Monday, July 30, 2012

Thom Versus Tom

Two months (hey, FLG has been very busy), The Ancient wrote:
Now I'm a cranky sort of fellow, but it seems to me that Tom Ford has a lot to answer for.

FLG must protest.  If anybody has something to answer for, then it's Thom Browne.

His trousers are ridiculous, and FLG laments the influence that cut has had on menswear generally.  And then there's shit like this that renders FLG's quite colorful vocabulary utterly insufficient.

 On the other hand, FLG is rather fond of Tom Ford's penchant for 1970s-esque wide, peaked lapels.  They're a touch too wide for FLG's taste, but nowhere near as ridiculous as Thom Browne's stuff.


The Maximum Leader said...

I am digging Tom Ford's red velvet jacket with the round lapels. I've got a tuxedo cut in a similar vein.

The Ancient said...

If you look at Ford's clothes on his website, they don't look all that bad. It's only when you see someone wearing them -- usually a louche decorator in New York who has a website with almost daily pictures of himself in some bizarre get-up -- that you can see how awful and poorly-tailored they really are. Which is a pity, because Ford -- unlike Browne -- is a genuinely talented man.

Moreover, no one really wears Thom Browne's clothes, do they? (I'd wager far more men wear those Phineas Cole outfits from Paul Stuart, which do bear some Browne influence.)

But, hey, it's 2012. If you want to look like an interior decorator with fragrance issues, go right ahead. Just don't scare the horses in the street.

P.S. Maxie -- With your avatar, you can wear whatever you want.

The Ancient said...

BTW, if you and Maxie want to look really sharp, why not get your suits and jackets made here?

(I couldn't resist.)

The Ancient said...

FLG --

On a more elevating topic, did you see this?

The Ancient said...

Pssst, Andrew --

I'm depending on you to rescue this thread!

The Maximum Leader said...

I feel stupid because yesterday I couldn't remember that the lapels on the tuxedo I liked are called "shawl collars."

Ancient - Perhaps I should update my avatar. The myllan cap and other late medieval garb is a bit old. And I think I'd go to the gents at for a bespoke suit before Anderson & Sheppard. (Although you can't go wrong with A & S.)

Andrew Stevens said...

The Ancient - I saw your link, read it, realized that you were baiting me, and then refused to rise to the bait.

To answer it briefly - 1) a basic grounding in algebra is more necessary than he thinks - he doesn't realize this because he possesses it and 2) he states:

What of the claim that mathematics sharpens our minds and makes us more intellectually adept as individuals and a citizen body? It’s true that mathematics requires mental exertion. But there’s no evidence that being able to prove (x² + y²)² = (x² - y²)² + (2xy)² leads to more credible political opinions or social analysis.

I believe there is a lot of evidence for this.

The Ancient said...

I believe there is a lot of evidence for this.

Andrew, I will do my level best to test this proposition at both the Harvard Faculty Club and the Harvest Restaurant over the first two weeks of next month.

(Report to follow.)

Andrew Stevens said...

Make sure only to poll the mathematical competents on the Harvard faculty. (There are fewer of them than you think.)

The Ancient said...

It's funny you should say that.

Nearly all my old friends -- there and at MIT -- are either scientists or philosophers.

But remind me, Andrew, just how does the universe of "mathematical competents" (which is quite real) fail to overlap with the universe of people who are simply very, very smart?

If you encountered Socrates at your favorite grocery store, would you think him a fool because he wouldn't be at all interested in Saul Kripke?

Andrew Stevens said...

Socrates certainly knew his mathematics (as a number of Platonic dialogues will attest) and I think he would be interested in Kripke.

The two sets obviously do overlap, but for whatever reason there is a large subset of very smart people who are hostile to mathematics. These people tend to be hostile to logic as well or at least often unacquainted with it. I'll bet that most of your philosophical friends (the analytical philosophers anyway) are quite competent mathematically and probably reasonably sane in their beliefs. Academics tend to be on the left because that's where their culture is and that's where their bread is buttered, but the mathematical ones tend to espouse fairly sane beliefs (yes, I have certainly met exceptions as I'm sure you have as well - sadly no amount of logic can protect from the biases of certain personalities). The really loony academics are mostly in the humanities.

There is, of course, also a number of people who are not among the very, very smart, but are mathematically competent. I find that they too are saner than their less mathematically inclined counterparts. Moreover, while the very smart (and driven) who are mathematically challenged usually end up in either academia or law, the very smart who are mathematically competent have a wealth of fields to choose from. So mathematical academics are much less representative of that subset as a whole than non-mathematical academics are of their subset.

Andrew Stevens said...

I should really write up a piece on why smart people are more likely to be corrupted by philosophy. It probably is the case that the average man on the street has saner beliefs than the average public intellectual, but this is because the intellectual is more likely to have believed some small false premise and then followed it through to its inevitable conclusion, said conclusion conflicting wildly with common sense. (Some of these bizarre conclusions have, of course, infected the general populace.) The average man is more likely to disdain philosophy and simply accept his common sense, leading him to be far more sensible in his beliefs.

If you are very smart, it is vitally important to study philosophy to avoid being corrupted by it, but the tricky part is that you have to study the right philosophy - the wrong philosophy will make it worse. If you aren't very smart, then you will probably do just as well without any of it (since you're much less likely to philosophize on your own and go badly wrong that way) or would, anyway, if the public intellectuals hadn't convinced a large segment of the population of some fairly bad philosophy. Bad philosophy, however, should be fought with good philosophy. Now that the genie has escaped the bottle, it can't be fought any other way. Reason, logic, and, yes, mathematics (as a way of disciplining the mind to reason and logic) are the cure, not the disease.

E.g., moral relativism was well known to the ancient Greeks. The mathematically competent philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) ensured that it stayed a minority view. But Plato and Aristotle's arguments were eventually forgotten and moral relativism was suppressed by religion instead. And then Montaigne came along and made the same seductive argument (the argument from disagreement) and nobody remembered the old arguments against (that the argument from disagreement refutes itself, the distinction between nomos and physis, and many others). So, once religion had its hold weakened, moral relativism took root even though it is completely incompatible with common sense moral intuitions which everybody believes anyway. (The most committed moral relativist will still bang on and on about perceived injustice.)

It is an interesting problem that smart people are more likely to go badly wrong. But mathematics certainly doesn't have anything to do with it. It is part of the answer.

Andrew Stevens said...

Okay, my last comment contained a rather provocative thesis (which I'm not at all convinced is true). Nobody is going to disagree with me? Clearly it went into the wrong comment thread.

Withywindle said...

We all have our bete noires ... as you now, I love Montaigne, and cast Descartes and Kant as my devils. I would say that in the early modern philosophical kaleidoscope, the attempt to jimmy certainty by applying science to non-scientific subjects has had more deleterious effects than tolerance. But this is to repeat earlier discussions.

Andrew Stevens said...

Withywindle, my criticism of Montaigne is more or less identical to my criticism of Descartes and Kant. All three desire absolute certainty. Montaigne despairs of finding it. Descartes and Kant invent elaborate intellectual machinery to try to arrive at absolute certainty and don't realize that they have failed to do so. The correct response to all three is to say that A) absolute certainty is an inappropriate epistemological measure for human beings - if we were capable of absolute certainty we wouldn't need epistemology and B) that, nonetheless, without absolute certainty, we know things with enough confidence that we can claim to know them. Pre-philosophical man never falls into this error because he doesn't really care whether he knows with absolute certainty that it is wrong to torture people just for the fun of it. Nevertheless, he does know it.

By the way, I did not mean to criticize Montaigne's philosophy necessarily above. He was simply the one who got the ball rolling and Descartes probably deserves most of the blame. But neither of them would have approved, I think, of where their lines of thought were taken.

In any event, the controversial thesis I was proposing was whether smart people are more likely to go disastrously wrong due to the corruptions of philosophy. I am skeptical of the thesis because it seems like it can be tested empirically and I have no data to support it.

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