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.
Some comments here, and also off-list, helped me think further about these issues.
I've been thinking about Pierre Bourdieu and also about what I think are common and reductive misreadings of Bourdieu. Bourdieu says two things which will often strike people as incompatible enough that they pay attention only to the first, to wit: That acquired tastes provide those who acquire them symbolic capital.