Theater, Circus & Being

“In Acts: Theater, Philosophy, and the Performing Self, Tzachi Zamir proposes a theory of persons that allows participants in the theater to amplify and improve their own sense of self. According to Zamir, “a person is a cluster of possibilities, and actualizes a small portion of these.” The personal benefit of acting is that it broadens the scope of a person’s usual set of possibilities, potentially leading to a wider range of opportunities or ‘live options’ in real life for the person acting. Zamir calls this “existential amplification.” Acting (not merely observing acting) can help someone better understand themselves as they actually are, against a broadened backdrop of what’s possible for them…

…In Duncan Wall’s The Ordinary Acrobat, Jonathan Conant, one of the founders of Trapeze School New York describes the flying trapeze as “a machine for helping people re-evaluate what they are capable of.” He continues: “Before a flight, people are invariably uncomfortable. They’re pissed off, they’re scared, they’re sad. There’s a real fear of getting hurt.” They think that the trapeze is “…magical. It’s unattainable. It’s hugely difficult. It’s completely out of the realm of possibility for most people’s minds.” Yet after flying, “[t]here’s an evolution, an acceptance of what’s possible. The trapeze is so built up in people’s heads. And then someone says, ‘You can actually do this, too.’ That totally shifts the realm of what’s possible.” Conant continues, “People like to say that the trapeze is a metaphor for overcoming your fears. But this is wrong. A metaphor is just a symbol. The trapeze actually works.” Circus literature is rich with such accounts, especially in connection to the flying trapeze. Very often, there is talk of a great shift in perspective, of seeing the world differently, experiencing life anew, and even: becoming a whole new being.”

-Meg Wallace, “Circus and Philosophy: Teaching Aristotle Through Juggling.” aesthticsforbirds.com. December 2, 2021

Interesting throughout. I like the idea that trying new things, whether they be new ideas or ways of being in the world, can help us reconstruct ourselves into “a whole new being.”

Typical & Atypical Aesthetic Taste

“Aesthetic experience seems both regular and idiosyncratic. On one hand, there are powerful regularities in what we tend to find attractive versus unattractive (e.g., beaches versus mud puddles). On the other hand, our tastes also vary dramatically from person to person: what one of us finds beautiful, another might find distasteful. What is the nature of such differences? They may in part be arbitrary—e.g., reflecting specific past judgments (such as liking red towels over blue ones because they were once cheaper). However, they may also in part be systematic—reflecting deeper differences in perception and/or cognition. We assessed the systematicity of aesthetic taste by exploring its typicality for the first time across seeing and hearing. Observers rated the aesthetic appeal of ordinary scenes and objects (e.g., beaches, buildings, and books) and environmental sounds (e.g., doorbells, dripping, and dialtones). We then measured “taste typicality” (separately for each modality) in terms of the similarity between each individual’s aesthetic preferences and the population’s average. The data revealed two primary patterns. First, taste typicality was not arbitrary but rather was correlated to a moderate degree across seeing and hearing: people who have typical taste for images also tend to have typical taste for sounds. Second, taste typicality captured most of the explainable variance in people’s impressions, showing that it is the primary dimension along which aesthetic tastes systematically vary.”

-Yi-Chia Chen. Andrew Chang, et al. “‘Taste typicality’ is a foundational and multi-modal dimension of ordinary aesthetic experience.” Current Biology. March 1, 2022.

If you are an aesthetic weirdo in one dimension, such as with music, you’re probably also going to like weirdo art. Obvious but also interesting. De gustibus non est disputandum.

The Purpose of Dialogue

Open Question: What is the purpose of dialogue?

  • People generally only change their minds when in conversation with someone that loves them. How many conversations are we having with people we love?
  • Maybe the point of conversation is to change our own minds. If we aren’t coming from that place, are we in dialogue at all?
  • Trying to change other people’s mind is often a futile exercise. If true, then why bother having any dialogue at all?

Related: Agree to Disagree or Fight, Really Reading Means Being Open To Change, Arguing for a Different Reality, Celebrating Our Differences, and others.

When Reality Leads to Legal Realism

“If courts don’t have to defend their decisions, then they’re just acts of will, of power.”

—Adam Liptak, “Missing From Supreme Court’s Election Cases: Reasons for Its Rulings.” The New York Times. October 26, 2020.

At base, Legal Realism, when you get past all the philosophical talk about natural science, is simple, “The law is what judges say it is.” There need be no consistency, for power need not offer explanations. The problem with the above quote is not a problem of shadow rulings, it points to something people don’t want to accept is a feature of the legal system as a whole. It’s more or less arbitrary. But, we need a method to resolve disputes. Every human society has judges.

The common law tradition has the advantage of trying to reach agreement among judges over time, a.k.a., stare decisis, but it still is based on granting the power to resolve disputes to certain people because it is convenient. As members of the country’s elite, judges will tend to align with elite interests. Everything else, such as the notions of positivism or “originalism” is just rationalizing “acts of will, of power.” See also: Exhibit A.

Anything Can Go – Interview With Paul Feyerabend in English

A quote from Paul Feyerabend‘s Stanford Encyclopedia page, quoted this bit:

“One of my motives for writing Against Method was to free people from the tyranny of philosophical obfuscators and abstract concepts such as “truth”, “reality”, or “objectivity”, which narrow people’s vision and ways of being in the world. Formulating what I thought were my own attitude and convictions, I unfortunately ended up by introducing concepts of similar rigidity, such as “democracy”, “tradition”, or “relative truth”. Now that I am aware of it, I wonder how it happened. The urge to explain one’s own ideas, not simply, not in a story, but by means of a “systematic account”, is powerful indeed. (pp. 179–80).

-Giedymin, J., 1976, “Instrumentalism and its Critique: A Reappraisal”, in R.S.Cohen, P.K.Feyerabend & M.Wartofsky (eds.), Essays in Memory of Imre Lakatos, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, pp. 179–207.

Sorites Paradox: Grain by Grain

The puzzle can be expressed as an argument most simply using modus ponens:

P1. 1 grain of wheat does not make a heap.

P2. 1 grain doesn’t make a heap, then 2 grains don’t.

P3. If 2 grains don’t make a heap, then 3 grains don’t.

Pn. …

C. If 999,999 grains don’t make a heap, then 1 million grains don’t.

-Hyde, Dominic and Diana Raffman, “Sorites Paradox“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2018/entries/sorites-paradox/>.

The Sorities Paradox reveals another facet of the limits of categories. How many grains is in a heap? How much hair do you need on your head to not be bald?

Books I’d Like to Read in 2021

A short fiction where I pretend to you, dear reader, that I am still capable of reading more than a book a week.

  1. Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel M. Ingram
  2. Fool on the Hill by Mark Sargent
  3. The Omnibus Homo Sacer by Giorgio Agamben
  4. Cargill Falls by William Lychack [x]
  5. Black Imagination by Natasha Marin (Editor)
  6. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
  7. Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth by Marilyn Waring
  8. Deep Adaptation by Jem Bendell [x]
  9. The Carrying: Poems by Ada Limon [x]
  10. Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen
  11. Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures by Mary Ruefle [x]
  12. How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community by Mia Birdsong
  13. Hexaflexagons and Other Mathematical Diversions by Martin Gardner
  14. Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology by Gregory Bateson
  15. Are Women Human?: And Other International Dialogues by Catharine A. MacKinnon
  16. War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires by Peter Turchin
  17. Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind by Alan Jacobs
  18. Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book by Walker Percy
  19. Take the Long Way Home: Memoirs of a Survivor by Susan Gordon Lydon
  20. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
  21. Ball Four by Jim Bouton
  22. The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men by Robert Jensen [x]
  23. The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa
  24. Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World by Olga Khazan
  25. The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics by Christopher Lasch
  26. Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold
  27. On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
  28. Another Birth by Forough Farrokhzad
  29. Darkness Spoken by Ingeborg Bachmann
  30. So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ
  31. Oblivion Seekers by Isabelle Eberhardt
  32. The Neopolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
  33. Machines in the Head by Anna Kavan
  34. The Selected Poems of Rosario Castellanos by Rosario Castellanos
  35. Mad in Pursuit by Violette Leduc
  36. The Wedding by Dorothy West
  37. The Hebrew Bible by Robert Alter
  38. The Red Book: Liber Novus by C.G. Jung
  39. New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver
  40. Heart of the Original by Steve Aylett
  41. On the Brink of Paradox by Augustin Rayo
  42. The Commonwealth series by Peter F. Hamilton
  43. Notes on the Synthesis of Form by Christopher W. Alexander
  44. Sandworm by Andy Greenberg
  45. Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis
  46. A Passion For Friends by Janice G. Raymond
  47. The Precipice by Toby Orb
  48. Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump
  49. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
  50. Primeval & Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk
  51. Consuming the Romantic Utopia by Eva Illouz
  52. Tools for Conviviality by Ivan Illich

Exhibit A for Legal Realism: I’m Not in Washington Defense

“‘Defendants maintain that because the state constitution defines Washington’s northern boundary in relevant part as the 49th parallel, the State does not have jurisdiction to prosecute them for crimes committed south of the international border between the United States and Canada, but north of the 49th parallel as currently located.’

Perhaps not wanting to create ‘a nebulous strip of territory along the border that was part of the United States, but not part of Washington,’ in the words of the AP, the Court ruled against the defendants. (Per the decision, ‘the political and conceptual location of the international and state borders was the same when Washington was admitted as a state, and remains so.’)  But don’t write off their case as entirely frivolous. One of the nine members of the Court, Justice Richard Sanders, dissented, arguing that ‘this case is easier than pi. The 49th parallel can be located to the decimal. If that term is ambiguous, the language of law is no more than sand shaped into castles at the arbitrary whim of he (or she) who wears the black gown.'”

-Dan Lewis, “I’m Not in Washington Defense.” NowIKnow.com. November 18, 2020.

Mary’s Room

“The questions raised by ‘Mary’s Room’ – including whether anything about experience transcends physical facts – remain some of the most perennial and unsettled in philosophy, even if Jackson himself actually reversed his position, concluding that the experience of colour vision does indeed correspond to a brain state, albeit one we don’t yet fully understand.”

—TED-Ed, “Mary’s Room.” Aeon. September 3, 2020.

Risk Defines Love

Love, true love, makes possible what was previously impossible.

“In this short film from the UK director William Williamson, [French philosopher Alain] Badiou argues that today’s approach to relationships, with its consumerist tendency to focus on choice and compatibility, and the ingrained refrain to move on when things aren’t easy, means that we need a philosophical reckoning with how we think about love. To make his point very specific, Badiou points to the ever-growing prevalence of online dating services that claim to offer algorithmic matching of partners, a way of seeking love that, he thinks, drains love of one of its most vital qualities – chance.”

—William Williamson, “‘Defend love as a real, risky adventure’ – philosopher Alain Badiou on modern romance.Aeon. March 6, 2020.