Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Keeping It

You’ve heard it too in tv dramas and comedy shows – ‘are you going to keep it’? In Gavin and Stacey on Netflix the obese pregnant woman decided to ‘keep it’. She had watched Vera Drake (pre ’67 abortionist film) twice before coming to her decision. The story formula then :- I’m pregnant – Who’s the father – Smithy (an obese man) – Are you going to keep it?

In the latest series of the Scandanavian show The Bridge Saga Noren (autustic genius detective) tells her partner and lover that she is pregnant with his child and that she is going to take it out. He asks – do I have any say in this? Dark Scando irony there.

These questions and assumptions hang in the air like an evil mist that we daily breathe in to prepare us for the reality that is prowling about in the careless shrubbery of our lives. It was then easy for the Repeal the Eight campaign to pit the mother against the child in the womb. An argument in the past against abortion was that things would be different if women’s stomachs were made of glass and the activity of the child could be seen. There were scan photos on innumerable utility poles during the campaign but they seem not to have made much difference. Obviously they were of somebody else’s baby.

Hard cases dominated the YES campaign. In an inversion of trolley triage 97 would be sacrificed to ‘save’ 3. Yes we are now in a different country where the increase in abortions that is certain to follow this result is greeted with jubilation in the square at Dublin Castle.

On Sunday we walked up Mamin to St. Patrick’s Well, a place of pilgrimage. It’s peaceful there at the top of the hill. The stations of the cross are simple with the titles in the Irish language. An interesting difference between them and the English is the present tense reflexive which is used which seems to me stronger than the continuous present. Leagtar Iosa – Jesus is knocked down not Jesus Falls for the First Time.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

40 Philosophers on the Irish Abortion Referendum

I was wondering when Philosophers for Yes would arrive. This was some days before they emerged from their noetic cocoon. I am sometimes overwhelmed by prescience. There was no horripilation, only - ‘you took your time’. Two score philosophers devising a statement they could all agree to is remarkable but achievable on the basis of not saying very much. Personhood is mentioned, DNA also: just enough of it from ‘Science for Philosophers’. In short incondite rambling.

I compare this to the pro-life No sayers who never stopped talking about ‘the unborn child’. They recognised that the intention of abortion, what it is aimed at, is the child that will be born and will demand care. It’s a causal thing - if you want a cold beer you will have to open the door of the fridge to take it. Focussing on just the opening part is pointless, it’s the chilled tin that is the point. The man on the Clapham Omnibus understands this but not most philosophers. Elizabeth Harman is different. In her Calvinist predestinarian way similar to the ‘I shall have already been saved’ doctrine she holds that being pregnant , really pregnant, is to expect a child that you hope to bring to term. In the event that you abort then her view is that one shall never have had been pregnant. It was not a pregnancy. James Franco I feel your bafflement.

never a pregnancy

Monday, 21 May 2018

Abortion Bunny

We are moving into a new era (in Ireland) and it would be well for us to prepare ourselves by an educational process which as far as is practicable will reflect our changed reality. Now as we know abortion videos have been shown in schools. It may be that some of those videos are grossly exaggerated depictions of what ought to be considered normal health care. My proposal is a simple one and would allow the students to make up their minds on the basis of an experience analogous to the real thing. Each class should be divided up into groups and issued with a baby bunny. This class could take place in the wood shop where vices are available. Each bunny’s head could be placed in a vice and the group members take turns in winding it up. Of course bunny would be anaesthetised. I would not be so cruel as to suggest otherwise.

I am aware that there are logistical problems. Bunnies are in short supply and needed by the pharmaceutical industry for testing. Maybe one bunny per class might be enough. Why not frogs? No, I don’t think so. Not the same squelch.

*no bunnies have been harmed in the writing of this post.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope has that one thing necessary to be a good novelist - a sense of everyday evil. What could be wrong with networking? Everybody’s at it. There are people to be cultivated and there are people to be shunned, usually described as losers. Sometimes those that ought to be avoided, in Victorian terms scoundrels, cads and bounders; may be well placed to give a judicious push up the ladder of preferment. Mark Robarts’s friendship with young Lord Lufton through a crammer to Harrow to Oxford and a gentleman’s third has gained the living at Framley the gift of Lady Lufton the widowed mother of said Lord. Not only has he gained the good living from her but Robarts was fixed up with an excellent wife who has borne him two fine children. Yes of course Lady Lufton is a managing sort of woman and one chafes under a sense of obligation albeit soothed by a growing sense of entitlement. Enter the sulphurous gentleman in the form of dangerous new associates. Lord Lufton is I fear being prepared for a chaste and elegant rooking and Robarts may be drawn into it.

That’s where I am at the moment. Trollope as well as having a refined sense of ‘he who contemneth small things falleth by little and little’ can bolt from his Tory covert from time to time:

The Chaldicotes set, as Lady Lufton called them, were in every way opposed to what a set should be according to her ideas. She liked cheerful, quiet, well-to-do people, who loved their Church, their country, and their Queen, and who were not too anxious to make a noise in the world. She desired that all the farmers round her should be able to pay their rents without trouble, that all the old women should have warm flannel petticoats, that the working men should be saved from rheumatism by healthy food and dry houses, that they should all be obedient to their pastors and masters—temporal as well as spiritual. That was her idea of loving her country. She desired also that the copses should be full of pheasants, the stubble-field of partridges, and the gorse covers of foxes;—in that way, also, she loved her country. She had ardently longed, during that Crimean war, that the Russians might be beaten—but not by the French, to the exclusion of the English, as had seemed to her to be too much the case; and hardly by the English under the dictatorship of Lord Palmerston. Indeed, she had had but little faith in that war after Lord Aberdeen had been expelled. If, indeed, Lord Derby could have come in!
And then, when he had duly marked the path of the line through Borneo, Celebes, and Gilolo, through the Macassar strait and the Molucca passage, Mr. Harold Smith rose to a higher flight. "But what," said he, "avails all that God can give to man, unless man will open his hand to receive the gift? And what is this opening of the hand but the process of civilization—yes, my friends, the process of civilization? These South Sea islanders have all that a kind Providence can bestow on them; but that all is as nothing without education. That education and that civilization it is for you to bestow upon them—yes, my friends, for you; for you, citizens of Barchester as you are." And then he paused again, in order that the feet and hands might go to work. The feet and hands did go to work, during which Mr. Smith took a slight drink of water.
He was now quite in his element and had got into the proper way of punching the table with his fists. A few words dropping from Mr. Sowerby did now and again find their way to his ears, but the sound of his own voice had brought with it the accustomed charm, and he ran on from platitude to truism, and from truism back to platitude, with an eloquence that was charming to himself.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Bergson's Mind-Energy (Phrenology for Philosophers)

You will likely have often seen areas of the brain circled as the probable focal points of consciousness, the hippocampus, Broca’s etc. It’s as though the bumps of phrenology had migrated inwardly – gone to Broca’s, on my way back already.

In Matter and Memory (1896) Bergson offered his close analysis of the difference between Idealism and Realism going by the standard version of those philosophies. In 1904 in a paper entitled Brain and Thought: A Philosophical Illusion (from Mind-Energy) he again goes into the topic. I found it more accessible but still quite idiosyncratic. What the contemporary philosopher would refer to as the neural correlates of consciousness he describes thus:

The idea that there is an equivalence between a psychic state and its corresponding cerebral state is widely accepted in modern philosophy. Philosophers have discussed the causes and the significance of this equivalence rather than the equivalence itself. By some, it has been held that the cerebral state is reduplicated in certain cases by a psychical phosphorescence which illumines its outline. By others, it is supposed that the cerebral state and the psychic state form respectively two series of phenomena which correspond point to point, without it being necessary to attribute to the cerebral series the creation of the psychic. All, however, agree in admitting an equivalence or, as it is more usual to say, a parallelism of the two series. In order to express the idea, I will formulate it as a thesis: "Given a cerebral state, there will ensue a definite psychic state." Or it may be stated thus: "A super human intelligence, watching the dance of the atoms of which the human brain consists and possessing the psycho-physiological key, would be able to read, in the working of the brain, all that is occurring in the corresponding consciousness." Or, finally, it may be put in this way: "Consciousness tells no more than what is going on in the brain; it only tells it in a different language."

You will recall the phosphorescence remark of Gilbert Ryle in The Concept of Mind. Was this its origin? Anyway Bergson places this way of thinking about consciousness in the proto-idealism of Descartes. Let me try to give a feel of the originality of his treatment of idealism which he describes thus:

 For the idealist, there is nothing in reality over and above what appears to his consciousness or to consciousness in general. It would be absurd to speak of a property of matter which could not be represented in idea. 

In his paper he contrasts this with the usual pattern of realism but to avoid confusing myself I will simply focus on his analysis of idealism. He holds that after the initial plausible statement of that position there is then a switch over to realism by an intellectual sleight of hand which is not noticed by the thinker. (The realist does the same switch towards idealism.)

In the case of Idealism the brain is an element in the world and it must also represent the world. The part then is equivalent to the whole. That’s bad enough but when we focus on the parallel process in the brain we get into a profound muddle:

That is to say, the thesis is intelligible only because, by an unconscious trick of intellectual conjuring, we pass instantly from realism to idealism and from idealism to realism, showing ourselves in the one at the very moment when we are going to be caught in the act of self-contradiction in the other. The trick, moreover, is quite natural; we are, in this case, born conjurors, because the problem we are concerned with, the psycho-physiological problem of the relation of brain and thought, itself suggests by its very terms the two points of view of realism and idealism,— the term "brain" making us think of a thing, the term "thought" of an idea. By the very wording of the question is prepared the double meaning which vitiates the answer.

Find Mind -Energy at

Friday, 11 May 2018

Google interference in Irish Referendum

Google has radically interfered in the conduct of the Referendum to change the Irish Constitution concerning the right to life of the unborn child. How has it done this? It is now not accepting any ads for its youtube channel promoting either side of the issue i.e. pro or anti repeal of the Eight Amendment. Well doesn’t that leave a level playing field, both parties being equally affected? No because of the overwhelming bias of the rest of the media against retaining the Eight. Youtube was an important avenue of communication with undecided voters. Now Google could have done what Facebook did and simply ban only foreign funded ads. This is acceptable and correct. However it seems that the Repeal side were getting worried that sentiment was going against them and lobbied for this total ban. Given that Google has its HQ in Dublin and is the recipient of a very favourable company tax rate a word from the government could be quite effective. It is absolutely plain that if there had been no fear of defeat in the referendum this would not have happened. Here is no mystery Russian bots and Macedonian mischief. To call it sinister implies occult uncertainty or politics of the left hand path. It is rather good old brute force and even normal reliable liberals see it for that.

Colum Kenny Irish Times

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The Prophet and Prophetic Tradition by Hossein Nasr

Hossein Nasr’s academic prowess
Hossein Nasr is undeniable though to this reader he seems just another good student strong on information and sources yet weak on critical understanding. The essay from which the following extracts are taken I first encountered in The World Treasury of Modern Religious Thought published in 1990 edited by Jaroslav Pelikan. It was originally published in 1975 by the Nasr Foundation. There’s a e copy at
The Prophet
He was still in Iran in ‘75 but had to leave in ‘79. I imagine his close connection to the Shah was a factor. Being a perennialist wouldn’t get him many mullah likes either. Whether he himself venerated the Prophet in quite the same manner as the pious Muslim his acceptance of him as a role model has a dangerous ahistorical tinge.

It is difficult for a non-Muslim to understand the spiritual significance of the Prophet and his role as the prototype of the religious and spiritual life, especially if one comes from a Christian background. Compared to Christ, or to the Buddha for that matter, the earthly career of the Prophet seems often too human and too engrossed in the vicissitudes of social, economic and political activity to serve as a model for the spiritual life.
That is why so many people who write today of the great spiritual guides of humanity are not able to understand and interpret him sympathetically. It is easier to see the spiritual radiance of Christ or even medieval saints, Christian or Muslim, than that of the Prophet; although the Prophet is the supreme saint in Islam without whom there would have been no sanctity whatsoever.


The Prophet did participate in social life in its fullest sense. He married, had a household, was a father and moreover he was ruler and judge and had also to fight many wars in which he underwent painful ordeals. He had to undergo many hardships and experience all the difficulties which human life especially that of the founder of a new state and society, implies.


Likewise, with the marriages of the Prophet, they are not at all signs of his lenience vis-a-vis the flesh. During the period of youth when the passions are most strong the Prophet lived with only one wife who was much older than he and also underwent long periods of abstinence. And as a prophet many of his marriages were political ones which, in the prevalent social structure of Arabia, guaranteed the consolidation of the newly founded Muslim community.
Multiple marriage, for him, as is true of Islam in general, was not so much enjoyment as responsibility and a means of integration of the newly founded society. Besides, in Islam the whole problem of sexuality appears in a different light from that in Christianity and should not be judged by the same standards.
The multiple marriages of the Prophet, far from pointing to his weakness towards 'the flesh' symbolize his patriarchal nature and his function, not as a saint who withdraws from the world, but as one who sanctifies the very life of the world by living in it and accepting it with the aim of integrating it into a higher order of reality.


The Prophet exercised the utmost kindness possible and was harsh only with traitors. Now, a traitor against a newly founded religious community, which God has willed and whose existence is a mercy from heaven for mankind, is a traitor against the Truth itself. The harshness of the Prophet in such cases is an expression of Divine Justice.
One cannot accuse God of being cruel because men die, or because there is illness and ugliness in the world. Every construction implies a previous destruction, a clearing of grounds for the appearance of a new form. This holds true not only in case of a physical structure but also in case of a new revelation which must clear the ground if it is to be a new social and political order as well as a purely religious one.
What appears to some as the cruelty of the Prophet towards men is precisely this aspect of his function as the instrument of God for the establishment of a new world order whose homeland in Arabia was to be pure of any paganism and polytheism which if present would pollute the very source of this new fountain of life. As to what concerned his own person, the Prophet was always the epitome of kindness and generosity.


Secondly he had a quality of combativeness, of always being actively engaged in combat against all that negated the Truth and disrupted harmony. Externally it meant fighting wars, either military, political or social ones, the war which the Prophet named the 'little holy war' (al-jihad al-asghar).
Inwardly this combativeness meant a continuous war against the carnal soul (nafs), against all that in man tends towards the negation of God and His Will, the 'great holy war' (al-jihad al-akbar).
It is difficult for modern men to understand the positive symbolism of war thanks to modern technology which has made war total and its instruments the very embodiment of what is ugly and evil. Men therefore think that the role of religion is only in preserving some kind of precarious peace.
This, of course, is true, but not in the superficial sense that is usually meant. If religion is to be an integral part of life it must try to establish peace in the most profound sense, namely to establish equilibrium between all the existing forces that surround man and to overcome all the forces that tend to destroy this equilibrium.
No religion has sought to establish peace in this sense more than Islam. It is precisely in such a context that war can have a positive meaning as the activity to establish harmony both inwardly and outwardly and it is in this sense that Islam has stressed the positive aspect of combativeness.
The Prophet embodies to an eminent degree this perfection of combative virtue.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Fulgent Words

We can only be well instructed by the words which God utters expressly for us. No one becomes learned in the science of God either by the reading of books, or by the inquisitive investigation of history. The science that is acquired by such means is vain and confused, producing much pride. That which instructs us is what happens from one moment to another producing in us that experimental science which Jesus Christ Himself willed to acquire before instructing others.
(from: Abandonment to Divine Providence by J.P. De Caussade S.J. On e readers at :

On a certain reading J.P. seems to be putting himself out of the job of Spiritual Direction but if you swivel the universal ball joint of the philosopher’s neck his purport is clear. The real efficacy of what providence sends to us in the way of reading can only be discovered in the silence of meditation. Then words which by their self-evident truth make no impression can become fulgent.


IN philosophy equally as in poetry, it is the highest and most useful prerogative of genius to produce the strongest impressions of novelty, while it rescues admitted truths from the neglect caused by the very circumstance of their universal admission. Extremes meet. Truths, of all others the most awful and interesting, are too often considered as so true, that they lose all the power of truth, and lie bed-ridden in the dormitory of the soul, side by side with the most despised and exploded errors.
(from Aids to Reflection by S.T. Coleridge)

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Graphic Images

We all know how difficult it is to feel the force of an argument. Images, analogies and metaphors seem to help. Wittgenstein thought that a sentence was like the story of an accident rendered by the use of models as is common in a courtroom. But what about ‘but’ and ‘and’ and ‘although’ and ‘perhaps’. Ok we need several sets of models. That would do it.

Graphic images have appeared in our present (Ireland) abortion referendum debate. As a way of cutting through ‘trust’, ‘choice’, ‘care’ they are effective. ‘Am I not a human being and a brother or sister’? Naomi Woolf back in the day accepted them as a truth of the matter though she might steel herself to ‘do it anyway’. She would still her regretful necessity with ‘tikkun’ or mending.
Woolf on images

If one believes that abortion is killing and yet is still pro-choice, one could try to use contraception for every single sex act; if one had to undergo an abortion, one could then work to provide contraception, or jobs, or other choices to young girls; one could give money to programs that provide prenatal care to poor women, if one is a mother or father, one can remember the aborted child every time one is tempted to be less than loving -- and give renewed love to the living child. And so on: tikkun.

Rip the garment, mend the garment, rip and mend. Here I’ve run out of thread and the garment is very small. But feel the quality.

To be philosophically serious for a moment is there a graphic image of the external world? That depends on what you mean by ‘image’, ‘external’, ‘world’. Why ‘the’ world? Is there only one? Might it not be ‘a’ world?