Monday, September 06, 2010

Baby Talk and Baseball

Kerry asks,

"Why do many of us speak to our pets in baby talk or in a voice different from our normal one?"

My conjecture is that because we think of our pets as our children. Now, it is actually a good thing to talk to newborn babies in our high pitched baby voice. The high pitch, especially a modulated high pitch, stimulates neural activity in the very young brain. Studies of the infants of depressed women show a marked retardation in the development of certain faculties and this is traced in large part to the difference in auditory stimulation. When one is depressed, one marker is a flat affect expressed in many ways, but in one's voice clearly. So, for the youngest children, the baby voice actually has biological value.

Our pets are thought of as members of the family, but ones we need to take responsibility for all the basic needs -- feeding, cleaning up after, training in the ways of living with the family. In these ways, pets are a lot like young children and my guess is that these similarities -- as well as that they are cute and look somewhat but not exactly like us -- trigger behaviors that are usually reserved for our treatment of kids.

PeterLC asks,
"Who is the greatest baseball player of all time and why? Let's settle it here for all time."
It's a pseudoquestion. It has no answer for two reasons. The first is Aristotle's objection to Plato in the Nicomachean Ethics -- there is no good, only good for. It is meaningful to ask whether Brooks Robinson or Mike Schmidt was the greatest defensive third baseman. It is meaningful to ask whether Sandy Koufax, Lefty Grove, or Whitey Ford was the greatest left-handed pitcher. It is meaningful to ask of all the ball players ever, who had the greatest impact on the game or who was the best leader in the locker room. But best ballplayer ever requires a "best for what?" answer first and that is precisely what this question doesn't give.

Second, even if we could answer this question, the problem is that we would have to be pulling from an incomplete data set because of the racism that keeps a number of the greatest players who ever played out of the conversation. The feats and talents of the Negro League players were not tallied or storied in the same way as their white counterparts. Josh Gibson, for example, should by all rights be a part of that conversation, but inevitably wouldn't be.


YKW asks,
"Two of the best baseball players of all time are also two of the biggest morons not worthy of being remembered, Cobb and Rose. And Bonds ain't far behind them on both accounts. Coincidence? Discuss."
Already did in one of my posts that has generated the most traffic in this blog's history -- the one discussing the absurdity that is Ayn Rand's "philosophy" titled "Is Human Excellence the Mark of Mental Illness?"". I do believe there is a reason why the greats were also head cases. Natural talent is enough to make one really, really good. But to be truly great, you have to have a certain kind of insecurity that drives you incessantly, that leads to irrational effort and focus, that allows you to devalue other parts of your life that ought to be valued in order to concentrate on this one element to a degree that is less than healthy. And that sort of insecurity also tends to make one a difficult personality, to see others as threats or inferior, to need to put others down to lift oneself up. you see it in every realm, not just sports. A lot of greats in every field are awkward human beings outside of the performance of their task.