Archive for Jean-Paul Sartre

the 101 favourite novels of Le Monde readers

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2020 by xi'an

Le Monde called its readers to vote for their five favourite novels, with no major surprise in the results, except maybe Harry Potter coming up top. Before Voyage au bout de la nuit and (the predictable) A la recherche du temps perdu. And a complete unknown, Damasio’s La Horde du Contrevent, as 12th and first science fiction book. Above both the Foundation novels (16th). And Dune (32nd). And Hyperion Cantos (52). But no Jules Verne! In a sense, it reflects upon the French high school curriculum on literature that almost uniquely focus on French 19th and 20th books. (Missing also Abe, Conrad, Chandler, Dickens, Ishiguro, Joyce, Kawabata, Madame de Lafayette, Levi, Morante, Naipaul, Rabelais, Rushdie, Singer, and so many others…) Interestingly (or not), Sartre did not make it to the list, despite his literature 1953 Nobel Prize, maybe because so few read the (appalling) books of his chemins de la liberté trilogy.

I did send my vote in due time but cannot remember for certain all the five titles I chose except for Céline’s Voyage au bout de la nuit (2nd), Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (74th) and maybe Fedor Dostoievski’s Brothers Karamazov (24th). Maybe not as I may have included Barbey d’Aurevilly’s L’ensorcelée, Iain Pears’ An instance at the fingerpost, and Graham Greene’s The End of the affair, neither of which made it in the list. Here are some books from the list that would have made it to my own 101 list, although not necessarily as my first choice of titles for authors like Hugo (1793!) or Malraux (l’Espoir). (Warning: Amazon Associate links).

an interview with Sartre

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , on October 26, 2019 by xi'an

I came by chance upon this interview of Jean-Paul Sartre in a student journal and found some quotations worth (?) posting as illustrative of his countertop philosophy talents:

“…certains acteurs, même très bons, se donnent tout entiers, et lorsqu’ils jouent, sont en train de croire à ce qu’ils jouent. Ils vivent leurs rôles. Ils oublient que le théâtre, ce n’est jamais la vie.”

“Dans L’Etre et le Néant, j’ai expliqué qu’être un garçon de café, c’était jouer à l’être, que les deux ne se distinguaient pas.”

“Il n’y a pas de vérité absolue. L’Histoire est si brouillée qu’il n’y a pas de références absolues, à moins d’être communiste ou croyant.”

“…je ne suis pas sûr que la notion de justice soit indispensable à la société. Je suppose qu’elle vient elle-même d’une vieille couche théologique. Si vous n’avez pas de Dieu, elle n’a plus de sens, sauf comme protection contre une certaine catégorie d’individus. La notion de justice est vraiment inutile.”

pool etiquette [and lane rage]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2019 by xi'an

A funny entry in The Guardian of today about what turns swimmers mad at the pool. A form (foam?) of road-rage in the water… Since I have started a daily swim since mid-December to compensate for my not-running for an indeterminate length of time, I can primarily if irrationally relate to the reactions reported in the article. About the pain of passing other swimmers and being brushed or kicked by faster runners oops swimmers trying to squeeze in the middle (of nowhere). Irrationally so because at  a rational level there is nowhere to go really, except the end of the lane and back, which means waiting or turning back earlier not much of an imposition. But still feeling a sort of “road rage” when I cannot turn back and start again without delay… I have been thinking for the past weeks (while going back and forth, back and forth, dozens of times) of ways to rationalize the whole operation but cannot see a way to make all swimmers go exactly the same speed in a given lane, if only because most swimmers switch stroke between lengths. Except me as I can only and barely handle the breast stroke, thanks to lessons from Nick!, stroke than many seem to resent. To the point of calling for breast-stroke free lanes… Rationally, I think the problem is the same with every activity involving moving at different relative speeds on a busy lane. Runners get annoyed at breaking their pace, cyclists at braking or worse!, touching ground. It is just more concentrated in a 25m swimming lane on a busy day. (Which is why I really try to optimise my visits to the pool to be in the early morning or in the mid-afternoon. And again and again promise myself to skip the dreadful Sunday morning session!) L’enfer, c’est les autres, especially when they swim at a different pace!

the cult of significance

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2011 by xi'an

Statistical significance is not a scientific test. It is a philosophical, qualitative test. It asks “whether”. Existence, the question of whether, is interesting. But it is not scientific.” S. Ziliak and D. McCloskey, p.5

The book, written by economists Stephen Ziliak and Deirdre McCloskey, has a theme bound to attract Bayesians and all those puzzled by the absolute and automatised faith in significance tests. The main argument of the authors is indeed that an overwhelming majority of papers stop at rejecting variables (“coefficients”) on the sole and unsupported basis of non-significance at the 5% level. Hence the subtitle “How the standard error costs us jobs, justice, and lives“… This is an argument I completely agree with, however, the aggressive style of the book truly put me off! As with Error and Inference, which also addresses a non-Bayesian issue, I could have let the matter go, however I feel the book may in the end be counter-productive and thus endeavour to explain why through this review.  (I wrote the following review in batches, before and during my trip to Dublin, so the going is rather broken, I am afraid…) Continue reading