Emotional Rescue

A review in today's New York Times illustrates the domain-straddling fun of the topic of emotions. The Times has a philosophy professor (Colin McGinn) reviewing a scientist's (Antonio Domasio) book on emotions in which the scientist cites a philosopher (Spinoza) as foreshadowing his theories. Here's a taste:

A nice, clear debunking ensues. I must say though, it's a bit disconcerting to find a scientist putting forth the loopy theories divorced from reality while the philosopher takes him to task for ignoring obvious truths available to common sense. I'm sure this says something about our culture; if you know precisely what, let me know.

This subject gives me an excuse to mention that I find Ayn Rand's analysis of emotions one of the most fascinating aspects of her jasmin live philosophy. It made clear and understandable to me an area that was not only confusing, but which almost everyone else seems to think is outside the province of reason. Here's a brief introduction to her unique view:

That's from "The Objectivist Ethics," available in The Virtue of Selfishness. Leonard Peikoff, in Objectivism, concretizes things:

Oh, the impingement of those words upon my retina has got my intellectual gratification glands all asquirt!

Genetic Fallacy

By "shape it," he apparently means "pretend the information it gives us doesn't exist." This is by no means an uncommon view, but it still amazes me whenever I come across it. Do those who think genetic screening information should not be used in deciding insurance coverage also advocate a ban on the use of sex, age, and more conventional health information? If so, I haven't heard of it.

Aside from being inconsistent, Kristof and his like-minded reality-rewriters ignore the basis of insurance. The whole live sex chat concept arises only in the context of probabilities and risk; i.e., lack of knowledge. If I come down with a disease requiring thousands of dollars in prescriptions a month, I don't expect to be able to then go buy medical insurance for a few dollars a month. That would be charity, not insurance.

Life insurance would not exist in a world where we had perfect knowledge of when we'll get sick and die. And it makes less and less sense the more we do know about it. Trying to evade this fact by legislative fiat is as dangerous as it is silly.

Impressed, One Reader

At Swim, Two Boys, by Jamie O'Neill, which I finished last week, is a novel set in First World War Ireland that follows the friendship of two 16-year-old boys, Jim Mack and Doyler Doyle. The poor, rebellious Doyler is the more obviously interesting of the two early on, but the inspiring transformation of the quiet, studious Jim into a positively heroic young man is what this livejasmin.cc story is about. The upper-class Anthony MacMurrough, recently back from England where he spent time in prison for crimes of the Oscar Wilde sort, provides an adult perspective on their relationship. His growth, too, from a cynical, shallow idler to a caring mentor who feels real (and painful) love, is a very moving aspect of the story.

I do have complaints about the book. Unfamiliar and worse, unlookupable Irish dialect and slang frustrated and distracted me until I gave up and lived with it. Also, I found it a bit slow at times. Lastly, I'm not 100% comfortable with the ending.

But these criticisms, as they say, are minor. The experience of reading the last couple of hundred pages of the book isn't one I will soon forget. The brilliance and beauty and power of it is indescribable, at least by someone with my feeble skills. A week later, recalling any of several scenes is still a dangerous thing to do in public. As it is, I hope you'll take my word for it that At Swim, Two Boys is well worth reading. If you're gay, I'd almost say it's required.

Ivy League

Last week, Andrew Sullivan linked to a Harvard course called "Globalization and Human Values: Envisioning World Community" and wondered whether it wasn't "indoctrination disguised as learning." Not that it will come as a surprise to anyone, Canadian universities are no laggards when it comes to leftist indoctrination. As part of my ongoing, if snail-paced, effort to get a chaturbate degree of some kind before I die, I was browsing the University of Toronto's website yesterday in search of a course to take later this year. I found listed among the philosophy courses "War and Morality," which is described as follows:

Just in case you had any doubts about where Professor James Graff stands on these issues, a Google search provides the answer. He's pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli, and he wrote this immediately following September 11:

I expect Prof. Graff's lectures are about as reasonable and accurate as his predictions.

Patent Nonsense

The monthly Communist Car Club bill arrived tonight, accompanied by more anti-capitalist propaganda. This time it was the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace urging me to help in their effort to "Stop patents on life!" I visited their site and found an ugly mess of "greedy corporation" bashing, catch phrases meant to appeal to fear (the aforementioned "patents on life"), and other fallacies (we now have a "right to food," apparently; who knew?) Oh, and a picture of David Suzuki — of course! What I didn't find was anything to help me make an informed decision on the issue being fought: the WTO's proposed TRIPs (Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights) agreement. From what I can gather this agreement would, through standardization of rules, make patents based on biological elements easier to enforce world-wide.

I'm not someone who thinks patents are always sensible. For example, I think it could be very successfully argued that patents have been improperly granted to trival "inventions" in the area of software. "One-click" shopping comes to mind. So, I'm definitely open to persuasion when it comes to this topic. But you aren't going to convince me with things like this:

Well, did the patented varieties of these cereals exist before these companies arrived on the scene? Somehow I doubt it, but I'll never find out such trivial details from these guys. A multinational corporation wants to patent life, for heaven's sake! That sounds scary and evil to them and they obviously think it's sufficient to prod people to action on the issue. Alas, it will no doubt convince some of my Commie Car cohorts. Sorry, not me.

One bit from their literature that I found just now does seem to support their cause, if true and if relevant to TRIPs:

I'll have to look into that.