Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×

Comment Re:Plato (Score 1) 1277

Your reading of Chapter 8 of The Republic is not very good.

Plato's argument follows by analogy from his tripartite division of the psyche (mind/soul) into eros (desire), thymos (will), and logos (reason). Keeping these parts of the soul in balance would allow one of live with arete (skill).

There are five forms of government put forward by Plato: aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. Each is related to an imbalance of the republic, just as an individual's psyche might be imbalanced.

Timocracy is rule by those with honor (typically military), a trait linked to thymos. Oligarchy isn't rule by the elite per se, but rule by those with wealth (because wealth and honor are conflated in this society). Democracy is a kind of libertine state in which the excesses of eros are indulged. These forms of government emerge out of each other, as timocracy degenerates into oligarchy, which in turn degenerates into democracy, out of which a demagogic tyrant finally emerges to establish tyranny.

Aristocracy, the ideal form of government according to Plato, was one in which the wisest ruled. The wisest, of course, were philosopher-kings—people who had successfully balanced their psyches with logos directing their thymos and eros toward their long-term interests.

It's best not to read The Republic as a direct report on what Athenian democracy was really like. It was a philosophical analogy between the health of the individual's psyche and the health of the body politic.

But it's safe to say that Plato was not pro-democracy. I think one of the more devastating accounts of Plato's political theory is in Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies.

Comment Re:A Constitutional Federal Republic (Score 1) 1277

The whole idea that the word "democracy" is somehow bad is purely an American phenomenon.

It's not really an American phenomenon either. While there was some skepticism during the Cold War of groups labeling themselves as "democratic" or "for democracy," this was because it was the regular tactic of socialists. For example, Students for a Democratic Society was a well-known socialist front. And we still have countries like the Democratic People's Republic of Korea claiming the label 'democracy' in the name of socialism.

In Europe, democracy has not always been viewed as a good thing. It wasn't until quite recently that democracy was viewed as a good thing. Ever since classical writers like Thucydides and Plato, democracy has been viewed with suspicion, as a degenerate form of government. Their view remained dominant in Europe up until the Enlightenment started changing people's ideas.

But even Enlightenment philosophers were not really interested in democracy. Most were republican theorists, desiring limits on the arbitrary power of sovereigns, and, at most, mixed constitutions. Many, like Voltaire, were quite comfortable with "enlightened absolutism." In the Perpetual Peace Kant distinguished between the republic (the optimal form of government) and democracy (which he viewed as majoritarian tyranny). Jefferson and the Federalists, when designing and debating the U.S. Constitution, argued for a mixed republican government, including elements of monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy.

In the United States I think it may be more common to reassert the notion of republicanism as a way of arguing against the notion that every and any aspect of life can be put to a vote. For Kant (and the American 'Founding Fathers'), a republic is distinguished by representation, constitutionalism, and checked and divided powers. Having large spheres of private life, civil rights, and civil society protected from interference from the government are fundamental tenets of republicanism, and you probably will find them asserted more vociferously in the United States, which has a longer republican tradition than nearly every other European state with the possible exceptions of Switzerland and some of the Northern Italian states before the risorgimento.

Comment Re:Overtaken? Yes. Bite them? No (Score 1) 500

The argument that's being missed or glossed over goes something like this: Apple's current iTunes store success depends heavily on it holding a commanding share of the market. As Android overtakes iOs in popularity, it will become less and less attractive for content providers to bend to Apple's demands. Why spend significant amounts of time developing your app to meet seemingly arbitrary requirements when there's a bigger platform that requires none of that? Why fork over a hefty share of your sales to Apple when you can sell for free in the bigger Android market next door?

This is a good point but misses out on a few things that differentiate the two markets. The iOS market is not just iPhone, but also includes iPad and iPod Touch. People often compare Android phones to iPhones, but this is a misleading picture of the size of the two markets for app developers.

Second, there seems to be a difference between the customers shopping in the Android markets versus those in the iOS markets. Specifically, the instance of piracy is higher in the Android market, and the willingness of customers to purchase non-free apps is lower. The Android market is based to a greater degree on free apps that are advertising-supported, rather than paid for up front.

Even if the number of Android users is higher than the number of iOS users, the actual market for paid apps may still be much smaller, due to the difference in customers that the two platforms attract. Unless these differences even out, iOS may still be a more attractive program for developers.

Comment Re:Human vs. Person (Score 1) 785

"Person" is some being that has a personality.

Vincent: Want some bacon?
Jules: No man, I don't eat pork.
Vincent: Are you Jewish?
Jules: Nah, I ain't Jewish, I just don't dig on swine, that's all.
Vincent: Why not?
Jules: Pigs are filthy animals. I don't eat filthy animals.
Vincent: Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.
Jules: Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'd never know 'cause I wouldn't eat the filthy motherfucker. Pigs sleep and root in shit. That's a filthy animal. I ain't eat nothin' that ain't got sense enough to disregard its own feces.
Vincent: How about a dog? Dogs eats its own feces.
Jules: I don't eat dog either.
Vincent: Yeah, but do you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?
Jules: I wouldn't go so far as to call a dog filthy but they're definitely dirty. But, a dog's got personality. Personality goes a long way.
Vincent: Ah, so by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, he would cease to be a filthy animal. Is that true?
Jules: Well we'd have to be talkin' about one charming motherfuckin' pig. I mean he'd have to be ten times more charmin' than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I'm sayin'?

Comment Re:more like cloud boot iCrap (Score 1) 204

I believe Steve Jobs referred to Macs using a car metaphor (must be a Slashdot regular). He said that Macs (or PCs more broadly) were like trucks. Most people won't need that amount of utility/capability (they drive cars), but a certain chunk of us will (we drive F-150s). Macs/PCs will still be around to serve that market, even if it shrinks in comparison with tablets (iCrap as you so eloquently put it).

If I had to guess that the ratio toward which Mac vs. iCrap would converge, I would guess that it would reflect the 90-9-1 rule. Probably 10% will want a full featured PC of varying power, while the other 90% will be happy with something that gives them access to the net/media and performs their daily tasks (email, basic text editing, MyTwitFace, music).

Comment Re:Are you guys really loosing it in the U.S? (Score 1) 496

just because you're in a relationship

Well, they weren't "just in a relationship." They were married, with all the legal and moral implications of that institution. Comments like parent's are a signal of the extent to which marriage as a social institution has been de-institutionalized. A married couple was legally perceived to be one 'legal person.' That conceit has been challenged an undermined progressively to the point where we get absurd cases such as the above where a cheating wife can sue her (second) husband out of spite/vengeance for having discovered her betrayal of the marriage oath.

Social conservatives rage at the imminent acceptance of gay marriage when in reality they should be ringing the tocsins over the unmourned death of the entire institution of marriage.

Comment Re:In Soviet Russia... (Score 1) 579

All this outcry has done little except prove the exceedingly dubious moral fibre of very powerful elected political figures the world over.

Please, that had been proven long ago.

What this actually proves is that if you set up an organization that acts like a foreign intelligence agency, other intelligence agencies will start to treat you like one.

Comment Re:Defilade (Score 1) 782

The strategies/tactics of Napoleon and the writings of Jomini are more or less required material for officers. Given the amount of innovation they introduced it's not surprising that the terms they invented are still used. While the French are naturally the butt of jokes given their pathetic showings since Napoleon, I suspect most officers have a reverence for Napoleon that goes beyond contemporary political squabbling.

Comment Re:physicist! (Score 1) 614

I was given Surely You're Joking... as a graduation gift (by my Spanish teacher, oddly enough) after finishing the 8th grade. This book is a life-changer. It teaches you how human and fun a public figure can be, especially in a field as ostensibly esoteric and abstract as theoretical physics. Playing jokes at Los Alamos while building the nuclear bomb, playing bongos in a samba band, taking up nude portraiture, learning how to pick up women in bars--the stories are enough to convince anyone that being a scientist isn't going to be boring.

Comment Re:App Store looks interesting... (Score 3, Insightful) 827

You forgot to include:

  • Handle the update mechanism You don't have to worry about building update checking into your apps and nagging your users into automatically checking for and installing updates. The App Store will check and notify the users. This is probably a win for the whole ecosystem, since it will improve security and reduce the amount of things developers have to worry about
  • Handle the installation process No more worrying about setting up an installer (using the OS X one or using a third-party installer), or using a .dmg and instructing users to drag the app to the Applications folder. In the video, the app downloaded and installed itself with no unzipping, disk mounting, or installer. Makes it super simple for both the developer and the user.

Comment Re:Decent competitor? (Score 1) 657

The cold hard fact is that we had surplusses [sic] for years until the day Bush passed that tax cut.

The cold hard fact is that Clinton and the republican congress left us with a projected budget surplus. That's an awesome bipartisan accomplishment for a government that hadn't run a budget surplus in decades. But it wasn't an actual budget surplus. It was an all-things-being-equal-if-existing-trends-continue future budget surplus.

What that projection didn't take into account was the popping of the dot com bubble and the 9/11 attacks, neither of which were foreseen and both of which individually would have done serious damage to budgetary projections.

The bubble had already burst by the time Bush took office and passing those tax cuts was a foolhardy response, attempting to grow out of a downturn. 9/11 further tanked the economy and tax receipts.

The the cold hard fact is isn't "gee if Bush hadn't passed those tax cuts everything would be hunky dory." In fact, even with those tax receipts we'd still have a massive unprecedented deficit. It's that the budget projections were just that, projections, and they didn't anticipate either a bubble collapse or the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.

Congress has been unwilling to stop the growth in federal spending, despite the fact that it has outstripped our tax receipts for decades now. Runaway spending is the long-term structural problem: taxes go up and down, but spending never goes down. A policy of regularly raising taxes to cover our collective bipartisan inability to say no to new spending, to say no to entitlement growth, and to say no to wars of choice is the 'Neverland' policy.

Slashdot Top Deals

The means-and-ends moralists, or non-doers, always end up on their ends without any means. -- Saul Alinsky