Saturday, November 21, 2015
The Preacher's Grace
“I ain’t sayin’ I’m, like Jesus, but I got tired like Him, an’ I got mixed up like him, an’ I went into the wilderness like Him.
Night time I’d lay on my back an’ look at the stars; morning I’d set an’ watch the sun come up; midday I’d look out from a hill at the rollin’ dry country; evenin’ I’d foller the sun down. Sometimes I’d pray like I’d always done. Only I couldn’t figure out what I was prayin’ for. There was the hills, an’ there was me, an’ we wasn’t separate no more. We was one thing. An’ that one thing was holy.
“An’ I got to thinkin’, only it wasn’t thinkin’, it was deeper down than thinkin’. I got thinkin’ how we was holy when we was one thing, an’ mankind was holy when it was one thing. An’ it only got unholy when one miserable little fella got the bit in his teeth an’ run off his own way, kickin’ and draggin’ and fightin’. Fella like that bust the holiness. But when they’re all workin’ together, not one fella for another fella, but one fella kind of harnessed to the whole shebang—that’s right, that’s holy. An’ then I got thinkin’ I don’t even know what I mean by holy.”
“I can’t say grace like I used to say. I’m glad of the holiness of breakfast. I’m glad there’s love here. That’s all.”
by John Steinbeck
from The Grapes of Wrath
Friday, November 20, 2015
Paul Voosen in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
By their first meeting, a dinner and walk around Budapest in 1965, Laszlo told Klara, his future bride, how his kids’ education would go. He had studied the lives of geniuses and divined a pattern: an adult singularly focused on the child’s success. He’d raise the kids outside school, with intense devotion to a subject, though he wasn’t sure what. "Every healthy child," as he liked to say, "is a potential genius." Genetics and talent would be no obstacle. And he’d do it with great love.
Fifty years later in a leafy suburb of St. Louis, I met one of Laszlo’s daughters, Susan Polgár, the first woman ever to earn the title of chess grandmaster. For several years, Susan had led the chess team of Webster University — a small residential college with a large international and online footprint — to consecutive national titles. Their spring break had just begun, and for the next few days, in a brick-and-glass former religious library turned chess hall, the team would drill for a four-team tournament in New York City to defend the title.
Jonathan Borwein in IFL Science:
The movie The Man Who Knew Infinity is about Srinivasa Ramanujan, who is generally viewed by mathematicians as one of the two most romantic figures in our discipline. (I shall say more about the other romantic later.)
Ramanujan (1887–1920) was born and died, aged just 32, in Southern India. But in one of the most extraordinary events in mathematical history, he spent the period of World War I in Trinity College Cambridge at the invitation of the leading British mathematician Godfrey Harold (G. H.) Hardy (1877–1947) and his great collaborator John E. Littlewood.
To avoid having to issue spoiler alerts, I will not tell much of Ramanujan’s story here.
Suffice to say that as a boy he refused to learn anything but mathematics, he was almost entirely self taught and his pre-Cambridge work is contained in a series of Notebooks.
The work he did after returning to India in 1919 is contained in the misleadingly named Lost Notebook. It was lost and later found in the Wren library of the leading college for mathematics of the leading University in England. While in England Ramanujan became the first Indian Fellow both of Trinity and of the Royal Society.
David Graeber in The Guardian:
In the wake of the murderous attacks in Paris, we can expect western heads of state to do what they always do in such circumstances: declare total and unremitting war on those who brought it about. They don’t actually mean it. They’ve had the means to uproot and destroy Islamic State within their hands for over a year now. They’ve simply refused to make use of it. In fact, as the world watched leaders making statements of implacable resolve at the G20 summit in Antalaya, these same leaders are hobnobbing with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a man whose tacit political, economic, and even military support contributed to Isis’s ability to perpetrate the atrocities in Paris, not to mention an endless stream of atrocities inside the Middle East.
How could Isis be eliminated? In the region, everyone knows. All it would really take would be to unleash the largely Kurdish forces of the YPG (Democratic Union party) in Syria, and PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ party) guerillas in Iraq and Turkey. These are, currently, the main forces actually fighting Isis on the ground. They have proved extraordinarily militarily effective and oppose every aspect of Isis’s reactionary ideology.
But instead, YPG-controlled territory in Syria finds itself placed under a total embargo by Turkey, and PKK forces are under continual bombardment by the Turkish air force. Not only has Erdoğan done almost everything he can to cripple the forces actually fighting Isis; there is considerable evidence that his government has been at least tacitly aiding Isis itself.
Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of Greece in 2015—a double round of elections, a nailbiter of a referendum, protests, and financial cliff-hangers—2015 also marked the centennial of Rupert Brooke’s peaceful death on the island of Skyros, on April 23, 1915. The poet succumbed to complications from a mosquito bite, at the age of 27, practically the sole patient aboard a French hospital ship that was anchored in Treis Boukes Bay (a former pirate cove), at 4:46 in the afternoon. He was buried later the same day towards midnight under a cloud-shrouded moon in a sage-fragrant olive grove (a grove he himself had remarked on for its enchantment just three days before) on the deserted south side of this beautiful yet spooky island; in haste, because the troops were shipping out for Gallipoli at dawn.
My husband and I used to go to Skyros often, especially looking forward to the dithyrambic carnival festival. I forget why we stopped going exactly—it always seemed like a trek, since you had to drive to Euboia first, then catch the Lykomedes sailing from Cymae, putting you in to port on wind-swept Skyros in the dark of night. There, as I remember, one of the harbor cafes would greet the ferryboat’s arrival by blaring Thus Spake Zarathustra, adding to the island’s quirky eeriness.
Inaugurating a new generation of mechanical street sweepers, Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, heralded the coming of a new era: “If we continue to receive the love and support of the public and the workers, then not in five years, we will make Delhi a world-class city in just four years.”1 By June 2020, more features would swathe Delhi in trappings fit for the city’s “world-class” designation, like highways of “good quality with a lot of greenery.”2 Also underway in Kejriwal’s conjuring: a “world-class” high-tech skills center to upgrade the technical labor force, multiple sports stadiums, and shiny new hotels. Ghertner elaborates on other features of “world-class,” some already in place: “the excitement of stepping into an air-conditioned, stainless steel carriage on the Delhi Metro, or the pride of living near a shopping mall with more marble than the Taj Mahal.”
Aesthetics plays an intrinsic role in the functioning of modern regimes even, or perhaps especially, under conditions of mass poverty. Making things beautiful, or at least decent or nice, facilitates both urban development and mass acquiescence. The positive image of certain elements renders other types of physical matter and some types of human beings out of place. Under the regime of “world-class,” they become in effect weeds that make the city ugly. Such a regime justifies spending resources to upgrade the city while uprooting whatever threatens to mar the landscape.
Though Hawthorne’s ultimate verdict on the attempt to return to nature is sobering, The Blithedale Romance is not simply a conservative defense of the wisdom of custom or a churlish critique of hopes to transform human life. Communal life at Blithedale is enchanting, and the charm of the odd characters drawn to the community is essential to our experience of the story.
We first see Blithedale through the eyes of the narrator, the gentleman-poet Miles Coverdale. When we meet this young man on the eve of his departure for Blithedale, he has been indulging his idle curiosity in the spectacle of the “Veiled Lady” — a popular stage show involving mesmerism and a silent, wispy female form seemingly in communion with the spiritual realm — and is on his way back to his bachelor apartment and its well-stocked wine closet. In spite of its amusements and pleasures, Coverdale has come to find his own life hollow and dreary; his poetry seems artificial and no longer inspires even himself. He is all too ready, the next morning, to down a last glass of champagne, fling away his cigar, and leave his cozy apartment to seek a community of sympathetic spirits and a revivification of his poetic energies in the snowy fields beyond Boston.
Orpheus with his lute made trees And the mountain tops that freeze Bow themselves when he did sing: To his music plants and flowers Ever sprung; as sun and showers There had made a lasting spring. Every thing that heard him play, Even the billows of the sea, Hung their heads and then lay by. In sweet music is such art, Killing care and grief of heart Fall asleep, or hearing, die.
by William Shakespeare
Lyndall Gordon in New Statesman:
The poet had a tangled relationship with the erotic, once remarking that however intimate a love poem may be, it is meant to be overheard. For most of his lifetime T S Eliot appeared an austere and reticent figure. During the long breakdown of his first marriage, to Vivienne Haigh-Wood, he took a vow of celibacy in 1928, controlled his relations with other women, and in 1953 planned to retire to an abbey. So some may be surprised by the sexual content of two sets of poems published in full for the first time in a complete edition of his Poems. The editors politely call the earlier set “Improper Rhymes”; in truth, it’s a smutty romp. The later set contains poems of marital love, written for his second wife, Valerie Fletcher. Neither set remotely approaches the greatness of the 1963 Collected Poems, Eliot’s last volume before he died in 1965, and we may wonder how to place erotic exploits in our sense of his life and character.
As a student at Harvard, he began circulating his Columbo and Bolo jingles between about 1908 and 1914. For men only, and degrading women, Jews and blacks, they offer the spectacle of a penis so mighty it can rip a “whore” “from cunt to navel”. This revel in violence is varied by the antics of the sex-mad King Bolo and his Big Black Kween, whose bum is as big as a soup tureen. After Eliot settled in London in 1915 he was prepared to publish the verses, but Wyndham Lewis, to whom they were offered for his avant-garde magazine Blast, declined to print words “ending in -Uck, -Unt and -Ugger”. At first, when I came upon the Bolovian Court and Columbo and his crew, I assumed that they were a juvenile aberration. The third volume of Letters (covering the period of Eliot’s conversion to the Anglican faith in June 1927) presents a challenge to this. For the obscene verse that Eliot continued to write and disseminate as late as the age of 44 is not, in his own post-conversion view, an aberration. In an exchange with his fellow publisher Geoffrey Faber in August 1927 he commends obscenity, in the manner of Swift, as an eye for evil.
Francine F Abeles in Nature:
In 1855, Charles L. Dodgson became the mathematical lecturer at Christ Church College in the University of Oxford, UK. His job was to prepare Christ Church men (for it was all men) to pass examinations in mathematics. Dodgson (1832–98) would go on to publish Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871) under the pen name Lewis Carroll, but he also produced many pamphlets and ten books on mathematical topics. In some of these, he exhibited unusual methods — for rapid arithmetic, for example. Others featured innovative ideas that foreshadowed developments in the twentieth century, for instance in voting theory. All but two of these books were published by Macmillan (until this year, the parent company of this journal's publisher). Macmillan co-founder Alexander Macmillan was Dodgson's trusted publisher and friend for 35 years (see go.nature.com/9q8oqe).
What unifies Carroll's oeuvre is the wit and colour apparent in the manifestations of his wide-ranging mathematical interests, particularly in geometry and logic. The Alice books contain many supreme examples. The “Mad Tea-Party”, for instance, has the Hare, Hatter, Dormouse and Alice circling around static place settings like numbers on a circle, as in a modular system, rather than in a line. Carroll developed the earliest modern use of today's 'logic trees', a graphical technique for determining the validity of complex arguments that he called the 'method of trees'. This was a step towards automated approaches to solving multiple connected problems of logic. True to form, the puzzles that Carroll solves with his trees are given quirky names — “The Problem of Grocers on Bicycles”, “The Pigs and Balloons Problem”.
Picture: A love of puzzles is clear in the call to behead the bodyless Cheshire Cat: what, exactly, would you behead?
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Maria Popova discusses 3QD's own Sam Kean's new book The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery in Brain Pickings:
Four years after The Disappearing Spoon, his wonderful chronicle of crazy tales from the periodic table, science writer Sam Kean returns with The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery (public library) — a mind-bending tour of the mind, which Kean opens with a fascinating example, at once very personal and powerfully illustrative of the brain’s humbling complexity:
I can’t fall asleep on my back — or rather, I don’t dare to. In that position I often slip into a fugue state where my mind wakes up from a dream, but my body remains immobile. In this limbo I can still sense things around me: sunlight trickling through the curtains, passersby on the street below, the blanket tented on my upturned feet. But when I tell my body to yawn and stretch and get on with the day, nothing happens. I’ll recite the command again — Move, you — and the message echoes back, unheeded. I fight, I struggle, I strain to twiddle a toe or flex a nostril, and it does no good. It’s what being reincarnated as a statue would feel like. It’s the opposite of sleepwalking — it’s sleep paralysis.
The worst part is the panic. Being awake, my mind expects my lungs to take full, hearty breaths — to feel my throat expanding and my sternum rising a good six inches. But my body — still asleep, physiologically — takes mere sips of air. I feel I’m suffocating, bit by bit, and panic begins to smolder in my chest.
But Kean, who is usually able to awaken his body within a few minutes, considers himself lucky — for others suffering from sleep paralysis, it can take hours of tortuous toiling. Some even slip into this half-asleep state in the middle of their day, while others have out-of-body experiences in the midst of trying to awaken their physical being. This is where Kean’s most fascinating point comes in — sleep paralysis may explain not only why a good deal of supernatural mythology came to be, but it also helps illustrate how the healthy brain works.
Charles Clover and Lucy Hornby in the FT:
After two decades of rapid growth, Beijing is again looking beyond its borders for investment opportunities and trade, and to do that it is reaching back to its former imperial greatness for the familiar “Silk Road” metaphor. Creating a modern version of the ancient trade route has emerged as China’s signature foreign policy initiative under President Xi Jinping.
“It is one of the few terms that people remember from history classes that does not involve hard power . . . and it’s precisely those positive associations that the Chinese want to emphasise,” says Valerie Hansen, professor of Chinese history at Yale University.
Xi’s big idea
If the sum total of China’s commitments are taken at face value, the new Silk Road is set to become the largest programme of economic diplomacy since the US-led Marshall Plan for postwar reconstruction in Europe, covering dozens of countries with a total population of over 3bn people. The scale demonstrates huge ambition. But against the backdrop of a faltering economy and the rising strength of its military, the project has taken on huge significance as a way of defining China’s place in the world and its relations — sometimes tense — with its neighbours.
Economically, diplomatically and militarily Beijing will use the project to assert regional leadership in Asia, say experts. For some, it spells out a desire to establish a new sphere of influence, a modern-day version of the 19th century Great Game, where Britain and Russia battled for control in central Asia.
“The Silk Road has been part of Chinese history, dating back to the Han and Tang dynasties, two of the greatest Chinese empires,” says Friedrich Wu, a professor at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “The initiative is a timely reminder that China under the Communist party is building a new empire.”
Elizabeth Kadetsky in Vox:
The fact of Jill's addiction came into focus for me when I was in my late 20s and she was about 30. It was the early ‘90s; the echo of Kurt Cobain's guitar had migrated to New York City, and heroin was de rigueur at the Lower East Side clubs. A talented guitarist and singer, Jill haunted that scene. I enjoyed going out with her and even tried heroin once — though in my case I threw up, fell asleep for 24 hours, and missed work for a week.
After that, I limited myself to observation. There was a dealer in the basement of a bodega on East 12th Street, Jill told me; you went underground through a tunnel and entered a bathroom, where you knocked on a medicine cabinet; the mirror swung open and a hand emerged offering a baggie of dope. At the El Sombrero Mexican restaurant on Ludlow Street — "the Hat" — you could smoke H in the bathroom and sit forever at a table where you'd see other acquaintances also nodding and never ordering food.
Some people exist breezily in such a world without ever succumbing to the temptation for everlasting euphoria or escape — me, for instance. But for Jill, drugs perhaps salved some wound. At a Thanksgiving during that era, Jill went seemingly blank for an extended moment, her eyes shut, the contents of her plate spilling to the floor. Soon after that, we visited our father and his second family up in Boston, and Jill went out and returned with two six-packs and slurred speech. I knew what other family members seemed to be denying or ignoring or, in the case of our mother, blatantly rejecting. When, one time, I tried to talk to my mother about it, she accused me, "Why are you so hard on Jill?"
Like little sisters everywhere, I'd admired my older sister and emulated her. Perhaps this was why I took her fall so hard, why I felt abandoned. Like our mother, Jill was exotic — ballsy and gorgeous. I'd adopted not only her quirks and mannerisms but her worldview. I copied her emotional fragility — the meltdowns, the weeks of consuming sadness. Like Jill, I harbored anger and resentment. Our father was often the target, for favoring his children by his second wife, for making us feel shame for our second-class position in our family. I borrowed Jill's general aura of detached, sometimes humorous fatalism.
But then one day, Jill vented on the telephone to me about our father. It occurred to me that if it wouldn't kill Jill, bearing her disposition would certainly kill me. I needed to stop thinking about what was wrong in my life and focus on the positive. I wanted to stop brooding. I wanted to heal.
During one of her performances of György Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre, she shuffles around in black latex and fishnets, sucking her teeth, ululating. When she starts, unexpectedly, to conduct, her hand gestures are as clean and brutal as her singing. In Hans Abrahamsen’s orchestral song cycle Let Me Tell You, she trembles—voice glass-thin—with the heartbreak and bewilderment of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. Her hands soar with the orchestra in Ligeti’sConcert Românesc; she punches cymbals and brass into the final sforzando. In the title role of Berg’s Lulu, she roars and trills en pointe, in lingerie, in sequins, wielding a handgun. As Marie in Bernd Alois Zimmerman’s Die Soldaten, she makes of herself a slack puppet mouthing crystalline bel canto, a victim, a whore. Leading Fauré’s incidental music for Pélléas et Mélisande, she caresses the sound into being as much with her eyes as with her fingertips. In Gerald Barry's The Importance of Being Earnest, as witty, innocent Cecily, she delivers line after line of shatteringly precise high notes. As Agnès in George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, she croons and shivers with soft lust and terror—in the final scene, she eats her lover’s heart, staring blankly into the audience.
She conducts, she dances—no. She strides, she leaps, she spits out chewing gum, she flings herself against men and glass doors. She sings—no: she weeps, she bellows, rough and liquid and staccato all at once.
This physicality, this corporeal engagement with her art, is part of what makes a Barbara Hannigan performance so remarkable.
As our own research has shown—in interviews with youth in Paris, London, and Barcelona, as well as with captured ISIS fighters in Iraq and Jabhat an-Nusra (al-Qaeda) fighters from Syria—simply treating the Islamic State as a form of “terrorism” or “violent extremism” masks the menace. Dismissing the group as “nihilistic” reflects a dangerous avoidance of trying to comprehend, and deal with, its profoundly alluring mission to change and save the world. What many in the international community regard as acts of senseless, horrific violence are to ISIS’s followers part of an exalted campaign of purification through sacrificial killing and self-immolation. This is the purposeful violence that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-anointed Caliph, has called “the volcanoes of Jihad”—creating an international jihadi archipelago that will eventually unite to destroy the present world to create a new-old world of universal justice and peace under the Prophet’s banner.
Indeed, ISIS’s theatrical brutality—whether in the Middle East or now in Europe—is part of a conscious plan designed to instill among believers a sense of meaning that is sacred and sublime, while scaring the hell out of fence-sitters and enemies. This strategy was outlined in the 2004 manifesto Idarat at Tawahoush (The Management of Savagery), a tract written for ISIS’s precursor, the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda; tawahoushcomes from wahsh or “beast,” so an animal-like state. Here are some of its main axioms:
Diversify and widen the vexation strikes against the Crusader-Zionist enemy in every place in the Islamic world, and even outside of it if possible, so as to disperse the efforts of the alliance of the enemy and thus drain it to the greatest extent possible.
Shortly before James Baldwin’s death in December 1987, Quincy Troupe travelled to his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, near Nice, to interview him. The result, first printed in James Baldwin: The legacy (1989) and now reissued as part of Melville House’s “Last Interview” series – together with previously published interviews with Baldwin by Julian Lester (from the New York Times Book Review, 1984), Richard Goldstein (the Village Voice, 1984), and the transcript of a 1961 radio conversation with Studs Terkel in Chicago – is characteristically wide-ranging. In spite of Baldwin’s deteriorating health, Troupe caught him at his articulate, acerbic, ardent best. The conversation touches on subjects as diverse as Norman Mailer’s decision “to be a celebrity” rather than a writer, Baldwin’s refusal “to wash myself clean for the American literary academy”, the need to do “great violence to the assumptions on which [American] vocabulary is based”, and the “certain distinctive juju” that Troupe felt Baldwin and Miles Davis shared (Troupe was at the time co-writing Miles: The autobiography, 1990).
In the course of the discussion, Baldwin remarks: “It’s difficult to be a legend. It’s hard for me to recognize me”. Few writers have so unequivocally resisted the terms under which they have been defined.
Veronica Arreola in BitchMedia:
If Hillary Rodham Clinton is to successfully shatter the now-infamous glass ceiling for women presidential candidates, she will need to grab a sledgehammer from her “privilege knapsack.” That knapsack that holds so many of our unconsidered privileges, such as white privilege and class privilege, that color our perceptions. Hillary’s bag holds the mighty sledgehammer that she requires to smash her way into the White House in her own right, and get the votes of women who don’t carry that same knapsack, by taking a swing to break down some inherent problems in her well-intentioned family policies.
While Hillary and her entourage of consultants may think that the key to a 2016 White House victory is reestablishing the Democratic Party with white men, I contend that for her to succeed, she must win the hearts of low-income women and women of color. In 2008, President Obama not only overwhelmingly won over African-American (95 percent), Latino (67 percent), and Asian (62 percent) voters, but he also triumphed with the majority of voters who earned less than $50,000 a year. As a Latina, I know that in order for Hillary to win us over, she needs to spend some quiet time with her privilege knapsack and show voters in those groups more respect. Sadly, she doesn’t have a great record of doing that. Don’t get me wrong—I admire Hillary. I was born in her hometown of Park Ridge, Illinois. We both grew up root-root-rooting for the Chicago Cubs. We both centered our careers on the empowerment of girls and women. But I learned that empowerment is a complicated thing.
For years, scientists have struggled to find a way to block a protein known to play an important role in many cancers. The protein, STAT3, acts as a transcription factor—it performs the crucial task of helping convert DNA into the RNA instructions used to make new proteins. But when overly active, STAT3 performs this task too well, fueling the growth and division of abnormal cells, and contributing to cancer. Scientists have taken various approaches to selectively blocking STAT3 in cancer, but none have produced successful treatments.
Now, researchers led by Rockefeller University's James E. Darnell, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology, have suggested a new way to target STAT3. In research published November 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they report successfully disrupting STAT3's ability to act as a transcription factor, suggesting a basis for new, targeted approaches to fighting cancer. "We have described some interesting mutations in the STAT3 protein that, if we could mimic with a drug, could become very valuable tools in our fight against cancer," says Darnell, Vincent Astor Professor Emeritus at Rockefeller. "Some of the mutations, in particular, seem really exciting." Many scientists—and drug companies—have focused on STAT3 because it is overactive in virtually all of the major human cancers: breast, prostate, lung, colon, and some blood malignancies. But earlier efforts have not succeeded in finding drugs that block the protein at low enough doses, Darnell says.
I went by him
And I heard him say
He has nothing on which to lie
But the hard, cold ground.
He talked about himself in the third person,
A prolongued psalmody of griefs,
That human wretch
With swollen legs,
Who sleeps in the street
Near my house.
And some nights
He also paints a sexy woman
In erotic scenes by the sea,
Born, like Venus, from the foam.
They were sweet love ballads
Sung by an indian mummy
Under a sign that said:
In big, red letters,
While like a scalpel
The wind from the moors
Cut into his body
And deepened the wound of memory.
That night I wished I could dream his dreams
in that moment, again,
but in another bed, in another time.
by Nicolás Suescún
translation by author
from Poetry International
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Keith Frankish in Aeon:
Great philosophy is not always easy. Some philosophers – Kant, Hegel, Heidegger – write in a way that seems almost perversely obscure. Others – Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein – adopt an aphoristic style. Modern analytic philosophers can present their arguments in a compressed form that places heavy demands on the reader. Hence, there is ample scope for philosophers to interpret the work of their predecessors. These interpretationscan become classics in their own right. While not all philosophers write obscurely (eg, Hume, Schopenhauer, Russell), many do. One might get the impression that obscurity is a virtue in philosophy, a mark of a certain kind of greatness – but I’m skeptical.
Stephen M. Walt in Foreign Policy:
When a shocking event like the Paris attacks occurs, we know how the world will respond. There will be dismay, an outpouring of solidarity and sympathy, defiant speeches by politicians, and a media frenzy. Unfortunately, these familiar reactions give the perpetrators some of what they want: attention for their cause and the possibility their targets will do something that unwittingly helps advance the perpetrators’ radical aims.
What is most needed in such moments is not anger, outrage, or finger-pointing, but calm resolution, cool heads, and careful thought. What happened in Paris is an untold tragedy for the victims and deeply offensive to all we hold dear, but we must respond with our heads and not just our hearts. Here are five lessons to bear in mind as we reassess the dangers and search for an effective response.
John Allen Paulos in Slate:
The present political and cultural climate seems to have led to an intensifying of the natural human tendency to hurl charges of hypocrisy at one another. Rather than partaking in this pleasant activity and pointing to the many current instances of political or personal hypocrisy, I’d like here to offer a partial defense of the notion.
Hypocrisy thrives on black-or-white, either-or thinking. Once we accept such dichotomies, we naturally look for the apostasies and hypocrisies of benighted people on the wrong side of the ethical or cognitive tracks but rarely for real understanding.
I have received my share of emails, for example, from people who have written (actually screeched in capital letters) that I’m a hypocrite because of some article, book, or column of mine that, let’s say, recommended a cost-benefit analysis of something they, and they thought I, held sacrosanct.
Conventional understandings would suggest that I hold liberal positions on most issues, but I’ve known many “liberals,” myself included, as well as many “conservatives” whose private actions and beliefs on some issues were on the opposite end of a spectrum (assuming that there is such a thing as a spectrum) from their public ones. As such, they are often judged to be hypocritical. Examples might be environmentalists who don’t recycle, libertines who rail against porn, gun-control advocates who have an arsenal of high-powered weapons in their basements, “pro-family” people with several marriages under their belts, etc. Are these people necessarily hypocritical, as commentators and biographers might be strongly tempted to say, or is it just easier to note their apparent conflicts than it is with other less “well-defined” people?