Friday, December 30, 2011

Time Horizons

Interesting post by Ryan Avent that addresses time horizons.

Problem With Memoirs -- The Big Assumption

Flavia:
That's what's wrong, I think, with so many memoirs: they assume that their particulars are, if not universal, at least of universal interest--while not actually being able to capture the truly universal or imagine anything beyond the author's own experience. Maybe that's only due modesty, when the subject is oneself. Maybe fiction is a better place for reflecting on how personal pasts intersect with national ones, or for making claims about the human condition.

FLG'll will just post a previous passage of his verbatim:
Since FLG is an irrepressible egotist, this made him think of his post about the purposes of liberal education. To wit:

First, one particular assumption must be disproven. [...] This assumption is: The experiences that constitute my individual life are representative of the entire human condition
.


Then, FLG argues that the best outcome that comes from disproving the Big Assumption is:

The third outcome is when the failure of the Big Assumption leads to the never-ending search for the universal in the human condition. Oddly enough, the second step in a liberal education is exactly the same as the first. The student examines ideas, feelings, beliefs, and experiences via literature, philosophy, art, and history, which are so foreign to their own life that they can find what is universally present in the human condition. This is the ultimate goal of a liberal education. I believe the difficulty in recognizing this goal is that both the first and second step are superficially the same activities.


BTW, rereading that liberal education post reminds FLG that he wants to consolidate all his theories in one post for easy reference. That and edit out his weird ramblings that in hindsight he agrees with but make him seem like a bit of a kook, which he is but doesn't want to advertise.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Forget what FLG wrote yesterday, when he thinks of Christmas the first iconic image that pops in his head is the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! God Bless!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mele Kalikimaka

Not that the FLGs are in Hawaii or anything, but Christmas in Hawaii always sounds so appealing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

For Those Of You Wondering

...if FLG helped Miss FLG Maior make a gingerbread house.  The answer is yes:

Kim Jong Il

Shocked FLG today. Good riddance.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Note To Self

When you are in a job interview and the first answer that you form in your head to a question begins with "That reminds me of the anecdote about the invention of writing at the end of Plato's Phaedrus" you might want to take a second and hope something else pops in your head.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wreathing In Pain

FLG is still trying to uphold his annual wreath making tradition, and each year he remembers anew how annoying the holly leaves are. This year, however, instead of pure holly, FLG went around the Manor and collected some pine and magnolia leaves to add a bit more pizazz.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wreaths

FLG drove by Arlington Cemetery today and teared up at the sight of all the wreaths.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quote of the day

Stephen Williamson:
What we need here is a dynamic general equilibrium model that can take account of the short run and long run effects of a change in the income tax schedule.


h/t

FLG is currently listening to



Correspondence

A reader writes:
Your recent Adam Smith and Suffering post is the worst you've ever posted. I would've written written but the majority of the words were Smith's.

Thank you for the kind words. The post was cobbled together quickly during my lunch break. Perhaps I should've waited to post it, but it is what it is.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

GU Hipsters

Via Mrs. FLG, FLG learns that Georgetown was rated tenth most hipster university.  Something might have to be done about this.

Adam Smith And Suffering

FLG just read this post over at Anti-Climacus, which references a post by Steven L. Taylor and also one by Todd Seavey detailing how Helen Rittelmeyer is Maleficent, the mistress of all evil.  Anyway, here's Anti-Climacus :
Back when postmodern conservatism was a thing, the one part with which I was most uncomfortable concerned the relative disinterest in the suffering of others (or, the alternative, that suffering was beautiful and thus ennobling). The impulse to not give a fig about others is strong, and abetted by the notion that people receive approximately what they deserve in life.* In my experience it usually takes the form of dropping a premise from an otherwise valid argument: "the world is such that people often have to suffer" "suffering is bad" "good things can often come out of suffering," in which the middle premise is referred to in a cursory way or dropped, with the end result being the belief that suffering is somehow inherently virtuous, a test of God that you're meant to pass. But in purely theological terms, suffering is bad: better to have lived in a world without it, and one does well to remember that there will be no suffering after judgment. The Christian who can't tell the difference between a blow and a caress is in a bad way.

FLG immediately thought, not of theology, but of Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments, the beginning of which argues that sympathy is the basis of morality. FLG thought of it because it combines the topic of suffering with FLG's favorite - time horizons.

We can only imagine what others are feeling...

As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation. Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at our ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did, and never can, carry us beyond our own person, and it is by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations. Neither can that faculty help us to this any other way, than by representing to us what would be our own, if we were in his case. It is the impressions of our own senses only, not those of his, which our imaginations copy. By the imagination we place ourselves in his situation, we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments, we enter as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him, and thence form some idea of his sensations, and even feel something which, though weaker in degree, is not altogether unlike them. His agonies, when they are thus brought home to ourselves, when we have thus adopted and made them our own, begin at last to affect us, and we then tremble and shudder at the thought of what he feels. For as to be in pain or distress of any kind excites the most excessive sorrow, so to conceive or to imagine that we are in it, excites some degree of the same emotion, in proportion to the vivacity or dulness of the conception.

Those suffering expect imagination in proportion to what they are feeling...

if you have either no fellow-feeling for the misfortunes I have met with, or none that bears any proportion to the grief which distracts me; or if you have either no indignation at the injuries I have suffered, or none that bears any proportion to the resentment which transports me, we can no longer converse upon these subjects. We become intolerable to one another. I can neither support your company, nor you mine. You are confounded at my violence and passion, and I am enraged at your cold insensibility and want of feeling.

Yet, a bystander cannot really imagine it in that proportion, but the function of society doesn't require such a high bar as imagining with the suffering with the same urgency as the sufferer themselves is feeling...

the emotions of the spectator will still be very apt to fall short of the violence of what is felt by the sufferer. Mankind, though naturally sympathetic, never conceive, for what has befallen another, that degree of passion which naturally animates the person principally concerned. That imaginary change of situation, upon which their sympathy is founded, is but momentary. The thought of their own safety, the thought that they themselves are not really the sufferers, continually intrudes itself upon them; and though it does not hinder them from conceiving a passion somewhat analogous to what is felt by the sufferer, hinders them from conceiving any thing that approaches to the same degree of violence. The person principally concerned is sensible of this, and at the same time passionately desires a more complete sympathy. He longs for that relief which nothing can afford him but the entire concord of the affections of the spectators with his own. To see the emotions of their hearts, in every respect, beat time to his own, in the violent and disagreeable passions, constitutes his sole consolation. But he can only hope to obtain this by lowering his passion to that pitch, in which the spectators are capable of going along with him. He must flatten, if I may be allowed to say so, the sharpness of its natural tone, in order to reduce it to harmony and concord with the emotions of those who are about him. What they feel, will, indeed, always be, in some respects, different from what he feels, and compassion can never be exactly the same with original sorrow; because the secret consciousness that the change of situations, from which the sympathetic sentiment arises, is but imaginary, not only lowers it in degree, but, in some measure, varies it in kind, and gives it a quite different modification. These two sentiments, however, may, it is evident, have such a correspondence with one another, as is sufficient for the harmony of society. Though they will never be unisons, they may be concords, and this is all that is wanted or required.

But, and here's where the time horizons come into play, it's not the immediate pain that actually causes the most suffering, but the imagination that creates fear and anxiety of remembered pain...

Nothing is so soon forgot as pain. The moment it is gone the whole agony of it is over, and the thought of it can no longer give us any sort of disturbance. We ourselves cannot then enter into the anxiety and anguish which we had before conceived. An unguarded word from a friend will occasion a more durable uneasiness. The agony which this creates is by no means over with the word. What at first disturbs us is not the object of the senses, but the idea of the imagination. As it is an idea, therefore, which occasions our uneasiness, till time and other accidents have in some measure effaced it from our memory, the imagination continues to fret and rankle within, from the thought of it.

Perhaps the most striking example is a mother and baby...

What are the pangs of a mother, when she hears the moanings of her infant that during the agony of disease cannot express what it feels? In her idea of what it suffers, she joins, to its real helplessness, her own consciousness of that helplessness, and her own terrors for the unknown consequences of its disorder; and out of all these, forms, for her own sorrow, the most complete image of misery and distress. The infant, however, feels only the uneasiness of the present instant, which can never be great. With regard to the future, it is perfectly secure, and in its thoughtlessness and want of foresight, possesses an antidote against fear and anxiety, the great tormentors of the human breast, from which reason and philosophy will, in vain, attempt to defend it, when it grows up to a man.

The baby, without a concept of past or future, lives only in the present. So, as soon as the pain is relieved, all is well. The mother, who remembers prior pain and worries of pain in the future, actually suffers more.

So, what's FLG's point here?

The basis of human morality, at least in Smith's conception here, is sympathy. Sympathy is ultimately a product of the imagination. Imagination requires similar sensory experience to draw from, and the imagination, mental suffering, is in some ways both less intense and worse than the physical.

Looking at the immediate effects of suffering, therefore, leads to one conclusion only - suffering is bad. However, if we look at the potential effects of suffering over the longer-term, then perhaps there are ennobling aspects. For example, isn't the suffering of the Depression often cited as a key contributing factor to the formation of the Greatest Generation?

Therefore, on one hand, FLG agrees with Anti-Climacus that the Your Privilege Is Showing (YPIS) aspect of Taylor's attack on Santorum isn't all that interesting. It's not particularly relevant whether Santorum is presently and immediately suffering, but whether he has sufficient experience to imagine it and consequently sympathize.

On the other hand, FLG has some questions on Anti-Climacus' point here, "But in purely theological terms, suffering is bad: better to have lived in a world without it, and one does well to remember that there will be no suffering after judgment."

Was Jesus' suffering bad? Noble? Both?  If it is noble, then why?  Because he was suffering for others, for some purpose, rather than due to the whims of Fate?
Does time even exist after judgment?* If time doesn't exist, then can we even suffer? Isn't suffering inherently temporal?


--------------------
* FLG knows this is his little pet proclivity, so he's stretching this here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dear Mrs. FLG:

Up for moving to Paris?

Sure, you don't speak French and we'd probably have to sell the house and uproot the kids, but it's the city of light, right?


Sincerely,
FLG

Sanitary Advice

FLG always laughs when he thinks of this scene:

FLG Still Learning Stuff About French

From The Cigarette Smoking Blog:
La langue de bois (“the wooden tongue”) is a very useful French term for platitudinous windbaggery that combines the worst qualities of politician-speak and bureaucratese.

Quote of the day

The Hoya:
English isn't the only major we should cut. Let's turn to the other worst offenders — those majors that have been found to have a connection with the highest unemployment rates by The Wall Street Journal.

History, after English, can be the second to go. With 15.1 percent of history majors now unemployed, it's clear that these graduates need a new way to apply their detail-oriented minds. In fact, they could work perfectly well as archivists for accounting firms. With so much data in the modern economy, someone needs to sort it all into folders.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Don't Knock Concrete

Instapundit linked to a degree program in concrete management. FLG knows what some of you are thinking, can courses in concrete project estimation, ordering and delivering, and blueprint reading be rigorous?

Two things.

First, let's not kid ourselves about the rigors of liberal arts as opposed to this type of vocational training. Georgetown has a course on Jay-Z. FLG likes Jay-Z and all, but those types of classes can swing between very rigorous and student pandering, frequently toward the latter.

Second, FLG has asked several Vegas cab drivers which convention is the best, and each time they said the World of Concrete, those guys know how to party. So, there's that going for the program.

Occupy Wall Street

Monty Python Edition

Monday, December 5, 2011

Quote of the day

Andrew Stevens:
I think it makes a great deal of difference whether one grew up on Sesame Street or Barney.

Please Make It Stop

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sustainable Annoyingness

WaPo:
Michael Patterson, 21, of Anchorage, said the structure was meant to symbolize the need to house the homeless. It had been covered with a blue tarp until shortly before the arrests.

“It is counterrevolutionary to occupy space with a permit,” Patterson told the crowd. “Why don’t the cops care about sheltering the homeless in the streets?”

Other demonstrators said the building was designed to provide demonstrators a place to go when it gets cold, and they were planning to build an “eco-friendly” heating device to make the structure sustainable. Group chants escalated through the early afternoon, and there was an increasing amount of scuffling, shouting and shoving.

Patterson later approached police shouted in their faces, urging them to arrest him. And they did, dragging him away from the square as he shouted: “I didn’t serve in Iraq to have this happen to me.”

A few quick points:
1) Serving in Iraq, while admirable and the country appreciates it, doesn't entitle a person to be a huge jackass forever and always, including to cops in the midst of a somewhat pressure-filled situation.

2) The structure they are erecting in the park is certainly not going to be permanent, so the idea that it will be sustainable because it will have eco-friendly heating is idiotic.

3) Will that eco-friendly heating solution dried protestor poop? Because a shit powered protest would be awesome.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Quick Round-up

Dear Maryland drivers:

FLG will start by saying he doesn't know much about the licensure process in Maryland, but in any case he'd like you to know that the red things with eight sides that have the word "STOP" on them are called Stop Signs. They typically indicate there is an intersection, a place where two roads meet and there are often crosswalks (those are where people are supposed to cross the street), and that you are supposed to bring your car to a full and complete stop. A somewhat common practice is to slow down dramatically, but not completely stop. This is sometimes referred to as a California Stop or, less frequently, a Rhode Island roll. These are not exactly legal, but far better than ignoring the signs entirely, which seems to be the preferred approach of Maryland drivers. Therefore, FLG became concerned that this might be a lack of training. So, remember the signs with STOP on them indicate that you are to stop the car before proceeding. If, like many Maryland residents, you can't read, then just remember that red signs with eight sides mean stop. You don't even have to take your shoes off to count that high.

Sincerely,
FLG

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The FLGs went down to Shirlington on Thursday for some sort of Christmas celebration. They had carriage rides, ballon animals, and Santa. You get the idea. However, on the way back to the car, the FLGs passed through a phallanx of Secret Service because John Boehner decided to step out to have a smoke.

As a former smoker, FLG is sympathetic to the plight of smokers who have to shuffle outside in the cold, but there is something very pathetic and sad about the person who is third in line to the presidency in a shirt and tie huddled up in an tiny alcove to smoke a cigarette. Maybe Obama stands next to a column on the Truman Balcony to find some relief on a cold, windy night, but the image is harder to imagine.
 
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