A few recommendations by Figs in Winter for your reading pleasure
The puzzling gap between how old you are and how old you think you are. This past thanksgiving, I asked my mother how old she was in her head. She didn’t pause, didn’t look up, didn’t even ask me to repeat the question, which would have been natural, given that it was both syntactically awkward and a little odd. We were in my brother’s dining room, setting the table. My mother folded another napkin. “Forty-five,” she said. She is 76. Why do so many people have an immediate, intuitive grasp of this highly abstract concept—“subjective age,” it’s called—when randomly presented with it? It’s bizarre, if you think about it. Certainly most of us don’t believe ourselves to be shorter or taller than we actually are. We don’t think of ourselves as having smaller ears or longer noses or curlier hair. Most of us also know where our bodies are in space, what physiologists call “proprioception.” … (The Atlantic)
Ovid’s Metamorphoses: how love transforms. Ovid’s Metamorphoses has a legacy like no other literary work. Comprising of 250 myths and over nearly 1200 lines of poetry, it has inspired a vast number of artists, poets, and creators, including William Shakespeare. Although Ovid’s popularity has faded since the Renaissance, there is still much we can learn from and admire about his literary creation. You might be surprised to know that Ovid’s defining work was actually influenced by Alexandrian poetry, which was written in ancient Greek, with the earliest texts dating to the Archaic period. The most notable contributions to Alexandrian poetry were, of course, the two epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. … (Classical Wisdom)
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My body resists veganism. What’s the most ethical alternative? Suppose a person is very concerned about the ethical issues around food and farming, especially animal welfare, but for whatever reason finds that a wholly plant-based diet does not work for them. What is the most defensible step away from veganism – the best compromise to make, if it is a compromise at all? About a year ago, this question became vivid to me soon after I set out on an experiment: a near-vegan diet for a month. For some time, I have tried to eat in a way mindful of ethical issues, avoiding, albeit imperfectly, the products of inhumane factory farming. But I have eaten animal products, including meat and fish, regularly. After I spent a lot of time in recent years working on questions about animal minds (initially trying to understand octopuses and other cephalopods, and then moving on from there), the ethical questions around food began to feel quite pressing. So I wanted to find out how I felt on a diet with almost no animal products. … (The Guardian)
Banning words won’t make the world more just. The Sierra Club’s Equity Language Guide discourages using the words stand, Americans, blind, and crazy. The first two fail at inclusion, because not everyone can stand and not everyone living in this country is a citizen. The third and fourth, even as figures of speech (“Legislators are blind to climate change”), are insulting to the disabled. The guide also rejects the disabled in favor of people living with disabilities, for the same reason that enslaved person has generally replaced slave : to affirm, by the tenets of what’s called “people-first language,” that “everyone is first and foremost a person, not their disability or other identity.” … (The Atlantic)
The false promise of ChatGPT. Jorge Luis Borges once wrote that to live in a time of great peril and promise is to experience both tragedy and comedy, with “the imminence of a revelation” in understanding ourselves and the world. Today our supposedly revolutionary advancements in artificial intelligence are indeed cause for both concern and optimism. Optimism because intelligence is the means by which we solve problems. Concern because we fear that the most popular and fashionable strain of A.I. — machine learning — will degrade our science and debase our ethics by incorporating into our technology a fundamentally flawed conception of language and knowledge. … (The New York Times)
Sally Hemings was not Thomas Jefferson's enslaved person, because he personally did not enslave her. She was his slave, more specifically his sex slave. One of her grandmothers had been enslaved, and she head inherited slave status. The blunting of language, incidentally, comes also from people idea logically far removed from the Sierra Club, who would prefer to describe at grandmother as an "involuntary immigrant".
The language that claims to be more respectful is like you like the happy like all in fact the opposite, minimising the outrage committed on the victim (are we still allowed to say victim?) Recently, for example, I read of proposals to replace the word "homeless" with "unhoused", on the grounds that "homeless" confers a stigma. But that stigma lies, properly, not on the homeless but on the social order that left them in that position.
As for me, I am a half-deaf old Jew.