Peter Singer, Translation, War, Taleb, Rorschach

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Twenty Questions For Peter Singer

Peter Singer & Theron Pummer. | Journal Of Practical Ethics | 24th February 2017

Arguments for utilitarianism, using bold and often repugnant examples. “Most people think that the life of a dog or a pig is of less value than the life of a normal human being. On what basis, then, could they hold that the life of a profoundly intellectually disabled human being with capacities inferior to those of a dog or a pig is of equal value to the life of a normal human being? As for infanticide, anyone thinking hard about what makes killing wrong will need to consider that issue” (4,440 words)

Haloed By A Sonnet

Anthony Burgess & Paul Howard | Times Literary Supplement | 22nd February 2017

Skip the long-winded introduction and go straight to the Burgess essay which begins ten paragraphs in. Burgess argues that Giuseppe Belli is one of the greatest Western poets of the 19C, the equal of Keats; but Belli is scarcely known outside Rome because his writing only works well its original Roman dialect; which demonstrates the error of claiming that great writers have universal appeal. It is generally mediocre writers who travel best. “The universal modern novelist is Harold Robbins” (3,050 words)

Must It Always Be Wartime?

Kenneth Roth | New York Review Of Books | 24th February 2017

America’s “war on terror” has blurred boundaries between war and peace which used to be clear-cut. The decision to treat 9/11 as an act of war rather than a horrible crime was a policy choice that may have served immediate needs but which put democracy at risk. “Preventing the rules of war from infecting views of moral conduct in times of peace is essential for preserving civilisation”. Can we recover a distinction between war and peace, or has terrorism abolished it for ever? (3,600 words)

Surgeons Should Not Look Like Surgeons

Nassim Nicholas Taleb | Incerto | 24th February 2017

A rambling screed, but from Taleb even the rambles repay reading. In brief: Avoid people who look and and talk the part, whether surgeons or scientists or stockbrokers. They are trying to win your confidence by means of rituals rather than results. Practitioners who are exceptionally good at producing results have less need to conform to professional stereotypes. And those who succeed in a profession despite not looking the part must, all other things being equal, have greater talent (3,500 words)

The Nazi Mind

Damion Searls | Paris Review | 22nd February 2017

It so happened that the Nuremberg prison psychiatrist was Douglas Kelley, who made his reputation as co-author of the The Rorschach Technique. Nobody ordered Rorschach tests on the Nazis, but Kelley gave them anyway — to Goering, Speer, Hess, von Ribbentrop and others. Even before the verdicts were handed down, Kelley published his assessment: “Not only are such personalities not unique or insane, but they could be duplicated in any country of the world today” (1,800 words)

Video of the day: David Lynch’s La La Land

What to expect:

Jon Tomlinson produces an imagined trailer for “La La Land” as if directed by David Lynch (1’26”)

Thought for the day

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Eugene Delacroix

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