In this issue:
- The ornamental grotesque of 17th century blackwork engraver Jacques Hurtu
- When the philosopher AJ Ayer met Mike Tyson
- Alasdair MacIntyre on Catholicism Instead of What?
- Repressed online communities and the latent demand for Urbit
- The Other Life group on Urbit is back up
- Building a university on Urbit?
- Seminars on Simone Weil and Gilles Deleuze
- Urbit job openings
The Cathedral and the Lyceum: Building Universities on Urbit
In previous months, we explored the significance of programmable money on Urbit, and the new economics of community on Urbit. This month, I'd like to explore one specific mode of mobilizing Code, Content, and Capital: Namely, courseware. We'll explore the 19th-century Lyceum movement, a decentralized public lecture circuit where some of America's greatest thinkers earned their livings. I'll argue that we're on the brink of a great Lyceum revival, but only if we can engineer our way out of the current local maximum: Specifically, the blunt and siloed $USD paywall systems that ironically make educational networking harder than in the 19th century. We'll be joined by Trent Gillham, founder/CEO of Holium, a company building a networked desktop client for communities on Urbit. He'll share his perspective on creator DAOs and how to build infrastructure for a new Lyceum revival.
➽ Register for The Cathedral and the Lyceum on Thursday, Jan. 26 (free)
The Ornamental Grotesque of 17th Century Blackwork Engraver Jacques Hurtu
The word grotesque in this context is counterintuitive. It doesn’t mean “gross,” or “from a cave,” in the typical pejorative sense
Ornamental Grotesque refers to decorative patterns composed of curving, foliage-like elements. Grotesque is interchangeable with arabesque.
In Western Europe from the 15th to 19th century, grotesque was used to decorate almost anything. It was commonly engraved onto watches and other metalware.
It’s called grotesque because of the way it came into fashion during the Renaissance. It was discovered in old paintings in basements in Roman ruins. Roman basements were called Le Grotte (The Grottoes) because they were essentially caves.
When the philosopher AJ Ayer met Mike Tyson
Ayer is not really a household name today, but he was an Oxford bigwig and an important figure in of 20th century Anglo-American philosophy.
This is a pretty famous story, but you might not know it.
Ayer—small, frail, slight as a sparrow and then 77 years old—was entertaining a group of models at a New York party when a girl ran in screaming that her friend was being assaulted in a bedroom.
The parties involved turned out to be [Mike] Tyson and Naomi Campbell.
"Do you know who . . . I am?" Tyson asked in disbelief when Ayer urged him to desist: "I'm the heavyweight champion of the world."
"And I am the former Wykeham professor of logic," Ayer answered politely. "We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men."
From A.J. Ayer: A Life by Ben Rogers (1999), as told in this review from 200.
Alasdair MacIntyre on Catholic Instead of What?
In a 2012 lecture entitled Catholicism Instead of What?, Alasdair MacIntyre says Catholicism should be viewed as a choice against alternatives and that the difference between these alternatives–which vary across time and space–hold valuable lessons. For example, Augustine chose Catholicism over Manichaeism and Neoplatonism, while Pascal opted for Catholicism over skepticism and Cartesianism.
Today, choosing Catholicism means rejecting scientific naturalism—the now dominant viewpoint that sees all genuine truths as derived from scientific method. Scientific naturalism considers questions about God, and the ultimate ends of human life, to be illegitimate or incoherent. To be Catholic is to reject scientific naturalism because to be Catholic is to insist on asking such questions.
The rejection of scientific naturalism implies other metaphysical commitments. MacIntyre is interested in the narratives we tell about our lives, narratives which can be “epic, tragic, comic, or farcical, and which are shaped by our relationship to the goods we pursue or fail to pursue.”
A key element of a good life is being truthful in the narration of one's own story. This is always challenging, however, not just because humans frequently err, but because it is in our nature, structurally, to err—as soon as we begin. This is why Original Sin is real. In other words, to form a truthful narrative of one's own life, it's impossible to not begin the story with Original Sin because—if we're being honest—our first instinct after deciding to form a narrative was to form a partial and self-serving narrative.
The other worldview that Catholicism rejects today, which MacIntyre sees as the other most powerful temptation, is the sophisticated nihilism of someone like Samuel Beckett. This tempting modern nihilism may employ certain pseudo-redemption motifs but it ultimately denies the possibility of true redemption, or true damnation. Catholicism affirms a strong version of real redemption and real damnation.
Finally, Catholicism rejects primary allegiance to the Left or Right. The dominant viewpoint today sees Left and Right as the most important categories of political differentiation. A Catholic may be partial to the Left or Right, but is always Catholic first and foremost.
Online Communities and the Latent Demand for Urbit
It’s easy to underestimate demand for a product if the lack of that product makes its target market invisible.
One of the reasons I’m optimistic about Urbit is that I’m closer than most people to communities that really need Urbit.
For instance, did you know that there is an underground film criticism scene that has been thriving for the better part of 10 years? (I learned about this last week from an anonymous tip.) This scene is replete with its own celebrity critics, who have published entire bodies of work. And where did they publish these bodies of work? On the film website Letterboxd.
I'll try to write a longer post about this scene later, for now I'll just make this one point that it inspired...
It’s remarkable that a distributed community could emerge and grow on a site like Letterboxd, which doesn’t even have Reddit-tier affordances for community intelligence generation. Sadly, of course, Letterboxd management is as politically risk-averse as any mainstream web platform, so this scene of critics is constantly seeing all of its work deleted. Yet this community persists, which is an even stronger indication that underground communities like this are tremendous reservoirs of cultural power just waiting for properly powered and sovereign networking infrastructure…
I think that every community like this will migrate to Urbit. It's already starting but the pace will just increase as Urbit's power and convenience continues to increase.
The Imperceptible Country
Highlights from our private community of more than 500 writers, creators, engineers, and investors.Become a member
Member-Only Discussions and Events
Group discussion of Vervaeke's After Socrates? (planning). Reply if interested.
Seminar on Gilles Deleuze's Cinema I: The Movement Image. January 22 at 3:00-4:30 PM Central. Please read the first 150 pages and come prepared with observations, questions, etc. To attend, RSVP at the link.
Seminar on Simone Weil's Waiting for God. January 30 at 10-11:30 AM Central. Please read the first half of Waiting for God (up to and including The Love of God and Affliction) and come prepared with observations, questions, etc. To attend, RSVP at the link.
Why Charities Are Evil by ~bintus-ragret (6 replies). Incentives play a role in how corporations attract and generate capital. Through evolution, those that are able to do this best survive, while those that cannot die off. Charities, however, have different incentives, which can cause them to evolve in negative ways; for example, employing tactics that worsen the issue they are trying to address in order to receive more donations. Reply on
Open Group Blog in
A Crusade Against Consequentalists, But Why? By ~difnyl-dotnet (6 replies). "Should my faith in Macaskill and Singer be more shaken in light of recent events? I think this community might have a unique opinion on this question (my general feeling of the Other Life crowd is: higher proportion of deontologists, technically savvy, slight conservative bent, etc)." Reply on
Open Group Blog in
The War on Technological Literacy by ~mocsyr-lormec (4 replies). Technology is highly influential in our lives, directing the way we think, behave and interact with the world, and yet it is still not viewed as something that should be understood deeply. In order to become technologically literate, people need to have control over their physical hardware and personal data, and be aware of where they are directing their attention. Education systems should also be teaching people about technological literacy rather than simply teaching them how to use these devices and follow the rules with no understanding. Reply on
Open Group Blog in
The Other Life group on Urbit is back
If you're not already in there, join or rejoin
It's now faster, easier to navigate, and nicer-looking thanks to the new Groups app.
You can see I'm sporting the Realm desktop client, which is currently in private alpha. But it's a little more stable each week and is starting to feel like home.
Urbit is finally starting to feel like a whole computer.
After the hiccups of last month, I know as well as anyone that Urbit is still a rough frontier. But man... Every time development takes a big jump forward, you really feel something. It's like growing your own vegetables; a little pain in the ass, but somehow they seem to taste better?
How to Set Up Realm for Urbit
If you've received your alpha invite from Holium, here's a quick walkthrough to help you get comfortable with Realm.
Be sure to join the Holium group at
~lomder-librun/realm-forerunners or say hi in Holium's off-Urbit Telegram group https://t.me/ther0undtable.
- iOS Swift Developer (full time). Several years experience and some familiarity with Hoon. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.
- Full Stack Developer (full time). Well rounded engineer who has a functional programming background and a proven track record of delivering high-quality infrastructure or platform products. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.
- Runtime Engineer (full time). Deep knowledge of C, asynchronous systems code, memory allocators, Rust, etc. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.
- Hoon Developer (full time). Completed Hoon School and ideally App School. Some experience developing production software. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.
- Principal Product Designer (full time). Generalist design background and can manage projects autonomously; work closely with PMs and engineers to deliver thoughtful and systematic solutions to spec; manage and evolve existing design systems; BA in Design, Architecture, HCI, or relevant experience; 7+ years’ product design experience. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.
- Director of Finance (full time). Investor relations, create and maintain financial models, develop investor presentations, bookkeeping and accounting, etc. 3+ years experience in ops, finance, or investor relations. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.
"More people are flattered into virtue than bullied out of vice." —Surtees