Hildegarde

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Archive for November, 2010

Doctors, Of Various Sorts, and Dahleks

with one comment

So here’s the thing.  My older son spent a fair amount of his growing up watching British television, since we were in London.  He didn’t watch Dr. Who, because by then the program was off the air.   When Matt wanted to watch Dr. Who, he had to do it off the dozens of VHS tapes Bill had made especially just to get the whole series.

This was not easy.  Some of those tapes were made from broadcasts on a Connecticut PBS station, and they were usually interspersed with long, weirdly embarrassing fund raising efforts.  The fund raising efforts were always accompanied by a threat:  Dr. Who brought in the most donations of anything they showed on the station.  If you wanted your Dr. Who, you’d better pony up.

Bill always did pony up, but they ended up cancelling Dr. Who on that station anyway.   Maybe this wasn’t surprising, since you could tell–on those long fund raising sessions–that the people doing the fundraising had no idea why something like that would be on their PBS station.

After the station cancelled Dr. Who, Bill stopped watching it, and stopped contributing to it.   Hell, he stopped listening or watching anything on any PBS station.  He wouldn’t even watch British sitcoms, which he missed once we were back in the States for good.

I bring all this up because I sympathize, in a way, with the people doing the fundraising.  I never did “get” Dr. Who. The first year we were in England coincided with Peter Davidson’s reign as the Doctor, and I sat down with Bill and watched the thing on and off.

Davidson was a tidy looking man who wore a stalk of celery in his jacket pocket.  The production values were embarrassingly awful.  The plot lines just mystified me.

Bill was still alive when Steven Spielberg made his bid to buy the series and produce new seasons.  I don’t know if he got what he wanted or not.  There are new seasons, and they’re much better done–and much better written–but watching them over the last couple of days, I wasn’t really catching on to who was making the thing or what the relationships were between the various production companies and sponsoring organizations.

The Canadian Broadcasting Company is involved.  So is the BBC.  So are a number of other people.

Okay, I’ve got a headcold–the winter has hardly started, and it’s already awful–and I wasn’t paying too much attention.

But what I was paying attention to is this:  a remarkable number of the people in my generation who have become successful in entertainment, and especially in movies, have done so by making adult versions of what all the baby boomers loved to watch on television as children.

Rocky and Bullwinkle.  Yogi Bear.  Dr. Who.  The Chipmunks.  I can’t get through the Christmas season any more without running head on into the live action movie of some television show I used to watch when I was nine.

Some of these movies are good.  The first Chipmunks movie was actually rather sweet.  Some of these movies are awful.  The Rocky and Bullwinkle movie was so awful it was hard to sit through. 

In general, by the way, the movies that are good treat the original television shows as if they’d had a brain in their head.  The problem with the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie is that the people who made it apparently never got the fact that the original television show could’t have been completely understood by children in the first place.  I was thirty and watching the thing is reruns before I got half the jokes.

The new Dr. Who series is very good indeed, and I say that as somebody who was just required to sit through a two day marathon of the thing. 

But it does occur to me that this goes back to something I was talking about before.  Increasingly, over the last ten to fifteen years, what has been really successful in entertainment is work aimed at children–or maybe I should say quasi-aimed at children.

I’m not talking about the stuff that is self-consciously made for children–the awful treacly sugaroverdose nonsense like the Care Bears or Rainbow Brite. 

My basic feeling about those is that no self respecting child would touch them.

But think about it–Harry Potter is an obsession in both print and on film with adults as well as children.  Adults read YA titles, and genre titles (at least in mystery) that eschew big words, controversial subjects and too much “realism” do better than the kind of naturalism I was brought up to think of as the only “real” way to write fiction.

I can’t even say that I’m immune. I don’t much hanker after old children’s shows like Rocky and Bullwinkle–although if I want that, I’ll go for the original, and not the recent mess of a movie–but I am completely enamored of the old Perry Mason series.  I’ve got all the available seasons on DVD.  I often decide to watch those instead of whatever is playing on television.

I don’t know what any of this means.  Maybe it doesn’t mean anything.  My sons think I watch the old Perry Mason series because it reminds me of my father, and I miss my father a lot.  And I do.  Miss my father, I mean.

Or maybe it’s what I was talking about a few months ago.  Maybe, with a population that is no longer taught how to read even fairly simple literary devices (like third person multiple viewpoint and extended metaphor), work at least ostensibly written for children is more comprehensible than the stuff that assumes an acquaintance with grown-up references and techniques.

Whatever.

I just think this is very odd.

And thinking about it keeps my mind off the fact that what it sounds like is happening outside my office window is sleet.

I’m not ready for sleet.

Written by janeh

November 8th, 2010 at 6:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Drifting

with one comment

Okay, let me see if I can clear this up, given the fact that my head feels like it’s been stuffed with cotton balls.

This is the great inconvenience of teaching.  Students get everything, and they give it all to you.

First, ALL I was trying to say–so far–about an objective basis for morality was this:

a) human beings have a human nature that is largely fixed.  That is, human behavior, just like the human digestive system, is biologically based and outside our ability to change it at base.

Note the at base.  The general rule of thumb in the science is that behavior, intelligence and all the rest of it is 50% heritable–that is, that biology explains 50% of the differences we can see on the surface among populations.

The differences, however, are less malleable than you think.  My favorite example of this is:  most adolescent and young adult males exhibit high levels of aggressive behavior and tend to be both violent and tribal. 

In every society, everywhere, the vast majority of the violence is committed by males between the ages of 15 and 35. 

So what do you do about this?  You can’t just let them run wild, because they wreck everything.  Some societies decide to send them into war. 

We decide to send them into football.

This is not a small difference.  Life is much better for everybody if the potentially volatile, highly violent segment of the population has something to do that satisfies it and yet doesn’t result in raped women and houses burning down. 

But the fact that we successfully channel young male aggression into sports for a significant segment of our young male population does not mean that those young men are no longer aggressive, or that they are no longer violent. 

The core attribute remains.  We’ve just got it aimed better.

And, yes, I know, there are differences among individuals.  Like everything we can say about living things in any aspect of their aliveness, there will be anomalies.  Some people are born with their hearts on the right side.  Some young men are born without the testosterone levels that cause aggression.

On the ground, as in biology, anatomy and physiology, and even engineering, you have to deal with the individual case on an individual basis.

b) The fact that human nature is to a significant extent biologically fixed means that we can study it and describe it. 

We can formulate the rules by which it operates.

I’m NOT talking here about rules of morality.

I’m talking about descriptive rules, like the rules of physics.  “When the testosterone storms hit young males in puberty, we will see rising levels of aggression, physicality, and a heightened sexual drive.”

That kind of rules.

c) Once we know enough of those laws of human nature, we can use them to devise rules of behavior.

There’s nothing different here from, say, engineering.  The objective basis for the rules of building a bridge, or a house, are the laws of physics.

But the laws of physics are not the same thing as the rules for building a house.  They provide the data from which such rules can be derived.

And those rules are objectively based.

d) I think that what actually gets everybody worked up is not the rules themselves, or even the objective basis for the rules, but the core decision:  on what basis do we decide to build a bridge instead of a house or a conning tower.

Once I know the laws of human nature, I have the objective data on which I can base all kinds of sets of rules, depending on what I want to do.

This is, I think, where people really get worked up–they want an objective basis for making the core decision, not for the rules themselves.

For instance, if I take the data on human nature and want to build a warrior society whose highest purpose is to conquer societies around it and expand, then the rules I’m going to derive from the data will be different than the rules I would derive if I wanted to build a society whose highest purpose will be the honoring and maintenance of the old.

But in both cases–and even though the two sets of rules are different–the rules will have an objective basis in the laws of human nature.

The problem, for most people, is not that there is not objective basis for morality–but that they think there is no objective basis for making the choice between different goals that will then decide which objectively based rules to follow.

d) Morality is about individual behavior.  Politics is about societal behavior.  Morality aims to make each individual human being the best he can be as a human being.  Politics aims to keep societies together.

Yes, of course, morality will affect societies–and politics will affect individuals in their quest to be (or not to be) moral–but the fact that the two things affect each other does not make them the same thing. 

It’s more than theoretically possible that the best possible political code will not enshrine the rules of morality as law.  In fact, I’d say any society that tried to do that would kill itself. 

But that’s another discussion.

e) As to thriving societies–I’d say that up until the eighteenth century, there was a ceiling on just how well your society could thrive.  You got so far and no farther.  And everybody pretty much got to the same place if they managed to “thrive” at all.

Egyptian peasant farmers were not slaves, but they were subject to being enslaved at the whim of the Pharaoh, they could be beaten and robbed by the aristocracy without recourse, they could have their possessions taken away from them and their families destroyed.

What’s more, they–and the aristocrats above them–lived in a world where women routinely died in childbirth, where close to half of all children did not live to see adulthood, where epidemics raged through populations unchecked, where something as little as a papercut could mean death at any time, in any place.

And, of course, the poorer you were, the more likely you lived in a miserable mud hut that frozen when the weather got colder, that you huddled next to a fire–hell, the Medieval English kings did that much–when the snow came, that your food supply was uncertain and variable.

I could go on like this, but you must see my point.  I suppose that sort of thing could be described as “thriving” in a world before the scientific revolution–but we’re past the scientific revolution, and the simple fact is that only one kind of society has ever reached that point.

One.  Not thirty six.

There are not lots of different ways you can develop a scientific civilization, at least as far as we know.

g) I only know of one book on Aquinas of the type John is talking about, and it isn’t what he wants–it deals almost entirely with the theology.

But the point of Aquinas is precisely the way he used to go about thinking about these things.  Each argument is laid out carefully as an outline, so that you can see all the gears moving. 

h) As for the Nichomachean Ethics–Aristotle did, in it, for ethics, what he did in his book on natural philosophy for zoology. 

He set about trying to understand his subject by gathering all the available data.

Considering the fact that that was the first time that had ever been done–he could have taken Plato’s tack and just “thought” about it all–I think it’s worth quite a lot.

It may not be the end of the journey, but it is the beginning.  And you have to start somewhere.

I have a cold.

And Dahleks.

Written by janeh

November 6th, 2010 at 9:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Plaintive Cry

with 2 comments

I’m at this place again, a place I get to in many of these discussions.

And I’ve decided that I must be doing something wrong, because I keep ending up here time after time after time again.

I start to outline a complex argument that requires me to

1) Make and explain point A

2) Show how point A leads to point B, and make and explain that

3) Show how point B leads to point C, and make and explain that

4) Show how point C leads to point D, and make and explain that

5) Show how point D leads to point E, and make and explain that

6) And finally tie it all together.

And what happens is that I not only never get to Number 6, I never get to Number 2.

That’s because I make Point A, and thirty of you jump on me to complain that that doesn’t explain Point D, and Point D—

And off we go.

The fact is that I know perfectly well that just nailing Point A does not explain or prove Point D on its own–any more than declaring just that Socrates is a man proves that Socrates is mortal.  You have to state the second stage (all men or mortal) before you can get there.

We also continually get off on complete side issues, which I then get blamed for.

One more time.

I wasn’t the one who started talking about “societies.”

Societies have nothing to do with it.  They really don’t. 

The only reason I spoke about societies was because people here kept saying “well, different societies have different moral codes and still thrive.”

I felt like I had to answer the comment, so I answered it, and suddenly I was being told I was saying that we could prove objective moral rules by how they impacted the health of whole societies.

But I never said that.

In fact, so far, I haven’t yet said anything at all about how to derive the actual moral rules. 

If Lymaree can’t figure out how to get from an objective basis for morality to specific moral rules, it MAY be because I haven’t said a single thing about it as of yet.

That’s Point E above, and there’s a lot more ground to be covered before that.

Then there’s the whole thing about the “physical” and the “not physical.”

I’ll repeat–as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing else but the physical. 

It’s not possible for behavior, thoughts or ideas to be something else only “derived from” physical bodies.  Those things are physical events, just as surely as burps and farts.  There’s nothing else for them to be.

And I do think we’ll get to the point where we’ll be able to pinpoint the brain functioning that produces them, and understand how it works.

Which, by the way, would get us back to Sam Harris’s book, about which I still have something to say.

And, I’m sorry, but I do not accept the idea that a society is “thriving” if most of its citizens live in slavery and misery, if there is no advancing of science and technology and medicine,  if “progress” for the few is the result of the brutal suppression of the many.

And that is what Egypt was, it was what the Incas were, it was what the Chinese and Mongol empires turned into by the time we discovered them. 

It is possible to produce a great, oppressive empire in lots of different ways, and if you want to think of that as a society “thriving,” well, good for you.

But it is possible to produce a scientific civilization only one way that we know of, and that way actually thrives, it not only grows and prospers, but that prosperity is broadly shared.  Everybody lives long and more comfortably, not just a tiny minority at the top that gets to steal from everybody else.  Knowledge advances.  Even art advances.

That’s a thriving society.  Pharaonic Egypt was protection racket married to a death cult.

And in the end, it went nowhere. 

And I’m talking about societies again, when morality is not about societies, but about individuals.

And I still can’t get there without going through all the steps. and I can’t get through all the steps when I can’t even get through the first one because I have to run over to the other side of the room and take care of questions about steps I haven’t even outlined yet.

This sort of thing is very frustrating.

I have half a mind to send you all to Thomas Aquinas, who outlined the case for an objective basis for morality better than I ever could–and to Aristotle, who did the same.

At least they didn’t have laryngitis.

Written by janeh

November 5th, 2010 at 5:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Let’s Do It All Again

with 12 comments

Okay, today I’m obsessing, and we’ll get to that in a minute.  It’s a little local obsession, but here I am, and it’s my blog.

To answer a couple of questions from yesterday:  the differences between politics and morality are vast.  Morality has to do with the individual.  Politics has to do with the state.

Of course, morality does impact politics–a world where everybody was relentlessly moral (in my sense of the term) would be a world in which no politics would be necessary.

Or police departments, for that matter.

But politics seeks to keep the peace, to order society in such a way that it can function for the people in it.  And, historically, the governments that do that best do it by being pragmatic rather than moral.  In a good state, a lot that is immoral is legal, and a lot that is illegal is not immoral.  It’s not a matter of morality, for instance, that you have to stop at red lights. 

I only started talking about societies because everybody else was. 

And I don’t think that binary questions are necessarily all that bad, or all that useless.  Ayn Rand did indeed pose one–that morality is your answer to the question: life or death?–and it works coherently with everything that came after.

When I think about morality, my tendency is not to worry about the big picture ways it affects society, but about the small picture ways it affects me.   A moral system that tells you you must put down an old person if she’s sick and dying anyway has very different practical results for my life than a moral system that tells you you may never do that, ever.

It has those results even if the society around it outlaws euthanasia.

Nor do I think that it is necessary for something to be “out there” for there to be an objective basis for anything, never mind morality.  The operations of your internal organs are not “out there,” and yet they provide an objective basis for the rules guiding heart surgery.

The same is true with language.  It’s not “out there” either, and yet there are base rules that apply to all languages and we can discover them.  And there’s a basis in the construction of the brain that says the possible variations are not infinite and that at least a small set of rules may never be broken if a language is going to function at all.

It seems to me that what people want–the ones here, anyway, who are arguing that there can be no objective basis for morality–is something that does not now and has never existed in the universe. 

You want an absolute certainty, without variations or contingencies, without the possibility that anybody anywhere could reject or challenge it. 

But this doesn’t  apply even to the hardest of the hard sciences.  It doesn’t even apply to mathematics. 

You don’t want an objective basis for morality. You want rules written in stone.  Short of that, you want nothing at all.

But the world is not like that.

All our knowledge is tentative–we could always be wrong. 

All our knowledge is partial–we’ll probably never get to the point where we know everything about anything.

Any knowledge that exists–no matter how firmly established–can become a matter of controversy.

Any knowledge that exists about living things is, of necessity, statistical.  That’s as true of what we know about the human digestive system as it is about morality.

So all I’m saying is this:  if  you want to argue that there is no objective basis for morality, then you can’t use a double standard.

You can’t reject such a basis on grounds that you accept as valid for other things.

If you want to say that there is no objective basis for morality because people have different ideas about morality–then you can’t accept evolution, because people have different ideas about evolution.

If you want to say that there is no objective basis for morality because any such basis is subject to anomalies and can only be expressed accurately in statistical terms–then you can’t say we have an objective basis for what we know and teach about human anatomy, either, because that, too, is subject to anomalies.

In almost every case, the arguments people have brought forward here against the idea of an objective basis for morality are arguments they would reject if they were applied to any other subject. 

In the end, the question comes down, to me, of why so many people, on both sides of the political and religious divide, want to apply completely idiosyncratic rules to morality that they would not apply to anything else.

Maybe I’m missing something obvious here, but this seems very strange to me. 

And I forgot all about my local obsession.

That’s all right.

It’s coming to a 24 hour cable news channel near you.

Written by janeh

November 4th, 2010 at 5:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Little Morning Music

with 2 comments

Okay, for a post title, that was bad.

But it’s Wednesday, and there’s a lot of stuff to do, and I have to get out of here early again.  So these are just a couple of notes.

First, an objective basis for morality is just that, an objective basis, not the rules of morality themselves.

The objective basis for building a bridge is the laws of physics, but those laws are not the rules for building a bridge themselves.

And yet, nobody would say that building a bridge is an entirely subjective exercise, or that the rules for doing so are simply made up and derive from nothing in the real world.

And I’ll stick by my previous statement–if it actually is possible that morality derives from nothing, that it is entirely subjective and made up, then it’s being produced by that diembodied soul most of you say you don’t believe in.  Because such a thing–entirely subjective and made up–is not possible in a world without the supernatural.

Second, I’ll stick by my term “stagnant.”  It was accurate–and, by the way, objective. 

The socieites some of you want to label as doing just fine, even prospering and growing, neither had nor were in a position to develop vaccines, air conditioning, antibiotics, central heating, telecommunications systems, space travel.

The full list is a lot longer.

And that inability to develop–ever, at least as far as we know, since those societies not only never did develop those things but never did develop even the first steps towards eventually developing those things–meant that, in all of them, the most common cause of death for women was childbirth, infants had no better than a two in five chance of reaching adulthood, epidemics wiped out legions of people in short periods of time–

And you can go from there.

The idea that such societies were in some way “just as good” as the ones (well, one, the single case) of societies with all that stuff is mostly academic masturbation.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the here and now, when millions of people annually make a judgment on whether or not such societies are “successful.”

It’s why we have an illegal immigration problem in the US and other knds of immigration problems in Europe.

In the third place, the fact that the objective basis of morality must be expressed statistically instead of absolutely does not make that basis subjective.

The fact that some very small subset of human beings have their hearts in the right side of their chests does not stop medical books from saying that human beings have their hearts in the left side of their chests. 

They do.  Life being life, there are sometimes a few anomalies, and we deal with those when they come along.  But we make rules for how to treat heart disease and do heart surgery on the widely general case, and the widely general case does indeed have an objective basis (i.e., most people’s hearts are in the left sides of their chests).

In the same way, it’s possible that a small subset of people will not respond to the existence of slavery in their society by feeling no need to invent the lawn mower–but most people will behave as indeed most people have behaved over the course of millennia.

Which I probably spelled wrong.

This has been entirely too abstract.

I need to go find out who won last night.

I’m getting old.  It used to be I’d stay up all night to find out who won an election for dog catcher.  These days, I have limits even for a Presidential election.

At least there’s tea.

Written by janeh

November 3rd, 2010 at 5:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Too Early

with one comment

Too early is what it is at the moment.  It’s election day in the US, and I got up very early in order to get started very early in order to get to my polling place before seven, because I usually leave for school at seven, and…

Well, and.

I got to the polls before six thirty, voted in no time flat because there weren’t all that many of us there, got all the way to school before seven, got up to the office before the secretaries had opened the division, got all my coping done…and now it’s not even eight, or not as much as five minutes past eight, or something, and here I am.

It’s beginning to look like an interesting evening, at least in this state.  And I discovered something I hadn’t known before–turnout here in midterm elections usually tops 60%.  Which is a higher percentage than most states manage even in Presidential years.

But that’s not what we’re here for.

I will say that I’m a little too addled at the moment to go into the entire set of arguments I’ve been organizing over the past couple of days, but there are a couple of things I can’t pass up.

First, as for John’s thing about how he doesn’t count on anything humans do is interesting on a number of levels.

To begin with, it’s not true.  He’s had medical care in his life, I know that for a fact.  He does expect the medicine aimed at his body to be objectively based, even though it’s not based on anything “out there,” but only on what’s going on inside human bodies.

What’s more, since he can read and write intelligbily, he must accept the objective basis of rules of language, too–he must accept that there are some ways languages “work” and some they do not, and that what “works” is set irrespective of our wishes and desires. 

But the real kicker here is this:  in order for the human mind and human behavior to be as arbitrary and beyond the reach of general formulating rules as John says it is, God would have to exist.  Or something like God would.  Because what that would mean would be something like the existence of the soul in the most radical definition of the term–a part of the human being that is entirely divorced from nature.

“Objective” is not the same as “out there.”  It means “operating independently of our whims and wishes, something we discover, not something we invent.” 

Robert says this:

>>>

“When I say there is an objective basis for morality, all I am saying is this: human beings are not infinitely malleable. There are facts about human nature–about the way human beings feel and think and respond to events and other stimuli–that can be known.

These facts are beyond our ability to change, but they are within are ability to know.

And once we know these things, we can formulate rules about the way they behave.

And that, right there, is an objective basis for morality.”

NO. Cats, fish and ants have a fixed range of behaviors, too. But no one studying them speaks of “cat morality” or claims a deviant ant is “immoral.” The people who study them are “behaviorists” and some study people in a similar fashion. It’s an “objective basis for morality” only to the extent you can claim certain moral codes are literally humanly impossible<<<<

And to that I say–YES.  That is an objective basis for morality.  It tells us not only that certain moral codes are humanly impossible, but also that certain moral precepts will result in certain largely predictable forms of human behavior. 

And that–that predictability, however difficult it is to put it into practice–is, indeed, exactly an objective basis.

It matters not a flaming damn who considers what to be “immoral.”  Throughout the ancient and Medieval world, people routinely assumed both alchemy and astrology to be science–not supernatural, not a matter of magic and incantations, but actual science, part of the attempt to understand the natural world in natural terms.

They were wrong, but the fact that they were wrong does not mean that there is no actual science, or that science is impossible.

Or, as Lymaree put it:

>>>People CAN be taught that all sorts of terrible things are not only acceptable, but desirable and yes, moral.<<<

But people can be taught that the moon is made of green cheese and that if you sail your ship too far to the West, you’ll fall off the edge of the world.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t objectively based facts about the moon and the shape of the earth.

I’ll say it again:   most of the people involved in this discussion have an absolute passion for the ad populam fallacy, at least when it comes to this one thing.  The entire argument against an objective basis for morality so far amounts to “well, lots of people think different things are moral and immoral.”

Lots of people think that the earth is flat and it was created ex nihilo in the last ten thousand years.  So what?

The big deal, though, is the constant assertion, by more than one poster, that–to put this as Lymaree did–

>>We know that humans individually and societally, can and do live, thrive and reproduce with foot-binding, genital mutilation, slavery, suttee, and all sorts of morally objectionable behaviors<<<

Let’s put aside what should be obvious: morality concerns individuals.  It only concerns societies collaterally.  So I’m not talking about what effect knowing the moral rules will have on societies. 

But.

The simple fact is that the quotation above is wrong.  We do not know “that humans individually and societally, can and do live, thrive and reproduce with foot-binding, genital mutilation, slavery, suttee, and all sorts of morally objectionable behaviors.”

In fact, we know exactly the opposite. 

Take a look at those societies, historically, that practiced the kinds of things you’re talking about.  What do you see?  They can certainly reach a level where their aristocracies are fairly comfortable.  Most of their citizens, however, live those “nasty, brutish and short” lives Hobbes spoke of.

What’s more, those societies are largely stagnant.  They constitute worlds in which wealth is something you have, not something you do.  Not a single one of them developed anything like what we now call science.  Most of them were either entirely ephemeral–ah, to Shelley’s giant head in the sand–or utterly stagnant. 

Hell, take a look, today, at societies with different and alternate codes of morality–you can start with North Korea, for instance, which consists of a small ruling clique that’s eating and a population that’s slowly starving to death.  Or you can go for something pleasanter to look at, like Saudi Arabia, where there’s lots of money, state of the art medicine and all the rest of it–it’s just that it’s all bought from, built by and run by foreigners with different moral codes and political convictions. 

Physics can tell you what the rules are if you want to build a bridge.  It cannot tell you if you want to build a bridge.  But the if question is another subject.  The rules for bridge building are objective.  If you follow them, your bridge will stand–and only to the extent that you both understand those rules and do follow them will it stand. 

And yes, you can certainly build a rickety bridge on partial information.  But so what?  The rule remains.  To the extent that you undersand and follow the rules, you will build a bridge that will stand.

Virtually every poster to this blog would take exactly the opposite tack they do here on morality if the subject were, for instance, politics and government.  Most of you expect that certain kinds of actions in the world–overregulation and taxation by governments,  for instance–will yield predictable results in national economies.

If you didn’t assume that, there would be no point in going out to vote today or any other day.

Hell, if we didn’t assume that, there would be no reason to resist attempts at founding a Communist state–after all, if human beings can thrive and prosper willy-nilly, then there’s no reason they couldn’t thrive and prosper that way.

I’ve got to stop doing this.  I’m practically catatonic, and I’m teaching Shakespeare and Yeats today.

That’s always interesting.

Written by janeh

November 2nd, 2010 at 8:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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