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A commonplace
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Date:2009-04-28 19:53
Subject:to what extent are we a learning society?

"To the extent we are a learning society, documenting these lessons increases the capital stock of social knowledge and provides the ability to incrementally improve their application."
Donald N. Floyd, Forest Sustainability: the history, the challenge, the promise


Date:2008-01-25 15:58
Subject:online quotes count?

From Worldchanging:

"The ruins of the unsustainable are the 21st century's frontier."

Want to see more fiction about this. Leads?

(Other than In Watermelon Sugar.)


Date:2007-10-23 13:15
Subject:Don't Panic

Ok, here's where the commonplace book collides with the weblog. You know, that newfangled thing where an individual can write about the things they run across on the World Wide Web, in a sort of journal of the sights they see as they surf?
This one's from Grist:

Naturally, someone so deeply in the throes of panic will turn to any solution, no matter how far-fetched, that might match the size and speed of the catastrophe just around the corner. It's the green version of the Hail Mary pass, and Lovelock's recommendations serve as a kind of Guide to the Environmentalism of Fear:
  • Nuclear power

  • Geoengineering

  • Synthetic food

A couple of things to note about this list.

First, though the items on it might seem "radical," and Lovelock certainly sells them that way, in fact they're anything but. The are big, yes. And expensive. But they fit perfectly well within the industrial paradigm. It's all about constructing enormous, complex devices to beat back or overcome nature. All of Lovelock's solutions -- like the solutions that tend to be favored by the industrial powers that be -- are a species of violence. One can perfectly easily envision governments embracing these solutions, diverting huge amounts of taxpayer money to enormous, politically connected industries, engaging in fraud-ridden boondoggles while increasing and cementing control over their populations.

Fear begets violence. Violence begets authoritarianism. That Lovelock is trying to "save humanity" doesn't change the dynamic.

This is how humanity has approached its problems for centuries now. Lovelock's advice is a kind of reductio ad absurdum of humanity's hubris, a Strangelovian way to ride the rocket of our own exceptionalism into the inferno.
by David Roberts

Our technophilia is an ambivalent quality to have in this situation. Discuss?

(1 fingerprint | see)

Date:2007-07-15 14:44
Subject:Suburban Nation: the Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream

"The successes of turn-of-the century planning, represented in America by the City Beautiful movement, became the foundation of a new profession, and ever since, planners have repeatedly attempted to relive that moment of glory by separating everything from everything else."
Duany, Plater-Zyberk, Speck
described 5 elements of sprawl:
- the housing development (nothing but residential)
- the retail strip/big box (nothing but retail)
- the commercial park (nothing but employment)
- the public use buildings (schools, libraries, town halls with no center to occupy)
- roads


Date:2007-04-28 18:06
Subject:Eavesdrop Soup, "Progress" (excerpt)

The bus was moving slowly down the street.
All of the passengers were making progress somehow.
Nobody riding the bus was a complete failure.
Don't ever say the bus didn't do anything for you.

Matt Cook is currently favorite poet of Saluthaus, has been since Burnsday.
There should be more poems about riding public transportation.


Date:2007-03-31 19:06
Subject:Magister Ludi, aka the Glass Bead Game

Hey, finally, fiction! Whee! What juicy stuff have i to share? Um, it's about history?

To study history one must know in advance that one is attempting something fundamentally impossible, yet necessary and highly important. To study history means submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning. It is a very serious task, young man, and possibly a tragic one.

(It's Hesse.)

Father Jacobus warns the scholar against trying to reduce history to patterns. The specifics that are discarded in making patterns work, (the chaos), are the reality that historians ought to be studying.

(1 fingerprint | see)

Date:2007-03-15 19:51
Subject:Liberals and Communitarians, 2nd Ed.

These don't all have to be about politics. It's just the end of the quarter, you know. It's what i'm reading.

the withdrawal of the philosopher to his original position* represents his attempt to leave behind the role of citizen, to achieve the kind of standpoint that gives one's conclusions a status, as “truths”, superior to the mere opinions of one's political community.

Mulhall and Swift, re:Michael Walzer on John Rawls. Walzer says that political values are culturally specific, negotiated among a society. Seeking a "true" answer outside of the context of social negotiation will be taking a questionable position of power.

*The "original position" is part of Rawls's theory of justice; it's the decision-making position of a hypothetical individual who is asked to determine rules of social cooperation without knowing any of their own particulars. Some (that is, most thinking people i know) would object that this individual would have no basis for making decisions without cultural context. I guess that makes me a communitarian.


Date:2007-03-03 18:28
Subject:Alasdair MacIntyre: The Virtues, the Unity of a Human Life, and the Concept of a Tradition

Someone may discover (or not discover) that he or she is a character in a number of narratives at the same time, some of them embedded in others. Or again, what seemed to be an intelligable narrative in which one was playing a part may be transformed wholly or partly into a story of unintelligable episodes.


In life, as both Aristotle and Engels noted, we are always under certain constraints. We enter upon a stage that we did not design and we find ourselves part of an action that was not of our making. Each of us being a main character in his own drama plays subordinate parts in the dramas of others, and each drama constrains the others. In my drama, perhaps, I am Hamlet or Iago or at least the swineherd who may yet become a prince, but to you I am only A Gentleman or at best Second Murderer, while you are my Polonius or my Gravedigger, but your own hero. Each of our drama exerts constraints on each other's, making the whole different from the parts, but still dramatic.

MacIntyre is writing against the liberal, atomistic understanding of identity for one that is contextual, contingent, and narrative. Which really makes much more sense than the abstract and independent individual.

(In Liberalism and its Critics, ed. Michael Sandel.)


Date:2007-02-28 22:13
Subject:Starting with the Federalist Papers? ok, i'm insane.

the purest of human blessings must have a portion of alloy in them
James Madison

(The remainder of the quote is also good. Note: i am not reading the Federalist papers at this time - from http://gadfly.igc.org/liberal/umpire.htm.)


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