Links: Divorce court, Comcast is evil, Derek Parfit, math, Peter Watt, and more

* On the role of divorce courts and government incoherence, which is my title and I think better than the alternative; interesting throughout. Compare it to my footnote in this Grant Writing Confidential post.

squirrel with nut-1717* Former Comcast employee explains how horrible Comcast is.

* The shift from “analyzing” to “creating.”

* “Reason and romance: The world’s most cerebral marriage,” which is (unintentionally?) hilarious throughout:

He eats the same staples every day. For breakfast there’s muesli, yoghurt, juice and an enormous cup of instant coffee, industrial strength and often made with hot water from the tap because boiling it would require putting on the kettle. In the evening he has raw carrots, cheese, romaine lettuce and celery dipped in peanut butter. Food has to fulfil two basic criteria: it must be healthy and involve the minimum of preparation.

I tried to read Parfit but he “is proudly a philosopher’s philosopher,” which may explain why I couldn’t figure out why I or anyone should care about what he argues. Contrast that with Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind, in which every page feels relevant and actionable.

* Global income inequality is falling, but do the dominant media narrative creators care?

* A Mind for Numbers.

* Peter Watt’s Echopraxia is coming; mine is pre-ordered and yours should be too.

* Derek Huang on Old Masters vs. Young Geniuses.

* Comcast’s worst nightmare: How Tennessee could save America’s Internet.” Maybe.

On bad writing in philosophy: Derek Parfit on Kant

“It is Kant who made really bad writing philosophically acceptable. We can no longer point to some atrocious sentence by someone else, and say ‘How can it be worth reading anyone who writes like that?’ The answer could always be ‘What about Kant?'”

—Derek Parfit on Kant, in On What Matters

(Reading reviews of philosophy is often more interesting than the philosophy itself, since the reviews tend to be more comprehensible. That was certainly true for On What Matters. Despite, for example, Tyler Cowen’s review, I still wonder if a lot of philosophy, in its quest for rigor, paradoxically cannot find rigor in a confusing world limited by our language’s ability to describe it. Recursiveness in language is great right up to the point where you have to endlessly drill down to figure out what words mean. Cowen says, “In the subject areas of On What Matters the semantics are too slack, too open to multiple interpretation, and too many of the central concepts cry out for formalization. There are not compelling new metaphors and examples to pin down the discourse.” I wonder if the semantics of philosophy in general are simply “too slack” for them to do much. Note how I say “I wonder” at the start of the preceding sentence: this is not a rhetorical device. I also wonder if technology drives culture far more than vice-versa; when I read some philosophy, I think “yes.”

Two caveats: I haven’t read enough philosophy to grok it. In addition, what philosophy I do read I often view as material for fiction rather than in its own terms. One reason I may have liked Richard Rorty’s Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity is simply because he argues that fiction goes places philosophy can’t and thus might have the intellectual high ground. )

%d bloggers like this: