Psychiatry as a Science?

Jan 312004

Psychologist Lauren Slater examines and then recreates the infamous Rosenhan experiments in which sane people were locked up in mental institutions for fairly long stretches of time due to a one-time reporting of a voice which said “thud.” The result was different… and improvement in some ways, but still somewhat disturbing.

The article is an excerpt from her forthcoming book, Opening Skinner’s Box: Great Psychological Experiments Of The 20th Century, which looks promising, based upon the article and the Amazon descriptions.

Thanks to Hanah for the pointer, although I would have preferred some of that beautiful and yummy Russian cake.

Just An Announcement

Jan 302004

In case anyone cares, I’m retiring as Nathaniel Branden’s webmaster and as a moderator of his Yahoo discussion group. Among other reasons, I can’t afford the time away from philosophy. I’m not sure who is taking over for me yet, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

Fuzzy Little Bunny

Jan 302004

One of the nicknames for our cat Oliver is “Fuzzy Little Bunny.” In this picture, he really is fuzzy (albeit still not a bunny), but that’s mostly due to the uber-close shot.

Oh, he’s just so cute! If only he loved me. (He just callously uses me for food and belly rubs, both of which I am all too happy to provide, as he is a small fluffy divine creature whom I am compelled to worship.)

Update: As I was reviewing my Palm this evening, I discovered that January 26th was Oliver’s adoptaday. He’s now been with us for two years, which is like 96 in cat-living-in-coyote-country years. In all truth, however, Oliver wasn’t really adopted. He just showed up in our barn. (Someone dumped him and his brother off; his brother went to our neighbor’s, he came to us.) So his adoptaday is really just the day he was transported from barn to house.

No Frills College

Jan 302004

Joanne Jacobs writes about the cost and time savings of no frills college. Personally, I’ve never taken much advantage of all the extra crap that colleges offer, so it would be lovely not to pay for frills I’m not using.

More generally, I see such frills as coddling the students by arranging a life for them… at which point they become deeply bored with anything other than killing their brain cells with vast quantities of liquor. Blech.

Clinton in Davos

Jan 232004

Bill Clinton actually had some true and useful things to say in Davos, according to the hard-to-please Jay Nordlinger:

Speaking of the discontents of the world, he noted that terrorism is not necessarily “caused” by poverty, because so many of the terrorists are not poor — in fact, some of them are downright rich. This is elementary for you and me, but it was good for this crowd to hear it, particularly from the idolized Clinton.

He noted that one response to globalization is to revert to a tribalism, or a primitivism — people around the world have done that. He said that “the anti-globalization people” have some valid criticisms, but they tend to mourn a past that probably never existed. Was there ever a time when economies were localized and perfectly self-sustaining? He quoted Will Rogers, whom he said was a big figure during his youth in Arkansas. You know the old line: “I lived in the so-called good ol’ days, and the good ol’ days ain’t never was.” (Forgive me if I don’t have the vernacular just right.

And this bit on Carly Fiorina’s talk is well worth noting:

On to Carly Fiorina: She is CEO of Hewlett Packard, and she speaks in crisp, clear English. It is almost completely devoid of international-conference-speak, which is refreshing. She is like a cool glass of verbal water.

But what is the content of that water? She says that “the fundamental objective” of her company — the fundamental objective, mind you! — is not “to make money” but “to do good,” “to be a good international citizen.” When she says “make money,” she makes it sound so dirty. She borrows the old Quaker business about not just doing well but doing good.

Fine and dandy, of course, but I find myself wishing — not for the first time — that businessmen would be a little less defensive and more self-confident. They have nothing to apologize for. Does Hewlett Packard want to do good? Then let it invent and manufacture products that people need — or want, or that make their lives better — and sell them at affordable prices. That is doing good.

I hate to be more pro-Hewlett Packard than the CEO of Hewlett Packard, but . . . I tell you, I would wet my pants with joy if one of these people, at one of these conferences, said, “You know? People like Henry Ford and Bill Gates have done more for humanity than any thousand soi-disant benefactors-of-humanity put together.”

I’d like to see that too, although I probably wouldn’t wet my pants with joy.

Reason #828272

Jan 222004

Reason #848172 why the US government should not send a manned mission to Mars: We can’t even keep in contact with our rovers. As entranced as I am by space travel, what a #$%&@ waste of taxpayer dollars. (And isn’t Spirit the third rover lost in short order?)

Update: Spirit isn’t dead yet, merely critical. Well now, that’s a relief!

Wanted: More

Jan 222004

For all my disagreements with Andrew Sullivan, I wish that more Republicans were like him, i.e. fiscal conservatives, social/cultural liberals and foreign policy hawks. That would be a Republican Party I could vote for. Andrew writes:

Well, I’ve never tried to please everyone with this blog but the torrent of abuse and mockery yesterday because of my criticisms of the SOTU caused me a little grief. According to many Republicans, I’m selling out to the “hard left.” According to some Democrats, I’ve finally seen the light, ha, ha, ha. How about applying principles to changing events and circumstances? It says something about what has happened to the Republican party that supporting fiscal responsibility is now the position of the “hard left.” And it says something about some Democrats that you either have to hate this president or love him unconditionally. Why can’t a grown-up have a complicated position? I’m a fiscal conservative, social/cultural liberal and foreign policy hawk. Neither party provides a comfortable home for people like me. I supported Clinton in 1992, backed Dole on moral grounds in 96 and opposed impeachment. I backed Bush (narrowly) in 2000. The war made my support for Bush stronger than I ever expected. I still admire his courage during that terrible time and respect his tenacity against terror. This time, I’m leaning toward Bush for those reasons but appalled by his fiscal recklessness, worried by his coziness with the religious far right, and concerned that he has no forward strategy in the war. I’m equally concerned about the obvious irresponsibility of the Democrats on national security (and spending) at a time of great peril. But at least they’re not going to bait gays and nominate judges like [Charles] Pickering. So I’m stuck, and trying to figure things out as I go along. Hence my attempt to look at the Democratic candidates as possible presidents and subject my support for Bush to further scrutiny. Why is that such a crime? Isn’t part of what’s wrong with our politics that this kind of weighing of options has become so taboo?

Personally, I’d vote for Joe Lieberman for President in a heartbeat. Unlike most Democrats, he’s not an appeaser of terrorists and tyrants. He’s a moderate Democrat, so his policy ideas aren’t consistently, revoltingly socialist, merely often bad. And most importantly, the Republicans in Congress would block all of the silly spending plans he might propose, whereas they’ve fallen all over themselves to pass whatever Bush proposes. Long live gridlock! Sadly, Lieberman has little chance of winning the nomination, so I’ll likely not vote for anyone for President. Bush’s fiscal irresponsibility is just too much to bear.

Give Me a Break!

Jan 222004

I’ve long been a big fan of John Stossel’s work, including his shorter but more frequent segments on 20/20 of late. I particularly enjoy his crafty method of exposing the idiocy of the positions he opposes without seeming partisan. So reading this review got me quite excited to read his new book Give Me a Break : How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media….

Math and Literature

Jan 212004

The similarities between the problems of graduate education in literature and in mathematics are more substantial than you might think: too much emphasis on novelty, too little on understanding the established wisdom. I worry about such problems in philosophy, although the problems don’t seem nearly as acute as those in either math or literature. Then again, perhaps that’s because so much history of philosophy doesn’t count as “established wisdom.” (Really, I jest. Graduate education in philosophy ought to be more focused on either the foundational issues or the historical giants.)

Critical Mass has also been blogging on the problems associated with the attrition rate in graduate school. Erin’s original post is here, with stories from readers here.

As a side note, I’m really glad to see so much blogging on academic issues; it’s really quite helpful to me as a grad student. (And I’m not just interested in academic philosophy blogging, as this post indicates. I find the similarities and differences between philosophy and other disciplines quite fascinating.) So thanks to all the academic bloggers… the more you grouse, the happier I am!

Sidewalk Art

Jan 202004

Wowowow. You’ll find completely amazingly wonderous sidewalk chalk drawings on the top and bottom of this page.

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