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Showing posts from August, 2016

Quotes: What is happiness?

Gary Zukav:”The word "happiness" is the label, or symbol, which we pin on this indescribable state. "Happiness" belongs to the realm of abstractions, or concepts. A state of being is an experience. A description of a state of being is a symbol. Symbols and experience do not follow the same rules.”Nassim Nicholas Taleb:"Let me distill the main idea behind what researchers call hedonic happiness.Making $1 million in one year, but nothing in the preceding nine, does not bring the same pleasure as having the total evenly distributed over the same period, that is, $100,000 every year for ten years in a row. The same applies to the inverse order--making a bundle in the first year, then nothing for the remaining period. Somehow, your pleasure system will be saturated rather quickly, and it will not carry forward the hedonic balance like a sum on a tax return. As a matter of fact, your happiness depends far more on the number of instances of positive feelings, …

The latest screed against gender transition (National Review, Aug 2016)

David French's column "The Tragic Transgender Contagion" (National Review, Aug. 18, 2016) is only the most recent attempt to revive old tropes that invalidate transgender identities. The word "contagion" in the headline should give a clue; undesirable groups have always been spoken of metaphorically as carrying infection or otherwise recruiting normal people into their ranks. In this case, the article is built around the idea that some impressionable children copy each other's assertions of transgender identity because it is seen as the cool thing to do. The author mentions this anecdotally but does not really explore the topic.French spoils an opportunity to learn or teach anything meaningful in the following ways: by relying on terms like "radical ideology" in reference to those who have transgender identities or who support others who have them; by claiming that the medical procedures transgender people choose to undergo are "mutilating;&q…

Quotes on the mind letting go of categories

David Weinberger:"Perhaps most important, [the game] Twenty Questions has shown them that the world is organized so perfectly that we can get from ignorance to knowledge in just twenty steps. The game is called Twenty Questions and not Four Thousand Questions because — and this is perhaps the subtlest lesson it teaches our children — we've divided our world into major categories that contain smaller categories that contain still smaller ones, branching like a tree. That we can get from concepts as broad as animal, vegetable, and mineral to something as specific as a penguin's foot in just twenty guesses is testimony to the organizational power of trees."Robert M. Pirsig:"He [Phaedrus] wasn't really interested in any kind of fusion of differences between these two worlds [classical and romantic]. He was after something else — his ghost."The opening sentence of Lovecraft's “The Call of Cthulhu”:"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is t…