Links for 2011-11-29

  • "They've traded more for cigarettes / than I've managed to express"; or, Dives, Lazarus, and Alice

    "Let us consider a simple economy with three individuals. Alice is a restaurateur; she has fed herself, and has just prepared a delicious turkey dinner, at some cost in materials, fuel, and her time. Dives is a wealthy conceptual artist, who has eaten and is not hungry, but would like to buy the turkey dinner so he can "feed" it to the transparent machine he has built, and film it being "digested" and eventually excreted. To achieve this, he is willing and able to spend up to $5000. ... Huddled miserably in a corner of the gate of Dives's condo is Lazarus, who is starving, on the brink of death, but could be kept alive for another day by eating the turkey. The sum total of Lazarus's worldly possession consist of filthy rags, of no value to any one else, and one thin dime... Assume that everyone is a rational agent, with these resources and preferences. What does economics tell us about this situation?

  • Black Friday: A Morality Tale | Diana Butler Bass

    [T]hat is the morality tale of Black Friday. Yes, there will be mall riots over flat-screen TVs. But maybe, just maybe, people are shopping on Black Friday because they can't afford the prices that greedy corporations charge on a regular basis--saving up to buy things like shoes on deep discount. And, of course, people who are suffering under the weight of economic inequality would like to have nice toys for their children and decent electronics (electronics are arguably a necessity to participate in 21st century western society) and the only time of the year they can afford such things is during the super-sales pushed on us by mega-business on Black Friday.

  • 40 Years on the Court, and It's Not Even Halftime -

    How many basketball players in pickup games around New York City still have a killer two-handed set shot? Bob Gold does. He's 71 years old and has been playing for 40 years in a year-round weekly game in Greenwich Village that he calls the longest continuous running pickup game in the city.

  • begemott on deviantART

    Saw this as a fake motivational poster with the tagline "TEDDY BEARS: Protecting children from monsters under the bed since 1902."

  • How Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning beat the blitz in the NFL - Grantland

    "Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are quite possibly the greatest anti-blitz quarterbacks in the history of football. And when your team doesn't have one of those guys -- or, in the case of the 2008 Patriots and the 2011 Colts, if they're injured -- you're not so much worried about whether the backup can run the offense or learn the playbook or even hit the open receiver. You're worried about third-and-7 in the fourth quarter. How will he handle some convoluted blitz involving three defenders all attacking the same gap while the pass defenders aren't where he thought they'd be. To succeed under that kind of pressure, you need something more than arm strength, superior height, and even that coveted kind of on-the-fly fluid, athletic intelligence. Instead, you need, well, what is it exactly?"

  • STAR WARS : The Solo Adventures (HD) - YouTube

    There's a little Uncanny Valley thing going on with the characters, but this is still better than anything Lucas has put out in about twenty years. I'd definitely watch more of this.


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In your first example, classical economics has made the grotesque error of presuming that "rational" means trying to maximize your own individual advantage. However, a truly rational being would try to see things as objectively as possible, and not consider himself any more important than anyone else (because he isn't.) The most rational choice is to minimize misery and maximize the relative good. Since being alive at all is of great value to Lazarus, and getting some more satisfaction is of relatively minor value to Dives, rational beings would all agree on what to do as the single objective good: save Lazarus.

This conception of rationality is more legitimate because, as in science, the agents can actually agree on *what* is the actual best course of action - rather than varying and contradictory relative courses from their own perspective. True rational beings know that "I" versus "you" are just relative pronouns, not actual categories of thing that can be *logically* treated as genuinely different (like "circles" versus "squares.") Such beings are taking a sort of "bird's eye view" of reality, which is true objectivity. This is ironic given the complete reversal of this genuine rational perspective in "Objectivism." Yet actually, self-interest is the height of sentimental unreality ("I" am more important and worthy than "them", even though those are not true descriptive distinctions.)

Neil Bates says:

'True rational beings know that "I" versus "you" are just relative pronouns.'

This has embarrassing consequences. If "I" am accused of murder, can "I" legitimately say that "I" have an alibi, or will some logician point out this is irrelevant since "I" is merely a relative pronoun?

More seriously, it can be argued that I am the best judge of my needs and desires. To say otherwise is to invite a dictatorship of the philosophers, as in Plato.

I don't think morality can be derived from grammar as simply as that.

By David Evans (not verified) on 01 Dec 2011 #permalink