Interesting. Many readers will be too young to remember Abe "I'm writing as bad as I can" Rosenthal, a classic product of New York Times in-breeding, who rose to be editor and then brainless and barely literate columnist. He combined the insight of David Brooks with the literary talent of Thomas Friedman!
There must be more to the "science" than what is described here:
They begin with a puppet show. In this show, a gray cat is seen trying to open a big plastic box. The cat tries repeatedly, but he just can't open the lid all the way. A bunny in a green T-shirt comes along and helps open the box. Then the scenario is repeated, but this time a bunny in an orange T-shirt comes along and slams the box shut before running away. The green bunny is nice and helpful. The orange bunny is mean and unhelpful.
The baby is then presented with the two bunnies from the show. A staff member who doesn't know which bunny was mean and which bunny was nice will offer both bunnies at the same time to the baby. The baby's mother, who is usually present during the study, closes her eyes so as not to influence the baby in any way.
Which bunny do the babies choose? More than 80% of the babies in the study showed their preference for the good bunny, either by reaching for the good bunny or staring at it. And with 3-month-olds, that number goes higher, to 87%.
As described, the result is obviously equally compatible with the hypothesis that babies are born with an innate sense of self-interest. So what's the real story here? Additional links welcome. (Thanks to Mark Couch for the pointer.)
Jonathan Dancy (Texas/Reading) sends along this quite interesting review by William Mann, the senior classical music critic of the Times of London, that appeared on December 27, 1963:
The outstanding English composers of 1963 must seem to have been John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the talented young musicians from Liverpool whose songs have been sweeping the country since last Christmas, whether performed by their own group, the Beatles, or by the numerous other teams of English troubadours that they also supply with songs.
I am not concerned here with the social phenomenon of Beatlemania, which finds expression in handbags, balloons and other articles bearing the likenesses of the loved ones, or in the hysterical screaming of young girls whenever the Beatle Quartet performs in public, but with the musical phenomenon. For several decades, in fact since the decline of the music-hall, England has taken her popular songs from the United States, either directly or by mimicry. But the songs of Lennon and McCartney are distinctly indigenous in character, the most imaginative and inventive examples of a style that has been developing on Merseyside during the past few years. And there is a nice, rather flattering irony in the news that the Beatles have now become prime favourites in America, too.
The strength of character in pop songs seems, and quite understandably, to be determined usually by the number of composers involved; when three or four people are required to make the original tunesmith's work publicly presentable it is unlikely to retain much individuality or to wear very well. The virtue of the Beatles' repertory is that, apparently, they do it themselves; three of the four are composers, they are versatile instrumentalists, and when they do borrow a song from another repertory, their treatment is idiosyncratic - as when Paul McCartney sings Till There Was You from The Music Man, a cool, easy, tasteful version of this ballad, quite without artificial sentimentality.
Their noisy items are the ones that arouse teenagers' excitement. Glutinous crooning is generally out of fashion these days, and even a songs about 'Misery' sounds fundamentally quite cheerful; the slow, sad song about 'This Boy', which features prominently in Beatle programmes, is expressively unusual for its lugubrious music, but harmonically it is one of their most intriguing, with its chains of pandiationic clusters, and the sentiment is acceptable because voiced cleanly and crisply. But harmonic interest is typical of their quicker songs, too, and one gets the impression that they think simultaneously of harmony and melody, so firmly are the major tonic sevenths and ninths built into their tunes, and the flat submediant key switches, so natural is the Aeolian cadence at the end of Not A Second Time (the chord progression which ends Mahler's Song of the Earth).
Those submediant switches from C major into A flat major, and to a lesser extent mediant ones (eg the octave ascent in the famous I Want To Hold Your Hand) are a trademark of Lennon-McCartney songs - they do not figure much in other pop repertories, or in the Beatles' arrangements of borrowed material - and show signs of becoming a mannerism. The other trademark of their compositions is a firm and purposeful bass line with a musical life of its own; how Lennon and McCartney divide their creative responsibilites I have yet to discover, but it is perhaps significant that Paul is the bass guitarist of the group. It may also be significant that George Harrison's song Don't Bother Me is harmonically a good deal more primitive, though it is nicely enough presented.
I suppose it is the sheer loudness of the music that appeals to Beatle admirers (there is something to be heard even through the squeals) and many parents must have cursed the electric guitar's amplification this Christmas - how fresh and euphonious the ordinary guitars sound in the Beatles' version of Till There Was You - but parents who are still managing to survive the decibels and, after copious repetition over several months, still deriving some musical pleasure from the overhearing, do so because there is a good deal of variety - oh, so welcome in pop music - about what they sing.
The autocratic but not by any means ungrammatical attitude to tonality (closer to, say, Peter Maxwell Davies's carols in O Magnum Mysteriumthan to Gershwin or Loewe or even Lionel Bart); the exhilarating and often quasi-instrumental vocal duetting, sometimes in scat or in falsetto, behind the melodic line; the melismas with altered vowels ('I saw her yesterday-ee-ay') which have not quite become mannered, and the discreet, sometimes subtle, varieties of instrumentation - a suspicion of piano or organ, a few bars of mouth-organ obbligato, an excursion on the claves or maraccas; the translation of African Blues or American western idioms (in Baby It's You, the Magyar 8/8 metre, too) into tough, sensitive Merseyside.
These are some of the qualities that make one wonder with interest what the Beatles, and particularly Lennon and McCartney, will do next, and if America will spoil them or hold on to them, and if their next record will wear as well as the others. They have brought a distinctive and exhilarating flavour into a genre of music that was in danger of ceasing to be music at all.
Two state legislatures, New York and Maryland, and now perhaps Congress are looking to punish those who hold verboten views about Israel. There is a kind of petition here, which also includes links and other information.
Not a philosopher, but a moral entrepeneur and leader, more so than most philosophers. The Times obituary is fairly informative about his long career, including his survival of political persecution. It doesn't say so directly, but it is notable to have lived more than 90 years and to have been on the right side of almost every major moral and political issue of the day. Here's one of his many lovely songs that I remember seeing him sing in concert back in the late 1970s.
Frederick Wiseman's latest documentary about the effects of the neoliberal agenda on Berkeley has been attracting a good deal of attention and commentary. As the latter piece points out, the Reagan revolution from the right has basically continued through multiple Democratic Administrations, and one of the casualties has been the idea of "public" higher education. From a Marxist point of view, none of this is surprising--what will be surprising is whether nominally democratic capitalist societies actually reverse course. I'm not hopeful, but also hope I'm wrong!
Many readers have sent me this surprising story: a professor at York University in Toronto (a public university) has been required to grant a religious student's request not to interact with women. (The religion of the objector is unclear, but it is presumably some orthodox sect, many of which are notorious for their virulent sexism.) The decision is surprising, since usually religious reasons for pernicious discrimination are not accomodated, not even in the United States, which is the leading accomodator of religious prejudice among the advanced Western democracies. Canada, which has a strongly egalitarian constitutional culture, also provides constitutional protection for "multiculturalism," which means even reactionary bigoted cultures enjoy some legal solicitude.
This student wants to go to university, which means he wants and needs enlightenment. Canada should not indulge his antiquarian prejudices. Show this young man the light!
I'm opening comments for those who have more information about this strange incident. Signed comments only: full name and valid e-mail address required.
To put it bluntly, the current state of academic publishing is the result of a series of strong-arm tactics enabling publishers to pry copyrights from authors, and then charge exorbitant fees to university libraries for access to that work. The publishers have inverted their role as disseminators of knowledge and become bottlers of knowledge, releasing it exclusively to the highest bidders.
That's also to put it a bit too crudely: in fact, publishers provide value, through copy-editing, preservation, and distribution of scholarship. They need to recoup those costs, and they do that, partly, through copyright. Without a doubt, some publishers, especially in the sciences, have been exploiting their market position not just to recoup costs, but to extract substantial profits and to restrict access to knowledge considerably. Aaron Swartz (the anniversary of his suicide is the occasion for Peter's piece) was a victim of prosecutorial over-reaching, which happens much more than people realize, but usually not to middle-class white kids. That doesn't mean Peter's "blunt" characterization of academic publishing is wholly fair. (Peter will be a guest-blogger again in the Spring, so readers will no doubt get to hear more from him on this subject then.)
For the problems of the humanities are self-inflicted wounds well recognized by their colleagues in other faculties. First, over the last two generations the humanities (except for philosophy) have lost faith with their callings as the bearers of a continuous cultural inheritance–a canon, for want of a better word. They have viewed the need to widen their curricula as a zero sum game, in which the entrance of more women, underrepresented minorities, nonwestern peoples has required the exclusion of more dead white dudes. Maybe it has. But the result has been an advanced curriculum their students find foreign and their colleagues educated before this sea change cannot appreciate. The “boutique” courses they teach in their majors, the heavy doses of “theory” they lay on in graduate classes, make it difficult to connect with their students in ways that would provide the purpose, meaning, appreciation of complexity, or recognition of adversity that [proponents of the humanities] hope for.
Second, too many humanists, especially those with tenure and graduate programs to tend to, have also ceased to teach fundamental skills to the undergraduates they share with colleagues in the sciences. Teaching writing was long ago hived off from the permanent fulltime tenured faculty in English departments, literature departments, journalism and communication schools, to writing programs, to composition classes taught by teaching assistants, adjunct instructors, “writing fellows"...
Similarly, the faculty in the foreign languages have rationally decided that their “research” and the preparation of the next generation of university scholars is far more important than teaching introductory Spanish, or French or German. Indeed, many hold themselves unqualified to do it....
We can’t really blame humanities faculty for their priorities. The incentive structure of the tenure system is as much to blame for the disconnect between what most students need and what tenured humanities faculty are rewarded for doing....
Defenders of the humanities draw lines in the sand, daring science to cross them. Then, when physics, biology or psychology begins to illuminate domains previously left to theology, or philosophy, or novelists like Virginia Wolfe, humanists loose more credibility among students who know some science. Why should they take advanced classes from people who sound like scolds or in some cases even charlatans?
Philosophy, at least analytical philosophy–has been something of an exception to the enrollment crisis of the humanities. Its other differences from the rest of the humanities provide evidence that their problems stem from these three self-inflicted wounds. Philosophy has never surrendered its canon: we are still teaching Plato, Hume, Kant, along with Amartya Sen, Judy Thomson and Ruth Marcus. Senior faculty still value and often teach “baby” logic, the foundation of all reasoning in the humanities as well as science. Philosophers who take an interest in science know enough of it to convince scientists that the conceptual problems they locate in biology or physics are real. But philosophy doesn’t pretend it can supersede science as a mode of knowledge. Maybe these are the reasons why many science students still take our advanced classes....
In announcing the pardon today, the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, said: "A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man." Turing was certainly an exceptional man but the tribute could not be less fitting. It says that the British state is prepared to forgive historical homosexual acts providing they were performed by a national hero, academic giant or world-changing innovator. This is the polar opposite of the correct message. Turing should be forgiven not because he was a modern legend, but because he did absolutely nothing wrong. The only wrong was the venality of the law. It was wrong when it was used against Oscar Wilde, it was wrong when it was used against Turing and it was wrong when it was used against an estimated 75,000 other men, whether they were famous playwrights and scientists or squaddies, plumbers or office clerks. Each of those men was just as unfairly persecuted, and many suffered similarly awful fates. To single out Turing is to say these men are less deserving of justice because they were somehow less exceptional. That cannot be right.
Remember, back in junior high school, when you read that classic of American literature, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson? In the story, a small town ritualistically draws straws each summer to see who among them will be stoned to death, to ensure a good harvest later that fall. (Goes the local proverb, “lottery in June, corn be heavy soon!”) As the lottery begins, the townspeople gather in the public square and begin to collect rocks. The head of each family draws a slip of paper from the box, hoping not to see an inky black dot. The family that draws the black dot advances to the next round, in which one member is selected for sacrifice the same way. Tessie Hutchinson, a wife and mother of young children, draws the condemning dot, and the story ends as the terrified woman is stoned by her neighbors while she frantically protests.
Now, looking around your own world, does this dystopian game of chance seem at all familiar? Thankfully not, you are probably thinking – but if we’re really being honest, it should. On the anniversary of the soul-wrenching Newtown shootings, it’s time to concede that we, too, are participants in a lottery of our own making – one so horrifying that we mostly choose not to see it. But let’s face the grim reality. We are all living in that same nightmare town, where innocents are mindlessly sacrificed in service to ideals that don’t require this kind of sacrifice. When it comes to gun violence in America, we play the nightmare lottery every time we send our children off to school, each time we visit a public place, walk the streets, and in some cases, live in our homes.
How long will it take us to understand that the entire neoliberal project – the puritanical mania for cutting taxes, cutting social services and cutting budget deficits that has dominated the Western world’s economy for more than 30 years – has been a disaster? And guess what, liberals: You don’t get to point the finger at Ronald Reagan, Maggie Thatcher and Milton Friedman and claim it was all their fault. The reformist center-left, whether it took the form of Bill Clinton and the “New Democrats,” Tony Blair and “New Labor” or the watered-down social-democratic parties of Europe, has enthusiastically rebranded itself as a servant of global capital. If you were genuinely surprised that the Obama administration loaded itself up with Wall Street insiders, or that it failed to punish anyone for the massive criminal scheme that resulted in the 2008 financial collapse, you haven’t been paying attention.
I make that point because it’s almost impossible to have a serious discussion about this country’s economic problems without getting trapped into partisan political bickering, which is almost irrelevant in this context. The activist Tea Party right (at least in its populist, non-elite form) and the activist Occupy left are essentially reacting to the same phenomenon – worsening inequality, and the long-term economic and psychic decay of the United States – but interpreting it in different ways. Working-class whites who feel an immense loss of relative privilege and social status are not wrong, for example – but it doesn’t have much to do with the Kenyan socialist Muslim in the White House, or his namby-pamby and admittedly screwed-up healthcare law. As Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz recently noted, census data reveals that men with high-school diplomas but without college degrees earn about 40 percent less today (in real terms) than they did in the 1970s. Obama didn’t do that; capitalism did.
Stiglitz concluded his essay on inequality – which argued that it was a political choice, rather than the inevitable result of macroeconomic forces – by writing that he saw us “entering a world divided not just between the haves and have-nots, but also between those countries that do nothing about it, and those that do. Some countries will be successful in creating shared prosperity — the only kind of prosperity that I believe is truly sustainable. Others will let inequality run amok.” Which kind of country do we live in? That was the question that ran through my mind this week while I was watching Frederick Wiseman’s magisterial documentary “At Berkeley,” a portrait of America’s most prestigious public university as it wrestles with piecemeal privatization and the near-total abandonment of its historic mission.
Reagan was the decisive President in my lifetime, just as Roosevelt was for a prior generation. Neither Clinton nor Obama has turned the tide, though perhaps Obama laid a foundation for someone more courageous to do so. We will see.
Hurray! It gives me hope that perhaps my grandchildren will grow up in a world without a meaningful Republican Party (apart, of course, from that portion of the Democratic Party that would have been Republicans in 1975).
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)