Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 108

To gift or not to gift-Oliver and HardyHere it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

Fantastic beasts and how (and why) to rank them in order of implausibility.

Is liberalism (both Right and Left) a tragedy?

The Closing of the American Mind, 30 years later.

Elitists, crybabies, and junky degrees: America’s political divide on higher education.

How Philippa Foot set her mind against prevailing moral philosophy.

If science is what scientists do, what happens if scientists stop doing science?

The thought police: five works of philosophy that every cop should read.

Secret link uncovered between pure math and physics.

To gift or not to gift: the competitive struggle behind giving and receiving presents.


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. Also, keep ‘em short, this is a comments section, not your own blog. Thanks!

106 thoughts on “Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 108

  1. victor panzica

    The Bloom article underscores the evolution of higher education in the 1960’s. Prior to Bloom’s experience with Cornell in 1969, Reagan started his political career in 1966 opposing the California system. In many ways California often lead the country especially when they evolved the largest public higher education system in the world. No doubt the horse was well out of the barn when Bloom wrote his book.


  2. Philosopher Eric

    If government officials are the ones doing the changing, and if these changes make things less inconvenient for them by causing people to more effectively show them their respect, I’m pretty sure that these changes won’t be all that difficult for them to make.

    Let’s say that people can increase their SCS by applying to work for their park services, but without actually committing resources to this service. That would be a loophole. Well officials could simply change the criteria to stop this sort of abuse of their system . Of course in the end the Chinese government is going to infer exactly where each of its citizens are at every moment, if not through implanted microchips, then through their cell phones. Big data will quickly tell them who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.

    I don’t know what you mean by: “Even the Chinese will learn the limits of monism.” I’m a monist rather than dualist, which is to say a naturalist rather than supernaturalist. I’m not sure of its limits, except of course that I don’t expect to go to any kind of heaven when I die. I doubt you mean that. But then if you mean “money-ist”, well the Chinese are actually getting around traditional money through the SCS.

    You awake Labnut?


  3. Steve Watson

    Deneen seems a little glib about Ye Good Olde Days in which, rather than rely on the State, neighbours all looked out for each other, and informally moderated everyone’s sexuality to prevent rape. I’m sure the former worked well — if you had the right skin colour, religion, etc. to be considered a part of the community worthy to receive such favours. Otherwise, perhaps not so much. As for the latter: while there may be some truth to his thesis, I think we know that there was lots of stuff went on that was just never talked about.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. brodix


    By monist I mean that trying to understand reality as a singular entity, or trying to create a stable, universal, eternal entity, is impossible. For example, consider our current cosmological model, where the entire universe is assumed to be a single explosion/bang/expanding space, yet cosmology is finding this is not a stable notion and now we are being indoctrinated into the “multiverse,” where there are proposed to be multitudes of such universes.
    Which necessarily requires some underlaying process to create these universes and that gets back to my point about entities and processes going opposite directions. In that our universe and all the others, is presumed to go from a start/Bang, to a finish/Crunch, fadeout, etc. Meaning that prior to their creation, they are in the future, to the past, after their dissolution. So now if this underlaying process is creating ever more universes, then it is going from prior universes, to future universes. I.e, past to future.
    It’s necessarily the same relationship between a product and the production line.
    So it’s a bit like the field and the particle. You need a field for a particle to emerge from and will fade back into, but the field is a state, not an object. It is a western notion to assume the object is fundamental, not the field. Even the Catholic Church is getting a bit timeworn, but spirituality and even religious cultism are constantly finding new expressions and manifestations.

    Which has nothing to do with Descartes.

    If the apocalypse comes, I’ll probably ditch my smart phone.


  5. Robin Herbert

    I had no idea that the link between pure maths and physics was a secret.

    After all the kinds of spaces used in relativity were created originally as pure mathematics. Imaginary numbers, essential in QM, were a product of pure mathematics.

    Why would it be surprising that it goes the other way and we can get insights into pure mathematics from the natural world?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Massimo Post author


    What surprising here is not the link between math and physics, but the other way around, meaning that for once it is physics that takes the lead and math that follows.


  7. synred

    Lot’s of math comes from physics, e.g., calculus. It’s a silly statement.

    But I don’t understand it and some of the examples seem drival.

    E.g., the set of all possible triangle simply seems isomorphic to an infinite euclidean plane. Add rules for adding and multiplying ‘triangles’ would give you complex numbers (pairs+rules).


  8. synred


    Physics has often taken the lead. Euclid is the ‘physics’ of builders.

    String theory may end up giving us nothing but math, who knows?

    It’s a rich two way street and there’s no point in worrying about priority.


  9. SocraticGadfly

    Reading Dineen full through, which I didn’t on Friday.

    I don’t think liberalism is anti-culture and certainly organizedly anti-cultural. Tosh. To the degree that culture is seen as opposing capitalism, well, in that case, yes, but that’s different than his take.

    As for his class-based take? Tosh on the Murray half. The rich get divorced plenty often, with rich men continuing to “age downward” in second, third and fourth wives. Our current President is example A. Second, he perpetuates himself the idea that the “nuclear family” is some unique long-term American cultural idea when it is not.

    Shock me! That Dineen also writes for a mag like First Things, as teh Google shows. Methinks he doth try to be a younger Richard John Neuhaus. And perhaps succeeds too well.


  10. labnut

    See this video, posted yesterday by the BBC:

    But really nothing has changed, except efficiency. Before the assets were on the streets, in the post office, in the offices and outside our apartments, now they are in the control rooms.

    Sometimes the old system worked to your advantage. On one occasion I regrettably bumped a cyclist while driving through the crowded streets. An angry crowd of local residents gathered but in no time my taciturn ‘minder’ appeared out of nowhere to shoo away the residents and urge me to hurry along.

    The real danger that I foresee is that the system, described by the BBC, will be quickly adopted by other countries for their own political purposes, as large scale usage drives down costs. The Chinese will not be able to resist the opportunity to ‘monetize’ their work.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Philosopher Eric

    Jesus Christ Brodix, you actually meant to say that the Chinese government is composed of monists in the sense that I’m a monist, and that that’s the problem with this particular situation? I’m sure that Massimo must be chuckling right now, since he seems to read your comments more often than I do. We were actually discussing political dynamics, or instruments of power, not ontology. Of course I could explain my own ontological perspective, which most certainly would concern Descartes, but not when the topic happens to be the function of the Chinese government.


  12. brodix


    Yes, but one/unit/singular is a set. Multiple sets can interact in the field, but if you bound the field as a unit, then what are its limits? If you place limits/boundaries on it, then you have inside the unit and outside, so it’s not universal. Otherwise you propose an infinite unit, which has no boundaries and how is that a single unit, as there can be nothing to define it as such?
    Of course, you can insist there is no outside the boundaries, but you can’t prove that. Originally the Big Bang theory insisted there was nothing outside the expanding universe, but now they have multiverses.

    “After all the kinds of spaces used in relativity were created originally as pure mathematics.”

    Were they ever anything more? Is spacetime physically real, or just a projection of the math, like epicycles were projections of the math describing a geocentric cosmology?

    For example, are longitude, latitude and altitude, as the three dimensional map of the surface of this planet, the physical basis for it, or just a mathematical model of it?


  13. Massimo Post author


    Not sure in what sense calculus “comes” from physics. If you mean that calculus has been devised to solve mathematical problems, that’s a different, and yes, well known, matter.


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