Archive for Language and philosophy

New frontiers in bullshitology

Gordon Pennycook, James Allan CheyneNathaniel Barr, Derek J. Koehler, & Jonathan A. Fugelsang, "On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit", Judgment and Decision Making 2015:

Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Here we focus on pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous. We presented participants with bullshit statements consisting of buzzwords randomly organized into statements with syntactic structure but no discernible meaning (e.g., “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena”). Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bullshit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style, supernatural belief). Parallel associations were less evident among profundity judgments for more conventionally profound (e.g., “A wet person does not fear the rain”) or mundane (e.g., “Newborn babies require constant attention”) statements. These results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. Our results also suggest that a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity.

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Transcendent Tonality

Since both consist of carefully managed and skillfully manipulated sound, music and language blend into each other.  This is most evident in song, of course, where language and tonality exist simultaneously.  But sometimes the human voice is treated as an instrument, and language recedes into the background.  On the other hand, something else human that is more ostensibly musical, namely whistling, can be used for the communication of ideas and information, tasks that are usually reserved for language.  See the great Wikipedia article on "Whistled language" and the masterful Wikipedia article on "Transcendental whistling", also this YouTube video:

"Whistled language of the island of La Gomera (Canary Islands), the Silbo Gomero". (10:20)

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The misery of existence

Sign on the front of an audiovisual equipment supplier in Pudong, Shanghai:

(Source of photograph)

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Fred Pelzman, "The Craziness of ICD-10", MedPage Today 7/2/2015:

At our faculty meeting last week, representatives of the medical college and the hospital came to update us on the changes coming into effect with ICD-10.

The compliance officers went through the changes in regulations — for inpatients and outpatients — which we've all heard before, the changes in the rules, and how ICD-10 leads to greater specificity for billing. Almost to the point of ridiculousness.

Medical websites, articles, and blogs have been full of examples of hilarious insane ICD-10 codes, new ones that many of us will (hopefully) never use in a lifetime of practice. 

If there exists one for fall from nonmilitary spacecraft, does that mean that there are military spacecraft? Are we sending Marines into space?

I'm sure someone has a practice where their patients are frequently coming in after being bitten by Orcas, and it's nice to know there's a code to bill for that if I need it, but all of this leads to a level of mental exhaustion, that we're all being put upon, asked to do something else that adds no real value to our care of patients.

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Multiscriptal graffiti in Berlin

Gábor Ugray took this photo last week outside a Turkish-run Italian restaurant in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, a diverse mix between run-down and hip:

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Metaphysics has ruined Chinese

In The Opinion Pages section of today's NYT, Contributing Op-Ed Writer Murong Xuecun has a provocative piece entitled "Corrupting the Chinese Language" (5/26/15).

His basic claim is that "Decades of… party blather have washed through a mighty propaganda machine straight into people’s minds and into the Chinese vernacular."  The result is that, because people are conditioned to talk using phrases ready made by the party, they are conditioned to think in ways determined by the highly politicized language in which they have been immersed their entire lives.  Even dissidents are reduced to "using the language of our propagandists, and not ironically."

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