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May 07, 2008



Poor bastard was just doing what the notebook told him to!


Great story. Here is a random but not completely unrelated quote from John Dewey's Theory of Valuation:

"If a person, for example, finds after due investigation that an immense amount of effort is required to procure the conditions that are the means required for realization of desire (including perhaps sacrifice of other end-values that might be obtained by the same expenditure of effort), does that fact react to modify his original desire and hence, by definition, his valuation? A survey of what takes place in any deliberate activity provides an affirmative answer to that question."


If I find myself in that situation, I will now know how much to pony up!

Will Davies

Harry - it didn't tell him to do anything. It had my email address in it, $50 next to the (printed) heading 'reward'. If he could make sense of that, he might have made sense of the words 'Information Desk' or 'Lost Property'. Granted, someone else might have already made off with the book, but there was definitely some abuse of my property going on.

Lee Bryant


Haven't you worked out yet that your propensity to theorise and rationalise everyday urban problems and minor crimes is why they keep happening to you? It's a special case of 'be careful what you wish for'. Next time, just swear, make vague and unsupported threats of violence and seek no theoretical explanation. That will break the cycle.


I can't decide whether you did or didn't break the frame, to be phenomenological about it.

A related story, which I saw in the local paper and which therefore must be true: guy gets stopped in the street by scary person and asked for money. Hands over a couple of quid.

Scary: What's this?
Guy: Oh, you're *mugging* me! I'm terribly sorry, I thought you were a beggar.
Scary: Do I *look* like a beggar?

Oh, the embarrassment.


Hum. I'm glad you got your notebook back, after our IM paranoia session the other day ... But now I can't decide whether you're more annoyed about a) the theft b) offering a reward in the first place c) handing over a different amount of money for obscure, but probably worthy reasons.

Also, do you think it's possible he's stolen your ideas? Keep a look out for them in Prospect over the next few months ...

Ben Ayers

Fantastic. You did the right thing in my book, well, from what I remember it said in my book. I lost it about four years ago in the V and A.

Duncan O'Leary

Dan Ariely (http://web.mit.edu/ariely/www/MIT/) would tell you that the problem is that you replaced a social norm with a market norm. i.e when you put a price on something, people (including you when you met him in the park) immediately view the situation as a market transaction rather than a social interraction.

He argues, for example, that this expains why fines may even exacerbate illegal behaviour, because they put a price on it, possibly making it social acceptable.

I'm making my way through his book (http://www.predictablyirrational.com/?page_id=129) at the moment - i'll let you know if it's any good...and if there are any other money-saving tips in there.

Will Davies

Nice point. I'm not sure a 'reward' is quite the same thing as a 'price', although I appreciate that the distinction is too subtle to make a great deal of difference. There is some separate normativity at work here, in which the reward represents some sort of gift in recognition of help (of course gift-giving and exchange are two ends of a single spectrum, as Marcel Mauss teaches us). You give a reward because you recognise that somebody has done more than was expected of them. In this instance, the man has done considerably less than was expected of him - he has actually picked up an item of my property and taken it home with him. That behaviour doesn't deserve a reward. And now I want my forty quid back...


Hurrah for the British Library - an unexpected source of bridging, as well as bonding social capital...

Pedants Corner

You feared "blackmale" in the park.

Perhaps you mean the light fingered brigand intended blackmail? Though the mind boggles at what deep secrets of the sould you have sequestered in the moleskin that you feared blackmail. Was it a vote Boris sticker?


Hmmm, where and how did this guy get access to a PC and email account if he "lives in the street"?

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