and stereotyping the whole group as having the properties of the selection.)

Advice you will need

"Yields a falsehood when appended to its own quotation"
yields a falsehood when appended to its own quotation.

-- Quine

Youth sports build character

I was at the lake Saturday, which turned out to be the day the swim team was having their end of season party. This is a team of kids from age 6 to 18, but mostly concentrated in the younger part of that range.

Here is a sample of the DJ's playlist, in fact, three consecutive songs from it:

I've Got Friends in Low Places
I Love This Bar
Let's Get Drunk and Screw

Ah, the character building nature of youth sports on display at its best!

Pursuing the dream of reduction...

Quantum physics wound up turning on the dreamers.

If reductionism were true, then quantum physics ought to be its apotheosis. But essentially all of the founders of the discipline, as far as I can tell, at some point or another clearly expressed the non-reductionist nature of their findings. The little "bits" the identification of which was supposed to result in an explanation of everything else turned out to be nothing at all in isolation: only in their relations to other particles could they even be given meaning. (This is a far cry from the self-contained and self-existent billiard balls that materialists had imagined would make up the atomic level.) In fact, given the reality of quantum entanglement, what any particular particle is up to turns out to depend on the entire state of the universe. Far from supporting reductionism, this discovery simply reeks of absolute idealism.

The strange paradox of the reductionist individualist

Those who cling to the ideology of reductionism and yet hold to a libertarian or semi-libertarian position really present a strange paradox: They are insisting upon the importance of individuals in politics while at the same time holding that individuals don't really exist at all. After all, nothing bad happened to the electrons and protons and neutrons that made up Alexander Solzhenitsyn when he was thrown in the gulag. So what was the big deal?

Mid-August Garden



...from a comment by Mr. Fetz, this has, I think, a larger relevance and so should be promoted to a posting of its own:

I said that I know "a few" have. If a few Americans are murderers, are all Americans murderers?

And my reply: In a certain sense, Yes.

The Role of Law

"We come here to one of the key concepts Oakeshott's later work -- the conception which he finds pre-figured in the thought of Hobbes and Hegel, of society as a civil association -- an association among persons who, having no ends or purposes necessarily held in common, nevertheless coexist in peace under the rule of law... the [role] of law in a civil society is not that promoting general welfare or any other similar abstraction (such as fundamental rights), but rather of securing the conditions in which persons may themselves contract into mutually chosen activities." John Gray, Liberalisms, p. 207

Hanging out in the country

Where, as Noah Smith tells us, we white people go so that we need not have any contact with nonwhites.

Man, somehow I haven't quite got the hang of this country thing yet:

Wingnuts over America

The insane Washington Timesblames our withdrawal from Iraq for leaving the "door open to [a] sectarian battle for power."

Right. It wasn't invading the country and toppling the government that opened that door, it was withdrawing when we agreed to withdraw.

Feser Nails It

Here, discussing Alex Rosenberg:
The first argument claims that “neuroscience makes eliminativism about propositional attitudes unavoidable.” A propositional attitude is a relation between a thinker and a certain proposition or content. When we say that Fred believes that it is raining, we are attributing to him the attitude of believing the proposition that it is raining; when we say that Ethel hopes that it is sunny, we are attributing to her the attitude of hoping that the proposition that it is sunny is true; and so forth. Neuroscience, Rosenberg tells us, shows that there is no such thing as believing, hoping, fearing, desiring, or the like.

Now in fact, it takes very little thought to see that “neuroscience” shows no such thing. For there is nothing in the neuroscientific evidence cited by Rosenberg that couldn’t be accepted by an Aristotelian, a Cartesian, a Wittgensteinian, a Whiteheadian, or an adherent of some other metaphysics. What Rosenberg should say is: “Neurosci…

How to Bond as a Family

I just had a Facebook chat with all three of my kids at once.

And we are all in the same NYC apartment, no one more than thirty feet away from anyone else.

Hey, it worked.

Everybody is a poet (Croce)

"Si suole comunemente concepire la poesia come una sorta di sesso intellettuale. Poeta nascitur. Niente di più falso. La produzione poetica proviene da un stato dello spirito eccitato da certe condizione ed occasioni: Stato a cui chi è disposto molto, che poco, e chi quasi nulla ma non mai nulla. Sìcche tutti gli uomini hanno la possibilità di trovarsi in uno stato poetico, e nessuno ci si può provare sempre. La parola 'poeta' del linguaggio comune ha valore semplicemente quantitativo: Chiamiamo poeta chi nella la vita è più specialmente noto perché compone poesia. Intendente sanamente." -- Pensieri sull'arte (1885), XXIII

The common conception of poetry is as a kind of intellectual sex. Poets are born. Nothing could be more false. Poetical production comes from a state of spirit excited by certain conditions and occasions: A state to which some are much disposed, others little, and others almost not at all, but never not at all. So that all people have the poss…

The Sun Was Once a Planet

As Thomas Kuhn noted, in 1400, both the Sun and the Moon were planets, while the Earth was not one.*

But if today you were to campaign for calling the Sun a planet, you would be campaigning to redefine the term planet. The fact that once upon a time that definition was current makes no difference. So Blackadder is right.

Also curious in Murphy's post is this: "I agree with the standard Austrian position on this," i.e., that inflation is an increase in the money supply. Let us set aside the question of what it means to "agree with" a definition, rather than simply employing it, and focus on the word "standard": we have here a definition of inflation offered by Mises, and adopted by Rothbard and his followers. Has it ever been used by Hayek? Lachmann? Kirzner? Horwitz? White? Selgin?

Not that I know of. Apparently, what makes something a "standard" is its use by a small Austrian splinter group.

* And note, this was a matter of definition: wha…

Nice idea for a modernization

I'm usually not impressed with attempts to modernize Shakespeare, but this one intrigues me: making Romeo and Juliet an interracial couple seems a very natural update of the bard.


Wikiphobia (noun): the terror high school teachers experience at the thought that their students might look up something on Wikipedia.

Defining Inflation into Existence

Jonathan Catalan tries to defend the Misesian approach of defining inflation as a rapid increase in the money supply. His tactic is to say it really is no different than the monetarist approach, which sees inflation as always a monetary phenomena, but that Mises simply emphasized the cause while price indices focus on the effect.

This won't do. Once we adopt Mises' definition, we're going to have to say that we can have inflation even in a period when all prices are falling. No monetarist is going to call that inflation!

The fact is, while most or perhaps all periods of price inflation can traced to increases in the money supply, not all increases in the money supply lead to periods of price inflation. And the fact is, what people are interested in is "Why are prices going up?" and not "Is there more money around then there used to be?" Or, they are interested in the latter only in that it causes the former. It is analogous to our interest in germs: mo…

If a foreigner does not know a word...

The best thing to do is say it over and over again. Eventually, I guess, the meaning will become obvious to them. Or so thought the lady at the diner today, who kept saying to the Hispanic busboy, "Crackehs. Crackehs. Crackehs! Crackehs! Crackehs!" (This being Brooklyn, that final 'r' is not pronounced.)

Farce (Croce)

"Per farsa io intendo una rappresentazione comica della vita, non sussistente per sé ma avente la sua radice nei gusti e nelle disposizione particolari di un determinato uditorio. È il comico, non quale deve apparire all'universale coscienza estetica, ma qual appare ad una coscienza individuale. E la farsa non è perciò rigorosamente un genere artistico. Come non è genere artistico il romanzo del Montépin o del Boisgobey, che leggiamo dopo pranzo, e che pure ci aiuta ad ammazzare il tempo." -- Pensieri sull'arte (1885), XXII

By farce I intend a comical representation of life, not self-subsistent but having its roots in the tastes and particular dispositions of a certain audience. What is comic is not what appears in the universal aesthetic conscience, but that which appears in an individual conscience. And therefore strictly speaking farce is not an artistic genre, as the romance of Montépin or of Boisgobey, which we read after lunch to help kill the time, is not an …


I. Limerick

A computer with nothing to do
Was extracting the first root of two.
   After ten thousand pages
   Of zeros, the sages
Said, That's quite enough out of you.

II. Beholding Dürer

Some think God made us
As His hands, tools for doing
What He wished done,
Making what should be made.

By this thesis, Dürer's work,
Since it does not seem to be
A series of instructions,
I judge to be finished.

(c) 130806 by W. Bloch

Sincerity in art (Croce)

"La sincerità naturale, lo 'scrivete come parlate', in arte, è qualcosa di molto simile ai famosi diritti innati, spiritosa invenzione dei filosofi del secolo scorso, nell'etica: quei diritti innati, che'erano, viceversa, il frutto di lavoro di molte centinaia d'anni di storia, e che supponevano innati sol perché si metteva al posto dell'uomo naturale reale l'uomo ideale. La gente meno sincera, a che scrive meno come pensa, è la gente poca colta. E la pìu sincera, e quella che pìu ritrae nello scrivere del proprio pensiero, è la gente che ha ingegno e studio. Perché la sincerità (che in fatto d'arte è espressione metaforica = bellezza) è cosi fatta che, per arrivarci, fa d'uopo un lungo e tortuoso viaggio." -- Pensieri dell'arte (1885), XX

Natural sincerity, the "write as you speak" in art, is very similar to the famous natural rights, the witty invention of philosophers of the last century, in ethics: the natural rights were…

Rationalism in Kitchen Design


Noah Smith, take you head outta you..

I stopped by my local "redneck" bar in rural PA last night. As I came back from the can, I snapped this shot:

What?! Non-white people in a rural, blue-collar bar? Just look at the white people around them, all in a panic, fleeing into the woods!

Wait: they're chatting with the non-white people, having a good time! In fact, my friend Tito, looking at the camera, is pretty much the most popular guy in the bar. It seems about 90% of the people who come in know him, and walk up and shake his hand when they arrive.

In fact, for most of them, the thing they want to avoid about cities is not non-white people, but slums. And what do you know, that is the very thing Tito was seeking to get away from when he moved into the country. And, I bet, the same thing the black guy sitting next to him moved into the country to avoid. And probably the same thing the black guy who was DJing is living out here to avoid.

Noah Smith Offers a Hand to Blue-Collar, White America

"Hey," Noah writes, "you stupid, anti-reason, racist, fearful, mouth-breathers, I of the liberal elite will benevolently make an effort to save even such scum as you!"

I can't see how anyone could possibly ignore his advice!

Smartphone mania

(Hat tip to my student, Catherine Rios-Lunarejo, for alerting me to the web site collecting these photos.)

Sure, Tom, just 1%:

Bob Murphy Sings "I Will Go Down with This Schiff"

And he won't put his hands up and surrender.

Here, in the latest of his series of Karaoke hits, Bob has decided to side with the flat-earth Peter Schiff in his war against empirical reality. Some excerpts with commentary:

"For what it’s worth, Scott doesn’t just take the BLS’ word over the experience of average Americans..."

The consumer confidence index, which was as low as 25 in 2009, now stands at around 80. It has been rising throughout most of this year. The experience of average Americans is very clearly that we are not in a "bad recession"! But I bet when Bob thinks of "average Americans," he is thinking of "the people I met at Porcfest," who have the same ideological bias towards seeing a bad recession that he does. (Of course, for the too many people still unemployed, the economy doesn't look great.)

"So: If all of the above just causes some sluggish growth in the economy, such that Peter Schiff doesn’t even pass the 'la…