Weekly Roundup

I’ve been on a road trip this week, so fewer links to post this week:

I finished reading Red Notice and I couldn’t recommend it enough. It’s the story of Bill Browder and the Magnitsky Act. It goes a long way to explain what it’s like to be involved as an investor in model day Russia.

 

Forget About It by Corey Robin

History is doomed to repeat itself. I’d place myself fairly in the center of the political spectrum, but still, this is one of the better articles I’ve read about the current climate in recent memory.

When Trump became a contender for the White House, I saw him as an extension or fulfillment of the conservative movement rather than a break with it. Almost everything people found outrageous and objectionable about his candidacy — the racism, the contempt for institutions, the ambient violence, the hostility to the rule of law — I’d been seeing in the right for years. Little in Trump surprised me, except for the fact that he won.

Whenever I said this, people got angry with me. They still do. For months, now years, I puzzled over that anger. My wife explained it to me recently: in making the case for continuity between past and present, I sound complacent about the now. I sound like I’m saying that nothing is wrong with Trump, that everything will work out. I thought I was giving people a steadying anchor, a sense that they — we — had faced this threat before, a sense that this is the right-wing monster we’ve been fighting all along, since Nixon and Reagan and George W. Bush. Turns out I was removing their ballast, setting them afloat in the intermittent and inconstant air.

Historical consciousness can be a conservative force, lessening the sting of urgency, deflating the demands of the now, leaving us adrift in a sea of relativism. But it need not be, as Lincoln discovered in his second inaugural address.

Yet, if God wills that it [the Civil War] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Telling a story of how present trespass derives from past crime or even original sin can inspire a more strenuous refusal, a more profound assault on the now. It can fuel a desire to be rid of not just the moment but the moments that made this moment, to ensure that we never have to face this moment again. But only if we acknowledge what we’re seldom prepared to admit: that the monster has been with us all along.

Highlights from Julian Jaynes

From The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

So we arrive at the position that the actual process of thinking, so usually thought to be the very life of consciousness, is not conscious at all and that only its preparation, its materials, and its end result are consciously perceived.

The very reason we need logic at all is because most reasoning is not conscious at all.

How often we reach sound conclusions and are quite unable to justify them! Because reasoning is not conscious.

It is something of a lovely surprise that the irregular conjugation of our most nondescript verb is thus a record of a time when man had no independent word for ‘existence’ and could only say that something ‘grows’ or that it “breathes.”

A theory is thus a metaphor between a model and data. And understanding in science is the feeling of similarity between complicated data and a familiar model.

Or, to say it another way with echoes of John Locke, there is nothing in consciousness that is not an analog of something that was in behavior first.

An aura of flames flashes up from his shoulders as he speaks (which has made some scholars think it is Shamash, the sun-god). Hammurabi listens intently as he stands just below him (“under-stands”).

Even today, our ideas of nobility are largely residues of bicameral authority: it is not noble to whine, it is not noble to plead, it is not noble to beg, even though these postures are really the most moral of ways to settle differences. And hence the instability of the bicameral mind.

Every god is a jealous god after the breakdown of the bicameral mind.