Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Duncan Black
"I think a major consequence of the lack of reading non-fiction other than textbooks is that when in late high school or college teachers want research paper type things, the students have a lot of trouble largely because they've never read any."
linking to Yglesias
"Like a lot of people I know, I read a lot and what I read is mostly nonfiction. But as Dana Goldstein points out in a great piece lots of Americans read very poorly and schools teach reading almost exclusively through fiction"
Andrew Koppelman at Balkinization on a paper:“We Don’t Want to Hear It: Psychology, Literature and the Narrative Model of Judging.” The first paragraph below is the abstract.
"The 'narrative' model of legal judging argues that legal decision makers both do and should render judgments by assembling sensible stories out of evidence (as opposed to using Bayesian-type, linear models). This model is usually understood to demand that before one may judge a situation, one must give the parties the opportunity to tell their story in a manner that invites, or at least allows, empathy from the judger. This Article refers to this as the “inclusionary approach” to the narrative model of judging. Using psychological research in emotions and perspective taking and the more intuitive techniques of literary criticism, this Article challenges the inclusionary narrative approach, arguing that, in practice, the law gives equal weight to an “exclusionary approach.” That is, in order to render sound, legitimate legal judgments, the law deliberately limits the sort of stories parties are allowed to tell—and does so on moral grounds, not, or at least not only, to improve the “accuracy” of the legal judgment. That is, as both a descriptive and normative matter, impoverished narratives can be better than enriched ones in leading decision makers to morally acceptable legal judgments."

[Koppelman] One of Bilz’s most interesting claims is about literature: she argues that it isn’t possible for a good work of literature to make us sympathetically identify with an evil character. I think that the point needs important qualifications, in the face of some obvious counterexamples, but I am reluctantly convinced. Sometimes it’s morally appropriate to be stupid and insensitive."
Jon Mandle on another paper
"But of course the scientists are not adjusting morality with a magnet, they’re affecting people’s moral judgments. I don’t think anyone ever doubted that manipulating the brain in various ways can lead people to alter their judgments – moral and otherwise. This is obvious to anyone who has observed the results of alcohol, for example, or – much more indirectly – framing effects."
Really, really, fucking stupid.

My comment at Yglesias' page: "Most of what you read is lies and most nonfiction reinforces enthusiasm without question. Fiction questions enthusiasms and assumption; as a heuristic it's the most well suited to the training of functioning adults. No one should be teaching Twilight or Harry Potter, the kids understand them better than the adults. The adults should teach Shakespeare and Euripides... What kids shouldn’t be reading, beyond 7th grade, is textbooks." Teach Tocqueville not academic essays based on him. Teach the past, live the present, and leave the purely academic stuff for later. And even academics admit most academic writing is shit.

From what I can tell, I'll look more closely when I have time, Kenworthey Bilz doesn't understand fiction, morality, or law. None of these idiots can imagine they have ever or will ever lie to themselves. Law is a function of society regulating itself, maintaining order and stability. It has little relation to imagined Platonic truths.

"One of Bilz’s most interesting claims is about literature: she argues that it isn’t possible for a good work of literature to make us sympathetically identify with an evil character." There are very few if any evil characters in good fiction, what there are are evil acts. A good work separates one from the other. If that's not possible the work fails.

Kieran Healy: "Amazingly, you can also change people’s mathematical judgements in much the same way (including with alcohol), which may be disconcerting to people who view physical laws as some kind of immutable, lofty feature of Nature. But such people will just have to get used to this radical new world." What's amazing is that Healy views morality as some kind of immutable lofty feature of Nature. As I've said more than once, philosophy professors, now called 'philosophers", are theologians in drag. Popular storytellers are the first atheists.

See the previous post... and again

I get the impression that high school literature is taught now at the level of what was once called "Art Appreciation," and that these assholes are the product of that and worry now that too much time is spent on it.

6/22/11 This post is getting a lot of hits today so along with fixing a couple of typos I'll add two more links.

Joe Jamail
John Mortimer

And why not… Jan Van Eyck

Look at the smile. That's the face of a great bastard. You can't help but like him

3/14 I used the Pacino images first and never got around to replacing them.

3/30/2020 It didn't register at the time but the discussion at CT misses obvious points. That I missed them too doesn't mean they weren't obvious: the relation to autism (now part of the literature) and the seeming irrelevance of utilitarianism, trolley problems etc. But the descriptions including the authors' are muddled.  From the abstract: "When we judge an action as morally right or wrong, we rely on our capacity to infer the actor’s mental states (e.g., beliefs, intentions)." Mandle: ...they have identified a part of the brain that is important in attributing mental states to others."
But the actors' intentions were stated flat out in the experiment. There's no room for inference. The result of the experiment is to render intention less relevant as a category.
The discussion of law is just as simplistic. People who are deemed "liable" are judged guilty.
Everything above is storytelling.


  1. Anonymous4:05 PM

    Don't you love it when people comment on papers that they have not read for themselves?

  2. When we judge are we judging the person, or the act? Can we separate the two? What's the difference between the "letter" and the "spirit" of the law, facts and values?

    "The Immigration Judge and the Fifth
    Circuit’s decision was not obviously right—but the fact it was not obviously wrong, either, is the problem taken up in this Article."

    The decision obviously was neither right nor wrong.
    That was the point taken up in my response.

    Prosecutors and defense attorneys are professional storytellers.

    The PDF of the paper is on my desktop.


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