Saturday, March 23, 2019

Money as Manure

Thornton Wilder channeling Ezra Pound:

"Money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow."

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Root of Empiricism is Rationalism

"Many of the most fundamental claims of science are against common sense and seem absurd on their face. Do physicists really expect me to accept without serious qualms that the pungent cheese that I had for lunch is really made up of tiny, tasteless, odorless, colorless packets of energy with nothing but empty space between them? Astronomers tell us without apparent embarrassment that they can see stellar events that occurred millions of years ago, whereas we all know that we see things as they happen. … Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

– Richard Lewontin

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Approaching Middle Age

"The essence of a thing never appears at the outset but in the middle, in the course of development, when it's strength is assured."

- G. Deleuze "Cinema"

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Radical Bourgeois

From a book review of Norman Mailer's Miami and the Siege of Chicago:

Mailer is stricken by their slovenly nerve. He sits in Chicago's bars, drinking too much and telling himself the reason he isn't joining in is because his role in this great social upheaval is to write about it; he can't missing deadline by getting injured or detained. "Besides," he writes, "a variety of militant choices would now be present for years. One simply could not make the dangerous choice every time; he would never do any other work." He goes on:

And then with another fear, conservative was this fear, he looked into his reluctance to lose the America he had had, that insane warmongering technology land with its smog, its superhighways, its experts, and its profound dishonesty. Yet, it had allowed him to write -- it had even not deprived him entirely of honors, certainly not of an income. He had lived well enough to have six children, a house on the water, a good apartment, good meals, good booze, he had even come to enjoy wine. A revolutionary with taste in wine has come already half the distance from Marx to Burke; he belonged in England, where one's radicalism might never be tested...

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Inherent Value

"Just as we represent certain statements as true while recognizing that their truth is independent of our representation, so we sense that objects, people and events are not only appreciated as valuable by us but would still be valuable if no one appreciated them."

– Georg Simmel "The Philosophy of Money"

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Intellectual Humility

The world is more complex than we can imagine, and every new point of view we encounter can enrich our understanding even if we don’t embrace it entirely. But this comes with the risk of self-effacement and growing uncertainty. Imagine that you are standing in a small clearing in the middle of a vast forest, and that this forest represents your ignorance of the world. The clearing you stand in represents your knowledge. As one gains knowledge, the clearing expands and the forest of ignorance recedes. But as the clearing expands, so does its circumference and so the area of contact between knowledge and ignorance also grows, and our knowledge of the extent of our ignorance grows with it. So, paradoxically, the wiser we become, the less wise we feel. This is the wellspring of intellectual humility, the Socratic realization that the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, and the more apparent it becomes that your own opinions are susceptible to fallibility.

- Matthew Blackwell

Knows Little Of That

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

- John Stuart Mill "On Liberty"