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Wittgenstein, in a letter to von Ficker, has this to say about his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:

“The book’s point is an ethical one. I once meant to include in the preface a sentence which is not in fact there now but which I will write out for you here. … What I meant to write, then, was this: My work consists of two parts, the one presented here plus all that I have not written. And it is precisely this second part that is the important one. My book draws limits to the sphere of the ethical from the inside as it were, and I am convinced that this is the only rigorous way of drawing those limits.”

This 128 page bookwork is based on a facsimile of the manuscript for this text. Each page has been reproduced with the ‘text’ removed, leaving only corrections and notations. The book also exists in a trade edition. Go here for more on Michael Maranda.

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Maybe your grandmother told you that a smile is just a frown turned upside down. Sure, she could conjure one up with a freshly baked cookie, but a smile is a bit more complicated than Grandma might have realized.

That captivating upturn of facial muscles is a result of biological, psychological and sociological forces beyond our control. It’s an expression that goes back millions of years, but it can fire in a fraction of a second, says author Richard Conniff.

In a recent issue of Smithsonian magazine, the Connecticut writer has penned a biography of the smile. The scientific milestones include some events that are not so jolly.

– He traces its origins to a prehistoric plea directed toward the baddest guy in your cave that indicates: I’m harmless, so please don’t beat me.

– He recounts the first scientific exploration of smiles, as well as the contributions made by people who no longer needed their faces.

– He explains how an analysis of facial expressions has become one of our defenses against mass murderers.

Not a lot of grin-coaxing material there, but they all point to a common element: Our smiles – and other facial expressions – are often beyond our control.

–Entire article here courtesy of the Columbian.

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Amsterdam, Holland (male and female composite)

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Lima, Peru (male and female composite)

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Lisbon, Portugal (male and female composite)

What is the face of London, New York, or Paris? What does a typical Londoner, New Yorker, or Parisian look like? 

The images above represent the typical male or female face from Amsterdam, Lima and Lisbon, respectively. They are the work of Mike Mike, an Istanbul-based photographer. Mike addresses the effects of globalization on identity by compositing the current inhabitants of a given city to produce a face of the future. The result is a face that doesn’t presently exist, but which nonetheless seems quite real. A Face of Tomorrow. A face of no one.

Philosophically, this is very interesting. The expressive aspects of a facial expression are the felt quality of the sentience that is recognized in the face and which the face thus seems to personify. If no assumed or fictive subjectivity underlies the facial expression, that represented by the subject must. Every facial expression is seen as the expression of someone, and to express a face of no one is itself a powerfully expressive act (as Mike’s faces show). To express nothing is merely a very special quality of sentience. One can therefore always ask of a facial expression what kind of sentient agency is expressed in it. Is that true?

32. It is difficult if not impossible to move beyond functional competence in a language if the culture it belongs to fails to resonate within a person. This may explain why after six years in Taiwan my Chinese is barely above functional. On the other hand, it accounts for my interest in European languages, even in Latin, a ‘dead- language’.  

When I first arrived in Taiwan, I would return home from work every day and listen to Mozart’s Figaro. It later dawned on me that I was using Mozart as an analogue of a rationally meaningful world. His music is expressed in tonality and rhythmic order, two qualities present in urban Taiwan only in small doses. In tonal compositions there is a home key which is the analogue of a rational purpose, there is an ordered progression of related tonalities that finds its resolution in the home key. When the home key is reached, there is a sense of rest, of purpose attained.

I viewed  – and still do – life in busy Taiwan as like an atonal composition which lacks a home key. A composition which lacks a home key conveys no sense. It seems therefore that I am in the wrong place.

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The facial expressions that we exhibit when we are happy, sad or angry are actually inherited, says a new study.

Gili Peleg and colleagues of University of Haifa, Israel, analysed the facial expressions of 21 volunteers who had been blind from birth along with those of their relatives, reported the online edition of BBC.

They interviewed the participants, asking them to recount experiences of when they were happy, sad, angry and disgusted, and recorded their mannerisms while doing so. They also analysed expressions when they were in deep concentration and shocked them to witness their expressions of surprise.

When the researchers compared the results, they discovered that even though the blind volunteers had never seen their relatives’ faces, their facial expressions were extremely alike.

“We have found that facial expressions are typical to families – a kind of facial expression ‘signature’,” said Peleg. She said the results of the study suggested that facial expressions had an evolutionary basis.

Our next step is to find the exact genes that influence facial expression.” This could have an impact on autism research, where facial expressions are central to the disorder, she added.

PakTribune

Available faculty or research positions in Philosophy are here, courtesy of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Kellam Conover, 26, a classicist at Princeton, expects to graduate in five years, after completing his dissertation in May. 

Many of us have known this scholar: The hair is well-streaked with gray, the chin has begun to sag, but still our tortured friend slaves away at a masterwork intended to change the course of civilization that everyone else just hopes will finally get a career under way.

We even have a name for this sometimes pitied species — the A.B.D. — All But Dissertation. But in academia these days, that person is less a subject of ridicule than of soul-searching about what can done to shorten the time, sometimes much of a lifetime, it takes for so many graduate students to, well, graduate. The Council of Graduate Schools, representing 480 universities in the United States and Canada, is halfway through a seven-year project to explore ways of speeding up the ordeal.

For those who attempt it, the doctoral dissertation can loom on the horizon like Everest, gleaming invitingly as a challenge but often turning into a masochistic exercise once the ascent is begun. The average student takes 8.2 years to get a Ph.D.; in education, that figure surpasses 13 years. Fifty percent of students drop out along the way, with dissertations the major stumbling block. At commencement, the typical doctoral holder is 33, an age when peers are well along in their professions, and 12 percent of graduates are saddled with more than $50,000 in debt.

Entire article here, the New York Times.

Satire on Wittgenstein’s Investigations available here. Here is a delightful sample:

18. Imagine a tribe which could masturbate only in a group. And so it never occurred to them that anyone might do it alone and they had no word for this either. And now, imagine this tribe in the dark. If no one says anything or touches anyone, do they know they’re masturbating? Suddenly someone turns on the light. At what moment would it be correct to say, ‘Hey! We’re a bunch of wankers!’?

19. Imagine everything just as it is, only DIFFERENT, instead of the same. What would it mean to want to say that, at a quite particular point in a chess game–just before you lose your queen, let us say–, we came to recognize that we lacked a special facial gesture for expressing precisely THIS kind of difference?

20. I want to say: AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHH!

21. Philosophical puzzles take the form: a one-legged Indian in a butt-kicking contest on thin ice.

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A look of horror will grab the attention of those around you faster than a smile, US research shows.

Individuals react more quickly to a fearful expression than to faces showing other emotions such as joy, a study in the journal Emotion found. Researchers from Vanderbilt University found the same speedy reaction to fear when only the eyes were visible. It is thought the brain has evolved to react more quickly to potentially threatening situations.  

The brain responds very quickly to all facial expressions – at a speed of less than 40 milliseconds. So to assess if certain emotions prompt a faster reaction, the researchers had to slow down the speed at which volunteers became aware of facial expressions.

Volunteers looked through a viewer which flashed a black and white, quick-changing pattern to one eye and a static image of a face to the other eye. The flashing image had the effect of slowing down the speed at which the individual noticed the face.

Quick response

Participants became aware of a fearful expression far faster than a neutral or happy face. Reaction to happy faces was consistently slower than for the other expressions looked at. The fast reaction to fear was the same if the whole face was visible or just the eyes.

It is thought an area of the brain called the amygdala can process simple visual signals bypassing the normal visual processing pathway.

Dr David Zald, associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee said: “We believe that the brain can detect certain cues even before we are aware of them, so that we can direct our attention to potentially threatening situations in our environment.”

He added there was other evidence showing the eyes were an important part of the picture. “Fearful eyes are a particular shape, where you get more of the whites of the eye showing. That may be the sort of simple feature that the amygdala can pick up on, because it’s only getting a fairly crude representation.” He added that the brain may react to happy faces slowly because they signal safety and do not require immediate attention. The team are now planning to do a similar study to look at the response to anger.

Dr Bahador Bahrami, associate researcher in the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in London said the findings were very interesting but not unexpected. “It’s quite well accepted that fearful faces have a special significance. And other imaging studies have shown the brain responds more strongly to fear, so this is consistent with that finding.”

BBC News

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Wittgenstein’s obituary courtesy of Nimrod Matan at Osopolarity.

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