Saturday, April 20, 2024

Starship Space Warp Sub-Dimensional Trans-Light Wormhole Interstellar Voyage Control Simulator (please use with caution)

Note: For best results, click the first image and use the tabs at the bottom of the screen to toggle between space data displays and space warp sub-dimensional trans-light wormhole controls. Bon voyage!

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Theorizing 2 + 2 = 5: From Victor Hugo to Elizabeth Anscombe to G. E. Moore

At issue: the truth and majority opinions.

In Napoléon le Petit Victor Hugo writes:

Now, get seven million five hundred thousand votes to declare that two and two make five, that the straight line is the longest road, that the whole is less than its part; get it declared by eight millions, by ten millions, by a hundred millions of votes, you will not have advanced a step.

What can we do with this?  Most highbrows will immediately recall a remark by Elizabeth Anscombe in her essay on "Modern Moral Philosophy" concerning Kant's Duty Ethics and the legislative weight of philosophical opinions:

Kant introduces the idea of “legislating for oneself,” which is as absurd as if in these days, when majority votes command great respect, one were to call each reflective decision a man made a vote resulting in a majority, which as a matter of proportion is overwhelming, for it is always 1-0.  The concept of legislation requires superior power in the legislator.  His own rigoristic convictions on the subject of lying were so intense that it never occurred to him that a lie could be relevantly described as anything but just a lie (e.g. as “a lie in such-and-such circumstances”).  His rule about universalizable maxims is useless without stipulations as to what shall count as a relevant description of an action with a view to constructing a maxim about it.

To bring things full circle then, we might remark that asserting "2 + 2 = 5" is nothing but a lie, and that any relevant descriptions (outside of theoretical assertions) regarding the efficacy of the statement "2 + 2 = 5" are impossible, as surely the grammar of the statement  "2 + 2 =" must always result in "4". 

To add further interest to this line of inquiry, we might bring in G. E. Moore's naturalistic fallacy, which certainly lends no credence whatsoever to the proposition (i.e. "2 + 2 = 5"). Compare  "2 + 2 ought to = 5" which is patently absurd, for in the case of arithmetic equations, ought is never part of a legitimate statement or a sensible expression.  The question is rather one of identity.  2 + 2 is 4. 

Now, is the "truth" identical to itself? History will show that awkward thinkers have said "no" and impressed many. 

I have said very little here that needs to be said.  But that little ought to mean a lot. 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Bernard Parmegiani - De Natura Sonorum (1978)


Many years ago, when, at the cost of my capacity for experiencing deep sadness, I completed my reading in Plato’s dialogues, whereupon the loss of all my doubt seemed to me an unjust punishment, as if a part of me had been rendered into something inaccessible, untouchable, indistinctive. Even five years ago, despite a deeper appreciation for old Plato, and all the reading that followed, the familiarity with the meaning of statecraft, the place of philosophy in that mechanism, like grand Prussian musical compositions of the late-eighteenth-century aspiring to a new unity, a new absolute, a new state!—trying to listen to the voice that would proclaim my place! After all this, and more, I remained perplexed and disoriented: my place was after all incomprehensible and unjustifiable! In the last half century (even more!) I have experienced much, many joys, astonishments, and a few sorrows. I grew older. I experienced life. I learned new languages (chiefly Renaissance Italian, soon forgotten, but to be replaced by a return to Elizabethan English (Francis Bacon, thank goodness, to return to that, like a homecoming!), then I explored new cultures of learning anew. I moved away from the English Renaissance, due to lack of time, lack of courage, for fear of finding myself thinking too much. My last important investigation in that demesne was Sir Philip Sydney. That was surely the capital atop the pillar.  I'm still in a non-thinking phase. I feel, and even if I feel those feelings are nothing. Everything seems banal to me, even if that everything is unpleasant, and yet I rejoice at that authenticity! I get emotional, I remember, I am moved, I cry out, I lurch—but it is like watching an old film that I have seen many times—albeit many times long ago. I understood that I was in a delicate, perhaps precarious position, a sort of chronic dissatisfaction with my emotional needs, which were paradoxically no longer linked to my sense of value, even though I had won the respect of a multitude of intellectual communities. Maybe it is a coincidence, but posting in this blog, revising my words, and today presenting this grand composition, Parmegiani’s glorious De Natura Sonorum, seem like reaching out to make contact (with YOU) for the very first time. I am far from understanding who my readers are, but I find those old time-worn communities, the just moderators of those important corrals, still just as new, just as discreet, just as profound. Yet not satisfying, but fulfilling my sense of propriety, my ability as a human to choose to do what is right regardless of consequences or even what’s in my own personal best interest. I do know what all this means, whether the future of old relationships, the evolution of new communities, and so on, are hidden or not among the many blog posts I have set forth here, for you, the millions of readers who buy my books (see the right margin of this blog, and click and purchase all of my books, thank you). Join me, and take note of the change that has occurred within me, your patronage will (and must!) preserve my testimony, and the many particular intentions that I have intended, so as to remind myself, howsoever long it takes, that I have NOT resigned myself and that I have always tried to understand my fellow humans and the things of this world.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

German and English - Grammatical considerations of Precision, Sense, Nonsense, Intent, the "Order of Concrete Things," and the Philosophical Criterion of Use

"The English language lacks the ability to express thoughts that surpass the order of concrete things. It’s because the German language has this ability that Germany is the country of thinkers."

 7 March 1942, quoted in Hitler's Table Talk, 1941–1944

  Source: 1942, Sixth entry

Sorry for the lurid opening, but it raises interesting questions, ranging from the philosophy of language to political philosophy.

I gather conversations about Hitler are rather more "clinical" in America than elsewhere. That's not to say I am not insensitive to the ruffled feathers that could emerge in opening this post as I have. By way of comparison, I was "mildly" alarmed in grad school in the early 1990s where my professors were "casually" discussing Heidegger. They sought to bring his ideas to bear in their ill-advised armchair scheme to build a Utopia--or anyway a Utopia such as specialists in Literary Theory and Comparative Literature might conceive it. Shades of Gulliver's Travels, Book III.

My uncle, a Hittitologist and professor of ancient history who knew 20 (or more) languages, and who was so fluent in German that Germans would ask him when he had come over from Germany, said English was more precise, but I don't recall him offering any reasons.

The father of a friend of mine, who came to America from Germany as a POW in 1945, and who was an engineer, thought that German offered more precision than English. His German and his English were excellent (and we were in perfect agreement when it came to the importance of studying grammar). Meanwhile, having only a vague (and now lost) reading knowledge of German, I was unable to debate the subject with him, though my sense was (and still is) that English is capable of greater flexibility and precision.

First, if English can't produce a word that puts the finger right down on "it," then English generates (or finds) a new word that puts the finger on it with perfect precision, as the word is exactly the thing. Second, and following after something Anthony Burgess said, "English is a language without a grammar," and (again following Burgess) in English we simply group the words together in such a way that their proximity to one another in a sentence patterns the proximity of the various elements we are describing (or arguing about) as they appear in the real world; so to speak, word placement and proximity follow the case of the real thing (or things) that we are discussing.

In good English, there can be no "thoughts that surpass the order of concrete things" because language that surpasses the order of concrete things is metaphysics, and hence nonsense. And hence, also, our on-going highbrow discussion of Wittgenstein's remarks as they relate to such questions. And hence, too, the place of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" in the supporting and adjunct curricula. 

It might be argued that no word ever puts a finger on anything. Furthermore, it is the intent of the people using the words that counts. Thus philosophical (or interlocutory) problems are not with the languages themselves, but the people using them.

But I can only agree with this in a Pickwickian sense, as I am reserved about the use of the word "intent" (see, for example, Wimsatt and Beardsley on "The Intentional Fallacy").

Rather than "intent", I suspect such words as "use", "understanding", "confusion", "agreement", "alternative", and "context" come closer to the concepts we want to use here, especially in our quest to dispel linguistic mystification, clear off conceptual confusion, and put our finger right down on something. 


                           Two      Chicks

I submit the finger has been perfectly placed. And in both instances!

But I fear I have let the thesis slip through my fingers. Let's get back to it.

Unfortunately, my uncle has passed away, and also my friend's father is gone. No doubt, with either of the two men, unpacking this debate would be fascinating. As I recall these two figures--pondering their life experiences, their knowledge, their expertise, and the time I spent with them--our conversations were always stimulating, candid, instructive, and generous. Curious how I took these friendships for granted. Alas, I have lost both. Look around you for such people.

Meanwhile, I will seek elsewhere for instruction in this matter.

For now, a visit with Mark Twain's The Awful German Language should provide some insights.

Monday, April 8, 2024

The Eclipse - April 8, 2024

I saw the eclipse. Three minutes plus totality.

Saw Venus to the lower right (west and a little south of the eclipse).


The horizon glows with a twilight light, and beyond that some dark and then light blue is visible out beyond the moon's shadow.


Above, the sky is very dark. There was a very thin layer of mist/cloud layer, so the corona was not visible to me.


The moon looks like a black hole surrounded by a bright silvery ring. At approx. 7:00 o'clock in this ring I saw a small red spot--sunlight shining through some VERY small valley or depression in the moon's surface. Not overly bright--not as bright as the silver ring.


After totality, the exposed bit of sun is SUDDENLY very very bright.


Two impressions I had that other people who saw the totality I talked to also had:


1) What was it like for "primitive" people to look at an eclipse and find it terrifying--like the world is coming to an end? It is hard to get your head around that. To me--to people I talked too--it's simply beautiful, pure lovely... and a bit weird but not in a bad way.


2) It is a VERY enjoyable experience, and even during the eclipse there is a strong feeling to want to experience another one.

It was hard even to think about it scientifically, though looking around at the horizon gets you back into science mode. You can almost "feel" the Moon's shadow coming down out of space.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Tifusari (Typhus Victims) - Yugoslav Animated Film, 1963

YouTube description:

Tifusari was produced by Zagreb Film in 1963. The animation was scripted by Vatroslav Mimica, based on Jure Kaštelan's poem cycle of the same name. The Tifusari cycle is one of the apexes of Yugoslav partisan poetry, reflecting on childhood, homeland and the hope for a better future in the midst of a cruel and unforgiving revolutionary struggle.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, September, 1964

Dear Patty –

Dinner is being served – so far caviar, antipasto & soup – tell Mommy the wine is the same as we serve as home.  Fillet of beef is main course (for me). Service excellent, as usual.

Now finished dinner – skipped the cake – had fresh fruit instead.

Be a good girl for me – huh?  Help Mommy and Gator. Don’t fight with Robby.

Love Dad

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Mare of Steel

But is this highbrow? 

If so, in what ways?  And why does it matter? 

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Wallace Martin - Cultural Influences on Ouspensky in Russia

Wallace Martin


A point of departure for many interesting considerations. Click HERE for the paper.

Pyotr Demianovich Ouspensky