STARTING TOMORROW: The Times and the schools!

MONDAY, MAY 16, 2022

Journalism versus illusion: "Time is an illusion," Kant is sometimes rather crudely said to have possibly said.

Did he really say such a thing—and if so, what could he have meant? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers this overview of the matter:

Perhaps the central and most controversial thesis of the Critique of Pure Reason is that human beings experience only appearances, not things in themselves; and that space and time are only subjective forms of human intuition that would not subsist in themselves if one were to abstract from all subjective conditions of human intuition. Kant calls this thesis transcendental idealism.

According to that account, time would not "subsist in itself" (whatever that means) "if one were to abstract from all subjective conditions of human intuition." 

Speaking truth to alleged erudition, we don't have the slightest idea what such formulations might mean. (It's always possible that someone else might be able to explain it.)

That said:

By the middle of the last century, the later Wittgenstein had piped up with an unpleasant suggestion. He suggested that discussions of that type were illusory in a certain way—were imitations of life, were disguised imitations of discourse.

Such discussions were built on piles of conceptual confusion, Wittgenstein suggested and sometimes said. Down through the annals of time, college freshmen, such as they were, had always suspected as much!

An any rate, how about it? Is time really some sort of "illusion?" Or does illusion enter the scene when philosophers start to discuss it? 

We'll set such questions aside for the rest of the week. We'll turn instead to basic questions about our nation's modern journalism at its alleged highest end.

For our text, we'll examine a full-length news report in last Friday's New York Times. The report was written by Lola Fadulu. The news report's headline said this:

Mayor Adams Unveils Program to Address Dyslexia in N.Y.C. Schools

According to Fadulu, the mayor has released "the details of a [major] plan to turn around a literacy crisis in New York City." It almost sounds like that could be an important topic, worthy of careful discussion. 

In theory, a million public school students in New York City could be affected by the mayor's proposal. The question we'll be posing all this week is this:

Is there any chance—any chance at all—that the New York Times will be able to produce a coherent discussion of this new mayor's proposal? A million kids are tangled up in this proposal. Is the Times equipped to discuss it?

For today, we'll restrict ourselves to one intriguing point. Fadulu, who's five years out of college, isn't an education specialist or an experienced education reporter. 

Nothing we say in the course of this week will be offered as a criticism of Fadulu. Presumably, this very bright young reporter didn't assign herself to the current task.

We do regard it as strange, though perhaps also as revealing, when the New York Times puts a relatively young "general assignment reporter" in charge of this important and technical topic. For the record, this supports observations we've made in the past concerning the depth of concern at the New York Times about struggling public school kids.

That full-length report in Friday's Times appeared to be a standard journalistic account of an important new policy effort. But does that report present a real discussion of the mayor's proposal, or does it merely present the illusion of same? 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but it isn't clear that our flawed blue tribe possesses the ability to create such journalistic discussions. Beyond that, it isn't clear that we have the ability to notice our journalistic failures when it turns out that we've failed.

Is time an illusion in some way? We're not even sure what the question means! But even at its highest end, our journalism has trafficked in illusions for a very long time, and in this, and in so many other cases, our well-intentioned blue tribe is routinely unable to see this.

Tomorrow: As described, the mayor's plan


  1. Tweets from House Freedom Caucus members about the racially motivated mass murder in Buffalo:

    BOEBERT- none
    GREENE- none
    GAETZ- none
    GOSAR- none
    BIGGS- none
    BROOKS- none
    JORDAN- none
    STEUBE- none
    CLYDE- none
    HICE- none
    MILLER- none
    CAWTHORN- none
    GOHMERT- none
    ROY- none

    1. Message from Somerby- hey, that Carlson guy makes a lot of sense!

  2. 1. on the basis of age, Somerby assumes Fadulu is incompetent to describe a policy announcement.
    2. on the basis of his own assumption, Somerby assumes the NY Times is incompetent for assigning Fadulu.
    3. on the basis of nothing, Somerby assumes a policy announcement will be “highly technical”.

    This is how Somerby maligns reporters and manufactures complaints against the media without pointing to a single thing Fadulu has done wrong.

  3. I am a bit surprised that the Mayor himself is announcing an educational approach. This approach must have been developed by experts in the City's education department. The Mayor is merely parroting what some educators told him to say.

    1. Why in the world would you say that? The mayor (Adams) has dyslexia, so he may have taken a personal interest in this program. He campaigned on this issue.

    2. Thanks for the info, mh. Those facts make the Mayor's position a lot more understandable.

    3. Well, that is a relief, David. I am glad you approve of the announcement by a mayor of city a continent away from you. You sure were snotty though.

  4. A media critic who doesn't support fascists, would note the media are describing the Buffalo shooter as an "18-year old boy", after describing Mike Brown of Ferguson, MO as an "18-year old man", to explain media bias.

    1. That's "Buffalo shooter with a manifesto that could have been written by any Republican in Congress", to you.

  5. Going from "space and time are subjective" to they are illusions is a huge leap that Somerby doesn't bother to describe, not even in the philosopher's own language. He just says he doesn't understand the former (from Kant) and definitely doesn't understand Wittgenstein, quoting nothing from him so we don't get to understand either, then he concludes that erudition is bunk, claiming that he is speaking truth to erudition.

    This reasoning is bunk. Somerby is barely going through the motions. The idea that human experience is subjective, filtered through consciousness, based on our senses and not directly experienced, has been around since the Greeks. With reflection, the basis for such an idea should be obvious to anyone paying attention. It isn't hard to grasp. It is Wittgenstein's idea that human experience is an illusion -- the idea of distance between reality and what we experience, that is harder to grasp. In many ways, all "erudition" is an attempt to know our world better. But Somerby dismisses that, preferring to live in his own subjectivity, unconcerned that reality may come around at some point and show him how far off his surmises are from what is real about the world.

    Somerby has given up on a lot of things, including the idea of reality, truth, knowledge, the value of education, consensual understanding, objectivity. He hides behind Wittgenstein, who may or may not have been as deluded as Somerby. In this case, Somerby has chosen this justification for his cowardice. And it doesn't make him right, quoting a long dead philosopher who would likely disagree with all of what Somerby foists off on him.

    This schtick is old, sad, and obsolete. It is time for people to step up and understand what is happening as our world changes, dealing with it both courageously and competently. Somerby is doing neither, yet he persists in returning here daily in order to add his small bit of harm to the lives of others.

  6. تعتبر افضل شركة تنظيف بتبوك هي افضل شركات التنظيف وكذلك افضل شركة تنظيف خزانات بتبوك.
    وتتميز الشركة بتقديم العديد من خدمات التنظيف والصيانة المتميزة علي ايدي عمالة ماهرة ودربة على اعلى مستوى وباسعار تنافسية
    وتقدم الشركة خدمات تنظيف مجالس ، تنظيف سجاد ، تنظيف موكيت ، تنظيف المسابح ، مكافحة بق الفراش ، نقل العفش والآثاث وكذلك الصيانة المنزلية
    يمكنكم التواصل مع افضل شركة تنظيف منازل بتبوك وطلب الخدمة وسوف يصلكم فريق العمل فورا

  7. I wouldn't mind if TDH held off indefinitely on taking up this philosophical issue about whether "time" is an illusion. TDH seems to be in the naive realism realm of philosophy. But, I would say but for the way humans' brains work, there is no such "thing" as time - it's a concept.