On Language and Reason—Weekly Wisdom November 9th 2021

NEW FORMAT! Also, on love, the metaverse, the dark side of fame and the trap of commodification.

Hello Subscribers, New and Old.

Welcome to Weekly Wisdom, your weekly dose of highlights, quotes and notes from my notebook. If you would like to receive this in your inbox, subscribe now.

I am trying this new format. There will still be quotes and notes. However, what I know and how I learn is sometimes beyond that. So I will share something I learned in the past week. I have also added a section of things you might like to read. Hope you enjoy it. And if you do, consider forwarding the email to a friend. Or share the link on Facebook, and Twitter.

What I learned this week: Cognitive Rhetoric

TikTok creator Cedrusk explains how different languages have different way of reasoning. More appropriately, how different language speakers approach reason. In linguistic theory, this is referred to as Cognitive Rhetoric. Do check out the original video here.

Something(s) to read

  • The Metaverse is Bullshit: In the recent PR move by Facebook, the company rename itself as Meta. There was also an accompanying presentation on the future of something called Metaverse. An underwhelming one. Facebook isn’t the only one. Microsoft, Apple, and Epic Games are some of the other ones working on it in some capacity. This article points out how the whole concept is doomed to fail.
  • A short twitter thread on reactionary politics: In a recent Microsoft presentation, the presenters decided to describe themselves in their own words for the benefit of visually impaired people. The reactionary bay-area bullshit machine went into action. I wrote this thread in response. While you are at, do follow me on twitter.

Quotes and Notes

The travesty of Love

I am currently reading The Master and Margarita. I have nothing more to say other than that this sentence is beautiful.

Love leaped out in front of us like a murderer in an alley leaping out of nowhere, and struck us both at once.

— Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

Social Reality

If you are like me, you have come across, made, and have been tired off, jokes about Instagram users. “How its not real if you don’t post it” is the summary is most cases. However, the phenomenon reveals something deeper about humanity.

In this essay on the effects of social media, author Chris Hayes compares internet presence to fame. We are the Stars and our followers Fans.

“Man can appear on earth only within a herd,” Kojve writes. “That is why the human reality can only be social.”

I’ve found that this simple formulation unlocks a lot about our current situation. It articulates the paradox of what we might call not the Master and the Slave but, rather, the Star and the Fan. The Star seeks recognition from the Fan, but the Fan is a stranger, who cannot be known by the Star. Because the Star cannot recognize the Fan, the Fan’s recognition of the Star doesn’t satisfy the core existential desire. There is no way to bridge the inherent asymmetry of the relationship, short of actual friendship and correspondence, but that, of course, cannot be undertaken at the same scale. And so the Star seeks recognition and gets, instead, attention.

— Chris Hayes, On the Internet, We’re Always Famous


Wang Huning is maybe the most important intellectual in the world that nobody knows about. He’s a senior advisor to President Xi Jinping, and has some sway on how Chinese policy is effected. In the 90s, he wrote a book on the US, called ‘America Against America’. Many of his predictions about US culture and society were quite prescient.

One aspect he observed was how everything the US was a commodity.

Commodification, in many ways, corrupts society and leads to a number of serious social problems. These problems, in turn, can increase the pressure on the political and administrative system.

— Wang Huning, America Against America(via Angela Nagle)

Thank you for joining me this week. If you know some who might enjoy this, please forward this email to them. See you next week.

Mudassir Chapra

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