Meditations on the Politics of Limited Knowledge

Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Inspiration

In Current Events on December 10, 2010 at 8:35 pm

An audio tribute to

my recently deceased friend,

Buzz Brusletten,

my clarinet teacher back in high school.

 

What’s Deviated? Who Nose?

In Current Events, Science on August 9, 2010 at 4:40 am

On Thursday I had surgery on my nasal passages and sinuses. My otorhinolaryngologist went in to undeviate my septum, to shrink the nasal lining on either side that when inflamed causes my chronic congestion and to venture into one of my sinuses to remove a polyp and/or other unwelcome growth. It seemed to go well and my recovery is going smoothly. In any case, it is an excuse for a blog post…

This is my brain on x-rays

In preparation for the surgery I had a CT Scan done. Out of the deal I got a CD with some 400 digital images revealing cross sections of the interior of my head. Pretty wild. See more below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

On Piety – Part 1 of 2

In Epistemology & Theory of Knowledge, Philosophy, Religion, Theology & Metaphysics on July 19, 2010 at 2:29 pm

This is a blog called “Humble Piety.” So what does “piety” mean anyway? In sketching out the range of some of the meanings that have attached and can attach to this term, we might gain better understanding of the project here. Following on this historical/etymological/theoretical overture, I will, in subsequent posts, lay out a notion of democratic piety and pursue more concrete investigations into creative expression of piety such as in wedding ceremonies I have recently had the pleasure to witness.

The word piety likely brings to mind religious images: pious acts of devotion to a religious faith. This was certainly in mind when I semi-ironically appropriated the term for a blog which is a project of devotion without necessarily being devoted to a project – at least not a fixed, predetermined project. I sought to devote myself to understanding with greater nuance the challenge of acting on knowledge that is inherently limited and of committing oneself to action without a free-standing criterion to validate one’s ends. Under the watch cry of “epistemic humility,” my hope was and is to articulate values that can serve a better democratic future by leaving behind their theistic analogues. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic?

In Current Events, Epistemology & Theory of Knowledge, Science on June 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm

So I’m sitting at dinner and my host decides to spark conversation with a blanket denial of global warming. Needless to say, this is not a conversation that I am used to having. Then again, it is not every evening that I am sitting across the table from an extremely wealthy, elderly, intelligent, conservative libertarian bachelor with a flair for provocation and not-entirely-pleasant self-confidence. Maybe he was worked up from our squash games at the Union Club – the second-oldest private club in the United States – where he had to buy me a set of “whites” to wear before I could go on the squash court (my plebeian pink polo was not up to code). This fellow is an interesting character: heir to wealthy Southern Jewish investment bankers whose fortune stretches back to share cropping and Reconstruction, practicing lawyer whose clients have included post-Soviet oligopolies, and confidant of conservative power players and GOP leadership. His worldview rationalizes his social status: he unapologetically parks his beliefs at his own station. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hotelling Line: A lesson on Use and Abuse of Economic Metaphor

In Economics on April 25, 2010 at 3:02 am

Note from the editor: I am pleased to introduce our first guest blog from long-time friend and collaborator, Graham Sack. The following draws out the lessons of a bygone economic theory for a discipline in crisis. Graham’s history of the “Hotelling line” is an apt and informative follow-up to my recent lengthy post on Paul Krugman and the dangerous but seductive simplicity of reductive economic models. Another example of how insufficiently self-critical knowledge can be led astray. ~ drferris ]

In March 2009, as the markets lay in shambles and prognosticators debated the merits of the recently enacted stimulus bill, 
there quietly passed the eightieth
 birthday
 of
 the
 ‘Hotelling
 line,’
 an
 influential
 microeconomic
 model
 first
 proposed
 by
 Stanford
 professor
 Harold
 Hotelling
 in
 his
 article
 “Stability
 in
 Competition” (PDF).
 The paper
 launched
 two
 new
 sub‐disciplines
 within
 economics—the
 study
 of
 spatial
 competition
 and
 product
 differentiation—and
 is
 required
 reading
 for
 graduate
 students
 and
 aspiring
 microeconomists.
 Along
 with
 Edgeworth’s
 box and
 Nash’s
 equilibrium,
 it
 is
 one
 of
 the
 foundational
 metaphors 
of the
 discipline,
 arresting
 for 
its 
simplicity, 
clarity, 
and explanatory
 power. 
It 
is 
also
 fundamentally 
flawed. Read the rest of this entry »

Ideas Have Consequences: The Education of Paul Krugman

In Current Events, Economics, Politics on March 9, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Paul Krugman fumed as he read audacious remarks the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs made in testimony before the United State’s Congress:

Dimon had commented that financial crises were just things that happened every few years; Blankfein had compared the crisis to an act of God, like a hurricane. Krugman was curious to know whether these giants of Wall Street understood what they’d done wrong.

But only gradually has Krugman himself come to understand what can go wrong when reductive economic thinking is applied to the real world — and even he has a way to go. An excellent profile by Larissa MacFarquhar in the March 1, 2010, issue of The New Yorker (citations to hardcopy pages follow), traces Krugman’s own consciousness of politically embedded economic knowledge in a way that reveals much about the epistemic stance of the discipline vis-à-vis practical action in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Political Knowledge in an Era of Ungovernability: Obama, GOP and Tea Baggers

In Current Events, Politics on February 20, 2010 at 3:26 pm

“I’m not a pundit. I’m just a President…” And indeed Obama was when he met with members of the House of Representatives Republican Caucus on January 29. Obama’s televised Q&A with House GOP (transcript) proved to be a model for professional and productive political discourse with Obama at the top of his game as a knowledgeable, respectful, thoughtful, charismatic leader.

Read the rest of this entry »

Murmurs about religious wingnuttery

In Current Events, Politics, Religion, Science on August 31, 2009 at 2:56 pm

This blog will routinely draw attention to – and of course comment upon and connect to a larger project – contemporary conflicts in American politics in which religion/religious belief complicates, distorts or otherwise influences the public sphere. This week: anti-Obama Christian terrorists; Missouri loves company… as long as you’re not Charles Darwin…

Wingnut threats against – excuse me, prayers for divine decapitation of – Obama. You’ve seen the gun-toting freedom fighters showing up at Obama events in recent days. There are plenty of issues to unpack here, gun control, libertarian extremism, etc. But we need to consider the role that religion plays and should play (what deference, constitutional projection, etc) when these whack-jobs say things like “I don’t care how God does it” when the “it” is the immanent death of our constitutionally legitimate, democratically elected, stand-up citizen-leader we call President Barack Obama. Read the rest of this entry »

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