### ANTHROPOLOGY UNBOUND: "Back out of all this now too much for us"...

WEDNESDAY, MAY 19, 2021

...1 + 1 meets the wage gap: As we noted yesterday, Bertrand Russell discussed the true meaning of 1 + 1 in his classic 1903 text, The Principles of Mathematics.

He did so on page 6 of the text—and the text began on page 3!

More precisely, Russell defined the true meaning of  "1 + 1 = 2." As you may recall, he said this:

1 + 1 = 2 appears neither to contain variables nor to assert an implication. But as a matter of fact, as will be shown in Part II, the true meaning of this proposition is: “If x is one and y is one, and x differs from y, then x and y are two.”

As he continued, he stated his point in a different way:

Thus the above proposition may be expressed in the form: “Any unit and any other unit are two units.”

For fuller passages from Russell's text, see yesterday's report.

It's easy to make fun of such work. Today, we'll note that Russell's pursuit of 1 + 1 continued in his later, more significant text, Principia Mathematica (1910-1913), which he co-wrote with Alfred North Whitehead.

In 2009, the Modern Library rated the three-volume Principia #23 in its list of the top 100 English-language nonfiction books of the twentieth century. That said, the leading authority on that work displays an excerpt where Russell and Whitehead append the following comment to a rather abstruse chain of symbolic logic:

"From this proposition it will follow, when arithmetical addition has been defined, that 1 + 1 = 2."

You can see the abstruse passage in question simply by clicking this link, then scrolling down a small tad.

It's easy to make fun of such work. But was there, and is there, some actual point to such deliberations?

Frankly, we have no idea, in part because specialists in the field seem to have a very hard time offering accounts of such work which will make any sense at all to the general reader. As we've noted many times in the past, explanation is hard!

For us, these deliberations started early last week. Why did we dig out our old copy of The Principles of Mathematics, trying to see, or perhaps to recall, what Russell's endeavor was all about?

We'd gone there based on something we read in our "most interesting" book of the past twenty years. We refer to Professor Goldstein's 2005 general interest work, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel.

By our lights, Professor Goldstein's account of Russell's work, and the academic motives behind it,  was so abstruse—so incomprehensible—that we decided to go back and take a quick look for ourselves. But why were we revisiting Goldstein's book, which includes some of the most puzzling revelations we have ever encountered?

We're going to blame it on Petula Dvorak—more specifically, on her column in the Washington Post about the gender wage / pay / earnings gap. In fairness, though, it's time for a confession:

In recent weeks, we'd been finding it harder and harder to endure the banality of "cable news," or to confront the steady-state lack of analytical skill on display in Our Town's leading newspapers.

The banality of Our Town's discourse was harder and harder to take. Then, along came Dvorak's treatment of one of the Our Town's favorite pieces of tribal dogma.

For the record, we take it as obvious that Dvorak is a good, decent person. That said, she seems to be extremely beholden to Our Town's preferred Storylines—or at least, so it seems around here.

One such treasured Storyline involves the gender wage gap, whose ontology our warriors love to misstate. With that in mind, we give Dvorka credit:

As she opened her column, she kept her claims technically accurate. When it comes to the gender wage gap, that's something Our Town's thought leaders frequently fail to do.

Her column had a Mother's Day hook. Hard-copy headline included, here's the way it started:

DVORAK (5/7/21): The best Mother’s Day gift? Equal pay.

Flower's? Scented candles? Brunch?

Nice Mother’s Day gifts, sure. But what America’s moms really deserve—and want—is their 25 cents.

You’ve already heard about the gender wage gap, how women make 82 cents for every dollar a man makes.

But wait until you hear how insanely inequitable it is for mothers—on average, moms in the full-time, American workforce make 75 cents for every dollar a dad makes. And the coronavirus pandemic is making that gap so much worse.

Dvorak did say that this shortfall in wages in "insanely inequitable." She did say that America's moms "deserve" that 25 cents.

That said, let's give credit where due! She didn't say that women were paid 82 cents on the dollars for doing the same (or equal) work. She didn't directly state that familiar part of the tribal talking-point.

Dvorak didn't include that extra phrase—the extra phrase Rachel Maddow included on her famous Meet the Press debacle, which she spent thirty minutes explaining away the next night. Dvorak said that women earn less than men—but she didn't claim that they encounter that 18- or 25-cent gap while doing the same or equal work.

At this site, we can teach Dvorak's omission flat or round. On the one hand, her omission of that phrase kept her statements technically accurate. Her omission of that phrase meant that her statements weren't false.

On the other hand, her avoidance of that common phrase suggests an unflattering possibility:

It suggests the possibility that she knows the facts about this treasured talking-point—that she was willing to mislead her readers, just so long as she didn't make a flatly inaccurate statement.

We can't tell you what Dvorak was thinking as she composed her column. We can tell you what came next.

In her first four grafs, she was advancing a familiar misconception without ever stating it herself. In her next paragraph, she offered a groaning pre-rebuttal rebuttal. Her column continued like this:

DVORAK (continuing directly): Hold on, men who are already pecking out their nastygrams, mansplaining that the wage gap exists because moms stay home or go part-time while they raise your spawn, so that break in employment is actually what creates the Wage Gap Gulch.

Yes and no. Even as teens, women make less than men. At the start of this year, the median weekly wage for male 16- to 19-year-olds was \$511. For female teens, it was \$467, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In fact, such breaks in employment are one factor, though they aren't the only factor, in creating that overall earnings gap. As she continued, Dvorak kept suggesting that women get shortchanged in some inappropriate way even when they're teens.

No, she didn't explicitly say that. But that was what she was clearly suggesting—and when we clicked to her Bureau of Labor Statistics, we quickly hit upon two explicit disclaimers saying the statistics shouldn't be used for the very type of comparison Dvorak seemed to be making.

You can find those explicit statements yourself if you choose to click. The kill shot in Dvorak's column was that pitiful pre-rebuttal aimed at those who might try to "mansplain" any such point.

Truly, that's pitiful / hopeless. But so it now endlessly goes at the major news orgs here in Our hapless Town.

At some point, the foolishness grows so deep that even we may come to see that it's time to step away from the serial nonsense. Even we may come to feel that the anthropologists have been right all along—that they've been right when they've told us this:

We humans are the tribal animal. At times of tribal division and societal stress, our brains are wired to churn Storyline while damning The Others, full and complete total stop.

Despondent top anthropologists have constantly told us that. Sometimes, the evidences becomes so comically vast that even we may come to see that there's no point in laboring on.

Dvorak was penning a tribally pleasing bit of agitprop this day. To appearances, she wasn't willing to say things which were flatly false—but she was willing to settle for "grossly misleading."

Also this:

In her mind, she could apparently hear the corrections or challenges coming! So she penned a pre-rebuttal, relying on the kind of rebuttal-by-identity group which now holds enormous sway in the sillybill streets of Our Town.

No, we didn't decide to quit just because of that column! But at some point, even the most determined guide will temporarily come to feel that the game has been lost. (We think of Plato's Seventh Letter, or of Harrison Ford in Witness.)

On cable news, the usual suspects were churning the usual pap about locking Others up. In the Washington Post, a string of columnists churned tribal dogma, though no single piece of work put us over the top.

Still, we decided it was time to turn to the loftier stuff. And a reasonable length of time had passed since we'd thumbed through Goldstein's book.

We decided to revisit our favorite passages, wondering how they'd seem. Tomorrow, we'll show you what we found there—but soon we were on to Lord Russell's work, including his ruminations on the true meaning of 1 + 1.

It's possible to imagine that there actually was a point to this strain of high-end work. That said, the later Wittgenstein finally walked away from such work:

"Back out of all this now too much for us," as Robert Frost once wrote.

Did Lord Russell's work make sense, or was the later Wittgenstein right? More strikingly, could the claims of top anthropologists possibly be correct? Is it possible that our brains weren't made for most analytical work?

Tomorrow: "The mind crashes," she strangely said. Why in the world would she say that?

Concerning the actual gender wage / pay / earnings gap: It's been explained a million times, for the most part to no avail.

We humans cling to our Storylines! If you're interested in the apparent true state of the gender wage / pay / earnings gap, you should start noodling around.

1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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2. "We humans are the tribal animal"

No, dear Bob, we humans aren't tribal animals.

It's just that liberal media dembots keep parroting your cult's talking points, that's all.

They do it because it's their job: to shit all over your brains; not because of anything 'tribal' in humyn nature.

1. ma0 ma0 * ,!, ,!,

3. "It's easy to make fun of such work. "

If you make fun of a logician who starts with first cases, you are the idiot, Somerby, not them.

4. "But was there, and is there, some actual point to such deliberations?

Frankly, we have no idea, in part because specialists in the field seem to have a very hard time offering accounts of such work which will make any sense at all to the general reader."

Advanced work in any specialty requires an undergrad degree and graduate work. Some of it occurs between only the most expert people in a field. Technical books are intended for audiences prepared to understand the contents. They communicate with other experts in a field.

That explicitly does not include Somerby, who is expert in nothing except perhaps a certain kind of standup comedy. Yet he expects to pick up and understand these esoteric texts without any preparation whatsoever, not even in philosophy given his admitted failure as a student.

If Somerby doesn't get what is going on in Russell's books, that is on Somerby. Those books are not beach reading.

Any subject would appear similarly opaque to an outsider, whether it is advanced chemistry, biology, sociology, even anthropology, but Somerby expects the most advanced studies to be dumbed down to the point where he can read them without mental effort. That makes Somerby the moron, not Russell or anyone he was writing for.

Somerby asks what this stuff is for. I didn't understand myself until I was exposed to research in computer science and AI, which both draw heavily on ideas in philosophy as a starting place for their own systems. They do that because philosophers define their terms and pin down their ideas. Psychology, in contrast, defines things experimentally and incorporates randomness and probabilistic modeling because of human variability. Philosophy does that much less and is easier to implement. The problem with philosophy is testing the reality of its ideas.

Somerby's purpose here is to mock intellectual workers and those with expertise so that conspiracy theories will seem more believable to the great unwashed. He may or may not be a true believer himself. He sounds like one. Just as pseudoscience thrives by discrediting real science, Somerby can only gain acceptance for his crackpot beliefs by discrediting real thinkers. That makes him part of the problem, not part of the solution (to use an aging 60s phrase).

5. "In recent weeks, we'd been finding it harder and harder to endure the banality of "cable news," or to confront the steady-state lack of analytical skill on display in Our Town's leading newspapers."

If Somerby cannot understand the opening pages of Russell's book, on what basis is he qualified to judge the analytical skill of leading newspapers?

6. I liked TDH better when Somerby was stacking case upon case of police misconduct, showing why cops should be de-funded.

7. "You can find those explicit statements yourself if you choose to click."

Somerby's entire argument hinges on two disclaimers but he doesn't quote them or even describe them. That is dirty pool. What is he hiding? He clearly doesn't want any of us to judge for ourselves whether those disclaimers discredit Dvorak's statement about women's earnings as teens.

Somerby clearly wants to imply that by discrediting Dvorak, who he admits is technically accurate in her statements, he establishes the non-existence of a wage gap between men and women. It doesn't work that way. He needs to address the stats himself to do away with the wage gap.

Most women who have worked at all are familiar with their own experiences with the wage gap. We all have a great deal of anecdotal evidence that it exists, not just in \$ and cents, but in terms of how we are treated at work. Somerby is writing to assuage his own guilt, perhaps, or to justify the status quo. He is not saying anything particularly liberal, but when does he ever?

8. "No, she didn't explicitly say that. But that was what she was clearly suggesting"

Damned if you do and damned if you don't. Somerby's eagle eye is alert to misstatements about the wage gap. Finding none, he attributes them to Dvorak anyway, saying that she is leading is to incorrect conclusions even if she never states any herself. Unfair, Somerby! Deal with what she says, not with what you think she is implying or thinking or suspect she might like to be saying.

9. Somerby wants us to believe that it is all in our imagination that women have left the workforce more than men, in order to homeschool kids and provide child care during covid. Does anyone really believe it was the dads who gave up their jobs to do that stuff?

10. Why won't Somerby admit that women are paid less than men, on average?

1. tbf, this is progress for SOmerby since around 18 months ago, he was essentially supporting rapes of college women

11. "That said, the later Wittgenstein finally walked away from such work:

"Back out of all this now too much for us," as Robert Frost once wrote."

With complicated mental work in physics or mathematics, men generally do their best work when they are very young (often in their 20s). In the humanities and social sciences, men do their best work in late middle age or old age, because life experience provides greater insight and wisdom about the human condition. Philosophy, especially logic, seems to resemble math and science more than art and literature. That's why quoting Robert Frost seems a bit misguided.

Somerby chooses lines from Frost because they express something he is thinking, ignoring Frost's own meaning. He does the same thing with Wittgenstein. No one would favor the work of an aged philosopher over that of his younger self, especially when the later work abandons all of the previous effort as trash. That suggests depression, not wisdom. For Somerby to grab Wittgenstein as if he justifies his own nihilistic impulses is transparently self-serving.

Somerby used to encourage his readers to think better. These days he is a poor model, an embarrassment to his former self, as the aging Wittgenstein no doubt was to his earlier work. Sweeping all the chess pieces off the board out of frustration is not an example of clear thinking.

12. Here is a very silly paragraph:

"Did Lord Russell's work make sense, or was the later Wittgenstein right? More strikingly, could the claims of top anthropologists possibly be correct? Is it possible that our brains weren't made for most analytical work?"

First, I doubt that Wittgenstein was throwing out all of mathematics. Somerby hasn't described anything else in Russell's book that Wittgenstein might have found wanting. Then Somerby switches to certain claims by anthropologists, which he has not specifically discussed at all, and seems to imply that their truth rises or falls with Wittgenstein's criticism of philosophy. It seems to me that the ideas of the anthropologists are independent of both Russell and Wittgenstein, and have nothing to do with the truth or falsity of either philosopher. Then Somerby concludes by disparaging our brains, something neuroscientists or cognitive scientists might weigh in on, but which has nothing whatsoever to do with anthropologists. And there is still no evidence to support his doom-and-gloom conclusion.

Is this what passes for analytical thought in Somerby's neighborhood? No wonder he is depressed.

13. Why would the Department of Labor be publishing incorrect statistics comparing men's and women's pay. They are a government agency, not a member of Our Town or the press.

14. Liberal friends of mine claim that conservatives like to believe Trump's lies. Maybe we do. However, there are also lies that liberals like to believe.

The bipartisan failure to grasp reality bodes poorly for lur country's future. :(

1. Name one liberal lie that is comparable to Trump's claim that he won the 2020 election.

2. "Maybe we do."
LOL

3. Republicans can stop lying and grasp reality whenever they want...we aren't stopping them.

4. What liberal thinks the GOP is a political party and not a criminal enterprise?

5. David,
I don't know if Conservatives "like" to believe Trump's lies, but they certainly "have to" believe them. If they don't, they get kicked-off the team.

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