Sensible Mask Wearing?

There’s really no mystery about mask-wearing sense. Mask wearing is not about you it’s about the population, so the question is:

Q – Is it selfish not to wear a mask?
A – It depends:


We should adopt (in fact were gradually adopting before the Covid pandemic in my experience) the Eastern SARS / respiratory infection mentality.

If you know you have a relevant infection, you should self-isolate for the benefit of others. The main downside to this is people whose income and job-security suffers from missing attendance at work, and that should be addressed directly.

If you must attend workplace and/or public transport / spaces when you know you are infected, you should (at least) wear a mask and “socially distance” so far as possible to (a) minimise infection of others and (b) signal to others that you are a risk, so they can socially-distance too.

If you don’t know you’re infected but suspect the risk of infection – eg you’re out at work or in public and detect that you’re maybe  “coming down with” something, as you do, or you recognise a risky context – in crowded sweaty, poorly ventilated public transport or event with infection being notably prevalent in public – you should take steps to isolate and/or mask-up. Even visible improvised efforts have value in signalling to others at risk.


f your workplace involves vulnerable people or makes you more vulnerable, it doesn’t change these rules, just makes the risks and the rules more important to respect. Specific additional, detailed occupational rules may apply.

Everyone should avail themselves of public-health-provided vaccines unless they have good reasons of personal risk – including minors if practical & available. We shouldn’t be obsessed with exactly who has or hasn’t been vaccinated provided high adult population numbers are achieved. Minors – schoolkids – are not generally vulnerable to illness from SARS infections.

And note, wearing a mask is not about you it’s about others. Even if you think you’re wearing it to reduce catching the infection yourself, you’re doing so in order to avoid the spread.

Travelling between different public-health jurisdictions is a separate matter. The suspected risk end of the above common sense should apply until such time as both jurisdictions have agreed the same steady-state context.

The default should not be to wear a mask outside such risk-based contexts. The human face is a large part of social communication, and our freedoms are restricted physically and psychologically by the wearing. No surprise that idiot activists choose masks and hoods to disguise (or is that signal) their true anti-social-establishment motives.

Other things like hand-washing between contexts or capturing sneezes and coughs, even in a non-infectious context, are just basic good manners.

How hard can it be to be “sensible”?


[Aside: I am constantly amazed how moronic Jeremy Vine is – whether it’s Eggheads or his Radio 2 show, but I sometimes I listen in hope of detecting it’s some kind of double-bluff journalistic “act”: something like: – when it comes to asking questions, there’s no such thing as a dumb question – but man! his inane comments just give him away. As public morons go, he is a fascinating case study.]

The Architecture of the Brain

I’m reading Adam Zeman’s “A Portrait of the Brain” (2008).

I’ve previously read his “Consciousness: A Users Guide” (2002) after seeing him give a talk in Cambridge in 2003. He’s become short-hand for me as the “Z” in from Austin to Zeman in listing all the various neuroscientists who have investigated “abnormal” behaviours in real individual patients with brain “defects” – all the way from the over-used Phineas Gage example from 1848 to the late 20th C “Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat”.

[Aside – I notice in that reference to hearing Zeman talk in 2003 it was organised in conjunction with Cambridge Centre for Quantum Computing. A connection I’ve made in spades since, but not sure I noticed the significance at the time.]

Mark Solms, who I’m also reading at the moment and is added to that list, points out that sceptical colleagues referred unkindly to Oliver Sacks as “The Man who Mistook Science for a Literary Career”. I’d not heard of Solms before the link above, and I’d not seen anyone else cite Zeman since I originally came across him above. Solms also credits much collaboration with Damasio. These people are a fantastic resource of content and thinking on empirical brain-mind studies. (Roughly – Austin, Damasio, Gazzaniga, McGilchrist, Sperry, Sacks, Ramchandran, Solms, Zeman – from memory.)

Having obtained Zeman’s later work whilst reading Solms, I diverted to reading the former because of the index of contents:

It screams out a layered architecture from the fundamental physical to the highest consciousness. Like Solms book, Zeman’s content is mostly familiar to me in kind, popular science explanations, but is constructed and presented in a wonderfully transparent way. [All we’re missing is some brain topology diagrams that can show the whole story – with science expanding fast in this area in the 21st C, there are so many variations on a theme as new information is “added” to different pictures … a job to be done.]


Watched all 6 parts of Ken Burns “Hemingway” documentary. Despite finding his legend intriguing and having previously noticed his crossing of paths with Pirsig via Northrop here in Finca Vigia, Cuba, I think I’ve only read first hand his “Old Man and the Sea”. And I say that as someone who has visited the Key West house and Sloppy Joe’s more than once.

Like Edna O’Brien in the documentary, I have to say I found it pretty trivial and transparent metaphorically so despite its enormous acclaim leading up to his Nobel prize, having read it I’ve never bothered to pick-up and read any other Hemingway. May have to fix that.

Even discounting legend and mythology, that was some amazing life his larger than life person had led. I didn’t realise how little I actually knew. The two plane crashes on consecutive days in Africa!?

Masses vs Elites?

Lots of “rule-breaking” stories keep cropping up (in connection with Covid obvs) where “elite” politicians or business people appear to hypocritically allowed to “get away with” breaking rules the rest of us must obey. One rule for them, etc.

Where we are talking population statistics, as we are with a pandemic, I really don’t subscribe to these. Hypocrisy is always moot between time, space and context anyway, but we need small numbers to break rules, that’s how evolution progresses. Better well-bounded, manageable  minorities are “encouraged” to break rules for good reasons provided the statistical masses comply in good faith with the intent and spirit.

    • eg Hancock resigning for hypocrisy (in social distancing rules) was the worst outcome – the hypocrisy rule – whereas the sheer incompetence in flouting insider dealing with public money has been criminal throughout. [This whole Tory government has been an accident (not) waiting to happen since Brexit was a twinkle in Cameron’s eye anyway. Totally useless incompetents left accidentally in charge of the brewery piss-up. Cummings has been a megalomaniac, narcissistic ego-trip since day one. etc. “Leaks” of information for political “optics”. Irrelevances.]
    • eg Business people getting exceptions to break Covid travel rules. Where’s the problem?
    • eg Special case family circumstances for caring visits – case by case exceptions should have been in the mix, limited by small numbers only. Fairness is not about everyone being the same. The point of rules is managing exceptions.
    • Private email accounts? Again exceptions are fine – needs must to shift content between contexts, we’ve all done it in good faith. But routinely conducting business in private domains – just not on.

What’s my Beef with Conversion Therapy?

So having consolidated my “TERF-War” position in the previous post, why have I not been wholeheartedly coming down on the side of the campaign to ban “Conversion Therapy” you might ask?

Stonewall and Pride, etc originated in a 20th Century LGB rights context. Some LGB at the time were also into drag / transvestite / cross-dressing activities, but this was never then about Trans as in trans-gender. Males claiming female rights.

Conversion therapy per se is about the wholly misguided idea that homosexuality can (and should) be “cured” by therapy, medical and/or psychological. A view that persists only in extremely conservative and religious ideologies. Easy to agree to ban that in an LGB context, in minors and adults alike. Even adults who might claim a right to their own individual conversion would be better advised to seek “affirming” therapies to come to terms with rather than attempt to change reality. (Still possible to envisage exceptions though?)

However this campaign has been happening under an LGBT(+) banner in the 21st C, and promoted by activists that firmly say “no LGB without T”. It’s wonderful for different potentially oppressed groups to stand in solidarity with each other, but not OK to conflate different issues in campaigns for future legislation. That requires much clearer thinking, even if activists prefer direct actions based on simple slogans. Activists are essential to achieving change, but not well placed to define what the change should be.

In unambiguous trans cases, there are (obviously?) quite strong ethical rights for individuals to seek gender assignment therapies, affirming and/or converting. Transition therapies that should be available and not banned. In fact for biological males to identify as transwomen – claiming the same rights as biological women – there is also a strong social case that says therapy must involve more than self-ID alone. Exactly which surgical, medical and psychological therapies are appropriate and ethical – or even practicable or effective at all, in any number of dimensions – is massively complex in itself across many ambiguous / intersex / dysphoria possibilities. Too complex to elaborate here, and these specific cases tend to be very small populations of individuals compared to the wider social rights issue. (For more on the real physiological, psychological, ethical and political complexity read Alice Dreger referenced in the previous GC/RadFem post.)

The even more complex problem arises where these two potential LGB and T/I cases overlap and arise in cases of minors where the rights of their perceived wishes and needs come up against those of adult guardians and professionals as well as society at large. Individual minors will sense aspects of their own condition – gender and sexuality – that don’t necessarily fit with their expectations within peer-group and social experience. That confusion and exploration requires careful therapeutic advice across all the aspects above. To establish whether it’s as simple as “you’re sexuality is probably L (or G or B) and that’s fine” or whether it’s … something more complicated. The thing is it’s crucial this is done with care and professionalism, since a T/I-case may go unrecognised and individual or parental prejudice may be against LGB. Valid therapies on one diagnosis may work against an LGB outcome, whether deliberately or accidentally, and miss a T/I possibility. Of course young people discovering their sex-gender and sexuality are growing-up from minors to adults, so both rights and puberty mature in parallel. Some “puberty-blocking” therapies may deliberately stall that process, for good reason (say) to avoid a decision too soon on a more drastic risky intervention or to bring the individual’s adult rights into play, or for a bad reason (say) as part of perceived need for (banned) LGB conversion. Every intervention has risks and consequences – see care and professionalism.

If we’re going to do legislation against conversion therapies under an LGBT banner, we need a much more detailed tabulation of conditions and potential therapies to be interpreted by professional experts. It’s a sad irony in the UK that the most qualified institution, The Tavistock, appears to have been captured by the woke end of the agenda and, for whatever reason, been guilty of malpractice and generated its own whistle-blowers. If anything this tells us how complex the reality of the situation is, and how we need more caring professionals and more dialogue in this space.

The scary interpretation is that the LGBT(QI+) activists are intent on a “zero therapy” state, where any individual can self-identify as any “gender” with zero therapeutic input ever needed or even permitted. A dangerous over-simplification for the sake of catchy slogans. “TWAW” anyone?

If we’re going to talk about banning all conversion therapies in an LGBT(QI+) space, we definitely need more good-faith dialogue.


[Post Notes:

None other than JK Rowling with an important thread on the awful ironies at The Tavistock NHS Clinic:


Reducing Gender Critical / Radical Feminist Follows

Since initially getting interested in the “TERF Wars” reading Alice Dreger, back here in 2015 (before Maya Forstater and J. K. Rowling, before “TERF” itself even) the number of GC/RadFem supporter follows in my Twitter timeline has snowballed to effectively drown-out most other areas of interest. Ironically those with whom real engagement is needed the Trans-Activists simply block or put you on a list (or worse actively attempt to “cancel”). Some who should know better – in the UK – Michael Cashman, Peter Tatchell, Liz Barker, simply take the hard-line on “radical freedom” and deny any debate, and actively worse in the case of Stonewall itself. Not only is it not a debate, denial means it’s not even dialogue. (Notable exceptions are Ayesha Hazarika, and Justin Webb as I’ve noted before. And two other individual exceptions in Clive Andrews and Justwanttoreadstuff.)

I’m an epistemologist not an activist, though I did once refer to my approach as the “philosophical activist turn”. I care about meaningful truth. My “activism” is academic, conceptual and active in dialogue. Again ironically, that philosophical activist turn now includes the whole “Critical Theory” movement (inc CRT). Far from being a theory, this seeks to use “active positive discrimination” to physically undermine, reverse or deny the whole history and foundations of any philosophical considerations of lived truth and political action. Throwing baby out with the bathwater – rip it up and start again –  anti-establishment anarchist revolutionaries.  Careful what you wish for. No wonder establishment – white supremacist males, whatever – reject it just as vehemently. Race-wars, gender-wars, religious-wars, climate-emergency, TERF-wars, decolonial-slave-wars, any neuro-atypical / intersectional rights, you name it. When it comes to choosing sides, woke or anti-woke, a pox on both their houses I say. I’m on the side of the freedom of (and need for) constructive dialogue. I have rules of engagement, rules in which personal attacks are exceptions, no-no’s to be used only in the heat of battle of otherwise good-faith discourse. No dialogue without good-faith. All meaningful truth requires reconciliation if the process has involved violence, even attention-grabbing and content-curating verbal violence (@Glinner anyone? [*]).

Incidentally, one of the more interesting and constructive dialogues I’ve had along the way was with @Glinner (before Maya and his going on the offensive campaign) about Michel Foucault and Queer Theory. One where nuanced understanding is needed if we’re not going to throw out the post-modern baby with the bathwater. But that’s another longer PoPoMo story. TL/DR: Foucault isn’t all (or even mostly) bad.

The TERF wars are simply an archetypical current example of my main area of interest, so I really need to prune out – unfollow – a fair number of those who would attract the pejorative anti-Trans label “TERF” on my Twitter timeline. To be clear I (and most of them) are not “anti-Trans” we are simply “anti male-self-ID gender-transwomen’s rights trumping other rights of women and LGB individuals“. It’s all very well tagging TIQ+ etc. onto the original LGB Pride as a statement of solidarity, fill yer boots, but it’s not OK to conflate and deny the many different aspects and rights (*). I wish them all well and will stay attached to a few to keep in the retweet & replies loop.

In doing so, I discover amongst the blue-ticks Martina Navratilova is a keeper. I actually only started following her directly on Twitter quite recently but was previously very positive about the common sense conclusions she came to in her TV documentary about Transwomen in Female sport. The point is fairness and fairness turns out to be a complex topic. In her Tweets she remains grounded and to the point.

[(*) See also – Ban conversion therapy? Under an LGBT banner?]


Post Notes:

[*] @Glinner got some stick – and his Twitter ban – for his “bullying” tactics in aggressively defending “Gender Critical” feminists being branded “TERF”s by targetting individual Trans-Activists directly. However I still see him on the right side of history here in paying the price for his career decision to go on the attack. Still now in July 2021 here are a couple of mails targetting J K Rowling:

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 2022 would soon be the centenary of other important 1922 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. (Actually more than a Wittgenstein lecture, a fascinating and free-ranging talk and Q&A on Rée’s attitude to philosophy, and the relationship between philosophy and histories of philosophy – very reminiscent of Pirsig’s Philosophy <> Philosophology distinction – lots on the genuine conversational dialogue form too. Promoting his book: “Witcraft: the Invention of Philosophy in English“. Added to the list …)

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.