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Posts posted by Charles

  1. Therefore, if all rational and logic people will always come to the same conclusion based on the same facts, their conclusion is deterministic (in the context of the facts involved). The more accurately we identify the facts and the more consistently we apply logic, the more deterministic we become. If we had a perfect understanding of reality and could apply perfect logic every time we would be perfectly deterministic. 

    First of all, as has been stated, human application of reason is not infallible, and mistakes do not necessarily render a person immoral (providing it was not willful neglect of his rational faculty). Secondly, again as has been stated, tastes differ and when the choice is between large tomatoes and cherry tomatoes reason isn't a necessary or applicable tool.

    The other day I got myself thinking about how it is that intellectuals of the left and the right stake a claim to reason. Well, I reasoned, the left can claim a degree of rationality - its decisions are a logical extension of its basic principles. Leftist philosophers assume human nature is deterministic. Now, when forming an opinion on a specific issue they will do it with regard to society - but if each member of society is deterministic - that is, the sum of the effect of everyone else thats influenced them/all their experience, then as everyone is connected through such a web to everyone else their 'society' is universal. It includes all humanity. So rational decisions are made with regard to the welfare of the entire human race. As this society seldom fares well - with its members fighting, suffering and exploiting each other - the general 'moral standpoint' of the left is disgust - its solutions pipedreams based on ill-founded assumptions. See, very few people see themselves as human in the universal sense - they define themselves though their nationalism, their religion, their culture, their ideas and in this neck of the woods themselves. Even the religious nut can act out the logical extension of his believe in a mystical entity, although these beliefs vary with the different sects and scriptures of the major faiths.

    However, those in the business of defining themselves place one value over another - for some its work, other its family - maybe its money, maybe its spreading a philosophy - the point is that beyond the common factor, a desire for survival, the values by which a freethinking individual defines them self are diverse, and the rational decisions that I make with respect to myself, may differ to those you make for yourself. Compare this to the deterministic universal society of the left, or the dogma of any religion and observe their reason demands fairly uniform conclusions.


    Just seen the movie. Very impressed. Lived up to standard expected from the TV series.













    I think Mr Whedon's unique Sci-Fi/Western blend works for a number of reasons. His version of the future isn't too far-fetched - his attention to detail in carrying on some sort of cultural continuity between present day and the future is impressive and grounds it in some sort of reality. Also, as has already been stated, the fact that his characters aren't stark black/white, good/evil - their essentially their own characters put in very awkward circumstances. Then there's the distinct absence of Aliens, and the revealed origins of the Reavers, both of which contribute to the human focus - no great leaps of foresight or imagination are required to accept these sci-fi premises - these are humans, pretty much as they are now, in a world of higher technology, spread out further.

    My thoughts on the, there not really comparable to the Nazis in that they are not nearly as explicit in their actions. They are very concerned about their image as essentially good, and the human experimentation is highly classified and clandestine (though they are very similar in nature to those of the Nazis). They also appear to be ruled by a sort of republic/parliamentary system, one no doubt enabled by mass collusion and misinformation, as oppose to a dictator ruling by brute force/patriotic demi-god worship. Perhaps I should order a copy of 'The Ominous Parallels'....

  3. A good case can be made that post-pubescent second language learning is a greater benefit, since the process of language learning itself can have positive consequences for the intellect. Aim to enroll your children in a language class when they are about 17, I'd say.

    I understand what your saying, but its a fact that you aquire languages with more ease as a child than an adult. There's every reason to give the bilingual edge at an earlier age and if he/she chooses to expand their language base later, when it presents more of a challegne (and benefit) for the intellect so be it.

    On the third hand, I'm not sure I understand why learning Chinese is a higher value for your children, especially since they don't exist. For you, okay: you can look at the facts and decide that it's important for you to learn Mandarin. I just don't see how you know that for your children. Learning Chinese would be the wrong choice if they end up doing business with Latin America; learning Spanish would be the wrong choice it they end up running the Mastercard operation in China. By choosing Chinese, are you saying that they should pick the Chinese career over the Latin American career?

    My point is that I would rather my child be learning to speak one of the three most popular languages in the world as a second language at school than some genereally useless minority one. Sure circumstances could change (though I don't see armies of Welshmen charing across the border!), but its a reasonable assessment to say Spanish and Chinese will be prevalent (alongside English).

    Why Chinese and not Spanish? Because there is a greater difference between English and Chinese than English and Spanish, and those two very different languages cultivate different ways of thinking. It seems to me valuable to be able to have an understanding of both ways of thinking, that are to certain extent reflected in the different cultures.

    I'd also point out that if the child knew a language as a result of my decisions regarding his/her education, their choices in the future would probably be made with respect to that - why would my daughter choose to work in Latin America when there's equal opportunity in China and she already speaks the language fluently (political considerations aside).

    There is no harm in a child learning Chinese, Spanish, Turkish or even Welsh, as long as that doesn't come at the expense of them flourishing in other respects (food, clothing, science education, art appreciation...). I suggest natural language learning as the low-cost means of maximizing value.

    I never implied there was any harm. How is your disregard for the language being learnt a low cost means of maximizing value?

  4. Surely you don't really believe that! You would let your children starve, if necessary, so that they could learn Mandarin? You would move to a slave labor camp in Red China so that they could learn Chinese?

    Firstly, sorry - your right - bad choice of phrase, or word even! Just saying I would consider it important to give my child the edge that comes with knowing an extra language.

  5. What are the grounds for believing that Chinese is better suited than English to poetry, and that English is better suited for a "scientific worldview"? Identifying principles and offering examples might help clarify the issue.

    With my limited knowledge on the subject its easier to support the notion that English is better for science and objective philosophy than that Chinese is better suited to Poetry. My knowledge of what makes good poetry is limited, and as I stated this is the view of my Chinese flatmate.

    Whereas English and other European languages have a unified written and spoken form, the Chinese written form is separate from its spoken. Chinese spoken is heavily based on intonation, and the written pictograms are almost a living form of etymology. Also the semantics of different characters vary greatly depending on the context. Conversely the Roman system with English syntax seems to allow for easy, unambiguous logical statements.

    I notice your running a course on Aristotle's Poetics, are you an expert in this field Burgess? By what standard would you rate languages in their poetic potential? What is your understanding of the correlation between how conducive a language is to objective philosophy and good poetry? What quality in a language makes good poetry and what IS good poetry? (It is something I know very little about, save to name a few poems I have enjoyed)

  6. Telegraph Letters Column Sept 24th 05

    Referring back to the Telegraph letters column I mentioned in the post I just made over in 'letters to the ed':

    There's actually a very good letter on teaching English as the main foreign language in French schools further down the letters column and a particularly precipient point about how English, Mandarin and Spanish will be in time become the dominant global languages. If and when I have children, I will hold their bilingual education (probably in Mandarin, as I am myself slowly learning) as of paramount importance.

    One rather neat bonus in having a language set of English and Chinese would be the scope for thought and creativity it might breed. As my Chinese flatmate explains, Chinese spoken word and script do not lend themselves to the sciences well, but allow an enormous diversity of form in poetry and expression. Conversely English, though it could easily be French or German instead, is well suited to the Western scientific worldview. I actually know little about the difference in merits between those three European languages and would be most interested to hear what anyone has to say on the subject.

    In fact, Stephen - perhaps you would consider creating a new section in the sciences section on Linguistics and/or Language? (Though I realise the Grammar section might deal with the former to some extent)

  7. This is a letter I recently had published in a national newspaper here in the UK. A tribute to Ayn Rand of sorts, as any 'Virtue of Selfishness' readers will note.

    Daily Telegraph Editorial - Sept 24th 05

    Common values

    Sir - The failure of multiculturalism lies in its lack of a common thread of values to link us all, regardless of creed or colour. It doesn't underscore any value system; it just deems all ideas equally valid in the name of a fictional equality. Until there are values for which the governing bodies are prepared to stand up and say "this is what it means to be British", which are ethnically blind but culturally biased, there will never be integration.

    I'd say those values that are fundamentally British could and should be reason, purpose and self-esteem. These are values so general yet fundamental that they fly in the face of all extreme religious ideals and anti-intellectual sub-cultures, and are fairly applicable to all.

    Charles E. A. Groome, London N7

  8. hmmmm, there's no one to guarantee any rights on the planet - as first human there you'd kind of be responsible for establishing civilization - so you probably couldn't claim it as your own. However you'd have the first hand in setting up constitution etc - you'd be your very own founding father....unless of course you bought a boat load of marines and the legislature with you :)

  9. Glad you all liked! If I wasn't studying brains and working in clinical research I might just send off my CV to Nat. Geographic - I've certainly built up quite a collection of their documentaries. I think they probably warrant a mention in 'The Good' section of this forum!

  10. Mines an odd one: I first heard of Ayn Rand about 4 years ago in the Ethics class of my Philosophy course at school; I was 16 at the time. I was intrigued enough to order the book, began reading it, got distracted and got on with final year exams etc. After my schooling finished I worked solid for a month doing 3 jobs and then with the money I'd saved bought a one way ticket to India. Non of that 'finding myself' smaltz, I just had an active interesting in social anthropology and Hindu culture fascinated me at the time.

    A couple of months into my trip I took an old Enfield motorcycle up into the Himalayan foothills. Three motivations for this: mountaineering is a keen hobby of mine, I was considering going to Nepal and I was going by the words of some Israeli friends and meeting one up there. One afternoon I found myself sitting in cafe situated on a rocky outcrop above the Ganges. So close to the source its waters were crystal blue and its banks were white sandy beaches. As I sipped my chai conversing with fellow travellers (a wacky Scottish birdwatcher called Eddy in his 20s, a gay middle-aged Australian antiques dealer hunting bargains, and a perenially stoned Dutch girl), an American walked up to the table. He introduced himself, and I recall his name was Rhythm Adirim. The cafe hosted a small collection of books left by travellers, availble to buy and be bought back at half price - Rhythm was seeing if any of us wanted to buy them before he returned them.

    "What've you got?" I asked. He threw two books across the table - one called 'Sophies Choice' and the other....'Atlas Shrugged'. "I recognize this..." I said "in fact I have it back home - never read it though". He winced and retorted "She's an evil b*tch that one, her philosophy's pure evil", "How much?" I responded (the fact Mr Adirim was nervously rolling a joint not adding to his credibility).

    Over the next few days I found myself engrossed in the novel - at first lying on those same white beaches below the cafe, but taking it with me as I ventured across the Northern province of Uttar Pradesh down to Varanasi - the Hindu city of the dead. Here Hindus from across the subcontinent migrate in their dying days so as to be burnt on the shores of the Ganges. The waters here are black, and the air thick with smoke, the smells an acrid concoction of burning flesh and incense. The bodies of Holy men and children, innocents, are thrown whole into the Ganges. Whats more, a large percentage of the population makes its way to the river to wash during the course of the day, even brushing their teeth in its waters. It was here, reaching the end of Atlas Shrugged that John Galt spoke out to me "Which is the monument to the triumph of human spirit over matter: the germ-eaten hovels on the shorelines of the Ganges or the Atlantic skyline of New York?" . I flew back home in two days. And the rest, as they say, is history.

  11. For the most part I can't stand so called 'modern art' for much the same reasons Stephen so succinctly states. There are however a few truly original pieces I have seen that have caught my attention, in particular one giant 'painting' made of different shades of concrete and sand and steel wires (typically used in concrete) that depicted the scene looking down to street level through a hole blown through the side of a tall building. I suppose the thing that impressed me, for it wasnt exactly beautiful, was that it was recognisable as such and with its connotations actually brought me to imagining.

  12. To add some thoughts to that:

    Given: Captalism gives a moral perogative to free trade, and the protection of the individual. But did free trade and individual rights share origins? I'm not so sure. Seems to me that the individual rights side of things has more of a social basis in the settling Puritans search for freedom and that free trade, unrestricted by respect for the individual - was rampant across large swathes of the Globe, particularly the British Empire where, untaxed, many British nationals were setting up business and expropriating wealth as privateers. Is capitalism where pirates meet politics? To this day, have the two ever really reconciled themselves with each other? In other words, has capitalism ever explicitly been acknowledged as the right course to follow, and not just the pragmatic?

  13. The United Kingdom, Sweden and Mexico banned slavery through law before America did. Apparently abolitionists in the US split into two groups - one supporting the constitution and one riding against it. It seems to me that as a historical matter anti-slavery had less to do with capitalism than religion - in fact, the slave trade made a lots of pirateers across the globe very rich, and a lot of politicians less than willing to intervene, including members of the founding fathers. Given: the constitution theoretically prohibits the willful creation of second class citizens based on ascriptive traits, but historically a lot of religious groups accepted the notion that certain groups weren't held as citizens due to their being sub-human. More often than not in social movements such a slavery, prohibition and suffrage, America has been "a nation with the soul of a church" (Alexis de Tocqueville) with its moral crusades achieving social change, as oppose to the reflections of its state rationally invested in determining and upholding the rights of its citizens.

  14. Stephen,

    A couple of points:

    I am not deeply entrenched in the history of the problem and am for the most part speaking out on the basis of what I have seen of these withdrawals. I do, however, appreciate where your coming from.

    There is no doubt that the international community, the Bush administration etc are all giving credibility to Mahmoud Abbas and are suspending judgement on the PA in the eyes of the media - its seems, if only to keep some sort of peace.

    Do you think insincerely playing at diplomacy to keep stability is a viable strategy?

    If not what do you suggest? A military campaign? A bigger wall?

  15. Because the PA would not agree for a single settler to remain under its jurisdiction. According to the PA stance, the Israeli settlers were infringing on the Palestinian  collective right to the land of the Gaza Strip. The problem is that the concept of individual property rights to a plot of land is excluded from the equation.

    Then in terms of the actual problem (as oppose to international security) the international negotiations really are pointless. I still think the Israelis could have made explicity clear that the settlers were not their responsibility and that they were no longer governed by them. The ball would then have been firmly in the Palestinian court.

    I can only imagine it is a question of regional stability that prevents the US and Israelis from taking this approach - the upset caused by the Palestinians allowing atrocities in Gaza being to much to handle.

  16. However, if they chose to pull out they should have left the choice of staying to the settlers, making clear to them that they can no longer be protected.

    I agree. Israeli politicians can alter the political boundaries all they like but its only jurisdiction that should change hands. The problem here is in the force used. To allow settlers to choose to remain under PLO jurisdiction is a true test of Palestianian state maturity in the eyes of the international community. I suspect they have neither the legal apparatus or means to control what would happen there in that event, but if we are to take these ongoing intenational negotiations seriously they deserve a chance. Israel would certainly inherit the moral high ground in the event of Palestinian failure to protect.

    Why is this eminently more reasonable stance not even voiced at the administration level?

  17. What are peoples views on this? I look at the pictures of well-do-to families being forced out of their homes, many of which are quite impressive - losing their businesses, their livelyhoods. The lucky few are now getting yellow bungalows in symmetrical plots (see this BBC news item) but many are now just being left 'victims of circumstance'.

    The Israeli-Palestinian situation is a complicated one and I can understand a long term anxiety on behalf of the Palestinians to the people who just moved en masse into their land less than a century ago. But any solution that requires a repeat performance of this - destroying homes and livelyhoods (and all the rights for those people that go along with these things) in the name of peace (!) seems utterly ludicrous to me...

    I think that if I were a settler right now I would be very incensed to take action against my government right now.

    How long do you have to live in a place for to stop becoming a settler? If the Israeli government withdraw their law of the land from an entire region (As well as the people from it) whats to keep the people from withdrawing their allegiance to that law? Isn't it forfeit?

    I don't think this kind of forced relocation (reminiscent of Nazi Germany & Kosovan Serbs) of ethnic groups to conform with imagined new political boundaries can ever work. It has to be a case of the one group learning to co-exist with the other under whatever the political leadership happens to be at the time. If that political leadership is specifically ethnic and religious and explicitly deems members of the other ethnic group second class citizens then there isn't much left than for said group to take up arms. And that works both ways...