Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, August 25, 2017

Four Things

1. My favorite chuckle-to-myself headline used to be, "Man Runs Into Ex While Wearing Sandwich Board, courtesy of The Onion." It's in danger of being replaced with, "I Ghosted My Ex, and She's About to Be My New Boss."

Payback is hell.

2. I loved Mike Rowe's television series, Dirty Jobs back when I had time to watch television, and I love his reply to a "progressive" who tried to bait him about recent events in Charlottesville:

What can I say? I work for half-a-dozen different companies, none of whom pay me to share my political opinions. I run a non-partisan foundation, I'm about to launch a new show on Facebook, and I'm very aware that celebrities pay a price for opening their big fat gobs. Gilbert Gottfried, Kathy Griffin, Colin Kaepernick, Milo Yiannopoulos ... even that guy from Google who just got himself fired for mouthing off. There's no getting around it -- the first amendment does not guarantee the freedom to speak without consequences. And really, that's fine by me.

So no -- I'm not going to share my personal feelings about Charlottesville, President Trump, or the current effort to remove thousands of statues of long dead soldiers from the public square. Not just because it's "bad for business," but because it's annoying. I can't think of a single celebrity whose political opinion I value, and I'm not going to assume the country feels any differently about mine.
I like this reply, not because I necessarily think celebrities should never speak up, but because Rowe shows a sense of decorum and professionalism about doing so that is rare today.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Rowe, by the way, is concerned that our education system does a poor job of preparing students for the working world, a sentiment I have no trouble agreeing with. His solution to part of this problem is a foundation to support students interested in attending vocational schools in pursuit of "jobs that actually exist."

3. "ICouldAndDid" has posted the second part of his three-part critique of Sam Harris's Free Will, noting the author's mischaracterization of free will:
Harris' examples are a mixture of two types of choices -- simple taste-type preferences (coffee or tea, vanilla or chocolate ice cream) and more fundamental choices like the one to start a website or to seek physical therapy. The taste-type preferences can be ignored, because they often are made on the basis of physical attraction and do have a strong element of the physical (taste or smell). They are also very superficial (but still actual) choices where operating on physical desire is perfectly legitimate. Note, however, that the mixing in of these types of choices with more fundamental ones is used by Harris to lend credibility to the "choice appears" idea. In effect, what he is asserting in this package deal is exactly that the more fundamental choices are just like those superficial ones in that they are physical and automatic. [bold added]
The piece examines why this approach is wrong and provides a link to an Okhar Ghate talk on the subject. (I have not heard this talk yet, but expect I would agree with it based on having attended other lectures by Ghate on the same subject a few years ago. One point I recall, if I remember correctly, was the importance of using introspection as evidence in thinking about the subject of free will.)

4. The post on free will reminds me of a formulation I admired by philosopher Tara Smith in a paper of hers on the value of religious freedom I read recently. The below is Smith's elaboration of Rand's account of how human beings form conscious convictions, such as those about religion:
... What are the sorts of things that a person does as a means of reaching a religious conviction? While the exact steps vary in different cases, typically, he will engage in some assortment of the following: he thinks; he prays; he observes others; he emulates others in certain respects; he talks to others about their religious beliefs; he reads the doctrines and arguments of a particular religion or he reads about a religion -- some of its history, its detractors' criticisms.

However extended or abbreviated a given person's process, however deep or shallow, systematic or casual, ultimately, he makes up his mind. He decides whether to learn more about other people's beliefs or whether to "try out" alternative religions. He decides whether he will continue to participate in the rituals that he practiced as a child or whether to suspend all religious belief or all interest in finding answers to the kinds of questions that religion characteristically addresses (questions about mortality, meaning, value, etc.). The point is, a person thinks in order to embrace whatever religious views he does have. Even if a particular person's thinking is minimal or relatively uninquisitive, it is he who chooses to follow a given path. What is significant for us is that religion represents a conclusion. A person must be free in order to be able to investigate the relevant evidence and draw that conclusion rationally.

Ultimately, a person must be free in order to reach valid conclusions -- the rational, reality-hugging conclusions that enable him to understand the world around him, to act on that basis, and thereby advance his well-being. Such freedom naturally brings with it the opportunity to think irrationally and to make poor decisions. The immediate point, however, is that it is not the sanctity of any particular conclusion that underwrites the value of religious freedom. Rather, it is the process by which human beings reach conclusions and can attain the understanding of the world that their well-being depends on. Freedom of the mind is indispensable to that process. This is the foundation of intellectual freedom's value -- and correlatively, of religious freedom's value. [bold added]
I submit that this is an explanation of the value of intellectual freedom that should appeal to anyone who does not dismiss the whole idea of free will, and who values the opportunity to make up his own mind about what is important.

-- CAV


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write, "My favorite chuckle-to-myself headline...[is] in danger of being replaced with, 'I Ghosted My Ex, and She's About to Be My New Boss.'"

Hoo buddy, that was a cold-water-splash of oblivious callousness and utter dipsh...dipstickery. Occasionally I think back on times I could have handled my romantic life better, but yeah, I'm Clark Gable, Aristotle, and Atticus Finch rolled into one compared to that lout.

Gus Van Horn said...

That it was. I was willing to write that off as youth -- until I noticed a comment about the relationship being THREE YEARS long, a fact I missed at the tail end of the introduction of the problem.