"It's embarrassing for the Fed," said Justin Wolfers, an economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "You see an awareness that the housing market is starting to crumble, and you see a lack of awareness of the connection between the housing market and financial markets.""It's also embarrassing for economics," he continued. "My strong guess is that if we had a transcript of any other economist, there would be at least as much fodder."--Quoted in NYT.
In 2006 the experts running the Fed clearly knew that the housing bubble was imploding. What they lacked were four further crucial ingredients: (i) reliable data on what we now call systemic risk; (ii) a theoretical or institutional framework that makes folk question their own ignorance [rather than be self-congratulatory]; (iii) a historical sense of what happens in the aftermath of a bubble; (iv) an institutional framework for a more robust system.
As befits the first week of the year, last week Roling Stone Brasil released their ranking of best Brazilian albums of 2011. Of course, rankings are only worth what they are worth, but this seems like a good sample of some of the main releases of last year. Some of those who made it to the top of the ranking have already paid their visit to BMoF, in particular my school friend Fabio Góes on number 10, Marcelo Camelo on number 6, Chico Buarque on number 5, and Mallu Magalhães on number 3. But the Brazilian album of the year according to RS is Nó na Orelha, by rapper Criolo -- yet it is not a rap album. (Even before the ranking came out, my mother had brought it to me from Brazil as a Christmas present (“you know, for your column!”), as she is a sassy lady who follows closely the latest developments in music and culture. )
I’ve been enjoying Nó na Orelha since, but I’m not sure yet I really ‘get’ it. Still, one of the songs I do get is ‘Não existe amor m SP’ (‘There is no love in São Paulo’); I don’t agree, being a São Paulo native myself and very proud of my home town, but it’s a great song, as you can see for yourself below. And to celebrate his tenth position (awesome!), let me post another song from O destino vestido de noiva, brilliant album by my buddy Góes: ‘Amor na lanterna’, last track of the album.
Today, I received a note from a PhD student, who wondered if in academia most people take nootropic drugs? (That is, drugs that improve memory, concentration, and planning.) My interlocutor wondered if there is a marked disadvantage to not taking them; if it is considered cheating.
Upon reflection I am surprised that I am unfamiliar with any professional philosopher that has ever admitted to me that they take cognitive enhancers. (I am aware of a few alcoholics.) I have never taken nootropic drugs. In my view daily discipline (i.e., good, regular working habits) are the crucial difference maker among professional philosophers. I'd be curious to hear from our readers and their experiences.
The source of the quote that gives this post its title is the novelist Arnon Grunberg, who is fond of occupying high tables where he sees our mediocre lives ripened for satire. This plays well to the novelist's moralizing, particularistic strength. In many circumstances this is what's needed, and the minute vision can sometimes even be heroic (in "contemporary China" or Columbia (see this sad case)). Grunberg defends an anatomical, descriptive role for the novelist: "I’m more than happy to describe the philosopher’s action while he is busy remaking the world." No doubt to remind us of our follies and vanity, or to insist that we're still (to echo Lady Chandos) "living in the time of fleas" or (to echo Thoreau) ants under a microscope.
Steven Shaviro reads the fine print on an OUP contract, and finds he's doing "work-for-hire." This is a sort of perverse M. Jourdain effect: instead of being pleased to find out you've been speaking prose all along, now we find out that presses have always thought us hacks, and are just now being honest about it.
[UPDATE: be sure to check out the excellent comments below from Dennis Des Chene and Gordon Hull.]
The (wide-ranging and very interesting) interview is here. An excerpt:
3:AM: One of the fascinating things that happens in your discussions of David Hume and Deleuze is that you show how a conventional reading of Hume is not the most probable if we take Hume at face value. Ernest Gellner said something about this in his Legitimation of Belief where he points out that if all there is is this buzzing confusion of impressions then cultivating our passions and feelings so we become connoisseurs of them would be the rational thing to do. Creating something anew out of them seems to be what Deleuze also considered an obvious move. This seems to be a separate issue to the question of how to bundle the impressions up so that the idea of a self makes sense. Is this something you’d sympathise with, the idea that Hume and other philosophers Deleuze and yourself examine have been packaged to suit interests external to their own positions and that what you’re doing is getting back to the revolutionary potential in them?
JB: That’s a fair assessment of what I attempted to do in my Hume book. I was certainly challenging many of the contemporary readings of Hume and offering an alternative reading that sits well with Hume both philosophically and historically.
[UPDATE 13 Jan 2012: Stuart Elden directs us to this interview with the translator, Susan Ruddick; see also this post on where to start in studying Macherey, and here for a sample chapter of Hegel or Spinoza.]
Beginnings without Ends. A review of Pierre Macherey, Hegel or Spinoza, translated by Susan M Ruddick. University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
The recent translation into English of Pierre Macherey’s 1979 work, Hegel ou Spinoza, not only exposes a philosophical classic to a new group of readers, but also fills in a gap in understanding the history and legacy of those who gathered in the nineteen sixties to produce Lire le Capital alongside Louis Althusser -- Etienne Balibar, Pierre Macherey and Jacques Rancière, three scholars who are sometimes called “Althusserians.” The current translation thus belongs alongside that of Jacques Rancière’s La Leçon du Althusser, Althusser’s Lesson (Continuum, 2011). Whereas Rancière’s book could be read as a refutation of Althusser’s project, revealing the hierarchical conception of knowledge that subverted his commitment to radical politics, Macherey’s book introduces “subterranean” aspects, so that we now see that the project which gave us such concepts as “symptomatic reading” and “materialistic dialectic” was as much a transformation of philosophy as it was a reading of Marx. The translation of Hegel or Spinoza is thus not only the publication of an important text, but a restoration of a bit of intellectual history, and thereby the precondition for new futures.
The earliest known recording of the human voice from which intelligible sound has been recovered was made by the French scientist Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville on 9 April 1860—seventeen years before Edison’s first phonograph recording. It is a bit of “Au clair de la lune”.
On 20 April another recording, longer and with better fidelity, was made. Earlier recordings exist, but for lack of calibration they have not been converted. Scott calibrated his later recordings with a tuning fork of known pitch.
The recovery was carried out by First Sounds, a group devoted to preserving, recovering, and publishing old recordings.
Below is a sketch from Scott’s patent application (“brevet d’invention”), dated 25 Mar 1857.
Having displayed my ignorance of the history of my adopted country yesterday, today I discovered yet something else about its recent history: how cycle paths came about. As the wide majority of people in the country, I do a large chunk of my transportation on a bike (and by train for the longer distances), and the place that biking occupies in people’s lives is one of my very favorite aspects of living in this country. While growing up in car-infested São Paulo, I did quite a bit of biking before being able to drive (going to school etc.), which was quite unusual; but symptomatically, the day I turned 18 I got my driver’s license and never mounted a bike again until I came to live in the Netherlands at age 23. Ultimately, it is mostly a matter of infra-structure: driving and parking is often a nightmare around here, so, in the wide majority of situations, one is much better off biking. There are cycle paths virtually everywhere, including routes that are not allowed for cars; cycle paths make it safe and pleasant to bike around. Foreigners are often surprised that we don’t wear helmets to bike in the Netherlands, but rather than indicating Dutch recklessness when biking (although there is a lot of that too, especially in cities like Amsterdam), it in fact indicates how safe it is to bike here.
I have been thinking and publishing about the ontology of colour for a long time now, and I have slowly made some progress toward a defensible view. But now I have an idea that might bring it all together.
(Gerhard Richter: 1024 colours )
I am a realist about colour. Twenty-five years ago, my primary "reason" was the incredulous stare. "My car isn't blue? Really? What colour is it then? What?—It isn't any colour? Go away: how do I see it then?" Today, I would say something a little different.
This little quiz is in honor of my fellow blogger, Jeff Bell.
"Anything which possesses any sort of power to affect another, or to be affected by another even for a moment, however trifling the cause and however slight and momentary the effect, has real existence; and I hold that the definition of being is simply power."
Guess the author? Is it Spinoza? Whitehead? Deleuze?
Carolyn Dicey-Jennings, John Schwenkler and I put together the following list of women working in philosophy of mind. It is no doubt incomplete. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with addenda and corrigenda. Or put them in the comment section.
The widely translated Dutch novelist Arnon Grunberg attempts to end our ongoing exchange over the very possibility of letting Satan speak again in the novel by claiming "A good novelist adds something to the tradition, if this is too meager (or too ironic) for Schliesser I can only say: we don’t need another novelist who is proud of making grandiose statements. One Norman Mailer was enough." Grunberg here sides with Coetzee's vision in ("What is a Classic?") that the novelist's role is to be a steward of the tradition. Grunberg overlooks the great novelist, who transforms the tradition and, in doing so, saves it by giving it and her readers the oxygen of life. (There is an analogy with the role of philosophic prophecy in philosophy; see also here and here.) Thus, Grunberg tacitly confirms my assertion that the modern novelist is complicit in his (her) self-marginalization.
Though the accession of the Prince of Orange to the throne might at first give occasion to many disputes, and his title be contested, it ought not now to appear doubtful, but must have acquired a sufficient authority from those three princes, who have succeeded him upon the same title. Nothing is more usual, though nothing may, at first sight, appear more unreasonable, than this way of thinking. Princes often seem to acquire a right from their successors, as well as from their ancestors; and a king, who during his life-time might justly be deemed an usurper, will be regarded by posterity as a lawful prince, because he has had the good fortune to settle his family on the throne, and entirely change the antient form of government. Julius Caesar is regarded as the first Roman emperor; while Sylla and Marius, whose titles were really the same as his, are treated as tyrants and usurpers. (David Hume, Treatise, 3.2.10; emphasis added.)
Hume's paragraph is a crucial source-text in Jose A. Benardete's beautiful manuscript, Greatness of Soul: in Hume, Aristotle and Hobbes and Hume, that is circulating among his admirers.
Yesterday I visited the Lakenhal museum in Leiden, which by chance was hosting the last day of an exhibition on the Siege and Relief of Leiden (1574), a major episode in Dutch history. The background were the religious and political disputes between the catholic Spanish rulers and the large protestant population, led by charismatic leaders such as William of Orange (who then went on to become the first Dutch king [CORRECTION: See E. Schliesser's comment below]). The Spanish were determined to conquest the rebel areas by force, and had already violently subjugated the cities of Naarden and Haarlem. But after an unsuccessful campaign in Alkmaar, the Spanish rulers opted for a different approach, and began a siege of the city of Leiden in 1573. For the first siege, the city was well-prepared and could withstand the siege, which was then terminated after a few months. But in May 1574 a second siege began, and this time Leiden was not prepared , in particular with no special food supplies.
The [NIH Public Access] policy has provided access for physicians and their patients, teachers and their students, policymakers and the public to hundreds of thousands of taxpayer-funded studies that would otherwise have been locked behind expensive publisher paywalls, accessible only to a small fraction of researchers at elite and wealthy universities.
The policy has been popular – especially among disease and patient advocacy groups fighting to empower the people they represent to make wise healthcare decision, and teachers educating the next generation of researchers and caregivers.
But the policy has been quite unpopular with a powerful publishing cartels that are hellbent on denying US taxpayers access to and benefits from research they paid to produce. This industry already makes generous profits charging universities and hospitals for access to the biomedical research journals they publish. But unsatisfied with feeding at the public trough only once (the vast majority of the estimated $10 billion dollar revenue of biomedical publishers already comes from public funds), they are seeking to squeeze cancer patients and high school students for an additional $25 every time they want to read about the latest work of America’s scientists.
Read through the comments to see a reply by an Elsevier hack trotting out the creaky old "value-added" scam, as well as the post author's reply that most of the "value-added" is in the form of free peer-review labor.
An overview of the issue is here; a round-up of links here. A previous New APPS post on the topic is here.
"Authoritarianism is the ideal environment for the pairing of irony and paranoia...in the "Epistle to Augustus"...Ovid constructs himself and the Emperor as mirror-images of each other, a relationship in which irony and paranoia become ungovernable."--TLS, Dennis Feeney (September 16, 2011: p. 26). Our novelists prefer the seeming safety of irony. Arnon Grunberg admits as much: "I would argue that what Schliesser calls “self-marginalization” is nothing but realism. And I’m not sure if marginalization for a novelist is by definition a curse." [My comments had been a response to Grunberg's observations on the studied indifference to modern novels; his was, in turn, a response to my hint that art may be marginalizing itself by not giving Satan airtime.]
Addendum: See the informative comment below by John Protevi on the substance of Balko’s column—the fallibility of drug-sniffing dogs (and their trainers), and the resulting miscarriages of justice.
My late cat Mr. H came to be very good at knowing when I was finished playing a piece on the piano. I have recordings in which, a second or two after the piano stops, Mr. H’s characteristic yowl supplies a coda. One might almost think he had a grasp of musical form, but I’m quite sure that his grasp was rather of my habits than of anything to do with music. He had likely picked up something in my posture that correlated with finishing a piece, something distinctive enough that he was rarely deceived by pauses during a piece.
I was reminded of this in reading first a column by Radley Balko on police dogs and then some extracts from a book cited by Balko, Alexandra Horowitz’s Inside of a dog (the title alludes to a Groucho Marx joke, in case you’re wondering). Horowitz describes experiments in which domestic canines, when humans are present, tend to do much worse than their wild cousins.
Tested on their ability to, say, get a bit of food in a well-closed container, wolves keep trying and trying, and if the test is not rigged they eventually succeed through trial and error. Dogs, by contrast, tend to go at the container only until it appears that it won’t easily be opened. Then they look at any person in the room and begin a variety of attention-getting and solicitation behaviors until the person relents and helps them get into the box (180).
Anyone who has a dog or cat will recognize the phenomenon. Are dogs, then, dumber than wolves? Horowitz doesn’t think so.
On Philos-L, I came across the announcement for the following conference to take place in Lund, which at first caught my attention because of the funny acronym: G.I.R.L., which stands for ‘Games, Interactive Rationality and Learning’. Now, as it turns out, there is another aspect in which this is a G.I.R.L. conference, check out the (preliminary) list of invited speakers:
The coming months I’ll be teaching a third-year course on paradoxes, a mix of the history of different paradoxes, systematic analysis and a discussion of the methodological role of paradoxes for philosophical theorizing. I’ll also be reading some classical texts on paradoxes with the students, and for now I’ve selected portions of Aristotle’s Physics for Zeno’s paradoxes, Ockham and Bradwardine for the Liar, Russell’s letter to Frege for self-referential paradoxes, and Carroll’s ‘What Achilles said to the tortoise’ for the so-called paradox of inference. I’m still looking for sources on the ship of Theseus and the sorites paradoxes; for the former, I’m hesitating between Hobbes and Locke, and for the latter, I really don’t have much of an idea for now.
I was wondering if readers would have suggestions they could share? Maybe some of you have already read some of these texts with your students? I’ll also be working a bit on the methodology of reading historical texts in philosophy, but they cannot be too difficult, as this will be an overview course. Any thoughts you might have would be much appreciated!
"We allow Satan to speak freely in the novel, because we assume that nobody will pay serious attention. And we trust that if somebody is paying serious attention to the art of the novel this must be a so-called expert who is by definition immune to the sirens of Satan. The layman might be seduced by the Great Seducer – the expert finds nothing but rhetoric and literary technique. It’s hard to distinguish between his immunity and his expertise."
So says the very popular and widely translated Dutch novelist, Arnon Grunberg, responding to my comment that “Philosophy is different from law (where very bad human beings and acts deserve the very best arguments on their behalf in order to make a potentially moral institution function properly) or literature (where the art may be diminished if -- to speak poetically -- Satan is not given airtime.)”
Ok, I’m cheating here: Cesária Évora is not Brazilian by any stretch of the imagination. But I just found out that she died on December 17th, a few weeks ago (I wonder how I hadn’t heard about it before), and felt I just had to have a post on her. Cesária Évora was from Cape Verde, and without a doubt one of the greatest African singers of all times. She sung mostly in Cape Verdean Portuguese, which is really more of a dialect (it’s damn hard to understand what she sings!), but had close ties with Brazilian music and Brazilian musicians. This is why it is not too crazy to have a column on her here at BMoF.
For those who haven’t listened to Cesária’s music yet, you have no idea what you are missing. She has one of the most expressive voices I’ve ever heard; the beauty of her singing transcends the boundaries of (already beautiful) Cape Verdean music. I was lucky enough to see her live in São Paulo many years ago (1996, I think), and keep very vivid memories of that concert. I’ve followed her career since, and in particular her 2001 album São Vicente di Longe was a bit hit in my cd-player.
Eric Schliesser has quoted Jason Brennan to the effect that denying the franchise to certain people merits consideration. I think that to take such a proposal seriously exhibits either naïveté or ignorance—of a history not safely past but still with us. The philosopher wants to say something like: “If only we could bring it about that only well-informed, reasonable people voted, elections would yield much better results”. Yes, indeed, perhaps—if only. And if only despots were reliably benevolent, we could do away with all the messiness of democratic institutions…
Intellectual capital tends to track social and economic capital. Enfranchising only well-informed voters would have the effect of cementing into place existing inequalities. To show that I am not merely drawing on “intuitions”, let me quote a few passages from the suffrage debates. The quotations come from Selected Articles on Woman Suffrage (Minneapolis: H. W. Wilson, 1910). It is perhaps worth noting for those who don’t know the history of the women’s suffrage movement that after half a century of “agitation”, women in the US received the franchise in Federal elections in 1920; at the time the volume was published, whether women should have the vote was therefore very much a live issue. The authors I cite are against giving the franchise to women, and one of their arguments concerns women’s relative ignorance, on the basis of which the franchise ought to be withheld from them.
Brian Leiter continues his regular and often amusing smack-downs of Right Wing Intellectual Puffery. But Leiter also writes "I strongly suspect that if he weren't the canonical opponent of the French Revolution, even Burke would not be much read anymore (in a century that included David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and Adam Smith, why would anyone even notice Burke except for his conservatism?)." Hmm...Burke wrote A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful and Burke was quite courageous in advocating free trade with the Irish on principled grounds (even though he went against the perceived financial interests of his voters) and Catholic emancipation in England.
Michael Kremer drew my attention to this. I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is the coolest thing an official school marching band has ever done. Note that where they stop is directly in front of the governor of Wisconsin. Of course the entire event goes over the heads of the sock-puppet commentators.
In the spirit of the recent dueling posts here at NewAPPS, here’s a rejoinder to posts by my esteemed co-bloggers Helen de Cruz and Mohan Matthen. I am a big fan of the work of both, but disagree quite a bit with their take on evolutionary psychology, as I am no fan of most of the work done under this heading. (Ok, that’s a massive understatement.) What I don’t like about it is not only the fact that it is often much too speculative to my taste (Cosmides’ ‘cheating module’ being a good example), but also the fact that it takes the ‘wrong’ conception of evolution as its starting point. I am a staunch partisan of the anti-ultra-adaptionist conception of evolution of S. Jay Gould and others, and thus reject both the idea that phenotypic traits in organisms are primarily adaptations, and the related thesis of massive modularity. Gould emphasized in particular the constraints connected to the internal architecture of the organism, and the mutual influence of its different aspects (hence a rejection of massive modularity and a more holistic conception of organisms).