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Nature or nurture? Peter Godfrey-Smith takes us back to the jacaranda tree in the quad and considers whether Australia’s contribution to late 20th-century philosophy reflects any kind of national character or is just the arbitrary consequences of the invariably male academics who showed up (is there any Australian university Karl Popper didn’t apply to?). The art accompanying the article, intriguingly, shows some philosophers contemplating how the Opera House was moved to the other side of the Harbour Bridge.

As my favourite university teacher Iain Cameron once noted about Braudel’s The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, such magisterial books often meet with an academic reply along the lines of “that’s all very well but it overlooks what happened in one village in north Crete in autumn 1576”. Lorraine Daston laments (I’m not sure correctly) that no one writes such great books that range widely and synthesise and popularise scholarship anymore.

And finally, Do Trees Have Standing — part 8: who put humans at the top anyway when it comes to using a rights-based model for environmental protection? (Meanwhile, Toledo has granted Lake Erie human rights in a last-ditch effort to save the lake from industrial agriculture.)

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Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse, Lake Erie. (Image: Pixabay/miketoler820)


Australia’s e-health debacle has cost several billion dollars and is a privacy disaster. In the US, the cost is $30 billion and rising, and is inflicting serious damage on the health of record holders. Who knew? And on the other side of the Pacific, the Chinese government is all about the rule of law and respecting rights when it comes to the role of Chinese drug manufacturers in America’s fentanyl epidemic. 

William F. Buckley would be spinning in his grave (for the hundredth time): at the National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty savages Trump’s lies about US intervention in Syria – and the intervention itself. And the corruption of Trump and his cronies is only the tip of the iceberg: the United States is riddled with corruption that will damage both its economy and its ability to wield global influence.


A new book by Sarah Banet Weiser discusses popular feminism, its counterpart popular misogyny, and the “‘funhouse mirror’ effect in which the contestations of popular feminism are co-opted and weaponised by its opponents”.

And now to our regular segment, White Men Don’t Do Terrorism — part 59,301:

  • Why white supremacist terrorism in the US is rarely prosecuted as terrorism.
  • In Lizzie O’Shea’s piece on options for making genuine progress on dealing with white supremacism, she argues that we must start with a recognition not merely of the dispossession on which Australia is founded but what Indigenous Australians achieved before invasion.
  • Read about the use of irony as a “gateway drug” by fascists online (I suspect this particular facet of right-wing extremism is going to attract more interest in coming years).
  • And 25 years ago last month, a man walked into a mosque and opened fire on people at prayer, murdering dozens of them. But many Israelis revere Baruch Goldstein and his terrorism.


The French have been dragging their feet on climate action, but now the Germans are as well. The latter are also are divided on a new EU copyright law that would turn the big platforms into copyright censors (while we’re trying to force them to be terrorism censors too). But wait — now there’s a claim Germany gave in to net censorship as part of the brawl a few weeks ago over Russian gas! And in the Not A Good Look department, the German government is, unbelievably, paying pensions to some WWII Nazis including a former SS member.


Side View readers would be familiar with documentarian Errol Morris’ hatred for philosopher of science and noted ashtray hurler Thomas Kuhn, a passion so intense he wrote a whole book about it. But is Kuhn the fount of all postmodern evil

Speaking of allegedly intelligent humans, defining what human consciousness actually means and how it works in any measurable sense is becoming less of a hypothetical and more urgent as IT systems approach what their makers claim — mostly for PR purposes — is consciousness. So advocates of different sides in one of the most intractable problems in science are trying to work out a model for measuring consciousness.

The revolt against significance: scientists and mathematicians are saying too much weight is put on the idea of what constitutes a statistically significant result and it is skewing research (if you skipped Stats 1, here’s a decent explainer). And Elon Musk’s future of transportation sucks.


If you’ve planned a trip to Europe, you’ve probably read at least something by Rick Steves, the all-American travel nerd whom I like a lot more after reading this profile. And Did You Know: male cats are left-handed and female cats are right-handed. Kinda (a tiny bit) like humans. And that means I can now, while maintaining my intellectual rigour and discipline, link to a cat video (as always with YouTube pet videos, make sure you put mute on first!)

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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