The ship of Stratovarius (on ideology and semantics)


Anyone who is familiar with the metal scene of Finland knows about the recent spat between Timo Tolkki and the rest of the members of Stratovarius. In a previous post, I reported the news that Stratovarius broke up; but then came a whole barrage of replies from two parties; Timo Tolkki, and the rest of Stratovarius. These recent events are much like the whole open letter affair with Nightwish and their former singer. Has Finnish heavy metal become so big, that it has taken on the mechanics and suave of modern bands, of having official fan clubs, official merchandise, PAs, photoshoots and open letters? It seems long from the harked days of underground bands playing in California who were known by their audiences bootlegging their gigs, but that’s a whole other point at hand…

The heart of Stratovarius

I can engage in a suitably philosophical discussion about the semantics and modality of ‘Stratovarius’; but I want to address a more human point.

Stratovarius is a band that, for me, and a lot of people I know, represents a mindset. It is, I thought quite clearly, until recently, a band that was in tune with a lot of the heavy metal scene in Europe; trying to come to terms with the bleakness, superficiality, conformism and fostered attitude of normative-heterogeneity, by replying either by an expression of despair [such as EToS]; fantasy; or perseverence. Stratovarius represented the most noble of these responses: perseverence, the strength to keep fighting on in a world of superficiality. How ironic, and how disturbing I find it that Stratovarius engages in this kind of dispute. Not to take any sides on the issue, but when a band that for me, represents perseverence and a way of coping with the modern world, has infighting, one kind of loses hope in the message they once represented.

Now, for a rather odd analysis of ‘Stratovarius’….

The semantics of ‘Stratovarius’

Timo Tolkki, de re, was not the original founder of the band, contrast this to Tuomas’ role in Nightwish. It is Tuomas’ baptism of the band, that makes him the essential feature of the band; the necessary condition for ‘Nightwish’ to refer is that Tuomas is in it. Can we say the same for Timo and Strato? The short answer is yes (because he is the lyrical and musical direction of the whole band since 1984); but the long answer is no he fails to fulfill the de re necessity Kripke designator.

There have been many bands (my first thought on this is the Norweigian band Mayhem) which have none of the de re original members present in their current lineup, yet the name of the band still refers. This is obviously like the philosophical problem of identity, the Ship of Theseus; if you replace every plank, is it still the same ship?

In the case of Mayhem; some of the original members have left, and then returned; much like Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath (replaced by Dio, Tony Martin, etc.); however, unlike Mayhem, Black Sabbath maintained the essential feature, the conponent of Tommy Iommi; who has, rather significantly, maintained throughout the whole career of Sabbath; being the creative force behind it, despite how most people associate it with Ozzy (or, as some of the fan discourses argue, Dio, but that very fact points out the finitude of the lead singer as being core to the band).

Is it possible, further, is it legitimate, semantically, for a band to have changed its whole membership and yet still refer by its original name? What of any organisation for that instance. Is the philosophy department of Cambridge still legitimate to claim heritage of Russell, Wittgenstein and Moore, even though they have long gone?


Commitments (Arithmetic)

A thought without a resolution; a question without an answer I propose in the following:

Consider the following statements:

i. The set of real numbers has a subset of entities which are prime

ii. There is always a higher prime number after any given prime number n

iii. Either there is a highest prime number, or there is not

iv. (It is necessarily the case that) If I entertain any candidate for a ‘highest prime number’; there will always be a higher prime

v. If there is either a highest prime number or there is not, and it is the case that there will always be a higher prime, then it is not the case that there is a highest prime number

vi. If the number line were finite, then perhaps there would be a highest prime number

These are all different kinds of statements:

i. Is a claim about a set of mathematical objects, an assertoric claim about the number line; but is it existential? Is it analytic? is it a priori? is it contingent or necessary?

ii. The expression ‘There is’ intuitively expresses an existential proposition, however, it is an existential proposition about a set (the set of prime numbers), which itself is part of a set (natural numbers); so, to say ‘there is’, in this context is necessarily elliptical upon the committment to the prime number and real number set; do any of these have existential commitment within itself?

iii. Is a disjunctive logical statement; the nature of a disjunction (PvQ) is such that P may hold as an assertoric claim, where Q may be complete nonsense; furthermore, do we have an exclusive (PvQ), where it is the case that (P&Q); or (P&¬(Q)) v ((¬P)&Q)? furthermore, if we address this issue of the inclusive or exclusive disjunction, is this an ontic claim about the metalanguage? Further; what rules can we assert about the construction of the grammar, and what is the status of these rules themselves?

v. Is a modus ponens; to what do I commit to when I assert modus ponens? Do I need to commit to P to assert P–>Q? Furthermore; do I need to assert the truth claim; or tacitly suppose the rule of modus ponens in order to assert any material implicature

iv. Is a necessity claim, and thus, a modal claim; how do we construct necessity claims at all? Do we need token entities to instantiate natural kinds to demarcate the neccessary? Or do we need to posit an Ersatz plurality to ensure the plenitude of possibilities being genuinely assertoric?

vi. This is a counterfactual; is it absurd to posit a counterfactual about a finite number line? For example; if the last number in the line was 100, and there was nothing above it; is this inconcievable, further, is this possible, but inconceivable? or impossible because its inconceivable? Finally, if we were a Lewisian Modal Realist; could we entertain modal claims about the nature of mathematics itself? or modal claims about the rules of modality? (for instance, saying ‘it’s possible to have a world where we are ersatzist, and another world which is Lewisian in logical space’? This sounds ridiculous a claim prima facie.

Destre (and Michael)

Two senses of…

The expression of “I’m sorry” has two distinct meanings:

  1. “I’m sorry” denotes sympathy
  2. “I’m sorry” denotes an apology

The expression of “believing in (something)” has two distinct aspects

  1. To believe in something means to have a commitment to saying that the object in question exists, and that we hold this proposition true in our mental furniture as a belief about the true states of affairs.
  2. To believe in something is to have a commitment to a thing in a way beyond some mere trivial fact about our own propositional set of beliefs, but about who we are as people. This latter sense is harder to express.

I think in the expression of “I’m sorry”, both senses can harmlessly be one and the same. One can express “I’m sorry” as an expression of sympathy, while not being culpable or accepting responsibility to the thing in which she is sorry about. This is a harmless expression.

When someone says, however “I believe in God”; I’m sure that they mean it in both senses of the word; and, it is the latter sense in which we should give a story. What is it about belief in something that is consisted within it, to explain what it means when we say something like “I believe in you”, or “I believe in myself”.

Destre (and Michael)

Moral Logic?

What if we were to say that a given modal logic could have a mapping relation upon another aspect of reasoning? Or in other words, if we could have a discourse or sets of truth values and operator functions about the world, in this case, modal logic, so our operators here would be at least necessity and possibility; but then to make a further claim that these operators, and moreover, their behaviour, have an isomorphism with another operation. For example…CAN isomorphs to POSSIBLE and OUGHT isomorphs to NECESSARY, we might be able to translate one discourse into another.
My suggestion, or hope, is, we could make a modal analysis of morality in such a way.


Glass shattering, and Marble leftness

Lets say I have before me a glass of wine. If I were to throw it at my wall, the glass would presumably smash. The object (Gw) has the disposition of shatterability. After I shatter the glass, it no longer can shatter, as it no longer fulfills the condition of being a glass. Perhaps this is too metaphysical. Okay, lets give another story.

Let’s say I have three marbles before me in a line in front of me. These marbles have a certain character about them, marble 1 is to the left of 2,3; marble 3 is to the right of 1,2, and marble 2 is in between them. We may say that a term to describe their spatial index is contingent upon their positioning, and those objects besides them. If I remove marble 1, marble 2 becomes the leftmost marble in the line.

What is the nature of the leftness of marble 1. It is a contingent fact, but also an indexical relation. We could say it is much like the glass then, upon which the shatterability is contingent upon the fact, and thus, indexical to the property of, the glass being solid (and cool). Could we not go further and show it is the case that many properties we ascribe are indexical, and fickle; semantic rather than ontic ascriptions.


Conceptual vocabulary

I will define conceptual vocabulary as follows:

Those concepts, terms, ideas, or what-have-you that form the content of our thoughts, construct those porositions by which we express thought, and thus, those concepts by which we tacitly view the world

What is a candidate for a concept in our vocabulary?

1. Gravity: we are taught, as children in school of this very odd metaphysical thing called ‘gravity’; oh, but why is it odd? You may ask. It’s odd because it is taught in us in a very dogmatic way; Very few of us come to examine the mechanics beneath our reality, but merely assume that there is some established body out there that explains it. For example; we can talk about  how relativity acknowledge the speed of light (299 792 458 m/s, but we just take it for granted of the scientific authority that such truths about physical reality our our best knowledge.

2. Classical Logic (in particular, the law of Modus Tollens): Modus Tollens is a very primitive rule of everyday inference; it is almost a practical syllogism (in practical reasoning, and is hard to go about life without. Things like noncontradiction, or law of excluded middle evoke various logical and metaphysical issues, but let us consider this as an oddity for now (e.g. debates between intuitionalism vs. classical logic etc.). Modus Tollens, unlike gravity, is perhaps something primitive about human reasoning; I dare say perhaps it is an evolutionary thing. Which leads me to my next point….

3. Evolution: The whole Kansas situation over the past few years, and creationists in general over the past century have aggrivated this point, rather than helped elaborate it. Evolution is something we are taught about the natural world; it is one of those most taken-for-granted things in our education, that people too easily misunderstand it. If we consider the notion of natural selection, by mere chance, establishing those mechanisms that form things such as our basic physiology, and, as some (Damasio), argue, our psychologies {More on that another time..}, it is astounding how it blows away the notion of telos; but because people have such strong feelings for the issue, strong feelings overcome the subtle details of the Darwinian story so much that they talk of evolution in this bastardised way, or such that evolution just looks like telos! (I have heard the latter expression among Christian Neuroscientists, and it disturbs me deeply. Evolution is so ingrained in our education in the world today, that it has almost become a folk concept.

I have a friend, for instance, who tries to explain away sexual behaviour as some construct of evolution, or rather, under my analysis, I see her as saying sexual conduct is natural because it is an evolutionary construct; therefore, if sexual desire is endemic of our nature as homo sapiens, then it is permissable. Obviously this breaks every metaethical rule in the book; namely, she invokes ‘is implies ought’. The point is, that the notion of evolution, whether accurate or not to the proper scientific story, is part of our conceptual vocabulary; those putative concepts that we use in our everyday conversation. Let me now consider a more documented example

4. During the days of Christian antiquity; we referred to a thing called ‘sloth’, which refers to a thing which we may now refer to as laziness, or accidie. But we may even class it in the same set of things as what may be in the realm of mental illness; or, what we as philosophers may call uncontroversial cases whereby our practical deliberation process is changed. Charles Taylor, in “A Secular Age” refers to how the ‘magic’ of life is being reduced away slowly, as the scientific story unwinds to inform us more about our reality. Taylor, himself doesn’t advocate this ‘reduction’ account of the secularisation (why exactly he does this is unclear…he says it is overly simplistic, but his alternative account I have yet to understand).

The specific case he gives, and it is hardly original, is a story that most of you have heard today. Depression. People these days (analogously to my friend who talks about evolution), accept that depression (how we may define that I leave that purposely open), is a  chemical imbalance; instead of being the condition of Adam’s sin into all of his children, of the recognition of our inferiority to God, or those reasons that we make for our own sense of despair; it is a chemical imbalance. This idea is imbued into our culture, and it removes the responsibility and sense of agency that we have. This idea that mental illness is not a problem or aspect of one’s character, or even that there is such a concept of ‘mental illness’ such that it affects our moral character and moral status (that is, the motivational status of action). The concept of mental illness is imbured in the conceptual vocabularies of many.


I have purposely given an ambiguous conception of ‘conceptual vocabulary’; there are various strata. At the hilt, is the transcendental realm, whereby we have the most fundamental concepts to which we are not educated, but either they are a priori, or necessary rational postulates.

The shifting concepts

There is no doubt that the concepts in our vocabulary change, or rather, some things do, while the transcendental ones may stay the same. We may ask some important questions about this change in vocabulary; we may change our conception of mass (the standard Newtonian-Einstein story); we may eliminate folk concepts; we may change the moral and social status of persons (with mental illness); and we may, just may, change the place in the world that we percieve ourselves to have (the Copernican revolution, Darwin). Let me then ask these questions:

1. What causes the change in our vocabulary? Is it sociological? Is it in virtue of the progress of science, or the process of culture? A sub question; what is the proper analysis of the progress of science; is it sociology (history of science); or philosophy (philosophy of science)?

2. What is the normative status of our concepts? This may be asked in two parts; firstly, the political and social significance of certain ideas; do we, with gravity, for instance, maintain the prejudices of normal science and thus resist the progress of revolutionary science, and in doing so, we are to hinder the paradigm shift; and also agitate the questions of the rationality of paradigm shifts (namely, when is it appropriate to move from one to another paradigm?)  The second question is this: are we legitimate to hold these concepts as true in our vocabulary? This asks two further questions; one: what does it mean for a concept to be true? (and what is truth?), and secondly: what justifies maintaining a concept as part of the furniture of our beliefs? (questions about pragmatism and realism come to mind; for example; is it legitimate to believe in numbers? even if they are false things?)

These are all difficult questions.

Michael (and Destre)

One conception of conceptual necessity

If any given phi is such that, whereby we attempt to entertain the counterfactual of the form “imagine if there is no phi…”, but we find there to be no conceivable intuition or sensible apprehension of said counterfactual; then the given phi is a conceptual necessity for the furniture of the mind insofar as cognition is possible.


‘They sound worse when they are play live’


I write about all sorts of stupid things; and I think stupid things (cf. all my thoughts on Kant). Today is no different, I was searching through youtube, as I do. Often one of the things I do is search ‘Tarot’ (and most recently submitted) and look for new videos from the Finnish band, Tarot; but instead, as always is the case, I get these weird videos on my search about  Tarot card readings, which makes me sick to my stomach. I love the band Tarot, but I am also serious about metaphysics and reality, and so any spiritual supernatural stuff [Editorial remark: ‘with the exception of Catholicism’] offends my tastebuds. I like looking up their live performances, because, Tarot are awesome; another band that I like is Eternal Tears of Sorrow. However, I’ve found that their live performances aren’t great; and they are a great great studio band and it upsets me that there are flaws in their live stuff. So I thought hard about this revelation that youtube gave me, and I thought of the following…

Technology change leads to social change 

I remember when I studied sociology of culture; there was a whole discourse about the notion of authenticity (which also leads into my current reading group on Taylor, who wrote about this issue in Sources of the Self). Anyhoo, one of the discourses that came about through the introduction of new recording technologies was the talk about live culture; resistance towards new recording technologies reformed the perspectives that we had about music; crooning, for example, which is a singing style whereby a male singer applies a mezzo-piano to pianissimo volume with a very strong legitissimo tendency which is made possible only by the microphone and electronic speaker. (Presumably), singing before then was acoustic, so volume was important for solo singers; otherwise they won’t be heard! This is just one way in which introduction of new technological innovations can change the way we make music, and also perceive it. Crooning also was exceptionally effeminate for its time, and also evoked strong sentimentality, and, for reasons beyond me (and Antisophie, after much conversing with her), crooning had quite a sexual appeal for women towards men who appear ‘gentle’.

Another story to be told is the opposition to recorded music; people saw recordings as a challenge, a threat to the current social organisation and production of music; put simply, if everyone was to buy records, no one would go out to listen to ‘real’ music, that is, non-recorded, performance. Thus, the concept of the live came about; because before Edison and his recording techniques; ‘live’ music was kind of a music came about as a social concept only through something contrasting to it, namely, recorded music.

The Aura taken away

Here’s where I talk about continental philosophy (yay!); Barthes, in his essay The Grain of the voice [I have to admit this was hard to understand what was actually being said in this], talks about the pseudo-ideology and values and norms imbued in music, a set of myths and stories that we all hold about music. Lets face it, like gender, it actually doesn’t matter whether these myths is true or false; but for purposes of sociological analysis, and as a matter of empirical fact, we find that the discourses that we so analyse, such as the ideology of feminine beauty being characterised in many, inconsistent ways; from thinnness, to voluptuous, from inappropriately young, to demurely mature; likewise, we find, ipso facto, that we find discourses about music that many hold on to. Here is one of them…

Walter Benjamin in ‘The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Production” [which, I must add, comes up almost everywhere in my Sociology study…its the philosophical equivalent of Quine’s ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’] addresses the change of the perception of art by means of the introduction of industrial process. The metric of industrial process influences the process wherewhich ‘art’ used to be made. We believed that there was a special quality in those pieces of art which were made lovingly and craftedly by those genius-like artisans; composers, poets and writers. This is all an ideological story that people have in their heads. The notion of genius, just as an aside; has its roots in Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment; section 46-50; which seems to characterise our social conception of the genius (which, interestingly is an artistic, rather than intellectual construal…thus, Newton doesn’t count as a Genius for Kant…more on that another day).

With the introduction of industrial and mechanical copies of artworks, the percieved value in the physical and human effort into creating art, and the concept of the original work is undermined; if we see so many copies of the Discobolous, what value or worth does the original have? (This, I think is another interesting Kantian problem [cf. Guyer, Allison, Helmut-Wenzel], but more on that another time…). The thought that comes from Benjamin is this; the introduction of mechanical reproduction of art (in this relevant case, the CD, MP3/ogg/wav/wmv/acc etc…) diminishes the perceieved value of art as this ideological story of the skillful artist emptying her soul into the work. There is a lot to read into Benjamin’s claim, I admit, none of which I have actually done.

The concept of the live performance

So, now that we have set the context of the norm that recorded music, or repicated music has some diminished value; we now come to the importance of the live. For the live, we can experience the aura (if we buy into the story). We can feel all of those things that people talk about when they feel admiration about a thing (but aren’t actually metaphysically sound), you know, like the feeling ‘energy’ going into you, their ‘spirit’, the ‘heart of the crowd’ and all that poetic stuff that people just make up in their heads (which I admit to doing too…), in live music. Live music seems to be distinctly valued insofar that we still buy into the story about the auratic qualities of the original.

There is something that people like about the live; studio recordings are almost ‘too perfect’; mistakes are valued, the difference in intonation, or performance is non-symmetrical; Marco’s singing of Pyre of Gods will always be different live, and between different live gigs; but the music video will always be the same. Zachary’s guitar solos will always be slightly different live; they will always be unique to that occaision. Dave Mustaine’s ‘jokes‘ when he performs live are always different, and its a ‘you had to be there to find it funny’ contextual things. There is, I suppose the physicality and uncertainty of it; you might bump into that pretty girl in the gig who likes how ‘metal’ your hair is and how obscure your band shirt is, you might go up to some 30-something stranger and  a dual air guitar shredding session to simulate the live performance of Mustaine and Broderick, but really, in your heart of hearts, you imagine Broderick to be Marty Friedman, because he’s the real person who was meant for playing Hangar 18, shouting “DAVE!!!”.

Digital humanity…

With live studio recordings that blare on in the earphones to the library, or listening to the Stockhausen in your study, will always be what you get; it is McDonaldised [Cf. Ritzer]; it is proudced and manufactured such that recorded music is not only predictable, it removes error and uncertainty, and in that way, it removes the humanity. It is far too (instrumentally) rationalised in the Weberian sense; with the live, we can come out of the Modernist Iron cage, and embrace some rawness, some genuine humanity outside of all the digital zeroes and ones that form that MP3 that you listen to all the time.

Lets just state a fairly uncontraversial platitude. We find things to be beautiful. However, the practice of admiring art, listening to music, and visiting museums and performances and the like, are socially mediated practices; they are socially mediated practices whereby we find expression towards this fascination of whatever it is that draws us to art. Moshing, is a socially mediated practice; one story I heard was that it came about through the culmination and combination of the hardcore and metalhead social groupings during the birth of Thrash metal in the 1980s Bay Area scene.

Is it such a bad thing that EToS have slightly disappointing performances? Does it take away from their studio greatness? Eternal Tears of Sorrow express such bleak human realities, express the fantasies and realities of our beautiful and painful human ways of things; its technicality of the keyboard parts and guitar solos hark back to the Romantic days of Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov; the overbearing feeling susued is Wagnerian, yet, the characteristically death vocals hark to this period, it is NOW. It is now that we feel, it is almost like the live as I listen to the beautiful sound, even though it is just a digitised, replicated machine that outputs soundwaves into my ears in the way that it does every day since I have had the song. Does the fact that their studio recordings express such beauty take away from the imbued worth of the music because of its mechanical production? Meaning is made socially, but the subjectivity of persojnalising the way in which we consume music also gives back worth to the replicated production. Back in the days of patrons; we could only hear Haydn play if the Estaharzy elite would deem it fit that Haydn play in their court; we couldn’t hide away in bed, crawled up, and listening to them repeatedly, perhaps, listening to certain sections whenever, and however we want; lowered volume, or changed sound settings, twice the speed, half the speed, or even mashed-up with the BBC news playing in the background.

The immense subjectivity of technology has freed us. Reproduction is not just mechanical, it is digital; does it take away from the aura, that this blog may be read by a few dozen people; that these words ‘exist’ on multiple screens. The meaning and worth does not come from those liquid crystals on your screen forming these words; it comes from the inner meaning of it, these words are symbols towards propositions, mental phenomenon. The work may be replicated, but its uniqueness comes from the formal beauty that is imbued within it. The beauty comes from the structure; the harmony, the tonality, the rhythm, the instrumentation, the timbre, the words, and most importantly, ourselves. Beauty is only seen because we are there to percieve it. Perhaps, that is what makes my Kantian statement; beauty comes in virtue of being perceiving humans, and beauty is formal, that is to say, non-immanent.

Let’s end it by putting the song that made me think all this. Autumn’s Grief, by Eternal Tears of Sorrow…


Counterfactuals: first thoughts

Lewis makes the appeal of possible worlds to counterfactual language. I think this is something interesting. “If my parents didn’t copulate, then I wouldn’t exist”. This is a true statement. The fact of the matter (lets just say this happened to be true as a logical possibility) is that my parents did copulate, and I am here; furthermore, it is because my parents engaged in copulation that I am alive today.

It is not the case that my parents didn’t copulate, and it is not the case that I don’t exist (indexical to the time of writing). A counterfactual posits, as its conditional statement, a factually false proposition as the antecedent claim (the antecedent claim being ‘if my parent’s didn’t copulate…’); and somehow leading to a true consequent.

How is this possible? It is possible (non-technical sense) because is conceivable; and if it is conceivable, it is possible. Possible worlds semantics allows for the legitimacy of counterfactual language. I suspect a very transcendental move here. Could we read Lewis as saying possible worlds ontology is the only way we can understand counterfactual semantics?

If so; he’s in good company of making very interesting appeals to metaphysical facilities in virtue of the very possibility of experience. Well done, Lewis…


Internalism and Externalism: Three kinds

Very often in philosophy does one hear about a distinction between internalism and externalism. These phrases always eluded me, and to some extent; still do.

I find it interesting that internalism and externalism are almost the same way of cutting things in vastly different discourses of philosophy; it sounds very much compatible with Michael’s talk about systematicity. So; lets start off with a very basic definition, and look at discourses.


D1: Internalism pertains to the justification of discourse x by means of an appeal to the agent’s internal beliefs, preferences, desires, etc. In short, the justification of a claim of a discourse in internalism makes an appeal to the internal mental states of an individual.

D2: Externalism is the denial of internalism; namely, the denial of the claim that we make appeal towards the agent’s mental states, beliefs, preferences and so on, as a means to justify or make appeal to, within a given discourse.

So now; lets address discourses:

 Discourses concerning internalist/externalist discussion

There are three prime candidates I can think of which make the appeal to mental states, and beliefs and desires as their justificatory source:

i. Epistemology – Internalism concerning the justification of knowledge; in lieu of an appeal to one’s belief states; consider the KK principle. Namely; S knows that p if and only if he Knows that he Knows that p.

ii. Semantics – Internalism concerning the source of meaning and content; namely, whether it is sourced in us. Putnam has the famous phrase: meaning just aint’ in the head. A very interesting case he puts forward for it too.

iii. Moral motivation – Internalism concerning the motivation of our actions; what is it that we appeal to when we decide to act on something; (broadly) internalism answers that we appeal to our beliefs/desires/motivational profile; but this, many think is problematic. I have to admit why internalism in motivation is difficult is very interesting. Consider the cases where people behave in such a way that they do not make an appeal to their own desires and beliefs, but something other than that? Does that, through a very skeletal description sound familiar?

Sinistre and Sinistre*