Morality, Lotteries, George Martin, Germany, Kafka, Sex Licences


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Uncommon Ground

Bryan Druzin | New Rambler | 9th March 2016

In The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris argues for a “science of morality”: The greatest good lies in “maximizing the well-being of conscious creatures"; brain states are measurable; so we can and should replace our moral assumptions with objective rules for maximising general well-being. But even if true, the argument is incomplete. Why maximise the well-being of others? That is another moral assumption, not a scientific fact (2,800 words)

Against Merit

Gabriel Zaid | Baffler | 5th October 2014

It is no accident that Catholic countries love lotteries, nor that Catholic culture discovered the probability calculus by means of Blaise Pascal. "Playing the lottery means trying to make a connection with divine providence, giving God a chance to intervene in our lives, rejecting the narcissistic idea that success is due solely to our own effort — in short, accepting grace over merit. Good luck is a blessing, a sign from heaven" (735 words)

Obituary: Sir George Martin

Telegraph | 9th March 2016

He discovered Flanders and Swann, made a star of Rolf Harris, and took charge of Parlophone in 1955 at the age of 29. Brian Epstein brought him The Beatles in 1962. Nobody else wanted them. George Martin did, and greatness followed. He retired in 1998 after producing Elton John’s Candle in the Wind for Princess Diana's funeral. "Since it became the best-selling single of all time, it was a good note on which to close" (2,200 words)

The Third Republic

Dirk Kurbjuweit | Spiegel | 8th March 2016

Landmark essay on the changing shape of German politics. The refugee crisis has forced Merkel into de facto alliance with the left, creating tensions with the CSU and new space for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD). If the AfD consolidates the far-right vote, Germany will "end up with a political spectrum that is closer to the European norm — but one which is nonetheless uncomfortable given the country's history" (1,940 words)

The Entrepreneurial Kafka

Reiner Stach | Paris Review | 8th March 2016

In 1911 Franz Kafka proposed a new series of European travel guides, "On The Cheap", written for the new era of mass tourism. Their slogan would be: "The same pleasure for less money". According to Max Brod, the project failed because "we didn’t want to disclose our precious secret [to publishers] without an enormous advance.” Kafka also invented an answering machine in 1913, but the idea had already been patented (1,420 words)

A Modest Proposal For The Sex Industry

Sarah Ditum | New Statesman | 8th March 2016

Offered as satire; but arguably a very promising idea. Regulate the customer. "Men who want to pay for sex are exercising a particular sort of freedom which we know could be damaging to other people if used recklessly. It’s like wanting to drive a car. So any man who wants to pay for sex can start by applying for a punter’s licence. He’d have to be examined first, with a full physical, a criminal record check, and a theory test" (845 words)

Video of the day: Five Cooking Skills

What to expect: Gordon Ramsay demonstrates five basic cooking skills, starting with chopping an onion (7'40")

Thought for the day

My theory is to enjoy life, but the practice is against it
Charles Lamb

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