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The Human Brain Is a Time Traveler
"The seemingly trivial activity of mind-wandering is now believed to play a central role in the brain’s “deep learning,” the mind’s sifting through past experiences, imagining future prospects and assessing them with emotional judgments: that flash of shame or pride or anxiety that each scenario elicits.

A growing number of scholars, drawn from a wide swath of disciplines — neuroscience, philosophy, computer science — now argue that this aptitude for cognitive time travel, revealed by the discovery of the default network, may be the defining property of human intelligence. “What best distinguishes our species,” Seligman wrote in a Times Op-Ed with John Tierney, “is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future.” He went on: “A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise.”"
from instapaper
10 hours ago
Is Email Making Professors Stupid?
"One solution is to directly confront the zero sum trade-off generated by service obligations. Professors have a fixed amount of time; the more that’s dedicated to service, the less that can be dedicated to research and teaching. Instead of ignoring this reality, we should clearly articulate these trade-offs by specifying the exact amount of time a faculty member is expected to devote to service each year. That amount would be negotiated between a professor and a department chair, and the professors would be encouraged to enforce the limits of their service budgets.

These budgets would vary depending on the career phase and interests of individual professors. A faculty member actively engaged in research or creating new courses might be responsible for only a handful of service hours per week, while others would have more substantial obligations. Pre-tenure faculty members would presumably have smaller budgets than full professors who no longer need to consider promotion, and so on. The occasional major service commitment, like serving as department chair, would necessitate a large budget, but even in this case, making the trade-off clear is important. If the time required to be department chair is absurd, it’s useful to quantify this absurdity as a stark case for additional administrative support, or to help calibrate the proper compensation in terms of course buyouts or leave."
from instapaper
10 hours ago
How Africa is converting China - UnHerd
"Many local African churches have reached out to Chinese workers, including incorporating Mandarin into services. A number of Chinese, in turn, have welcomed the sense of community and belonging that these Christian churches offer. And a small but growing number of ethnically Chinese missionaries from Taiwan and other countries are specifically targeting Chinese nationals in Africa, preaching to them with a freedom they’d never be allowed in the People’s Republic."
from instapaper
11 hours ago
White Progressives Are Polarizing America | National Review
"And ironically enough, a large part of this angry white activism is conducted on behalf of a black and brown population that is more moderate and more religious than their woke white champions. At a time when being a “white savior” is seen as a mark of insensitivity — denying the power and autonomy of nonwhite Americans — white savioring is practically the mission statement of woke Twitter."
from instapaper
11 hours ago
The Forgotten Temple | Philip Jenkins
"Not just once in history, but twice, Jewish temples stood in the land of Egypt. One was at Elephantine, in the fifth century BC, and quite a bit has been written about it because it seems to record a community that knew a female deity besides YHWH. That is often discussed in surveys of the Old Testament world, and the emergence of monotheism. Far less frequently noted is another Jewish Temple that stood at Leontopolis, in the Nile Delta, from roughly the 160s BC through to 70 AD – at least 230 years. Both those temples, of course, contradict our normal assumptions because of the theory that just one Temple could exist, and that was in Jerusalem. But the Leontopolis one raises plenty of other questions, especially in terms of what might have been written or created there."
from instapaper
11 hours ago
Listening as Generous Thinking
"Listening isn’t a panacea. It can’t solve the problems that the university faces today, not unless it’s accompanied by real transformative action. But listening is more than just personal, or interpersonal. It’s the ground for a critical practice that begins by thinking with rather than against our colleagues. It’s the ground for our ability to draw students and other potentially interested members of the public into the work that we do, rather than closing them out. It’s the ground for creating institutions that genuinely live out the values they claim to espouse. Listening is a basis for generous thinking, and as such is the first step toward real transformative change."
from instapaper
11 hours ago
What is the Purpose of Peer Review? - Heterodox Academy
"Rather than relying on one-time assessments, which are bound to be affected by bias and short-sightedness, the ideal should be to foster communities in which research is disseminated, discussed, and evaluated organically, as part of an ongoing process of continual refinement. Scientific progress is made in labs and research meetings where questions are asked and ideas are challenged, not in the distilled pages of academic journals. At Researchers.One, our hope is to bring these discussions to the forefront by making the scientific process — with its perpetual tinkering and rethinking — the core of the scholarly discourse."
from instapaper
11 hours ago
The Mythical Man-Finger
"But we should also question whether our irrefragable ground assumptions are correct: commands are for geeks, mice are for moms.

Because if we can do that – if we can just open ourselves once again to the idea of language-based interfaces – we just might make meaningful progress on designing command languages that leverage all the things that language is good at (and that pictures are distressingly bad at): speed, “cross-app” integration, scale, portability, sustainability, consistency, flexibility. Right now, anyone who even proposes to work in this area is just an expert that lacks the self-awareness to realize their expertise – a hard-core geek who only knows how to design things for other hard-core geeks."
from instapaper
11 hours ago
Opinion | A Nation of Weavers
"Culture changes when a small group of people, often on the margins of society, find a better way to live, and other people begin to copy them. These Weavers have found a better way to live. We at Weave — and all of us — need to illuminate their example, synthesize their values so we understand what it means to be a relationalist and not an individualist. We need to create hubs where these decentralized networks can come together for solidarity and support. We need to create a shared Weaver identity. In 1960, few people called themselves feminists. By 1980, millions did. Just creating that social identity and that sense of mutual purpose is an act of great power.

I guess my ask is that you declare your own personal declaration of interdependence and decide to become a Weaver instead of a ripper."
from instapaper
11 hours ago
About Revoice’s “Queer Treasure”
"Don Richardson’s evangelism perhaps illumines the significance of Grant’s session at Revoice as much as anything. Paralleling Richardson’s life among the Sawi tribe, Revoice attendees like Grant have come to love queer culture and communities. LGBTQ people are “our people,” we feel. Although our renunciation of gay sex may seem strange to most LGBTQ people today, we aren’t thereby deterred from wanting to go on knowing these friends, learning from them, and loving them — and having them love us back. Our goal isn’t somehow to baptize sexual acts we believe to be sinful; on this we submit to what Nate Collins, the founder of Revoice, calls “the Great Tradition.” What we want, instead, is to talk about how the longing for intimacy that every queer person experiences is fulfilled, not simply overcome, when we put our faith in the One who called himself our “friend” (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34; John 15:15). Paradoxically, His love may make us more peculiar — more queer — rather than less."
from instapaper
11 hours ago
The Risk Of Progressives Talking Over Marginalized Communities
"It feels increasingly common for progressives to treat the opinions of elite members of marginalized groups as representative of the groups in question — even though rank-and-file members without platforms may feel quite differently.

Some other examples of this: Many progressives, Latino and non-Latino alike, seem to have rather strong linguistic preferences about whether to use the word Hispanic as opposed to Latino (or, more recently, Latinx). But when actual, well, Latinos/Hispanics are polled on this question, their answer tends to be that they identify more with their country of origin or ancestry than with zoomed-out ethnic labels anyway, with only about half of members of these groups even having a preference — meaning it doesn’t make much sense for anyone to suggest one term or the other is “right” while the other is outdated or offensive:"
from instapaper
11 hours ago
A Bold New Theory Proposes That Humans Tamed Themselves
"Central to his argument is the idea that cooperative killing of incurably violent individuals played a central role in our self-domestication. Much as the Russian scientists eliminated the fierce fox pups from the breeding pool, our ancestors killed men who were guilty of repeated acts of violence. Certainly all-male raiding parties have operated in some groups of humans, seeking out and killing victims in neighboring villages (which recalls the patrolling chimps that Wrangham reported on earlier in his career). The twist in his current theory is that such ambushes are turned inward, to protect the group from one of its own: They serve as a form of capital punishment. Wrangham cites a number of examples of anthropologists witnessing a group of men collaborating to kill a violent man in their midst."
from instapaper
12 hours ago
An Ode to Opportunity: We’ll Miss You, Mars Rover
"ME: Well, enjoy your RoboCop hell world of authoritarian algorithms and twee corporate serfdom.

ALSO ME: Enjoy your soulless utopia of freedom from imagination and wonder!

ME: When you say this stuff, how tempted are you to add “mash that like button, folks”?

ALSO ME: RIP, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, MER-B, we thank you for your service and remember you as you pass into the great shadow beyond.

ME: My battery is low and it’s getting dark."
from instapaper
20 hours ago
The Star of the Silken Screen
"So much of Warhol’s art was aimed at capturing a moment of social truth, be it beauty, glamour, camp, or power, in the guise of a portrait, and his assiduously cultivated portrait business partly financed his many other activities. Of the many hundreds of portraits Warhol painted over the years, special attention, even love, seems to have been given to his dealers and fellow artists: Irving Blum, Henry Geldzahler, Leo Castelli, Roy Lichtenstein, and Man Ray. In these and other portraits, Warhol shows all the sensitivity and psychological insight of a traditional portraitist. Eighty-four of the portraits are featured in a separate room of the exhibition, and it’s fun to point out the faces one recognizes, some of them friends or well-known social figures from another era: Look how young!

There is a knot of pathos in the portraitist’s art: the sitter will never again appear as youthful, as glamorous, as desired as now. This eternal present also comes with the knowledge that it has already slipped into the past. Even Warhol’s portraits of buildings, of symbols like the hammer and sickle, the children’s toys, the perfume bottles, and of course the skulls, are memento mori. In all of these paintings and drawings, Warhol is making a connection to his beloved nineteenth-century folk art, to the theorem stencils of flowers and the embroidery sampler with its common motto: When this you see/think on me."
from instapaper
8 days ago
The Vatican and the Gulf Have a Common Enemy
"The Gulf States no longer fear Christianity. Christendom no longer covets Muslim land; Christians just want to be respected and respectful guests. The greater threat comes from chaos—the danger that their Muslim sons and daughters are beyond their command, and will instead embrace entrepreneurial amateurs like the Islamic State. The friendly and conciliatory performances of el-Tayeb and Francis proved that the religious authorities of Christianity and Sunni Islam will happily make peace with one another, and not focus unduly on converting one another or fighting. But the fights within Islam continue to be fought, as they were in Christianity, with catastrophic effects for the Church of Rome, 400 years ago in the Protestant Reformation and Counter Reformation. The institutional authorities of Islam, and the political authorities with which they are aligned, have just bought themselves an institutional ally, if not a theological one. Whether the alliance keeps the theological barbarians at bay is another question."
from instapaper
10 days ago
Respectability Cascades
"“Get your most respectable members to serve as public spokespeople, and keep your least respectable members quiet so they don’t ruin your image” sounds like a good strategy. But it’s the opposite of the respectability cascade theory, and that theory is convincing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this since that New York Times article on the “Intellectual Dark Web”, because those people seem like the second level of the respectability cascade. None of them are Congressmen yet, but all of them are a step beyond Milo Yiannopoulos. This has made me wonder if maybe there’s something to this after all?"
from instapaper
13 days ago
Why the Demand for Fake News is a Far More Serious Problem than the Supply
"Indeed, Coyne's best insight is that the true root of the problem is not the supply of fake news, but the demand for it. In a relatively free society, there will always be people willing to spread lies and disinformation. The real danger is that so many people are willing to consume such material - and eagerly believe it when they do. If not for such avid consumers, political misinformation would cause little, if any, harm.

Part of the reason why is widespread public ignorance. Most voters know very little about government and public policy, in large part because itis actually rational for them to devote no more than a small fraction of their time to following political issues. Since an individual vote has only an infinitesimally small chance of influencing electoral outcomes, it makes little sense for most citizens to spend substantial time and effort learning about politics in order to become better voters. Unfortunately, such individually rational voter behavior can cause harmful collective outcomes."
from instapaper
13 days ago
How do we understand each other? The Contemporary Relevance of Cassirer’s and Heidegger’s Historic Disputation at Davos
"In the year before he died, while living in exile in the United States, Cassirer continued work on this question in An Essay on Man (1944). In it, Cassirer radically interprets lines 368c -369b of Plato’s Republic. Here, Socrates and his interlocutors are attempting to understand the nature of justice. In the end, they decide that, to understand justice in the individual, it needs to be understood on the level of a just republic. Cassirer reads Plato as suggesting that “philosophy cannot give us a satisfactory theory of man until it has developed a theory of the state” (63). For Cassirer, this also connected linguistic understanding and political understanding. From an anthropological perspective, before human beings had discovered the state as a form of social organisation, language was one of the key attempts to organise feelings, desires, and thoughts on a communal level. Therefore, for Cassirer, the historical evolution of language is closely connected with the development of the state (64). Here in this late essay, whether intentional or not, Cassirer is echoing his implicit question from Davos."
from instapaper
13 days ago
School’s Out
"Overlooking this aspect of education is where Caplan’s “social justice” arguments fail most miserably. While one of the most important functions of ubiquitous education has, no doubt, been to improve the material welfare of individuals and communities on the margins, the equalizing effects of education are not limited to economic mobility. Education not only provides access to jobs and wages (through some combination of human capital development and signaling); it often develops capabilities for critical and sometimes transformative engagement with our social order. If this kind of education, as rare as it already may be, becomes rarer, then Caplan’s desire for fewer people to be enrolled may have oligarchic effects. Fewer and fewer people would have access to education, which would be a problem not because it would keep them from becoming “rich workers,” but because it might hinder them from joining as readily in judgments about where society is going and what should be done about it. We might fairly describe this dystopian future, in which we would call oligarchy by the name of efficiency, downright Orwellian."
from instapaper
13 days ago
The Machine Stops
"When I was eighteen, I read Hume for the first time, and I was horrified by the vision he expressed in his eighteenth-century work “A Treatise of Human Nature,” in which he wrote that mankind is “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.” As a neurologist, I have seen many patients rendered amnesic by destruction of the memory systems in their brains, and I cannot help feeling that these people, having lost any sense of a past or a future and being caught in a flutter of ephemeral, ever-changing sensations, have in some way been reduced from human beings to Humean ones.

I have only to venture into the streets of my own neighborhood, the West Village, to see such Humean casualties by the thousand: younger people, for the most part, who have grown up in our social-media era, have no personal memory of how things were before, and no immunity to the seductions of digital life. What we are seeing—and bringing on ourselves—resembles a neurological catastrophe on a gigantic scale."
from instapaper
15 days ago
Never Mind Churchill, Clement Attlee Is a Model for These Times | The New Yorker
At a moment when, for the first time in several generations, social democracy and even socialism itself are not dirty words but possible currents in American life, Attlee’s life recalls what real socialism is and can accomplish. After reading Bew’s book, one can’t help but think about the number of T-shirts sold here over the years bearing an image of Che (innumerable), compared with those bearing an image of Clem (presumably zero.) Yet one was a fanatic who helped make an already desperately violent and impoverished region still more violent and impoverished—and who believed in “hatred as an element of struggle”—and the other a quiet man who helped make a genuine revolution, achieving almost everything that Marx had dreamed of for the British working classes without a single violent civil act intervening. It reminds one that the true progressive giants are radicals of the real—those who accept that democracy implies pluralism, and that a plural society is self-evidently made up of many people and kinds, only a few of them truly exploitative and criminal, most just pursuing their own version of the good life as tradition and conviction has offered it to them. The oscillation of power among them is not a sign of failure; it is a sign of life. Attlee’s example reminds us that it is possible to hold to moral absolutes—there was no peace possible with Hitler, and it was better to go down fighting than to try to make one—alongside an appetite for conciliation so abundant as to be more prolific, in William Blake’s positive sense, than merely pragmatic. This might be a good year to start selling T-shirts with a picture of this modest man, and the word “Clem!” upon them.
politics  socialism  from instapaper
17 days ago
Tim Harford's technological adjustments
First, I didn’t miss being plugged into Twitter at all. I’ve been ignoring notifications for years — thus missing some of the benefit and much of the aggravation of the platform — but have still been tweeting away out of some strange combination of duty and inertia.

My new plan is to log in for a few hours on Friday, set up some links to my columns and other projects that may interest some people, and log out again. If I ever see a good reason to use the platform more intensively, I’ll be back.

Second, I enjoyed having a more boring phone. With very little on it now but an easily emptied email inbox and the FT app, I pick it up less often and for less time, and am more likely to do something useful with it when I do check it.

I did reinstall Feedly — which I find essential for my job — but will keep an eye on my usage. With no tweets to send, the app has become more useful. I read for the sake of learning rather than for the sake of tweeting.
tech  from instapaper
17 days ago
Andrew Sullivan: The Nature of Sex
What the radical feminists are arguing is that the act doesn’t only blur the distinction between men and women (thereby minimizing what they see as the oppression of patriarchy and misogyny), but that its definition of gender identity must rely on stereotypical ideas of what gender expression means. What, after all, is a “gender-related characteristic”? It implies that a tomboy who loves sports is not a girl interested in stereotypically boyish things, but possibly a boy trapped in a female body. And a boy with a penchant for Barbies and Kens is possibly a trans girl — because, according to stereotypes, he’s behaving as a girl would. So instead of enlarging our understanding of gender expression — and allowing maximal freedom and variety within both sexes — the concept of “gender identity” actually narrows it, in more traditional and even regressive ways. What does “gender-related mannerisms” mean, if not stereotypes? It’s no accident that some of the most homophobic societies, like Iran, for example, are big proponents of sex-reassignment surgery for gender-nonconforming kids and adults (the government even pays for it) while being homosexual warrants the death penalty. Assuming that a non-stereotypical kid is trans rather than gay is, in fact, dangerously close to this worldview. [...]

There is a solution to this knotted paradox. We can treat different things differently. We can accept that the homosexual experience and the transgender experience are very different, and cannot be easily conflated. We can center the debate not on “gender identity” which insists on no difference between the trans and the cis, the male and the female, and instead focus on the very real experience of “gender dysphoria,” which deserves treatment and support and total acceptance for the individuals involved. We can respect the right of certain people to be identified as the gender they believe they are, and to remove any discrimination against them, while also seeing biology as a difference that requires a distinction. We can believe in nature and the immense complexity of the human mind and sexuality. We can see a way to accommodate everyone to the extent possible, without denying biological reality. Equality need not mean sameness.
sexuality  gender  from instapaper
17 days ago
Accentuate the Positive
Pinker is thumping a bible that he rarely opens. And when he does open it, he mainly sees a mirror. Pinker, who is a psychologist and an atheist, writes that Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Kant, Diderot, and other eighteenth-century thinkers were “cognitive neuroscientists” and “evolutionary psychologists” avant la lettre, because they all wanted some sort of science of man. He concedes that “not all of the Enlightenment thinkers were atheists.” It would be more accurate to say that almost none of them were.

Pinker does not explain exactly how “the gifts of the Enlightenment” were delivered but is sure that it is the Enlightenment that deserves credit for our better lives. How much did thinkers have to do with it all, though? Adam Smith praised market economies; he did not invent them. Pinker notes that the Industrial Revolution “ushered in more than two centuries of economic growth,” so one might think that it, too, was deserving of thanks. Perhaps we are to suppose that the Enlightenment was responsible for the Industrial Revolution.
enlightenment  from instapaper
18 days ago
This Is What Anti-Christian Bigotry Looks Like | National Review
It’s time for Christian parents, pastors, and politicians to understand a simple fact — in the fight for religious freedom, we often focus our efforts on the less important battleground. Legal protections matter less and less when the culture drifts so far from Christianity that shunning, shaming, and exclusion become the norm. Stay silent to keep your job. Change your policies to keep your educational opportunities. Say nothing so that you’ll preserve your public reputation.

And in this more-important cultural fight, it’s critical to wrap our arms around principles, not politicians. There’s not one darn thing that even the president can or should do to force the Sheridan school to associate with the kids from Immanuel. Combatting intolerance is a matter of persuasion, and it depends on Christians exercising a degree of personal courage and resolve — if you feel pressure at work, speak anyway. If you see a colleague facing persecution for his beliefs, stand with him. If a Christian school faces public shame and public sanction for its fidelity to Scripture, send your kids anyway.
religiousfreedom  from instapaper
19 days ago
What is truth? On Ramsey, Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle – Cheryl Misak | Aeon Essays
In the 1930s, the Vienna Circle started to feel the pressure, from other quarters, of what Ramsey called ‘the objection from philosophy of science’ and the objection about solipsism. In response, they would develop more liberal, inclusive, behaviourist versions of logical empiricism. That is, many in the Circle moved closer to Ramsey, without knowing it. Had they felt the force of Ramsey’s objections and pragmatist alternative earlier, pragmatism and analytic philosophy would not have been thought to be in such opposition to each other. The Vienna Circle would not have been seen as the bogeyman of philosophy, as it is now, but as delivering a human account of what it is to have a belief be responsive to the way things are. Ramsey was the bridge between 20th-century pragmatism and analytic philosophy, and when he died, that route was obscured – only to be recently rediscovered and put on the map.
philosophy  from instapaper
21 days ago
Jill Abramson's 'Merchants of Truth' and the Catastrophic Collapse of Entitled Print News Media
Abramson celebrates a time when no structural forces of economics or distribution could challenge the superiority of The New York Times. That this pre-internet era also resulted in a more or less static consumer environment, where readers could simply read or watch the news and come to their own personal conclusions about what they encountered, was an adjacent if beneficial consequence. Now, all media is distributed, tracked, and optimized for a handful of social media platforms, where the audience is no longer comprised of independent people reading in solitude but rather digital avatars of those people. Today, success for new and legacy media companies alike means tailoring written and visual content not for actual people but for personality profiles that exist within a confined spectrum limited by the design of these publicly traded media platforms. It’s a video game, with media companies dropping quarters into a machine that someone else owns while competing for the high score.

Jill Abramson could have been honest about the decisions that led to our current mess. Instead, she chose to take a victory lap. Her choice is a revealing one. It explains why a generation of readers now looks elsewhere.
journalism  from instapaper
22 days ago
Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?
But today, as tech culture infiltrates every corner of the business world, its hymns to the virtues of relentless work remind me of nothing so much as Soviet-era propaganda, which promoted impossible-seeming feats of worker productivity to motivate the labor force. One obvious difference, of course, is that those Stakhanovite posters had an anticapitalist bent, criticizing the fat cats profiting from free enterprise. Today’s messages glorify personal profit, even if bosses and investors — not workers — are the ones capturing most of the gains. Wage growth has been essentially stagnant for years.

Perhaps we’ve all gotten a little hungry for meaning. Participation in organized religion is falling, especially among American millennials. In San Francisco, where I live, I’ve noticed that the concept of productivity has taken on an almost spiritual dimension. Techies here have internalized the idea — rooted in the Protestant work ethic — that work is not something you do to get what you want; the work itself is all. Therefore any life hack or company perk that optimizes their day, allowing them to fit in even more work, is not just desirable but inherently good.
work  propaganda  from instapaper
23 days ago
Andrew Sullivan: The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate
How did this grotesque inversion of the truth become the central narrative for what seemed to be the entire class of elite journalists on Twitter? That’s the somewhat terrifying question. Ruth Graham on Slate saw a 16-year-old she’d seen on a tape for a couple of minutes and immediately knew that he was indistinguishable from the “white young men crowding around a single black man at a lunch counter sit-in in Virginia in the 1960s” or other white “high school boys flashing Nazi salutes.” Even after the full context was clear, Graham refused to apologize to the kid, or retract her condemnation: The context didn’t “change the larger story” which, she explained, was bigotry toward Native Americans. She cited Trump’s use of the name “Pocahontas” for Elizabeth Warren as evidence. But using a bullhorn to call Native Americans “savages” and “drunkards at the casino” to their faces a few minutes earlier on the same tape was not worth a mention?

Graham was just one media voice among countless others, and I don’t mean to single her out. The reason I do is because her argument about the fuller context is now the norm in elite media, and it’s the underlying reason for the instant judgment. “Racism” now only means “prejudice plus power,” so what the adult Black Israelites yelled was nowhere near as bad as what a white teenager didn’t say. No empirical evidence could ever deny that underlying truth, as a piece at Deadspin insisted, after admitting that, well yes, there were “four black men who seem to belong to the Black Israelites … yelling insults.” No mention of the content of those insults, of course.
journalism  from instapaper
24 days ago
The Conflicted Soul of Modern Liberalism
For almost two millennia, Rosenblatt contends, being liberal meant displaying the civic virtues. Clearly an aristocratic ethos, liberality in its Roman, medieval, and early modern forms supported the concept of noblesse oblige and, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the ideal of the gentleman who showed tolerance and munificence toward his inferiors. Below this hierarchical ideal of social relations, Rosenblatt detects gradual changes. The Protestant Reformation extended the virtue of generosity to the people as a whole, while Enlightenment thinkers began to speak not only of liberal individuals, but of liberal sentiments and ideas.

With the age of revolutions came a sea change in the use of the term. The American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution ushered in an epoch when rights and liberties would no longer depend on the liberality of well-disposed sovereigns but would issue from a generous and free people legislating for itself. In Europe, struggles around the principles of the French Revolution added an even stronger political dimension. In the midst of a wave of revolutions in Spain, Sardinia, Naples, Portugal, and Greece in the 1810s and early 1820s, one hostile commentator perfectly summed up the change when he lamented that the word “liberal” no longer meant “a man of generous sentiments, of enlarged, expansive mind” but a person professing “political principles averse to most of the existing governments of Europe.”
politics  liberalism  from instapaper
24 days ago
Opinion | Steve Jobs Never Wanted Us to Use Our iPhones Like This
To succeed with this approach, a useful first step is to remove from your smartphone any apps that make money from your attention. This includes social media, addictive games and newsfeeds that clutter your screen with “breaking” notifications. Unless you’re a cable news producer, you don’t need minute-by-minute updates on world events, and your friendships are likely to survive even if you have to wait until you’re sitting at your home computer to log on to Facebook or Instagram. In addition, by eliminating your ability to publish carefully curated images to social media directly from your phone, you can simply be present in a nice moment, free from the obsessive urge to document it.

Turning our attention to professional activities, if your work doesn’t absolutely demand that you be accessible by email when away from your desk, delete the Gmail app or disconnect the built-in email client from your office servers. It’s occasionally convenient to check in when out and about, but this occasional convenience almost always comes at the cost of developing a compulsive urge to monitor your messages constantly. If you’re not sure whether your work requires phone-based email, don’t ask; just delete the apps and wait to see whether it causes a problem — many people unintentionally exaggerate their need to constantly be available.
Technopoly  tech  socialmedia  from instapaper
25 days ago
Futarchy: Vote Values, But Bet Beliefs
"Futarchy" is an as yet untried form of government intended to address such problems. In futarchy, democracy would continue to say what we want, but betting markets would now say how to get it. That is, elected representatives would formally define and manage an after-the-fact measurement of national welfare, while market speculators would say which policies they expect to raise national welfare. The basic rule of government would be:

When a betting market clearly estimates that a proposed policy would increase expected national welfare, that proposal becomes law.
Futarchy is intended to be ideologically neutral; it could result in anything from an extreme socialism to an extreme minarchy, depending on what voters say they want, and on what speculators think would get it for them.
Futarchy seems promising if we accept the following three assumptions:

• Democracies fail largely by not aggregating available information.
• It is not that hard to tell rich happy nations from poor miserable ones.
• Betting markets are our best known institution for aggregating information.
politics  democracy  from instapaper
25 days ago
The Power of the Powerless | Making the History of 1989
The greengrocer had to put the slogan in his window, therefore, not in the hope that someone might read it or be persuaded by it, but to contribute, along with thousands of other slogans, to the panorama that everyone is very much aware of. This panorama, of course, has a subliminal meaning as well: it reminds people where they are living and what is expected of them. It tells them what everyone else is doing, and indicates to them what they must do as well, if they don't want to be excluded, to fall into isolation, alienate themselves from society, break the rules of the game, and risk the loss of their peace and tranquility and security.
politics  from instapaper
25 days ago
Thieves of experience: On the rise of surveillance capitalism
Whenever we use free apps and online services, it’s often said, we become the products, our attention harvested and sold to advertisers. But, as Zuboff makes clear, this truism gets it wrong. Surveillance capitalism’s real products, vaporous but immensely valuable, are predictions about our future behavior — what we’ll look at, where we’ll go, what we’ll buy, what opinions we’ll hold — that internet companies derive from our personal data and sell to businesses, political operatives, and other bidders. Unlike financial derivatives, which they in some ways resemble, these new data derivatives draw their value, parasite-like, from human experience.To the Googles and Facebooks of the world, we are neither the customer nor the product. We are the source of what Silicon Valley technologists call “data exhaust” — the informational byproducts of online activity that become the inputs to prediction algorithms. In contrast to the businesses of the industrial era, whose interests were by necessity entangled with those of the public, internet companies operate in what Zuboff terms “extreme structural independence from people.” When databases displace goods as the engine of the economy, our own interests, as consumers but also as citizens, cease to be part of the negotiation. We are no longer one of the forces guiding the market’s invisible hand. We are the objects of surveillance and control.
Technopoly  from instapaper
25 days ago
On Hartmut Rosa and the acceleration of social change in modernity
The alternative to alienation-through-acceleration is to be found in what Rosa calls ‘resonance’, a notion worked out at great length in his most recent work. Acceleration is here reconceived more broadly as the ‘imperative to increase’ (Steigerungsimperative), while resonance is conceived as the opposite of alienation: a relation between a person and the world, between subject an object in which both sides form a mutually ‘responsive’ relation, and neither side is reduced to the terms of the other. Resonance can be found in religion, art and in nature, but also in our relation to other human beings or to objects. Yet Rosa’s analysis is still distinctly pessimistic. We are stuck in a world with little ‘resonance’, where we seem ‘completely unable to offer a political remedy to the “iron cage” of the imperative to increase. The world (in the sense of the institutionally embedded capitalist reality) mercilessly enforces the everyday disposition of reification, and proves to be almost completely immune to any form of protest, in the street or in the voting booth’ (Resonanz, 706, my translation).
modernity  sociology  capitalism  from instapaper
25 days ago
The devotion of the human dad separates us from other apes – Anna Machin | Aeon Essays
Looking back at our pool of knowledge from 10 years ago and comparing it to what we know today, my conclusion is this: we need to change the conversations we have about fathers. Yes, some fathers are absent, as are some mothers, and some might be the inept characters of marketing ads or cartoons, struggling to work the washing machine or to look after the baby alone. But the majority of fathers are not these people. We need to broaden our spectrum of who we think dad is to include all the fathers who stick around, investing in their children’s emotional, physical and intellectual development, regardless of whether they live with their children or not. We need to discuss the dads who coach football, read bedtime stories, locate rogue school socks, and scare away the night-time monsters. Who encourage their children’s mental resilience, and scaffold their entry into our increasingly complex social world. Who are defined not by their genetic relatedness to their children but because they step up and do the job – the stepdads, social dads, grandfathers, friends, uncles and boyfriends.
biology  parenting  men  from instapaper
26 days ago
We’re Plagued by a Partisan Press. Here’s One Cure. | National Review
And if we have a partisan press, wouldn’t it then be true that errors in conservatives’ favorite outlets would run against progressives? Look no further than Fox News’s role in spreading the reprehensible and baseless Seth Rich conspiracy theory to see how even the most prominent right-wing outlet can fall prey to wild claims. Groupthink, ignorance, confirmation bias, and market incentives work their dark magic in human beings across the political spectrum. We’re all susceptible to following our herd.

But this argument is common. Less common is an explanation of how the ideological monoculture warps the news — even if a person is trying to be unbiased. There are three key consequences of intellectual uniformity, even when reporters attempt to operate in good faith: rampant ignorance, selective interests, and narrow relationships.
journalism  from instapaper
26 days ago
Bad, Press | National Review
The pattern is now drearily familiar. First, a poorly attributed story will break — say, “Source: Donald Trump Killed Leon Trotsky Back in 1940.” Next, thousands of blue-check journalists, with hundreds of millions of followers between them, will send it around Twitter before they have read beyond the headline. In response to this, the cable networks will start chattering, with the excuse that, “true or not, this is going to be a big story today,” while the major newspapers will run stories that confirm the existence of the original claim but not its veracity — and, if Representative Schiff is awake, they will note that “Democrats say this must be investigated.” These signal-boosting measures will be quickly followed by “Perspective” pieces that assume the original story is true and, worse, seek to draw “broader lessons” from it. In the New York Times this might be “The Long History of Queens Residents’ Assassinating Socialist Intellectuals”; in the Washington Post, “Toxic Capitalism: How America’s Red Hatred Explains Our Politics Today”; in The New Yorker, “I’ve Been to Mexico and Was Killed by a Pickaxe to the Head”; in Cosmopolitan, “The Specifics Don’t Matter, Men Are Guilty of Genocide.”
[For what it’s worth, I agree with almost every word of this article. The American press right now is disastrously bad and does not even pretend to fairness or accuracy.]
journalism  from instapaper
26 days ago
Kurt Gödel and the romance of logic
But why should anyone who is not a logician be concerned? Other minds that are both especially mathematical and especially creative have suggested some sweeping—and self-evidently important—applications. The theoretical physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose, for example, has argued that Gödel’s theorem shows that “Strong AI” is false: our minds cannot be computers, and that by extension the intelligence of computers will never fully replicate them. But there is another, more general, way of grasping the importance—and that starts with the broader question of Platonism. Not even Gödel thought that his incompleteness result proved Platonism to be true, but he did think it lent it some support. How? By seeming to undermine one important element of many anti-Platonist perspectives—the view that, in mathematics, truth and provability are the same thing.
math  logic  philosophy  from instapaper
8 weeks ago
Radicals don’t evaluate their mistakes very effectively
Radicals, in general, performed pretty poorly when evaluating their own performance, with lots of misplaced confidence. "Dogmatic people manifest a lowered capacity to discriminate between their correct and incorrect decisions," is how the researchers put it. This was also true for authoritarians. Critically, the lowered capacity wasn't the product of a general overconfidence, since that trait had been examined in some of the survey questions.

The same issue was apparent in the tests in which participants were given additional information and then given a chance to revise their opinions. And, informatively, people with radical beliefs were less likely to update their confidence in response to the additional information, a feature that the authors consider a defect specific to metacognition.
HTT  from instapaper
8 weeks ago
Higher education in the US is driven by a lust for glory | Aeon Essays
But maybe it’s worth tolerating a high level of dross in the effort to produce scholarly gold – even if this is at the expense of many of the scholars themselves. Planned research production, operating according to mandates and incentives descending from above, is no more effective at producing the best scholarship than are five-year plans in producing the best economic results. At its best, the university is a place that gives maximum freedom for faculty to pursue their interests and passions in the justified hope that they will frequently come up with something interesting and possibly useful, even if this value is not immediately apparent. They’re institutions that provide answers to problems that haven’t yet developed, storing up both the dross and the gold until such time as we can determine which is which.
academe  from instapaper
8 weeks ago
Why there's no such thing as non-anachronistic interpretation, and it's a good thing too: reflections occasioned by Wesley Hill's <i>Paul and the Trinity</i>
Fifth, the most important reason why historical-critical reading is essentially anachronistic is the way that it uses—quite explicitly and without apology—resources outside the text, resources foreign to the text's original audience, as a means of interpreting the text. Examples are obvious: monographs and articles, concepts created long after the text's composition, archeological findings, data regarding life and neighboring cultures prior to and contemporaneous with the text's original setting. Historical-critical exegesis often proposes readings of ancient religious texts (say, Genesis 1) that would have been impossible in the original context, because no one at the time had, or could have had, the kind of comprehensive knowledge about their own time and place that we have since amassed. (It is worth noting that this exegetical procedure is not different in kind than reading Genesis 1 in light of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, or scientific theories about the origins of the universe.) In a manner of speaking, the best historical-critical interpretations are self-consciously maximalist in just this way: they are so exhaustive in searching out every possible detail, contour, allusion, and influence that such an interpretation in the text's original setting would have been unthinkable—indeed, no such interpretation would have been possible until now, this very moment in time. Undertaken in that sort of self-conscious way, anachronism would be welcomed and readily admitted as the very occasion and goal of historical reading.
bible  interpretation  from instapaper
8 weeks ago
The Searcher of Patterns and the Keeper of Things - Los Angeles Review of Books
As if to forefront both projects’ interest in the form information takes, each exists in two states itself: first as a book, with its mechanics of linearity and indexicality contextualized, and then also as a website. In Silver’s case, this involves a born-digital museum containing high-resolution images of the objects discussed in his book; in Pasanek’s a fully searchable and still-growing database of metaphors, of which his chapters are to be read as samples, continues to be updated. These websites illuminate, expand, and feed back into the books they serve, but they also concretize the lessons Silver and Pasanek have to offer about the mechanics of information-gathering and retrieval. If you followed either of the links above, you’ll get the picture, as well as the practical feel of this claim. Silver and Pasanek both study cognition as it has been imagined physically, through metaphor and the early history of extended cognition. But both also insist at the level of media use that it really has always had a physical substratum.
history  tech  mind  from instapaper
9 weeks ago
[Revision] Donald Trump is a Good President | Harper's Magazine
It’s my belief that we in Europe have neither a common language, nor common values, nor common interests, that, in a word, Europe doesn’t exist, and that it will never constitute a people or support a possible democracy (see the etymology of the term), simply because it doesn’t want to constitute a people. In short, Europe is just a dumb idea that has gradually turned into a bad dream, from which we shall eventually wake up.
Europe  from instapaper
9 weeks ago
The Anti-Christian Alt-Right | Matthew Rose
The alt-right is anti-Christian. Not by implication or insinuation, but by confession. Its leading thinkers flaunt their rejection of Christianity and their desire to convert believers away from it. Greg Johnson, an influential theorist with a doctorate in philosophy from Catholic University of America, argues that “Christianity is one of the main causes of white decline” and a “necessary condition of white racial suicide.” Johnson edits a website that publishes footnoted essays on topics that range from H. P. Lovecraft to Martin Heidegger, where a common feature is its subject’s criticisms of Christian doctrine. “Like acid, Christianity burns through ties of kinship and blood,” writes Gregory Hood, one of the website’s most talented essayists. It is “the essential religious step in paving the way for decadent modernity and its toxic creeds.”

Alt-right thinkers are overwhelmingly atheists, but their worldview is not rooted in the secular Enlightenment, nor is it irreligious. Far from it. Read deeply in their sources—and make no mistake, the alt-right has an intellectual tradition—and you will discover a movement that takes Christian thought and culture seriously. It is a conflicted tribute paid to their chief adversary. Against Christianity it makes two related charges. Beginning with the claim that Europe effectively created Christianity—not the other way around—it argues that Christian teachings have become socially and morally poisonous to the West. A major work of alt-right history opens with a widely echoed claim: “The introduction of Christianity has to count as the single greatest ideological catastrophe to ever strike Europe.”
altright  politics  from instapaper
9 weeks ago
What Happens When Facebook Goes the Way of Myspace?
The advertising data exposed in a user’s personal Facebook archive is, of course, just a sliver of what is available to the company. Facebook’s real profile of who you are — the one that it uses to fill your feeds and show you ads — is far more comprehensive. The company’s relentless accumulation of user data isn’t just a grab for power or a default behavior. It’s a long-term investment. You may forget Facebook; it could happen sooner than you expect. But it’s not likely to forget you.
Facebook  from instapaper
9 weeks ago
Green Madness
I had a conversation with the late Arne Naess, the Norwegian father of what is known as “deep ecology” and guru of the European Green movement. How seriously did Naess regard the divinity of Mother Nature? He told me that the eradication of smallpox was a technological crime against nature. The smallpox virus, he said—which had maimed, tortured, and killed millions of human beings—somehow “deserved” human protection
ecology  from instapaper
9 weeks ago
Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII Enforcer: New Biography | National Review
Cromwell did not come from poverty: His father was fairly successful in business, and, as mentioned earlier, he was not the abusive terror that Mantel and earlier historians made him out to be. Another common myth that the author disproves is that of Cromwell the amoral schemer: MacCulloch shows that Cromwell repeatedly put his principles over his self-interest. After Wolsey fell from the king’s grace, Cromwell would have had every reason to desert Wolsey, but instead Cromwell repeatedly lobbied the king on his behalf. Once in power, Cromwell took huge risks to forge connections between English clerics and considerably more radical reformers in Switzerland, something he did without ever informing the king. Indeed, had the more religiously conservative Henry known of these endeavors, it could have cost Cromwell his life, yet Cromwell continued in this clandestine project out of his own evangelical zeal. Most persistently, MacCulloch argues against the notion that Cromwell targeted England’s monasteries out of naked greed. In fact Cromwell sought initially to reform many monasteries rather than shut them down, but he was overruled by the king.
history  from instapaper
9 weeks ago
Camille Paglia: ‘Hillary wants Trump to win again’ | Spectator USA
"I have been trying for decades to get my fellow Democrats to realize how unchecked bureaucracy, in government or academe, is inherently authoritarian and illiberal. A persistent characteristic of civilizations in decline throughout history has been their self-strangling by slow, swollen, and stupid bureaucracies. The current atrocity of crippling student debt in the US is a direct product of an unholy alliance between college administrations and federal bureaucrats — a scandal that ballooned over two decades with barely a word of protest from our putative academic leftists, lost in their post-structuralist fantasies. Political correctness was not created by administrators, but it is ever-expanding campus bureaucracies that have constructed and currently enforce the oppressively rule-ridden regime of college life.

In the modern world, so wondrously but perilously interconnected, a principle of periodic reduction of bureaucracy should be built into every social organism. Freedom cannot survive otherwise."
from instapaper
10 weeks ago
LRB · James Meek · The Club and the Mob: The Shock of the News
"It’s worth dwelling on this, because the position of the Guardian editor must to a large extent reflect the position of its readership, and more broadly the position of the hundreds of millions of university-educated, left-leaning, avowedly tolerant, socially concerned people around the world – global liberaldom, for want of a better expression. ‘A private dinner at Davos with Eric Schmidt from Google’ is, on the face of it, the opposite of looking at the world from the perspective of the ordinary citizen. And yet that’s where global liberaldom finds itself, trafficking between power and powerlessness, at worst wanting all the street cred that comes from standing with the crowd and all the benefits from hanging out at parties with the powerful, at best endeavouring to be the honest messenger between the two. Unable to choose between the Club and the Mob, in other words, but wanting to be accepted by both, and as a result not quite trusted by either."
from instapaper
10 weeks ago
The New Morality Dilemma | CCCU
Cherie Harder: There certainly has always been partisanship, deep disagreement, and name-calling in politics. But I do think there are some things that are intensifying this trend toward affective polarization. One of those trends is that, unfortunately, our identities are becoming increasingly political. You can see this in various ways. It used to be that people would marry across party lines – people with very different political views – but would almost always marry someone who shared their faith. Now, almost 40 percent of marriages are to someone of a different faith tradition, but only around 23 percent of people who are getting married, or even cohabiting with someone, are doing so with someone of a different political party. In many ways, political affiliation is now seen as somehow more intrinsic to our identities than our faith commitments.
politics  partisan  from instapaper
11 weeks ago
CNN Submits to Right-Wing Outrage Mob, Fires Marc Lamont Due to his “Offensive” Defense of Palestinians at the UN
"But that’s the nature of having free thought and vibrant debate among adults: ideas that are offensive will sometimes be aired; adults will sometimes feel negative emotions from hearing the viewpoints of others; traumatizing events and thoughts will sometimes be discussed; journalism and political expression will sometimes be upsetting.

Nobody gets to create a standard where ideas that are “hurtful” and “traumatizing” to them are barred, whereas ideas that have the same effect on their political adversaries are permitted or celebrated. You either support a standard in which one has the right to engage in free political expression without punishment or you recognize that you are one who is laying the groundwork for this never-ending bickering, in which various online mobs relentlessly, and with increasing success, ensure that anyone expressing views they find upsetting are fired."
from instapaper
11 weeks ago
The Prophet of Envy
Girard’s anthropological interpretation of Christianity in Things Hidden is as original as it is unorthodox. It views the Crucifixion as a revelation in the profane sense, namely a bringing to light of the arbitrary nature of the scapegoat mechanism that underlies sacrificial religions. After publishing Things Hidden, Girard gained a devoted following among various Christian scholars, some of whom lobbied him hard to open his theory to a more traditional theological interpretation of the Cross as the crux of man’s deliverance from sin. Girard eventually (and somewhat reluctantly) made room for a redemptive understanding of the Crucifixion, yet in principle his theory posits only its revelatory, demystifying, and scandalous aspect. [...]

Girard’s most valuable insight is that rivalry and violence arise from sameness rather than difference. Where conflicts erupt between neighbors or ethnic groups, or even among nations, more often than not it’s because of what they have in common rather than what distinguishes them. In Girard’s words: “The error is always to reason within categories of ‘difference’ when the root of all conflicts is rather ‘competition,’ mimetic rivalry between persons, countries, cultures.” Often we fight or go to war to prove our difference from an enemy who in fact resembles us in ways we are all too eager to deny.
theory  sociology  anthropology  ethics  religion  christian  from instapaper
11 weeks ago
The Right’s Climate Change Shame | Andrew Sullivan
For allegedly intelligent conservatives like Stephens and Goldberg to devote energy toward climate skepticism while turning a blind eye to vigorous Republican climate vandalism is, quite simply contemptible. I am not reading their minds here. I’m reading their columns. On this question – as on fiscal policy – they’re not skeptics or conservatives; they are dogmatists, sophists and enablers of environmental vandalism. They reveal Republicanism’s calculated assault on the next generations – piling them with unimaginable debt and environmental chaos. This isn’t the cultural conservatism of Burke; it’s the selfish nihilism of Rand.

Let me finish with a quote. It was the first time a major global leader spoke to the U.N. on the question: “It is life itself — human life, the innumerable species of our planet — that we wantonly destroy. It is life itself that we must battle to preserve … The danger of global warming is as yet unseen but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices so we may not live at the expense of future generations. That prospect is a new factor in human affairs. It is comparable in its implications to the discovery of how to split the atom, indeed its results could be even more far-reaching … We should always remember that free markets are a means to an end. They would defeat their object if by their output they did more damage to the quality of life through pollution than the well-being they achieve by the production of goods and services.” That leader also made a core moral argument: “No generation has a freehold on this earth; all we have is a life tenancy with a full repairing lease.”

Those words were Margaret Thatcher’s in 1989. She devoted her entire U.N. speech to conservation and climate change. If the subject was real enough in 1989 to make sacrifices and changes, how much more so almost 30 years later? The difference between Thatcher and today’s Republicans is quite a simple one. She believed in science (indeed was trained as a scientist). She grasped the moral dimensions of the stewardship of the earth from one generation to another. She did not engage in the cowardice of sophists. And unlike these tools and fools on today’s American right, she was a conservative.
climate  conservatism  from instapaper
11 weeks ago
Writing Science Fiction Out of Experience: SF, Social Science and Planetary Transformations
"Then the moon is different again—too small and volatile-free to be terraformed, and thus just a rock in space, a place for moon bases perhaps, but not for habitation as we usually think of it. Most of the solar system is like the moon in this; Mars is an anomaly. So the full consideration of possibilities leads to the conclusion that there is no Planet B for us, although Mars might be made such over thousands of years, perhaps. But for the most part, these stories have together convinced me that we co-evolved with Earth and are a planetary expression that needs to fit in with the rest of the biosphere here, that we have no other choice about that—and this is an important story for science fiction to tell, given there are so many other kinds of science fiction stories saying otherwise."
from instapaper
11 weeks ago
Reading silently and reading out loud in antiquity
The turnaround came in 1997. That’s surprisingly recent. If you find a reputable book claiming that reading out loud was universal, check the date of the book: if it’s before 1997, that’s why. (That was the same year Saenger published a book-length summary of his arguments, so don’t be too hard on him: Saenger had no way of knowing what was coming.)

That year an important article by A. K. Gavrilov (subscription required) abruptly and completely overturned the old orthodoxy. The appendix of the article is where it’s all happening: there Gavrilov gives a tidy, straightforward catalogue of evidence both for and against silent reading. The catalogue doesn’t just undermine the old orthodoxy: it makes it blindingly obvious that silent reading wasn’t just an occasional thing, it was absolutely standard. References to silent reading are about three times as common as references that can be interpreted as supporting the reading-was-always-done-out-loud position, all the way from the 5th century BCE to late antiquity.
reading  from instapaper
11 weeks ago
Cynicism, Not Gullibility, Will Kill Our Humanity
Major advances in the U.S. — from civil rights to the social safety net — have been driven by the public being confronted with the consequences of their inaction or action and having to reckon with that. But if everything is worthy of low trust at best, you never need to confront the impacts of policy or politics or personal action. Uncertainty — hey, I did hear about that but who knows what’s true anyway — acts as a cutural novacaine, allowing one to persist in inaction, even as evidence mounts of effects that that same individual might find repugnant — if, you know, it turn out to be really true. Like, really, really true. And who knows?

The depressing thing is that there are methods that can help with this undifferentiated cynicism but we aren’t rolling them out to students.
teaching  information  from instapaper
12 weeks ago
1968: Radical Year
Of course this is a blind spot Vinen shares with many scholars of the sixties. While every general history of the sixties in the United States includes a mention of Students for a Democratic Society, very few of them take note of the Catholic charismatic renewal that began in 1967 at a retreat held by Duquesne University faculty and students, or the parallel explosion of Pentecostal influence on Protestants, not to mention the Lubavitchers and similar Orthodox Jewish movements. You can’t understand the sixties—68 very much included—unless you include in your view these movements combining intense piety with ecstatic experience. (See Geoffrey O’Brien’s brilliant memoir Dream Time for an unsettling variation on glossolalia, not “religious” but hardly “secular” either.)
history  religion  secularity  from instapaper
12 weeks ago
Growth and Work | National Review
It seems to me that Cass’s critics take him to be making an economic argument when he is making a political-economy argument, and in our time we have basically forgotten the difference. Or to put the point a little differently: Cass is not exactly arguing that we over-value growth, he is arguing that we over-value economics. His book is a kind of argument against an overly materialistic politics, and is rooted in a fundamentally social conservatism, broadly understood, that sees markets and even prosperity itself as means and not ends. The ends are supplied by an idea of human flourishing rooted in the nature of the human person as understood by the great traditions of our civilization, and therefore focused on family, community, religion, work, and country.

I would note, as an aside, that the same is true of another very important conservative policy book published recently—Reihan Salam’s Melting Pot or Civil War?. Like Cass, Salam is willing and able to confront his critics on their chosen ground, arguing about the effect of low-skill immigration on wages or the philosophical grounds of restrictions on migration. But he is ultimately making an argument rooted in the view that human beings flourish in communities and nations, and that the particular nature of our sociality has to bear on how we think about immigration. He, too, reaches for the deepest ground of disagreement between the left and right, which is anthropological and sociological before it is economic. And so he too seems to have baffled, in the best sense, some of the people he’s seeking to argue with. [...]

This isn’t exactly an argument about whether growth matters (as everyone agrees it does) or whether sometimes other things have to matter more (which we all know is also true). It’s an argument about where to place the weight and emphasis when it comes to addressing particular problems and considering particular policy courses. Healthy policy debates have to be rooted in philosophical premises but directed to concrete realities. That ought to be the next phase of the debate Cass’s book has helped to spark.
economics  politics  conservatism  from instapaper
12 weeks ago
50 Years of Effete and Infertile Liturgical Culture Is Enough - Crisis Magazine
Here I might say that to celebrate the Mass in such a way is to betray the explicit directives of Sacrosanctum Concilium. I have since read the document in the original. And I am struck by the strange inability of the council fathers to do the very thing they were urging the Church to do, which was to take stock of the times. Again and again, they instruct bishops and priests to adapt the life of the Church, including her places and manner of worship, to the times and to the characters of the various peoples of the world. What they missed, and what was right in front of them to be noticed, was that modernism as an ideology, with mass entertainment and mass education as its main engines, was obliterating cultures everywhere. Romano Guardini had written of this loss in The End of the Modern World. It was therefore the task of the Church not to be enculturated in a vacuum, which would be akin to emptying herself of her peculiar character, but to be herself and thereby to form culture, i.e., to bring culture once again to people who were rapidly losing their hold on all cultural memory.

This did not happen.
Catholic  liturgy  from instapaper
12 weeks ago
The New York Times Reveals Painful Truths about Transgender Lives
Sex reassignment is quite literally impossible. Surgery can’t actually reassign sex, because sex isn’t “assigned” in the first place. As I point out in When Harry Became Sally, sex is a bodily reality—the reality of how an organism is organized with respect to sexual reproduction. That reality isn’t “assigned” at birth or any time after. Sex—maleness or femaleness—is established at a child’s conception, can be ascertained even at the earliest stages of human development by technological means, and can be observed visually well before birth with ultrasound imaging. Cosmetic surgery and cross-sex hormones don’t change biological reality.

People who undergo sex-reassignment procedures do not become the opposite sex—they merely masculinize or feminize their outward appearance.
sexuality  from instapaper
12 weeks ago
America’s Epidemic of Empty Churches
Missional Wisdom moved into the bottom 15,000 square feet of White Rock’s building and got to work. It converted the fellowship hall into a coworking space and transformed Sunday School rooms into a workshop for local artisans, including a florist and a stained glass window artists. It formed an economic empowerment center where the group teaches a local population of African refugees language and business skills. And it finished out the space with a yoga studio and a community dance studio. Today, the church building is bustling most days and the congregation is both covering expenses and generating revenue from its profit-sharing agreement with Missional Wisdom.
church  from instapaper
12 weeks ago
The Open Office and the Spirit of Capitalism - American Affairs Journal
Fittingly, the philosopher Byung-Chul Han classifies the signature affliction of our current age as neuronal violence, as opposed to the “immunological” violence of last century, which took place along clearly demarcated borders. With barriers literally down, the paranoid totalizing of the corporate office space comes to embody the ethos of Foucault’s disciplinary society, with one important twist. What replaces the disciplinary society, Han tells us, is the “achievement society.” Now the question is no longer, “What am I allowed to do?” but “What can I do?” This shift is profound. It takes us from the firmly hierarchical paranoia and conformity of the skyscraper to the depressed, ADHD-afflicted chaos of the open office space. The company man was never allowed to be himself. The unpaid intern, by contrast, must always be performing himself. The result of the now largely dematerialized office is that this very performance of self becomes the office. Han is worth quoting at length on this:

“The society of laboring and achievement is not a free society. It generates new constraints. Ultimately, the dialectic of master and slave does not yield a society where everyone is free and capable of leisure, too. Rather, it leads to a society of work in which the master himself has become a laboring slave. In this society of compulsion, everyone carries a work camp inside. This labor camp is defined by the fact that one is simultaneously prisoner and guard, victim and perpetrator. One exploits oneself. It means that exploitation is possible even without domination.”

The purpose of the open office was always self-exploitation. It exists like some evolutionary link between the confined counting houses of the past and the dematerialized configurations of “the office” yet to come. Tracing the arc of the office’s development through time, and then anticipating its curve beyond, we could do worse than to extrapolate from existing data points like the shared workspace, working remotely, and the commodification of daily life into internet content (think here of unboxing videos or the selling of consumer preference data). Jonathan Crary writes in 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (Verso, 2013): “As the opportunity for electronic transactions of all kinds becomes omnipresent, there is no vestige of what used to be everyday life beyond the reach of corporate intrusion. An attention economy dissolves the separation between the personal and professional, between entertainment and information, all overridden by a compulsory functionality that is inherently and inescapably 24/7.”30 What this suggests is that as the office walls come down, so will the temporal and ideological barriers separating work from nonwork. The office of the future, in other words, won’t be a place, but an identity. The office of the future will be your most intimate conceptions of self, somehow put to work.
modernity  tech  capitalism  from instapaper
12 weeks ago
Nationalism Is Loyalty Irritated | National Review
When we use the vocabulary of political philosophies, we recognize that we are talking about things that differ along more than one axis. Take Communism, liberalism, and conservatism: The first is a theory of history and power. The second is a political framework built upon rights. The final disclaims the word “ideology” and has been traditionally defined as a set of dispositions toward a political and civilizational inheritance.

I would like to sidestep Hazony’s championing of nationalism as a system for organizing political order globally, a theory that my colleague Jonah Goldberg is tempted to call “nationism.”

My proposal is that nationalism as a political phenomenon is not a philosophy or science, though it may take either of those in hand. It isn’t an account of history. Instead, nationalism is an eruptive feature of politics. It grows out of the normal sentiments of national loyalty, like a pustule or a fever. It could even be said that nationalism is patriotism in its irritated state, or that nationalism recruits the patriotic sentiment to accomplish something in a fit of anger.
politics  from instapaper
november 2018
The ancient Greeks would have loved Alexa | Spectator USA
Did these machines inspire the poets or did the poets open the minds of the inventors? The very novelty of mechanical men and birds may have encouraged poets to interpret myths as technological when they could. Talos itself became more mechanical as time moved on. The details of the oil-tube between its neck and ankle and the vulnerable bronze plug that keeps the machine at work comes from 500 years after the writing of the Argonautica.

Could a mechanical android ever have a moral sense? Can it have one now? Where is the line? When Edmund Spenser wanted to introduce such questions in The Faerie Queene he created his own unbending, iron-man instrument of justice and called it Talus.
robots  from instapaper
november 2018
The present phase of stagnation in the foundations of physics is not normal
Ten-thousands of wrong predictions sounds dramatic, but it’s actually an underestimate. I am merely summing up predictions that have been made for physics beyond the standard model which the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was supposed to find: All the extra dimensions in their multiple shapes and configurations, all the pretty symmetry groups, all the new particles with the fancy names. You can estimate the total number of such predictions by counting the papers, or, alternatively, the people working in the fields and their average productivity.

They were all wrong. Even if the LHC finds something new in the data that is yet to come, we already know that the theorists’ guesses did not work out. Not. A. Single. One. How much more evidence do they need that their methods are not working?
science  physics  from instapaper
november 2018
In the Web’s Hyperreality, Information Is Experience
My perspective of a recent “patriot” group that came onto campus, for example, was more influenced by the death of Heather Heyer than anything that happened on campus, and the digital reality I had been exposed to shaped that experience.

In the world of Baudrillard’s hyperreal, information is experience. And as such, the standard old-school experimental psychology tests — “Here’s some information about global warming, how do you feel about regulation now?” and the standard negative campaigning studies don’t really apply to what where seeing right now. They don’t even come close. [...]

But whatever your take, I encourage you to think of disinformation in this way, at least for a bit — not as the spread of false information, but as the hacking of the simulated reality which we all must necessarily inhabit. As something that does not just change knowledge, but which produces new life experiences as real as the the Iraq War, your neighbor’s fight with cancer, or your child’s illness. To see it in this way is perhaps more terrifying, but ultimately necessary as we attempt to address the problem.
information  socialmedia  from instapaper
november 2018
Being There
When we talk about “the quality of life,” we need to think more carefully about what we mean. By most people’s standards, the last twenty years of my mother’s life were like the last years of Mencken’s—a dark, sad time spent waiting for the curtain to fall on a drama that was essentially over. But those of us who were privileged to know her in those years know better. Her stroke was not only an end, but also a beginning. And that is true of every one of life’s junctures, no matter how painful or frightening or sad it may seem when we go through it.

What does one woman’s story prove? Of the many possible lessons, surely this one would be at the top of the list: that our drive for mastery of the terms of our existence, as heroic and noble as its achievements have been, may also become the enemy of our souls. Aging is not a problem to be solved, my mother taught us. It is a meaning to be lived out.
ethics  family  aging  from instapaper
november 2018
How to talk about racism in the church without becoming bitter - Religion News Service
Finally, I try to keep the racial situation in the church in perspective by distinguishing between the universal church and particular people and congregations. I have often felt betrayed by specific Christians and churches. Individual Christians have berated me to my face — telling me how I get race wrong. Churches and denominations have rescinded speaking invitations, and many, many others have been bold in asserting that race is a social or a political issue, but not a gospel one.

In the face of such barbs, I have grown cautious.

I do my best to carefully choose speaking engagements and writing platforms that will let me communicate my views freely while not exposing me to malicious criticism. Unfortunately, many predominantly white Christian outlets and organizations prove extremely hostile to any anti-racist messages. But those particular places do not represent the church as a whole.
race  church  from instapaper
november 2018
Writing for Quillette Ended My Theater Project - Quillette
"You’re punching down,” my director announced from across the table, our scripts and a selection of snacks between us. She said that she’d been contacted my members of our theater community who had let her know that I had hurt them. These theater people wanted to make sure that she knew about the article I’d written and what people on social media were saying. The director reviewed the thread on my Facebook timeline from July, and determined for herself that I had participated in “trans erasure,” and hurt people by equating medical gender transition to rapidly growing trends in AI and body hacking.

In point of fact I wasn’t punching anyone. I was writing in an attempt to convey a somewhat complicated idea about what human beings are and what we are becoming. This is a topic that interests me greatly, along with the vexing questions of how we ought live. These questions have been hugely influential to my research, my art work, and my writing. They are the questions that had spurred the creation of this script and the theater collective I had co-founded to make it happen.
sexuality  from instapaper
november 2018
Barbara Everett reviews ‘W.H. Auden’ by Humphrey Carpenter and ‘Early Auden’ by Edward Mendelson · LRB 19 November 1981
This sense of the askew, of inhabiting a moment that gains definition only from the degree to which it lacks the absolute, pervades Auden’s verse from first to last. This is why it is a poetry of fragments and splinters, always changing styles and doxologies. We recognise the Audenesque by the way things don’t fit: epithets together (‘tolerant, enchanted’, ‘warm and lucky’) or objects with their figures of speech (‘the winter holds them like the Opera’) or style with substance (camp with Christian, Horatian with Ischian, medieval alliterative verse with lost souls in a New York bar, haikus with home truths). The revisions Auden made to his earlier poems are mistakes, and are indefensible, because he tried to improve something whose character it is to be unimprovable – ‘wrong from the start’; he tried to polish poems whose art it is to voice, with the most exquisite accuracy, that ‘clumsiness’ which so many friends record in anecdote, whose authenticity is a fractured syntax and a melodramatic language of gesture.
auden  from instapaper
november 2018
Apple designer Jony Ive has explained how ‘teetering towards the absurd’ helped him make the iPhone
"The necessary resolve to find solutions to the problems that stand between a tentative thought and something substantial, that resolve and that focus very often seems in direct conflict with most creative behaviour. Honestly, I can't think of two ways of working, two different ways of being, that are more polar. On one hand to be constantly questioning, loving surprises, consumed with curiosity and yet on the other hand having to be utterly driven and completely focused to solve apparently insurmountable problems, even if those solutions are without precedent or reference. And so, of course, this is where it becomes sort of ironic and teeters towards the utterly absurd.

"You see, in the mode of being unreasonable and resolute, you have to solve hard problems. But solving those problems requires new ideas. And so, we're back to needing ideas and back to having to be open and curious. This is not a shift that occurs once or twice in a multi-year project. I find it happens to me once or twice a day and that frequency of shifting between two such different ways of seeing and thinking is fantastically demanding."
tech  apple  from instapaper
november 2018
American Exorcism
After listening to the priests and poring over news articles, I started to wonder whether the two trends—belief in the occult and the rising demand for Catholic exorcisms—might have the same underlying cause. So many modern social ills feel dark and menacing and beyond human control: the opioid epidemic, the permanent loss of blue-collar jobs, blighted communities that breed alienation and dread. Maybe these crises have led people to believe that other, more preternatural, forces are at work.

But when I floated this theory with historians of religion, they offered different explanations. A few mentioned Pope Francis’s influence, as well as that of Pope John Paul II, who brought renewed attention to the exorcism rite when he had it updated in 1998. But more described how, during periods when the influence of organized religions ebbs, people seek spiritual fulfillment through the occult. “As people’s participation in orthodox Christianity declines,” said Carlos Eire, a historian at Yale specializing in the early modern period, “there’s always been a surge in interest in the occult and the demonic.” He said that today we’re seeing a “hunger for contact with the supernatural.”
religion  spirituality  superstition  from instapaper
november 2018
How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet
Some of the world is becoming too hot for humans. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, increased heat and humidity have reduced the amount of work people can do outdoors by ten per cent, a figure that is predicted to double by 2050. About a decade ago, Australian and American researchers, setting out to determine the highest survivable so-called “wet-bulb” temperature, concluded that when temperatures passed thirty-five degrees Celsius (ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity was higher than ninety per cent, even in “well-ventilated shaded conditions,” sweating slows down, and humans can survive only “for a few hours, the exact length of time being determined by individual physiology.”

As the planet warms, a crescent-shaped area encompassing parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the North China Plain, where about 1.5 billion people (a fifth of humanity) live, is at high risk of such temperatures in the next half century. Across this belt, extreme heat waves that currently happen once every generation could, by the end of the century, become “annual events with temperatures close to the threshold for several weeks each year, which could lead to famine and mass migration.” By 2070, tropical regions that now get one day of truly oppressive humid heat a year can expect between a hundred and two hundred and fifty days, if the current levels of greenhouse-gas emissions continue. According to Radley Horton, a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, most people would “run into terrible problems” before then. The effects, he added, will be “transformative for all areas of human endeavor—economy, agriculture, military, recreation.”
climate  from instapaper
november 2018
The Church’s Book | Michael C. Legaspi
Our disenchanted age has brought a certain clarity: The Bible is indeed a collection of writings much like others from the ancient world. There is no deep historical difference between a Roman prophecy and a Jewish one. Thus, the Bible no more speaks for itself than do the egg-laying habits of the ichneumon wasp. Arguments made for Christian faith nowadays cannot rest merely on the intellectual or cultural plausibility of the Bible. For good or for ill, they must rest instead on the living witness of the Church.
bible  from instapaper
november 2018
In the age of Trump, tired are the peacemakers
Tisby had once been in the forefront of a small but growing number of black ministers and leaders who had found common cause with the white-dominated Christian Reformed movement. Some still remain in that movement, but the support for Trump by an overwhelming majority of white evangelical Christians has deeply troubled many African-American church leaders and thinkers.

“The Trump election did it for me. For the first time I said, ‘Wow, I don’t think this is really going to get better,’” said Eric Redmond, a professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago who helped edit a 2009 book called “Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity.”

“We’re in 2017, and a lot of my brothers still don’t get it and I don’t know if they’re going to get it,” Redmond said. “There’s huge repercussions, but for people of color it just means we’re going to figure this out on our own.”

When I visited Tisby in his hometown in August, we spent the better part of a day exploring Helena, talking about the events of the last few years. He said that his focus was moving toward speaking and writing for a black audience primarily, rather than for whites.

“We have a lot of white evangelicals coming to us through RAAN. And that demonstrates a willingness to learn and a level of humility. And I’ll ride with you. I mean I’m not turning anybody away. But I’m not chasing you. I think that’s one way to characterize the difference,” he said.
race  christian  election2016  from instapaper
november 2018
Confiscating the Nation | National Review
One would imagine that the level of sacrifice that a universal human community would demand of elites would be greater than the one called upon by national loyalty. But it never is. Instead the dissolution of national loyalties liberates the elite from any practical moral and political restraint on their self-seeking, and confiscates from the poor and the weak the benefits that national loyalties confer on them.

The post-nationalist political structures are anti-democratic for this very reason; the point is to get rid of accountability from below. The anti-nationalist says that he wants fellow-feeling with all men, but his aim is to leave his countrymen in the ditch and to do so in good conscience. The posited freedom to serve any man comes by dissolving his duty to his neighbors. His tragedy is that once he succeeds in deconstructing national loyalties, he will find that loyalties based on blood or creed come roaring back.
politics  elitism  from instapaper
november 2018
I Found the Best Burger Place in America. And Then I Killed It.
Stanich explained that, as these issues were going on in the background, it was hard to read the social media screeds attacking them, and listen to the answering machine messages at the restaurant calling him a fat fuck and telling him to fuck himself for closing his own restaurant. He didn’t care about them, he insisted. He only cared about people like that woman who’d shown up, the regulars who live in NE Portland. “I need to take care of the people who took care of me,” he said. “They don’t turn on you.”

This was the same sentiment the chef at Paiche had expressed, and that I’d heard from others. If there was one main negative takeaway from the raging fires of food tourist culture and the lists fanning the flames, it was that the people crowding the restaurant were one time customers. They were there to check off a thing on a list, and put it on Instagram. They weren’t invested in the restaurant’s success, but instead in having a public facing opinion of a well known place. In other words, they had nothing to lose except money and the restaurant had nothing to gain except money, and that made the entire situation feel both precarious and a little gross.
internet  from instapaper
november 2018
Andrew Sullivan: What Happens If Americans Stop Trusting the System?
Yes, I know the urban coasts are where the future nerds and business whizzes want to live (and increasingly do). But that’s part of our problem, is it not? We’re geographically sorting — and the left-behinds are getting more left behind in the middle of the country. And if there’s something we really don’t need in D.C. right now is more of the cognitive elite! The place is crawling with irritating young white people who go to CrossFit, ride those creepy scooters, and never look up from their phones. A company like Amazon could actually have had the clout to bring those types back to the heartland and do some small thing to rebalance the country. Wages would be effectively higher given the lower cost of housing. The Millennial migrants could even help turn Texas blue! The cultural shift and economic boost might even lure a few opioid users toward an ounce of hope and a middle-class salary in Indiana or Ohio or West Virginia.

This matters. As the country becomes increasingly culturally, economically, and socially bifurcated, we need responsible corporate actors to help bridge this gap. Amazon — one of the most trusted brands in America — is perfectly poised to pull this off. Its decisions could be a critical help in keeping this country from the kind of yawning divisions and vast inequalities which are fast hardening into permanent social chasms.
politics  city  tech  from instapaper
november 2018
In Defense of Puns
Lamb and his close friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge shared a passion for punning, not just as a fireside diversion but as a model for the witty workings of the imaginative mind. “All men who possess at once active fancy, imagination, and a philosophical spirit, are prone to punning,” Coleridge declared. He planned a spirited defense of the widely impugned practice, to be called “An Apology for Paronomasia,” the Greek word for “pun,” drawn from para (“beside”) and onomasia (“to name”).

Coleridge considered punning an essentially poetic act, exhibiting sensitivity to the subtlest, most distant relationships as well as an acrobatic exercise of intelligence, connecting things formerly believed to be unconnected. “A ridiculous likeness leads to the detection of a true analogy” is the way he explained it.
language  from instapaper
november 2018
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