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.