Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 60

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

A skeptical scientist explores mindfulness with an open mind.

Snopes is going through legal problems, but why is Mail going after them, exactly?

The power of concentration, a la Sherlock Holmes.

How to convince someone when facts fail, though I’d like to know how many people Shermer has actually convinced that way.

Fairy tales for the disillusioned, how appropriate for the beginning of the new year.

‪Online baring & sharing and the increasing conformity of contemporary society.

132 thoughts on “Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 60

  1. Robin Herbert


    ” I have found arguing with you to be a rather interminable, unfulfilling experience, which is why I never do it for very long.”

    I have never known you to argue with me at all. Never.

    You assert and then carefully avoid addressing my arguments and simply reassert. You resort to appeal to authority (the authority being yourself). And you do this at interminable length and I don’t doubt that this is dull. You would be put to much less work simply addressing my arguments.

    For example you assert that informal social sanctions are an alternative to state enforced sanctions. Then, when I give a concrete example of social sanctions and state enforced sanctions going hand in hand, and where the refusal to be shamed into silence was key in dismantling those state enforced sanctions you simply ignore the example and state your original claim that they are alternatives, contrary to my lived experience.


  2. brodix

    Part of the problem with the discussion is using the concept of shaming seemingly narrows the issue of social conformity to its sexual and closely related aspects, yet it is a more interesting debate in a larger context. Politics, religion, sociology, professional fields, etc. naturally develop in and out groups, for basic reasons, i.e., it isn’t a unit, if there is no demarcation between included and un-included. Sometimes we do it willingly and enthusiastically and sometimes grudgingly and as a last resort. Oftentimes there are competing camps. Snowflakes and deplorables come to mind. These would be insults designed to separate, while shaming would be to bring one’s own group members to heel, likely the young and hormonal, who are not fully socially formed.
    In the internet age people do do a lot of oversharing and such excesses do have consequences, but it is still part of an essential dynamic of expansion and consolidation, resulting in environmental networks.
    Someone replied to a post I made to a Nautilus article from July, causing me to go back and read the article, about Fotini Markopoulou and why she left theoretical physics, for a start up technology company. While it is a longish read, it is a good example of the political dynamics at work in a very economically and socially competitive world.
    As such, it is a good example of the pressures brought to bear on people from all different directions, as they try to grow in this world.


  3. brodix

    I think I see Robin’s point here;

    “But if we are talking about adults who intentionally reveal things about themselves which they do not regard as matters of shame (even if others do) then that is a choice should make for themselves. I cannot see how that can lead to increasing conformity within groups. In fact I have plenty of experience of this doing just the opposite.”

    While the article assumes such efforts will bring the members of a group to heel, this is only if it informs them of social mores they may not have understood, i.e., the young. When applied to adults, it only causes splits within the group structure, therefore having the opposite effect than the article assumes.


  4. Daniel Kaufman

    Still all about Robin isn’t it. How everyone misinterprets the poor guy.

    Has it ever occurred to you to wonder why people misinterpret you so often? (Beyond their all being wrong, misunderstanding, etc..?)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. brodix


    “People ignore or misrepresent my arguments at great length and then announce what a frightfully boring person I am.”

    Welcome to the fringe.


  6. Robin Herbert

    Anyway, what it seems to come down to is this: 1) Sometimes what seems private online is not really private. Yes; 2) Great care should be taken about what children post online and they should be made aware of the dangers. Yes; 3) Some people cheerfully say things about themselves that others think that they ought not to say. Yes.

    Of course you have a right to the opinion about what others ought or ought not to say.

    So what else is there. How does the fact that some people reveal things about themselves that others think that they ought not to reveal about themselves lead to increasing conformity within groups? That is what no one can tell me.

    As I said in the first place, my lived experience is that quite the opposite happens. Refusing to be shamed into hiding your atheism leads to a decrease in conformity. Refusing to be shamed into hiding that you are gay or bisexual does the same. And my lived experience is that resisting being shamed into silence is key to removing state sanctions and violence in at least one case.


  7. Daniel Kaufman

    Robin: I have made no argument from authority. I was simply explaining why I don’t immediately drop my views, given some examples provided in a stray internet conversation.

    I am not only talking about middle schoolers, but also adults. Sure, they can do what they like, but it’s stupid and dangerous and sad nonetheless.

    And yes, we’ve argued around and around many times. Indeed, once, it was so endless over at EA, that I simply refused to continue posting the endless rounds of arguments.


  8. Robin Herbert


    “Still all about Robin isn’t it.”

    No, it is about the misrepresentation.

    “Has it ever occurred to you to wonder why people misinterpret you so often? ”

    Yes, it has. It has also occurred to me why people studiously avoid my arguments.


  9. Daniel Kaufman

    As for conformity, it is in part a product of the fact that one can find online communities where everyone agrees with you. People increasingly occupy echo chambers as a result of fleeing from the public square into the niche “communities” provided by cyberspace.


  10. Daniel Kaufman

    So-called “social justice” communities are great examples of that sort of conformity. One also falls prey to the illusion that there are more of you than there really are.


  11. Robin Herbert


    “I was simply explaining why I don’t immediately drop my views”,

    Please quote the part where I asked you to immediately drop your view, because I know that you would never misrepresent me.

    I asked for answers to a question and a response to a counter example rather than simply to reassert the view that it was addressing.


  12. Robin Herbert

    “As for conformity, it is in part a product of the fact that one can find online communities where everyone agrees with you. People increasingly occupy echo chambers as a result of fleeing from the public square into the niche “communities” provided by cyberspace.”

    Yes they do, but those communities absolutely depend upon people being shamed into silence about things and going along with the group.

    It seems to me that the whole raison d’etre of a social justice community is to shame people into silence.


  13. Robin Herbert

    “Oh God … I resign.”

    What on earth is that supposed to mean? You said you were explaining why you didn’t immediately drop your views. Why would you be explaining that to me if you didn’t think I was asking you to immediately drop your view?


  14. brodix


    And sometimes people are accused of being in echo chambers by those who are building straw man arguments to ignore more complex problems.
    Which isn’t to say many of us do not find ourselves in our comfort zones, but that making an issue over it usually isn’t an effort to communicate through these divides.


  15. Robin Herbert

    Social justice communities work both ways. They try to shame people into silence and, when they can, they try to get states (or university bodies) to adopt sanctions.

    One of the most effective ways of combatting social justice communities is to refuse to be shamed into silence.


  16. brodix


    “It seems to me that the whole raison d’etre of a social justice community is to shame people into silence.”

    I would consider that more of a side effect, of actually seeking social justice. The fact is that often times those on the fringe are there for a reason, god, or bad, so the bullies can have arguments for picking on them. As such, bullies sometimes see themselves as social enforcers, not just mean people.
    So it is only when the social justice members try to turn it around and bully the larger community that it gets complicated.


  17. Robin Herbert

    Most of us are, I think, concerned about genuine social justice. The “social justice warrior” tag is supposed to represent a certain kind of person who probably cares less about actual social justice than most people.


  18. synred

    Let’s see shame .. social sanctions: Homo, fag.hag, Nigger Lover. Godless Atheist (What other kind is there?), ‘Liberal’ (Damned chickenshit Dukakis . Fundy, Nazi (when applied to mere conservatives). ‘politically correctness’ when applied to mere liberals. Commie when applied to mere liberals. Socialist (when intoned with disgust).

    On the other hand an example where shame is better than law: -from the meaning o life (Monty Python, not Dan K).

    ‘Don’t take it out in public or they’ll stick you in the dock”

    –for Tony…

    Liked by 1 person

  19. ejwinner

    ” Does the Internet make it easier to “come out,” as, say, an atheist in the Deep South — in the real-world “meatspace” of the Deep South, not in a Southern culture Reddit forum — or does it paradoxically make it harder?” Good question. My guess is that it actually makes ‘meatspace’ coming out harder, because as one puts more energy into cyberspace, one detaches somewhat from the immediate physical/social environment.

    But I’d have to think about this some more, it’s a complicated situation, and I think different personalities will respond to it in different ways.


  20. synred

    Public view is NOT the same as public forum. Massimo owns the blog. He can do what he want’s with it. He could learn to encode it if he wanted to. He can ban you or me or Lapnut, if he want’s

    ‘Public forum ‘has a fairly well defined, even legal meaning. See Wiki preveously posted.

    Anybody who want’s can watch Fox News. That doesn’t make it a public forum for open discussion — quite the opposite, but Freedom of the Press protects them. and Freedom of speech protects us all (from the Gov.) on a public forum.


  21. ejwinner

    Well, synred, you’re using “public forum” in a technical legal sense. I was using it in a broad plain sense, that the internet comprises in itself and its entirety what can loosely be called a forum for public communications. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Robin Herbert

    But surely the whole point of the ‘public’ thing was that some people posting on particular areas believe themselves to be talking only among friends, but find that the whole world is listening in.

    So in that context this forum is, of course, public. None of us would believe that what we say here is only between ourselves.


  23. SocraticGadfly

    Ej, I agree that it’s not a simple thing to think about. I personally keep my meatspace lips zipped, in part because I have online releases. (I also never post to “public” on Facebook.)


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