Tag Archives: language

The Dead

“- Well, we usually go to France or Belgium or perhaps Germany, said Gabriel awkwardly
– And why do you go to France and Belgium, said Miss Ivors, instead of visiting your own land?
– Well, said Gabriel, it’s partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change.

– And haven’t you your own language to keep in touch with – Irish? asked Miss Ivors.
– Well
, said Gabriel, if it comes to that, you know, Irish is not my language.”
(James Joyce, Dubliners, The Dead, The Portable James Joyce, Viking, 1947, p. 205)

And well, we’re all stuck between where we come from and where we to go. Well, some of us want to go where we come from. And others come from where they want to go. The difference is not material but it is the difference between artists, broadly speaking, and bastards, narrowly defined.

The nostalgic focus on the material, on solutions that are both clear-cut and that cut clearly into same and different. It is not so with the optimistic for whom push never comes to shove; there always remaining a difference, in principle. Never mind the issues we face in interpreting what is around us. What counts is that we will never and cannot ever have a final interpretation even if we always will have issues to face.

I know this is not clear. But it is what it is, and, well, Continue reading

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Adaptive Thinking

“(..) insight can come from outside the mind.”
G. Gigerenzer, Adaptive Thinking, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. vii (a.o.).

There’s something deeply unnerving about scientists, especially neuroscientists: it is the idea that whatever there is can be located somewhere. Localized so as to make it a candidate for treatment of some sort. In this sense, neuroscience took over the world because the world is filled with people who believe things can be pinpointed and then addressed. Forget about the butterfly effect, the butterfly is in our current world view pinned down where it can be examined.

Nothing can be farther removed from the ecological point of view (this includes most people who see themselves as the ‘advocates of ecological preservation’). It may well be that this world view of pinning down, setting apart and solving is the root cause of us not applying evident solutions to the issues we have, in a broad sense, with our environment.

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Cannery Row (1)

“It was deeply a part of Lee’s kindness and understanding that man’s right to kill himself is inviolable, but sometimes a friend can make it unnecessary.”
John Steinbeck, The Short Novels of John Steinbeck, Penguin Books, 2009, p. 410.

Why quote a crooked sentence out of a book full of exquisitely rounded ones? Because it is the idea that counts. The formulation of the idea helps but is not the essential part of why something resonates. Formulation fetishism is probably the predominant attitude in assessing the value of writing but in the end it is a lot like preferring The Harlem Globetrotters to the Dream Team.

What is the ‘it’ in the quote? What can a friend make unnecessary? Surely not a man’s right to kill himself. It must be the desire to exercise the right. That’s what it is to be a friend: to acknowledge your friend’s autonomy without leaving him or her alone in expressing it. Everything comes back to the Principle of Charity, including applying charity to a sentence with a, let’s assume, unintended twist. It is with language as it is with the main characters of Cannery Row:

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A Contrast between Individualistic and Social Theories of the Self

“The difference between the social and individual theories of the development of mind, self, and the social process of experience or behavior is analogous to the difference between the evolutionary and contract theories of the state as held in the past by both rationalists and empiricists. The latter theory takes individuals and individual experiencing – individual minds and selves – as logically prior to the social process in which they are involved, and explains the existence of that social process in terms of them; whereas the former takes the social process of experience or behavior as logically prior to the individuals and their individual experiencing which are involved in it, and explains their existence in terms of that social process. But the latter type of theory cannot explain that which is taken as logically prior at all, cannot explain the existence of minds and selves; whereas the former type of theory can explain that which it takes as logically prior, namely, the existence of the social process of behavior, in terms of such fundamental biological or physiological relations and interactions as reproduction, co-operation of individuals for mutual protection or for the securing of food.”
George Herbert Mead, On Social Psychology, The University of Chicago Press, 1977, p. 242.

I wanted to edit and shorten this but I didn’t. In fact, I needed to battle the urge to go on quoting the next page. It is what it needs to be: the sober discovery of an inescapable truth we could not but evolve to discover. Nevertheless, evolution works in mysterious ways; after half a century the fact is that the traditional (and false) position still prevails. Whatever.

But if the mind is not born with the body and the social not the deliverance of the individual, then death of body and cessation of individuality is not co-extensive, at least not necessarily so, with the termination of mind, socially speaking. Yes, I am talking here about the commonplace notion that one lives on in one’s works – albeit without the usual understanding of ‘one’, ‘living’ and ‘works’.

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The Auguries of Science

“The very notion of truth is a culturally given direction, a part of the pervasive nostalgia for an earlier certainty. The very idea of a universal stability, an eternal firmness of principle out there that can be sought for through the world as might an Arthurian knight for the Grail, is, in the morphology of history, a direct outgrowth of the search for lost gods in the first two millennia after the decline of the bicameral mind.”
Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind., Mariner Books, 1990, p. 446.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 11-02-2010. Between this and Kyburg at least the author list is complete.]

There you have it in one quote: all of the beauty and most of the folly of one of the most original thinkers of the XXth century – a scientist that did some good philosophizing but presented it as a bad scientific hypothesis. A thinker lost in the Quine-Duhem-Davidson triangle of changing too much concepts at the same time to be taken seriously by anybody because – in the end – everybody has one concept that is so near and dear to her or his heart that it’s a little bit too holy to be touched.

The prime example being: a naïve concept of truth. The type of truth that settles things, once and for all. Continue reading

Evidential probability

“The best the logician can do is to recommend gathering more data.”
Henry E. Kyburg Jr. & Choh Man Teng, p. 200, Cambridge University Press, 2001.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 09-01-2010. See also my ‘common sense reasoning: Do Humans Think?’ thesis linked to elsewhere on this site. This one is surprisingly transparent ;-]

A small series on forgotton (or, let’s be optimistic: not yet discovered) pearls of this human endeavour that’s called thinking. I learned Mr. Kyburg died a couple of years ago. Given that that ís a fact, one can only hope that he turns out to be an instance of the reference class of great thinkers that have ideas requiring the environment of thought of a generation coming well after their own generation.

The series has as its common theme: three B-list philosophers, on which I based my Cognitive Science dissertation (available on-line for those inspired enough to look for the link “Do Humans Think?’).

But let’s cut to the chase: Continue reading

Bleed for me

“(..)
C’mon bleed
C’mon bleed
C’mon bleed
Bleed for me
We’ll strap you to a pipe
Electrodes on your balls
C’mon scream
C’mon writhe
Face down in a pool of piss
C’mon bleed
C’mon bleed
C’mon bleed
Bleed for me
In the name of world peace
In the name of world profits
America pumps up our secret police
America wants fuel
To get it, it needs puppets
So what’s ten million dead?
If it’s keeping out the Russians
(..)”
Dead Kennedys, 1982, any of many lyrics sites.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 14-10-2009. No comment]

Indulge me (meaning: I’ll indulge myself anyway, thank you very much!). It’s been busy. I haven’t had a chance to take things in new directions. And I feel this need to be outspoken. That means I will here take the liberty to be brief and all mystical-like as behooves one who is convinced the populace needs it short and simple (peace, love, climate change and stuff).

In other words: awaiting the time to find a good quote, I will for this once try my best not to be myself. Continue reading