Friday, May 27, 2016

Individualism has dumbed us down.
Reasoning is generally seen as a means to improve knowledge and make better decisions. However, much evidence shows that reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This suggests that the function of reasoning should be rethought. Our hypothesis is that the function of reasoning is argumentative. It is to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade. Reasoning so conceived is adaptive given the exceptional dependence of humans on communication and their vulnerability to misinformation. A wide range of evidence in the psychology of reasoning and decision making can be reinterpreted and better explained in the light of this hypothesis. Poor performance in standard reasoning tasks is explained by the lack of argumentative context. When the same problems are placed in a proper argumentative setting, people turn out to be skilled arguers. Skilled arguers, however, are not after the truth but after arguments supporting their views. This explains the notorious confirmation bias. This bias is apparent not only when people are actually arguing, but also when they are reasoning proactively from the perspective of having to defend their opinions. Reasoning so motivated can distort evaluations and attitudes and allow erroneous beliefs to persist. Proactively used reasoning also favors decisions that are easy to justify but not necessarily better. In all these instances traditionally described as failures or flaws, reasoning does exactly what can be expected of an argumentative device: Look for arguments that support a given conclusion, and, ceteris paribus, favor conclusions for which arguments can be found.
Link from Farrell, writing about "vindictive billionaires".
He's still on good terms with Tyler Cowen
Tyler and I debated this on Twitter – I didn’t come away convinced by his answers (you can find them on my feed or his), although perhaps others might be. He has since written three posts on the topic. One inquires into the status reasons why billionaires might complain. One reposts extracts from an interview with Thiel where he says that he was doing this as an act of charity (a claim that Tyler independently made yesterday) and from Jason Willick’s argument that this all doesn’t really matter very much because there is no obvious policy solution (this seems to me to contradict Tyler’s tweet yesterday, suggesting that this is not very relevant, because there are policy solutions, but that’s an aside). The last post is a tu quoque, arguing that environmental organizations too file lawsuits, that Tyler has heard gossip suggesting that they are perhaps sometime getting funded by rich people who want revenge, and that this is perhaps OK, and anyway, the left doesn’t seem particularly bothered when this happens.
No mention at all of what Thiel actually believes

Commenter TM:
[Farrell incl. italics] “liberals and leftwingers do tend to discount the power of the state” 
Which explains why only right-wingers are out on the street to protest the latest police shooting. Oh wait.
As always, back to commenter Marfrks
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 (the last line about natural law theory and legal positivism is so absurd that I thought at first it was a joke). I feel a cliched impulse to find something balancing to say about Greenwald, but no impression of him is as strong as those two impressions of the others. My own view of the divide may only reflect that it hits a fault line in my life: the difference between an academic and a non-academic approach to things. I have been a lawyer for many years, and then got a chance to teach at a non-lawyerly academic institution. I loved it; I loved playing in the garden of the mind. Eventually, however, it became clear to me that academics and non-academics have very different approaches to ideas. Academics, though it sounds odd to say it, don’t take ideas seriously. For academics, ideas are games.
Academics see ideas are games because it would be rude to see too much subtext, too many delusions, in the arguments of your peers. Academia is a collaborative effort among friends, and an elite.
But élite colleges [é] don’t educate commonweal-size populations. A guiding principle of today’s liberal-arts education—the gold-filter admissions, the seminar discussions, the focus on “leadership” and Emerson and exposure to difference—is the cultivation of the individual. And students like Eosphoros are where the inclusive-élite model gets tested. If students’ personal experiences are beside the pedagogical point, then diversity on campus serves a cosmetic role: it is a kind of tokenism. If they’re taken into account, though, other inconsistencies emerge. “As far as what people talk about liking, you have to listen to the absence,” Eosphoros said. “I’m actually still trying to reconcile how unhappy I’ve been here with how happy people were insisting I must be.”
The academy is a culture
U.K. sitcoms tend to be darker than American ones, encouraged by a powerful public broadcasting system whose aim is to serve the varying tastes of taxpayers, not the upbeat preferences of advertisers, and by a national psyche fixated on the immutability of the class system, not on a dream of self- improvement. Americans believe that things will get better. Brits laugh at how things stay the same. To become a hit in the United States, “The Office” not only had to transform the tragic, grating boss into a less tragic, less grating, more well-meaning boss; it had to cast off the message, central to the British original, that work is where you go to waste your life.
It's also the difference between Oxbridge and academic idealism and, the vulgarity of theater, including the theater of law and lawyers.

An earlier paragraph from the first of the two pieces, introducing the student Eosphoros. My underlining.
This spring, at Oberlin, I tracked down Cyrus Eosphoros, the student who’d worried about the triggering effects of “Antigone.” We met at the Slow Train Café, a coffee joint on College Street, one of the two main streets that make up Oberlin’s downtown. (The other is called Main Street.) Eosphoros is a shy guy with a lambent confidence. He was a candid, stylish writer for the school newspaper and a senator in student government. That day, he wore a distressed bomber jacket and Clubmaster glasses. His hair was done in the manner of Beaver Cleaver’s, with a cool blue streak across the top. Eosphoros is a trans man. He was educated in Mexico, walks with crutches, and suffers from A.D.H.D. and bipolar disorder. (He’d lately been on suicide watch.) He has cut off contact with his mother, and he supports himself with jobs at the library and the development office. He said, “I’m kind of about as much of a diversity checklist as you can get while still technically being a white man.” 
"Eosphoros elsewhere identifies her/himself as a "Trans Mexican" and as a "White Mexican."
On Storify: "I Literally Do Not Understand Non-Utilitarian Morality"
[storify is gone. The tweets are still up]
lol one of the worst arguments I’ve ever had with loved ones was three different people getting in on being horrified that I had - to ask what was inherently wrong with dehumanizing people - aka the infamous fight which I had with three people at once about how it’s bad for some reason to class employees under your - list of resources as an employer/company/ organizer “you’re saying they’re tools to you!” “that is what I am paying them to be???” -  “look, imagine if someone said ‘you are a mere resource’” “what’s ‘mere’ about a resource?” -  people were like “if my employer sees me as just a resource they can make me miserable/work me to death” - and I’m just like “??? ‘resource’ does not imply bad resource management tho” - personally I think seeing people you contract with as resources should lead to /better/ treatment tbh
A repeat from 2014
I didn't expect to have to wrap my arms around Leo, a Chicano student who stood shivering and sobbing in front of Poughkeepsie police after getting jumped on Raymond Ave by kids he called "my own people." Didn't expect to take him to the police station and have the questioning officer ask Leo, "Why do you use the term 'Latino'? Can you tell me what country the boys who jumped you were from?" The officer told Leo that his partner was Colombian and could tell where a person was from just by looking at them. Leo told me that he felt "most Chicano, most Latino, and most like a Vassar student" that night.
My comment then
What kind of life would a Chicano kid in the US most likely have had to be shocked to be jumped by "my own people."? And what bubble would he have to have lived in to say that he felt "most Chicano, most Latino, and most like a Vassar student" after being shocked again by the cop's question? Vassar is part of a very specific bubble, an east coast prep-school college. 
 Hypersensitive geeks and emo-robots. Back the Yale and Mizzou
This isn't about freedom of speech but insult and deference to authority. The kid with the video camera in Mizzou is autistic and the whole thing has now reduced him to tears. But he can't imagine that the kids forming a circle were protecting friends who were as oversensitive as he is. Autism is self-blindness. And that's what philosophy has been reduced to: the objective, aperspectival reason of autistics, now brought to bear on emo kids. It's sad all around.

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