Monism, Dualism … Trialism?

I’m not really talking about making choices here – binary or otherwise – between schools of thought. No, I jest, since the point of any tuple  representation – pair or triple – is about their integration, not their separation. Ultimately any ontology is an arbitrary choice of which “objects” to represent your world view, with everything hanging on what you want to say about their relationships.

Interested to see today

The image being from Penrose “Road to Reality” (and a good thread discussing earlier origins).

A couple of years ago I posted this triad:
summarising how I read Foucault (1970):

I see Jessica Flack‘s take mapping cleanly onto this version. That is raw “Data” is the objectively physical world out there,”Natural Language” is the subjectively human expression of our experience of it and “Mathematical Representations” are the formal symbolic representations of concepts. The latter is traditionally “Platonic” but – take note – human constructed nevertheless.

I like it, though as I say, everything hangs on what we intend to say about the relationships and how “useful” the result is in answering questions. And with all “network” diagrams, there is an equivalence in switching node (object) and edge (relation) representations anyway.

Also, shout out to the EES project again, which has some great minds clustered around proper understanding of the evolution of life, the universe and everything.

McNamara Fallacy – Relying solely on metrics.

The above is a from a digest of “big-data” stories from Data Science Central, of which I am typically sceptical.

Sceptical because after two decades banging on about the problem of relying in metrics in complex situations (eg setting a speed limit as a number, anyone?) I wonder how many data-practitioners, large or small, actually get the problem with use of quantifiable data?

Never seen the problem given a name – McNamara Fallacy – before now. Maybe recognising – giving it a name – can help. Not surprised however to find it’s that Macnamara – Bob – of US Vietnam body-count fame.

The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured.
This is OK as far as it goes.

The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value.
This is artificial and misleading.

The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important.
This is blindness.

The fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist.
This is suicide.

  •  Daniel Yankelovich (1972)

The reason given is invariably the scientistic observation that these other hard-to-quantify and too-complex-to-account-for factors cannot be proven with logic and empirical evidence.

[More examples from BBC R4 Today this morning:
Rosling (08:40) – posthumous book – “Factfulness”?
NUT (o8:46) – “more than a score” high-stakes testing?
And Hans’ book is also book of the week.]


[Post Note: And more examples with “initial” UK Company accounting returns on gender pay … ]

A Licence to Hate? It’s never been about anti-semitism.

Stamping out hate?
There’s a word for that.

I wish Eddie Izzard every good fortune in his Labour Party NEC role but see the recurring problem  recurring:

Will his use of “terrible” be understood as not hating those Tories?

Will “for the many not the few” be understood as not hating the few, or is it simply an inadvertent licence to choose which few to hate?

It requires action to call out the haters that claim Labour allegiance, not simply disengage from them and allow them to continue hating in our name, any name.

This has never been about social media – and who takes ownership responsibility for content – but about caring enough not to hate. It’s never really been about anti-semitism either – the source of claims of smear-campaigns. There are plenty of anti-semitic tropes embedded in both western post-Christian (inc Islamic) and liberal-left cultures we all need to care about enough not to conflate with reality. Business or politics, no reason for post-Capitalism to involve anti-capitalist hatred of those terrible … (capitalist, imperialist … zionist?) … Tories.

Left or right, caricatures kill.


[Post Note:

Jamie on the same wavelength again today too. Of course the echo-chamber is full of people attacking the “others” using every rhetorical trick in the book – that’s how you can tell it’s just an echo-chamber rather than a place of meaningful dialogue – the inhuman polarisation of one reinforces the other.]

[Post Note: And after Jewdas-gate, it really is about (not)-hating:

Thread starting here:

Agreed. An “Anarchist Collective” is not what we want a  serious political leader associating with in a democracy, not even an imperfect one. Careful dialogue, with anyone in an appropriate context, sure but also care about political messages.]

Faceless or Factless

Here’s a thing, a link to a piece which, as I type, I’ve not read yet.

A word in your ear: The art of making ourselves heard.

Never conversed with or even met Andy Martin face-to-face, but I know Andy’s writing (in the biblical sense) and thanks to a few Twitter and other on-line exchanges I believe I know him and his thinking pretty well.

So I’ll risk it.

Spent a bit of time the last couple of weeks tidying up many previous references to practical rules of rhetoric (and humour) – the point being that, unless you already know (and love) someone pretty well, we really must care enough to follow some rules of engagement. (And furthermore, there is no point attempting to fully objectify those rules; to make them “idiot-proof”. Like all rules, they are there for the guidance of the wise, and evolution by the creative, so long as that creativity is not simply abused to win or derail an “argument” – see love and proper dialogue. The last thing we need is the set of lowest common denominators that support idiocy.)

From the snippets already noted about Andy’s piece, eg …

… we can see that as well as the rhetoric of talking to each other, at least part of his topic is the remoteness of keyboard warriors that don’t have  that investment in personal (oral and visual) contact.


The reason I’m writing this without having read the subject piece is because I already had several on-line exchanges this week on this topic. The idea that too much free expression is degenerate, when it comes to knowledge and life in general, is fundamental to my long-standing agenda, a warning compounded obviously by the whole rise of social media and “fake news” in that same time. Exactly a week ago I wrote using This Week’s treatment of the Cambridge Analytica & Facebook fall-out, that we seemed to have reached a watershed – a tipping-point in recognition of the problem.

I could write the same again using this week’s This Week piece by Andrew Neil on drawing the attention of the whole Labour “anti-semitism” holocaust deniers to the brutal anti-semitic murder of holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris, also this week. Last week’s social media outrage was CA/FB. This week’s was anti-semitism. Outrage inflamed and misdirected by freely-expressed, ill-informed and largely anonymous opinion instead of the kind of care for the subject displayed by Andrew:

When I wrote the piece above on CA/FB maybe being a tipping point, I suggested:

All that technology has done is up the scale and speed of possibilities.

Well in a single sentence, that “all” is, as it always is, fundamentally wrong. What it has done is scale-up and speed-up the possibilities of faceless, anonymous interaction. Interactions without active investment of interpersonal relationship (ie love) can never represent proper dialogue in a free-for-all environment.

I had a rather telling exchange with Jim Waterson prompted by the Labour anti-semitism row:

That entire exchange sums up the point. In a world where the “news” comprises so many possible facts and opinions in disjointed (if any) contexts, it’s not that the news is fake – factless – but that its communication is impersonal – faceless.

In many ways, this XKCD cartoon about unhealthy conversational dynamics already says it all :

A final example from this morning, I use Giles Fraser as an archetype of the problem, particularly for the irony that he espouses a church built on love. He never – in my empirical experience – offers the love and respect in any dialogue (whether on social-media or on BBCR4’s Moral Maze) to abide by any rules of rhetoric. Simply destructive and dishonest behaviour:

Followed by the strawman of all strawmen:

“Good to know you think … <strawman>” – <roll-eyes>

And, as I type this final paragraph, I’ve still not read Andy Martin’s piece, but I will and so should you. He’s a much better writer than I am, and the fact is that we judge people on their voice.


[Post Note: I’ll be back when I have.]

Sky meets VX – Me and Sports Cars

In 1980, after 2 years driving a much under-rated Hillman Hunter (1725cc alloy engine, great fun) I passed it on to my brother when I bought my second car, a 2-seat hard-top Triumph GT6 Mk3. Ironically – given the later story – we drove it more in Norway when we first lived there than in the UK. Left-hand drive, low-profile and not the most practical car for Scandinavian winters.

[During the family life taxi service period we ran 4-seat Saloon / Hatch / Estate cars (MkIV Cortina, Cavalier, Rover 216, Audi 100,  Seat Toledo GT, MG-ZTT and Astra) until deciding we didn’t need two family cars. I was at that time involved in working contracts that involved regular – several times per week – 100+ mile each-way driving commute, so driving fun and efficiency became the deciding factor.]

In Spring 2002 I took delivery of my “Tangerine Dream” VX220

Vauxhall VX220 / Opel Speedster (2001)(Wikipedia)

The car was hailed by the motoring press as a great drivers’ car and won several accolades, including Top Gear’s Car of the Year in 2003. The 2.2 NA (naturally aspirated) version was considered the easier drive of the two standard variants, and some journalists recommended that the Opel/Vauxhall car was better value for money than the Lotus.

Production ended on 22 July 2005, with no direct successor. It was not until February 2007, when GM Europe adopted the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky into the Opel GT, that GM Europe had a replacement sector product, with no RHD version for the United Kingdom. The final production number of the Speedster was only 7,207.

In Spring 2007, by then living in the US, I took delivery of a Saturn Sky.

The VX220 was easily the best car I ever owned. Fun to drive (obviously), but practical with a surprisingly large boot for a mid-engined 2-seater and a space-saving detachable soft-top, as well as being totally reliable.

The Sky was (still is) fun and reliable as well as highly unusual. Totally different construction from the VX with the US (Ralph Nader) fuel-tank and bulky folding soft-top leaving almost zero boot-space. Unusual because I took it to Norway with us when we moved there a second time in 2009. There were no other Sky or Opel GT’s in Norway and I could never get it on the road more than occasional (very expensive) temporary tourist licenses. (Full road-tax as an import of that class in Norway cost more than the original purchase price in the US!)

When we returned to the UK in 2011 we brought the Sky with us and, 7 years later I’m still driving the only one in the country despite a total production of 34,000 in the US. Just taxed and MoT’d for another year, and the car next to it this week in the local MoT test centre – was a light-blue VX220.

Who’s a Crazy Female Atheist?!?

Leaving aside the click-bait element in the title of this YouTube posting, the choice of words is so disrespectful and misogynistic it beggars belief. Not surprisingly the bait captures plenty of trolls in the comment thread. Awful!

Context – We don’t see the actual talk by Peterson, and it’s certainly not a debate (not necessarily a bad thing) and I can’t see where it becomes remotely heated? Certainly starts with an awkward atmosphere, and doesn’t seem too well facilitated. Clearly also a religious Christian audience? The dialogue involves too-long one-sided spiels, so none too constructive. Goldstein clearly only mentions Auschwitz because Peterson already has?

I happen to like both Rebecca Goldstein and Jordan Peterson, whereas William Lane Craig seems entirely unintelligible to me, conflating god as both simply a Platonic good and a supernatural (omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent) causal agent. If God is everything and God explains everything then it really explains nothing. Peterson’s take on imperfect human reality in contrast to a conceptual perfection of God make perfect sense.

Adding “God” to the subjective > evolved > objective spectrum of morality doesn’t add anything to its grounding. She’s right. The Socratic Euthyphro argument she uses doesn’t “prove” anything, that’s for sure, it casts doubt between two logical extremes – typical Socrates of course – all it can prove is that it (god) doesn’t solve the problem. (And not the first discourse to stumble over transcendence and Kantian transendentalism. Ho hum.)

Anyway, not sure what thesis is being debated so can’t say much more about the success or otherwise of the discussion. Goldstein and Peterson continue to talk sense to me. Lane Craig ends on a nasty trick – asking to Goldstein to comment on a Pinker quote. (In my book Pinker is too scientistic, whereas in Goldstein’s book he’s her husband but she’s not this brother’s keeper when it comes to naturalistic explanation of ethics, meaning and purpose.)

Nice Jewish Guy?

This is an excuse to post the entire lyric from Tommy Womack’s “Alpha Male and the Canine Mystery Blood” from his “There, I Said It” CD release.

Although I make frequent reference and allusions to lines from the lyric, I hadn’t posted the whole until today. Whether it’s a liberal response to a loose-cannon president or UK Labour tearing itself apart, the whole world is in this one song. The anti-semitism embedded in Western Christian cultural tradition thanks to a “nice Jewish guy” who preached love. Arabs and Christians, Pepsi and Coke. When it’s a band gig it’s rockin’.

Alpha Male and the Canine Mystery Blood
Copyright Tommy Womack

Alpha Male and the Canine Mystery Blood
came to town with Death Cab for Cutie
I stayed home with my wife and my child
And six pack of beer.
I pondered that name for fifteen minutes
after I saw the poster stapled to a phone pole
On the corner of Grand and Twenty First.

That was a couple of years ago,
I was already in my forties then
So I didn’t go out on a whim just to see a band called
Alpha Male and the Canine Mystery Blood
Just because I liked the name,
Just because I’m twenty-five
And every day’s a stoned summer’s day

My band was always giggin’ then,
REM was still kickin’ then
I drove that Ford Granada Mom and Dad gave to me
after they got ‘em a Ford LTD
And there was music on MTV
I smoked my manager’s pot and got laid quite a lot.

Planes hadn’t flown into towers yet
And we didn’t have a loose cannon president
Didn’t have all this credit card debt
Hanging over the house like a cloud
Ensure there’s not much more drugging allowed
The body won’t take it, the wallet can’t hang it.

Singin’ all the songs I’ve sang for years
When it’s a band gig it’s rockin’
And when it’s solo the people are talking while I’m singin’
They make me depressed, you’d think I could take a hint
My time came and went
Hell, there’s many nights I came and went

In a manner of speakin’
My conscience is leakin’
The world is changed and the good times are gone
We get to be the folks who greet the dawn
Of an age of mistrust, surveillance and sleaze
And bombs in shoes and way too many enemies.

I bet their name was Menstrual Blood
And the A&R guy said that’s no good
Make it Mystery and then we can target
a broader-based goth dog-loving market

I love my boy he’s becomin’ a drummer
Got a drumkit from Santa at this rate by summer
He’ll be keepin’ a beat in a world
That needs a metronome shoved up its ass so hard
That all voices’ll raise in a heavenly choir
Shit’ll get straight; bothers’ll hug
We’ll dance like we did in the decades of drugs

I’m spittin’ my genes in an ocean that’s risin’
Clingin’ to Jesus with some compromisin’
About what was handed to me from my Mom
And Daddy the preacher
Who watched all that TV in a cream recliner
Frownin’ thru life like a stone hard liner

You couldn’t phase him
He knew Jesus died for his sins
And was raised from the dead
And I’ve always wondered why can’t he stay dead
It doesn’t change any good thing he said
What matter is his life and not how he died

Why can’t he just be a nice Jewish guy
Who was super clued-in and showed us the way
To salvation from sin
And that doesn’t mean that you’re not quote-unquote “saved”
You fry like a piece of country ham in your grave

It’s a great big world and life is a joke
Arabs and Christians, Pepsi and Coke
People so gorgeous it causes ‘em pain
And nobody gives any sympathy for somethin’ like that
You suffer in silence or form a band
With a name that appeals to goth dog-lovers everywhere

On a poster that’s seen by a forty-ish bastard
Walking to work at eight-fifteen,
Eleven an hour for all that he does
Can’t be a has-been if you never was
Going all day-long without eatin’
Till all my nerve endin’s are seriously overheatin’
My legs get wobbly walkin’ down the stairs
To smoke me a cigarette out in the cold fresh air

Wonderin’ why I do the things I do
And I do ‘em everyday
And it can’t turn out good living this way
But live this life I must
And in some fuzzy god I’ll trust

I’ll kiss my wife, I’ll kiss my son
And maybe someday I’ll go for a run
And may some day a song’ll stick
And I’ll walk around like I got a big … boat

And maybe someday my boy’ll drum
In a hippy jam band that plays out some
He’ll take after Daddy and get in a van
Go somewhere only young people can

Doing things only young people do
Banging those skins at Bonnaroo
Rockin’ the dreadheads dancin’ in the mud
Before Alpha Male and the Canine Mystery Blood
God go with him,


[Lyrics above from the original CD / T-Shirt version.
Slightly cleaned-up and updated variations in later broadcast versions.]

[Tommy is most active on Facebook these days. As well as experiencing his poetry through his music, you should read him too. “Cheese Chronicles – the true story of a rock’n’roll band you’ve never heard of.” is full of humanity and wit.]

The Court Jester

There are many posts here describing and using the idea of “The Court Jester” when it come to rules of attempted rhetorical humour.

Charlie Hebdo was probably the highest profile example, and #dankula the Scottish comedian convicted without any prior complaint(!) for offensive joke the most recent, but it’s a general question of when humour is valid use of free expression:

The Court Jester

[Rhetorical rules of humour preserved here – The Court Jester.]

Essentially UNLESS you are appointed / recognised / claiming the role of court jester in any given context, then humour comes with a duty of care to its target. If the target doesn’t find it funny, you have a responsibility to make peace with the target, either by prior investment of love or working to resolve the offense.

If you ARE the court jester, you are given licence to offend your target, on the mutual understanding of yourself, audience and target(s) that this freedom is being used to make points of social value, to prick consciences etc. The fool was tolerated at the court of kings, kings that otherwise had the power of summary execution of anyone causing offense. King, fools and courtiers all knew the rules of the game, even if the innocent child who couldn’t see the emperor’s clothes did not.

Suffer the little children. The corollary is despite freedom of expression, we can’t all choose to be court-jester or innocent-child anywhere anytime. It would be chaotic, unproductive, destructive and tiresome if we all did, but that is simply the practical problem. A game with rules is there to be gamed and the rules evolved. There is a more fundamental issue. Context and understanding matter. In these days where anything and everything is shared publicly, immediately, beyond any context, original intent within any original context are lost. The offense may be apparent whereas the point and the humour are not. The only rule is respect and duty of care towards any target, deliberate or unintended.


[Post note for the Court Jester thread. Don’t believe me about the “rules”? Here a hostage to fortune from 1940’s BBC in attempting to frame actual rules of rhetoric and humour. Let’s don’t go there:

And this twitter exchange:

“Maybe” notice.

Ongoing fall-out from the #dankula Scottish comedian guilty of joke case, but same is true of the “jokes at expense of ex” cases.]


[Post Note: And looking at humour as a game with rules, broken rules that prove the rule, at many levels, it’s worth thinking of counter-intuitive professional cases. Anyone who has worked in any of these professions, or has a loved-one who has will know:

Healthcare professionals and their patients, education professionals and their students, policing professionals and suspected criminals, care professionals of all kinds and their wards – even service providers and their customers more generally – provide contexts for some of the most vicious, cruel humour where their punters are the target. It’s a given that no-one cares more for the target than the carer and (privately) such humour is tolerated as an important therapeutic release. Of course that toleration breaks down if the trust in the carer is lost or the private context is made public.]

[And why not? Another post-note: Given the Corbyn anti-semitism saga …. whether we’re talking about the mural or The Merchant of Venice, my base position is that anti-semitic prejudice is built into much western tradition, since much of it stands on  Christian (ie pointedly-not-Jewish) tradition. That’s not to excuse the prejudice rather it says it’s something we have to care enough to be cognisant of when inadvertent instances of prejudice arise.  As ever it’s about care and respect, love even. So what about humour?

My archetype offensive humourist has been Frankie Boyle in many previous posts. Well, another of our established court-jesters is David Baddiel, and tiresomely people often fail to notice a court-jester is not always on duty, and often feel all interactions should be (attempts at) humour. 

Obviously, the remark is indeed racist. Equally obviously it was a rhetorical question – but was the sarcasm simply to draw attention to David’s Jewishness never being hidden, to draw attention to his Jewishness itself, like, who needed that? Or, were there any other levels of irony intended to make any other valid points? If zillions of people do this to you every day – even if they think they’re being funny – it’s tiresome as well as racist. Is it offensive to be tiresome? The point is without evidence that the person is caring and respectful of the target it is gratuitous racism, whatever David’s level of annoyance or offence. He’s an intelligent person who takes it in his stride to simply point out the fact, neither taking offence nor even making a big deal out of the annoyance.

I might draw parallels and contrasts with (say) Lenny Henry on humour around his afro-caribbean-blackness …. but another day.

Nice Jewish Guy? Given all the conflated issues around Zionism more widely and Israeli politics more specifically, I still have on CD in the car Tommy Womack’s “Alpha Male” from the album “There, I Said It”. The whole world in one song.]

[And finally: David Baddiel’s line resulted in this excellent TLS piece. A “twinkle in the eye” doesn’t travel well in text. When I say excellent I’m not kidding – it’s bloody marvellous, a must read if ever there was one.]