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Showing posts from October, 2018

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty." What's Not to Understand?

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Listening to Anne Carson and Eleanor Wachtel on Writers & Company discussing Keats's famous aphorism, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," I was taken aback to hear both women reveal how little they appreciated what it might mean.

Wachtel: And you quote a passage from Keats before each tango or section, and it was Keats of course who wrote famously, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” How does beauty speak of truth? Carson: I don’t think it does. I think that’s all a big mistake, but there’s so much power in believing it, and so many of the decisions of life, especially early life—with the adolescent emotions—identify those two, and think that the person who’s beautiful is also true and the feelings that come from beauty lead you to truth. I don’t believe it works out usually. Wachtel and Carson are, of course, two of the most well-read, articulate people on the planet.  Nonetheless, this was an expression I typically taught to first-year undergrads in "Introduction to Li…

Why Are the Poor Always with Us? "Moral Hazard."

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The Poor Are Always with Us“The poor are always with us.”  What a discouraging declaration!  More disturbing still, it is attributed to Jesus Christ.  Although the details vary from one gospel to another, Mary of Bethany (some say Mary Magdalene) was pouring expensive oil on Jesus’s feet (in some versions on his head) when his disciples complained  (some say Judas specifically) that the money could have been used to feed the poor.  (The Gospel of Matthew suggests that this incident is what caused Judas to betray Jesus.)



Moral HazardWhy are the poor always with us?  Consider  “moral hazard.”  “Moral hazard,” according to Alan Blinder in After the Music Stopped:  The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead, “has nothing to do with morality.”  The concept originated in the 18th century in the insurance industry and suggests that having insurance might encourage risky (and therefore immoral?) behaviour.  
Today the concept is very much with us as insurers worry aloud  that house …