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Showing posts from February 20, 2005
The gorgeous LI has high esteem for the ‘Gorgias.’ True, it isn’t as deep as the Parmenides, nor rich in images, like the Republic, nor sublime, like the Timaeus. But the dramatic form of the dialogue – the sense one gets of real people talking – fills the Gorgias as, perhaps, it fills no other dialogue – for there are always those moments when Plato is all too obviously pulling the strings. It is in the Gorgias that Socrates unpacks his most radical ethical idea. It is an idea with a long career, but one that was, ultimately, indigestible to the Christian tradition that took so much from Plato: the idea that each man wills the good. This struck the Athenians as a truly insane proposition. There’s a wonderful bit in the Gorgias where Socrates and Polus (whose contempt for Socrates comes through in the dialogue like an animal scent) go around about power. Ostensibly, the dialogue is about rhetoric and its wonders, but Socrates piercing of the aura with which rhetoricians surrounded thei
Spraying the Bates fly There’s a wonderful post on a science blog about the irrational right’s fondness for DDT . As a corollary to that love of the toxin, the Right has always cultivated a nice flame of hatred for one of LI’s heroines, Rachel Carson, to whom we owe the continuing existence of the bluebird and the osprey on the East Coast of North America. Few Americans have left behind anything that valuable. LI likes the way that the aura of Rachel Carson still retains her power to drive the Right wild – for Carson marked the end of that happy stage of corporate capitalism when the social cost of production could be shoved off without remark onto third parties (this is politely termed externality by economists. Bank robbers more honestly call it a stick up). In any case, the banning of DDT was symbolically as well as environmentally important. DDT had been promoted as the cure all for malaria. In fact, it worked well, for a limited time, against the anopheles mosquito which carry p.
The birth of the spirit of the American military My friend Paul at Fragmenta Philosophica pinned me , the other day, for willful exaggeration. I had written a War Crime alert about Ramadi – but as I had to admit to Paul, I don’t honestly think the U.S. is going to do to Ramadi what it did to Falluja. However, there was a deeper level to our debate on his site. The deeper level had to do with what kind of war is happening in Iraq. LI often tries to penetrate the American veil of ignorance and discover an Iraqi perspective to the war, since it is mainly an Iraqi war. This post will be dedicated to another task: what kind of war is it from the American perspective? Before the war began, back in 2002, we wrote a post about the spirit of the American military. Our idea back then was this: the American military style emerged from two conflicting ideals. On the one hand, there is the Grant style of fullscale assault. On the other hand, there is the McClellan style, of the maximum preservatio
"I return to hell." Remember the narrative of the nineties? The Olive Tree and the Lexus narrative? The inevitable march of capital over the sullen bodies of obstetric leftists? The final, historic turn to private enterprise all over the third world? Latin America was the happy, happy example for NYT shills of the process like Thomas Friedman, who has turned his supernatural talent for bad advice to Iraq these days – appropriately enough. The war in Iraq can considered, in some ways, the logical extension of the globalization ideology – if you don’t like private enterprise, we’ll kill you. Two items today should be noted. One is an old item, from the Guardian, Feb. 12. Go to it. It is a review of a unique document, the diary of a Brazilian woman, Carolina Maria de Jesus, who spent her life in the “insoluble hell” of a Sao Paulo shanty town – Beyond all pity. Maria de Jesus’s money life – our Siamese twin/devil in this life – was spent gathering junk to sell. Especially pape
War crimes alert John Burns, the NYT reporter who is to the American army what the legendary guinea pig is to the legendary S.F. polysexual , breathlessly informs us that the same tactics that were used against Falluja are now being turned against Ramadi. “Between August and November, the strategy drove Shiite rebels out of the holy city of Najaf, forced a standdown by the same group in Baghdad's Sadr City district, and ended Sunni insurgents' stranglehold on Falluja, a major staging post for attacks. The Falluja offensive ended with much of the city reduced to rubble, and insurgent groups still capable, weeks later, of mounting attacks from isolated pockets of resistance. But American commanders acknowledged a more compelling reason that the offensive had proved less decisive than they had hoped. Many rebels fled ahead of the offensive, some north to Mosul, some southeast toward Sunni strongholds south of Baghdad, and others to Ramadi, 40 miles to the west, where insurgents l
In the NYT Magazine, there is a small piece by Jim Holt about intelligent design. The point Holt is making is of the traditional burlesque variety - the often incredible “sloppiness” of design of creatures in nature that so often renders them so unfit that they go extinct argues, at the very least, that the intelligence doing the designing is of a low order. However, Holt’s piece includes a paragraph we can’t let go by: “From a scientific perspective, one of the most frustrating things about intelligent design is that (unlike Darwinism) it is virtually impossible to test. Old-fashioned biblical creationism at least risked making some hard factual claims -- that the earth was created before the sun, for example. Intelligent design, by contrast, leaves the purposes of the designer wholly mysterious. Presumably any pattern of data in the natural world is consistent with his/her/its existence.” This is wrong, and it is the wrong way to go to overthrow ID. A testable proposition usually m