Paul Bloom

Don’t try to establish equality and justice by raising others up to the level of those you love. Don’t try to make them more weighty. Rather, make yourself less weighty. Bring everyone to the same level by diminishing yourself. Put yourself, and those you love, on the level of strangers.

We see this sort of advice spelled out by Bertrand Russell, who says that when we read the newspaper, we ought to substitute the names of countries, including our own, to get a more fair sense of what’s going on. Take “Israel” and replace it with “Bolivia,” replace “United States” with “Argentina,” and so on. (Perhaps even better would be to use arbitrary symbols: X, Y, and Z.) This is an excellent way to remove bias.

Paul Bloom, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, New York, 2016, p. 109

A. J. Ayer

[W]hatever may be the practical or aesthetic advantages of turning scientific laws into logically necessary truths, it does not advance our knowledge, or in any way add to the security of our beliefs. For what we gain in one way, we lose in another. If we make it a matter of definition that there are just so many million molecules in every gram of hydrogen, then we can indeed be certain that every gram of hydrogen will contain that number of molecules: but we must become correspondingly more doubtful, in any given case, whether what we take to be a gram of hydrogen really is so. The more we put into our definitions, the more uncertain it becomes whether anything satisfies them.

A. J. Ayer, ‘What Is a Law of Nature?’, Revue Internationale de Philosophie, vol. 10, no. 36 (2) (1956), p. 151

Ben MacIntyre

[L]ike every genuine paranoiac, Andropov set out to find the evidence to confirm his fears.

Operation RYAN (an acronym for Raketno-Yadernoye Napadeniye, Russian for Nuclear Missile Attack) was the biggest peacetime Soviet intelligence operation ever launched. To his stunned KGB audience, with the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, alongside him, Andropov announced that the US and NATO were ‘actively preparing for nuclear war’. The task of the KGB was to find signs that this attack might be imminent and provide early warning, so that the Soviet Union was not taken by surprise. By implication, if proof of an impending attack could be found, then the Soviet Union could itself launch a pre-emptive strike. Andropov’s experience in suppressing liberty in Soviet satellite states had convinced him that the best method of defence was attack. Fear of a first strike threatened to provoke a first strike.

Operation RYAN was born in Andropov’s fevered imagination. It grew steadily, metastasizing into an intelligence obsession within the KGB and GRU (military intelligence), consuming thousands of man-hours and helping to ratchet up tension between the superpowers to terrifying levels. RYAN even had its own imperative motto: “Ne Prozerot! — Don’t Miss It!’ In November 1981 the first RYAN directives were dispatched to KGB field stations in the US, Western Europe, Japan and Third World countries. In early 1982 all rezidenturas were instructed to make RYAN a top priority. By the time Gordievsky arrived in London, the operation had already acquired a self-propelling momentum. But it was based on a profound misapprehension. America was not preparing a first strike. The KGB hunted high and low for evidence of the planned attack, but as MI5’s authorized history observes: ‘No such plans existed.’

In launching Operation RYAN, Andropov broke the first rule of intelligence: never ask for confirmation of something you already believe.

Ben MacIntyre, The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, New York, 2018

Steven Pinker

Science […] has granted us the gifts of life, health, wealth, knowledge, and freedom documented in the chapters on progress. To take just one example from chapter 6, scientific knowledge eradicated smallpox, a painful and disfiguring disease which killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone. In case anyone has skimmed over this feat of moral greatness, let me say it again: scientific knowledge eradicated smallpox, a painful and disfiguring disease which killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone.

Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, New York, 2018, p. 386

Samuel Pepys

[W]hen I consider the manner of my going hither, with a coach and four horses and servants and a woman with us, and coming hither being so much made of, and used with that state, and then going to Windsor and being shewn all that we were there, and had wherewith to give every body something for their pains, and then going home, and all in fine weather and no fears nor cares upon me, I do thinke myself obliged to thinke myself happy, and do look upon myself at this time in the happiest occasion a man can be, and whereas we take pains in expectation of future comfort and ease, I have taught myself to reflect upon myself at present as happy, and enjoy myself in that consideration, and not only please myself with thoughts of future wealth and forget the pleasure we at present enjoy.

Samuel Pepys, Diary of Samuel Pepys, February 26th, 1666

David Wootton

[L]let us take for a moment a typical well-educated European in 1600 – we will take someone from England, but it would make no significant difference if it were someone from any other European country as, in 1600, they all share the same intellectual culture. He believes in witchcraft and has perhaps read the Daemonologie (1597) by James VI of Scotland, the future James I of England, which paints an alarming and credulous picture of the threat posed by the devil’s agents. He believes witches can summon up storms that sink ships at sea – James had almost lost his life in such a storm. He believes in werewolves, although there happen not to be any in England – he knows they are to be found in Belgium (Jean Bodin, the great sixteenth-century French philosopher, was the accepted authority on such matters). He believes Circe really did turn Odysseus’s crew into pigs. He believes mice are spontaneously generated in piles of straw. He believes in contemporary magicians: he has heard of John Dee, and perhaps of Agrippa of Nettesheim (1486–1535), whose black dog, Monsieur, was thought to have been a demon in disguise. If he lives in London he may know people who have consulted the medical practitioner and astrologer Simon Forman, who uses magic to help them recover stolen goods.9 He has seen a unicorn’s horn, but not a unicorn.

He believes that a murdered body will bleed in the presence of the murderer. He believes that there is an ointment which, if rubbed on a dagger which has caused a wound, will cure the wound. He believes that the shape, colour and texture of a plant can be a clue to how it will work as a medicine because God designed nature to be interpreted by mankind. He believes that it is possible to turn base metal into gold, although he doubts that anyone knows how to do it. He believes that nature abhors a vacuum. He believes the rainbow is a sign from God and that comets portend evil. He believes that dreams predict the future, if we know how to interpret them. He believes, of course, that the earth stands still and the sun and stars turn around the earth once every twenty-four hours – he has heard mention of Copernicus, but he does not imagine that he intended his sun-centred model of the cosmos to be taken literally. He believes in astrology, but as he does not know the exact time of his own birth he thinks that even the most expert astrologer would be able to tell him little that he could not find in books. He believes that Aristotle (fourth century BCE) is the greatest philosopher who has ever lived, and that Pliny (first century CE), Galen and Ptolemy (both second century CE) are the best authorities on natural history, medicine and astronomy. He knows that there are Jesuit missionaries in the country who are said to be performing miracles, but he suspects they are frauds. He owns a couple of dozen books.

David Wootton, The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution, London, 2015, pp. 6-7

Bryan Magee

What I wanted was complete freedom […] It’s always been a dominating feeling with me. I wanted to get up in the morning and think, ‘I’ll go to Paris for the weekend.’ You can’t do that if you’re living with someone.

Bryan Magee, quoted in Jason Cowley, ‘Even in Old Age, Philosopher Bryan Magee Remains Wonder-Sruck by the Ultimate Questions’, New Statesman, April 4, 2018

Kenneth Williams

Friday, 29 January [1954].Man went to see a psychiatrist — Man: O! I’m in a frightful state doctor! I feel that I am suffering from an inferiority complex. Dr: Perhaps you’re inferior. Peter Nichols told me this story—it’s the perfect answer to all the psychological bunkum that goes on.

Kenneth Williams, The Kenneth Williams Diaries, London, 1993, p. 97

David Reich

[H]ow should we prepare for the likelihood that in the coming years, genetic studies will show that behavioral or cognitive traits are influenced by genetic variation, and that these traits will differ on average cross human populations, both with regard to their average and their variation within populations? Even if we do not yet know what those differences will be, we need to come up with a new way of thinking that can accommodate such differences, rather than deny categorically that differences can exist and so find ourselves caught without a strategy once they are found.

It would be tempting, in the wake of the genome revolution, to settle on a new comforting platitude, invoking the history of repeated admixture in the human past as an argument for population differences being meaningless. But such a statement is wrongheaded, as if we were to randomly pick two people living in the world today, we would find that many of the population lineages contributing to them have been isolated from each other for long enough that there has been ample opportunity for substantial average biological differences to arise between them. The right way to deal with the inevitable discovery of substantial differences across populations is to realize that their existence should not affect the way we conduct ourselves. As a society we should commit to according everyone equal rights despite the differences that exist among individuals. If we aspire to treat all individuals with respect regardless of the extraordinary differences that exist among individuals within a population, it should not be so much more of an effort to accommodate the smaller but still significant average differences across populations.

David Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past, New York, 2018, p. 265

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Facebook is digital brag-to-my-friends-about-how-good-my-life-is serum. In Facebook world, the average adult seems to be happily married, vacationing in the Caribbean, and perusing the Atlantic. In the real world, a lot of people are angry, on supermarket checkout lines, peeking at the National Enquirer, ignoring the phone calls from their spouse, whom they haven’t slept with in years. In Facebook world, family life seems perfect. In the real world, family life is messy. It can occasionally be so messy that a small number of people even regret having children. In Facebook world, it seems every young adult is at a cool party Saturday night. In the real world, most are home alone, binge-watching shows on Netflix. In Facebook world, a girlfriend posts twenty-six happy pictures from her getaway with her boyfriend. In the real world, immediately after posting this, she Googles “my boyfriend won’t have sex with me.” And, perhaps at the same time, the boyfriend watches “Great Body, Great Sex, Great Blowjob.”

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, New York, 2017, p. 153

Milton Friedman

Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.

Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, 2nd ed., Chicago, 1982, p. ix

Steven Pinker

The facts of human progress strike me as having been as unkind to right-wing libertarianism as to right-wing conservatism and left-wing Marxism. The totalitarian governments of the 20th century did not emerge from democratic welfare states sliding down a slippery slope, but were imposed by fanatical ideologues and gangs of thugs. And countries that combine free markets with more taxation, social spending, and regulation than the United States (such as Canada, New Zealand, and Western Europe) turn out to be not grim dystopias but rather pleasant places to live, and they trounce the United States in every measure of human flourishing, including crime, life expectancy, infant mortality, education, and happiness. As we saw, no developed country runs on right-wing libertarian principles, nor has any realistic vision of such a country ever been laid out.

It should not be surprising that the facts of human progress confound the major -isms. The ideologies are more than two centuries old and are based on mile-high visions such as whether humans are tragically flawed or infinitely malleable, and whether society is an organic whole or a collection of individuals. A real society comprises hundreds of millions of social beings, each with a trillion-synapse brain, who pursue their well-being while affecting the well-being of others in complex networks with massive positive and negative externalities, many of them historically unprecedented. It is bound to defy any simple narrative of what will happen under a given set of rules. A more rational approach to politics is to treat societies as ongoing experiments and open-mindedly learn the best practices, whichever part of the spectrum they come from.

Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, New York, 2018, p. 365

Steven Pinker

This version of historical pessimism may be called root-causism: the pseudo-profound idea that every social ill is a symptom of some deep moral sickness and can never be mitigated by simplistic treatments which fail to cure the gangrene at the core. The problem with root-causism is not that real-world problems are simple but the opposite: they are more complex than a typical root-cause theory allows, especially when the theory is based on moralizing rather than data. So complex, in fact, that treating the symptoms may be the best way of dealing with the problem, because it does not require omniscience about the intricate tissue of actual causes. Indeed, by seeing what really does reduce the symptoms, one can test hypotheses about the causes, rather than just assuming them to be true.

Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, New York, 2018, pp. 170-171

István Hargittai

Because of his many different engagements, von Neumann had to be especially concerned with secrecy, but he took this with good humor. As he was traveling a lot, he was accompanied by two “gorillas.” He met with Stanislaw Ulam on the Chicago railway station and recruited him for the work at Los Alamos. However, von Neumann could not reveal the exact nature of work, nor the location. He could only tell Ulam that it was in the southwest. Ulam told him: “I know you can’t tell me, but you say you are going southwest in order that I should think that you are going northeast. But I know you are going southwest, so why do you lie?”

István Hargittai, The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century, Oxford, 2006, p. 123

Peter Mere Latham

To any one who should insist upon its being stated in terms what Pain is, it would, I hold, be a sufficient answer to say, that he knew himself perfectly well what it was already, and that he could not know it the better for any words in which it could be defined. Things which all men know infallibly by their own perceptive experience, cannot be made plainer by words. Therefore, let Pain be spoken of simply as Pain.

Peter Mere Latham, ‘General Remarks on the Practice of Medicine’, The British Medical Journal, vol. 1, no. 78 (June 28, 1862), p. 677

David Sumpter

The main reason that clubs don’t let their analysts talk in detail about using player-tracking data isn’t because they are worried their secrets will be revealed. Instead, they are worried that the opposition will find out that they don’t have any secrets to reveal.

David Sumpter, Soccermatics: Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game, London, 2016, p. 314

David Chalmers

When I was in graduate school, I recall hearing “One starts as a materialist, then one becomes a dualist, then a panpsychist, and one ends up as an idealist”. I don’t know where this comes from, but I think the idea was something like this. First, one is impressed by the successes of science, endorsing materialism about everything and so about the mind. Second, one is moved by problem of consciousness to see a gap between physics and consciousness, thereby endorsing dualism, where both matter and consciousness are fundamental. Third, one is moved by the inscrutability of matter to realize that science reveals at most the structure of matter and not its underlying nature, and to speculate that this nature may involve consciousness, thereby endorsing panpsychism. Fourth, one comes to think that there is little reason to believe in anything beyond consciousness and that the physical world is wholly constituted by consciousness, thereby endorsing idealism.

David Chalmers, ‘Idealism and the Mind-Body Problem’, in William Seager (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Panpsychism, New York, 2018

Edward Gibbon

It was on the day, or rather night, of the 27th of June 1787, between the hours of eleven and twelve, that I wrote the last lines of the last page, in a summer-house in my garden. After laying down my pen, I took several turns in a berceau, or covered walk of acacias, which commands a prospect of the country, the lake, and the mountains. The air was temperate, the sky was serene, the silver orb of the moon was reflected from the waters, and all nature was silent. I will not dissemble the first emotions of joy on recovery of my freedom, and, perhaps, the establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind, by the idea that I had taken an everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion, and that, whatsoever might be the future date of my History, the life of the historian must be short and precarious.

Edward Gibbon, Memoirs of My Life and Writings, London, 1796

Jack Kerouac

[T]he only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn[.]

Jack Kerouac, On the Road, New York, 1957, ch. 1

Philip Tetlock

We are all forecasters. When we think about changing jobs, getting married, buying a home, making an investment, launching a product, or retiring, we decide based on how we expect the future will unfold. These expectations are forecasts.

Philip Tetlock, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, New York, 2015, p. 1

Nassir Ghaemi

The most popular psychological theory about depression these days is the cognitive-behavioral model, which views depression as distorting our perception of reality, making our thoughts abnormally negative. This model, the basis for cognitive-behavioral therapy, is contradicted by another theory that has a growing amount of clinical evidence behind it: the depressive realism hypothesis. This theory argues that depressed people aren’t depressed because they distort reality; they’re depressed because they see reality more clearly than other people do.

Nassir Ghaemi, A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness, New York, 2011, p. 11

Markus Wolf

[W]henever we heard an unflattering portrait of our own side our first question to ourselves was not “Is this true?” but “What are they trying to hide about themselves by accusing us of this?” Once this mental defense system had been perfected, few criticisms could hit home.

Markus Wolf, Man Without a Face: The Autobiography of Communism’s Greatest Spymaster, New York, 1999, p. 40


The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak.
They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other.
Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him;
and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak.
And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.

Aesop, ‘The North Wind and the Sun’

Ray Monk

‘Concerning what you write about thoughts of suicide,’ Engelmann added, ‘my thoughts are as follows’:

Behind such thoughts, just as in others, there can probably lie something of a noble motive. But that this motive shows itself in this way, that it takes the form of a contemplation of suicide, is certainly wrong. Suicide is certainly a mistake. So long as a person lives, he is never completely lost. What drives a man to suicide is, however, the fear that he is completely lost. This fear is, in view of what has already been said, ungrounded. In this fear a person does the worst thing he can do, he deprives himself of the time in which it would be possible for him to escape being lost.

‘You undoubtedly know all this better than I,’ wrote Engelmann, excusing himself for appearing to have something to teach Wittgenstein, ‘but one sometimes forgets what one knows.’

Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, London, 1990, pp. 186-187

Harry Frankfurt

In Eric Ambler’s novel Dirty Story, a character named Arthur Abdel Simpson recalls advice that he received as a child from his father:

Although I was only seven when my father was killed, I still remember him very well and some of the things he used to say…. One
of the first things he taught me was, “Never tell a lie when you can bullshit your way through.”

This presumes not only that there is an important difference between lying and bullshitting, but that the latter is preferable to the former. Now the elder Simpson surely did not consider bullshitting morally superior to lying. Nor is it likely that he regarded lies as invariably less effective than bullshit in accomplishing the purposes for which either of them might be employed. After all, an intelligently crafted lie may do its work with unqualified success. It may be that Simpson thought it easier to get away with bullshitting than with lying. Or perhaps he meant that, although the risk of being caught is about the same in each case, the consequences of being caught are generally less severe for the bullshitter than for the liar. In fact, people do tend to be more tolerant of bullshit than of lies, perhaps because we are less inclined to take the former as a personal affront. We may seek to distance ourselves from bullshit, but we are more likely to turn away from it with an impatient or irritated shrug than with the sense of violation or outrage that lies often inspire. The problem of understanding why our attitude toward bullshit is generally more benign than our attitude toward lying is an important one, which I shall leave as an exercise for the reader.

The pertinent comparison is not, however, between telling a lie and producing some particular instance of bullshit. The elder Simpson identifies the alternative to telling a lie as “bullshitting one’s way through.” This involves not merely producing one instance of bullshit; it involves program of producing bullshit to whatever extent the circumstances require. This is a key, perhaps, to his preference. Telling a lie is an act with a sharp focus. It is designed to insert a particular falsehood at a specific point in a set or system of beliefs, in order to avoid the consequences of having that point occupied by the truth. This requires a degree of craftsmanship, in which the teller of the lie submits to objective constraints imposed by what he takes to be the truth. The liar is inescapably concerned with truth-values. In order to invent a lie at all, he must think he knows what is true. And in order to invent an effective lie, he must design his falsehood under the guidance of that truth.

On the other hand, a person who undertakes to bullshit his way through has much more freedom. His focus is panoramic rather than particular. He does not limit himself to inserting a certain falsehood at a specific point, and thus he is not constrained by the truths surrounding that point or intersecting it. He is prepared to fake the context as well, so far as need requires. This freedom from the constraints to which the liar must submit does not necessarily mean, of course, that his task is easier than the task of the liar. But the mode of creativity upon which it relies is less analytical and less deliberative than that which is mobilized in lying. It is more expansive and independent, with more spacious opportunities for improvisation, color, and imaginative play. This is less a matter of craft than of art. Hence the familiar notion of the “bullshit artist.” My guess is that the recommendation offered by Arthur Simpson’s father reflects the fact that he was more strongly drawn to this mode of creativity, regardless of its relative merit or effectiveness, than he was to the more austere and rigorous demands of lying.

What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.

This is the crux of the distinction between him and the liar. Both he and the liar represent themselves falsely as endeavoring to communicate the truth. The success of each depends upon deceiving us about that. But the fact about himself that the liar hides is that he is attempting to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality; we are not to know that he wants us to believe something he supposes to be false. The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor to conceal it. This does not mean that his speech is anarchically impulsive, but that the motive guiding and controlling it is unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are.

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit, Princeton, 2005, pp. 48-56

Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson

The line between cynicism and misanthropy—between thinking ill of human motives and thinking ill of humans—is often blurry. So we want readers to understand that although we may often be skeptical of human motives, we love human beings. (indeed, many of our best friends are human!)

Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson, The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, Oxford, 2018, p. 13

Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson

Shortly after his 23rd birthday, Kevin was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. For a while he was extremely reluctant to talk about it (except among family and close friends), a reluctance he rationalized by telling himself that he’s simply a “private person” who doesn’t like sharing private medical details with the world. Later he started following a very strict diet to treat his disease—a diet that eliminated processed foods and refined carbohydrates. Eating so healthy quickly became a point of pride, and suddenly Kevin found himself perfectly happy to share his diagnosis, since it also gave him an opportunity to brag about his diet. Being a “private person” about medical details went right out of the window—and now, look, here he is sharing his diagnosis (and diet!) with perfect strangers in this book.

Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson, The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, Oxford, 2018, p. 104


The first cruise I went on was about fifteen years ago. I had a crush on a girl and she found an amazing deal for a cruise, just $199 plus tax, for five days in the Caribbean. It could have been twice that expensive and not gone anywhere, and I would have signed up. I just wanted an excuse to spend time with her.

We went on our cruise and I fell in love… with cruising.

Tynan, Forever Nomad: The Ultimate Guide to World Travel, From a Weekend to a Lifetime, 2018, p. 163

Robert Kurzban

The modular view is really, really different from the view of the mind that many really, really smart people seem to have of it. Many people, in particular philosophers, think of the mind as unitary. For this reason, they worry a lot about contradictions within the mind. And, really, they can get themselves into a complete tizzy about this. In Self and Deception: A Cross-Cultural Philosophical Enquiry, a whole bunch of philosophers worry a lot about this problem, so much so that you can almost sense them collectively wringing their hands. In one chapter dramatically called “On the Very Possibility of Self-Deception,” the author discusses two subsystems, which he denotes S1 and S2, in the brain of a person. What if S1 believes one thing, but S2 believes another? This can’t possibly be. Why? Because “the person cannot, of course, be both S1 and S2.”

I love this, especially the “of course.”

Robert Kurzban, Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind, Princeton, 2012, p. 67

Hunter Thompson

No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won’t hurt.

Hunter Thompson, ‘Football Season Is Over’, February 16th, 2005

Antonio Escohotado

Las drogas lo que hacen es inducir modificaciones químicas que también pueden inducir la soledad, el silencio, la abstinencia, el dolor, el miedo. Químicamente, no se puede distinguir a una persona bajo los efectos de una droga que bajo los efectos del yoga, por ejemplo. Químicamente, no somos más que un conjunto de reacciones. Lo que pasa es que la sociedad te dice que, aunque químicamente seas igual, ese ha llegado por el camino bueno y ese por la vía de atrás.

Antonio Escohotado, in Pepa Belmonte, ‘Entrevista a Antonio Escohotado’

Jon Elster

Cela fait 25 siècles que les gens essayent de comprendre le comportement humain ou la nature humaine – disons depuis le temps d’Aristote ou de Platon. Pourquoi le dernier siècle ou la dernière décennie seraient-ils privilégiés ou plus intéressants ? Y aurait-il plus de génies ou de grands penseurs ? Il n’y a aucune raison de le penser, et de fait c’est faux. Il suffit de lire Montaigne, Aristote, La Rochefoucauld, Tocqueville, Proust, pour ne citer qu’eux : ils débordent d’hypothèses.

Jon Elster, in Marc Kirsch, ‘Entretien avec Jon Elster’, La lettre du Collège de France, no. 21 (December, 2007), p. 44

James Lee

Continued research with the tools of genetic epidemiology, population genetics, psychometrics, and cognitive neuroscience is likely to settle many of the contentious issues raised in Nisbett’s book, even without a centralized effort toward any such narrow goal. Given that much of the critical research so clearly lies ahead, Nisbett’s certainty regarding his own premature conclusions is quite remarkable. Some of this may be owed to the disturbing possibilities raised by the alternatives. Even the prospect that current group differences might be eliminated by a combination of biological enhancement and environmental improvement will fail to put all observers at ease, since the prospect of biologically based remedies is itself frightening to many. For what it is worth, I believe that the possibilities regarding both the state of nature and our powers of control should leave us reasonably optimistic about what the future might hold. But I confess to less than total confidence in even this qualified remark, and I envy Nisbett his certitude.

James Lee, Review of Richard Nisbett, Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 48, no. 2 (January, 2010) p. 254

Samuel Pepys

Never since I was a man in the world was I ever so great a stranger to public affairs as now I am, having not read a new book or anything like it, or enquiring after any news, […] or in any wise how things go.

Samuel Pepys, Diary of Samuel Pepys, August 10th, 1660