Enveloping And Dividing


L. Rhodes

Occasionally, there are practices so embedded in the prevailing culture that they pass scholarly notice until they've been superseded by some popular new invention. That's what happened with "letterlocking," a practice so thoroughly overlooked since the invention of adhesive envelopes that the name wasn't even coined until this century. Atlas Obscura offers a look at the scholar who pioneered the study of letterlocking techniques.


Graciela Iturbide's photography appears both intimate and otherworldly. Much of it has been attained by patient immersion in the communities she depicts, and yet her composition seems to pull her subjects out of the particular and into a heightened sense of being. In the course of reviewing an exhibition at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts for NYRB, Christopher Alessandrini situates her work in the context of a life marked by loss.


Academic philosophy has long had a blind spot with regards to black philosophers, so a recent exploration of the work of one of the earliest European philosophers of the African diaspora, Anton Wilhelm Amo, is a welcome addition to the literature. Amo's philosophy of mind, according Chris Meyns in the latest Philosophy Compass, builds off of Cartesianism, but develops an asymmetric relationship between mind and body, starting with the premise that the mind is purely spontaneous.


Religion & Politics has a useful backgrounder on the threat of schism looming over the United Methodist Church after a recent vote went against expectation to further solidify opposition to LGBT inclusion in the denomination.


"Bayesian thinking has become idealized as a norm to aspire to and ultimately to be controlled by," Justin Joque writes in Real Life. He's talking about the statistical theorem that underlies much of the probabilistic computation that conditions our technologically mediated lives, from weather prediction to Google Search, and beyond. Control creeps in, in Joque's explanation, because "[t]he Bayesian revolution ultimately ties knowledge to its ability to be worth something." Fine and good, so long as we're talking about the weather, I suppose, but Bayes is increasingly providing a basis for decisions that radically affect the subjects' lives, like whether to extend them a line of credit, or how long they should spend in prison.