arts and culture

Philosophy News | The Gettier Problem: A Study

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Philosophy News | The Gettier Problem: A Study.

I haven't read this yet, but my take on "Gettier" problems is that they break on the issue of "justified" rather than "belief". (And further that the break is so obvious that the seriousness with which they are discussed undermines my respect for the discipline of academic philosophy.) Basically, that the justification required to qualify a belief as knowledge is a lot stronger than that required to protect the believer from censure as intellectually irresponsible. Will read further and maybe comment more later. ...more »

Philosophy News | My Philosopher Can Beat Up Your Computer Scientist

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Philosophy News | My Philosopher Can Beat Up Your Computer Scientist.

Philosophy's perceived market disrespect (inferiority complex ?) is a reaction to the fact that there is no philosophy credential which predicts any useful skill any more effectively than any other arts degree. This is not to deny that a degree in philosophy may be correlated with a slightly above average skill level in literacy and basic reasoning, but I doubt that correlation is any stronger than for any other subject.  And more importantly, the absence of explicit training in philosophy not a negative indicator.  What a CS or Nursing degree has over one in philosophy is that it certifies a required minimum level of knowledge for certain kinds of employment (and if that minimum includes some exposure to the liberal arts then it should of course be included). The difference between philosophy and subjects like literature, art history, or pure mathematics seems to be mostly in the frequency of posts like this which take the legitimate value of a broad education as endorsement of philosophy in particular as some kind of technology for solving problems - for which I have seen no serious evidence and for which I am disappointed to see philosophers feeling a need.

More Media "levy" Madness

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Howard Knopf doesn't like the idea of extending the tax (or calling it one).

I didn't like having to pay a tax, or "levy", on the CDs I bought years ago to store photos and backup my HD, but I don't see any difference between that bit of theft and this one. In fact, although I resent the presumption that the tax, or "levy", is a fee for some service that I have no intention of using, I can live with the idea of a tax on media being used to support creative activities if that is the collective will of the nation.

Just don't call it a "levy", and interpret it as a fee for service, unless

(a)it entitles me to fill it with unlimited personal use copies of any works that I do buy, and

(b)there is some provision for levy-free media which are precluded from being used for copyright material (like the coloured tax-free fuel that is available in some places for farmers).

Should I read 'The Moral Landscape'?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

The subtitle of Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values can be read in two ways. One would point to a book I might be interested in reading, the other to one I could dismiss in advance as nonsense. My problem is that the review by Russell Blackford  recommends the book in spite of criticizing it on the grounds that it fits the second interpretation, and Blackford's criticism is so cogent that his recommendation despite that problem might convince me to be less dismissive. On the other hand Harris' responses to the review and to others who have expressed the same concern have been so facile as to reinforce my doubt that he has anything useful to tell me.
...more »

Denis Dutton

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

For several years now, Arts&Letters Daily has been my favourite source of on-line stimulation. Sadly, its founding editor, Denis Dutton, died on December 28.

Miraculous Magnetic Clowns

Monday, November 29th, 2010

James McGirk, writing in 3quarksdaily, repeats the widely stated claim that the Insane Clown Posse display inexcusable ignorance when they claim, in their song 'Miracles', to be mystified by magnets.

One line in particular snagged the world’s attention: “Water, fire, air and dirt, Fucking magnets, how do they work?” Magnetism being a staple of primary school science education, the line struck many casual listeners as spectacularly ignorant.

The explanation of magnetism is definitely NOT a "staple of primary school science education" and the widespread disdain for that line in the song shows greater ignorance than the line itself.

In fact, when one commenter on the youTube site asserts that  "33,316 people know how magnets work scientifically" (which would be about five people in a million worldwide), that actually sounds about right.

I would venture to suggest also that, of those of us that do understand how magnets work, most consider it a miracle only slightly less astounding than the fact that we can actually understand it.

To CBC re banning of CC licensed material

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Re : CBC Bans Use of Creative Commons Music on Podcasts.
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John Shook is Selling a Book

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Wow! That's a pretty blatant bit of self promotion.
Start by asserting that everyone is arguing from ignorance but don't do anything to dispel that ignorance in the article, and end with a promo for the book that you claim will get everyone up to speed. Really this is no different from the late night TV infomercial that promises a quick and easy way to lose weight, or earn fantastic amounts of money "Just buy my book to find the secret knowledge". I'm disgusted.

More Defense of Links

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Scott Rosenberg (who I was led to by Crawford Killian) shares my skepticism re the "studies" cited by Nick Carr. And what is more, he actually took the trouble to read them carefully and point out some of the nonsense in detail. ...more »

Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Friday, June 11th, 2010

I was led to this by a #CritLit2010 Tweet from Ruth Howard.

In it Clay Shirky responds to Nick Carr and others who worry that "the internet is making us dumber". But I think to some extent Shirky misidentifies the concerns of the "dumber" camp (and certainly says nothing about making us smarter) although he does  address some important issues.

Carr and his ilk worry about the impact of web-based media on our reading habits and attention spans, and although I think that the evidence they cite is questionable I can't really deny that their concerns about a potential issue may be legitimate.

Shirky looks instead at the concerns about quailty of content being drowned in a flood of garbage, which are also commonly expressed but not really as "the case for digitally-driven stupidity".[1]

What I think is most useful in Shirky's article is his claim that we will address the abundance issue by "invent(ing) cultural norms that do for the Internet's abundance what the intellectuals of the 17th century did for print". This is already happening (via "like this" buttons, "people who bought this also bought that" recommendations, and other reputation management schemes) but Shirky is right to draw attention to it as something that still needs work.

(June 13): Stephen Pinker does a better job of addressing the actual question of effects on intelligence.

Update (Aug 13) the Globe and Mail published a comparative review by Anthony Williams of Carr and Shirky's books on July 16, and also, on Aug 4, republished (from LA Times) 'The Digital Alarmists Are Wrong' by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

A Mindful Beauty - Math and Poetry

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I have nothing to add to this, just want to keep the link.

The SAC Double Negative Option

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Howard Knopf doesn't like The SAC Double Negative Option Celestial Jukebox, but I have to quarrel with a number of his reasons.

Many of these have to do with defending the existing media levy schemes which unfairly extract funds from people who have no intent of copying copyrighted work and who are provided no option for declaring and committing to avoiding such activity when making the purchase.
Until there is provision for specially marked exempt media, the existing levy scheme is just legalized theft and like any other manifestly unfair law it undermines public respect for the law in general.

Also particularly galling is #6 "It's inherently socialistic" - not because I have socialist tendencies myself (though I do), but because (a) it's not, and (b) whether it is or not has no relevance to the effectiveness of the proposed mechanism, so (c) the accusation is just presented as name-calling.

More Mythical Myths

Monday, July 6th, 2009

EXCESS COPYRIGHT: More Myths about Myths about File Sharing

Born on a Blue Day

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Coincidentally I read 'Born on a Blue day' just yesterday - i.e. one day before zac at squareCircleZ posted his summary review - (having been led to the order the book after watching a video posted - also at SqCZ I think - a couple of months ago). My only difference with the review is that I would reverse what Zac says about the last quarter and the finale. (And anyone who reads any of my views about climate etc may rightly suspect that I couldn't help having reservations about the breeding practices of Daniel's parents - admirable though their parenting may have been.)

Online Literacy Is Lesser Than What? - Bauerline earns an 'F'

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

OK this is Mark Bauerline again, this time writing in the with a rehash of the ideas he expounded in 'The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future' and particular emphasis on the discovery by Nielsen et al in 2006 that "Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern". Now, Nielsen's discovery is actually not surprising since much if not most web content is designed to be skimmed in search for particular items rather than to be read completely; Nielsen both acknowledges other possibilities with his "often" and doesn't claim any earth shattering implications other than to make reasonable conclusions about how to design web pages of the kind intended for skimming in such a way that that skimming will be effective. But Bauerlein infers a lot more. Mostly unfounded nonsense. ...more »

Online, R U Really Reading?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Literacy Debate - Online, R U Really Reading? - Series -

But what do they think I just did with that article? I read it online!

...more »

Cultural Identity

Monday, July 14th, 2008

This article by Keenan Malik (from Butterflies and Wheels via ALDaily) challenges some of the attitudes attributed to cultural preservationists and comes close to, without quite making explicit, the essentially organic nature of cultures and their interactions. What he misses I think is the question of whether and how to mitigate the adverse effects on individuals of transfer between cultural contexts (either involuntary or voluntary) and of the phenomena of cultural blending and, yes, decay. Also relevant but ignored is the fact that one individual may be a member of several distinct cultures.

Perhaps I would have written a book on this if my attention span had not been depleted by exposure to the internet.

I Google, therefore I Don't Think

Monday, June 30th, 2008

My friend Gerry Pareja sent this article by John Naughton from The Observer, responding (I think very well) to Nicholas Carr's 'Is Google Making Us Stupid?' in The Atlantic, but I can't say that its arrival is what distracted me from my previous line of thought. In fact I was just tired, but feeling my need for sleep as a sign of lack of commitment-to-task prompted me to start also on my own intended response to Carr - and others who decry the influence of the web and other technology on our mental capacities. ...more »

Standards of Accuracy?

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Toronto Star reporter Lesley Ciarula Taylor took issue with the idea of a language test for immigrants, citing a silly question about whether standard-of-living should be said to increase or to rise, but blogger Brett disputes the source of the question. Arnold Zwicky clearly doesn't understand how to evaluate sources. The question was reported in print in a newspaper with professional writers and editors, so it must be real. That the denial comes in a mere "blog" makes it inherently less credible. If Zwicky had taken the trouble to read the real book 'Cult of the Amateur' written by Andrew Keen he would have understood this and could have joined happily in the chorus of dismay about the silly test question.
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Web Critic Gets it Wrong…

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Mike Caulfield provides a brilliant rebuttal of a rather silly column (by Monica Hesse in the Washington Post) supporting the ideas of Andrew Keen about the supposed relative unreliability of the web relative to print. (This came to me via Stephen Downes' always interesting OLDaily)