Monday, January 28, 2008

Open Thread: Questionable Things

(1) I've added a new poll to the sidebar, asking: Will the most common response to this poll be 'No'? Given the three responses so far, mine is correct.

(2) Egoism-Infected Science (ht).
Lee suggests adults flatter for two reasons. It can be to show gratitude for some positive action in the past. As well, when they’re meeting someone for first time – someone who may turn out to be important for their advancement down the road – flattery is also used as an investment for future favourable treatment from the person. “We don’t know which the child is doing,” says Lee. However, the fact that the older children flattered strangers as well as familiar people suggests “they are thinking ahead, they are making these little social investments for future benefits.”

Or maybe they just didn't want to make the other person feel bad?

(3) All the sane feminists out there must be feeling pretty embarrassed for their NOW-NY sisters right about now. They apparently believe that we have an "obligation" to support only a candidate with the right genitalia, and anyone who considers the candidates on their merits is "betraying" the cause of equality:
Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal... This latest move by Kennedy is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation — to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a president that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’

It's times like this I realize that I have very little grasp of the depths of human stupidity.


  1. That seems like an odd account of flattery to me. I don't mean to oversimplify things, but I wasn't surprised to find out that the researcher was a man, for this reason: I don't know how men use flattery amongst themselves, but from my experience, women use flattery in another way - not just to show gratitude, ot as an investment in the future, but as a kind of conversational lubricant. That is, if I meet another woman I don't know very well, I might say something like "I love your shirt, where did you get it?" (at the risk of compromising my future interactions, even if I don't love her shirt). I'll do this even if it's unlikely I'll see the person again, or if it's unlikely that the person will turn out to be important for my advancement. It seems to me that other women do this too, and the reason we do this (generalzing from my own case) is a way perhaps of getting a conversation going, or maybe establishing some kind of common ground? I'd be interested to hear if other women do this kind of thing to, or if I'm just reporting my own experiences; and if men do something similar (I think at least that I tend to make those kind of comments mostly to other womne). But it seems to me that this kind of complimenting is quite different from the two kinds identified, and the most common type of complimenting that I do.

  2. Yeah, I'm pretty sure males don't do that. When women do it I always feel awkward. Like, it's tense. I get this 'crocodile smile' feeling when I observe it.

    Anyway, from evolution's bird's eye view that account of flattery could be correct, but saying that the children are "thinking ahead" and "making these little social investments for future benefits" is a strange way to put it. Those are the advantages, perhaps, but the children aren't thinking of that. They're just being nice, and that's it.

  3. I wouldn't call the unyielding support of some women for the candidacy of Hillary Clinton "stupidity." We all want a president who represents us, and some people take that to a different level. It's hard for policy wonks to understand why anybody would choose a president on anything but a candidate's policy positions, but the office of the presidency is unique. A president EMBODIES something about us, and that probably shouldn't be discounted.

  4. I just read the full NOW statement. That's a little insane.

  5. Yeah.

    Vanessa and Aaron -- I guess men wouldn't do that with clothing, but it's probably not so uncommon to start a conversation by complimenting another academic on their latest paper, or seminar presentation, or some such.

  6. Richard, you're probably right - but it seems to me like complimenting another academic seems a more plausible example of 'complimenting for one's advancement' than complimenting someone on clothing does. The kinds of compliments I'm talking about feel like the play the same kind of conversational role as asking someone who went to a certain school if the know other people you know who also went there - they help to establish a kind of connection or common ground that can get a conversation rolling.

  7. I know you have an interest in zombies (and robots are supposedly just artificial zombies), so I'd be interested to read your thoughts on this post at Saint Gasoline.

  8. Oh, I see no reason to deny that robots could, in principle, be conscious. There was some interesting discussion of the issue in this old thread.

  9. I'd be interested to read your thoughts on Searle's Chinese room argument (which was admittedly set aside in the link I posted).

    I haven't actually read Searle's "Minds, Brains, and Programs" paper, but when presented with the argument in condensed form, I never found it terribly persuasive. This is just intuition, though, and I can't say as I have any clear objections to the argument. I also have no sense of the wider philosophical community's feelings towards Searle's position.

    Last year when I was at NIU for a semester in the MA program, I had a friend who was a neuroscience undergrad who agreed with Searle, but I was left underwhelmed. I just don't see why the whole room (system) wouldn't be conscious.

    Perhaps much of the problem has to do with the vague notions we all have about what exactly it means to be conscious.

  10. Yes it is pretty simple - the whole system probably understands chinese if that was not the case then it would be meaningless ot talk about a human such as myself understanding chinese, or for that matter English because my brain is made of parts that work together representing the book of instructions and the writer and so forth. at a lower level they don't even perform a clear function at all but together they create an individual that can understand.


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