All entries by this author

Anger is energizing

Oct 28th, 2002 5:50 pm | By

Now that’s what I call good news. A piece in yesterday’s New York Times says that, popular wisdom to the contrary notwithstanding, pessimism and anger are not necessarily always unhealthy and their opposites not necessarily always therapeutic. Just exactly what I’ve always thought! I’m a basically cheerful sort, I think, but it’s an irritated sort of cheerfulness–the two go together. I get a lot of energy and motivation from my generalised anger. It means there are things to do, mistakes that need pointing out, stupidities that need correcting. One likes to feel useful. Julie K. Norem, a psychologist and author of the book The Power of Negative Thinking, says that anger is an energizing emotion. I feel vindicated, and … Read the rest

Sexist or witty? *

Oct 28th, 2002 | Filed by

Is a poster of a shirtless woman at a Motor Show a stupid throwback to the ’50s or an amusingly knowing and harmless bit of fun? What does it mean that a woman designed the poster? And that a government minister (also a woman) is not amused?… Read the rest

Misanthropes can stay that way *

Oct 28th, 2002 | Filed by

Good news: people who urge grouches to ‘cheer up, you’ll live longer’ are wrong.… Read the rest

The oracular mode

Oct 27th, 2002 11:22 pm | By

Judith Shulevitz wrote of Harold Bloom’s new book Genius, in the New York Times Book Review:

“He repeats himself so often that his favorite words acquire the ring of revolutionary slogans (Originality! Vitality!) or ritual denunciations (Resenters! Historicizers!). He makes grandiose and indefensible claims without explaining or arguing for them. He cloaks himself Wizard-of-Oz-like in the polysyllabic hermeticism of cabala and Gnosticism, with little seeming regard for the violence his borrowings may do to those systems or to the comprehensibility of his prose.”

Just so. I had the same problem with The Western Canon; Shakespeare; How to Read and Why. Bloom used to be (and still is when he wants to, it’s just that he mostly seems not … Read the rest

First rule: get the evidence right *

Oct 27th, 2002 | Filed by

If you want to make an argument, it’s no good saying the flood ate your homework.… Read the rest

Galileo and the gang *

Oct 27th, 2002 | Filed by

Is the conflict between science and religion inevitable, or a result of tactical decisions?… Read the rest

Trinidadian guppies and Arabian babblers *

Oct 26th, 2002 | Filed by

Shouting at predators, risk-taking, the Big Mistake Hypothesis, altruism; the questions about cooperation and evolution go on being asked.… Read the rest

The power of facing unpleasant facts *

Oct 26th, 2002 | Filed by

One independent thinker with an aversion to tribalism and cant pays his respects to another.… Read the rest

Hot and cold running Psychoanalysis *

Oct 25th, 2002 | Filed by

Is extensive therapy necessary both to survive family life and to raise children who can survive family life?… Read the rest

Report undermines its own message *

Oct 25th, 2002 | Filed by

Nuffield Council on Bioethics releases report on behavioural genetics, but guides the press to focus on peripheral issue of designer babies.… Read the rest

Tversky and Kahneman on irrationality *

Oct 25th, 2002 | Filed by

Nobel prize-winner and his late colleague explored the illogical ways humans make decisions.… Read the rest

Not new and not science *

Oct 25th, 2002 | Filed by

There is a difference between science and computational play; metaphors can illuminate but not predict.… Read the rest

Difference Feminism

Oct 24th, 2002 | By

Second wave feminism has always had a radical strand. It has always been about
more than equal pay. It was also, for instance, about exposing and then discarding
banal conventional unreflective ideas that led to banal conventional unreflective
behaviour. Ideas about cooking and cleaning being somehow naturally women’s
work, for example, which led to men cheerfully lounging about while women put
in what Arlie Hochschild calls a second shift. And even more than that, unexamined
ideas about what women are like, what they want, what they should be and do.
David Lodge once remarked that women became much more interesting after feminism,
and his own novels bear this out, as do those of Michael Frayn and other male
novelists who … Read the rest

Guns and probate *

Oct 24th, 2002 | Filed by

Mistakes in evidence, however small, can undermine a case.… Read the rest

Suspect anyone wearing a halo *

Oct 24th, 2002 | Filed by

Hitchens thinking through Orwell and himself at the same time.… Read the rest

Martyrdom myth defies the facts *

Oct 23rd, 2002 | Filed by

The political uses of putative martyrdom, and the dangers.… Read the rest

To forget the past… *

Oct 23rd, 2002 | Filed by

As evidence of Stalin’s mass killings is uncovered, many Russians don’t want to know.… Read the rest

Ideologically driven review *

Oct 23rd, 2002 | Filed by

Historians dispute a review by a non-historian who seems to have read a different book.… Read the rest

Postmodernism and History

Oct 22nd, 2002 | By Richard J. Evans

Postmodernism comes in many guises and many varieties,
and it has had many kinds of positive influences on historical scholarship.
It has encouraged historians to take the irrational in the past more seriously,
to pay more attention to ideas, beliefs and culture as influences in their own
right, to devote more effort to framing our work in literary terms, to put individuals,
often humble individuals, back into history, to emancipate ourselves from what
became in the end a constricting straitjacket of social-science approaches,
quantification and socio-economic determinism.

But this is postmodernism in its more moderate
guise. The literature on postmodernism usefully distinguishes between the moderate
and the radical. What I call radical postmodernism takes its cue from another
post, post-structuralism, … Read the rest

Questioning the motives *

Oct 21st, 2002 | Filed by

Has inequality increased in the last two or three decades, and is it a problem if it has, and is it invidious even to mention the subject, and if so, why?… Read the rest