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Sunday surprise the second — the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — wishing you all blessings on the Fourth ]
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My eye was caught today by yet another disaster — which in turn reminded me of tomorrow, the Fourth of July. It’s just one example among many:

— but it brings up again the question of whether we think in terms of “acts of God” or “laws of Nature” or — somehow — both. And that’s where thw roding of the Constitution comes in, with the phrase “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”:

Nature and Nature's God DQ

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If I used that phrasing — “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” — today, I might well be attempting to please or at least placate readers who variously:

  • believe in a God separate from and superior to Nature, and author of Nature’s laws
  • believe in a God essentially indistinguishable from Nature, wholly immanent, &
  • disbelieve in any kind of God, but recognize Nature as a catchall term for the Whole System.
  • I don’t suppose that would necessarily be the case in 1776, though, and wonder whether the phrase should be read as:

    the Laws — of Nature and of Nature’s God

    or:

    the Laws of Nature — and of Nature’s God

    and if the second, whether the and marks a distinction between Nature and nature’s God, or also covers the possibility of their being one and the same.

    And once we’ve cleared that up, and bearing in mind that John Donne could write “At the round earth’s imagin’d corners” — thus conflating the old, imaginative, square earth with the new, scientific, spherical one — how feasible do you think it is to hold simultaneously the idea that a given earthquake, hurricane, tsunami or volcanic eruption is an act of God and a natural disaster?

    A worldview paradox?

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    Sources:

  • July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
  • November 18, 2013, Room for Debate: Natural Disasters or ‘Acts of God’?
  • Sunday surprise the first — neat tweets from KarlreMarks

    Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Brexit, graphical thinking, serpents — there’s never a dull moment with Karl Sharro on Twitter! ]
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    Karl Sharro is reMarkable and indeed reTweetable:

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    An hour or so before I saw that tweet from Sharro, I’d tweeted a quote from Suzanne Langer:

    I was quoting Langer’s Philosophy in a New Key — hat-tip: Steven H. Cullinane:

    Visual forms— lines, colors, proportions, etc.— are just as capable of articulation, i.e. of complex combination, as words. But the laws that govern this sort of articulation are altogether different from the laws of syntax that govern language. The most radical difference is that visual forms are not discursive. They do not present their constituents successively, but simultaneously, so the relations determining a visual structure are grasped in one act of vision.”

    I think that’s generally right, and goes some way to explaining why “reading” a HipBone Game is cognitively different, even when the game is played entirely in verbal moves, from an equivalent reading of the same “move” tests in sequence.

    I noted Sharro’s visual example — worth clicking all the way through to see it full scale — because although it’s a visual representation of a cluster of texts, it follows a timeline from left to right, and is thus simultaneously sequential and synchronic. A neat trick.

    BTW, Sharro is celebrated for an earlier diagram I’ve posted here — with glee, and with his amazing purely textual equivalent!

    **

    OK so now my focal length is just right for KarlreMarks Twitter feed, and I find this beauty — also about Brexit — too:

    What’s so neat here? Well, it appears to be a paradox of self-reference — ourobouros, a serpent biting its own tail if you like — and it’s very nicely done. The “large numbers of people” gathered in London, of course, aren’t the “large numbers of people” they say shouldn’t be heard, and if Sharro had tweeted —

    Large numbers of people gather in London to demand that large numbers of other people shouldn’t be heard”

    — the paradox would have been gone, the serpent biting its own tail morphed into a serpent biting another serpent — a far less interesting spectacle.

    Or would it? At the level of particular crowds, yes, the paradox would vanish, one crowd biting another, but at the level of implied principle, a crowd voicing the denial of the principle that the voices of crowds deserve a hearing would still be self-refuting in just the way Sharro plays on.

    So the paradox would be like Schrodinger’s cat, dead while alive — or even better, the Cheshire Cat, niow here now gone, perhaps?

    **

    Life, she is rich in paradox.

    Prof Pogge teaches ethics at Yale, but does he shave himself?

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Pogge’s ethics, Russell’s barber paradox, and self-reference ]
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    It’s that old ouroboros [1, 2, 3, 4] rearing its ugly head again, with its tail firmly between its teeth:

    DQ 600 ethicists & barbers

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    The riddle, koan or potential paradox posed in the upper panel alludes to the matter of Yale’s professor Thomas Pogge, a noted ethicist, and some unbecoming behavior of which he has been accused — but as professor Judith Stark writing at Conversation suggests, there’s further interest beyond the case of Pogge and his accusers.

    Responding to the question posed by the title of her own piece, Should ethics professors observe higher standards of behavior?, she writes:

    This is an enduring dilemma in the area of ethics and one that has recently come to light with charges of unethical behavior brought against a prominent philosopher, Professor Thomas Pogge of Yale University. Pogge has been accused of manipulating younger women in his field into sexual relationships, a charge he has strenuously denied.

    Without making any judgment on the case itself, this situation raises larger questions about how the behavior of the experts in ethics is to be reviewed and evaluated.

    Profession and practice are, in their own way, like word and act — or are they?

    **

    In the lower panel, I’ve placed a discussion of Bertrand Russell‘s “barber” paradox that in Russell’s view partially but not fully resembles his paradox of the “class of all classes that are not members of themselves” — the question there being whether this class is a member of itself or not. I’m not in a position to argue such matters with Russell, so I’ll just say that he views both the “classes” and “barber” paradoxes as (different but similar) seeming knots which, when you pull on their loose ends, disentangle themselves, pop!:

    Russell writes of the “barber” paradox that it is a variant on the “classes” paradox in which “the contradiction is not very difficult to solve.” The “classes” paradox is harder, he says, but he finally dismisses it as “nonsense, i.e., that no class either is or is not a member of itself, and that it is not even true to say that, because the whole form of words is just a noise without meaning.”

    Or as Wm. Shakespeare might have said, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” — to which Witty Wittgenstein might have quipped, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” — which, alas, has the air of a tautology, with the entire Tractatus thereby eating its own tail..

    **

    What do you think? Is the entire question of ethicists behaving ethically or unethically moot? a koan? does it eat its own tail? does it just melt into thin air, and leave not a rack behind?

    Sources:

  • Judith Stark, Should ethics professors observe higher standards of behavior?
  • Esther Inglis-Arkell, The Barber Paradox Shook the Foundations of Math

  • Bertrand Russell, Logic and Knowledge: Essays, 1901-1950
  • Conflict resolution has both positive and negative outcomes

    Friday, May 13th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — paradox: individual health goes down while societal health improves ]
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    reverse arrow conflict individual & group

    I knew this “reverse arrows” graphic would find a multitude of uses.

    **

    Here’s the news report:

    Post-conflict reconciliation led to societal healing, but worsened psychological health.

    Key paras:

    Civil wars divide nations along social, economic, and political lines, often pitting neighbors against each other. In the aftermath of civil wars, many countries undertake truth and reconciliation efforts to restore social cohesion, but little has been known about whether these programs reach their intended goals.

    A new study published in Science suggests reconciliation programs promote societal healing, but that these gains come at the cost of reduced psychological health, worsening depression, anxiety, and trauma.

    “Our research suggests that talking about war atrocities can prove psychologically traumatic for people affected by war. Invoking war memories appears to re-open old war wounds,” said Oeindrila Dube, assistant professor of politics and economics at New York University and one of the authors of the study. “At the same time, the reconciliation program we examined was also shown to improve social relations in communities divided by the war.”

    ¶ ¶ ¶

    The study took place across 200 villages, 100 of which were randomly chosen to be offered the reconciliation program. The research team tracked 2,383 people in both sets of villages, recording their attitudes towards former combatants, their mental health, and the strength of their social ties nine and 31 months after the program.

    The study was made in Sierra Leone a decade after the civil war ended. Assuming the methodology is good and the results are as described, there’s a very interesting paradox here. And hey, a decent paradox really gets my mental feet a-tapping. It will be instructive to see whether similar results are found elsewhere.

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    The study is J. Cilliers, O. Dube, B. Siddiqi. Reconciling after civil conflict increases social capital but decreases individual well-being. Science, 2016; 352 (6287): 787 DOI: 10.1126/science.aad9682 — to which I have no access, and which would very likely prove beyond my comprehension in any case.

    The dangers of recovery?

    Sunday, May 8th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — just a quick DoubleQuote indicating a pattern in psychology ]
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    SPEC DQ Hoffer & Bleuler


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