Socratic dialogue

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pages: 39 words: 9,543

Lying by Sam Harris


Mark Zuckerberg, mental accounting, Socratic dialogue

Many of us spend our lives marching with open eyes toward remorse, regret, guilt, and disappointment.And nowhere do our injuries seem more casually self-inflicted, or the suffering we create more disproportionate to the needs of the moment, than in the lies we tell to other human beings. Lying is the royal road to chaos. As an undergraduate at Stanford I took a seminar that profoundly changed my life. It was called “The Ethical Analyst,” and it was conducted in the form of a Socratic dialogue by an extraordinarily gifted professor, Ronald A. Howard.[1] Our discussion focused on a single question of practical ethics: Is it wrong to lie? At first glance, this may seem a scant foundation for an entire college course. After all, most people already believe that lying is generally wrong—and they also know that some situations seem to warrant it. What was so fascinating about this seminar, however, was how difficult it was to find examples of virtuous lies that could withstand Professor Howard’s scrutiny.


pages: 397 words: 109,631

Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking by Richard E. Nisbett


affirmative action, Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, big-box store, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, cognitive dissonance, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, endowment effect, experimental subject, feminist movement, fundamental attribution error, glass ceiling, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, job satisfaction, lake wobegon effect, libertarian paternalism, loss aversion, low skilled workers, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, quantitative easing, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, Socratic dialogue, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, William of Occam, Zipcar

Deductive and inductive reasoning schemas essentially regulate inferences. They tell us what kinds of inferences are valid and what kinds are invalid. A very different kind of system of reasoning, also developed about twenty-six hundred years ago in Greece, and developed at the same time in India, is called dialectical reasoning. This form of reasoning doesn’t so much regulate reasoning as suggest ways to solve problems. Dialectical reasoning includes the Socratic dialogue, which is essentially a conversation or debate between two people trying to reach the truth by stimulating critical thinking, clarifying ideas, and discovering contradictions that may prompt the discussants to develop views that are more coherent and more likely to be correct or useful. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century versions of dialectical reasoning, owing primarily to the philosophers Hegel, Kant, and Fichte, center on the process of “thesis” followed by “antithesis” followed by “synthesis”—a proposition followed by a potential contradiction of that proposition, followed by a synthesis that resolves any contradiction.

The principles also imply another important tenet of Eastern thought, which is the insistence on finding the “middle way” between extreme propositions. There is a strong presumption that contradictions often are merely apparent, and an inclination to believe that “A is right but not A is not wrong.” This stance is captured by the Zen Buddhist dictum that “the opposite of a great truth is also true.” To many Westerners, these notions may seem reasonable and even familiar. The Socratic dialogue, often called dialectical, is similar in some ways. This is a conversation exchanging different viewpoints, with the goal of more closely approaching the truth. Jews borrowed that version of dialectical thinking from the Greeks, and Talmudic scholars developed it over the next two millennia and more. Western philosophers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries such as Hegel and Marx made contributions to the dialectical tradition.

Man Who statistics Martin, Steve Marx, Karl Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Masserman, Jules Masuda, Takahiko mathematics; correlation of test scores in; in Eastern versus Western cultures; economics and; in statistics; unconscious mental processes in Mayo Clinic Mazda McKinsey & Company McPhee, John mean; distribution around; regression to; standard deviation from, see standard deviation mechanics, Newtonian median Menlo Park (California) mental illness mental modules mere familiarity effect metaphysics methodologies; difficulties of, in measuring human variables Michigan, University of; department of psychology microeconomics Microsoft Middle Ages Midwestern Prevention Project Milkman, Katherine Mill, John Stuart Missionaries and Cannibals problem modesty bias modus ponens molecular biology Molière Morgan, James Mo-tzu Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus Mullainathan, Sendhil multiple regression analysis (MRA); in medicine; in psychology Na, Jinkyung Nagashima, Nobuhiro National Football League (NFL) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) National Institutes of Health natural experiments negative correlation negative externalities neuroscience Newell, Allen New Hampshire New Jersey Newton, Isaac New York City, September 11 (9/11) terrorist attack on New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York University nihilism Nobel Prize Norenzayan, Ara normative prescription North Carolina Obama, Barack obligation schemas observations; correlation of; as natural experiments; standard deviation of; weaknesses of conclusions based on Occam’s razor Oedipus complex Ohio State University opportunity costs opt-in versus opt-out policies organizational psychology Orwell, George Oswald, Lee Harvey Ottoman Empire outcomes; of choices; costs and benefits of; educational; of family conflicts; tracking outcome variables; see also dependent variables overgeneralization Oxford University paradigm shifts Park, Denise Parmenides parsimony, principle of particle physics Pascal, Blaise Pavlov, Ivan payoff matrix Peace Corps Pearson, Karl Pearson product moment correlation peer pressure Peng, Kaiping Pennebaker, James percentage estimates perceptions; extrasensory; subliminal; unconscious permission schema Perry, Rick Perry Preschool Program persuasion phenomena; influence of context in; simplest hypothesis possible for philosophy; see also names of individual philosophers physics Piaget, Jean Picasso, Pablo Pietromonaco, Paula Plato platykurtic curve plausibility; of causal links; of conclusions; of correlations; of hypotheses; of unconscious processes Poincaré, Henri Polanyi, Michael Popper, Karl postformalism post hoc ergo propter hoc heuristic post hoc explanations postmodernism preferences prescriptive microeconomics price heuristic prime numbers Princeton University probability; in cost-benefit analysis; decision theory and; schemas for problem solving; decision theory for; formal logic for; unconscious mind’s capacity for psychoanalytic theory psychology; clinical; cognitive, see cognitive psychology; developmental; organizational; postformalist; reinforcement theory; social, see social psychology Ptolemy, Claudius public policy quantum theory Rahway State Prison (New Jersey) randomized studies; design of; multiple regression analysis versus range, definition of Rasmussen polling firm Reagan, Ronald reality reasoning; categorical; causal; circular; conditional; cultural differences in; deductive; deontic; dialectical, see dialectical reasoning; inductive; pragmatic schemas; syllogistic, see syllogisms; teachability of; see also logic Reckman, Richard reductionism Reeves, Keanu reference group effect regression; to the mean; see also multiple regression analysis reinforcement learning theory relationships, principle of; see also correlation relativity theory reliability Renaissance representativeness heuristic Republican Party revealed preferences revolutions, scientific Riegel, Klaus Rogers, Todd Rohn, Jim Romans, ancient Romney, Mitt Roosevelt, Franklin Rorschach inkblot test Ross, Lee Russell, Bertrand Russia Russian language Saab Sachs, Jeffrey samples; biased Santorum, Rick satisficing Saudi Arabia Save More Tomorrow plan scarcity heuristic Scared Straight program scatterplots schemas; pragmatic reasoning Schmidt, Eric Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) Science magazine scientific revolutions Sears Secrets of Adulthood (Chast) self-enhancement bias self-esteem self-selection Seligman, Martin September 11 (9/11) terrorist attacks Shafir, Eldar Shepard, Roger significance; causal Simon, Herbert Siroker, Dan Skinner, B. F. Smith, Adam social conflict social desirability bias social facilitation effect social psychology; context in; experiments in; founding of; fundamental attribution error in; microeconomics and; in political campaigns; reality in; social influence in Social Security Social Text Socrates Socratic dialogue Sokal, Alan South Carolina Soviet Union Speed (movie) Spender, Stephen Sperber, Dan spreading activation standard deviation (SD); for IQs; for observations Standard & Poor’s Stanford University; Graduate School of Business statistical dependence statistical heuristics statistical independence status quo stereotypes Stich, Stephen stimuli; incidental Stoic philosophers Stoler, Ann Structure of Scientific Revolutions, The (Kuhn) Subaru subliminal perception and persuasion Summers, Lawrence sunk costs Sunstein, Cass Sweden syllogisms Talmudic scholars Tanzania Tao Tennessee Texas text, reality as Thaler, Richard theology Thorndike, Edward Time magazine Towers of Hanoi problem Toyota tragedy of the commons training, transfer of traits; behaviors related to; correlations for; role-related “Transgressing the Boundaries” (Sokal) Triplett, Norman Turkish language Tversky, Amos Twain, Mark uncertainty unconscious mind; rational Unitarians United States; academic performance in; allergies in; autism diagnosis in; crime prevention programs in; death penalty in; dialectical thinking in; health issues in; history teachers in; homicide versus suicide deaths in; incarceration rate in; income ranges in; life insurance coverage in; manufacturing in; minority advancement in armed forces of; national election polls in; oil reserves of; per capita GDP in; pragmatism in; product choice in; Social Security program in; subjectivist view in; vaccination in; values and beliefs in vaccination validity; of arguments; reliability and value: expected; of human life; monetary, in cost-benefit analysis; sentimental; of sunk costs and opportunity costs Van Buren, Abigail (Dear Abby) variables; continuous; control; correlation of; economic; outcome; predictor; regression to the mean of; see also dependent variables; independent variables Varnum, Michael Venn, John Venn diagrams Vermont Volkswagen von Neuman, John Wall Street Journal, The Washington, University of Washington State Institute for Public Policy Western culture, difference between Eastern culture and, see cultural differences West Germany What Works Clearinghouse Whitehead, Alfred North William of Occam Wilson, Timothy within designs World Economic Forum Zajonc, Robert Zen Buddhism Zeno Zhang, Yitang Zipcars A NOTE ABOUT THE AUTHOR Richard E.


pages: 171 words: 54,334

Barefoot Into Cyberspace: Adventures in Search of Techno-Utopia by Becky Hogge, Damien Morris, Christopher Scally


A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, back-to-the-land, Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, Chelsea Manning, citizen journalism, cloud computing, corporate social responsibility, disintermediation, Douglas Engelbart, Fall of the Berlin Wall, game design, Hacker Ethic, informal economy, Jacob Appelbaum, jimmy wales, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, Menlo Park, Mother of all demos, Naomi Klein, Network effects, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, Richard Stallman, Silicon Valley, Skype, Socratic dialogue, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Telecommunications Act of 1996, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, WikiLeaks

He establishes an underground digital communications network, based on chipped Xboxes loaded with free software, organising flash mobs of teenage protest and culture-jamming the DHS surveillance systems in an attempt to hold a mirror to the rights abuses of the DHS for long enough to pierce the adults’ assurance that the new regime is in their best interests. Marcus’s relationship with his father exists as a kind of Socratic dialogue on the ethical aspects of the surveillance society, woven through the book as Marcus becomes more and more embroiled with the Department of Homeland Security’s total surveillance of San Francisco’s citizens. Just like Cory’s father, Marcus’s dad was a radical in his youth. But by the time we get to the events of Little Brother, he’s earning his keep and saving up for Marcus’ college education by consulting to “third-wave dotcoms that are doing various things with archives” in Silicon Valley.


pages: 244 words: 76,192

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy


Albert Einstein, business process, complexity theory, Iridium satellite, Long Term Capital Management, NetJets, shareholder value, six sigma, social software, Socratic dialogue, supply-chain management

You’ve got a good future,” and so on. Most times you can keep them. Absent that personal connection, you’re just a name. Making a personal connection has nothing to do with style. You don’t have to be charismatic or a salesperson. I don’t care what your personality is. But you need to show up with an open mind and a positive demeanor. Be informal, and have a sense of humor. A business review should take the form of a Socratic dialogue, not an interrogation. All you’ve got to prove is that you care for the people who are working for you. Whatever your respective personalities are, that’s the personal connection. The personal connection is especially critical when a leader starts something new. The business world is full of failed initiatives. Good, important ideas get launched with much fanfare, but six months or a year later they’re dead in the water and are abandoned as unworkable.


pages: 224 words: 12,941

From Gutenberg to Google: electronic representations of literary texts by Peter L. Shillingsburg


British Empire, computer age, double helix, HyperCard, hypertext link, interchangeable parts, invention of the telephone, means of production, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, Saturday Night Live, Socratic dialogue

[Review of the Pennsylvania Sister Carrie,] American Literature 53 (January 1982), 731–7. Plachta, Bodo. ‘‘In Between the ‘Royal Way’ of Philology and ‘Occult Science’: Some Remarks About German Discussion on Text Constitution in the Last Ten Years.’’ TEXT 12 (1999), 31–47. ‘‘Teaching Editing–Learning Editing.’’ Problems of Editing biehefte zu editio, ed. Christa Jansohn (1999). Plato. ‘‘Ion,’’ Translated by. Trevor J. Saunders. in Plato: Early Socratic Dialogues. London: Penguin, 1987. Phaedras. Translated by R. Hackforth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952. Republic. Translated by Robin Waterfield. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Postal, Paul M. Skeptical Linguistic Essays. faculty/postal/papers/skeptical.pdf (downloaded 4 July 2003). Purdy, R. L. Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study. London: Oxford University Press, 1954.


pages: 350 words: 109,220

In FED We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic by David Wessel


Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, central bank independence, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, debt deflation, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial innovation, financial intermediation, full employment, George Akerlof, housing crisis, inflation targeting, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, market bubble, moral hazard, mortgage debt, new economy, Northern Rock, price stability, quantitative easing, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, savings glut, Socratic dialogue, too big to fail

One long, late Sunday of the Great Panic, Michelle Smith, the Fed’s chief spokeswoman, called her husband and asked him to pick up sandwiches from a Panera near their house in Virginia and deliver them to the Fed headquarters. Early in September, as the crises continued, the Fed made a deal with a nearby Subway to stock a refrigerator on the governors’ corridor with turkey and ham sandwiches — each with an individual expiration date. The emergency rations came in handy that night. Finally, the Fed officials conducted a Socratic dialogue — via telephone — with Bair and her staff to speed up the decision. “Has your staff told you what the [FDIC fund’s] expected loss is with Citi?” they asked. “We think it is zero,” said Bair. In other words, the most likely scenario wouldn’t require the FDIC to absorb any losses. And Wells? “We think it is positive,” she answered, meaning the FDIC would have to come up with money eventually.


pages: 344 words: 103,532

The Big U by Neal Stephenson


anti-communist, invisible hand, Ronald Reagan, Socratic dialogue

All the Crotobaltislavonians had gone inside, and the professors, finding themselves in an empty lot with only the remains of a few dozen steers to keep them company, decided to re-deploy inside the Plex. There things were noisier. People who never engage in violence are quick to talk about it, especially when the people they are arguing with are elderly Greek professors unlikely to be carrying tire chains or knives. Of course, the Greek professors, who tried to engage the picketers in Socratic dialogue as they broke the picket lines, were not subject to much more than occasional pushing. Among younger academics there were genuine fights. A monetarist from Connecticut finally came to blows with an Algerian Maoist with whom he’d been trading scathing articles ever since they had shared an office as grad students. This fight turned out to be of the tedious kind held by libidinous orthodontists’ sons at suburban video arcades.


pages: 335 words: 107,779

Some Remarks by Neal Stephenson


airport security, augmented reality, barriers to entry, British Empire, cable laying ship, call centre, cellular automata, edge city, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, Hacker Ethic, impulse control, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Just-in-time delivery, Kevin Kelly, music of the spheres, Norbert Wiener, offshore financial centre, oil shock, packet switching, pirate software, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Saturday Night Live, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, social web, Socratic dialogue, South China Sea, special economic zone, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, trade route, Turing machine, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, X Prize

So you might think that righties would love the film. But they’re nervous that Emperor Xerxes of Persia, not the freedom-loving Leonidas, might be George Bush. Our so-called conservatives, who have cut all ties to their own intellectual moorings, now espouse policies and personalities that would get them laughed out of Periclean Athens. The few conservatives still able to hold up one end of a Socratic dialogue are those in the ostracized libertarian wing—interestingly enough, a group with a disproportionately high representation among fans of speculative fiction. The less politicized majority, who perhaps would like to draw inspiration from this story without glossing over the crazy and defective aspects of Spartan society, have turned, in droves, to a film from the alternative cultural universe of fantasy and science fiction.


pages: 441 words: 135,176

The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful--And Their Architects--Shape the World by Deyan Sudjic


Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, British Empire, call centre, colonial rule, Columbine, cuban missile crisis, dematerialisation, Deng Xiaoping, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Donald Trump, Frank Gehry, glass ceiling, Guggenheim Bilbao, haute couture, haute cuisine, megastructure, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, New Urbanism, oil shock, Ronald Reagan, Socratic dialogue, urban planning, urban renewal, V2 rocket, Victor Gruen

If Atta’s concerns had genuinely been to use his professional training to effect social change, this would have been an inspiring model for him. Instead Atta left the country for Europe. The Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg, known by its initials as TUHH, is one of Germany’s newest universities, established only in 1982. It has a suburban campus close to the River Elbe. It sits in a complex of mainly new buildings that have at their heart an agora stepped into semi-circular tiers for Socratic dialogue, a reflection of the belief of the town planning department’s dean, Professor Dittmar Machule, in the virtues of traditional urban forms. Machule received a grant from the German Vibrant Cities Foundation to conduct a research programme to determine what makes a city centre lively. But it was more likely that it was Machule’s work in Aleppo, the 5,000-year-old Syrian city, funded by the German Government’s technical assistance programme for conservation and rehabilitation, that attracted Atta to Hamburg in 1992.


pages: 469 words: 145,094

Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - From America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady


anti-communist, El Camino Real, illegal immigration, index card, offshore financial centre, Ponzi scheme, Socratic dialogue

Home in his apartment in Brooklyn, Bobby went through what was becoming his routine: elimination of social engagements, long periods of solitary study, analysis of games, and a search for innovations in openings. He classified the lines he studied into stratifications of importance, always eliminating the not-quite-perfect continuation and seeking what he called the “true move,” that which could not be refuted. A Socratic dialogue raged within him: How unusual was the resulting position if he followed that particular line? Would his opponent feel at sea? Would he (Bobby) feel comfortable playing it? How would he ground himself if he had to continue to play that variation until the endgame? Grandmaster Pal Benko, a former Hungarian freedom fighter who became a U.S. citizen and, like many other chess players, an investment broker, entered Bobby’s room at the Hotel Intercontinental in Curaçao shortly after Arthur Bisguier, Bobby’s second, had arrived.


pages: 524 words: 143,596

The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart


call centre, East Village, fear of failure, impulse control, land reform, Lao Tzu, Socratic dialogue, the medium is the message

Eric Cannon, for example, at only nineteen, was saving the world, and I at the age of only thirty-five, am again, as at age eight, in the process of destroying it... Chapter Thirty-four I had only one session with Eric Cannon to try to introduce him to dice therapy, because he and his father had reached some kind of agreement whereby Eric was to be released three days later. He was naturally keyed up about leaving and didn't listen carefully as I began a Socratic dialogue to get him into dice therapy. Unfortunately, the Socratic method entails a second person at least willing to grunt periodically and since Eric remained absolutely mute I gave up and told him in a twenty-minute lecture what a dicelife was all about. He became quite alert. When I'd finished he shook his head from side to side slowly. `How do you stay loose, Doc?' he asked. `How do you keep yourself on that side of the desk?'


pages: 459 words: 123,220

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam


correlation does not imply causation, deindustrialization, demographic transition, desegregation, ending welfare as we know it, epigenetics, full employment, George Akerlof, helicopter parent, impulse control, income inequality, index card, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, Occupy movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson, randomized controlled trial, school choice, Socratic dialogue, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the built environment, upwardly mobile, Walter Mischel, white flight, working poor

Upper-class parents have more egalitarian relations with their children and are more likely to use reasoning and guilt for discipline, whereas lower-class parents are more likely to use physical punishment, like whupping.51 Figure 3.1: Parental education and parenting objectives Source: Faith Matters national survey, 2006. These class differences show up in parents’ actual behavior, not just their avowed priorities. Simone can’t recall ever punishing Desmond (not even “no TV for a week”). Carl likens a parent sometimes to a soccer referee (“That’s when you pull that parental card and say, ‘This is it’ ”), but as his kids got older, he preferred Socratic dialogue (“Explain to me why you are doing that. Have you thought of this?”). By contrast, Stephanie, whose parents “beat the hell” out of her, believes in very tough love (“You can’t be soft. You gotta be hard, really hard”). Despite the undoubted fact that she “love[s her] kids to death,” her first response to disobedience is a beating. Even Elijah—who was beaten unconscious by his father after the arson episode, who displays remarkable insight into the costs of abusive parenting, and who talks about the importance of “say[ing] good words” to children—doesn’t display any doubts about how to handle a wayward son.


pages: 414 words: 119,116

The Health Gap: The Challenge of an Unequal World by Michael Marmot


active transport: walking or cycling, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Atul Gawande, Bonfire of the Vanities, Broken windows theory, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Carmen Reinhart, Celtic Tiger, centre right, clean water, congestion charging, correlation does not imply causation, Doha Development Round, epigenetics, financial independence, future of work, Gini coefficient, Growth in a Time of Debt, illegal immigration, income inequality, Indoor air pollution, Kenneth Rogoff, Kibera, labour market flexibility, lump of labour, Mahatma Gandhi, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, New Urbanism, obamacare, paradox of thrift, race to the bottom, Rana Plaza, RAND corporation, road to serfdom, Simon Kuznets, Socratic dialogue, structural adjustment programs, the built environment, The Spirit Level, trickle-down economics, urban planning, Washington Consensus, Winter of Discontent, working poor

I want to know, therefore, which approach to social justice helps provide the framework for understanding and the impetus for action on health inequities. My guide has been Professor Michael Sandel, although he doesn’t know it.4 He teaches a philosophy class at Harvard which apparently is regularly oversubscribed. Having seen him in action at my own university, I can see why. He uses everyday problems and controversies, examined in lucid Socratic dialogues with his audience, to draw out principles of political philosophy. He does not provide me with an answer to social justice and health but he provides a framework for thinking about it. Sandel distinguishes three approaches to social justice: •maximising welfare, •promoting freedom, and •rewarding virtue. It illuminates the cause of social justice and health to see how each of these might apply to avoidable health inequalities.


Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert


index card, nuclear winter, Socratic dialogue, telemarketer

Yes, but so is the Book of Job, and I don’t choose to sing the thing aloud every morning before breakfast. The Gurugita does have an impressive spiritual lineage; it’s an excerpt from a holy ancient scripture of Yoga called the Skanda Purana, most of which has been lost, and little of which has been translated out of Sanskrit. Like much of Yogic scripture, it’s written in the form of a conversation, an almost Socratic dialogue. The conversation is between the goddess Parvati and the almighty, all-encompassing god Shiva. Parvati and Shiva are the divine embodiment of creativity (the feminine) and consciousness (the masculine). She is the generative energy of the universe; he is its formless wisdom. Whatever Shiva imagines, Parvati brings to life. He dreams it; she materializes it. Their dance, their union (their Yoga), is both the cause of the universe and its manifestation.


pages: 559 words: 155,372

Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio Garcia Martinez


Airbnb, airport security, Amazon Web Services, Burning Man, Celtic Tiger, centralized clearinghouse, cognitive dissonance, collective bargaining, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, Emanuel Derman, financial independence, global supply chain, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, hive mind, income inequality, interest rate swap, intermodal, Jeff Bezos, Malcom McLean invented shipping containers, Mark Zuckerberg, Maui Hawaii, means of production, Menlo Park, minimum viable product, move fast and break things, Network effects, Paul Graham, performance metric, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, pre–internet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Sand Hill Road, Scientific racism, second-price auction, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, Snapchat, social graph, social web, Socratic dialogue, Steve Jobs, telemarketer, urban renewal, Y Combinator, éminence grise

.§ PG is the leading apostle, to not say messiah, of the startup gospel, and other than maybe Marc Andreeson, possesses the only prose style among techies that doesn’t trigger a literary gag reflex. His lucid essays dispense with any ego and pretense, and read like a how-to manual for the tech endeavor. Reflecting his background in philosophy and formal logic, his tightly argued disquisitions often read almost syllogistically, like a Socratic dialogue, as he dissects funding rounds, hiring, cash flow, and product development. Having forgotten the URL to his essay library, I entered “” into my browser. The minimalist website carried a picture of a geek in a weird orange-walled room, some links to press coverage, and one link that was tantalizingly titled “Apply to get funded. Deadline March 3, 2010.” Isn’t that something?


pages: 397 words: 110,130

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson


3D printing, 4chan, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, augmented reality, barriers to entry, Benjamin Mako Hill, butterfly effect, citizen journalism, Claude Shannon: information theory, conceptual framework, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of penicillin, Douglas Engelbart, Edward Glaeser,, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, Freestyle chess, Galaxy Zoo, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Henri Poincaré, hindsight bias, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, information retrieval, iterative process, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Netflix Prize, Nicholas Carr, patent troll, pattern recognition, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, Socratic dialogue, spaced repetition, telepresence, telepresence robot, The Nature of the Firm, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, transaction costs, Vannevar Bush, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, X Prize, éminence grise

“Questions are a really useful service for curing writer’s block,” as Charlie Cheever, the soft-spoken cofounder of Quora, tells me. “You might think you want to start a blog, but you wind up being afraid to write a blog post because there’s this sense of, who asked you?” Question answering provides a built-in, instant audience of at least one—the original asker. This is another legacy of Plato’s Socratic dialogues, in which Socrates asks questions of his debating partners (often faux-naive, concern-trolling ones, of course) and they pose questions of him in turn. Web authors long ago turned this into a literary form that has blossomed: the FAQ, a set of mock-Socratic questions authors pose to themselves as a way of organizing information. It’s an addictive habit, apparently. Academic research into question-answering sites has found that answering begets answering: people who respond to questions are likely to stick around for months and answer even more.


pages: 446 words: 578

The end of history and the last man by Francis Fukuyama


affirmative action, anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Bonfire of the Vanities, centre right, cuban missile crisis, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, European colonialism, F. W. de Klerk, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, Gini coefficient, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, Isaac Newton, Joseph Schumpeter, kremlinology, labour mobility, land reform, Mikhail Gorbachev, nuclear winter, open economy, post-industrial society, postindustrial economy, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Socratic dialogue, strikebreaker, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Others have asserted that for Hegel, the dialectic was a metaphysical device that allowed one to deduce the whole of hu­ man history f r o m a priori o r logical first principles, independently of empirical data and knowledge of real historical events. This view of the dialectic is untenable; a reading of Hegel's historical works will reveal that historical accident and contingency play a large role in t h e m . T h e Hegelian dialectic is similar to its Pla­ tonic predecessor, the Socratic dialogue, that is, a conversation between two h u m a n beings on some important subject like the nature of the good o r the meaning of justice. Such discussions a r e resolved on the basis of the principle of contradiction: that is, the less self-contradictory side wins, o r , if both a r e f o u n d in the course of the conversation to be self-contradictory, then a third position emerges free of the contradictions o f the initial two.


pages: 611 words: 186,716

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson


British Empire, clean water, dark matter, defense in depth, edge city, Just-in-time delivery, Mason jar, pattern recognition, sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, Socratic dialogue, South China Sea, the scientific method, Turing machine, wage slave

"With all due respect, Your Grace, I do not necessarily agree with your premise. New Atlantis has many fine artists." "Oh, come now. Why do all of them come from outside the tribe, as you did? Really, Mr. Hollywood, would you have taken the Oath at all if your prominence as a theatrical producer had not made it advantageous for you to do so?" "I think I will choose to interpret your question as part of a Socratic dialogue for my edification," Carl Hollywood said carefully, "and not as an allegation of insincerity on my part. As a matter of fact, just before I encountered you, I was enjoying my cigar, and looking about at London, and thinking about just how well it all suits me." "It suits you well because you are of a certain age now. You are a successful and established artist. The ragged bohemian life holds no charm for you anymore.


pages: 773 words: 220,140

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz


Berlin Wall, Fall of the Berlin Wall, fear of failure, invisible hand, nuclear winter, Own Your Own Home, Socratic dialogue

Belief illuminates the way a blindfold does! Are you listening, Jasper? Sometimes you'll be walking in the city late at night, and a woman walking in front of you will spin her head around and then cross the street simply because some members of your gender rape women and molest children!" Each class was equally bewildering, covering a diverse range of topics. He tried to encourage me to engage him in Socratic dialogues, but he wound up doing both parts himself. When there was a blackout during an electrical storm, Dad would light a candle and hold it under his chin to show me how the human face becomes a mask of evil with the right kind of lighting. He taught me that if I had to meet someone for an appointment, I must refuse to follow the "stupid human habit" of arbitrarily choosing a time based on fifteen-minute intervals.


pages: 855 words: 178,507

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick


Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, bank run, bioinformatics, Brownian motion, butterfly effect, citation needed, Claude Shannon: information theory, clockwork universe, computer age, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, discovery of DNA, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter,, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, Honoré de Balzac, index card, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Louis Daguerre, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, microbiome, Milgram experiment, Network effects, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, pre–internet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Simon Singh, Socratic dialogue, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, talking drums, the High Line, The Wisdom of Crowds, transcontinental railway, Turing machine, Turing test, women in the workforce

The language of an oral culture had to be wrenched into new forms; thus a new vocabulary emerged. Poems were seen to have topics—the word previously meaning “place.” They possessed structure, by analogy with buildings. They were made of plot and diction. Aristotle could now see the works of the bards as “representations of life,” born of the natural impulse toward imitation that begins in childhood. But he had also to account for other writing with other purposes—the Socratic dialogues, for example, and medical or scientific treatises—and this general type of work, including, presumably, his own, “happens, up to the present day, to have no name.”♦ Under construction was a whole realm of abstraction, forcibly divorced from the concrete. Havelock described it as cultural warfare, a new consciousness and a new language at war with the old consciousness and the old language: “Their conflict produced essential and permanent contributions to the vocabulary of all abstract thought.


pages: 1,020 words: 339,564

The confusion by Neal Stephenson


correlation does not imply causation, dark matter, Fellow of the Royal Society, Filipino sailors, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, out of africa, Socratic dialogue, South China Sea, spice trade, urban planning, web of trust

Leibniz considered it for a few moments, then said: “Say! How is the youngest son of the Duke of Parma faring these days? Has he recovered from that nasty rash?” “You have quite lost me, sir. I do not even know the name of the Duke of Parma, much less the medical condition of his youngest son.” “That was already obvious,” said Leibniz, “for he has no sons—two daughters only.” “I am beginning to feel like the Dim Interlocutor in a Socratic dialogue. What is your point?” “If you asked the Duke of Parma about Leibniz, he might recognize the name vaguely, but he would know nothing of Natural Philosophy, and of course it is absurd to think he would entrust a daughter to me, or you, on a journey. Almost all the nobility are like the Duke of Parma. They don’t know, or care about, us, and we know little of them.” “You are saying that I have fallen victim to observational bias?”