Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 89

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

On Tyranny: a test of American traditions.

Understatement of the decade: as a guru, Ayn Rand may have limits.

ABSOLUTE MUST-READ: on the rise and fall of globalization.

Is linguistics a science? Does it matter?

Doctor Who breaks its 👽 glass ceiling, and predictably some people don’t like it.

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Please notice that the duration of the comments window is three days (including publication day), and that comments are moderated for relevance (to the post one is allegedly commenting on), redundancy (not good), and tone (constructive is what we aim for). This applies to both the suggested readings and the regular posts. Thanks!

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Categories: Plato's Suggestions

129 replies

  1. Massimo,

    The first three links do relate to economics, as these political systems and philosophies evolved from various assumptions about what is economically entailed.

    Safe to say though, the field has reached the proverbial dead end. If it isn’t to go in circles, someone has to come up with a different way to frame the issues involved and find an audience willing to consider the possibilities.

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  2. Massimo

    I’ll be honest, feminism has been of a blindspot for my left-wing politics because so many people I talk to are incapable of talking about nuance, so I’ve had trouble wading my way through in these discussions. Of course the Right has been full of bullshit with regards to it but I don’t like how it’s discussed by many on the other side.

    Just this last month, I was talking to some liberal feminist that I think that there is a gender pay gap, that there is some sexual discrimination that is often unnoticed, and perhaps we may have gone backwards on some issues (like expectations of women in cultural media for their weight) but that I also believed that with regards to most things, women’s rights and status have improved enormously and is nothing like it was 40 years ago.

    I was accused of “mansplaining” and my insistence for evidence otherwise was being blind in recognizing what’s obvious about women’s plight. And this isn’t just one occurence, I think this is very common. Not sure if you’re aware, but this sort of thing had lead me to avoid talking about Syria on the Left, an issue that has become very toxic.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Massimo, I’ve seen a few Dr. Who episodes, but nowhere near a fanboy. What I read, that the creator of the doctor allegedly envisioned a female doctor, is about all I have to report. Oh, and that the new female doctor’s pants apparently don’t have pockets, so she has to stuff devices in her bosom.

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  4. As someone who has been watching Doctor Who since the early 70’s, I am not particularly happy with the casting of a female Doctor, for much the same reason that I don’t like the gender swapping being done with classic Marvel characters either. The fans apparently don’t like it either, as Marvel comics sales have been plummeting since this started.

    I am perfectly happy with female characters, of which there are many in the Marvel universe — and some of whom are amongst the most powerful; see for example, Dark Phoenix — but can see no reasons for turning male characters into female ones that don’t involve a brand of politics that I intensely dislike, in part because I think it has done tremendous damage to the fortunes of my political party (the Democrats) and of my profession (academia). Making Iron Man a black teenage girl is stupid and forced and ridiculous and aggravating and will do nothing more than kill the franchise.

    We will see if the same happens with Dr. Who. I can’t really predict, as I don’t know the demographics of the audience for the current show, which I really have little interest in. Of the four Doctors since the reboot, only Eccleston was interesting and he only lasted a season. The best Doctors — Troughton, Pertwee, Baker — belonged to a different era with an entirely different audience.

    So, while I had already pretty much lost interest in Doctor Who, this seems to me to have a similar flavor to what is happening with Marvel, and I very much dislike it. Whether it kills Who the same way that its killing Marvel will just have to be seen.

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  5. I reread the Dr. Who article and what it reminded me of is that people say they have no problem with the roles carried out by those of a different identity, but they feel that it is “ruined” if the changes come across for the brands they are used to. So Spiderman is “ruined” if spiderman is black (Hermoine for the Harry Potter plau if I remember) and Disney movies are “ruined” if the a gay couple plays the role. If one were to ask how much is it for deep commitment to the original set of characters and how much of it is actual prejudice, I think there could be some cases for the former but looking at the nature of
    the responses, it’s pretty transparent that it’s the latter.

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  6. the issue of women in television and movies is a serious one. Take the protagonist of the recent action movie Atomic Blonde. She was criticized because her character isn’t sufficiently psychologically developed. Can you imagine someone asking the same to Sean Connery about James Bond?

    = = =

    Really? You think this is a serious issue? I don’t. The treatment of women in Saudi Arabia is a serious issue. But female actresses and celebrities in the West? Seems to me they’re doing just fine. More than fine really.

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  7. Saphsin,

    I hear you about reasonable vs unreasonable feminism, as well as the increasingly popular, very irritating, and ertainly anti-democratic, habit of shutting down a man on the ground of “mansplaining,” or any white person on the ground of “privilege.” Still, we need to keep having these discussions among reasonable people.

    Dan,

    I disagree that there is no problem with Western actresses, who are still less paid, find fewer jobs especially when they are getting older, and are generally treated differently from their male counterparts. To say that there are worse problems for women in other parts of the world strikes me as a red herring: yes, true, but I think we can deal with more than one problem at a time, at the proper scale.

    More importantly, these attitudes are reflectively of large sections of Western society as well. That is why they are a problem.

    As for Marvel’s and Doctor Who’s character switching, I think it’s fine when done in an organic, judicious way, and not fine when done just for pandering to the politically correct crowd. The difference may be hard to tell in specific cases, but for instance it was obvious, and welcome, that we would have a black and a female Star Trek captains. Doctor Who is designed in a way that invites gender switching (and if Socratic is right that was the intention all along). And a black Spider-Man annoyed me far less than the most recent White incarnation (in the comics, not the movie), who has basically become a teenage version of Tony Stark / IronMan…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Dan, then what say you for the creator of Dr. Who reportedly eventually wanting a female doctor. Are you engaging in reader-response criticism, to indirectly connect to linguistics? Or even worse?

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  9. Sorry, it was Dr. Who’s “showrunner” (executive director + script editr) for the Doctors, who said he wanted a female doctor.

    THAT then said, also per this link, there have been female doctors for individual episodes then. Dan, did you protest at that time? http://variety.com/2017/tv/global/bbc-doctor-who-1202496884/

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  10. THAT that said, per No. 2 on this link, women have previously been Time Lords, with hints of being like Doctors, but previous showrunners etc. have pulled their punches. Besides, per the quirkiness of the TARDIS, a rematerialization as a female Doctor is nothing extraordinary. https://www.themarysue.com/the-ladies-of-sci-fi-5-reasons-why-we-need-a-female-doctor-in-doctor-who/

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  11. I think animus toward a female doctor sounds like it might be grounded in the same pre-feminism origins of the start of Doctor Who.

    Massimo mentioned Bond. I think there’s only one REAL Bond, but, I didn’t have a hissy fit (pun VERY intended with “hissy”) when Moore replaced Connery.

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  12. Also relevant as a riposte to “female Doctors over my dead body” types: Previous runs of the show have had other members of the Doctor’s species change genders. So, why not the Doctor? http://www.vulture.com/2015/07/doctor-who-showrunner-doesnt-want-women-doctors.html

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  13. The problem with economics may be somewhat related to the previous post on this blog: even though each atomic transaction is simple and understandable by itself, global economy is a different beast altogether. Some economic phenomena, like inflation, may be purely emergent.

    Many popular characters have had multiple actors. Doctor Who, being a children’s show originally, is unique in that it incorporates the change of the actor/actress within the storyline, to “explain” to children why the familiar face has changed. That doesn’t happen with James Bond, or whoever is playing spiderman this year. It does take some act of belief from the audience, even an adult one, to separate the character from the performer.

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  14. Socratic: I explained my reasons quite clearly. That you don’t accept them is fine, but they are my reasons. From what I understand, show creators in the 1980s thought about having a female doctor, but the show goes back to the early 1960s, and as I indicated, its greatest years were in the 60’s and 70’s.

    Regardless of the current show’s producers’ attitudes, I see no reason why my reasons need match theirs. Nor do I see any reason to engage in silly Gotcha! games like “Did you protest back when the doctor became a woman for 5 minutes in a 40+year running program?” I liked Doctor Who when it was a children’s program, in which the Doctor was a (generally older) man, with young companions, both male and female, and I see nothing wrong with liking it that way.

    As I said, I really haven’t had much use for the reboot, which is when the show really took on contemporary political attitudes. Its spinoff Torchwood did it even more so and more brazenly, and I disliked it for precisely that reason.

    Re: Bond, the best Bond was George Lazenby and the best Bond film was the one with him in it: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

    Massimo:

    There is no red herring. You can concern yourself with whatever issues you like. I simply don’t find concern about the professional condition of the Scarlett Johanssons or Helen Mirrens of the world to be “serious” in the manner you suggest, given that regardless of whether they make less than some male actors or not, they are multi-millionaires nonetheless. And if you switch industries, such as modeling or even porn, women make much more than their male counterparts.

    Regardless, it all strikes me as First World problems of a sort that I simply cannot call “serious” or be very concerned with. It may just be that my reserves of moral energy are smaller than yours.

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    • Dan,

      Frankly, I don’t really find it useful when your responses boil down to “that’s how I think, too bad.” (That said, Socratic, please redouble your efforts to avoid snarky comments and gotcha moments…).

      This is a discussion forum, the whole point is for people (including you) to challenge other people’s opinions, and for everyone (including you) to be challenged. Saying something like “that’s my opinion and that’s it” is definitely not an invite to conversation.

      As for first world problems (and setting aside your strange reference to one of the most exploitative industries in the world, regardless of how much some female performers may make), disagreements about Wittgenstein are even more so, and yet people spend a lifetime engaging in them.

      Liked by 3 people

    • disagreements about Wittgenstein

      Dan, I would be interested in your opinion about AI inventing languages!

      It looks like a gag from the Onion to me!

      Maybe the Donald is an A(not so)I.

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  15. Massimo: I gave my reasons. I saw no reason to repeat them, insofar as Socratic hadn’t engaged with any of them.

    As for exploitation, the entire entertainment industry is exploitative, some elements of it more than others.

    I don’t see why it is a problem that people have different moral concerns. This area just isn’t one of mine. Undoubtedly there are things about which I have more moral concern than you do. That’s just the nature of the thing. I only commented to begin with, because you lamented the fact that no one really was discussing the Doctor Who piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I agree with Dan on Bond. Saw that one in the theater as a child and it imprinted deeply.

    The issue Dan and Massimo are arguing over, the relevance of some issues in broader, or different contexts, is, as I see it, one of emergence. As society evolves, the issues become both more complex and fine tuned, so that what might be a matter of life and death at a more primitive level(and I’m explicitly putting Saudi Arabia in that category), becomes, say, a matter of respect in a more evolved society. Which is not a knock to either, but a function of the stages of development and social evolution.

    To paraphrase Jesus; “The arguments will always be with you.”

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  17. Lazenby as best Bond? Hell, he wasn’t even British. De gustibus non disputandum, I guess. That said, Lazenby talks about his one-off Bond, acting in general and more here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/may/17/george-lazenby-on-bond-sex-and-the-60s-they-had-the-pill-i-was-a-handsome-guy

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    • Hell, he wasn’t even British

      ‘Rick Grimes’ in the Waling Dead[a] is British, but plays American well. I seen few Bond films, but didn’t like them because of the cavalier attitude to killing. Still ‘It’s only a movie.’

      [a] Soap Opera with zombies…

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  18. Cousin, on the Facebook AI, yes, it was unintelligible to you, but that’s part of the point. Once the bots moved beyond actual English, it became something that they made more intelligible and creative for themselves. Now, I wouldn’t read too too much into this, but in general, the self-evolution of a language is going to be a sign of stronger versions of AI, as I see it.

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    • AI, yes, it was unintelligible to you, but that’s part of the point

      So how do we know it’s language at all instead of the gibberish it looks like.

      I’m in general I am skeptical of AI. Most of it is just more or less sophisticated look-up-tables. I would not ascribe ‘understanding’ to that. The information content of ‘to me to me to me to me’ hist very low — a waste of bits and bandwidth.

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  19. Also, setting “hardware” issues aside (brain, palate, tongue, etc. in hominids) the Facebook bots will surely have at least a small bit to say about the evolution of languages, especially if their human overlords don’t shut them down so quickly in the future.

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  20. Oh, I think I engaged enough, Dan. I’ll note (assuming this is not considered “snarky”) that political INcorrectness can run just as amok as political correctness. That’s my main “engagement.”

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  21. Synred: As language is an inherently and ineliminably social thing, unless AI’s are part of a social context, they cannot speak in or create languages.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Interesting comment thread!

    I just have one input here: I’ve seen all the Bonds–I even have a knockoff page from my old Philosophy Songs site (over 20 years and hanging in there!) about them:

    http://philosophysongs.org/awhite/bond.html

    I’d argue that Daniel Craig is the best Bond–flawed, no-nonsense, tough-minded, and all that with the requisite good looks (and the best physique of any Bond). His movies are uneven though, more due to plot than his acting. My favorite of his–and my favorite of all the movies–is Skyfall. Certainly it includes one of the best villain taunts since Goldfinger’s to Bond about using a laser to make him talk: “No Mr. Bond–I want you to die!”

    Rauol Silva (Javier Bardem), catching up to Bond after quite a fight: “Do you see what comes of all this running around, Mr. Bond? All this jumping and fighting, it’s exhausting! Relax. You need to relax… “

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  23. Hi synred,

    You make protectionism sound good. Moderation in all things.

    The Australian Government cannot, for a number of reasons, put a one thousand percent tariff rate on IT services, so there is no kind of protectionism that will help in this case.

    Nor would I want them to. I know someone who attended an overseas conference and met a lot of developers and IT people from developing countries. He says these people are hungry – and that is not a figure of speech!

    Anyone who thinks that we can just adjust some policy settings and go back to the pre-global times is fooling himself. There is too much at stake for me in this case to fool myself.

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    • The Australian Government cannot, for a number of reasons, put a one thousand percent tariff rate on IT services, so there is no kind of protectionism that will help in this case

      Indeed. And the days of the web, IT jobs are easier to export than factories. There’s no need to build factories, so the idea that ‘high tech’ jobs would replace industrial ones is not viable, even if retraining 50 year old coal miners to be software engineers was possible.

      And even the Luddites were pushed out of work by software (punch cards)…

      Globalization may be inevitable, that doesn’t mean it a good thing.

      I’d say what’s need is democracy, workers rights (no de-facto slavery), etc. I don’t hold out much hope for that and anyway the ‘bots are coming just has they did for the benighted Luddites.

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  24. Lazenby was my favourite Bond too, and it is is a toss up whether OHMSS or From Russia with Love was my favourite film. OHMSS is also my favourite Bond book.

    Lazenby actually gave the impression that having been under stress for some time, dog tired and facing extreme danger that he was actually at the end of his tether.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. When the Beeb announced, after Tom Baker left, that they were talking to women as well as men for the role of The Doctor I was hoping for it to be a woman. I was disappointed that it was not and doubly disappointed at Tristan Farnon in the role. I never saw any of the remaining episodes as I had left home and didn’t have a TV.

    So I am happy they have finally bit the bullet. That said, she is not really my idea of the Doctor. I kind of imagine Pam Ferris in the role.

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  26. I actually envisioned Sean Connery as the first female Doctor.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Robin,

    Losing Diana Riggs would do that.

    The Russians don’t need protectionism, when they have US sanctions to do the same thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Per Brodix, a friendly reminder that on the DNC emails, there’s reasonable evidence that “Putin did NOT do it.” https://consortiumnews.com/2017/07/24/intel-vets-challenge-russia-hack-evidence/

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  29. I am not particularly invested in Dr Who or many fiction characters to care whether they are recreated as female, black or gay. However, I am surprised no one has mentioned a highly problematical aspect of all this re-imagining. The entertainment industry is basically saying that they are incapable of creating new, substantial roles for women, minorities, gays, and so on, and that they can only raise diversity by having them piggy back off already established characters. Characters that were established as white heterosexual males!

    How is this a good thing? Surely this is the very definition of stagnation. Does anyone actually believe that if you made Superman black and Batman gay, that you have increased diversity in entertainment? Does anyone actually believe that the economic and political concerns of minorities, gays, etc is somehow lessened by putting tits on a male character or black-facing a white character?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Bunsen,

      I see your point, but don’t buy it. First off, the idea is to show that society features a wider variety of people than just white males. One does not need a specially designed character for that. Second, the two possibilities are not mutually exclusive, and sure enough both movies and television have produced novel female, minority and even transgender characters.

      Liked by 1 person

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