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Archive for October 8th, 2018

Unpublished and Untenured, a Philosopher Who Inspired a Cult Following Image

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James Ryerson writes in the NY Times Book Review:

Ever since completing his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh in 1993, the Israeli philosopher Irad Kimhi has been building the résumé of an academic failure. After a six-year stint at Yale in the ’90s that did not lead to a permanent job, he has bounced around from school to school, stringing together a series of short-term lectureships and temporary teaching positions in the United States, Europe and Israel. As of June, his curriculum vitae listed no publications to date — not even a journal article. At 60, he remains unknown to most scholars in his field.

Among a circle of philosophers who have worked or interacted with Kimhi, however, he has a towering reputation. His dissertation adviser, Robert Brandom, describes him as “truly brilliant, a deep and original philosopher.” Jonathan Lear, who helped hire Kimhi at Yale, says that to hear Kimhi talk is to experience “living philosophy, the real thing.” The philosopher and physicist David Z. Albert, a close friend of Kimhi’s, calls him “the best and most energetic and most surprising conversationalist I have ever met, a volcano of theories and opinions and provocations about absolutely everything.” (Kimhi and Albert appear to have been inspirations for the two brainy protagonists of Rivka Galchen’s short story “The Region of Unlikeness.”)

To his admirers, Kimhi is a hidden giant, a profound thinker who, because of a personality at once madly undisciplined and obsessively perfectionistic, has been unable to commit his ideas to paper. As a result, he has not been able to share his insights — about logic, language, metaphysics, theology, psychoanalysis, aesthetics and literature — with the wider academic world.

This type of character, though unusual, is not unheard-of in philosophy. Unlike, say, history or sociology, philosophy has long reserved a place for the occasional talent who struggles or declines to publish. The tradition dates back to Socrates, who not only didn’t write but also disparaged writing as too rigid a medium to capture “the living, breathing discourse of the man who knows.” (Plato’s words, of course.) Even as recently as the second half of the 20th century, many philosophy departments still employed a resident Socratic figure — a nonpublishing legend like Sidney Morgenbesser of Columbia or Rogers Albritton of Harvard — as if to provide a daily reminder that the discipline’s founding virtues of intellectual spontaneity, dialectical responsiveness and lack of dogmatism did not lend themselves naturally to the settled view of a treatise.

Kimhi may be the last of this dying breed. Certainly the days of granting tenure to such people are gone. Which is why Kimhi’s supporters have held out hope that a book he was working on for many years would eventually be published. The philosopher Robert Pippin, who has helped secure positions for Kimhi at the University of Chicago, explains that drafts of the manuscript have circulated to great excitement, if among “a very curated audience.” Harvard University Press was interested in publishing the book as early as 2011, but Kimhi, ever the perfectionist, was reluctant to let it go, forever refining and refashioning. Perhaps his foot-dragging was an expression of doubt, too: Could any book live up to his reputation?

Now, at long last, with the publication in July of THINKING AND BEING (Harvard University, $39.95), the world can find out.

It is not easy to summarize Kimhi’s book. Though only 166 pages, it strives to do a lot in a short space, aiming to overthrow views about logic and metaphysics that have prevailed in philosophy for a century. And though characterized by a precision of expression, the book is not what you would call lucid. Reading it is less about working through a series of rigorous, detailed arguments — the dominant mode of contemporary Anglophone philosophy — and more about getting accustomed to a radically different way of looking at fundamental philosophical questions, including What is thinking? and What is the relationship between thinking and the world?

For a taste of the ambition of Kimhi’s project, consider his ideas about the nature of logic. For many decades, our understanding of logic has been defined by a distinction between the “force” and “content” of a proposition — that is, between the act of asserting something and what it is you are asserting. If we don’t draw this distinction, according to a standard view of logic, it is not clear why the following sort of inference is valid:

Premise 1: P —> Q [e.g., “If it’s raining, then things are wet”]

Premise 2: P [“It’s raining”]

Conclusion: Q [“Things are wet”]

Note that this conclusion follows only if P (“it’s raining”) is unambiguously the same thing in each of the premises. But in the first premise, P is not asserted (“it’s raining” is entertained as a possibility), whereas in the second premise P is asserted (“it’s raining” is presented as fact). Therefore, according to this view, the assertion or “force” of P must be external to logic. An assertion is a psychological attitude (“I think … ”), a fact about what someone happens to believe. Logic, by contrast, concerns the abstract relations that hold among the “contents” — roughly, the meanings — of propositions.

In other words, logic provides us not with an empirical understanding of how our thinking actually works (that’s the purview of psychology), but with a normative understanding of how thinking should work. There is no “I” in logic.

Kimhi argues that this view is wrong, and that the distinction between psychology and logic has led our understanding of thinking astray. Consider that the following statement does not, according to the standard view, constitute a logical contradiction: “It’s raining, but I don’t believe it’s raining.” Why? Because the first part of the sentence concerns a state of affairs in the world (“it’s raining”), whereas the second part concerns someone’s state of mind (“I don’t believe it’s raining”).

Kimhi wants to rescue the intuition that it is a logical contradiction to say, “It’s raining, but I don’t believe it’s raining.” But to do this, he has to reject the idea that when you assert a proposition, what you are doing is adding psychological force (“I think … ”) to abstract content (“it’s raining”). Instead, Kimhi argues that a self-conscious, first-person perspective — an “I” — is internal to logic. For him, to judge that “it’s raining” is the same as judging “I believe it’s raining,” which is the same as judging “it’s false that it’s not raining.” All are facets of a single act of mind.

One consequence of Kimhi’s view is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2018 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

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“Why I’m Leaving the Republican Party”

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Tom Nichols, professor at the US Naval War College, writes in the Atlantic:

Unlike Senator Susan Collins, who took pages upon pages of text on national television to tell us something we already knew, I will cut right to the chase: I am out of the Republican Party.

I will also acknowledge right away what I assume will be the reaction of most of the remaining members of the GOP, ranging from “Good riddance” to “You were never a real Republican,” along with a smattering of “Who are you, anyway?”

Those Republicans will have a point. I am not a prominent Republican nor do I play a major role in Republican politics. What I write here are my views alone. I joined the party in the twilight of Jimmy Carter’s administration, cut my teeth in politics as an aide to a working-class Catholic Democrat in the Massachusetts House, and later served for a year on the personal staff of a senior Republican U.S. senator. Not exactly the profile of a conservative warrior.

I even quit the party once before, briefly, during what I thought was the bottom for the GOP: the 2012 primaries. I didn’t want to be associated with a party that took Newt Gingrich seriously as presidential timber, or with people whose callousness managed to shock even Ron Paul. It was an estrangement, not a break, and I came back when the danger of a Trump victory loomed. I was too late, but as a moderate conservative (among the few left), the pre-2016 GOP was the only party I could call home.

Small things sometimes matter, and Collins is among the smallest of things in the political world. And yet, she helped me finally accept what I had been denying. Her speech on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh convinced me that the Republican Party now exists for one reason, and one reason only: for the exercise of raw political power, and not for ends I would otherwise applaud or even support.

I have written on social media and elsewhere how I feel about Kavanaugh’s nomination. I initially viewed his nomination positively, as a standard GOP judicial appointment; then grew concerned about whether he should continue on as a nominee with the accusations against him; and finally, was appalled by his behavior in front of the Senate.

It was Collins, however, who made me realize that there would be no moderates to lead conservatives out of the rubble of the Trump era. Senator Jeff Flake is retiring and took a pass, and with all due respect to Senator Lisa Murkowski—who at least admitted that her “no” vote on cloture meant “no” rather than drag out the drama—she will not be the focus of a rejuvenated party.

When Collins spoke, she took the floor of the Senate to calm an anxious and divided nation by giving us all an extended soliloquy on …  the severability of a clause.

The severability of a clause? Seriously?

It took almost half an hour before Collins got to the accusations against Kavanaugh, but the rest of what she said was irrelevant. She had clearly made up her mind weeks earlier, and she completely ignored Kavanaugh’s volcanic and bizarre performance in front of the Senate.

As an aside, let me say that I have no love for the Democratic Party, which is torn between totalitarian instincts on one side and complete political malpractice on the other. As a newly minted independent, I will vote for Democrats and Republicans whom I think are decent and well-meaning people; if I move back home to Massachusetts, I could cast a ballot for Republican Governor Charlie Baker and Democratic Representative Joe Kennedy and not think twice about it.

But during the Kavanaugh dumpster fire, the performance of the Democratic Party—with some honorable exceptions such as Senators Chris Coons, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Amy Klobuchar—was execrable. . .

Continue reading.

Later:

The Republicans, however, have now eclipsed the Democrats as a threat to the rule of law and to the constitutional norms of American society. They have become all about winning. Winning means not losing, and so instead of acting like a co-equal branch of government responsible for advice and consent, congressional Republicans now act like a parliamentary party facing the constant threat of a vote of no confidence.

That it is necessary to place limitations, including self-limitations, on the exercise of power is—or was—a core belief among conservatives. No longer. Raw power, wielded so deftly by Senator Mitch McConnell, is exercised for its own sake, and by that I mean for the sake of fleecing gullible voters on hot-button social issues so that Republicans can stay in power. Of course, the institutional GOP will say that it countenances all of Trump’s many sins, and its own straying from principle, for good reason (including, of course, the holy grail of ending legal abortion).

Politics is about the exercise of power. But the new Trumpist GOP is not exercising power in the pursuit of anything resembling principles, and certainly not for conservative or Republican principles.

I want to point out that the “constant threat” is a means to the (profit-oriented) end of “fleecing gullible voters.” See “Kent Sorenson Was a Tea Party Hero. Then He Lost Everything.” for a clear and explicit description of how the GOP runs elections to make money.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2018 at 2:34 pm

Where Americans are shaped by propaganda efficiently delivered

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It could not be this slick and efficient were it not planned [Argument from Design]. Kevid Drum posts in Mother Jones:

I was talking to a friend yesterday and the subject turned to politics. He thought the Republican tax cut was a great idea because America had the highest tax rate in the world and we couldn’t compete with other countries. I laughed and told him that was totally wrong. Then he said that Trump might not be the greatest president ever, but at least he’s kept all his promises. I laughed again and told him Trump hadn’t even come close. Then the conversation turned to Brett Kavanaugh, and he complained that Sen. Dianne Feinstein had deliberately held onto Christine Blasey Ford’s letter until the very last second before releasing it. I laughed again and said that was exactly the opposite of what happened. Feinstein did her best never to release it, but it got leaked by someone outside her office.

There were a couple of other things he was wrong about, and eventually he said, “Well, look, if this stuff is wrong then how come Democrats aren’t correcting it?” I mumbled some stuff about Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and asked him where he was getting his information. The answer, it turned out, was mostly the Sunday chat shows.

So if this anecdotal conversation is to be believed, conservatives are highly successful at pushing their talking points on the Sunday morning shows—which are mostly watched by moderate political types—but liberals either don’t push back or don’t do it in a way that’s very memorable. Or else liberals just don’t bother showing up. Since I never watch the Sunday shows, I don’t really know which it is. Comments?

Naturally Democrts and progressives don’t appear so much: they not invited so much. They would introduce turbulence into the information flow, and TPTB want that information to flow smoothly into the meme-set of the majority. Democrats and progressives are not creating effective memes.

Update: And in the intercept: “Facebook Quietly Hid Webpages Bragging of Ability to Influence Elections.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2018 at 1:40 pm

Why Am I Seeing This? Interesting Facebook Ads From Our Political Ad Collector

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And speaking of our vulnerabilities (in plain sight), ProPublica notes:

These ads are collected from participants in our Political Ad Collector project. If you want to help us by submitting the ads you see to our collection, join the project. It’s easy.

We’ll be updating this list as we find other interesting ads.


What Facebook Political Ad Algorithms Don’t Catch #

Sen. Kamala Harris bought ads in states across the country opposing Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Normally, an ad like the ones Harris ran would be considered “political” by Facebook’s definition, as it “advocates for or against an issue of national importance.”

But Facebook’s political ad archive, launched in May, hasn’t been catching all such ads. For instance, the ad pictured here is not included. See how it lacks the “Paid for by Kamala Harris for Senate” line? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2018 at 1:30 pm

Why Putin was able to do it

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I think that Putin identified two key vulnerabilities of the US:

  1. most US citizens do not understand or appreciate the work the government does, and how intricate and important it is; and<
  2. most US citizens do not vote.

Those are the gaping holes through which he complete a virtual invasion and conquest/occupation. I believe the first vulnerability was created by the GOP, which has long been hostile to government, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s constant refrain (and jokes) that government is the problem, not the solution. And of course the GOP has also been amazingly active in trying to keep people from being able to vote.

The “government,” of course, consists not of buildings but of organizational understandings: rules, norms, experience, knowledge (both of content and how to interact effectively with the organization). The result is a remarkably intricate and also delicate structure that depends on a particular culture. So despite its intricacy, it is vulnerable from the top (always the weakness of a hierarchical structure, something the Internet, for example, has tried to avoid—but still there are vulnerable points, as we’ve seen. But the Internet was deliberately designed to be decentralized, able to continue operation even if parts were blown away in a war. (ARPAnet, the direct ancestor of the Internet, incorporating all the basic design, was before the date ARPANET”adopted TCP/IP on January 1, 1983, and from there researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” that became the modern Internet. Thus the Internet grew up in the cultural environment of the cold war, and naturally memes that emerged were shaped by (and for) this environment.

The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis, speaks clearly to the way the government easily can be (and is being) destoryed. An extract of the book’s beginning has been published in the Guardian.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2018 at 1:24 pm

Why you should say “No” if a police officer asks if s/he can search your vehicle

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Excellent answer to this Quora question:

Why do so many people advise to refuse a cop if the cop asks permission to search your car without warrant? I mean if I have nothing to hide, then why not let the cop search the car?

Answer by: Melissa Leigh, works at Stay-At-Home Mothers

I refused a search once. I was driving my late husband to my mother-in-law’s which was a couple hour drive from where we lived. We didn’t know we had a tail light out. Well, we got pulled over five times on that ride. The first two officers were wonderful but the third was an asshole. I have tattoos, my husband had tattoos, my husband was Hispanic, we’d just I spent a week camping and my car was still completely packed full of stuff and it was April 20. That meant nothing to me or my husband because neither one of us was a drug user but because of the way we looked and I guess our car being so full the officer wanted to search our car.

I told him no because number one, it was already after midnight and we were very tired. Number two, my three row volvo station wagon (named Fat Paul the Panty Dropping Space Tank – I was 20 shrug ‍♀️) was PACKED! The time it would take to search it would be hours. The officer was not aware that I knew that I could tell him no and kept wording as if I had to let him search. I got to the point where I just said, “look with all due respect, we both know that you cannot search my car because I told you no. I’m tired I would really like to get home. Can we end this please?” And he told me he was sure I had something In my car but he had to let me go. After that we were pulled over two more times finally the last officer escorted us to Walmart to get a light while we all laughed about what a long night. Thank god this officer was so kind too because by this time I was so frustrated I yelled at the poor officer before he could say a word. Something along the lines of, “”I know about the light ok! I know!” While holding up my repair order.

Now, there was a time when I did let officer search my car. Wasn’t doing anything wrong, I was just a young white woman in an inner-city Baltimore and usually that means drugs. So because I did not have anything I allowed the officers to search my car. What did they do? They ripped off my door panel which never went back in properly again and they broke a little drop-down drawer that came out of my dashboard. So my brand new car at the time now had a panel that sat crooked and a gaping hole in the dash. I was pissed. That’s another reason I will never consent to another search. There’s no respect and there’s no one to hold accountable when things get broken.

The last reason and probably the most serious reason is that some officers do plant things in your car It happened to me. I was about 16 and myself and two friends were going to a grocery store and one of my friends stole a stuffed animal. It was stupid and to this day I don’t know why she did it. They saw her and the police were waiting for us outside. They searched my friends car and as they did I watched an officer shove his closed hand between the seats and immediately pull his hand back out open it and show us a metal pipe for weed. My friends and I immedietly burst out laughing.

Here’s the thing, we absolutely look like we would be drug users. At the time we did a lot of hitchhiking and train hopping around the country and wore patched, dirty clothes and some of us lived on the streets and some of us lived in homes with 10 other friends, we were “crust punks”. We without a doubt looked like we used, at a minimum, marijuana. But the three of us did not. Most of our friends did but the three of us who happened to be in that car that day did not smoke weed.

We told the officers this. I already knew it was planted because I watched the officer “find” It. We told him arrest us if he wanted but the first thing our lawyers would do is have it finger printed because none of us had touched it because we didn’t smoke.

The bowl vanished. No one mentioned it again, I never saw it again and it wasn’t in the report for my friends shop lifting arrest. Now to those who doubt this story, I ask you this; if the officers had truly found it and not planted it would they just have taken our words for it not being ours? Of course not. They would have believed we were lying like everyone else who gets caught and charged us with it. But it just went away. Also, if you don’t believe cops do this, I live in Baltimore. Seen the news lately?

Baltimore Police Caught Planting Drugs In Body-Cam Footage, Public Defender Says

This has been going on a long time.

That is another reason I don’t consent to searches. It’s just safer sometimes not to. Besides all my friends who are police even say don’t consent.

My question, the one I’m so entertained by, is why do so many people think they have to be mirandized when being picked up for things like having a metal pipe found in their car or shoplifting? People watch too much tv.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2018 at 11:20 am

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