Bungled assessment is bred in the bone!

SATURDAY, JULY 18, 2020

Wittgenstein tackles the giants:
On Thursday morning, the New York Times reported a tulip craze.

Michael Powell filed the report from somewhere near Oran. As we noted yesterday, he had spotted rather clear evidence of the widespread outbreak:
POWELL (7/16/20): The linguists’ letter also accused the professor of engaging in racial dog whistles when he used the words “urban crime” and “urban violence” in other tweets.
The loopy linguists wanted Professor Pinker stripped of academic honors. You see, Pinker had used the term "urban crime" in a tweet on some occasion. (Over the years, the professor's offending tweets numbered six in all.)

As we noted yesterday, you simply can't get dumber than that. This does look like a tulip craze, and the Times was correct to report it.

Indications of this craze have been widespread in recent years. That said, Powell reported that "more than 550 academics" have now been seized by the virus.

Even before this report appeared, we'd been thinking about the later Wittgenstein last week. Here's why:

Understandably, we the people are inclined to assume that top professors are much sharper than the average bear—that their sweeping assessments are likely to be correct.

Understandably, but very mistakenly, we the people may tend to make the same assumption about our leading journalists.

Many went to the finest schools. They may work for the news orgs which boast the finest branding; some may be sold as Rhodes scholars.

When they stage one of their stampedes, we may be inclined to assume that the assessments on which the stampede is based are, in fact, well-founded. It's understandable that we the people may be inclined to think this way, but that doesn't mean that it's right.

In truth, how sharp are our leading journalists, not to mention our leading linguists? Are they models of cool, clear rational thought? Should their assessments be trusted?

As our journalists spread signs of a craze last week, we pondered this presumption. Even before Powell reported the tulip craze among those professors, we thought of the later Wittgenstein's critique—his critique of deeply flawed, deeply impure, upper-end human reason.

Wittgenstein's critique was loosed on the world in his posthumous 1953 book, Philosophical Investigations. As of the late 1960s, it may have been the hottest text in this nation's philosophy departments.

We took Professor Albritton's course on that text in the spring semester of the street-fighting year of 1968. The following year, as college seniors, we took Professor Cavell's graduate seminar on the same deeply jumbled book.

The text is extremely obscure. As Wittgenstein said in a mournful preface written in 1945, Philosophical Investigations can't really be called a "good" book:
I should have liked to produce a good book. This has not come about, but the time is past in which I could improve it.
The text is extremely hard to parse, but it does deliver a bombshell. As Professor Horwich explained in 2013 in a blog post for the New York Times, the book diagnoses a type of flawed thinking which has characterized the work of the western world's allegedly greatest minds:
HORWICH (3/3/13): [T]he traditional view...continues to prevail. Philosophy is respected, even exalted, for its promise to provide fundamental insights into the human condition and the ultimate character of the universe, leading to vital conclusions about how we are to arrange our lives. It’s taken for granted that there is deep understanding to be obtained of the nature of consciousness, of how knowledge of the external world is possible, of whether our decisions can be truly free...Isn’t that why we are so fascinated by it?

If so, then we are duped and bound to be disappointed, says Wittgenstein. For these are mere pseudo-problems, the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking.
So it should be entirely unsurprising that the “philosophy” aiming to solve them has been marked by perennial controversy and lack of decisive progress—by an embarrassing failure, after over 2000 years, to settle any of its central issues.
Say what? According to Horwich, the later Wittgenstein said the western world's greatest historical thinkers have trafficked in "linguistic illusion and muddled thinking?"

This has led them to chase down rabbit-holes in the pursuit of "pseudo-problems?"

As if that isn't bad enough, Horwich then quotes Wittgenstein saying this (Philosophical Investigations, passage 118):
Where does our investigation get its importance from, since it seems only to destroy everything interesting, that is, all that is great and important?...What we are destroying is nothing but houses of cards and we are clearing up the ground of language on which they stand.
Was Wittgenstein allowed to say that? According to Horwich, the answer is in, and the answer turns out to be no.

According to Horwich, the academy has thrown the later Wittgenstein under the bus, for fairly obvious reasons:

According to Horwich, Wittgenstein claimed that philosophy's exalted work "is nothing but houses of cards." It's "confused work," built on the sands of muddled thinking and linguistic illusion.

Did Wittgenstein actually say such things? If we might borrow from Jack McNees, "In a sense, but not as such!"

Wittgenstein almost never made straightforward claims, but Horwich's aim is true. Within the maddening jumble of Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein describes a type of faulty reasoning which is widely observed within the realms of highest western world thought.

Back in the 1930s, Wittgenstein had tended to call it "grammatical confusion." Briefly, we'll explain the nature of this bungled reasoning, noting that it may have been Professor Cavell who stressed the usefulness of the terms "surface grammar" and "depth grammar," terms which make a fleeting appearance in the later Wittgenstein's book.

With how much clarity have our greatest thinkers tended to reason? Consider a trio of statements which may be said to share a surface grammar:
A trio of look-alike statements:
Statement 1: It's now 3 o'clock in Los Angeles.
Statement 2: It's now 3 o'clock in Moscow.
Statement 3: It's now 3 o'clock on the moon.
At a glance—on the surface—those statements may look alike. However:

We can all imagine various contexts in which statements like Statements 1 and 2 make perfect everyday sense.

As a general matter, everyone knows what people mean when they tell us what time it is in some distant city. Such statements may be right or may be wrong, but we understand what's being said.

Statement 3 isn't like that! It may share a surface appearance with Statements 1 and 2, but it's hard to think of a context in which a statement like that would actually seem to make sense.

Given human life as it's currently lived, Statement 3 won't ever be "right." Nor can it quite be said to be "wrong" in the way Statements 1 and 2 can be.

Given human life as it's currently lived, Statement 3 simply doesn't make sense. Absent further explanation from the person making the statement, others will have no way of knowing what he could be talking about.

That said, here's the kicker:

According to the later Wittgenstein, "philosophy" is larded with statements like Statement 3. But due to our badly flawed powers of insight, these statements are (mistakenly) taken to be fully coherent, like Statements 1 and 2!

These philosophical statements will share a "surface grammar" with other statements which are fully coherent. More simply put, these statements will sound like other statements which do make perfect sense.

But alas! These statements aren't really coherent at all, any more than Statement 3 is.

According to the later Wittgenstein, our greatest thinkers have spent centuries trafficking in claims about what time it is on the moon! College freshmen have always suspected as much, but the later Wittgenstein (almost) came right out and said it!

To the youngsters out there, we'll say this, with the help of our own youthful analysts:

Accept this premise, and apply it to the "complex" material you may find within our world's "great books!" If you find yourself puzzled by a "complex" statement, analyze that complex statement in the following way:

Think of various fully coherent statements which, at least on the surface, resemble the puzzling statement. Then, ask yourself how the complex statement differs, beneath the surface, from the coherent statements which it seems to resemble.

If you're diligent, you may make a discovery. You may find that much of the higher thinking to which you're exposed may start to seem like a claim about what time it is on the moon.

In the type of meditation engineered by the later Wittgenstein, the greatest thinkers are challenged to explain the meaning of their complex statements. In the end, they're forced to admit that they can't explain what their complex statement was supposed to mean.

In Philosophical Investigations, the later Wittgenstein directs this type of meditation at the widely-lauded statements of the early Wittgenstein. What was I thinking, what did I mean, the later Wittgenstein now asks.

The later Wittgenstein can be said to have said that human reasoning on the highest level has always been bedeviled by this type of linguistic illusion. We humans are routinely fooled by optical illusions, and by these linguistic illusions as well.

By inference, he was saying that the world of our allegedly greatest thinkers had been nothing but houses of cards. We'd thought of this, in the past week, even before the linguists lapsed into their tulip craze. The moral to the story is clear:

You shouldn't assume that our upper-end journalists are thinking and reporting clearly. That's even true if they work for the New York Times and went to the finest schools, possibly getting good grades.

Meanwhile, why haven't our loftiest academics stepped forward to challenge the horrible work of our leading journalists?

Try to remember what Wittgenstein said about the badly flawed skills of our greatest thinkers. If our greatest thinkers floundered that way, should we be surprised if other scholars fail to protect and serve?

Next week: Our endless embellished tales

104 comments:

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  2. Trolling word salads to follow:

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  3. Who cares about Wittgenstein? What does he have to do with the issues of the day?

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  4. I don't think Wittengenstein sounds very sharp, despite being taught at the best schools.

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  5. "Meanwhile, why haven't our loftiest academics stepped forward to challenge the horrible work of our leading journalists?"

    If they had stepped forward, would Somerby know it?

    If they are stepping forward to challenge Pinker, why is Somerby disputing them? And isn't this a good example of what happens when academics do step forward? This strikes me as an example of why academics generally do not step forward, because know-nothings in the public tend to think they know better and substitute their own judgment for whatever expertise the academics are relying upon. And if there is no good to come of it, why should academics expose themselves to ignorant public ridicule (under the guise of media criticism)?

    Somerby dismisses those 6 tweets by Pinker as if they were unimportant when they exemplify several decades of similar, fleshed out remarks in his various books and interviews. Focusing solely on the tweets permits Somerby to evade the hard work of reading and evaluating Pinker's actual views, as those linguists have done.

    Wittgenstein appeals to Somerby because he tosses out the whole house of cards, making it possible to claim to be a philosopher without reading and analyzing the entire body of work of that field. Somerby would have saved himself time and money by buying a diploma from a diploma mill, but then he wouldn't have met and roomed with Al Gore -- the real purpose of a Harvard education for children of wealth and privilege who don't want to read any actual books (except ones that say "Don't bother reading anything except this book").

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  6. "Given human life as it's currently lived, Statement 3 won't ever be "right." Nor can it quite be said to be "wrong" in the way Statements 1 and 2 can be."

    This is a very stupid assertion. Somerby thinks that whatever state existed when Wittgenstein wrote about 3 o'clock on the moon, is still true. We don't use sundials to tell time any more. Time is an agreed upon standard established by a recognized authority, nothing to do with movements of the sun or planets. It can be 3 on the moon if we agree that it can be so, and it will mean every bit as much as the other two statements about time. When Wittgenstein wrote, there had never been a person on the moon, but now there have been, and when they were there, it was at some time for them, and for us. But Somerby presents these sentences uncritically, along with Wittgenstein's conclusion about them, as if Wittgenstein's context still existed, when it does not. And that is the problem with meaning -- it requires context.

    Somerby is the last person on earth I would follow when he gives advice to accept or to reject what reporters say. He is a combination of ignorance and asshole that makes his advice toxic. Now that he is referring to the possible grades earned by those journalists-to-be who attended good schools, I find myself wondering about Somerby's gentlemen's D's. Name-dropping long-dead philosophers doesn't convince anyone of your brilliance, Somerby. Next you'll be claiming to belong to the Philosophy-Book-of-the-Month Club.

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    1. It can be 3 on the moon if we agree that it can be so, and it will mean every bit as much as the other two statements about time.

      It can be 3 o'clock on the moon if we agree that it is 3 o'clock on the moon, but that won't have the same meaning as 3 o'clock on the earth. The designated hour at a point on the earth is closely related to the rotation of the earth about its axis and unrelated to the position of the earth in its orbit around its major gravitational influence, otherwise known as the sun. The moon is tidally locked into its orbit around its major gravitational influence (i.e., the earth), completing one turn about its axis with one revolution around its orbit.

      This "context" has obtained for billions of years, and is independent of our abandoning sun dials as common time keeping instruments or our making visits to the moon.

      You're too ignorant to judge the stupidity of assertions. While I can't dispute your judgment on whether to take TDH's advice, I have to wonder what you're doing here if you think he's an ignorant, toxic asshole. Why not find a blog more amenable to your opinions and more commensurate with your own intellectual abilities?

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    2. The "meaning" of time is to coordinate human activity across individuals. It has nothing to do with the earth, except as a fixed standard against which to measure time. We now have a better one, so use of the sun is obsolete. When someone talks about time, they don't think of the sun, they think about what they have to do in the day, who they are meeting, how much time is left before dinner. No one thinks about astronomy except astronomists. The context you describe has only existed for as long as people had no better tools.

      I have told you this repeatedly. I am here to contradict Somerby's assertion that he is liberal or that any of his ideas, criticisms or beliefs are liberal. When he stops claiming to be liberal, I will leave.

      You think a lot of yourself, but I doubt there is any evidence that you would admit that would challenge your own self-assessment. Your biggest flaw is that you think your way of thinking about things is the only true way to think. You are wrong. You are also lazy, since you engage in insults instead of finding some way of refuting those you disagree with (or misunderstand, more often).

      I'm not saying no one has ever used the sun to determine time. I said that Wittgenstein's context no longer holds because we now measure time differently, making Somerby's repetition of Wittgenstein's argument about meaning no longer meaningful.

      If you stop attacking me for saying different things than you, I think we can coexist here. I am not jumping on every comment that you write, in order to malign you. Why do you think it is OK to do that to me or anyone else here?

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    3. "I am here to contradict Somerby's assertion that he is liberal or that any of his ideas, criticisms or beliefs are liberal."

      You have never disproven that or given any credible evidence that supports your assertion. The evidence you give doesn't make sense. (Guilt by association as an ad hominem fallacy)

      So really your posts are stupid and annoying and your quest to contradict is futile because it is poorly conceived and poorly reasoned. So do what you want but you are totally wasting your time and always coming across as foolish, naive and crazy.

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    4. "I am here to contradict Somerby's assertion that he is liberal or that any of his ideas, criticisms or beliefs are liberal."

      May I suggest this paragraph, from wikipedia:

      "Those who can excommunicate

      Excommunication is either a jure (by law) or ab homine (by judicial act of man, i.e. by a judge). The first is provided by the law itself, which declares that whosoever shall have been guilty of a definite crime will incur the penalty of excommunication. The second is inflicted by an ecclesiastical prelate, either when he issues a serious order under pain of excommunication or imposes this penalty by judicial sentence and after a trial.[10]

      Excommunication is an act of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the rules of which it follows. Hence the general principle: whoever has proper jurisdiction can excommunicate, but only his own subjects. Therefore, whether excommunications be a jure (by the law) or ab homine (under form of sentence or precept), they may come from the pope, from the bishop for his diocese; and from regular prelates for religious orders. But a parish priest cannot inflict this penalty. The subjects of these various authorities are those who come under their jurisdiction chiefly on account of domicile or quasi-domicile in their territory; then by reason of the offense committed while on such territory; and finally by reason of personal right, as in the case of regulars. As to excommunications ab homine, absolution from them is reserved by law to the ordinary who has imposed them.
      "

      Are you a prelate of the liberal cult, and do you have the jurisdiction? If not, you're out of luck, I'm afraid.

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    5. The "meaning" of time is to coordinate human activity across individuals. It has nothing to do with the earth, except as a fixed standard against which to measure time.

      Ah, time has nothing to do with the earth except that it does. Got it.

      Yes, we have a better way to measure intervals of time. But when we "coordinate human activity across individuals" we mostly do that based on the diurnal dance of the earth and the sun, whether anyone thinks about astronomy or not. In any case, Wittgenstein's example is apt even if you have to go by the "old" definition of time of day.

      Sorry, I keep forgetting that you claim to be here because you want to banish TDH from liberalhood. Maybe because that's such a non-liberal thing to do; maybe it's because you're so bad at it. I'll try not to ask you again, but you refuse to use an identifiable nym, so I may confuse you with another of your equally ignorant cohort.

      I do think a lot of myself -- guilty as charged -- but only in comparison with the pathetic pack of Anonymous Ignoramuses in this comment section. But lazy, I'm not. I check and quote sources, which you'd know if you actually read my comments for their content.

      I criticize your ignorance of evidence, your faulty arguments, and your Stalinist insistence on the utmost value of a party line. This is not an attack on you, but on your knowledge, your ability to employ logic, and your deleterious politics. This is not to malign you personally. I don't know you personally. Stop pretending my comments are akin to calling you fat and ugly. My comments are all directed to what you write.

      As I say, if you don't want to be ridiculed for what you say, stop saying ridiculous things.

      I'm sure we can coexist here. What can either of us do to prevent the other from posting comments? What I refuse to do is pretend to be polite about your flawed thinking as exposed in your comments.

      The time for politesse is over.

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    6. See, here's the difference between us. I can disagree with you without referring to flawed thinking or calling you an ignoramus.

      No one has explained why Somerby omitted the link to the linguistics letter so that we could judge for ourselves whether it was convincing. He does this pretty often. He includes links to old song lyrics but not the subject of his diatribe. It is almost as if he doesn't want us to think for ourselves.

      Wittgenstein's argument about time on the moon made sense for the times in which he lived. The meaning is different now and that changes the meaning of Wittgenstein's example and thus his point. THAT was my point about it, which you still have not addressed.

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    7. See, here's the difference between us. I can disagree with you without referring to flawed thinking or calling you an ignoramus.

      That's certainly a difference, and for two reasons. First because my logic is usually sound and I'm informed. (Now, that doesn't mean I'm always right, but when I make mistakes, I admit them.) Second, unlike me, you apparently find some utility in the pretense of politeness with your direct interlocutors. I notice that doesn't stop you from calling me lazy and Pinker a racist. Although I suppose Pinker doesn't count because you can libel him behind his back, so to speak.

      No one has explained why Somerby omitted the link to the linguistics letter so that we could judge for ourselves whether it was convincing.

      And yet I didn't wait for an explanation I'm not entitled to. Instead I spent a minute online to find the letter for myself (GIYF), and I quoted it accurately and in context. Go figure.

      That you don't understand that Wittgenstein's argument still makes sense isn't the fault of the argument. But if it makes you feel any better, consider the nonsensicality of somebody who said to Wittgenstein "It's 3PM on the moon." This falls into a category of nonsense that Wittgenstein is referring to.

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    8. "First because my logic is usually sound and I'm informed."

      Trumpian.

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  7. Academic authority — It is difficult to make an original contribution to an established field of knowledge, but you’re much more likely to do it if you start thinking like an anarchist and scrutinizing every word of every assertion in the existing literature to see if you really buy it. This is what Socrates did, in a way, and it is what made him a great philosopher. (It also made him so annoying that people murdered him.)

    LINK

    Leroy

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    1. Sorry, but Socrates wasn't murdered. He was offered exile and he chose suicide instead. You have to trust Plato for any of this. Given that the discussion is about NOT trusting academic authority, why trust Plato?

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    2. The problem with anarchism is that it only tears down, it doesn't build. The building, whether of a theory or anything else, is the hard work. The results may not be perfect, but they provide an ediface or foundation upon which to make progress.

      In science, a theory is always provisional and open to question, but it is accepted because it generates new hypotheses to be tested. The testing and accumulation of data, which can be better understood using theory, is the point of science. This is how empirical knowledge is generated, not through acceptance but through testing. Socrates and the philosophical concept of truth predate science. At the point where empirical testing began to be applied to philosophical ideas, the sciences and philosophy diverged. Now, science provides a more sound way of understanding the world than philosophy, and authority is not the way anyone understands knowledge.

      Somerby doesn't have much of an affinity for science. He doesn't understand how academia works or what it means to have expertise. He doesn't understand how intellectual debate works these days.

      No matter how many attacks are made on Pinker based on his beliefs about race and innateness of traits, Pinker doesn't determine what is true in the world, nor do his critics. There is a reality that exists separate from both groups. Pinker claims science supports his views, but you must look at all of the findings, not solely the ones that support his opinion. A casual reader cannot evaluate his claims without knowing more than just the selective evidence he presents, and everyday people tend not to have such information, whereas linguists who have spent their careers reading in their field, would know more, as would people who work in fields Pinker is NOT trained in, know more than Pinker does. Most of them don't agree with him either.

      But Somerby wants to knock so-called cancel culture, an invention of the right wing, so he engages in a discussion without considering the substance, and sides with the bigots. Big surprise.

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    3. @Leroy:
      But what did Wittgenstein think about Socrates? Isn’t Socrates considered a founder of Western philosophy, a tradition in which “our allegedly greatest thinkers had been nothing but houses of cards?” Isn’t Somerby attempting to debunk the whole field?

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    4. Pinker doesn't determine what is true in the world, nor do his critics.

      The question isn't about whether Pinker is right; it's about whether he's acceptable.

      There is a reality that exists separate from both groups.

      Are you sure? Or is that a view that Wittgenstein would say makes no sense?

      Pinker claims science supports his views, but you must look at all of the findings, not solely the ones that support his opinion.

      So condemning Pinker on six tweets taken out of context would be beyond the pale? Asking for a friend.

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    5. You keep insisting that Pinker was condemned solely because of those six tweets. That isn't the case. Those six tweets plus his body of work plus his attitudes and beliefs on race and gender make him unfit to be considered distinguished in his field.

      Those linguists are his colleagues as much as the people who defended him and they know his work well because he has been writing this stuff for decades. His reputation is based on saying controversial things, not his work in linguistics, which is Chomskyite but sound.

      It is a value of our society that every person have the same right to the pursuit of happiness and that everyone have equality under the law. Pinker's arguments challenge that value by suggesting that people are biologically unequal and thus should not be accorded the same opportunities. He tiptoes up to the edges of alt-right views and then lets extremists speak for him.

      At the time that Pinker defended Larry Summers, a group of female scientists had done a painstaking study of the allocation of hiring, promotion, lab space and research funds at MIT, demonstrating that there was bias in favor of male faculty. Larry Summers' remarks were made in that context and the woman who walked out on him and created the furor over his statements about women was the head of that study, on faculty at MIT, where Pinker was then working. So, Pinker wasn't just musing about biology but taking sides in a real life dispute over fairness in employment.

      I wouldn't expect you to know about that, but those linguists certainly did because it was widely known in academia. There are other similar incidents that form the background to this objection to Pinker's honor. All academics support academic freedom, which guarantees the right to hold whatever opinions you want professionally (not beyond your job). This is not about whether Pinker has the right to say what he wants. It is about whether he should receive an honor. I agree with those linguists that someone who actively works against gender and racial fairness should not be lauded by his field.

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    6. I keep "insisting" that Pinker was condemned for those six tweets because that's exactly what the "open letter" said. I'll quote it again:

      Below, we document six relevant occasions that show how Dr. Pinker’s behavior is systematically and directly at odds with the LSA’s stated aims. We believe that these examples show that Dr. Pinker is untenable as an LSA fellow and should not be allowed to retain that status.

      That's it. Those examples are the indictment. His "body of work is not in question. The letter says that the signatories are not

      ... concerned with Dr. Pinker’s academic contributions as a linguist, psychologist and cognitive scientist.

      I doubt that you can back up your charge that Pinker's "arguments" "suggest" that people's biolgoical inequality means that they shouldn't get equal opportunities, and I doubt the signatories can do so either, but that's irrelevant because that's not what the open letter claims. The letter claims that Pinker has

      a pattern of drowning out the voices of people suffering from racist and sexist violence

      Although how that's even possible is unclear to me. Their evidence for this "pattern" is six tweets of his. That's it. They don't mention Larry Summers, and they give no further "background" to their objection.

      For what it's worth, not every signatory is a linguist. The letter invites anyone who "identifies as a linguist" to sign. Signatories include those who identify themselves as students, alumni, librarians, and many who don't identify their position at all. Presumably some just hold lay membership in the Linguistics Society of America, which position may be had by payment of a fee. So I'm not inclined to give much weight to the the collective understanding Pinker's work from the signatories.

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    7. So, this disagreement arises from your tendency to read closely, narrowly and literally, again.

      "that show how Dr. Pinker’s behavior is systematically and directly at odds with the LSA’s stated aims."

      This phrase means that the six tweets are examples that show something, and they state what they think the tweets show. The tweets aren't the point -- the underlying behavior is the point.

      Some of his behavior includes defending Larry Summers, defending rape in an argument against feminists, going out of his way to defend Jeffrey Epstein during his trial, and no doubt various other more recent incidents that I am unaware of since I stopped following academic politics when I retired.

      I don't understand why you discount the opinions of all those people who "identify as linguists" in favor of Somerby, who is definitely not a linguist or an academic, and your own entirely uninformed view. I don't think you should take the letter on authority, but you are saying you think the signers aren't good enough linguists to be believed, which is an odd objection.

      Pinker's academic contribution in linguistics was to show that children use rules to form past tenses, which is evident in the mistakes they make when applying a rule to an irregular verb. This supports Chomsky's idea that innate grammatical rules exist that guide language acquisition. Chomsky is from MIT and so was Pinker. Note that this has nothing to do with race or gender or cognitive psychology (except narrowly). Of course the letter is not complaining about that work.

      Many cognitive scientists complained about Pinker's books about war and violence, poverty, and the innateness of behavior. You can find many negative reviews of his first books. Since then, he has become an apologist for racists and sexists.

      You will no doubt repeat your objection that those six tweets don't support that conclusion, but his books and actions on behalf of others, do support that opinion, which is widely held (not solely by misc linguistic-types). Why would you want to support someone like that? Why would Somerby?

      They may have written an imperfect letter, but they weren't writing a legal brief. They were asking an organization to rethink an award to a controversial figure. Not only do they have the right to do that, they are far from the only people who believe as they do.

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    8. My disagreement arises from my tendency to understand claims and properly evaluate evidence. Not only do the tweets not show what the signatories claim they do, but the signatories make no further charges against Pinker.

      Consider an analagous situation in which you claim that I cheated on my taxes in 2001, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2012. I respond that I didn't file taxes for those years because I didn't make enough money to require filing. You then say, "It doesn't matter. Those tax years aren't the point. What's really at question here is your general propensity for dishonesty."

      If the signatories had a case to make against Pinker, then it's incumbent upon them to do it. You're only guessing about what "systematic" issues the signatories could cite, but even those guesses fall far short of the dispositive:

      1. Here's what Larry Summers said that caused a ruckus: "There is reasonably strong evidence of taste differences between little girls and little boys that are not easy to attribute to socialization." And here's what Pinker said in Summer's defense:

      Summers did not, of course, say that women are "natively inferior," that "they just can't cut it," that they suffer "an inherent cognitive deficit in the sciences," or that men have "a monopoly on basic math ability," as many academics and journalists assumed. Only a madman could believe such things. (Emphasis mine.)

      2. Pinker has never "defended" rape, and you can't quote him to that effect. Pinker has written that it's nonsensical to believe that rape is all about power and not about sex because in fact, from the viewpoint of evolutionary psychology, rape may have arisen as an adaptive sexual behavior.

      3. Pinker's contribution to Epstein's defense at trial was to analyze the "plain meaning" of a statute that Epstein stood accused of violating.

      And neither will I accept as evidence "more recent incidents" that you are "unaware of" because you claim those incidents "no doubt" occurred. That's called playing tennis without the net.

      Continuing with more your nonsense:

      I don't understand why you discount the opinions of all those people who "identify as linguists" in favor of Somerby, who is definitely not a linguist or an academic, and your own entirely uninformed view.

      You're the one who called the signatories linguists. They're not all linguists. The signatories want Pinker stripped of an honor bestowed by an association of purported linguists. I don't see why we should pay attention to the complaints of assorted hangers-on about a dispute involving a professional association.

      And neither TDH nor I has to be a linguist or an academic to judge non-technical claims.

      I don't think you should take the letter on authority,

      Nobody, including you, should. It's nonsense.

      but you are saying you think the signers aren't good enough linguists to be believed, which is an odd objection.

      I'm saying many of the signers don't have standing to object to the actions of a professional society in which they're not involved as professionals.

      Many cognitive scientists complained about Pinker's books about war and violence, poverty, and the innateness of behavior. You can find many negative reviews of his first books. Since then, he has become an apologist for racists and sexists.

      If the complainers are right, then all that means is that Pinker was wrong. He isn't an apologist for racists and sexists, so you should probably stop telling that lie.

      (con't->)

      Delete
    9. (<-con't)

      They may have written an imperfect letter, but they weren't writing a legal brief. They were asking an organization to rethink an award to a controversial figure. Not only do they have the right to do that, they are far from the only people who believe as they do.

      The letter doesn't have to be perfect; it doesn't have to match the standards of a legal brief. But if it's going to accuse somebody of despicable behavior, it should at least be coherent and accurate. No one says the signatories don't have the right to ask the LSA whatever they want. They just don't have the right to be taken seriously when they fail to back up their claims.

      And you don't have to convince me that they are far from the only ignoramuses around.

      Delete
    10. For you, it would have to be a legal brief. For most people, familiar with the situation, it was written well enough to know what they were asking and why. You and Somerby are outsiders to this situation but you expect that you should know what others do, without having acquired that knowledge. This is Somerby's problem in lots of complaints here.

      Delete
    11. It is not a lie that Steven Pinker wrote a letter supporting Jeffrey Epstein in his 2008 case.

      Delete
    12. It's a lie by lack of context. Pinker wrote a letter offering his expert opinion on the meaning of a statute. So what?

      Delete
    13. I wouldn't require a legal brief, because the forum wasn't a court of law. What I require is intellectula rigor and honesty.

      No, it's not enough that the letter be written just well enough that its goal could be understood. The letter made accusations of intellectual malfeasance, and that requires evidence fairly cited.

      The charges weren't technical matters of say, evolutionary psychology, but of ordinary politics. I'm more than competent to read and understand that topic. And if you're going to credit the many non-expert signatories, then you're going to have to grant me equal standing.

      Delete
    14. Pinker wrote the letter about the statute in order to help Jeffrey Epstein. We all know what Epstein was. So must Pinker have known.

      I have decided that this situation is ridiculous. I might as well debate racism with members of the alt-right or try to tell an Epstein admirer that underage girls deserve the right to a childhood. I am through wasting time with you. I won't bother reading or responding to your comments in the future.

      Somerby's championing of men like Pinker by criticizing those who oppose him is on a par with his defense of Barr, Moore, and other conservative filth. I had felt that someone needed to tell others who these guys are, but I find that it leaves me feeling bad during a time that is stressful enough. Someone else will have to do it because I am soul-sick and exhausted by the extent of evil in this world, and that includes you, deadrat. And Somerby is no liberal.

      Delete
    15. Of course you will respond to his posts in the future. You're addicted. You spend every day in this comment section writing thousands of word a day of illogical drivel. And you have no friends anyway. No one likes you because you're an idiotic bitch. Deadrat is the only friend you have.

      Delete
    16. “ I had felt that someone needed to tell others who these guys are, but I find that it leaves me feeling bad during a time that is stressful enough. Someone else will have to do it because I am soul-sick and exhausted by the extent of evil in this world, ...”

      You can take comfort in the fact that 550 people have sent less luminous types than Pinker the same message that you endlessly strive to convey here— which is “shut your trap”.

      I’m sure less celebrated linguists have gotten that message loud and clear.

      Delete
    17. Anonymouse 7:52pm, don’t make me soul-sick and exhausted by the extent of evil in this world.

      Stop it right now, jerk.

      Delete
    18. 8:59 Please. That dumb whore is begging for it.

      Delete
    19. Pinker wrote the letter about the statute in order to help Jeffrey Epstein. We all know what Epstein was. So must Pinker have known.

      I don't know what Pinker might have known. Neither do you. Our system provides even the Epsteins of this world certain benefits of its legal system. Pinker was asked to give his expert opinion of the "plain meaning" of a statute. I didn't look into the details, so I don't know how that would have helped Epstein. Had the judge adopted Pinker's reasoning, presumably that would have helped Epstein. Just like any other defense motion adopted by the judge.

      One of Epstein's lawyers was Gerald Lefcourt, who has a history of defending unpopular defendants, including the Black Panthers and Abbie Hoffman. According to his website, the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has awarded him its Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award. Are you going to demand that the Association rescind his award because he defended Epstein?

      I have decided that this situation is ridiculous. I might as well debate racism with members of the alt-right or try to tell an Epstein admirer that underage girls deserve the right to a childhood.

      Now that would have hurt my feelings if I had any. I don't admire Epstein, and I don't think pedophilia is anything but immoral.

      I am through wasting time with you. I won't bother reading or responding to your comments in the future.

      As always, this is up to you, Brave Sir Robin. Just don't pretend that you're leaving the field because you're wasting your time talking to someone in the alt-right. That's just laziness.

      Somerby's championing of men like Pinker by criticizing those who oppose him is on a par with his defense of Barr, Moore, and other conservative filth. I had felt that someone needed to tell others who these guys are....

      Well, there's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that plenty of people, including me, agree with you that Barr and Moore are "conservative" (i.e., fascist) scum. The bad news for you (and it really isn't that bad) is that Pinker and Somerby aren't.

      but I find that it leaves me feeling bad during a time that is stressful enough. Someone else will have to do it because I am soul-sick and exhausted by the extent of evil in this world, and that includes you, deadrat

      I would encourage you to do two things. The first is to reserve your emotional response for events in the real world. The second is to never cede your power to someone you address with a nym. If you follow my advice, you'll realize that 1) I'm not evil. I'm just a jerk, and 2) regardless of what I am, I can't make your soul sick unless you decide to let me.

      And Somerby is no liberal.

      Here are two liberal rules to live by that will demonstrate that you're wrong:

      1. Facts have a liberal bias. That means that we have nothing to fear from facts. If we're wrong, all that means is that we change our policies. Facts can't threaten core liberal principles. What could you learn about the world that would lead you to abandon the belief that everyone should be accorded equal protection under the law?

      2. The cure for being wrong is correction, not exile.

      Delete
    20. No one likes you because you're an idiotic bitch. Deadrat is the only friend you have.
      ...
      Please. That dumb whore is begging for it.


      I'm nobody's "friend" here. That's a real-world concept (where, to be fair, I still don't have any friends). I take the commenter seriously enough to counter her comments, which I often find to be fact free and illogical.

      But in my book, this puts her above our Village Idiot David in Cal and our Village Trolls, Mao (still numero uno) and Centrist (like Avis, #2 but he tries harder).

      The misogyny of using "bitch" and "whore" tell us more about you then the commenter.

      Delete
    21. "The good news is that plenty of people, including me, agree with you that Barr and Moore are "conservative" (i.e., fascist) scum. The bad news for you (and it really isn't that bad) is that Pinker and Somerby aren't."

      Pinker is against identity politics and what he calls political correctness. He is also against movements to protect biodiversity and he thinks technology will fix climate change. He has little concern for fighting poverty and hunger worldwide or in the USA. Maybe he is neoliberal but he is not liberal. His ideas about the alt-right are "naive" and his books on biological determinism give comfort to white supremacy:

      https://medium.com/@justinward/steven-pinkers-alt-right-apologia-ad401f65e6fc

      https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/steven-pinker-jordan-peterson-neoliberalism-radical-right/

      https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2018/01/09/if-you-ever-doubted-that-steven-pinkers-sympathies-lie-with-the-alt-right/

      Delete
    22. "dumb whore"

      The equivalent Zombie word is "Karen". When you speak humyn they often become confused and disoriented.

      Delete
    23. Always enjoy reading me some deadrat. As far as Pinker is concerned, I actually have no dog in this hunt. But the essay I linked to, by NJR, actually contains a link to a seemingly valid critique of Pinker’s views on subjects that fall out of the range of linguistic study. He is respected as an intellectual, when it’s not clear that he should be, outside of his field.

      It’s interesting that Somerby laments the lack of involvement from academic intellectuals in our mainstream political discourse on the one hand, but cites Wittgenstein’s critique of academic philosopher’s lack of coherence when trying to postulate rules for human existence. I suppose this can make sense when he’s writing under the rubric of journalistic critique (which is always welcome, and sorely needed), but when’s the last time Chomsky was invited to CNN? I suppose that’s more to the point Somerby is always trying to make.

      Whatever, I’ll keep reading this blog because I like it, despite my lack of academic credentials. And I like the back-and-forth in the comment section. Reading this blog somehow seems to have a cathartic effect on its readers, which I view as a common good – though cretins should rightly be ostracized.

      Here’s the link to the Pinker critique.

      LINK

      Peace,
      Leroy

      Delete
    24. Chomsky is 91 years old now. That may be why he no longer appears on CNN.

      Delete
    25. Anonymous Ignoramus @10:12A,

      Thanks for making my point for me. It's tiring to have to do all the heavy lifting on my own. My claim was that Pinker isn't fascist scum like Bill Barr and Roy Moore. I'll take it that you agree with me. If you didn't, you wouldn't have moved the goalposts to "Pinker might be neoliberal but he's not liberal."

      OK, fine. Let's look at your evidence. Both your own claims and those of your sources are long on conclusory statements and short on direct quotes from Pinker.

      1. Pinker is against identity politics and ... political correctness.

      So what? He disagrees with some of your political tactics. Depending on how "identify politics" and "political correctness" are defined, he might be the one on the side of the angels. But you don't give any definitions.

      2. Pinker is against "biodiversity" and he thinks "technology will fix climate change."

      Pinker is against having more species survive and in favor of more extinction? This sounds very odd. Do you have a source? And he doesn't think that technology will save us from climate change. Here's what he actually writes:

      We cannot be complacently optimistic about climate change, but we can be conditionally optimistic. We have some practicable ways to prevent the harms and we have the means to learn more.

      In other words, technology might help. How does this exclude him from the liberal club?

      3. Pinker is unconcerned with poverty and hunger.

      How do you know what Pinker is "concerned" with? I take it this is an illogical jump from Pinker's presentation of data showing that before COVID-2 hit the world, dire poverty decreased dramatically in the world. Others dispute this, but the conclusion to be made here is that Pinker might be wrong, not that he's some heartless, illiberal monster.

      4. Pinker gives comfort to white supremacy. Presumably, you mean white supremacists are heartened by his writing. Name three. Because I don't believe that white supremacists read Pinker. On second thought, never mind. Why should I care what white supremacists think? They're white supremacists.

      4a. medium.com (Justin Ward):

      [Pinker's] prescription is for far-right beliefs to be openly debated and “countered by arguments that put them in perspective.” ... Pinker accepts as dogma Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ famous doctrine that the “solution to bad speech is more speech”

      Oh, horrors! Ward calls these beliefs "naive fantasy." Fuck Justin Ward.

      4b. opendemocracy.net (James A Smith):

      We needn’t get personal, so let’s evoke a composite figure wherever possible, returning to the differences between these two figures [Steven Pinker and Jordan Peterson] where necessary. Call him Pinkerson.

      No, let's call him what he is -- Strawman. Fuck James A Smith, and be sure not to confuse him with the James B-Z Smiths.

      4c. freethoughtblogs.com (PZ Myers)

      Fuck PZ Myers for not changing the name of his blog after booting Phil Mason in 2012 for freely expressing thoughts PZ didn't like. Here's PZ from his site and your cite:

      I’m just going to have to say it outright: Pinker is lying here. (Emphasis original.)

      Pinker couldn't be mistaken. Nah, he's a liar. I'm just going to have to say it outright again: Fuck PZ Myers.

      You're long on opinion, Sparky, and short on evidence. Good thing you don't get to say who's a liberal and who's not. Of course, you're still entitled to your own ill-informed opinion, just as anyone who investigates your claims and sources is entitled to ignore it.

      Delete
    26. You might try reading Pinker's books or listening to his various interviews and talks. You might find that you don't actually want to defend his so vigorously.

      Delete
    27. Sorry, Sparky, but that's not how it works. I don't have to do your homework for you. If you have a case that Pinker is nobody a liberal would support, then you're going to have to present it. So far, your attempts have failed. Given your efforts so far, I'm really not interested in your opinion that Pinker is nobody you would support.

      Notice that I'm not defending, vigorously or otherwise, any particular view of Pinker's. For instance in The Better Angels of Our Nature, Pinker argues that historically, this is the best of times -- less violence, more peace. That's as may be, and Pinker's thesis has many detractors. Pinker may be (mostly) right, he may be (mostly) wrong, or perhaps a reasonable person will remain unpersuaded by either side. In any case, the worst scenario is that Pinker is mistaken.

      But that's all it means. People can be mistaken and still be liberal. People can be wrong and still not deserve fact-free open letters to their professional association demanding their excommunication.

      You might try examining your sources a little more closely. You might find they (and thus you) don't actually have a case.

      Delete
    28. “The equivalent Zombie word is "Karen". When you speak humyn they often become confused and disoriented.”

      Actually, the online Zombi expression for “dumb whore” is either “dumb whore” or “dumb slut”.

      That epithet is hurled by annoyed men of all political persuasions.

      There doesn’t seem to be an equivalent put-down for males. .

      Combing in second in internet insults is the statement “I wouldn’t f— you if you offered to pay me”.

      I wish men understood that women don’t find this a strong indictment.

      Delete
    29. Meh. All of those are just a bunch of letters displayed on your monitor. You don't need to..., nay, you don't have to allow them to push your buttons, initiate any emotional reactions. Be cool, man.

      Delete
    30. I don’t get upset if that sort of comment is directed at me.

      Delete
  8. That's a quote from NJR. I need to make that clear. I only wish I could have written it.

    Leroy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. BTW, I'm not the murderous type. I like this blog.

      Leroy

      Delete
  9. “Statement 1: It's now 3 o'clock in Los Angeles.
    Statement 2: It's now 3 o'clock in Moscow.
    Statement 3: It's now 3 o'clock on the moon.”

    Statement 3 is unlike statements 1 and 2. It is equivalent to saying “it’s now 3 o’clock on the earth”. The moon does rotate, so an equivalent statement to statements 1 and 2 would be “it’s now 3 o’clock at moon base alpha.”

    So, statement 3 shares a “surface appearance” with 1 and 2, but it is clearly not in the same category.

    If there were residents living on the moon with no knowledge of Earthlings, they still could have developed a time measuring system. So “3 o’clock at moonbase alpha” would be perfectly well-defined to them.

    In reality, if a moon base were established, a time measurement system would be instituted, most likely in reference to the earth-based one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another thought: What would it mean to say “it’s 3 o’clock at the North Pole?” The “day” there lasts 6 months.

      Delete
    2. As per an Anonymouse above, I had no idea that time is no longer gauged by the earth’s rotation, but that it is what we say it is.

      Good news! It’s five o’clock everywhere!

      This is Bob at his best. Lucid and intriguing. I wish TDH would do more of this (consistently balanced by a personality disordered Trump piece, of course).

      Delete
    3. Time is gauged by the decay of some atomic particle. It is maintained in the US by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology):

      "The exact modern definition, from the National Institute of Standards and Technology is: "The duration of 9192631770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom."

      This will be the same on the moon.

      Standard time is set by law. It used to be determined by the sun, but doesn't have to be. If time were fixed, how could you have daylight savings time?

      Delete
    4. @cecelia: Your response doesn’t address anything I said. Does saying “it’s 3 o’clock on the earth” make any more sense than “it’s 3 o’clock on the moon”? Earthlings measure time based on the earth’s rotation, although you also didn’t address how you would measure time at the North Pole, where the day lasts 6 months (in other words, there is essentially no rotation). If man were to establish a colony on Mars, would time be measured based on the earth’s rotation? If other life exists on other planets, it’s not likely their time is based on the Earth’s rotation.

      Perhaps you could address the actual points I raised, but instead you chose to express your reflexive admiration of Bob. That isn’t a rebuttal.

      Delete
    5. mh, what makes you think there is no rotation at the axis of rotation?

      Delete
    6. mh, I was responding to a post by Anonymouse10:29am. You are not an Anonymouse.

      I assume that the North Pole rotates along with the planet.

      If there were people at the poles who were completely cut off from the rest of the Earth, it’s fair to say they would be taking their clues from some natural phenomenon such as the changing constellations, rather than just by arbitrary declaration. There would be no criteria for that, as well.

      How could my admiration of Bob be more reflexive than your disapproval of him?

      Delete
    7. @12:54P, that's the definition of a second. No one uses that to answer the question, "What time does the game start?"

      Delete
    8. @cecelia:
      Please quote the passage in my comment where I expressed my “disapproval” of Bob. I’ll be waiting. And while you try to locate it, perhaps you might consider that debating a point raised by the blogger is called “debate”, rather than “disapproval.” Or perhaps you feel absolute agreement or silence are the only possible responses. I found this topic fascinating and was trying to start a discussion. (I also thinks this shows how philosophy can be interesting and worthwhile, incidentally.)

      Delete
    9. “Standard time is set by law. It used to be determined by the sun, but doesn't have to be. If time were fixed, how could you have daylight savings time?”

      I thought DST was determined by geography as to the rotation of the planet.

      Even in countries where there are long periods of daylight, the sun moves in the sky.

      Delete
    10. I’m not saying that there isn’t any arbitrary element to time keeping.

      Delete
    11. Oh, mh, you constantly express disapproval of this blog.

      Somerby blogs plenty of things that don’t tickle my fancies either. My admiration is not reflexive, as you described it.

      You’re getting awfully defensive with me for no reason.

      Delete
    12. @cecelia:
      Because you do not get to read my mind, saying my comments express “disapproval” of *him*. I may disagree with his conclusions, but that is different. Maybe you disapprove of me, constantly expressing criticism?

      Anyway:
      Another thought experiment: what if a society measured time by the rising and falling of the moon, or the tides? Would that render “3 o’clock” moon time” meaningless to people in Los Angeles? No. A measurement of time in any given system can be mathematically transformed into any other system as long as you know all the parameters.

      When we say “3 o’clock”, we mean three hours after sun’s high point (noon). But “3 o’clock” might mean 3 hours after moon’s high point, or anything else.

      Delete
    13. I agree that (technically) there's no such thing as 3 o’clock at the north pole, but not because the day there lasts 6 months.

      It's because it doesn't belong to any timezone. Theoretically, you can make one step away from the north pole and find yourself in a timezone, where it's 3 o’clock (3 pm). One step in the opposite direction - and it's 3 am.

      Delete
    14. mh, even if I take Wittgenstein’s point wholly in this very concrete manner (and I shouldn’t) the world of 3pm on the moon would not comport with 3pm on Earth. Even in locations where 3pm in NYC is the dark of night there.

      These things are not arbitrary though we may have systems such as “conserving daylight” that are more arbitrary and conceptual.

      We say it’s 3pm Earth time because we are on Earth and we base it on astronomical principles as regards the entire planet.. Our saying it’s 3pm Earth time on the moon would be only about the moon in the sense that we had transplanted our reference points to it.

      Delete
    15. Cecelia, Somerby claims (and/or Wittgenstein) that it’s hard to imagine statement three making sense. I provided examples where it does make sense. The fact that the point of reference is different doesn’t render statement 3 senseless. Nor does the fact that further information is necessary in order to make complete sense of it render it fundamentally different from the other two. All three statements make an assertion about time in a given place. That fundamental concept is present in all three. Just because I may not know precisely what “3 o’clock” means in another time system doesn’t mean I don’t understand the basic idea being conveyed.

      Even if “3 o’clock on the moon” means 3 units of time after earthrise, it still means something.

      Of course, if these were space aliens, they wouldn’t be using English...

      Delete
    16. Of course, if these were space aliens, they wouldn’t be using English...

      Why wouldn't we^H^Hthey?

      Delete
    17. Yes.

      Speaking of space aliens:

      Tell me," Wittgenstein's asked a friend, "why do people always say, it was natural for man to assume that the sun went round the earth rather than that the earth was rotating?" His friend replied, "Well, obviously because it just looks as though the Sun is going round the Earth." Wittgenstein replied, "Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?

      Delete
    18. It's better phrased as "Well, obviously it just seems as though the sun is going around the earth." When Wittgenstein asks, "Well, how would it seem if the earth was rotating?" the answer is "I know how it seems when I go 10 mph in a car, and it just doesn't seem that I could be going 100 times as fast when I'm standing on the curb."

      Delete
    19. Or when you’re standing in the aisle of an airliner?

      Delete
    20. Pinker is self-referentially a classical liberal, pro market, pro capitalism, basically a neoliberal at best, and essentially a modern conservative. He is also fairly referred to as a fame-obsessed opportunist who says nonsense like "Progressives hate progress".

      Wittgenstein:

      "The meaning of a word is to be defined by the rules for its use, not by the feeling that attaches to the words."

      "The meaning changes when one of its rules changes."

      Somerby's 3 statements were not effective in conveying his notion, in part because Statement 3 can indeed make sense, even more so as rules change.

      What time is it on the Moon?

      Some here seem uninterested in political or societal outcomes, this can often produce tension when engaging with comments here.

      It is reasonable that an outcome of today's TDH is that of a positive view of Pinker. Pinker is reviled among Progressives, Pinker seems to want to be critical of religion, at the expense of skepticism of capitalism. Pinker's context-less "hey this is just data" - a la Sam Harris/Charles Murray - is used by the alt-right and race science supporters, that is the outcome of Pinker's work. Furthermore the link between the idw and the alt-right is reasonably asserted.

      Colbert does an entertaining job at poking at Pinker's dangerous notions:

      The Colbert Report
      Steven Pinker


      Or, words:

      Steven Pinker's grand apology for capitalism



      Delete
    21. Pinker is self-referentially a classical liberal, pro market, pro capitalism, basically a neoliberal at best, and essentially a modern conservative. He is also fairly referred to as a fame-obsessed opportunist who says nonsense like "Progressives hate progress".

      Let me reprhase that for you:

      Pinker is bad, self-admittedly bad, pro bad things, basically moderately bad at best and essentially very bad. Other people call him a bad person who says bad things.

      Let me condense that for you:

      "I don't like Steven Pinker, and people I do like don't like him either."

      Part of the problem with your conclusory critique is that there are no "modern conservatives," at least not in American politics. There are autocrats, cheerleaders for autocrats, and cringing bootlickers of autocrats. "Classical liberals" defend civil rights under the rule of law. Modern "conservatives" implement, cheer, or acquiesce in extraordinary rendition of peaceful protesters in Portland. Regardless of his "self-referral," which side is Pinker on?

      Pinker is reviled among Progressives,

      Who are you, the Pope of the Progressives? Is that the cringe-worthy group who signed the open letter to the LSA? I don't care what some claque has to say. I want to hear how Pinker takes the side of illiberalism, preferably from Pinker.

      Pinker seems to want to be critical of religion, at the expense of skepticism of capitalism.

      So in your view, he "seems" wrong? So what?

      Pinker's context-less "hey this is just data" - a la Sam Harris/Charles Murray

      Pinker's presentation of data is not contextless, and if that's your claim, it just means you haven't done your homework. There's plenty of cogent criticism of Pinker's methods and conclusions, but they don't include your pathetic guilt by association.

      - is used by the alt-right and race science supporters,

      I don't care what alt-rightists and race science supporters think. They're alt-rightists and race science supporters.

      that is the outcome of Pinker's work.

      OK, let's assume that the outcome is that shitheads who can't get the simplest things right agree with you about Pinker. So what?

      Furthermore the link between the idw and the alt-right is reasonably asserted.

      Oh, the reasonably asserted passive voice! Well played! Next you'll be telling me that you're just asking questions about what you've heard about Pinker's connection to the alt-right 'cause that's what people are saying.

      Scratch that last future reference. You've already told me that.

      I think you mean that Colbert was poking fun at Pinker's positions. Colbert's humorous challenge made no case that any "notions" were dangerous. That's all you. Conor Lynch thinks Pinker is wrong about capitalism. So what?

      I'm not defending Pinker's conclusions about the decline of violence over the last century or his views about capitalism. I'm criticizing the view that Pinker must be cast into the void simply because you and others like you are displeased with some of his claims. I'm down on people who write open letters making claims they don't back up with sufficient evidence. That's it.

      Delete
    22. I found the letter to provide sufficient evidence to justify their actions, which is merely to no longer list Pinker as a fellow of their private group or as a media expert. However you find the letter, that finding is subjective.

      Within the context of society, if claims lead to a positive outcome, I support that regardless of their "truth" value. If your "truth" leads to bad outcomes, regardless of your evidence, I support canceling your "truth". You can diddle around with your "truth" all you want, I care about outcomes.

      Cancel culture has existed as long as society has. Society picks winner and losers all the time. Fundamentally, Republicans prefer to have a few winners so that winners can win big, Democratics prefer to have more winners, and Progressives would like to minimize losers.

      I remain unconvinced that the letter is anything to be "down" on, you are convinced otherwise, fair enough.

      Let's finish your sentence from Wikipedia on classical liberalism:

      ...with an emphasis on economic freedom.

      They are, at their core, pro laissez-faire markets.

      Progressives are reasonably "down" on Pinker, he has been an object of attack from the left for a while. Pinker's public presentation of data is lacking meaningful context, this is a main critique of his work as a public intellectual.

      I purposefully use words like "seem" to illustrate it's usefulness, or lack thereof. Often TDH and Pinker and others similarly vain, seem to make reasonable assertions while shrugging their shoulders if their work supports shadier characters.

      Delete
    23. I found the letter to provide sufficient evidence to justify their actions,

      C'mon, don't kid a kidder. That's bullshit. You didn't examine the tweets for evidentiary weight. Even assuming you could get a fair view from 140 characters. You found the letter "useful" to an outcome you thought desirable.

      Within the context of society, if claims lead to a positive outcome, I support that regardless of their "truth" value.

      "The context of society"? "Positive outcome?" Scare quotes around truth? You're either trolling me -- in which case, you got me! -- or I can pretty much disregard your claim to be either liberal or progressive. You like Colbert so much? Find and heed his explanation of "truthiness."

      Sometimes Wikipedia gets things right. If they had "civil rights" and the "rule of law," then that's one of those times. I was thinking the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment. I'm not sure what Wikipedia means by "economic freedom," but that needn't be laissez-faire markets aka vulture capitalism.

      If you don't mind (and even if you do), I'm through with your conclusory statements: progressives are reasonably down on Pinker, Pinker's statements lack context, etc. First of all the claims are yours, so the burdens of proof and production are also yours. Secondly, I now understand your approach, and that understanding leads me to believe that you're as likely to be a troll as not. You know those people who refuse to wear masks because they hide faces that are made in the image of god or because wearing masks will inevitably lead to dictatorship or because masks induce oxygen deprivation? You're helpless against their positions (all three of which are really held by some feral Trumpers).

      And if you're not a troll, I'm still on a fool's errand. To paraphrase a wise man:

      What evidence could anyone present to someone who doesn't value evidence to convince them that evidence is worthwhile? What logical argument could anyone make to someone who doesn't value logic to convince them that logic is important?

      Delete
    24. The wise man that baits race science. If that's the Sam hill you want to die on, so be it. Sam Seder is more my speed.

      Evidence and logic are important, I have not indicated otherwise, but not in every circumstance and to equaling degree.

      The internet is replete with progressive Pinker criticism. If you are curious, do your own work - I doubt you are curious, which is ironic, but also fine. I am not lazy, I am just not motivated to do your bidding. The claims are not mine, I have merely read the criticisms and find them agreeable. Outrage over Pinker being removed from a list seems kind of snowflake-y to me. That said, I like snowflakes, Lake Wobegon aside, I do think we are all special and all deserve equal access to joy, no merit required.

      Wearing a mask within the context of the pandemic produces positive outcomes; having said that, if you think you or Somerby has ever or will ever change the mind of a Republican, I have a Nigerian bridge to sell you. Recall, masks were not always advised, as there was uncertainty about their effectiveness and their availability. I wear a mask that says:

      My mask protects you
      Your mask protects me

      I have had Trumpers stop and read my mask, so far no fights, usually just a "huh", one lady at Whole Foods told me I could get the same stuff for "cheaper" at Ralphs (a local grocery store, considered lower-end) which I guess was some kind of expression of disapproval, an attempt to cancel me. No doubt no minds have been changed, maybe some seeds sown, who is to say?

      They are not scare quotes, they indicate a vaguely defined word with different interpretations. Colbert is ok, I am talking about outcomes, not an appeal to emotions, as Wikipedia explains his word.

      I do incorporate some trolling, it is fairly obvious.

      These are notions that seem to make you uncomfortable:

      context
      interpretation
      outcome
      truth

      also, ironically, these words:

      seems
      reasonable


      Delete
    25. Said no progressive ever:

      [I]f claims lead to a positive outcome, I support that regardless of their "truth" value. If your "truth" leads to bad outcomes, regardless of your evidence, I support canceling your "truth".

      If you're serious, there's no basis for a serious conversation; if you're not, you're a troll, and the same conclusion applies. But I'm not above a bit of banter. In fact, nobody likes a good bit of banter more than I do, except perhaps my wife and some of her friends. Oh yes, and Captain Johnson. Come to think of it, most people like a good bit of banter more than I do, but that's beside the point.

      The wise man that baits race science

      This sentence no (main) verb. I like Sam, but I don't listen to him much. He's a tad whiny for my tastes, and I tire easily listening to people I agree with.

      Evidence and logic are important, I have not indicated otherwise

      Yes, you have, Mr. Argument From Consequences. But if you have neither evidence nor logic, at least you have run-on sentences. So that's something.

      The internet is replete with progressive Pinker criticism. If you are curious, do your own work....

      I've read some, but this isn't my work, since I'm not defending Pinker's claims.

      I am not lazy, I am just not motivated to do your bidding.

      Evidence is hard, I know. But if you say that you've merely taken a principled stand against evaluating it, then so be it. This isn't my bidding. In conversations about evidence, the burdens of production and proof lie with the claimant. But this doesn't apply to you.

      The claims are not mine, I have merely read the criticisms and find them agreeable.

      Of course you have.

      Outrage over Pinker being removed from a list seems kind of snowflake-y to me.

      Really? It's outrage over tweets taken out of context that seems kinda snowflake-y to me. But to each his own.

      That said, I like snowflakes, Lake Wobegon aside, I do think we are all special and all deserve equal access to joy, no merit required.

      I'm not that fond of snowflakes, and I think independent clauses deserve conjunctions. Oh, yeah, and that very few of us are "special," and that there are some with so little merit
      that they deserve no joy. But again, each to his own.

      Wearing a mask within the context of the pandemic produces positive outcomes.

      So you say, but I don't think your stance allows you to argue that point against the godbotherers, fake patriots, and fascists in power. But if I understand you, that's not really a drawback for you.

      [I]f you think you or Somerby has ever or will ever change the mind of a Republican, I have a Nigerian bridge to sell you.

      Goddam, that's funny. I see what you did there. The bridge in the adage connects Manhattan and Brooklyn, but many modern-day scammers are from Nigeria. That's a knee-slapper fersure.

      But are you new here? I'm the one who says that Republicans merely walk amongst us as human. And as for TDH, he can't even convince his readers that accuracy in reporting is important.

      But please tell me more about your shopping experiences. I love stories I can't check, so make them as interesting as you want. Include a fight at Whole Foods over masks. I know Ralphs; I used to shop at one. I don't recall it being particularly "lower-end," but this was before there was a Whole Foods, even in Austin.

      I do incorporate some trolling, it is fairly obvious.

      No shit. And comma splices, too.

      These are notions that seem to make you uncomfortable:

      Ah, there's that word "seem." Whatever seems to you seems as fine to me, troll, as it seems for you. No evidence required.

      Minds are changed; seeds are sown; trolls gotta troll.

      Who is to say indeed.

      Delete
  10. "we may be inclined to assume that the assessments on which the stampede is based are, in fact, well-founded"

    Only is you're a complete idiot, dear Bob.

    All it is, is a goebbelsian liberal hate-mongering.

    And philosophy, whether it's a house of cards or a bomb shelter made of steel and concrete, has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Enjoy the last 4 months of your failed Trump experiment dumbshit. Next time you may want to get behind someone else besides a psycho, idiotic, lifelong failure.

      Have a good time! How great it must have been until the hundreds of thousands of Americans he killed with his incompetence. Icarus wasn't failing as he fell, just coming to the end of his triumph!

      Delete
    2. Maybe Mao can get Ted Cruz in there for 2024. It depends on how things shake out in the Republican Party after Trump's disastrous and deadly single term and his forthcoming landslide defeat.

      Delete
  11. Speaking of hate mongering:

    https://intelligence.house.gov/social-media-content/

    ReplyDelete
  12. Just because Somerby calls something "bungled" or "muddled" doesn't make it true.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hey mh, the funniest thing about your Harper's anti-"cancel culture" letter: they cancelled Greenwald from signing it.

    Lol. Really, I do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Somerby hasn't been discussing this letter at all. Wonder why not?

      Delete
    2. “Hey mh, the funniest thing about your Harper's anti-"cancel culture" letter: they cancelled Greenwald from signing it.”

      There were signers of the letter who later disavowed it because they were unaware that someone who they didn’t agree with or approve of had also signed it.

      I thought that was what the letter was about.

      Delete
    3. Maybe they can redraft the letter and include Greenwald after Trump's forthcoming landslide defeat due to total incompetence and massive American's deaths for which he is directly responsible. I'm not sure. We'll just have to see.

      Delete
    4. It's like the Theatre of the Absurd. What a buncha clowns.

      Delete
    5. Elections are a form of "cancel culture" in which people get voted out of office for doing things their constituents don't like.

      Delete
    6. Trump did some good things. Then he became responsible for hundreds of thousands of American's deaths. A butcher bill that is still climbing today. Hundred and hundreds of Americans dying every day of a widely expected, totally preventable infectious disease he said "we are totally prepared for".

      Hundreds and hundreds of American people will die today ALL due to Trump's poor leadership.

      Death counts like that really hurt a president's chances at reelection. But he did do some good things. It was fun while it lasted. In the end, he didn't achieve any of his core aims. And his place in history is cemented as easily one of the worst leaders in modern history. But is was fun wasn't Mao? It felt so GOOD!

      Delete
    7. The chuckleheads who signed that letter, by the very act of writing it, affirm the dumb conservative idea that there is a “liberal cancel culture” that so-called liberals feel the need to apologize for.

      Delete
  14. Bob, I used to worship the later Wittgenstein too. Well, I still do. But read CWK Mundle's Critique of Linguistic Philosophy. You'll learn that Wittgenstein was just as muddled as all the other great thinkers he was criticizing! Seriously, give it a shot. It will help you achieve a much more balanced and accurate view of Wittgenstein.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Get off my lawn!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Can't we all just get along?

    ReplyDelete
  17. 'As we noted yesterday, you simply can't get dumber than that.'

    You can, when you defend Roy Moore, DJT, Ron Johnson, Zimmerman etc. In short, when you are a Trumptard.

    ReplyDelete
  18. There could be time periods on the moon based essentially on what the altitude of the sun is. The moon's "days" would just be about 28 earth days long, since that is how long it takes the sun to travel around the moon(as seen from the moon). There could be 24 "hours", which is an arbitrary division, but they would each be a little over one earth day long. There is no reason why 3 o'clock on the moon could not make sense, although until people live there there is no reason to use such a time system.

    ReplyDelete
  19. When we migrate to other planets (as this one deteriorates) probably we would use other time systems which make sense in terms of light/dark cycles. There would be no reason to continue to use the earth-based system.

    ReplyDelete
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