Roundup of academics in the mist and things being true because Psychology says so.

1. There’s a hot debate on Brian Leiter’s blog about whether young philosophers (and, by extension, other academics) are “entitled” because they tend to prefer urban to rural areas and light teaching loads to heavy teaching loads, even to the point that some may not be willing to take, say, a 4/4 load in Nebraksa, preferring to “bartend in San Francisco.”

Paul’s take: dude, have none of you people read chapter 3 of On Liberty? Read it again, then stop judging other people’s career choices.

2. While we’re in the Department of Subjective vs. Objective Goodness of Preference, Mike Munger’s movie discussion is amusing.

Paul’s take: My subjective preferences track objective goodness-of-movie, damnit.

3. The urban preferrers might want to know that city life rots your brain. It’s true, Psychology says so! “After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control.”

Paul’s take: I want to see the paper. This seems like the sort of paper where the experimental method is actually less useful than large-n non-experimental studies of the sort usually done in the social sciences, because the experimental method can only test short-term effects, whereas what matters is how people who are in the city for extended periods of time function, relative to those who are not.

4. Academia, too, rots your brain, it would appear. Or, at least, it is supposedly less conducive to creativity than working in some .com. Perhaps this is because, hah, .coms are in the horrible suburbs like Palo Alto, Land of a Thousand Rug Stores, and so there are no nasty urban distractions. Includes the most cynical statement ever about academia: “Academia is like a business, where we do not optimize profit, but prestige.”

Paul’s take: would have been more interesting if coherent. And, apparently, prestige is bad, mkay? At least, it is if we believe the nimrod Paul Graham, purveyor of dumbed-down versions of remedial critical thinking as insight. And, yeah, it’s probably bad in general, unsocial sociability and all that. Rousseau and Kant sit astride the world, yo.

5. Perhaps the solution is to will oneself to be a genius?

Paul’s take: He did it to impress Lou Andreas-Salome, not Cosima Wagner.

6. “Intelligent men are always appealing.” It’s true, Psychology says so!

Paul’s take: I don’t even believe this anymore. It’s simply not true. Also, he never got Lou Andreas-Salome.

7. The anti-city psychologists also said that the temptations (that is, desirable things, sources of happiness) of city life reduce one’s reserves of self-control. This seems to be the latest fad in psych research: the “you have a limited amount of self-control” research. What the psychologists don’t seem to be offering us is any story about how we increase our self-control reserves… except by eating candy bars.

Paul’s take: This is exactly what one does not want to read when one is simultaneously trying to lose a lot of weight (see previous item!) and write a dissertation proposal.

8. Or maybe it’s because the city offers too many confusing options, making it hard for us to deduce which we’ll prefer from the menu alone?

Paul’s take: I actually really like it when economists start elbowing psychologists out the door and doing really creative rational choice analyses of phenomena. It stops them from pathologizing everything, and also makes some of the fatalistic practical import (“you have no self control, you’re doomed”) of much psych research a little gentler.

9. What the fuck is a zombie bank?

Paul’s take: What the fuck is a zombie bank? Wikipedia says this. Are macroeconomists all on crack? There’s a reason I only know anything about micro, and I think that reason is closely tied to zombie banks.

10. Larry Solum has a Legal Theory Lexicon post of the usual fabulousness about contractualism, contractarianism, and the rest of the word salad that people who care about social contract theory go on about.

Paul’s take: My only gripe is that it might have been useful to drop a reference to some of Russell Hardin’s critique of the field.

11. Finally… two calls for papers. The Association for Political Theory, October 22-24, 2009, proposals due February 15, 2009, submit on the APT website. The Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, August 6-9, 2009, abstracts due February 15, 2009, via e-mail (in Word format) to Benjamin Hale ( and Alastair Norcross (

Paul’s take: gah! I’ve gotta get something out to these! At least the APT!


16 Responses to “Roundup of academics in the mist and things being true because Psychology says so.”

  1. ben wolfson Says:

    Nor to impress Cosima.

    I haven’t read the debate on Leiter’s blog (despite what one might expect given the participants, the level of discourse there has never seem all that impressive … to me!) but I can’t quite make out how preferring one sort of life over another makes one entitled. Wouldn’t you have to think that you’re, you know, entitled to have your preferences satisfied, first?

  2. Paul Gowder Says:

    Ah, thanks for catching my reproduction of the typo. (which will now be repaired)

    And, yes, apparently “entitled” is now code for “wants to be too happy.”

  3. Jeff Albert Says:

    “the most cynical statement ever about academia: “Academia is like a business, where we do not optimize profit, but prestige.””

    note: cynical ? untrue

  4. Jeff Albert Says:

    Damn. I tried to rock the “does not equal” sign, but wordpress will have none of it.

    I agree that prestige isn’t necessarily bad, but many of those in the academy do value it above all else.

    On the urban/rural front, as one who is familiar with musicians/artists/thinkers who are using the academy to provide the patronage that came from churches and monarchies in ages past, cities allow us to do what we do much more than rural areas. A gig at Chicago Community College gives me more playing opportunities outside of my teaching than say a job as full distinguished professor of odd noises at Central Southern Idaho University.

  5. Mike Says:

    All that psychology stuff is bullshit. Women like smart guys? When’s the last time you talked about Plato with a woman? It rarely happens. In fairness, it’s not like a lot of guys GAF about that stuff, either. But more men than women care about intellectual topics.

    But, well, it’s not PC to suggest that you don’t find a lot of well-read women. So we just pretend that women really want smart guys. LMAO at what counts as “science”! Fuck an objective pursuit of truth. That might offend people. And, my Zod, we can’t do that.

    Let’s round up the grad students and tech guys from Google and Yahoo. I’ll then grab a bunch of hooligans from one of the various gyms I train at. We’ll unleash them on a random subset of women.

    Anyone want to bet a grand on which group of guys will pull more ass? Again, LMFAO at that typical PC bullshit about what women want.

    Women want aggressive men. They want money. But an aggressive man will pull more ass than a tech guy making six figures. Fact. Reality. Isn’t that what true science is supposed to examine?

    And look at the very fundamental worthlessness of their methods. You don’t determine the truth by asking people what they want. You look at what actual people do. That should just be a basic part of the reality-examination by now.

    But that shit leads to non-PC results. If you did a study that way, you’d seen that the subjects who claim they want a “smart guy” or “nice guy” have dated – and continued to date – a steady stream of assholes.

    And to think….. “Science” dares to insult religion! Both groups can keep their fairy tales. I’ll continue to explore true reality – such as there is a thing.

    This is exactly what one does not want to read when one is simultaneously trying to lose a lot of weight (see previous item!)

    Speaking of “science”…. Yet again, the shit we are told by “scientists” is total bullshit. The food pyramid is literally a fraud. The Ag lobby bribed the Ag Dept. to make it grain dominant. Big Ag funded the “nutrition studies” programs at most major universities. This stuff isn’t even debated anymore among serious people. You just don’t hear about it, due to ignorance in the media and because “science” is on the payroll.

    There’s a lot of money in giving people “weight loss” pills. And the grain-corn-ag lobby has way more pull than people advocating a diet rich in poly and monounsatured fats and protein. Thus, “science” tells us to eat a high carb, low fat diet.

    Of course, reality is going to a gym like Gold’s in Venice. Talk to anyone who is actually in good shape. NONE of them eat low-fat, high-carb diets. And we can say, “Steroids,” but that’s bullshit, too, since not everyone who looks good is on steroids – that’s just people drinking haterade.

    I’d love for “scientists” to actually study an issue without worrying about how much cha-cha-change they’re going to get from Big Pharma and Big Ag. “Reality” would look much different.

  6. Mike Says:

    Oh, and here is something that should tip people off to the “women like smart guys” bullshit non-thesis: Everyone talks about it! Think about it.

    If women really liked smart guys, we’d fucking yawn at those “studies.” Smart guys, instead of posting that shit on their blogs, would be like, “Yeah, no shit. Why is this news? Just more dog bites man b.s. in the media, I guess.”

    Instead, a bunch of smart guys who haven’t gotten laid in six months jump all over that shit. Like they are seeking sort of validation or whatever.

    These “studies” are newsworthy precisely because they are novel and go against what everyone knows to be reality. Sometimes things that are novel and reality-altering are actually true. Most of the time, it’s bullshit.

  7. ben wolfson Says:

    Damn. I tried to rock the “does not equal” sign, but wordpress will have none of it.

    ≠ should work: ≠

  8. Paul Gowder Says:

    Perhaps it’s because the computer nerds wear classic cut jeans.

    (Would some female reader please tell me what classic-cut jeans are, so that I may identify them and purge them from my wardrobe? Apparently, whatever they are, they are anathema. Mike, I think I’ve solved “game.” “Game” is knowing what classic cut jeans are and not wearing them. I sometimes wonder how this species manages to reproduce itself at all.)

  9. Aaron Says:

    “6. ‘Intelligent men are always appealing.’ It’s true, Psychology says so!”

    Here is a list of the “architects of western civilisation” who were bachelors. (The article has many takes on why this is. I am only linking so you can see the list.)

  10. Paul Gowder Says:

    If there were a god, the writer of that article would promptly be teleported under the strappado.

  11. Aaron Says:

    I only linked so you could see the list and decide why *you* think it is. I can’t even remember what exactly the rest of the article says (and I can’t be bothered reading it).

  12. Paul Gowder Says:

    The list is… Unsurprising. It would be more interesting to have it divided between inveterate playboys and celibates. Good decision on skipping the rest!

  13. Jeff Albert Says:


  14. Paul Gowder Says:

    Needs a semicolon after. ≠

  15. Jeff Albert Says:

  16. Jeff Albert Says:

    I know I will never need this information again.

    Jeff ≠ useful

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