RSSCategory: Language

The Effect of Concepts Creeping to the Left

October 24, 2017 | By | 3 Replies More

In this paper titled, “Why Concepts Creep to the Left,” Jonathan Haidt supplements Nick Haslam’s paper titled “Concept Creep,” in which concepts such as bullying, trauma and addiction morph over time. And there are newish terms that have become prominent and expansive in recent years, “trigger warnings” and “microaggressions.” But these concepts don’t merely change. They change to the whims of the political left. And they especially change for current students and young adults rather than those over 40. In his article, Haidt asks why there is a direction to that change. Haidt writes:

These terms are part of a new conceptual package that includes all of the older concepts long referred to as “political correctness” but with greatly expanded notions of harm, trauma, mental illness, vulnerability, and harassment. These concepts seem to have expanded in just the way that Haslam (2016) describes — horizontally, to take in new kinds of cases (such as adding the reading of novels to the list of traumatizing activities) and vertically, to take in ever less extreme versions of older cases (as is made explicit by the prefix “micro” in the word “microaggression”). In this conceptually augmented political correctness, the central idea seems to be that many college students are so fragile that institutions and right-thinking people must all work together to protect vulnerable individuals from exposure to words and ideas that could damage them in a lasting way. If this protection requires banning certain speakers from campus, or punishing student newspapers that publish opinions that upset the dominant campus sensibility, then so be it.

What are the reasons for this expansion of these concepts to the left. Haidt explores several possibilities . ..

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This post is about you and the singular they.

September 26, 2017 | By | Reply More

“Bob is impressive because they is an excellent doctor.” If that ruffles your feathers, watch this brief presentation by John E. McIntyre.

And while you are at it, check out this fascinating Khan Academy video detailing the history of “you.”

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“Ataraxia”: My Favorite New Word

May 18, 2017 | By | Reply More

Ataraxia:

For Epicureanism, ataraxia was synonymous with the only true happiness possible for a person. It signifies the state of robust tranquillity that derives from eschewing concerns about an afterlife, not fearing the gods (because they are distant and unconcerned with us), avoiding politics and vexatious people, surrounding oneself with trustworthy and affectionate friends, realizing that the physical things one needs to be happy are few and that pain seldom lasts long, and, most importantly, being an affectionate, virtuous person, worthy of trust.

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The body as the yardstick for meaning

May 8, 2016 | By | Reply More

Mark Johnson (of “Metaphors we live By,” written with George Lakoff) gave this excellent talk destroying the notion that meaning is something ethereal and disembodied. Instead, the body is the yardstick for meaning. This talk turns much of traditional epistemology upside down.

Johnson opens the talk with a Billy Collins talk titled “Purity.”

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Mug Shot

April 20, 2016 | By | Reply More

mug

Unattributed.  Seen on Facebook.

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I after E, except . . .

March 7, 2016 | By | 1 Reply More

Found this on FB:i-after-e

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Have a nice day

January 25, 2015 | By | Reply More

Ever notice the way people use the phrase, “Have a nice day”? Or “Have a great week”? Or “Enjoy your vacation”?

These are all essentially wishes, secular prayers. There is no expense involved in saying these things to anyone other than the cheap breath we expend while saying them. This is definitely not paradigmatic expensive signaling explored by Zahavi.

Therefore, we might as well wish BIG. Shouldn’t we say, “Have a nice year”? Or even, “Have a nice lifetime”? Or I hope you live a good life for 1,000 more years”? Or, I hope that you and everyone you know, and everyone you don’t know, and people who aren’t even born yet, have ecstatic lives”? Or “I hope you and all present and future sentient life in the multi-verse enjoy your lives”? Or “If there is an afterlife, I hope that all of those sentient dead people in heaven and hell, and those formerly in limbo until that was abolished by the Pope, have great lives/afterlives”?

There is actually more going on than vapid wish-making. Notice that the length of time chosen by those who utter “Have a nice [choose a period of time] correlates with the next time that that person will communicate with you. A good friend might say, “Good luck with that project next week,” knowing that you will communicate to each other in a matter of weeks. What if you only see someone sporadically? Then you might say, “Have a great summer.” What if you might never see that person again? Then you might say,”Good luck with your new job” or “Good luck with that new diet.”

Regarding those who actually know you, then, “Have a nice day” or “Enjoy your weekend” often signal social or emotional closeness.

This is not the case with the checkout person at a big box store, who hands you your bags of purchases and utters the phrase required by her oppressive corporation: “Have a nice day.” I hate that these folks are forced to work like automatons, to the extent that they are made to utter canned phrases to customers. I like to break through that script, asking how their day is going, or whether they are working a long shift. If they are reciprocating, I “wish” them that they will enjoy the remainder of their evening. At least some phrase to break through the chatter we so often encounter, and make some semblance of a connection, looking them in the eyes and meaning it, when I tell them “Thank you.” But never, “Enjoy the remainder of your life, as the time-treadmill of oblivion moves you inexorably toward your demise.” That, of course, is a different topic.

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Just Talkin’ Here

August 4, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
Just Talkin’ Here

One of the more congenial things about FaceBook is that while flaming (and trolling and all such related hate-baiting tactics) still happens, users aren’t locked into the thread where it occurs. With multiple conversations going on all the time among many different arrangements of “friends” it is not a problem requiring something like a nuclear option to deal with. 

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Fighting the drift of language

July 5, 2014 | By | Reply More

Ho-made Ho-madeToday, my daughters and I had lunch at the Thunderbird Restaurant in Mount Carmel Utah today. It’s a friendly place with down-home cooking recommended at Zion Park. We had a few chuckles after spotting this big sign at the front of the restaurant (the waitresses also wear this image on their backs). At each table a pamphlet explains the resturant’s history: Founded in 1931, the original restaurant sign was of limited size, and the restaurant decided to shorten the term “home made” to “Ho Made” After the meaning of the term “ho” became derogatory, the restaurant decided to “embrace” their term rather than run from it. Our waitress explained that many customers laugh at the expression, while some customers become upset upon seeing the signs.

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