Archive for philosophy

17 Aug 2013: There is No End, but Addition

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 17, 2013 by spinoza1111

Workout First Thing at 5:45 AM: 20 minutes: 100 lowrise steps, 200 movements with arms, legs and weights supine: walking.

Today may not have to use 300 magnification glasses. 250 seems to suffice. Yesterday owing to mid-morning tiredness, I had eyestrain and switched to 300 magnification.

On the Question, “Why Is There Something, Rather Than Nothing”, or “Why Does the Universe Exist?”

If the universe consists of everything (or even if we suppose that the universe consists of all heavenly bodies, and all spacecraft and their contents such as human beings and other intelligent life forms, as well as the odd “floater”, astronauts floating alive in space), then the answer to the question “why does the universe exist” would come either from outside or inside the universe.

As a thing, as a text, or as a question asked by a being capable of asking questions, the question comes from INSIDE the universe. There’s only one universe (we will address the scientific question of “multiverses” later).

Certainly, the question can be posed INSIDE the universe. Indeed it just has been. But the ANSWER would have to come from OUTSIDE the universe and this isn’t possible since the universe is “everything” (whether there is a finite or infinite number of “things” out there). The answer would refer to a cause of the existence of the universe located outside the universe and this is impossible.

Asking “why” presupposes a chain of cause and effect so that at least one cause (a Big Bang or Cosmic Fart) occurred outside the universe and this is absurd. The presupposition is needed because we know with Kant, as a matter of synthetic aPriori, that the cause precedes the effect in time.

One may well reply, “there is no time outside the universe” and this is indeed the case, but it merely exacerbates the silliness of a primal cause. If the universe occurs at time zero, the primal cause occurs at a negatively numbered time and this is “before” the beginning of the universe. But we still haven’t solved the problem, merely making the notion of “the primal cause of the universe, outside the universe”, even sillier.

If we define an “uncaused cause” then the universe is God and we become pantheists like Spinoza. But “what is the cause of the uncaused cause?” is of equal stupidity to “what is the cause of God?”

The CAUSE of the universe is PART of the universe if the universe is “everything”.

Kant and Wittgenstein explore this question, Kant in an almost unreadable, stupor-inducing fashion in The Critique of All Speculative Theology of the Critique of Pure Reason and Wittgenstein in a much more fun (if we may call a numbered series of rather dismal German aphorisms “fun”) way in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

Kant: Home of the Whopper

Kant addresses the problem in a single huge (180 words) sentence I call affectionately The Whopper. I typed it in from Paul Guyer’s recent translation of the Critique: here it is:

The absolute totality of the series of these conditions in the derivations of their members is an idea which of course can never come about fully in the empirical use of reason, but nevertheless serves as a rule for the way in which we ought to proceed in regard to them: namely that in the explanation of given appearances (in a regress or ascent) we ought to proceed *as if* the series were in itself infinite, i.e., proceed *in indefinitum*, but where reason itself is considered as the determining cause (in the case of freedom), hence in the case of practical principles, we should proceed as if we did not have before us an object of sense but one of pure understanding, where the conditions can no longer be posited in the series of appearances, but are posited outside it, and the series of states can be regarded *as if* it began absolutely (through an intelligible cause); all this proves that the cosmological ideas are nothing but regulative principles, and are far from positing, as it were constitutively, an actual totality in such series.

Wow. What a Whopper. One sentence (find the full stop) of about 180 words (the absolute number depends on how you count the words).

The Whopper, taken from Paul Guyer’s 1998 translation is a literal translation, almost word for word, of the original German, for as we see it uses the hierarchal and nested form of 18th century German.

Kant’s point may be briefly summarized; we may not contemplate a finished infinity but we may cognize a rule for generating an infinitely large thing or infinitely long series. Kant’s prolixity is the artifact of his lacking a language for talking with brevity of a constructed versus a completed and contemplated infinity. Ironically, the very mathematicians and philosophers of the 19th century who created the philosophical school of mathematical intuitionism, in which this distinction is explicit and can be described, did so because they were educated in the Kantian tradition and had to struggle through Kant’s famously difficult works in school.

If a universe is everything, or the enumeration of all bodies capable of supporting intelligent life, capable in turn of asking stupid questions, then the question comes from inside the universe. If we could contemplate Kant’s “actual totality” of the series generated by a physical rule (Kant’s “regulative principle”) capable of inventorying all things including the why-question, we could find the question after a finite amount of time: but Kant rules this out. We’d have to watch the universe being constructed (and pieces of it being destroyed) by way of the regulative principle and may never find the answer to the why-question, and if we did the answer would refer to objects outside the universe (constituting for the most part pieces of the cause) and be without meaning, or just false.

There is nothing, not even faded signs for jumble sales, burning tires and dancing trolls.


Wittgenstein is refreshingly terse. The propositions of his Tractatus Logico-Philisophicus are numbered, and the very first is:

1. The world is everything that is the case

Much later we find:

6.5 For an answer which cannot be expressed the question too cannot be expressed.

The “riddle” does not exist.

If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered.

And that, is that. There is no answer to the question “why does the universe exist”?

Now, I am aware that in modern cosmology, “universe” is sometimes used as a plural noun. Multiple “universes” are used to explain physical reality. However, this is done merely as a terminological convenience that we may with grace, grant to scientists. The set of all real “universes” is the real Universe, and were it not for a verbum stare (the existing word stands) law, grandfathering “universe” we’d have to start calling each “multiverse” a multiverse, mini-universe, or a something that’s clearly not a universe such as a Pandaemonium. But terminological convenience should not blind the philosopher to the philosophical fact: there is only one Universe, and in this universe we may not as a matter of formal logic ask “why?”.

We may not look up to the “starry heavens above”, Kant’s own beautiful phrase (“the starry heavens above: the moral law within”) to find an answer. For in TS Eliot’s words, from his poem The Dry Salvages, “there is no end but addition”. And death brings sleep and the mystical in Wittgenstein:

6.44 Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.

6.45 The contemplation of the world sub specie aeterni is its contemplation as a limited whole. The feeling of the world as a limited whole is the mystical feeling.

Or as Mahler puts it in his symphonic poem Das Lied von der Erde, Dunkel ist das Leben, ist der Todt!, “Dark is life, dark is death!”.

I am writing this sitting in a four man cancer ward in China
With kind relatives visiting three
Nobody’s visiting me,

Men scream in pain in another room
In mine, an emphysema victim laughs in lieu of a cough
Like a bird of paradise tossing the dice

I am writing this sitting in a four man cancer ward in China
With kind relatives visiting three
Nobody’s visiting me,
And we’re all like a lifeboat bobbing in the sea.
Bobbing, in the sea.
Where silly questions bovver me.

Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 5.11.40 PM

All Conspiracy Theories Considered Absurd

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 27, 2012 by spinoza1111

For the philosopher, who’s not an “analytic” philosopher, but has analytic training, the set of causes which I’ll call “denialism” (but are usually known by the somewhat more negatively charged, lengthier and more general phrase “conspiracy theory”) present an interesting challenge. In this article I shall prove that no species of denialism can ever be true or meaningful, using a very basic form of the logic of statements.

I shall restrict my attention to denialism, which I’ll define as a conspiracy theory that negates a received truth or opinion. A pure conspiracy theory, such as “the world wide Jewish conspiracy” doesn’t do this. A denialist conspiracy theory often “piggybacks” on the received truth-opinion, gaining currency from the popularity of the truth-opinion. For example, if all the toffs and their women are talking about Shakespeare or Michelangelo

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo

– TS Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The insecure Prufrock can say that Bramante sculpted the Pieta as a short cut to sounding deep.

Then a strategy to regain cultural capital (what Bourdieu calls Distinction) would be to put the boot in by saying that “Shakespeare” didn’t write Shakespeare, where “anti-Stratfordianism”, the belief that a miller’s and alderman’s son did not write the “Shakespeare” of the First Folio is an example of Denialism.

But first of all, what are some “denialisms”? Here are some of my “favorites”, arranged in an order that will be obvious.

Lo Thus Quoth Dighton, Lay those Tender Babes: The Ricardian Denial

The tyrannous and bloodie Act is done,
The most arch deed of pittious massacre
That euer yet this Land was guilty of:
Dighton and Forrest, who I did suborne
To do this peece of ruthfull Butchery,
Albeit they were flesht Villaines, bloody Dogges,
Melted with tendernesse, and milde compassion,
Wept like to Children, in their deaths sad Story.
O thus (quoth Dighton) lay the gentle Babes:
Thus, thus (quoth Forrest) girdling one another
Within their Alablaster innocent Armes:
Their lips were foure red Roses on a stalke,
And in their Summer Beauty kist each other.
A Booke of Prayers on their pillow lay,
Which one (quoth Forrest) almost chang’d my minde:
But oh the Diuell, there the Villaine stopt:
When Dighton thus told on, we smothered
The most replenished sweet worke of Nature,
That from the prime Creation ere she framed.
Hence both are gone with Conscience and Remorse,
They could not speake, and so I left them both,
To beare this tydings to the bloody King.

Shakespeare: Richard III

The “received” account of the deaths of Edward V and his brother is that they were slaughtered by hired thugs, Dighton and Forrest, in the pay of Sir James Tyrell and that Tyrell was furthermore in the pay of Richard III, who engaged Tyrell when Richard’s buddy Buckingham wimped out of the caper.

This account appears in Shakespeare’s Richard III but that play was sourced on Sir Thomas More’s The History of King Richard III:

For Sir Iames Tirel deuised that thei shold be murthered in their beddes. To the execucion wherof, he appointed Miles Forest one of the foure that kept them, a felowe fleshed in murther before time. To him he ioyned one Iohn Dighton his own horsekeper, a big brode square strong knaue. Then al the other beeing remoued from them, thys Miles Forest and Iohn Dighton, about midnight (the sely children lying in their beddes) came into the chamber, and sodainly lapped them vp among the clothes so be wrapped them and entangled them keping down by force the fetherbed and pillowes hard vnto their mouthes, that within a while smored and stifled, theyr breath failing, thei gaue vp to god their innocent soules into the ioyes of heauen, leauing to the tormentors their bodyes dead in the bed.

The denialist account originates in a work of detective fiction, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time and it purports to prove the denial or the dubiety of the received story, found in both Shakespeare (who wasn’t writing history) and his source Thomas More (who was, but in a primitive police state in which it was convenient to establish Richard’s illegitimacy, given that More’s sovereign was the son of Henry VII, who settled Richard’s hash at Bosworth).

But chances are More was telling the truth: chap certainly spoke truth to power later on in the matter of Anne Boleyn: would such a one be quite so willing to tell a lie in his History here?

More’s compassion for real victims shines through in his use of the unusual word “sely” to refer to the children; for “sely” derives from “saelig”, a Middle (or Old) English word that managed to mean three simultaneous things: “silly happy holy”, like the Christ Child or John Dunbar’s “baby full of benignity”, at his “mothers breast sowkand”, or sucking at her tits. The meaning has disappeared in a world where it is hard to be all three things together. It also came through in Sir or Saint Thomas More’s actions in the matter of Anne Boleyn.

But note how the conspiracy theorist has essentially to reduce people to a subcritical level. Sir, or Saint Thomas More has become a propagandist hack even and the Shakespeare denier cannot imagine anything higher than a hack. The Ricardian conspiracy theorist relies on ignorance of Sir or Saint Thomas More’s martyrdom.

And later in the book in which this poppycock is bruited, a male interlocutor (chosen, I think, to be male to give him a voice of authority) deflates claims that British soldiers killed striking British miners at Tonypandy in 1910 by introducing Tey’s readership to watered down Hume: for as to most callow reader of philosophy should know, empirical claims can be doubted, Tey’s male character “shows” by way of the fact that “the material record can be doubted” that “no miners died at Tonypandy” when in fact the oral record indicates that they did…and the slaughter nine years on of Indians peacefully assembled to air their grievances at Amritsar confirms that British soldiers could and would open fire on civilians.

Anonymous: Shakespeare Didn’t Write the Plays

The recent film Anonymous, directed by Roland Emmerich, hasn’t done well at the box office. It is based on the denial or the claim of dubiety of the “received” account of the authorship of the plays collected by Hemyngs and Condell in the First Folio and attributed to Shakespeare, a glover’s and alderman’s son from Stratford and actor-manager in addition (according to nearly all actual Shakespeare authorities) to being a playwright.

Many amateur and self-appointed sleuths cannot imagine that a mere middle class man with a grammar school education (that seems to have been remarkably thorough) could have written about kings, and queens, and stuff, possibly because the typical amateur or self-appointed sleuth cannot.

The American Civil War Was Not About the Slavery, Stupid

Reputable historians do emphasize that the South made broader claims on the North before our American Civil War than simply the right of Southerners to own slaves. Somewhat apart from the fact that Northern states emancipated their slaves in the early 19th century, the South was also reluctant to approve high tariffs on imports in order to finance infrastructure (notably, the Erie Canal linking Albany with the Great Lakes) that benefited only the North or projects the South did not want.

But mainstream historians do not deny that the South developed the theory that the states could individually and unilaterally “nullify” Federal laws not only to avoid tariffs but also to prevent the free states, which were gradually outnumbering slave states due to Western expansion, from eventually gaining a Congressional majority, banning slavery nationwide.

Perhaps shamed by the heritage and their peculiar institution, Southern apologists in recent years have been claiming, on the basis of Nullification’s economic purpose, that the Civil War was not about slavery, rather about states’ rights.

Thie is the denial or the claim of dubiety of a story accepted by mainstream historians of the left such as Howard Zinn, and of the right, including Charles Johnson and Winston Churchill.

Americans Never Landed On the Moon

I lost my virginity in Wisconsin as the astronauts landed on the Moon, so perhaps this denial, or the claim of dubiety, that the Moon landings occurred is especially offensive to me.

It is theorized that the entire adventure was filmed on a sound stage.

Death of a President

Next we have the denial or the claim of dubiety of the official story of John F. Kennedy’s assassination on 22 November 1963.

The official story is that the assassination was performed using rather right wing methods (a bullet) by a malcontent loner with a checkered, expatriate past and a young, beautiful Russian wife, with left-wing sympathies but no real friends among the American left of the time. As is well known there are a vast number of alternate theories.

They were popularized by Oliver Stone’s film JFK. They are collected and rejected in a great whacking book by former Los Angeles District Attorney Vince Bugliosi, Reclaiming History.

I have read this book in its entirety. It is a monument to the legal insight and moral seriousness of Bugliosi, the Los Angeles district attorney who nailed Manson. It demonstrates not only that Oswald, acting alone, killed the President but also that historical “certainty” is possible where historical “certainty” is P(x)=1 “for all practical purposes”.

I was 14 at the time of the assasination and, just prior to the announcement that the President had been shot, I’d been disciplined for retaliating against a bully whose father had established the first McDonald’s outlet in Des Plaines, Illinois.


Comes now the denial or the claim of dubiety of the official story of 9-11. The official story is that it was the work of hired suicide killers engaged by Osama bin Laden, the scion of oil wealth who’d been enraged by the continuing presence of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War and the American abandonment of Afghanistan after its people had effectively won the Cold War. Some alternate stories claim it was staged by American spy agencies to mobilize the country against Israel’s enemies, etc.


This is the denial or the claim of dubiety of Darwin’s theory of Evolution and its modern restatements. In recent years this has been on the face of it a claim of dubiety in the form of claims that people who believe scientific authority are being excessively credulous, and that in the interest of fairness, the Creationist and “Intelligent Design” “theories” deserve “equal time”.

Global Maybe Not Warmingism

This is the denial or the claim of dubiety that “global warming”, most conveniently former Vice President Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”: that the world is getting warmer, that this is due to the properties of additional carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere, that the increase is due to human activity and finally, that this will have bad effects, some of them with positive feedback such that, caused by global warming, the effects (notably release of methane from melting sub-arctic permafrost) will be magnified.

The Nadir: Holocaust Denial

The denial or the claim of dubiety that Hitler killed the Jews is the most tragic form of Denialism. It often takes the form of denying the most extreme parts of the Holocaust; for example, some “respectable” Holocaust deniers concede that German Einsatzgruppen shot Jews in Russia during the Nazi offensive, but deny, for reasons known only to them, that Jews were gassed by design.

Truth or Consequences

All of the above Denialisms are issues of truth, but the first and most trivial (the “Ricardian” denial of Richard III’s guilt) has no “pragmatic”, no corresponding actions to be taken if either side is “proven”: since the United Kingdom is ruled by the descendants of an elector of Hanover and not by a Tudor monarch, the discovery of proof that Richard III did not kill Edward V and the Duke of York would have no effects, whatsoever, save on the Beefeaters’ morale, which I’m sure they’d restore by insisting upon retailing the old story and quaffing ale, or something like that.

The pragmatics of the Shakespeare authorship dispute are more serious, since quite a lot of Shakespeare analysis and interpretation, especially but not exclusively Marxist, accounts him to be a representative of a rising middle class empowered by technology (printing) and the Reformation (and the abandonment of the mediaeval Mystery play, leaving an initially unmet demand for idle entertainments) to make money and create works of art without being beholden to princes and magnates. Most of the Shakespeare Denialists prefer to say that an aristo (such as the Earl of Oxford, who inconveniently died in 1604) or at least a man with university training (such as Marlowe) wrote the plays, which denies the story of the self-made man of which the received biography of Shakespeare is an example.

The pragmatics of the American Civil War question are quite serious, since an official, Northern and “liberal” account powered the American Civil Rights movement: Dr Martin Luther King presented the need for equality as an “uncashed check” dating to the Civil War in which slaves were formally freed and enabled until 1876 (the end of “Reconstruction”) to use their formal freedoms practically. While latter day slavery Denialists deny they are racists, their cause is for this reason offensive to many African Americans. And as opposed, say, to Brazil, there remains at least a perception of racism in renarratives of the Civil War as being about “states’ rights”, and in cases like that of Trayvon Martin, whose shooting by a white-Hispanic security guard was not investigated by local authorities.

Moon landing Denialism has few pragmatic consequences because very few people believe it. The American moon landings were, according to some philosophers of science, the first real confirmation of Galileo’s heliocentric astronomy but very few disbelieve Galileo at any rate.

The JFK assassination Denialism has had mostly consequences in the form of a lot of wasted time, although it did trigger a separate investigation beyond the official investigation, in the House of Representatives.

The consequences of 9-11 denial have been equally small.

Evolution denialism and Global Warming denialism have had very, very serious consequences, in the USA as regards Evolution (where school systems have had to teach either the Biblical story of Creationism, or more commonly the “doubt”) and world-wide, especially in the USA, as regards Global Warming denialism: Republicans in Congress will not pass any laws that treat Global Warming as a possibility and as a result, no countermeasures were taken last winter against the possibility of high-strength EF4 and EF5 tornados recurring in 2012, where such large tornados had damaged large parts of the USA.

I believe that I can prove all conspiracy theories false, first by showing how they are logically false or meaningless (which I shall together call “absurd” to best express both ideas) and then showing how they cannot guide pragmatic action. To do so, I shall present the special case proof as regards Global Warming denialism.

Refutation of Not Warmingism

Here are Gore’s “inconvenient truths”, again: “the planet is warming, it is warming as a result of industrial activity by way of a known mechanism called the ‘greenhouse effect’, this will have bad effects, some of which will interact in positive feedbacks with warming, possibly creating a permanent change in our planet’s habitability”.

Mainstream climate scientists assert these Inconvenient Truths as a scientific statement: roughly, all of them taken together using “logical and” as a single Inconvenient Truth: mainstream scientists do so as scientists. Now this of course is to go out on the empirical limb, since this claim, as science, has a certain probability of being true, and a complementary probability of being false.

Let’s symbolize Gore’s Inconvenient Truth as IT.

If P(IT) is its probability, P(IT) is between 0 and 1 (0<P(IT)<1). It cannot be, as Hume discovered, exactly 0 (false with certainty) or exactly 1 (true, with certainty). The logical denial of the Inconvenient Truth, ~IT (not IT) has 1-P(IT) probability and it can’t be 0 or 1 in truth value, either: 0<P(~IT)<1 because 0<1-P(IT)<1.

But this is the logical denial of the Inconvenient Truth in English: “the planet is not warming (baby, it’s cold outside), or it is warming but owing primarily to sunspots or something, or the greenhouse effect isn’t real (CO2 is good for you), or all the foregoing is false but baby, Global Warming is good for you, or, anyhow, we could use a new planet. Might be cool. Or warm. Or something.” Logically, the sequence of individual claims connected by “and” is negated by a logically weak series of the negations connected by “or”: where IT is (A & B & C …), ~IT is (~A | ~B | ~C …).

Now this shows that Al Gore was making a remarkably strong claim, as is any claim that uses a lot of “ands”, and the denier is apparently more humble, since an “or” claim is logically weaker.

Logically strong claims are hard but brittle and easy to refute with one counterexample, whereas logically weaker claims are hard to refute, since they are refuted by the refutation of all their terms.

But, the logically weak or claim is not consistently asserted by the Denialists; their assertion is that they doubt the Inconvenient Truth. They do not claim “not IT” they say “IT is doubtful”…if we let ? be a doubt operator, the GW Denialists claim ?IT.

Now, this ordinarily seems both quite Enlightened and easy to prove.

To prove the or as opposed to the doubt, all the Denier has to do is disprove (but not to certainty, this cannot be done) any “link in the chain”. He needs to show that globally as opposed to local conditions (where it’s easy to show that global warming, in activating the movements of air, can create, chaotically, dramatic instances of local cooling), it’s not getting warmer, or that the greenhouse effect isn’t occurring, or another denial.

But: consistently, the Denialists do not do this. They speak as individuals (with an interesting pose of the vox clamant in deserto) or as members of foundations whose main goal is not to prove anything but to prove the doubt.

Now, as it happens, this is “nice work if you can get it”. We already know that when R is any empirical proposition whatsoever, its probability is 0<P(R)<1 but this is almost exactly the same thing as saying that the probability of ?R (“R is dubious as hell”) is unity: P(?R)=1.

Not only is no proof of the Denialist’s case needed (nice work if you can get it) it also allows the GW Denialist (who’s actually a Doubterist) to strike poses and quote Oliver Cromwell: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” It makes him seem to himself and his pals as a brave, Enlightened skeptic like Galileo.

Or something.

But, Houston, we have a problem.

As scientists, who only as part of their professional remit assert empirical propositions with probability P between 0 (certainly false) and 1 (certainly true), the Inconvenient Truthers already know that they may be mistaken!

This has two serious problems. The first is that insofar as the dubiety of IT is used as a call for debate, it’s a strange debate. Rather than a debate over an assertion and its negation, it is a debate between a climate scientist who asserts, taking the risk that she may be wrong, a claim, and someone else who asserts, without taking the risk that he may be wrong, that the IT assertion is doubtful. The second party can never be wrong because all scientific statements are asserted with implicit probability between 0 and 1 but expressions of doubt are, per Hume, always true, assertions about language guaranteed to be so.

Now, this sounds pretty nifty to the Denialist. “I can never be wrong, wow”. Guys love that when that happens.

But by way of Sir Karl Popper’s well-known “unfalsifiability” critique of Marxism and psychoanalysis, the Inconvenient Truth Denialist is not as he usually claims doing science and does not belong in “open scientific debate”.

Worse than asserting that the sun goes ‘round the earth theory when that’s been finally confirmed false (probability close to 1, perhaps .9999999, but not 1), most recently in the Moon landings (oops, aren’t they bogus? NO), the Denialists “argue” for a proposition as necessarily true as 1+1=2…the tautology that the Inconvenient Truth is doubtful. Of course it is.

Worse than the Indiana legislature of the 19th century that asserted that pi, the ratio of the radius to the circumference of a circle, is exactly 3.14 as opposed to its unclosed continuing value (3.1487…), the Denialists want to “argue” that 1+1=2 in arguing that a scientific statement can be doubted.

It is noble and heroic to do so when arguing as does Winston Smith with O’Brien that five fingers remain five fingers, in 1984, and recreationally, the denialists like to pretend that world science is in cahoots with world government. But O’Brien asserts that four is five, an assertion of probability 0, whereas the climate scientists assert IT, equivalent to 0<P(IT)<1, and this is logically consistent with the claims of the Denialists.


Let’s now move to pragmatics. The Inconvenient Truth has serious policy implications, therefore the next step is analyzing the costs and benefits of acting as if it is true, or false.

Now, this analysis was made informally by the Bush administration at the time of the non-signature, by the USA, of the Kyoto accords in 2000. Basically, the administration said that Kyoto would retard economic growth in the developed countries.

However, their linkage is weak and uses a curious American axiom. This is that the profits of existing large firms and the incomes of their first set of benefactors (the wealthy majority stockholders and the bondholders of energy companies) will benefit ordinary Americans, indirectly but automatically, through job creation.

We Americans often believe (but I do not) that if the rich get richer, they will go crazy and start companies, creating jobs. But, of course, and as Keynes noted, sometimes if you’re rich, you prefer to just punch in your ID at an ATM and admire the numbers. Sometimes you like to take a girl along to help you admire them. Sometimes you flash your wad. Sometimes you light cigars with one hundred dollar bills and overtip snooty headwaiters.

We are encouraged to believe along with Milton Friedman that all the rich rise at the crack of dawn to run ten miles and, during their run, hatch schemes for spending their money on job creation. But Thorstein Veblen would ask about the idlers and wastrels who rise at noon, providing at best jobs for manicurists, barbers and bartenders.

Call the rich who create jobs the “productive rich”, it’s quite possible that deregulation and globalization increased their ranks in the 1980s by creating opportunities to spend money on investment as opposed to consumption.

It is unquestionable based on anecdotal, literary sources that in the 1930s and 1940s, there were fewer outlets for productive investment as a result of a global flight to autarky, which was why the rich of the 1930s were very different from the rich of the 1980s.

But, and this is a key point, this has nothing to do with today’s rich. The rich of 2013 may be job creators, or wastrels.

In terms of what we hear on the media…it’s as if Thorstein Veblen never lived.

To philosophy, which is well aware (probably more so than the actual players) of undecidability, there are two open questions. The first is, how much money handed over to the wealthy investors in existing energy companies, which rely in some measure on global warming inaction, flows into productive reinvestment. The second is whether Keynes was right, and if you redirected the money hose at the poor, whether they would create immediate sales numbers for existing companies by immediately spending their money on common household appliances…and stuff.

Philosophy, without having to decide, knows that in this case, a golden mean might be the way to go. And, global warming Affirmationists want as it happens policies that are Keynesian.

Rather than preserve the incomes of existing energy companies invested in doing things they will fund startup businesses in alternatives, and redirect through carbon taxing the profits of the energy firms.

The cute thing about philosophy is that it teaches you to keep on thinking when you do not know, at least with the certainty most people like, and what we’ve discovered is that in one minor way, the Denialists, who are mostly conservative in the rest of their politics, are Hayekian, and believers in the free market (especially as currently jury rigged in favor of the big shots…excuse me, that wasn’t philosophy, it was me channeling Tony Benn and Michael Foot, not germane, an aside) whereas the Affirmationists are Keynesian or socialist. Which means that as scientists making a pragmatic recommendation based on what they have discovered, the climate boys are well advised to argue for the Golden Mean.

If we do a cost and benefit analysis the cost of the truth of IT is probably high enough to the least well off to justify a pragmatic acting on its truth. The people most impacted by global warming, if it is occurring, are poor, they live on flood plains, they live on prairies, they live in forests, or they live in teeming cities where “austerity” has recently caused cutbacks in emergency services, or has prevented them from being instituted in the first place.

In the pragmatic cost-benefit calculation, the opponents of the Inconvenient Truth use as stakeholders the wealthy who benefit from existing corporations through bonds and equity. Its proponents worry more about the “99%”.

We can conclude that in the known absence of certainty, we should act on Global Warming.

The Proof Generalized

Now, let’s generalize the proof of the falsity or meaninglessness of IT denial to that of all conspiracy theories.

A scientific or legal conclusion is made about states of affairs, let it be C. The Denialist doesn’t assert ~C (not C) he asserts !C (C is doubtful pronounce it “bang, C”). But because any meaningful official or legal conclusion as to a state of affairs has probability P(C) where 0<P(C)<1, the probability of ~C is 1-P(C) and the probability of this is also between 0 and 1.

The received story of Kennedy’s assassination, while never having P=0, has a probability less than 1, and its denial has 1-P which is also between 0 and 1.

But the “probability” of !C is unity.

But this means that !C is not science. Jibber jabber can consist of false statements ("jibber jabber the earth is flat"), meaningless statements ("jibber jabber the current regnant King of France is bald") or even, as here, true statements ("jibber jabber Global Warming is doubtful"): Mr Jibber Jabber, funded as you may be by the Heartland Institute to raise doubts and impede, you are still talking nonsense.

The “Ricardian” who seeks to re-open debate about the disposition of the two Princes, the JFK assassination buff who seeks to re-open debate about Kennedy’s assassination, and the Holocaust denier do not strongly argue for their alternative claims, rather they argue for the dubiety of the mainstream story.

This is because as conspiracy theorists, they also argue for the corruption of the documentary record when it presents evidence confirming the mainstream story. Perhaps Sir James Tyrell was paid to confess (and endure the usual 15th century torture? Oh well): perhaps Thomas More wrote what Henry VIII told him to write (and later on stood up to the King in the matter of Boleyn? Oh well): perhaps an odd lot of men like Hemyngs, Condell, Ben Jonson, a variety of ink-stained printer’s devils and who knows who else were in on the First Folio caper.

This indeed is Josephine Tey’s main idea in The Daughter of Time: the gullibility of the sort of people who believe documentary records. It’s a popular form of what philosophy students learn, hopefully in their first course: the fourfold division of statements into analytic versus synthetic, and apriori versus aposteriori.

But it ignores the radically different logical status of “P is doubtful” and “P” or “not-P”. All meaningful scientific statements are doubtful, and as Popper knew, if they are not, if they are not in his view “falsifiable”, they are jibber-jabber mumbo-jumbo, like Marxism or Psychoanalysis. The question is pragmatic: without even knowing the specific numerical value of the probability of P we must decide what is to be done.


In the past, conspiracy theory and denialism were at the shadows and in the margins, a sort of B-level. However, the Internet has nearly destroyed the distinction between high Culture and low. It makes people feel that they are “just as good as anyone else” for today, they do not have to visit the Bodleian Library to find a copy of Thomas More’s History of King Richard III.

Reading science fiction has long been a way for people to feel as if they participate in the glamor of science without having to do math or think very hard. Likewise, being a Denialist makes you feel, I’d guess, that you’re an authority. If some twerp, poolside, has read every play by Shakespeare several times over, you can recapture the attention of the ladies by announcing in a weary, superior tone, “did you know, my dear boy, that Shakespeare did not write the plays”?

But there is something worse, that emerges in Holocaust denial most plainly but even occurs in trivial “Ricardianism”. In Tey’s book, a male protagonist (where Tey may have selected that gender to provide authority) is equally dismissive of the claim that British troops, in 1910, fired upon striking miners in Tonypandy.

I know the Holocaust occurred as a direct result of Hitler’s intentions mediated through a society without rule of law.

I do not know what happened at Tonypandy, in part because miners’ families in Britain then, and perhaps even now, have an oral and not a written culture. Any government support for a continuing written working class record is now ancient history for this is considered, in Britain and my own country, to be lunatic leftism. I spoke to a British man from mining families and he strongly believes that the shootings occurred. He does so because his great grandfather was there and told his son, and so forth. But this testimony is not to be found at the Bodleian, and as a Yank, I have no opinion.

But the common feature of Holocaust and Tonypandy Denialism (if there is such a thing as Tonypandy denialism) is the denial of suffering and the normalization of daily life as nonviolent and safe.

If Shakespeare in fact made a name for himself in a primitive police state where every word he wrote had to be approved by censors, in the teeth of opposition of envious men like Robert Greene who used Shakespeare’s own lines to mock him, while supporting a family long-distance, this is a tale of suffering and triumph. Its denial erases this.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the Moon at the risk of their lives. Moon landing denialism erases this.

People sat on roofs in Katrina begging for help for days. Global warming denialism makes the disaster just a case of “shit happens”, not something that may have been avoidable.

Holocaust denialism doesn’t in most cases deny that Jews and others were rounded up and ethnically cleansed, it merely seeks to deny that Jews were deliberately gassed; it is asserted that the Jews died of cholera. Some forms assert that while Jews were shot by Einsatzgruppen they were not gassed as if all the Denialist sought was to deny the apex of evil.

Now, this shows how Denialism is a Pop culture phenomenon if the purpose of media that at least in the past was labeled “B level”, “middlebrow” or “escapist” is essentially to reconcile the exhausted office worker with a daily pain of existence which cannot be squarely faced.

If Shakespeare didn’t struggle to write the plays and become a successful businessman, this excuses us from doing much of anything. If we can only deny climate change, we can return to daily existence and not worry so much. And if the Holocaust was in part not true, this is an anodyne of a sort.

Yeats said it best, in “The Stare’s Nest by My Window”, a poem about the way in which the Irish, to Yeats, habit of spinning stories can help us to avoid pain by selecting the most pleasant, or least unpleasant, story from the media…which now falls over itself, and not only in the USA, to retail pleasant stories.

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare;
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

Denying suffering is a form of hatred. Mass media entertainment techniques persuaded the people of my country to support a lie about WMD, so the denial in this case was not a denial of suffering in the direct sense, yet it was used to deny Iraqi suffering, for if Iraq had had WMDs the brutalizing ten year period of sanctions and the brutalizing war may even have been justified. If the Holocaust denier can “prove” that there was no “proof” than eight million died, he is content that one or two million died, for he’s shown how we can feed on fantasies.

We can deny suffering on order. Certainly, part of the reception of Shakespeare’s Richard III was pity and terror based on the belief, in the contemporaneous audience, that two kids were destroyed, accompanied by relief that Elizabeth had put an end to religious wars that had succeeded the dynastic wars of the 15th century and the reigns of Henry VII and VIII.

Deaths of children such as the nine day Queen Jane were known to have happened in the living memories of Shakespeare’s audience who it may be said was anxious, in a way we of course are not, that England return to the undecidability of religious conflict, an undecidability in which kids got killed. Denialism uses a strange, but comforting, logic: that because the Holocaust may not have happened (or did not happen) then our fears of being Holocausted in turn (say by our Serbian friends and neighbors) are silly.

But (as Fight Club seemed to imply) the office worker trades her autonomy for security which renders her relations superficial and insensitive to pain in a virtual reality of media in which violence is so ultra as not to be believed.

Philosophy’s job is here to open a door to some disturbing possibilities, and a disturbing way in which popular media can numb us to some real problems far more serious than the deaths of the Princes. Sometimes the fly has to be shown how to get back into the fly bottle.

It’s Prostate Cancer Stage 4

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 25, 2012 by spinoza1111

Nicholas Poussin, Blind Orion in Search of the Rising Sun

That’s the diagnosis by the Queen Mary team. It adds no tragedy to Dr Jamieson’s 25 May diagnosis of a “metastasizing adenocarcinoma” nor Dr Lau’s confirmation of that at QMH on 1 June. A Stage 4 prostate cancer is a metastasis. The only difference in my case is that so far we have not found the original prostate tumor, and prostate is inferred from my sky high PSA (Prostrate Specific Antigen) levels (80, should be 4).

The diagnosis is unconfirmed by any sort of “smoking gun” but we need an action plan and the sky high PSAs mean we need to assume that it’s a prostate and get started on minimizing malignancy based on that diagnosis (malignancy cannot be eliminated almost by definition).

Stage 4 is associated in an old fashioned Bette Davis Dark Victory way with remaining lifespan estimates but these are almost without meaning as probabilities. The reason they are without meaning is that today, more so than in the 1940s, patients are exceeding the number owing to rapid changes (all for the better) in medical science. And, there are statistical anomalies where a subset of patients does not respond well to treatment and their lifespan is shortened.

This, and because my spiritual plan is based on the one day at a time deal, means that I shall simply ignore the lifespan numbers. The doc did say, if you meant to do something do it, but as it happens what I meant to do was on my list before this debacle. I have as it happens been following my dream for many years and not living a phony life. The end of the rainbow, les foullis d’arcs en ciel pour l’ange qui announce la fin du temps, might be Queen Mary and there are far worse places to wind up.

The diagnosis presented so well by Dr Jamieson on 25 May is the fact, the weenie, the wall, wondrous high: from the old English poem the Wanderer:

weal wundrum heah,
(a wall, wondrous high,)
wyrmlicum fah.
(wound round with serpents.)

It is the same wall, and the good news (and there is good news) is that the initial therapy is hormonal and not chemo: basically my testosterone has to be lowered and my estrogen increased. This would be a big deal if I were some young stud but as it happens I have two children and (through “God’s Grace Abounding”) two grandchildren circulating in a womb in Chicago, eyes opening to the dim light of the maternal ocean. As far as I am concerned, I will turn into an old lady like Guan Yin if that is what is necessary to survive.

For I want to survive. The Me part of me could care less and only asks to drift away without pain in terminal dreamland. But the We part of me says two things.

First of all it says that this is very interesting and I want to see how it plays out for somewhat the same reason I watch the credits at the end of movies.

Second it says that I have been given so much and would like to return the favor through art that heals and eleemosynary actions, even if the latter are merely teaching jobs at a pay that’s so low it makes it somewhat eleemosynary.

More good news is that I am now free, as of a week, from my nicotine addiction that started in the Chicago and Northwestern Station in 1966 when, burning with shame and exhausted because I could not figure out how to hold a minimum wage job, I bought King Edward cigars. I’ve been on Nicorette for seven years but last week I just stopped. And I have had no withdrawal symptoms.

ne sceal næfre his torn to rycene
(a warrior must never speak)
beorn of his breostum acyþan,
(his grief of his breast too quickly)
nemþe he ær þa bote cunne,
(unless he already knows the remedy) –
eorl mid elne gefremman.
(a hero must act with courage.)

Source for the Wanderer is here. I read it the first time years before the Internet.

My father never liked my sang-froid. Perhaps he saw too much in the war, too much sang-froid that ended up with men falling from planes. Perhaps he thought my sang-froid was associated with my apparent fecklessness, a fecklessness that is exaggerated in a family like mine for in fact I took care of business.

In the 1990s, I was between jobs and was looking for one. After my cheerful status report to Dad, he grumped that I was “whistling in a graveyard”.

I mean, give me a break. Unemployment isn’t a graveyard, Pop.

But I have to hand it to my father. I’d just started running in 1981 and met him at a bar on the near north side. I was slim and had a killer suit and tie, grey flannel and rep. Children of the Depression, and my father was one, loved this look for to them it meant survival. In Shanghai of the time, it was the New Thought look.

My Father said, “you’re looking well, Edward. Quite well, in fact. In fact…you remind me of my older brother Edward.” Now, his older brother Edward (o anima cortese Mantoana) was a war hero and his accolade was undeserved. But I’ve never forgotten it.

Spinoza’s definition of sanity might be: I cannot hate God and God, if God exists, does not hate me. My spiritual program is about a Power greater than myself who restored me to sanity more or less in the course of going about that Power’s business. A loving God in fact raises all sorts of problems such as conditional love based on rule-following. But Yosemite was too silent to be real, and lofty, and there I was happy.

In his creaky deductive psychology, Spinoza’s gratitude was a zeal arising from love of him or It that has benefited us. But Spinoza doesn’t say what I would say in addition. Gratitude is itself a pleasurable emotion as we think happy thoughts about what has happened in our life that is blessed.

Foolish individuals mocked “philosophy majors” at fourth rate universities in the 1970s. As it happens I find it useful to have majored in philosophy.

A Fundamental Error in “Cancer, a Very Short Introduction”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 11, 2012 by spinoza1111

In Hong Kong and on the public program you have to do the EZ-Klean procedure (about which the less said the better: Google it if you are curious) at home the night before the colonoscopy, and clean up after your Self.

Caution: this is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. I am a layperson uneducated in medicine and a cancer survivor of three weeks duration having been diagnosed May 25. But without pretension, I think, I can spot flaws in the philosophical implications of a medical choice. I believe that education in philosophy and logic is so missing from medical education as to moronize doctors speaking on issues that lie at the penumbra of their field, such that they can reason logically but only on a medical topic in a medical vocabulary. Whereas their pronouncements outside medicine are often moronic as here.

I generally like the Oxford Very Brief Introduction series because they are contemporary and very well-written.

Nicholas James’ Cancer: A Very Short Introduction is somewhat of an exception. Its information on medical options is first rate if opinionated.

But he’s dead wrong on holistic and alternative therapies.

He says they must be tested with the same rigor as new drugs and surgical procedures. Now, the problem here is that cancer, being incurable in most cases by way of verified drugs and procedures, is open ended.

Unless the holistic or alternative treatment “does harm” it may turn out, in a later state of medical science, to be confirmed scientifically as a cure. But hardly any such remedies do harm, for they are for the most part based on opposition to the most common form of scientific cure: tissue destruction through radiation and chemotherapy. They tend to be benign and natural, such as Linus Pauling’s overdoses of vitamin C or simply eating a rational diet as opposed to the crap I fed on up until, and not after, my diagnosis (crap that didn’t show up as obesity because of my thirty years exercise: crap that may have lain in wait.)

The alternative procedures necessarily lie outside of formal testing because most of their proponents do not want them to be subject to the cynical two-person game: private greed versus government regulation increasingly under assault. The testing is not only scientific it is a social process which changes the outcome, and has a disturbing error rate – although it doesn’t, admittedly, kill people (except in a way masked by the fact that cancer is, after all, incurable, and harm may have been done).

The penumbra of alternatives such as not going negative in interpersonal relations is like the criminal economy to the economist: the economist or medical scientist herself makes negative assertions about the criminal economy or alternative therapy that cannot, in themselves, be subject to the same rigorous checking that she demands of people who write about the criminal economy, or push alternative therapies for cancer.

The fundamental error is positivism in Adorno’s sense. When he used the word, he didn’t mean the more sophisticated forms of Positivism such as Logical Positivism with its verifiability, or Sir Karl Popper’s falsifiability. He meant a crude variant, the original variant: Comte’s assertion that the world operates to physical laws that we know (physics, apart from the ugly postulation of the ether, was considered finished in 1890 at the end of the Comtean century.).

But, since many philosophies generate folkish misinterpretations, Comtean positivism became Dickens’ Gradgrind’s folk positivism, in which the only true assertions are those that are verified. This makes the set of true assertions even more narrow than that of Logical Positivism, in which the only true assertions are those that are verifiable in principle.

James, the author of the Oxford Very Short book on cancer, is unreflectingly a folkish Comtean having no education, independent of medicine, the logic of whose vocabulary he’s a master, in philosophy and logic; indeed, an academic at Hong Kong poly recently warned me, in my academic job search, not to say I taught logic. Embed as James is in the system of careful verification of new drugs and surgical procedures, he won’t make room for benign procedures, often chosen by the patient, outside the scientific stockade.

Now the problem is that most cancers are still incurable: that what matters to the patients, We The Living, We The Cancer Survivors are (1) a shot at a cure, whether scientific or alternative and (2) life extension, grandchildren, and quality of life. We are a third type of scientist, for there are the theory boys such as theoretical physicists, and then there are the appliers of science such as software engineers and doctors and finally, there is the Object of medical science: the patient.

But it takes again an Adorno to remind us that in the sciences of “man”, of which medicine is an example with no pure theory at all (because apart from animal medicine, medicine is about the Object-patient, a person) the Object wishes to be a Subject as well as an Object, whence the activism of Aids victim and cancer patients…an activism in the latter case is diverted by elites into the American Tragedy of no health insurance (while it’s been talked about since Truman), or the British system and its strange Post Code lotteries which James describes, and which set patient against patient in the same waiting room…because one’s come from Amersham and the other from Tooting, and one or the other gets the better drug or procedure.

The patient who would be a subject, who takes responsibility with EZ-Klean and in my case thirty years of running which has pounded my L4 into my L5 spinal vertebra and given me painful sciatica, not caused by my cancer, but who thereby avoided sickness while supporting his kids, who chooses alternative therapy without avoiding medical procedures, isn’t a scientist, of course, he’s a Person engaged in a Fight to the Death for Survival and Flourishing.

And grandchildren.

This person should not be told, implicitly or explicitly, that alternatives are useless because not verified for they are verifiable and falsifiable, in the latter case especially if they do harm. And the sterling reputation of Oxford University Press should not be wasted on such an opinionated, and, in its last chapter, incorrect book.

My doctor-father is of course spinning in his grave where I hope his Beautiful Soul rests in peace. He would not agree with my views on alternative medicine.

But at a deeper level, my father did, in the 1930s, study philosophy and logic with pleasure at university, and continued to study philosophy until the end of his long and noble life. He would start ordinary medical lectures at non-teaching hospitals with references to Aristotle and Galen, and link these to the latest neurosurgical procedures of which he was a master. Non-western doctors, in my experience at Swedish Covenant, admired him for their Chinese, Hindu and Muslim cultures were more closely linked to the Confucian, Vedanta and Q’uran traditions of respect for precedent, compassion for suffering, and love of the natural world of those traditions, yet my Dad spoke from his Roman Catholic tradition, respecting life (including the often overlooked right to life at the end of life) and above all doing no harm…say by destroying the self-esteem and self-respect of a patient by treating her as an Object and mocking her alternative therapy in a superior tone.

It will come, as Albany says in Lear. The reversal of enlightenment, from falsifiability, to verifiability, to verified, and from there to Fundamentalist religious terror, and the victims will be the patients, targeted as they are, post-2008, by “austerity”. And We The Living (to steal shamelessly from Rand, who doesn’t deserve the title of philosopher nor her phrase) will eat whole grains and forgive each other. We will eat bread and salt and speak the truth.

My butt hurts not at all. Here. In this moment. “For all is always Now” (TS Eliot)

Dumber than Von Neumann

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 3, 2012 by spinoza1111

I was sitting in a cafe wondering if I was smarter than John von Neumann. Nope, I ain’t.

I have confused, in my previous posting Summa Contra, the folk form of Pascal’s Wager with the real thing. The holy sisters used the former form: “believe in the Catholic church and follow its rules or go to hell: this is rational because the gain is infinite as is the loss.” In Summa Contra I certainly meant this form which indeed is how the elite does crowd control in Christianity and Islam. Hinduism uses an older form in the hope of reincarnation in a higher caste.

But this is the Wager.

1. “God is, or He is not”
2. A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up.
3. According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.
4. You must wager. (It’s not optional.)
5. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.

At this point we must acknowledge our repulsion to the cold and unemotional reasoning here in which there is no love of God as you understand him, just game theory, which probably attracted von Neumann. To play chess with death like the knight in The Seventh Seal is one thing. To play games with God, or deus sive nature, is to mock God. Not cool. But let us proceed.

The fallacy in Pascal’s real wager is that God would condemn unbelievers to annihilation. Most of us understand God as a perfection, or, in “process theology” as that Being who most seeks perfection.

To love is a perfection (to most of us, I’ll not argue this in detail, my butt hurts).

But a God who only rewarded belief would be less loving than a God like my Dad or in the parable of the Prodigal.

I conclude that the wager fails. Besides, the younger and cuter nuns, who also preached against racial segregation, said that we should love God as an end in itself like an artist. Once again we find ourselves against a wall, “wondrous high”: the Kantian block.

Good. I am not as smart as von Neumann. I should also read more philosophy. I really wasn’t aware of the magnificence and depth of Pascal despite his flaws we all share: “you must wager”. I know it is the fashion among great men of my age to brag about not reading a book but I don’t.

Summa contra

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 3, 2012 by spinoza1111

Sorry, but I have to note this down.

I. In the beginning, art and religion were one, connected by the Latin particle “sive”, which means the one or the other it doesn’t matter. Many unities are divided this way.

II. But in conditions of scarcity, crowd control by the elite is Job One from their point of view. They used human sacrifice and slavery. But the Torah bans human sacrifice in the story of Abraham and Isaac, and Christianity ended slavery (but it took 1800 years and William Wilberforce).

III. The elite in Christianity and Islam use Pascal’s wager that it’s best to follow the tenets of organized religion lest you be wrong and suffer infinite damnation. This is of course fallacious since there is > 1 organized religion.

Why didn’t Von Neumann see this? The founder of modern game theory, when diagnosed with pancreatic or bone cancer, probably as a consequence of his exposure to radiation at Bikini Atoll, converted (back) to Catholicism owing to Pascal’s wager but failed to see that where n is the number of religions that preach damnation, n > 1. It is true that the Knight (Ritter) plays chess with Death in The Seventh Seal but it would rather seem blasphemous to play a two person game with God as you understand him. “God is not mocked”.

IV. Religion takes the creation of art out of the hands of ordinary people and so divides itself from art and is usually anti-art, given the numerous religious proscriptions against various art forms (dancing, image-making and so forth) because bottom-up artistic expression, being like religion at the boundaries of the known, is an end in itself rather than a market transaction. If you do something with no economic reason, the “reason” is a ding an sich.

V. All religions are wicked and a form of crowd control. The desperado can only be frightened by something beyond.

VI. However, one must have absolute respect for all forms of religion regarded as expression, because even folk manifestations are coming from the same place as high art and are often more honest. It would be polytheism for a “monotheist” to claim, as many monotheists do, that the person of a different religion worships a different God.

For Malaysians to prohibit Christian Malays to use the Malay word for God because it sounds like “Allah” is itself blasphemy. For American Christians to insult Islam’s God, is blasphemy. Different descriptions, same God. Therefore “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.

VII. Sex is about other people. Some people say that all forms of sex are OK if you don’t hurt anybody. The problem is that it’s really easy to hurt people when you get naked, including new guys for whom you are responsible.

VIII. Many world religions close off revelation at a certain point. For example, the Revelations say that anyone who alters the Bible “shall be cast into the lake of fire”. But the Enlightenment was a revelation as was “we believe these truths to be self-evident” and “shall not perish from the earth”. I derive this belief from the idea of God-or-nature: if God is in all, he’s in the room.

Health note

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 24, 2012 by spinoza1111

In addition to a herniated disk I also have a large amount of swelling which my doctor attributes to lymph nodes and a high ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) which can indicate a variety of conditions, some bad, some not so bad. I went in for a test yesterday and will get the results tomorrow. More detail will be available on my Facebook page (Edward Nilges in Hong Kong).

Do not rescusitate? To honor my father I am “resuscitate me or die, motherfuckers” since I have a lot of unfinished business both in art and with my kids. As Billy Blanks (he of my TaeBo workout says) you have to walk through the fire.

One doctor concerned about my weight loss. I THINK it’s because I have long learned to be temperate around food, and the low salt content of even Western style food here in China has acclimated me to just enough. Unlike Steve Jobs in his cancer, I feel hungry and don’t get nauseated when I chow down. I am “hot” as they say but I also need to remind myself that pride goeth before a fall.

My Pole star is Kant and science. I do not know what lies beyond but I have long learned that being good to one another is something that skepticism cannot easily question and remain, in fact, a healthy and enlightened skepticism. Christ was on target on the Mount and left his story for us to know is all I know.

The anguish is in the proposition which is certain, that for any meaningful scientific statement such as Borges’ “the true story of my death”, s, its probability P(s) lies between certainly false (0) and certainly true (1): 0<P(s)<1. Whereupon we can rejoice and be serene as was Kant, striving to complete Der Kritik, or Spinoza on his last day on earth, deus sive natura.

I will keep this blog informed as to what happens. Remember that I love drama and being the center of attention, but always tell the truth.

I dreamed last night a happy dream: I took my son to a platform for the observation of the sun and higher and higher altitude which also had a “virtual reality” way of seeing how it is to breathe at higher and higher levels. I bought him a souvenir of our visit.