Friday, 28 June 2019

Pareto contra Bentham

"The sophistry,'" he says, "supplies a legitimate presumption against those who use it. Only for lack of sound arguments does one resort to it. [That is based on the implicit assumption that logically sound arguments are more convincing than fallacies. Experience is far from showing that.] As regards measures that are in themselves sound it is useless, or at least it cannot be indispensable. [The same implicit assumption, and experience, again, in no sense concords with it.] The sophistry presupposes he is in those who use it, or in those who adopt it, either lack of sincerity or lack of intelligence." Bentham's assumption is that the person who uses a fallacy recognizes it as such (insincerity) or that, if he fails so to recognize it, wanting in intelligenceAs a matter of fact many fallacies that are current in a given society are repeated in all sincerity by people who are exceedingly intelligent and are merely voicing in that way sentiments which they consider beneficial to society. Also implicit in Bentham's sermon is the assumption that lack of sincerity and lack of intelligence are uniformly harmful to society; whereas there are plenty of cases to go no farther than diplomacy where too much sincerity may be harmful, and other cases where a highly intelligent man may go wrong and do incalculable harm to a society by forcing certain logical policies upon it; whereas a stupid individual instinctively following beaten paths that have been counselled by long experience may be a blessing to his country.

Pareto is deprecating the assumed persuasiveness of the logical. On the contrary people are more influenced by sentiments and select the enthymeme of their choice to serve as justification for their beliefs and actions.(Vol.3: Mind and Society)

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Sunday Times Misandry Misery

The Sunday Times gets brought into the house occasionally. I haven’t bought it in years The edition of the 16th. June, Fathers’ Day reminds me why. It’s a fine example of modish misandry, every day is Fathers’ Day, misery. On the cover under the headline ‘Modern Family’ is Liam Gallagher with his three children by 3 different women. One of them, Molly (21), he only met recently. There’s another daughter now 6 whom he hasn’t met yet - It’ll just have to happen naturally.

Liam’s own father he hasn’t seen since he was 17. Ah.

Another story in the same mag. is about a man’s feud with his father whom he hasn’t spoken to in years. Dad’s new younger wife created variance. Dad is 85 now and in poor health and reconciliation is unlikely.

A third story is of men who had trouble becoming fathers. Mostly they didn’t. It’s not fair really. Liam has just to hang up his trousers. Why do these men go public with their grief? To the Sunday Times?

Finally a little piece on Family entitled: Dads! The best thing you can do this Fathers’ Day is sit back... and learn how to listen to your daughters. A psychologist Steve Biddulph author of 10 Things Girls Need Most says that a daughter should know that “he loved spending time with her, listened to her and talked softly and respectfully around her and her mum”. To sum up the journalist Lorraine Candy writes:

So there you have it, dads, being nice to mums is the best gift you can give to your girls this Father’s Day

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Taittiriya Upanishad II.i.1 //Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam Brahma (no.3 in series)

Having established that Satyam, Jnanam, anantam Brahma are linked in the definition of Brahman but in themselves are not intrinsically connected Shankara proceeds to demonstrate that as defining Brahman they are intimately connected and not an factitious confection of the theological mind of an advaitin.

Taking ‘satyam’ as truth which is unchanging and therefore real is a similar intuition to that of Parmenides who held that change was unreal, as a state which did not exist could not emerge into reality. It has no traction. If then Brahman is ‘satyam’ could it not be the unchanging material cause of the universe? Here we revisit the standard material identity analogy i.e. only the clay out of which the various vessels are made persists through all the manifestations of ‘clay’. Therefore only the ‘clay’ is real and all the pots, dishes, cups etc. mere names of clay.

However a merely material cause is insentient so the attribute ‘jnanam’ must be appended to ‘satyam’. Elsewhere Shankara rejects the Sankhya philosophy of ‘pradhana’ or the primal inert material basis of creation. The order and design of the universe shows an intelligent origin.

Does this ‘jnanam’ or consciousness/knowledge indicate an agent of knowing? Shankara demurs. An agent of knowing implies a distinction between the knower and the known and also coming to know or arriving at knowledge indicates change.

If Brahman be the agent of knowing, truth and infinitude cannot justly be attributed to It. For as the agent of knowledge It becomes changeful; and as such how can it be true and infinite? That indeed is infinite which is not separated from anything. If it be the agent of knowing, It becomes delimited by the knowable and the knowledge, and hence there cannot be infinitude, in accordance with another Vedic text: “That is the Infinite in which one does not know anything else. And that in which one knows anything else is limited” (Ch.Up. VII., xxiv, 1)

Monday, 24 June 2019

Belief and Religious Experience

Faith is a difficult subject to write about or even think about. Is it rational to have certitude/assurance about what you do not understand or is beyond comprehension? Add to that my own predilection for Perennialism/Traditionalism and you multiply the conflict between different faiths or might it be that the conflict goes away. Such paralogism tempt me to title this post ‘Faith and Begorrah’ but I will resist that quip.

Seeing Fr. M.C. D’Arcy’s book The Nature of Belief second hand for all of ein euro bitte I though it a good place to start. I was right. There’s none of your ould Jesuitical wibbly wobbly about Martin Cyril. He will quote Dean Inge when the Dean is right but the oecumenical tide is somewhat less than Spring. There is an analytical contents, a device which is extremely useful when the topic is complex. First published in 1931, my edition is the 1945 second impression with his 1944 preface.

How belief in the philosophical sense shades into religious faith is delineated in the early chapters which include close analysis of Newman’s The Grammar of Assent. Chapter 8 is on Belief and Religious Experience which could be read as a free standing essay. He is of the opinion that empiricism is the cause of the elevation of such experience. How it differs from true mystical experience is a concern for him.

Owing to the decadence of metaphysics philosophy tended to pass over into the hands of its successful rival, physical science, which therewith appropriated to itself the name of the philosophy of nature.......The present tendency, therefore, is to make two divisions of truth, knowledge by experience and knowledge by reason. The latter is the concern of science and is restricted to what is qualitative and numerable. The former covers quality and value, and has, therefore, for its domain the moral, the aesthetic and the religious. Beliefs which are dependent on experience are not necessarily less true than those which are attained by reason; they are different and that is all that can be said about their relation.

From the foregoing it can be seen that the importance attached to religious experience is due to a partition made in the past between religion and reason. There is no reason why this assumption should be accepted, and in fact the Catholic Church has never accepted it.

‘We had the experience but missed the meaning’ could be construed as a manifestation of the error of thinking that the experience is a type of verification as in ‘the meaning of a statement eg. God exists, is the method of its verification. Dead wrong of course but D’Arcy does not dash it with cold water, quite.

But this is not to say that faith is dependent on realisation or verification for its certainty. There is a growing intensity heightened by love. The love does not change the nature of the act of belief; it adds fuel to a fire already existing.

He deprecates the view that not having a ‘religious sense’

“has been used by many as an excuse for taking no interest in religion. These latter are apt to say with a shrug that they have no religious sense, and they consider that this is a good reason for neglecting to worship God. They forget - and they have been encouraged to forget by those who should know better - that sense and feeling are not the criteria of what is duty, and it is in “an act of duty not of experience that religion first consists."

That alone is a good euro’s worth.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

George Soros and cannabis legislation

‘Meddling’ George Soros is taking an interest in Ireland again. Not since St.Patrick did we have a foreigner who cared so much. Dr. Boyle follows the money. In a letter to the Irish Times on Tuesday 18/6/19

Sir, – Many of your readers are aware of the arguments for and against the legalisation of cannabis.
What many of your readers will not be aware of is why the liberalisation of cannabis law suddenly seems to have become a national political priority for Ireland.
As someone working on the frontline with addicts, it certainly has been a surprise to me.
The letter from 14 “drug policy experts” to The Irish Times on June 7th was particularly puzzling: what interest could 14 academics from the US, UK, Sweden and Austria have in advocating the liberalisation of drug laws in Ireland?
A Google search revealed that these signatories are supported by grants from the George Soros Open Society Foundation which openly states that since 2008 it has been “working to change the way the world approaches drug policy”.
An organisation with annual grants of 1.1 billion dollars to award has taken an interest in our drugs laws and neither the grant-funded “experts” nor The Irish Times thought it relevant to inform us, the readers? This is far from being fair and “open”.
It is important that Irish people are informed about all aspects of the growing push for marijuana legalisation, and in particular the experience in the US, where the ability of corporate interests to sell marijuana products has greatly expanded the market.
Big Tobacco companies like Altria (Phillip Morris, Marlboro, Juul) are investing billions in marijuana and vaping products (particularly popular with teens).
The cannabis edibles market (candies, cookies) is rapidly expanding. George Soros is a major shareholder in both Altria (Phillip Morris) and Monsanto which is investing heavily in cannabis-associated agriculture.
This may be great news for those with stock options but not for my patients. I have no doubt that the significant substance abuse problem we have has the potential to be made much, much worse. The intervention of a combination of international ideologues and corporate Big Marijuana interests in our national drugs legislative policy development is not a welcome one.
There is a bipartisan (Obama and Clinton’s drug policy advisers are members) non-corporate organisation in the US established by Patrick J Kennedy (son of the late Edward Kennedy) called Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM – Preventing Another Big Tobacco) which I would urge interested
 readers to consult for a more balanced view of the issues (including support for medicinal marijuana where medically indicated). – Yours, etc,
Dublin 7.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Taittiriya Upanishad II.i.1 (no.2 in series)

The knower of Brahman attains the highest. Here is a verse uttering that very fact: Brahman is truth, knowledge and infinite. He who knows that Brahman existing in the intellect, lodged in the supreme space in the heart, enjoys, as identified with the all-knowing Brahman, all desirable things, simultaneously.

When it is said that the knower of Brahman knows the highest, what is it that they know. When the answer is given it is parsed to make sure that the meaning extracted from the incorrigible words of the Upanishad are according to their meaning. It is a lawyerly approach in which the position of commas becomes a fulcrum for distortion. For instance the phrase satyam jnanam anantam Brahma could be construed as a catenary of entities 'the truth', 'knowledge', the 'boundless' and last but not least Brahman. That would be a false reading as all those attributes have the same case ending so the phrase is meant to be a definition of the substantive 'Brahma'.

The objection comes:
If this is a definition that demarcates are we to think that it only distinguishes between this (satyam jnanam anantam) Brahman and all other sorts of Brahman much as we sort red lotuses from blue lotuses.

Not so. Sankara offers the distinction between an adjectival string that identifies an entity as a member of a class and the defining nature of the string string satyam jnanam anantam Brahma. The lotus could be described as aquatic fragrant, red,transplantable, hardy etc. All of these attributes are interlinked conceptually as dealing with plants of a certain genus. Contrariwise you could have satyam Brahma, jnanam Brahma, anantam Brahma. Satyam, jnanam and anantam have no intrnsic connection.

The words, satya etc., are unrelated amongst themselves, since they subserve something else; they are meant to be applied to the substantive. Accordingly each of the attributive words is thus related with the word Brahman independently of the others; satyam brahman, jhanam brahma, anantam brahma

Monday, 10 June 2019

'Wrong' sort of Realism

((I left this comment on a post in electric agora. I'm posting it here for the record.))

I went a bit metaphysical there on you for a bit but I do think that the sceptically vulnerable physical can get confused with it.. In good light and not having ingested psychotropic substances and facing the right way I can say with assurance - ‘there is an tree in the yard’. As a brain in a vat and as a subject trapped in a computer simulation I could say the same thing with the same assurance and be wrong. What would ‘wrong’ mean in this case? Is it not parasitic on the true ‘wrong’, the one that is open to correction? All observations are subject to determined scepticism and we can only stay calm and carry on.

However metaphysical realism is different. It relies on their being an ontological substratum which unites Subject and Object. This is the approach of Platonic, Aristotelian and Vedantic philosophy. It is coherent with the project of critical realism in the physical sense. We accept the truth of our observations as a default assumption. We could be wrong though, but this ‘wrong’ is a true ‘wrong’ i.e. one connected to the metaphysical reality of the unity of the substratum.

My point is that realism which tries to establish itself solely in the domain of observation is not on the ‘wrong’ track if you will forgive a paradox.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Taittiriya Upanishad II.i.1. (Tai.Up. 1 in series)

The knower of Brahman attains the highest. Here is a verse uttering that very fact: Brahman is truth, knowledge and infinite. He who knows that Brahman existing in the intellect, lodged in the supreme space in the heart, enjoys, as identified with the all-knowing Brahman, all desirable things, simultaneously.
(Taittiriya Upanishad: II.i.1)

The commentary by Shankara on this verse over the following 18 pages is a condensed explication demonstrating the supple and subtle power of his mind. The primary thing to be noted is that he takes this definition of Brahman as truth, knowledge and infinite (Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam Brahman) as a given and does not attempt a proof of its, Brahman’s, existence. It is established by the Vedas, in other words, by the knowledge of countless sages in that tradition. There is no better proof than realisation. To know that Brahman exists is congruent with knowing that you yourself exist. Yes indeed but when the man from Kerala told me about the sharing of power in that state between C.P. Mos. and C.P. Pek. I asked him about how that was working out. He replied:
- Difficulties are there.

The objector, a standard character in Shankara’s commentaries attempts to use the classic interpretation of Advaita against the concept of realisation. How can we attain Brahman if we are already Brahman? How can we make a journey to where we already are? How can we take possession of that which we already have?

Answer: this is no fault.

What prevents us from seeing the truth is a wrong view that interposes itself. It is like a wrong method of counting that consistently gives the incorrect result. The example given is the classic tale of the Tenth Man. Ten men crossed the hazardous river and on the far bank their leader began to count them to see if everybody had arrived safely. He counted nine and began to bewail the loss of one member of the group. Someone passing corrected him:
- You are forgetting to count yourself.

A wrong method of looking at reality bars you from the true picture. There is a systematic error, similar to the counting error. ((personal note: don’t overcook the analogy by drawing more out of it than that)). You think of yourself as an individual amongst other individuals and count on that basis. Your identity is established on the basis of your thoughts and perceptions. This is faulty but natural. When you think of the whole that unites us or the substratum of unchanging consciousness which is the true source of identity, your counting is corrected.

…...similarly in the case of one , to whom Brahman remains unattained owing to his ignorance, there may be discovery of that very Brahman by realising that omnipresent Brahman to be none other than one’s own Self – a realisation that comes through enlightenment consequent on the instruction of the scriptures.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Macaulay on Shaming

There’s been an improvement on the six or seven years intervals that Macaulay noted. Now it’s continuous and unrelenting. This of course gives the lie to that banal moral nostrum, the harm principle. No matter how innocuous the observation somebody somewhere is being harmed. The ubiquity of hurt on social media I forfend by staying away.


We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality. In general, elopements, divorces, and family quarrels, pass with little notice. We read the scandal, talk about it for a day, and forget it. But once in six or seven years our virtue becomes outrageous. We cannot suffer the laws of religion and decency to be violated. We must make a stand against vice. We must teach libertines that the English people appreciate the importance of domestic ties. Accordingly some unfortunate man, in no respect more depraved than hundreds whose offences have been treated with lenity, is singled out as an expiatory sacrifice. If he has children, they are to be taken from him. If he has a profession, he is to be driven from it. He is cut by the higher orders, and hissed by the lower. He is, in truth, a sort of whipping-boy, by whose vicarious agonies all the other transgressors of the same class are, it is supposed, sufficiently chastised. We reflect, very complacently on our own severity, and compare with great pride the high standard of morals established in England with the Parisian laxity. At length our anger is satiated. Our victim is ruined and heart-broken. And our virtue goes quietly to sleep for seven years more.
(from Critical, Historical and Miscellaneous Essays. Vol.2, Review of Moore’s Life of Lord Byron