Posts Tagged “Notes & Quotes”

07w46:5 Classic Academic Bullshit

by timothy. 1 Comment

Worth quoting in full (after all, it is a press release) with emph mine:

What’s in a name? Initials linked to success, study shows (Link)

Do you like your name and initials? Most people do and, as past research has shown, sometimes we like them enough to influence other important behaviors. For example, Jack is more likely to move to Jacksonville and marry Jackie than is Philip who is more likely to move to Philadelphia and marry Phyllis. Scientists call this phenomenon the “name-letter effect” and argue that it is influential enough to encourage the pursuit of name-resembling life outcomes and partners.

However, if you like your name too much, you might be in trouble. Leif Nelson at the University of California, San Diego and colleague Joseph Simmons from Yale University, found that liking your own name sabotages success for people whose initials match negative performance labels.

In their first study, Nelson and Simmons investigated the effect of name resemblance on batters’ strikeouts. In baseball, strikeouts are recorded using the letter ‘K.’ After analyzing Major League Baseball players’ performance spanning 93 years, the researchers found that batters whose names began with ‘K’ struck out at a higher rate than the remaining batters. “Even Karl ‘Koley’ Kolseth would find a strikeout aversive, but he might find it a little less aversive than players who do not share his initials, and therefore he might avoid striking out less enthusiastically,” write the authors.

In a second study, the researchers investigated the phenomenon in academia. Letter grades are commonly used to measure students’ performance, with the letters ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C’ and ‘D’ denoting different levels of performance. Nelson and Simmons reviewed 15 years of grade point averages (GPAs) for M.B.A. students graduating from a large private American university.

Students whose names began with ‘C’ or ‘D’ earned lower GPAs than students whose names began with ‘A’ or ‘B.’ Students with the initial ‘C’ or ‘D,’ presumably because of an unconscious fondness for these letters, were slightly less successful at achieving their conscious academic goals.

Interestingly, students with the initial ‘A’ or ‘B’ did not perform better than students whose initials were grade irrelevant. Therefore, having initials that match hard-to-achieve positive outcomes, like acing a test, may not necessarily cause an increase in performance. However, after analyzing law schools, the researchers found that as the quality of schools declined, so did the proportion of lawyers with name initials ‘A’ and ‘B.’

The researchers confirmed these findings in the laboratory with an anagram test. The result of the test confirmed that when people’s initials match negative performance outcomes, performance suffers. These results, appearing in the December issue of Psychological Science, provide striking evidence that unconscious wants can insidiously undermine conscious pursuits.


Author Contact: Leif Nelson

Psychological Science is ranked among the top 10 general psychology journals for impact by the Institute for Scientific Information. For a copy of the article “Moniker Maladies: When Names Sabotage Success” and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Catherine West at (202) 783-2077 or

The Rady School of Management at UC San Diego educates global leaders for innovation-driven organizations. A professional school within one of the top-ranked institutions in the U.S. for higher education and research, the Rady School offers a Full-Time MBA program, a FlexMBA program for working professionals, undergraduate and executive education courses. Our lineage includes 16 Nobel Laureates (former and current faculty) and eight MacArthur Foundation award recipients. The Rady School at UC San Diego transforms innovators into business leaders.

Comments: I’m thankful that the author of this press-release took the time to explain letter grades to me, and thought it was interesting that students with initials ‘a’ and ‘b’ did not perform better than students with grade-irrelevant initials, which is only the entire rest of the alphabet. This alone seems to make such a correlation absurd.

The only reason I’d understand having the scale explained is to account for the international audience, but then again, this is written in English, so it’s not like there are a ton of Chinese out there who suddenly know about how North American grading works. For the Europeans, I imagine they’ve watched enough American movies and television to already be familiar with the system.

Is the argument then that the increased ‘slightly less’ performance of the world’s Cynthia Donaldsons, Charles Davies’, Duncan Camerons is based partially on their names? So you’re saying that the reason Albert Burns got an 80, whereas David Connors got a 78 is because of their names?! Is this is why Cory Doctorow believes in ‘anti-copyright policies’!?

And this from a school that considers itself an educator of global leaders! No wonder the world is so fucked up. For one thing, such a study takes for granted a measurement of success which is itself a social construction dating back a century and out-of-step with the needs of present society. For example I imagine that to graduate with top marks from an MBA school you’d need to do rather poorly in the ethics department, especially environmental ethics. Failing the Humanities would also help, since at no point should you consider your employees as human beings desiring to live full lives. They must be refered to as ‘human resources’ (which would have served as a perfectly adequate term for slavery). Their natural desire to be as richly compensated as your gang at the top of the hierarchy must be kept in check and exploited for ‘superior job performance’.

The fact that they felt the need to explain to us the letter-grade system seems to be evidence of an inability to imagine another, from which the ethical disasters of capitalism naturally follow. Further, the awarding of the marks leading to grades is mostly arbitrary, and dependent on many factors, including the fact that teachers are as biased as any other human being. So Connor gets 77 while James gets 80 because the teacher likes James more and gave a slightly higher mark to his answers over Connor, who doesn’t say a lot in class.

This study is trying to suggest that Connor, Cory, Charles, Cynthia, Duncan, David, etc, have an ‘unconscious attachment’ to their initials and are thus sabotaging their ‘success’ in order to see it written on their tests as a reward counterbalancing the anguish of feeling like a failure. Not to mention the subsequent mockery from the class’ ‘successful’ students (a mockery which is ‘unconsciously’ endorsed by the teacher since schools are supposed to help establish the pecking order, so that the authors of this press-release and study get sorted by high grades into university; then onto Masters and PHD programs and are then able to conduct such stupid studies open to such easy mockery).

As for the quoted baseball example, it is equally absurd and subject to the same critique offered above.

In my arbitrary grading system, based on my measurements of success, this study gets an F. Or, no, no, I’ll make the system so that L and N are the lowest grades, and J isn’t much higher, to make it fit with Leif Nelson’s and Joseph Simmons’ thesis.

07w46:4 Public Interest

by timothy. 1 Comment

From today’s Mediascout, by Rishi Hargovan:

The Globe fronts and the Star goes inside with a court ruling that could substantially increase freedom of the press in Canada. In a unanimous, precedent-setting ruling, the Ontario Court of Appeal established “benefiting the public interest” as a defence against defamation charges. The ruling, which only applies in Ontario, introduces a principle that will help the media report controversial allegations when it is in the public interest to do so. Currently, journalists and media outlets often censor themselves, hesitating to publish material they honestly believe to be true solely because they fear a lawsuit. No matter how strong the story, litigation is costly and it is difficult to prove such facts to the standards of the courts—where there is zero room for error. Now the standard would be that journalists would have not have to prove that they were right, only that they were acting responsibly. The Globe quotes Justice Robert Sharpe: “…[W]here a media defendant can show that it acted in accordance with the standards of responsible journalism in publishing a story that the public was entitled to hear, it has a defence, even if it got some of its facts wrong.”

Adopted in other major common law countries around the world, the ruling marks the first time a Canadian court has taken this approach and increases the likelihood courts in other Canadian jurisdictions will follow suit. The impact will likely be a greater propensity to publish and air controversial stories of public import, the Globe’s lawyer Peter Jacobsen told the paper. In a peculiar twist, the Star reports, the paper involved in this specific case, the Citizen, cannot take advantage of the new defence. The legal system’s emphasis on finality in proceedings would make it unfair to re-open the trial and let the paper go back and use the defence. The court, however, did not go as far media organizations would have liked. The media had argued in court for defamation to require evidence of malice to be proven—a difficult element to prove.

Also, from the CNW Group:

Attention News Editors:
Another Prime Minister, The Hon. Stephen Harper is noted in default in a Libel action, as well as the Hon. Tony Clement, Governor General Michaelle Jean, Morris Rosenberg, the Deputy Minister of Health, three of his staff and others BELLEVILLE, ON, Nov. 14 /CNW Telbec/ – Trueman Tuck and his company, Freedom of Choice in Health Care Inc., sued the above noted parties November 15, 2006 for $1,050,000 and the Department of Justice lawyers handling the matter failed to file a defense.

Citizens of Canada are getting used to this type of above the Rule of Law arrogance by the Prime Ministers of Canada.

Trueman Tuck filed the lawsuit to stop what he alleges are false allegations of e-coli contamination of a product that Trueman Tuck and his company sell. Trueman Tuck alleges that the criminal investigative federal officials working in the Health Canada Inspectorate regularly create bogus allegations of harm that have no probable scientific cause.

Trueman Tuck also criticized the Conservative Government, including the Prime Minister for their total failure since taking office to investigate the well documented cases of malicious, unlawful and out of jurisdiction attacks on dietary food supplement small family businesses by the local officials of Health Canada and the total failure of the Managers, Director Generals, ADMs, DMs and responsible Ministers to investigate and intervene.

Complaints have been made to various federal oversight committees, the Cabinet, the Senate, the Governor-General and the Queen personally without any response.

The Defendants were noted in default and a requisition for default judgment has been filed with the Picton, Ontario Superior Court.

For further information: Trueman Tuck, (613) 771-1797,,

07w44:1 The Alternative History of Martin Heidegger

by timothy. 1 Comment

The Alternative History of Martin Heidegger | Richard Rorty
From Philosophy and Social Hope (p.190-197 ), originally published in the London Review of Books as ‘Another Possible World’, 8 February 1990. This is an excerpt:

I take a person’s moral character – his or her sensitivity to the sufferings of others – to be shaped by chance events in his or her life. Often, perhaps usually, this sensitivity varies independently of the projects of self-creation that the person undertakes in his or her work.

I can clarify what I mean by ‘chance events’ and ‘independent variation’ by sketching a slightly different possible world – a world in which Heidegger joins his fellow antiegalitarian, Thomas Mann, in preaching resistance to Hitler. To see how this possible world might have been actual, imagine that in the summer of 1930 Heidegger suddenly finds himself deeply in love with a beautiful, intense, adoring philosophy student named Sarah Mandelbaum. Sarah is Jewish, but Heidegger barely notices this, dizzy with passion as he is. After a painful divorce from Elfride – a process that costs him the friendship of, among other people, the Husserls – Heidegger marries Sarah in 1932. In January 1933 they have a son, Abraham.

Heidegger jokes that Sarah can think of Abraham as named after the patriarch, but that he will think of him as named after Abraham a Sancta Clara, the only other Messkirch boy to make good. Sarah looks up Abraham a Sancta Clara’s anti-Semitic writings in the library stacks, and Heidegger’s little joke becomes the occasion of the first serious quarrel between husband and wife. But by the end of 1933, Heidegger is no longer making such jokes. For Sarah makes him notice that the Jewish Beamt, including his father-in-law, have been cashiered. Heidegger reads things about himself in the student newspaper that make him realize that his day in the sun may be over. Gradually it dawns upon him that his love for Sarah has cost him much of his prestige, and will sooner or later cost him his job.

But he still loves her, and eventually he leaves his beloved Freiburg for her sake. In 1935 Heidegger is teaching in Berne, but only as a visitor. Switzerland has by now given away all its philosophy chairs. Suddenly a call comes from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. There Heidegger spends two years slowly and painfully learning English, aching for the chance once again to spellbind seminar rooms of worshipfully attentive students. He gets a chance to do so in 1937 when some of his fellow emigres arrange a permanent job for him at the University of Chicago.

There he meets Elizabeth Mann Borgese, who introduces him to her father. Heidegger manages to overcome his initial suspicion of the Hanseatic darling of fortune, and Mann his initial suspicion of the Black Forest Bauernkind. They find they agree with each other, and with Adorno and Horkheimer; that America is a reduction ad absurdum of Enlightenment hopes, a land without culture. But their contempt for America does not prevent them from seeing Hitler as having ruined Germany and being about to ruin Europe. Heidegger’s stirring anti-Nazi broadcasts enable him to gratify a need a strike a heroic attitude before large masses of people – a need that he might, under other circumstances, have gratified in a rectorial address.

By the end of the Second World War, Heidegger’s marriage is on the rocks. Sarah Heidegger is a social democrat to the core, loves America, and is a passionate zionist. She has come to think of Heidegger as a great man with a cold and impervious heart, a heart which had once opened to her but remains closed to her social hopes. She has come to despise the egotist as much as she admires the philosopher and the anti-Nazi polemicist. In 1947 she separates from Heidegger and takes the 14-year-old Abraham with her to Palestine. She is wounded in the civil war but eventually, after the proclamation of independence, becomes a philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University.

Heidegger himself returns to Freiburg in triumph in 1948. There he gets his old friend Gadamer a job, even though he is acidly contemptuous of Gadamer’s acquiescence in the Nazi takeover of the German universities. He eventually takes as his third wife a war widow, a woman who reminds all his old friends of Elfride. When he dies in 1976, his wife lays on his coffin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the medal of the order Pour le Merite, and the gold medal of the Nobel Prize for Literature. This last had been awarded him in the year after the publication of his brief but poignant elegy for Abraham, who had died on the Golan Heights in 1967.

What books did Heidegger write in this possible world? Almost exactly the same ones he wrote in the actual one. In this world, however, the Introduction to Metaphysics contains a contemptuous identification of the National Socialist movement with the mindless nihilism of modern technology, as well as the remark that Hitler is dragging Germany down to the metaphysical level of Russia and America. The seminars on Nietzsche are much that same as those he gave in our world, except for a digression on Nietzsche’s loathing for anti-Semites, a digression that contains uncanny parallels to Sartre’s contemporaneous but independent Portrait of the Anti-Semite. In this world, Heidegger writes most of the same exegetical essays he wrote in our world, but he adds appreciations of Thoreau and of Jefferson, composed for lectures at Harvard and at the University of Virginia respectively. The two essays evince Heidegger’s familiar sentimental agrarianism and suspicion of the urban proletariat. His books in this world are, in short, documents of the same struggle he carried on in the actual world – the struggle to move outside the philosophical tradition and there ‘sing a new song’. This struggle, this private pursuit of purity, was the core of his life. It was incapable of being greatly influenced either by his love for particular persons or by the political events of his time.

In our world, Heidegger said nothing political after the war. In the possible world I am sketching he puts his prestige as an anti-Nazi to work in making the German political right respectable. He is adored by Franz Josef Srauss, who pays regular and worshipful visits to Todtnauberg. Occasionally Heidegger appears with Strauss at political rallies. Social Democrats like Habermas regret Heidegger’s being consistently on the wrong side in postwar German politics. Sometimes, in private, they voice the suspicion that, in slightly different circumstances, Heidegger would have made a pretty good Nazi. But they never dream of saying such a thing in public about the greatest European thinker of our time.

07w42:6 Doris Lessing Selection

by timothy. 0 Comments

From Doris Lessing’s introduction to The Golden Notebook (June 1971):

To get the subject of Women’s Liberation over with – I support it, of course, because women are second-class citizens, as they are saying energetically and competently in many countries. It can be said that they are succeeding, if only to the extent they are being seriously listened to. All kinds of people previously hostile or indifferent say: ‘I support their aims but I don’t like their shrill voices and their nasty ill-mannered ways.’ This is an inevitable and easily recognizable stage in every revolutionary movement: reformers must expect to be disowned by this who are only too happy to enjoy what has been won for them. I don’t think Women’s Liberation will change much though – not because there is anything wrong with its aims, but because it is already clear that the whole world is being shaken into a new pattern by the cataclysms we are living through: probably by the time we are through, if we do get through at all, the aims of Women’s Liberation will look very small and quaint.

But this novel [The Golden Notebook] was not a trumpet for Women’s Liberation. It described many female emotions of aggression, hostility, resentment. It put them into print. Apparently what many women were thinking, feeling, experiencing, came as a great surprise. Instantly a lot of very ancient weapons were unleashed, the main ones, as usual, being the theme of ‘She is unfeminine’, ‘She is a man-hater’. This particular reflex seems indestructible. Men – and many women, said that the suffragettes were de-feminized, masculine, brutalized. There is no record I have read of any society anywhere when women demanded more than nature offers them that does not also describe this reaction from men – and some women. A lot of women were angry about The Golden Notebook. What women will say to other women, grumbling in their kitchens and complaining and gossiping or what they make clear in their masochism, is often the last thing they will say aloud – a man may overhear. Women are the cowards they are because they have been semi-slaves for so long. The number of women prepared to stand up for what they really think, feel, experience with a man they are in love with is still small. Most women will still run like little dogs with stones thrown at them when a man says: You are unfeminine, aggressive, you are unmanning me. It is my belief that any woman who marries, or takes seriously in any way at all, a man who uses this threat, deserves everything she gets. For such a man is a bully, does to know anything about the world he lives in, or about its history…


This business of seeing what I was trying to do – it brings me to the critics, and the danger of evoking a yawn. This sad bickering between writers and critics, playwrights and critics: the public have got so used to it they think, as of quarreling children: ‘Ah yes, dear little things, they are at it again.’ Or: ‘You writers get all the praise, or if not praise, at least all that attention- so why are you so perennially wounded?’ And the public are quite right. For reasons I won’t go into here, early and valuable experiences in my writing life gave me a sense of perspective about critics and reviewers … It is that writers are looking in the critics for an alter ego, that other self more intelligent than oneself who has seen what one is reaching for, and who judges you only by whether you have matched up to your aim or not. I have never yet met a writer who, faced at last with that rare being, a real critic, doesn’t lose all paranoia and become gratefully attentive – he has found what he thinks he needs. But what he, the writer, is asking is impossible. Why should he expect this extraordinary being, the perfect critic (who does occasionally exist), why should there be anyone else who comprehends what he is trying to do? After all, there is only one person spinning that particular cocoon, only one person whose business it is to spin it.

It is not possible for reviewers and critics to provide what they purport to provide – and for which writers so ridiculously and childishly yearn.

This is because the critics are not educated for it; their training is in the opposite direction.

It starts when the child is as young as five or six, when he arrives at school. It starts with marks, rewards, ‘places’, ‘streams’, stars – and still in many places, stripes. This horse-race mentality, the victor and loser way of thinking, leads to ‘Writer X is, is not, a few paces ahead of Writer Y. Writer Y has fallen behind. In his last book Writer Z had shown himself as better than Writer A.’ From the very beginning the child is trained to think in this way: always in terms of comparison, of success, and of failure. It is a weeding-out system: the weaker get discouraged and fall out; a system designed to produce a few winners who are always in competition with each other. It is my belief – though this is not the place to develop this – and the talents every child has, regardless of his official ‘IQ’, could stay with him through life, to enrich him and everybody else, if these talents were not regarded as commodities with a value in the success-stakes.

The other things taught from the start is to distrust one’s own judgment. Children are taught submission to authority, how to search for other people’s opinions and decisions, and how to quote and comply,

As in the political sphere, the child is taught that he is free, a democrat, with a free will and a free mind, lives in a free country, makes his own decisions. At the same time he is a prisoner of the assumptions and dogmas of his time, which he does not question, because he has never been told they exist. By the time a young person has reached the age when he has to choose (we still take it for granted that a choice is inevitable) between the arts and the sciences, he often chooses the arts because he feels that here is humanity, freedom, choice. He does not know that he is already molded by a system, he does not know that the choice itself is the result of a false dichotomy rooted in the heart of our culture. Those who do sense this, and who don’t wish to subject themselves to further molding, tend to leave, in a half-unconscious, instinctive attempt to find work where they won’t be divided against themselves. With all our institutions, from the police force to academia, from medicine to politics, we give little attention to the people who leave – that process of elimination that goes on all the time and which excludes, very early, those likely to be original and reforming, leaving those attracted to a thing because that is what they are already like. A young policeman leaves the Force saying he doesn’t like what he has to do. A young teacher leaves teaching, her idealism snubbed. This social mechanism goes almost unnoticed – yet it is as powerful as any in keeping our institutions rigid and oppressive.

These children who have spent years inside the training system becomes critics and reviewers, and cannot give what the author, the artist, so foolishly looks for – imaginative and original judgment. What they can do, and what they do very well, is to the writer how the book or play accords with current patterns of feeling and thinking – the climate of opinion. They are like litmus paper. They are wind gauges – invaluable. They are the most sensitive of barometers of public opinion. You can see changes of mood and opinion here sooner than anywhere except in the political field – it is because these are people whose whole education has been just that – to look outside themselves for their opinions, to adapt themselves to authority figures, to ‘received opinion’ – a marvelously revealing phrase.

It may be that there is no other way of educating people. Possibly, but I don’t believe it. In the meantime it would be a help at least to describe things properly, to call things by their right names. Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this:

‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others, will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself – educating your own judgment. Those that stay must remember, always and all the time, that they are being molded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.’

Like every other writer I get letters all the time from young people who are about to write theses and essays about my books in various countries – but particularly in the United States. They all say: ‘Please give me a list of the articles about your work, the critics who have written about you, the authorities.’ They also ask for a thousand details of total irrelevance, but which they have been taught to consider important, amounting to a dossier, like an immigration department’s.

These requests I answer as follows: ‘Dear Student. You are mad. Why spend months and years writing thousands of words about one book, or even one writer, when there are hundreds of books waiting to be read. You don’t see that you are the victim of a pernicious system. And if you have yourself chosen my work as your subject, and if you do have to a write a thesis – and believe me I am very grateful that what I’ve written is being found useful by you – then why don’t you read what I have written and make up your own mind about what you think, testing it against your own life, your own experience. Never mind about Professors White and Black.’

‘Dear Writer’ – they reply. ‘But I have to know what the authorities say, because if I don’t them, my professor won’t give me any marks.’

This is an international system, absolutely identical from the Urals to Yugoslavia, from Minnesota to Manchester.

The point is, we are all so used to it, we no longer see how bad it is. I am not used to it, because I left school when I was fourteen. There was a time I was sorry for this, and believed I had missed out on something valuable. Now I am grateful for a lucky escape.


You might be saying: This is an exaggerated reaction, and you have no right to it, because you say you have never been part of the system. But I think it is not at all exaggerated, and that the reaction of someone from outside is valuable simply because it is fresh and not biased by allegiance to a particular education.

But after this investigation, I had no difficulty in answering my own questions: Why are they so parochial, so personal, so small-minded? Why do they always atomize, and belittle, why are they so fascinated by detail, and uninterested in the whole? Why is their interpretation of the word critic always to find fault? Why are they always seeing writers in conflict with each other, rather than complementing each other … simple, this is how they are trained to think. That valuable person who understands what you are doing, what you are aiming for, and give you advice and real criticism, is nearly always someone right outside the literary machine, even outside the university system; it may be a student just beginning, and still in love with literature, or perhaps it may be a thoughtful person who reads a great deal, following his own instinct.

I say to these students who have to spend a year, two years, writing theses about one book: ‘There is only way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag – and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty – and vice-versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you. Remember that for all the books we have in print, are as many that have never reached print, have never been written down – even now, in this age of compulsive reverence for the written word, history, even social ethic, are taught by means of stories, and the people who have been conditioned into thinking only in terms of what is written – and unfortunately nearly all the products of our educational system can do no more than this – are missing what is before their eyes. For instance, the real history of Africa is still in the custody of black storytellers and wise men, black historians, medicine men: it is a verbal history, still kept safe from the white man and his predations. Everywhere, if you keep your mind open, you will find the truth in words not written down. So never let the printed page be your master. Above all, you should know that the fact that you have to spend one year, or two years, on one book or one author means that you are badly taught – you should have been taught to read your way from one sympathy to another, you should be learning to follow your own intuitive feeling about what you need: that is what you should have been developing, not the way to quote from other people’.