Adrian Wooldridge reviews in the NYT two books trying to make sense of the senseless – the slide of the Republican presidential fracas into bizarre vaudeville, and the puzzling grassroots resonance achieved by the most unbelievable candidates. The titles of the books are worth noting: Why the Right Went Wrong, and Too Dumb to Fail. Wooldridge’s review itself contains two punch lines which alone make it worth reading. He says Trump is “more of an exclamation mark than an aberration.” And “the Internet-enabled news-cum-entertainment industry stokes political resentments even as it creates epistemic anarchy."
Friday, January 15, 2016
What do investment bankers, IT professionals, and academic philosophers have in common? A remarkable ability to abstract from their own personal experiences and existential standpoint. They do it apparently in the pursuit of strict utilitarian rationality – for the sake of profit, self- optimization, universally valid knowledge, wellbeing-maximizing charity, and related sub-goals (with traders also gaining a much-needed defensive mechanism, given the unforgiving nature of their “work”). This is, at least, the common theme in three articles I serendipitously read in quick succession: “The Happiness Code” by Jennifer Kahn (NYT), “Investment Bankers Severely Dissociate Their Sense of Self from Their Work” by Shannon Hall (Scientific American Mind), and “Add Your Own Egg” by Nakul Krishna (The Point). Incidentally, all three groups are handsomely rewarded for their radical self-abstraction – the successful philosophers with jobs, status, sense of intellectual superiority, and self-assured peace of mind, if not necessarily ballooning "net worth."