Saturday evening links

April 09, 2022

Link fever, link fever.  You don't have to show it.


I am not sure Douglas Coupland’s Generation X “is a literary classic,” but this piece helps unpack some of the surface dynamics of those of us who grew to semi-adulthood at a certain time, let’s call it the ‘90s.


“How we treat farm animals today will be seen, I believe, as a defining moral failing of our age. Humans have always eaten animals. We’ve hunted them, bred them, raised them and consumed them. What’s changed over the past century is that we’ve developed the technology to produce meat in industrialized conditions, and that has opened vast new vistas for both production and suffering.”

I think Ezra Klein might be right in this piece.  It has seemed to me, repeatedly over the past years, as we have struggled with many previous humans’ comfort with slavery and overt white supremacy, that one vivid possible analogue (not equivalence, just analogue) is factory farming, and in fact the sheer reality of humans predating on other animals.  Klein’s piece offers an account of why this may be a horror for which future generations condemn us all.


A beautiful piece about the final years of jazz great Bill Evans. Just like his music, in fact: beautiful and sad.



This seems to me to miss the point: “Even when we’re dealing with objects far less complex than literary texts, attention is a top-down process that depends on cognition and judgment, not a condition of passive receptivity. ”  But these are better:

“Like the discussion in the law and humanities workshop, in other words, the cognitive-science reviews I read focused on the shared world that the reviewer and main author were both attempting to describe. Methods, theories, concepts succeed or fail insofar as they prove to be useful tools to explain the features of that world.

...critique thus understood has a profound limitation that emerges when we apply it, not to art objects or texts by (literally or figuratively) dead authors, but to the critical productions of our peers: It is a one-way street. When I bring the methods of critique to bear on your criticism, you can certainly do the same to mine, but we aren’t having a conversation when we do so: We’re trading performances, probably for the benefit of a third party. Perhaps appropriately for a method that came into its own in the study of fictions, critique can produce truth claims but is not particularly good at evaluating them. That’s not a weakness of the method; it’s just not what it’s there for.”


Moral outrage is attractive for people looking for long-term relationships!  Not sure what to make of this study. But it's Science!


This is good, by Leon Wieseltier:

“Liberalism, soulless? I know the soul, and I am a liberal. I believe in truth, and I am a liberal. I reject materialism, and I am a liberal. I study metaphysics, and I am a liberal. I insist that science cannot account for the entirety of human experience, and I am a liberal. I despise the tyranny of quantification, and I am a liberal.  I uphold the limits of politics, and I am a liberal. I am loyal to my people, and I am a liberal. I revere tradition, and I am a liberal. I seek rapture, and I am a liberal. These are not contradictions, they are complexities. Whether or not they go together in ideology, they go together in reality, which is never seamless.” 


This whole story, about the fate of nuclear material after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is amazing, but wait for the kicker of the last sentence.


Nice podcast about mathematics and moral improvement, focusing on the 17th century Port-Royal mathematicians.


“Together with their love of Walter Benjamin, and inextricable from it, Adorno and Scholem shared a preoccupation with the fate of the sacred in secular society, with what Adorno calls in a letter to Scholem its “unflinching migration into the profane,” and with the questions raised by that migration. Can Judaism still flourish under conditions of secular modernity? How urgently do secular societies still need living religious traditions? How can we negotiate the startling swerves between religious past and secularized present?”

A good review of the Adorno-Scholem correspondence.


Happy weekend, everyone!