Your overall point is right and important but most of your specific historical claims here are false—more mythical than real.
Free-market economic theory developed only after millenia during which everyone believed that top-down control was the best way of allocating resources.
Free market economic theory was developed during a period of rapid centralization of power, before which it was common sense that most resource allocation had to be done at the local level, letting peasants mostly alone to farm their own plots. To find a prior epoch of deliberate central resource management at scale you have to go back to the Bronze Age, with massive irrigation projects and other urban amenities built via palace economies, and even then there wasn’t really an ideology of centralization. A few Greek city-states like Sparta had tightly regulated mores for the elites, but the famously oppressed Helots were still probably mostly left alone. In Russia, Communism was a massive centralizing force—which implies that peasants had mostly been left alone beforehand. Centralization is about states trying to become more powerful (which is why Smith called his book The Wealth of Nations, pitching his message to the people who needed to be persuaded.) Read Tocqueville’s The Old Regime for more, focusing on centralization in France before and after the Revolution. War and Peace has a good empirical treatment of the modernizing/centralizing force vs the old-fashioned empirical impulse in Russia. “Freedom” is not always decentralizing, though, as the book makes clear.
Freedom of speech developed only after millenia during which everyone believed that it was rational for everyone to try to suppress any speech they disagreed with.
There was something much like this in both the Athenian (and probably broader Greek) world (the democratic prerogative to publicly debate things), and the Israelite world (prophets normatively had something close to immunity from prosecution for speech, and there were no qualifications needed to prophesy). In both cases there were limits, but there are limits in our world too. The ideology of freedom of speech is new, but your characterization of the alternative is tendentious.
Political liberalism developed only after millenia during which everybody believed that the best way to reform society was to figure out what the best society would be like, then force that on everyone.
Political liberalism is not really an exception to this!
Evolution was conceived of—well, originally about 2500 years ago, probably by Democritus, but it became popular only after millenia during which everyone believed that life could be created only by design.
It’s really unclear what past generations meant by God, but this one is probably right.
I agree with most of the recommendations. Some advice for getting into Plato, for the untrained reader:
The Bloom translation of Republic is the classic. Any older English translation is suspect, for reasons explained in the introduction. Happy to share a copy with anyone who needs one.
On the whole, I think someone who feels they have a good learning curve reading Plato sensitively would do better reading more Plato than Strauss, though they should trust their own intuitions here and not mine.
Nothing wrong with starting cold with Republic, but John Holbo’s Reason and Persuasion seems like an unusual combo of accessible and careful to respect the integrity of the signal.
Presumably to keep morale up by making it look like the rightful Caliph is still alive and producing output.
Parents talk to their kids, and read to them, including children’s books and alphabet books and nursery rhymes and “say ‘ma-ma’! go on… ‘ma-ma’!” and so on; and parents play with their kids, and build or buy playpens, etc., etc. What is that, but “problems” and “projects”?
It’s play. In extremely rare cases like A Mathematician’s Lament, people do propose that teachers play with their students about the subject matter, but mostly problem sets and projects are not assigned by the same methods by which language is introduced to children. If the OP were proposing that professors play with their students, I’d be more sympathetic, and have brought up the babies as a confirming rather than disconfirming example!
Lectures were literally invented as a method of text distribution, when printing was unavailable and paper expensive. I don’t mean that in the past they were more effective than integrated instruction—I mean that an academic context in which the main formal service provided was delivery of lectures did not prevent students from thinking about the content of lectures on their own.
Here’s what I meant by the CD metaphor. It seems like there’s an old practice of doing the equivalent of handing students CDs. We can now see that this practice is broken, in the sense that students, lacking CD players, don’t appreciate the music or other audio. One plausible interpretation is that the practice of handing students CDs has always been a poor fit for the audio formats compatible with students’ ears. But another plausible interpretation—the one I’m proposing—is that the students used to have CD players, and no longer do.
Likewise, it’s not as though learning didn’t go on in highly lecture-centric (or book-centric) contexts. So if students aren’t learning from lectures (and books), we might expect that some interpretive faculty they used to have is now absent. This seems to me like it ought to be a higher priority to get to students (or stop taking away from them), than the content of almost any particular lecture course.
I would expect healthy people who want to learn something found in a book to think of complements to the book, e.g. to take initiative to try something based on what the book says, to think through different cases than the ones discussed in the book to see how the same principles might apply, etc.
If students wouldn’t do that, something’s gone wrong that isn’t easily summarizable as a local failing of pedagogy.
Yes, if an instructor were, for some strange reason, to decide that he will only give lectures, and not assign any problems, projects, etc., then the students will not learn the material. Similarly, if a student were, for some strange reason, to decide that he will only attend lectures and not take notes, put together outlines or study guides, read the text, or do the exercises, he will not learn the material.
I don’t disagree, but this seems indicative of preexisting damage to the students or at least a direly impoverished environment. After all, we usually don’t give babies problems, projects, etc to teach them to walk and talk, but they learn just fine. Someone invented this stuff, and plenty of people in the past have made efficient use of standardized streams of text (whether delivered visually or aurally) to improve their understanding of a thing.
If someone said CDs don’t work because you can’t hear the music by looking at them, we’d wonder whether this person knows about CD players.
It seems to me like the first two stages are simple enough that Jessica’s treatment is an adequate formalization, insofar as the “market for lemons” model is well-understood. Can you say a bit more about how you’d expect additional formalization to help here?
It’s in the transition from stage 2 to 3 and 4 that some modeling specific to this framework seems needed, to me.
Since all three comments so far seem to have had the same basic objection, I’m going to reply to the parent.
It seems like the claim in your first paragraph is implicitly disjunctive: IF your beliefs are “about the world” (i.e. you’re modeling yourself as an agent with a truth-seeking epistemology), THEN “convincing yourself” isn’t a thing. So IF you’re “convincing yourself”, THEN the relevant “beliefs” aren’t a sincere attempt to represent the world.
This is stage 1 signalling. Stage 2 signalling is this but with convincing lies, which actually are enough to convince a Bayesian evaluator (who may be aware of the adversarial dynamic, and audit sometimes).
The theory of costly signaling is specifically about stage 1 strategies in an environment where stage 2 exists—sometimes a false signal is much more expensive than a true signal of the same thing.
I can’t think of a clear thing to point to in the text—I think he’s more concerned with describing what’s happening than modeling its historical causes.
I can guess on my own account—I think the commodification of human life, rapid pace of change with respect to economic roles, and rise of mass-media advertising in the mid 20C accelerated a force already latent in American culture. But that’s my guess. TLP is more empirical.
The temporal aspect seems important in distinguishing the two models—TLP says something changed in 20th Century American culture to make narcissism much more common.
I really only have one patient who is definitely doing this, but it’s enough that I can understand why some doctors don’t want to have to have this fight and institute a stricter “no refill until appointment is on the books” policy.
Why not just dump that one patient?
Here’s my vague overall impression from reading secondary sources not directly concerned with this question (probably more noisy but also more trustworthy than secondary sources making a direct argument about this.)
Overall the sense I get is that recordkeeping and action were kept separate in most ancient civilizations, even pretty big ones—no minutes of meetings or white paper equivalents or layers of approval and formalized decision delegation.
It seems to me like “clay tablet” cultures had extensive scribal institutions, but these were mostly used for rituals in temple cults (of unknown function), tax assessment, and central recording of contracts (the state served as a trusted third party for record storage and retrieval). You’d also need logistical records for many public works projects, but these were often very simple. Someone would be in charge and sometimes have to request resources from other people, who would keep track of what was sent, sometimes the king would want to know what was going on, so they had to know the broad outlines.
As I understand it the Persian empire’s managerial and formal information-processing layer was extremely lean, the king would just personally send some guy to check on a whole province, there was a courier network but nothing on the scale of USPS or even Akkadian scribal records.
Doctors valuing their position as an authority, and caring enough about this to threaten to withhold vital care until their authority is affirmed, seems like it would necessarily entail the kind of distrust you’re worried about. The paradigm of epistemic authority is one where information can only flow down power gradients—there’s no way someone with lower rank would know something that someone with higher rank is ignorant of.
Obviously this is a terrible paradigm for any kind of healing that requires knowing about the patient.
In some cases (this is the most nearby alternative hypothesis to Davidmanheim’s), the spending required to maintain their class privilege (unless they’re really unusually clever) scales slightly ahead of their income.
In other cases, they get addicted to the game, and become obsessed with scoring points.
Ritualizes might be more precise. Provides a stereotyped interface that plays nicely with other stereotyped interfaces. Military drill sort of serves a similar function, in the face of a different kind of entropy than the one this is a defense against.
Claiming to be king is unnecessary if there is already such evidence, and ineffective if there is not.
Actual kings thought otherwise strongly enough to have others who claimed to be king of their realm killed if at all possible. Repetition of royal pomp within a king’s lifetime implies that claiming to be king is not redundant for an already-acknowledged king either. Often there were annual or even more frequent reaffirmations, plus constant reinforcement via local protocol among whoever was physically near the king.
That’s true but the bureaucracy isn’t what builds parks. The person in charge bosses around a bunch of other people competent to design and build parks, and secures the land and other inputs needed to do so via political processes. The bureaucracy is what normalizes the arrangement so that it can interface with other things in control of resource flows, e.g. so that people can get paid for reporting to Moses.
The sense I got from The Power Broker is that Moses’s work was good when doing good work was aligned with his perceived interests, and not when not, and it wasn’t that hard for him to find people competent at the relevant technical disciplines when that was needed (and his ability to accumulate power quickly initially gave him a lot of slack to hire based on merit, when delivering a conspicuously high-quality product seemed like it would be helpful for accumulating more power).
In general it doesn’t really seem to require much technical expertise to lead a technical project, just a somewhat difficult to maintain mixture (in a political context) of the skills necessary to obtain and defend resources, and the mindset that still cares about getting the technical side right.