Plato’s weekend readings, episode 52

readingsHere it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

Is Babel a blessing? When things get gained, not just lost, in translation.

When science went modern and scientific truth became provisional. (Long article, but well worth the reading, I think.)

Good analysis of what went wrong and what to do about it (you know what I’m talking about).

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132 thoughts on “Plato’s weekend readings, episode 52

  1. Socratic,

    Yes and Trump got a million and a half less votes than Romney. It’s just that Clinton got 6 million less than Obama. The issue won’t be so much these two particular people, so much as the direction the country is headed.
    Bill Clinton won in 92 on the slogan “It’s the economy, stupid.” And Trump won on the same underlaying message, but with a focus on immigration and globalization.
    As I keep pointing out, the financial circulation mechanism is designed to both enable a larger, world economy, but than siphon as much surplus wealth out the top as possible. As I also keep arguing, nature is fundamentally cyclical, rather than linear. So it is not so much where we think we are headed, to that brighter future, led by the geniuses in charge, but the blowback from all the dislocations in the current situation.
    I also think that before these issues can be addressed on the practical, everyday, economic level, they have to be recognized on a deeper philosophical level.

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  2. Db,

    Sure, Stoicism is not everyone’s cup of tea, nor is Epicureanism, obviously. Indeed, they are both by far a minority in today’s philosophical-religious landscape.

    Yes, Stoicism rejects what you call “unduly” concern with emotions and the actions of others. But “unduly” is an interesting word to use here, no? It’s not that a Stoic doesn’t give a crap, it’s just that he refuses to engage in wishful thinking: if you know that you cannot change a situation you disengage and focus your efforts on something you can actually affect. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

    And once more: my statement was most definitely not a “downer” unless one reads it that way. It was not “disempowering,” but a simply statement of fact, as I see it.

    The Republicans now do have absolute control of government, in the specific sense that they have the Presidency, the House, and the Senate. And soon a majority in the Supreme Court. Hard to imagine what more one party could have before we acknowledge that it has absolute control.

    I never said you were crazy for your opinions about my statement, only wrong. And since I wrote the statement, I would think I’m the most reliable authority on what I meant.

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  3. What gets totally overlooked is the necessity of a financial system that is relatively neutral. Prior to the creation of the Federal Reserve, banks issued their own money, but now money is a state function, while banking remains private. The fact the Federal government has borrowed close to 20 trillion back out, 19+ in the last 36 years and close to 8 in the last 8 years, is what keeps the system functioning.
    The need to turn around and spend this money in ways which both support the private sector, but don’t compete with it for capital producing investments, is much of what drives government spending. United Technologies isn’t going to be so foolish as to just go blow up other countries, as it doesn’t produce any return, but they are certainly willing to sell the weapons to do so.
    The government doesn’t actually budget. Which is to prioritize and spend according to ability. Rather they write up enormous bills, add enough extras to get the votes, which often don’t come cheap and then the prez can only pass or veto, but everyone wants their chunk, so vetos are not popular.
    If they wanted to budget, to rework the old “line item veto,” they could break these bills into the various items, have every legislator assign a percentage value to each item, put them back in order of preference and the prez would draw the line. It keeps prioritizing with the congress and leaves responsibility for overall spending with the prez. “The buck stops here.”

    Of course, it would completely blow up “Capitalism.” Ie, the manufacture of capital as an end in itself. Yet much of that “capital” is the asset side of obligations that can never be repaid.
    Lol.

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  4. Hi Massimo, total agreement with your first two paragraphs on Stoicism and Epicureanism.

    I also agree in general with your last three, but want to make sure some things were clear…

    “And once more: my statement was most definitely not a “downer” unless one reads it that way… I never said you were crazy for your opinions about my statement, only wrong. And since I wrote the statement, I would think I’m the most reliable authority on what I meant.”

    That’s right and that is agreeing with what I was saying in my last two replies. You didn’t mean it the way I had taken it (proven as much by your separate essay), but I was saying it could be read that way (as I had and it seems like some others had too).

    “The Republicans now do have absolute control of government, in the specific sense that they have the Presidency, the House, and the Senate. And soon a majority in the Supreme Court. Hard to imagine what more one party could have before we acknowledge that it has absolute control.”

    They are definitely set for absolute control of the federal government, and that is a problem. But the wording you had was “absolute control of power” (not “gov’t” or “the power of the federal gov’t”). Because of this wording I clearly took that phrase more literally (or broadly) than you meant.

    The reasoning being that to me “absolute control of the federal government” is not the same as (in fact much less than) “absolute control of power” in a government structure like the US has. There are checkpoints on federal power at the state and local levels as well (which thankfully they do not hold).

    Interestingly, Trump and many of the reps are champions of state’s rights over federal power. So in a way… assuming they are consistent in acting on their ideology and promises… they will actually weaken the power they (as part of the federal gov’t) just received. Yeah, I won’t hold my breath, but that is their theoretical position.

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  5. There is nothing in the results which suggest that one side substantially understood the hopes and aspirations of the working classes or any group, better than the other side. Eventually it came down to a few hundred thousand votes in just the right places.

    Personally I am intrigued about how all this will pan out, the huge tariffs on Mexican imports – radically altering the business model of a significant number of US companies (probably including Trump’s own) and seriously depressing the Mexican economy (he will need that wall). The promised trade war with China will also be one to watch. The USA is a price taker economy with respect to China so that should, according to theory, result in huge inefficiencies in the US economy.

    I am guessing he will use the threat of these things as leverage to get certain concessions which will keep his base happy. I am guessing that a bit of wall will be added to the existing fence on the Mexico border and this will be enough for him to say that the project is underway when it comes to 2020.

    But he will almost certainly appoint a very conservative judge to the Supreme Court which will mean that the Evangelicals will have the only thing that they really wanted from Trump.

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  6. The Babel piece, given my religious childhood background that stresses “the original version” of the biblical books, and my academic background that in its graduate theological system requires knowledge of “the original version” languages, is interesting indeed.

    Especially in a modern, dynamic language, indeed, multiple word choices exist in the original as well as in translation. Why did an author choose a particular one? Plus, many of those choices may themselves have been borrowed from other languages.

    Poetry is an especial issue. The “5/7/5” of English haiku actually is a creative, whether accurate or not, attempt to embed the terseness of the Japanese original from a non-alphabetic, non-syllabary, ideographic language.

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