woolly headed

http://30prufrock.tumblr.com/post/88758654497/two-days-after-stuart-little-was-published-an →


Two days after “Stuart Little” was published, an unhappy Harold Ross stopped by White’s office at The New Yorker. White recalled:

“Saw your book, White,” he growled. “You made one serious mistake.”
“What was that?” I asked.
“Why, the mouse!” he shouted. “You said he was born. God…

— 1 month ago with 4 notes
"Consider (intuition pump #14: the Jello box) the old spy trick, most famously encountered in the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, of improving on a password system by tearing something in two (a Jello box, in the Rosenberg’s case), and giving half to each of the two parties who must be careful about identifying each other. Why does it work? Because tearing the paper in two produces an edge of such informational complexity that it would be virtually impossible to reproduce by deliberate construction. (Cutting the Jello box with straight edge and razor would entirely defeat the purpose.) The particular jagged edge of one piece becomes a practically unique pattern-recognition device for its mate; it is an apparatus for detecting the shape propert M, where M is uniquely instantiated by its mate. It is of the essence of the trick that we cannot replace our dummy predicate “M” with a longer, more complex, but accurate and exhaustive description of the property, for if we could, we could use the description as a recipe or feasible algorithm for producing another instance of M or another M-detector. The only readily available way of saying what property M is is just to point to our M-detector and say that M is the shape property detected by this thing here."
Spycraft tips from Dennett (1988), Quining Qualia. http://cogprints.org/254/1/quinqual.htm
— 1 month ago
"The ethical energy par excellence has to go farther and choose which interest out of several, equally coercive, shall become supreme. The issue here is of the utmost pregnancy, for it decides a man’s entire career. When he debates, Shall I commit this crime? choose that profession? accept that office, or marry this fortune? - his choice really lies between one of several equally possible future Characters. What he shall become is fixed by the conduct of this moment. Schopenhauer, who enforces his determinism by the argument that with a given fixed character only one reaction is possible under given circumstances, forgets that, in these critical ethical moments, what consciously seems to be in question is the complexion of the character itself. The problem with the man is less what act he shall now choose to do, than what being he shall now resolve to become."
William James (1890), Principles of Psychology, p. 288
— 1 month ago
"Many philosophers, however, hold that the reflective consciousness of the self is essential to the cognitive function of thought. They hold that a thought, in order to know a thing at all, must expressly distinguish between the thing and its own self. This is a perfectly wanton assumption, and not the faintest shadow of reason exists for supposing it true."
William James (1890), The Principles of Psychology, p. 274
— 1 month ago
"Subjectively, any collocation of words may make sense - even the wildest words in a dream - if one only does not doubt their belonging together. Take the obscurer passages in Hegel: it is a fair question whether the rationality included in them be anything more than the fact that the words all belong to a common vocabulary, and are strung together on a scheme of predication and relation, - immediacy, self-relation, and what not, - which has habitually recurred. Yet there seems no reason to doubt that the subjective feeling of the rationality of these sentences was strong in the writer as he penned them, or even that some readers by straining may have reproduced it in themselves."
William James (1890), Principles of Psychology p. 264
— 1 month ago
"Every sensation corresponds to some cerebral action. For an identical sensation to recur it would have to occur the second time in an unmodified brain. But as this, strictly speaking, is a physiological impossibility, so is an unmodified feeling an impossibility; for to every brain-modification, however small, must correspond a change of equal amount in the feeling which the brain subserves"
Very Churchlandian thought from William James (1890), Principles of Psychology, pp. 232-3
— 1 month ago

In this room - this lecture-room, say - there are a multitude of thoughts, yours and mine, some of which cohere mutually, and some not. They are as little each-for-itself and reciprocally independent as they are all-belonging- together. They are neither: no one of them is separate, but each belongs with certain others and with none beside. My thought belongs with my other thoughts, and your thought with your other thoughts. Whether anywhere in the room there be a mere thought, which is nobody’s thought, we have no means of ascertaining, for we have no experience of its like. The only states of consciousness that we naturally deal with are found in personal consciousnesses, minds, selves, concrete particular I’s and you’s.

Each of these minds keeps its own thoughts to itself. There is no giving or bartering between them. No thought even comes into direct sight of a thought in another personal consciousness than its own. Absolute insulation, irreducible pluralism, is the law. It seems as if the elementary psychic fact were not thought or this thought or that thought, but my thought, every thought being owned. Neither contemporaneity, nor proximity in space, nor similarity of quality and content are able to fuse thoughts together which are sundered by this barrier of belonging to different personal minds. The breaches between such thoughts are the most absolute breaches in nature.

William James (1890), Principles of Psychology, pp. 225-6. http://psychclassics.asu.edu/James/Principles/prin9.htm
— 1 month ago

Comparison of SF influences cited by designers of (respectively) the new Civilization: Beyond Earth, and 1998’s Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, to which it is supposed to be a “spiritual successor.” The SMAC “Suggested Reading” list, shown only partially here, shows a real deep engagement with the best SF writing, including books that came out not long before SMAC. 

The Beyond Earth influences are basically just a list of famous SF writers pre-1970, and some movie and TV SF. 

The Beyond Earth source is just an interview; maybe if they were writing their answers they would give a list like SMAC’s. But it makes me slightly pessimistic. 

— 2 months ago