The Virtue of an Almost Right Solution

Square Peg in a Round Hole

Earlier today, in my final Sondheim post, I was writing in praise of the grotesque.  This post is on the same topic, but I'm code-switching a bit and doing it a more analytic, not aesthetic framework.  Over at LessWrong, there's a great illustration of how positive bias works: I am teaching a class, and I write upon the blackboard three numbers: 2-4-6. "I am thinking of a rule," I say, "which governs sequences of three numbers. The sequence 2-4-6, as it so happens, obeys this rule. Each of you w … [Read more...]

Teaching Fish the Word for Water

In the last Sondheim Symposium post, I talked about Giorgio struggling with Fosca's implacable love.  If his reluctance to accept her unconditional love parallels the flinch away from grace, does it follow that Fosca is a Christ-like figure?Probably not.  For a while after I saw the show, I suspected her of ostentatious humility.  In fact, I hoped that some of her prostrations were insincere.  She was starting to remind me of the awful, self-abnegating image of love on display in "Unworthy of … [Read more...]

Who Gets to Give the Courtier’s Reply?

blackadder courtier

How fortuitous that the same day I asked people to trust me and do the reading, Yvain (who you may remember from the Natural Law post that launched a thousand ships) has written a post examining the usefulness of the Courtier's Reply.  You should read the whole thing, but I'm going to cut and paste for a blockquote: In other words, any version of the Courtier's Reply strong enough to shut down people who want you to spend the rest of your life reading about reptilian British monarchs is also st … [Read more...]

The Danger of Cheap Shots

I was chatting with some Catholic friends, and (as happens more and more frequently as the election approaches) the subject of Mormons came up.  Which means you can pretty much set an egg-timer until someone says, "Not to mention magic underwear!"(I think in this case the elapsed time was about a minute thirty.  There's never an egg timer around when you need one.)The 'magic underwear' crack is pretty common (it's the featured visual on the billboards American Atheists are putting up for … [Read more...]

Q&A with Steve Dawson (Part 2)

Welcome to part two of my Q&A with Steve Dawson of the St. Paul Street Evangelization project.  You can read part one here.What are some of the most common questions/responses you get?It's really not the norm that we're getting people with really tough questions. We get apologetic questions, such as "Why do you worship Mary," or all these real Protestant issues. More often, if people are presenting a challenge to us, it's about a moral issue, or some sort of scandal.People bring u … [Read more...]

Q&A with Steve Dawson (Part 1)

A little while ago, I mentioned the St. Paul Street Evangelization project on the blog.  SPSE is trying put a Catholic presence in the public square that opens the door to dialogue.  They're currently doing a fundraiser on IndieGoGo.Since apologetics and arguments are basically catnip to me, I contacted Steve Dawson to ask some questions about the project.  I've divvied the Q&A up into two parts: the first is focused on a big picture view of the project, the second has more to do the sp … [Read more...]

“Didn’t you ever break on the floor?”

debate rostrum

This post is a follow-up to a reflection on how going to rationality camp made me really grateful for my college debate experience.  "Break on the floor" is, I'm pretty sure, part of the Yale Political Union vernacular, so a definition is probably in order.  Our debates operated by Robert's Rules of order, but our parliamentary debate style bears little resemblance to the gatling-gun style of debate you may be used to from high school and college.  In some forms of competitive debate, you can … [Read more...]