Search Results for “"human nature"”

May 24, 2013

Rear Window

Rear Window is a 1954 American suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by John Michael Hayes and based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1942 short story ‘It Had to Be Murder.’ Originally released by Paramount Pictures, the film stars Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. The film is considered by many filmgoers, critics and scholars to be one of Hitchcock’s best.

After breaking his leg photographing a racetrack accident, professional photographer L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (James Stewart) is confined in his Greenwich Village apartment, using a wheelchair while he recuperates. His rear window looks out onto a small courtyard and several other apartments. During a summer heat wave, he passes the time by watching his neighbors, who keep their windows open to stay cool.

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April 26, 2013

The Art of Being Right

The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument’ (1831) is an acidulous (biting) treatise written by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in sarcastic deadpan. He examines a total of thirty-eight methods of showing up one’s opponent in a debate. Schopenhauer introduces his essay with the idea that philosophers have concentrated in ample measure on the rules of logic, but have not (especially since the time of Immanuel Kant) engaged with the darker art of the dialectic, of controversy.

Whereas the purpose of logic is classically said to be a method of arriving at the truth, dialectic, says Schopenhauer, ‘…on the other hand, would treat of the intercourse between two rational beings who, because they are rational, ought to think in common, but who, as soon as they cease to agree like two clocks keeping exactly the same time, create a disputation, or intellectual contest.’

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March 21, 2013

Prison Sexuality

i love you phillip morris

Prison sexuality deals with sexual relationships between confined individuals or those between a prisoner and a prison employee (or other persons to whom prisoners have access). Since prisons are separated by gender, most sexual activity is conducted with a same-sex partner, often in contradiction to a person’s normal social sexual orientation. Exceptions to this are sex with an employee of the opposite sex, as well as conjugal visits.

According to ‘Human Rights Watch’ 2001 report ‘No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons,’ sexual slavery frequently poses as a consensual sexual relationship. Rape victims are often intimidated into feigning consent to sexual activity, to the point of becoming ‘slaves’ and the figurative property of their rapists. This occurs in both male and female prisons.

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February 25, 2013

Animal Spirits


Animal spirits‘ is the term economist John Maynard Keynes used in his 1936 book ‘The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’ to describe emotions which influence human behavior and can be measured in terms of consumer confidence. It has since been argued that trust is also included or produced by ‘animal spirits.’ Several articles and at least two books with a focus on “animal spirits” were published in 2008 and 2009 as a part of the Keynesian resurgence.

According to Keynes: ‘Even apart from the instability due to speculation, there is the instability due to the characteristic of human nature that a large proportion of our positive activities depend on spontaneous optimism rather than mathematical expectations, whether moral or hedonistic or economic. Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as the result of animal spirits – a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction, and not as the outcome of a weighted average of quantitative benefits multiplied by quantitative probabilities.’

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February 8, 2013

Toynbee Tiles

The Toynbee tiles are messages of unknown origin found embedded in asphalt of streets in about two dozen major cities in the United States and four South American capitals. Since the 1980s, several hundred tiles have been discovered. They are generally about the size of an American license plate (roughly 30 cm by 15 cm), but sometimes considerably larger. They contain some variation on the following inscription: ‘TOYNBEE IDEA, IN MOViE `2001, RESURRECT DEAD, ON PLANET JUPITER.’

Some of the more elaborate tiles also feature cryptic political statements or exhort readers to create and install similar tiles of their own. The material used for making the tiles was long a mystery, but evidence has emerged that they may be primarily made of layers of linoleum and asphalt crack-filling compound. Toynbee-tile enthusiasts believe that a native Philadelphian created the tiles because of the large number that appear in the city, their apparent age, and the variety of carving styles.

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January 7, 2013

Up Series

Michael Apted

The Up Series is a series of documentary films produced by Granada Television that have followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old. The documentary has had eight episodes spanning 49 years (one episode every seven years) and the documentary has been broadcast on both ITV and BBC.

The children were selected to represent the range of socio-economic backgrounds in Britain at that time, with the explicit assumption that each child’s social class predetermines their future. Every seven years, the director, Michael Apted, films material from those of the fourteen who choose to participate.

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January 2, 2013

Digital Maoism

digital maoism

In his online essay ‘Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism,’ in ‘Edge’ magazine in 2006, futurist Jaron Lanier criticized the sometimes-claimed omniscience of collective wisdom (including examples such as the Wikipedia article about himself), describing it as ‘digital Maoism.’

He writes ‘If we start to believe that the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we’re devaluing those people [creating the content] and making ourselves into idiots.’ His criticism aims at several targets which are at different levels of abstraction: any attempt to create one final authoritative bottleneck which channels the knowledge onto society is wrong, regardless whether it is a Wikipedia or any algorithmically created system producing meta information.

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December 29, 2012

Negative Capability

Negative capability describes the capacity of human beings to transcend and revise their contexts. The term has been used by poets and philosophers to describe the ability of the individual to perceive, think, and operate beyond any presupposition of a predetermined capacity of the human being.

It further captures the rejection of the constraints of any context, and the ability to experience phenomenon free from epistemological bounds, as well as to assert one’s own will and individuality upon their activity. The term was first used by the Romantic poet John Keats to critique those who sought to categorize all experience and phenomena and turn them into a theory of knowledge.

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December 6, 2012

The Shockwave Rider

The Shockwave Rider is a 1975 science fiction novel by John Brunner, notable for its hero’s use of computer hacking skills to escape pursuit in a dystopian future, and for the coining of the word ‘worm’ to describe a program that propagates itself through a computer network. It also introduces the concept of a ‘Delphi pool’ (a large group of people used as a statistical sampling resource), perhaps derived from the RAND Corporation’s Delphi method – a futures market on world events which bears close resemblance to DARPA’s controversial and cancelled Policy Analysis Market (dubbed the ‘Terrorism Market’ by the media).

The title derives from the futurist work ‘Future Shock’ by Alvin Toffler. The hero is a survivor in a hypothetical world of quickly changing identities, fashions, and lifestyles, where individuals are still controlled and oppressed by a powerful and secretive state apparatus. His highly developed computer skills enable him to use any public telephone to punch in a new identity, thus reinventing himself. As a fugitive, he must do this from time to time in order to escape capture. The title is also a metaphor for survival in an uncertain world.

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November 20, 2012

Commodity Fetishism


In Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism, commodity fetishism is theory that objects are imagined to dictate the social activities that produce them. When the social relationships among people are expressed with objectified economic relationships, the subjective, abstract aspects of economic value are transformed into objective, real things that people believe have intrinsic value (reification).

In a capitalist society, social relations between people—who makes what, who works for whom, the production-time for a commodity, et cetera—are perceived as economic relations among objects, that is, how valuable a given commodity is when compared to another commodity. Therefore, the market exchange of commodities masks the true economic character of the human relations of production, between the worker and the capitalist.

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November 5, 2012

Moralistic Fallacy

The moralistic fallacy is in essence the reverse of the naturalistic fallacy (defining the term ‘good’ in terms of one or more natural properties). The moralistic fallacy is the formal fallacy of assuming that what is desirable is found or inherent in nature. It presumes that what ought to be—something deemed preferable—corresponds with what is or what naturally occurs. What should be moral is assumed a priori to also be naturally occurring.

Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker writes that ‘The naturalistic fallacy is the idea that what is found in nature is good. It was the basis for Social Darwinism, the belief that helping the poor and sick would get in the way of evolution, which depends on the survival of the fittest. Today, biologists denounce the Naturalistic Fallacy because they want to describe the natural world honestly, without people deriving morals about how we ought to behave — as in: If birds and beasts engage in adultery, infanticide, cannibalism, it must be OK.’

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October 23, 2012

Interpersonal Circumplex

Interpersonal reflex

The interpersonal circumplex is a model for conceptualizing, organizing, and assessing interpersonal behavior, traits, and motives. It is defined by two orthogonal axes: a vertical axis (of status, dominance, power, or control) and a horizontal axis (of solidarity, friendliness, warmth, or love).

In recent years, it has become conventional to identify the vertical and horizontal axes with the broad constructs of agency and communion. Thus, each point in the interpersonal circumplex space can be specified as a weighted combination of agency and communion.

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