Saturday XII • 19 May 2007

Multitasking is such sweet solace.

Stupid solace, more like. I’ve got a 178-page .pdf and piles of forms from the university’s Institutional Review Board; and they are slowly eating my Saturday amid water-breaks and internet interludes. I’m an impatient foot-stamper in the face of bureaucracy, too immature or maybe just unable to muster the methodical resignation of the institutionally productive. I should just buck up another five hours and dispense with this task, but that would be criminally workish and there’s there’s only so much more sitting here I can do before secreting to the beach.

The diversions I shouldn’t have even considered today:

Wiccans. Suggesting we question the secret lives of tax collectors. Closet nature-worshippers?

Manufacturing belief, in Salon. Evolutionary biologist and fringe member of the Dawkinsian atheism-from-above (i.e. academia) project Lewis Wolpert comes on as much more satyr than sage here. In a nice way. His excellent argument is completely Lockean and happens to be unproveable (though he claims to dislike philosophers), so it’s obnoxious that he spends the second half of the interview dismissing things he knows nothing about on the allegation that concrete “evidence” is lacking. So his ego gets away with him. Strange.

? It’s not that I love The Yes Men just for infiltrating corporate meetings in a giant penis suit. It’s that I love that they are pitch-perfect in isolating and talking back to the ideology of the free market. Here they are in a recent article, widely published.

The problem is that [the freemarket] is a force against which a few concerned citizens becoming vegetarians, planting trees in the Amazon, or riding bicycles are no match at all. And despite the almost psychotically sunny predictions of corporate seers like Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly, the global free market doesn’t want much besides profits and growth—its own survival comes in a very distant third.

Speaking of intellectual crushes. I had a thing for Jerry Fodor for a decade, until meeting him in person. I’m getting it back, with each new essay he writes. He makes the hardest questions about the nature of consciousness look easy, including in this week’s short review for the LRB.

This video is great, although it uncritically limits the field of political morality to “liberal” and “conservative.” Also, considering that in the era of YouTube “seven minutes is the new War and Peace,” the beginning is slow. It’s social psychologist Jonathan Haidt discussing the roots of moral and aesthetic judgments at the New Yorker conference week before last. At the end he compares liberal and conservative to Siva and Visnu (sorry, Brahma): an unintentional illustration of the trouble with any attempt to simplify moral viewpoints onto a single left-right dimension.

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