The myth of closure When people talk about overcoming tragedy and loss these days, it’s hard to avoid the word “closure.” Whether it’s the death of a loved one, a national catastrophe, or just an argument with a friend, closure is supposed to be what we need to heal and get on with our lives. It’s easy to see the appeal of the idea that we can put a definitive end to our suffering or grief and start a new chapter of life without sorrow, guilt, or anger. The term originates in Gestalt psychology, but the popular notion of closure emerged through the victims’ rights, pop psychology, and self-help movements of recent decades. By the 1990s, the concept had become a cultural commonplace, and today is cited in industries from marketing to politics. In May, when President Obama visited the World Trade Center site after Osama bin Laden’s death, the White House press secretary explained the visit as “an effort to perhaps help New Yorkers and Americans everywhere to achieve a sense of closure.”
Richard Dawkins on vivisection: "But can they suffer?" The great moral philosopher Jeremy Bentham, founder of utilitarianism, famously said,'The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather, "Can they suffer?" Most people get the point, but they treat human pain as especially worrying because they vaguely think it sort of obvious that a species' ability to suffer must be positively correlated with its intellectual capacity. What about dogs? How could they bear to do it: tie a struggling, screaming mammal down with ropes and dissect its living heart, for example? Most of us nowadays believe that dogs and other non-human mammals can feel pain, and no reputable scientist today would follow Descartes' and Harvey's horrific example and dissect a living mammal without anaesthetic. Without going into the interesting literature on Animal Suffering It is an interesting question, incidentally, why pain has to be so damned painful.
The Future of Moral Machines The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless. A robot walks into a bar and says, “I’ll have a screwdriver.” A bad joke, indeed. But even less funny if the robot says “Give me what’s in your cash register.” The fictional theme of robots turning against humans is older than the word itself, which first appeared in the title of Karel Čapek’s 1920 play about artificial factory workers rising against their human overlords. Just 22 years later, Isaac Asimov invented the “Three Laws of Robotics” to serve as a hierarchical ethical code for the robots in his stories: first, never harm a human being through action or inaction; second, obey human orders; last, protect oneself. Machines are increasingly operating with minimal human oversight in the same physical spaces as we do. The prospect of machines capable of following moral principles, let alone understanding them, seems as remote today as the word “robot” is old. Leif Parsons
Garbage and Gravitas St. Petersburg in revolt gave us Vladimir Nabokov, Isaiah Berlin and Ayn Rand. The first was a novelist, the second a philosopher. The third was neither but thought she was both. Ayn Rand and the World She Made By Anne C. Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right By Jennifer Burns.Buy this book About the Author Corey Robin Corey Robin, who teaches at Brooklyn College, is the author of Fear: The History of a Political Idea, and The... Also by the Author How did the conservative ideas of Friedrich Hayek and the Austrian school become our economic reality? Since the ’70s, liberals and leftists have misidentified the source of conservatism’s appeal. One of those readers might well have been Farrah Fawcett. She described the show as a "triumph of concept and casting." So taken was Rand with Fawcett that she hoped the actress (or if not her, Raquel Welch) would play the part of Dagny Taggart in a TV version of Atlas Shrugged on NBC. The story, as told, is pure Rand.
Multiple initiatives vie to give scientists unique IDs - Ars Technica Ars' science staff loves the Digital Object Identifier system that's used for scientific publications. Each paper gets its own unique ID, and plugging that into the doi.org site will resolve it to the paper, even if the original journal changes its name, moves the paper to a new URL, or what have you. Aside from helping one find an original research paper, the DOI is powerful as a tool for finding related information. A simple search for a DOI can identify a whole host of articles that comment on the paper. If it's useful for papers, imagine what a DOI for authors could do. Conflicting ways of finding authors An article in Thursday's edition of Science takes a look at a number of these, and the pros and cons of each. Another obvious choice for running an author ID system is the US' National Center for Biotechnology Information, which already runs a massive database of scientific publications, PubMed. The downside to this is that the system isn't actually operational at this point.
Trust and reputation systems: redistributing power and influence - People use social networking tools to figure out who they can trust and rely on for decision making. By the end of this decade, power and influence will shift largely to those people with the best reputations and trust networks, from people with money and nominal power. That is, peer networks will confer legitimacy on people emerging from the grassroots. This shift is already happening, gradually creating a new power and influence equilibrium with new checks and balances. It will seem dramatic when its tipping point occurs, even though we're living through it now. Everyone gets a chance to participate in large or small ways, giving a voice to what we once called "the silent majority." (Okay, I started with the bottom line. When we need help with decision making, we get recommendations from people we trust, that trust built on some combination of personal experience and reputation. Reputation is contextual, that is, you might trust someone when it comes to dry cleaners but not politic.
French Theory in America - Stanley Fish - Think Again - Opinion - New York Times Blog It was in sometime in the ’80s when I heard someone on the radio talking about Clint Eastwood’s 1980 movie “Bronco Billy.” It is, he said, a “nice little film in which Eastwood deconstructs his ‘Dirty Harry’ image.” That was probably not the first time the verb “deconstruct” was used casually to describe a piece of pop culture, but it was the first time I had encountered it, and I remember thinking that the age of theory was surely over now that one of its key terms had been appropriated, domesticated and commodified. It had also been used with some precision. It turned out, of course, that my conclusion was hasty and premature, for it was in the early ’90s that the culture wars went into high gear and the chief target of the neo-conservative side was this theory that I thought had run its course. It’s a great story, full of twists and turns, and now it has been told in extraordinary detail in a book to be published next month: “French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co.
Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS21 - Joshua Knobe on Experimental Philosophy Release date: November 7, 2010 Our guest, Joshua Knobe, is a philosopher interested in cognitive science, so interested, in fact, that he has contributed to establishing a whole new branch of inquiry known as experimental philosophy — and he plausibly claims that the name is not actually an oxymoron! The idea is summarized in this way on one of the major web sites devoted to the enterprise: "Experimental philosophy, called x-phi for short, is a new philosophical movement that supplements the traditional tools of analytic philosophy with the scientific methods of cognitive science. So experimental philosophers actually go out and run systematic experiments aimed at understanding how people ordinarily think about the issues at the foundation of the philosophical discussion.” Joshua Knobe is an assistant professor at Yale University, affiliated both with the Program in Cognitive Science and the Department of Philosophy. Comment on the episode teaser. Joshua's picks:
Graphing the history of philosophy « Drunks&Lampposts A close up of ancient and medieval philosophy ending at Descartes and Leibniz If you are interested in this data set you might like my latest post where I use it to make book recommendations. This one came about because I was searching for a data set on horror films (don’t ask) and ended up with one describing the links between philosophers. To cut a long story very short I’ve extracted the information in the influenced by section for every philosopher on Wikipedia and used it to construct a network which I’ve then visualised using gephi It’s an easy process to repeat. First I’ll show why I think it’s worked as a visualisation. Each philosopher is a node in the network and the lines between them (or edges in the terminology of graph theory) represents lines of influence. It gets more interesting when we use Gephi to identify communities (or modules) within the network. It has been fairly successful. The Continental Tradition The graph is probably most insightful when you zoom in close.
Human cycles: History as science Sometimes, history really does seem to repeat itself. After the US Civil War, for example, a wave of urban violence fuelled by ethnic and class resentment swept across the country, peaking in about 1870. Internal strife spiked again in around 1920, when race riots, workers' strikes and a surge of anti-Communist feeling led many people to think that revolution was imminent. And in around 1970, unrest crested once more, with violent student demonstrations, political assassinations, riots and terrorism (see 'Cycles of violence'). To Peter Turchin, who studies population dynamics at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, the appearance of three peaks of political instability at roughly 50-year intervals is not a coincidence. For the past 15 years, Turchin has been taking the mathematical techniques that once allowed him to track predator–prey cycles in forest ecosystems, and applying them to human history. From ecology to history Endless cycles Global trends
The truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it | David Graeber Back in the 1930s, Henry Ford is supposed to have remarked that it was a good thing that most Americans didn't know how banking really works, because if they did, "there'd be a revolution before tomorrow morning". Last week, something remarkable happened. The Bank of England let the cat out of the bag. In a paper called "Money Creation in the Modern Economy", co-authored by three economists from the Bank's Monetary Analysis Directorate, they stated outright that most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong, and that the kind of populist, heterodox positions more ordinarily associated with groups such as Occupy Wall Street are correct. In doing so, they have effectively thrown the entire theoretical basis for austerity out of the window. To get a sense of how radical the Bank's new position is, consider the conventional view, which continues to be the basis of all respectable debate on public policy. The central bank can print as much money as it wishes.
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