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Showing posts from February, 2011

anti-résumé, 2010

(Not a portrait of me by Frederic Leighton.)
Name: Not Clive James

Age: Missed most of the Twentieth Century

Address: Almost nowhere, really.

Nationality: Not a great deal. I don't participate in Scottish culture, any more than I have to by merit of enculturation.

Languages: Can't speak Gaelic, Spanish, Cornish, Saxon, nor...

Work: I've never had a full-time job.

Non-interests: Sport, war, Tarski, collecting anything, scale-modelling, surfing, bell-ringing, spelunking.

Education lapses:

No economics, no philosophy, no gender, no business studies, no psychology, no politics, no French, no Chinese, no grammar (properly). I'm also quite bad at geography.

Tertiary: No law, no computing, no engineering, no geology, no medical, no pure maths.

I've made definitive surveys of no field - nor any phenomenon, physical, cultural, or other. I know nothing of Nussbaum, I am ignorant of Avenarius, I haven't a clue about Conway. I've contributed nothing to either the mai…

The Dilthey Prize

People like to make lists of the good things humanity's been getting up to. But they always jabber exclusively about natural-science: hard tech. This is probably because physical apparatus is louder, and life-saving in an obvious way. So: some quiet (Heideggerian) technology that was also massive:

Grandest findings of the human sciences
(broadly construed) in their first century:

1931: Maths is not logic.

This doctrine, "Logicism", or "Fregeanism-with-respect-to-the-foundations-of-maths" was a highly impressive attempt to make the world make sense. It consists in the two linked theses:

1. mathematical concepts can be defined in terms of logical ones (no math-primitives) and
2. mathematical principles can be derived from axioms (given definitions of concepts).

Why does this matter? Why did people want it to obtain?
Why is Gödel's incompleteness theorem so renowned?
I suppose logicism matters because we live in a world where the most (academically, politically, …


Astoundingly, I've never been curious enough to ask: "What are drugs?"


(c) Thomas Eakins

"You defy the laws of humanity "
- Lucky Fonz III

There aren't too many social scientists looking for actual, binding, quantitative Laws of Human Behaviour anymore, thank christ. Sociologists, philosophers, science-fictioneers and other aphorists have continued to form more-or-less ironic, more-or-less hyperbolic "Laws", though. They generally just take the form of modern proverbs. They form an important part of Nerdy Modernity, too; don't doubt it.

Arthur C Clarke:

"1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right; when he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.

2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

4. For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert. (see also Kolakowski)" *****************************…


"A philosopher never quite gets used to the world. To him and her, the world continues to seem a bit unreasonable; a philosopher remains as thin-skinned as a child... Only philosophers embark on this perilous expedition to the outermost reaches of language and existence. Some of them fall off, but others cling on desperately and yell at the people nestling deep in the snug softness, stuffing themselves with delicious food and drink. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' they yell, 'we are floating in space!' But none of the people down there care." - Jostein Gaarder

"What makes one regard philosophers suspiciously and mockingly is not that one again and again detects how innocent they are — how often and how easily they make mistakes and go astray — in short, their childishness and childlikeness — but that they display insufficient honesty, while they make a mighty and virtuous noise as soon as the problem of truthfulness is touched on. They pose as having discovered an…

the laughter of authoritarians

"Jokes are risky; they are a game of percentages. That is why jokes are best left to professional jokesters. Certainly they are too dangerous for politicians to play with. Any joke that doesn't offend at least a few people is unlikely to be funny ... The professional politician, by contrast, lives to avoid giving offense."
- Michael Kinsley

Liberal politicians are invariably a bit shit at comedy. Compared to their authoritarian counterparts, the stakes are always lower when Dennis Skinner or Al Franken slips a quip in. Safe despots can afford levity; the desperate menace of a despot cracking a joke even underwrites their effect. (Nervous laughter is the loudest kind.)

"Am I a pure democrat? Of course I am, absolutely. But do you know what the problem is? Not even a problem but a real tragedy? The problem is that I'm all alone, the only one of my kind in the whole wide world. [...] There is no one to talk to since Mahatma Gandhi died."
- Putin

Medvedev shares Put…

Listen Cloze: A Portrait of Against Me!

"Sell out or set out against."
- Shit Stroll, 1997

""I wanna be a shot heard round the world, fucking unstoppable..."
- Armageddon, 2000

""Tell me, how could you compromise yourself like this?..
Have I forgotten where I've come from?" - Jordan's First Choice, 2001

""Just give me a scene where the music is free...
And there's no need to shit-talk or impress..." - Reinventing Axl Rose, 2002

"So can your pop sensibilities sing me the end of the world?
Well there's a lot of things that should be said, So we're hammering six-strings machine-gun, inaudible voices This is the party we came for, a new way on..." - Cliché Guevara, 2003

""Foul play! There's a target on the audience -
Vampires! We're only in it for the money - Diluted! We took the movement to the market - So fuck us! We totally sold out the scene." - The Shaker, 2005

"Protest songs in response to military aggression.

conceptual chemistry

We are stories chemistry tells to her children. We tell stories, and live in them. Live only within them. We are built of stories, mostly ancient citations - "the Man", "the Scholar", "the White", "the Fool", "the Scotsman"...
Physically too. We're a chain of chemical events with a plot taken from a folk literary tradition. (It never needed a narrator.)
"For fuck's sake would you just love life? (though there's massive suffering everywhere at all times)(and though science has looked up your skirts and down your soul)(and though the spiritualists and Platonists are seductive and comforting with the high dry webs they spin.)"
- after Nietzsche

I've been in need of an intellectual kick up the arse for a wee while now. Handily there's a Nietzsche course running, and I just got a copy of the Deirdre McCloskey anthology Measurement and Meaning. (Read page xv! Z…