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Entries Tagged as 'Language and Literature'

Harrassment, Racism, & “Harmless Torturers”

October 30th, 2014 · 47 Comments

One of the more useful thought experiments I’ve encountered in philosophy, because it seems to apply to so many situations, is Derek Parfit’s “Harmless Torturers,” from his celebrated book Reasons and Persons: The Harmless Torturers. In the Bad Old Days, each torturer inflicted severe pain on one victim. Things have now changed. Each of the […]

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Tags: Art & Culture · Language and Literature · Sexual Politics · Sociology

On Partly Verbal Disputes

September 4th, 2012 · 6 Comments

In the previous post, I suggested that thoughtful and educated adults rarely engage for very long in purely verbal disputes (which, alas, is not the same as saying such disputes are rare). When people don’t disagree substantively, but are only using words differently, a few minutes of argument should usually make this fact apparent to […]

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Tags: General Philosophy · Language and Literature

On Snobbery and Books for Grown-Ups

April 3rd, 2012 · 25 Comments

Joel Stein is being roundly booed as a snob for opining in a recent Times roundtable that “Adults Should Read Adult Books” and steer clear of young adult fare. Maybe out of pure contrariness, I’m inclined to offer a qualified defense. It has to be qualified because, let’s face it, I’m a 33-year-old man with […]

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Tags: Journalism & the Media · Language and Literature

Political Metastasis

March 30th, 2012 · 43 Comments

Browsing a conservative news site the other day, I was struck by the sheer oddness of that familiar genre of political commentary that treats  liberals and conservatives, not just as groups of people with systematic disagreements on policy questions, but as something like distinct subspecies of humanity. The piece that triggered this was something along […]

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Tags: Horse Race Politics · Journalism & the Media · Language and Literature

The Trouble With “Balance” Metaphors

February 4th, 2011 · 40 Comments

Reading Orin Kerr’s new paper outlining an “equilibrium-adjustment theory” of the Fourth Amendment, I found myself reflecting on how thoroughly the language of “balancing” pervades our thinking about legal and political judgment. The very words “reasonable” and “rational” are tightly linked to “ratio”—which is to say, to relative magnitude or balance. We hope to make […]

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Tags: General Philosophy · Language and Literature · Privacy and Surveillance

The Voldemort Effect

January 13th, 2011 · 29 Comments

In the Harry Potter books, the titular boy wizard is the subject of a mystical prophecy, destined to come into mortal conflict with the evil Lord Voldemort—and perhaps even capable of vanquishing him. But there’s a wrinkle: One of Harry’s classmates, Neville Longbottom, also fits most of the prophecy’s description: born at the end of […]

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Tags: Horse Race Politics · Journalism & the Media · Language and Literature

On Ascriptions of Racism

December 31st, 2010 · 37 Comments

It’s a tedious exchange we’ve seen play out countless times before, and in the aftermath of Haley Barbour’s confused praise for the old white supremacist “Citizens’ Councils” we’re watching a slew of fresh iterations. The ideal form of it goes something like this: A: Wow, what conservative X said sure was racially offensive/ignorant/insensitive. B: Are […]

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Tags: Language and Literature · Sociology

Word of the Day: Gerrymander

November 22nd, 2010 · 9 Comments

So, I was vaguely aware that the term “gerrymander” had come from 19th century Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, a pioneer of the fine art of redrawing political districts to entrench his party’s power.  But I’d always assumed the “mander” part was from the same Latin root as “mandate”—as in, an order or injunction of the […]

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Tags: Language and Literature

Hipster Shrugged

August 27th, 2010 · 18 Comments

So, I inadvertently started a pretty ridiculous Twitter meme yesterday. I wrote: Painfully tempted to do a parody rewrite w/John Galt as hipster & Gulch in Williamsburg RT @thecalebbacon: Atlas shrugged and said “meh.” The 60-page speech to be replaced by a Tom Verlaine solo… Which inspired: ziege19 @normative Who is John Galt? Oh, you […]

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Tags: Art & Culture · Language and Literature

Asking and Guessing

May 10th, 2010 · 9 Comments

Amber Taylor links to a column on “ask cultures” and “guess cultures,” playing with a notion that seems to have debuted in a 2007 comment on Metafilter: In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an […]

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Tags: Language and Literature · Sociology