Later On

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Archive for November 18th, 2019

There’s a new way to hack your phone or laptop.

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From the NY Times newsletter:

It’s “juice jacking” — and its perpetrators load airport or other public USB ports or USB cables with malware, just waiting for you to plug in and get infected. Sometimes the tainted USB cables are giveaways.

Hackers can then read and export your data, including your passwords, or even lock up the gadget.

So if you’re out and about, use a power outlet rather than a USB charging station, carry your own cords, and maybe keep a portable battery on hand. There are also inexpensive “USB condoms” that disable the cable’s data pin, allowing charging but blocking any flow of data.

From the article at the link:

As the busy holiday season approaches, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is warning travelers about a USB charger scam, or “juice jacking.”

“A free charge could end up draining your bank account,” Luke Sisak, a deputy district attorney, said in a video posted online this month.

Juice jacking happens when unsuspecting users plug their electronic devices into USB ports or use USB cables that have been loaded with malware.

The malware then infects the devices, giving hackers a way in. They can then read and export your data, including your passwords, and even lock up the gadgets, making them unusable.

Juice jacking exploits the fact that somebody doesn’t have a full battery, said Liviu Arsene, a cyber security expert at BitDefender, a Romanian cybersecurity and antivirus software company.

Mr. Arsene cautioned against using USB cables found already plugged into charging stations or even given away as promotional gifts.

“You can easily brand these things so you can make it look like any other cable,” he said, adding, “When people see it, they don’t really think or expect it to be malicious in any way.”

Other ways to protect yourself include carrying your own charging wires, only charging directly from an electrical outlet and using portable batteries that were bought from known vendors, Mr. Arsene said.

“Don’t believe everything you see, and don’t believe everything you get your hands on,” he said, noting that starting with Black Friday, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

But it isn’t just cables that pose a risk for tech consumers; it’s the ports, too.

Like scammers who steal debit card numbers by putting illegal card-reading devices, or skimmers, on A.T.M.s, hackers can easily rip out USB ports and replace them with their own malicious hardware, said Vyas Sekar, a professor at CyLab, a security and privacy research institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

“It’s easy to modify the outlet if the attacker has physical access,” Professor Sekar said.

Though Mr. Arsene and Professor Sekar said they were unsure of how often hacking attacks like these happened, the growing ubiquity of USB charging ports in places like hotels, airports and public transportation has translated into an increased risk of falling victim to such scams.

“People want the convenience of charging their phones and tablets wherever they go,” Professor Sekar said, adding, “Obviously I would like it too, but there is a risk.”

Professor Sekar said consumers could also use attachable protective devices on USB cables known as “USB condoms.”

“What they do is a very simple trick,” he said. “They essentially disable the data pin on the USB charger.”

This means that the device will charge, but the cable will be unable to send or receive data.

“For less than five bucks you can buy it,” he said, “and that can actually save you.” . . .

Example of a USB condom.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2019 at 4:04 pm

War Crimes Are Not Difficult to Discern

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Except, apparently, for Donald J. Trump, U.S. President. Graeme Wood writes in the Atlantic:

Two men accused of war crimes received presidential pardons on Friday, and a third had his demotion reversed. Donald Trump has earned jeers from predictable quarters: men and women in uniform who see these pardons as cheapening their oaths and dishonoring their service; fans of human rights and justice for victims; and, of course, people who simply dislike the president and consider his decisions defective by default.

Trump’s loudest defender is a Fox News correspondent, Pete Hegseth, who lobbied for these interventions and received advance word of them from Trump himself. Hegseth, a decorated veteran, argued that these men were betrayed by elements of the Department of Defense who hobble our “warfighters” with burdensome legal obligations. “If they make one tiny mistake,” Hegseth said on the air, “then a lawyer in the Pentagon is going to Monday-morning quarterback them.” The recipients of these pardons are “military heroes, accused or convicted of war crimes,” he claimed, correcting himself seconds later. “So-called war crimes.”

The backtracking wasn’t necessary: The actions these men were accused of most definitely qualify as war crimes. Killing three guys on a motorcycle when they are far away and carrying nothing more deadly than a cucumber—that’s a war crime. Killing old men and little girls with a sniper rifle is a war crime. Killing a prisoner with a hunting knife is a war crime. Waiting for an unarmed man to walk past you, then shooting him, is a war crime. Many of these actions, in addition to being unambiguous war crimes, just sound murderous and wicked on their face, which is probably why Hegseth almost never mentions them. He never goes into detail about the Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was acquitted of murder but convicted of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter. His demotion, since reversed, was his only real punishment—but his fellow warfighters found his ways so sickening that they reported him to their commanders and conferred about how to manage the apparent psychopath in their midst. “The president believes it should be commanders on the ground making these decisions,” Hegseth said. “And ultimately the benefit of the doubt should go to the guys pulling the trigger, especially when [critics] view these killings as politically incorrect.”Read: War-crime pardons dishonor fallen heroes

Hegseth is right that lawyers hover in the background of many combat decisions. Before bombs are dropped, lawyers confirm that the target is legal. But these crimes do not involve close calls, legally. The decision to blow a hole the size of an apple into the torso of an unarmed teenage girl does not require legal evaluation so much as psychiatric evaluation. Mathew L. Golsteyn, the Army major who admitted to ambushing and shooting an Afghan, claimed the man was a Taliban bomb-maker. Golsteyn need not have worried about legalistic Monday-morning quarterbacking; during his concealment, he could have texted a lawyer about the situation, and quickly received the advice that he was midway through an act known as premeditated murder.

Trump’s military doctrine has been difficult to discern, but it is sharpening into focus. Strategically, he favors isolationism in the mode of Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard. When forced to deploy, he prefers weak enemies like the Islamic State, and for long-term deployments, he prefers to commit to worthless, uncontested objectives, like the meager and wrecked oil fields of Syria. He favors extremely lax rules of engagement. Even repeated, planned acts contrary to the letter and spirit of military law and ethical codes are forgiven, and his warfighters are unconstrained by modern laws of armed conflict.

You might call this program a form of deregulation, parallel to the deregulation he has pushed in other sectors, including environmental protection and finance. Deregulation is much stupider in war than it is in those other fields. If you deregulate polluters, you may end up poisoning the environment—but at least the environment is inanimate, and does not arm itself reciprocally, to match the violence you freed yourself to commit against it. Battlefield enemies are different. ISIS is already willing to commit atrocities against Americans, but now more scrupulous rivals of the United States can reasonably infer that if they fight us according to the laws of armed conflict, they are suckers. One reason more than 80 countries allied to fight ISIS is that they flagrantly ignored these laws. Now we do too.

And for what? ISIS and the Taliban have killed Americans. But militarily, these groups are nuisance insects, and the SEALs and Green Berets make very effective flyswatters with their ethical standards in place. Those standards are, additionally, a source of dignity, which separate them from barbarians. The development of those codes has paralleled the decline of armed conflict as a political instrument. Pardons for those who ignored those codes do not just tell our enemies that they would be suckers to follow them; they tell the 99 percent of American soldiers and sailors who respected them that they were suckers, too. “You have to play the game the way [ISIS is] playing the game,” Trump told John Dickerson in 2016, while still a candidate. Now, as president, he is implementing that policy, and telling members of a once-proud fighting force that they should be savages and sneaks.

“We’re talking about warfighters who deserve real justice,” Hegseth told his audience. Two of the three recipients of presidential largesse were convicted by a military jury; the third received his pardon before his trial concluded. The juries gave . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2019 at 3:09 pm

Newsday’s 3-year investigation shows an example of why the US is considered racist

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Ann Choi, Keith Herbert, Olivia Winslow, and project editor Arthur Browne report in Newsday:

In one of the most concentrated investigations of discrimination by real estate agents in the half century since enactment of America’s landmark fair housing law, Newsday found evidence of widespread separate and unequal treatment of minority potential homebuyers and minority communities on Long Island.

The three-year probe strongly indicates that house hunting in one of the nation’s most segregated suburbs poses substantial risks of discrimination, with black buyers chancing disadvantages almost half the time they enlist brokers.

Additionally, the investigation reveals that Long Island’s dominant residential brokering firms help solidify racial separations. They frequently directed white customers toward areas with the highest white representations and minority buyers to more integrated neighborhoods.

They also avoided business in communities with overwhelmingly minority populations.

The findings are the product of a paired-testing effort comparable on a local scale to once-a-decade testing performed by the federal government in measuring the extent of racial discrimination in housing nationwide.

Regularly endorsed by federal and state courts, paired testing is recognized as the sole viable method for detecting violations of fair housing laws by agents.

Two undercover testers – for example, one black and one white – separately solicit an agent’s assistance in buying houses. They present similar financial profiles and request identical terms for houses in the same areas. The agent’s actions are then reviewed for evidence that the agent provided disparate service.

Newsday conducted 86 matching tests in areas stretching from the New York City line to the Hamptons and from Long Island Sound to the South Shore. Thirty-nine of the tests paired black and white testers, 31 matched Hispanic and white testers and 16 linked Asian and white testers.

Newsday confirmed that agents had houses to sell when meeting with testers based on analyses provided by Zillow, the online home search site. Zillow draws an inventory of available homes daily from the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island, the computerized system used by agents to select possible houses for buyers. MLSLI said that it does not maintain its own database of past daily inventories, as Zillow does, and so could not provide the same type of tallies. As permitted by law, all tests were recorded on hidden cameras to ensure accuracy in describing interactions between agents and customers.

Newsday relied on two nationally recognized experts in fair housing standards to evaluate the agents’ actions. The consultants were:

  • Fred Freiberg, who co-founded the Fair Housing Justice Center in 2004. Previously, he had led a national testing program for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, as well as two national paired testing programs for the Urban Institute. He has coordinated more than 12,000 fair housing tests. He was paid to help organize the testing and train the testers but was not paid to evaluate test results.
  • Robert Schwemm, the Everett H. Metcalf Jr. Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law. Schwemm is the author of “Housing Discrimination: Law and Litigation,” widely accepted as the definitive treatise of the subject. Schwemm assisted on an unpaid basis.

Newsday separately gave Freiberg and Schwemm summaries of tests that preliminarily appeared to show evidence of unequal treatment; transcripts of relevant remarks made by agents; and maps of the listings suggested to testers, along with the average percentage of white population in the census tracts where the listings fell.

An agent’s actions were deemed worthy of citing only after both consultants independently saw evidence of fair housing violations in response to the information provided by Newsday. While their opinions do not represent legal findings, their matching independent judgments provided a measure of apparent disparate treatment by the tested agents.

In fully 40 percent of the tests,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, plus dropdowns that I skipped and interactive graphics that must be viewed on the website.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2019 at 2:57 pm

Babies and food

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M interest in food is deep and abiding, though the only food I can actually remember from toddlerhood is Zwieback, which I remember distinctly.

Still, I thought this New Yorker article by Burkhard Bilger was interesting. From the article:

Baby food shouldn’t be this hard. After a few hundred thousand years of raising children, humans ought to have this part down. No food has been more obsessively studied, no diet more fiercely controlled, no dining experience more anxiously stage-managed. Yet we still get it wrong. On any given day, a quarter of American toddlers eat no vegetables. When they do eat them, the most popular choice is French fries. Why don’t babies know what’s good for them? And why don’t we?


We learn to eat what we’re given to eat, and that education begins before we’re born. When a pregnant woman eats a green bean, its flavor winds its way into the amniotic fluid around her fetus, and later into her breast milk. “Carrots, vanilla, alcohol, nicotine, mint—I’ve never found a flavor that didn’t get through,” Julie Mennella told me. Those tastes, and the colors and textures of things that contain them, come to signify food in babies’ minds. Children whose mothers ate potatoes with garlic while pregnant, a study in Ireland found, are more likely to enjoy potatoes with garlic ten years later.


Babies of that era were often anemic, so they needed food fortified with iron. But that was because physicians insisted on clamping their umbilical cords immediately after birth. This kept blood from flowing from the placenta, depriving the baby of up to a third of its blood supply. Instead of nursing at their mother’s breast, babies were carted off and given formula, which kept the mother’s milk from coming in. It was a self-perpetuating cycle, and it kept spinning long after children grew up. Just as eating broccoli as a baby can teach you to love it as an adult, eating foods full of sugar, salt, starches, and preservatives can give you a taste for those things later on. It’s palate training on an industrial scale.

Babies can get fat when fed solid food too soon. Before the age of five months, they’re often too weak to refuse a meal, and adults, in their way, follow suit. “Industrializing the food supply was a win for most people,” Bentley told me. “It created safe, affordable, shelf-stable food that only rich people used to be able to eat. The problem is that, when so much food is available, the rules around it disintegrate. We can afford to eat like cavemen now or to be gluten-free. We can eat anything, anywhere, anytime, and the really delicious stuff is not that great for you. So now we aren’t dying of disease or hunger. We’re dying from consuming too much.”


To learn to like a vegetable, children have to try it again and again, the psychologist Leann Birch found more than forty years ago. Sometimes it takes ten tries or more. But who wants to take that advice? Who wants to watch a baby toss a turnip across a room five times, much less ten? “Most of our research shows that parents will buy one container and give it three or four times, but they won’t buy it again,” Smith-Simpson told me. Good eating habits are the one skill that parents don’t mind their children giving up on, Saskia Sorrosa told me: “When they’re learning to ride a bike, they fall down a hundred times. Learning to read takes years. But when they’re learning to eat it’s ‘Oh, well, you didn’t like it the first time. Don’t bother.’ ”


The American diet is like a broken bridge, Johnson says. It’s missing a span of simple, savory baby foods that can lead to healthy eating habits. “There’s nothing wrong with fruit. But fruit in my dark-green vegetables? Who thought that was a good idea?” Getting children across the bridge has never been easy, but in a culture that always plays to their weaknesses it can seem impossible. American toddlers now eat an average of seven teaspoons of sugar a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control—more than the recommended allowance for adults. Even baby food made with a single, unsweetened ingredient may taste nothing like the real thing. Babies raised on the pressure-cooked bananas in jars, one study found, were no more likely than others to enjoy the fresh fruit.


Rachel’s lenga-lenga was like no baby food I’d ever seen. It was full of onions and garlic and bitter green pepper. It had mashed eggplant and leeks that could give a baby gas. It was salty from the bouillon—the rest of the family would be eating it, too—and far from sweet. By the time it was done cooking, it was a thick green porridge, pungent with smoked fish and sulfurous plants. It made kale look like Christmas candy. And yet, when Rachel brought a bowl of it over to Soraya on the couch, she bounced up and down and clapped her hands.

“With really young babies, it’s not about liking or not liking,” Susan Johnson had told me. “If they want to eat, they’ll eat.” That’s the most striking finding of the Good Tastes Study. In video after video, the babies grimace or purse their lips after the first taste of kale. But when offered a second spoonful, they eat it anyway. “It’s amazing that they do, but they do,” Johnson said. “There seems to be this window of opportunity between six and nine months—maybe even twelve months—where they’re just interested in food. And that predisposes them to healthy eating. They’re like baby birds. It doesn’t even matter if they like it. They just try it.”

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2019 at 2:45 pm

Pragmatism endures

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From Aeon and written by:

Cheryl Misak, a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Cambridge Pragmatism: From Peirce and James to Ramsey and Wittgenstein(2016). Her biography Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers will be published by Oxford University Press in 2020; and

Robert B Talisse, W Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy and chair of the Philosophy Department at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. He is the author of, most recently, Engaging Political Philosophy (2015); Pragmatism, Pluralism, and the Nature of Philosophy (2017), co-authored with Scott Aikin; and Overdoing Democracy (2019).

They write:

At the dawn of the 20th century, there emerged in the United States a distinctive philosophical movement known as pragmatism. Although the term is often used today to denote the blunt desire to get results, the founders of pragmatism – Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), William James (1842-1910), John Dewey (1859-1952), Chauncey Wright (1830-75) and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr (1841-1935) – were subtle thinkers. Each made significant contributions in areas ranging from logic, epistemology, philosophy of language, legal philosophy, philosophy of science, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of religion and political philosophy. Despite their differences, they were animated by a common interpretation of philosophical empiricism that emphasises the role of action in our thinking, from the habitual and mundane to the experimental and creative. The core of pragmatism is Peirce’s ‘pragmatic maxim’, which proposes to analyse the meaning of our concepts by looking to how they guide action.

It is fitting that one of the earliest books about the development of pragmatism should be titled Meaning and Action (1968). In that work, the American philosopher H S Thayer presented a view of pragmatism’s founding that has become standard:

Pragmatism is a method of philosophising often identified as a theory of meaning first stated by Charles Peirce in the 1870s; revived primarily as a theory of truth in 1898 by William James; and further developed, expanded, and disseminated by John Dewey.

There are two tightly related ideas at play here. First, there is the view that Peirce and James formulated versions of pragmatism that are partial precursors to the systematic pragmatism of Dewey. Second, there is the notion that the story of pragmatism’s founding is the story of philosophical differences withering away, unifying in Dewey’s philosophy. This developmental view of the history of pragmatism is wrong.

One needn’t scour pragmatism’s initiating documents in order to identify points of substantive disagreement among Peirce, James and Dewey. Pragmatism was founded amid a well-known dispute between Peirce and James over its central idea, the ‘pragmatic maxim’. Peirce proposed the pragmatic maxim as a tool for dispensing with metaphysical nonsense; for him, pragmatism was strictly a ‘method of ascertaining the meanings of hard words and abstract concepts’. The core of this method is the idea that we must look to the upshot of our concepts in order to understand them.

To get a sense of how the pragmatic maxim operates, consider one of Peirce’s own applications: the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. This is the view that in the Mass, bread and wine are metaphysically transformed into the body and blood of Christ, despite there being no change at all in their sensible properties. In what, Peirce asks, could this transformation consist? His answer is that the very idea of something being blood but in every conceivable way being empirically indistinguishable from wine is nonsense, ‘senseless jargon’. By insisting that words and statements be analysed according to ‘what is tangible and conceivably practical’, Peirce aspired to ‘dismiss make-believes’ from philosophy, and thereby set upon the path of proper enquiry.

James was dissatisfied with Peirce’s formulation of the maxim. Instead, he proposed a broader rendition according to which the point of pragmatism is not to dispel metaphysical nonsense, as Peirce had alleged, but rather to settle metaphysical disputes. James proposed that one should include among the practical effects of a statement the psychological impacts of believing it. Whereas Peirce argued that the pragmatic maxim exposes the meaninglessness of the doctrine of transubstantiation, James thought that pragmatism afforded a decisive case in favour of it. The idea that one can ‘feed upon the very substance of divinity’ has ‘tremendous effect’ and thus is the ‘only pragmatic application’ of the idea of a substance. For James, the pragmatic maxim serves to resolve rather than dissolve longstanding philosophical debates.

This difference regarding the pragmatic maxim underlies a monumental dispute between Peirce and James over truth. Peirce argued that a belief is true if it would be ‘indefeasible’; or perfectly satisfactory; or would not be improved upon; or would never lead to disappointment; or would forever meet the challenges of reasons, argument and evidence. James meanwhile set out his view on truth and objectivity thus:

Any idea upon which we can ride … any idea that will carry us prosperously from any one part of our experience to any other part, linking things satisfactorily, working securely, simplifying, saving labour, is … true instrumentally.

‘Satisfactorily,’ for James, ‘means more satisfactorily to ourselves, and individuals will emphasise their points of satisfaction differently. To a certain degree, therefore, everything here is plastic.’ Peirce did not think that truth was plastic. He told James: ‘I thought your Will to Believe was a very exaggerated utterance, such as injures a serious man very much.’ He scorned what he took to be James’s view: ‘Oh, I could not believe so-and-so, because I should be wretched if I did.’

When Dewey is brought into the picture, the story of pragmatism is shown to be anything but straightforwardly developmental, where one philosopher’s thought naturally leads to the next one’s. According to Dewey, pragmatism was neither in the business of dismissing nonsense nor of settling metaphysical disputes. He sought a way of doing philosophy that was unhindered by the traditional puzzles and problematics. He resisted the Peircean strategy of proposing a test of meaning and, instead, socialised philosophy, arguing that the traditional philosophical problems naturally arose out of the social and intellectual conditions of a pre-Darwinian age.

Dewey contended that, since these conditions no longer obtain, the traditional philosophical problems should be simply abandoned as ‘chaff’, replaced by new difficulties arising from Darwinian science. In Dewey’s view, Darwinism shows that the world contains no fixed essences or immutable natures. This realisation sets the problem of revising our philosophical and moral ideas so that they are better suited to serve as tools for directing change. According to Dewey, the leading philosophical problem for a post-Darwin epoch is that of keeping our values in step with our technological power, so that they might guide society towards greater freedom.

In this respect, Dewey breaks decisively with James: his pragmatism is not aimed at resolving disputes, but rather at showing that nonpragmatic philosophical programmes are nonviable. Here, Dewey might at first seem allied with Peirce, but Dewey’s stance towards the philosophical tradition is more extreme. To be sure, Peirce’s maxim would have it that many traditional metaphysical statements are nonsense; however, it also leaves a great number of philosophical debates standing. For example, Peirce thought that the dispute between nominalism and realism (does reality consist only of concrete particulars or is generality real as well?) was a real and important philosophical dispute. He proposed his maxim as a way to ensure that such legitimate philosophical debates could proceed profitably. Metaphysics, ‘in its present condition’, is a ‘puny, rickety, and scrofulous science’, but it need not remain so. The pragmatic maxim will sweep ‘all metaphysical rubbish out of one’s house. Each abstraction is either pronounced gibberish or is provided with a plain, practical definition.’

Dewey, by contrast, aimed his criticisms not at specific statements, but at entire philosophical programmes. He dismissed Cartesianism, Kantianism, Humeanism, Platonism, Aristotelianism and nearly every other philosophical school as instantiations of the common defect of employing some or other archaic dualism. Again, Dewey’s charge is that all such approaches are obsolete: not meaningless, but unfit and useless tendencies to be gotten over. Whereas Peirce saw pragmatism as a rule for conducting philosophical enquiry, Dewey saw pragmatism as a philosophical programme for restructuring philosophy and society.

These philosophical differences were well recognised by the classical pragmatists themselves. The work of James and those he influenced led Peirce in 1905 to officially renounce the term pragmatism; he rebaptised his philosophy pragmaticism, a name he hoped was ‘ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers’, which it certainly was. Dewey also strenuously distanced himself from James’s theory of truth. In personal correspondence with Dewey, Peirce complained that Dewey’s philosophy was ‘too loose’ and employed too many ‘slipshod arguments’.

To be clear, the account we have just offered leaves aside many crucial details. However, what has been registered is enough to show that it is an error to present pragmatism as a doctrine initially proposed by Peirce, refined by James, and culminating in Dewey’s writings. Rather, what one finds in the classical pragmatists is a series of substantive disputes about enduring philosophical topics, including meaning, truth, knowledge, value, experience and the nature of philosophy itself.

There is another common misunderstanding about the history of pragmatism that is best articulated by the more recent pragmatist Richard Rorty:

Along about 1945, American philosophers were, for better or worse, bored with Dewey, and thus with pragmatism. They were sick of being told that pragmatism was the philosophy of American democracy, that Dewey was the great American intellectual figure of their century, and the like. They wanted something new, something they could get their philosophical teeth into. What showed up, thanks to Hitler and various other historical contingencies, was logical empiricism, an early version of what we now call ‘analytic philosophy’.

In other words, his popular ‘eclipse narrative’ (as we’ll call it) holds that pragmatism dominated professional philosophy in America throughout Dewey’s heyday, from the early 1900s until the early ’40s. Then, largely due to the war in Europe and the resulting influx of academics to the US, professional philosophy in the US took a ‘linguistic turn’ and began fixating on the technical and methodological issues that today are associated with ‘analytic philosophy’, a tradition originating in the work of Gottlob Frege in Germany; Bertrand Russell, G E Moore and Ludwig Wittgenstein in England; and Rudolf Carnap and Moritz Schlick in Austria.

Rorty took the new analytic philosophy to have been a malignant force in American philosophy departments, an invasion that displaced pragmatism. Crucially, the displacement is said to have been achieved not by way of a critical engagement with the pragmatists’ arguments and commitments, but instead simply by declaring pragmatism soft and insufficiently rigorous. Pragmatism was, in this telling, eclipsed as philosophers in the US began taking their intellectual cues from the analytic philosophers. Having gained strongholds in nearly all the elite PhD-granting universities in the US, the analytics swiftly trained the next several generations of professional philosophers. Pragmatism, America’s homegrown philosophy, thus was driven underground, where the remaining loyalists built scholarly networks devoted to keeping the classical idiom alive.

Yet there is also a resurrection in the eclipse narrative. It goes on to say that analytic philosophy eventually proved itself too self-absorbed and socially irrelevant to be sustainable. Recovering from the analytic fad, philosophers in the US, notably Rorty, Hilary Putnam and Cornel West, rediscovered pragmatism in their landmark works of the 1970s and ’80s. Hence ‘neo-pragmatism’ came to the fore as a leading ‘post-analytic’ development in professional philosophy. The eclipse seems to have been undone.

Well, not quite. The resurrection story is tinged with resentment. It is alleged that neo-pragmatism is too analytic and not closely tied to the classical texts. It has drifted off course, not authentically pragmatist. Pragmatism’s resurrection occasioned a second eclipse: although the philosophical mainstream is now once again attuned to some of the vocabulary and ideas of pragmatism, it has received them in the corrupted form promoted by the neo-pragmatists. On this view, classical pragmatism remains unjustifiably occluded.

Consequently, there is a growing literature devoted to repackaging Dewey’s pragmatism. Work in this genre embraces the tacit assumption that nonpragmatists are simply ignorant of pragmatism; accordingly, a recurring theme is that Dewey’s philosophy must be rediscovered so that it can ‘revitalise’ mainstream philosophy. The steady production of volumes devoted to establishing Dewey’s ‘continuing relevance’, ‘discovering’ his ideas and recapturing his ‘lessons’ is suggestive.

The upshot, tragic for the prospects of pragmatism, is that . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2019 at 9:18 am

Posted in Books

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A military-themed shave — and an excellent one

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The Yaqi camouflage-handle brush came up in my natural-bristle-brush trek, so I used the matching razor, a double open-comb model, also from Yaqi, and looked for a military shaving soap and aftershave. Given that Achilles was greatest warrior of the Trojan war, the pictured items were the obvious choice.

The soap, since I like it, is getting low, with a nickel-sized spot in the center showing the bottom of the tub. The lather from this soap is always good — good fragrance, good consistency, excellent post-shave feel of the skin. The ingredients are interesting and fulfill their promise. I am, in fact, a big fan of Van Yulay shaving soaps in general.

Three passes with the razor left my face perfectly smooth. This razor is definitely on my list of all-time favorites. The same head is provided on various handles and in various finishes. I have two, and I think I’ll use the other tomorrow.

A good splash of the aftershave, and the week is well launched.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2019 at 8:33 am

Posted in Shaving

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