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Links With Your Coffee - Friday


In the interest of fostering rational arguments I'm going to present a common fallacy with each day's links. Today's fallacy is: Equivocation

  • DIRECT eNewsletter for Democrats

    A great newsletter. Catch up on the week's political news all in one place.

  • A Triumph of Framing

    And a really bad idea. Strike one Mr. President

    Okay...there shouldn't be such a thing as 'the federal faith office' - that should be an obvious clanging embarrassing oxymoron, or else a symptom of lunacy or breakdown that should send everyone screaming for the hills. There shouldn't be a fucking 'federal faith office' because the state should not be imposing 'faith' on people because 'faith' is a bad defective stupid wrong broken incompetent erroneous way to think. I'm sick of this crap. I'm sick of hearing 'faith' glorified on all sides at all hours of the day and night; I'm sick of being unable to escape the stupid mistaken pigheaded idea that 'faith' is 1) a good thing 2) morally superior 3) a sign of warmth and normality and all-around okayness; I'm sick of having religion dressed up as 'faith' as if that made it somehow less intrusive or coercive or obnoxious. I'm sick of it. It's sentimental, it's patronizing, it's deceptive, and it implicitly denigrates rationality and critical thinking.

  • LRB · Jerry Fodor: Where is my mind?
    If there’s anything we philosophers really hate it’s an untenable dualism. Exposing untenable dualisms is a lot of what we do for a living. It’s no small job, I assure you. They (the dualisms, not the philosophers) are insidious, and they are ubiquitous; perpetual vigilance is required. I mention only a few of the dualisms whose tenability we have, at one time or other, felt called on to question: mind v. body; fact v. value; knowledge v. true belief; induction v. deduction; sensing v. perceiving; thinking v. behaving; denotation v. connotation; thought v. action; appearance v. reality . . . I could go on. It is, moreover, a mark of an untenable dualism that a philosopher who is in the grip of one is sure to think that he isn’t. In such a case, therapy can require millennia of exquisitely subtle dialectics. No wonder philosophers are paid so well.

  • Stephen King rubbishes Twilight author Stephenie Meyer | Books |
    Stephenie Meyer dreamed up Edward Cullen, a vegetarian vampire who sports a beige jacket and poloneck, while Stephen King gave us Kurt Barlow, the ancient master vampire who wreaks havoc on the town of 'Salem's Lot. The two bestselling authors were never going to see eye to eye over their portrayal of bloodsuckers, but this week King went so far as to rubbish Meyer's writing abilities in an interview.

    King compared the Mormon author to JK Rowling, saying that both authors were "speaking directly to young people". "The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn. She's not very good," he told an interviewer from USA Weekend.

    King also drew a comparison between Meyer and Perry Mason mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner. "He was a terrible writer, too, but he was very successful," he said, going on to criticise prolific thriller author James Patterson - "a terrible writer but he's very successful" - and fellow horror author Dean Koontz, who although he "can write like hell", is sometimes "just awful".

  • A Commonplace Blog: Fiction and the empirical turn

  • The Book Design Review

  • TED debuts Aptera electric vehicles : Super Eco

  • Iran launches first satellite

    A satellite, sounds more like a manure spreader.

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he hopes the launch will help the spread of monotheism, peace and justice.

  • Necropolis: London and Its Dead By Catharine Arnold From burial mounds to ch...

  • Bus slogan generator

  • Weekend Read: “Killed in the Chase”—By Wyatt Mason (Harper's Magazine)

  • Language Log » Contractual Grammar

  • Christian Voice rapped by ASA |
    An advert placed in the New Statesman by Christian Voice has been censured by the Advertising Standards Authority for claiming without justification that the HPV vaccine will increase teenage infertility.



One clarification about King. I'm not an artist (shit, I'm not a pimple on an artist's ass), but I'm a writer, so I understand where King's coming from here.

King is speaking as an artist -- and if you've read The Green Mile, for instance, you know he has richly earned that status. He is saying that writers like Gardner and Meyer lack art, even if they have stories to offer. It doesn't mean they're not worth reading; it simply means that their work misses an aesthetic target that other writers touch.

An illustration using another hugely popular writer is worth adding: Dan Brown is a clumsy and often bumbling writer. That doesn't make The DaVinci Code less interesting a read; it only makes it less memorable, less enduring. A story-teller's work titillates and sometimes temporarily absorbs its audience; an artist's work reflects and then enters the culture's DNA. The artist entertains and then teaches -- not didactically, but vocally, stylistically. The sentence becomes a sculpture; the paragraph a painting; the narrative a complex and compelling counterpoint.

King offers Rowling as an illustration of story-telling as art, and I agree (I wrote a book detailing why and how). Harry Potter is, on its most superficial level, a kid's story about a boy wizard practicing magic. Going beyond that and entering the world of its metaphor is where the art of Harry begins. This is King's point: in the hands of the artist, the story is merely the gateway to the universe of its experience.

As the expressivist in residence here may I say 'boo!' to the reposting of Fodor's review.

Fodor has been for years resolutely defending a position in the philosophy of mind motivated by dogmatic commitments to certain Fregean ideas about 'how language must be'. He's eventually been forced to move back to the final redoubt of mysterianism: "I don't know how the heck my idea of semantics could be made to fit with the neuroscience... I just no that it must be true!'.

It's no surprise then to see him objecting to a very new and welcome trend in philosophy of mind, which I would have expected to have recieved a warm reception on a blog which appears to hold Daniel Dennett in as high esteem as I do. If you are committed to the intentional stance account of mental language, how could it FAIL to be true than intentional ascriptions are limited not only to the information processing capabilities of a person's brain but all connected complex mechanisms (whether their arms or their iphones).

The key passage in the review which OUGHT to cause alarm bells to sound is the following: "These sorts of consideration are among the staples of courses on campus with names like Phi Mind 101; so it bothers me that they don’t bother Clark and Chalmers." It doesn't bother Clark and Chalmers because they take themselves to be correcting a basic error in philosophy-of-mind-as-it-currently-is. Would you be so eager to link to Fodor's review if the passage read (the dogmatically similar) "These sorts of considerations are amongst the truths of holy writ; so it bothers me that they don't bother Clark and Chalmers".

I've mixed opinions about Chalmers (though a high opinion of him as 'a philosopher's philosopher') but thoroughly recommend any and all of Clark's books for your reading list.

I couldn't remember if I'd posted the Fodor review before, apparently so. I post links to most of what I see on philosophy of the mind because there seem to be a fair number of readers who are interested the field at some level. I tend to agree with your view of Mr. Fodor and linking to a review is hardly a warm endorsement. As to Chalmers and Clark, I'm more a Clark fan than Chalmers having read several of his books all of which I highly recommend namely:

  • Natural-Born Cyborgs by Andy Clark
  • Mindware by Andy Clark
  • Being There Putting Brain, Body, And World Together Again by Andy Clark
  • And yes I'm still a fan of Dennett.


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