Monday, February 04, 2008

"Bad can be taught as efficiently as good," Richard Feynman

Wherein I always follow the Tom Waits maxim "Never trust a man in a blue trenchcoat, never drive a car when you're dead." I don't understand it, but I follow it


Grand truths about human behavior (Edward Tufte). I like these entries:
  • An interesting aspect of brief "summaries" of human behavior is they often do give rise to counter statements: The person who "looks before he leaps" is chastised because "he who hesitates is lost". The tragic element in such "truths" is they are valid in context, and the context defines the appropriateness of the statement.
  • "When given two competing explanations for an event----one involving conspiracy and the other incompetence----always choose incompetence." Dr. Richard Cottam, University of Pittsburgh
  • "The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not."
    - Richard Rorty "Contingency, Irony and Solidarity" (sadly, out of print)

    Although it is not at first impression a direct claim about human behavior, this short sentence tells a grand truth about that most characteristic of human behaviors: describing things or "saying how it is".

    Every claim on the nature of the world that represents itself as true and final elides the distinction between the world and language. At the same time, and against the loose suggestion that nothing is knowable or that there is only interpretation, the world is out there! Understanding and respecting this condition seems to me to be a piece of what we are hoping for in the education of ourselves and each rising generation. I love this sentence. For many years I have found myself using it as a kind of prism for pulling apart that aspect of human language that tends to collapse the color of "what is" from the color of "what is said".
  • "No matter how many options there are, it is human nature to always narrow things down to two polar, yet inextricably linked choices."

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