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Archive for September, 2009

links for 2009-09-30

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links for 2009-09-29

  • We engage in moral thinking not to find the truth, but to find arguments that support our intuitive judgments, so that we can defend ourselves if challenged. The crucial insight here comes from psychologist Tom Gilovich at Cornell, who says that when we want to believe a proposition, we ask, "Can I believe it?" — and we look only for evidence that the proposition might be true. If we find a single piece of evidence then we're done. We stop. We have a reason we can trot out to support our belief. But if we don't want to believe a proposition, we ask, "Must I believe it?" — and we look for an escape hatch, a single reason why maybe, just maybe, the proposition is false.

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links for 2009-09-28

  • Since arriving at Harvard in June last year, he has been consultant to several members of Barack Obama’s administration, including Hillary Clinton, and is a member of Richard Holbrooke’s special committee for Afghanistan and Pakistan policy. “I do a lot of work with policymakers, but how much effect am I having?” he asks, pronging a mussel out of its shell.

    “It’s like they’re coming in and saying to you, ‘I’m going to drive my car off a cliff. Should I or should I not wear a seatbelt?’ And you say, ‘I don’t think you should drive your car off the cliff.’ And they say, ‘No, no, that bit’s already been decided – the question is whether to wear a seatbelt.’ And you say, ‘Well, you might as well wear a seatbelt.’ And then they say, ‘We’ve consulted with policy expert Rory Stewart and he says …’”

  • When radical extremists sought to cleanse society of sin and evil, what they really desired was the cleansing of their souls. Fromm's understanding of the psychological character of authoritarianism was not only penetrating but also prophetic. He described how submission to the authority of a higher power to escape the complexities of personal freedom would lead not to order and harmony but ultimately to destructiveness. Movements that evangelized among the crisis-stricken and desperate, promising redemption through a holy crusade, ultimately assumed the dysfunctional characteristics of their followers. After sowing destruction all around it, Fromm predicted that such a movement would turn on itself. Dramatic self-immolation was the inevitable fate of movements composed of conflicted individuals who sought above all the destruction of their blemished selves.

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links for 2009-09-27

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links for 2009-09-25

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links for 2009-09-23

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links for 2009-09-22

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