JULY 2013

* pirates & the corsairs

"True ethical enthusiasm consists in willing to the uttermost of one's capability, but also, uplifted in divine jest, in never thinking that one thereby achieves something."
(Soren Kierkegaard)


During the classical period, there was no linguistic distinction between pirates and the corsairs who acted on behalf of a town or an empire. Yet, the state was already hiring mercenaries to carry about compensatory legal seizures. These types of assaults, carried out as a way to redress past wrongs, were so common that kings and emperors signed treaties that defined the areas in which these retaliations were outlawed, calling these zones "asylum".

By their actions, pirates sent both a criminal and political message to the societies they are fighting against. The pirate eluded the friend/enemy dichotomy put forth by judges and legal scholars since, according to the law, piracy fell outside the realm of politcal influence. The pirate was considered denationalized: with pirates neither war nor peace was possible"
(Lessons from the Fringes of Capitalism, Harvard Business Review)


This refusal to think about great men, this irritation over every attempt by someone else to make out some particular characteristic in their inner being, reflects a terrible lack of dignity, a spontaneous serfdom of the spirit, which is as blind as it is impatient about every free man. For those who refuse to think, every name becomes an "Open, Sesame", with which all sober sight is quashed.

People can be divided into those who love themselves and those who hate themselves. There are people who find their entire subjectivity (not the subject, itself, naturally) hateful, and persecute it (in abstracto, too, as a concept) with a sad fury. The others are more inclined to find everything in themselves worthy of love; they exercise leniency with themselves, show the utmost delicacy in dealing with themselves, and if occasion arises, hold themselves up as a model for others. There are no great men who have not in the end affirmed. This is also the ultimate reason - the introductory remark notwithstanding - why there is no genius who is not productive. Off-spring are also produced by the love and affirmation of ideas, in which Plato and Schopenhauer most profoundly recognized the essence of genius.

It is the individual that is the true locus of moral value; the true vocation of each individual is to seek the highest value and to strive for autonomy. To be inconsistent, deceitful and self-deceitful character portrays exactly the essence of immorality.
(Otto Weininger, 1907)

Patrick Watts | Remains

Stephen Pinker


"All our behaviours are a result of neurophysiological activity in the brain. There is no reason to believe there is any magic going on."

"As long as your ideology identifies the main source of the world's ills as a definable group, it opens the world up to genocide."

"By all measures men are the more violent gender."

"I get drawn in when I feel there is something deep and mysterious going on beneath the surface of something."

"I suspect music is auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of... our mental faculties."

"I think the reason that swearing is both so offensive and so attractive is that it is a way to push people's emotional buttons, and especially their negative emotional buttons. Because words soak up emotional connotations and are processed involuntarily by the listener, you can't will yourself not to treat the word in terms of what it means."

"The rules of friendship are tacit, unconscious; they are not rational. In business, though, you have to think rationally."

"One necessity is greater statistical literacy among the population and especially among journalists. People need to think in terms of proportions rather than salient examples, to appreciate orders of magnitudes (ten thousand deaths versus ten million deaths), to distinguish random blips from systematic trends, and to be aware of - and thereby discount - their own cognitive biases."

John Horgan


"In retrospect, my critique of modern psychiatry was probably too mild. According to Anatomy of an Epidemic, by the journalist Robert Whitaker, psychiatry has not only failed to progress but may now be harming many of those it purports to help. Anatomy of an Epidemic has been ignored by most major media. I learned about it only after Marcia Angell, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine and now a lecturer on public health at Harvard, reviewed the book in The New York Review of Books in June. If Whitaker is right, American psychiatry, in collusion with the pharmaceutical industry, is perpetrating what may be the biggest case of iatrogenesis-harmful medical treatment-in history."




One can raise all sorts of philosophical objections to [the Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris] and he philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah does just that in a New York Times review ironically titled "Science Knows Best". My concerns about Harris's proposal are simpler: I just look at the harm - historical and recent - wreaked by scientists supposedly concerned with humanity's well-being. Some examples:

- In recent decades prescriptions of drugs for children, including infants, supposedly suffering from psychiatric illness have skyrocketed. Some 500,000 U.S. children and adolescents are now taking antipsychotic drugs, Duff Wilson reported recently in The New York Times, even though some experts believe the drugs "may pose grave risks to development of both their fast-growing brains and their bodies." In another Timesarticle Wilson details how psychiatrists who tout the benefits of antipsychotics receive grants, vacations, meals and other gifts from drug manufacturers. The Harvard physician Joseph Biederman, whose research helped spur a 40-fold increase in diagnoses of bipolar disorders in children between 1994 and 2003, received $1.6 million, "from companies including makers of antipsychotic drugs prescribed for some children who might have bipolar disorder," according to Wilson."