Liberal Education as Problem Identification: The Case of Elections
One argument against liberal education is that it’s irrelevant. That objection is typically raised by people engaged in careers in business and allied techno-fields. Ask a typical business leader—especially one puffed up by entrepreneurial pride—what you want students to learn in college, and the answer often is: Identifying problems.
But it turns out that liberal education is great for identifying problems. Take political philosophy, for example. It ‘s almost nothing but identifying problems, problems that admit of no easy or complete solutions. There are, for example, the problems of democracy, which are basically downsides that go with the democratic territory that can only be mitigated. And how to mitigate them is actually rather counterintuitive to those who don’t know a lot about and really reflected on the various democracies that have existed. The medicine for what ails democracy, for example, is hardly ever more democracy.
One feature of democracy that we’re thinking a lot about these days is elections. The giants of political philosophy don’t agree on how to think about elections, but they tend to agree that they are both beneficial and dangerous to democracy. But with all their problems, we democrats these days could hardly do without elections.
Harvey Mansfield, quite the relevant political philosopher, gives us a quick primer on how a freshman reading list in political philosophy can get anyone up to speed on the various identifiable features of the problem of elections. You’ll have to read his whole (brief) article to really learn something. But for those whose learning style is PowerPoint or TED lecture or blog post, I will reduce each of the six philosophers to a single proposition (also known as bullet point).
If you think about it , these six insights—which, of course, contradict each other in important ways—are indispensable for thinking about the election that’s about to come upon us. If you think even more, you notice that all the “wisdom” dispensed by our experts and analysts turns out to be dumbed down and otherwise distorted versions of one of these insights.
So, as Mansfield points out, a freshman reading list properly understood can make anyone with eyes to see a master identifier of problems.
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It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.
In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.
Image from the study.
As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.
Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.
"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.
It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.
Image by authors of the study.
Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.
The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.
“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."
Do you have a magnetic compass in your head?
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