Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Gay Bombs and Richard Rorty

"The usual picture of Socrates is of an ugly little plebeian who inspired a handsome young nobleman to write long dialogues on large topics."

-- Richard Rorty (1931-2007)

Richard Rorty was an influential modern pragmatist philosopher criticized (unjustly so) by some self-important science types who'd never allow ugly subjectivity to get in the way of their pure pursuit of perfect knowledge. Funny thing is, Rorty could be pretty funny sometimes:
Q: And what would you say to criticisms that your ironism means a kind of sneering-at earnest liberals who don’t want to acknowledge the contingency of their own values?

RR: That was certainly the way it came across. But what I wanted to say was: take yourself with some lightness. Be aware of yourself as at the mercy of the contingencies of your upbringing and your culture and your environment. I thought of it myself as offering advice rather than insults. My liberal ironist doesn’t go around being ironic to everybody she meets. She saves the irony for herself. The liberal part is public and the irony part is private.

from Against Bosses, Against Oligarchies: A Conversation with Richard Rorty
by Richard Rorty, Derek Nystrom, Kent Puckett
And this:
Q: Is this [the view that scientists, e.g. physicists, don't know the answers to all of the philosophical questions that could be asked about physics] a sign of scientists feeling like the philosophical rug is being pulled out from under them?

RR: Yeah, like the priests, they like to think they have a privileged relation to reality. I doubt they do, but one might expect that they would resent it if told they don’t. When the priests of the 19th century were told by practitioners of philological higher criticism of the Bible that they were in the service of middle-eastern creation myths, they didn’t like it. In the middle of this century, the physicists didn’t like it when Kuhn told them they were just trying to solve puzzles.

-- ibid
To read more, lots o' links at wood s lot and Mixing Memory.

Speaking of humor, a series of unbelievably silly proposals for nonlethal (but incapacitating) chemical weapons was revealed by the Sunshine Project through a Freedom of Information act (redacted document here).
US military pondered love not war

The US military investigated building a "gay bomb", which would make enemy soldiers "sexually irresistible" to each other, government papers say.

Other weapons that never saw the light of day include one to make soldiers obvious by their bad breath.

. . .

The plan for a so-called "love bomb" envisaged an aphrodisiac chemical that would provoke widespread homosexual behaviour among troops, causing what the military called a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale.

Scientists also reportedly considered a "sting me/attack me" chemical weapon to attract swarms of enraged wasps or angry rats towards enemy troops.
As summarized by Omni Brain, A New Chemical Weapon - The Gay Bomb?!

"Always strive to excel, but only on weekends."

-- Richard Rorty

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