More Questions

by Daniel A. Kaufman

Some more things I’ve been wondering about, from the serious to its opposite and everything in between. Not all of them – or any of them – need be questions for you, of course.

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[1] Why would anyone do anything solely “on principle”?

[2] Why should the fact that someone is a picky eater entail anything on the part of anyone else?

[3] How did “don’t stigmatize or otherwise unduly burden eccentric/marginal/dysfunctional people” turn into “prioritize, lionize, and genuflect before eccentric/marginal/dysfunctional people”?

[4] How can a view held by a sliver of a population constitute a norm?

[5] How did young people, who are by nature self-absorbed, obnoxious, violent, and horny become our biggest moral saints?

[6] Why would you ever need to see more than one Wes Anderson movie?

[7] Why wear t-shirts of bands you don’t listen to?

[8] What was wrong with: (a) key-in-ignition cars? (b) bookstores? (c) physical media?

[9] Is the modern “conflict resolution” model employed in schools today better practice than letting kids have a punch up after school, or does it just advantage the more sophisticated and articulate kids over their dumber, cruder (and likely poorer) counterparts?

[10] Can one be marginalized while having the sustained and unwavering support of every major corporation, celebrity, media outlet, and academic institution, as well as the entire medical, athletic, recreational and even carceral sectors?

[11] Why would gender self-identification be relevant to what athletic division one competes in?

[12] Why should someone who is training to be an accountant or hotel manager be required to take philosophy or literature or hard science classes? [Note that I said ‘required’, not ‘allowed to’.]

[13] How could someone be an expert on reality or goodness or permissibility?

[14] What about philosophy suggests that it is something with regard to which one can be a professional?

[15] Why do we no longer expect people in significant positions of power to be at least minimally dignified and decorous in their public behavior?

[16] Why do people think that we no longer need credible, professional news outlets?

[17] Why are activists today the ones who care the least about winning elections?

[18] Do people who are pro “sex work” answer “Yes,” when asked, “Would you like your daughter to go into it?” in the way they might if the work in question was medicine or law or teaching?

[19] How did the most extreme fringes of sexual practice and fetish become mainstream and even sacralized?

[20]  Normally, people are suspicious of exceedingly fortunate circumstances that occur against a backdrop of low probability. So why are there so many who believe that their religion – out of the hundreds on earth – just happens to be the only true one?

[21] How can one supernatural belief have greater credibility than another when the evidence for any and all of them is identical?

[22] Will our Covid-19 experience dampen enthusiasm for densely populated urban living and public transportation?

[23] Why is weather never evidence that climate change isn’t happening, but always evidence that it is happening?

[24] Unless one is an on-call doctor or fireman, why would you want to be always available, generally speaking?

35 comments

  1. [7] Why wear t-shirts of bands you don’t listen to?

    Because my girl-friend’s son buys innumerable t-shirts and tires quickly of them and although he’s a lot stockier than I am (to say the least), I wear his old t-shirts and in fact, thanks to him, I haven’t bought a t-shirt in years.

    I don’t care what they say as long as they’re cotton or mostly cotton.

    That’s called “recycling clothes”. It’s good for the environment and it saves money.

      1. I have no idea of the motivation of the average 20 year old college student.

        When I entered college in 1964, there were no t-shirts with the names of bands. I believe that the only t-shirts back then with something written on them identified one’s college or maybe sports team, for example, New York Yankees.

        It would be interesting for someone to research the history of the t-shirt.

        1. The earliest rock t-shirts go back to the 50’s and Elvis. In the 1960’s production and sales increased significantly under the promotion of Bill Graham, for band’s like The Greatful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane. By 1970, they were standard band merch.

          1. Are you sure that there were Elvis t-shirts in the 50’s?

            I don’t remember that at all. In 1964 the Beatles still wore matching suits with ties and shined shoes.

            You’re probably right that by the end of the 60’s in places like San Francisco there were t-shirts with band names.

          2. Yep. First rock t-shirts were issued by Elvis fan club in the 1950’s.

            This is history that is well rehearsed. Google searches will reveal it quickly.

            All of that said, 1970 was when it really became ubiquitous. But it began in the 50’s and 60’s.

          3. Ok. I recal that in the 50’s fashion was not at all unisex and t-shirts were worn by boys, not girls.

            Whlie boys were Elvis fans of course, I don’t believe that they would have expressed their admiration for Elvis by wearing a t-shirt proclaiming that. Being fanatical about a rock star was more a girl-thing back then.

            Look at any recital of the Beatles in the early 60’s. There are more girls than boys. I saw the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965. I emphasize “saw” because the girls screamed so loud that my friend John and I, who had the cheapest seats, could hardly hear the music and spent our time arguing about what song they were playing. The audience was predominally feminine and young.

            I’m just remembering things, not arguing with what you say above.

          4. As I wasn’t there, I can only go on the research I’ve done into the question. Elvis’s main fan club issued Elvis t-shirts which were the earliest examples of rock t-shirts. Bill Graham ramped it up in the 60’s with the SF bands, and by 1970 it was standard rock merch for bands.

  2. Being intellectually lazy, I’ll start with the 3rd most trivial question here (s. wallerstein, good man, has gone straight for the 1st), which is [8] What was wrong with: (a) key-in-ignition cars? (b) bookstores? (c) physical media?

    For all ‘nothing really’ in the most direct sense. But (b) & (c) have been superseded by more frictionless online sources and, like water following the path of least resistance, people’s purchasing habits have followed suit. So ‘friction’ is maybe your answer.

    (a) I confess I really don’t understand, since it both introduces new sources of friction (wireless pairing issues) without really removing any friction and also a massive potential point-of-failure. The only justification I’ve seen is anti-theft but I don’t know if that has any empirical backing. Is it that much harder to hotwire a car with wireless ignition?

    1. Impossible to hardwire a car with wireless ignition, which is why in Chile where I live at least they now steal cars at stop-lights or as people pull into their drive-ways, that is, with the motor running.

      1. Ah, so the anti-theft claims are true, but wireless ignitions have ended up causing a much greater threat to the lives of the driver & passengers instead of just the (admittedly major) inconvenience of getting your car stolen. So we’re back to the perverse incentives of rgressis’ previous post. Though obviously wireless ignitions are not a ‘rule’ per se.

  3. Right now, I’m reading two books: Postjournalism, by Andrey Mir, and Stolen Focus by Johann Hari. The former is much more substantive, the latter is much more readable.

    The thesis of postjournalism, as tightly as I can make it, is this: when advertisers were the main source of revenue for news, their job was to make you feel good. Now that subscribers are the main source of revenue, their job is to make you feel bad.

    More broadly, you no longer need to read the (digital) newspapers to discover the news. You can discover the news from social media. Consequently, the main reason people buy news is to make sure that others get the news. (Mir calls this “donscription” — a combination of donation and subscription.) In other words, paying for news, for many people, has become a cause. But that means the point of news, now, is to be propagandistic (not just Fox; all the major news players), because the point of supporting news is just a values-proposition. You want people to have your values, so the news’s job is to reflect your values. So, we have achieved a post-journalism phase.

    The thesis of stolen focus is that there are a lot of causes working together to make us less attentive: our phones, mainly, because our phones keep us distracted, make us sleep less, make us more available, and prevent us from achieving flow states. People who are distracted, though, can’t pay attention, and if you can’t pay attention, you are, basically, not fully human. You don’t know what you want, you can’t figure out what you want, you get carried along by anger, passivity, etc.

    In the short-term, it’s always easier to be on a phone than to not be. Consequently, even if you convince someone that they’d be much happier if they made less use of their phone, they’re highly unlikely to do it.

    I think these books have answers to a lot of your questions. Young people are the most online, the online world is the world that is run by a tiny sliver of the population, the norms of that sliver affect everyone else, it’s in that sliver’s interest if people are constantly mad at each other (because it increases sales), there’s no point in going to a bookstore (or anywhere) because it’s more convenient to stay at home, etc.

    1. “The thesis of postjournalism, as tightly as I can make it, is this: when advertisers were the main source of revenue for news, their job was to make you feel good.”

      This doesn’t on the face of it strike me as true. Was the yellow press of the 19thC, or the postwar tabloid press, or the nightly news of the 70s & 80s trying to make anyone feel good? They were trying to make people feel for sure, but it seems like fear, thrills, outrage or schadenfreude were more like the emotions they were reaching for.

      “People who are distracted, though, can’t pay attention, and if you can’t pay attention, you are, basically, not fully human. You don’t know what you want, you can’t figure out what you want, you get carried along by anger, passivity, etc.”

      This on the other hand feels like a stab in the heart, and is entirely too close to home, for myself anyway. (Excuse me while I go chuck my phone out the window!)

    2. Well, you do need professional news organizations and journalists in order to discover the news, if you want to actually get real news. Indeed, you can’t have a functioning society without a professional journalistic infrastructure.

      1. I definitely don’t disagree with this. My quibble was with the thesis of the book that rgressiss gave us a synopsis of: that advertising revenue = manufacturing good news, subscription revenue = manufacturing bad news. I just don’t buy it. I do agree that the subscription model could leave you even more sensitive to the views of your particular readers or viewers. But that’s always been somewhat true of most newspapers at least, and the reason why most have had some kind of political slant.

        1. You certainly are welcome to your opinion, but I stand by my statement. And no one is suggesting that newspapers or media outlets ever had *no* slant. That’s not the point. At all.

  4. [1] Why would anyone do anything solely “on principle”?

    I would think this requires a sense of both the ‘greater good’ and a sense of how peer effects reinforce behaviour within a society. So someone might take such a stance, even if it was ineffective or to their detriment in the short term, because they believe the values embedded in the principle are necessary to the better functioning of their society. And they’re aware, or believe, that upholding that principle, even when it seems unnecessary, helps embed its value among their peers.

  5. I’ll try and offer a few perspectives.

    2. Being a picky eater, I disagree with you on principle. My wife, as the wife of a picky eater would be applauding you right now.

    3. Its a by-product of the cultural shift from left to right. Our previously conservative society valued tradition and homogeneity which meant an almost exclusive focus on the majority view. Today’s people that are most active on social media value the elevation of previously marginalized groups.They have a hyper-concern with making reparations to them, and this manifests itself as over-representation of these groups. It is why, for example, all couples on commercials must be inter-racial even though inter-racial couples still represent a fraction of the population. As Ibram X. Kendi would say, the only remedy to past discrimination is current discrimination.

    4. See previous answer.

    6. I wouldn’t. I have only seen one, The Royal Tannenbaum’s. It is on this short list I have of critically acclaimed movies, that I believe are actually terrible, terrible movies.

    10. In a real sense no. To claim that minority groups suffer the same level of discrimination they have in the past can only be made by defining discrimination as something that exists inherently and a priori regardless of actual status in life.That doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to concepts like white privilege or male privilege, it might be perfectly possible that I could get a cab in a city before Oprah Winfrey could, but that represents a small segment of what we would call privilege in life.

    13,14.I would say someone who has reflected on them in such a way where they are constantly questioning there beliefs and subjecting them to counter-argument. That is a rare practice in humans, and while it might not get us to true answers it helps to eliminate the false ones.

    16. The recognition that we never really had them. When I was young the suggestion that the New York Times had an actual bias were fighting words. Today it is considered a given that they have and always had one.

    17. Many visible activists today come from a Marxist perspective. Marxism does not value democracy or pluralism. In their view it would only give the bad people a platform that legitimizes them.

    18. Probably not, but I don’t think that says anything about what the legal status of said professions should be. Most people probably wouldn’t want their child to be a coal miner either even though there is nothing dishonorable about the profession.

    19. Back in college i knew some people who were really into the SM/BD scene. The seriousness in how they approached what should have been a quirky hobby was kind of disturbing.

    20. You could probably apply that to any belief though. Ask yourself, if you suddenly became omniscient how much of what you currently believe would you find out was actually true? If you think a lot, don’t you think most people who disagree with your beliefs would say the same? If you think it is low, you’re saying most of what you believe is wrong? What does either case say about humans ability to know things?

    21. To give a perfectly academic answer, most believers would probably say the explanatory power to the world their belief possesses.

    22. No. How can you keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen Gay Paree.

    23. Well it is kind of cringey whenever it’s a cold day outside and someone says “well so much for global warming”! Regardless of where you are on the issue the statement kind of misses the point.

    24. Ill have to get back to you on that one I have just been called away on an important matter.

    1. Re: [2], how can you disagree with a question? I didn’t make a statement.

      Re: [16], as I said to another interlocutor, no one — especially not me — is suggesting professional news outlets had *no* slant. That was never the point and need not be. The issue is professional news with an editorial infrastructure vs. what are essentially private blogs.

      I find it interesting that people think this is such a nothing burger. They are going to have a rude shock as the years go on.

      Re: [17], how is one to enact one’s Marxism without winning elections? I suspect the average purple-haired social justice turnip on Twitter isn’t exactly up to an armed revolution.

      Re: [23], I didn’t make a statement. And the point is that people use the weather to claim that there *is* global warming all the time.

      1. Regarding #23: Because, as the mean temperature of the planet shifts warmer it means that the extremes do as well, and warm records are being set far, far more often than cold ones, including unprecedentedly warm events, in line with predictions (https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/202107/supplemental/page-3). Also, the atmosphere can hold 7% more water vapor per degree C of warming so (again, in line with predictions) any particular storm can dump way more precipitation per event–which is why record-breaking extreme rainfall events in recent years (e.g. Hurricane Harvey) have been identified as expected signals of warming. Counterintuitively, though, in an intensified water cycle, while high-precipitation events are expected to increase in already wet parts of the world, so to are droughts expected to worsen in dry regions, the so-called “wet gets wetter, dry gets drier” paradigm. This is why the wildfires last year in Colorado, which were unprecedented in over 2000 years, are an expected signal of climate change as well. Also, because of simple thermodynamics, a warmer atmosphere is also more energetic, which is why events like 2015’s Hurricane Patricia, which thankfully hit an uninhabited stretch of the coast of Mexico but had 215 mph winds (the fastest sustained winds in a hurricane ever), are vastly more likely in a warmer world. Looking for reasons why climate change “isn’t happening” given our understanding of atmospheric physics doesn’t make a lot of sense. If a part of the world experiences exceptional cold, climate scientists will be the first ones trying to understand its causes.

        1. This doesn’t answer the question I asked — though it is interesting in its own right. And I’m not “looking for reasons… etc.” The question neither implies nor suggests that.

      2. In regard to the media issue I would say that that bias is very important in two fundamental ways

        1. We have seen recently in cases such as Covington High, Kyle Rittenhouse, and Joe Rogan that these trusted institutions got basic facts in the case wrong and then produced a deluge of opinion based on those incorrect facts. The reason is largely that they had a greater narrative they wanted to tell based on their bias. The question is if we cannot trust these sources today because their bias is interfering with reporting, could we trust them in the past when they weren’t acknowledging their biases?

        2. Mainstream media has done its own job in elevating opinion over news. Go to any general new aggregator like Google or Apple and you will see articles from major news sources that are merely collections of random tweets with a particular political bent to them.

        I don’t disagree with your suggestion that the type of media where you have a large corporation with resources and manpower who go out and gather facts in an objective manner in keeping with journalistic standards is a wonderful thing. I am just saying that the recognition that we might never have really had that begs the question of wether we could ever have that.

        In regards to the Marxists, I don’t know they may have found that tool in social media and the pressure it exerts. Conservatives held on to American society for 200 years by being able to exert shame and ostracization of dissent through local means like towns and churches. Radicals are doing that now on a National scale with social media.

  6. These lists remind me of a particular feature of the writing of Jimmy Cannon, a New York Daily News sports writer from before my time whose special beat was boxing (which he described as “the red-light district of sports”), and who, when he had no particular item for his column, would begin it with “Nobody asked me, but . . .”–after which he’d fill out the column with random opinions and questions.

    Of course, your questions are far more thought provoking.

    Turning to No. 12:

    “Why should someone who is training to be an accountant or hotel manager be required to take philosophy or literature or hard science classes? [Note that I said ‘required’, not ‘allowed to’.]”

    Answer (in which I reveal myself as an antediluvian pantaloon with a Vice-Grips-like grasp of the bleeding obvious):

    Because young people entering college “don’t know what they don’t know,” and are thus not competent to design their own educations.

    Because education that does not expose one to the imperishable unfamiliar hardly qualifies as such.

    Because the first couple of years of college are usually the last opportunity one has to be a “generalist”—to drink from a variety of streams before narrowing one’s tastes to Kool-Aid or Budweiser.

    Because, especially in light of the current infirmities and limitations of secondary education, the decision to train for accountancy, hotel management, or any other specialized career may be little more than a default choice, borne of unfamiliarity with broader fields. In the absence of humanities and science requirements, an unfulfilled hotel manager may have missed an opportunity to have become an enthusiastic geologist, or simply a hotel manager with a lifelong interest in geology.

    Because many of the ills implied by your questions have arisen and metastasized due to the diminishing numbers of those with some background in the things that have been done and said in the humanities and the hard sciences.

    Because such course requirements in the humanities and sciences may also offer secondary benefits, such as reducing the opportunities for enrollment in “grievance study” courses. They may even cull out many potential college applicants by helping them realize that what they really want is vo-ed.

    Of course, all the current economic, political, and cultural incentives have aligned to consign this model of post-secondary education to History, which itself is no longer studied.

    As I said: the bleeding obvious.

    1. Maybe also because, according to Harari and others, in the not so distant future, accountants and hotel managers may be replaced by IA and having a general background in philosophy and history, etc., may help people made redundant by IA reinvent themselves.

    2. The trouble with romantic hagiographies of liberal education is that they prove way too much. If it really is as important as suggested then it should be ubiquitous, mandatory, and done in high school, which everyone is required by law to attend. It simply is not credible that something is *that* important and yet, is only required for college graduates, who still make up a minority of the US population.

      There is the further issue, however, which makes the whole thing moot, and that is finances. We are discovering that we cannot have two things simultaneously: (a) affordable universal professional education; (b) the research university being our sole significant professional education venue.

      Regardless of what is the best answer to my question, the *reality* is that the current system is in its last days. And in my view, it’s a good thing. I doubt we really need even a third of the research unis we have today. It will be a *good* thing when we spend a lot more money on professional education that ordinary people — i.e. not rich ones — can complete in two years, so they can begin to earn a living.

  7. “[5] How did young people, who are by nature self-absorbed, obnoxious, violent, and horny become our biggest moral saints?”

    You’ve cited Greta Thunberg in the past, but who else? I’m not under the impression that this is widespread. Maybe I’m out of touch.

    1. I was referring to the fact that contemporary survey data from Pew and other sources show that young people are the most strongly social justice oriented, as well as the [admittedly anecdotal] observation that young people seem to be the one’s always most heavily involved in public cancellations, attacks on faculty at universities, and other such behaviors that we currently identify with moral crusades today.

  8. [1] Why would anyone do anything solely “on principle”?

    Because (moral) heuristics simplify the calculus of decision-making, and are believed to enhance the status of the agent by linking him or her to a transcendental value or authority. Individuals often overgeneralize from intuitions which may work well within one context, but which are absurd, perhaps atrocious, in another. They often lack an engaged practice through which to evaluate the efficacy or consequences of their actions. Absent insight, or perhaps just patience, they rely on a prix fixe moral menu. Also, as rational decision-making seems long since ceded to the algorithm, it’s simply easier for most to accede to the stabilizing force of the categorical rather than risk the uncertainty of a novel thought or action, which might entail learning from their mistakes—now strictly forbidden since the good and bad guys (by which I mean “guys”) have finally, definitively, been pre-sorted.

    [2] Why should the fact that someone is a picky eater entail anything on the part of anyone else?

    “Should” entail? I don’t think it does; reality is not a reflection of individual appetites, or their satisfaction, hence the need for religion, philosophy, Freud and Wes Anderson. Something could be accommodated, but not entailed, as a form of nurturing which, by satisfying another’s appetites, allows for a display of generosity as a route to reciprocal consideration, or which fulfills a sense of personal pride in setting a fine table. Perhaps it is a concession just to minimize the heat in the kitchen. So, potlatching, or not stirring the pot. The confound, of course, is that those with the most refined cultural palates certainly expect the rest of us to eat whatever they serve up—you know, because it’s good for us. These days, it’s alphabet soup. And revanchism is the bitter condiment smeared on the side of saltines. No substitutions. I think I’ve lost my appetite.

    [3] How did “don’t stigmatize or otherwise unduly burden eccentric/marginal/dysfunctional people” turn into “prioritize, lionize, and genuflect before eccentric/marginal/dysfunctional people”?

    From considerate to supererogatory in one generation! It’s like the Great Vowel Shift: X marks the spot, e.g., womxn, Latinx, etc. More alphabet soup. My hunch is that this is all a gambit to give those with boutique identities an unfair advantage at Scrabble—don’t question them pronouns! More gravely, it is a form of therapeutic safetyism for fragile, risk-averse, overindulged children who think that anyone else’s birthday party is an erasure of their own ontology.

    [4] How can a view held by a sliver of a population constitute a norm?

    It can’t, by definition. It can, however, constitute a “numb”, which derives from the late Middle English nome(n), past participle of the obsolete nim, which means “to take.” This is precisely what the Woke identitarians and social justice holy warriors have done: flagrantly abuse the Harm Principle and Reification Fallacy to take over the culture from their privileged eyries while the masses are glazed over and bewildered with Newspeak. Where’s Roger Waters when we need him?

    [5] How did young people, who are by nature self-absorbed, obnoxious, violent, and horny become our biggest moral saints?

    By appearing spontaneously on milk cartons in the 1980’s like so many Christs on toasts. With a religion-sized hole in the cultural psyche, and smartphones that pulse out endorphins like slot machines, callow is the new sacerdotal. Doing the dirty work while making a clean sweep—aren’t they versatile? And tasty, too! (A little Marlo Thomas just for you, Dan.)

    [6] Why would you ever need to see more than one Wes Anderson movie?

    Because spoon-fed sophistication coats your tummy in houndstooth, meaning you need never don a dinner jacket again. Also, pausing the film at random on any of Wes’ impeccably staged scenes is like having a new painting in your home, and cuts down on the monthly art and tchotchke bill from Pier 1.

    [7] Why wear t-shirts of bands you don’t listen to?

    I don’t wear t-shirts, but I do pretend that my shuddering late-night sessions of loneliness and self-love are various bandmembers’ tears. (Apologies to Robert Hass.)

    [8] What was wrong with: (a) key-in-ignition cars? (b) bookstores? (c) physical media?

    Nothing. This is just more of the neutered generation’s body horror bizarrely intersected with more quotidian activities: (a) Key-in ignition = intercourse. Might turn someone on! (b) Opening a book is just too… gynecological. (c) Physical media? Don’t touch me without consent!

    “He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.”
    —Psalm 78:39

    [9] Is the modern “conflict resolution” model employed in schools today better practice than letting kids have a punch up after school, or does it just advantage the more sophisticated and articulate kids over their dumber, cruder (and likely poorer) counterparts?

    The conflict resolution model is superior if, and only if, it involves alcohol, which increases both volubility and vulgarity, thus leveling the playing field. Actually, this would confer a slight advantage to the more rustic cohort as it is a near-certainty that those missing teeth would be more difficult to understand after a few drinks, likely resulting in heated conflicts the ineluctable consequence of which, ten times out of ten, would be Nicky, Vinny and Tony beating the shit out of Todd, Kyle and Tucker. (Miss you, George!)

    [10] Can one be marginalized while having the sustained and unwavering support of every major corporation, celebrity, media outlet, and academic institution, as well as the entire medical, athletic, recreational and even carceral sectors?

    Only to the extent that “marginal” is cognate with “margarine” which is an oleaginous substitute for real flavor. While more shelf-stable, it’s best set aside, and they don’t call it a “crock” for nothing.

    [11] Why would gender self-identification be relevant to what athletic division one competes in?

    Another identity creep sublimation—as in: from a solid to a gaseous state. (PU!) Because, in the original Latin, “compete” means to “aim together,” in other words, “I’ll do me, and you do me, too.” Not to be confused with #MeToo, which, when doing a solid for the gender fluid, is a different kind of self-negation altogether.

    [12] Why should someone who is training to be an accountant or hotel manager be required to take philosophy or literature or hard science classes? [Note that I said ‘required’, not ‘allowed to’.]

    Descartes said: “I think therefore I am.” The Moody Blues said: “I think therefore I am. I think.” Lacan said: “I think of myself where I do not think to think.” Third time’s the charm!

    [13] How could someone be an expert on reality or goodness or permissibility?

    Obviously, you don’t live in Western Massachusetts.

    [14] What about philosophy suggests that it is something with regard to which one can be a professional?

    The simple fact—or rather, the profound metaphysical proposition—that nothing better signifies that one has reached the acme of intellectual achievement than a philosophy degree, except, perhaps, one’s own rock band t-shirt. While I have worshiped Danto, and can play Santana solos at triple-speed, I nevertheless crave legitimacy, most likely because I am a right, bloody bastard, and also because, even in art school, the most vocal dudes in the philosophy of art classes got all the hot chicks.

    [15] Why do we no longer expect people in significant positions of power to be at least minimally dignified and decorous in their public behavior?

    Imaginary leadership is leadership by example:

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed—and hence clamorous to be led to safety—by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
    —H.L. Mencken

    [16] Why do people think that we no longer need credible, professional news outlets?

    Mencken also said that, “The only way for a reporter to look at a politician is down.” Then journalists became politicians.

    [17] Why are activists today the ones who care the least about winning elections?

    Cross purposes. For the Woke, winners are to be vilified; losers, valorized. Masochists always power from the bottom.

    “The secret compartment of my ring I fill/with an Underdog Super Energy Pill!”
    —Shoeshine Boy, pre-transformation into his heroic alter ego

    [18] Do people who are pro “sex work” answer “Yes,” when asked, “Would you like your daughter to go into it?” in the way they might if the work in question was medicine or law or teaching?

    Only if they are from West Virginia, in which case their daughters are equally likely to ask them the same question. And in case you’re wondering, I can say that because I AM from West Virginia. And I don’t have a daughter. That I know of; my sisters and I stopped talking years ago.

    [19] How did the most extreme fringes of sexual practice and fetish become mainstream and even sacralized?

    The erotics of seepage: an excess of liberty often leads to decadence. As Camille Paglia has theorized, and I concur, Romanticism inevitably ripens then rots into a sadomasochistic self-indulgence, which nevertheless retains an aesthetic glamour—Picasso is the Modernist avatar (and Minotaur) of the tender torments of totem and taboo which we love to hate to love. On the hedonic treadmill, desire is rehabilitated after every satisfaction, and perpetual hyperarousal requires greater doses to get our kicks. The abject always finds its own level: it is everywhere, because nothing turns you off when you’re always turned on. In other words, we’re all fucked.

    [20] Normally, people are suspicious of exceedingly fortunate circumstances that occur against a backdrop of low probability. So why are there so many who believe that their religion – out of the hundreds on earth – just happens to be the only true one?

    “Because, because, because, because because… Because of the wonderful Wiz he was!”

    [21] How can one supernatural belief have greater credibility than another when the evidence for any and all of them is identical?

    “Because, because, because, because because… Because of the wonderful Wiz he was!”

    [22] Will our Covid-19 experience dampen enthusiasm for densely populated urban living and public transportation?

    Andrei Codrescu wrote that, “Times of great freedom breed metaphorical exiles, while times of repression breed literal exiles” (The Disappearance of the Outside: A Manifesto for Escape). Also, that there is a therapeutic value to inhabiting the myth of exile and the outside, the cost of which is a permanent occupancy of the category of Other. Abandoning the oddity of the prodigal, or the paradoxical security of exposure is to forfeit any claim to poetry. Perhaps, then, living in times of plague (of Wokeists?) will accelerate the panoptic appeal of cities for those prophets whose words are best written on the subway walls and tenement halls.

    You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

    [23] Why is weather never evidence that climate change isn’t happening, but always evidence that it is happening?

    It’s either confirmation bias, or the 7th level druid spell, Control Weather, depending upon who holds the mistletoe. (If there is a shrieking Scandinavian goblin present, I’d go with the latter.) In either case, magical thinking.

    … Raindrops keep falling on my head
    But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red
    Crying’s not for me
    ‘Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining
    Because I’m free
    Nothing’s worrying me

    —Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, BJ Thomas, 1969

    [24] Unless one is an on-call doctor or fireman, why would you want to be always available, generally speaking?

    Because to an addict nothing is worse than the fear of missing out.

  9. I teach accounting, and incorporate a lot of philosophy, literature and art. Why do I think my students need it? Because good accountants must not only understand what is currently considered obligatory or at least a best practice, but must be able to imagine what obligations and best practices might be, and why. Teaching them the Allegory of the Cave, and having them to analyze Magritte’s “Treachery of Images” (ceci n’est pas une pipe) helps them see the difference between what counts and what gets counted–recording profit in your books is not the same as actually being richer. Having them discuss the notion of the Philosopher King helps them understand the obligations that come with the power they will have when use accounting measures to govern employees. Classic stories of power, corruption, and fraud help them envision the temptations they will face to do wrong, and empathize with those (including themselves) who suffer if they succumb. And so on.

    On the question of youth, hasn’t it always been the case that they have always been active social critics. As people get older, they come to accept things the way they are, partly through habituation and partly through the fact that their life choices give them a vested interest in the system as it is. Maybe they also become wiser, but lack of habituation and vested interests does give the young some credible moral authority. And I see little evidence that the older folks holding the levers of power in our society, or any other, are much less self-absorbed, obnoxious, violent, or horny.

    1. At my university we have a philosophy department, and no accountants take our courses. Why? Because the business school offers their own accounting ethics class. So, aside from the question of whether accountants, hotel managers, etc. *get something* out of studying philosophy — and of course, they do — there are also institutional and other realities at work that often render the point irrelevant. And again, remember, the question is about it as a *requirement*, not as an elective.

      But again, regardless, as I indicated elsewhere in the conversation, it turns out that we cannot — or will not — afford the cost of using very expensive, research universities as a system of mass professional education. At this point, all the protestations on the part of philosophers and their well-meaning fellow travelers are largely beside the point. We have a structural problem that is going to be addressed by a re-configuration of the relevant institutions. Far more 2 year institutions. Far fewer four year ones. And much more professional education being done in the former as opposed to the latter.

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