Yes, this is the right thread for this:
I found this essay engrossing, if not profound. Dr. Agnes Callard is a philosopher at U. Chicago.
Archive version: https://archive.ph/je8XK
A philosopher I know once complained to me that when he tries to explain his ideas to mathematicians, they claim that they don’t understand him, that he’s being unclear, that maybe he’s not saying anything at all … right up until the moment when they finally grasp his point and say, “Oh, that’s obvious!”
Oh dear… I didn’t realize this was a “thing” with us mathematicians and philosophers.
I remember a joke with just two mathematicians. One asked the other about the proof of some theorem, and was told it was trivial. So they went away to figure it out, and only after a week of hard work were they able to come back and say “you were right – it is trivial”.
One March day in 1742, a very unusual man set up a table on a busy Philadelphia street. Benjamin Lay was sixty-one years old, wore humble homespun clothes, and sported a long beard. His head was large and his eyes luminous, but his posture and height immediately set him apart: he had a stooped back and stood a little over four feet tall. He carefully laid out a few teacups and saucers, delicate objects that had been treasured by his wife before she passed away, and then proceeded to smash them with a hammer, crushing the dishes with dramatic flair. With each loud blow, bits of ceramic flying, he denounced the “tyrants” in India and the Caribbean who mistreated the workers who harvested the tea and enslaved the people who produced the sugar that his Pennsylvania neighbors consumed.
Oblivious to his words, passersby responded to his deeds with shock and indignation. Some implored Lay to hand over the porcelain wares for safekeeping, while others offered to purchase the set or dashed to grab the cups to spare them abuse. A group of young men picked Lay up and threw him to the ground before hauling him away to prevent him from committing further violence against property. Unwittingly, they all became players in Lay’s performance, illustrating his moral point. Philadelphians cared more passionately about the safety and sanctity of objects than they did about that of other human beings.
Born in 1682 in Essex, England, to a Quaker family of modest means, Benjamin Lay possessed—or perhaps more accurately, was possessed by—an unshakable moral conviction that compelled him to follow his conscience, even as it led him to live a deeply unconventional, and in many ways uncomfortable, life. In England he was disowned by two Quaker communities for accusing religious leaders of covetousness; Lay saw the community’s rising wealth and materialism as anathema to the Society of Friends’ commitment to equality. In Pennsylvania, where he moved in 1732, his truth-telling and deepening antislavery militancy got him disowned twice more.
Benjamin Lay was so bad ass… They need to make a movie of his life and Peter Dinklage can star…
Lemme tell a story
You’ve probably heard a lot.
About a needy Harvard kid
Whose family owns a yacht.