The New Criterion and the National Association of Scholars are at it again.
Some responses, hastily and inconsiderately set down.
When I was younger, in college and grad school, I'd read that someone my current age had won the lottery, and it just seemed so pointless. What would they do with twenty years of money coming in that could possibly make their, or anyone's, life better?
One modern incarnation of the debate between nominalism and realism is to be found in philosophical arguments about sets. There are two ways of characterizing a set: intensionally, through description (e.g. the set of all inhabitants of London, to use an example of Russell's), and extensionally, which is just a list of the members of the set.
Errol Morris is famous for being an amazing interviewer. I think I know why, having seen him with Claude Lanzmann last Friday at Brandeis.
Teaching Milton this semester, I think I made a couple of connections that must be obvious, but that I'd never quite seen before (or maybe I had: these days I'm finding the obvious striking again, which I don't know whether that's a good or a bad thing).
Stanislas Dehaene, in his fascinating book The Number Sense, describes an experiment with the Sheba, a chimp who not only learned to count accurately but learned to order the Arabic numerals by size from 1 to 9, and could accurately compute the inequality between any two of them presented to her and pick the larger one, which shows extremely impressive symbolic and mathematical understanding.
The topic of our attachment to words is allegorical of our attachments to ourselves and to other persons.
William Flesch is the author, most recently, of Comeuppance: Costly Signaling, Altruistic Punishment, and Other Biological Components of Fiction (Harvard, 2008), and The Facts on File Companion to 19th Century British Literature. He teaches the history of poetry as well as the theory of poetic and narrative form at Brandeis, and has been International Chair Professor at the National Taipei University of Technology (2012) and Old Dominion Fellow of the Humanities Council and Visiting Professor at Princeton (2014-15).