Migraine Symptoms

Migraine is not something I’ve suffered from in 67 years of life, but two family members have, so I am aware of symptoms as described.

About a month ago and for the third time in total, today I am suffering the “jagged vision” symptom – still no head pain or nausea on any occasion. And so far not felt the need to take any aspirin or paracetemol.

This post is just to capture a description of the visual symptom.

Fixed area peripheral top and left, with one branch towards the centre from the left. One edge of that branch fixed and highly defined jagged line. The fill below and outside that edge is the classic twinkling jagged shards of glass or ice. Essentially shades of grey, black and white but with the refraction rainbow fringe colours of thin films, overlapping and of variable thickness. I say “fixed” in the sense that whilst the pattern of jagged shards is in constant motion, on a half to one second period, that jagged edge sticks relative to my field of view. If I fix view on a focal point on the wall in front of me the jagged line is absolutely fixed. I get the feeling it’s more associated with the left eye, but it’s clearly in the mental / cortical representation of the field of view.

Subsiding now after about 20 minutes after a few minutes where the intensity directly interfered with my ability to see what reality was in the affected area in front of me. All absolutely classic I see now as I Google the symptoms.

(Where’s a pen when you need one, I could draw what I’m describing, for future reference.)

This is just a libary pic. Same idea, different geometry / distribution, more peripheral except for one jagged line from left to centre in my case, and much mor intense colours than my experience:

I know what you're thinking... what the heck did I eat? No, you aren't having a psychedelic trip, this is an example of an ocular migraine. Everyone experiences them differently though so if yours doesn't look exactly like this don't panic.


Oh, oh. Following day 13th March 2023 symptoms again. Different geometry, and smaller size, but exactly the same pattern. Small hard, fixed, jagged curlicue, lower, mid-right – with the jangly shards hanging off it.

Time for a stroll on the beach. Done. Gone.


Goldstein on Literary Spinoza

Robbie bought me Michael Della Rocca’s “Oxford Handbook of Spinoza” as a birthday gift. It was one of those on the book list, but which was a little pricey primarily for my interest in the one chapter mentioned previously, so it is great to have the full text of Rebecca Goldstein’s 40 page contribution on “Literary Spinoza” not just the discussion of it in that linked post.

My interest is quite specific, as with the previous post reviewing Rushdie’s “Victory City”, in narrative inspiration for my own writing project. In this case the philosophical content of Melville’s “Moby Dick” is directly relevant to my own 200 year narrative, but of course Goldstein covers many more Spinoza inspired literary sources. Win, win.

As well as Herman Melville, we have George Eliot, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Frederich Holderlin, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Novalis (von Hardenberg), Heinrich Heine, Berthold Auerbach, Matthew Arnold, Erwin Kolbenheyer, Jorge Luis Borges, Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud, Zbigniew Herbert, David Ives, Eugene Ostashevsky and Goce Smilevski.


PS – Link to a critical piece by Galen Barry questioning the audience for and the value of Della Rocca’s book.

Everything I want is in my words.

I mentioned Salman Rushdie’s latest “Victory City” a couple of times. First impressions here, and again once I’d got into reading it here.

I noted in that last post that there were already lots of real-life philosophical applications and that the clever narrative tricks in the trajectory of the 250 year first-person story were providing an inspiration to my own story writing.

Well, I’ve completed it.

Although it is essentially fantasy fiction, there are an intriguing number of historical and literary acknowledgements in the end papers (*) – so god only knows how much actual reality is in there?  Pretty tough going for this anglophone – so many “foreign” names and multiple familial / patronymic / gendered / local variations of these, but the style is unmistakable. Flowery classical – ancient & mediaeval Indian – poetry, punctuated with 21st C Anglo-Saxon punchlines and laugh-out-loud wit. Plenty of birth, death and marriage too, especially death and disfiguration as one might expect from 250 years of imperial dynastic family saga, but mostly humanity seasoned with love and wisdom, not to mention more than a little magic and the gods in their rightful places

I never did make notes of the early philosophical gems and it may be some time before I can give it the attention of a full re-read, but I did note a later passage that nicely illustrates the style I had in mind:

[After PK having been banished by the king from visiting her own statue and forbidden from ever publishing her own words and with MA having claimed he had committed a copy to memory anyway.]

‘That’s fine,’ said [PK] ‘My history will not be written in stone.’

Once the king had gone, she turned to [MA]. ‘What you said wasn’t true,’ she said. ‘You risked your life for a lie.’

‘There are times when a lie matters more than a life,’ he replied. ‘This was such a time.’


‘Sometimes I hate men,’ [TD] said when [MA] had gone.

‘I had a daughter that thought that way,’ [PK] told her. ‘She preferred the company of women and was happiest in [the] enchanted forest. And if by “men” you mean our recent royal visitor, that is understandable. But [MA] is a good man surely. And what about your husband?’

‘[He] is all plots and conspiracies,’ [TD] answered. ‘He’s all secrets and schemes. The court is full of factions and he knows how to set one group against another to balance [his interests].’


‘Tell me this,’ [PK] said.’I know princesses are imprisoned by their crowns and find it hard to choose their own path, but in your heart, what do you want from life?’

‘Nobody ever asked me that,’ [TD] said. ‘Not even my mother. Duty, duty, et cetera. Writing down your verses is the only thing that fills my heart.’

‘But for yourself, what?’

[TD] took a breath. ‘In the street of foreigners,’ she said, ‘I get envious. They just come and go, no ties, no duties, no limits. They have stories from everywhere and I’m sure that when they go somewhere else we become the stories they tell people there. They even tell us stories about ourselves and we believe them even if they get everything upside down. It’s like they have the right to tell the whole world the story of the whole world, and then just … move on. So. Here’s my stupid idea. I want to be a foreigner. I’m sorry to be so foolish,’

‘I had a daughter like that too,’ [PK] said. ‘And you know what? She became a foreigner and I think she was happy.’


‘Can I ask you the same question you asked me?’ [TD] said. [-]

[PK] smiled. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘But my time of desiring is over. Now everything I want is in my words, and the words are all I need.’


“There are times when
a lie matters more than a life.
This was such a time.”



(*) Fascinating coincidence the day after finishing the book, BBC aired an In Our Time episode on the Sanskrit epic the “Ramayana. Fascinating because the “Ramayana” arose in the axial age, 500-400 BCE whereas Rushdie’s “Viyanagar” empire sources are writings and retellings from 1000-1500 AD/CE and yet so many of the same elements. Human governance, individual and social morality in the wider cosmos. Divine monkeys in the forest. ‘Twas ever thus.

How do Baggini, Churchland and Flanagan Think?

Baggini, Churchland, Flanagan in dialogue around the topic of Julian’s latest book  “How to Think Like a Philosopher” – or as he preferred it “How NOT to think like a philosopher” >>> rough notes:

All positive about Dennett, McIntyre, Wittgenstein, Descartes, Hume, etc. More than wondering in vacuo – adjacent sciences matter.

Glad to hear it’s Chalmers who’s nuts according to Churchland, I think they’re both nuts. Sure, thought experiments are useful exercises to clarify thinking but they’re not intuitively privileged pipelines to the truth. (Same with metaphors and understanding.)

Hard problem 2500 years old before Chalmers gave it a memetically catchy name ensnaring a whole generation of contemporary young philosophers in what will turn out to be a mere “itch” along the way. (Debunked idea already IMHO)

Sciences have neighbouring sciences and philosophy is no different. The boundaries, extensions and overlaps need to be understood. (Open systems, complex adaptive systems.)

I actually think in her criticisms of neuro-philosophers Pat is out of touch with 21st C reality in this field – criticising outdated caricatures, strawmen. Pity.

Apart from open-mindedness, avoiding misleading hunches / confirmation-biases, not personalising ad-hominem positions (see Churchland / Chalmers), valuing empiricism in general, but questioning meaning of (seemingly objective / empirical) facts, no dumb questions etc- unarguable really – nothing too mind-blowing. Thinking 101 – philosophical or otherwise.


Pat Churchland – “Touching a Nerve (The Self as Brain).”
Owen Flanagan – “The Geography of Morals”

Both added to book list.


Some Good Writing?

Trying to get back into writing, clearing away some reading after a week on vacation and shaking-off another damn cold, I found myself reading some old posts, prompted by some link hits in the stats.

I’ve written some good stuff, if I say so myself. A lot of it concluding I really should stop noodling around blogging with the ideas and get creative and productive with the writing project itself. Here by way of example 3 consecutive posts from 5 years ago:

The first is simply a review of Baggini’s “How The World Thinks” – but with an exemplary dialogue with Bruce Adam in the comment thread below. Exemplary because we’re both being synthetic, constructive, as dialogue should be.

The expanding scope of that was clearly partly what prompted the second, but it’s a recurring topic, one I call #GoodFences these days but #RoseByAnyOtherName would do just as well. The whole “identity politics” of political correctness or wokeness inhibiting the common sense of – essential need for –  agreeing meaningful names for things. Identity before definition. (And I have a handful of other more comprehensive draft versions of this topic.)

“Just because we don’t want to pigeonhole doesn’t mean we should deny the existence of pigeons.”
Iain McGilchrist, TMWT p863.

The third post, the same day, is a private outline of “the book” sparked-off by the need to write. And here we are again, 5 years later.

Sevilla in Pictures

Don’t take many photos these days – even when being a tourist in a new location – so many others do and share publicly, so what’s the point of adding more? Loved Sevilla for its cafe / bar / bodega society amidst its rich historical geography – warm enough in February. Shout out to bodega Diaz-Salazar – sherries and flamenco on draft. Sevilla’s cathedral is as bonkers as its reputation. The bones of Columbus (aka Colon in this part of Spain) plus Chapels / Altars / Reliquaries-R-us in general.

Anyway – loved the “Giralda” tower that was originally the mosque minaret, complete with internal spiral ramp to allow the imam to proceed on horseback all the way to the belfry to call the faithful to prayer. Had to capture the one image above. ‘Nuff said. “Bring me the head of ….” Barry Cryer.

Value in Victory City

Started reading Salman Rushdie’s latest Victory City during the past week away in Sevilla. But for various reasons didn’t get much concentrated reading time and and am only part-way into Part 2 of 4. It’s very good on so many levels and I want to continue with proper attention and concentration. As a novel, I’m reading it for what it is and not note-taking as I read, so I will have to do another pass to pick-up the references I’m going to need.

As well as the historical / mythical story, it is full of wit and practical philosophy from existence, meaning, creation, naming and reality to gender and sex roles. Striking for me, given my own writing project, is how to deal with the long time-scale in a narrative over many generations. In my own case I have a 200+ year timeline from early 1800’s to the present and I’ve been struggling with first-person and/or witness perspective to “narrate” the story. Rushdie’s heroine lives over 250 years which creates some very interesting problems for aging and relationships with other human characters. Also some reliance on the author’s summaries of earlier narrative by the heroine herself and even heads-up references to things that will happen long before they do. Clever. Fascinating inspiration.

Computing Machines?

[HOLD – Stub only …]

Yesterday Philip Ball posted this quip:

And then this was liked by Kevin Mitchell:

And Philip also tweeted these, liked by Kevin:


And after @JustinCaouette shared this Templeton piece by Marcus Arvan a few days ago,

Can Digital Computers Ever Achieve Consciousness?

I was prompted to respond:

I skim read the piece and added:

And for good measure:

[This is just a stub for elaboration about biological (living, universal Turing) machines … Suffice to say, the claims to be pointing out misunderstandings are themselves misunderstandings]

And like my previous post …
it’s about properly recognising “complexity”.

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