Queueing for Video Games Causes Violence?

Posted by Anti Citizen One on April 30th, 2008

Again on my recent theme of cause and effect:

Grand Theft Auto 4 queue man stabbed in head

A hooded male stabbed another man in the head and neck yesterday as they both queued to buy copies of Grand Theft Auto IV from a Croydon Gamestation store. The Register

Considering the people had not had an opportunity to play the game, we can hardly blame the game’s content for this incident. And I was not serious in suggesting that queueing causes violence. In this case, violent people chose to stand in line to buy a computer game.

Banning the game is like bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted.


Mini-Review: Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by Hume

Posted by Anti Citizen One on April 29th, 2008

I just finished an audio book of an Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. I suspected I would agree with most of this work because it is very empirical and very pre-postmodern. Although Hume’s attempt to find “matters of fact” is simplistic compared to postmodernism, it might be still relevant to an lone individual’s understanding of the world. Hume also seems to regard philosophy as a progressive enterprise but may be because he uses a narrower definition of philosophy than postmodernism.

The central idea seems to be very modest: ask where does our knowledge come from and can we be sure of it? I leave aside tautological truth for simplicity. We cannot progress far on a-priori knowledge. Our senses supply us with information of various types but of unknown reliability. We may notice two sensations, let us call them A and B that appear conjoined (associated in some arbitrary way). If at a later time we experience A, might we expect B? Our first association of A and B might have been coincidental. If we do see 100 times that A is followed by B, we might the same thing to occur on the 101st observation of A. But of course we have mistaken A for event C which, to our senses, appears exactly the same as A. What appears to us as A, but which is really C, might be followed not by B but by event D. In this way, no certain knowledge is possible.

I might speculate that the conjoining of A with B might be called force (if they are billiard balls), justice (if punishment follows crime) or morality (if an evil action causes a person to sin). Note that “force”, “justice” and “morality” are not directly observable but are human interpretations. I would imagine Hume would reject the last one because “sin”, as an effect, is not accessible to our senses. Since causal relations only exist, according to him, between sensory experiences, that leaves no room for metaphysical cause or effect. Interestingly, he leaves metaphysics and valuations to other non-philsophers.

A correct Judgement […] confines itself to common life, and to such subjects as fall under daily practice and experience; leaving the more sublime topics to the embellishment of poets and orators, or to the arts of priests and politicians.

I would say that philosophy still has some role in valuations – or should that be the art of ruling?

I was previously considering ideas of God, omniscience and evil. I found Hume had already comprehensively discussed this point! Put simply: if God created the world and knew the future, he might have intended everything that has happened and will happen (unless, according to Wilde, he was over ambitious and erred). This is inconsistent with the concept of free will.

One issue with audio books is the unrelenting pace. There is less time to digest the ideas. I may as well finish on the often quoted last line of the book, which actually seems to be aimed at philosophers rather than people at large:

If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.


Wittgenstein, the Solopsist and Moore

Posted by on April 29th, 2008

Various things occured to me recently regarding Wittgenstein and his latter day attitudes to Solopsism.

Firstly Wittgenstein had little time or respect for the history of philosophy and is said (most probably accurately) that he never even took the time to read Descartes, upon whose foundations most subsequent philosophies developed.

Secondly he wrote in some of his final works that the Solopsist was talking nonsense, on the simple basis that if one is to doubt everything then surely one must include the language, phraseology and logic of doubt itself within the schema of uncertainty. And this he said is self-refuting, the project cannot get off the ground. Remember this assertion is based on his lifelong principle that one cannot have a purely private language, and that meaning is found in use.

Thirdly he famously refused to deny to Russell that there was not a rhinoceros in the room, thus seemingly rejecting all common sense.

Fourthly he also refuted H.E.Moore’s common sense “here is a hand” discourse, accusing him of misusing terms like “I know”.

Wittgenstein says very little about the Solopsist directly, mainly because as already mentioned he had little time for established philosophy. But two things were made apparent, he rejected Descartes solopsist on account of the inexpressability of doubt, but he also it is said (and perhaps seems obvious when we consider the rhinoceros) had a great deal of sympathy for the solopsistic way of thinking. He once commented in private letters that life was very much like a dream only occasionally interrupted by reality, and the difficulty was in discerning which was which.

Wittgenstein criticizes Descartes Solopsist not for his suspicions and doubts of themselves, but for his vocalisation of this doubt. To doubt, one might say is human, but to vocalise, institutionalise, express and perhaps even objectivise that doubt is he believes to play a specific language game whose construction and internal logic is based upon a subjective and relative consensus and an experience-based internal logic that leads to the creation of a particular language game.

In other words to publically state that one doubts or cannot be certain of the real is to fall into the trap of using idioms and expressions that are defined by and which themselves are creators and constructors of the real.

By the same measure he rejects Moore’s common sense approach, “here is a hand” etc. To say that one “knows” that this is hand and that it is a part of me is to play an equally subjective and consensus based language game.

This subject deserves a much deeper analysis than I am going to provide right now, but the main point is that Wittgensteins sympathy for the solopsist, refusal to deny the presence of rhinoceros in the room (contrary to common sense) and yet rejection of Cartesion scepticism and Moorian common sense are all indicative of his radical subjectivism. If meaning is found in use (the central maxim of his later work) then our entire idiomatic perspective about the created world is therefore subjective and the real is a construct of our language games and not a fixed thing per se.

In conclusion i’d like to make two opposing points. Firstly in criticism one may be inclined to suggest that Wittgenstein is tending towards logocentrism, as he specifically criticizes the expression of objective doubt or knowledge in language and yet whilst accepting the validity of this uncertainty provides no alternative or meaningful outlet other than that provided by language. Secondly and somewhat more in support and perhaps as an answer to the first point, Wittgensteins sympathy for the solopsist and criticism of his ever daring to express his doubt, is an expression of his belief that like the solopsist trapped in uncertainty, we too are trapped by the languages that we use, trapped in subjectivity. Finally the more one considers these latter points in Wittgenstein the more apparent it becomes that his early Tractarian philosophy was a key developmental part of his later work. The more I consider his sympathy for the solopsist and his logocentric solopsism the more I recall his phrase in the Tractatus “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. (5.6)”

“Extreme” Pornography Outlawed in the UK

Posted by Anti Citizen One on April 29th, 2008

A bill outlawing the possession of “extreme pornography” is set to become law next week. But many fear it has been rushed through and will criminalise innocent people with a harmless taste for unconventional sex. BBC

They appear to be saying “Cause: violence in pornography/TV/movie/culture causes violent actions”. Ummmmmm… evidence, please? (and anacdotal evidence is not going to be sufficient.) It is more likely that:

Religion and morality say: “A people or a society are destroyed by license and luxury.” My revalued reason says: when a people degenerates physiologically, when it approaches destruction, then the result is license and luxury… Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Therefore banning is pointless and in fact harmful.

Anti Citizen One

The Demise of Turkey’s Pork Butchers

Posted by Anti Citizen One on April 28th, 2008

Interesting piece on competing interests on the BBC…

Semi-Review: The Will to Power

Posted by Anti Citizen One on April 27th, 2008

I have finished reading The Will to Power (by Nietzsche, obviously – tr. Kaufmann and Hollingdale) a few minutes ago. I think a few background observations might be in order:

1) The Will to Power as a canonical book, although was considered as a philosophical project by the author, was abandoned or not completed.
2) The book as it exists today is the previously unpublished notes and drafts of Nietzsche. It is not a coherent book. The publication was certainly not authorized by the author.
3) The notes were edited, selected and sorted by subject by several editors – each editor may have had an agenda not necessarily in agreement with the author. Even sorting many notes into subjects will cause great changes in their interpretation – especially in the style of the authors writing where the resonance between the words and sentences often have a secondary meaning. It this is was said that his writing is pitched somewhere between metaphor and truth; this is a fine balance.
4) The book was used by the Nazi government to justify their ideology. Fallaciously, I might add. (If in doubt, see the chapters “The New Idol” in Zarathustra and “Things the Germans Lack” in Twilight.)
5) The book is often read in a translated version. None of the translations were seen or approved by the author. Again the subtleties of meaning could be lost – or should I say WILL be lost?

So any quotation of the Will to Power should be viewed with some skepticism… even if I quote it! But the topics in the WtP are scattered wide and I could not hope to summarize the book in any sensible way. After all it is not a “book”, it is a collection of notes. I have attempted as few thoughts on the concept of the Will to Power but that is only a small part of the book’s content. The title is there fore misleading.

I agree with the translators view that to understand Nietzsche’s real view, one should turn to Twilight of the Idols, Zarathustra and the other completed books. The Will to Power should only be read in this light as additional thoughts but were never published for one reason or another.

The book is highly repetitious in itself and compared to his other works. There are several drafts that were modified, to a greater or lesser extent, and published in the other works. Usually the previously published versions are superior. There are a few gems, which make the book worth while reading.

Conclusion: this books is for completists and definitely not for a first time reader of the author. Although I have failed in addressing what the book is actually about, I will provide one quotation:

Section 976

Why the philosopher rarely turns out well. His requirements include qualities that usually destroy a man:
1. a tremendous multiplicity of qualities; he must be a brief abstract of man, of all man’s higher and lower desires: danger from antitheses, also from disgust at himself;
2. he must be inquisitive in the most various directions: danger of going to pieces;
3. he must be just and fair in the highest sense, but profound in love, hate (and injustice), too;
4. he must be not only a spectator, but also a legislator: judge and judged (to the extent that he is a brief abstract of the world);
5. extremely multifarious, yet firm and hard. Supple.

Anti Citizen One

Where Does Maths Come From?

Posted by Anti Citizen One on April 27th, 2008

Think too hard about it, and mathematics starts to seem like a mighty queer business. For example, are new mathematical truths discovered or invented? Seems like a simple enough question, but for millennia, it has provided fodder for arguments among mathematicians and philosophers. Science News

“Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” is Released

Posted by Anti Citizen One on April 21st, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was recently released in the cinemas. It apparently argues that Darwinism is incompatible with religion (which is a false dichotomy) and that it caused the holocaust. I almost want to watch it out of morbid curiosity!


Mediums May Need To Justify Claims

Posted by Anti Citizen One on April 18th, 2008

A change in the law could mean mediums, psychics and healers face prosecution if they cannot justify their claims. Spiritualists are delivering a mass petition to Downing Street and complaining that a genuine religion is being discriminated against. BBC

Although I am not a fan of state intervention in this manner, I have a greater desire to see certain cults hindered that that charge their followers for access to their “truth”.


Terrorism – Don’t React

Posted by Anti Citizen One on April 17th, 2008

Misplaced fears about terror, privacy and child protection are preventing amateur photographers from enjoying their hobby, say campaigners. BBC

“Jacqui Smith is to press ahead with moves to hold terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge despite the growing prospect of defeat on the measure.” Independent

I now have to address: what is the purpose of counter terrorism? Current trends would seem to indicate that its purpose is to resist political influence by terrorists. Apart from the danger of self identifying as victims (“potential terrorist targets” – see Slave Morality) this definition also can lead to being reactive, not proactive, to terrorism. For a resistance against a force to exist requires a force to be applied.

A more robust policy might be to allow that “people can go about their business freely and safely” (UK Home Office) or in “Preserving our Freedoms” (US Department of Homeland security). Apparently both these organizations apply these definitions without irony! Current trends indicate law enforcement calling for increased powers to “fight terrorism” without proper scrutiny. For example the FBI impeded their own investigation to give justification to have expanded powers. In the UK, local government put a family under surveillance to see if they were cheating school catchment areas (using powers that were justified by more serious situations).

If the law enforcement bodies actually worked toward their ideal of “preserving freedom”, then it is clear that the best – or at least better – reaction to terrorism is to ignore it at a social level and NOT to curtail civil rights. Call me crazy but wasn’t terrorism illegal before 2001? Like in the IRA campaign? (Obviously we need a new enemy to worry about since the end of the cold war. Read your Orwell.)

We live in a three way struggle – individual, state and terrorist. Individuals surrendering all responsibility to the state just don’t want to be free? What we need instead is a massive decentralization of infrastructure so any terrorist attack has reduced effect. I was reading in the New Scientist that the highly interconnected world (i.e. globalised and centralized) may be susceptible to a pandemic induced collapse of the civilization rather like the Roman Empire.

Anti Citizen One

PS See I did not even mention Nietzsche in one post…. D’OH!
PPS I wonder how long before terrorists target celebrities – that would probably cause the most anxiety in the TV viewing nations.