In order of rough appearance in history, here are four types of myth. All of them, it should be obvious, are meaningful: they provide their users with what Kenneth Burke called “equipment for living”. They only survive if they do some good… or at least minimal harm. Continue reading Four types of myth?
People and philosophers tend to get bogged down in binary oppositions like objective vs subjective, nature vs culture and inductive vs deductive knowledge. Continental philosophers tend to complicate such binaries, trying to show how both terms are inadequate. Analytic philosophers tend to talk themselves into the ground trying to prove or disprove the existence of one of the terms.
But I think the unusually practical philosopher Daniel Dennett goes about these things the right way and his method is quite generally applicable. Continue reading Deduction, subjectivity & culture are all real enough
I’ve always thought the big unexplored emancipation or rights movement is helping the unintelligent. Below average intelligence is strongly correlated with poorer life outcomes across many measures. I’m not going all Bell Curve on you here; I say nothing of race or even of the validity of IQ as a single measure of intelligence. But obviously people with lower cognitive abilities, measured however you like, are at a disadvantage in most spheres of life.
Well, like anyone I started out totally hopeless, a complete vernix-covered liability. Ageing from zero, my beliefs and opinions have appeared and have more or less been in a complete state of flux. I now occupy a position I think is pretty respectable (haven’t I always?). Roughly I’ve moved from nothing to right to centre to left to centre again. Within and between these regions I’ve left a thick, meandering trail from belief to belief, position to position.
Unless you’re crazy or a genius, then it’s true that those things you once believed are believed by others still, at this very moment in time. Like that your country is the best in the world. Like that pop music is good. Like that xrays, radio waves and the light we see are actually all the same thing. All the positions you’ve ever held still exist, held by some cross-section of thousands of people you’ve never met. Strangers you never meet will Continue reading Occupy humanity
Don’t blame the victim and don’t blame the perpetrator.
I call out victim blaming wherever I see it. Obviously in rape culture the phrase denotes people who offer reasons that women should expect to be raped (what they’re wearing, what time they walk home, whether they were flirtatious, etcecrable). Then it pops up in something like the Adam Goodes affair where people are like, “Well I agree with him but he goes about spreading his opinion the wrong way” as though he was asking for racist treatment by being too forthright in pointing out, well, racism. And then — I might lose a few here — the victim blaming that occurs when cartoonists get shot for drawing cartoons. “They shouldn’t have provoked extremists, the cartoons were racist, it wasn’t even satire, I’m not even a person I’m just this sentence, etc.“ — we did a whole thing on it. Or there are the African-American victims of police brutality who were urged to be more respectful to the police officers who beat the shit out of them. Continue reading I blame the victim blamers
We fear that others will be adversely influenced by something that we want to censor: video games, porn, racist invective.
But we want to influence others’ behaviour through advertising, campaigning, rhetoric.
Yet we ourselves cannot be influenced; we see through spin, can judge for ourselves what we should watch & never get duped by demagogues, commercials, or con-artists. Continue reading The anxiety over influence
Reading an article co-authored by a genuinely clever dude I know, Tom Swann, I had a few of my thoughts on climate change crystallise. Or maybe they glaciated. Apparently Harvard University doesn’t want to divest from fossil fuels because doing so would be a political position and universities should be apolitical. Many would disagree with that last idea. Regardless, if you call climate change a political issue you are actually just wrong. Continue reading Climate derange
It’s both impossible and stupid to not judge others. This is too obvious for words, except that I repeatedly find myself being accused1)Somewhat judgementally. of “judging people” as though it were the supreme wrong. But to do otherwise would be to sleepwalk through the world. Continue reading Ye be judged