Reading Notes 2018.11.14

Rob Reich on "Is philanthropy bad for democracy?", from Rationally Speaking
--Many philanthropists donate to fancy schools that really don't need extra money. Maybe public policy should be: tax-deductible donations to support public schools should be conditioned on whether or not the school that you're supporting with your donation has a certain percentage of kids who are on free or induced lunch.
--It's true that the philanthropists could have had put the money into business or politics rather than philanthropy. But when an individual creates a company, as you were describing, or say gets elected to government and then has an opportunity to direct public resources, there are forms of accountability that are kind of internal to the marketplace and internal to the operation of government, that hold that power in check in a certain way. Philanthropic power by contrast is almost wholly unaccountable. >>這一點也是台灣的財團喜歡用財團法人控制企業的原因吧。台灣就連企業都沒有完整的監督與制衡,更別提慈善或公益事業的權力問題了。

# Christopher Chabris on "Collective intelligence & the ethics of A/B tests", from Rationally Speaking
--People who have good social and emotional skills enhance group intelligence more than experts of specific, technical fields.
--Women enhance group intelligence, but there may be a selection bias that the women got selected into the sample tend to be more intelligent than average women.


Reading Notes 2018.10.20

Claude Lévi-Strauss today, by Dan Sperber
[p.72] Faithful to the terminology of Saussure, he [Levi-Strauss] tends to refer to symbolic phenomena as "signifiers," and one might assume that the investigation is into an underlying code which pairs these signifiers with their "signified." Yet, if readers begin looking for the signifieds, they soon realize that the underlying code relates signifiers to other signifiers: there are no signifieds. Everything is meaningful, nothing is meant.

[p.74] If the question asked were: "Why should a given social group consider itself to stand in a special relationship to, say, eagles?," only unsatisfactory answers could be given: "Because they are mistaken about ancestry," or "because they think they resemble eagles and assume this implies a relationship." Explaining strange behavior by even stranger intellectual errors is no explanation at all.

Levi-Strauss points out that the human-animal relationship can be understood in a third, even more systemic way: neither as a set of dyadic relationships between individual items, nor as a dyadic relationship between sets of individual items, but as a second-degree dyadic relationship between two sets of first-degree relationship:
On the one hand there are animals which differ from each other (in that they belong to distinct species, each of which has its own physical appearance and mode of life), and on the other hand there are men...who also differ from each other (in that they are distributed among different segments of the society, each occupying a particular position in the social structure.). The resemblance presupposed by so-called totemic representations is between these two systems of differences (Levi-Strauss 1963b: 77).
Seen in this light, the resource to animal species provides a unique system of differences. Species do not overlap, they look different, they live differently, they offer an endless choice of opposed features that can be used to contrast human groups......If, for instance, a tribe were divided into three clans named after the eagle, the bear, and the turtle, this might suggest that we concentrate on the natural element of each of these species, and further contrast the three clans as associated with sky, earth, and water.
# Christopher Chabris on "Collective intelligence & the ethics of A/B tests", from Rationally Speaking
--People who have good social and emotional skills enhance group intelligence more than experts of specific, technical fields.
--Women enhance group intelligence, but there may be a selection bias that the women got selected into the sample tend to be more intelligent than average women.


約瑟和他的兄弟們 by 曾慶豹

[p.2] 有一次在一位老牧師的書架上翻看到一本書《共黨能和宗教和平共存嗎》......令我感到興趣的莫過於是牧師在扉頁註記了一段話:


Reading Notes 2017.10.21

# An unlikely triumph by David Labaree.
美國許多 college 設在偏僻小鎮,因為原本就是為了炒新開發區地皮而設。大學部學費是主要收入來源,所以課程不能太難,要讓學生開心,與社區民眾及校友維繫感情,經營球隊是方法之一, populism。

# From BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
很久沒讀這種論述性質的東西了。我關心的問題:階級與種族兩線上的運動為何分裂,又如何可能聯合,作者也關心,但只是輕描淡寫地穿插提及。一來,本書的主題固不在此吧,二來,作者始終停留在論述層次,不在意將論述轉譯成經驗命題 (例如,哪些白人工人有強烈的種族主義傾向?為甚麼?),也不試圖從經驗分析中尋求支持。


Reading Notes 2017.05.31

Contemporary Approaches to the Social Contract, by D'Agostino, Gaus, and Thrasher (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
    1. 古典的社會契約論重視 consent-obligation。當代契約論重視 the problem of justification: what social arrangements we can all accept as “free persons who have no authority over one another” (Rawls 1958, 33).
    2. Contractarian (Hobbesian/reductionist/why be moral) 與 Contratualist (Kantian/non-reductionist/what sorts of moral or political principles meet certain basic moral demands) 兩類理論。
    3. 如果 agents 的異質性太高,可能出現 indeterminacy/equilibrium selection 問題。
    4. Hobbes 以野蠻狀態對照社會契約。當代理論家的另一種論法是社會契約 vs 現狀,或將契約分為兩階段,constitutional 與 post-constitutional。
    5. 共識之形成機制: bargaining; aggregation; EGT equilibrium.
---順帶一提,如這段分析指出,Kant's categorical imperative 只是 symmetric game 的結果,難擴展至 asymmetric 情況。包括 Rawls 在內的一些社會契約論者似也有相同問題。



Reading Notes 2017.05.14

---逝世八十年后,葛兰西如何帮我们理解当代政治 by 张跃然 骆斯航 

---意外讀到一篇特別的書評:“Original Sin”? Revising the Revisionist Critique of the 1963 Operation Coldstore in Singapore by Kumar Ramakrishna, Singapore, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2015, vii + 167 pp. by Michael D. Barr


Comments on Postone's Time, Labor, and Social Domination

Dear A,

Thanks for introducing me the book by Moishe Postone. I had read the third part of the book, Toward a reconstruction of the Marxian critique: capital. Since I am more interested in his own understandings and implications of his own analyses, I skip the first two parts. Overall it is a good book. But I can’t say that I love it. Most arguments of Postone are familiar to me in one way or the other, and I have been skeptical about them. I do like his argument for the possibility against actuality. But unfortunately he does not clarify the conditions or obstacles for it very much. Below I will outline his three major arguments, and then spell out my critiques or thoughts related to them.







Reading Notes 2016.10.19


---A Life Beyond Boundaries, by Benedict Anderson 
[p.191] War, travel, trade and reading kept polities of divergent sizes in constant, if often hostile, contact. Characteristic of this situation is the relation of English to Dutch. Most English people today have no idea that hundreds of English words come from what the huge Oxford English Dictionary categorizes as Old Dutch, but they treasure the hostile expressions 'Dutch courage' (bravery based on drunkenness), 'Dutch treat' (inviting a woman to dinner and insisting that she half the bill) and 'Dutch wives' (solid, hard bolsters for comfortable sleeping).
[p.124-125] The debate was really triggered by Nairn's polemical The Break-up of Britian, which argued that the UK was a fossilized, conservative and imperialistic relic of the past, doomed to break up into its four constituent underlying nations, with Scotland leading the way. The book was strongly attacked, especially by Hobsbawm, who declared that no true Marxist could be a nationalist; Marxiam had been committed from the start to internationalism. I like the book very much, for its own sake, but also as an Irishman (Southern Ireland, after centuries of English colonial rule, had only won its independence, by armed struggle, in 1922).


Reading Notes 2016.10.13

---The empty brain, by Robert Epstein

此文區分了兩種理解大腦運作的方式,一種是把大腦當成電腦,可以儲存與處理資訊,因此有可能想像下載或複製資訊,甚至把某人的心智整個傳上網路。另一種是把大腦當成某種因應刺激做出反應的有機體 (organism),這有機體不斷地隨著學習與經驗改變自己,因此每個人都是獨特的,以獨特的方式構成,不可能任意加裝或傳輸甚麼資訊。

雖然作者寫得很有趣,但我有點懷疑這種區分在實際研究上有甚麼助益。可能是因為我對認知科學了解很少,我不太懂第二種假說在研究設計上要處理的是甚麼問題。其次,在我看來,這兩種 "假說" 似乎是可以合併的,只要在第一種假說中加上 "大腦這電腦會隨學習與經驗不斷生成變化,而其牽一髮而動全身的複雜性遠非我們目前能掌握" 即可。作者提到的打棒球比喻,在第一種假說的架構中可能只是個演算法問題。至於大腦中是不是有甚麼特殊內核儲存與處理資訊,並不那麼重要。

當然,第一種假說顯然是適應於我們目前對大腦乃至身體運作方式的粗淺認識,失之於靜態與機械。第二種假說反映了對認知運作方式的動態或 "有機" 的想像,看起來確實比較有趣,而且在某些方面更直觀。隨著研究的進展,很可能第一種假說會被逐漸拋棄。但是否就會轉向第二種假說?從科學史的一些例子來看,我仍是存疑的。

和朋友聊到此文,得到另一個看法。電腦的發展可能本就有一部分是希望模擬人腦的運作 (例如文中 von Neumann 的話似可作此解) 。AI 大概是很明顯的例子。因此,與其說研究者把人腦看作電腦來研究,不如說研究者的目標其實是想讓電腦更像人腦。


---A Life Beyond Boundaries, by Benedict Anderson 
[pp.193-194] Though European nationalism adopted key ideas from the Creole nationalism of the America, it was deeply affected by early-nineteenth-century Romanticism, which was foreign to its predecessors. It had huge appeal for outstanding poets, novelists, dramatists, composers and painters. It was also quite aware of, and felt solidarity with (though not always, of course), other popular nationalisms as fellow movements for the emancipation of the people from despotic dynasties - a solidarity later expressed institutionally in the League of Nations, the United Nations, and many other forms. 
After the world wars of the twentieth century, however, many young nationalisms typically got married to prey-beard states. Today, nationalism has became a powerful tool of the state and the institutions attached to it: the military, the media, schools and universities, religious establishments, and so on. I emphasize tools because the basic logic of the state's being remains that of rasion d'etat - ensuring its own survival and power, especially over its own subjects.* Hence contemporary nationalism is easily harnessed by repressive and conservative forces, which, unlike earlier anti-dynastic nationalism, have little interest in cross-national solidarities. The consequences are visible in many countries. One has only to think of state-sponsored myths about national histories of China, Burma, both Koreas, Siam, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, or Sri Lanka for Asian examples. The intended effect is an unexamined, hypersensitive provinciality and narrow-mindedness. The signs are usually the presence of taboos (don't write about this!, don't talk about that!) and the censorship to enforce them. 
For a long time, different forms of socialism - anarchist, Leninist, New Leftist, social-democratic - provided a 'global' framework in which a progressive, emancipationist nationalism could flourish. Since the fall of 'communism' there has been a global vacuum, partially filled by feminism, environmentalism, neo-anarchism and various other 'isms', fighting in different and not always cooperative ways against the barrenness of neoliberalism and hypocritical 'human rights' interventionism. But a lot of work, over a long period of time, will be needed to fill the vacuum. 
* This is not to deny that contemporary nationalism does not still contain a powerful emancipatory and egalitarian element - the huge modern gains in relation to the position of women, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, for example, would have been unimaginable without its help.
這段很有趣,也很令人懷疑。19 世紀的民族主義真與國際主義結合嗎?在成功奪取或建造國家機器之前,與其他反封建力量互通聲息可以想像 (你那裡的封建王朝倒台,我這裡的也會難再撐下去),但奪權之後就是另一回事了。至於當代的民權運動,除了利用公民身分主張權利這一點之外,跟民族主義運動有甚麼直接關係?除非他想的是為了對抗外敵,於是藉由擴大賦權進行社會動員的情況。但那也多半是 1970 年代以前的事了吧。