5/07/2020

It’s All in the Presentation: A New Look at Schopenhauer

"Richard Equila, in his new translation for Longman Press (with collaboration by David Carus), believes that we will not understand Schopenhauer properly unless we at the very least recognize the work by a new title: “The World as Will and Presentation.” “Idea,” “Representation,” and “Presentation” are all acceptable renderings of “Vorstellung.” However, it’s the notion of a performance or a theatrical presentation that is key here. The world that we perceive is a “presentation” of objects in the theatre of our own mind; we, the “subject,” craft the show with our own stage managers, stagehands, sets, lighting, code of dress, pay scale, etc. The other part of the world, the Will, or “thing in itself,” not perceivable as a presentation, exists outside time, space, and causality. Aquila tries to make these distinctions as linguistically precise as possible; he also attempts to replicate Schopenhauer’s compelling prose style by diverging from the literalness of other translations—a rather risky and brave move. But, Aquila hopes, that by making this tome as lively as possible, and by dazzling us with his “presentation,” Schopenhauer might get to be as good a read as he was from 1860 to 1950."

4/09/2020

Life after the Plague?

"The extraordinary indebtedness of tertiary institutions in many developed countries is emblematic of a wider debt crisis, and it’s no good trying to assign specific blame to governments, the private sector, or households. Debt is immense everywhere, and there’s a serious case to be made that a fair bit of the prosperity sites like Human Progress or Our World in Data document is partly or even wholly debt-fuelled. As coronavirus emerged, the Saudis and Russia also pointed their fuel pumps at each other, collapsing the price of Brent Crude. Whether Donald Trump’s recent interventions are enough to save all the shale oil paper out there remains to be seen. One suspects the merry-go-round is about to stop as a lot of debt becomes unpayable and even unserviceable (hence worthless)."

4/04/2020

On Digital Minimalism and Pandemics

"In this current situation, for most people, the constant monitoring of online news about the virus is providing pure fuel to the ignoble steed, dragging the allegorical chariot away from what’s good and awe-inspiring about life — even during turmoil — and toward bottom-less anxiety and pseudo-paralysis. The ignoble steed always craves more of this attention-catching information. What if something extra terrible just happened? What if I find a link that makes me feel better? But in this feverish pursuit, the charioteer loses control."

4/01/2020

Taste for Makers

"In art, the highest place has traditionally been given to paintings of people. There is something to this tradition, and not just because pictures of faces get to press buttons in our brains that other pictures don't. We are so good at looking at faces that we force anyone who draws them to work hard to satisfy us. If you draw a tree and you change the angle of a branch five degrees, no one will know. When you change the angle of someone's eye five degrees, people notice.

When Bauhaus designers adopted Sullivan's "form follows function," what they meant was, form should follow function. And if function is hard enough, form is forced to follow it, because there is no effort to spare for error. Wild animals are beautiful because they have hard lives."

3/26/2020

"Nothing In Life Is As Important As You Think It Is, While You Are Thinking About It"

"Education is an important determinant of income — one of the most important — but it is less important than most people think. If everyone had the same education, the inequality of income would be reduced by less than 10%. When you focus on education you neglect the myriad other factors that determine income. The differences of income among people who have the same education are huge.

Income is an important determinant of people's satisfaction with their lives, but it is far less important than most people think. If everyone had the same income, the differences among people in life satisfaction would be reduced by less than 5%.

Income is even less important as a determinant of emotional happiness. Winning the lottery is a happy event, but the elation does not last. On average, individuals with high income are in a better mood than people with lower income, but the difference is about 1/3 as large as most people expect. When you think of rich and poor people, your thoughts are inevitably focused on circumstances in which their income is important. But happiness depends on other factors more than it depends on income."