Some more links

January 11, 2021

Just because I have a backlog.  There was a session of the Society of Christian Ethics yesterday on "Public Scholarship," and I may post my comments on that soon.  But not today.


This is a fascinating counterfactual:

The story of the Trump campaign’s attack on our elections could have been the story of the Trump administration’s four-year-long attack on our institutions. If, early on, the Justice Department lawyers charged with selling the administration’s lies had emptied the ranks — withholding our talents and reputations and demanding the same of our professional peers — the work of defending President Trump’s policies would have been left to the types of attorneys now representing his campaign. Lawyers like Mr. Giuliani would have had to defend the Muslim ban in court.

Had that happened, judges would have likely dismantled the Trump facade from the beginning, stopping the momentum of his ugliest and most destructive efforts and bringing much-needed accountability early in his presidency.


Genuinely fascinating data about the genetic development of—stay with me here—corn, or more technically, maize.


I had no idea that It’s a Wonderful Life bombed at the box office, and only became famous after 1974, when it went out of copyright and could be shown on TV for free. 


Less interested in this as a diagnosis of Kate Manne’s work, than as a worry about a lot of public discourse today, my own perhaps not excepted:

The only thing escaping mockery and condemnation is the strategy Manne sets herself: Stoke the anger of those with “a similar mind,” shame the rest, and to hell with those who remain unmoved.…

To advise one’s readers to give up on communication is also to fail them as a thinker. Who if not a philosopher should be responsible for keeping the faith that intellectual and moral insight might be uncovered where we least expect it? Who if not philosophers will remind us how much we have to learn from others, even from those we fear most? Who if not philosophers ought to be challenging us to expand our intellectual communities beyond those of “similar mind”?


How the death of RG Collingwood led to a disaster for British philosophy in the postwar era.


On the scholar and critic Harold Cruse and his 1967 book, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, and why it is still relevant today.  


Worth thinking about

“Progressives face a strategic choice. They can put their agenda on hold, accept as necessary the bargains that Biden will be compelled to strike, and turn their energies toward putting Democrats firmly in control of the Senate after the 2020 mid-term elections. Alternatively, they can decide that fighting for their agenda will shift public opinion in their favor, even if they lose, and they will pressure the White House and the Democratic congressional leadership to offer bills that the Senate is bound to reject. The latter course would guarantee a continuation of the gridlock that has frustrated the American people by thwarting progress on so many vital issues, while the former would require committed advocates to display an unusual degree of foresight and restraint.”


Great piece about the creation of this song.


Useful suggestions about using artificial intelligence to scour the flood of scientific data and research, in this case about the pandemic.

“Previous attempts to use AI to do so have failed in part because of the often figurative and sometimes ambiguous language used by humans, Mani noted. It may be necessary to write two versions of research papers -- one written in a way that draws the attention of people and another written in a boring, uniform style that is more understandable to machines.”


An interesting reflection (masked as a book review) on polymaths and their history.  This strikes me as useful: “the “Leonardo syndrome,” a defect in polymaths whose intellectual restlessness prevents them from finishing things properly.”


A few green shoots about the end of the great stagnation of the past half-century—the idea that our built environment, for all our digitization, hasn’t really changed that much since 1970.  There is some evidence that big changes—lab-grown meat, driverless cars, changing energy systems—may be coming in future decades.




Be safe, everybody.