Hot potatoes always go cold

Last night, I had the pleasure of watching two extremely different, and yet similar, documentaries. The first one I saw was on the BBC last night; concerning the career of Jim Davidson, most British readers may know him as the entertainer/comedian who has been tarred as being a racist. I find this a most interesting question of is he a racist? I think he isn’t, but he is definately faux-pas material!

Upon the interviewer (Piers Morgan, former editor of The Mirror) asking whether Jim was homophobic; Jim replied, rather oddly, “How can I possibly be homophobic, some of my best friends are black!”, and then he paused, and winked. That is a very sly and ambiguous reply, its also very clever. What is interesting is that by our standards, the old work of Jim Davidson can most definately be seen as a little insensitive, but, then again, so are sketches in Little Britain, and what about self-referential racism; David Baddiel’s light anti-semitism, for instance, Lenny Henry’s lampoon of Black British (which, except for Jim being white, isn’t terribly different). The question-begging comes mores to ourselves than to Jim about the issue of intolerance. I noted how interesting it was that Jim, in past interviews, spoke of Black characteristics in a way not dissimilar to how most people talk about Chavs. If people want to insult ‘chavs’, they should just make jokes about the working class overtly. Oh, and I can already imagine replies of “chavs are not necessarily working class…”. Well, I reply to you, does Council House ring any bells?

I see that the chav phenomenon encapsalates a hypocritical critique of those with a lack of cultural sophistication, from those themselves who could also be subject to a similar charge. Since when, for instance, did the Beastie Boys and David Hassellhoff become esteemed cultural artefacts? But that’s a whole other issue…

I found two ironies about Jim Davidson; the first one was about how his career came about from a talent show, and then, his career ended because of another talent show (Pop Idol’s ratings defeated Jim Davidson’s Generation Game). A second remark is that Jim ironically represented a challenge to the old guard of comedy insofar as they were middle class cigar-holding limerick-tellers. Jim, in the late seventies, represented, in a nuanced way compared to modern comedic revolutions, a challenge to the orthodoxy of comedy. The irony was, however, that Alternative comedy a decade later challenged him upon the same grounds, that Jim was the old guard that must be overthrown by the cool and revolutionary coalition.

A second documentary that I saw was (by Michael’s suggestion), concerning the band Mayhem. A very interesting documentary about how one member committed suicide, and another guy, Oystein Aarseth, was murdered by the guy from Burzum. It’s riveting stuff! When they talked of Oystein’s personality it became clear that a lot of the band was just image, but that attracted many people from unstable backgrounds to be involved. It’s very dark stuff and it makes me appreciate the genre of black metal now. I now feel that Death metal is a bit stale. I often feel that with emo bands trying to impersonate the ‘unclean’ vocals of black metal, they ruin the artform and intention. While it’s possible to be romantic and unclean (in vocals); they just do it in a terrible way. Screamo, what a fucking joke! It does interestingly make a more authentic metal audience drive further and further to obscurity; consider for instance how Black Sabbath was very challenging and ‘deviant’, and then how later on, Ozzy has become the symbol of kitsch. You’d never see Varg Vikernes, who was convicted of killing a man and burning churches, on a reality TV show….I hope not anyway…


A sociology of philosophy

Around many of my circles I hear people talking about sociological aspects of philosophy. What do I mean when I say this? Let me clarify. The sociology of philosophy concerns philosophy as an academic practice, not the subject matter, but the conduct of its practitioners. Here are some things that could be pointed out:

1. Philosophy is professionalised to the point of being an ‘occupation’ instead of a ‘vocation’
2. Proper philosophy has become so specialised and insular that non-philosophers are unwelcome to participate.
3. Philosophy as a job, aims for various job related goals: tenure, reputation, publication, the first of these three is very hard these days
4. Philosophy and wider social phenomena: the economic situation has had an impact on philosophy, the “New Atheism” movement draws a lot of philosophers, but on the other hand, draws out the most philistinic of them. As was pointed out in a previous post, those who call themselves new atheists to some extent show themselves to be uninteresting insofar as they exhibit a lack of awareness to the ‘old’ atheism (I don’t like either of the terms…)
5. A lot of initiatives are being made about being more sensitive in the politics of identity; I have been told of a group known as the “Sheffield Feminists”, for instance, the leader of which, is well known for positively endorsing women-friendly departments.
6. The relationship between philosophy as a university subject, and other subjects; physics, for instance, mathematics, or, the (dark) arts, who normally talk about those dirty continentals.


Kant’s racism

I have been going through Observations on the Beautiful and the Sublime, where in a section concerning differences of appreciation between the sexes, he talks of various European tendencies, the Spaniards and the English and the Germans have a flair for the sublime, for Kant, and then he says but the French and the Italians have a flair for the beautiful. How quaint are his remarks, it is laughable to see such politically incorrect observations in Kant.

Then, as it goes on, there is a notorious passage on Africans. And I cite:

The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the ridiculous. Mr. Hume challenges anyone to adduce a single example where a Negro has demonstrated talents, and asserts that among the hundreds of thousands of blacks who have been transported elsewhere from their countries, although very many of them have been set free, nevertheless not a single one has ever been found who has accomplished something great in art or science or shown any other praiseworthy quality, while among the whites there are always those who rise up from the lowest rabble and through extraordinary gifts earn respect in the world






Social psychology

There are quite a few philosophers who draw from empirical research these days:

1. Neuroscience/neuropsychology
2. Economics/game theory
3. Social psychology
(among others)

I think I’ve changed my mind about this a little over the past few months. I used to outright reject any insight from such disciplines (possible exception of nonempirical game theory); but I deem that there are some important provisos that should be fulfilled before considering them as having philosophical implications. And, oddly enough, these are non-philsophical considerations.

i. Are the variables sound?
ii. Are the variables sufficiently able to be mathematically constructed?
iii. Are the findings empirically repeatable?
iv. Has a pilot study been conducted to deem methodologies effective
v. Is the study ethical?

Let me consider the last point. Why should we care that a study is ethical? There are various reasons, and most of them perhaps you may not have considered. The obvious one is that, unethical studies cause harm to the research subject. Minor implications: reputation of the researcher, his group, their funding agency, their university/institution, and the discipline’s reputation as a whole comes to jeopardy. This means people will not trust researchers if they are unethical, and for good reason too if they were known to cause harm. Some of you might be more filppant and say something like okay so we may have done this research already, there is still import of the study, right?

Not necessarily. Unethical studies are difficult to repeat, one for ethical reasons, two, because often the variable are too different to repeat in exactly the same way. Studies that cannot, or will not be repeated are too difficult to verify, but they are, if you are innovative enough, able to falsify it (by testing the aspects of the operation design process). Unethical studies tend to stand in a singularity, very few studies would bear resemblance to them, so there is no context, and further, the researcher-subject relationship; due to the nature of oppressive and coercive relationships, are difficult to reconstruct. Further, studies like Milgram’s social psychology experiment are difficult to interpret given certain presuppositions that must be addressed: nature or nurture? What is the structure of explanation?


The antiomies of the foundations

There is a distinct contradiction, and yet, agreement, in the following two propositions:

P1. Mathematics cannot be shown to be complete
P2. We cannot but conceive of Mathematics, properly construed, as ideally composed of a set of axioms such that all and any system of mathematics can be reduced to a common simple system, or set of axioms such that shows a common genus to all mathematics.

This view, I maintain, is a Kantian view of mathematics. Kant’s constraints upon the proper conduct of science is that there ultimately originates a primary concept, but, that this concept is knowable or discoverable, or even actual, is not relevant, nor should we be too concerned if we never find it.

For science to be proper, Kant says, it must fit an ideal of knowledge, but such an ideal is projected (this entails the ideality of natural kinds) and not real. Such an ideal also seems to suggest that we use a bit of elipsis in our explanations and descriptions of science. A Kantian view of science also would set as a desideratum that there were a formalisability/mathematicisation constraint on anything if it is to be proper science at all.

The ideal is a projection, and is an “as if it were real” constraint (that is the ellipsis to which I speak of). Because it is a projection, our kinds and entities and laws within the scientific frame work not only can be subject to change, but desirably so, are they changeable, for scientific theories could always change, and are not rigidly set.

Rigidity is still present in the Kantian conception of science, however, in the desideratum of the constructability of formal langauges upon which we describe our phenomena. Consider the difference between ‘Water’ (h20) and water (that stuff we drink). Most, if not all the water we come across is not ‘water’, perhaps in some ways, ‘water’ does not exist, HOWEVER. Water necessarily presupposes ‘water’, in virtue of its ideality. For what makes water1 the same as water2 other than h20? Nothing.

H20 is criterial of water, but in a way, its pure form is never to be found in water, only ‘water’, which projects onto all thigns called water, makes sense of our empirical concept in such a way to be science. But, because ‘water’ is a priori regulatively ideal, it is also subject to change. The contradiction is, then, how is water necessarily h20, yet only indexical to our scientific understanding?

The answer to this lies in the conception of necessity. Necessity here, is defined as a criterial relation. Therefore, to say that “2 is a number” is necessarily true is to state a criteria. Necessity is criteria. But then, is not necessity similar to possibility? For criteria presupposes the conditions, and conditions is construed in the Kantian system as possibility. It would seem then that necessity can only take place as a concept where possibility is first defined, such that in a sense, necessity is only possible if, possibility allows, and this is necessarily so.

Destre (and Michael)

Some facebook norms

How to be facebook-savvy:

1. Don’t have too many applications, that’s so fucking proletarian
2. Don’t have inciminating photos
3. Facebook information: do not be too explicit of strangers about your personal life if you don’t want to be: sometimes people judge if you are a homosexual, a liberal, a conservative, religious or conversely, atheist.
4. Don’t try to be clever. It’ is so fucking vacuous and pseudo-interesting to just say something like “oh, but how could I possibly be described in a few lines of text”. Well, if you said that, that means you are a goth teenage girl, and a bitch, or if you are male, a sex pervert.
5. Don’t do quotes of your friends, that’s so fucking inane and stupid; unless they are clever and fun quotes, not something they said that was funny at a drunk night that doesn’t seem funny to anyone else, or yourself currently, but you just have had to have been there!
6. Purging is good…that is, facebook purging; remove your unnecessary facebook ‘friends’.
7. What is the condition of being a facebook friend for the facebook savvy? Here are some necessary and sufficient conditions:

i. You have to have known them physically (Necessary but not sufficient); this doesn’t entail non-physical friends don’t count. Michael is facebook friends with Zachary Hietala!!
ii. They are actual friends (sufficient condition)
iii. They are family (neither sufficient nor necessary, however)
iv. Professional contacts- be careful how you stay in relation with them. Do you want them to know you fully personally? One member of Areopagus has the problem of others coming to find his interests in music most interesting…and metallic

8. A final warning: your facebook profile is not just for people who know you, but also people who knew you, and people who want to know you. You decide, and you choose what you tell them on your profile. They could be employers, friends, enemies, or rivals. Sometimes information is a weapon. Be very very careful.

9. An opus thought: here are some reasons why I’ve blocked people, or facebook-purged someone off my list:

i. I don’t like them
ii. I hate them
iii. I don’t want anything to do with them
iv. I don’t want to engage with them personally, or in a non-professional, or different environment than I do before (consider for instance, if one teaches, or has a client etc.)
v. They invite me to too many events
vi. They promote their events and themselves or commercial ventures in a shameless manner.

And one further thing. Virtual identity is just as subtle as real identity can be; only the artful can pull off deception and fear while maintaining genuineness. The justice of your own words are that, you can’t lie even when you try to. Truths wrapped in lies are more sensuous than truths proper; but lies when used to hide weakness, are always disgusting.




I am currently reading through the Opus Postumum, which is basically fragments of a book not actually finished. There is a section which I am reading titled “Critical note”, which goes as the following:

“It may seem that in this section we have greatly transgressed the boundary of the a priori concepts of the moving forces of matter, which together are to form a system, and have drifted into physics as an empirical science (e.g. into chemistry); but one will surely notice that….”

Oh, and then the passage breaks off…as Kant didn’t finish his sentence. That was an important passage that I needed to read up on, and HE DIDN’T FINISH HIS SENTENCE!!!

Sometimes you have to laugh!

New phrases: The “New” Atheism

Well, seeing that Sinistre* and Antisophie have given their own posts on new words and phrases (and how typical for S* to use pwnd as a word! I considered one of my own. I, along with many other philosophers, have recieved an invitation to write articles for an internet encyclopaedia, and one of the articles that they asked for writers on was: the “New Atheism”. Given that I spend most of my house in solitude reading modern philosophy by candlelight, I hardly get to come across new words, or people, for that matter.

The notion of a “New Atheism” on the one hand was new, that there was such a phrase, was, at one, a sort of validation of this phenomenon that is going on; namely, of the sudden emergence of writers and publications who write on the issues of religion and secularity and things around it. But on the other hand, I thought it such an odd term; what is new about the new atheism?

One response is to say that it reflects a growing acceptance, and change in shift of societal trends. Back in Jesuit school, it was heresy of the highest order to say one was an atheist; now, apparently, I look at many of my friends facebook profiles and find they are an atheist. Many people think I am an atheist, but, as with most things, I can’t just give a straightforward answer. Normally when I think of something, I try to reflect on it, see how it impacts on other issues, and see various facets and tensions of an issue, very often either I just stop thinking about it or get confused, or just follow a thought until the phone rings, to say that I ever come down on an issue and say something like “I have such and such …. as a position” is far too flippant. I don’t work that way.

For instance, once, someone asked what do you think of error theory? I didn’t give a one-sentence answer, I just thought out loud, what did they mean? what is at stake? what issues are at hand here? By default I tend not to favour error theory, but not because it is an anti-realist thesis, but because of its specific denial of truth condition statements of morality. But I may reply to say error-theorist about what?

I don’t do this whole thing about “having a position”. Yes, I may come down consistently on the same conclusions on the same issues, for instance, Metallica is a shit band. But I will always be willing to put my cards on the table and see my hand before I put them down to play. Cos sometimes the hand may not be good enough to win and we have to stick. I find that this “New Atheism” consists of many philistines, both culturally and intellectually. Oft repeating arguments that need not be repeated, just read Hume and you shall find this argument there, you are not original, furthermore, if you learned from the past you avoid repetition, further to that, you avoid their own pitfalls that you yourself may invoke.

That’s what I liked about the Jesuits, always cultured, always aware…