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An old psychology professor of mine once gave an anecdote of a tiger that was kept in a cylindrical room during its early phases of development. It grew up to have a warped sense of spatial awareness and was unable to function properly for the most part. I don't know the details surrounding the story, so I can't confirm it right now, but I'll see if I can find the study (assuming it does exist).


My knowledge of women's history in the high middle ages wouldn't be very good. However, as an Irish archaeologist, I can tell you that the chattel slavery of women in early medieval Ireland was so abundant that a female slave or cumal was treated as a unit of currency, being equivalent to 6 to 8 séoit (one of which is equal to the value of a three-year-old heifer). If I were still a student I would be able to find you more academic sources, but I've lost access to most of the journals I used to use. From what I remember, this practice did fall into decline after the arrival of Normans, though this generally attributed to a decline in economic significance rather than a shift in social conscience. If you can access J-Stor, "Lest the Lowliest Be Forgotten: Locating the Impoverished in Early Medieval Ireland" by JW Boyle will provide you with good background on this. I know it's not exactly what you were looking for, but it as an area which I am, to some extent, qualified to talk about.


Ah. I see what my mistake was now. It was just a recommendation by AngryParsley. It wasn't anything official. As I'm still something of a newbie here, I figured it was said by someone with a bit more clout.


Wasn't a temporary moratorium called on smac quotes recently? I have to admit this was one of my favourites from it though.


Interesting point, but I would say there are areas of politics that don't really come under "ethics". "What is currently the largest political party in the USA?" is a question about politics and demographics, but I wouldn't call it a question of population ethics. I'd say that you could probably put anything from the subset of "population ethics" into the broad umbrella of "politics" though.

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I just noticed how poorly written part of my above comment was. I think I've fixed it now. I'm glad to see a positive response to it at least, since it shows that people care more about substance than the clarity of writing, which seems more than a little apt when talking about Wittgenstein. It also indicates that I haven't been entirely misled in my interpretation of a notoriously difficult philosopher.

As much as it might be fun to pretend that my strange writing style was intended as a way of reaching people with "similar thoughts" in a truly Wittgensteinian sense, it was not. It was a boring old mistype. I am nowhere near smart enough to pull that off.

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I'm by no means an expert on this, but I was under the impression that Wittgenstein meant that language was an insufficient tool to express the "things we must pass over in silence", e.g. metaphysics, religion, ethics etc., but that he nevertheless believed that these were the only things worth talking about. My understanding was that he believed that language is only good for dealing with the world of hard facts and the natural sciences and, while we cannot use it to express certain things, some of these things might be "shown" by different means, in line with his comment that the unwritten part of the tractatus was the most important part.

This conclusion from one of hist lectures largely sums up how I would understand his view of many of the "things we must pass over in silence".

"This running against the walls of our cage is perfectly, absolutely hopeless. Ethics so far as it springs from the desire to say something about the ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolute valuable, can be no science. What it says does not add to our knowledge in any sense. But it is a document of a tendency in the human mind which I personally cannot help respecting deeply and I would not for my life ridicule it."

This is largely the way I have been led to interpret it through reading other people's interpretations and it is probably wrong, but I thought that I'd try and express it here, because I do have a strong desire to expand my knowledge of Wittgensteinian philosophy. One thing which I do think is quite likely though, is that Wittgenstein would consider any written "interpretation" of his work to ultimately be "nonsense" insofar as any written part of it is concerned.


When you put it like that, it actually sounds a lot like the Kantian notion of heteronomy versus autonomy.


If you were looking for a physics forum, this is probably more along the lines of what you were looking for.


This prompted a memory of something I read in one of my undergrad psychology books a few years ago, which is probably referencing the same study, though using two different examples and one the same as the above example (though the phrasing is slightly different). Here is the extract:

Hindsight (After-the-Fact understanding)

Many people erroneously believe that psychology is nothing more than common sense. "I knew that all along!" or "They had to do a study to find that out?" are common responses to some psychological research. For example, decades ago a New York Times book reviewer criticized a report titled The American Soldier (Stouffer et al., 1949a,1949b), which summarized the results of a study of the attitudes and behavior of U.S. soldiers during World War II. The reviewer blasted the government for spending a lot of money to "tell us nothing we don't already know."

  1. Compared to White soldiers, Black soldiers were less motivated to become officers.

  2. During basic training, soldiers from rural areas had higher morale and adapted better than soldiers from large cities.

  3. Soldiers in Europe were more motivated to return home while the fighting was going on than they were after the war ended.

You should have no difficulty explaining these results. Typical reasoning might go something like this: (1) Due to widespread prejudice, Black soldiers knew that they had little chance of becoming officers. Why should they torment themselves wanting something that was unattainable? (2) It's obvious that the rigors of basic training would seem easier to people from farm settings, who were used to hard work and rising at the crack of dawn. (3) Any sane person would have wanted to go home while bullets were flying and people were dying.

Did your explanations resemble these? If so, they are perfectly reasonable. There is one catch, however. The results of the actual study were the opposite of the preceding statements. in fact, Black soldiers were more motivated than White soldiers to become officers, city boys had a higher morale than farm boys during basic training, and soldiers were more eager to return home after the war ended than during the fighting. When told these actual results, our students quickly found explanations for them. In short, it is easy to arrive at reasonable after-the-fact explanations for almost any result.

Source:Pass, M. W. & Smith, R.E. (2007) Psychology:The Science of Mind and Behavior (Third Edition). McGraw HIll: Boston, pages 31-32

In hindsight, I guess I must have known that it would be a good idea to hang on to my undergrad textbooks. Or did I?

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