A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

Who is that fat bastard? A Sturm's Eye View, Guaranteed Free of Harmful, or Potentially Harmful Chemicals -- but Watch Out for the Ideas! Some of them are Contagious! 

A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.

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Monday 21 April 2003

It's funny how meanings for words and political stances change over historical time. Take the word "liberal". It used to be a label applied to the Old Right in America.

The intellectual leaders of this old Right of World War II and the immediate aftermath were then and remain today almost unknown among the larger body of American intellectuals: Albert Jay Nock, Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, Frank Chodorov, Garet Garrett. It almost takes a great effort of the will to recall the principles and Objectives of the old Right, so different is the current Right-wing today. The stress, as we have noted, was on individual liberty in all its aspects as against state power: on freedom of speech and action, on economic liberty, on voluntary relations as opposed to coercion, on a peaceful foreign policy. The great threat to that liberty was state power, in its invasion of personal freedom and private property and in its burgeoning military despotism. Philosophically, the major emphasis was on the natural rights of man, arrived at by an investigation through reason of the laws of man's nature. Historically, the intellectual heroes of the old Right were such libertarians as John Locke, the Levellers, Jefferson, Paine, Thoreau, Cobden, Spencer, and Bastiat.

In short, this libertarian Right based itself on eighteenth and nineteenth century liberalism, and began systematically to extend that doctrine even further. The contemporary canon of the Right consisted of Nock's Our Enemy the State and Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, Paterson's The God of the Machine (the chapter, "Our Japanized Educational System," virtually launched the postwar reaction against progressive education), and H. L. Mencken's A Mencken Chrestomathy. Its organ of opinion was the now-forgotten monthly broadsheet analysis, edited by Nock's leading disciple, Frank Chodorov. The political thought of this group was well summarized by Chodorov:

"...the state is an anti-social organization, originating in conquest and concerned only with confiscating production.... There are two ways of making a living, Nock explained. One is the economic means, the other the political means. The first consists of the application of human effort to raw materials so as to bring into being things that people want; the second is the confiscation of the rightful property of others...


When the cold war so swiftly succeeded World War II, the old Right was not bemused -- let alone did it lead the war-cry. It is difficult to conceive now that the main political opposition to the cold war was led, not by the Left, then being brought into the war-camp by the ADA, but by the "extreme-Right-wing Republicans" of that era: by the Howard Buffetts and the Frederick C. Smiths. It was this group that opposed the Truman Doctrine, NATO, conscription and American entry into the Korean War -- with little grateful acknowledgement by Left-wing peace groups then or-now. In attacking the Truman Doctrine on the floor of Congress, Rep. Buffett, who was to be Taft's Midwestern campaign manager in 1952, declared:

"Even if it were desirable, America is not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns. Persuasion and example are the methods taught by the Carpenter of Nazareth, and if we believe in Christianity we should try to advance our ideals by his methods. We cannot practice might and force abroad and retain freedom at home. We cannot talk world cooperation and practice power politics."

Full Story

It's amusing that The Levellers were heroes of the Old Right yet labelled, "communists", "crypto-communists" and "theoretical communists" by historians of recent times. One wonders when the propagandists for US Imperialism will begin applying the same label to John Locke, Jefferson, Paine, Thoreau, Cobden, Spencer, and Bastiat. Mind you, the bogeymen have changed from Reds Under the Bed to Islamicists. Maybe Thomas Jefferson et alia will be revealed as followers of Mohammed instead of Karl Marx.

The Git remains an admirer of John Locke, the Levellers, Jefferson, Paine, Thoreau, Cobden, Spencer, and Bastiat. No, he's neither a communist, nor an Islamicist. He has been called the former frequently enough and no doubt will be called the latter in the fullness of time for holding the very same views that gained him the label "communist".

Thought for the day:

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -- and both commonly succeed, and are right... The United States has never developed an aristocracy really disinterested or an intelligentsia really intelligent. Its history is simply a record of vacillations between two gangs of frauds.

HL Mencken

Current Listening:

Cat Stevens -- Catch Bull at Four



Tuesday 22 April 2003

Allan Moult writes:

Hi Jonathon

When are you going to get a blog that works?

I enjoy reading the Diatribe, but get so fucking frustrated with not being able to respond to a particular entry with a comment, also the need to scroll to find the latest stuff {I always end up going too far and then have to scroll up again], and, for now, my pet peeve. I always have to adjust my window width to shorten the line lengths to a readable length [optimally about 46 characters, see http://www.hubel.sfasu.edu/research/textmargin.html ].

Encourage Thomas by all means, but why keep reinventing the wheel?

MT is easy to set up, I can help if needed. Another good one is pMachine at http://www.pmachine.com/

I use both for clients and they are happy.

There's another lurking at http://www.textism.com called TextPattern.


Allan ;-)


Actually, my blog works as intended in a wider range of browsers than yours. Using the world's most popular web browser, your blog still renders text too small to read with comfort and doesn't respond to the text size command. The comments window cannot be resized and so the full width of the text box for comments is too large for the window on my computer. Reading comments entered requires scrolling side to side to read each line. Your blog doesn't validate with the W3C checker. Compliance with W3C standards is important to me since a number of my readers are using browsers that choke badly on pages such as yours that use non-standard markup.

Dan Seto's MT-driven blog doesn't render any text below where it says Powered by Movable Type on the right hand side in the world's most popular web browser at a screen resolution of 1280x1024. Why this is so remains a mystery to us both as Dan has managed to tweak MT to generate valid markup. Getting to that point took many hours of his sweat since generating valid HTML/XML doesn't seem to be a priority with the MT folks.

Before you say: "Well get a proper browser", bear in mind that many of my readers have no control over which browser they use. Several of them have indicated their gratitude for my blog with donations. Not to put too fine a point on this, their needs come before yours.

That said, I will be implementing some sort of Content Management Software. When I had the time to do so, my web hosting service was about to transition to a different OS on their servers, so it made sense to await the cutover. Since that took place, time has been in rather short supply. Such is life :-)


Mark Zimmermann writes:

Re: self-consistent explanations

There The Git was, wondering how the [****] do you explain an explanation from within the system you are using to do the explaining? Or, more to the point, how can a self-referential explanation have any significant meaning?

and re the Gödel's theorem suggestion a few days later --- I believe that although Gödel's incompleteness result is certainly important, I don't believe that it's highly relevant to the question at hand ... I suspect that Simon Blackburn's comment in his little book Think is more apropos. As I said (29 Aug 2002) in http://zhurnal.net/ThinkAgain :

Blackburn turns repeatedly to one of my favorite metaphors, Otto Neurath's "We are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh from the bottom." (cf. AtSea (24 Aug 2001) for a slightly different translation) In other words, our beliefs can be consistent and coherent --- a self-supporting structure --- without having a "foundation" somewhere upon which everything else is built, but which depends on nothing. That's comforting. (at least to me!)

Glad to hear that you're enjoying your philosophy studies! --- I like the method of going back to the sources (which Blackburn does a lot of in Think) ...

Tnx also for the Epictetus quote a few days back,

Best, ^z = Mark Zimmermann = http://www.his.com/~z/ ZhurnalWiki = http://zhurnal.net/ AIM screen name = zhurnal

I am actually really pleased with Dave Magda's link. It has the clearest explanation of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem I have come across. Gödel reminds me that even mathematics/logic, the most complete/perfect of our philosophies is not only incomplete/imperfect, but incapable of becoming complete/perfect. We can know something is true without being able to prove that it is true: "rational thought can never penetrate to the final ultimate truth". And that is exactly what those who believe in God say :-)

I hope you like today's quote from Epictetus's Enchiridion.


Tim Gadd writes:

George W. Bush: "We will export death and violence to the four corners of the world in defense of our great nation."

This one seemed so incredible, even for Bush, that I had to look it up. It's actually the last line of Bob Woodward's book, 'Bush at War', and even reviewers of the book commonly attribute it to Bush, but it was actually allegedly said by the leader of a CIA special forces group at a memorial service in Afghanistan.


Thanks for the correction Tim. A gentle reminder that "the method of going back to the sources" is well worth the effort.


John Dominick writes:

Well, if the labels change, do we change the labels? Or maybe, just maybe, it would encourage the thinking man (and woman, but you knew that) to read beyond the labels? Oh, right. Sorry. That would involve "thinking" and be beneath the current "conclude, then research" crop... ;-)

Hope your college days are getting better as your sunlight get shorter... 
--- John Dominik http://john.clandominik.com/current.html


The campus is going to be less comfortable and enjoyable as winter approaches. The Git finds it difficult to stay awake in the library due, he is reliably informed, to the air conditioning that affects many in similar fashion. Colder weather means the pretty young girls will be wearing their less revealing clothes. Nicotine addicts are required to stand at least 10 metres from any building while feeding their habit and that will be a trial when it's wet and windy. Nevertheless, it's a comfort to know that this part of the world is much warmer in winter than yours :-)

Thought for the day:

Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things.


Current Listening:

Pearls Before Swine -- City of Gold



Wednesday 23 April 2003

From the Inbox:

Subject: EO Natural Hazards: March Rainfall in Tasmania Sets Record

But you knew that.

The following link has been sent to you for your perusal:


Please note, the sender's email address has not been verified.


NASA's Earth Observatory :: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/

Actually, I didn't! Not only that, The Git is in the bottom left of that zone of above average rainfall. Just shows how subjective impressions differ from objective measurements. There are other months I can recall that I would have thought much wetter because of floods, I guess. My guess would have been above average, but never a record. Thanks...


And that email got The Git to thinking about the Great Climate Change Debate. It's been rather quiet of late on the List until recently. Mostly because everyone was watching the War Porn on TV, I suspect, but also there's been little new to add. Except for the following just in:

Leveling Pressure on Models 

Every once in a while, a team of scientists produces a paper so remarkable that it merits our full attention. One such paper, entitled, "Detection of Human Influence on Sea-Level Pressure," by Nathan Gillett of the University of Victoria (Canada) and three coauthors, recently appeared in Nature magazine.

Sea-level pressure, the authors claim, is an important variable to examine with respect to climate change. On that point, we agree. Sea-level pressure patterns dictate surface winds. If we know surface wind patterns and their changes over time, we really can infer a lot about the weather and climate. In some respects, sea-level pressure might be a more interesting parameter to study in the global warming debate than temperature.


Now, an interesting tendency has arisen in the climate modeling community over the last few years. Instead of examining the output of one incorrect climate model, modelers take the output of several incorrect climate models and average them together." Somehow, via the mysteries of the averaging process, the incorrect physics of each of these models magically disappear, producing an ensemble mean that is supposedly meaningful.


But here's the real kicker. Because the models are grossly underestimating the real pressure change, the authors claim the ultimate impact of greenhouse gases on pressure is going to be even worse.

Thus we cross a noteworthy threshold in the history of climate science: For the first time that we're aware of, the errors in climate models are used as justification that the human impact on climate has been underestimated. This development will open up a new cottage industry in climate modeling--the worse your model does at producing reality, the worse climate change will ultimately be. The Canadian Climate Center model is back in business!

A cynic might ask if Nature elected to publish this paper because they like the result and it fits their scientific/editorial agenda. If this trend continues, the once reputable Nature will soon become the Peter Arnett of the global warming debate.


Gillett, N.P., et al., 2003. Detection of human influence on sea-level pressure, Nature, 422, 292-294.

Full Story

The article includes graphics that tell the story well.


On a completely different note, The Git found Anthony Campbell's Home Page:

There's some quite argumentative stuff on this site, so I provide a few personal details here so that you can better assess what my prejudices are likely to be. Professionally, I'm a conventionally qualified physician who has 30 years' experience of the study and practice of certain forms of complementary/alternative medicine. Until my retirement in 1998 I was a consultant physician at The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, which is a National Health Service hospital and one of the main centres in Britain for the study and practice of unconventional medicine. All the doctors and other health professionals who work there are qualified in conventional as well as complementary forms of treatment. My own main interest at the hospital was in modern medical (non-traditional) acupuncture and there is information here about the acupuncture courses I still run for health professionals.

However, this site isn't just about medicine. I've always had numerous interests outside medicine and this explains why you'll find a lot of writing here on topics quite unrelated to my professional background. This applies particularly to the book reviews, which reflect a pretty wide range of eclectic reading over half a century. In other words, I'm a self-confessed generalist.

Temperamentally, I have strong leanings towards skepticism about many things, including, perhaps surprisingly, much of the current enthusiasm for alternative medicine, which seems to me to present many of the features of a belief system, something I deplore. I've included a number of pieces on skeptical themes, some of which have appeared previously in various journals. I provide a short explanation for this attitude in the skeptical foreword.


Anthony has written several well thought out essays and a short book, or two -- material encompassing such diverse topics as the bicameral mind, cave painting and the Assassins of Alamut, a heretical Islamic sect of the Middle Ages. Highly recommended.


It appears that The Git failed to mention how Mrs Git fared after her operation to remove the offending gall bladder. She is faring very well indeed, though after her usual fashion, inclined to rather overdo things in the garden. Today we were working there nearby each other when She asked The Git how he was coping with some strenuous (for an old fart) digging. 

"I need a new back!" quoth The Git.

She replied: "You need a new wife!"

When The Git asked her to fetch him one forthwith, She refused. "You are more than capable of finding one yourself!"

Due to our exhaustion, The Boy Wonder found himself pressed into cooking the Bolognese sauce for tonight's dinner and he made a very good job of it indeed. He has a new job!

Thought for the day:

Distrust everyone in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!

Friedrich Nietzsche

Current Listening:

Loudon Wainwright III -- I'm Alright



Thursday 24 April 2003

David Magda writes:


In the past you've mentioned how certain fonts settings can be annoying on journal/weblog pages. Well someone has created a term [1] for this. Quite amusing.

Also, a Google search for "pompous git" puts you at the top of the list. :>

[1] http://radio.weblogs.com/0103807/2002/08/31.html

-- David Magda <dmagda at ee.ryerson.ca>, http://www.magda.ca/ 
Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. -- Niccolo Machiavelli, _The Prince_, Chapter VI


Apropos Googling on "pompous git", my sig has had that info for over a year ;-)


Allan Moult's comments earlier this week copped some flack from regular readers. Summarising the feedback, most of you are more than happy with the way my blog works and see no reason for complaint. Allan's issue with comments was viewed as a nonsense by one reader, "because he obviously [can comment] via email and has done so". Another reader was sceptical of the usefulness of most reader comments he found on blogs. "Who wants to read endless argument about who said which about what?" that apparently occurs where one reader spoofs another. The Git's choosing which emails he publishes is seen to be an advantage. It's worth bearing in mind that such comments are easily deleted whether the CMS is Movable Type, or a Wiki. Yet another reader pointed to Mark Zimmermann's comments on the paucity of reader feedback on his Wiki even though the mechanism is available. "Why bother with something that's hardly even used anyway?"

The issue of optimum line length being 46 characters drew the response: "optimal for who?" This reader asserts that optimal line length for him is "about 20 characters on my 21" monitor... Just because [Allan] doesn't want readers like me, what gives him the right to insist that other websights follow suit. You are to be congratulated for allowing anyone to set there perferred line length."

A subscriber wrote that they would not be renewing their subscription if The Git followed Allan's suggestions. Those of you who have paid for my undying gratitude, rest assured that The Git will do nothing to make this website less accessible. On the contrary, he wants to make it more accessible and this is the reason he wants to use a better method of managing content than at present. The main change would be to enable categorisation of content so that you can click a link that would display all the blogs on Climate Change, Philosophy, Humour and so on. The advantage of this would be mainly to enable new readers to get hooked on my blog and hopefully pay for my undying gratitude. The Git also perceives an advantage to himself, as finding what he has written before on a topic and linking to it isn't always straightforward.

The overall negativity toward Movable Type is probably undeserved. Check out Dive into Mark for a very accessible MT-based blog. Also, while you're at it, you might want to read Mark's guide to achieving that result: Dive into Accessibility -- 30 days to a more accessible website. The Git's problem is not having a huge amount of free time to pursue that kind of result. The conflict is between spending time on content versus spending time on setting up a more manageable system. Since it's obvious that content is what brings you here, that is what The Git is concentrating on. At the moment, there are exactly two readers in favour of Movable Type, two who favour a move to Wiki and a somewhat larger number favour no changes whatsoever. The total expressing a preference is much smaller than the hundreds of readers who visit this place. The number of visitors is currently incrementing at 11 per day.

Thought for the day:

Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.

Bertrand Russell

Current Listening:

The Cranberries -- Everyone Else is Doing it, So Why Can't I?



Friday 25 April 2003

Mr Anonymous writes:

I have been a weekly visitor to your site for several months and really enjoy reading most of what you write.  What I don't enjoy makes me think harder than I'm used to and that's what keeps me coming back for more.  I would have become a subscriber, but all this talk about changing the way your website works makes me reluctant and here's why?

Reader comments on sites that allow them are really boring.  The comments you get in email are usually of a much higher standard.  I think you slipped up though on Tuesday when you posted Mr Moult's insane suggestions.  He says "I.... need to scroll to find the latest stuff {I always end up going too far and then have to scroll up again".  Why? Theres a link to the latest post at top of the page and links to every day of the week there to.

I notice that you sometimes develop an idea over several days.  That's no proeblem with your layout, but would not work if you implement Moveable Type like on Moult's site.   Lets say you write 5 paragraphs a day over seven days then starting at the top of your page they would run 1,2,3....33,34,35.  Using Moult's layout, they would be in sequence like this 31,32,33,34,35,26,27,28,29,30.....11,12,13,14,15,6,7,8,9,10,1,2,3,4,5 and that would take a lot more scrolling about than at present.  More than twice as much.

[stuff deleted]

and from John Dominick who's even more discursive than The Git:

Hi Jon;

Regarding your site; you were one of the fine folks who let me know when I experimented with CSS that my experiments were ungood. I set a font size for the body copy at what I thought was a reasonable 12 pixels high. Eminently readable, I was certain. As I recall, you fired off with a "Why is this so small?" when someone else unloaded the "f-bomb" with the words "QUIT SHOUTING AT ME" surrounding it - unhappy folk all around. Then I remembered "resolution". My 12 pixels on a 1280x1024 screen were readable to me. On someone who has 640x480, that's a bit loud. On someone running 1600x1200, it's a wee bit small. One fellow complained that he couldn't see anything - when I confirmed with him (a graphics professional) So it goes...

Regarding the whole formatting issue - should anyone have problems with the size of your font, they can (unless they are true Luddites) hold the control key and use the scroll wheel on their mouse to adjust said font size. Internet Exploder - er, Explorer - allows a change into about seven different sizes. Netscape, on the other hand, allows everything from single-pixel-high to "can't get a whole letter on the screen" sizes. Why? I dunno, but I suspect the folks at Netscape are less enamored of limits than the folks at Microsoft are. Further comment forgone ...

As to a CMS, first question - Why? I've watched people struggle in getting things from CMS to CMS to CMS, following the trendy/feature-rich/avoiding the abandoned systems as they do so. Sure, a CMS is "cool", but there's a big drawback - what if you move servers?

Me? I've got my entire site copied locally on my hard drive. Want a new server? Just upload. The only non-relative links are in the current page, which could be changed were I energetic enough to do so. Sure, it'll take about an hour (on a cable modem, I know, I'll stop there) to upload the images and such, but I guarantee you that when I hit "Send" on SSH and walk away, that hour isn't me sweating and banging on a keyboard. Versus the CMS conversions I've seen. And an hour is often extremely optimistic.

Sure, a CMS is "cool" right now, and you can be part of a new sort of "community". For my preference, the "trackbacks" and all the other little things you can do to ingratiate yourself into that community detract from the content. And content (and making me think) is why I read you. Would I stop if you put in a CMS? No. Would I stop by less often? Maybe. Dunno. I do find the various sites I visit that have implemented CMS all look disturbingly similar. Sure, the linky bits and housekeeping move from left to right and back again, expand, and contract, based on the preference of the site owner, but they're all similarly boring. What ever happened to the value of being unique?

Before you wonder (well, you probably are by now), I wholeheartedly agree that there are some very well-done CMS systems. Some make me envious. But they have the cumulative effect of watering everything down. After a while, they all look the same - content may be king, but boring is the executioner. If the layout is clean, nice, well-reasoned, and convenient, then I can read a site. If it's cluttered, annoying, etc., I go nuts - I get irritated with the design and spend more time and energy thinking "how would I redesign this site" and less "what this person says is meaningful to me."

Me? CMS? Not any time soon, unless I write my own. No point in doing it unless I can do it EXACTLY the way I want. Advantages? Few to none yet. Disadvantages? Perhaps many. But I'd learn a lot in the process.

Anyway, FWIW, there you go. Reminds me of the old joke about the pastor who steps out to the pulpit one Sunday, only to see one lone farmer sitting in the pew. "Should I conduct services?" asks the pastor. "Sure - when only one cow comes to eat, I feed it" replied the farmer. So the pastor conducted the service with the usual bells and whistles and ruffles and flourishes, calling down fire and brimstone tenfold on the non-believers. At the end of the service, he asks the farmer "how's that?" And the farmer replies "When only one cow comes to eat, I don't give it the whole load." 

--- John Dominik 

Folks, even when The Git implements a CMS, the impact on this site will be such that it will work as far as possible exactly like it does now. Plus there will be some extra, unobtrusive, useful new features -- mainly the ability to generate a topic query and general search engine. John, many thanks for pointing out to me a critical issue I had missed. Backing up this website is just a matter of moments because as you point out, the website is a mirror of what's on the local hard drive. Backing up a 50 MB database from the server via the Internet takes way longer than an hour when all you have is a piddly 28.8kbps Internet connection!

It seems that the best solution is going to be one written from the ground up to do exactly what The Git and his readers want, rather than spend more time customising a turnkey solution to approximate what we want.

And that's enough on that topic for a while.


Climate Boffins Should Work Across Disciplines 

by David Wojick (dwojick at climatechangedebate.org)

from: Electricity Daily, April 25, 2003.

Paleoclimatologists and climate modelers should stop "going it alone" and work together. This is the forceful argument in "Toward Integrated Reconstruction of Past Climates" by Kevin Trenberth and Bette Otto-Bliesner of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in today's issue of Science.

The authors are prominent modelers and are responding to the explosive growth in research results that aim to reconstruct past climates, especially over the last 1000 years or so (ED, April 9). Climate modelers have been criticized for failing to explain, or even represent, reconstructed paleoclimate features like the Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age. But as Trenberth and Otto-Bliesner explain, these reconstructions are fraught with uncertainty. Before we try to explain them, we need to be sure they exist, they argue, and models can help to do this job.

The problem, the authors contend, is that the reconstructions are based on proxy estimates for temperature and precipitation that may themselves be subject to climate change. They present a number of examples of climate sensitive "paleoindicators" and argue that climate models can be used to correct and calibrate them. As they put it, "the interpretation of particular proxy records may ... be complicated by the complexity of the climate system itself. It therefore helps if the physical setting can be established, perhaps by using a climate model or diagnostic studies based on current observations."

Trenberth and Otto-Bliesner argue that the arts of paleoclimate reconstruction and climate modeling must grow in tandem, each helping the other. The result may be rudimentary at first, they explain, but "by properly accounting for both strengths and weakness of the paleoindicator and the models, the result has the potential to be placed on solid physical (and, possibly in the future, chemical and biological) grounds."

The authors note that the two research communities are strangers to each other. The paleoclimate community is mostly geologists, while the modeling community has been focused on instrumentally recorded climate variables from the last century. But now that paleo reconstruction is paying off the modelers need to get into the game.

According to Trenberth and Otto-Bliesner, "climate system models can help enormously in this endeavor. At the same time, the improved knowledge of the climate record can help to evaluate and improve climate models, which have their own flaws. Climate dynamics and paleoclimate experts should challenge each other's interpretations and assumptions. The mix is much more powerful than either community going it alone."

Thought for the day:

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on "I am not too sure."

HL Mencken

Current Listening:

Traffic -- Shootout at the Fantasy Factory



Saturday 26 April 2003

Here's a nice philosophical problem. The Git is shamelessly borrowing Phil Dowe's drawings that he uses in our lectures because clearly Phil is a better artist/philosopher/explicator [delete whichever is inapplicable] than The Git.

mind -- pictures of hand and sun inside a cloud <----- perceptions illustrated by an eye looking at the world <----- world illustrated by the sun and a hand
mind perceptions/ideas world

This is a slight reworking of what Phil used in a lecture on René Descartes earlier this year. It's a diagram implicit in many a philosophical work even when it's not explicitly acknowledged. Our mind knows about the external world through our perceptions/ideas about the world. What is not clear from the above diagram is an assumption best illustrated by the following picture.

diagram showing the "objective" observer observing mind, perception and world in the same way as in the first diagram

Here, we see the observer perceiving the subject A, the subject's perceptions B and the subject's world C from a position O outside the subject's mind, the subject's perceptions and the subject's world. This is clearly a nonsense. There exists no position we can take outside our mind, our perceptions, or the world! This is what The Git was referring to the other day when he said: "...how the fuck do you explain an explanation from within the system you are using to do the explaining?"

A better diagram might be:

mind inside perceptions inside the world

Here, we see the mind embedded inextricably in its perceptions and both inextricably embedded in the world. That is, the mind can only perceive a subset of the world through a subset of all possible perceptions/ideas. The mind cannot get outside of perceptions, or the world.


Mark Zimmermann writes:

Hi Jonathan! Re the discussion you mentioned recently (24 April Ephemerides), I don't actually want to be counted as a pro-Wiki "vote" in any strong sense --- I like the Ephemerides just the way it is. If and when you have some extended spare time, perhaps, you might want to experiment with Wiki-style personal-information-management technology ... but do be prepared to spend many hours installing, learning, experimenting, configuring, customizing, and building a SturmWiki ... the time expenditure might be less if you had a young and energetic personal assistant to help you (or then again, she might distract you from your mission) ....

Best, ^z = Mark Zimmermann = http://www.his.com/~z/ ZhurnalWiki = http://zhurnal.net/ AIM screen name = zhurnal

That's twice this week that The Git has been told he needs a young and energetic personal assistant to help him. Maybe that means he needs two! One called Kate and the other Edith. That way, he can have his Kate and Edith, too :-)


And from John Harris:

Hail yeh oh pompous git...hallowed be they name.

One day when I get time to write a manifesto I will certainly link to your site and pay...you little search engine you.

In the meantime I am still gratefully recieving hits from your mention on house of Steel regarding Australias' guide to residential design...It has been superseded by the even better publication YOUR HOME and CD Rom free directly from AGO...mind you I still like getting the enquiries..as today the query was from Katherine in the NT and I sent him to our mananger in Darwin for our free seminar on new homes and so it is a great way for us to get belly to belly with interested parties. Many of them ask unique and obscure questions that only another moderately pompous and informed git could be bothered answering. I really enjoy it too.

On another matter have you seen Tec Echo.. new product absorbs greenhouse gases as a block using no cement? Very interesting tececo.com.au

So AGO for new book and they may chuck a few bucks at you as well. www.greenhouse.gov.au

all the best and love the site. 

cheers John 
Home Ideas Centre Launceston 
262 York Street Launceston 7250 
Tel: 03 6333 0660 
Fax: 03 6333 0661

Funny name for a bloke... Katherine ;-) Thanks John.

Thought for the day:

Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all other philosophers are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself.

HL Mencken

Current Listening:

Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band -- Urban Spaceman


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