Author Archives: Richard Smaby

“Flower Hunters” in Florida by Lauren Groff

A vignette of a woman searching for herself, searching for value in herself. Feeling a failure as a mother compared to her husband. Comparing herself to Meg, who is better than everyone. Escaping  into William Bartram’s adventures in Florida. Then … Continue reading

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Lessons from and Critique of The Knowledge Illusion by Steve Sloman and Philip Fernbach

SYNOPSIS OF ARGUMENT Knowledge is a relation between people (the ones who claim to know) and a set of assertions. The knowers commit to those assertions by calling them true. Commitment is an emotional component of truth. People who commit … Continue reading

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Richard’s Pre-discussion info for Knowledge Illusion

Steven Sloman and Philip Fernback, The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone. Riverhead Books, 2017. I chose the book for both parts of the title. People often overestimate their own knowledge and underestimate their debt to others. In a … Continue reading

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The Moment of Truth

Mohsen invites our reactions to events of this last year and perhaps back further, including reading books together. I choose to focus on truth events. We have read the same books, many of which involve truth in some way. Our … Continue reading

Posted in 2017 Selections, 2017, A Year in Review | Leave a comment

Linguistic Background to Moral Minds

Moral Minds by Marc Hauser General Linguistics Perspective Scientific linguistics seeks to describe and explain our language behavior. It is distinct from prescriptive linguistics, which attempts to say how we should use our language. Marc Hauser wants to develop a … Continue reading

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Humor in “The Road to Little Dribbling” by Bill Bryson

“Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.” E. B. White At the risk of fulfilling White’s prophecy, I will attempt to analyze Bryson’s humor. Bryson frequently communicates using various kinds … Continue reading

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Einstein and Rational Argument

Reading the essays in Ideas and Opinions, I was struck by Einstein’s variety of expression of different types of ideas. “E=MC2” 1946 represents Einstein’s scientific writing for a popular audience (with his characteristic clarity of thought). I will not quote … Continue reading

Posted in 2017 Selections, Albert Einstein's Ideas and Opinions | 1 Comment

Words in Fin de siècle Vienna

Schorske loves words. He uses fifty cent words, French words, and German words with aplomb. He appears to know what those words mean. But does anyone really know what a word means? I am particularly interested in the words: liberal, … Continue reading

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My John Steinbeck Assignment

A Saigon Boulevard The girls, or are they women? The women sit open crotches in the humid heat, lining the boulevard in front of the mini bars that have sprung up to service soldiers. It’s hard to judge the age … Continue reading

Posted in 2017 Selections, Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath | 3 Comments

John Locke according to Tristram Shandy

My enjoyment of Tristram Shandy consists largely in Sterne as iconoclast, most notably for me his critique of John Locke’s theory of language and ideas. But more generally I revel in his tongue-in-cheek renditions of the hubris of the Enlightenment! … Continue reading

Posted in 2016 Selections, Tristram Shandy | Leave a comment