Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A chronology of the road to marriage equality for gay citizens 
Interesting piece by Greenwald. The role of popular culture, especially television, was no doubt central to the quick change in public attitudes.
"The role of popular culture... was no doubt central..." When was it not?

Brown vs Board of Education; The Voting Rights Act; the end of Zionism.
Practice precedes theory. Railway porters lead; intellectuals follow.

Feb 19, 2004
This will be something for historians to discuss, but somewhere between Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the current political crisis, the dam broke. It's over.
February 2004 in LBGT rights 

Chicago. Archived by Duncan Black
Mayor Daley said Wednesday he would have "no problem" with County Clerk David Orr issuing marriage licenses to gay couples -- and Orr said he's open to a San Francisco-style protest if a consensus can be built.

"They're your doctors, your lawyers, your journalists, your politicians," the mayor said. "They're someone's son or daughter. They're someone's mother or father. . . . I've seen people of the same sex adopt children, have families. [They're] great parents.

"Some people have a difference of opinion -- that only a man and a woman can get married. But in the long run, we have to understand what they're saying. They love each other just as much as anyone else.''

A devout Catholic, Daley scoffed at the suggestion that gay marriage would somehow undermine the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.

"Marriage has been undermined by divorce, so don't tell me about marriage. You're not going to lecture me about marriage. People should look at their own life and look in their own mirror. Marriage has been undermined for a number of years if you look at the facts and figures on it. Don't blame the gay and lesbian, transgender and transsexual community. Please don't blame them for it," he said.

Daley said he has no control over marriage licenses in Cook County. But if Orr wants to take that bold step, the mayor has no problem with it.

Orr said he was "game to looking at options" provided a consensus could be built.

"I'm fed up with people being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. We can't even pass a law that eliminates discrimination against gay couples. [But] whatever you do when it comes to challenging laws, you want it to be effective and not knee-jerk," Orr said.
Flowers from Strangers

“Being a Very Serious Person is about occupying a structural position that tends to reinforce, rather than counter, one’s innate biases and prejudices.”

I covered this at the time, but I didn't go for comedy. Farrell in 2010
Jonah Lehrer has an interesting post on the heuristic benefits of mixing it up by making online social contact with complete strangers.
this is why we should all follow strangers on Twitter. We naturally lead manicured lives, so that our favorite blogs and writers and friends all look and think and sound a lot like us. (While waiting in line for my cappuccino this weekend, I was ready to punch myself in the face, as I realized that everyone in line was wearing the exact same uniform: artfully frayed jeans, quirky printed t-shirts, flannel shirts, messy hair, etc. And we were all staring at the same gadget, and probably reading the same damn website. In other words, our pose of idiosyncratic uniqueness was a big charade. Self-loathing alert!) While this strategy might make life a bit more comfortable – strangers can say such strange things – it also means that our cliches of free-association get reinforced. We start thinking in ever more constricted ways. And this is why following someone unexpected on Twitter can be a small step towards a more open mind. Because not everybody reacts to the same thing in the same way. Sometimes, it takes a confederate in an experiment to remind us of that. And sometimes, all it takes is a stranger on the internet, exposing us to a new way of thinking about God, Detroit and the Kardashians.
The beginning of Lehrer's post
Over at Gizmodo, Joel Johnson makes a convincing argument for adding random strangers to your twitter feed:
I realized most of my Twitter friends are like me: white dorks. So I picked out my new friend and started to pay attention.

She’s a Christian, but isn’t afraid of sex. She seems to have some problems trusting men, but she’s not afraid of them, either. She’s very proud of her fiscal responsibility. She looks lovely in her faux modeling shots, although I am surprised how much her style aligns with what I consider mall fashion when she’s a grown woman in her twenties. Her home is Detroit and she’s finding the process of buying a new car totally frustrating. She spends an embarrassing amount of time tweeting responses to the Kardashian family.

One of the best things about Twitter is that, once you’ve populated it with friends genuine or aspirational, it feels like a slow-burn house party you can pop into whenever you like. Yet even though adding random people on Twitter is just a one-click action, most of us prune our follow list very judiciously to prevent tedious or random tweets to pollute our streams. Understandable! But don’t discount the joy of discovery that can come by weaving a stranger’s life into your own.
a commenter on Farrell's post links, without realizing it, to criticism of the post at Gizmodo.
 A similar attempt at self-improvement gone patronizingly wrong.
oh god – that is in fact the post that Lehrer links through to, which I had not read (stopping with Lehrer’s own argument). Don’t think it invalidates the underlying point (that it is good and enlightening to read people writing and thinking from very different perspectives), but it does point to the ways in which this can go horribly, horribly wrong if these people are treated as funny/quaint/weird inhabitants of some human zoo. 
"Don’t think it invalidates the underlying point"
The underlying point is that Jonah Lehrer read a post titled, Why I Stalk a Sexy Black Woman on Twitter (And Why You Should, Too) and then preceded to write about why it's good to talk to strangers. "We naturally lead manicured lives" Some of us refuse to. Most have no choice not to. The quote from Lehrer is almost painful.

Farrell: Weak Heterophily
Lehrer: Twitter Strangers
Joel Johnson: Why I Stalk a Sexy Black Woman on Twitter (And Why You Should, Too)
Shani: The Odd Habits And Foibles Of Sexy Black Women On The Internet.

Zadie Smith
But to live variously cannot simply be a gift, endowed by an accident of birth; it has to be a continual effort, continually renewed. I felt this with force the night of the election. I was at a lovely New York party, full of lovely people, almost all of whom were white, liberal, highly educated, and celebrating with one happy voice as the states turned blue. Just as they called Iowa my phone rang and a strident German voice said: “Zadie! Come to Harlem! It’s vild here. I’m in za middle of a crazy Reggae bar—it’s so vonderful! Vy not come now!”

I mention he was German only so we don’t run away with the idea that flexibility comes only to the beige, or gay, or otherwise marginalized. Flexibility is a choice, always open to all of us. (He was a writer, however. Make of that what you will.)

But wait: all the way uptown? A crazy reggae bar? For a minute I hesitated, because I was at a lovely party having a lovely time. Or was that it? There was something else. In truth I thought: but I’ll be ludicrous, in my silly dress, with this silly posh English voice, in a crowded bar of black New Yorkers celebrating. It’s amazing how many of our cross-cultural and cross-class encounters are limited not by hate or pride or shame, but by another equally insidious, less-discussed, emotion: embarrassment. A few minutes later, I was in a taxi and heading uptown with my Northern Irish husband and our half-Indian, half-English friend, but that initial hesitation was ominous; the first step on a typical British journey. A hesitation in the face of difference, which leads to caution before difference and ends in fear of it. Before long, the only voice you recognize, the only life you can empathize with, is your own. You will think that a novelist’s screwy leap of logic. Well, it’s my novelist credo and I believe it. I believe that flexibility of voice leads to a flexibility in all things.
It's a repeat. The link on at the bottom of the page, here. The title of the post is Farrell.
This is a good one too. And this one. The aftertaste of gall.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

comments posted elsewhere. more fun with philosophers
Most academics who defend competition and adversarialism and the vagaries of the market live their own lives as academics abjuring the behavior they claim to celebrate: by the light of disinterested reason, they claim the universality of interested reason. Academics who argue against the model of adversarialism and for collaborative reason nonetheless spend their lives in endless competition and status seeking within the intellectual marketplace of the academy. Both claim for the academy a rightful near monopoly of intellectual authority; both are a model of what Kant referred to as "private reason." Rawls epitomizes the reversal of Kant's hopes. Rawls and Cohen abjured the practice of virtue ethics in favor of the search for ideal calculations and problem solving "machines" to remove the burdens of moral responsibility. The result are books manifesting a erudite sorrowful self-pity.

It's difficult to expect a person who lives in a particular social niche to depress the circumstances of himself and his family below a certain level even for the sake of principles that he sincerely affirms. 
...the transition from being wealthy to being not wealthy at all can be extremely burdensome and the person who has tasted wealth will suffer more typically from lack of it than someone who's had quote unquote the good fortune never to be wealthy and therefore has built up the character and the orientation that can cope well with it.
Pure unctuous sleaze.

Jason Brennan is a libertarian and explicitly opposed to democracy I can only assume because democracy is not "true". Robert Paul Wolff claims that "anarchism is 'true'". He fantasizes a utopia of equality if only some imaginary others would stop behaving as they do. The only truth I can see is that most people are shorted-sighted and self-interested, and that all of us are idiots much of the time. The only "values" I can imagine for myself -the explicit overlaying of metaphysics upon facts- is that greed is boring, a mark of the incurious, the lowest form of vulgarity, something to be outgrown.

The only person above who seems to understand this is Wolff, who seems to have chosen virtue ethics as a model of personal behavior while still spending his career spouting scholasticism. But actions being more important than words, the form of language taking precedence over "ideas", I salute him.
the references are repeats.  As I think I've said before, I transcribed the Cohen interview; it's in an unpublished post.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Old wine in new bottles... Drift

Change at the New York Times
Israel, Don’t Level My Village 
SUSIYA, West Bank — IN 1948, as Israeli forces closed in on his village of Qaryatayn, my grandfather carried my father in his arms to Susiya, about five miles north, in the South Hebron Hills area.
“We will go back home soon,” my grandfather told my father.
They did not. Qaryatayn was destroyed, along with about 400 other Palestinian villages that were razed between 1948 and the mid-1950s. My family rebuilt their lives in Susiya, across the 1949 armistice line in the West Bank.
Change for Henry Farrell.
A Brief Theory of Very Serious People 
Tyler Cowen argues that the concept of “Very Serious People” refers to people who “realize that common sense morality must, to a considerable extent, rule politics.”
...Shorter Theory of Very Serious People.
1. Being Tom Friedman Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry.
...my mental model of Tyler often sit[s] on my shoulder while I blog, making polite and well reasoned libertarian criticisms of my arguments...
What an extraordinarily interesting debate. Thanks to everyone. It seems clear to this reader–who has nothing at stake–that Henry is refusing to see things, while Kerr is smoothly awful
Davies the moralist
But "if you're ashamed of cheating on your wife, don't cheat on your wife" - is that really too much to ask? 
Bankers have had their day under scrutiny

any questions?

Zhang Yimou, Andreas Gursky, Laibach, Rodgers and Hammerstein

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The ideal of Modernism was that it was a sort of return to the Renaissance, but the Renaissance was a loosening of rules, while Modernism was a closing down. Gursky’s nihilism begins in Seurat. To see Les Demoiselles d’Avignon as the high-point of 20th century painting is to imagine a century beginning with the Carracci and Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas and fading into mannerism. The idealism of Modernism is always the idealism of a church, or the equally strict, fearful, ironic mockery of the same church.

The odd man out here is Matisse, who reached neither Picasso’s heights nor lows. His great ugly paintings were never as graceless as the best Picasso. To stand with an open mind in front of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon at MoMA in New York the question still comes up of how something so broken can function, can be an order and not an absence of order. I imagine it as like the tastes of an Ortolan in reverse order: first you get the bones and shit. It manages to be the worst of the most vulgar pornographic early Cezanne, and his best. Matisse never reached that level of dissonance, and Picasso never reached when he tried, more that he was able briefly to manage it when it wouldn’t go away.

Picasso’s best works were anti-formalist; Matisse knew he had to make formalism rich enough to be more. His works come closer to what I’ve called design -his closest imitators were designers- if only because he fit the model of an ideal Renaissance art that Modernists claimed for themselves, in his case a cross between Andrea della Robbia and Fred Astaire. "Why not a brothel, Matisse?" "Because nobody asked me, Picasso.” Blasphemy was common in Modernism; casual blasphemy was common mostly among the unserious. Matisse’s response to Picasso’s glib, ersatz communism carried the weight of a commitment that Picasso lacked, not a commitment to revolution or dreams of utopia but to the social itself, to the world around him, including the world of other people. There’s a way in which Eliot’s wry comments on James fit Matisse as well, because there’s always a mimetic power to his work. Figures and plants are never simply an excuse; there’s always a sympathy, even if it’s a physical rather than psychological or intellectual sympathy. There’s still in Matisse the warmth of other’s bodies.

Monday, July 20, 2015

on and on...
If visual art were taken to be like other arts, and stripped of the association with philosophy and finery, the age of mechanical reproduction would have begun with Gutenberg. The sense that a photograph can be said to act as an index, in Peirce’s terminology, now a ubiquitous reference, is the end of photography as art. It’s the definition of photography as illustration, the model of Gerome and Winterhalter and Madison Ave.
Using the terms of Charles Sanders Peirce's semiotics, though the photograph appears to be an icon (through resemblance) and though it is to some extent a symbol (principally through the use of the camera as a codifying device), its proper sign type, which it shares with no other visual representation (except the cast and, of course, cinema), is the index, i.e. a sign causally related to its object.
The viewer is said not to be looking at the photograph, but at the thing depicted. To repeat what I wrote above: a Holbein portrait is first a painting, second a Holbein, third a portrait, and fourth a portrait of. According to the art theorist Thierry de Duve writing in the journal, October, in 1978, -theorists being neither historians nor critics but both and more - photography has succeed where all others failed in reversing that order. And what’s left?
How does one relate to a space of such precision? One thing is certain: it doesn't give way to a reading procedure. For an image to be read requires that language be applied to the image. And this in turn demands that the perceived space be receptive to an unfolding into some sort of narrative. Now, a point is not subject to any description, nor is it able to generate a narration. Language fails to operate in front of the pin-pointed space of the photograph, and the onlooker is left momentarily aphasic. Speech in turn, is reduced to the sharpness of a hiccup. It is left unmoored, or better, suspended between two moorings that are equally refused. Either it grasps at the imaginary by connecting to the referential series, in order to develop the formerly into a plausible chronology, only to realize that this attempt will never leave the realm of fiction. Or it grasps at the symbolic by connecting to the superficial series, in order to construct upon the here a plausible scenography; and in this case also the attempt is structurally doomed. Such a shock, such a breakdown in the symbolic function, such a failure of any secondary process -as Freud puts it- bears a name. It is trauma.
de Duve ends on a high note of grand intellectualism and cheap melodrama.
Hegel's prophecy that art was about to come to an end was published in 1839, the very same year in which Talbot and Daguerre independently made public the invention of photography. It might be more than mere coincidence.
His piece is a discussion of long and short exposures, time and snapshot, which he treats as distinct up to a point. If he were more of a historian and less of a philosopher he’d have noted that the advances that made the snapshot possible did the same for cinema and collage, both of which returned language to photography even accepting the limits of photography itself as he describes them. Long exposures have a compressed but visceral sense of narrative, and that narrative quality returns expanded exponentially in film. Photography though ubiquitous even after acceptance as an art was still kept apart, as a smaller form; collage was accepted as immediately as any of its competitors, while film emerged as the most important visual art of the century. Finally although it’s easy to blame the market for novelty for photography’s place now in contemporary art it makes more sense to argue that photography would never be fully integrated into the model of art comparable to painting until it was seen as independent from its role as index. It’s a sign of just have much we’ve changed, and how much we haven’t that the contemporary exemplars of the honesty of Manet’s Olympia are Cindy Sherman’s portraits of herself.

Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, includes a photograph from 1865, of one of John Wilkes Booth’s collaborators before his execution. Barthes’ caption reads, "He is dead and he is going to die ..." That is the base ground on which any photographer has to build if they want to make anything that will be remembered as anything other than one anonymous image among others. Barthes certainly would never wish that anonymity on his own writing. A couple of years ago as I was walking out of the annual show put on by the Association of International Photo Art Dealers, AIPAD, in NY, a well dressed couple were hurrying in, the man obviously on the prowl. As they walked by me the man turned to the woman, “Remember, it’s it not the image… It’s the material!” No serious connoisseur of photography, rich or poor, critic or collector, has ever been interested in photographs as index as opposed to art: the relation of formal construct to the world. Photographs on paper are physical things; until recently the prints were made by hand and eye, and nothing like the images in a book or on a screen. Film and video are immaterial, intangible, but made of thousands of images in series. Different forms have different capacities, strengths and weaknesses. Philosophers like to claim now to find exceptions, to discover or invent. Mechanically produced images and words are now the rule. Before saying they do new things you should be able to show they don’t do old things in new ways.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Alexander Gardner: Portrait of Lewis Payne 1865
"He is dead and he is going to die ..."

The above approximates the layout of one page from Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida.

I've never forgotten seeing it for the first and only time, leafing through it at a bookstore in the mid 80s. It's the first time I understood the taste for cheap melodrama underneath all the pretensions of high theory. I was amazed. I was shocked.
Rewriting the paper. Nothing new except I'm reading the stupidity I avoided reading years ago.
A long exchange with Amos Schocken on Twitter. The connection of German Jews, especially the patrician, to the homeland is still very strong, and very unexamined. [Jason Stanley]

I said he needed to pick one or the other. A back and forth until this:

"The west Germans have done an outstanding job in taking responsibility/ for the Holocaust and in educating the young accordingly."

I told him he looked like Richter. He took it as a compliment, missing the irony. He's a decent man.

Friday, July 17, 2015

writing, rewriting.
When I was young I chased a girl. I said: “I love you.” She said: “No, you don’t.”
 How did she know? She couldn’t read my mind; she had no way to prove she was right. And now I think she was, but I didn’t at the time. She made her decision by following not just my words but my performance of them. She listened and watched for subtext and saw conflict. Meanings are private, locked in, we negotiate decision-making processes by interpreting form. Debates over the definition of abstract truths in language are not only useless, they’re counterproductive: they’re based on a misunderstanding and as models for intellectual activity they set a bad example. This is what humanists find so annoying about debates over the truth or falsity of religion. I have no interest in god or gods but I can’t prove they don’t exist any more than I could have proved my love existed for the girl. And I can’t prove people believe what they say they believe, or for the reasons they claim. Truths are unavailable to us. It means nothing that Donald Rumsfeld is an atheist, he commanded a military campaign based on faith. And now I think the girl had a better grasp of reality than I did.

If you can’t know the truth of what’s going on in other people’s minds, you also can’t teach the skills to read their gestures. You can teach rules but not judgment, the ability to read the space between assumptions. You can’t teach things that are learned primarily through experience. And connoisseurship as observer is tied to connoisseurship as producer: you can teach techniques but not craft. A violin teacher is a coach; the students teach themselves the distinctions necessary to improve their playing. Connoisseurship is empiricism, and in a world where objective reality is unknowable, it’s a necessity.

The history of modern intellectual life, more even than the history of modernity itself, if it were to be written now would need to need to be written by a historian from Mars, someone so far removed from the events of the past century that their biases are wholly other. Objectivity does not exist; the sociological history of the present describes the present no more than cognitive science describes the mind. You can’t pretend to describe
yourself and call it science. Skinner was right to call cognitive science “the creation science of psychology”. There’s no scientific study of ideas as ideas; there’s no scientific study of metaphysics. They’re what we are as persons, as people with experiences, desires, and names. Once you’ve acknowledge yourself as “Rudolf Carnap” any hope of the end of metaphysics is gone. It was never there to begin with. What you’re left writing is poetry.
Perceptions precede ideas and together they’re the first tools in our study of facts, but since our tools are our enchantments science is no more than comparative enchantment. The more formal the technics the more the enchantments are shared, and being shared they seem to fade. But they don't fade. The culture of technics qua technics is the sociality of elision, at this point known as the culture of geeks. The culture of shared enchantment in public life is the conversation of polite racists and earnest liberals about “the Jews”, “the Negro problem”, “the strangeness of foreigners”, and “what women want”.

The history of modern Germany cannot be understood without the history written by Jews. The history of modern Judaism cannot be understood without the history written by Palestinians. There’s no end to it. Absent that the best we’ll get is the equivalent of the feminism of men. Philosophers now imagine a gender neutral feminism but even if that’s true, or “true”, neutrality is the result not the cause.
The recorded descriptions of modernity are voluminous, if only because of the technological advances in recording. We have a record of ourselves greater by scale of thousands than of any time in history. But the operative term again is description. The failures of modern criticism are greatest when description becomes positivism and prescription. The philosophy of empiricism is still the practice of rationalism; empiricism itself is something else. Quine was a logician. The philosophy of biology is not biology. And I will argue here that the arts, not as idea but as activity, are the most intimate description, the most intimate empiricism that we have. If you want to understand the Vienna Circle, Plato, Kant, or Wittgenstein, you need to read their works as logic, as documents of history, as desire, and as form.

The Oxbridge Marxist G.A. Cohen could have been a character in someone else's novel. He was raised a Stalinist and died a maudlin sentimentalist. He was the product of his time who was unwilling or unable to model his own relation to it. He wanted people to be nice to one another but there was no sense that anything beyond the individual actor was constitutive of our world of experience. In the middle of his career he was a proponent of “Rational Choice” Marxism, or as he also called it “Non-Bullshit” Marxism. At the end of his career he was an ex-Marxist. ...
a comment at the Boston Review
This entire debate is absurd. Singer says we should aim for more than doing well; we should do good. But regardless of his claims even the word "Altruism" is a form of patting himself on the back.

But what do the naysayers have a response. Angus Deaton refers to studies by the Cochrane Collaboration, and who are they?
We are a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers, and people interested in health. 
Cochrane contributors - 37,000 from more than 130 countries - work together to produce credible, accessible health information that is free from commercial sponsorship and other conflicts of interest.
Effective Altruists? 
The only point worth making about this stupid debate, the one point avoided, is that you can't do good without getting dirty, if not physically dirty then morally dirty. Deaton's arguments as intended are as anti-political as Singer's: everything seen from the distance of "reason" of one sort of another. 
I met a woman in a bar. She was an ER surgeon. She's been doing it for 20 years and wanted to do nothing else. I said "You feel like a god until you kill your first patient". She looked at me, shocked. "You understand!" Nurses if you're curious have their own kinks. 
Altruism is virtue ethics for pedants, and Deaton responds with the condescension of political realism delivered as a kind of intellectual idealism. How's that for perversity! 
A friend's neighbor is a trial lawyer: big money, drugs and guns and everything else. He says "I'm at the forefront of the defense of your civili liberties". He's right.

The world is the playground. The library is a place to visit not to live in. But still I'd be a bit ashamed to be as rich as Singer or Deaton.
not bad.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Collared shirt and ties
I admit it's become one of those aesthetic mysteries to me. They're basically useless.
Everything I am is normal. Everything I think of as odd, is odd.
[The post is about lawns]

Lawns are a transitional space between the private and the public. In America, "a home is a castle".  The rich have moats too. And a few days ago he complained about gentrification.

The rise of the Geek, the One Dimensional Man.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The paragraph below is an example of the division it describes. For politics as discord among individuals, read politics as discord in the mind of the author, J.S. Mill. That discord is a requirement before any other.

"On Liberty"
In politics, again, it is almost a commonplace, that a party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life; until the one or the other shall have so enlarged its mental grasp as to be a party equally of order and of progress, knowing and distinguishing what is fit to be preserved from what ought to be swept away. Each of these modes of thinking derives its utility from the deficiencies of the other; but it is in a great measure the opposition of the other that keeps each within the limits of reason and sanity. Unless opinions favourable to democracy and to aristocracy, to property and to equality, to co-operation and to competition, to luxury and to abstinence, to sociality and individuality, to liberty and discipline, and all the other standing antagonisms of practical life, are expressed with equal freedom, and enforced and defended with equal talent and energy, there is no chance of both elements obtaining their due; one scale is sure to go up and the other down.

"Because I am an MP, not only am I the youngest,  but I am also the only 20 year old in the whole of the UK that the chancellor is prepared to help with housing."

The youngest MP since the reform act of 1832.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ali Khamenei speaking in 2012
"It is interesting to realize that America overthrew his government even though Mosaddeq had shown no animosity toward them. He had stood up to the British and trusted the Americans. He had hoped that the Americans would help him; he had friendly relations with them, he expressed an interest in them, perhaps he [even] expressed humility toward them. And [still] the Americans [overthrew] such a government. It was not as if the government in power in Tehran had been anti-American. No, it had been friendly toward them. But the interests of Arrogance [a term Khamenei often uses to symbolize the United States] required that the Americans ally with the British. They gathered money and brought it here and did their job. Then, when they brought their coup into fruition and had returned the shah, who had fled, they had the run of the country."
I posted it before, but it's a good time for a repeat.
Filed under determinism, etc.

Analytic philosophers write novels:
Colin McGinn has written two, the most recent self-published. (Amazon)
I remember reading an enjoyably cruel review of the first one.
Timothy Williamson has  a "Tetralogue"
Alex Rosenberg's now written The Girl from Krakow (also Amazon)

Not so long ago fictions were no more than lies.

Filed under determinism, etc.
"I claim no expertise on Iran..." 
"With an actual deal, with definitive text and conditions, now in place, I wanted to share a few initial reactions..." 
Critics in Washington, Israel and the Gulf nations that neighbor Iran say the deal will merely delay the country's path... 
First take: Obama's winning streak continues with Iran deal... 
Sanctions, inspections, and decision-makers: The number of things that could still trip up an Iranian nuclear agreement is small, but they're ...
What a stupid fucking country.

Filed under determinism, etc.

BBC, Celebrations in Tehran
There are people who lived in Tehran in the 90s who look back with nostalgia, even if they laugh at themselves doing it.

Conservatism fails, whether or not those who call themselves conservatives are trying to do what they think is the right thing.

Monday, July 13, 2015

D Davies in two comments in 2009.  My comments were deleted, but archived. I always remembered the exchange but missed something in his exchange with others. I should have been much tougher.
...I, in fact, don’t think that there are “tragic dilemmas”, if this is to mean anything other than that there are situations in which one wants to have one’s cake but also (tragedia!) to eat it. There are questions of fact, upon which it is possible to be right and to be wrong, and with the perspective of six years, it is actually pretty easy to see who was right and who was wrong. I must confess that all this talk about “tragic dilemmas” looks an awful lot like relativism to me, and I know how much you hate that.
"However, one mark of crass consequentialism is to ignore the possibility of tragic dilemmas, yes?"
A “tragic dilemma”, as I understand it, is a situation in which consequentialism gives a clear answer about which alternative is better, but the answer in question is unpalatable. I don’t see why, in such a situation, consequentialism should be described as “crass” rather than, say, “jolly sensible”.
A tragic dilemma is the choice between feeding you child and cancer medicine for your wife.

That helps to explain his obliviousness.

Quiggin. Not the post, the comments.

Wiesenthal: Greece's new deal rests on an privatization scheme that's already been tried once and failed.
Sell the airports, the bridges, the islands and the Parthenon.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Varoufakis: Germany won’t spare Greek pain – it has an interest in breaking us

Yves Smith

Evans-Prichard was right.
rewriting, page by page.
Eliot was like James but also Duchamp, who less refused to embalm the past than made art out the art of embalming itself: an art about post-adolescent nostalgia. The question for Santayana, and for Duchamp -or at least his later academic champions- is whether this observant counterpoint to Modernism can be called analysis, since that implies a claim to objectivity that Santayana might otherwise avoid.

Anti-moderns were moderns who opposed the present and preferred an idea of the past; the past itself was gone. The paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites represent a fantasy, at best borderline kitsch; Eliot understood that and wrote about and against his own desire. Duchamp avoided the fate of Alfred Jarry as Warhol avoided the fate of many of his “superstars”, by understanding them better than they understood themselves. Santayana refers to distance, and “the outer world”, dodging the fact that it’s no more than a relation, Europe to America, and one relation among others. Rather than fantasizing a historical place he fantasizes the history of a manner: James, Eliot, Duchamp, Russell and Proust, all hewed to the manners of the aristocracy and the high bourgeois. But Santayana indulges aristocratic sentiment and Russell elides it, trying to escape contradictions that all the artists dive into head first. Santayana chides Russell but in the end they’re both philosophers, men of ideas before experience. And again that’s the final subject here: the relation not of art to science, but of art and science to independent philosophy and theology, of empiricism to rationalism.

It would take more of a philologist than I am to describe to the history of analysis, with all the word implies, because all of the various 20th century pseudo-sciences begin in the 18th century, and earlier. It’s not a question anymore whether or not Descartes’ imagination was formed in the 17th century counter-renaissance. “History” he writes, “is like foreign Travel. It broadens the mind but does it not deepen it.” Stephen Toulmin quoting him in the early 90s is much too polite. James Boon, twenty years before Toulmin, writing about the relation of Levi Strauss to the Symbolists is apologetic to the point of obsequiousness. But it’s no longer a question whether or not Saussure and Mallarmé exemplify the concerns of an era, whether ideas of synchrony and timelessness, of ideal order, satisfied a desire in an age of dynamism and instability. It’s interesting that in books on the relation of fine art to philosophy, reticence is the least of the authors' problems, again due to the historical relation of the fine arts to the Church, to theology and to “truth” as opposed to fiction and “lies”. Eliot and Santayana both would be surprised to find Duchamp, another heir to Huysmans, hailed as a philosopher by none other than the editor of the Journal of Philosophy. But Arthur Danto was nothing if not an heir to the genteel tradition.

Monday, July 06, 2015

The founding logic of the EU, or at least of the euro.
For years, Italy and Brussels have squabbled, made peace and fought again over how to regulate food and wine produced in the eurozone’s third’s-largest economy. But a new row has now burst into the open after the EU demanded that Italy scrap a 1974 law — banning the use of powdered and condensed milk in cheese — on the grounds that it represents a “restriction to the free movement of goods”.
Italian rules allowing candy makers including Nestle SA to label their products as “pure chocolate” breach European Union law, the region’s highest court said.
Permitting chocolate made from pure cocoa butter to be called “cioccolato puro,” or “pure chocolate,” clashes with EU-wide measures which allow chocolate laced with vegetable fats to be marketed as chocolate, the tribunal in Luxembourg said.
EU law “makes no provision for the sales name pure chocolate,” the court said. Allowing an extra sales name for chocolate that contains no vegetable fat “is likely to mislead consumers and thus interfere with their right to obtain correct, neutral and objective information.”
German roofers were under pressure from the EU a few years ago because in Germany you were not allowed to start your own company without 7 or 8 years of experience, and other countries were far less strict. But German roofers were considered the best in Europe. At the same time small batch cheese makers in Switzerland are under pressure now from industrial cheese manufacturers in Germany, who buy up all the milk. 
If generalizations are truth then so are mediocrities.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Simon Blackburn's Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, comparisons, changes and additions made at some point between the first edition in 1994 and 2005
Most generally, any philosophy concerned to emphasize human welfare and dignity, and either optimistic about the powers of human reason, or at least insistent that we have no alternative but to use it as best we can. More particularly, the movement distinctive of the Renaissance and allied to the renewed study of Greek and Roman literature: a rediscovery of the unity of human beings and nature, and a renewed celebration of the pleasures of life, all supposed lost in the medieval world. Humanism in this Renaissance sense was quite consistent with religious belief, it being supposed that God had put us here precisely in order to further those things the humanists found important. Later the term tended to become appropriated for antireligious social and political movements. Finally, in the late 20th century, humanism is sometimes used as a pejorative term by postmodernist and especially feminist writers. applied to philosophies such as that of Sartre, that rely upon the possibility of the autonomous, selfconscious, rational, single self, and that are supposedly insensitive to the inevitable fragmentary, splintered, historically and socially conditioned nature of personality and motivation. 
The underlined was added.
"...renewed celebration of the pleasures of life, all supposed lost in the medieval world." 
"supposedly insensitive to the inevitable fragmentary, splintered, historically and socially conditioned nature of personality and motivation."
Snide, and wrong.

The entry, unchanged, for Montaigne. No mention of humanism.
Montaigne had no very high opinion of the faculties and achievements of mankind. His attitude found ample confirmation in the work of Sextus Empiricus whose motto "Que sais-je" ("What do I know?") Montaigne adopted to himself.
Erasmus, unchanged
One of the earliest and greatest humanists of the Northern Renaissance,
...had little confidence that the unaided powers of men were capable of forging new utopias. 
Blackburn can't keep his definitions straight.

The entry for Thomas More doesn't refer to him as a humanist though he's referred to in other entries as a humanist. He and Erasmus are linked in both their entries.
He is remembered philosophically partly as a friend of Erasmus and a key figure in the renaissance in England but, also as the author of Utopia (1516) a description of the quest for a political ideal that is satisfied by a system of communism, national education, and free toleration of religion.
No mention of irony.

1994 - Entry for Liberalism but not for Republicanism, for Isaac Newton but not Blackstone. Both were added.  Locke is treated deferentially. Montesquieu snidely. No changes,