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nihil supernum

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joined 2022 September 04 19:20:03 UTC
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User ID: 100


nihil supernum

6 followers   follows 0 users   joined 2022 September 04 19:20:03 UTC


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User ID: 100

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Dunno, but it looks like a ferrofluid reacting to an audio speaker. I think it is a default image that came with the codebase?

Several of us on the mod team have played around with AI image generation and probably that image will eventually be replaced with a motte of some kind, possibly many different mottes in rotation. But as a purely cosmetic enhancement it's not really a top priority for our limited coding resources right now.

Lol what? Did you have a stroke?

Don't post like this please.

This is unnecessarily antagonistic.

Checking your mod notes, it looks like you actually wrote this comment before Amadan modded you for this one (assuming the system isn't lying to me and I read the notifications correctly) but you have put yourself in the difficult position of having multiple bad comments showing up in the mod queue very shortly after eating a ban.

And most of this is downstream of a post that you entitled "Da Jooz totally did it (Negro communism edition)." Like--we get it. You're so edgy! But being deliberately edgy is not really the proper vibe here.

The rest of the post (which I didn't see until post-edit, so it's possible I've missed some things) is not, like, egregiously awful, though it is somewhat evidence-light and "boo outgroup" heavy. But there is a saying about glass houses and stones that I think kind of applies, in a "don't be egregiously obnoxious" sort of way. Posting Chinese-robber type reasoning is always on shaky ground, but when you then follow that up with antagonism toward those who raise questions, this is corrosive to the conceit that we are here to test our shady thinking. I appreciate the retraction in response to the rather decisive empirical counter that was raised against you, but that, too, does not undo the other mistakes you're making more generally.

I'm not going to ban you this time, and I'm not even going to give you a topic ban, but please understand that this kind of posting is exactly why per-user topic bans are so tempting to me. At some point it's like--we get it, you think the Jews are to blame for at least a large chunk of societal ills, but you've shown yourself to be so certain of this that when you post about it, no one can even politely pretend to believe that you are in any way persuadable on the matter. I understand that this is often true of many things people post, but in the spirit of "tone-not-content" and charitable interpretation, we do our best to assume that arguments are being offered in good faith! But that faith is defeasible, and you erode it with posts like this, which in turn strips you of that protection in your other posts.

Next time, you will get a ban, and it's unlikely to be short.

@Rambler beat me to it--if you told me this was written by a language model, I'd be inclined to believe you.

In particular, I notice a lot of deepity happening here--but also more than a little rhetorical sleight of hand:

Across the globe, roughly half of the population identifies as the folkloric entity known as "woman", while the other half identifies as "man".

This seems like a slightly poetic way of saying something true, until you think for a minute and realize it's almost certainly false. Trivially, these are the English words for adult human females and adult human males, and most people don't speak English. That's a shallow objection but worth noticing in part because you've specified a domain--"across the globe"--but you're handling a concept that you are asserting is culture-bound, like language. And this is before we get to the notion of the verb "identifies." What does it mean? Do adult Japanese males "identify" as "otoko" or "dansei" or "yatsu?" I don't speak Japanese but I bet there are some fun academic debates over there about this. Do all adult human males who do not wish they were female "identify" as "man?" Likewise, females as "woman?" Well, no, actually, at least some so not.

The word "folkloric" is just question-begging.

A small but vocal minority identifies as "trans", which challenges the traditional binary understanding of gender.

What's weird about this claim is that it is not only false, it is shockingly false by the lights of trans advocacy. The vast majority of "trans" people clearly reify the traditional binary understanding of gender; they simply decouple it from biological sex. Males seek to make themselves "trans women" by performing (usually, caricatured) displays of what the relevant culture associates with "women." Females seek to make themselves "trans men" in the other direction (though in my experience "trans men" tend instead to downplay any femininity more often than they up-play masculinity). There are some "non-binary" and "genderfluid" types out there who violate this trend, but these seem to be a small minority of the people identifying as "trans."

While some may argue that this is a new and untested phenomenon, human beings have always sought to understand and define themselves in relation to others.

This sentence seeks to undermine the claim that "this is a new and untested phenomenon" with a total non sequitur. Whether people have ever before sought to define themselves in relation to others is irrelevant to whether this phenomenon is new and/or untested.

It is difficult to find evidence that supports the existence of gender as a distinct and measurable phenomenon.

This is a complete fabrication. There are thousands, perhaps millions of social science studies on gender as a distinct and measurable phenomenon.

Rather, it seems to be a concept that is based largely on societal norms, expectations and how one feels about themselves.

All of these things are measurable.

While these norms may vary across cultures and time periods, they are not inherently biological in nature.

They do actually seem to be rooted in biology. Gender norms do differ in time and place and culture, and yet the reproductive aspects of sex and sexuality are clear in gender norms in ever human civilization that has ever existed. The close association of women with children, for example, is inherently biological: without modern chemical intervention, men in the ordinary course do not lactate. How cultures handle this fact varies, but is always rooted in biology. That is just one of many items for consideration.

Gender is a social construct and feeling that is often deeply ingrained in our consciousness.

How can it be both of these things? This seems incoherent. Some feelings are clearly deeply ingrained in human consciousness--hunger, for example. Hot and cold. Sexual desire, probably, at least for many people. How can something as contingent as a social construct be "deeply ingrained in our consciousness?" It's nonsense.

However, it is important to strive towards a more nuanced and inclusive understanding of gender identity, rather than simply accepting the status quo.

Why? What makes it important?

In many ways, gender can be viewed as a type of religion - one that has been passed down through generations and shapes our understanding of ourselves and others. As with any religion, it is important to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to challenge our assumptions and beliefs. Only by doing so can we hope to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

If by "gender" you mean "the social expectations that come along with one's biological sex," like--sure, we've been challenging those things for centuries. Women dressed as men to attend Plato's Academy in ancient Greece. Shakespeare wrote plays including this stuff. But in my experience it is not trans advocates approaching these issues with an open mind or a willingness to challenge their assumptions and beliefs. In the late 20th century, a host of educational and business opportunities were opened to women that never had been before. The world we live in today has discarded swathes of traditional cultural expectations touching on sex and gender. I think some people have benefited, and I think some people have been harmed. On balance, I'm pretty comfortable with the idea that individuals should be as free as possible, modulo compatibility with like freedoms for others. In most contexts, I don't care how people dress or whether they wear makeup.

But also in most contexts, I have very little reason to play along when an adult human male wearing a dress and a wig tells me he's a "woman" (or worse, a "girl")--especially if he is demanding special treatment ordinarily afforded to females for what are, in fact, biologically grounded reasons.

Bouncing checks?

I first hear this phrase used to describe the ending of Lost (the TV show)--the writers wrote a bunch of narrative checks that failed to clear, or words to that effect. I thought it was apt. I think, as long as Rothfuss and Martin fail to deliver on their promises, they are meaningfully blameworthy. I appreciate Neil Gaiman coming to Martin's defense ("George Martin is not your bitch" or whatever he said) but the only reason I have to respect Gaiman's opinion on the matter is that Gaiman finishes what he starts, so his white knighting here turns out to be a bit self-undermining. Whatever people want to say about muses or mental health or whatever--I'm not saying Martin deserves the electric chair, or even a small fine. I'm saying he and Rothfuss are morally on par with people who have written checks while failing to deposit sufficient funds for those checks to clear.

Perhaps my lifetime of internet fiction has raised my tolerance for unfinished stories.

Perhaps! But also it's a very small thing, in a world of big things. I rarely think about it, except in the context of people finishing books. Most writers don't--new writers, yes, of course, but also, often, successful authors who clearly could (they've done it before!), if they actually cared enough to try.

You've just described, like, 81% of the American public.

Among lawyers, I wouldn't be surprised if that figure asymptotically approached 99%. It seems like every lawyer I meet is an aspiring author--and not just the English undergrads who went to law school because they failed to write their novel.

This even applies to successful authors--George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss are in the midst of doing the literary equivalent of bouncing checks to their readership. It turns out that spending ungodly sums of money on whatever strikes your fancy is way more fun than writing more books.

In connection with graduate school, I often give the advice "don't go to graduate school unless you simply can't see yourself doing anything else." I think something similar applies to writing, except in graduate school at least you have some structure and feedback built into the process. Until it is the thing that you have to do, you will probably never become a writer.

Certain beliefs and practices should only be formed as a result of rebellion against society, and never be taught directly by authority figures.

I agree. Have you read Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age? I would not call this the thesis of that book, exactly, but it is certainly hinted at very strongly. A couple of quotes:

“The ragged bohemian life holds no charm for you anymore. But would you have reached your current position if you had not lived that life when you were younger?”

“Now that you put it that way,” Carl said, “I agree that we might try to make some provision, in the future, for young bohemians—”

“It wouldn't work,” Finkle-McGraw said. “I've been thinking about this for years. I had the same idea: Set up a sort of young artistic bohemian theme park, sprinkled around in all the major cities, where young New Atlantans who were so inclined could congregate and be subversive when they were in the mood. The whole idea was self-contradictory.”


“The Vickys have an elaborate code of morals and conduct. It grew out of the moral squalor of an earlier generation, just as the original Victorians were preceded by the Georgians and the Regency. The old guard believe in that code because they came to it the hard way. They raise their children to believe in that code—but their children believe it for entirely different reasons.”

“They believe it,” the Constable said, “because they have been indoctrinated to believe it.”

“Yes. Some of them never challenge it—they grow up to be small-minded people, who can tell you what they believe but not why they believe it. Others become disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the society and rebel—as did Elizabeth Finkle-McGraw.”

“Which path do you intend to take, Nell?” said the Constable, sounding very interested. “Conformity or rebellion?”

“Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded—they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity.”

I suppose if I want to get more of his view on a way forward, I should read his book, The Cult of Smart, but I don't want to just now.

Read my review instead, my review is substantially better than his book, and that's not my way of saying that my review is especially good.

It seems like kids need more physical, sensory experiences, but it seems like a hard pitch, perhaps something to do with laptopping being high status and easy on the body, as is mentioned in the thread on class.

Something else deBoer wrote recently really resonated with me, and seems relevant:

like all political movements, the woke political movement is captured by the urge to occupy elevated status within it

Most educators don't give half a damn about genuinely improving the minds of the children they educate. Sure, they'll performatively care, they can talk a good game because that's the kind of signaling they are expected to deliver. But if you released, say, an adaptive computer program that could deliver a K-12 curriculum to a child at their own pace, with as good or better results than the average K-12 in-person education, without the need to leave their house or pay for school buildings or pay teachers--you would not change American public education in any perceptible way. K-12 school exist primarily to provide free daycare, and secondarily to give teachers government jobs. The movement to "educate children" is entirely captured by people who are extracting resources from the public for their own personal and political gain. That doesn't mean there aren't teachers involved who genuinely care about kids! But their care is largely incidental, except as it improves their ability to signal "cooperate" to the people running the show.

And the show in question is anti body. It has been this way from the beginning--read Socrates complaining about sex and tasty food as distractions from the really important stuff, like pure mathematics, and then check the latest memes on horny jail or eating bugs to save the planet and tell me how far we've really come, 25 centuries later. Once we were promised transcendence through death and salvation; today we are hoping for transcendence through mind uploads. "Disregard body, elevate mind" has certainly gotten occasional pushback (e.g. Epicurus, or more recently the free-love hippies) but attending to the well being of whole humans is not, and has not for most of history been, the goal of the greatest thinkers. In fact many of today's purportedly greatest thinkers will pretend to be deeply offended if you suggest e.g. that being born "into" a geno- and phenotypically female body is in any way pertinent to one's personal, human identity.

In that world, looking for ways to give kids more "physical, sensory experiences" isn't just low-status, it's downright subversive (and indeed: self-improvement through physical exercise is often negatively coded, especially when it arises in masculinity-building contexts).

What exactly is the distinction between a paraphilia and a sexual orientation? The most thoughtful answer I can find with a quick search suggests that the latter is biological and the former psychological?

The very notion of "paraphilia" is grounded in natural law thinking (a la Aristotle and Aquinas). The "para-" prefix means "alongside of, beside, near, resembling, beyond, apart from." The "purpose" of sexual activity is procreation; healthy, functioning sex organs operate in ways that are clearly oriented toward reproduction, just as a healthy functioning heart operates in ways that circulate blood through your body. So sexual activity that could not possibly be procreative is "beside" (para) the point of sex (philia, at least in this context).

On this basic framework, homosexuality qualifies as paraphilia because it can't be procreative. Obviously this also implicates things like children and animals, but arguably implicates things like foot fetishes or pornography and masturbation, too. It even implicates things like oral sex; it may implicate sex while using birth control, or sex with an infertile person. In religious communities that often think in natural law terms without always realizing it, this gives rise to patches like "sex is also pleasurable to strengthen the bond between husband and wife, and part of our natural purpose is to raise children together, so maybe lots of kinds of non-procreative heterosexual sex are okay." But the natural law view also tends to suggest that "adulthood" means "capable of reproduction" rather than some other, more age- or maturity-oriented definition, opening a further can of worms.

In other words--contemporary American sexual mores have become just totally untethered from anything approaching a "natural law" view. Without that mooring, the idea of a "paraphilia" falls quickly to pieces, but the word lumbers on as a terminological zombie. The emphasis on "consent" in contemporary discourse is, I suspect, partly driven by the death of every other standard we've ever had for permissible sexual activity. Natural law style thinking thus lives on, not only in religious communities but also among people who want a pejorative word for any behavior they find creepy. Many "creepy" sexual behaviors do qualify as paraphilias under the natural law "proper function" standard! But so do many sexual behaviors now regarded as "normal" or otherwise acceptable.

So, in short, we're using a natural law term that literally means "sex acts that aren't plausibly procreative" to refer to things that we now regard as either nonconsensual, or creepy. Some of these things are also not plausibly procreative, but some surely are, leading to the fuzziness you observe.

This seems like a "small questions Sunday" question. Or, if you put in the effort of providing the sources you do have, you could post this in the weekly CW thread.

Please feel free to post this in the CW thread, along with a submission statement of some kind.

From the rules:

Culture war" is hard to define, but here's a list of things that currently fall in that category:

  • The politically-charged actions or beliefs of prominent current or recent politicians
  • The actions or beliefs of political-party-affiliated voters
  • Race
  • Abortion
  • Affirmative action
  • Human biodiversity
  • IQ differences across various groups of humans
  • Sexual harrassment
  • Censorship
  • Trans issues

The "CW goes in the CW thread" rule is one that doesn't always get enforced consistently in part because sometimes a mod thinks, "well, CW issues aren't necessarily center stage here" or "well, this is a Scott post," or something along those lines. Of the mods, I'm probably the strictest about this particular rule, so sometimes it's also just a matter of who is minding the queue.

CW material still goes in the CW thread, please.

I am asking you why you claim that the specific event in question is a cause of the specific problems in question.

I have already told you that I do not regard the TRC as a cause of the specific problems under discussion, but as a failed attempt to solve/prevent them. I don't know how much clearer I can be about that, and I regard your continued insistence on putting words into my mouth as extremely objectionable. All you had to do was like, just, read the words I wrote, instead of some other words you made up in your head for me.

It is especially irritating since, elsewhere, you do seem to actually understand at some level what is being discussed:

The high crime rate might well be an indication that it failed at achieving reconciliation

I agree. Everything else you've written appears to me at this point to just be deliberate obfuscation and performative doubt, and weirdly persistent attempts to insist that I am saying things I have explicitly told you I am not saying, at the level of "so you're saying." I have no patience for that nonsense, so I will excuse myself from the conversation here.

Having one make it in in the last minute is weird too.

Most AAQC nominations happen within the first 24 hours or so after someone posts. Particularly good ones have a longer tail than that, but all the comments listed from this week's CW thread had multiple nominations already.

I thought you meant to imply that because you wrote in response to a post about current problems in SA.

I have no idea what you can possibly mean by this. Are you of the view that the current problems in South Africa are not reflective of any past failures?

I think you are conflating a couple of things. Whatever your colleague might have thought (and can I ask what his or her area of expertise was?), the TRC was the solution to a political problem...

Law professor. People rarely get political scientists to inform their political solutions; it's always the lawyers who end up writing the documents and holding the tribunals. Before the Great Awokening, critical legal studies' most recent peak was probably the 1990s, when Clinton was appointing federal judges.

I am dubious that many people at the time thought the TRC would have the effect of establishing a liberal democracy, except in the negative sense of reducing the chances that the new system and its liberal democratic constitution would be strangled in its crib.

...really? I mean, I don't have any sense of literally how many people thought this way, but like, consider the first sentence of the abstract of this paper from 2001:

One of the stated objectives of the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa was the creation of a political culture respectful of human rights.

Or consider this abstract from 2010:

South Africa’s transition to democracy was met by the global audience with at first, disbelief, followed later by applause. After fifteen years of democracy big questions remain: has a more democratic regime also lead to a more liberal society? And has democracy made for a more peaceful society?

You may well be right that only a select few people--namely, academics--actually believed any of this, but I'm not sure what that actually gets you. The people calling the shots seem to have either believed it, or considered it very important to be perceived as believing it. My point was that people who doubted the critical theory approach from the start were clearly right to doubt it, so your doubt that "many people at the time thought" it would work appears to refer to the critics of critical theory who I am saying were right all along.

It might have been seen as necessary for the development of a liberal democracy, but certainly not as sufficient (at least not by political scientists, which is why I asked about your colleague's expertise). So, we can't know if it was successful in that sense; it is an unanswerable question.

You appear to be asserting that, essentially, we can't know whether Truth and Reconciliation really failed, because maybe it was an essential (and successful!) ingredient, but some other essential ingredient failed. This seems willfully benighted. Truth and Reconciliation clearly did not accomplish what it was intended to accomplish--South Africans are still murdering each other like it's going out of style, and substantially blaming white colonialism for it. So your response is--well, maybe it was successful but something else was missing? No. If something was missing from the program that would have made it successful, then including it in the program would have made the program successful. If this was a "necessary but insufficient" effort, then it was still a failed effort, and that is not remotely "unanswerable." Your response is nonsense on the order of "what do words even mean?"


How common is "common?" I have no empirical sense of the answer to your question. Anecdotally, I've known many women who have done something along these lines. But in many places there are licensing requirements based on numbers of children being cared for, and often those licensing requirements are minimally compatible with home-based businesses.

As people have fewer children, of course, "siblings and cousins" also trends toward becoming an empty set.

So, your claim is that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission somehow caused the current problems in SA?

Where did I say that?

I said that "Truth and Reconciliation" failed to do what its proponents claimed it was doing--providing a peaceful path to replacing racial apartheid with multicultural liberalism. One worry of white South Africans circa 1990 was that they couldn't relinquish their dominance, because the inevitable result would be vae victis justice: widespread confiscation of property at minimum and, very possibly, outright genocide. "Truth and Reconciliation" was packaged as the way forward: once everyone had admitted their misdeeds and made their apologies, the country could heal and move on. Certain Western scholars (like my deceased colleague) were especially excited about the possibilities presented by a genuinely wealthy, progressive, modern, secular nation-state potentially arising in sub-Saharan Africa.

And to be fair, for about a decade it appeared that this might actually occur! But all along there was ample evidence that most regular people (as distinct from politicians and foreign diplomats) did not regard "Truth and Reconciliation" to have actually reconciled the black and white communities. My guess is that, while I am always annoyed to have words put in my mouth, I can perhaps steel-man your concern, which may be that I look a bit like a Copenhagen ethicist here. Yeah, "Truth and Reconciliation" failed, but its advocates shouldn't be blamed for noticing the problem, much less for trying and, for a limited time, succeeding in making things better.

But notice that I did not blame the "Truth and Reconciliation" advocates for trying, and I don't even particularly blame them for failing. What does bother me is that people praised them even when it became clear that the facts did not support such optimism, and my expectation that people will continue to praise and emulate them, even though we have seen that their approach does not, in fact work. In particular, the failure of "Truth and Reconciliation" generalizes to much of what is done under the banner of "critical theory" in the United States today.

"Truth and Reconciliation" was the darling of progressive legal academics the world over back in the 1990s. I had one colleague who made it the center of a course he taught on "restorative" justice. He's been dead for a while now, so I'll never know what he would have to say about all this, but my impression generally is that academics are most comfortable absolutely ignoring the reality of what is happening in South Africa and continuing to blame colonialism for everything. The fact that they were dead wrong about "Truth and Reconciliation," and it failed, will not be taken as a lesson of any kind.

Oh, I see. Yeah, as far as I know, you can't do that.

You can, by putting an @ in front of their username: @Tollund_Man4

Never heard of it. Googled it--found a bunch of articles declaring "resistance" and "resolve" in response to a "day of hate" declared by unspecified actors who I could never manage to source. I'd say "Streisand effect" except that your post is the only way I would have heard anything at all.

Imagine giving some midwestern loner of dubious psychological stability that much attention for so little effort. Or, for that matter, imagine ginning the whole thing up in hopes of generating some new faux-holiday for the terminally progressive and excessively online. Truly, the demand for hatred exceeds the supply by several orders of magnitude.

She currently has a tablet, and likes to play games where she's supposed to trace letters, but then gets frustrated because it's actually kind of hard and not very useful to trace letters with fingers (it doesn't let me pass about half the time).

Yeah, that sounds minimally helpful to me--especially in an era when handwriting seems to be on its way out entirely. Making letters is totally unnecessary to the task of reading, except insofar as your daughter may want to do things like write her own name and then read it back to you.

I have a mild lingering feeling that TV watching and video game playing are vices compared to reading books, but am not sure exactly where that comes from, or to what extent it's true. Other moms I know also seem to feel that way, but it seems implicit, perhaps aesthetic and related to class in some way.

There are definitely times when the heuristic "if it's fun it's bad (or at least not good) for you" applies! And I would certainly say that poorly-curated media is like that. Educational shows like Sesame Street were specifically created in response to large numbers of young, lower-class children being left in front of television sets all day. The internet poses a similar problem, but in a way that is harder to fix. Plenty of games and television shows are rubbish--but the same was always true of books. That's why curating opportunities is so important. Fortunately, curating opportunities is a lot easier with the internet at hand. It doesn't take a lot of work, but it does take some. Just as parents should sit and read books to their children, they should also, I think, sit and play educational games with their children. Children learn best through imitation, so doing activities with them is very important, at least initially.

Also, there will almost certainly come a time when your daughter will have to work at something dull for her own good--it's just not at all clear to me that this is an important lesson for four-year-olds. Many countries don't worry about formal education at all before a child is 7 or 8 years old. I have known children as young as two years old who could read pretty fluently, but their understanding of what they are reading is limited by their experiences. It's actually surprisingly difficult to find good reading material for a six-year-old child who reads at a high school level, because the books written for that level of reading are also written with plots and problems aimed at appealing to teenagers. Precociousness is often a good problem to have, but it does come with some unique challenges!

At that age, edutainment is where it's at. Sesame Street has been the gold standard for decades. LeapFrog's Letter Factory and Word Factory are also solid choices (though their more recent stuff is reportedly hit-or-miss). If your daughter can use a mouse, you should also let her play these games at Starfall.com, especially the alphabet and learn-to-read games and "books." (If she can't use a mouse, teach her--if she has a PC with a keyboard and mouse, she's got all the tools she needs to learn whatever she wants, provided sufficient motivation!) Once she knows the basics, the Scribblenauts games can help with her vocabulary and spelling. If she has siblings, friends, or cousins who will play multiplayer games with her (like Minecraft or Roblox, where much communication is done via text messages), that can also present an opportunity and motivation to learn to read, spell, and type better.

Also make sure there are many books in her bedroom. A deep Dr. Seuss collection is a timeless choice, but there are lots of other options, too. Read a book to her every night--not to teach, just to read, hopefully your laziness will permit at least that much! Kids that age will pick up a fair bit just by osmosis.

Toys like alphabet puzzles and alphabet blocks presumably help in some way, I suppose--I know a lot of educators are really into making learning "tactile" for young children. But I feel like I've seen far better results from simply curating opportunities with books and screens.