Adventures in Data Mining


You might think that students at our best universities, such as Harvard, are being exposed to new ideas and fresh perspectives on Justice.

But you would be wrong.

Following up on my quasi-statistical explorations of: the impact of shirtless photos on online dating success; and the occurrence of inadvertent expletives in formal presentations, I present you some data I mined from Michael Sandel (distinguished political philosopher at Harvard) and his recent book “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?”

Harvard undergraduates who take the “Justice” course on which the book is based, yearly: ~1000
Effusive plugs by famous Washington Post columnists, on back cover: 2 (1 conservative, 1 liberal)
Adjectives/phrases on jacket suggesting book’s open-mindedness to new ways of thinking (e.g. “searching”, “inquiring,” “rethink your assumptions,” etc): 10
Pages on rich white men who have been dead for centuries: 81+ (I stopped counting at 81)
Total pages of text, excluding end notes and index: 267
Pages devoted to discussion of markets: 36
Pages on the concept of “honor”: 8
Pages on Immanuel Kant’s view of casual sex: 2 (he’s against it, for the curious)
Pages on Immanuel Kant’s view of prostitution: 3 (also against)
Pages on the relative merits of Shakespeare vs. The Simpsons: 2
Pages on former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan: 6
Pages on flute playing: 2
Pages on outsourcing pregnancies: 3
Pages on guy who wanted to use golf carts in the PGA: 5
Pages on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE): 1
Pages on the tens of billions of non-human animals who are enslaved, tortured, and slaughtered by human institutions on a yearly basis, mostly to serve trivial hedonic interests: 0
Bravo, Prof. Sandel. Bravo! You win the Pulitzer Prize in Missing the Point.
The book would have been much more amusing if it were conscious of its own triviality. But Sandel somehow manages to talk about Kant and casual sex, without recognizing the rampant hilarity of the inquiry….
PS Yes, I stole this idea from DFW, and his wondrous essay on John Updike. But I guarantee you that he stole it from someone else. This is how writers work — we don’t create; we steal.