Biology of Procrastination: Read It (Sometime When You Have Time)


From Scientific American:

Raymond, a high-powered attorney, habitually put off returning important business calls and penning legal briefs, behaviors that seriously threatened his career. Raymond (not his real name) sought help from clinical psychologist William Knaus, who practices in Longmeadow, Mass. As a first step, Knaus gave Raymond a two-page synopsis of procrastination and asked him to read it “and see if the description applied.” Raymond agreed to do so on a flight to Europe. Instead he watched a movie. He next vowed to read it the first night at his hotel, but he fell asleep early. After that, each day brought something more compelling to do. In the end, Knaus calculated that the lawyer had spent 40 hours delaying a task that would have taken about two minutes to complete.

Read the rest here.

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Interview with Jean-Michel Rabaté


In November issue of Parrhesia, you can read this (PDF) interview with Jean-Michel Rabaté:

Q Getting acquainted with secondary literature before being able to write something yourself is perhaps an inherent characteristic of the Humanities. Do you regard this as a fruitful academic paradigm? Or can it have a sort of paralyzing effect on scientific thought?  Continue reading

(Newish) Badiou on Financial Crisis


From Le Monde, via Infinite Thought (translated into English), to us: 

Telle qu’on nous la présente, la crise planétaire de la finance ressemble à un de ces mauvais films concoctés par l’usine à succès préformés qu’on appelle aujourd’hui le “cinéma”. Continue in French.

As it is presented to us, the planetary financial crisis resembles one of those bad films concocted by that factory for the production of pre-packaged blockbusters that today we call the “cinema”. Continue in English.

It Depends On Interpretation: Iraq Pact


This story and this topic has been slowly getting traction in the media, it seems, or I am just now catching up with it. Of course, knowing little or nothing about international diplomacy or international law, I have little to say about it, however, this particular article was pretty interesting – McLatchy reports:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation than the Iraqi government of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement, U.S. officials said Tuesday — just hours before the Iraqi parliament was to hold its historic vote.

These include a provision that bans the launch of attacks on other countries from Iraq, a requirement to notify the Iraqis in advance of U.S. military operations and the question of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over American troops and military contractors.

Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes. Continue reading

On Bad Books: Some Lessons.


Per my observations from yesterday, I have enjoyed this piece of British writing that, it seems, comes from a long and much loved by me tradition of Oscar Wilde’s sarcastic remarks on basically everything: 

There are only a finite amount of books you can read in one lifetime, so spending time with one that you know within 50 pages is going to stink like two-day-old roadkill in the sun seems counter-intuitive. It makes far more sense to put it down and pick up something else from the ever-increasing to-read pile. Yet I feel somehow incapable of doing so.

This isn’t because I’m one of those readers who have to finish anything they start, rather that I think that bad books can be almost as instructive as good books. They show you what fiction looks like when it’s malfunctioning, when all its wiring is hanging out. Continue reading

American Experience: Context, Context, Context.


One of my recent favorite blogs – Don’s Life (by Mary Beard) – has an interesting discussion of the cultural differences between Americans and Brits. However, I found this comment to the post to be most enlightening:

I lived in the UK for 11 years and especially enjoy helping Americans understand Brits and vice versa. To me, the most complicated aspect of the communication styles of our two cultures is what is called “low context/high context” – Americans are very low context, meaning they spell everything out, speak directly, say exactly what they mean, don’t imply much, don’t take clues from the environment/context (clues such as accent, dress, situation, utterances that carry a lot of meaning in one sound; that kind of thing). Brits are more high context (although nowhere near level of Asian cultures). This means that there is a lot of information conveyed in British communication beyond the actual words that are spoken or written. You have to read between the lines, interpret what is actually meant, evaluate everything based on a very fine and complex gradation of unspoken information (such as the examples I listed above – accent, etc.) Therefore, Americans seem to be a bit thick and clueless to Brits, and Brits seem to be really indirect and hard to figure out to Americans, and it’s not because either side is stupid or deliberately trying to lead the other astray. (Well, maybe the Brits are trying that a little bit… but that’s one of the “benefits” of being high context!)

Low context vs. high context then. It seems to be a real theory in studying culture, not just a nifty metaphor, apparently popularized by Edward Hall. I really need to read up on this, as I suspect many of my gauffes and faux-pas are caused by my “high context” culture…

Good Argument? Bad Argument?


Jon Cogburn quotes from the postscript to McDowell’s Mind and World.

Questions like: “How is meaning possible?” express a sense of spookiness, and Wittgenstein’s point is that we should not indulge the sense of spookiness, but rather exorcise it. The question looks like an urgent one from the standpoint of a world-view that is inhospitable to meaning: a standpoint from which it looks like a task for philosophy to shoehorn the world into something as close as we can get to our previous conception of meaning. But philosophy’s task is rather to dislodge the assumptions that make it look difficult to find a place for meaning in the world.

I’m not so familiar with McDowell either, but this is an interesting quote since I’m always telling my students about how they need to learn to ask questions that are not unproductive. Of recent, we’ve been analyzing some “hot issue” types of arguments in my logic courses and many of my students have been rather taken by this argument in the video below. And they are kind of freaked out (which is good because nothing fazes them at all, really). Continue reading