Burke: Select Works of Edmund Burke, Vol. 1, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents | Library of Economics and Liberty
"I am not one of those who think that the people are never in the wrong. They have been so, frequently and outrageously, both in other countries and in this. But I do say, that in all disputes between them and their rulers, the presumption is at least upon a par in favour of the people. Experience may perhaps justify me in going further. When popular discontents have been very prevalent; it may well be affirmed and supported, that there has been generally something found amiss in the constitution, or in the conduct of Government. The people have no interest in disorder. [7] When they do wrong, it is their error, and not their crime. But with the governing part of the State, it is far otherwise. They certainly may act ill by design, as well as by mistake."
from instapaper
21 hours ago
Select Works of Edmund Burke, vol. 1 (Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents; Two Speeches on America) - Online Library of Liberty
There are but very few, who are capable of comparing and digesting what passes before their eyes at different times and occasions, so as to form the whole into a distinct system. But in books everything is settled for them, without the exertion of any considerable diligence or sagacity. For which reason men are wise with but little reflexion, and good with little self-denial, in the business of all times except their own. We are very uncorrupt and tolerably enlightened judges of the transactions of past ages; where no passions deceive, and where the whole train of circumstances, from the trifling cause to the tragical event, is set in an orderly series before us. Few are the partizans of departed tyranny; and to be a Whig on the business of an hundred years ago, is very consistent with every advantage of present servility. This retrospective wisdom, and historical patriotism, are things of wonderful convenience; and serve admirably to reconcile the old quarrel between speculation and practice. Many a stern republican, after gorging himself with a full feast of admiration of the Grecian commonwealths and of our true Saxon constitution, and discharging all the splendid bile of his virtuous indignation on King John and King James, sits down perfectly satisfied to the coarsest work and homeliest job of the day he lives in. I believe there was no professed admirer of Henry the Eighth among the instruments of the last King James; nor in the court of Henry the Eighth was there, I dare say, to be found a single advocate for the favourites of Richard the Second. [...]

For ambition, though it has ever the same general views, has not at all times the same means, nor the same particular objects. A great deal of the furniture of ancient tyranny is worn to rags; the rest is entirely out of fashion. Besides, there are few Statesmen so very clumsy and awkward in their business, as to fall into the identical snare which has proved fatal to their predecessors. When an arbitrary imposition is attempted upon the subject, undoubtedly it will not bear on its forehead the name of *Ship-money*. There is no danger that an extension of the *Forest laws* should be the chosen mode of oppression in this age. And when we hear any instance of ministerial rapacity, to the prejudice of the rights of private life, it will certainly not be the exaction of two hundred pullets, from a woman of fashion, for leave to lye with her own husband.
[Everyone sees previous tyrannies for what they are, and so convince themselves, without real warrant, that they are alert to present ones.]
history  politics 
21 hours ago
What design thinking ultimately offers is not evolution, but the look and feel of progress — great graphics, aesthetically interesting configurations of furniture and space — paired with the familiar, gratifying illusion of efficiency. If structural and institutional problems can be solved through nothing more than brainstorming, then it’s possible for macro-level inputs (textbooks, teacher salaries) to remain the same, while outputs (test scores, customer service) improve. From the perspective of capitalism, this is the only alchemy that matters.

Design Thinking for Educators urges teachers to be optimistic without saying why, and to simply believe the future will be better. The toolkit instructs teachers to have an “abundance mentality,” as if problem-solving is a habit of mind. “Why not start with ‘What if?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong?’” they ask.

There are many reasons to start with “What’s wrong?” That question is, after all, the basis of critical thought.
academentia  edtech  from instapaper
MYSTICISM: The Mysticism Of Richard Rolle by Evelyn Underhill
Richard Rolle of Hampole, the first of them in time, and often called with justice, “The father of English Mysticism,” is in some aspects the most interesting and individual of the four. Possessed of great literary power, and the author of numerous poems and prose treatises, his strong influence may be felt in all the mystical and ascetic writers who succeeded him; and some knowledge of his works is essential to a proper understanding of the currents of religious thought in this country during the two centuries which preceded the Reformation. Sometimes known as the “English Bonaventura,” he might have been named with far greater exactitude the “English Francis”: for his life and temperament – though we dare not claim for him the unmatched gaiety, sweetness, and spiritual beauty of his Italian predecessor – yet present many parallels with those of the “little poor man” of Assisi. Both Francesco Bernadone and Richard Rolle were born romantics. Each represents the revolt of the unsatisfied heart and intuitive mind of the natural mystic from the comfortable, the prudent, and the commonplace: its tendency to seek in the spiritual world the ultimate beauty and the ultimate love. Both saw in poverty, simplicity, self-stripping, the only real freedom; in “carnal use and wont” the only real servitude. Moreover, both were natural artists, who found in music and poetry the fittest means of expression for their impassioned and all-dominating love of God. Francis held that the servants of the Lord were nothing else than his minstrels. He taught his friars to imitate the humility and gladness of that holy little bird, the lark; and when sweet melody of spirit boiled up within him, would sing troubadour-like in French to the Lord Jesus Christ. For Rolle, too, the glad and eager life of birds was a school of Christian virtue. At the beginning of his conversion, he took as his model the nightingale, which to song and melody all night is given, that she may please him to whom she is joined. For him the life of contemplation was essentially a musical state, and song, rightly understood, embraced every aspect of the soul’s communion with Reality. Sudden outbursts of lyrical speech and direct appeals to musical imagery abound in his writings, as in those of no other mystic; and perhaps constitute their outstanding literary characteristic.
mysticism  christian 
3 days ago
The word of God: how AI is deified in the age of secularism
“Digital technology, AI included, has appropriated the discourse about hope,” warns Floridi. “The hope of higher productivity, easier interactions, faster connections, better products, more social contacts…the rhetoric changes, but the fundamental promise is that a new digital technology will be better than an old one in fulfilling more promises.

“The risk is that digital techno-hope may manipulate and exploit people, replace any other kind of hope, including more spiritual ones, and end up supporting some superstitious view.” [...]

Despite the tech industry’s tendency to reframe society’s hopes and dreams with quasi-religious fervor, it’s worth noting that the veneration of man-made objects is by no means a new phenomenon. Viewed in the context of human civilization, deifying AI systems may be little more than a modern spin on idol worship; an algorithmic golden calf.

The meeting place between icon and intelligence is something Carroll compares to the Congolese nkisi fetish figures. “Looking at how this is made, it is a mix of flora (a tree), fauna (a chicken), human (the spirit of a killed hunter), the technical expertise of the priest, and the votive oath of the propitiate. Together, taking bits and pieces from different parts of society and the ecology, the nkisi becomes an agent in its own right and is able to kill, or seek revenge, etc. It is an intelligence, and a man-made one.”

This comparison very much depends, however, on whether you seek to think about AI as a man-made object or as an intelligent network. The 20th-century anthropologist Gregory Bateson, for example, conceived of “mind” as a supreme cybernetic system that encompasses individuals, societies, and ecosystems, not something contained in an individual person. This overarching mind is, Bateson argued, what some people call “god” — although he wasn’t fond of the term. Artificial intelligence, like Bateson’s theory, has grown out of cybernetics, and there are echoes of this thinking in everything from cloud computing to social networks.

But the leap between this conception and that of an omnipotent, omnipresent artificial superintelligence is the philosophical equivalent of running into a Road Runner–esque fake tunnel. AI systems may be able to learn board games and could be a great help to scientific research, but they are relatively useless at tasks that can’t be perfectly simulated on a computer. Even a video game like StarCraft is currently beyond the grasp of AI bots, let alone holistic decisions about the future direction of the human race.

Silicon Valley may be adept at leveraging the language of religion, but — to echo Floridi — there’s no more god in a neural network than in a kettle.
AI  anthropocene 
3 days ago
The Claims of the Unborn
If you could effectively make adoption safer and easier to effect than a chemical abortion or “emergency contraception,” you could reduce the overall demand for abortions. But it is very likely there would still be some abortions, and abortion would still have its apologists.

Because in many cases, the point of abortion isn’t just to end the inconvenience, embarrassment, or danger of a pregnancy; it’s not just to avoid the grave responsibilities of parenting a child. Instead, the purpose of the abortion is to completely extinguish the child’s moral claims on her parents. [...]

In truth, every child’s life is so full of possibility and risk that no parents can hope to achieve the kind of full and conscious consent we so often demand elsewhere in our lives. To accept a child is to accept the limits of our own powers, and burdens we can’t properly measure. And we know that anti-abortion laws, and cultures that support family formation, can help people to reconcile themselves to what really has happened in their lives, and what may yet still. So we have a duty to continue supporting those laws, and creating that culture.

But the pro-life movement’s final work will necessarily involve helping us to accept not just the full scope of an unborn child’s life but to the full claims of life upon ourselves. We need to protect family life from the commercial logic that we accept in almost every other sphere of life. Our lives are not conducted by the rules and stipulations of explicit contracts. We are often called up to give much more than we want, and in turn we often get much more from life than we bargained for.
abortion  ethics 
4 days ago
Dictation Eases Data Entry
"Dictation in iOS was way better than on the Mac, and no matter which of the variants I used, it formatted the number right every time. In subsequent testing, I discovered that saying “dot” instead of “point” prevented a few spurious spaces from creeping in. Since I have Notes syncing via iCloud, it was child’s play to open it on my Mac in order to copy the numbers to my spreadsheet.

For giggles, I also tried dictating a list of dates and then a series of times. iOS’s dictation recognized both perfectly. Naturally, as soon as you get into ordinary words, its accuracy drops, and you’d have to check everything and fix a variety of mistakes. But with numbers and highly regularized data, there isn’t nearly as much room for error.

In fact, I’d suggest that dictating numbers into iOS might be the most accurate way of entering them manually. It’s easy to make mistakes when transferring your gaze back and forth between a sheet of paper and the keyboard, and it’s also easy to tap a wrong key accidentally. But when you’re dictating, you can devote all your attention to reading and speaking the numbers, eliminating both context-switching and typing mistakes."
from instapaper
4 days ago
Dude, you broke the future! - Charlie's Diary
"Someone out there is working on it: a geolocation-aware social media scraping deep learning application, that uses a gamified, competitive interface to reward its "players" for joining in acts of mob violence against whoever the app developer hates. Probably it has an inoccuous-seeming but highly addictive training mode to get the users accustomed to working in teams and obeying the app's instructions—think Ingress or Pokemon Go. Then, at some pre-planned zero hour, it switches mode and starts rewarding players for violence—players who have been primed to think of their targets as vermin, by a steady drip-feed of micro-targeted dehumanizing propaganda delivered over a period of months.

And the worst bit of this picture?

Is that the app developer isn't a nation-state trying to disrupt its enemies, or an extremist political group trying to murder gays, jews, or muslims; it's just a paperclip maximizer doing what it does—and you are the paper."
from instapaper
4 days ago
Bacon Method
Line a pan with the bacon. You can use a glass baking pan, a steel or aluminum baking sheet, or even a cast iron pan. Check out the list of tools we like.

Put the pan into a cold, unheated oven. I use the middle rack.

Set the oven to bake at 400°F (204°C).

Set the timer for 20 minutes. It may take a bit more or less time, depending on your oven. You can calibrate your oven for even better results.

Remove the pan from the oven. Place the bacon on a plate (or a plate lined with a paper towel if you’re grease averse).

Enjoy the best, crispiest, most delicious bacon you’ve ever had.
4 days ago
March for Life Message: Fetus Is Living, Human, Organism. Don’t Kill It. Ever. | National Review
I have heard endless stupid metaphysical disputes about abortion, from legalistic disputes about “personhood” (a cowardly intellectual dodge if ever there were one) to medieval-style claims about what used to be called “ensoulment.” None of that is of any interest. What happens in abortion happens to a 1) living 2) human 3) organism. The tissue in question is living tissue, not dead tissue; it is human tissue, not rutabaga or aardvark tissue; it is arranged in an organism, not as a tumor or a fingernail clipping. It has its own DNA and it will continue on a life course — maybe majestic, maybe tragic — as it grows, because it is a living human individual at the earliest stages of its development. A “clump of cells”? Yes, which is what living human organism is at that stage in its life.

You mustn’t kill your children.

Not at any age. Not at any stage of development. Not for any reason. Debate, disagree, dissent, fight, cajole, persuade, argue all you want about war and peace, taxes, the welfare state, global warming, the Palestinian question, immigration, Donald Trump, animal rights, the Second Amendment, libel laws, school choice, the literary merits of Ayn Rand. I’ll have all those fights with you and more. Smoke all the weed you like and watch all the porn you want. Keep up with the Kardashians and live like them, too, if that seems best to you. I won’t pretend it’s a good idea, but it’s a free country.

You mustn’t kill your children.
4 days ago
How ‘Cheap Sex’ Is Changing Our Lives — and Our Politics
Regnerus, though at times seeming nostalgic for this older arrangement, does at least acknowledge its more oppressive features: It required sexual double standards and tight restrictions on female sexuality; it was very difficult on those who made bad marriages; and it was often brutal toward sexual minorities. Sexual freedom was limited to the rich or Bohemian. The real value in Regnerus’s depiction of this older system, however, is to point out that our move away from it is not simply a tale of progress but of different sets of tradeoffs. A system that produces incentives for stable relationships and prosocial male behavior might do so at the cost of individual sexual autonomy, and vice versa.

This is precisely what Regnerus thinks has happened over the last few decades as the price of sex has collapsed in the face of a few overlapping trends, notably the increased economic and social autonomy of women, which has allowed them to pursue sex for its own sake rather than trade it in exchange for men’s resources. But Regnerus is most interested in how three technological developments have driven this change. The first and most important of these is contraception, which has separated sex from reproduction and allowed people to seek it for pleasure and self-expression. The second, the rise of online porn, has provided people — mostly men, though increasingly women as well — with an easy, low-cost alternative to sex. The third and final development is the advent of online dating sites such as OKCupid and apps such as Tinder. These have shifted the emphasis in early relationships toward sexual attraction while vastly increasing the efficiency of cycling through potential partners, not only making sex cheaper (because easier to find) but increasing the opportunity cost, in terms of foregone sex and relationships, of remaining with one person for any serious length of time.
culture  marriage  sexuality 
4 days ago
A.I. Versus M.D. - The New Yorker
In 1945, the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle gave an influential lecture about two kinds of knowledge. A child knows that a bicycle has two wheels, that its tires are filled with air, and that you ride the contraption by pushing its pedals forward in circles. Ryle termed this kind of knowledge—the factual, propositional kind—“knowing that.” But to learn to ride a bicycle involves another realm of learning. A child learns how to ride by falling off, by balancing herself on two wheels, by going over potholes. Ryle termed this kind of knowledge—implicit, experiential, skill-based—“knowing how.”"

The two kinds of knowledge would seem to be interdependent: you might use factual knowledge to deepen your experiential knowledge, and vice versa. But Ryle warned against the temptation to think that “knowing how” could be reduced to “knowing that”—a playbook of rules couldn’t teach a child to ride a bike. Our rules, he asserted, make sense only because we know how to use them: “Rules, like birds, must live before they can be stuffed.” One afternoon, I watched my seven-year-old daughter negotiate a small hill on her bike. The first time she tried, she stalled at the steepest part of the slope and fell off. The next time, I saw her lean forward, imperceptibly at first, and then more visibly, and adjust her weight back on the seat as the slope decreased. But I hadn’t taught her rules to ride a bike up that hill. When her daughter learns to negotiate the same hill, I imagine, she won’t teach her the rules, either. We pass on a few precepts about the universe but leave the brain to figure out the rest.

Some time after Lignelli-Dipple’s session with the radiology trainees, I spoke to Steffen Haider, the young man who had picked up the early stroke on the CT scan. How had he found that culprit lesion? Was it “knowing that” or “knowing how”? He began by telling me about learned rules. He knew that strokes are often one-sided; that they result in the subtle “graying” of tissue; that the tissue often swells slightly, causing a loss of anatomical borders. “There are spots in the brain where the blood supply is particularly vulnerable,” he said. To identify the lesion, he’d have to search for these signs on one side which were not present on the other.

I reminded him that there were plenty of asymmetries in the image that he had ignored. This CT scan, like most, had other gray squiggles on the left that weren’t on the right—artifacts of movement, or chance, or underlying changes in the woman’s brain that preceded the stroke. How had he narrowed his focus to that one area? He paused as the thought pedalled forward and gathered speed in his mind. “I don’t know—it was partly subconscious,” he said, finally.

“That’s what happens—a clicking together—as you grow and learn as a radiologist,” Lignelli-Dipple told me. The question was whether a machine could “grow and learn” in the same manner.
knowledge  science  AI  from instapaper
5 days ago
A Strategy for Ruination | Boston Review
CM: Salvage keeps me going. And obviously not only me: clearly also, for example, my collaborator (and coiner of the term “salvagepunk”) Evan Calder Williams, and my comrades at the journal Salvage, particularly Rosie Warren, Richard Seymour, and Jamie Allinson.

Why is not quite clear: there is always something evasive about why particular metaphors resonate as they do. Which is fine by me. Of the various concepts that are politically/aesthetically powerful and formative—helpful—to me, salvage has for a long time been primus inter pares. Word-magic. A retconned syncretic backformation from “salvation” and “garbage.” A homage to, rather than repudiation of, the trash-world wanderers and breakfasters-among-the-ruins that always transfixed me. An undefeated despair: “despair” because it’s done, this is a dystopia, a worsening one, and dreams of interceding just in time don’t just miss the point but are actively unhelpful; “undefeated” because it is worth fighting even for ashes, because there are better and much, much worse ways of being too late. Because *and yet*.
politics  from instapaper
6 days ago
Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?
Dr Joanne Cacciatore, of Arizona State University, became a leading expert on the grief exception after her own baby, Cheyenne, died during childbirth. She had seen many grieving people being told that they were mentally ill for showing distress. She told me this debate reveals a key problem with how we talk about depression, anxiety and other forms of suffering: we don’t, she said, “consider context”. We act like human distress can be assessed solely on a checklist that can be separated out from our lives, and labelled as brain diseases. If we started to take people’s actual lives into account when we treat depression and anxiety, Joanne explained, it would require “an entire system overhaul”. She told me that when “you have a person with extreme human distress, [we need to] stop treating the symptoms. The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem. Let’s get to the deeper problem.” [...]

If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs – for deep connection, to the things that really matter in life.
psychology  depression  from instapaper
6 days ago
An Eccentric Tradition: The Paradox of 'Western Values'
I fully endorse the sentiment that we need a greater familiarity with our own cultural, religious and intellectual past. But the study of what we might call "the Western tradition" will not turn out to be as comforting to advocates of conservative moral and political values as they might imagine. We will see that there is no neat alignment of the study of tradition with traditionalism and political conservatism. Rather the relevant history will bear witness to an ongoing conversation and a continuous dialogue with other cultural traditions. That dialogue was as robust in the middle ages and early modern period as in the post-Enlightenment era.

It is here that the great potential of a "Western tradition" project lies - not in the fetishizing of some imagined canon of fixed values, but in the preservation of a rich and varied past that can continue to serve as on ongoing challenge to the priorities and "values" of the present.
culture  history  from instapaper
6 days ago
Don't Be Evil
It's worth pointing out that this tradition, at least in the communes, has a terrible legacy. The communes were, ironically, extraordinarily conservative.

When you take away bureaucracy and hierarchy and politics, you take away the ability to negotiate the distribution of resources on explicit terms. And you replace it with charisma, with cool, with shared but unspoken perceptions of power. You replace it with the cultural forces that guide our behavior in the absence of rules.

So suddenly you get these charismatic men running communes—and women in the back having babies and putting bleach in the water to keep people from getting sick. Many of the communes of the 1960s were among the most racially segregated, heteronormative, and authoritarian spaces I've ever looked at.
politics  culture  ethics  from instapaper
6 days ago
A broader purpose
I think the courses that can really open doors to cultural analytics are found, right now, in the social sciences. That’s why I recently moved half of my teaching to a School of Information Sciences. There, you find a curricular path that covers statistics and programming along with social questions about technology. I don’t think it’s an accident that you also find better gender and ethnic diversity among people using numbers in the social sciences. Methods get distributed more equally within a discipline that actually teaches the methods. So I recommend fusing cultural analytics with social science partly because it immediately makes this field more diverse. I’m not offering that as a sufficient answer to problems of access. I welcome other answers too. But I am suggesting that social-scientific methods are a necessary part of access. We cannot lower barriers to entry by continuing to pretend that cultural analytics is just the humanities, plus some user-friendly digital tools. That amounts to a trompe-l’oeil door.
DH  from instapaper
6 days ago
NIFLA v. Becerra Supreme Court Case: Impacts Religious Freedom, Free Speech | National Review
In other words, California is requiring pro-life professionals — people who’ve dedicated their lives to protecting the unborn by offering pregnant mothers alternatives to abortion — to advertise state-sponsored abortions. California is making this demand even though it has ample opportunity to advertise state services without forcing pro-life citizens to do so. The state can rent billboard space on the very streets where crisis-pregnancy centers are located. It can hand out leaflets on the sidewalk. It can advertise on television and the radio. It can advertise on the Internet or social media. But rather than using its own voice, it is co-opting the voices of its pro-life citizens, forcing them to join its pro-abortion crusade. [...]

In recent months, much of the professional commentariat has declared that America is flirting with authoritarianism. I agree with the diagnosis but disagree as to the cause. Donald Trump hasn’t done anything remotely as authoritarian as forcing dissenting citizens to advance his agenda. But that’s what progressive politicians are attempting to do in California and Colorado. There are few actions more antithetical to freedom than forcing a citizen to advance a cause he despises. The First Amendment has stood as a firewall against state efforts to compel speech until now. Will it hold still?
law  freespeech  religiousfreedom 
7 days ago
An Insider’s Take on Assessment: It May Be Worse Than You Thought - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Because it’s fairly obvious that assessment has not caused (and probably will not cause) positive changes in student learning, and because it’s clear that this has been an open secret for a while, one wonders why academic administrators have been so acquiescent about assessment for so long.

Here’s why: It’s no accident that the rise of learning-outcomes assessment has coincided with a significant expansion in the use of adjunct faculty, the growth of dual enrollment, and the spread of online education. Each of these allows administrators to deliver educational product to their customers with little or no involvement from the traditional faculty. If they are challenged on the quality of these programs, they can always point out that assessment results indicate that the customers are learning just as much as the students in traditional courses.

But if assessment is little more than a Rorschach test, that argument loses whatever force it had. That harried adjuncts, high-school teachers, and online robo-courses get the same assessment results as traditional courses probably tells us more about the nature of assessment than anything else.
7 days ago
The New Testament in the strange words of David Bentley Hart: A review
Hart’s determination to resist “later theological and doctrinal history” in shaping his translation is fueled by his judgment that Augustine and his 16th-century successors were wrong not only in their reading of Adam’s sin in Romans 5:12 but in their entire soteriology—everything from predestination to justification by faith to repentance to the division between heaven and hell. In short, the “magisterial Protestant tradition” that generated contemporary American Bible translation is “demonstrably wrong.”

Hart speaks with heavy sarcasm of those “who are doctrinally or emotionally committed to the idea of eternal torment for the unelect.” His own dogmatic commitments are clear in his reading of the parable of Dives and Lazarus in Luke 16. The tale turns on the assumption that the rich man and the beggar find themselves in radically different postmortem locations. But Hart insists that both Dives and Lazarus are in Hades, with Lazarus in a pleasant part of Hades called “the Vale of Abraham” (appealing to a metaphorical meaning of kolpos, which normally refers to someone’s lap or the equivalent folds of their clothes), so that Dives sees Abraham far off “and Lazarus in his vales.”

But this reading makes no sense, partly because Hart has ignored the well-known ancient Jewish idiom of Abra­ham’s bosom, and more particularly because his own dogma supersedes the text. The rest of Hart’s book explains why: one of his major agenda is to shut off all possibility of a standard Western view of hell and of the ultimate separation of righteous and wicked.
["Demonstrably wrong" in Hartese is "something DBH disagrees with"]
bible  theology 
7 days ago
Religion, if there is no God--: on God, the Devil, sin, and other worries of ... - Leszek Kołakowski - Google Books
Sickness is the natural state of a Christian, Pascal wrote to his sister, Madame Perrier. Christianity may be viewed as an expression of what in human misery is incurable by human efforts; an expression, rather than a philosophical or psychological description. Thereby it is a cry for help.
7 days ago
Kolakowski on religion and myth
All functional approaches to the investigation of myths – in terms of their social, cognitive or emotional values – have arguably a common epistemological foundation. They all imply, if they do not explicitly assume, that the language of myth is translatable into a "normal" language – which means, into one which is understandable within the semantic rules the researcher himself is employing. The various conceptual frameworks of anthropological inquiry work, so to speak, as codes or as dictionaries which are used to transpose the ready-made mythological material into a language which is accessible and clear to contemporary minds.… First, it is assumed that myths, as they are explicitly told and believed, have a latent meaning behind the ostensible one and that this meaning not only is not in fact perceived by those sharing a given creed, but that of necessity it cannot be perceived. Secondly, it is implied that this latent meaning which is accessible only to the outsider anthropologist, is the meaning *par excellence*, whereas the ostensible one, i.e., the myth as it is understood by the believers, has the function of concealing the former; this ostensible meaning appears then as a product of inescapable self-deception, of an ideological mystification or simply of ignorance.
religion  mythology  from notes
7 days ago
Medieval Robots | E. R. Truitt
The fourth chapter illustrates the imaginative movement from understanding automata within a framework of natural philosophy to one that included mechanics from the twelfth to the mid-fifteenth century, through an examination of automata, drawn from textual examples, that guard or memorialize the dead. Automata in these settings demonstrate the ways the boundaries between nature and art, between verisimilitude and fraud, and between life and death were contested and negotiated. This chapter opens with twelfth-century literary examples and then moves into a case study of Hector’s tomb in three fictional accounts of the story of Troy, documenting the way that increasingly mechanical explanations of Hector’s preserved corpse replace magical explanations, and coincide with a heightened emphasis on technical skill. The final example, from John Lydgate’s Troy Book (ca. 1420), anticipates Hobbes’s characterizations of the artificial life of mechanical things and the mechanical nature of the body, as in it Hector’s body is kept artificially alive by a complicated system of tubes and wires that replace his nerves and blood vessels.

The growing emphasis on technical skill and fine technology found in Lydgate’s version of Hector’s preserved corpse reflects the development of complex machinery in the fourteenth century, and the more widespread appearance of mechanical marvels at princely courts in Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Beginning with the notional automata in the notebook of Villard de Honnecourt in the mid-thirteenth century, mechanical automata became more common, albeit still the province of the very wealthy. The fifth chapter probes the consequences of the diffusion of mechanical knowledge in the form of mechanical marvels. I argue that the human and animal automata created for the public display of majesty at the courts of Artois and Burgundy, Richard II of England, and the Valois are central to understanding the reappearance of mechanistic thinking, as well as for the technological developments that allowed for the creation of increasingly complex machines.
medieval  tech  automation 
7 days ago
The eeriness of the English countryside | Books | The Guardian
A second reason James stays with us is his understanding of landscape – and especially the English landscape – as constituted by uncanny forces, part-buried sufferings and contested ownerships. Landscape, in James, is never a smooth surface or simple stage-set, there to offer picturesque consolations. Rather it is a realm that snags, bites and troubles. He repeatedly invokes the pastoral – that green dream of natural tranquillity and social order – only to traumatise it.

James’s influence, or his example, has rarely been more strongly with us than now. For there is presently apparent, across what might broadly be called landscape culture, a fascination with these Jamesian ideas of unsettlement and displacement. In music, literature, art, film and photography, as well as in new and hybrid forms and media, the English eerie is on the rise. A loose but substantial body of work is emerging that explores the English landscape in terms of its anomalies rather than its continuities, that is sceptical of comfortable notions of “dwelling” and “belonging”, and of the packagings of the past as “heritage”, and that locates itself within a spectred rather than a sceptred isle.
7 days ago
Gog And Magog: Who Are They And What Have They Got To Do With London? | Londonist
One of the legends of Gog and Magog explicitly concerns London. As with most legends, there are variations on the theme, but a popular one goes that Gog and Magog (or confusingly Magog and Cornelius) were two monstrous giants, the product of the 33 wicked daughters of Roman emperor Diocletian and certain demons they'd been canoodling with. As he founded New Troy (which would become London), the heroic Brutus tamed the two colossi, forcing them to serve as guardians of the city by chaining them outside his palace, the site of which is now Guildhall. Of course, the tale is nonsense, but somehow the legend lived on, and the duo continued to be associated as the city's guardians. The effigies of 'Gogmagot the Albion' and 'Corineus the Britain' were recorded as appearing at the coronation of Elizabeth I in 1558 (where exactly, it isn't clear), while the giants were already making appearances at the Lord Mayor's Show by 1554.
7 days ago
Oakeshott, "A Place of Learning"
“What distinguishes a human being, indeed what constitutes a human being, is not merely his having to think, but his thoughts, his beliefs, doubts, understandings, his awareness of his own ignorance...
education  liberalarts  from notes
7 days ago
But is is science?
But is it science?
Tim Crane, Philosophy Editor, TLS

Philosophy aims to outline the most general nature of things – and if you understand “thi...
philosophy  science  from notes
7 days ago
This World is not Conclusion (373) by Emily Dickinson | Poetry Foundation
This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond - 
Invisible, as Music -
But positive, as Sound -
It beckons, and it baffles - 
Philosophy, dont know - 
And through a Riddle, at the last - 
Sagacity, must go -
To guess it, puzzles scholars -
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown -
Faith slips - and laughs, and rallies - 
Blushes, if any see - 
Plucks at a twig of Evidence - 
And asks a Vane, the way - 
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit -
Strong Hallelujahs roll - 
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul -
7 days ago
Janus Head 4.1 / Daniel Burston
This brings us to a very peculiar problem. For reasons that are not yet clear, some people are actually quite relieved when they are told that their anguish, confusion and despair, their sense of helplessness, futility and self-loathing, and so on, are simply the by-products of neurological dysfunction. This verdict gives them palpable hope for improvement, and they are only too glad to tinker with dosages and to try new medications till the right one materializes, eventually. For these people, the loss of dignity, of self-command and of hope that they suffer while symptomatic are viewed as temporary setbacks, to be conveniently erased when their neurological integrity is restored, more or less. Patients like this are a boon to biological psychiatry -- their greatest, most grateful and most loyal fans, who are not easily disappointed or deterred by mishaps or mistreatment of one sort or another.

Other patients are averse to this whole approach. They feel that this way of construing things trivializes and demeans them, that it defines and deforms their experience in ways that are at variance with their deepest, though often groping and inarticulate sense of who they really are. Whether they know it or not, people like these are often looking for something akin to a religious experience as a solution to their difficulties -- an new experience or a fresh perspective that will elicit or confer deeper meaning on their suffering, giving it some ennobling raison d'être, assuring them it is actually in aid of something. It doesn't take much insight to see why. They feel that their lives have been hijacked or derailed somehow. They don't just want their suffering to stop, or to see some light at the end of the tunnel. They desperately want that tunnel to be a necessary rite of passage to a new and better place than the one they left behind, one which they are loathe to return to.

In addition to patients (or prospective patients) like these, there are people who shun conventional psychiatric remedies because they feel shattered by the blows of life, and look to the psychotherapist to address their deep sense of victimization at the hands of others, to enable them to clarify and cope with it more satisfactorily than they can at present. If the psychiatrist isn't listening, or isn't helpful in this respect, they will not stay the course.

Finally, many candidates for a psychiatric diagnosis have both of the aforementioned tendencies in extremely pronounced form. Being told that what they feel or experience is purely the result of a disordered brain is quite distressing for them, and prompts deeper self-doubt and/or distrust of others. In Laing's terminology, they feel "invalidated" by a summary appraisal like this, and fear that their mental-health worker is colluding with all the others who neglect or oppress them, despite their overt or conscious intentions. Rightly or wrongly, then, they are likely to experience the standard treatment approach as disrespectful and coercive, and they've had quite enough of that already, thank you very much. As a result, they are far more likely to go astray with conventional psychiatric treatment. And their numbers are legion.
8 days ago
An Amicable Apology for the Physical Book – Booktrades
It goes without saying that books have their uses within families and among friends, and that’s, in my view, a grave problem. Debates about the future of the physical book, as well as its past and present, have been impoverished by disputants’ relative neglect of what happens to books and to us as they circulate among us, an activity that seems to me as elemental to the understanding of what “the book is and does” as Searls’s triad of buying, holding, and informing. To put the point in bookish terms: a codex can acquire rich associations as result of its provenance, the history that carried it into the current owners’ hands. But certainly this point is more richly illuminated by calling to mind—or fetching—a cherished volume given in commemoration of some holiday or triumph. Or in commiseration. Or as consolation. Or for friendship’s sake. The memories that such objects clasp are both personal and interpersonal. They are records not only of our histories but also of those who mark them closely, who have sought to share in the highlights and the hollows. So too are they invitations to sample another’s tastes, discoveries, experience. Remarkably, the printed text might not even need to be read for a physical book to become talismanic in this manner—though a donee may well prize another text, say an inscription, woven by the donor therein.
books  friendship  from instapaper
8 days ago
Friendship by the Book
In the last weeks of Brett’s cancer-shortened life, no codicils or pentameter lines on the library were appended to his will. When the question of its future was gently raised, he was unresponsive. Those closest to him sensed that his very self had become so bound up with his books that it was simply too painful to imagine them without him. The ruling on the library’s doom fell to its inheritor, Brett’s wife, Anise. Preserve its integrity or commission its dispersal? The way of Pepys or of Keats? Her virtue, coupled with her decades-long study of his character, made the books’ purpose now plain: They were to be invested in the gift economy of his wide circle of friends. The books he stashed at home would keep their stations, but the office door would be opened. First, to his colleagues in the English Department. Then, to faculty throughout the college. Next, to students, however recent or ancient. The cavalcade soon included neighbors, co-parishioners, local writers, baristas. All accessories to that magnificent reading life were offered the chance to become material shareholders.
books  friendship  from instapaper
8 days ago
The Quietus | Opinion | Black Sky Thinking | Is Poptimism Now As Blinkered As The Rockism It Replaced?
Poptimism has its own sacred cows, which are beyond challenge:

*The solo release by the member of a manufactured group is no longer the sad addendum to the imperial years; it is a profound statement of artistic integrity.

*The surprise release by the big-name act is in itself, a revolutionary act.

*To not care about Taylor Swift or Beyoncé or Lady Gaga or Zayn Malik is in itself questionable. It reveals not your taste in music, but your prejudices. In the worst-case scenario, you may be revealing your unconscious racism and sexism. At best, you're trolling.

*Commercial success, in and of itself, should be taken as at least one of the markers of quality. After all, 50m Elvis fans can't be wrong.

*Just as "authenticity" is worthless as a symbol of a music's worth, so contrivance and cynicism might be elevated and celebrated, as evidence of the maker's awareness of the game they are playing. (The pop South Sea Bubble that was the explosion of excitement around PC Music a couple of years back fits this bill.)

Poptimism, in practice, has not meant championing those who do not get the acclaim they are due, so much as celebrating the position of artists who don't need their genius proclaimed, because the top of the charts rather than the underground is poptimism's home turf. And the default position of poptimism is to celebrate, rather than to critique. No one wants to be the killjoy, and that mood gets transmitted through the cultural conversation. Hence the uncertain but glowing reviews that poptimist causes celèbre receive from mainstream critics on releasing their new albums: no one wants to be the person who called the Beyoncé album rubbish after they had been allowed to listen to it once. Poptimism wants cheerleaders. It has got them, even among those who are not naturally cheerleaders. And those who benefit are not the outliers of pop, but the superstars and the major labels. Poptimism invites us to adore fame for its own sake, much as rockism invited us to bow down before Dylan and the Stones and Springsteen because, as any fule kno, they are the authentic greats.
music  from instapaper
8 days ago
Signs of the Times: Recovering the Past, Redeeming the Future from the Tyranny of the Now
Historicist relativism is the form of gnostic knowingness - a claim to have insight into the hidden mysteries of what is going on, or "what the times require" - most typical of our age, with its delusive sense of being cut off from all other ages and experiences of mankind. Circumstances may require specific and novel forms of action of us, but circumstances can be interrogated, analysed, explained and reflected on.

"The times" do not require anything in particular; they are simply give to us to live in, to make something of eternal value out of. That is why present times are hard to read, and those who pretend to read them can always pose as magi. The character of the times is yet to be determined, and that will happen precisely as a result of decisions we have now to take. To rely on the times to guide the decisions, is to commit ourselves to a circle of self-justifying sophistry.
theology  history  from instapaper
8 days ago
Unspoken Sermons by George MacDonald: Kingship
Jesus is a king because his business is to bear witness to the truth. What truth? All truth; all verity of relation throughout the universe — first of all, that his father is good, perfectly good; and that the crown and joy of life is to desire and do the will of the eternal source of will, and of all life. He deals thus the death-blow to the power of hell. For the one principle of hell is — 'I am my own. I am my own king and my own subject. I am the centre from which go out my thoughts; I am the object and end of my thoughts; back upon me as the alpha and omega of life, my thoughts return. My own glory is, and ought to be, my chief care; my ambition, to gather the regards of men to the one centre, myself. My pleasure is my pleasure. My kingdom is — as many as I can bring to acknowledge my greatness over them. My judgment is the faultless rule of things. My right is — what I desire. The more I am all in all to myself, the greater I am. The less I acknowledge debt or obligation to another; the more I close my eyes to the fact that I did not make myself; the more self-sufficing I feel or imagine myself — the greater I am. I will be free with the freedom that consists in doing whatever I am inclined to do, from whatever quarter may come the inclination. To do my own will so long as I feel anything to be my will, is to be free, is to live. To all these principles of hell, or of this world — they are the same thing, and it matters nothing whether they are asserted or defended so long as they are acted upon — the Lord, the king, gives the direct lie.
theology  ethics 
8 days ago
Zadie Smith says using social media would threaten her writing | Books | The Guardian
At a live event with the New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino in New York, the British novelist said: “Because I’m not on Twitter, I’m not on Instagram, I’m not on the internet, I never hear people shouting at me.”

Giving her analysis of how discussions play out on social media, Smith said: “I have seen on Twitter, I’ve seen it at a distance, people have a feeling at 9am quite strongly, and then by 11 have been shouted out of it and can have a completely opposite feeling four hours later. That part, I find really unfortunate.

“I want to have my feeling, even if it’s wrong, even if it’s inappropriate, express it to myself in the privacy of my heart and my mind. I don’t want to be bullied out of it,” she said, according to a report of the event by the Huffington Post.
10 days ago
What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It)
"In one study, psychologists J. Gregory Hixon and William Swann gave a group of undergraduates negative feedback on a test of their “sociability, likability and interest­ingness.” Some were given time to think about why they were the kind of person they were, while others were asked to think about what kind of person they were. When the researchers had them evaluate the accuracy of the feedback, the “why” students spent their energy rationalizing and denying what they’d learned, and the “what” students were more open to this new information and how they might learn from it. Hixon and Swann’s rather bold conclusion was that “Thinking about why one is the way one is may be no better than not thinking about one’s self at all.”"
from instapaper
11 days ago
Are novels getting easier to read? | .txtLAB @ mcgill
The novel, as represented in these two collections, follows a very straightforward trajectory towards simpler sentence and word lengths over the past two centuries. Much of that can be explained by greater reliance on dialogue, but that too is an important part of the readability story.

Why has this been the case? Commercialization, growth of the reading public…I don’t know. I think these are potential explanations but they require more data to show causality. What I can say is that based on the work I’m doing with Richard So on fan fiction is that fan-based writing — non-professional, yet high volume — does not exhibit significantly higher readability scores than “canon” does (i.e. the novels on which fanfic is based). In other words, in this one case expanding the user/reader base doesn’t correlate with simpler texts like you might expect.
reading  fiction  DH  from instapaper
13 days ago
Why Would the President of the United States, Like, Tweet This Way?
As D’Arcy explains, when “like” is used as a discourse particle, it can serve a range of communicative purposes, even if it can’t be assigned a concrete definition. It can draw focus to a topic of discourse, indicating to those listening that they should pay attention to what comes next. It can also be used as a kind of hedge—or as the linguist Lawrence Shourup puts it, “like” can express “a possible unspecified minor nonequivalence of what is said and what is meant.” (Interestingly, despite the “Valley Girl” stereotype, D’Arcy finds that men actually use “like” as a discourse particle slightly more often than women.)
language  from instapaper
13 days ago
pro-life, anti-abortion, and a consistent ethic of anything - Doctors Without Boredom
But I am less convinced that the label “pro-life” can do what it was designed to do. Ostensibly, it is meant to mean “against the lawful yet immoral intentional killing of innocent people”, but typically covers abortion and euthanasia but must clearly also be applied to many police killings and should also inform our policy towards asylum seekers who face imminent death should they be deported. And even though the pro-life movement has long approached the problem of abortion in a holistic way and sought to meet the needs of women and children and argue for their dignity in the public square, it has still been part of a much broader liberal ethic that strongly favors “private charity” over government support and appeals primarily to the rights of the unborn in its public arguments rather than our duties to fellow humans. In this way, it diverges from the politics of solidarity and the consistent life ethic that are becoming more and more popular. I would love to see the major players of the pro-life movement describe how their underlying political allegiances and ideological impulses will protect the lives of other vulnerable people in American society, but given the way in which many ardent “pro-lifers” have capitulated to Trump, I doubt this is going to happen.
abortion  seamlessgarment  from instapaper
15 days ago
Let us start with a hypothesis. Let us grant for the sake of efficiency that “secularism” names not the climate of belief that results from a historical process called “secularization,” that much-advertised swing from benighted credulity to disenchanted skepticism, fanaticism to rationality, orthodoxy to tolerance, and all the rest of it. Let us say that “secularism” names the ideology that, in an occluded way, operates the secularization thesis itself: marks, that is, the governing interlinked conceptual presumptions and grounding points that make plausible in the first instance the story of modernity as a sweep from atavism to enlightenment. Secularism is, in this respect, not the condition of life and belief proper to a world that has accomplished the diminishment of religion in public life. It is, rather, a normative sociality, an immanent frame, the set of inaugural cleavings—of reason from unreason, skepticism from credulity, belief from fanaticism—that allows us to know anything at all as “religious” and to know the “secular” as the thing that it is not. Secularism is in other words a discipline, one that points less to the dissolution of religion in modern public life than to the disciplined accommodation of patterns of belief and devotion to the premises of liberal rationality, its polities, its arrangements of life, its bodies. Let us say that “secularism” names at base the enforced accommodation of practices of belief to the order of a hegemonic liberalism, such that the salient division, under the conditions of secularism, is not between the religious and the nonreligious but between religion and bad belief: a divide between those styles of spirit-practice that comport themselves in accordance with the dictates of liberalism (and so get to count as religion) and those that, because they do not, figure instead as species of zealotry, fanaticism, backwardness, or (in the familiar and always-racializing idiom of bigots nationwide) fundamentalism or radical fundamentalism.
15 days ago
What is to become of the Confession?
According to the landmark 2014 Pew Religious Landscape Study, the Episcopal Church is 89 percent white; 82 percent are not recent immigrants (third generation or earlier), and 68 percent make more than $50,000 a year (36% make more than $100,000 a year), which makes us the richest mainline Protestant denomination in America. Over half of our church members have a college education or higher, which again is the highest in the country. We are a church made up of the richest, most highly educated people in America, and we’re almost all-white. This means that for all our progressive social stances, we remain a very patrician church.

For such a demographic (and I speak from within it), the hardest fruit of the Spirit to find is humility. This is why, reinstituting a General Confession that awakens an awareness of how inseparable our sinful nature is from our human nature is so essential: it can lead us to humility. Humility is indispensable to any healing and reconciliation in our society on a personal or structural level. And as a church composed of predominately white, affluent individuals, we need to be particularly well-acquainted with the fact that we are sinful beings because the sins of our race and class tend to perpetuate sins at a structural level, since so many of the structures of our society are designed, implemented, and maintained by people of our demographic. “After all,” we like to boast, “almost a quarter of our Presidents were Episcopalian.”
anglican  sin 
15 days ago
The Bulpington of Blup (1932)
It's certainly a wrongfooting novel, but I take that to be, in part, its point. Still, I think Bloom is wrong about it. The anti-Bildungsroman aspect is not that The Bulpington of Blup is not a Bildungsroman. Clearly it is a Bildungsroman: the main character grows and evolves, changes, such that he is not the same person at the end of the novel as he was at the beginning. No: a better argument is surely that this novel works against the grain of the traditional Bildungsroman by inverting the assumptions of its traditional trajectory. I'm talking about the classic form of emotional and existential maturation, the Emma Woodhouse or David Copperfield line—a trajectory, that is to say, away from a lower (less aware, more foolish) subjectivity and towards a higher authenticity of lived experience. Wells instead minutely traces a character who, led by his secret Jungian Personality No.2, grows and changes into a less authentic, less wise human being. And sticks there. Which, now that I am older myself, and as I look around the people who have grown up around me, strikes me as ... well, quite a penetrating observation about human nature, actually. Appropriately enough for the author of The Time Machine, it is a novel not of character evolution but of character devolution. And in this respect The Bulpington of Blup is a remarkable character study, actually. I can understand why Wells thought it worthy of comparison with Kipps.
fiction  person  character  from instapaper
18 days ago
John Kerr reviews ‘The Jung Cult’ by Richard Noll · LRB 23 March 1995
After the war, Jung reappeared with yet another massive work in hand, Psychological Types. This one was coherent. ‘Introversion’ and ‘extraversion’ joined ‘complex’ in the language. And in smaller pieces he was already constructing a still more elaborate system in which the unconscious was peopled by a collection of ‘archetypes’, primal structures capable of directing thought, feeling and action in more or less interpretable ways provided one knew what one was looking for. Jung spoke of these archetypes with great conviction. And he could be spellbinding when he went on to demonstrate how readily their activity might be detected in everything from fairy tales to Thus Spake Zarathustra. By the mid-Twenties, he was dispensing neither sanity nor madness, though to be fair, he still recognised the latter when he saw it. He was dispensing something ambiguously lodged between dissociation, introspection and spirituality. ‘Jung’ had arrived. The next four decades witnessed, and attested to, the unfolding of a great personality. [...]

Holding all this together was one of the most popular psychological ideas ever – ‘the collective unconscious’. It is not finally a coherent notion. Like ‘primary process’, it designates an amalgam of different phenomena which deserve to be more sharply distinguished, but which suit a theory better by being lumped together in a single category. Still, it is a notion that people like to believe in. When students first learn about Jung, they are attracted. Here is a way of talking about the inner world that seems accepting, that foregoes the Freudian accusations of perversity, hostility and just plain bad intentions. A kinder, gentler unconscious, George Bush might say.
psychology  health  insanity 
18 days ago
Estonia, the Digital Republic
Estonian folklore includes a creature known as the kratt: an assembly of random objects that the Devil will bring to life for you, in exchange for a drop of blood offered at the conjunction of five roads. The Devil gives the kratt a soul, making it the slave of its creator.

“Each and every Estonian, even children, understands this character,” Kaevats said. His office now speaks of kratt instead of robots and algorithms, and has been using the word to define a new, important nuance in Estonian law. “Basically, a kratt is a robot with representative rights,” he explained. “The idea that an algorithm can buy and sell services on your behalf is a conceptual upgrade.” In the U.S., where we lack such a distinction, it’s a matter of dispute whether, for instance, Facebook is responsible for algorithmic sales to Russian forces of misinformation. #KrattLaw—Estonia’s digital shorthand for a new category of legal entity comprising A.I., algorithms, and robots—will make it possible to hold accountable whoever gave a drop of blood.
tech  Technopoly  from instapaper
20 days ago
“Oh My God, This Is So F---ed Up”: Inside Silicon Valley’s Dark Side
"Take multi-time entrepreneur Esther Crawford, who is familiar with sex parties (specifically those with an equal gender ratio and strict rules around consent) and talks openly about her sexual experiments and open relationships. For four years, she had been in a non-monogamous (they say “monogamish”) relationship with Chris Messina, a former Google and Uber employee best known for inventing the hashtag. More recently, Crawford and Messina have started a company together called Molly—perhaps not un-coincidentally the same name as the drug—where they are developing a “nonjudgmental (artificially intelligent) friend who will support your path to more self-awareness.” They also chose to become monogamous for a while; seeing other people was getting too complicated. “The future of relationships is not just with humans but A.I. characters,” Crawford told me. By December 2017, they had raised $1.5 million for their new company."
from instapaper
21 days ago
Frankenstein and the French Stone
This may strike you are more tortuously implausible than it does me, not just because I tend to see in this rebus (Frankenstein = French ‘stone’ = French [robes]-pierre) an example of the way the creative subconscious works, but because there are a great many people who share my sense than the novel is in a symbolic sense ‘about’ the French revolution. Chris Baldick’s book, In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity and Nineteenth-Century Writing (Oxford 1987) traces the many appropriations of Shelley’s monster in the culture of the century noting how very often revolution, upheaval or popular dissent was troped precisely as a ‘Frankenstein’s monster’. Like the Revolution, the monster is a creature of power and uncanny novelty, brought into being with the best intentions, but abandoned by its architect and running into bloodsoaked courses of remorseless violence and terror. Which is to say: the monster emblematises Revolution because it focuses terror. Indeed, for an English liberal in the first decades of the 19th-century there were two key Revolutions in recent history: the French and the American. It may not be a coincidence that, after making his European monster, the French-Swiss Frankenstein is persuaded to make a second, on the understanding that the pair will emigrate to America. He changes his mind....

Certainly Shelley’s own career has been overwritten by the impact of Frankenstein: she wrote many other things, but only specialists know anything about them. More to the point, it could be argued that the novel has been almost hijacked by its heritage. What I mean by this is: we tend to read it nowadays as a science fiction novel (which is to say, in ways conditioned by the habits of reading twentieth- and twenty-first-century SF) rather than reading it as it was originally read and reviewed, as a novel of philosophical speculation in the tradition of Voltaire’s Candide (1759), Mary Wollstonecroft’s Mary (1788) or Godwin’s Caleb Williams (1794). To read the book this way would be to concentrate more upon the first section as a meditation on the proper boundaries of human knowledge, and to read the Monster’s first-person narrative as a bold attempt to dramatise the theory-of-mind of John Locke, and to pay less attention to the pitiful/Satanic intensities of the monster’s violence and alienation. But violence and alienation speak more directly to us today, I suppose.
fiction  philosophy  self  from instapaper
22 days ago
Some 2018 Predictions
Industrialization of conversation. We have not come to terms with how the digitalization of conversation allows for its industrialization. And how it’s industrialization allows for manipulation that is more massive and immediate than what we’ve previously seen in the conversational space. We need to develop tools and norms to protect conversation from industrialization. And we desperately need to stop conceptualizing the discourse space on the web as a bunch of individual actors expressing an emergent will.
24 days ago
The Best of All Possible Worlds A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil in the Age of Reason | Steven Nadler
The divide between Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism seemed unbridgeable on many central points. Where the Catholics allowed for salvation through good works, the Lutherans insisted on justification through faith alone. Moreover, Lutherans believed that a human being was completely passive under the influence of grace, while the Council of Trent explicitly condemned this opinion. But Leibniz was nothing if not an optimist. Thus, in the late 1660s and early 1670s, while still at the court in Mainz, and at the urging of the Catholic Boineberg, he began composing a number of theological and religious works devoted not just to refuting atheists and materialists but also to showing that there is room for essential doctrinal agreement between Catholics and Protestants. He hoped to win approval from the Pope for his philosophically informed but (from Rome’s point of view) rather unorthodox interpretations of various Christian dogma, especially those concerning the Eucharist. In writings later collected as the Catholic Demonstrations, Leibniz argued for the existence of God and for the immateriality and, consequently, the immortality of the soul. He then showed how the miraculous transubstantiation of the wine and bread into the blood and body of Christ at the moment of consecration could be understood in a way that was both acceptable to Protestants (who rejected transubstantiation, the standard Catholic idea that the substance of the bread is destroyed or removed and replaced with the substance of Christ’s body during the Eucharist, albeit underneath the freestanding sensory appearance of bread) and consistent with the Council of Trent’s demand that there be a “real presence” of Christ in the host.

Throughout Leibniz’s career, much of what he says about God, freedom, grace, and evil—including his claim that ours is the best of all possible worlds—relates to this grand unification project. His choice of correspondents, the content and tenor of his writings, even his residence and travels were often dictated by the interfaith dialogue he sought to initiate and the religious reconciliation he hoped eventually to accomplish. [...]

It is unclear how much of Leibniz’s mature philosophy, as appears in his writings from the late 1680s on, was developed during his Paris years. It is certain that a number of central elements of his later thought—metaphysical theses about minds, bodies, and nature; theological theses about God; and moral theses about happiness and human well-being—were already in place at the time. Leibniz may not yet have arrived at his famous “monadology” or mysterious “preestablished harmony”; he was still seeking the ultimate metaphysical truth about the world, unsure about what was really real in things and their relationships. But he had already come to the firm conclusion that, despite the evil and sin that we see around us, regardless of how much suffering and imperfection we encounter, this world of ours is, among all the possible worlds that God could have created, the absolute best—and that God created it for just that reason. It was also in Paris that Leibniz was able, for the first time, to test this cornerstone of his philosophical legacy, for he encountered there a number of philosophers deeply involved in thinking about these very same issues. Some of them challenged his way of thinking about God and evil, and others provided him with tools for precisely formulating his ideas.
philosophy  religion  theology 
25 days ago
The intolerable burden of assisted dying | Raymond Tallis
The power of the minority opposed to assisted dying comes not from reason and fact but from appeal to certain principles such as "the sanctity of life", and a multitude of factoids. The sanctity of life doctrine is usually preached by those who look to religious teachings as a guide. It is strange how readily it is shelved in "just wars" and judicial execution (both of which permit the killing of those who have no wish to die), but it is regarded as inviolable when a dying person requests assistance to die more quickly. It should hardly be necessary to make the point that my decision to choose assisted dying, to avoid a few more weeks of suffering, does not put into question the value of my life as a whole, nor the value of the life of others in particular, or humanity itself.
death  ethics  from instapaper
26 days ago
Living well in the technosocial world – a review of Shannon Vallor’s Technology and the Virtues
The “technosocial” world in which we live is one wherein our technologies cannot be safely fenced off, instead our changing technologies are “embedded in co-evolving social practices, values, and institutions” (5). Yet, even in the midst of the “technosocial” our ability to discern where we are going, or where we even are now, is quite deficient. As Vallor notes, we are beset by “growing technosocial blindness” a condition she calls “acute technosocial opacity” which makes it “increasingly difficult to identify, seek, and secure the ultimate goal of ethics—a life worth choosing; a life lived well” (6). Our “acute technosocial opacity” keeps us from recognizing that when we choose to use certain technologies we may be choosing to go along with these technologies’ vision of “a life lived well” instead of our own. Alas, the vision of the “life lived well” by many of these technologies is simply a life that supplies an endless stream of data to be processed and sold to advertisers; it can be profoundly antihumanistic and relentlessly capitalistic. Indeed, many of the habits that technologies seem to encourage and celebrate are the opposite of virtues: they are vices.
tech  ethics  from instapaper
26 days ago
Why the Internet Didn’t Kill Zines
Producing zines can offer an unexpected respite from the scrutiny on the internet, which can be as oppressive as it is liberating. Shakar Mujukian, publisher of The Hye-Phen — a zine by and about queer and trans Armenians who, as he puts it, often “feel as ignored and invisible as their motherland” — told me via email that just because technology can fully replace something doesn’t mean it should. He described zines as the precursor to personal blogs, but personal blogs have been on the decline over the last decade. And zines can’t get replies or hateful remarks in a comments section. Publishing ideas outside the mainstream can make an author incredibly vulnerable; the web is polluted with a culture of toxicity that invites attacks. Zines, in Mujukian’s vision, “are essentially about reclamation. You get to make your own media and define your own narrative in the way you want to and can.”
writing  publishing  from instapaper
26 days ago
Tuesday Morning Quarterback: First Down and Light Years to Go
Two conundrums—that galaxies move in ways that cannot be explained by their apparent masses, and the 1998 discovery that expansion of the universe is accelerating—have led to the assumptions that there are huge amounts of dark matter whose location is unknown (with about 25 percent of creation being dark matter) plus an extremely powerful form of energy (about 69 percent of creation being dark energy) that operates as the mirror image of gravity. Gravity is strong close up and weak at distance; dark energy is assumed to be weak close up and stronger the father away you are.

Thus, as the universe continues to expand, things get father away from other things, which increases dark energy and propels a faster expansion which will move things farther away and make dark energy steadily stronger which will accelerate the expansion which will increase the dark energy, and so on.

The problem is that er, well, ahem, no one has the slightest idea what dark matter and dark energy are, let alone how they originate. We can’t locate 94 percent of the universe, but trust us, we’re experts!
science  knowledge  from instapaper
27 days ago
A City Is Not a Computer
Were he alive today, Mumford would reject the creeping notion that the city is simply the internet writ large. He would remind us that the processes of city-making are more complicated than writing parameters for rapid spatial optimization. He would inject history and happenstance. The city is not a computer. This seems an obvious truth, but it is being challenged now (again) by technologists (and political actors) who speak as if they could reduce urban planning to algorithms.

Why should we care about debunking obviously false metaphors? It matters because the metaphors give rise to technical models, which inform design processes, which in turn shape knowledges and politics, not to mention material cities. The sites and systems where we locate the city’s informational functions — the places where we see information-processing, storage, and transmission “happening” in the urban landscape — shape larger understandings of urban intelligence. [...]

Yet the term “information processing,” whether employed within computer science, cognitive psychology, or urban design, typically refers to computational methods. As Riccardo Manzotti explains, when neuroscientists adopt the metaphor of the brain as computer, they imply that information is “stuff” that’s mentally “processed,” which they know is not true in any real sense. The metaphor survives because it makes an irresistible claim about “how marvelously complex we are and how clever scientists have become.” Psychologist Robert Epstein laments that “some of the world’s most influential thinkers have made grand predictions about humanity’s future that depend on the validity of the metaphor.” But the appeal of analogy is nothing new. Throughout history, the brain (like the city) has been subjected to bad metaphors derived from the technologies of the time. According to Epstein, we’ve imagined ourselves as lumps of clay infused with spirits, as hydraulic or electro-chemical systems, as automata. The brain as computer is just the latest link in a long chain of metaphors that powerfully shape scientific endeavor in their own images.

The city as computer model likewise conditions urban design, planning, policy, and administration — even residents’ everyday experience — in ways that hinder the development of healthy, just, and resilient cities.
city  computing  from instapaper
27 days ago
Ten years in, nobody has come up with a use for blockchain
The government-backed banking system provides FDIC guarantees, reversibility of ACH, identity verification, audit standards, and an investigation system when things go wrong. Bitcoin, by design, has none of these things. I saw a remarkable message thread by someone whose bitcoin account got drained because their email had been hacked and their password was stolen. They were stunned to have no recourse! And this is widespread — in 2014, the then-#1 bitcoin trader, Mt. Gox, also lost $400m of investor money due to security failures. The subsequent #1 bitcoin trader, Bitfinex, also shut down after a loss of customer funds. Imagine the world if more banks had been drained of customer funds than not. Bitcoin is what banking looked like in the middle ages — “here’s your libertarian paradise, have a nice day.”
computing  economics  from instapaper
27 days ago
There Is No Case for the Humanities - American Affairs Journal
Vulgar conservative critiques of the humanities are usually given the greatest exposure, and yet at the same time, it is often political (and religious) conservatives who have labored the most mightily to foster traditional humanistic disciplines in schools. Left defenders of the humanities have defended their value in the face of an increasingly corporate and crudely economic world, and yet they have also worked to gut some of the core areas of humanistic enquiry—“Western civ and all that”—as indelibly tainted by patriarchy, racism, and colonialism. So the humanities have both Left and Right defenders, Left and Right critics. The Left defenders of the humanities are notoriously bad at coming up with a coherent defense which might actually have some effective purchase, but they have been far more consistent in defending the “useless” disciplines against politically (and economically) charged attacks. The Right defenders of the humanities have sometimes put forward a strong and cogent defense of their value, but they have had very little sway when it comes to confronting actual attacks on the humanities by Republican and conservative politicians. The sad truth is that instead of forging some kind of trans-ideological apology for humanistic pursuits, this ambiguity has led to the disciplines being squeezed on both sides.

Indeed, both sides enable the humanities’ adversaries. Conservatives who seek to use the coercive and financial power of the state to correct what they see as ideological abuses within the professoriate are complicit in the destruction of the old-fashioned and timeless scholarship they supposedly are defending. It is self-defeating to make common cause with corporate interests looking to co-opt the university and its public subsidy to outsource their job training and research, just for the sake of punishing the political sins of liberal professors. Progressives who want to turn the humanities into a laboratory for social change, a catalyst for cultural revolution, a training camp for activists, are guilty of the same instrumentalization. When they impose de facto ideological litmus tests for scholars working in every field, they betray their conviction that the humanities exist only to serve a contemporary political and social end.
humanities  from instapaper
29 days ago
Bach's Christmas Oratorio – which recording is best? | gramophone.co.uk
"Overall Choice

Harnoncourt • DHM

If not always the most comforting reading, this is the performance which attempts most rivetingly to seek the essence of Bach’s musical imagery and meaning. Harnoncourt’s considered identity with each ‘event’ in the narrative places the work outside anything remotely pragmatic or generic."
from instapaper
29 days ago
The Age of Outrage
"I also want to call your attention to someone else who is searching for a solution: Lenore Skenazy has been sounding the alarm about what happens to kids when we raise them like veal, protecting them from everything including emotional harm. Answer: they ask to be protected in college, too. They expect that college will be a giant safe space, and that there will always be a designated adult to resolve their conflicts. Lenore has so many ideas for how to restore childhood to children—to give them the unsupervised time they need to become autonomous, self-supervising adults. With seed money from Daniel Shuchman, she has started a nonprofit called LetGrow.org. I serve on the board, along with Peter Gray, from Boston College. One of the reasons LetGrow is so important, and the reason I mention it now, is that unsupervised free play turns out to be crucial for the development of democratic citizenship. I just want to read you a few sentences from one of Gray’s articles on the importance of unsupervised free play:

To play with another person, you must pay attention to the other person’s needs, not just your own, or the other person will quit. You must overcome narcissism. You must learn to negotiate in ways that respect the other person’s ideas, not just yours. [Gray goes on to describe the way that kids learn about rules, when adults are not present.] They learn in this way that rules are not fixed by heaven, but are human contrivances to make life more fun and fair. This is an important lesson; it is a cornerstone of democracy."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Wanting to protect my daughter’s health does not make me a bigot
"A friend told me recently that I have nothing to gain by resisting my daughter’s desire to transition. I strongly disagree. If resistance means my daughter postpones medical treatments until she can weigh the risks versus the benefits with more maturity, I gain plenty. If I can buy more time for her to discern whether her dysphoria really means she is transgender or whether something else precipitates her discomfort, I gain plenty.

I feel genuine rage toward the therapists and doctors who are complicit in the pursuit of medical transitions for kids, teenagers and young adults. You swore you would first do no harm. You should be ashamed!

If anyone working in the malpractice insurance industry happens to read this story, I have one final question specifically for you. Is it wise to cover the therapists and doctors involved in the transition of children and youth? When the lawsuits begin, I hope the settlements are breathtaking."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants | James Grimmelmann
A modern academic has three jobs: scholarship, teaching, and service. To say this is not just to say that all three are worth doing, not just to say that all three are worth doing by the same institution, but to say further that all three are worth doing by the same people. To put it this way is to emphasize that scholarship, teaching, and service really are a trinity: a single essence with three forms.
This unity is under attack. Critics of the academy argue that scholarship and service are distractions, and that teaching would be better off without them. For many academics, it is teaching and service that are the distractions from the re- wards of scholarship. And those who focus on society’s many problems some- times see scholarship and teaching as impractical distractions. But to sunder them is to give up something essential, because the autonomy of the academic can be justified to society only when all three are united. Teachers who are scholars are something more than mere servants.
4 weeks ago
Whose Community? Which Benedict Option? | Church Life Journal
"To borrow from another Catholic theologian, already mentioned, we need to consider what Timothy O’Malley calls a retreat toward engagement. As a model for this kind of strategic retreat, O’Malley points to the historic legacy of Catholic educational institutions here in the United States. Many of these schools were founded as a safe havens within an inhospitable culture, but precisely through this retreat from public life they came to serve the common good. Given recent trends which indicate that “the public sphere is becoming increasingly unfriendly toward a Catholic worldview,” O’Malley wonders if the time has come again “to retreat into Catholic particularity for the sake of deeper engagement with the world.” As he points out—and, in my mind, this is the crucial point—“a retreat of Catholics away from public institutions and the cultural norms that such institutions presume is not a choice between withdrawal or engagement.” Rather, the telos of such a retreat must be to foster Catholic particularity, so that the body of Christ “might be better prepared to offer the fruits of her life for the world.” The Benedict Option, in this light, will involve sailing between the Scylla of resurrecting Christendom through whatever means possible and the Charybdis of retreating into an idealized ghetto in which we can huddle together and wait for the return of Christ, free from any contact with the impurities of a wicked world."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
I Have Seen London's Future and It Is Caracas - Law & Liberty
"This explains why Britain has persistently imported labour from Eastern Europe to perform tasks in its service industries that ordinarily one might have expected its large fund of indigenous non-employed people to perform. The fact is, however, that though these tasks require no special skills, they did require certain personal qualities such as reliability, politeness, and willingness to adapt: and these the eligible local population lack entirely. No hotel-keeper, for example, would consider using British labour if he could get foreign.

Perhaps nothing captures the levels of personal incompetence and lack of self-respect in Britain than the fact that young men of the lowest social class are about half as likely to die in prison as they are if left at liberty. In prison, though adult, they are looked after, at least in a basic way, and told what to do. They are no longer free to pursue their dangerous and crudely self-indulgent lifestyle, in which distraction is the main occupation. In prison they receive the health care that, though it is free to them under the National Health Service, they are not responsible enough to seek when at liberty. In short, they do not know, because they have never been taught, how to live in a minimally constructive fashion, though they were certainly not born ineducable."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
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4 weeks ago
Philosophy Needs a New Definition - Los Angeles Review of Books
A lively conversation has been taking place lately on mainstream philosophy in the West today and the way it treats non-Western traditions of thought as insufficiently philosophical. Such bias, though serious, is only a symptom — one among many — of parochial, purist philosophy’s misunderstanding of itself. Not only are other philosophical traditions easily dismissed, but within the Western tradition itself important genres, thinkers, bodies of work are rejected just as arrogantly.
Such arrogance comes with its own blinding punishment: we can no longer tell the essential from the trifling, a genuine problem from a passing fad. We are no longer able to detect the philosophical unless it comes to us in the form of the peer-reviewed academic article, published (preferably in English) in a journal with a stellar ranking and a top-notch editorial board. No wonder philosophy has become so irrelevant today. Why should anyone need philosophers, if philosophy limits itself so radically?
What we badly need now is a liberal dose of humility. We should at last understand that philosophy comes under different guises, and by many names, that it never comes in a pure state but loves messiness and hybridity, that it gets entangled with the philosophers’ lives and earthiness. Such an act of humility wouldn’t impoverish philosophy at all. On the contrary, it would empower the philosophers and make philosophy a richer, more sophisticated, and more relevant affair.
4 weeks ago
Even if we could create genius ‘designer’ babies, there’s no demand for them | The Spectator
As for the concern that genomic selection for intelligence, if it comes, will be available to the rich but not the poor — well, the same is true for good education. Opportunities to buy the best genes for your children will be dwarfed for decades to come by the ability of the rich to buy the best education for their children. If you must do something, do something about that instead: and preferably do so by making all education as good as the best, rather than as bad as the worst.

Finally, staring us in the face is a more obvious reason why intelligent designer babies will not happen soon and if they do, will not matter much. Individual intelligence is overrated. This is partly the well-worn argument that lots of other characteristics determine success, especially energy and diligence. We know people who are too bright to be decisive; or conversely achieve much in spite of their apparent disadvantages.

However, I mean something more than this. I mean that human achievements are always and everywhere collective. Every object and service you use is the product of different minds working together to invent or manage something that is way beyond the capacity of any individual mind. This is why central planning does not work. Ten million people eat lunch in London most days; how the heck they get what they want and when and where, given that a lot of them decide at the last minute, is baffling. Were there a London lunch commissioner to organise it, he would fail badly. Individual decisions integrated by price signals work, and work very well indeed.

And here is the key insight from evolution. Our brains grew big long, long before we achieved civilisation. We’ve had 1,200cc of intelligence for half a million years: even Neanderthals had huge brains. For 99 per cent of that time we were just another hard-pressed species, as bottle-nosed dolphins are today, and around 75,000 years ago we teeter-ed on the brink of extinction.

What changed was not some bright spark of a new gene being turned on, but that we began to exchange and specialise, to create collective intelligence, rather than rely on individual braininess. To put it another way, dozens of stupid people in a room who talk to each other will achieve far more than an equal number of clever people who don’t. The internet only underlines this point. Human intelligence is a distributed, collaborative phenomenon.
4 weeks ago
Intimations of Fascism | Mark Edmundson
Fascists love order—and they are willing to create chaos to achieve it. But I think that you come closer to the heart of the matter when you recognize that the urge to be right and to do ill at the same time, and do it collectively and under the auspices of a leader, is the fundamental drive at the heart of fascism. The antifa, who engaged in street fighting with the neo-fascists in Charlottesville, are not overtly fascist: they have no leaders from what one can tell, they do not cherish racial homogeneity, or aggressive nationalism. But the collective hunger simultaneously to do harm and be righteous makes them allies under the skin with their neo-fascist foes.
politics  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Foxfire Cabins, Texas Hill Country Cabins on the Sabinal River. Biker friendly, Family Oriented, Pet Friendly
This 2 bedroom/1 bath home has much to offer the guests that stay here. The huge deck at Hacienda Del Sol is the perfect place for a picnic, BBQ, star gazing or just soaking up the sun. There is a king bed and a queen bed in the 2 bedrooms while the loft has a full bed. In the living room, there are 2 futon couches that would make into full beds if additional beds where needed. The full kitchen and bath are well stocked with everything a guest would need to prepare a home cooked meal. The bathroom has only a shower and no tub. There is also a T.V. with a DVD/VCR for watching movies. Some movies are provided, however you are encouraged to bring your own if you wish. We do ask that you not smoke in the house nor are pets allowed. Sorry, but there is not a washer & dryer at this house either.
5 weeks ago
Overcoming Bias : Exclusion As A Substitute For Norms, Law, & Governance
Colleges that admit people just on GPA and test scores can be more open to lower class students than colleges that require applicants to have adopted the right set of extracurricular actives, and to have hit on the right themes in their essays. Lower class people can find it is easier to get good grades and scores than to track the new fashions in actives and essays.

Similarly, Tyler Cowen makes the point somewhere that when firms had simple and clear rules on dress and behavior, someone with a low class background could more easily pass as high class; they just had to follow the rules. Today, without such simple rules, people rely more on subtle clues of clothes, conversation topics, travel locations, favorite music and movies, and so on. Someone with a lower class background finds it harder to adopt all these patterns, and so is more obviously outed and rejected as not one of us.

The point seems to apply more generally. The net effect of our today relying less on norms, law, and governance, and avoiding simple group labels in exclusion, is that we rely more on exclusion based on an intuitive feel that someone is like us.
sociology  law  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Attention span during lectures: 8 seconds, 10 minutes, or more? | Advances in Physiology Education
In the current climate of curriculum reform, the traditional lecture has come under fire for its perceived lack of effectiveness. Indeed, several institutions have reduced their lectures to 15 min in length based upon the “common knowledge” and “consensus” that there is a decline in students’ attention 10–15 min into lectures. A review of the literature on this topic reveals many discussions referring to prior studies but scant few primary investigations. Alarmingly, the most often cited source for a rapid decline in student attention during a lecture barely discusses student attention at all. Of the studies that do attempt to measure attention, many suffer from methodological flaws and subjectivity in data collection. Thus, the available primary data do not support the concept of a 10- to 15-min attention limit. Interestingly, the most consistent finding from a literature review is that the greatest variability in student attention arises from differences between teachers and not from the teaching format itself. Certainly, even the most interesting material can be presented in a dull and dry fashion, and it is the job of the instructor to enhance their teaching skills to provide not only rich content but also a satisfying lecture experience for the students.
5 weeks ago
While Truth Puts On Its Shoes
It understandably infuriates the media that President Trump remains unwilling to own up to his own glaring errors and untruths, while news organizations run correction after correction. And it also understandably upsets the media to watch the president actively attack and seek to undermine their work, which remains vital to ensuring accountability in American governance. What they haven’t grasped is how perversely helpful to him they are being: On a very basic level, President Trump’s repeated salvos against “fake news” have resonance because, well, there does indeed appear to be a lot of fake news.
journalism  media  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
These Media Screw-Ups Would Make Dan Rather Proud
It’s true that conservatives set up parallel institutions. I work at three of them. That story has more layers than your typical Steve Bannon ensemble, but I’ll cut to the chase. There is a reason conservatives set up these institutions: because progressives made the existing institutions increasingly inhospitable to people who didn’t subscribe to their groupthink. In other words, he gets much of the causation backward.

Science, for obvious reasons, has been the most immune to these trends (when I visit college campuses, most of the conservative professors I meet come from the science departments). As I discussed at length with Steve Hayward last week, conservatives fled the universities — in at least one case, literally at gunpoint — and went to think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute because their heterodoxy was unacceptable to the new orthodoxy. [...]

The corruption of what Ezra Klein calls “transpartisan institutions” isn’t downstream of what’s happened to conservatism and the country; it’s way, way upstream. Try being a sincere evangelical Christian at the New York Times or NPR. Heck, try being a military historian at a major university. Roberts writes about “tribal epistemology” — a subject I’ve written and read a great deal about — but he defines it almost solely as a pejorative label of the right. Tribal epistemology is not a right-wing phenomenon, it’s a human phenomenon, and self-declared pragmatists and empiricists are just as susceptible to it as anyone else.
journalism  media  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Devil's Ball
Yet much of The Master and Margarita lies in the realm of ambiguity. Is its Satan a charismatic villain, a tempter—or an enforcer of justice? (Among Bulgakov’s working titles was The Great Chancellor.) The book’s epigraph, from Goethe’s Faust, describes the devil as “part of that power which eternally does good whilst eternally desiring evil.” But Woland, who often clearly expresses Bulgakov’s own views—with a dark sarcastic edge—does not even seem to desire evil; his victims almost invariably deserve their punishment, and he does, in the end, prove to be a savior to Margarita and the Master. That their ultimate fate is arranged with the forces of Heaven hints at a metaphysics in which darkness and light serve the same ends as part of the balance of the universe: The Devil simply happens to be in charge of its shadow side.
lit  theology  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Rock-and-Roll Editor
It’s an old story by now, the hypocrisy of boomer liberalism, and I’m sure millennials can’t wait to see the last of it—the generation of feminists who forgave goatish politicians so long as they defended abortion on demand; or the environmentalists who burned a year’s worth of fossil fuel flying their Gulfstreams to global warming conferences; or the scourges of the uneven distribution of the nation’s wealth who took their income as capital gains so it would be taxed at a lower rate. Wenner showed them how to pull it off with a clear conscience; he built his magazine as a kind of roadmap. In Rolling Stone you could become outraged over the greed of other people—RS’s massive investigative articles always had the same villains (businessmen) and the same victims (noble working folk)—and still linger over the ads for a customized Rolex or that charming new resort in Aruba. You could have your cake and eat it too. Expressing the proper opinions made it possible, so long as they didn’t get out of hand.
politics  liberalism  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Net Neutrality Was Never Enough
In her dissent—a “eulogy,” she even calls it—Rosenworcel, the FCC commissioner, writes, “the future of the internet is the future of everything. That is because there is nothing in our commercial, social, and civic lives that has been untouched by its influence or unmoved by its power.”

This sentiment is both true and terrifying. The idea that a global data network would have so much power and influence should give everyone pause. Not only because it implies that so much of public and private life is conducted by means of that infrastructure. But also because it inspires people—and businesses, and government agencies, and elected officials themselves—to press toward the worst extremes of their character. It’s undeniable that modern society relies on the internet. Less often discussed are the impacts of such a dependence. Until they reach a breaking point, like the compromise of democracy or the mass exposure of personal information. [...]

When it comes to net neutrality, supporting or opposing it is no longer sufficient. Killing net neutrality probably won’t make things better, but keeping it without any other substantive changes will ensure things get worse—instead of civics, only mania will remain. The internet is as much the enemy as it is the hero of contemporary life. It is not the free and open internet that must be eulogized, but the public’s blindness to its consequences.
internet  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
The Case Against Reading Everything
To read widely—to flit from book to book, writer to writer—is to flaunt an open mind while never stopping long enough to fill it up. Consider instead what Chris Wiman, the previous editor of Poetry magazine, said about the consumption of poetry: “Seamus Heaney has noted that if a person has a single poem in his head, one that he returns to and through which, even in small ways, he understands his life better, this constitutes a devotion to the art. It is enough.” Devotion to art, in other words, is a devotion to individual works—and not many, at that.
reading  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
A Mind-Bending Translation of the New Testament
Oddness, in fact, might be the signature—the breakthrough, even—of Hart’s translation. No committee prose here, no compromises or waterings-down: This is one man in grim submission to the kinks and quirks of the New Testament’s authors—to the neurology, as it were, of each book’s style—and making his own decisions. At the wedding feast at Cana, Hart’s Jesus addresses Mary, his mother, as “madam,” for perhaps the first time ever. “Dearly beloved,” runs the King James Version of 1 Peter 2:11, “I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims …” Hart is more immigration-conscious: “Beloved ones, I exhort you as sojourners and resident aliens …”

“The sole literary claim I make for my version,” writes Hart, “is that my mulish stubbornness regarding the idiosyncrasies of the text allowed me to ‘do the police in different voices,’ so to speak.”
bible  translation  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
On the translation of the Our Father | Just Thomism
The sense of the sixth petition is “lead us not into the attack, lest it try our strength”. This allows us to actually make sense of the last petition sed libera nos a malo, i.e. but deliver us from the evil one”. In other words, to fill out the scene, the sense of the last two petitions is “O God our commander, do not lead us into the attack again because we fear for our strength. Rather, conquer the attacker by your own power.”

In general, the sense of temptation in the NT is of what is fearful, not what is pleasant. One particularly telling text is Luke 22:28, where Christ tells his disciples “You are the ones who have continued with me in my πειρασμός”, clearly, Christ is not telling his disciples that they all stood around a chocolate cake and felt tempted to gorge themselves, but that they all faced battle-fear together. Or again the locus classics of temptation 1 Cor. 1-:13 “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you can bear; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” If we are talking about seduction and alluring sights, why in the world is Paul speaking of bearing or enduring them?
theology  bible  ethics 
5 weeks ago
"Yet recent attempts to make covenant with other-than-humans and to re-entangle Man as a being always in relation seem to welcome the presence of the “natural” and to falter at the presence of the “supernatural.” Scholars seem much more open to accepting mountains, mosquitos, and mollusks as actually existing beings and agential actors than we are ghosts, jinn, and other spirits. Anthropologist Tim Ingold writes easily of clouds, birds, rodents, fungi, animals, plants, humans, and stones as “gathering together the threads of life.” But the “supernatural” seems more difficult to include in expanded notions of life, personhood, and the more-than- or other-than-human. I am not sure I could write a feline parallel to Donna Haraway’s dog manifesto, in which species companionship engaged not just my living cat but my dead one too, and remain intelligible to my peers. Why this is so, I want to hazard, has something to do with secular-modern attachments to the material and the visible as the site of the real, attachments that continue to underpin the posthumanist turn. Read generously against the grain, however, posthumanism can offer, I also want to hazard, onto-epistemic horizons beyond the material."
from instapaper
5 weeks ago
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