3-26-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, March 26, 2016

No Room for Smugness

Greg Salmieri of Check Your Premises answers yet another critique of Ayn Rand by research psychologist Denise Cummins and, in the process, makes a point any intellectual at whatever level should appreciate:

However, Cummins still gets Rand wrong on a number of points, and I think she does so because she isn't really interested in getting her right. This is a common problem when people write about those whom they regard as ideological enemies. They come at the enemy's texts with a preconceived idea of what she thinks, why she thinks it, and how her view can be refuted; and then they look for passages that cohere with this, rather than approaching the texts with the question "What does this person think and why?" Cummins has Rand pigeon-holed as a thinker of a certain sort, who occupies a certain foolish position in a familiar debate about egoism and altruism, and she shows no interest in testing that hypothesis, or (better) in putting the hypothesis aside temporarily to see what emerges from a straightforward reading of the texts. This is a mistake we all have to work hard not to fall into when addressing authors whose views we regard as opposite to our own. [bold added]
Not only is this problem often obvious to many in an audience, it also thwarts one's own efforts to better understand one's own point of view, how it might answer (or profit from) the other thinker, and how well either corresponds to reality.

Weekend Reading

"Thus[, under paternalism], those who genuinely require strong pain medication must suffer, so that their neighbors not be able to use the drugs irresponsibly." -- Peter Schwartz, in "The Shackles of Paternalism" at The Huffington Post

"Consider apology as a way of honoring what you know to be true, while at the same time honoring yourself and those about whom you care." -- Michael Hurd, in "The Benefits of Apologizing" at The Delaware Wave

"By treating speculation based on invalidated climate prediction models as truth, instead of looking at the actual, demonstrated evidence, 'news' stories are actually fiction." -- Alex Epstein, in "The Truth About Sea Levels" at Forbes

"The Heaven's Reward fallacy claims a lot of victims by luring them into a false sense of security that they'll 'somehow' be taken care of, no matter how self-defeating their behavior." -- Michael Hurd, in "Breakups Can Be Good, Too" at The Delaware Coast Press

"The story this [graph] tells is one of a society that used to aggressively, successfully pursue faster travel -- and then gave up." -- Alex Epstein, in "Will We Let the World's Fastest Passenger Airplane Make It Off the Ground?" at Forbes

"Should I have celebrated the fact that the porta-potty's nonexistent sink used less water than a sink that would have actually enabled me to clean my hands?" -- Alex Epstein, in "Why the World's Greenest Bathroom Is Also the Dirtiest" at Forbes

At Least Her Last Name Isn't "Null"

My wife's name sometimes gives her trouble in e-commerce, but those difficulties pale next to those for others mentioned in an article about people whose names are "edge cases" in the computational databases we find ourselves relying on more and more these days:
"We moved almost immediately after we got married so it came up practically as soon as I changed my name, buying plane tickets," she says. When Jennifer Null tries to buy a plane ticket, she gets an error message on most websites. The site will say she has left the surname field blank and ask her to try again.

Instead, she has to call the airline company by phone to book a ticket -- but that's not the end of the process.

"I've been asked why I'm calling and when I try to explain the situation, I've been told, 'there's no way that's true'," she says.
Interestingly, one such edge case came up that is neither like a computer term nor was foreign.

-- CAV

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