What are some of the best blogs on Quora?

In Quora: Sean Hood voted up this answer.

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How do philosophers make a living in 2011?

Sean Hood voted up this answer.

I employ them as database designers.

My company specializes in “ontologies”.  (For those of you involved in that field, we predate the Semantic Web and mean something rather different from what they mean by “ontology”.  Our use of the term comes somewhat closer to the original sense Aristotle would recognize.)  Fundamentally, the goal of a database is to represent what you know, and the structure of that database is intended to parallel the state of the world.  A philosopher is trained both in how to draw abstractions of the world, and in how to express those in logic, the usual language of ontology.

By hiring a philosopher for the job (somebody who specializes in knowledge and the world) rather than a database designer (somebody who specializes in computers and systems), you can get a database which is more self-consistent, more maintainable, and more capable of giving you information in terms that the database’s users can understand rather than in computer formalisms.  It’s easier to integrate with other systems because you’ve specified rigorously what everything means and how it relates.  (It also requires a good deal more computing power, but computing power grows cheaper every single day.)

This notion of database design isn’t for every system, but it’s gradually getting a bit of traction.  And it helps keep a few philosophers off the streets.

We also happen to have a philosophy major running our servers.  There’s no particular application of philosophy there, although I suppose the critical thinking skills one gets as a philosopher are applicable to solving those problems.  The actual specifics of LDAP or the CRM are just trivia that can be learned.

That lesson applies to a lot of different fields: the details do take time to learn, but often not as much time as the specialists imagine.  Good critical thinking skills are the basis of solving any problem. Philosophers would make good managers and executives; executives themselves often bounce from industry to industry because their job is really to manage the people, not the products.

Philosophy is really an extremely broad field.  In fact, it’s the broadest field: it’s the “love of wisdom” in general, and dedicated “philosophy” is only where the field has not yet become specialized or commercial enough on its own to merit a separate department.  Anybody who loves wisdom and learns to think well would make a valuable employee. 

Not all philosophers seem to genuinely love wisdom or think well: the field is so all-encompassing that a depressing amount of plain BS manages to get passed of as philosophy, and even other philosophers are embarrassed by it.  That’s just Sturgeon’s Law in action: 90% of everything is crap.  You can find the remaining 10% anywhere, though, and you’ll often find it among the philosophers.

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Friday Filmmaker Finds, August 15th Version!

Blog Post written By Levin
Hello everyone, welcome to another Friday Filmmaker Finds!

First off, let’s begin with a video essay on one of my favorite films: Blue Valentine. It’s probably one of the most truthful movies on love since Annie Hall because it manages to capture both the ecstasy of falling in love and the eventual heartbreak with frightening authenticity. It’s one of those movies where you’re worried about the actors because it looks just so damn real.

In this video essay, our slightly lethargic but very informative narrator counts the insane things they’ve done to get to this “frightening authenticity”. Or, maybe, really, it’s not that insane — it’s just a lot of work that doesn’t feel like work. I mean, think about it, in the last movie you shot, did you make the actors rent/decorate a house and then live in it for a month to ensure they established intimacy? I guess a better question is — why doesn’t every movie? Is it that the standard movie doesn’t NEED this kind of authenticity or is it because most people are afraid to commit to a movie this much? I don’t know. But it sure as hell makes a difference when they do. Check out this video essay here.

Also, this is the most misleading poster for any movie ever. 
Then there’s this infographic from Fandor about the history of explicit sex on film. I’ve always been intrigued by how “low-culture stuff” (sex, violence) could be integrated into a higher form. I mean, hell, HBO made an entire channel out of it. But it’s still really interesting to see a cheap exploitation movie like Deep Throat side by side with an acclaimed masterpiece like Midnight Cowboy. Are there stories, good stories, that could only be told through violence and sex? As someone who writes that kind of material, I’ll say yes. In my humble estimation, Game of Thrones without the brutality of it all would just feel impotent and Blue Valentine without that sad sex scene would be somewhat toothless.

As for our short movie of the week; I’m somewhat cheating again. (If you remember, the last short movie of the week was the opening of the video game The Last of Us, which you should absolutely see if you still haven’t.) This week’s movie is technically half of an episode of Louie, but I think it’s a great example of simple, efficient storytelling and a tribute to the late Robin Williams. I know most of you will probably watch it thinking about the dark undercurrent of the piece in relation to Robin Williams — that’s how I stumbled upon it — but also pay attention to the structure of the piece. It’s basically a set-up and a punchline but a great, great one at that. Never underestimate the power of simplicity and tremendous execution! Check it out here.

Hope you’ve had a great week and you have many, many great weeks in your future!

Levin Menekse

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