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Bloggingheads
02-11-2008, 08:31 AM

kohl
02-11-2008, 10:09 AM
Awww, cute. Nice glasses, guys. Do you two shop at the same Lens-Crafters?

Tao Jones
02-11-2008, 11:14 AM
Another thought-provoking diavlog. Wilkinson's been on a roll. I think this is a nice complimentary video on how happiness works Neurologically: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7822696446273926158

bjkeefe
02-11-2008, 11:20 AM
I expected to spend a lot of time rolling my eyes during this once I heard the intro, since I am impatient with the false quantification of happiness*, but it turned out to be quite an enjoyable conversation.

I agree with TJ: Will's been consistently good, especially as of late.

* I am not saying there's no worth to studying happiness, and attempting to (learn how to) measure it. I just think we're currently at a stage in this area analogous to physicists trying to refine the phlogiston model. So, I say, keep studying the topic, but ease up on the premature claims.

Namazu
02-11-2008, 12:08 PM
Awww, cute. Nice glasses, guys. Do you two shop at the same Lens-Crafters?
Regular viewers of "Free Will" may suspect they're a signaling device which allows Libertarian sympathizers to recognize one another in public. If the information isn't privileged, I'd be grateful if Will could clear this up, since I need to replace my specs soon (or submit to the "Giant Laser").

Simon Willard
02-11-2008, 01:07 PM
Speaking of matching glasses, did you notice the matching glasses in the Yglesias/McArdle diavlog? And check out the Zimmer/Ward diavlog (Feb 1). I smell conspiracy.

TwinSwords
02-11-2008, 01:24 PM
I agree with TJ: Will's been consistently good, especially as of late.

I agree about Will. I think what makes him so enjoyable is he's not constantly grinding his own ideological axe. He seems to be more interesting in having an interesting conversation and exploring interesting ideas. He shows great respect for each of his co-hosts. He tries to help the other person look good and seems to genuinely want them to succeed, even if they are advancing ideas he doesn't necessarily agree with. These are truly remarkable and rare traits for any human being.

You might says it's not a contest of Wills. Er, wills.

Wonderment
02-11-2008, 04:11 PM
Does anyone have the reference/link to article/whatever? I'd like to read the original.

I agree: Will has been fantastic the past few weeks!

InJapan
02-11-2008, 04:41 PM
"They're going to edit it later..." - famous last words on BHTV.

On the hedonistic refugees - there is something to that. Adds a wrinkle to the whole immigration debate, too. My own experience has shown me the value of living in another culture. Yes, the Japanese do not usually do well on happiness tests, yet for many people it can be a very fulfilling place to live. I continue to question the method of measuring happiness by recording self professions of said state - what happens when one's culture makes it paramount to not be public about private affairs?

What if "happiness" is nothing more than a particular arrangement of brain chemicals? If a pill is devised to put a brain into such a state, then have we achieved something worthwhile?

ogieogie
02-11-2008, 04:59 PM
As has become usual since the great Bloggingheads site "improvement", I had to struggle through the technical difficulties to hear the diavlog.

Stopping and starting, stopping altogether.

The old site weren't broke, so they fixed it.

Wonderment
02-11-2008, 05:05 PM
If, as Eric suggests, a modicum of irrationality is a necessary ingredient of happiness (say astrology, for example) isn't it then a rational strategy in the pursuit of happiness to be "a little" irrational?

In other words, if a benign belief in fairies, God, lucky numbers or karma is conducive to happiness, wouldn't it be counterproductive (and perhaps even dangerous) to eradicate the irrational?

What does that tell us about the position of "New Atheists," some of whom believe mildy irrational beliefs "enable" fanatics?

bjkeefe
02-11-2008, 07:18 PM
Wonderment:

What does that tell us about the position of "New Atheists," some of whom believe mildy irrational beliefs "enable" fanatics?

You rang?

Truth be told, I'm not completely against minor irrationalities. I think only unusually gifted people can simultaneously reject all irrationalities and have friends. Most of the rigorously rational people I've met are kind of eye-rolling to be around for long periods of time.

On the other hand, it's worth adopting a public stance of "ban all irrationality" for political purposes, especially when dealing with fundamentalist religious types and other True Believers in Woo. Keeps the Overton Window centered, if nothing else.

I hereby confess that I occasionally:

o anthropomorphize my cats

o thank my car for a trip well-traveled

o speak of "good karma"

o bring an umbrella expressly to prevent it from raining, and other examples that I like to summarize as Putting Murphy's Law To Work For You

o avoid food with additives while smoking a pack of cigarettes a day

So far, these seem harmless enough.

Knock wood.

Eastwest
02-11-2008, 07:42 PM
First of all: Great Diavlog topic and thanks to Will for broadening the spectrum of meaningful issues treated on BHTV.

Will's "take" on the topic did seem relatively shallow, however, always seeming to needing to reduce happiness to strict association with increased GDP while dismissing the happiness of the religious to merely the issue of being able to satisfy social instincts.

Eric's take seemed to get much closer, especially when he finally took the analysis to the quality of introspection and the relinquishing of self-obsessive thought.

But still, the entire discussion seemed a wee dim in failing to directly recognize and focus on the most fundamental related facts:

Happiness is:

1) Never absolute,
2) Is always temporary,
3) Is really nothing but a relative (and transient) diminution of suffering,
4) Is certainly not geographic,
5) And is for the most part subjective, dependent on the degree to which one can relinquish attachments to "self," appurtenances of self, and "wants." (Some of this is plagiarized conceptually from the Buddha, though it's also my personal experience.)

Thus, once controlled for equality of health, domicile, nutrition, and indulgence of basic appetites to the level of basic satisfaction, GDP then finally becomes irrelevant. (Though the ever-more-wealthy will always over-report their happiness as a matter of pride, this even while having to see their "shrink" twice per week, hence, out of ego-protective denial, lying.)

Eric's take on "relinquishing thinking" really got closest. Almost Buddhist.

Oh, and one more thing: Will's claiming of the religious that their supposed "happiness" is just an issue of social engagement is perhaps true in a significant number of cases, but the generalization is undeserved. The deeper happiness and satisfaction of those devoted to a spiritually-guided relationship to thoughts, words, and deeds is rather a product of an often justified feeling of having discovered how to lead a life helpful to others and less obsessed with self, as distinct from the culturally-inculcated norm (at least in first-world consumerist culture) of looking futiley for happiness as a function of the capacity to buy more and more "toys."

EW

bjkeefe
02-11-2008, 07:48 PM
PS: In all serious, I think there remains a huge difference in between knowing one "believes" irrational things, and believing irrational things and acting as though these things are completely rational.

Wonderment
02-11-2008, 09:09 PM
You rang?

I know. I was on the verge of calling this topic "Bait for Brendan and BlogginNoggin," but I then realized any old ringtone would do.

On the other hand, it's worth adopting a public stance of "ban all irrationality" for political purposes, especially when dealing with fundamentalist religious types and other True Believers in Woo.

At the risk of being called hypocritical?

But morality aside, the problem may be that we may have a real need for the irrational. (Where is our evolutionary psychologist-in-chief when we need him?)

False hope (audacious or not) may be a terrific adaptation among hominids.

Another biological explanation may have to do with the utility of creating and believing in our narratives (enhances intra-group bonding and inter-group xenophobia).

While skepticism can also help social animals survive (reality check!), a perpetual skeptic -- always challenging hope -- would be a pariah.

DIGRESSION: Maybe the "public stance" you talk about should be a privacy standard: hold whatever irrational beliefs you please, but just keep them to yourself, out of the political sphere.

That's the wisdom of strict separation of church and state. The Republican drift toward "faith-based" governance is very troubling in this regard. The Romney Mormon speech and the whole Huckabee campaign continue to push the envelope on church/state. I really hope Obama keeps Jesus out of his campaign.

bjkeefe
02-11-2008, 10:39 PM
Wonderment:

... it's worth adopting a public stance of "ban all irrationality" for political purposes ...At the risk of being called hypocritical?

No. Hypocrisy is saying the opposite of what one believes. I am advocating a simplified version of my beliefs, a bumper sticker, so to speak.

False hope (audacious or not) may be a terrific adaptation among hominids.

Practically anything may be. Just raising the supposition hardly convinces me, though. It seems to me that lots of irrationality stems from confusing correlation with causation. I'll grant that being quick to notice correlations was/is probably helpful for survival, but it may just as plausibly be that this ability is vestigial, or at least, causes nearly as many problems as it solves, once society gets past avoiding predators and poison berries.

Another biological explanation may have to do with the utility of creating and believing in our narratives (enhances intra-group bonding and inter-group xenophobia).

You say that like it's a good thing. It might have been back in the day when small clans competed for hunting territory and the like. I think it's safe to say those "enhancements" are counterproductive in today's world.

While skepticism can also help social animals survive (reality check!), a perpetual skeptic -- always challenging hope -- would be a pariah.

I agree somewhat. As I said in my last comment, hyper-rational people are often dreary to be around. Pariah is a bit farther than I'd go, however. Just because I don't want to party with someone whose bogofilter is always set to maximum sensitivity doesn't mean I wouldn't value that person as a co-worker. In fact, many workplaces are improved by the presence of a few people who refuse to take anything on faith -- keeps the rest of the workers honest.

DIGRESSION: Maybe the "public stance" you talk about should be a privacy standard: hold whatever irrational beliefs you please, but just keep them to yourself, out of the political sphere.

Sure. You don't see me railing against astrologers, do you? (Now that St. Ronnie is out of office, I mean.) I wouldn't care much if people wanted to treat the Bible as literal truth if they didn't try to impose their beliefs on me and my country.

I really hope Obama keeps Jesus out of his campaign.

Yeah. I don't like this aspect of him. On the other hand, it doesn't seem to dominate his thinking, and realistically, a politician has to do a little genuflecting to win most national offices.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-11-2008, 11:17 PM
I initially thought Will was just getting Aristotle wrong here:
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/8671?in=00:14:33

If you interpret "just-because values" as "things that are valued for their own sake," not merely as a means to something else. Then Aristotle definitely recognizes that many things are valued for their own sake, not just happiness. But he points out that they are ALSO valued as constituents of happiness. He thinks we seek virtue for its own sake AND ALSO for the sake of happiness. Aristotle views happiness, not as the only intrinsic good, but as the most complete intrinsic good. If you are completely virtuous, you have something that you value for its own sake, but you might lack other components of happiness, and therefore have reason to want more (e.g., you might be in pain and want not to be in pain). If you are completely happy, in Aristotle's view, then you have virtue and whatever else you need to make life worthwhile: you lack nothing.
Happiness for Aristotle is not the only thing of intrinsic value, but it is that end that regulates trade-offs between various intrinsic goods.

But it occurred to me that Will may be aware of this. Aristotle assumes that it is possible to make rational trade-offs between intrinsic goods (beauty and pleasure, for instance). And I think Aristotle assumes that practical reason has a means-end structure, so that, if reason tells us to trade a certain amount of good A for a certain amount of good B, then this must be because there exists some further end for the sake of which both are prusued. Will could be denying one or other of these two claims. It seems plausible that we can rationally choose between intrinsic goods.
But after Kant, it is possible for us to conceive of principles of practical reason that are not grounded in some prior end -- principles of practical reason that apply quite independently of what you are aiming at. But this Kantian view of practical reason is itself very controversial. If Will is denying Aristotle's assumption that practical reason is teleological (but NOT instrumental) all the way down, he may be right, but it goes too far to say that Aristotle is committing a fallacy when he makes this assumption -- because both the Aristotelian position and the Kantian position are rather obscure and both are controversial.

When Will says that you might choose to make a beautiful symphony because it's beautiful, not because it would make you happy, I think he's assuming a very subjectivist conception of happiness that Aristotle would not have accepted. I might well choose to create a beautiful symphony at the price of more pain and less pleasure or felt-satisfaction. But this doesn't refute Aristotle since he doesn't regard pleasure or felt-satisfaction with happiness. Aristotle's conception of happiness is close to "self-actualization", a goal that combines "subjective" and "objective" elements -- and combines them organically, not just as a kind of hodge-podge of elements. Another word for "self-actualization" might be "meaning" -- another term that combines "inner" and "outer" elements in an organic way.
If you choose to make a beautiful symphony at the price of a good deal of pain, isn't that because you think such a creation makes your own life more worthwhile, more meaningful, even though less pleasant?

One way or another, I think Will is unfair to Aristotle.

Tao Jones
02-11-2008, 11:18 PM
Oh, and one more thing: Will's claiming of the religious that their supposed "happiness" is just an issue of social engagement is perhaps true in a significant number of cases, but the generalization is undeserved. The deeper happiness and satisfaction of those devoted to a spiritually-guided relationship to thoughts, words, and deeds is rather a product of an often justified feeling of having discovered how to lead a life helpful to others and less obsessed with self, as distinct from the culturally-inculcated norm (at least in first-world consumerist culture) of looking futiley for happiness as a function of the capacity to buy more and more "toys."

That's a great point. An atheist counterpoint to that would be that one doesn't need religion to reach that kind of life. Bob Wright makes a strong case for helping others and detachment from the self in his books, and Dawkins would argue that these impulses can be found in many cultures regardless of their beliefs or lack thereof (I would cite modern Japan as an excellent example).

That said, if someone is inspired to such a life through religion, more power to them.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-11-2008, 11:42 PM
I have to agree. The Flash Player certainly has made me less happy!
Every few seconds it stops and starts. What causes this? Is there some way that the problem can be solved for all future diavlogs, or does each one have to start out like this, and maybe eventually get fixed?
Or is just me (and ogieogie)? Is my computer just slow or something? But it runs Youtube just fine.
If it can't be solved, I vote we go back to the old player!

Eastwest
02-12-2008, 12:50 AM
RE: TJ's -
An atheist counterpoint to that would be that one doesn't need religion to reach that kind of life.
I'd not suggest "religion" is a requirement for that, but I do think seeing existence and living a life as essentially "sacred" endeavors (hence "spiritual") is at least "almost" a requirement for it.

In the religions which don't promote hatred toward "out-groups," i.e. in those which aren't mono-theistic or which have reformed their "fire-and-brimstone" theism, religion actually can be, and in fact often is, an instigator to the requisite self-reflection essential to that degree of careful attention to each ensuing moment and the secondary impacts one life has upon the world.

It's for this reason that I tag Will's take on the matter as seeming somewhat "shallow" and dismissive. But, really, this barely warrants a "parking ticket." Certainly not a moving violation.

EW

piscivorous
02-12-2008, 01:33 AM
That's the wisdom of strict separation of church and state. The Republican drift toward "faith-based" governance is very troubling in this regard. The Romney Mormon speech and the whole Huckabee campaign continue to push the envelope on church/state. I really hope Obama keeps Jesus out of his campaign. While I agree that religion has recently been playing too large a role in politics lately and strongly support the separation of church and state, I can't wholly dismiss "faith-based" programs as bad. In some instances "faith-based" programs are an effective and efficient means of delivering necessary services and in some instances deserve consideration of funding to provide those services.

Senator Obama will have to keep Jesus out of the campaign, given the controversial nature of the church he belongs to, but I don't think the Republicans will let him.

testostyrannical
02-12-2008, 02:24 AM
Give me the vat!

bjkeefe
02-12-2008, 06:07 AM
As has become usual since the great Bloggingheads site "improvement", I had to struggle through the technical difficulties to hear the diavlog.

Stopping and starting, stopping altogether.

I am experiencing similar problems.

I am going to start a new thread (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=1653) in the General Comments forum. I hope people will chime in there, and that BH.tv support will take note.

seyoyo
02-13-2008, 10:23 AM
I have always believed that happiness surveys generally reflect the preconceptions of its conductors. Hence, Scandinavia always does well despite rather high rates of suicide.

On the other hand, Africans are almost never mentioned at all. This whole diavlog, and in his book, Africa is not looked at at all.

As someone who had a very very happy childhood in Africa I think this bias makes the discipline of studying Africa less interesting to me.

You_had_me_at_hello
02-13-2008, 05:10 PM
I don't know if anyone is going to be reading this;
I have never posted a comment to a blog before.

But I would like to talk about happiness for a minute. (Now I didn't see the entire episode, so maybe this was mentioned):

Too me, the geography of happiness is not in a physical place.

It's always in the region called Love.

Pure, unselfed, unselfish, self-forgetting, self-sacrificing, kind, forgiving, LOVE.

Love. That can sing in the rain.

That endures incredible hardships and they feel easy and light because Love
makes them easy.

Where you might be physically in misery inducing situation --- apparently --- but have never felt better or more joyful because of the Love that fills your heart and mind, and people wonder why you are so happy.

Love is where it is at.

uncle ebeneezer
02-13-2008, 06:11 PM
You (3) are not alone. I've been experiencing that issue for a while since the "updgrade" but figured it might be my computer or the network here at my work. If I was a superstitious guy (or conspiracy theorist) I might think that the "Gods of Wright" are punishing us for the transgessions of a few nasty commenters.

EastWest, very nice...you sound like a true Buddhist in spirit (I think you mentioned that before). I'm sorry that in this country that unfortunately disqualifies you from running for President.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-13-2008, 06:12 PM
Like a lot of other concepts that cause philosophical problems, I think the concept of happiness sits on the dividing line between "inner" and "outer", "subjective" and "objective". Knowledge is another concept like that. On the "inner" side, if you know a certain proposition, then you must believe it. On the "outer"/"objective" side, the belief must in fact be true. But knowledge isn't just true belief -- the belief and its truth have to be strongly connected in some way -- this connection in the case of knowledge is the requirement that your true belief be JUSTIFIED. But a connection that straddles this inner/outer divide seems to give us trouble. Does the connection sit on the subjective side of the line? The trouble with that is that, your justification could always be subjectively as good as possible, yet you could always be a brain in a vat. Is it all on the objective side of the line -- this leads to other problems.

In the case of happiness, if we identify happiness entirely with a condition of subjective experience, then the man in the experience machine who only thinks he has just won a gruelling marathon is no less happy than the man who has actually won that marathon; the man whose family really loves him is no happier (and hence, given a natural inference, no better off) than the man whose family hates him but manages to act loving.

On the other hand, it seems an outrage to commonsense to say that someone who doesn't lead the kind of life we approve has a life which is "objectively disordered" and although he gives every sign of being happy (even though he is not deceived about the nature of his life) he is not "really" happy.

One attempt to bridge this gap is the suggestion that happiness is preference satisfaction. On this view, what you subjectively want determines what happiness is for you, but whether or not you ACTUALLY got waht you wanted or just THINK you got it makes a difference to your happiness. This escapes the experience machine problem. But in some ways it seems to go too far in the objective direction. Sometimes we get what we want and it doesn't give us any feeling of satisfaction, and when this happens we tend to think it shows that we were wrong to want it, and that it doesn't really make us happy. But if the implied standard seems to push us back toward the hedonistic view that what matters ultimately is our FEELING of satisfaction.

However, we can resist the fall back into hedonism if we regard felt satisfaction as, not happiness itself, but rather a fairly reliable SIGN of happiness. Happiness itself would be like the actual state of health, while felt satisfaction would be like the feeling of health. You can feel healthy even as cancer starts eating away at your liver. Why not admit that the man in the experience machine FEELS happy, but really is not all that happy.
This might seem too much like the case where the Pope tells me that I'm "objectively disordered" and therefore not truly happy. But the test would be this: how would the man in the Experience Machine react if he knew he were in the machine. If he would still feel just as happy, then maybe he really is happy. But if he feels that in that case his life would be a sham, then we have good evidence that he is not actually all that happy in the machine, even though he doesn't know he's in there and believes we've just given him an entertaining thought experiment.

Not sure whether the above seems related to the diavlog. I see it as central to the diavlog, and it occasionally makes an explicit appearance, but too often the participants talk as though we all knew what happiness is.

uncle ebeneezer
02-13-2008, 06:53 PM
Agreed...or Eric's tax-deductible hash ;-)

Bloggin' Noggin
02-13-2008, 07:01 PM
Will flashed his Kindle at the end of the diavlog. I've been contemplating getting one. Does anyone here have one? If so, how do you like it?

bjkeefe
02-13-2008, 07:02 PM
BN:

Not sure whether the above seems related to the diavlog. I see it as central to the diavlog, and it occasionally makes an explicit appearance, but too often the participants talk as though we all knew what happiness is.

I don't know if it relates, but it certainly pertains. (Those words are not exactly synonymous to me.)

You express a lot of the problems that cause me to be impatient with the current efforts to quantify happiness. On the surface of it, and for many layers down, happiness is yet another one of those things about which everyone can say "I have it" or "I don't have it," or more to my point, "I know it when I see it," but upon which few can agree. Especially if more than one culture is involved.

bjkeefe
02-13-2008, 07:05 PM
uncle eb:
You (3) are not alone. I've been experiencing that issue for a while since the "updgrade" ...

If you feel like it, maybe you'd like to add some details in this thread (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=1653).

I'm hoping we can gather a good collection of user experiences, which may help the site admins debug the problems.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-13-2008, 10:30 PM
BN:

I don't know if it relates, but it certainly pertains. (Those words are not exactly synonymous to me.)

You express a lot of the problems that cause me to be impatient with the current efforts to quantify happiness. On the surface of it, and for many layers down, happiness is yet another one of those things about which everyone can say "I have it" or "I don't have it," or more to my point, "I know it when I see it," but upon which few can agree. Especially if more than one culture is involved.

This raises the political issue that arose between Will and Eric. Eric points out that GDP doesn't measure the quality of people's lives, and if you try to maximize GDP, you might maximize it at the expense of greater happiness in some cases.
That seems right, but I think you definitely don't want the government attempting to maximize happiness directly, since the individual should have the right (and responsibility) to determine what happiness for him consists in. Otherwise, you end up with something like Huxley's dystopia in Brave New World, where the citizens are engineered to want what will make them all maximally happy by the World Controller's definition -- or you end up with government seeming to fail constantly at its ends because those damned citizens keep choosing unwisely for themselves.

Rawls attempts to solve this problem by defining a set of fairly objective "primary goods" that will maximize people's freedom of choice and freedom to work out their own conception of the good life (education, food, shelter, etc.). Once maximal equal liberty is assured for all, one should maximize the primary goods available to the worst off group in society, even if this doesn't make people maximally happy.

Rawls's approach deals with the problem that GDP is merely an aggregate measure by requiring that the position of the worst off be maximized, but he avoids the paternalistic tendencies of the utilitarianism of Mustapha Mond and Robert Moses by focusing on primary goods instead of happiness. Will apparently agrees to this Rawlsian view, but doesn't believe the gov't can do much better in maximizing the position of the worst off than simply to maximize GDP. I doubt I'd agree with him there.

bjkeefe
02-13-2008, 10:53 PM
I wish I had one. If they were about half the price and/or if you could "rent" books, rather than having to buy them, I'd have gotten one by now.

bjkeefe
02-13-2008, 11:00 PM
BN:

I also liked when Eric pointed out that GDP is measured, in part, because it was something that we know how to measure. I was about to post a comment to this effect, but he finally got around to saying it himself.

Rawls attempts to solve this problem by defining a set of fairly objective "primary goods" that will maximize people's freedom of choice and freedom to work out their own conception of the good life (education, food, shelter, etc.). Once maximal equal liberty is assured for all, one should maximize the primary goods available to the worst off group in society, even if this doesn't make people maximally happy.

Doesn't sound like anything I'd have a problem with, although I do think there is a place for education. in the sense of cluing people in that what they think makes them happy (in the short term) might not be something that makes them happy in the long term. I'm not for compelling people to eat broccoli or banning trans-fats, but I'd like there to be some counterweights to the advertisers, a group that preys on the misguided and ill-informed.

I guess I'm a little paternalistic in that sense, but I only want to go as far as giving people every opportunity to learn before they choose.

Me&theboys
02-17-2008, 03:38 PM
I am having flash problems, too, AND I have a Kindle. I recommend it most highly. The instant gratification of one's desire for a book is especially seductive, as is the free sample download, if you prefer to engage in some self-restraint. I am not usually an instant gratification junkie, but it turns out that I am when it comes to books. My guess is that Amazon is banking on exploiting this weakness among biblioholics. Also, the ability to carry around multiple books at a time, each available to read whenever the appropriate mood strikes, is worth every penny the Kindle costs. I love to own books almost as much as I love to read them (in fact, I probably own more than I've read, though I do intend to read them all eventually), and I thought that would discourage me from enjoying ebooks, but it does not. That said, I like to underline and write in the margins of non-fiction books, as well as refer back and forth to the notes, etc., so I find the Kindle better suited to fiction. Although you can highlight and write notes on the Kindle - so maybe I would like the Kindle for non-fiction, too, if I gave it a try. For now, I've just loaded it with fiction or light non-fiction (Tim Harford's new book for example). Most of the books I have bought have cost less than the standard $9.99 - that seems to be the price for books where there is no paperback in print. Many classics are available free from project gutenberg and other sites, and for $1.00 from Amazon. I upload pdf docs to the free Mobipocket Reader software, which converts them to a format that is Kindle compatible, then I email them to my Kindle account for downloading to my Kindle. Kindle does not yet convert pdfs well, but it does convert word docs just fine. As you have probably read in reviews, the next page and previous page buttons on the Kindle are very large and easily pushed by mistake. I assume this will be fixed in some future version. In the meantime, I managed to disable the most irritating one with some cardboard and tape. The Kindle is the easiest thing in the world to use. My parents figured out how to use it in minutes, which is saying a lot since my Dad thinks AOL is an operating system and that his computer has crashed when the internet is down. This is not a device for people who have difficulty tolerating flawed devices - it is a device for people who love books, love to read, and will embrace an imperfect device if it enhances their love of books and reading in any way. The Kindle does this, so I love it, despite its flaws.

bjkeefe
02-17-2008, 06:15 PM
Me&:

The next time you log in, you should change your password. I think Jeff Bezos figured out your current one.

Just kidding. Thanks for the detailed review, although now I'm a little mad at you for tempting me to spend $400.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-17-2008, 07:11 PM
Thanks for the Kindle review, Me&! I've put in my order. I probably ought to wait till the next generation, but I don't think I can wait. I think I'll feel, like you, that it's a whole lot better to have the flawed version than to wait.
Can't wait till I get it, but I guess I have to, since it's on back order.

Me&theboys
02-17-2008, 07:51 PM
I think only unusually gifted people can simultaneously reject all irrationalities and have friends.

Brendan, I'm adding this to my quote book. Something to mull on when confronting irrationality. Do you think one can simultaneously reject all irrationality and keep a job? That's my dilemma!

bjkeefe
02-17-2008, 08:16 PM
Do you think one can simultaneously reject all irrationality and keep a job? That's my dilemma!

Sorry to hear the crazies are getting you down.

I can conceive of jobs where your hope might be possible, but unless you're willing to switch to one where you don't have to deal with people, and/or you're some kind of rock star researcher, engineer, programmer, or financial wizard, you're probably condemned to accepting some irrationality along with your paycheck. The good news, however, is that making such a decision, on your part, can be viewed as entirely rational.

Amanda
02-18-2008, 03:32 PM
One of the things I enjoy the most is being able to upload word and pdf docs to my Kindle to read later - saves me from wasting all that paper printing them out and taking them with me or being tied to my computer to read them. That, in my opinion, is what makes the Kindle so valuable. I can read journal articles, work-related documents, philosophy dissertations, etc. while drinking coffee at Starbucks or on a airplane or wherever. I have not yet subscribed to any blogs or magazines. May have to succumb to that temptation eventually. Apparently, you can use it for gmail, too - I've not tried that either, yet. I debated waiting for the new version, but who knows when that will come out and who knows what flaws will be fixed and what new ones devised. So better to jump now and start enjoying. Mine took about 4 weeks to be delivered - and that was over xmas. To make the waiting easier, you can go ahead and buy kindle books now and it will either come pre-loaded with them or ready to download as soon as you turn it on. (I'm the devil on your left shoulder, Brendan!) Let me know how you like yours once you get it, BN.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-18-2008, 04:34 PM
Thanks for the further feedback, Amanda. I'm glad to know that you got yours relatively quickly. And the pdfs would be great -- lots of papers to be gotten over the web in that format -- and it would be nice not to have to print them and have them hanging about in my bag or around the house until Iread them.
Buy the books ahead of time? Sounds like you're the devil on my shoulder too. I may not quite go that far. But I'm certainly going to be browsing the Kindle books until the thing actually arrives.
I will let you know how I like it.
Philosophy dissertations? For fun, or for work?

Me&theboys
02-18-2008, 05:20 PM
Philosophy dissertations? For fun, or for work?

Definitely not for work - waxing philosophical is not something anyone I work with seems to be inclined toward, unfortunately. That's why I visit BH.tv and read your posts! Actually, that was just a tongue in cheek reference to Joshua Greene's philosophy dissertation, the link to which I sent you a while ago. I do upload a lot of philosophy and psychology reading to my Kindle, though, some of them from links you've provided in these forums. I just uploaded several papers from Knobe's web site. And from Jonathan Haidt's web site. He's just started a site called civil politics or something like that - there's a link to it from his UVA web site - you might be interested in it. The Kindle does not have a good data organizing system, unfortunately. It's either by author or title or most recently downloaded, so having lots of items on it gets kind of overwhelming. Hopefully they can address that in an upgrade that we early adopters will receive. Kindle is very eager for feedback on how to improve things, so I'm optimistic they'll release upgrades in time.

Me&theboys
02-18-2008, 06:30 PM
Thinking can make you miserable? http://www.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/8671?in=01:02:54&out=1:04:17 Say it ain't so. Seriously, I doubt anyone who is inclined toward thinking would be happy pursuing a life of less thinking - or even be able to. I'm a habitual thinker and don't have the faintest idea how to think less - though perhaps drugs may be the ticket. Besides, thinking is fun. I think thinkers are made happy by thinking - it certainly can push my dopamine buttons, and that's synonymous with happiness for many. Maybe the outcome of thinking can make one less happy, but then, so can knowledge, which is often the outcome of thinking. Ignorance may well be bliss, but at the end of the day, I'm happier being less "happy" and smarter than a 5th grader than more "happy" and oblivious to the fact that Hungary is a country.

bjkeefe
02-18-2008, 11:46 PM
Me&:

I agree with you -- the idea that thinking makes you miserable is a crock. But only mostly. There are no free lunches, and the reason that ignorance is bliss has attained cliché status is that, as with all other clichés, it carries a grain of truth. Being able to think means, necessarily in an imperfect world, that more bad thoughts will cross one's mind.

I'm not saying I'd make the tradeoff to be dumber, but I do think there are costs to being smarter. And yes, that is one of the reasons why drugs remain popular, along with TV, slasher novels, and religion: it's nice to be able to turn the machinery off from time to time.