Here’s some links to some things I’ve read recently and found interesting/had something to say about. This is stuff from January 2012 to March; some of it I read rather a long time ago.

UK among Europe’s worst countries for ageism | Society | The Observer

Generally, those in their 20s don’t have contact outside the family with people in their 70s. In places like Cyprus or Portugal there are spaces, squares or bars where people of all ages mix. Ageism is a problem and it does need to be explored.

Goldacre’s epistemology on Antony Eagle’s blog (404 now it seems, and I can’t find a cache anywhere)

Of course Goldacre doesn’t wish to dispute these issues. I take it that he just isn’t aware of them. Even though he’s writing the foreword to an applied epistemology book, and there is a huge literature in epistemology and philosophy of science on just the kinds of issues the book concerns, he doesn’t make reference to that literature, and indeed makes what we’d regard as an elementary mistake in trying to make a quite different point. Goldacre wants to say? the most important question we need to answer is whose testimony to trust. He thinks, wrongly as it turns out, that this question can be posed by asking ‘how do you know?’; a generous interpretation has it that he says this because he’s implicitly committed to KK. This seems like a failing of philosophers to get the message out that we do have things to say about just these sorts of cases. (But since no one blames physicists if someone who should know better chooses to bluster from the armchair instead of asking a physicist, it’s not uncontroversial that philosophers are to blame for this public ignorance of what we do.)

Eagle is complaining about a foreword from Ben Goldacre in a book where he makes the ‘mistake’ of assuming that to know p one has to know that one knows that p. (This is a thesis I tend to go along with, despite every other philosopher I’ve met disagreeing with me…) It’s true, though, that people should go look at philosophy in these situations rather than going ahead as Goldacre seems to have done.

I finally read Politics and the English Language at some point. Very good stuff; started me on my appreciation for conciseness I’ve been working on recently. Try reading this in the context of modern anglo-american philosophy:

When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect[ic] will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose to not simply accept the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one’s words are likely to make on another person.

Here’s something else on writing: BERTRAND RUSSELL - HOW I WRITE - ATHENAEUM LIBRARY OF PHILOSOPHY (also this is a list of links to electronic texts of Russell, nice)

Wall Street, investment bankers, and social good : The New Yorker

Cables on Bradley Manning’s computer ‘exactly matched’ WikiLeaks documents | World news |

Shaver told the investigating officer who is presiding over the hearing that he found on Manning’s computer a specialist programme that is designed to allow the speedy downloading of files.

Manning was able to download a huge quantity of documents using the programme, called Wget. The programme, which, according to records, Manning started to use from early March 2010, was used hundreds of times to illegally download classified files, it was claimed.

”You can actually create a script around it to automate, in this case, to download a large number of files in a shrunk period of time,” Shaver said, adding that “it is not a standard programme” and was not authorised to be used on military computers.

Shaver followed a trail of hidden data held by the computer that linked Wget back to Manning.

”It showed that Wget was run, it showed paths it was run from and it was used from several locations of Manning,” he said.

Various commands were run at the same time to “download a lot of files at the same time,” the court was told.

Shaver said more than 700 Wget commands were run for files relating to Guantánamo and he found documents with hundreds of names, including four complete detainee assessment reports.

This seems to imply that wget is a piece of hacker’s software, wth. Writing scripts to download things quickly is just using a computer more effectively than as a simple user interface for looking at files; it does not warrant this kind of language.

Ed Miliband risks Tory trap on public spending, says shadow minister | Politics | The Guardian

Guy mentioned who wrote the pamphlet, Ben Jackson, is someone from Balliol who I know in philosophical connections.

Being in the University: Philosophical Education or Legitimations of Analytic Philosophy? by Santiago Zabala in Purlieu

Largely obscurantism, or if I’m to be more charitable, uses lots of language from continental philosophy which I don’t have knowledge of. But still, interesting read.

If prominent philosophers such as Jürgen Habermas, Gianni Vattimo, Charles Taylor, Judith Butler, and Slavoj Žižek are not welcome in analytic departments, it isn’t because they are less “professional” than Pascal Engel, Donald Davidson, Peter Strawson, Michael Dummett, or Daniel Dennett, but rather because they are less inclined to circumscribe philosophy to science. In sum, the reason for analytic philosophers’ success in dominating departments must be sought it their legitimation of scientific enterprises that are bound to governments, which in part also depend on such enterprises.

—interesting how I know none of the prominent names (and all but one of the second list).

If we agree, as Derrida pointed out, that “linguistic hegemony cannot be dissociated from the hegemony of a type of philosophy,” it shouldn’t be a surprise that analytic philosophy has predominantly developed in the United States, where science’s latest developments occur and where philosophy has almost disappeared from the public debates.

The main difference of philosophy (that is, “continental” philosophy) from analytic philosophy is not its emphasis on the history of the discipline and the classical ontological questions that tormented Plato, Descartes, and other classic thinkers, but its reluctance to submit to science. I’m not suggesting that those concerned with formal logics should be fired from philosophy departments, or that no one should study philosophical problems raised by science, but rather that the discipline’s ontological status, which is what distinguishes it from all the other disciplines, remains its fundamental approach.

—so continental philosophers are just as bad as we are at calling their subject the entirety of ‘philosophy’.

Instead of becoming autonomous disciples (Beings) who confront fundamental problems from the history of philosophy, they turn into controllable students (beings) who follow the indications dictated by legitimized academics.

According to Leiter, “geniuses” such as Nietzsche, “one may hope, will find its way in the world without the benefit of rankings. But for those who want to pursue a scholarly career in philosophy, one cannot do better than to pursue training in analytic philosophy—even if one plans to work, in the end, on Hegel or Marx or Nietzsche.” As we can see, Leiter, like an ecclesiastical fundamentalist who submits to a cleric’s interpretation of sacred texts, is convinced that only analytic philosophy can correctly read these classics. It is probably this legitimized culture that led a student to tell Gadamer, when he was teaching at Boston College, “Oh, Professor Gadamer, I see that you are teaching Plato this semester! What a pity, because I have already done Plato!”

Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? -

Fascinating article; this has many applications.

The experiments confirmed the 19th-century notion of willpower being like a muscle that was fatigued with use, a force that could be conserved by avoiding temptation.

Once you’re mentally depleted, you become reluctant to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly advanced and taxing form of decision making. In the rest of the animal kingdom, there aren’t a lot of protracted negotiations between predators and prey. To compromise is a complex human ability and therefore one of the first to decline when willpower is depleted. You become what researchers call a cognitive miser, hoarding your energy. If you’re shopping, you’re liable to look at only one dimension, like price: just give me the cheapest.

By manipulating the order of the car buyers’ choices, the researchers found that the customers would end up settling for different kinds of options, and the average difference totaled more than 1,500 euros per car (about $2,000 at the time). Whether the customers paid a little extra for fancy wheel rims or a lot extra for a more powerful engine depended on when the choice was offered and how much willpower was left in the customer.

Spears and other researchers argue that this sort of decision fatigue is a major — and hitherto ignored — factor in trapping people in poverty. Because their financial situation forces them to make so many trade-offs, they have less willpower to devote to school, work and other activities that might get them into the middle class.

And then backing up many stances of mine:

His studies show that people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower. They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices. Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend. Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions.

Aristotle and virtue being a habit!

Related: The Willpower Trick | Wired Science | and on mindfulness: How Mindfulness Makes the Brain Immune to Temptation | Psychology Today

”The best decision makers,” Baumeister says, “are the ones who know when not to trust themselves.”

Steve Jobs and the Cult of the CEO

[[][Is Facebook making us sad? Stanford University research and Sherry Turkle’s new book Alone Together suggest that social networking may foster loneliness. - Slate Magazine]]

Naturalism and Its Limits -

A Better Way to Teach Math -

Basics of LaTeX from the Command Line « PhilTeX

Useful resource for all the other commands; I’ve never really gone beyond pdflatex and bibtex myself.



One Town’s War on Gay Teens | Politics News | Rolling Stone

awful, but on the other hand: It shouldn’t be a crime to insult someone | Mike Harris | Comment is free |

Coding Horror: Nobody’s Going to Help You, and That’s Awesome

Interesting thought that you should write about your problems rather than talk about them. I tend to subscribe to find this for most things I think.

9 Great Ways to Make Yourself Absolutely Miserable

Lots of truth here.

The US schools with their own police | World news | The Guardian

Passion vs puritanism as America is gripped by a war over sexuality | World news | The Observer

’It is insanity to be having this conversation in our politics when you are a world power. The rest of the world is watching with their jaws agape.’

I am definitely agape at this sort of thing. It is very hard to believe it goes on with such prominence in such a powerful country. Though perhaps that is naïvety.

Man about the house | Life and style | The Guardian

Nobody is taught this history at school. But when I discovered it, one of the most powerful myths of our time exploded before my eyes. Despite decades of women’s liberation, it is still widely seen as “natural” for women to be in charge of the home, while men charge off to the office. History has forced me to admit that, while women might breastfeed, there is no special female gene for sterilising bottles or cleaning the bathroom.

This is good; I am pleased to find evidence against some friends who say that women are better suited than men to staying at home rather than going out to work.

The Epicurean Dealmaker: Kindle This

Red Tape - Govt. agencies, colleges demand applicants’ Facebook passwords

Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill | Mad In America

Many people with severe anxiety and/or depression are also anti-authoritarians. Often a major pain of their lives that fuels their anxiety and/or depression is fear that their contempt for illegitimate authorities will cause them to be financially and socially marginalized; but they fear that compliance with such illegitimate authorities will cause them existential death.

Americans have been increasingly socialized to equate inattention, anger, anxiety, and immobilizing despair with a medical condition, and to seek medical treatment rather than political remedies. What better way to maintain the status quo than to view inattention, anger, anxiety, and depression as biochemical problems of those who are mentally ill rather than normal reactions to an increasingly authoritarian society.

The Splintered Mind: Obfuscatory Philosophy as Intellectual Authoritarianism and Cowardice

Help On BibTeX Names

Useful resource.

Twitter censors unfavourable Sarkozy accounts | EDRI