You may think the world is falling apart. Steven Pinker is here to tell you it isn’t.

Aug 17, 2016

If you think this has felt like the summer of sadness, you are not alone.

Every week, sometimes every day, seems to bring more stomach-turning news. In June, there was the Orlando nightclub shooting, where dozens were killed and injured in the deadliest terror attack in the US since 9/11. Then came July’s blood-soaked Bastille Day in Nice, when a terrorist drove a truck over holiday revelers, killing 84 people, including 10 children. Before the month was over, ISIS militants had assassinated a French priest in his church and executed the patrons and staff at a cafe in Dhaka,Bangladesh.

These are just the more gruesome terror events that grabbed headlines — and only those carried out this summer. I’ve made no mention of what happened in Paris over the last year, or the airport killings in Brusselsand Istanbul, or, for that matter, San Bernardino.


Continue reading: http://www.vox.com/2016/8/16/12486586/2016-worst-year-ever-violence-trump-terrorism

242 comments on “You may think the world is falling apart. Steven Pinker is here to tell you it isn’t.

  • “More people die in homicides than in wars globally by far” Stephen
    Pinker

    This I find impossible to believe. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Rwanda, Korea, Vietnam, Pol Pot, etc. must have killed [in various ways] many millions- perhaps exceeding 100 million when you count the tactics of starvation as a weapon of war.



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  • @JimJFox

    “More people die in homicides than in wars globally by far” Stephen

    I assume he means today not yesterday. Reading over the article, though old wars are mentioned for comparison, tends to tell me he is talking about today, 2015/16, not some war that happened 70 years ago.



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  • PInker is correct . Though at the time the casualties seem horrendous wars and genocides are generally over a limited time . The hour by hour drip drip of homicides and accidents don’t register in the human mind but the figures don’t lie



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  • The biggest stick used by the religious is that we are in worsening moral straights and becoming ever more dissolute. We are going to Hell in a handcart and we need religion to fix this.

    Atheists mirroring this disappoint me. The evidence even with the hiccup of suddenly acquiring an armoury of techno-weapons to wage war and kill on a global industrial scale, is that violent death and crime is still steadily reducing and our concerns, though as passionate as ever, broaden ever out to encompass lesser and more remote suffering. I expect the USA to notice this least as they are the most conservative, most punitively obsessed and self centered of the OECD countries.

    Atheists on the right more often play into religious hands.

    (Part of the problem we have is how quickly we adapt to the new norm and how our emotional range remains as wide as ever…)



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  • Phil is right.
    Statements made by Americans that indicate our imminent collapse as a society are a hallmark of the far right dullards here. They have been indoctrinated by FOX “news” to believe that nonwhite immigrants are destroying America and that Muslims are prepared to invade and attack us. Hispanics are flooding over the border and taking our jobs and raping our women, etc. Sound familiar? Trump makes sure to keep his bunch of thick headed paranoid supporters in constant awareness of their imaginary precarious state.

    Try mentioning to these people that if not for our immigrants working for slave wages they would have to cut their own grass, clean their own houses, and that our spoiled middle class kids would rather have no pocket money than to work at fast food or mall jobs.

    The older blue collar and middle class Americans collect social security retirement checks and have socialized medical insurance while they are exclaiming about how this country is going down the tubes. Try explaining that as a society, we’ve never had it so good.

    Are these FOX newsers expecting armageddon? Perhaps they secretly wish for it to get here, assuming they will be saved with their clan but no one else will pass the test.

    A cruel thought that comes to my mind when around these people is that I wish for one hour we could magically make the policies of the far right come true to life. It would be a scene from a frightening dystopia. Or…spend a year in a third world country and let’s see if you and your kids come out of there alive.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    For those above who are skeptical of Pinker’s claims, I recommend reading his book Better Angels. The book is long and full of stats. It’ll be tough to post all of this on an internet comment, it’s too extensive. If I have some time on the weekend I’ll try to post some stats from his book. I have it here on my shelf. No time today or tomorrow.



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  • The “news” needs you scared. Scared people buy things that they “need”.
    Here’s a little mental exercise.

    Take a mental inventory:
    Do you know a person who has had a child abducted? Ever looked at the back of a milk carton and seen a child you know? Now, think of this, do you know someone with cancer or someone who has died of cancer? Now, which does the news try to make you shit your pants over?

    About 5 years ago, the people in my family a generation older than me got to the point with the fox news garbage (and left wing garbage) that there was literal discord over and over. When we were having dinner at my mom’s or my in laws, especially if a few drinks were involved, the potential for a screaming match was never far from the surface. Now, these people are not dumb. They are a product of GIGO. Garbage in Garbage out. Their opinions are based on what they have been fed (albeit they tune in so it is, ultimately on them).

    So, here’s the point. We hyper report “scary” stories that raise ratings and keep people scared. Turn it off.

    Anyway, my wife and I had a heart to heart, and I gave up the political news. then i gave up the news altogether. Now, I rely on newsfeeds that are typically from other countries or internet based. I completely divrced myself from American News. I quickly saw exactly what the left and the right do and was amazed at the manipulation and the “willingly manipulated”… Hasn’t been an argument about politics since.



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  • crookedshoes #10
    Aug 18, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    Now, I rely on newsfeeds that are typically from other countries or internet based.

    Indeed! That is the basis of a rational scientific approach.
    Look at the quality, reliability and past reputation , of information sources.
    Much of the media just like (pseudo) controversy to stir up emotional responses in the uninformed and misinformed, so the more outrageous the claims the better the sales of the stories.
    There are people like Trump (USA) and Farage and Corbyn (UK), being promoted as national leaders, when they are preaching rebels who have no reputation as team players, let alone any capability as team leaders who can organise joined up policy based on expert advice!

    They are “know-it-all rebels” who are perhaps more in keeping with the mind-sets of the anti-authority, anti-expert, poser journalists, who praise them!



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  • Crooked,

    Who, in the USA broadcasts the dishonest left leaning news or news-plus-comment? I see pamphleteers and the occasional Regressive Left apologists, Michael Moore?, John Stewart sometimes???

    I am genuinely at a loss here.



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  • crookedshoes #10
    Aug 18, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    Now, I rely on newsfeeds that are typically from other countries or internet based.

    There are also some very dubious internet based articles.
    Fortunately SOME reputable news outlets expose them!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37116107

    The British Olympic Association has told a leading Brexit campaign group to stop using Team GB images in its social media posts.

    Leave.EU received a letter from BOA lawyers telling it to stop using logos and images of athletes immediately.

    The campaign group said it would “continue to publish stories that showcase how Britain is thriving as we Leave the European Union”.

    Its Twitter feed still features a video congratulating Team GB’s medal winners.

    Leave.EU, founded by millionaire UKIP donor Arron Banks, played a prominent role in the 23 June referendum despite not being the official Leave campaign.

    Its recent tweets include a video – posted on Monday – showing some of Team GB’s successful Olympians, with the title: “We may be small, but we truly are Great Britain” and ending by showing Team GB’s logo.

    Parliament has of course, taken no decision yet to leave the European Union, and still has no plan on how to do so, nor have they any coherent evaluation of the possible outcomes! – So any medal success has nothing to do with the “wonderful Emperor’s New Clothes” style claims of brexiteers!

    All they have is warnings of negative consequences from expert bodies, but know-it-all deluded liars for brexit, don’t bother with professional warnings, and clearly have learned nothing about legal warnings from the previous legal action when Nissan sued them for misusing its company logo in earlier deceptions.



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  • @#12 – There are people like Trump (USA) and Farage and Corbyn (UK), being promoted as national leaders, when they are preaching rebels who have no reputation as team players, let alone any capability as team leaders who can organise joined up policy based on expert advice!

    Millionaire donors or corporate interests, can just buy political groups of stooges and media muppets, to promote their deceptions and perverse agendas!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/37116098
    UKIP’s Lisa Duffy says donor Arron Banks using party as ‘puppet’
    One of UKIP’s leadership candidates has accused the party’s main donor of trying to use it as his “puppet”.

    Lisa Duffy said the dominance of Arron Banks in UKIP’s funding was “not healthy” for the party.

    Mr Banks, a close ally of former leader Nigel Farage, recently said UKIP needed to be reformed “root and branch” and suggested he could back a new party.

    UKIP is in the process of choosing a new leader but the contest has been hit by rows between key party figures.

    Speaking after a hustings in Newport, South Wales, she said: “The danger of only having one donor is that one person then could put the pressure on the party to ask and demand for things to happen, so they basically can use the party as their puppet.

    “I think that is really dangerous. I think what is very important for our party is that we get donations from all over, whether small donations or large.

    “We shouldn’t allow one individual to actually set the tone of our party, our tone is set by our grassroots.”

    She said she was talking about Mr Banks, adding: “When they don’t get their own way, they start calling to scrap the NEC, lets go off and build a new political party, no.

    “We’ve spent 23 years building up UKIP. UKIP is fantastic. UKIP’s here for the future. It’s not the puppet of one man.”

    UKIP’s recent infighting has focused on the decision by the ruling National Executive Committee to bar one of the frontrunners – Steven Woolfe – from standing after he submitted his papers late.

    Mr Banks, a former Tory donor, has donated more than £1m to UKIP and spent £5.6m of his personal fortune on funding the UKIP-backed Leave.EU campaign.



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  • I think we blame the media too much and blame the wrong people too much. Someone on this thread said “Fox news garbage and left wing garbage” in one sentence. That implies symmetry. It is leveling. (So who does he read?) I watch MSNBC and read The Nation and do not experience either as dishonest although I disagree with analyses at times.

    Fox News is worse than garbage, and the conservative websites are vile, are far more dishonest and dangerous than anything else out there. And I like Michael Moore, Bill Maher and Stewart.

    Pinker: “You’re right that often politicians whip up and organize ethnic hatred. And naturally the news reports convey the impression that everyone hates everyone else.”

    A straw man.

    You may think the world is falling apart. Steven Pinker is here to tell you it isn’t.

    A straw man

    All his statistics are meaningless. Let’s see what Pinker says when a nuclear war is unleashed. His smug face will look like a deer in the headlights. Trump (a bona fide racist) just hired a racist named (forgot the asshole’s name) who is the head of Breitbart, a right wing fringe website, as an adviser… And as flooding and climate related disasters continue, what will Pinker say? “It could be worse”….He’s a dope.

    Breitbart worst headlines: (Remember, the head of this website is Trump’s new chief adviser. Nothing like this in the “Left media”, as far as I know.)

    https://mediamatters.org/blog/2016/08/17/breitbart-news-worst-headlines/212467



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  • I assume he means today not yesterday. Reading over the article,
    though old wars are mentioned for comparison, tends to tell me he is
    talking about today, 2015/16, not some war that happened 70 years ago.

    He specifically stated “Global Wars” and [correct me if i’m wrong] there has been NO GLOBAL WAR since WW2

    homicides and accidents

    Again, he said NOTHING about ‘accidents’; where are you getting this from? Did he mention suicides? Road deaths? Diseases? If he included all non-natural deaths, he may have a point. But I believe he is unduly optimistic.
    I was quoting EXACTLY his statement- not any speculation…Another thing-

    far right dullards here. They have been indoctrinated by FOX “news” to
    believe that nonwhite immigrants are destroying America and that
    Muslims are prepared to invade and attack us

    Laurie B- magnificent ad hominem. Don’t watch FOX. Don’t read what used to be called ‘newspapers’. You MUST inform yourself about Islam and its 1400 year-old ambition to eliminate all other religions and subjugate the world. YOU may think this mere piffle but devout muslims certainly don’t- it may take centuries but Islam has the plan and there is no reason to believe it impossible, however unlikely it sounds.
    Educate yourself at WWW. wikiIslam.com
    Whatever your prejudices tell you, I am neither ‘far Right’ nor ‘extreme Left’ [as you like to pigeon-hole people].
    I admit freely to extreme prejudice against Islamo-fascist ideology as mandated by the Koran and Sunnah and mainstream Islamic ‘scholars’. Any sane, informed atheist must of necessity object to it.
    http://www.koran-at-a-glance will also help lift the blinkers from your eyes, inshalla’h.



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  • JimJFox #17
    Aug 19, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    I assume he means today not yesterday. Reading over the article,
    though old wars are mentioned for comparison, tends to tell me he is
    talking about today, 2015/16, not some war that happened 70 years ago.

    He specifically stated “Global Wars” and [correct me if i’m wrong] there has been NO GLOBAL WAR since WW2

    Hi Jim!

    @OP “More people die in homicides than in wars globally by far” Stephen Pinker.

    The way I read this, it is totting up numbers of deaths from assorted wars over the whole globe, rather than looking a world wars specifically.



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  • The point that I raised about the US news skewing many issues one way or the other is fundamentally sound; even if one side is more vehement and thus more visible or memorable.

    Dan, I think you inadvertently hit my nail on the head. Because you “like” Michael Moore et al, you are most susceptible to the skewing that they do. You are no longer dispassionate and have succumbed to the same exact thing that fox news apostles have succumbed to. Granted, I feel hat they are militant, angry, and thus dangerous.
    I also feel like the apostles of the left are more easy going and “nice”. But, make no mistake, they are apostles and thus very very easily manipulated. News as it was early in the game was reported on by people who prided themselves in their unbiased positions. It has evolved into a ratings machine and money maker and you are contributing to one side vs the other. How are you any better than the people on the “other side” doing the same thing? It is very reminiscent of the fundie christians spouting off at how backwards and misguided the fundie Muslims are. Step outside this paradigm and things change for the better.



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  • But, Crooked, were is this left wing news program???

    Michael Moore is a pamphleteer.

    Do you mean Comedy Central programs? So who puts left wing straight news out nightly on the airwaves in a news slot?



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  • Crumbs, JJF thinks Laurie insufficiently informed about Islam…. Ouch.

    For those in the UK BBC iPlayer will get you to the latest edition of “More or Less” the statistical fact checking programme. Its first item is terrorism and has Better Angel spotter Pinker in it….



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  • Phil 24

    Wish they would all Fokzov!!

    I didn’t really follow any Russian stuff before but they seem to be quoted and posted more by Turks these days. Even so, there seems to be a push in the general direction of pure propaganda to match Fox on channels like RT.



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  • JimJFox

    He specifically stated “Global Wars” and [correct me if i’m wrong] there has been NO GLOBAL WAR since WW2

    You’re wrong. As Alan pointed out and I add to “global war” means war on the globe, not world war. So as Alan said these are the aggregate wars of the present time.

    homicides and accidents

    If that was addressed to me ( it is unclear ) then I am not getting it from anywhere as it is not in my original comment.



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  • Phil,

    Moore is a documentarian. Pinker is a pamphleteer. (Tit for tat. I don’t like your put-downs. Moore is a courageous and decent, yet somewhat manipulative, filmmaker.)

    It is not just rhetoric we should fear. Nor is it just the media of the right that we should fear. It is the right itself. They are behind Fox News and all of the vile and sick websites out there. The media is nothing in itself. Nor is Europe the issue. (?) The conservative movement in America is the issue. They are oligarchs and bigots. They want to privatize, and abandon the poor. They are white nationalists. What we should fear is the policies they are pushing for. Trump is a fascist and a bigot and a propagandist, and he is in the process of seeking to actualize the heretofore hidden true wishes of the American Right (now clear to anyone with half a brain), of the so-called Republican party. (See my comment #16)



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  • Better Angels, 800 pages jam packed with research all aimed at taking the heat out of the rhetoric, a pamphlet by a pamphleteer, huh?

    Orwellian.

    We need pamphleteers. MM is very effective, he often argues my case but I take nothing on trust from him, and more than a few times his errors make me and mine look bad.

    I don’t like your put-downs

    Like soap opera?…I don’t do put downs, Dan.



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  • Observer review of his anti-biography on the cover

    Caustic, breakneck, tell-it-like-it-is … He’s a genuine populist; a twenty-first century pamphleteer Observer

    I have bought two of his books “Dude, where’s my country” and “Stupid White Men.” I’ve seen most of his films. Loved him since working for Detroit for the big three and seeing Roger and Me. I was sequestered in Bloomfield Hills mostly but Detroit was an utter shock…the devastation, Flint a disaster.

    Pamphleteers are activists not reporters.



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  • Phil—

    I really should read the damned thing; I might like parts of it – although I am suspicious of Pinker’s optimism, and his hair.

    But to make a science of social behavior is to my mind inherently dangerous. Consider the anti-Semites’ use of Darwin and you will begin to understand my concern. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t fault Darwin. But social theory dressed in the the robe of hard science should be handled with extreme care. (Is this wrong? Am I mischaracterizing Pinker?)

    Pamphleteer sounded like a put-down. Soap opera. —That one I still resent. Dickens was… Well you know what I think of him.

    Nothing should be taken on trust. Not even Schopenhauer. But there is too much distrust of Moore and others (like Hillary).

    One thing about the so-called liberal media that is very troublesome to me is that they are way too tame. As you live in England I am not sure you are familiar with a network called MSNBC. They are a decidedly left-leaning news/opinion network. I like most of the hosts of the shows, but they are all seem so restrained. They never say what needs to be said. They are too soft. (There are exceptions.) It’s so damned frustrating. My hunch is that they are not allowed to. Cable news is corporate. They have advertisers. (I need to brush up on this. Chomsky is the expert on all this.) People like Chomsky are NEVER on these “liberal media” news programs. I don’t think he’s allowed on!

    I just asked someone this question: how is the average Joe supposed to inform himself? There are a trillion websites, and so much bias out there. Who should the average under-educated voter turn to for reliable information at times like this, and who should he trust, and on what basis?

    Reporter versus activist: One can be both. There is a hell of a lot of truthful reporting in Moore’s films.



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  • RE more people die form homicides

    how about a bit of math. Wiki says for recent years 437,000 homicides were committed annually world wide. Extrapolating over 100 years would yield 43.7M homicides for the century. There are some obvious flaws in this, as the population is much larger now than 100 years ago, although per Pinker the homicide rate has declined. Perhaps it is close to a wash.

    WW2 alone is estimated at 80M deaths (including famine related to the war). Given the many wars over the past 100 years, the homicide rate would have been astronomically higher over the years to make up the difference.

    I would like to see his data for this claim.



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  • I am not sure you are familiar with a network called MSNBC. They are a decidedly left-leaning news/opinion network. I like most of the hosts of the shows, but they are all seem so restrained.

    Very familiar, also with a few of their former pundits now dispensed with to try and not scare off so many Americans with their “leftiness”.

    Rachel Maddow (a frequent check out for me) seems a good solid centerist to my way of thinking.

    It is essential the news per se is reported square on, however. ButI still can’t fathom Crookedshoes’ contention that there is a left bias to match Faux News, though.



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  • Not the newest books in my “library”, but perhaps they may have been ignored to our common detriment? “Blinded By The Right” © 2002 by David Brock, and perhaps more important, “The Republican Noise Machine” ©2004 also by David Brock. The “Goebbels Channel” Fox News has spouted its extreme right-wing garbage without appropriately harsh counter-punches (and never mind the cess-pit of AM radio). Pretty much all of the “mainstream” media have tried, totally, futilely, and idiotically in vain, to keep an impossible “neutral” stance. There is no neutrality between someone giving the opposition a bit of the benefit of the doubt, and a screaming, raging psychopath who would as soon as not kill everyone who does not agree with him (and I use the male term for good reasons!). Probably slightly more Muslims in this cess-pit world-wide … but since that criminal scum (folks – he does his business in the world-wide, without any useful exception, most corrupt and criminal sector) is not below 30% (possibly the percentage of Fascist crap that the US may never fall below), in frightening current statistics even above 40% – have you listened to how fast Washington and Lincold have been revolvin in their graves?



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  • GrumpyKraut—

    Great, great post! Check out some of the headlines from the Breitbart website. (Link posted. See comment 16.) As you know, Trump just hired the head of that website. There is no question in my mind, at this point, that Trump and his surrogates are racist to the core, and sick. Not just pandering. No way. I don’t buy that.

    And he wants “school choice” (the end of public education). He wants to privatize everything. And he wants law and order, the absolute mark of incipient fascism. Sick fascist scum.

    Trump’s entourage are like stormtroopers.

    Very satisfying comment, as I said. Why are the pundits on the left so hesitant to speak like you just did? I asked this question before. I have a few hunches.

    Btw, I think Trump plans on losing, and wants to be the new Rush Limbaugh but much more powerful and much wealthier.



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  • Steven Pinker:

    “If I were to give advice to politicians — it would be to seek some balance, and to not allow there to be an impression that the country is falling apart or that we’re in the middle of a crime wave, because we’re not. They should acknowledge that there has been a small change in a bad direction and make sure it doesn’t get out of hand — and therefore to balance the dangers of police shooting innocent people, which really has to be reduced, but at same time not to let that turn into a push back on policing.”

    He sounds like a pompous egotist. What does he think he is, an oracle?

    Here’s one man’s opinion of Better Angels. I don’t know the author’s name.

    Pinker is generally on the side of recent scientific warfare that Gould and Lewontin identify as ultra-Darwinist, of seeing things as being primarily driven by adaptations that are biologically inherited. A case could be made that his side of that ideological dispute in science is not that far removed from Kellogg’s “von Flussen”. What could be made of that could be interesting. In one of his recent books, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” Pinker made a pretty ridiculous and statistically incompetent panglossian assertion that modern life has become so much less violent than in the past, including some remarkably naive and pseudo-scientific assertions. Every time I dip into his writing I find that it is thoroughly and transparently ideological and entirely opportunistic in its choices of authorities cited. The scary thing is that this is the kind of stuff that gets published in influential and even near-influential journals and is thoroughly believed on its identification as a scientific view point, as presented by someone held to high standards of accuracy and rigorous scholarship when it is certainly not. We haven’t progressed at all from the standards current in 1914. If anything, I think it’s gotten a lot worse.



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  • Hey Phil,
    I guess it depends on where you stand. CNN has a pretty left lean. Others have mentioned a few… Left to me is “nicer” and has a more controlled voice. However, I still stand by the idea that news shouldn’t lean either way and I feel the best way to get news that doesn’t lean is to sample both sides and try to imagine the middle and possibly be very very wrong. Or to find sources that do not give a rat’s ass about leaning and patronize them.

    Of course, if you listen to the insanity on fox news and the sewage coming out of Trump’s mouth, then every news outlet that is not fox news is left and corrupt…etc..

    On a related note, I was involved in a “discussion” when Obama ran for his first term. My wife’s uncle (who believes that because he speaks in a deep baritone, everything he says must be correct) was attempting to corroborate a speaking point he had heard on fox news. He held up his phone to an article from the Wall Street Journal and was haughty about his “two sources” UNTIL…. i held up my phone and showed him that they are owned by the same company. The sad sad things is, there are 15000+ radio stations, 1700+ tv stations, close to 1300 newspapers and they all are owned by like 6 actual companies. All are steering and controlling news in ways that maximize their ratings and promote their beliefs and the products sold by the other companies that they own.

    Divorce youself from the ultraviolent news cycle and focus on your house, family, and neighborhood. All the other hypervigilant sheep will be sure to “hold the fort”. It will improve your quality of life. Try it and get back to me.



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  • @ 38

    Hi, Crookedshoes—

    Good points.

    Just a couple of questions and remarks, if I may:

    There is no way to objectively report certain things without sounding biased to those who are themselves biased.

    CNN is left-leaning to you and to someone else is not. That judgment would depend on one’s perspective.
    Now how do you report that Trump, say, led the “birther” movement – which makes him a sick man – without sounding biased?

    Insanity of Fox? Sounds very “biased.” They are “fair and balanced.”

    I like Bill Maher (a comedian) and Michael Moore’s movies. (And some more than others; I don’t just sit there wide-eyed and take it all in without questioning anything.) So I am biased too?

    Everyone is biased to those who are biased, as I said.

    Good reporting is out there. You have to seek it out. The thing that people miss is that in some cases the most left-leaning journalist can be the most objective. Chomsky is a leftist and perhaps the most objective and truthful commentator out there. Sometimes a conservative journalist is highly disciplined and objective; but that is exceedingly rare; the republican party has gotten worse and worse, is now rotten to the core, and on its way toward Libertarianism (or worse) – which is tantamount to corporate tyranny and deregulation across the board. That is my opinion.

    As for your comment # 20, I have “succumbed” to nothing. I happen to like Moore’s films. Did you see Josh Fox’s Gasland? I thought that was good. Was that “skewed” too? To some (the defenders of hydraulic fracturing) it was garbage. So who is biased? All we can do is make judgments and decisions based on what we believe to be true and fair. The more research we do and the more knowledge we have, the better. Then all we can do is hope we haven’t been misled. No guarantees.

    Be well.



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  • Crooked, if we don’t focus on a left right divide, I completely agree that news reporting is broken, and particularly in the USA where infotainment is a means of delivering advertising fodder to advertisers. Our problems (first world problems) are less and less about the existential threats of the third world, will I eat today, will we be attacked, why doesn’t it rain. Strengths of feeling have not lessened, however, and our first world problems remain as dire to us as the third world problems we once had. Bad news engages and coheres people like nothing else.

    But the asymmetry of left right news, again most particularly in the USA, remains. The USA is a country of the greatest freedoms most particularly exploitable by the intelligent psychopath parasite, with far too few market checks on monopoly, and quality in areas where gaming can occur and competition is structurally incapable of quality refinement. Private US health insurance fleeces its customers compared to standard Dutch private health insurance, charging twice as much for poorer and uneven results. In the UK the BBC (not perfect but…) because it is dominant in the market and free of advertising is less constrained to pander to the need to press the populist shit-scaring button. (It still feels obliged to pursue populism to some extent to preserve funding but not relentlessly so.) Because the USA is the most notably selfish, right wing, punitive and unequal of the OECD countries the audience for Fox News is huge, the successful who are suspicious of the poor and governments stealing from them. The poor who feel those black poor or hispanic poor are eating their lunch. Fox manufactures enemies with spurious but effective abandon in a fashion that the parasites who profit from this work do so with all the effectiveness of toxoplasmosis. The brain altering product of theirs delivers them victims who don’t even recognise the real predators.

    I agree we would do well to feed ourselves less of this stuff, but the consevative right are fearful by disposition. They are a greater target for the parasite exploiters.



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  • Dan,

    Pinker.

    Of course the nervous nellies of the right disagree with him. But plain rhetoric and the inevitable maligning of intentions doesn’t do it for me. Brute facts are the thing.



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  • crookedshoes #38
    Aug 19, 2016 at 11:24 pm
    I guess it depends on where you stand. CNN has a pretty left lean. Others have mentioned a few… Left to me is “nicer” and has a more controlled voice.

    When I put links to news items, I google the topic, and then look at the dates and times of the articles looking for the oldest and first.
    The others are usually revamped slanted copies of these originals.

    That is why I often come up with BBC or Reuters as the sources.
    I also like direct quotes from the people interviewed, rather than a reporter’s version of this.

    I am not sure how much access US viewers have to foreign world-wide sources, but for different slants on stories, there are English channels of broadcasters like Al-Jazeera or RT if you want a radically different viewpoint!

    https://www.rt.com/on-air/
    RT’s flagship, award-winning English-language channel airs 24/7 from the network’s Moscow offices and is available to more than 700 million viewers worldwide. It covers the most urgent domestic and international issues of our time for viewers wishing to question more and delivers stories often missed by the mainstream media to create news with an edge. RT provides an alternative perspective on major global events, and acquaints an international audience with the Russian viewpoint.



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  • Dan

    I like Bill Maher (a comedian) and Michael Moore’s movies.

    Had I to choose, I would leave Maher’s wilful scientific incompetence on vax and Moore’s hand wavy emotionalism and in their stead prefer the fact based intellectualism of Stephen Colbert and John Oliver.



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  • Dan

    Everyone is biased to those who are biased, as I said.

    Yes but bias is only relative, there is no meant-to-be. We have a cortex and a cultural super cortex. We can see ourselves increasingly. I know I am not very good on social stuff. I have some deficits, that I’ve tried to fix, but its far from perfect. I know the sorts of eccentric judgements I can make here and I try to temper them.

    What confounds me is how folk can know this stuff and not use the information to nuance or reasonably discount their own public musings….

    Amongst another discussion group I was always trying to get the very bright (but neurally disparate!) to come clean about themselves up front. All views are valuable but particularly so when personal dispositions are acknowledged. These wired in varieties need to be understood and accepted if we are to live better together.



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  • phil rimmer #44
    Aug 20, 2016 at 5:58 am

    Yes but bias is only relative, there is no meant-to-be.

    One feature I have noticed when looking at initial reports of “scooped breaking news”, is that early direct quotes often acquire added hype or edited-out clarity, in later or updated versions!



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  • I watched the news the other night on the BBC. Is it me or are they interviewing their own reporters more and more? This particular night there was no one else on except their own giving opinions rather than reporting the news.



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  • Alan #46

    Indeed.

    Clickbait and its evolving construction is a race to the bottom. It is affecting news headlines now in the battle for click survival, replacing information with emotion. The sooner we get to the state when “You won’t believe what she did next..” becomes a matter of zero personal significance the better. Likewise the lure of the sensational but contentless headline…

    I watch little news myself, but often use Wiki and its links for the latest events. (My goodness it can be quick off the mark.) News prompts come from BBC and Guardian app with leisured content from BBC Worlservice and Al Jazeera (but not RT).

    The bias I was refering to was about personal bias.

    Olgun,

    Yep. Its suffering from cost cutting.



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  • Phil #45

    John Oliver is brilliant and the young love him. The only thing that is creeping in that I don’t like is, what I suspect, a push to make his style and personality bigger than life. A lot of programs, I think, overanalyse what worked and what didn’t and try to give us too much of what we are supposed to like. A laugh here will see it repeated etc…I really would like to see him resist this. What worked for Friends doesn’t for this.



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  • Phil

    That’s right. That was the name of the blogger. Is he bad or are you yourself unconsciously biased? I will eventually check Pinker’s book out and form my own conclusions. Right now the guy kind of turns me off. Sorry.

    “Left-right divide.” Why is that bad? I think divisiveness is good. We can’t compromise our values and capitulate continuously and perpetually. The center cannot hold forever and at all costs. On the other hand, the center is where it is least hot, and that is where we need to be.

    There must be a balance, but there is a decent limit to compromise.

    No, you’re right. We don’t have to be biased. (I neglected to qualify that comment.)

    Q: what exactly is neoliberalism? I looked it up. It sounds like fiscal conservatism. These labels are destructive, don’t you think? A lot of labels on this site and all over the place. Even the term “regressive left” is somewhat destructive; these are human beings, individuals, we are talking about – not a collective monolith, a single entity, a monster with a ten-thousand homogeneous voices, promoting a single, abstract, incompetent and pernicious ideology, necessarily.



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  • You’re wrong. As Alan pointed out and I add to “global war” means war
    on the globe, not world war.

    Yes, it appears I misinterpreted his sentence & made a false assumption.
    Without back-checking I think the ‘Accidents’ word is in the original article…
    or is it??

    Regardless, human propensity for slaughter and genocide does NOT fill me with Stephen Pinker’s optimism!
    Recent news– Debka File tells that the USA just removed 60-70 gravity nuclear bombs from Incirlik airbase in Turkey where Erdogan had allegedly been holding up to 1500 U.S. personnel hostage in an attempt to maintain ‘ownership’ of those weapons. Truth or not?
    Why would a [muslim] NATO “ally” do such a thing?



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  • P.S. I misread what you said about the left-right divide. There is no symmetry in the news coverage or in general. I agree entirely. I hate it when people say – and they do say this – that the liberal media is just as bad as the conservative media, etc., or that Hillary and Trump are equally this or that…. That is just pernicious, dishonest and simple-minded, lazy (conservative) thinking.

    (Politically, we tend to agree. Why can’t you agree with my epistemology? Spacetime, for example, is just a construct, whereas space and time themselves, although mutually dependent on each other, are actual intuitions – pure, sensuous intuitions. Sensuous in the Kantian sense. See Seattle thread, if you can. I have a couple of questions for you.)



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  • Dan

    We can’t compromise our values…continuously and perpetually.

    Yep. We did and we do. I share only some of your values as we have seen here today. We (could I vote) will compromise on Hilary despite my loathing of her earlier position on zero tolerance policing and numerous other moral failings. Not one of us gets what we want. Fortunately, once dogma is shown the door for crapping on the carpet, we all continue our journey of moral refinement, Hilary too. (Noises of a change of heart on policing etc.)

    Groupism has fucked us over too many times to keep conning us much longer. Evidence and reason is the only possible substrate were we can meet our fellow citizens. In the UK there was a survey of IQs and political affiliation. Main left and right parties had IQs of 103 average. Extreme right 97. Centre 108. (No I’m not a fan of IQ…don’t bother going there…I won’t follow.)

    Its hard work not defaulting to dogma. The media hate it. They love polarised battles…stories easy to tell.

    I’ve disowned “regressive left” as a term you may recall. I much prefer the psychological trait of Hyper Pro Socialism, but that doesn’t get me very far, when folks say “what?”. Misidentifying the underdog through a surplus of under-informed emotionalism is a thing. The hyper empathetic screw up often. More empathy isn’t endlessly better. Empathy is a mammal trait that pump primes human sympathy. (As I recall you rightly rate sympathy the valuable attribute. I had a great article published recently by a professor of psychology supporting this view and now I can’t find it …in the Slate I think)

    these are human beings, individuals, we are talking about – not a collective monolith,

    Yep….groupism from wherever sells our neural and experiential diversity short. Barring trying to be understood I fight it for myself and all others.

    Q: what exactly is neoliberalism?

    I think you are right. The right re-brand rather effectively.



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  • Dan #54
    Aug 20, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Spacetime, for example, is just a construct, whereas space and time themselves,

    Space and time are features of the space-time continuum. you have simply misunderstood the science once again.

    although mutually dependent on each other, are actual intuitions – pure, sensuous intuitions.

    This is backwards.
    Sensuous intuitions:- ie. the neurochemistry and circuitry which of which they are composed, are mechanisms regulated by spacetime. Body-clocks and sensory mechanisms are regulated by space time (gravity and relativity).



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  • Dan

    Why can’t you agree with my epistemology?

    I’m a physicist… I don’t see a mirror, I see Quantum Electro Dynamics at work. Most curiously…I no longer see pink…I see red-blue….though I still see purple. Sensualism, I suspect, is more diverse than you imagine.



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  • Dan #27
    “It is not just rhetoric we should fear. Nor is it just the media of the right that we should fear. It is the right itself. They are behind Fox News and all of the vile and sick websites out there.”

    I fully agree. Two books that might be helpful in clarifying things, in my opinion, would be “Conservatives Without Conscience” © 2006 John W. Dean and Viking Penguin, and “Big Lies” © 2003 Joe Conason and Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press.

    Yes, THAT John Dean, the one whose testimony to the Senate Watergate Committee was probably what doomed “Tricky Dick” Nixon’s chances of escaping impeachment and removal from office. Interestingly, he states in the book that (in a certain sense) he still considers himself to be a Barry Goldwater Conservative. The book started as a collaboration with Goldwater (who died in 1998), but then took a somewhat different tack after Goldwater’s death for reasons mentioned in it. As per quotes of Goldwater mentioned in the book, Goldwater was more than disgusted with the people who became known as “Neocons” (“Neoliberals” here in Germany, but the term “Libertarian”, much closer to the truth, is practically unknown), who gained disastrous influence during the “Dubya” (or more precisely “Dirty Dick”, meaning Cheney) administration.

    Conason, as far as I remember his writing, basically made the point that the right’s efforts, and especially the vested interests of a tiny filthy rich (rightly so named) minority which funds right-wing “think” tanks, cannot be anything else than a massive campaign of lies. This filthy rich minority has been destroying the lives of tens of millions of people for reasons of nothing else but pure, parasitic greed, but has, with the help of pseudo-Christian, often “Mega-church pastors”, been able to delude tens of millions of voters as to who their true enemies are.

    And as far as books I have read and which grace my bookshelves, I have Michael Moore almost completely (his films, too), Al Franken, Greg Palast (any book by him is worth reading!), Arianna Huffington (she seems to have had a mental blackout during Bill Clinton’s presidency), Bob Woodward, Barton Gellman, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Naomi Klein, Francis Fukuyama, Milton Friedman, John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith … but not a single book by Ann Coulter. Need I read any of her books, or books by people of similar opinion? Like I need to read Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, by now available in Germany in a commented version. I have read Friedman’s “Capitalism And Freedom” – apparently © 1962. After writing scathing comments on the contents for about 5 pages on the rims, I gave up. Occasional (rarely) useful insights were totally swamped by ideological crap. Friedman may have (as per Paul Krugman’s opinion in one of his books) done some research justifying his 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics (added to the original Nobel Prizes in 1968 by a donation from Sweden’s central bank, the Sveriges Riksbank, on the bank’s 300th anniversary.). But ideologically he was simply pathetic.



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  • JimJFox (53), Phil, others—

    I agree with you, Jim. There is no good reason to be optimistic about the moral future of man in the face of history, which is the history of tremendous cruelty. Yes, there have been great achievements; but that only means that there has been tremendous cruelty and tremendous creativity; you can’t weigh the two and conclude, on the basis of statistics, that creativity will prevail, and violence will be left behind. Nor will violence prevail at the expense of creativity. Perhaps we will become more creative and devise more sophisticated and ingenious forms of torture. Perhaps violence will, at some future time, be eliminated. But than a disruption will take place and it will reemerge.

    The bottom line is that there is no rational argument that I know of to support optimism in this sense. But if you look at the animal kingdom (of which we are a part) you – any objective person – must conclude that nature is a vast torture chamber. Nature is nice to look at and provides a wonderful environment for artists and scientists: a lifetime of contemplation and study! But, it is one thing to observe and study nature; it is quite another to be in nature. Imagine that you were, say, a squirrel, perched on a tree branch and suddenly finding yourself facing the mouth and eyes of a snake. Imagine actually being that squirrel! Pinker’s fabricated nonsense vanishes in the face of this reality. (Nothing – not even the Nazi holocaust – is bad enough for him; life always comes out smelling like a rose.) And this illustration (the squirrel and the snake) is by no means atypical. It should indicate to the more sober among us what nature, what existence, really is. Nature is not a peepshow, as Schopenhauer said. It is, essentially, a vast and terrible realm, a place where beings must continually prey on, devour, other beings.

    And the argument that Man, because of his superior brain, is somehow exempt from the essential inner antagonism associated with life in nature, is shallow. We all know that cruelty and intellect are not mutually exclusive. Goodness of heart is often in inverse proportion to one’s degree of intellect. History and experience has taught us this.

    I stand by my intuitive, gut-feeling that Pinker, as far as this matter is concerned, is not an important thinker, and that his theory of optimism, like all the theories of optimism that have been presented throughout the years, will not endure.



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  • Phil, Alan—

    I just can’t win! I appreciate this actually. If I were alone with my own thoughts I wouldn’t be challenged and would cease to grow. I still think that there is a mutual misunderstanding regarding our respective conceptions of space and time and spacetime. 🙂



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  • Dan #60
    Aug 20, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Phil, Alan—

    I just can’t win! I appreciate this actually.

    I know! On matters of physics and neuroscience you need to update your conceptions by a century or two. 🙂

    WE really are trying to help you with this!



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  • his theory of optimism,

    WTF.

    One of the least helpful things for us to do to others in this life is pontificate in ignorance.

    Another is to fail to appreciate our own particular predispositions.



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  • Phil, Phil, Phil—

    Any theory of optimism is groundless. The fundamental nature of existence is unalterable and nothing can alter it; history will never produce anything new. Nothing unfolds; no ultimate fruition; there is permanence throughout the changes. Time past, time present, and time future is one. (Hegel’s conception of history as the ultimate deliverer of the Good, of Freedom and Reason is as groundless as the idea of angels guiding us. Leibniz’s “best of all possible worlds” is, well, what it sounds like.) it is an eternal present we live in, finally. I do admit, however, that I am not familiar with Pinker’s theory of optimism.

    I cannot imagine what possible arguments Mr. Pinker has come up with in support of the idea that we MUST become less violent as we move forward. What if there was a nuclear war, and we annihilated ourselves? Would Pinker still be right? I am not pontificating in ignorance; I am pontificating in ignorance of Pinker’s book which I cannot bring myself to read.

    “As it happens, the numbers tell a surprisingly happy story. Violent crime has fallen by half since 1992, and fiftyfold since the Middle Ages. Over the past 60 years the number of wars and number of people killed in wars have plummeted. Worldwide, fewer babies die, more children go to school, more people live in democracies, more can afford simple luxuries, fewer get sick, and more live to old age.” —Pinker

    Optimism, which is always manipulative, is dogmatism in disguise, and is also one of the many consequences of the dismissal or failure to understand the real nature of time, the nature of time in a human sense.

    Schopenhauer regarded optimism as “not merely absurd, but also as a really wicked way of thinking, and a bitter mockery of the unspeakable suffering of humanity.”



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  • From comment above:

    “The fundamental nature of existence is unalterable and nothing can alter it; […]”

    Corrected sentence:

    The fundamental nature of existence is unalterable; the passing of time cannot alter it….



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  • It is not “a theory of optimism”.

    The rest is dogmatic bunk when it isn’t your usual strawman-

    I cannot imagine what possible arguments Mr. Pinker has come up with in support of the idea that we MUST become less violent as we move forward.

    We must become less violent IF we are to move forward.

    I find your misanthropic idealism identical to any theocrat.



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  • Phil (Or anyone of course)

    Can you make sense of this guy?

    On the part about touching your nose and toe at the same time and the ‘nose signal’ being delayed until the one from the toe comes in makes no sense. The calculation the brain has to make (and I am really not good at the maths) should see time as the only constant in order to work out that the touch[es] were simultaneous and does not need to warp time to get the same result.

    His experiment with the ring and a flash of light in the middle he says, is the brain predicting the future and that is what we see but, later on in his lecture he says a bright flash of light stays in the brain longer than a dull one so, if the bright light stays where it is for longer and the dull ring moves on, we see exactly what is there and do not need a prediction to explain it.

    Think he is trying to link to too many things at once and doesn’t realise his experiments cancel each other out. Am I correct? What do you think?



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  • Hi Ollie.

    I’ll answer this later on the Seattle thread. There’s lots to say about it. It is the essence of the binding problem in neuropsychology. The brain has a strict window when things get bound together and treated as part of a single event for the purposes of Hebbian Learning.



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  • Thanks for the link hardy. It is a very concentrated account and easy to take in.

    I note the huge kudos given to Kant in his 1795 essay Perpetual Peace at about the 33 minute mark for forming the three best hypotheses for the data he presents…



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  • Phil,

    I read Perpetual Peace and Other Essays by Kant. He uses that? I don’t remember anything of any great significance in that essay.

    Pessimism is like non-theism. Pessimism is sobriety and leads to resignation – and must not be understood in the popular sense. It is the absence of belief in groundless assumptions of optimism. (There are no guarantees. Nothing is knowable. He is entitled to be optimistic; but to make a case for it, based on statistics and whatever other science he throws in, is something I don’t think he can do.) Pessimism it is not misanthropy; it is the opposite of misanthropy; it compels us to feel sympathy for each other, as we are all facing the same predicament: trying to survive in a world filled with suffering, and which culminates, after a brief time, with the final illness, and death. —Not to mention the eternal cruelty and injustices and indignities that we are forced to face on a regular basis at the hands of hopelessly wicked devils that we call fellow humans.

    My pessimism is as respectable as non-theism. We may be able to devise ways of becoming less violent for long periods of time, but that cannot persist; a disruption based on natural egotism will create new conflicts, and the killing and atrocities will resume.

    His presentation reminded me of a class I took in philosophy, a survey. He spends two seconds on Hobbes, with the obligatory picture, etc. Clearly he is selling something.

    What we must do, as you said, is not what we will do.

    Read Schopenhauer again. No, you won’t. You’ve moved on….

    You take this personally and call me a simpleton and dishonest: Is Pinkerism your religion now? (Sorry, I don’t like being called theocratic in my thinking. Who would on this site?)

    P.S. I wouldn’t trust anything that lizard-faced charlatan who insists on being right all the time has to say. His positive message has the stink of a proselytizing sermon. And he is superficial.



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  • Someone commenting on the YouTube video, provided by hardy, has provided this comment and link. “Doubtless significant parts of Pinker’s analysis are correct. But there are serious flaws with other parts. Anyone interested in a serious critique should check out this article. It is highly readable and worth your time.”
    http://publicintellectualsproject.mcmaster.ca/democracy/reality-denial-steven-pinkers-apologetics-for-western-imperial-violence/



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  • You take this personally and call me a simpleton and dishonest: Is Pinkerism your religion now?

    Never, never, never, never.

    Evidence and reason, Dan or my life is a lie.

    Your link doesn’t work for some reason…



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  • Dan, the misanthropy flows from how you view your opponents and the natural (sic) badness of folk. Its in us like original sin.

    His presentation reminded me of a class I took in philosophy, a survey. He spends two seconds on Hobbes, with the obligatory picture, etc. Clearly he is selling something.

    His 800 page book in 50 minutes.



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  • The misanthropy flows from how you view your opponents.

    Oh that? You should have explained that. Yes. A bit of anger there. Not misanthropy.

    Misanthropy is a terrible thing.



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  • Phil—

    Here’s a tiny prezzie for you, a funny line from the marvelous Molière’s Misanthrope:

    The failings of human nature in this life give us opportunities for exercising our philosophy, which is the best use we can put our virtues to. If all men were righteous, all hearts true and frank and loyal, what purpose would most of our virtues serve?



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  • misanthropy…

    …and the natural (sic) badness of folk?

    Nature is not a peepshow, as Schopenhauer said. It is, essentially, a vast and terrible realm, a place where beings must continually prey on, devour, other beings.

    And the argument that Man, because of his superior brain, is somehow exempt from the essential inner antagonism associated with life in nature, is shallow. We all know that cruelty and intellect are not mutually exclusive. Goodness of heart is often in inverse proportion to one’s degree of intellect. History and experience has taught us this.

    You need to stop tarring ordinary folk with the “crimes” of psychopathy. You need to remember the first things you saw me write in September last year, answering what makes the naked ape the runaway success? I answered

    “The mix.

    Our children’s capacity for “over-imitation” that makes culture possible.

    Our anterior cingulate cortex that gives us the capacity to laugh, coupled with

    Our spindle cells that speed wisdom to stay the hand of the savage beast in us, and

    Our mirror neurons that train our children in reading the muscles of others, thus acquiring their skills and feelings, spawning empathy and

    Our capacity for metaphor sprung from our wildly grown premature infant brain, making us The Creators and

    Homo Memorator, Man the Narrator.

    The cost? (Cue King Crimson.) We are also 21st Century Schizoid Man.

    Finally, knowing this. ”

    I should have added our hugely enlarged general purpose inferential engine, the cortex.

    The potential for tragedy has never been greater, because of our great success and our mastery without understanding. We are a new-fangled species, like the Iron Giant, immensely powerful but only just understanding we can choose not to be a gun, in our immaturity stumbling in to things. This danger has only come from our capacity for mutuality. Our wild success springs from our wildly greater mutuality. To invoke judgments on nature red in tooth and claw is to miss that those desperate needs of kill or die from hunger have fallen down the league table of concerns like never before. The picture you paint is impoverished in the extreme. It is misanthropic for counting us so low (faux humble) and dangerous for missing our unique and quite novel risks.



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  • Herman, though an admirable chap and Chomskian, displays rather more of his own ideology than reveals Pinker’s. He repeatedly fails to note the purpose of the book and despairs at yet another missed opportunity to bash the USA for its transgressions. As someone who (lovingly) lays into the USA more than most here I perhaps surprisingly do not appreciate Herman’s wandering off course. The point is the numbers and the paralleling indicators of a still shifting zeitgeist.



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  • Phil,

    I assure you that the doctrine of pessimism, as I understand it, is not just about the badness of folks. (People vary, are good, bad, and everything in-between.) Nor is it just about humans. More on this some other time. (Nietzsche’s “great yes to life” is praiseworthy, but irrational, as he himself admitted.)

    Another prezzie for you, one I know you’ll like. It is similar to the one you you told me you loved, early on in our e-friendship:

    “No child under the age of fifteen should receive instruction in subjects which may possibly be the vehicle of serious error, such as philosophy, religion, or any other branch of knowledge where it is necessary to take large views; because wrong notions imbibed early can seldom be rooted out, and of all the intellectual faculties, judgment is the last to arrive at maturity.”
    ― Arthur Schopenhauer



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  • I am not a misanthrope, Phil (And I got confused; you’re charge was misanthropy; I realized that after my comment was posted.) No. I do have hostility in me. But that is not misanthropy. So I called Pinker a lizard-faced charlatan; that does not make me a misanthrope. I love Dickens, for crying out loud.

    A misanthrope is someone who hates mankind.

    (If you want to call me a misanthrope, you may. But I don’t think it’s accurate.)

    I am not a strong pessimist; I am deeply respectful of pessimism as a philosophy, and have a deep suspicion of optimism as a philosophical position, as an existence-view; but I am still in the process of forming my own view of existence.

    Schopenhauer, one of the great pessimists, played the flute every night after dinner, according to his biographer. It could be said that one can be an optimist at heart, and an intellectual, or theoretical, pessimist.



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  • The misanthropy becomes dangerous as it manifests itself as a dogma of “in our nature”, the inevitable risk of the bestial. Our problem is quite the reverse. It is not that we are natural but that we are cultural and culture is much more free spirited. Cultural evolution has netted the improvements we see, it just leaves us vulnerable to the manipulations of the exploiters. (Yes the Enlightenment, but also the German population turned to the Dark Side in a decade.) Until we stop worrying about beastly men and worry about the behaviour of the parasite exploiters we will not focus our resources effectively.



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  • Finally, just to complete this argument of culture not nature. This understanding requires far more diligence not less. The boons that Pinker demonstrates are not some easy win but the result of sustained actions by the most motivated in societies. Yes, this may be phrased as enlightened self interest, but self interest is itself a broadening concept as we increasingly notice, now fully fed and watered, the pleasures of mutuality itself.



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  • I think that Pinker’s biggest pointer (from his book, better Angels…) was the fact that even though man finally created a self-terminating doomsday-weapon (The atomic bomb) – mankind seeming had learnt enough not to enter into the final war-to-end-all-wars! I have pondered on this for a while and I see that as a reasonably good indication that mankind is on a trajectory of learning that will surely make us into an ape that has more than one planet in which to further our species and eventual evolution into the galactic ape!



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  • 86
    Pinball1970 says:

    @#85 M27“mankind seeming had learnt enough not to enter into the final war-to-end-all-wars”

    Some of mankind.

    Idiotic Islam on one side and crazy Christianity on the other may put an end to that.

    I think there was a fair old chance Nuclear weapons would have been used against Saddam Hussein if he would have used chemical weapons against allied troops or had landed a “dirty” scud in Tel Aviv in 1991.

    1961 and the bay of pigs / Cuban missile crisis was also a close call according to my older relatives, I have read the detail but they said nothing could convey the feeling that we were on the brink and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

    A few defcon 2 situations since then but probably nothing as bad or as close as those that we know about.

    Regan/Gorbachov stars wars summit of 1986 was not something I will forget either, no actual conflict but you could see the two tribes sharpening their spears.

    It was horrible growing up in the 1980s as a teenager watching all that unfold.



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  • phil rimmer #43
    Aug 20, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Had I to choose, I would leave Maher’s wilful scientific incompetence on vax and Moore’s hand wavy emotionalism and in their stead prefer the fact based intellectualism of Stephen Colbert and John Oliver.

    I agree with Bill Maher on pretty much everything religious and political but he has two major blind spots in his make up – vaccines and GMO foods. I think both of these stem from his obsession with you are what you eat and that a perfect diet can prevent illness.

    John Oliver is great. I love his stuff. I think his star was really born when he stood in for Jon Stewart for 5 or 6 weeks when Jon was making Rosewater. I was deeply miffed at the prospect of no Jon for so long but Oliver just knocked it out of the park. I hated to even admit it to myself but by the end I was thinking he was actually doing a better job than Stewart or at least as good. It’s ironic that his success at holding the fort so well for Jon led quickly to his own show which meant he was then out of the running to take over the Daily Show when Jon retired because he was the perfect choice for it. I can’t get on with Trevor Noah at all and just stopped watching what had been one of my favourite shows for nearly 15 years.

    Love Sam Bee too but giving Larry Wilmore his own show was a mistake. He was great in the occasional role as Black Correspondent for Jon but there’s a big difference between doing that and being able to hold down an entire show yourself.

    Anyway, a wonderful piece by John Oliver last night on why Trump should drop out for those who haven’t seen it yet. Not that I want him to drop out; I think there’s still much more damage he can do to the Republican party so that hopefully it’ll never get into power again. Sadly the stupidity of the American electorate means that anything’s possible though.



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  • 88
    Pinball1970 says:

    @87 “I agree with Bill Maher on pretty much everything religious and political but he has two major blind spots in his make up – vaccines and GMO foods.”

    I have not seen him make a comment, regarding any topic, I have disagreed with yet.

    I don’t think its necessary, I think we can agree basic principles and allow some conflict regarding some of the details.

    It s healthy.

    Hitchens had a complicated stance on the empowerment of women and abortion, rights of the unborn.

    I think I would still be in his camp.



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  • Wanda R. Drishirck.

    John Oliver is great. I love his stuff.

    More than any of them he seems to have a capacity to engage people in difficult and more arcane topics and inspire action. He makes people give a damn when they would normally not. He rarely employs emotional tricks.



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  • Pinball1970 #86
    Aug 22, 2016 at 8:21 am

    Regan/Gorbachov stars wars summit of 1986 was not something I will forget either, no actual conflict but you could see the two tribes sharpening their spears.

    It was horrible growing up in the 1980s as a teenager watching all that unfold.

    You could even watch the tribal science illiterates digging caves to hide in for a few thousand years, – with some of these protective caves at the bottom of the garden, likely to resist a nuclear blast for even as long as one second!



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  • Phil, others—

    Some constructive criticism: First let me say that I can be an ass. I admit that. Now a man as intelligent as you should not dismiss the doctrine of pessimism so quickly. You do the same with the doctrine of the ideality of space, time, and causality. No matter what I say about this you always rebut it. Do you really think that space, which I have defined as externality, is absolute. That makes no sense…. Pessimism is a complex issue. Read the fourth book of S.’s chief work, where he presents his terrifying doctrine of the denial of the will to live. Then I will listen to you refute it, if you still want to. To quote you: “One of the least helpful things for us to do to others in this life is pontificate in ignorance.”

    (By the way, the vast majority of great thinkers throughout history have been pessimists. Freud and Einstein were pessimists. The list goes on and on. Buddhism and Christianity are both pessimistic religions (and you know damned will that while there is probably no God, Christ and the Buddha were not exactly a couple of dolts).

    Pessimism is not a doctrine that relates to humans alone, but to all of creatures and organisms of the world. If you are going to defend optimism then you must apply it to all of nature. It is nature, not culture or the lack of it, that must be considered; all culture can do is mask the essential fact that we continue to strive and struggle ceaselessly without any final end or aim, and that all pleasure is really the absence of pain. There is no positive pleasure. Pain is positive; pleasure is the absence of pain.

    The comfort and satisfaction and feelings of (apparent) purpose that culture provides is something we may feel – but that is illusory.

    Try to come up with a rational argument in defense of the argument that existence is preferable to non-existence. There is no rational one. I am not asking you to merely consider Man’s cruelty throughout history in isolation. (And Man’s cruelty is not the only issue. Life, in spite of our many human comforts and distractions, is a ceaseless struggle without end or aim!) This issue must be evaluated in a much broader context: even a superficial observation of the animal kingdom (of which we are a part), where creatures are continuously seeking to devour their fellow creatures, should tell us all something about the nature of existence, and should inform a reasonable person that optimism as a philosophy is as absurd as it is groundless.

    Yes, there is Bach and Beethoven and Shakespeare, and they really do seem to redeem the whole, but that, finally, is not much of an argument for optimism; it doesn’t hold up.

    Some snippets. Not intended as a substitute for a thorough study of S.’s doctrine of pessimism:

    “If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?”
    ― Arthur Schopenhauer

    “Human life must be some kind of mistake. The truth of this will be sufficiently obvious if we only remember that man is a compound of needs and necessities hard to satisfy; and that even when they are satisfied, all he obtains is a state of painlessness, where nothing remains to him but abandonment to boredom. This is direct proof that existence has no real value in itself; for what is boredom but the feeling of the emptiness of life? If life—the craving for which is the very essence of our being—were possessed of any positive intrinsic value, there would be no such thing as boredom at all: mere existence would satisfy us in itself, and we should want for nothing.”
    — Arthur Schopenhauer

    “Think what you’re doing! When you say I, I, I want to exist, it is not you alone that says this. Everything says it, absolutely everything that has the faintest trace of consciousness. It follows, then, that this desire of yours is just the part of you that is not individual – the part that is common to all things without distinction.”
    ― Arthur Schopenhauer

    “And then, it is all one whether he has been happy or miserable; for his life was never anything more than a present moment always vanishing; and now it is over.”
    ― Arthur Schopenhauer,



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  • Dan,

    I haven’t once mentioned pessimism voluntarilly. My accusation is misanthropy. Pessimism is an aesthetic beyond your or my control. It is not cynicism and it is certainly not skepticism. I would berate no-one for being pessimistic…One very bright women I know is very fulfilled by it. I do not tackle that aspect in discussions with her and it doesn’t seem to alter her moral judgments except to be more demanding on more fronts. That could well be taken for being morally superior to my lacksadaisical seeming content. I have low expectations and receive more frequent reward. The delta’s the thing.



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  • When it comes to crime and violence on a societal level, there are feelings about the state of affairs and then there are facts and data about the state of affairs. Many comments here express their feelings and disbelief about the statement made by Pinker in his book Better Angels, that our society and our world is a less violent, safer place than ever before.

    Commenters present feelings.

    Pinker presents facts.

    This is the very point that Pinker has made! We feel one way but the data points to a different conclusion!

    People who have expressed feelings and anguish over the state of our society really ought to read the damn book before bloviating about their dismay with the current level of violence and crime.

    Data rules!



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  • Dan,

    The comfort and satisfaction and feelings of (apparent) purpose that culture provides is something we may feel – but that is illusory.

    So, Mick, satisfaction, the homeostatic return to the slowly moving median wrought by a dopamine hit, isn’t satisfaction? Satisfaction simply doesn’t exist?

    Some bastard promised you heaven, didn’t they? You can be anything you want, honest, they said….

    So many abused Americans….



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  • I find happiness is a more sustainable state by having low standards more often achieved more often reset. I suspect those that live the Betterist life may be happier than Idealists…..at least, more frequently happy.

    Its a trick that works for me anyways….(not that we have any real choice in these matters.)



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  • Sorry, one more. I suspect my low Betterist standards come from being raised with the idea of science from as early as I can remember. Science like truth is never a destination but a journey, an adventure, with a zillion adding their little piece into the result so far. Its satisfactions are those of a relay race and involves mental athletes, those cheering them on, those investing in it, those training the young for their turn…. As my dad would have it, everyone helps whether they know it or not. Those who bring soup, those who build kitchens, grow parsnips.



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  • 99
    Pinball1970 says:

    @#90 Alan

    Yes I think I worked that much out.

    I was living about 3 miles from Manchester city centre in the 1970s and 80s so a shelter would not have been much use.

    The small matter of zero infrastructure, contaminated food and water and a nuclear winter, IF we were lucky enough to survive the initial blast damped my enthusiasm regarding bomb shelters.

    Better to be caught in Piccadilly in fact and be vaporised rather than slowly fried then obliterated on the outskirts.

    I refused to watch “Threads” too when it was on, that film summed up the general pessimistic feeling regarding the east and west at the time and their conflicting ideologies.

    Even the song “Russians” depressed the hell out of me, beautiful string arrangement but the words just inflamed my paranoia.

    Checked the dates 1984/85, ties right in.

    Are we any safer now than then?

    I feel safer but that is because I am nearing 50 and cannot afford to be scared of WW3 all the time!



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  • Laurie, Phil—

    I am tired of all these straw-men (said the hypocrite).

    Phil, Pinker is not an optimist? What is he then?

    I certainly am not fulminating about such philosophically trivial things as crime and violence perpetrated by humans today as compared to fifty or a million years ago. My point is about the nature of existence as a whole.

    Whether there is more or less violence now is completely irrelevant, and alters nothing. I am heistant to read statistics. Why is there less violence? Are we all becoming more humane? Give me a quick answer, and if it impresses me I will read the “smug, lizard-faced materialistic charlatan who smacks his lips every ten seconds.” Why can’t you read Schopenhauer, Laurie? Please? For me? LOL (o_O) Order Volume 2 of The World as Will and Representation (EFJ Payne tr), read it, and then maybe you’ll see why I have such skepticism about the importance of the proposition that we are “less violent.” This book will change your life!

    Feelings don’t matter? It’s the facts? Tell that to all the animals who are being slaughtered en masse every every day, and tell that to their prey. Imagine that you were born an insect or a fish or a hedgehog and had to guard against being eaten alive every moment of your brief life. Are we so different than they are?

    Phil, your point above, if I understand it, is the Stoic philosophy of reducing expectation and thereby suffering less. It is a fine philosophy, but a passionless one. And no one has responded to my challenge: there is no rational argument to support the claim that existence is preferable to non-existence. “We are her and must make the best of it.” That is a common response and is true. But it proves nothing. We are here. Yes.

    Dan the misanthrope



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  • Phil—

    So, Mick, satisfaction, the homeostatic return to the slowly moving median wrought by a dopamine hit, isn’t satisfaction? Satisfaction simply doesn’t exist? Some bastard promised you heaven, didn’t they? You can be anything you want, honest, they said…. So many abused Americans….

    I don’t understand this comment. And what is “Mick”? I am not Irish but I am offended.

    “Human life must be some kind of mistake. The truth of this will be sufficiently obvious if we only remember that man is a compound of needs and necessities hard to satisfy; and that even when they are satisfied, all he obtains is a state of painlessness, where nothing remains to him but abandonment to boredom. This is direct proof that existence has no real value in itself; for what is boredom but the feeling of the emptiness of life? If life—the craving for which is the very essence of our being—were possessed of any positive intrinsic value, there would be no such thing as boredom at all: mere existence would satisfy us in itself, and we should want for nothing.”



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  • Dan

    Give me a quick answer,

    A quick answer?!!!!

    It took Pinker 800+ pages to answer your two questions and the guy’s got to have 50 IQ points on me easily!!!
    Your challenge will go unmet I’m sad to say. Woe is me. I’m not up to the task. 🙁

    You know, I happen to have the book Better Angels here next to me on my couch, just so, and I think I’ll type out the titles and subtitles of two of my favorite chapters in the book, so as to prove that Pinker is right on top of addressing your two questions posed above and to serve as a direct temptation to you, the person who won’t read someone’s book because the author’s appearance isn’t to his liking. Seems odd actually…I care about what guys look like (for lecherous purposes) but why do you give a shit what he looks like?? Never mind. Just a fleeting thought of no consequence.

    Chapter 4 The Humanitarian Revolution 129

    Superstitious Killing: Human Sacrifice, Witchcraft, and Blood Libel

    Superstitious Killing: Violence Against Blasphemers, Heretics, and Apostates

    Cruel and Unusual Punishments

    Capital Punishment

    Slavery

    Despotism and Political Violence

    Major War

    Whence the Humanitarian Revolution?

    The Rise of Empathy and the Regard for Human Life

    The Republic of Letters and Enlightenment Humanism

    Civilization and Enlightenment

    Blood and Soil

    Chapter 7 The Rights Revolutions 378

    Civil Rights and the Decline of Lynching and Racial Pogroms

    Women’s Rights and the Decline of Rape and Battering

    Childrens’s Rights and the Decline of Infanticide, Spanking, Child Abuse, and Bullying

    Gay Rights, the Decline of Gay-Bashing, and the Decriminalization of Homosexuality

    Animal Rights and the Decline of Cruelty to Animals

    Whence the Rights Revolutions?

    From History to Psychology

    So there you have it. The outline in his book that shows you where he’s going with those two questions of yours. Chapter 7 will leave anyone optimistic about the future. Dan – we were kids and teens when those rights revolutions were in full swing! We’re so lucky to have lived in that time. I feel the benefits of these revolutions every day in my own life. So lucky.

    About the book by S. I thought it quite the bad omen that even the title of the book confused me. I went off in search of the book to be had in the form of a free donation to my ever growing library but with no success. It seems that my best deal out there is a kindle version for the risky price of $0.99 but I’m holding out for the results of a district wide library search. The district has volume one but not volume 2. Is that odd? I haven’t given up yet.

    You are prepared to help me slog through this book??? We will have to take it one sentence at a time – just a premonition I have based on the unfathomable title and the fact that through all of the discussions I’ve skimmed through with you and Phil et al., I understood nothing whatsoever. But I will attack the book with head held high despite my mediocre IQ and the fact that I’m a materialist, naturalism, nose to the spreadsheet type who believes that feelings are just a bunch of brain chemicals.

    I can do this!

    Here is the inspirational music that will play in the background when I open the book.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCqUESCoB1w

    P.S. I saw the picture of S on the cover of his book. He ain’t got nuttin on Pinker. Just sayin.

    Read that last line with a Boston accent as thick as pea soup.

    P.P.S. I believe in neither omens nor premonitions, just for the record.



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  • seems that Dan is implying that humans can only temporarily escape from a state of “nature red in claw” . Culture will fail and we must revert . Why? Why can’t culture go on transcending nature?



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  • Laurie,

    When I refer to “pessimism” I am not using the term in the popular sense. A thousand centuries of peace and equality will not alter my fundamental conviction that there is no rational, cold, objective argument to support the proposition that existence is preferable to non-existence.

    I certainly “prefer” existence, but that is entirely emotional, and I am a bit partial – as we all are.

    Don’t read Volume 1 first. Read that second, if you want to. Take it from me; I know a thing or two about S. (Too many references to his dissertation that he mistakenly assumed everyone will have read first.

    I will read Lizard-man. Then I will give you my more considered opinion.

    Here are two nice S. quotes, to whet your appetite. Later…er, dude. (Dudette?) (Remember: EFJ Payne translation!)

    “Treat a work of art like a prince. Let it speak to you first.”

    “The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively, not by the false appearance things present and which mislead into error, not directly by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by prejudice.”

    Here’s one from Barnes and Noble, used, for three bucks.
    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/world-as-will-and-representation-arthur-schopenhauer/1100177515/2674761475087



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  • hardy:

    Culture may not fail us, and I am not suggesting that we must return to a state of nature, in Hobbes’ sense. On the contrary. But culture – a most respectable institution, as Dickens would say – does mask. It is like a veil. The fundamental nature of existence is unalterable.

    This issue is highly complex. I can’t elaborate now. Too tired.

    I am not a strong pessimist. Sometimes I think Nietzsche had it right with his “great Yes to life.” But that affirmation is not based on reason.

    Btw, Thomas Hardy is one of my favorite writers, hardy.

    Laurie,

    Pinker is cuter than S? Okay. I’ll give him that.



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  • Dan

    Phil, Pinker is not an optimist? What is he then?

    I didn’t deny he might be. I simply don’t know. Please, please please pay attention to what I was complaining about. And the very particular words. I really, really mean what I say and nothing more

    “His is not a theory OF optimism.” In my copy at least…right here…he seems to be mostly correcting matters of fact. A specific snopes.com .

    My dad cured me of boredom age 7. Never bored since, except when having been ill but not yet well enough to concentrate. I truly think my kids are free of it also.

    But I repeat not pessimism nor boredom, anhedonia, ennui, nor existential angst. It is that you will simply curse so many on the planet who oppose you. You would wish them gone rather than face the truth that they are not to be dispensed with so easily, but must be accommodated and nurtured into a happier state. Your idea of the original sin of our animal selves is what marks you out as a misanthrope.

    Dan, Pinker’s hair IS scary. Like any self respecting child I found that Clowns are the scariest creatures ever. A red nose would do it…



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  • Laurie, Phil—

    Satisfaction does exist, but there is no lasting satisfaction; a new want always replaces it – and no satisfaction in merely being. Why does a child cry as soon as it is brought into this world? The pain of being.

    Laurie, it is twelve dollars. Not three. My “bad.” I have no idea why “my bad” is considered an acceptable expression. It must be tribalism that got me to use it. I am not completely immune to these impulses.

    Phil, I wish no one gone. Just Pinker, Haidt, Wittgenstein, all those damned neuroscientists, all the smug realists and optimists, everyone that thinks that there is a knowable thing-in-itself, people who think that animals are just like people, and, of course, all Republicans, and all —and I mean all – libertarians…. I am kidding, of course; but I shall seriously reflect upon what you wrote (above).



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  • Satisfaction does exist, but there is no lasting satisfaction; a new want always replaces it – and no satisfaction in merely being. Why does a child cry as soon as it is brought into this world? The pain of being.

    Wrong in so many ways. I hope that’s a quote from somebody, and not your own words.

    As for crying, I suppose because the ones that didn’t, didn’t survive. So we’ve all got it in us to complain, loudly, when conditions get worse (such as being evicted from the warm-and-cosy place of origin). And to shut up with a little cuddling and a taste of mother’s milk, see, it’s not so bad after all, and look, listen, so much new sensory input to integrate, so much to do, so amazing to BE in this new place.



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  • OHooligan,

    Hello.

    I saw the list. I would start with the essays Parerga and Paralipomena. (Two volumes.) If you don’t like those, you won’t like anything he ever wrote. (It’s not on the list. Those books I saw are bits and pieces from his published works.) If you can’t find the essays read WWR Volume 2. EFJ Payne translation. That can be read online.

    You can, presumably, find some of the others online.

    1813: On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason
    1816: On Vision and Colors
    1819 The World as Will and Representation [first edition, one volume]
    1836: On the Will in Nature
    1839: On Freedom of the Human Will
    1840: On the Basis of Morality
    1844: The World as Will and Representation) [second edition, two volumes]
    1851: Parerga and Paralipomena
    1859: The World as Will and Representation [third edition, two volumes]



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  • Correction: It’s called On the Freedom of the Will, not the Human Will.

    (I copied and pasted that list, which includes everything he wrote, as far as I know. I’ve read them all multiple times. Confession: I had a hard time w/ the work on color. I couldn’t get through it. You have to have a rudimentary understanding of the anatomy of the eye, which I don’t have. S, by the way, was very proud of that book, sent it to his idol Goethe, who he knew slightly. Goethe didn’t reply. S tried again to get a reply, and again; and then finally asked him if he wasn’t ill. Goethe than apologized and said he had been exceedingly busy. I forgot what he said he thought of the S’s work. I no longer have the book that goes into that relationship.)



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  • Dan,

    there is no lasting satisfaction

    Thank goodness. All that the brain discerns is in the contrast with the moving mean of recent experience. It is why we have poetry to last us a life. Read Solzhenitsyn, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Happiness for me is getting up everyday to make things better. The emotional batteries are recharged with periodic failure and sadness and death.

    everyone that thinks that there is a knowable thing-in-itself,

    Ah but the devil is in “knowing” as I keep trying to parse for you.

    people who think that animals are just like people

    They don’t. They think many of our traits are visible, if only modestly in animals. As this is addressed to me (?) you know I think we have some six super-added or super-sized capacities that set us apart (78).

    Jenny runs crying to mummy. Between sobs she asks, “Mummy, you know you said we evolved from selfish creatures into caring sharing people because that helped us survive? Well if we did that, why are there still Republicans?”

    Yet Republicans love their children too. We have to learn to live with them, address their formative fears, reduce the risks of producing too many or too extreme child Republicans. But one day, when the asteroid hits or whatever, and life finally matches their over-fearful mindset their particular skills (tribal loyalty etc. per Haidt) will pull us through.

    Libertarians are a more complex problem. They are a vector for sociopathy. Managing sociopathy is, if anything, a more pressing problem if only because in one sense Libertarians are smarter than Republicans.



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  • Phil(#118): Its the hair…

    Not just the hair, according to Dan:

    Dan(#100): …and if it impresses me I will read the “smug, lizard-faced materialistic charlatan who smacks his lips every ten seconds.”



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  • Phil,

    Feeling angry.

    I was just kidding, as I said. Of course we need to have compassion for those we disagree with. That, by the way, is a tall order, and is very Christian; but when I listen to the Republicans lie and evade and thereby mislead and do harm I contract painfully with annoyance that borders on fury. There is something to be said for exposing these people and in defeating them, overpowering them. with ideas, and we must call them out as the assholes that they are. Monsters love their kids. I am not entirely impressed with that, and life is more active than that. Republicans are not my friends. They are my enemies. They are all of our enemies. You don’t befriend a bully; you punch him in the nose, kick his ass, or try. Then maybe a friendship will develop.

    I just watched an interview with a Trump supporter, so keep that in mind. What a stubborn idiot.

    The Republicans are no different than libertarians; they all want to continue polluting for profit, and creating division, and lowering taxes for the rich, etc. They don’t give a shit about the downtrodden, and never have. Yes, they are victims themselves, but so are murderers.

    As for Pinker’s face; it’s fine; I was just kidding. I do sense arrogance, however.



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  • Cantaz

    Concerning his choice of neckties, on the other hand…

    Oh give him a break, he’s a Harvard Professor. You know about those Profs and their neckties…it’s a thing…

    😉



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  • Oh give him a break, he’s a Harvard Professor. You know about those Profs and their neckties…it’s a thing…

    Point taken, Laurie, but let’s make a comparison with another university professor, chosen completely randomly… say, Richard Dawkins; his ties possibly have some artistic value, whereas looking at the one Pinker is wearing in that picture is liable to give one seizures…



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  • Dan(#121): …I do sense arrogance, however.

    Academia overflows with arrogant people… as well as the corporate world, the “private sector”, the “public sector”, you name it…



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  • Phil,

    Voters in Jacksonville are voting for Trump because they “despise” Hillary, and think Trump is “better.” They are fishermen and connected to the military. They think Trump is strong on the military. They don’t like regulations.

    These people are just stupid!! And that is being exploited. There will be no more fishing if we continue to pollute the ocean. I have a close friend who is a professional fisherman. The fishing industry is in great peril. The fish are all sick. There is tremendous waste and carnage and disease. I know whereof I speak.

    How can you not feel HATRED? You are a more evolved man than I am.

    Cantaz,

    Yes, that is true.



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  • Dan,

    The Republicans are no different than libertarians;

    Hateful it seems.

    This is all way too simplistic for me. It is hopeless. This is a crayonned joint wanted poster when we need utterly different tactics for both.

    That the German people can turn to the dark side in a generation is encouraging. That towards the end of his life that monstrous abuser of his family and community, Fred Phelps can look out from his church and walk over to the to the guy manning the Rainbow building across the street in defiance of the WBC…of himself! They have a cup of tea and Fred calls the guy “A Good Man”. Fred is put in an institution and shunned for his pains.

    Abusers were once the abused. And whilst abusing, the once abused deserve to be countered in every possible way. Their attempt to deepen the hold over their children and others should be fought by every means. The non abusing, abused are a simple brute fact.

    Sorry…this is half finished and too tired to continue…



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  • @dan #113

    Not really an answer, Dan. I am willing to test-drive some of S’s writings, but not to hunt too much. I’ve found a page of links. I’ll just grab one and have a go, shall I? Or would you care to paste in a link to the item you think would be the best place to start, from what’s freely available. Not putting any investment into this other than a little time.

    BTW, suggesting I start with something titled “Parerga and Paralipomena” is a bit off-putting already, to put it mildly. WTF are those names supposed to mean? I’m thinking he’s maybe writing for an audience with a background in some classic stuff I’ve never heard of, therefore, not likely to make any sense to me, science and math background, not much literature and bugger all classics.



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  • Cantaz

    another university professor, chosen completely randomly… say, Richard Dawkins

    What a coincidence! That’s the exact same random sample that I had in mind to choose too!

    Great minds think alike 😉



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  • Phil (126), (Laurie),

    Hateful it seems.

    What is? The Republicans or me? Not clear. I assume you mean me.

    First of all, I am not being simplistic. Most Republican politicians today want what the Libertarians want. The Republican voters are a mixed bag; I will give you that. They are comprised of victimized morons, money-grubbers and bigots. Yes, I do hate people at times. I try not to. (Although hatred of lies and injustice is praiseworthy.) All men who hate are fools, as Melville said. But no great changes in the world would have been made in the world if the people who made changes were nice guys. That is why I like to stick pins in balloons.

    Fred Phelps? He redeemed himself by a meaningless gesture? Things can turn on a dime? Germany turned to the dark side in a generation? Who’s being simplistic? And why does that encourage you? What are you talking about? Germany wiped out an entire culture and would have continued; it was a plan of universal genocide. Phelps was a very sick man; loathsome and despicable.

    Abusers were once the abused. And the abused become the abusers. So? Would that have given you solace if you had been been born Jewish in Germany in, say, 1900, and you were with your wife and kids in a camp, and they were torn from you and killed right before your eyes? Easy to express your Pinkeresque good news in front of a computer screen in a comfortable home.

    Life, finally, is what we make of it. But your optimism, which is, ultimately, completely indefensible, and your love of humanity, sickens me at times, frankly. Are you a man of faith in spite of yourself? or deluded? I have been accused of being both: religious and deluded; so you are in good (or bad) company.

    You never say good or bad. There are no good or bad people or events in Rimmer Land. Your optimism and eternal patience, and religious-like faith, and inability to identify wickedness and, yes, evil, puzzles me. (And it’s not just about parenting.)

    What’ll it take to convince you that we live in a world and that there are people in this world who ARE NOT LIKE YOU AND ME? Look at ISIS (victims). And Nazis (victims). Try to imagine what it might have been like in a concentration camp. Look at Gaza.—The abused are now the abusers. They are still responsible!!

    Have you ever looked at photographs of soldiers and civilians from the Vietnam war? Are you encouraged by Vietnam because it didn’t last longer and because Vietnam has forgiven us and is no longer our enemy? .

    What are you saying? Rewrite this last one if you can. (I hope I didn’t come on too strong. I have faults and you’ve tried to help me. But you do too. I am trying to help you too.)

    Speaking of sleep….



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  • OHooligan,

    Glad to hear it. I took a look at the essays. I am, of course, familiar with them all. I think some are from the two volume work that I recommended and a few are from his chief work. Not sure. I don’t have my books with me. Skip the one on women. The one on physiognomy might not appeal to you either. I wasn’t crazy about it.



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  • Dan

    Hateful it seems.

    What is? The Republicans or me? Not clear. I assume you mean me.

    What? No! The attribute you suggest Republicans and Libertarians share.

    Our world is jam packed to the gunnels with hateful things and hate-able people. It is most often why we choose to do things. But it is a motivation we can all take as read entre nous here. But politics not terrorism is the means to a better future. We cannot act from hate, we must act from reason and evidence.

    Understanding our foe intimately (absenting genocide as a solution) is necessary, because one way or another we must still live with them.



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  • Dan,

    Sorry, 126 was going off the rails rapidly. I should have just deleted it. The point was going to be the instability and fickleness of psychopaths and their rapid effect on populations, but there was too much groundwork to lay down for my tired brain to marshal.

    You have certainly excelled yourself in strawmen this time. I recognise none of my opinions in comment 131.

    My whole point is about cultural variability and “manipulability”, its dire risks and its mirrored potential.

    Why you want me to hate and fear all over again, I don’t know? Lest I forget? (My absolute terror of the news and documentaries of an incomprehensibly stupid world when viewing it as a child in the late fifties and through the sixties was utterly formative. Holocaust, Hiroshima, Mutually Assured destruction, Napalm.) It has taken most of a life of learning to understand people from every possible angle, from being an actor playing Chaim Morderchai Rumkowski a half monster made in the shadow of the greatest monster of all, to an extended search of philosophy (yep) and research into psychology, literature and, late in the day, history. Now I feel I better understand why people become terrifying. I finally see what a remarkable thing culture is and how it may work its boons and harms. How little people think and think for themselves. How EVIL is the common term for psychopathic behaviour and the rich pastures the psychopath cultivates within cultures. Always and ever after this I have urged upon us to target the shaman and the psychopath parasite before anyone else. Ordinary folk are more alike than our psychopath exploiters would like us to think. You offer a reset and not a single new insight. I won’t take you up on your offer, made, it seems, in ignorance of my early life and its later journey.

    There is not the least reason why you should know this stuff about me.



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  • It seems the world has always been something of an awful mess, though if I had to guess, I would say the world today is a less violent one than the one even 100 years ago, let alone 500 or 1,000 years ago.

    Might not the constant 24/7, ever-present “news” stream to an ever-connected citizenry contribute to this feeling that so many of us have that the world is horrible and getting worse, when the reality might be entirely different?

    Carl Kruse



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  • Carl

    I attended the book signing for Better Angels a couple of times when Pinker was making his rounds. The questions at the end of his talk are interesting and revealing too. One woman said that she couldn’t believe that society was becoming more peaceful and less cruel because the level of public rudeness was, according to her, worse than ever.

    At the time of that book signing I had already read Better Angels and this woman’s comment made me slump down in my seat with despair. Pinker as usual kept his cool and smoothly explained to her that public rudeness was not worse than before and that his book was addressing brutal violence over many centuries of time.

    But your comment reminded me of this shortsighted woman when you mentioned the 24/7 media that shrieks on and on about every single bad action that happens in the entire New England region (for those of us near Boston) . After that, I thought, with all of the aggravating slings and arrows that we all have to dodge all day every day, and then come home and watch some hours of robberies, beatings, child abuse, rape, etc, on the news, I really can understand how someone hearing Pinker’s assertion could be flumoxed.

    The difference is that I guess most people don’t really know just how bad things really were 100, 500, and 1000 years ago and even worse when we look backward further than that. So their only frame of reference may be their own lifetime and the jerks who have annoyed them all day and then the despicable behavior that they see on their local news and then the localized slaughters and mayhem that is happening in other parts of the world where people live in daily misery.

    So I agree with you about the news cycle but our daily aggravations feed into the short sighted viewpoints. To be clear – I’m not indicating that YOU are shortsighted. On rereading I think that’s not clear!

    Pinker has an uphill battle with the bunch who don’t know much about human history and prehistory.



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  • 138
    Pinball1970 says:

    @#136

    I have a signed Steve Pinker book- got it from Oxfam in Manchester.

    Not read it yet. The language instinct? I will check when I get home.



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  • Carl, Laurie,

    There is a parallel trend that has been discussed here and that is the curious increase in the young of neurotic concerns. Swedish psychologists and educationalists have noticed an explosive increase amongst students of requests for medical help with things that previously were simply personal issues. Falling out with boyfriends now demands tablets to ease the unhappiness. US students are increasingly complaining about the distressing content of courses, the offensiveness of set books, about micro-aggressions that dis ease them. The Swedish psychologists coined a theory of “curling parenting”, children whose paths are polished smooth by protective parents and have never experienced any significant trial or tribulation.

    This, perhaps, is just the youthful manifestation of “first world problems”. Our emotional range it seems is on some kind of automatic gain control perhaps to make maximum use of our drive to improve our surroundings.

    All our mechanisms to handle dire deprivation and threat remain as psychological neurotic fossils. I suspect more time spent helping in third world countries will breed happier first world kids. (More compassionate, too!)



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  • Olgun,

    Thirty years ago I used to leave my ground floor flat window open in Muswell Hill. In the middle of the night, and quite without an invitation a strange woman climbed in. It turned out she was my future wife. Tinder be blowed…



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  • Phil,

    I am sorry. I was trying to make a point, and didn’t quite know how to say it.

    Laurie, Phil,

    The argument that “society” is getting more peaceful is meaningless and manipulative. It just doesn’t mean anything. On a deep, philosophical level, the argument is empty. Our brains are progressing forward, in a moral sense? Well if that is true than they could regress as well, under the right conditions, can’t they? My point: we are not heading in any one direction because we must. Nothing is pre-ordained. And the degree of violence is not the absolute mark of improvement, or purpose – necessary or otherwise.

    “More peaceful” might make you feel good, but it means absolutely nothing – although it may actually be true.

    Historians can argue about that until they are blue in the face and never arrive at a consensus.

    I’m sorry but that is the truth, as I see it. (And I am glad this book was informative, and that you enjoyed it.)

    News cycles are obviously insignificant. You have to have distance. You can’t make a judgment about life and existence one way or the other based on that. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool. And the insistence that wickedness (selfishness, indifference to suffering) is a symptom of psychopathology (abnormality), Phil, as opposed to people just being what they are (people) is an easy way out. And you cannot reason with unreason, as I have said before. We are reasonable. Others are not. (Snakes and spiders, birds, fish, that prey on their victims and hide from their own persecutors, are not either.) There is the rub.

    I do not disagree that Man is extraordinary. Our ingenuity and creativity is amazing. But culture is artifice, is it not? That doesn’t make it bad. But what I see as the philosopher’s task is to lift the veil and expose what IS. Not long ago, this earth was inhabited by monsters that we call dinosaurs. “Civilization,” as Willliam James, said “is founded upon the shambles.”

    I offer nothing new. But Pinker has. We should all be rejoicing now, I suppose.



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  • Laurie (#128)

    What a coincidence! That’s the exact same random sample that I had in mind to choose too!

    I can’t believe I didn’t get it when I read you first comment (#123)… my “theory of mind” module must have gone temporarily off line or something…



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  • Right now the sons of bitches (and their sisters) are shouting: Lock her up!! in NH at a Trump rally. Nothing new under the sun. Nothing changes. Not really. We are as bad as we’ve ever been.

    There will be good people and bad – until there is no more world. You cannot reason with passion.



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  • Dan

    The argument that “society” is getting more peaceful is meaningless

    Unless it tells us that our efforts to make a change are sometimes effective.

    Nothing is pre-ordained.

    Exactly! Most have wanted and worked for improvement. Few of the ordinary folk have wished and worked for the bad. Yet a society can turn to the dark side in less than a generation when hijacked by psychopaths. Democracy and education are like garlic to psychopaths…and not in a tasty way.

    And the insistence that wickedness (selfishness, indifference to suffering) is a symptom of psychopathology (abnormality), Phil, as opposed to people just being what they are (people) is an easy way out.

    Easy!? Psychopathology is as normal and naturally occurring as aspiedom or homosexuality. Some of our greatest achievers have been psychopaths. You haven’t been paying attention to my claim that our success is as a species is hinged on our use of neural diversity. Psychopaths built big robust states that incidentally brought peace to those in the middle away from troubled borders, like never before, and facilitated an intellectual birth. They are a bleeping problem now we have other drivers as a society and they have become insufficiently managed in some states, especially theocracies and insufficiently regulated markets.

    They are why wicked societies can be coloured in in blocks on a map.

    Still nothing to work with here



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  • Dan

    New Hampshire is a very weird state. I have deep sentimental roots in that place that go back several generations. Having spent nearly every summer of my life there I can tell you that the natives are a bunch of redneck, backwoods hicks. Most of them are lovable critters but when they get their backs up…run for your life! They love guns, pick-up trucks, drink like there’s no tomorrow and when they say “lock her up!” I’m pretty sure they mean in the woodshed outback. They hate taxes and welfare and i’ll just bet they are mostly a bunch of anarchists and libertarians. They do however, have a very high property tax rate, much higher than ours in MA, which is why I don’t own a vacation house in that state even though it’s natural beauty has charmed me my whole life.

    New Hampshire is the Texas of the north.

    It’s no place for a New York Atheist Jew, Dan. Do not go north of the MA border. Stick to the Berkshires my friend.

    A NH native will now appear here and accuse me of being a “masshole” So be it.



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  • Pinball

    I have a decent collection of signed books. I don’t know why I’m so fixated by this. It’s the thrill of the chase and I think that when the author has signed my book and the book sits with all of the other signed books on my special shelf then I own a piece of their souls. 😉

    I even have a strategy at the big book signings in Harvard Square (just a few miles away). I sit as close to the signing table as possible. As soon as the author sets their notes down on the podium when they finish speaking, I make a break for the signing table, having already collected my belongings in my hands – I never get to be first in line because apparently, i’m not the only nut who is competitive in getting their books signed. The worst sin is when someone in the line is holding ten of the authors previous books and oblivious to the evil glaring of others in the line.

    Can I tell you the author who’s signature I covet the most? Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Yes, I will stand in a very long line to get my books by her signed. sigh.



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  • I have a signed copy of the Bible, by the author…

    You charlatan!

    I have a copy of the bible signed by the authors – about 150 of them, and most signatures look like an ‘X’…



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  • Just on the point of comparing homicides with wars, and on why we draw a distinction.

    To quote or paraphrase Terry Pratchett, “some crimes are too big to be seen (as crimes)”.

    A neighbour kills his wife, and we call it homicide.

    A president lies and deceives the public and orders a country bombed on a false pretext, killing tens of thousands of strangers/foreigners, and we call it politics.

    There’s no difference in principle, the difference is purely pragmatic. i.e. it’s entirely practical to call the cops on the neighbour and see him brought to justice, whereas there are no cops you can call on a president and it’s highly unlikely that one could ever be brought to justice, whether it be for bombing a country or abusing executive power to cover up lesser crimes.



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  • Speaking of wars and international aggression, I see on CNN that there have been some incidents between American naval ships and some smaller Iranian naval boats. What’s going on here?



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  • Phil 144

    Psychopathology…

    Strawman. You can’t blame everything on pathology. (My own strawman on top of yours?) That implies that “there is good in everyone” as some Christians say, or that we are all basically good.



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  • Dan

    You can’t blame everything on pathology.

    Sigh.

    I “blame” most things on early enculturation. Do you remember anything of my descriptions of how cultures can happen? A few percent have a hardware “fault/quirk” at birth.

    So its a “hardware fault”, its upbringing/firmware, both mostly non retrievable or its a malign cultural pressure throughout later life which is possibly retrievable or its some evil joo joo. Do you have another, some heritable evil? Self preservation, perhaps? So far all you seem to have suggested is that some animals eat some other animals, hence evil human nature.

    Do you remember my account of the experiment comparing kids’ sense of fairness (for themselves or for others) when drawn from different communities?

    there is good in everyone.

    You’re right I never talk of good or bad in this kind of way. At most I talk of mutuality, co-operation and the lower components. Enough of your crude hand wavy religio-reductionism.

    As I’ve said before any science fiction writer knows the morality of a co-operative species will comport with the neural make-up and physiognomy of that species and the environmental pressures it evolved through and finds itself in.

    Are you of the illusion that there is an absolute morality independent of the creature and its environment? Is that what this is all about?

    psychopathology

    Is your disingenuous term seeking to generalise a much narrower statement from me about psychopaths.

    I would love it if you ctrl C ctrl V ed what I actually said more often.



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  • 154
    Pinball1970 says:

    @146 Luarie B Can I tell you the author who’s signature I covet the most? Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    We are on post 153 so I think mods will allow this

    Yes she is smart lady, I would like to see more of her in the UK.

    I think Lawrence Krauss too for me, I would like to see him speak.

    The thing that is special about Krauss is that he has made some great arguments for science as a measurement tool for morality.

    Dawkins has talked about this too, obvious stuff but still compelling and very difficult to argue against.

    If we know precisely how the world works then we can make better moral judgments about moral behavior in it.

    More philosophy in that statement than all the……well other stuff I have read!

    I have to tread carefully Phil and Dan may pounce!



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  • Pinball

    I saw Krauss speak at the Reason Rally just recently. Then he went out wandering in the crowd talking to us common folk! I thought that was very nice. I’m sorry to say I haven’t read any of his books yet. I’m a little afraid of physics – true confession.

    Interesting you bring up science as a measurement tool for morality. I’m currently rereading Moral Landscape by Harris because my science book discussion group meets next Tuesday and that’s our book.

    Don’t worry about being pounced upon. I find it to be valuable and I’ve changed my mind plenty of times because of it. It doesn’t have to be a negative experience. I’ve been pounced upon countless times and most of the time it was fun. 😉



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  • 156
    Pinball1970 says:

    @155 Laurie (if I can spell it this time)

    I have not read any books by Sam Harris just articles so far.

    A great speaker, calm, lucid, articulate and describes the brain in simple language, not easy to do.

    Being pounced on by Dan would involve Schopenhauer so I tend to observe those conversations from a distance.

    For Krauss “A universe from nothing” is a good one.

    It has technical parts but nothing toooo difficult…relatively speaking, the implications though are VERY deep! Mind blowing in fact, Einstein stuff.

    All great Laurie.



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  • Being pounced on by Dan would involve Schopenhauer…

    That was amusing, Pinball. I often watch (read) bemused as Dan and Phil swordfight philosophically over, well, philosophy. And as Laurie implied, I often learn something. I’ve certainly read more philosophy, in the form of excerpts or quotes at least, than I ever have before. For what it’s worth.



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  • ‘Krauss for POUS

    Sounds good to me!

    No more effing prayer breakfasts. Decisions made rationally! Science in the limelight.

    Geek sneakers for the inauguration – oh yes. I like where this is going.



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  • My point, Phil, – write or wrong – was that pathology or the absence of pathology cannot adequately account for human indifference to suffering or enjoyment of suffering (a somewhat more insidious form of cruelty), or for goodness of heart, respectively.

    Pathology, or psychopathy or psychopathology (I made no distinction), implies that under “normal” or favorable conditions we’d all be kind or good or fair. I have a more realistic and more pessimistic conception of the human character, and, yes, it is bound up with the observation that Nature, if you consider it from the inside, is antagonism and suffering through and through; and this is its permanent condition.

    I will say this: Man is the most moral creature on earth, as some of us – perhaps many of us – can transcend, to varying degrees, the essential egotism bound up with the animal organism, and identify with the suffering of our fellows and with animals. He is also the most immoral; his intellect brings with it motives unknown to the self-enclosed animals who are driven solely by survival-related motives. (The nature experts will differ with this characterization, but the rule remains.)

    Accidents of birth (injury, faults – whatever you choose to call them), and indoctrination, I reject for the same reason that I dismiss pathology as an explanation.

    As for morality itself, I cannot defend this, so it resembles a religious argument; but be that as it may, I would contend that the moral character (an inner disposition of our willing nature) is in us from the get-go. The antagonism that exists between man and man is the same antagonism that exists in nature itself. One and the same element.

    “The question has been asked what two men would do each of whom had grown up quite alone in the wilderness and who met each other for the first time. Hobbes, Pufendorf, and Rousseau have given opposite answers. Pufendorf believed they would affectionately greet each other; Hobbes on the other hand, thought they would be hostile, whilst Rousseau considered that they would pass each other by in silence. All three are both right and wrong; for precisely here the immeasurable difference of the inborn moral disposition of individuals would appear in so clear a light that we should have, as it were, its rule and measure. For there are those in whom the sight of man stirs feelings of hostility in that their innermost being exclaims “not-I”. And there are others in whom that sight at once arouses feelings of friendly interest and sympathy; their true nature exclaims “I once more!”. There are innumerable degrees between the two.”
    —Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena II, On Ethics



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  • ‘Krauss for POUS’, seriously.

    Oh, please, no.

    Let him do what he’s good at – doing science and write popular books on it.

    To be a successful politician one needs a completely different set of ‘skills’…



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  • Dan

    pathology or the absence of pathology cannot adequately account for human indifference to suffering or enjoyment of suffering (a somewhat more insidious form of cruelty), or for goodness of heart, respectively.

    And I proposed that the bulk of the differences between us was enculturation. I also asked if you remembered the experiment on children from various cultures attitudes to fairness. Do you? (We’ll go through your post a stage at a time.) I think we are closing on the problem



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  • Cantaz

    You’re right of course. I was momentarily distracted by images of Trump as President. Compared to him, Krauss comes off looking like the second coming of Christ. White robes, fanfare and geek sneakers. We could do worse you know.

    Actually, Pinker himself would get my vote.



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  • LaurieB

    actually, I was referring more to Bonnie2’s ‘seriously’ part of her comment rather than your comment (which I did perceive to be humorously intended).

    Concerning Krauss (or nearly anybody else, for that matter) being a better choice than the drumpf, I could hardly agree with you more on that.

    Careful on voicing your Pinker preference, though; you might get Dan started on demolishing his epistemic foundations again… just kiddin’, of course…



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  • @Phil (166)

    Hi,

    I don’t remember the experiment or the specific post. I do remember commenting on this issue a number of times. What thread was it? (Free Will?)

    I do not doubt, have never doubted, that culture and environment influences are huge factors. That is what makes this “nature/nurture” issue so difficult.

    I would argue that a good person can be taught to regard unfairness as normal. But a bad person can never be taught to feel a sense of justice, or compassion.



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  • I don’t know, Phil. But I suspect that the inability to identify with the pain of others is inborn. Perhaps it is hereditary.
    How do good people happen?
    I refuse to believe that anyone can be made good.
    Martin Luther King was born to be who he was. I know this to be true, even if I cannot prove it. (Laugh if you must.) Whether it was genetic or not is another question. I am, as you know, skeptical when it comes to the notion of genetic causes of compassion, or the lack thereof. Sociopathy is considered genetic, but is the genetic component a correlate or a cause, or both? (I apologize for my ignorant questions.)
    I cannot give you the evidence you require. I cannot, at this time, really answer your question.
    When I can I surely will – assuming we are both in touch with each other.
    Same goes for my statement, made on the BS thread, that idealism has far-reaching implications.
    You asked me to say what they are. I have not yet done so, although I have intimated certain things.
    Hint: the two: morality, and idealism – which implies that we can never know what we are in ourselves –are interconnected.
    Experiment: look inward and reflect upon your own character. Can you really imagine that you are capable of, say, going to an old and loyal friend’s house, killing him, and stealing his money? (In Dante’s Inferno, that is the worst crime.) Now assume that you were to live a thousand years, were to remain unmolested by any form of “enculturation”, and that your brain and the rest of you were to remain the same as it is now. Doesn’t it really seem to be the case that no conceivable motive (short of a threat that forced you to choose the lesser of two evils) could ever compel you to do that? Doesn’t it really seem that there is something about your own character, in this moral sense, that is permanent and unalterable?
    And this no straw-man, although it may appear like one at first glance.



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  • Dan,

    I refuse to believe that anyone can be made good.

    Me too, but I believe that most babies, iff (if and only if) given treatment like thus and so by good, loving, rich enough parents, can have happy lives and contribute positively to our mutual adventuring. I think most can be judged kindly at their deaths. Most will be judged altruistic, often thinking of others first.

    Sociopathy is genetic like some other empathy defecits but these (depending on genetic “dosage”, one parent or two, and recent epigenetic contibutions) are better seen as risk factors, to which there are triggers which may precipitate the condition with greater severity or at least with early enough positive inputs deliver a “house trained heartless” psycho.

    How do good people happen?

    Culturally built upon a brain astonishingly equipped amongst other animals for mutuality. This was in my very first post you saw in Sept 2015 #78 and reproduced in this thread.

    The experiment on kids attitudes to fairness, showed kids from all cultures had a well developed sense of fairness when they themselves were treated unfairly, and most had a strong sense on unfairness on behalf of others when they themselves were treated better than another. But those from deprived and impoverished cultures took the unfair advantage more often. Knowing great privation may lead to many epigenetic and neural defecits (remeber the Romanian orphans and the dire effects of early cortisol on brain development?). But very early cultural/indoctrination experiences may count even more. Mothers may actively train their children to take care of themselves first, in a fickle and dangerous world, a self serving motherly “kindess” if ever there was one. Kindness ultimately breeds kindness. In the population spread we may well see stand out philanthropy. Small variations of kindness and concern may thus amplify in pre-socialist societies.



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  • Dan 160 again

    Accidents of birth (injury, faults – whatever you choose to call them), and indoctrination, I reject for the same reason that I dismiss pathology as an explanation.

    I don’t recognise what your saying here unless it is a misunderstanding. This has nothing whatsoever to do with “slings and arrows”. We have lived most of our (species’) existence on the edge of extinction. The uncooperative nature of nature, with famines and droughts and pestilence and the resultant internecine wars from desperation, trampled again and again the early shoots of a beneficial mutuality beyond kin and immediate as-if-kin.



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  • Pinball1970 #172
    Aug 27, 2016 at 5:34 am

    The problem with ancient philosophy is that a few profound objective perceptions and rational thoughts, are mixed with much long-refuted junk and confused thinking which science dumped long ago!

    I prefer to start with the science based investigations which have used to modern technology to provide evidence on which to build testable views.
    Rambling over ancient misconceptions has novelty value, just like looking at the psychology, and social interactions behind creationism, but wallowing in ancient muddled thinking, is to me a waste of time, when there is so much new information coming from the frontiers of human knowledge.

    Philosophy is much more productive of clarity, when it concentrates on observations and deductions which have been confirmed by science, rather than dwelling on those which have been debunked, refuted or are framed in terms which are too vague to have a meaningful answer.

    Investigating and producing hypotheses and theories about unknowns, has historically been included in the philosophy of the ancients, but scientific methodology, has long replaced navel gazing, and back references to “authoritative” speculations from ignorance in the writings of the famous, as a basis for this activity.



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  • 174
    Pinball1970 says:

    @173
    I like the early scientific parts, they were pretty much the same thing in those days but I think I posted before that if those sorts of people were around today would be scientists and mathematicians not philosophers.



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  • Alan

    It is more nuanced than this-

    Investigating and producing hypotheses and theories about unknowns, has historically been included in the philosophy of the ancients, but scientific methodology, has long replaced navel gazing,

    Philosopher Karl Popper put the (latest) cherry on top of the slowly developed scientific method with two things First scientific hypotheses are only those that are negatable and that negation is the only certainty, and second, the great scientific leaps come from hypotheses of often ludicrous unknowns, made up metaphysics (there is no other), that become atoms, fields, quarks or mere phlogiston and the crystaline spheres of the heavens, respectively physics and failed physics.

    What most oftem marks out failed philosophy is the Ockhammed simplicity of its metaphysics, its key concepts and vocabulary, rooted in ancient semantics suitable for the hopeful faces around the camp fire.



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  • 176
    Pinball1970 says:

    @173
    I think it was was Paul Dirac, when talking about poetry, that said, “scientists try to describe very difficult concepts using as simple language as possible.
    Poets describe the simplest of concepts using as complicated language as possible.”

    I feel a little like that about philosophy.



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  • 177
    Pinball1970 says:

    @Dan and Phil

    Good example, “good” and “bad,” good and bad people.

    Firstly I would say there is no definitive good and bad no objective good and bad.

    Good in terms of genes is a body surviving to pass them on, that is only criterion.

    Bad is dying before that happens.

    Good individual good in a society a pack, good for the country the planet.

    It would take me ten posts just to state a position!

    Most of those subjective.



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  • Pin

    Have you read Graham Farmelo’s biography of Dirac, The Strangest Man? Its wonderful.

    I must say though I still disagree with him in the quote. Mathematicians (maths being the foundation of his mindset) see slightly differently from physicists. They most often laud simplicity.

    Philosophy too often takes over-simple and insufficient elements and over works them (with great complexity) in an effort to create the external complexity of human existence and interactions. Neuoropsychology observes great complexity of substrate elements but needs to explain the seeming simplicity of our experiences. The best poets evoke. Their truth or not is in their success or not.

    Good and bad are entirely the types of terms terms I am targetting. As you know I also target “Know” and will often diss “Will”.



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  • 179
    Pinball1970 says:

    @phil

    Yes I loved that book. I read it because I had read so many anecdotes by other physicists that I had to read to how he came to be like he was.

    His father sounded like one of those archetypal Victorian disciplinarians. making the speak french only at the table, no wonder he didnt talk much after that.

    One of favorite stories was regarding the “dirac” which is the smallest unit of words one can use to stay in a conversation! I am not sure that is in the book though.

    His reaction to the news of Einsteins death moved me, you sort of got the gist of what he held dear what he valued.

    “Neuoropsychology observes great complexity of substrate elements but needs to explain the seeming simplicity of our experiences.”

    Well I will dip in and out of your conversations with Dan if I think I can add to it somehow.

    My view will be simplistic though, it tends to be biological if it does not fit there I struggle a bit!

    I will leave you to it Phil, bank holiday and all. Cheers.



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  • phil rimmer #175
    Aug 27, 2016 at 6:36 am

    Philosopher Karl Popper put the (latest) cherry on top of the slowly developed scientific method with two things First scientific hypotheses are only those that are negatable and that negation is the only certainty,

    Indeed so;- There is more deep understanding in the antikythera machine than the words of a multitude of ancient sooth-sayers and theologians.

    and second, the great scientific leaps come from hypotheses of often ludicrous unknowns,

    That works a bit like evolution and natural selection:-

    After all the wild random explorations and speculations, a host of ideas fail and we have found this this one which works!!!



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  • Phil (#178)

    Neuropsychology observes great complexity of substrate elements but needs to explain the seeming simplicity of our experiences.

    A key adjective here is “seeming”.

    Speaking a bit loosely, I guess the simplicity of many of our psychological experiences can be, at least in part, attributed (albeit not explained) to the their past evolutionary success. Fear or anger feel simple, direct, to the point. One does not want to waste precious time and attentional resources having highly complex psychological experiences while being chased by a saber-toothed tiger in the savanna.

    Neuropsychology (and the whole of Neuroscience, for that matter) face a problem of a very tall order indeed in trying to explain how psychological experiences somehow “emerge from” physical processes happening in an exceedingly complex physical system.

    The mind/brain problem is tricky indeed.



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  • @OP – Every week, sometimes every day, seems to bring more stomach-turning news. In June, there was the Orlando nightclub shooting, where dozens were killed and injured in the deadliest terror attack in the US since 9/11. Then came July’s blood-soaked Bastille Day in Nice, when a terrorist drove a truck over holiday revelers, killing 84 people, including 10 children.

    In contrast to the armchair observations of the world “falling apart at a distance” via media reports, for some people the world around them is literally falling apart!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37192452

    Italy has declared a state of emergency in the regions worst hit by Wednesday’s earthquake as hopes of finding more survivors fade.
    Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has pledged €50m (£42m) in funds for rebuilding.

    At least 268 people are now known to have died and 400 were injured. Teams have continued to search the rubble of toppled buildings for a second night.

    However, hundreds of aftershocks have hampered the efforts of the 5,000 rescuers.

    Another magnitude-4.7 tremor struck early on Friday.

    In addition to the funds, Mr Renzi cancelled taxes for residents and announced a new initiative, “Italian Homes”, to tackle criticism over shoddy construction.

    But he also said that it was “absurd” to think that Italy could build completely quake-proof buildings.

    It follows criticism in the Italian press over building standards in high-risk areas. Some of the buildings that collapsed had recently been renovated.

    Historic towns do not have to conform to anti-quake building regulations, which are also often not applied when new buildings are put up.

    The 6.2-magnitude quake hit in the early hours of Wednesday, 100km (65 miles) north-east of Rome in mountainous central Italy.

    The worst affected towns – Amatrice, Arquata, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto – are usually sparsely populated but have been swelled by tourists visiting for summer, making estimates for the precise number missing difficult.

    More than 200 people died in Amatrice alone.



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  • Cantaz, thanks for this. I’ll be back to you later on that. (There are two issues here, “The Hard Problem” and the self delusion of the Post hoc Narrator that tidies our experience into that construct of a singularly cognising and intentioned actor.)

    Now I just want to post this-

    https://news.uchicago.edu/article/2015/11/05/religious-upbringing-associated-less-altruism-study-finds

    Religion correlated with lower altruism and higher punitive tendencies (the two sides of the same coin).

    As Creflo Dollar has it…don’t give it to them, give it to us and save your soul…

    Recognising that religion is the perfect mind-virus, most assiduously cultivated by people-manipulating exploiters, we can perhaps understand why they falsely insist the world is doomed. Every advertiser knows that they are in the business of selling problems first.



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  • Pinball1970 (18), Phil, (Bonnie)—

    You get rid of Good and Bad people and there isn’t much hope for any of us. All that is left is what is useful, or not, etc. Then we’ll have genocide. It”ll be rational. Kill all mental defectives No objective good? What about a judgment that has subjective validity and one supported by consensus, if not virtual universal acceptance? Is not the command “be just” such a judgment? People are too objective to use the words now, and soon these ideas will belong to a different time. The judgment “this is good” or “this is just” are human judgments based on simple human decency, and requires some kind of standard or system of values. We can lose this so easily.

    Anything can be called Good or Bad, and therefore it means nothing, I suppose. And in the future it will be known that the great dictators of the past were right to exterminate their “political enemies” and the “mentally defective”, that some people are genetically inferior and deserved to be enslaved. This is “Good” for society. And everything we think is just and good will be proven to be the opposite or different. So let’s not value anything, or delude ourselves into thinking that we need to hold on to our own ideas of goodness. Nothing means anything. And as Phil said, we can’t know anything., and we have no will either. Reason is our new God.

    Remember the Twilight Zone episode, Bonnie? “You are obsolete!”

    In this context, good meant morally good. That I define as the degree to which one is capable of sympathy. That, in this context, is what I meant by (morally) good.

    @174

    “Accidents of birth (injury, faults – whatever you choose to call them), and indoctrination, I reject for the same reason that I dismiss pathology as an explanation.”

    As I said, I don’t think that fair-minded people are just those who were fortunate enough to escape indoctrination or deprivation or impoverishment, as you say. Nor is a bad character produced by indoctrination, deprivation, impoverishment, etc.

    I will say this again: I would argue that a good person can be taught to regard unfairness as normal. But a bad person can never be taught to feel a sense of justice, or compassion.

    You then asked what badness is. I replied to the best of my ability at that moment with my usual oblique allusions, intimations, to a metaphysical substratum, and you replied with your usual medically or physiologically and culturally oriented analysis.

    P.S. (# 172) “Doesn’t it really seem that there is something about your own character, in this moral sense, that is permanent and unalterable?”

    Corrected sentence: Doesn’t it really seem as though there is something about your own character, in this moral sense, that is permanent and unalterable?



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  • The judgment “this is good” or “this is just” are human judgments based on simple human decency, and requires some kind of standard or system of values. We can lose this so easily.

    Good and bad and just are personal judgements. We each know exactly what we mean. This will never be lost

    As I said, I don’t think that fair-minded people are just those who were fortunate enough to escape indoctrination or deprivation or impoverishment, as you say. Nor is a bad character produced by indoctrination, deprivation, impoverishment, etc.

    As over-imitation and the power of culture tells us, everyone is indoctrinated as a child. Evidence for your assertion would be good here.

    I will say this again: I would argue that a good person can be taught to regard unfairness as normal. But a bad person can never be taught to feel a sense of justice, or compassion.

    This excludes psychopathy? Some examples or evidence or, well, anything here would be good here too.

    You then asked what badness is.

    Who did?



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  • Phil—

    My comment above (188) was sloppy. In the second paragraph I employed sarcasm.

    My point: everyone and anyone can say what they think Good or Bad is; that does not mean that we should be hesitant to form our own notions and defend them and maintain them.

    Good and Bad, Just, Unjust, etc.,— Like all concepts and valuations, they can be used in an infinite variety of ways; but that is no reason to abandon these necessary judgments.

    Without them, all is lost. Better to live and contend with the different and nefarious uses and differences of opinion than relinquish our own convictions in regard to these fundamental judgments and values.

    (Not sure if that was any clearer.)

    By “lost” I did not mean that we will cease to understand what we mean; I meant that what I consider to be indispensable moral-cultural judgments such as: Good and Just will have no impact on the decisions and actions of the state, and individuals, while they’ll continue to use the words, will be unable to use them in protest. It is like the concept, the principle of: “rights”; a most perishable thing.

    How do bad people happen?

    That was your question. I stand corrected.

    Yes, a normal and “good” (compassionate) person can be taught that unfairness is good. So he will engage in unfair behaviors, while at the same time, believing he is doing good. It is even conceivable that a good person could be taught that goodness itself is bad (or a sign of weakness, etc.) (I am not trying to be funny when I say “good is bad.”) So when he engages in cruelty he will inwardly regard this as “good.” Yes!

    I am not interested in psychopathy, as it obfuscates; and the process of indoctrination that I am discussing has nothing to do with psychopathy; it is about indoctrination.

    We are all indoctrinated to a large extent, yes. But you cannot alter a man’s character Read my quote again, please. (Bottom of comment 163.)

    As for evidence, I told you already: I have no evidence right now to support my thesis that the character is an inborn moral disposition, a continuous and unalterable disposition of the will, a will that responds to motives presented through the medium of knowledge. You have no evidence that the character is acquired solely through culture and is a product of indoctrination, do you?

    So why then do I believe in the innate character if I have no evidence? For one thing, I am an anti-materialist, a convinced transcendental idealist, and cannot abandon the idea of an unknowable entity that unites all of nature. Nor can I abandon the idea of an intelligible character. Sympathy is a mystery and cannot be explained. I will leave you with that dogmatic and most unsatisfactory assertion. (Tired.)

    Here’s something Otto Weininger wrote. Are you familiar with him? An astonishing young man. A Jewish anti-semite. He committed suicide at age twenty-three in 1904 in the room that his idol Beethoven died in seventy-six years earlier. He wrote a book called Sex and Character. A lot of hate and nonsense in there, and a lot of wisdom and profundity. (Talent and Memory is one of the greatest essays ever written.) Strindberg sent a wreath to his funeral.

    “That which enables man to have a real relation to truth and which removes his temptation to lie, must be something independent of all time, something absolutely unchangeable, which as faithfully reproduces the old as if it were new, because it is permanent itself; it can only be that source in which all discrete experiences unite and which creates from the first a continuous existence. It is what produces the feeling of responsibility which oppresses all men, young and old, as to their actions, which makes them know that they are responsible, which leads to the phenomena of repentance and consciousness of sin, which calls to account before an eternal and ever present self things that are long past, its judgment being subtler and more comprehensive than that of any court of law or of the laws of society, and which is exerted by the individual himself quite independently of all social codes (so condemning the moral psychology which would derive morality from the social life of man).”

    I hope you’re well.

    Talk to you soon.



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  • Schopenhauer.

    “Die Welt als Wille”. (I could read him in the original, being an English / German dual native speaker).

    Will determines all proceedings in the organic AND ANORGANIC nature.

    I only have a two-word comment:

    Anthropocentric arrogance.

    I would also say very 19th century, but I don’t really like sweeping statements like that. Plato’s “theory of forms” still raises its discredited head occasionally, after 2500 years. Other thoughts of a similar age have NOT been improved on in the intervening time.

    That we are only able to perceive a fraction of what occurs around us (and even less consciously), seems to be fairly clear by now. Much of what we see / hear / experience otherwise is created by that most powerful virtual reality generator known, the (undamaged) human brain; adjusted by observations of changes in the external world. Similar VR generators can be assumed to exits in various levels of complexity in all other brains. (Never mind those pathetic little toys the IT world is trying to fob off on us currently, those goggles.)

    There is thus much we do not perceive, much we may never be able to perceive. Well, that’s just our incurable imperfection, the world’s existence does not depend on our perception, let alone will. Will implies consciousness of some sorts, so considering what astronomers tell us, the universe has existed for about 13 billion years without any will. And shall likely exist unknown billions of years after the will best known to us has most likely caused its own destruction.



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  • Hi, GrumpyKraut,

    Please go to The True Meaning of Bullshit Thread. That is my default thread for discussions of Schopenhauer and many other topics. BS is a big umbrella.



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  • 190
    Pinball1970 says:

    @#185

    Is it immoral to kill?

    Does that make one a bad person?

    I can think of a circumstances where killing could be deemed good or just

    1/Someone attacking your family

    2/Killing in a war (against ISIS?)

    3/Helping a loved one to die – assisted suicide for a terminally ill patient.

    Even killing has its grey areas, so there are many more of those areas in lesser crimes or deeds.

    What’s good in a relationship? Simply staying with the person no matter what?

    Letting someone have their own way? Keep them happy? Is that honest?

    It is not as cut and dry as bad acts and good deeds.

    We have laws and follow them which makes us good citizens for that place and that time but that’s it.



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  • Dan,

    I have a serious problem navigating through this site.
    When you mentioned “The True Meaning of Bullshit” thread above, I was (for whatever reason) able to find it and post there.

    I have since then found that by clicking on my user-name on the right side, I find all posts I have made since I joined here. With what I supposed to be a link to the relevant threads, being “https://www.richarddawkins.net/?p=377833” for “The True Meaning of BS”, I tried to link there yesterday. But if I click on this link, I end up in the “root” section of RDFRS. What the f*ck is wrong here? Why do links not function?? Searching in the “News” segment and in subsegments is also not very enlightening, especially as I find what seems to me to be a rather large overlap between the subsegments. And I have for the life of me not been able to find “TTMoBS” for at least a couple of days. Is there something far more extensive than the apparently five-comment section “Latest Comments”? As dating goes in (sub-)segments, as I call them above, goes, apparently the first post (from, just for sake of argument, 2013) determines its position in the relevant list – so to find something from 2013, you have to do an awful lot of scrolling – even if the latest COMMENT in the thread is only a minute ago.
    Some original posts get few to no comments, for whatever reasons. Let them die and sink down in rankings far below original posts which are the odd (or even) year old, but have heavy posting traffic.

    (Sorry if I appear to be a chronic nagger – but I have the feeling that this vaguely duplicates similar idiocy within my company – I get itchy when having (occasionally, not always!) suffered from brain-deadness at work, I then get the impression that a site that I searched for and have all-in-all found uplifting, also has such frustrating technical issues).

    Granted, I am anything but the duplicate of a “fundamentalist revival meeting” cheerleader for the Internet.
    Been here just under three years. But I’ve had experience with earlier incarnation for about twenty years. Maybe you can help me get convinced that things have gotten better since then. But it ain’t gonna be easy! Well, maybe, if I’m very lucky – it will be easy? sigh



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  • Re: Tech issues / Trump / Pinker

    GK,

    What I do to find an old thread is go to the magnifying glass on the top-right corner of the screen. I put in the first word of the thread (True), and then you’ll see it. Click on and you’re there. The only problem with that is you have to remember the first word or a key word.

    I too have had my share of technical issues. My comments are not saved. Only some. And I cannot edit during the ten minute time period. It gets deleted if I do. If I make a mistake I have to copy, delete comment, paste and edit. I do this multiple times.

    Never contact tech support. They do not appear to exist.

    This might improve down the road. It’s still the best site on the web as far as I am concerned. And the Mods are top-notch.

    What do you think of Pinker, GK? I’d be interested in your opinion, if you have one.

    Did you hear the führer speech about immigration and the one he gave to the American Legion? Nativism and nationalism. Awful. The Goebbels channel is gleeful, as are the reporters on MSNBC (a left-leaning channel). They seem soulless, like they don’t give a shit about anything except ratings and their cushy jobs. Maddow, Mathews, and O’Donnell and some of the others do have their moments, but these reporters are actually helping Trump, giving him massive, free publicity round the clock.

    I hope you’re well.

    Dan



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  • Phil (#90, #91 Trump/Psychiatry thread),

    “Given the facts, I am optimistic/pessimistic…

    Is a reasonable statement.” I agree.

    That is why I distinguish between philosophical pessimism and this use (above) of the word.

    As a personality trait or tool, optimism is not objectionable to me either (glass half full, we’ll get through this, etc.).

    I would describe Philosophical pessimism (and let’s forget about Pinker for a moment) as a principle, based on nothing but false premises, that the world is a good place and that we are moving inexorably toward something better, being guided by something, toward something final – an end of some kind. That’s Hegel-style charlatanism dressed up as pseudo science. There is no end, are no guarantees, and the world is what we make of it in each given epoch…

    The fact of evolution is irrelevant in this context and proves nothing.

    “Climate denial when the weather is…”

    Not at all. There is no evidence to affirm or deny. Is Pinker saying that we must necessarily get better? And what does “better” mean? I am not saying that we must necessarily get worse. Pessimism is like atheism: the onus is on others to prove that optimism as a principle can be defended by reasoned argument or evidence. First it must be defined. You will see that such an attempt in itself is absurd.



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  • (Continued from Psychiatric thread)

    Phil—

    “We make purpose where and when we can.”

    I am not talking about my life or my purpose; I am talking about all lives, a collective purpose of living – of which there is none.

    “You desperately need religion.”

    It is because I have no religion, and no illusions, that I can see clearly at times.

    “Freedom evolves.”

    Clarity and depression is the price one pays for mental freedom.



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  • Dan

    I am talking about all lives

    We adventure together. Even aspie I feel that. Our culture formed by linking the most complex things we know to exist in the universe (brains) has become the most potent machine for movement and discovery we know to exist in the universe. We didn’t just eat our own brains like the sea squirt becoming sessile, or the Republican, but grew and shared them.

    What makes our illusions (?) different? Is it that I am very happy even to be a mammal? The mammalian lifestyle of play and cuddles never ceases to delight, even if that is increasingly nostalgic. Or is it finding a personal purpose that you think may be contributing to the greater mutual adventuring, feeling a little that you are working for others? Certainly happy faces are sweeter contemplation (even when you can’t identify them) than your own navel. Or is it banishing boredom? Professor Fred Soddy cured thousands including H.G.Wells and my Dad, who in turn, bannished mine. My kids have never claimed boredom. (My son on the phone last night with 90 minutes of Heidegger and Bachelard. My daughter the day before needing two cars to carry her personal library to Uni.)

    I do though spend about half my time being seriously unhappy. I think thats what the above costs. Maybe its about what we choose to introspect over?



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  • “Mother” Teresa

    foe.

    Faith fueled her misery and feeling of abandonment by God. She passed it on. Thought you were saved huh? Well no pain killers for you, my dear. No adequate medical treatment. Yep, you get tied to the bed, kiddy. Welcome to God’s way, Suffering, and not in that Rimmerian yin yang random/pick your own way. Inflicted misery until the humility sticks.



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  • 198 (From Phil)

    Very nice comments. I like what you said at the end: “I spend half my life feeling seriously unhappy.” Somehow it is comforting to know that one is not alone, that that’s “okay” – a necessity, or a price one pays for being conscious, sober, human.

    Getting in touch with that pain can be highly useful, is in fact indispensable for some. Growth forward is always painful.

    One must be able to enjoy one’s suffering, one’s anxiety and unhappiness, if you know what I mean. If you can’t learn from it it’s fruitless, a form of torture. (I forgot who it was who said that his suffering was all he had; if he were to lose that he’d be driven to despair.)

    (I met a Hungarian physicist who told me about his aspie friend, now in his eighties, who made a fortune figuring things out. Forgot the guy’s name. He helped law enforcement figure out who did what and how and also helped people with marketing products. Simple solutions, like how to display merchandise properly, had eluded the salespeople. Much more. A jack of all trades who could build a house with no instruction. “No feelings”, however. I doubt that.)

    Mother Theresa. (She’s uglier than Socrates but had no wisdom. Ba da bum!) She’s being canonized. Why are we still doing this? I look forward to reading Hitchens’ book at some point.

    Heidegger? Ugh



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  • We meet!

    Hurrah!

    Unhappiness

    Perhaps enjoy is the wrong term. Accept it perhaps and worry if its not there. (If its not there you may be anhedonic or even Danish…You may be missing the highs.)

    Some of the most creative, some of the most motivated, have this emotional range cranked up to eleven.



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  • Olgun #205
    Sep 4, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    Here’s someone else who thought suffering is important.

    She is obviously a saint – at least by Vatican standards of delusional “morality”!

    She glorified suffering, promoted poverty by opposing contraception and abortion, and raised money for the church by offering support and forgiveness (for offences against other people) to evil murdering dictators, and thieving criminals, in the style of the church’s long-standing historical mutual support of “faithfull” tyrannical kings and robber barons!

    In return the church, its sheeples and its “liars for Jesus”, promoted a totally false glorified delusionists’ PR image of her, which bore no resemblance to her actual evil character or activities.

    Those who research evidence can point out the information you link, but they will be publicly howled down by the mutitudinous chorus of deluded sheeples, who are being spoon-fed and imprinted with the delusionists’ fictitious versions of saintly history which they have been trained since childhood to uncritically accept!



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  • Phil

    I do though spend about half my time being seriously unhappy. I think thats what the above costs. Maybe its about what we choose to introspect over?

    Dan

    Very nice comments. I like what you said at the end: “I spend half my life feeling seriously unhappy.” Somehow it is comforting to know that one is not alone, that that’s “okay” – a necessity, or a price one pays for being conscious, sober, human.

    Half your lives spent feeling seriously unhappy?!! Shit, that’s way too high a percentage. With those numbers you will now surrender your labels – Pangloss and Pollyanna.

    I think I’m unhappy about five percent of the time and that is caused by various assorted lunatics and shitheads that inflict their toxic stupidity on me and others I care about. There is also the occasional catastrophic shocking grief that must be expected from time to time.

    When left to my own devices I’m perfectly content to putter along through life, grateful for another day still alive and kicking. This attitude is a direct result of having lived in the third world where life is fragile. I’m lucky to be alive and I never lose sight of that. It’s tough to be unhappy with this at the front of my mind.



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  • I must say I’m slightly surprised that the American news channels are mentioning that there are critics of Mother Theresa who accuse her of running a cult of suffering. I thought we’d be in for days of pandering to the deluded masses. The film footage of the Vatican square packed to the gills with ranting drooling zombie worshipers…you gotta hand it to them though, they know how to put on a show.



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  • Laurie,

    Unhappiness. Perhaps I have overstated this but negativity is there for half of my time with frequent horrid negative chasms.

    These are occasions when no answers are coming out the old noggin but worse no tractable problems are being found either. This is hard for me. There are always occasional respites, my kids delight me, they’ve just about stopped growing but seem more than ever to be growing up. Nature, the sky in the morning, remains gobsmacking. My memories sweeten even now. But when the old brain seems fallow and I’m unhappy, then is the time for input, books articles, papers get consumed voraciously. At the very least it fills a void and crowds out that useless unrewarded feeling. But perhaps more importantly it becomes grain and grist for a mind mill running on empty.

    This isn’t anhedonia or depression (I don’t think. I am liftable at any instant, however briefly.) But it is a feeling of utter worthlessness and waste.

    Looking at the broken radio, before Obama asked the question, before Bob the Builder, my Dad asked ten year old me rhetorically “Can we fix it?”

    A tractable problem. Fantastic!

    This is the purest pleasure for me. Its a high high that, perhaps, makes not fixing radios seem abysmal.

    I may be a dopamine junky.



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  • From the Friendly Atheist comments section in the Teresa thread

    “Twice on two separate occasions I met dedicated missionaries. They told me terrible things about Mother Theresa. She said she couldn’t care less about feeding the hungry children & turned away food donations; saying her mission was to comfort the dying.
    This she allowed hungry children to die.”

    http://www.srai.org/mother-teresa-where-are-her-millions/

    Indeed, her thrill seems the thrill only of deathbed conversion. Perhaps a sort of contrived human sacrifice to sweeten the deal with any possible god regarding your own inevitable demise.



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  • …her mission was to comfort the dying.

    So, she didn’t care much about curing the terminally ill when she was alive, but now that she’s dead, pope frankie & Co. claim that she’s cured people with cancer who placed a picture of her on them.

    No wonder we atheists have difficulty in communicating with theists about the meaning of the term “evidence”…



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  • @bonnie2 #192 “view conversation” link: Bullseye! Guess I got distracted by the red script of the title of the thread. Need to try out the odd link – perhaps especially if it is a bit inconspicuous! – to get the hang of things. Thank you very much!

    @Dan #193 “magnifying glass on the top-right corner of the screen”: also worked fine. Of course that means I need to “remember the first word or a key word”. Vaguely remember someone (on a thread I can’t remember offhand) apparently trying to give good advice with “Take notes, or whatever.” OK. Won’t be paper and manual writing thingy, most likely. Word files or the like should be better. Anyway.

    “What do you think of Pinker, GK? I’d be interested in your opinion, if you have one.”
    Having only read the article being the origin of this thread, I would have to confess that I do not have an opinion, having read far too little about him.
    As for the statistics, I’m going to guess that they’re probably right, globally. Small to no comfort for people living in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, northern Nigeria etc. But even at a more regional or local level, people’s perceptions are awfully skewered.

    Even in the US in 2001, the risks of dying from a whole lot of causes besides terrorists were massively higher than the risk from terrorists.

    Terrorists: 3,000
    Homicide: 21,400
    Suicide: 32,600
    Riding in car: 46,100
    Flu / pneumonia: 66,700

    So if you looked in the mirror in 2001, you were statistically looking at who would kill you with the ten-fold likelihood compared to any terrorist. And that was 2001.

    I forget where I read it, but as intuitive statisticians, we really stink (and lots of insects and other creatures are better than we are).
    Chance of your lottery ticket winning is one to several (tens) of millions? Well, I’m gonna be the lucky one! (Right; so why am I still working???)
    Chance of getting lung cancer if you smoke is one in five (20%)? Nah, g’way, I’m gonna be in the 80%.

    Skewered perceptions are, as far as I can see, very much influenced by skewered news reporting.
    And there is one aspect derived from natural selection which pushes our attention in this direction.
    Better be safe than sorry fits the bill, ’cause if you’re the meal (losing your life) in the Life/Meal equation, you want to pay special attention.
    In news terms, one inhabitant of a city falling prey to a homicide is news. 99,999 inhabitants not falling prey to a homicide ain’t.

    And who is interested in scaring people? As far as US presidents are concerned, there were only two really dangerous ones. FDR said in his radio speech following Pearl Harbor “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!” The first president to violate one of the central tenets of non-authoritarian politics, do not promote panic and / or hyteria, was “Tricky Dick” Richard Nixon. Mostly had to do with the Vietnam war and the macho thing about “not being the first US president to loose a war”. It also crippled his predecessor Lyndon Baines Johnson, who might otherwise have been considered next to FDR as the greatest president of the 20th century.

    Then we come to a very ugly presidency. Dubya. Even worse, Cheney (really “Dirty” Dick when compared to Nixon), Rumsfeld, Ashcroft – and often even worse fanatics in the second, third, fourth, whatever tier – being German and having done historical reading, I started worrying that the US was entering a late Weimar Republic phase, and who the Hitler could be. Thankfully (with plenty of dubious decisions) eight years of Barack Obama intervened. With Duhnald receiving mind-bending levels of support, I’m wondering if the US can avoid Germany’s 1933 drop into the lowest dregs of the cesspits.

    Possibly, due to the individualistic nature of those that think regularly, forming a united front against authoritarian – not to put too fine a point on it, fascist – scum – mindless mobs may be difficult to oppose with appropriate numbers of thinking opponents. Whatever may have happened during the Democratic primaries, and for Democratic sensibilities of Bernie Sanders supporters offensive – forget it!!! Some of you may have screwed up Al Gore’s chances to beat Dubya with a brain-dead support of Ralph Nader (who was brain-dead in insisting on running) (meaning – think of this very hard! NO Dubya!). To put in bluntly: with Duhnald running for office, there is only one sensible course of action: flood the voting booths and make Duhnald’s defeat as least a crushing as LBJ’s crushing of Barry Goldwater.



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  • GK, others—

    I thought I put it well when I said: Less violent death is generally to be preferred to more. But you can have a society with zero violence that is a hundred times worse than a society with many violent deaths. And vice-versa.

    In other words, the degree of violence is no way to judge a society as Better or Worse. You can have law and order (fascism) and zero violence; and you can have a society where there is a lot of violence but more life, more creativity, more freedom. I suspect that Pinker is a very shallow thinker who has amassed a lot of knowledge. He has a quantitative mind and is a manipulator. That is my gut feeling.

    I am furious with the media coverage of the election. MSNBC is a disgrace. It is infuriating. Sanders spoke today (Sept 5), as did Tim Kaine. No coverage! Instead they showed Trump being greeted in Ohio by an adoring crowd. All about Trump. They are actively campaigning for Trump. The phony assholes on MSNBC are calling him “Whitmanesque” right now. Hillary gave a speech too. They had a reporter there who talked over the whole thing! You reap what you sow.

    The guy who wrote this hit the nail on the head:

    “Cable news coverage can’t be taken seriously by the voters because they have so completely sold themselves out to Donald Trump. The cable news networks were sending the visual message that Donald Trump’s empty podium was more important that Hillary Clinton’s speech. The constant drumbeat of unending Trump chatter tells voters that Donald Trump is the “newsworthy” candidate.

    “It is a sorry statement about the condition of our corporate owned national press that the media decision makers feel that Donald Trump’s empty podium has more news value that the likely Democratic nominee. Donald Trump is a perfect fit for cable news. Trump knows how to generate headlines while offering nothing of substance.”

    PoliticsUSA

    Here’s the article. It’s short but true.

    http://www.politicususa.com/2016/05/26/msnbc-cnn-fox-news-ignore-hillary-clinton-speech-show-trumps-empty-podium.html



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  • Dan

    I suspect that Pinker is a very shallow thinker who has amassed a lot of knowledge. He has a quantitative mind and is a manipulator.

    John Gray “Straw Dogs”. You’ll love it.



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  • Dan

    In other words, the degree of violence is no way to judge a society as Better or Worse.

    FFS. Strawman yet again.

    Violence is a measure of violence. Other parameters measure other things. The prospect of violence, though, is the biggest political stick wielded and the one most lied about.

    Recognise the tools of your political foes. Like this you are the enemy.

    I can bear this no longer



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  • Phil!

    So what is Pinker’s frigging point then? What is the point!!! He proves that we are less violent now. Who gives a shit?

    I won’t bash Pinker anymore (which will be easy; I have no interest in him.) Promise. I see I have caused you considerable vexation. Sorry.

    Straw Dogs. Great movie. (Not the remake)



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  • Cont.

    “In How the Mind Works (518–519) and The Blank Slate (166–169, 320, 330–336), I presented several kinds of evidence that violence had declined over time. Then in 2007, through a quirky chain of events, I was contacted by scholars in a number of fields who informed me there was far more evidence for a decline in violence than I had realized. Their data convinced me that the decline of violence deserved a book of its own.” —Pinker

    Why? Tell me why this deserved a book, Phil.



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  • Re: suffering

    Here is a marvelous quote. The author is Oscar Wilde, one of the finest and most able writers of all times. It is from his great work De Profundis:

    “Behind Joy and Laughter there may be a temperament, coarse, hard and callous. But behind Sorrow there is always Sorrow. Pain, unlike Pleasure, wears no mask.”

    Schopenhauer said the same thing although he presented it differently: all pleasure, he said, is negative, the absence of pain; pain, however, is positive.



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  • Dan

    Who gives a shit?

    Anyone eager to reduce the lying and manipulative influence of the right and the religious.

    “Behind Joy there may be a temperament, coarse, hard and callous. But behind Sorrow there is always Sorrow. Pain, unlike Joy, wears no mask.”

    now made honest. Not so convincing.

    A trite, bait and switch and alliterative self pitying trick. Laughter and pleasure indeed!

    Two men who never did know love, only infatuation and one a polite affection. We are as unmanned and made pregnable by Joy as by Sorrow.

    And as if self pity was not a thing!



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  • phil rimmer #210
    Sep 5, 2016 at 8:40 am

    From the Friendly Atheist comments section in the Teresa thread

    “Twice on two separate occasions I met dedicated missionaries. They told me terrible things about Mother Theresa. She said she couldn’t care less about feeding the hungry children & turned away food donations; saying her mission was to comfort the dying.

    She was given a Nobel Peace Prize!?

    I have to wonder about Catholic “faith-thinkers” in high places or as “witnesses” to her activities!

    Perhaps this event may relate to this strange happening!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37286980

    Two judges have been asked to leave a panel that picks the Nobel prize for medicine in a scandal surrounding a disgraced Italian transplant surgeon.

    The decision to drop Harriet Wallberg and Anders Hamsten came after the Swedish government sacked the entire board of the prestigious Karolinska Institute, where the scientist worked.

    The two judges who lost their positions on the Nobel panel have both served as heads of the Karolinska Institute, and were among several individuals suspected of ignoring warnings about the Italian windpipe scientist. The 50-member Nobel panel is due to announce the winner of the annual prize next month.

    “Scandal is the right word,” higher education minister Helene Hellmark Knutsson said on Monday.

    “People have been harmed because of the actions of the Karolinska Institute and also the Karolinska University Hospital.”

    Paolo Macchiarini was hired in 2010, two years after he was part of a team that carried out the first windpipe transplant partly made of the patient’s stem cells. In 2011 he was hailed for leading a team that carried out the first synthetic organ transplant.

    But he lost his job earlier this year after a TV documentary by Swedish broadcaster SVT showed footage of operations he carried out in Russia which the Karolinska Institute itself described as “truly alarming”.

    Prosecutors in Sweden said in June they were investigating the stem cell surgeon on suspicion of two cases of involuntary manslaughter at Swedish hospitals in 2011 and 2012.

    Other reports have alleged that he gave false information on his resume.



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  • I’ll try again. I was at the book shop and was leafing through Angels. Not for me, I thought.

    Straw Dogs. How likely is it that the contents of a book will be original if the author can’t come up with an original title? (Pekinpah’s screenplay and title for the 1971 film. He got the title from the Tao Te Ching.—Fair game; like The Rolling Stones.)

    Pleasure as the negation of pain: much harder to adequately present a (perhaps imperfect) concept with one sentence than it is to reject one. It wasn’t an aphorism; it was a fully developed, and quite respectable, thesis.



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  • Two more from that lord of letters, who I consider a philosopher of sorts, and who is not so easily pinned down.

    Sympathy with joy intensifies the sum of sympathy in the world, sympathy with pain does not really diminish the amount of pain.

    Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes. Moralists had, as a rule, regarded it as a mode of warning, had claimed for it a certain ethical efficacy in the formation of character, had praised it as something that taught us what to follow and showed us what to avoid. But there was no motive power in experience. It was as little of an active cause as conscience itself. All that it really demonstrated was that our future would be the same as our past, and that the sin we had done once, and with loathing, we would do many times, and with joy.

    Oscar Wilde



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  • Straw Dogs. How likely is it that the contents of a book will be
    original if the author can’t come up with an original title?
    (Pekinpah’s screenplay and title for the 1971 film. He got the title
    from the Tao Te Ching.—Fair game; like The Rolling Stones.)

    come on dan
    your irishman of letters
    de profundis?
    princeps?
    don’t judge a book by its title?



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  • de pro·fun·dis
    noun
    a heartfelt cry of appeal expressing one’s deepest feelings of sorrow or anguish.

    That’s exactly what his letter from Reading Gaol prison was.

    You’re right, though. One mustn’t form a definitive judgment about a book by its title. I kind of did that with Pinker too (although I did read some interviews and excerpts). Shame on me.



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  • @dan 233

    I kind of did that with Pinker too (although I did read some
    interviews and excerpts).

    me too
    but i like the look/sound of straw dogs (original or not)
    even though i don’t see eye to eye with phil rimmer on cars
    his book recommends are always top gear



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  • @Dan#215
    “But you can have a society with zero violence that is a hundred times worse than a society with many violent deaths.”
    There has never been a society with zero violence. Zero officially reported violence, possibly. But even those “societies” need Orwellian doublespeak to mask what is state violence as – what were the diverse terms? – “self-criticism”, “re-education”, the flagrant misuse of “mental hospitals”; and make sure the places where the really gruesome stuff was taking place are far away from home.

    And as for terrorist attacks in the US: what takes No. 2 spot behind 9/11? Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995, with 168 murdered. Duhnald lost a voter when Timothy McVeigh was justifiably executed on June 11, 2001 (6/11, sorta). Is anybody saying anything about these kinds of maniacs? Columbine, its predecessors and successors and “cousins”? That the NRA with it’s psychotic stance (read the ENTIRE Second Amendment!) is unindicted accomplice to a number of firearms murders far exceeding the US deaths in the Vietnam War, possibly even WWII? (OK, that incomplete Second Amendment and NRA business is a second issue where I think a rather large portion of the US population have a delusion …)



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  • Gk,

    Hi. How are you?

    Of course there has never been zero violence. I was making a point. My point was that a society with less violence is not necessarily better than a society with more. I preferred Manhattan in the 70s. More violence, more crime; but I’d rather feel more alive than more safe. (Too much violence and crime is bad, and is an indication of inequality; but you know what I mean, right?)

    “State violence.” Good point.

    I am more opposed to violence of the state than to individual violence.



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  • 237
    Olgun says:

    but I’d rather feel more alive than more safe

    Never understood or will ever agree with that statement. Take up sky diving and stop living off other peoples misery if you are keen for that sort of a buzz.



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  • Olgun

    I didn’t mean it like that. Less crime under what conditions? Fascist countries don’t tolerate crime. Less violence in itself is not to be preferred. Pinker’s Straw-man?

    I’d rather have a little crime (a symptom) and some individual violence (at times a good thing) than tanks on the streets. I’d rather have an American Renaissance with more creativity and ideas and a bit more violence than a totalitarian wasteland with no crime.

    Don’t you know me well enough by now to read me better than that?



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  • 239
    Olgun says:

    I was not sure Dan. You do seem to fly blind at times 😉 but it was more the statement itself that I reacted to. It is right up there with “People will have to accept me for who I am”. Rubbish! If you are being a shit then they do not have to accept anything of the sort.

    Less crime under what conditions?

    The question is being pointlessly complicated.



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  • @Dan#236

    (Dodgy sleep has been keeping me rather grumpy – otherwise I might have chosen a different user-name)

    “I preferred Manhattan in the 70s.”
    My experience with Manhattan as a kid to teenager was about 1967 to 1976. Never lived there, though, that was Queens and Long Island. Did have summer jobs in the garment district on seventh – or was it tenth? – avenue downtown in 1973 and 1974. Guess it’s like most places, there are better-not-go-there zones and places where it’s OK, especially if you know your way around there – and I probably considered myself to be a New Yorker by that time.

    “My point was that a society with less violence is not necessarily better than a society with more.”
    Off the cuff, I would give an educated guess that the Scandinavian countries, the Benelux countries (perhaps minus Belgium by now), Switzerland and perhaps Austria are all less violent than the rest of Europe, never mind the US, and in their cases I’m pretty certain they are better. Compared to the US, you could add several other countries, and I would definitely include my home country of Germany.

    State violence, and then “private sector” violence. Violence noticed by the public (the mass media “love” it, because spectacular stuff leads to spectacular ratings respectively circulation), and hidden violence. You can make a two-by-two matrix of that.

    But there is also a difference which has decided effects: violence as shown in reliable statistics, and perceived violence. And the latter can be seriously skewered by a media with a mission to keep people running scared. You can feed scared people so much Baloney Slices that they’re putty in your (probably) fascist hands. Perception is reality. Control what influences perception, and you’re home free as Big Brother, even if a sneaky one hiding in the shadows.

    I just remembered a saying, I have no idea who said it (a dim suspicion goes towards Abraham Lincoln, or perhaps more likely one of the Founding Fathers (the mums were never quoted) of the US):
    “You can fool some of the people all of the time.
    You can fool all of the people some of the time.
    But you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

    Who gives a flying [expletive of your choice] about the third line? The first line is all that matters in a demagogue-haunted “democracy!”



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  • GK,

    Definitely Lincoln, who should have added: you can fool too many of the people too much of the time.

    I was born in Manhattan. Manhattan in he 70s: you had to be more careful. You wouldn’t go to times square at three in the morning. Now you can. Everything’s lit up. People around always. My point: you had the muggers and the drug peddlers, prostitutes and pimps – but with that you had an exciting, colorful city. You felt alive. There were all kinds of freaks and weirdos and political discussions and debates (in Washington Square park, for example) and so much going on. Now there is none of that. The eccentrics, the individualists, musicians, have all but disappeared along with the bad stuff – the dirt and the danger. Now you have ugly corporate buildings, a cloud of depression over everything, a white sky, ubiquitous stores: Duane Reade and Starbucks. Banal but true. It seems as though a cleaner, safer society is at the expense of the very life of the city. This might not always be true. And I don’t want to be robbed or mugged. But it’s something to think about.

    The coverage of Clinton has been troublesome. Trump is getting non-stop coverage. People are starting to get upset. It’s about the corporate owned networks and their advertisers and profits. The reporters are a bunch of little worms following orders. Not just the Goebbels channel. The other two are horrendous, really a disgrace.

    One of many articles now coming out just like it:

    http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/media-lies-about-hillary-clinton#.V9BNDK6lPvs.email



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  • Dan,

    That all sounds very much like what David Brock wrote about in his 2004 book (mine seems to be a reprint with an added 2005 afterword): “The Republican Noise Machine – Right-wing Media And How It Corrupts Democracy.” And two books from 2003, one by Joe Conason, the other by Al Franken “sporting” the word “Lies” in the title. And chapters in more than a handful of others. Short summary: The Right are a cess-pit of pathological liars. But they and their loudspeakers – Limbaugh, the Goebbels Channel, Washington Times (a Moonie outfit), New York Post, Ann Coulter et. al. – have been getting away with it. And from what I gather about our so-called “social media” here in Germany – the anti-social, lying mental diarrhea set seem to dominate by the equivalent of screaming their lungs out – the supposed corrective through the Internet ain’t happenin’.

    Do the dittoheads really think that one of them, Duhnald, should become president? I wouldn’t vote for him for dog-catcher, to use a comment I remember from my time in the US.

    That he has grabbed so much attention, starting with the Republican primaries, is that he spouts outrageous crap. Ratings, circulation, profit – he’s a dream on all counts for a media no longer even remotely fulfilling their former function as the “fourth estate.” Michael Moore once commented, must have been during the run-up to the 2004 elections, “one Evil Empire down, one more to go.” And he was only, as I now say in retrospect, talking about Dubya. Duhnald belongs in a mental institution, in the lock-up part of it – and not just for running for president. Why he has not been committed to such an institution for his obvious danger to the general public is beyond me. But by that scale, the US would need more asylum space than it now has criminals in jails (the two institutions shade into one another to quite a degree).

    Or, a spontaneous thought:
    Duhnald wants to build a wall along the border to Mexico. Well, don’t just stop there! There’s an even longer border to Canada, and of course the even longer shores to diverse oceans, seas and gulfs. After you’ve finished all of these walls, just slap a roof on them. Gives you the (to use an old-fashioned term) largest insane asylum in the world.



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