Archive for Grand HIgh Class on Greek and Roman philosophy

9 Sep 2013: Coursera che sera, sera

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 9, 2013 by spinoza1111

20 minutes first thing: 300 lowrise steps (a lot of pain at first), 100 movements without weights. Physio later today in all probability.

Have started Coursera MOOC (Massively Online Open Courseware): my trial class is Modern American Poetry. I shall need to manage expectations and not even try to overwhelm the class with my so-called brilliance: it is a reality distortion field that sucks the air out of the room, to use two metaphors (more precisely a simile and a metaphor); it creates resentment.

My main Coursera goal is to get a certificate for each class I take and this means quite a lot of boring work. It appears that the business model for Coursera is the crowd-sourcing of the testing of courseware so it can then be sold to universities and used in for-credit classes. Nothing is free, and the simultaneous benefit of a class and a piece of paper (that can be used to get jobs teaching creative writing in this class’ case) means I will get minimal access to poet and teacher Al Filreis at Penn.

I will be graded by my so-called peers and I am such a butt-awful snob that this could be a Coriolanus level disaster, meliorated only by my seeing it from far off this time. But I really hate it when the father-teacher abandons me to the siblings.

We start this week, however, with two poets I know and love: Emily Dickinson the introvert who like Rosalinde (As You Like It) doesn’t see the value of travel and Walt “Walt” Whitman who roars about and never met a man he didn’t like, who has wide sympathies. Emily would not use Facebook, Walt Whitman would love it. So while I love Emily the Ds poetry (many tough extravert guys strangely do) and while I can even pastiche it, Walt Whitman is for me in many ways more fundamental.

Meantime, my self-administered, pre-Coursera class in Kant, the ewige Kant class which like a constructive infinity or ABD PhD stretches out before me fading into the distance, since I haven’t yet, objectively speaking, understood the Transcendental deduction nor grokked the whole better than Heidegger or Strawson. What the heck, it’s fun.

My reading of Johansen by comparison as easy as pie as his magnificent chapters pass in review. I’m on Plato and shall be reading some dialogs as part of the “course”. I always get the sense when re-reading the Republic that it (philosophy) is all here in the sense that all remaining philosophy can be found in the Republic.

It is possible to overemphasize this. I was very glad to read Rawls and not Plato at that one class I was privileged to take at Princeton in political philosophy: yet Rawls is but a refinement of Plato in so many ways: the Rawlsian upper crust, whose income increase benefits the least well off with public libraries, public pools, and the Ginza mall in the poor community of Tin Shui Wai, can be considered a Guardian class. Indeed, I thought that the Yuppies were going to constitute a public-spirited Guardian caste. I was wrong.

The Guardians have left their posts.
Flit in and out of the desert temple,
Ravenous for soulmeat,
And brother feeds on brother,
A pile of books for sale with loose cigarettes, tobacco dust, chicken offal.


7 Sep 2013 (significantly updated 8 Sep)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 7, 2013 by spinoza1111

Couldn’t sleep, had the idea to do my first-thing workout at 3:38 AM, but keep it at only a supine 20 minute workout. Had a surprisingly vigorous if supine 25 min workout: 150 motions warmup, 250 with the weights and then a conductus (air conducting) of the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 3rd or Eroica symphony. Not having a chopstick to hand, I did open hand stickless conducting to great effect, communicating my intention for a liquidity to occur using a very flexible hand wave, but, of course, the result was strangely like Leonard Bernstein, the conductor of the recorded music.

Hope that this tires me out enough to get some sleep [it didn’t]. Will need to reset, limiting my sleeping during the day in order to get up at dawn on Sunday.

The problem was that I ate both large Lindt bars and this has been a caffeine and theobromine blast. When will I learn … I cannot eat like a kid with what used to be called terminal cancer. It’s just that the 90% Lindt bar is soooo good, altho now the thought doesn’t appeal, I am sated unpleasantly. Yes, I should kiss the joy as it flies even the selfish solitary food joy which growing up in a large family causes (you don’t want to fight for it) but I don’t want to destroy my taste for quality chocolate, either.

My grandmother, my father’s grande dame mother, a Hochwalt, praised my temperance once, searching my character desperately for signs of noble conduct for she’d had hopes for me that were destroyed by my smoking and hippie behavior. I am glad that after her death I was finally able to live up to her ideal and even, in some measure, that of my father, for after I started running my father said I reminded him of Edward Joseph the war hero and perfect Elder Brother, fulsome praise indeed.

When Grandmother praised my temperance I’d merely refused a second helping of ice cream. She was always kind and lived in hope. I honor her memory now in my struggle with the same prostate cancer her husband had.

Indeed, I didn’t know “where I got off” with not being an athlete. Athletics definitely filled in, not all the craters on my airstrip but a large number of them. I realized that I wasn’t fooling anyone by rebelling against my father’s ideals, expressed as they were by Casablanca. The rebellion was that of a bum and it was hellbound. Dad was right, men need to be noble, and protect women. Oh women don’t need it? Protect ‘em anyway. It’s what the male primate is made for. And running prepares it and him.

But now my running is reduced to supine movements and a low-rise step. The drop foot is at 110 and not 90 degrees with respect to the leg and if run as of the glorious Old, and I come down with the foot anywhere between 110 and 120 it won’t be pretty. And, it’s unlikely that I can reverse the drop foot, all I can do is keep the angle at 110 degrees by wearing the ski boot between 1 and 2 hours per day. But the ski boot won’t enable a return to running. A grim prognosis since for a primate, which among many other things I am, being able to break even for a second per stride “the surly bond of earth” this flying as first confirmed by Muybridge’s photos, is, for the primate, ju-ju of a high order.

One smallish, almost invisible hopeful sign, like the ship some goers to the Palais Louvre see and others do not in Delacroix’ Raft of the Medusa is the fact that my foot rise has, I think, increased by five or ten degrees, probably as a result of using a boot to keep the left foot’s angle at 90 degrees.

But it also exists one other place, in the ocean and in swimming. The ocean, full of our trash! My used and stinky running shoes going back to Sep 1981 when they seemed so magic out of the box, New Balance light grey are floating somewhere in the Pacific Garbage Gyre! Shame, shame, nothing but shame on me for pursuing a product, but honor, honor too for discovering how to break the surly bonds of earth and experience ** JOY ** in chasing after Eddie and Peter, not anger: God how they ran everywhere in the sunshine of Mountain View, lookit dose jungle trees. It’s … complicated.

It is tragic this denoument. It is like Phedre and I am Theseus for sure or even Phedre herself: “Jusqu’au dernier soupir, de malheurs poursuivie,
Je rends dans les tourments une pénible vie.”
However I do not believe that I have committed a frightful crime. I just want to be able to say those lines and to SCREAM “Je rends dans le tourments une pénible vie” and thereby put in art all our pain, and, like Bottom, condole in some measure.

But staying up ALL NIGHT and writing reams! It’s what moony adolescents do, not 63 year old retired gents.

A mystery body change is coming to me. I have no hair anymore other than on me head. My new skin (for skin as an organ replaces itself) is that of a baby or woman, soft and slightly fatty under the epidermis. My old grey pubic hair is disappearing, gone on the left side of my dick, almost gone on the other side. My John Thomas lolls limp and exhausted having done its work of reproduction, thinking on past insertions but definitely hors de combat. This would be caused by the hormone therapy, I’d hazard. The skin so pleasant to feel. Is this a fatal disease? A transfiguration, death and transfiguration? Stun me if I know.

Idea: Leonard Bernstein in a Box

Surely the software technology exists to support a software package with the scores and a mechanical, machine-made performance of a menu of works including the Third symphony, or alternatively the score and some conductor’s version.

OK, so the user stands or sits in front of his laptop with its Web camera and a motion sensor in the software (eg., no new hardware), and the computer alters the performance to correspond to the user’s specific hand motion. BOOM, like Flight Simulator, an empowered Walter Mitty!

I would definitely like this technology to exist for my use and I’d pay for it, but my music and software skills are deficient with respect to my idea. I hope someone steals it and creates the program for profit or Open Source. If they create it as a proprietary program I hope to see a cheque for this idea but I won’t hang by the thumbs. All men live in hope, but cheques for mere ideas are a capitalist myth.

It may exist. I don’t want to add a search for it to my overweight List of Things That I have not done, or have ill done and done to others harm.


Kant: Three forced marches through Dieter Henrich’s 1969 essay on “The Proof Structure of Kant’s Transcendental Deduction.” Still unclear. Need to outline the essay after seven forced marches.

Sections 20 and 26 are “two parts of the same argument?” I am still confused. Did Henrich really penetrate and solve once and for all the mysteries of “Chapter II, On the Deduction of the Pure Categories of the Understanding”? That is his boast.

No, it’s called literally, in English translation, “Transcendental Analytic, Second Section, On the Deduction of the Pure concepts [not “categories”] of the Understanding.” I had thought that Kant’s own loose and shifting lexicon excused his reader from precision: it does not since Kant’s own murk is quite enough without you Structuralist chaps setting off a blasted feu de joie, and adding, if I may be permitted a metaphor and I bloody well may be at this point, your own French confusion, damme your eyes and rot your boots.

My edition is not only broken in its spine at several points, the glue of the backing gaping thru having given way, so that you have to check to make sure pages haven’t fallen out, the pages are greasy as if soaked at some point with skull-sweat. I never busted out crying or slit my wrists after reading critical passages seven times only to be as ignorant as I was before I started but it was a near run thing.

[I fall into a watch, then a Prose and then a dream while watching reruns of Sharpe’s rifles on my computer…thank G-d for YouTube…zzzz…shhhh don’t wake Grampa…]

When the Sarn’t Major (the one who hated me) found my copy while rooting in my kit in Portugal he screamed at me why did I make it harder on myself and my mates with this extra weight? I honestly don’t know save that Kant is so painful as to be analgesic with respect to lesser pains such as when my foot was half shot off at Corunna and dangled at an angle, causing me agony in the slightest movement. The Sarn’t Major (the one who hated me) positively oozed consideration: as i’th’old play,

“Consideration, like an angel, came
And whipp’d the offending Adam out of him,”

and he asked whether I shouldn’t like to burn my Kant since we’d be heading over the mountains to rejoin Hooky (Wellington) after Sir John Moore’s death. I said no since I had only read it five times through and found it amusingly incomprehensible. It was literally the only book in our entire division save for Moore’s Army Regulations, Johnson’s Dictionary, and a bound set of Tatlers, all three of which volumes constituted Sir John’s library. After his death, the Sarn’t Major was seen to abstract (steal) the Tatler with the Duchess’ udders on the third page but that was understandable. Good old Sir John. But I digress…zzzzz…who’s that?…hmpf bllllrrrrrgggg…Esme?…you want another Roundabout Mouse?…very well…there’ll be rest enow when I’m gone…

[I awake from my dream…]

Ancient Philosophy: Johansen’s finest hour: chapters on Stoics and on Socrates.

The Stoics caricatured of course as nihilists but I noticed in 7th grade (in Evanston’s magnificent public library) that at least in the humanities, arguments apparently cogent were being constructed all the time to prove A and ~A. This seemed connected with my ability, almost a tic, to modify mentally any word to any other by a short series of letter relations based on sounds.

The caricatures of the Stoics, and the sympathetic if patronizing Platonic dialogues, still don’t let us access the truth of the Stoics.

As Johansen relates, Plato had every advantage in life…the equivalent of a trust fund. He was related to Tyrants (Critias and Charmides).

It has always been so plain as pikestaffs that graduate students and untenured faculty with trust funds can always outcompete others, that one wonders, how could anyone believe otherwise? Plato used this in his war with the Stoics who, underneath the polite phrases, wanted Plato dead, for Plato, unlike Thrasymachus (a Stoic and major foil to Plato’s Socrates in the Republic) Socrates and Plato could afford to believe in Truth and not Power…Socrates because like Diogenes, Socrates managed his needs, and Plato because Plato had powerful relations.

In fact, the Stoics’ epistemology looks far-forward to Foucault. Ask yourself this question which I find in Foucault: what if words needed no one-for-one referent? It’s too facile.

What if there is no truth, no power and just truth-power as in certain African philosophies “truth” has to be translated rough and readily to “that which gets over in council, and whups other competing truth-powers’ ass”?

Oh? That’s skeptical? Well boo hoo. Is skepticism a luxury good destined for the metropolis? Nuts to that.

The Stoics needed Truth and Power to make space for Truth when faced, as they clearly were in Johansen, with an Athenian Power quite ready as in Socrates’ case to put people to death. We cannot blame the Stoics any more from the standpoint of a world in which the children of the wealthy and the haute bourgeois struggle through test preparation classes such that the more the parent can afford, the harder the child must struggle to pass and complete, not only the exam, interview and/or paper required for admission but also the test prep classes. The Stoics seem to me to have been in my position as a non-tiger, struggling, and isolated teacher trying to survive and avoid academic fraud, for I retained my hunger for truth. Indeed, truth is the fun part.

Who even, in the contemporary world, remembers “Critical Legal Studies”? Precisely because in the 1990s, CLS threatened to bring back free Legal Aid for the poor and the middle class from the 1960s, Legal Aid and Critical Legal Studies delenda est: like Carthage and for much the same reasons. Because of the 1964 Civil Rights act and associated jurisprudence Queer Legal Studies and racial theory survives on life support but the idea that the merely middle class person might be systematically wronged by lack of access to the courts is a non-starter which a general legal theory from the left would bring back.

That is (das ist)

I’ve been born, and once is enough.
You don’t remember, but I remember,
Once is enough.

– TS Eliot, Fragment of an Agon

3 Sep 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 3, 2013 by spinoza1111

Rather late but first-thing 20 min workout at 6:45 AM: slept in. 200 lowrise steps supporting myself and pulling myself up for upper body development, still cannot use weights. Supine movements with weights.

Then, after breakfast, 20 minute physio on the old rackety row machine: 7 “centuries” (sets of 100) of leg exercise with and without weights.

First thing workout and two workouts in one day! Yay!

Health Note: Eyestrain versus PowerNap, Foot “Drop”

My eyes have already started to blur out even using readers at 250 magnification; starting in my 40s I have needed ever more powerful cheap reading glasses, not wanting to spend money on eye doctors. But I noticed that I do not blur out in the morning. I was concerned for Johansen’s History of Ancient Philosophy is in small type (with a lot of words on each page making it an even longer book than it seems); whereas on the Internet I can always use screen magnification I’d have to get a rectangular glass, possibly, to finish Johansen.

But then I discovered or rather re-discovered the great benefits of the midday power nap. You just lay yourself down and abandon hope for sleep, just try to relax for 20 minutes or more.

Today, my clear eyesight, for now, has been restored owing to my Power Nap.

Physio attention drawn by my physician to my left dropped foot with its non-operational muscles for drawing the foot up. I will get a splint and sans a traditional Chinese wife to move and massage the foot I shall have to do so for 30 minutes a day while watching TV.


Reading of Johansen (History of Ancient Philosophy) moves apace, finished his magisterial chapter on the evolution of Greek ethical thought in tragedy (the triumvirate of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides) and history (chiefly Xenophon and Herodotus).

Makes one want to access the originals (my new reading regime accentuates primary sources). Temptation exists in the form of the complete line of Loeb Classical Library titles at Eslite books, that wallet-hoovering superstore in Causeway Bay. But then I’d have to add “classical Greek” to my learning banquet-orgy, at least pronunciation and orthography to be able to listen to the sound of words.

The two texts (English and classical Greek) probably exist online.

I thought before this return to free learning courtesy of my illness and Social Security that I was smart, but now I realize how many things (such as classical Greek) that I do not know.

And, if Aristotle is right, and the end of “man” is knowledge and wisdom, we should “reason not the need” although it is the habit of Asian wives and helpers such as my own to ask, why one bothers, and, why this expense of books. Well, I could do worse than study at this the gradual (I hope) end of my life. I could drink, or blow my brains out, or retire to an opium den. Merely reading and studying profits me and others with my teaching. Cleans my soul for possible admission to Heaven.

Returned PF Strawson’s flawed reading of Kant’s Critique, Bounds of Sense: may as well finish the damned thing. His style is very difficult to understand at least on Kant. Paul Guyer (translator of Kant for the 1998 Cambridge edition) much easier to read and more accurate, since Guyer, unlike Strawson in 1960, is uninterested in his own metaphysical programme.

1 Sep 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 1, 2013 by spinoza1111

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First thing 20 min workout at 5:51 AM: 150 warmup supine moves then 200 lowrise steps. Enhanced the step workout with one hand weight on the side doing the step but could not always do this on the left side (the side with the cancer): missed about 35 weight lifts.

Pain on opening my eyes, had one painkillah prior to the workout. Now getting occasional stabs.

Guy opposite me is terminal but usually cheerful. Yesterday evening he was getting frisky with his wife and she was slapping his hand away. But now he seems upset talking on the phone.

Guy diagonally to me, the Bird Lung Man, whose lungs are so far gone that his cough sounded like the weird laughing of a bird, has been carted away, presumably to the knacker’s yard. Gives me the willies when I think about it, but this place is a good place for reconciling myself with the sooner or later inevitable fact of my mortality, which last year came to loom up in my path. Like the wanderer’s Wall, in the very old Anglo-Saxon poem, “covered with serpent shapes”.

The Bird Lung Man’s Wife seems to have reconciled with him and was crying as he was taken away and she following.

Fifty years ago, Dr King gave this speech. Never fails to move me. Roy Wilkins to Dr King’s left seems to be in tears at the end; even the white deputy guarding Dr King seems to be moved (it’s hard to tell).


Finishing reading (Johansen 1998) about the pre-Socratics and their charming metaphysics, back when science was poetry in the morning of the world.

Anaxagoras’ ontology: concurs with my “object-oriented ontology” including its flaws. If I create a “world game” and in that game there is Descartes pondering the “piece of wax” in his second meditation, one way to code the game would be to instance a person object with Descartes and a thing object with “piece of wax”.

But the problem raised by Hamlet in the Gravedigger scene is that a Person like Alexander, or Descartes, can change into a Thing like a wad of hair and wax used to stop a draft or seal a cask of Malmsey wine.

Which means that all we know is that every thing is just a Thing and its Type would have to be just another property of the Thing. We wouldn’t have to commit to the “logical atomism” a precursor of which was Democritus. The Thinghood of a Thing (its Thinginess) would be a matter of convenience and reflect how the people (that are Things, for “remember man, thou art dust”) think as things (couldn’t resist the alliteration) of things.

But a snag for me, should I use an ordinary OO language like C Sharp, F Sharp or (preferably) Java (under xCode) for empirical investigation of the theories here, Types in these languages aren’t properties of objects to my knowledge. However, it is unlikely that I will get around to much programming at this time, programming at the quality level I insist upon is a complete time sink and now my time may be limited by Hamlet’s “fell sergeant”.

Instead I propose what appear to be natural things one can do with sufficiently powerful OO frameworks and leave it to more technical readers to object.

Our ontology, like certain of the pre-Socratics, like that of Buddhism (with caveats below) and like Russell’s Logical Atomism, has a minimal set of preconditions or commitments. All we really know is that Monism is false. Ergo (or “argal” as Shakespeare’s First Gravedigger says) there are many things that should be described using Einstein’s words: each “logical atom” is “as simple as possible but no simpler”. And, we’ve added to pre-Socratic and Russellian logical atomism the extra ontological commitment that Things can change into other types of Things: that they are malleable to the point of nonsense and the surreal:

He thought he saw an elephant
That practiced on a Fife:
He looked again and saw it was
A Letter, from his wife:
“At length I realise,” he said,
“The bitterness of Life!”

– Lewis Carroll, “The Mad Gardener’s Song”

“If cinnabar were now red, now black, now light, now heavy, if a human being were now placed into this animal shape, now that one, if on the longest day the land were covered now with fruits, now with ice and snow, then my empirical imagination would never even get the opportunity to think of heavy cinnabar on the occasion of the representation of the color red, or if one and the same thing were were sometimes called this, sometimes that…”

Kant 1998

But this, to conclude, is all we know: Monism is false (make this an axiom if you are unconvinced of its truth, saying not “Monism is false” but instead “if Monism is false”): therefore there are many Things and any Thing can change at any time to another subtype of Thing.

If you can simply think in the conditional, you’re doing “quantum metaphilosophy” without excess commitments. Congratulations. This appears more in contemporary than in traditional philosophy, notably in Rawls and Peter Singer in my experience. Indeed, misreadings of Singer’s metaphilosophical books by buffoons have caused demonstrations at his talks and the misrepresentation of Singer as a monstrum horrendum.

Object-oriented programming (actually doing it as it is taught at introductions for majors or non-majors at Stanford) is a “metaphysics lab”. There is a “metaphysics lab” at Stanford at which adepts may do OO as a way of learning metaphysics; I am not familiar enough with this Lab to say; they do publish an excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy which should always be used in place of wikipedia.

But what we find is unprecedented in the history of philosophy and religion and as such may not be acceptable. Theories of reincarnation of sentient beings are familiar enough from Buddhism: but as far as I know, Buddhists do not think that inanimate “things” are sentient (Keown 2013), not even complex cybernetic entities such as “a Boeing 747” which has telos (“stay aloft for as long as possible: don’t permit the pilot, in normal operation, to engage in monkey business such as barrel rolls, etc.”: cf. Langieweisch 2010 for more on this).

Buddhists in general reserve the ability to change type to sentient beings considered either biological or of nature (a Frog or a Mountain) but they might perhaps be convinced to include (in the spirit of Heidegger’s tool integrated with the “life-world” through attentive-to-being use and care) some inanimate objects.

“Reincarnation” as commonly understood is change in type (from human to animal and vice-versa) but within biology whereas perhaps irresponsibly we’re generalising the implicit type changes of reincarnation.


Praying the Rosary calms me down. I disregard its association, in Europe only, with some of the worst anti-Semitic and right-wing manifestations of Catholicism in Spain, France and Eastern Europe.

It’s amusing that Westerners get all enchanted with Tibetan Buddhism. This form of Buddhism, quite unlike original manifestations in India and China, emphasizes prayer in addition to meditation and contains many aids, figurative and mechanical, to prayer. The same Westerners might in some cases turn up a nose or two at simple Catholics fingering their beads, ironically.

I simply haven’t learned enough about Buddhism to practice it, and I need a spiritual praxis. I know Catholicism, and am heretic enough to equate all religions. Christ said “go and teach all nations”. I don’t know where he said “be Catholic or be damned”. That was the apostolic authors of the Epistles and Acts, I think. But I am quite content, until noticed by Church authorities, to combine Enlightenment (which I consider an important revelation) and the Church despite accusations of “Modernism” and (eek) “Americanism”, Pope Leo XIII’s terms for reading the Bible critically using modern science and the US Catholic belief that they could co-exist with Protestants and Jews.

When I stopped drinking I realised that by becoming what Mom called, in her New York accent, a “freethinkah”, I’d gone off the rails for the absence of a Higher Power drove me to insanity. I realised that I needed to combine Enlightenment and religion, or die. So I did, practising until recently a nameless spirituality and, recently, returning to the Church.

The parish priest hears my confession, reassures me (as did priests during my OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) Catholicism of 1962) that a mortal sin is rare (and confined, if you ask me, to CEO suites and the Oval Office) and most important, gives me the Blessed Sacrament.

This practice gives me a lot of balance and peace. But that’s the American individualist reason we find in “Eat, Pray, Love”, that recent memoir about that beastly woman who laid waste to half Yourup by eating, praying, and loving up a storm in its capitals. Perhaps instead I’m just, as in Kant, “supposed” to do it. Perhaps the Ancestors command. I do know that Yuppie type thinking is as dead as the 1980s. The Earth cannot afford it.

I mean: two dear friends have just exhausted themselves cleaning up my crap because even in China I insisted on buying things to heal my soul. I am not even saying that buying something cannot heal the soul, as in the case of books, including the very books I comment on here (Johansen’s History of Ancient Philosophy and the Cambridge Companion to the Critique of Pure Reason.) But I once too often pressed the lever.

Nothing beats (or at least until Kindle, nothing beat) the Hotel Mensch’s small shelf of carefully selected books, his main library being in storage back in the Reich. That is what I had when I arrived in Hong Kong many years ago (2005) and that is what I have today.


Johansen 1998: Karsten Friis Johansen, “A History of Ancient Philosophy: from the Beginnings to Augustine”

Kant 1998: Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, edition 1 p 100, Tr. Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, Cambridge University Press 1998

Keown 2013: Damien Keown, “Buddhism: a Very Short Introduction”, Oxford University Press 2013.

Langewiesche 2010: William Langewiesche, “Fly by Wire”, Picador 2010.

Change Record

2 Sep 2013: Error, changed “combined to Oval Office, etc.” to “CONFINED to …”

30 Aug 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 30, 2013 by spinoza1111

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20 minute workout at 6:35 AM: 200 lowrise steps, with only one hand for balance to see if balance has improved: 250 supine weight gestures.

A beneficial side effect of mastering a very difficult text such as the Critique of Pure Reason is that less difficult texts are pleasantly more readable. Johansen’s History of Ancient Philosophy, for example, which was originally written in the relatively minor language Danish and translated to English by way of a grant from Denmark’s queen, is a real treat after the Transcendental Deduction of Kant’s Critique as is a daily newspaper. Even the “Transcendental Aesthetic” chapter of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is easier to read because Kant is applying later methods of logic.

Started to take the Open Courseware (OCW) class in Ancient and Mediaeval Philosophy as taught by David O’Connor of the University of Notre Dame to accompany my reading of Johansen and get my money’s worth of my purchase of this expensive book. Started re-reading Plato’s Republic in the required Jowett translation posted as part of the OCW materials.

Philosophy contrary to jejune opinion does make progress. This is indicated by my example of Kant’s Whopper (cf. p 613 of the Cambridge University Press Critique), in which Kant takes 150 (German) words to explain in one sentence something that would take far fewer words, in one or more sentences, to explain had Kant only had a clear idea of the distinction between constructive and non-constructive infinity, which Brouwer and Heyting based on their studies of…Kant. Clearly, the replacement of poor Kant’s confused Scholastic logic by modern logic (with preservation of the best of the old tradition such as the classification of syllogisms) was real progress.

Likewise, Kant’s invention of the taxonomy of synthetic apriori, analytic aPriori, and synthetic aPosteriori proved to be useful for later generations.

Philosophy makes progress, however, chiefly in the way each philosopher must engage the past, at a minimum to find out if she’s “reinventing the wheel”…altho there’s not the total ban on wheel reinvention in philosophy as there is in engineering.

Two twentieth century philosophers who seem to have ignored tradition and who risked reinvention of the wheel are GE Moore and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Moore simply wanted to think things through as his brilliant essay The Refutation of Idealism shows. Without the gibbering ghosts of former idealists such as Berkeley, or philosophers seduced by idealistic talk such as Descartes, Moore came up with a strikingly original thesis: that the results of philosophy could not contradict common sense, indeed, common sense was the empirical data for the philosopher as physical reality is for the scientist; common sense can falsify the most beautiful philosophical theories.

This point is remote from Kant yet anticipated in Kant.

Although Moore (like Wittgenstein) fails to credit older thinkers, in Moore’s case Kant, whose distinction between what I call “metaphysics” (the creation of nonsense entities) and how I use “ontology” (the analysis of experience into constituent immanent thingamawhats) really authorized Moore to want to discard elaborate idealistic theories about really real reality as opposed to the rag and bone shop of our experience. This inspired in turn the Moorean “Oxford” school of “ordinary language” philosophy which eschewed references to the philosophical tradition in favor of pub bore discussion of matters best left to scientific linguists, dictionary writers and other harmless drudges.

Even more so than Moore, Wittgenstein, who was educated as an aeronautical engineer and who then renounced his share of the considerable Wittgenstein financial legacy, meaning that he had to work for a living, which he did, was the real Noble Savage of 20th century British and Austrian philosophy. When Bertie Russell heard Wittgenstein defend his philosophy for a formal credential, Russell basically overrode the rules (as a Lord Russell could do in that era) to give Wittgenstein his credentials.

Yet even less so than in Moore, and ordinary language philosophy, do we find references to an older philosopher in Wittgenstein. Of course, Wittgenstein based the calculus of the Tractatus on Gottlob Frege’s Begriffschrift (conceptual notation), but this is a mere technical calculus, of the sort Wittgenstein must have taken-to.

“The world is what is the case” taken together with “The world is the totality of facts, not of things” echo Hume’s final conclusion and I’ve no doubt that Wittgenstein read Hume, who’s engaging and easy to read (altho too tiresomely bouncy at times), but Wittgenstein, like most Kantian scholars until very recently, doesn’t seem to have comprehended the central part of Kant, that is the 1787 Books I and II of the Transcendental Doctrine of Elements.

An additional tribulation of the reader of Kant, beyond the confusion of translations and the lousy bindings of the best edition in terms of translation and thorough research (Guyer and Moore, Cambridge 1998) is the chaotic layout of the Critique.

Basically, the central and most difficult part of Kant is where he leaves off boring you on *Raum undt Zeit* (the “transcendental aesthetic” of time *undt* space) and where starts up boring you on the “analytic of principles” (the Kantian attempt to ground Newtonian mechanics, which impressed Kant as much as relativity and quantum physics impressed the Logical Positivists): two really hard chapters which reward the seven read-through Kant wonk only with further confusion in most cases, and to which, one bids a hearty “farewell” at the end, only to find that the reading has changed your life.

The two “books” (numbered I and II but only in relationship to their containing material) must be comprehended by the serious Kant scholar or anyone aspiring to teach a class on Kant. And in their own atonal way, these two “books” present the reader with an alpine challenge of living in a world without the usual handwaving and excuses of life at sea-level one in which we have to understand when we cannot understand, and where we have to keep on climbing when we cannot, a sort of Everest littered as Everest is today with the bodies of philosophers who didn’t get it.

I make the above claim about Wittgenstein (and beg the reader’s forgiveness for digressing so on Kant: I am still snow-blind and dazzled by my intensive reading of Kant) only because Wittgenstein like most 20th century logicians, doesn’t seem to see the need for a “transcendental” logic setting for the preconditions for a philosophical dialog. But there was a move in this direction in the Philosophical Investigations.

However, as in the Tractatus, there’s what literary theorists call “the anxiety of influence” in Wittgenstein, the Freudian fear that the father might show up and spoil the fun. The strings “Kant”, and “Spinoza” do not appear in the Investigations. Instead, we can do Fun projects based on the Investigations.

More later…too sleepy to write coherently.

Edward G Nilges, Grantham Hospital, Hong Kong, 30 August 2013

25 Aug 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 25, 2013 by spinoza1111

EGN SmartJobs Dec 2011
Edward G. Nilges acts in TV commercial for, Hong Kong 2011, as “American CEO Seeks to Hire Chinese Guy”

25 minute workout first thing (6:00 am). Fresh damp morning (Morgen-Zeit). 50 warmups, 175 lowrise steps, walk, 75 dance steps with walking stick (the old soft shoe). No painkiller top-up so far, one hour after end of this workout. Painkiller (1) much later in the day (6:30 PM).

There’s a new patient in the ward who is drowning in his own fluids as his lungs give out. When I started working out his beautiful daughter was attending to him in the dim light like something out of Rembrandt. Sound of water.

I forget to call them “Chinese” because after all this time in Hong Kong, Chinese people look normal; and so do I; the facial differences seem insignificant. We assign meaning to them. My first Chinese coworker Lorraine, a Hong Konger, thought I was black because of body cues (I like to move to music, I am loud and somewhat aggressive in comparison to a Chinese male: I can tan as dark as Obama). At my last systems development job in Menlo Park I discovered on my last day that altho my coworkers liked me, they thought I was too “black” in demeanor to be a project manager (?).



If I were a rich man … I’d discuss the holy books with the wisest men in town … all day long I’d bidi-bidi-bum (daven) … – Fiddler on the Roof

Will have to seriously nerd out on Dieter Henrich’s article “The Proof Structure of Kant’s Transcendental Deduction”, reading it seven times. I figured out how to use JStor, a library of academic journals including the June 1969 issue of Review of Metaphysics in which Henrich’s seminal article appeared, generating the neo-realist as opposed to “idealist” reading of Kant. For more than a hundred years, apparently, it was thought that Kant “really” was an idealist as vulgar (and as easily refuted) as Berkeley and as such no answer to Hume, who was no idealist, for sense data are mind-independent.

Kant seems to have been furious about this charge, first leveled against the 1781 edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, and he wrote the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics and the second edition of the Critique to try to refute the charge.

But the idealist canard stuck until Henrich seems (to me, without much authority, at this point) to have refurbished the realist account. As a painter and in a pun on my “realistic” style, I prefer realismus: my elegant line as seen below (a couple of days ago) in the “Something is a Foot” drawing and post as well as my indirect technique is an attempt to give a solid foundation to “things in themselves”, the hidden grisaille of the world.

This interest in line and form as opposed to color may derive from the moment of my first “apperception”, back in 1950, when the intractability of the Other (the Mother?) taught me that “I” am having an ap-perception including both sense data and the knowledge that “I” am having it…cf. Kant’s Refutation of Idealism on this.

Ancient Philosophy

Not much progress but Johansen (A History of Ancient Philosophy, Routledge 1998) a first-rate. Re-reading for continuity the first chapter on the earliest pre-Socratics up to the Pythagoreans, primarily during my daily bowel movement “parade” as a way to relax and focus on Higher Things.

Notes on the Final Fall of Man


– Edward G. Nilges, Notes on the Final Fall of Man

Wondering if the tumor growing or shrinking on my shoulder will form a magical post-doom child as happened to Father Zerchi in a Canticle For Leibowitz saying, repeating after Fr Zerchi, wait until it dies. I need my grand-daughters to have all the help they can get for I was reminded today that the oceans have a wildly out of whack Ph acidity. They are really dying and I have really left a mess for my beautiful granddaughters: some of that crap in the Pacific Garbage Gyre is mine. The future is here and all I can think of is some madcap scheme to get my grand-daughters on board the spaceship for the new Eden-planet.

19 Aug 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 19, 2013 by spinoza1111

Workout: 20 min first thing at 5:28: 100 lowrise step aerobics (stopped planned 150 owing to exhaustion, but cancer pain increase manageable): remainder of time spent in movement using upper/lower body and weights. Discovered feasibility of sitting and standing movement, will incorporate.

Have an appointment that may may prevent physio workout. Free for morning probably not 2PM because HSBC nonsense planned may go past 2 and may be exhausted by the nonsense.


Greek and Roman Philosophy from the Beginnings to Augustine

Finish Johansen’s chapter on Anaximander and Anaximenes (student of Anaximander d. 525 BC). Both start with the gnome such as “everything is made out of air” where gnome isn’t a little funny-looking guy who grabs women from under a bridge. Closest to the funny-looking guy who emerges from hiding to issue a pronouncement or task such as “guess my name” in the Rumplestilskin tale, the gnome is an axiom which unlike a mathematical axiom is striking and hard to refute such as “everything is made out of air” or “everything is made out of water”.

In this connection also study-reading the entry on “Monisms” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It incorporates the twentieth century’s use of analytic approaches to metaphysical questions, in which it turns out that there’s a fascinating (philosophical) probability that “monism”, thought to be a single philosophical school, has multiple manifestations and may be plural as in “monisms”.

Kant Kontinues

Meanwhile study of Kant kontinues.

Another verdammte re-read of the second part of the transcendental deduction of the categories because the graduate student blogger sitDownTragedies has completed a study guide to the second (insanely difficult) part of the transcendental deduction of the verdammte categories, and this study guide may be far superior to the mere transcription he modestly claims it is. It is provided only as photographs of his notes for the second part of Kant’s TD, and machine-readable notes for the part that comes between the clue and the difficult part…which as the true “second part” is, as I’ve said, insanely difficult.

I wish to assess his guide for “accuracy” altho we’re both “nailing jelly to a tree” given the multiple views of the 1787 TD of the categories, each claiming to be the last word.

Doing the history of philosophy, insofar as it’s the reporting of what philosophers actually think, not their biography nor historical settings, is itself philosophy: call my view “Historio-Philosophy” to distinguish it from the history of philosophy and the philosophy of history, at the cost of sounding like Polonius. A taxonomy of philosophical views as merely a student study guide is needed but many questions in it would have to be answered with a philosophical view, which in light of the (philosophical) hypothesis that more than one philosophical view can be (of necessity) true.