Saturday, December 21, 2019

I'd rather be a dysfunctional soul than a well-adjusted robot

--- Thomas Moore, in The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life (1996), p. xiii

In considering magic seriously, we may have to stretch the borders of our scientific assumptions and insist that the moon is not dust and rocks, the human body is not a machine or a gene factory, and the earth is neither inert nor without a personality. We may have to push the limits of psychology and insist that human beings are not aggregates of social influences or brain-driven packets of emotion that can be tweaked by chemicals into well-functioning social machines. Anyway, I'd rather be a dysfunctional soul than a well-adjusted robot.

They say money can’t buy happiness. But that doesn’t stop people from selling it.

--- Douglas Heaven, in his comment pieceof Manufacturing Happy Citizens: How the science and industry of happiness control our lives, by Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz, New Scientist, 31 August 2019

They say money can’t buy happiness. But that doesn’t stop people from selling it. Day passes to Goop’s wellness summit in London in June cost £1000, with weekend tickets (two nights in a hotel, a VIP Sunday workout and Goop-favourite meals) going for an eye-watering £4500.

be suspicious of technocrats bearing gifts

--- Helen Marshall, in a review of Dave Hutchison's book The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man, New Scientist, 31 August 2019, "The science fiction column."
In the finale, we might expect this book to live up to its pulpy title, but by now Hutchinson has become more interested in the politics than in the science. Some readers might feel deflated, but Hutchinson’s point is well made: that we ought to be suspicious of technocrats bearing gifts.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

A bird does not sing because he has an answer. He sings because he has a song

--- Ascribed to Joan Walsh Anglund by Quote Investigator, Dec 2015 (q.v.)

The quote is perhaps best know because of a 2015 stamp issued by the US Postal Service that feature Maya Angelou and the words, "A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

Sunday, December 01, 2019

definitions make for unreliable epistemology

--- Linda H. Edwards, in "Speaking of Stories and Law" (2016)

As part of her critiqiue of Stephen Paskey’s “The Law is Made of Stories: Erasing the False Dichotomy Between Stories and Legal Rules” (2014), Edwards notes that she is “skeptical about how well we can analyze important issues by redefining terms and then applying those newly defined terms to the questions of the day”. From Section II of Speaking of Stories and Law (footnotes omitted, other ellipses marked by “. . .”):
First, as a matter of epistemology, definitions are usually constructed by human beings in order to support or advance their own project. . . . The problem is unavoidable, however. When we try to define a term, we do so from our own rhetorical situation. We cannot help it. . . .

That inescapable subjectivity is part of the reason that definitions make for unreliable epistemology, and this concern leads to my second. Paskey says that “[t]he concept of a stock story is too valuable to use loosely,” but I wonder whether the concept is too valuable to use precisely. In the epigram to this essay, Marilynne Robinson counsels us to forget definitions and instead to simply “watch.” She reminds us that precise and careful explanations are “too poor and small” to explain reality. . . .

Third, . . .

The Marilynn Robinson epigraph from When I Was a Child I Read Books: Essays (2013):
[F]orget definition, forget assumption, watch. We inhabit, we are part of, a reality for which explanation is much too poor and small.