Allen Paltrow

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Dec 18

Galen Strawson – The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility

Galen Strawson restates the “Basic Argument” – Nonexistance of causes in themselves prevents full moral responsibility with or without physical determinism. A dedicated trace of a well trod swath of philosophical history. 

Philosophical Studies 75, 1994


Nov 24

PG on Entrepreneurship Classes in College

Too true

That’s what I’d advise college students to do, rather than trying to learn about “entrepreneurship.” “Entrepreneurship” is something you learn best by doing it. The examples of the most successful founders make that clear. What you should be spending your time on in college is ratcheting yourself into the future. College is an incomparable opportunity to do that. What a waste to sacrifice an opportunity to solve the hard part of starting a startup—becoming the sort of person who can have organic startup ideas—by spending time learning about the easy part. Especially since you won’t even really learn about it, any more than you’d learn about sex in a class. All you’ll learn is the words for things.

Paul Graham ”Startup Ideas”


Aug 25
“There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign agent.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, “History”

Aug 18

Comment on ‘A Cognitive Approach to the Teaching of Physics’

Everyone interested in the future of tech in education should check out the landmark paper Hunt & Minstrell, 1994 

A bunch of great analysis on how students come to a physics course with particular intuitions about the physics of the world around them, and how good instruction works with those intuitions.

Also, how the scientific method must be taught throughout the physics curriculum,  through the testing of intuitions, not as a philosophical tack-on after equations are memorized.

Finally, I find this humorous quote to be quite true of my alma mater: “There is a sort of social contract, in which a good instructor is one who tells the student, in a clear, unambiguous manner, what it is the student is supposed to memorize.” 

Too true of most of my public school education. 


Jul 20

Manzotti is what they call a radical externalist: for him consciousness is not safely confined within a brain whose neurons select and store information received from a separate world, appropriating, segmenting, and manipulating various forms of input. Instead, he offers a model he calls Spread Mind: consciousness is a process shared between various otherwise distinct processes which, for convenience’s sake we have separated out and stabilized in the words subject and object. Language, or at least our modern language, thus encourages a false account of experience.


His favorite example is the rainbow. For the rainbow experience to happen we need sunshine, raindrops, and a spectator. It is not that the sun and the raindrops cease to exist if there is no one there to see them. Manzotti is not a Bishop Berkeley. But unless someone is present at a particular point no colored arch can appear. The rainbow is hence a process requiring various elements, one of which happens to be an instrument of sense perception. It doesn’t exist whole and separate in the world nor does it exist as an acquired image in the head separated from what is perceived (the view held by the “internalists” who account for the majority of neuroscientists); rather, consciousness is spread between sunlight, raindrops, and visual cortex, creating a unique, transitory new whole, the rainbow experience. Or again: the viewer doesn’t see the world; he is part of a world process.

The Mind Outside My Head, Tim Parks,  NY Review of Books


Jul 15

Any serious educational theory must consist of two parts: a conception of the ends of life, and a science of psychological dynamics, i.e. of the laws of mental change. Two men who differ as to the ends of life cannot hope to agree about education.


I think modern educational theorists are inclined to attach too much importance to the negative virtue of not interfering with children, and too little to the positive merit of enjoying their company. If you have the sort of liking for children that many people have for horses or dogs, they will be apt to respond to your suggestions, and to accept prohibitions, perhaps with some good-humoured grumbling, but without resentment. It is no use to have the sort of liking that consists in regarding them as a field for valuable social endeavour, or what amounts to the same thing as an outlet for power-impulses. No child will be grateful for an interest in him that springs from the thought that he will have a vote to be secured for your party or a body to be sacrificed to king and country. The desirable sort of interest is that which consists in spontaneous pleasure in the presence of children, without any ulterior purpose. Teachers who have this quality will seldom need to interfere with children’s freedom, but will be able to do so, when necessary, without causing psychological damage.

Bertrand Russell, “Education and Discipline” 

School mathematics is often viewed as a pipeline for human resources that flows from childhood experiences to scientific careers. The layers in the mathematics curriculum correspond to increasingly constricted sections of pipe through which all students must pass if they are to progress in their mathematical and scientific education.

Any impediment to learning, of which there are many, restricts the flow in the entire pipeline. Like cholesterol in the blood, poor mathematics instruction can clog the educational arteries of the nation.

Lynn Arthur Steen, "The Future of Mathematics Education" 

Jul 8
“"Always produce" is also a heuristic for finding the work you love. If you subject yourself to that constraint, it will automatically push you away from things you think you’re supposed to work on, toward things you actually like. "Always produce" will discover your life’s work the way water, with the aid of gravity, finds the hole in your roof.” Paul Graham

Jun 6

Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success.

The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.

His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work.

Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question.

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

May 13
Found in Firestone

Found in Firestone