Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 83

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

Contra this article, this was one awful idea the ancient Greeks came up with. Let’s not follow it.

The science and fad of diets based on fasting.

Chiropractic: still a pseudoscience, after all these years.

Que será será, and other useful tautologies.

Most US colleges are bad at teaching critical thinking skills. I wonder if that bothers their administrators.


Categories: Plato's Suggestions

55 replies

  1. There is a condition that gives symptoms very similar to CTS and this condition can be treated using physiotherapy. Don’t remember what it was called, I would gave to ask my doctor. I never found out what I actually had, but wrist splints did the trick.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In my case, as I noted, I had both radius and ulna fractured. Pinned the ulna and plated the radius; orthopedist actually used the word “shattered” more than once. Fortunately, my recovery has been at least as good as average expectations, but, I don’t think I have 0 percent impairment. Also, guys like this chiropractor, here in Texas? It’s his job/income at least as much as actual chiropractic. He says he travels all around the state doing these ratings.


    • guys like this chiropractor, here in Texas? It’s his job/income at least as much as actual chiropractic

      My wife was in a minor accident with a meter-made truck at Stanford. The police report blamed her, but the damage to our car was inconsistent with the police report. One of the meter maids (a guy actually) sued us. State Farm wanted to settle, but we told the lawyer we were assigned that the report was not accurate.

      Anyway they guy wanted to claim permanent impairment, but he could not find a doctor that would agree to that so he used a Chiropractor.

      The case went to mediation. At mediation he claimed he had not been in other accidents, but it was a lie. Margaret who obsessive reads news papers had found a clipping that showed he’d been in another minor accident a few weeks after his collision with her. Our lawyer pulled Margaret’s clipping out of his pocket during the mediation and blew the guy out of the water.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cheers to the tautology article, as there are a couple of that I’m quite fond of. Regarding the first, I didn’t realize that it was a tautology until Synred unformed me of this a couple of weeks ago. (Thanks!) My observation was that there are no true definitions, to which he asked “What the hell is an ‘untrue definition’?” Yes that would make absolutely no sense! Nevertheless in practice we commonly debate what various terms “really mean”, as well as futilely talk past each other from separate definitions. I suspect that there is no greater general impediment to academic endeavors than this one (though in effect the softer the science, the more it seems displayed). But then how might improvements be made?

    Ludwig Wittgenstein seems to have developed his “ordinary language” condition as a way to help out. (Crash course philosophy video 26 found here: While the use of standard terminology should certainly help somewhat, I go further. Given that there are no true definitions (by definition), I believe that it must become generally understood that it’s the listeners obligation to accept the speaker’s definitions in the attempt to understand the speaker’s arguments. Here the question becomes, have useful definitions been developed in that specific context? Notice that beyond just addressing the miscommunication problem, this effectively liberates the theorist to build conceptions of time, consciousness, life and so on, in any manner at all that may be useful. Here the theorist gains a potentially powerful tool that is hindered today given our effectively rigid conception of definition. I call this my first principle of epistemology.

    The other tautology that I’m most fond of roughly concerns ethics. Of course David Hume wisely counseled that “is” properties cannot be used to derive “ought” properties. But I’m an extreme moral anti realist who thus considers this “ought” business to generally be a waste of time. So my tautology here is: “Is is all there is”. Note that by definition there are “is” properties to the welfare of something which possesses welfare. Thus I’d like us to theorize what constitutes the welfare of any given subject. It would be good to figure out the nature of good. 🙂


  4. I believe that it must become generally understood that it’s the listeners obligation to accept the speaker’s definitions in the attempt to understand the speaker’s arguments.

    = = =

    If that’s the lesson you learned from Wittgenstein (it’s wrong), then I suggest that perhaps you shouldn’t be learning your philosophy from “Crash Course Philosophy.”

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Bunsen: “However, I find it hard to believe that the people involved in the various slave revolts and peasant uprisings didn’t have a different view of inequality to the dominant narrative.”

    When I said income equality seems to have been taken for granted during all civilized eras, I didn’t mean to imply that it was also found generally acceptable; quite the contrary, and our own era is no better than most. I don’t know where and when the problem has been best solved; perhaps in the US during the post-WW2 period. However, that was when I first became aware of it, at the end of a transcontinental train journey, passing the slums of (I think) the Bronx, which looked pretty devastated in 1946 and, I believe, still are.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If that’s the lesson you learned from Wittgenstein (it’s wrong)…

    We seem to have had a bit of a miscommunication. I was not attributing my first principle of epistemology to Wittgenstein, but rather to myself (hence the “my” part of it). But of course by mentioning the man’s name I did expect to get some sort of response from you eventually. I always appreciate our conversations! Apparently Massimo does as well, since he must have contacted you privately when he saw my comment come up. Such respect!

    Anyway if you’d like to address either of the theories that I’ve presented above, or perhaps Wittgenstein’s himself, I’d certainly enjoy your perspective!


  7. Is there an ideal political and civic model? Are there facts of nature that will always lead to politically incorrect realities? It seems to me that on a very elemental level, a happy medium is also a flatline. There are going to be winners and losers as surely as there are ups and downs. As I pointed out previously, if everything was always hunky dory, we never would have evolved beyond the microbial stage. What doesn’t kill us does make us stronger and too much of a good thing tends to make us fat and happy.
    If we insist on a politics shorn of understanding unpleasant facts of life, are we not avoiding reality? How is that any different than, “Jesus died for your sins.” Living the fantasy has a long history.
    Obviously this isn’t an issue which can be dealt with on a political and social level, because everyone will naturally get defensive. No one wants to be on the wrong trolley line.
    On a philosophical level though, are there deeper issues which might put these factors in a different light? We have a political system which is obviously breaking down. Will we learn any lessons from it?


  8. (Actually now that I think about it, I wouldn’t have been notified that my comment came through until after Daniel’s comment did, so Massimo wouldn’t have notified him privately…)


  9. Speaking of speech again, great blog here from Ken White, founder of Popehat. (He’s on my blog roll. He’s an ardent First Amendment guy, strong civil libertarian in general.)


  10. Synred:

    On Ex. 3:14, what is being rendered in English as “that” or “who” is the Hebrew relative pronoun — ‘asher — which can be variously translated according to context, but “who” — as you suggested — is more appropriate. It is definitely a tautology, two 1st common singular verbal forms of the same root (Hebrew HYH –to be(come) joined by the relative. You can’t see it in English, but it is probably a play on the name YHWH, probably pronounced “Yahweh” in ancient times (the translation “Jehovah” makes no sense whatsoever).

    Here is the critical phrase in Hebrew characters (with Masoretic vocalization): אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה‎. God’s name (without vowel points): יהוה (no intention of providing a Sunday school lesson this Sunday morning!)

    Good for your wife to nail the meter maid.


  11. Massimo,

    Regarding the second edition of Nonsense on Stilts, is this essentially a reprint, or have you updated? (And not to suggest it was out of date!)


  12. Valerian, that said, like most other puns in the J section of the Torah, it’s a bad one both in that it’s the more serious version of a “groaner” and it’s also almost certainly not true.

    One section of critical scholarship, with which I agree, says rather that it came from (using the English letters for the triconsonantal roots) the Old Midianite HWY, which means, “to storm / blow / thunder.”

    If one reads the Exodus travelogue in the book of Numbers, NOT the one in Exodus, one notes that “Mount Sinai” is placed in Midian and NOT in the Sinai Peninsula. One can also note the account that Moses had Jethro as his father-in-law, having fled to Midian after killing Pharoah’s assistant.

    In this case, behind the verbal root would be Yahweh as a Northwest Arab / Midianite version of Zeus, a mountain/storm god enthroned on an old volcano.

    Again, this is not a consensus view. In fact, it’s a minority view, but it’s not a fringe view.


  13. Massimo,

    Looking forward to your revised version of Nonsense on Stilts. Thanks alot.

    Socratic: I have heard of the tradition locating Mt. Sinai in Midian, etc., but you are much more familiar with that tradition that I. West Semitic onomastics was my speciality, but I spent most of my time on personal names, not deity names, so I’m not up on YHWH and its etymology. Methodologically, comparisons need to start with cognates and explanations in closely related languages first, and not going to more distant languages until the former have been exhausted. Arabic is not closely related to the Northwest Semitic family of languages (e.g., Hebrew, Aramaic, Ugaritic, Transjordanian dialects), so I am immediately skeptical about invoking ancient Arabian languages (and I have some familarity with ESA = epigraphic South Arabian personal names). Be that as it may, I haven’t the foggiest idea about 1) the etymology of YHWH; or 2) where it came from (not necessarily a Hebrew origin). My suggestion would be to look at Amorite, an old west Semitic language which is only attested in personal names found in Akkadian texts!


  14. Valerian … Dallas friend of mine? Sounds like it, now! 🙂 That said, “Arabic” was geographic shorthand in my previous comment, and NOT a statement of linguistics. Midianite is believed to be NW Semitic, according to the majority of researchers I’ve read, probably related to the language of Semites in Sinai, though some try to relate it to Arabic. I first saw the “Midianite hypothesis” in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, which is why I noted this is not a fringe idea. (For those who are not biblical or related scholars, the TDOT is pretty close to a Holy Grail on Old Testament/Tanakh linguistics, at 10 volumes:

    The idea fits one other way as well. In Judges 2, in what may be the first reflection of actual history in the Tanakh, the tribe of Judah is recorded as making a separate invasion of Canaan, and from the south, not the Transjordan.


  15. Oh, another article on speech, from the often-provocative James Howard Kunstler. “Maoism vs Trumpism”


    • If you’re on the left, what we have in the USA is a new kind of Maoism. Mostly seen on campus, and it’s an anti-free speech despotic movement that used to be about identity politics – that’s how it started – and the ideology of victimization, but it has really turned into something else now completely different.

      Mao? Seriously? That’s about as bad as Hitler comparisons. Did the campus left ever send thousand to ‘reeducation’ camps? Die they run over protesters with tanks?

      Liked by 1 person


    Libertarian crack pot?

    Voluntary taxation is an oxymoron…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. The only OUblog comment on tautologies piece:

    Traruh Synred 4TH JUNE 2017
    See Spot. See spot run. See Spot run in the house. See spot wet the rug. See Spot wet and wet.

    Out damn Spot, out!

    –Dick and Jane meet the bard


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