Centenaries & Coincidences

Mark Hammond mentioned in a comment the idea that as well as Dante’s Divine Comedy, 2021 was the centenary of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and maybe I should highlight that. Somewhat dismissively I noted that was surely the reason why there were so many new Witt-related pieces (and books) being published in 2021, and that 1922 would be the centenary of other important works anyway. Every year is a centenary of something and setting store by the conjunction of human affairs with the orbits of celestial bodies is the kind of “astrology” I try to avoid. However …

Something I’d noticed before was the significance of 1922 in the sense that 1922 “first” editions of several seminal works – Joyce’s Ulysses and TEL’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom I mentioned, but there’s Eliot’s Wasteland and more … in fact the Tractatus was really published in 1922 too.

And a full Wittgenstein lecture by Jonathan Rée here.

The alignment of stars is in the tide of human affairs of course, a world in crisis coming out of WWI, not celestial motions. Tractatus was written in WWI trenches.

1922? It’s a “thing”. A Golden Year for Publishing.

Real or Sokal?

The 2014 Physics.Org piece.

The 2014 Source paper about 2010 work.

Lost of tweeting in June 2021 about the physics dark matter / dark energy analogy, so much so that I have my doubts whether the original was real or simply a thought experiment?

Better Fences Needed

I may at last have space to write my Good Fences piece, but first a new reference. “Western” rationality is eating itself.

I particularly like the use of the word special in this piece (which I’ve not fully digested yet) when talking about Western civilisation (as I do when talking about humanity).

We are a failure.

Israeli historian Richard Landes may have written Good Fences before I ever got round to it. And linked it to the woke wave:

“It looks more and more every day that the West cannot control the catastrophic concessions its woke millennialists made over the course of the last two decades… in the name of progressive values.”

In the words of Creep – “You’re so fucking special.”

Like Landes …

“I’m only sorry that I’ve failed to communicate my understanding to people at a time when it really matters to see clearly.”

Turns out it is actually hard to communicate, and the story that is easy to communicate is the wrong one, the one that’s leading us astray. At root the problem is memetic.

BlogRolled Over

As a blogger since blogging was invented, I’ve maintained the idea of a blogroll in the side-bar – linking to other bloggers and sources of news and input I read and recommend.

It’s long been redundant since all sources provide feeds not just through RSS but primarily via micro-blog channels – aka social media – Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. For me, with a very few exceptions, my blogroll is my Twitter “following” feed. And, many of those more recent channels are  not reflected at all in the blogroll anyway.

Being redundant, much of the current blogroll content is also redundant with many dead links, long overdue for retirement. So as I delete it from the blog theme format, I’m going to preserve the old (many dead) links to posterity below:




And now, I can delete from the side-bar menu, and rebuild at leisure.

The Death of Argument?

In the recent Radical Feminism vs Trans-Activism case, Chimamanda had said “The assumption of good faith is dead.”

For the rules of engagement (argument / discourse / dialogue) good faith is the essential ingredient that cannot be defined in terms of rules of content.

Essentially my point being that once bad-faith, or even just the suspicion of bad-faith, enters the dialogue, there isn’t really any option other than pausing to reset good-faith. Without it, no amount of sceptical, critical-thinking, and formal rules of objective-logic over the form and content of an argument can lead to meaningful agreement or progress. (Slightly different if it is a genuinely controlled “debate” with pre-accepted voting on binary outcomes, or the manipulation and critique of objective data in a closed / repeatable scientific context – but most of real life isn’t.)

Having declared the death of good faith, Chimamanda proceeds to fight outrage with outrage, and shows little mercy for her (younger) adversaries. (See AJ Owens comments here.)  When I wrote of it, I said we had to take the truth of the 3-part story “in good faith” – which presupposes that, as a “good” writer and campaigner, she was generally a follower of good rules of engagement – and there was a “good-faith” reason for deciding to go on the “attack” as the best form of “defence”. But fighting bad-faith with outrage (however justified) is more war-war, less jaw-jaw.

It was interesting to contrast Ayesha Hazarika response to the fall-out from the Maya Forstater case. Once that appeal was “won” too many GenderCrit-RadFems have been gloating and, sensing blood, “attacking” the “losing” TransActivists – perpetuating the “hateful” “anti-trans” impression. Polarisation is always against an opposing position rather than towards any agreeable conclusion. Ayesha chose not to engage in such a punch-up and took some flak for not overtly declaring the GenderCrit position, remarking on “women kicking lumps out of each other” on both sides.

Good for her. I’d like to think I maintained the same sense of decorum.

In real life, truth is nothing without reconciliation (the restoration of good faith), hence “truth and reconciliation”.

A J Owens (Staggering Implications) had already picked this up in Chimamanda’s initial outraged response in his comment on my initial post on this. And in fact he pointed out he’d already  written the Death of Argument around cancel culture generally, before the Chimamanda case emerged:

The Death of Argument:

Worth a read, he’s right,

[Even in enlightened rational argument]
“[It] is a mistake to put our subjectivity and immediacy aside. The only way forward is to engage it. But not on its own ground!”

“Not on its own ground!” (*)

Once the debate is distorted by subjective animosity, there is some reactionary attention-grabbing value in expressing (more) outrage – activism – but it isn’t the route to enlightened progress.

As ever it’s not a choice between objective and subjective, winning and losing binaries, but an integrated conversation.

All of us, hopefully?


[Post Notes:

(*) Aside – the same remark from Dennett in Bacteria to Bach and Back when trying to change the argument on consciousness … “if you debate on your opponents’ terms, you have already lost”. There is a meta-objective in setting the right argument.

And – a day later – Stephen Mumford on ad-hominem positionality in the same argument. Ad-hominem being one of those no-no rules that demands an interpersonal reset before worthwhile argument can progress.]


The Secret Chord

I’ve captured the poetry of a number of important late 20th C song lyrics over the years, just to have a searchable record of them here. Roy Harper, Tommy Womack, Graham Parker, Tom Petty, Nick Lowe, Eric Boyle, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel,  to name a few. It’s only in the last decade or so I have appreciated Leonard Cohen, mentioned as much here just last year, but never captured any of the poetry until now.

Anthem is important for the crack meme, or “how the light gets in“.

Hallelujah just is. This post prompted by this morning’s Desert Island Discs on BBC R4 where Hallelujah was the first selection from Yo-Yo Ma – stopping me in my tracks when I should have been starting work.

[I’m] not some pilgrim who claims to have seen the Light.

Anthem (Leonard Cohen)

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be

Ah, the wars they will be fought again
The holy dove, she will be caught again
Bought and sold, and bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah, and the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see

I can’t run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
A thundercloud
They’re going to hear from me

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

You can add up the parts
But you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart
To love will come
But like a refugee

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in

Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you dont really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor falls, the major lifts
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew her
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Well, maybe there’s a God above
As for me all I’ve learned from love
Is how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
But it’s not a crime that you’re here tonight
It’s not some pilgrim who claims to have seen the Light
No, it’s a cold and it’s a very broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Well people I’ve been here before
I know this room and I’ve walked this floor
You see I used to live alone before I knew ya
And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
But listen love, love is not some kind of victory march, no
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And I remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove she was moving too
And every single breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Now I’ve done my best, I know it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didnt come here to London just to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand right here before the Lord of song
With nothing, nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


The Divine Gibbon … Again

Wonderful episode of In Our Time on BBC R4 this morning:

Fascinated by the biographical timeline of British and French connections to enlightenment thinkers (including very influential Hume and Burke) at the time of Revolution … and his own incomplete memoir. Also for the closing remark about the relevance of the Decline to our present situation. Saving the link for the references … more(!) reading to follow-up.

[Gibbon previously on Psybertron.]

Unbearably Painful & So So Important

Having commented on the risky – “careless” – non-PC and even misogynistic end of things, in the BrewDog situation in the previous post, I was returning to the other extreme, the crippling effects of PC-Wokeness, which is topical everywhere at the moment.

Not only generally topical but central to my own agenda about how knowledge, even would-be scientific knowledge, is distorted by a kind of PC dogma, much more so than critical-thinking sceptical defenders of science would acknowledge. And ever more so as the pace and nature of social internet communications further reinforces the effect.

A large part of the PC aspect comes from misguided ideas of (otherwise perfectly valid) “equality” of anything and everything across many different axes. Equality of rights and freedoms has a tendency to aim to flatten differences, as if they’re the problem or unimportant to the point of even denying their existence. Transwomen are women? Anyone? The idea that things have careful boundaries that matter, that help preserve genuine equalities, I call “Good Fences” (After Robert Frost and G. K. Chesterton) and have a long-standing draft piece of writing on that.

Two things happened yesterday and today that add very directly to that agenda. One is this story from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, picked-up and commented on by so many:

The depths of hypocrisy of wokeness – here in this feminism vs trans context yet again:

“What matters is not goodness but the appearance of goodness. We are no longer human beings. We are now angels jostling to out-angel one another. God help us. It is obscene.”

“Out-angel” – virtue-signalling by any other name.

“I gave an interview in March 2017 in which I said that a trans woman is a trans woman, (the larger point of which was to say that we should be able to acknowledge difference while being fully inclusive, that in fact the whole premise of inclusiveness is difference.)”

“The whole premise of inclusiveness is difference.”
To deny this is “obscene”. Vive la difference.

Chimamanda’s story is one of bad-faith in would be intellectual interaction. This would be enough material by itself, but this second story came up that is deeply moving – taken as truth on good faith.

This original short piece in The Daily Wire, where Yeonmi Park compared her experience of Columbia University unfavourably with that of the North Korea she defected from. On grounds of the woke denial of freedom to know reality.

Followed up by this full 2 hours plus interview (with Jordan Peterson). Harrowing in so many details – an education in the school of life on so many points – so many a “too serious” privilege to hear. (Need to recognise that her book was written before her experience of Columbia University.)
Someone who understands more than anyone that equality (making everything equal) is so so different to equality of rights, freedoms and opportunities.

Finally since it’s Bloomsday, and talking about the power of reading books that don’t claim to be factual (as Yeonmi was), this image of Marylin always tickles me. At that point she is presumably reading the closing “Molly” scenes.


[Post Note: Many people picking-up the Chimamanda story, including this recommendation from the excellent Kenan Malik:

Critical interaction without good faith is mere performance.]