Showing posts from October, 2017

The great falsehood of liberal anthropology

"[For Hobbes] the state is charged with maintaining social stability and preventing a return to natural anarchy... Human beings are thus, by nature, nonrelational creatures, separate and autonomous." -- Patrick Deneed, Why Liberalism Failed, 32

Proto-liberals like Locke and Jefferson and modern liberals like Mises and Rawls all start from a similar place: we are first and foremost human atoms, who only need enter into social groups in so far as it suits our interest to do so. Our original state was as free individuals, who "contracted" into social groups because we saw it was to our advantage. As Deneen notes, "Even marriage, Locke holds, is finally to be understood as a contract whose conditions are temporary and subject to revision..." (33).

Or, as Mises put it:

"The fundamental social phenomenon is the division of labor and its counterpart human cooperation.

"Experience teaches man that cooperative action is more efficient and productive th…

Have some fun

Have some fun
Making boiled eggs
On the great white theater group mat
Have some fun Making soiled legs While you have your little blue spat
Don't you say I didn't shout out, "Heads up! That is a six-toed cat!"

Deneen blogging

Collecting some good quotes from Deneen, along with occasional commentary, in the interest of advancing my review, and your consciousness!

"Liberalism has drawn down on a preliberal inheritance and resources that at once sustained liberalism but which he cannot replenish" (29-30).

It is no sort of comeback to Deneen's view to point to the great material wealth produced by liberalism, since Patrick is quite aware of this wealth himself, and repeatedly acknowledges its existence. But in his view (and mine too) liberalism is analogous to the guy at the gym that has been popping steroids like mad for 10 years, who, when it is pointed out that he is getting himself into deep trouble, replies, "What?! Don't you see all the weight I can lift?" Why, yes we do, and it is the very thing that has raised your bench press poundage into the stratosphere that has gotten you into this fix.

This is not to say we might not be wrong, just that it is foolish to point to the v…

Philosophy of Science in Practice

My nearly finished review is here.

Getting Streven with the Fundamentalists

In an essay in Philosophy of Science in Practice, Michael Strevens defines 'fundamentalism' as the notion that "Everything is made up of a single kind of stuff and everything that happens is directed solely by fundamental laws of physics that, depending on the configuration of stuff at one moment, determine its configuration at the next" (69). He goes on to claim that fundamentalism implies that all sciences really should just operate by showing how, say, mate selection in bower birds, or the nature of parliamentary institutions in Medieval Europe, can be derived from the laws of physics alone. The program to make all sciences a branch of physics goes under the name "unity of science."

Strevens backs his fundamentalist faith with the claim that "the empirical evidence for fundamentalism has accumulated swiftly" (69). But he presents no such evidence, for, truth be told, there is none: instead, as he admits, "Real science is not only largely …

Cursing and re-cursing!

So last night, tired of writing a new Python function whenever I wanted to write a new recurrence test question, I wrote a recurrence harness. It turns a handful of basic lines of code into two, but more importantly, because I can re-use the harness it is worth spending the time to write proper error checking and to memoize it. Here is the code.

Below here are some examples. Note that, because this is memoized, we get the 4000th Fibonacci number essentially instantly, while without memoization, the runtime increases faster than the Fibonacci sequence itself, so, even if we could do one recursive call per nanosecond, we would be looking at roughly 1.2 * 10819 years for the recursive version to finish... and that's a long time for students to wait for their final to be graded.

The 4000th Fibonacci number: fibb = {0: 0, 1: 1} def fibf(n, bases):     return recur(n - 1, bases, fibf) + recur(n - 2, bases, fibf)
In [3]: recur(4000, fibb, fibf, True) Out[3]: 3990947343500442279208124809…

Breaking old ties...

between UNIX files in different directories:

So I had the clever idea of hard-linking some of my init files to a git repo and storing the repo on GitHub so I can grab them for anywhere I have a login. (Here's the repo.)

So, for instance, I hard-link my .bash_profile in my home directory to the one in InitFiles, so whenever I update the script from any of the 6 or 7 machines I might login on, I can just pull it down to every other machine. (And I automate the pull each time I login.)

But... the link keeps "breaking." It works, and then a little later, it doesn't, and I have to delete the file from its "proper" login directory and re-link it to the repo version.

Any idea what I could be doing wrong? (OK, rob, I've just left you an opening you could drive a truck through...)

UPDATE: Rob Dodson (cover artist for EFRP, PUCK, A Song of the Past, and The Idea of Science, among other things) set me straight: I need symbolic links, not hard links. I had tried tha…

Materialism's greatest defeasor...

is modern science.

Because modern science sees the world first and foremost as systems of mathematical equations.
And mathematical equations are not material things! They are ideas.
It is almost as though the world... were a world of ideas.

Continuous Delivery

Is not really a method of developing software: it is a method of managing work that is spread across a group of people cooperating within a division of labor.

Not practicing continuous delivery is kind of like trying to put on a play by having all of the actors work on their lines by themselves for a few months, and then rehearsing together for the first time the day before the opening.

The noble resistance fighters of Park Slope

I saw one out the other night wearing her "Vive la résitance!" shirt.

There is literally no safer position in the world that a resident of Park Slope can take than despising Trump. And yet she thinks her action is on a par with the French resistance fighters who risked execution every day to fight the Nazis.

Cutting waste

"Far more than 50% of the functionality of software is never used." -- Jez Humble
"Far more than 50% of the syllables of 'functionality' serve no purpose." -- Gene Callahan

The insidious ideology

"In contrast to its crueler competitor ideologies, liberalism is more insidious: as an ideology, it pretends to neutrality, claiming no preference and denying any intention of shaping the souls under its rule. It ingratiates by invitation to the easy liberties, diversions, and attractions of freedom, pleasure, and wealth." -- Patrick Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed, p. 5

Why is it "irrational"...

to not want to work with someone who smells bad?

I have the unfortunate job of telling someone whom I am mentoring that when they return from the gym and show up at my office, they are a little... ripe. I want to point out to them that this will hurt them when they go out onto the job market, and I almost was going to say to them, "Because employers aren't purely rational."

But this view of "rational" assumes that to be rational is to be a disembodied mind. But we are not disembodied minds! So wouldn't it actually be irrational for us to act as if we were?

Sitting on the Docker Bay

Watching as the apps roll in...

Imagine my surprise today when I found Docker asking me to re-start it, and I realized I have been running it for several weeks now!

Who Drives State Growth?

Libertarians, that's who!

"The the insistent demand that we choose between protection of individual liberty and expansion of state activity masks the true relation between the state and market: that they grow constantly and necessarily together... Modern liberalism proceeds by making us both more individualist and more statist." -- Patrick Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed, p. 17

Current review queue

Pearce: British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Deneen: The American Conservative
Chao-Reiss: Computing Reviews

George Berkeley, Common-sense Realist

"According to Berkeley, the perceived world is itself a language -- or, rather, a discourse in a language. Berkley intends this claim quite literally. It is the linguistic structure of the perceived world that our thought and speech about co-instantiation, physical causation, and other structural concepts aims to capture. In this way, I argue, Berkeley succeeds in preserving the common sense and scientific structure of the perceived world... Bodies can be regarded as a joint product of God's activity as speaker and our activities as interpreters and grammarians of nature." -- Pearce, Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World, pp. 2-3

Chicken horror movies

Take place in human diners, and show one omelette after another being cooked and devoured.

Mises on Immigration

Hat tip to Mr. Karaoke himself:

"Mises does recognize that peaceful cultural and political assimilation can take place 'if the immigrants come not all at once but little by little, so that the assimilation process among the early immigrants is already completed or at least already under way when the newcomers arrive.'"

Yup. Immigration, just like sex or food, is great... in the right amount.

What happens when the rate of immigration dwarfs the size of the native population?

Well, we have a great example close at hand...

The body of Spotted Elk after the Battle of Wounded Knee.

DevOps also rises

Starting my new course for the Spring of 2018.

Distraction Deterrents in Small Contexts

"distracted from distraction by distraction"
- T.S. Eliot I've been reading a little on how Facebook and other social networking software are designed to grab your attention. A strategy is quick reward. You get little shots of dopamine for clicking on a button and seeing an immediate result.

It gets me thinking. Why do books increase our attention span over a web-page? Both are strings of words on a rectangular, white page. In that regard, they are the same. Web pages are faster, yes; and you can click them to get rewards in looking at new content. And this does indeed help explain why we are tempted to jump around online in a non-focused manner.

But why do we find it easier dive in deep in reading physical books?

If it is easier to jump around web-pages, it's more cumbersome to discard a book. You have to put it down (carefully) and get up to pick another book. So we stick around so long as the book still gives us pleasure enough, because changing activities seems …

On my tour of Hell...

I saw a man being continually beaten with a carpenter's hammer, blow after merciless blow.

"How can this be just?" I asked my guide.

"Well, for one thing, he is here because he beat his wife and two young children to death with a hammer... the medical examiner said 127 blows in all."

"I see... but still, blow after blow after blow... surely thousands since we've been watching. Won't the other guy ever stop?"

"What other guy?" my guide asked.

Worst IT horror story ever?

I just heard about this from friend who encountered this himself this week:

About 10 years ago, Very Big Corporation implemented a Lotus Notes database to track employee requests for Service X from an outside vendor. (The story is already looking bad: how could someone 10 years ago not have known that Lotus Notes was a dead-end?) The "database" was used mostly for its form capabilities: by routing through Lotus Notes, apparently it was very easy to get a form up that forced data entry of the required fields in the proper formats.

Five years ago, Very Big Corporation decommissioned Lotus Notes and deployed at different mail and messaging service. Well, decommissioned Lotus Notes except for this one application. But since no one any longer has an active Notes login, now, five years after the decommissioning, my friend just spent three hours on the phone with technical support trying to get his login working again, so that he could make one very simple request to purchase a li…

"There is only a 1 in a 1.5 billion chance..."

"of finding your soul mate."

"I think you're overthinking it." -- dialogue on BlueBloods

No, under-thinking it!

The idea that we meet other people in our lives purely by chance already assumes a random, meaningless universe. Of course, in such a universe "having a soul mate" is not just unlikely, it is impossible.

The idea of a soul mate assumes a meaningful universe where somehow some special, other person came into being just for us. That we would encounter them then would be designed into things.

Whichever of the above universes (if either) you believe in, if you begin to calculate the odds of randomly meeting your soul mate, your head is in a terrible jumble!

Why I get mad at you guys sometimes...

I really do have affection for all of my regular commenters.

And yes, my temper gets the best of me on occasion, but...

When I was 16, I scored a perfect 800 on the History Achievement Test. So at 16, I probably knew more history than most people do in their entire life.

Since then, I have read over a thousand more history books. I have plowed through about 30 or so of the Great Courses history series, each of which is equivalent to a full college course on its subject matter. I did a PhD thesis that was heavily historical, and was subsequently published as a book. I am a regular reviewer of books for three history journals: History Review of New Books, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, and Journal of the History of Economic Thought.

So please excuse my intemperate reaction, but when one of you "informs" me that Christianity spread in South America mainly through conquest...

Well, that leaves me a bit exasperated, OK?

It is a serious moral deficiency...

to have no greater sense of allegiance to people of one's own nation than to those of other nations:
The vice of deficiency is where fraternity comes in. Just as one can be excessively attached to one’s own family or nation, so too can one be insufficiently attached to them. This vice is exhibited by those who think it best to regard oneself as a “citizen of the world” or member of the “global community” rather than having any special allegiance to one’s own country. It is the idea of a “world without borders” and a “brotherhood of man” – hence fraternity construed as an ideal of universal brotherhood to replace family loyalty, patriotism, and other local allegiances. To be sure, there is a sense in which all human beings are brethren; as I said above, we are all members of the human race and thus in that sense all members of the same maximally extended family. The problem comes when the idea of brotherhood is falsely taken to imply that there is something suspect about nati…

My recent talk at PyGotham 2017

PyGotham is always a great conference, and I was happy to give this talk at this year's iteration.

I think this is the verse John Lennon was missing...

in "Imagine":

Imagine there's no outages
Of which you're not aware
Imagine lots of pointless texts
About which you don't care
Imagine all the people
Smashing up their phones...

Calling a halt to the stupendous storm of stupid

It all started when I posted a little quote from Wittgenstein, which was not an argument for the existence of God at all, but actually an observation that these arguments really are irrelevant.

Prateek jumped in and said, "These apologetic arguments for monotheism never make sense because they were developed after the fact, and really monotheism was just the result of a tribal dispute." (I summarize! And note that, to his credit, Prateek has now admitted he was thread-jacking, and that neither my post nor the quote in it made any "argument" for God at all.)

I pointed out that there was no argument here, but decided (to my deep regret) I'd also make what I thought to be the rather indisputable point that you can't defeat an argument by noting that it's genealogy is tainted with some black sheep ancestors! And furthermore, bad deeds done to spread an idea do not make it false.

But apparently the fact that a theist can make sense so enrages some atheists …

Can a struggle between a few Near Eastern tribes explain away monotheism?

In a recent post, Prateek tries to contend that arguments for monotheism "don't make sense": monotheism arose simply because one polytheistic god favored by a certain faction defeated other polytheistic gods, because "His" faction won. All philosophical cases for this single god are just post hoc rationalizations for Elohim's victory.

What can we call a theory like this... divine ignorance?

Because what we see happening at this time, and not just in Israel, but in Greece, Persia, India, and China as well, is the supersession of a multitude of tribal gods, and of tribe-based morality, with the idea of divine transcendence, and of universal morality. (This movement is extensively demonstrated in Jaspers' work on The Axial Age, and Eric Voegelin characterizes it as a turn from intracosmic gods to transcendence.)

Of course, these events took place in the context of various peoples bickering about this and that... as have all other historical happenings. Bu…

The disgusting prison rape trope

This is another one that really disturbs me: in show after show, I see cops smugly warning some suspect, "Well, if you don't cooperate, 'Big Joe' is going to be having his way with you soon in prison."

Someone guilty of some crime should suffer the punishment the legal system prescribes for his crime. He should not also suffer some additional violation of his person by other criminals.

The fact that cops on recent TV shows gleefully threaten a suspect with prison rape is absolutely revolting.

I guess Mexicans really love dogs

It's amazing how many of the Mexican guys in my neighborhood have like seven or eight dogs. And they are out walking them all the time!

Wittgenstein on God

In Culture and Value, Wittgenstein notes that believing in God is not "craving for a causal explanation" of empirical events, but is "expressing an attitude to all explanations."
Exactly right, and why the whole "God of the gaps" dispute is silly on both sides.

The new business meeting

I've now had the extraordinary experience of being at official, work meetings where over half the people in the room are "on" their phones (texting, emailing, etc.) well over half of the time they are at the meeting.

This is absurd. (And no, no one in the past, in my experience, ever brought newspapers to a meeting and read them throughout the proceedings.) Either the meeting is important, and the participation of these people is important, and they should put down their phones, or the meeting is not important... and thus shouldn't be held! -- or these people don't need to participate, and thus shouldn't be required to come.

What idjits write these scripts?

Hawaii Five-O:

Detective A: It looks like a possible abduction case.

Detective B: "Possible"? Either you are abducted or you are not!

This was supposed to be a clever riposte! The proper response from Detective B was:

"Yes, and it's possible he was abducted, and possible he wasn't."

Woke up, got out of bed

Thanks to Alfa Romeo
My pasta ate the fazool (It wasn't cool!) Thanks to Gian Carlo The faggatini hat Overrode the dimply donners Shudderkins, shudderkins! Calling all paglias!
(More of an asnide Than a Plimpton)
Jackson Pollack had it all Lost, and then he found It but he was dead Alas alack too late! They packed him in a crate Vladimir became irate
Shudderkins, shudderkins! Pozzo get me a stool!
A hard stool Grimacemaking, The scapegoat's agony Two-braced fear on the net Coming up short Young Johhny's wart Shudderkins, shudderkins! Calling all Juliet's!

Euphemisms IV: "I'll call you."

And you never get a call. :(

Euphemisms III: "He’s passed"

This euphemism is now used even in conservative journals: "Now that he’s passed"?!

We used to say "passed away" when we want to avoid "died," but apparently the "away" is not even allowable anymore: we just have to say "he passed," as though Tom Petty were a college quarterback who had just chucked the ball (of life) to someone else.

Soon, the word "death" itself will be politically unacceptable:

"I put grandpa to sleep."

"I decided not to keep the baby."

"Joe passed last weekend."

I don't think Homer ever said "Achilles passed," or that Shakespeare ever contended that "Claudius put Hamlet Senior to sleep."

The disgusting normalization of torture in American entertainment

I've noticed that many recent TV shows and movies, produced by the "progressive" entertainment industry, treat the torture of criminal suspects, and even those who merely have information about criminal suspects, as a completely normal and routine matter. And the people doing the torturing are portrayed as the good guys. I've seen this on Prison Break, on The Blacklist, and on Hawaii Five-O. (Note: all of these shows completely toe the progressive line on race and "sexual identity" issues.)

I watched the original Hawaii Five-O as a kid, and none of the good guys ever tortured anybody. So what is up with these good "progressive" screenwriters' and directors' enthusiastic embrace of torture?

Well, my guess is they are starting to think the time for the progressive revolution is just about here: their brownshirts, Antifa, are violently intimidating all non-progressives, and progressives are enthusiastically embracing the storyline that Trump…

Is sex inherently misogynistic?

I heard this question being seriously debated by two otherwise sane looking women walking down the street the other day.

Sexual reproduction evolved about a billion or so years ago. For sex to be "inherently misogynistic," these primitive organisms would have had to have been planning the patriarchy from the start, and to have been doing so before males and females actually existed. "Hey, you know, if we evolve male sexual organs, we can oppress those trilobites who evolve female sexual organs! What do you say?"

Furthermore, the system they were plotting would involve the fact that: "Generally in animals mate choice is made by females while males compete to be chosen. This can lead organisms to extreme efforts in order to reproduce, such as combat and display..."

So these proto-patriarchs' plot involved thinking, "Gee, it would be a good idea if we oppressive males try to kill each other in bloody combat, while the females sit back and see whi…

Those silly medieval people…

Who thought that just beyond the boundaries of their known world, the cosmos was full of monsters!

Oh wait, never mind…