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Something To Get Good and Riled About - The Cover Story
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Tue, May. 31st, 2005 06:42 pm
Something To Get Good and Riled About

A panel of fifteen policy makers and professors have released the list of the Top Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Century for public review. The list has an ever-so-slight conservative bent to it, but surprisingly, although Karl and Adolf make the list, Charley doesn't pop up in the top ten (although he gets two runners up).

Current Mood: amused amused

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rgfgompei
rgfgompei
Rachael
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 12:53 am (UTC)

Granted I'm going entirely on a 1 paragraph blurb here but I just can't see what's so harmful about some of these, and Darwin? come on people.


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bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 05:07 am (UTC)

With the exception of 7 (The Feminine Mystique), I can see a political, social, or theological basis for each of the selections given heavily conservative and Christian-based viewpoint. Certainly, the first three are site directly as causes of major global conflicts (The Cold War, World War II, and the Korean War, specifically). The Kinsey Report is under attack for the same reason Michael Jackson's defense lawyers are getting evidence against him thrown out. Democracy & Education endorses a secularized educational system that potentially compromises basic morality at all levels. Anybody who believes in Capitalism lock, stock, and barrel has to be opposed to Das Kapital, as it predicts capitalism will evolve into socialism. The Course of Postive Philosophy is, along with the following entry, an attempt to explain away relgion as a social phenomeon, which directly implies the non-existence of God, which a lot of people don't like one little bit. Beyond Good and Evil provides a very ugly and self-consistent view of religion that potentially makes any system of autocracy valid, again, flying in the face of any Republic or Democracy. Finally, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money does indeed call for government meddling in private sectors -- although the statement made regarding FDR is grossly misleading almost to the point of lying.

That's probably how those 9 got on the list. I don't want to touch that last one, given my audience.


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rgfgompei
rgfgompei
Rachael
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 05:45 am (UTC)

It was democracy and education that I was confused about. It seems to support schools that teach students information and thinking skills and leaves morals to family, church, etc. Problem? I like how it mentions "helped nurture the CLinton generation." I never had a problem with the Clinton generation.


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petercooperjr
petercooperjr
Peter Cooper Jr.
Fri, Jun. 3rd, 2005 12:21 am (UTC)

I think that it general it's just that the books inspired some "bad things", at least in the opinion of the judges. (And they do explain who the judges are and that it was a purely subjective decision on their part.)

As to Darwin, his book was the inspiration for many bad things. Hitler got the idea that there was an optimal race, and that it was their job to kill the inferior races in order to ensure their race's survial.

Kent Hovind's The Dangers of Evolution seminar makes an argument that the theory of evolution is the root cause for just about everything that's ever gone wrong since Darwin's book came out, including communism, ethnic cleaning, and increased sexual immorality. While I think he's got some good points, even I think that he may be attributing too much to this one factor. If anyone would like to see it, I'd be happy to let you borrow the DVD or you can download the audio.


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ultimatepsi
ultimatepsi
Kate Nineteen
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 01:05 am (UTC)

I'd say that's more than a slightly conservative bent, judging by some of the descriptions.


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bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:45 am (UTC)

I was in a generous mood. In all fairness, I suspect that many people (not me, necessarily), would agree Mein Kampf had a negative impact on world culture. Many people who survived the Cold War would claim that the Communist Manifesto was worse, but then, I suspect there are at least as many people out there damning Adam Smith as there are damning Karl Marx.


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ultimatepsi
ultimatepsi
Kate Nineteen
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 12:01 pm (UTC)

I can certainly see how the first three would make sense. It was after that the conservative bent started becoming real apparent.


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noble_resonance
noble_resonance
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 01:17 am (UTC)
Not Sure how to respond

I'm not sure how to take the list, some of the books on the list I can see, but the Kinsey report? Many of the comments seem just a little too absolute for me to take it seriously.

If this a joke I think I just missed it.


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bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:55 am (UTC)
Re: Not Sure how to respond

No, no joke. The Kinsey Report has been a very contraversial document since its publication with, it must be said, some good reason. The released paper was rather easy to misinterpret, which opponents of the "Sexual Revolution" were quick to jump on. It was a statement of facts that some people felt were inappropriate to research, constituted an invasion of privacy, and so on. Even when reported as mere observations, it rendered humans as a sexual creature from birth, instead of starting at puberty. There always has been, and still is, a strong social taboo on the concept of children's sexuality, and anything that implied, even second or third degree, that children had sexual needs or desires before puberty was bordering on criminal. Once you cross over into the realm of discussing the sexuality of young boys, you're going to be interrogated and investigated to Hell and back no matter what you do.


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mikecap
mikecap
Mike Caprio
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 01:28 am (UTC)

It is a damn shame that the term "conservative" has become such a broad catch-all for any and all thinking that is reactionary or religious. It's not right to label fanatics and throwbacks something as innocuous as "conservative".


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bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:43 am (UTC)

Perhaps. There is definitely a line of logic to it, though -- fanatacism is the logical extreme of any line of political though, and the logical extreme of conservatism, by its very nature, is to cling to the way things have been traditionally done. Traditionally, there has been a strong presence of religiously-based morality in our culture, so it makes sense that people who really believe in conservatism would gravitate to that.


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jalawingedone
jalawingedone
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 02:21 am (UTC)

I consider myself of conservative, but I have some issues with this list. Keynes? Come on. Please don't judge all of us by the actions of some. Or rather, me by the actions of most. I'm of the opinion that a certain amount of threshing must take place with all information, and I'm also quite averse to throwing babies out with bathwater.


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bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:41 am (UTC)
Huh?

I get the general impression you are upset from this post, but I'm having difficultly divining what argument you are trying to make. By "us" do you mean the body of people who consider themselves conservative? Some other collective? Although I appreciate your use of metaphor, your second sentence is totally opaque to me -- I can translate it as "I'm of the opinion that a certain amount of discussing/examination must take place with all information (a tenuous position to take), and I'm also adverse to discounting an entire category (I can only assume you mean conservatism) by citing a single example". Is that what you meant?


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jalawingedone
jalawingedone
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 10:44 am (UTC)
Re: Huh?

By "us" I did indeed mean those people who consider themselves conservative. But then I refocused on my reaction to this.

What I meant with those metaphors that even though those books had potential for problems, and some of them actually had caused problems, to decry them as harmful and impose a sort of taboo on them is almsot just as dangerous. Such things should be read with care, but not avoided. Which I realize now is not necesarily what the list is trying to do, but it is a possibility that the result could be thus for many people.

I get a bit edgy whenever something like this comes up in discussion. Because I am conservative, half of me wants to prove that I have a more open mind then many held up as examples of conservatism. And half of me wants to defend those views I personally hold, and try to show that it's not a completely uncomprehendible position to hold when coming from a certain background. And when I'm put on edge, I have more of a problem portraying what I actually believe in. I have noticed a tendancy to slip into metaphors. Thank you for calling it to my attention here.


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bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 12:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

By "us" I did indeed mean those people who consider themselves conservative. But then I refocused on my reaction to this.

Acknowledged. Thank you for clarifying.

What I meant with those metaphors that even though those books had potential for problems, and some of them actually had caused problems, to decry them as harmful and impose a sort of taboo on them is almsot just as dangerous.

I would tend to agree with that statement. To quote the distinguished gentleman from Rhode Island, "Well, in all my years I ain't never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about."

Such things should be read with care, but not avoided. Which I realize now is not necesarily what the list is trying to do, but it is a possibility that the result could be thus for many people.

OK, you lost me again. "possibility that the result could be thus" is beyond my parser's limited ability to deal with implicit pronouns.

I get a bit edgy whenever something like this comes up in discussion.

So I gathered.

Because I am conservative, half of me wants to prove that I have a more open mind then many held up as examples of conservatism.

Ah, but are you really a conservative? What do you believe?

And half of me wants to defend those views I personally hold, and try to show that it's not a completely uncomprehendible position to hold when coming from a certain background.

No view is completely incomprehensible, given the appropriate background. Read enough history, or comic books for that matter, and you'll appreciate that.

And when I'm put on edge, I have more of a problem portraying what I actually believe in.

No problem. I officially put you off the edge. *plunk*

I have noticed a tendancy to slip into metaphors. Thank you for calling it to my attention here.

I enjoy talking about political and historical issues in a controlled, respectful environment, but I enjoy it more if I can actually decode what the other person is saying (*looks at sirroxton*)


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 12:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

Sorry if I haven't found the clearest words to voice my thoughts, effendi. I confess to feeling almost jealous when I see the eloquence of your comments. *smile*

I'd like to think my confusion is because I think in a kind of self-created Mentalese hyper-adapted to the diverse thought processes I've accumulated, developed, and redeveloped over the years, with a great deal of confusion created in the English translation. Five times a day, I find myself cursing the unsuitability of the English language.


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bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 12:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

OK, so it was a cheap shot. Of course, all this discourse on clarity seems to point to, not a replacement or extension of the English language, but rather a better grasp of its subtleties by the average individual. Like a samurai wielding a katana, a person can use English to say exactly what they mean if they understand their tool down to its smallest detail, its tiniest blemish. Of course, unlike a samurai wielding a katana, it requires knowledge on the part of the reciever.

People on the business end of a katana rarely need to told how to be in two distinct pieces before they hit the ground.


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 12:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

Bahahah. Yeh, I make no claims that my occasional lack of clarity is due entirely to limits of the language; however, I think too many people, to their detriment, think *within* the language in an effort to communicate more clearly. There's a certain disturbing positivism built into English and, perhaps, every western language.


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 01:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

Positivism, if I understand it correctly, is the belief that all knowledge can/should be derived from observable facts and results. I don't see that as a built-in feature of English (nor do I find it disturbing, but that's a matter of opinion). How do you see it (Positivism) as intrinsic to the English language?


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 02:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

Logical Positivism. The idea that every meaningful statement is absolute and verifiable (or at least *can* be). It really shares ground with natural law, in that our sense of morality and good taste is grounded in some kind of absolute reservoir we can all tap into.

Let's talk examples:
"That's disgusting." "This is a good book."

On its face, these statements suggest something absolute. Pedantry? Well, not necessarily. I feel that this style of speech is conducive to mental shortcuts - shortcuts that, at best, omit any meaningful sentiment or, at worst, artificially creates and bouys an artifical sense that there's a "right" and "good" way for things to be.

"That disgusts/squicks me." "I enjoyed the book." "I appreciated the book's message." "I couldn't find fault with it."

Deprived of the usage of "is" in such circumstances, I think our culture would adapt new and interesting ways of classifying their tastes and aesthetic. There would be a shift of focus to the aesthetic. People would learn that much of what they feel and consequently their principles is driven by their personal aesthetic - an obvious point one would think, but one that is completely missed by most people. This could lead to a much greater clarity of dialogue.

This may seem extreme, but I would be thrilled to see the word "is" abolished. If you look critically at any piece of writing, you'll note that it:
1) Could be replaced with a statement of active observation. "I observed."
2) Could be expressed as following logically from an implicit model (e.g. physics)
3) Could be rephrased to use a verb.

Expressing things this way is cumbersome.
(I think you would agree with my sentiment that expressing things this way feels cumbersome.)

And that's precisely my criticism with the language. It doesn't need to be cumbersome, but the language makes it so.


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 02:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

Rephrase #2: Implicit or explicit model. Physics, or this or that model for how people should behave, or financial models. Really, if we were forced to refer to the fact that we're discussing modeled realities, it would be much easier to clarify and speak of these models. As it stands right now, I can't talk to people about modeled realities without getting a glazed look, and for that, I blame both the English language and a moderate charisma score. ;-)


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 03:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

Personally, I blame sentence fragments. This post is an excellent example of the kind of writing I was referring to when I said a "better grasp of English" would be handy. Seriously, dude, you wrote two sentences without a verb before you got on the models tangent. Nothing turns people off more than not being able to parse your first 30 words (except possibly Rose O'Donnell in a thong).


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 03:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

Minor correction:
2) Could be expressed as following logically from an implicit or explicit model (e.g. physics, behavioral ethics, financial systems)

Really, if we were forced[...]

Better? :)


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

See how easy that was? OK, I'll stop being horribly patronizing.

Even after your corrections, though, I don't understand how you would express a fact as following a particular model without using "to be". For example, an atom might be defined as a collection of subatomic particles circling a nucelus made of other subatomic particles. How would you handle conceptual definitions without such a verb?


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

You would use some flavor of a "to be" verb.

I merely require that the verb's definition plainly encompass the fact that the referenced concept is only valid under a given model. This notion must appear in every entry for that word in Webster's dictionary, and it must be pounded into the heads of school children. *grin*

On a tangent, I was simultaneously pleased and depressed to discover that this subject has been touched upon by other philosophers. Pleased because at least I'm not in my own crazy la-la land. Depressed because it makes my thinking on the subject unoriginal and potentially inferior. Both Heidegger and Derrida did funny things with crossing out the word "is" in some of their writings to, in a sense, express their dissatisfaction with the use of the word. I like to think that my discourse on the subject is SLIGHTLY less opaque.


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

I wouldn't worry about it too much. By the best estimates I've heard, something like 150 billion people have walked this Earth at one point or another; the chances of you having a thought somebody else hasn't are rather small.


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 07:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

I've got a book of writings by medieval philosophers. All, ALL! ALL OF IT, it's so badly reasoned that it's MINDBOGGLING. Competition with anything before the 18th century doesn't scare me. I don't understand how some of these fuckers became saints.


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 07:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

That's a little unfair. I mean, Descartes(1637), Hobbes(1651), Locke(1689), Machiavelli(1513), Socrates, Plato (circa 400BCE) don't count?


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 07:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

Mercifully none of the individuals you've mentioned are medieval philosophers, so I haven't slammed them quite so ruthlessly.

But, no, I honestly believe that the sphere of human discourse was so limited in their times that it is not difficult for the modern Joe with a passion for the subject to supercede those philosophers in integrity of rationale. That's not to say that I'll ever be as clever, persuasive, or successful as Machiavelli was.


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 07:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

integrity of rationale

You just made that up.

Didn't I just tell you to stop making up animals?


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 08:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

So what?

But they're the only things in life that never disappoint me!


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 08:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

Dude, check out my horribly LJ-mangled CSS...
Of DOOM!
I could totally chuck it all and be a...
Hack
Web
Designer


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

I think you completely reversed Positivism for your own purposes. The whole point of Positivism is that logical truth is tracable back to observable laws of universe -- I don't think morality and taste enter the equation.

Given that, I can't figure out how your first two examples are Positivist -- they clearly don't state something that derives directly from observable facts (as far as I know, there is no technical physical definition of "disgusting"), and therefore positivism isn't applicable. Of course, if you really want to pursue the observability of "disgusting" or "good", the world is full of computers and moron who will listen to you.

There are somethings "to be" can be used objectively for. For the rest of us, theres subjectivity.


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

The point is that most useful discourse is not tracable to observable laws of the universe, and that, in a fashion that can justifiably be labeled Positivism, people make every effort to shoehorn a subjective reality into absolute terms.

"Objectivity" always requires a model. Frequently that model is implicit (e.g. basic physics). I think "objective" uses of "is" in this fashion would be better served by another verb that explicitly means "it follows from an implicit or explicit model that..."

That way, if someone says, "It's good," a very natural response would be "what model are you referring to"?


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

Wouldn't that introduce an absolutely unmanagable amount of overhead into simple conversations? This is analagous to when I sent a database restore request in last week and had it sent back to me because my email, although it very clearly defined exactly what database I needed restored, how and where I needed it restored, did not state which databases DID NOT need restoring, and was thus denied.

Just so, trying to carry around some "model" with you (the existence of which is based entirely on, you guessed it, a model), is similar in that there will always be some variable that isn't explicitly stated in a form of communications, be it relevant to the communicator or not. The whole concept of using different models across different people and trying to communicate them to each other is building a castle on a cloud; if everything is a model, it never touches reality at any point, and for every definition within said model, the communicatee can once again pose the question "What model are you using for that concept?"


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Huh?

Models can be understood without being explicitly defined. The hope is that models become so important, that they essentially enter the public consciousness over time, like memes, and become named.

Usually models are implicit, and do not require overhead. When discussing databases with database admins, a number of things can be reasonably left implicit. Asking for unnecessary explicitness is impolite and, in this case, connotes extreme incompetence.

"Wow, 3GHz laptop that runs at 5 watts. That's amazing!" "Under what model?" **SMACK**

No, no - but it would be nice if the "is" in "That's" were known in the public conscience of every half-educated person to refer to an implicit model. The use of thinking in this fashion becomes far more relevant when it comes to discussions of ethics and social policy, or in shutting up stupid fuckers who argue about the superiority of races or rock bands (as opposed to racehorses, whose model for superiority is implicit).


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 03:49 pm (UTC)

The Nazis loved Nietzsche.

Bahahahah.


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bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 04:11 pm (UTC)

Well, they did, that's true enough. Nietzsche's work formed a pillar of of the National Socialist German Workers Party. The fact that he was opposed to virtually everything the Party stood for was overlooked -- nobody bothered to actually read Nietzsche.

Nietzsche detested Nationalism, Socialism, Germans and mass movements, so naturally he was adopted as the intellectual mascot of the National Socialist German Workers' Party.


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 05:14 pm (UTC)

That's fair enough; however, it's really the blatant guilt by association that eats me. I wish readers of the periodical could appreciate that such a statement is a slap in the face to their respective intelligences.


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005 05:29 pm (UTC)

Think that's bad?

"FDR adopted the idea as U.S. policy, and the U.S. government now has a $2.6-trillion annual budget and an $8-trillion dollar debt."


The Great Depression and World War II obviously don't exist on the timeline here, let alone wartime (I'm sorry - "conflicttime") spending in the back half of the 20th Century, building the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.


ReplyThread Parent