With our plans for the rest of the year: Yesterday, Frans de Waal authored an essay in the New York Times Sunday Review.
Most recently, de Waal is the author of the 2016 Times best-seller, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? In the identity line in yesterday's paper, he was identified thusly:
"Dr. de Waal is a primatologist who studies chimps and their relations."
In yesterday's essay, de Waal mused about the emotional experiences of non-human animals, not excluding your pet dog. In line with our recent focus on "the rational animal," we were struck by his closing paragraph:
DE WAAL (3/10/19): For the longest time, science has depicted animals as stimulus-response machines while declaring their inner lives barren. This has helped us sustain our customary “anthropodenial”: the denial that we are animals. We like to see ourselves as special, but whatever the difference between humans and animals may be, it is unlikely to be found in the emotional domain.We humans "like to see ourselves as special," de Waal puckishly says. This resembles our own pronouncement, in which we've poetically claimed that we humans may perhaps be inclined to "see ourselves from afar."
We humans! At least in the west, we've tended to think that we alone possess a "soul"—even that we alone are conscious. With respect to that latter point, did Descartes really conduct vivisection experiments on live animals while assuring horrified onlookers that his subjects' (apparent) screams of pain were really just an illusion?
Brittanica.com sees to suggest that he did. Other sources seem to say that he probably didn't. But as part of our persistent attempt to "see ourselves as special," we humans, at least in the west, have tended to revel in this self-flattering claim, as translated from Aristotle:
"Man [sic] is the rational animal."
What did Aristotle actually mean by his famous translated claim? We can't tell you that! But the claim, as commonly understood, has served as part of our species' tendency to adopt the stance de Waal calls "anthropodenial."
As commonly understood, the claim says this: We're the "rational" ones over here!
At any rate, we humans! Just how "rational" do we turn out to be, setting aside our capacity for inventing technologies which actually work?
In the course of this year, we've suggested that it might be useful to adopt a skeptical stance with respect to the extent of our species' "rational" impulses and abilities. We've even dared to make this suggestion:
The irrationality isn't all located Over There, in the tents of The Others! You'll also find a lot of sub-rational conduct within our own liberal/progressive tents; at the highest ends of the upper-end press corps; and even among the most celebrated thinkers within our universities.
It's isn't just Rush and Sean, we've suggested. Given the "tribodenialism" known to all our species' tribes, this suggestion is hard to swallow for many folk Over Here.
How rational is "the rational animal?" For ourselves, we've been surprised by how instructive that question has turned out to be.
When we build a framework out of that question, can the duck start to look like a rabbit, perhaps in a bit of a paradigm shift? Again and again, we'd say that the answer is yes.
With that in mind, we plan to explore several topics in the weeks to come, even as we comment in passing on the press corps' attempts to keep us up to date 1) on who may have had consensual sex with whom, on one alleged occasion, back in 2006; 2) on the romantic behavior and marital status of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son; and 3) on the constantly shifting odds that Paul Manafort will take his last breath in prison.
That last topic has become the ghoulish focus of our tribe's favorite "cable news" show. Perhaps we're neither as moral, nor as bright, as we tend to think.
For ourselves, we don't take pleasure in dreaming about the future suffering of others. With that in mind, we'll be exploring such topics as these as the year proceeds:
Those brutal achievement gaps:
We've often claimed that nobody cares about the brutal "achievement gaps" which help define the current state of American public schools. Needless to say, every good liberal knows that this is a ludicrous claim because we so deeply care.
It doesn't look that way to us! In pursuit of this claim, we'll focus on the "Too Small to Fail" project of the much-maligned Clinton Foundation, and on the underlying question of the so-called "30 million word gap."
Is there really such a gap? If so, how can it be addressed? Truth to tell, nobody cares! Based on prevailing evidence, nobody gives a fig about that, or about much of anything else.
Mario Livio's book:
According to the leading authority, Mario Livio is an Israeli-American astrophysicist—and an author of works that popularize science and mathematics. From 1991 through 2015 he was an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the Hubble Space Telescope.
Stating the obvious, Livio knows a ton of physics and math. But though he's a ranking astrophysicist, he actually isn't a ranking "philosopher" or a ranking logician. We think this intriguing fact comes through loud and clear in his fascinating book for general readers, Is God A Mathematician? (It's not a religious text.)
How poorly do our leading mathematicians and physicists reason when they wander outside the confines of their specialized fields? In our view, it's important and interesting to note the fact that they tend to reason remarkably poorly. We expect to start exploring Livio's book as early as next week.
What the later Wittgenstein said:
The later Wittgenstein wrote about these remarkable gaps in logic and reasoning. He said these gaps in reasoning are especially prevalent "when doing philosophy."
Unfortunately, Wittgenstein's writing was always quite opaque. He wasn't kidding when he said the following in the preface to Philosophical Investigations:
"I should have liked to have produced a good book. This has not come about, but the time is past in which I could improve it."
In our view, that wasn't the inscrutable modesty of a "philosophical" genius. Wittgenstein's book is quite hard to interpret and apply. In line with our study of the way our species' "rational" faculty breaks down at the highest intellectual levels, we'll be showing you one way to apply the later Wittgenstein's work as the year proceeds.
By the way, what thanks did the later Wittgenstein get for providing this valuable service? As we've noted in the past, Professor Horwich claims that "professional philosophers" have largely thrown the later Wittgenstein under the bus because he claimed that the bulk of their work was built upon "mere pseudo-problems, the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking."
Could such claims about our leading intellectuals possibly be accurate? Anthropodenialism to the side, we plan to suggest that it could be and frequently is!
But wait—there's even more:
In the course of this exploration, we'll take you to the world of the Harvard philosophy department, circa 1969. Readers have been fascinated by Tara Westover's "Education." We think this other alternative education is worth reviewing too.
These topics should start next week. All this week, starting tomorrow, we're going to be looking at a timely topic: What Trump Actually Said.
Prediction: Your lizard is going to rise in anger at every word we write on this topic. That said, would your lizard have so much power if we humans, and we liberals, were as sharp as we've constantly said?
Last week, we wrote about Trump and Tribe. Granted, those reports were useless, but they went exactly like this:
Tuesday, March 5: Michael Cohen knew what to say! Our tribe's pursuit of Trump.Starting tomorrow, What Trump Really Said. Lizards, start your engines! Prepare for a week of wrecks!
Wednesday, March 6: Everybody knows what to say! Wallace hears a hoo.
Thursday, March 7: I know you are, but what am I? Tribal cried abound!
Friday, March 8: Mister Trump gains as Dems denounce hate! Tomasky makes war on The Others.
Concentrate, Bob. Pick a topic, and concentrate on it.ReplyDelete
The way you're writing, it's worrying...
"It doesn't look that way to us! In pursuit of this claim, we'll focus on the "Too Small to Fail" project of the much-maligned Clinton Foundation, and on the underlying question of the so-called "30 million word gap."ReplyDelete
Is there really such a gap? If so, how can it be addressed? Truth to tell, nobody cares! Based on prevailing evidence, nobody gives a fig about that, or about much of anything else."
Who cares? In California, Proposition 10 added $.50 to the cost of a pack of cigarettes in order to fund a campaign helping to support parents of toddlers, encouraging them to talk, sing and play with their children in order to increase brain development before school age. Rob Reiner spearheaded the effort to get Prop 10 passed. Obviously Reiner and others in California care about the research showing that the first two years are the most important in a child's cognitive development.
So don't say that no one cares, you asshole!
Aristotle was able to call humans a rational animal (assuming he said that) because he was not Catholic. By the time of Descartes, the Catholic church was dominant in Western Europe and heretics were being persecuted. Descartes changed addresses frequently to avoid being imprisoned for his philosophical writing and his pursuit of science, which he correctly recognized could place him in conflict with the powerful church.ReplyDelete
"With respect to that latter point, did Descartes really conduct vivisection experiments on live animals while assuring horrified onlookers that his subjects' (apparent) screams of pain were really just an illusion?"
If Descartes did this, he did so because he placed his faith in religion and the Catholic church told him that animals were separate from humans because they had no souls and that they were placed under man's dominion. Descartes lived during the early years of scientific method and he wanted to empirically verify the existence of the soul and more importantly, to locate it in the brain. The Catholic church forbade dissection of the human body so he would have had to use animals. But more than that, how do you study living processes without using living animals? Pavlov later won the Nobel prize for developing a procedure for studying digestion in dogs without killing the dog.
Descartes never found a soul in dog or human. The split between metaphysical and physical has never been resolved philosophically or physically. Today, scientists are either materialists or they maintain a duality much like Descartes by being scientists in the lab and religious at church and in the non-professional lives.
It is odd that Somerby doesn't recognize the rationality of Descartes mathematics or of his attempts to verify the Church's teachings empirically, a very logical step. It is as if Somerby sees no purpose to philosophy beyond embarrassing journalists. Again, that is very sad and I wish he would hang up this blog and find a more satisfying hobby.
Failing that, he mind read the Journal of Consciousness and similar publications. De Waal is correct that animals have emotion but they may have different consciousness, which would make their experience of emotion different than that of humans. For example, dogs have little conception of time because of their different consciousness. They also seem to lack self awareness and a sense of self and theory of mind, aspects of consciousness that humans have. Emotion isn't where the differences exist. But I doubt Somerby cares about that.
"In California, Proposition 10 added $.50 to the cost of a pack of cigarettes in order to fund a campaign helping to support parents of toddlers..."ReplyDelete
Hmm. Sounds like robbing the working man for the benefit of lib-zombie feel-good bullshit.
Rates of smoking have steadily decreased in CA. That is a health benefit to everyone, including the former smokers. So-called sin taxes don't tax the "working man" (smokes crosses income and class), but taxes those who engage in self-injuring behaviors in order to help them stop. Liberals don't benefit, everyone does.Delete
Why is it that anything designed to help people is automatically classified as "liberal"? Don't conservatives ever want to help people?
Like I said:Delete
1. robbing the working guy.
2. using the loot to infest the state with swarms of bureaucrats, who will push for more of the same. And
3. rinse, repeat.
Mao, you are wrong:Delete
1. robbing everyone who smokes but not any non-smokers
2. using the money to inform the public about how to interact with toddlers to increase brain development
3. continue, since new kids are being born every day.
For bureaucrats, substitute educators and creative staff who develop the ads that are run on TV to educate parents and to maintain their website. Also substitute staff to read current research and develop more ideas about how to help parents and kids.
This is exactly what I said, only translated to Zombie.Delete
"Wittgenstein's book is quite hard to interpret and apply. In line with our study of the way our species' "rational" faculty breaks down at the highest intellectual levels, we'll be showing you one way to apply the later Wittgenstein's work as the year proceeds."ReplyDelete
You'd think philosophy ended with Wittgenstein! Why doesn't Somerby discuss the later reference philosophers who took Wittgenstein's ideas and ran with them? I suspect it is because Somerby stopped reading when he left Harvard, other than his browsing of trade books on abstruse scientific topics, which he mainly bashes.
Somerby has a single idea which he pursues single-mindedly without reading anything on that topic. He also never seems to think about what he has read, isn't serious about resolving his complaints, and doesn't read comments, so there is no way for him to get unstuck. What a huge waste of his time and ours.
Somerby uses a lot of words to come to the rather mundane conclusion that human beings, including *gasp!* liberals, sometimes think and act irrationally.ReplyDelete
Otherwise, there is a lot of blending of different ideas that aren’t totally related here, except in the sense that they supposedly make human beings “special”. Having a “soul” is a different idea from having “rational” abilities. Some Greek philosophers believed humans had a soul, and some didn’t. The notion of a soul was promoted by the Church for its own purposes. Nowadays, few people believe humans aren’t animals, and many recognize that animals have rational abilities, emotions, and even consciousness.
Aren't you late for Sociology 101?Delete
Meanwhile, Fox TV Host Tucker Carlson continues to have a job despite saying the following stuff on a call-in show nine years ago:ReplyDelete
"•Carlson defended Warren Jeffs, the cult leader from Utah who is currently serving life plus 20 years in federal prison after being found guilty in multiple states for child sexual assault, incest, and sexual misconduct with a child. Jeffs often arranged for underage girls to marry older men.
•Carlson said Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan is unqualified because she’s unattractive, going on to say of then-nominee Kagan, "I feel sorry for unattractive women … physically, the problems with her are fundamental. She’s never going to be an attractive woman."
•Of women in general, he said, “I love women, but they are extremely primitive, they’re basic, they’re not that hard to understand.”
•He engaged with the hosts as they talked about abusing women, including “choking out” their girlfriends in a rage.
•He called Martha Stewart’s daughter “extremely cunty” after discussing Stewart’s radio show that was recorded in the same building.
•He regularly said demeaning, awful things about Hillary Clinton and many, many other women."
Who does this remind you of? To me, he sounds just like Trump. It would be natural for him (and others) to think that if the President can say stuff like this without consequence, why can't he?
Trump's behavior toward women should be one of the things being discussed as an impeachable offense. It is a sign of how far we still have to go that no one has framed it that way.
Oh. Zombies are scared shitless of Tucker Carlson, and sending a dembot army to shut him up, eh?Delete
Perfect. Go Tucker, you're my hero.
Nothing should be being discussed as an impeachable offense for Trump. It will never, ever happen. Democrats should address their own dysfunction and corruption and lack of ideas and morals.Delete
Who's going to impeach Trump for being under Putin's thumb? The Republican Congress under Putin's thumb?Delete
Never gonna happen.
So Mao's waving off concern about child-rape because it might interfere with the White Supremacy he craves.Delete
Conservatives: They are who we thought they were.
Trump isn't under is thumb is he? He bombed Putin's Syrian ally (2x); tried to overthrow his Venezuelan ally; & tore up the INF treaty. He's preparing sanctions against a vital German-Russia pipeline: (link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-a-russian-gas-pipeline-is-driving-a-wedge-between-the-u-s-and-its-allies-11552254955?mod=hp_lead_pos5#_=_) wsj.com/articles/how-a…Delete
What is this under thumb up crap?
Ah, the dembot has concerns... How quaint...Delete
Dembot, if you have information about a crime that affects well-being of a chile (as what your drivel sounds like), call the cops immediately. Otherwise you probably have been committing a crime yourself.
You must be a woman because these comments are on the tamer side of comments made by every heterosexual male in groups of other heterosexual males and it ain't gonna change.Delete
What's with Mao supporting Tucker Carlson's White Supremacy Hour? Is Mao giving up trolling for Lent?Delete
“Dr. de Waal is a primatologist who studies chimps and their relations.”ReplyDelete
Build de Waal! Actually de Waal is a primatologist who relentlessly pushes his claim that experiments with animals show they have intelligence and “emotional” lives on par with humans. None of these experiments demonstrate his claims.
We humans! At least in the west, we've tended to think that we alone possess a "soul"—even that we alone are conscious. With respect to that latter point, did Descartes really conduct vivisection experiments on live animals…. Brittanica.com sees to suggest that he did. Other sources seem to say that he probably didn't.
If it was vivisection, then the animals were live. Otherwise, it was necropsy. Some say Descartes was an uncaring monster; some say he wasn’t. Apparently no one, including TDH knows, so why is it mentioned here? In case it was true?
But as part of our persistent attempt to "see ourselves as special," we humans, at least in the west, have tended to revel in this self-flattering claim, as translated from Aristotle:
"Man [sic] is the rational animal.”
Not a translation of Aristotle. And stop using sic after “Man.” This was the usual phrasing with these sorts of apothegms, Man being short for Mankind.
What did Aristotle actually mean by his famous translated claim? We can't tell you that!
Since Aristotle didn’t say it, nobody can tell you that.
As commonly understood, the claim says this: We're the "rational" ones over here!
As commonly understood? By whom? I thought you couldn’t tell us what it meant. And claiming that humans are “rational” isn’t the same as claiming that humans are always rational.
In the course of this year, we've suggested that it might be useful to adopt a skeptical stance….
Just as soon as you adopt a skeptical stance towards poseurs like Harari and de Waal.
When we build a framework out of that question, can the duck start to look like a rabbit, perhaps in a bit of a paradigm shift?
The duck/rabbit illusion isn’t an example of paradigm shift. But as long as you’re swallowing nonsense, you might as well swallow Kuhn’s.
How poorly do our leading mathematicians and physicists reason when they wander outside the confines of their specialized fields?
Probably as well as you do when you wander around outside of your field, whatever that is.
What the later Wittgenstein said:
What he actually said was, “'Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen.” Why not take his advice?
Prediction: Your lizard is going to rise in anger at every word we write on this topic.
You’re responsible for the fact that inner lizards are dead from boredom all over the blogosphere.
Heh heh. Don’t agree with everything you wrote (and not about to take your post point-by-point, it’s late and I gotta go to work, curse daylight savings), but that last dig was epic.
I think this link describes Wittgenstein’s disenchantment with the hallowed halls of philosophical ruminations quite well, though he is never referenced, but which Bob has addressed in his writings vis-à-vis Wittgenstein:
And though Bob has, thankfully, restrained himself from criticizing Maddow… I’m here to fill the gap!
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