Thursday, October 06, 2011

"Taste" (as defined by Steve Jobs, updated)

Steve Jobs died yesterday.  I have to admit, I feel a pang of regret about it, almost as if I knew they guy.  (Obviously, I didn't.)  But he'd been around for so long as part of the personal computer scene, somehow he'd become a part of my own participation (and joy) of working with computers. The New York Times has a really nice article about his life, though I'm sure other publications do too.   I believe it's fair to compare him with Edison, at least in as much as his products completely changed the landscape of contemporary living and the use of personal technology.  One never knew what surprising products he might come-up with next. He was a real visionary, and a distinctly American one too.

I can't think of any significant way to send a condolence.  I mean, what could I do, really -- email customer service at Apple and say, "Sorry that the creative visionary of your whole company died."?  It'd just be too weird.   I decided something I could do is update this blog entry which I posted back in January of this year, the content of which is below.  D@^^! -- and he was only 56.

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As a philosopher, I'm always interested when intelligent people try to define common, if ineffable terms.  Certainly "taste" is one of those terms.  Here's a shot at it by Steve Jobs, as quoted in The New York Times a while back:
Great products, according to Mr. Jobs, are triumphs of “taste.” And taste, he explains, is a byproduct of study, observation and being steeped in the culture of the past and present, of “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then bring those things into what you are doing.”[1]


[image] Blog

[1] Steve Lohr "Steve Jobs and the Economics of Elitism" The New York Times Jan 29, 2001

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

Philosophy Professor vs. Humanities Editor

Plenty of room for complaint on both sides.

I was watching a video[1] where two scholars (a philosopher and a humanities editor) were giving short papers (or, more accurately, contrasting stances) on whether there is philosophical progress in intellectual culture. A couple of other people made summary comments as well.

It was an enlightening polemical contrast, though it seemed like the humanities editor really didn't understand what professional philosophers actually attempt to do.  However, he well understood how professional philosophers write badly. Furthermore, he rightly understood how often professional philosophers regularly publish irrelevant B.S (mostly, on my view, as result of publish or perish hiring and retention policies implemented by market-driven universities).

I wouldn't actually say the video was worth a full sitting of an hour, unless one happened to be interested in this issue.  But there was a single comment posted below the video which itself made the time investment worth it.

Posted by the nickname "melektaus," it was as follows:

"What did I learn watching this? That journalists are people with no ideas and the ability to express them, and philosophers are people with ideas and no ability to express them."



[image] "Do-Si-Do" (Accessed, Oct. 1, 2011)

[1] Jason Stanley, videoist "Philosophical Progress and Intellectual Culture" at Harvard/ANU Profess conference Vimeo Sept. 21, 2011 (Accessed Oct. 1, 2011) [ Jason Stanely and Carlin Romano were the main interlocutors.]

[*] Philosopher Peter Ludlow gives a more optimisic take on this bifurcation problem, essentially arguing that philosophers need their own technical vocabulary to achieve progress on subtle and hard-to-solve philosophical problems. His response is here.

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