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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 15 December 2003

Topic: The Culture

A dare for the readers: Take an online quiz and find out your "true" philosophical soul-mate!

Here is something beyond curious.


The hook:

These questions reflect the dilemmas that have captured the attention of history's most significant ethical philosophers. Answer the questions as best you can. When you're finished answering the questions, press "Select Philosophy" to generate your customized match of ethical philosophers/philosophies. The list orders the philosophers/philosophies according to their compatibility with your expressed opinions on ethics. Click on a philosopher/philosophy to see a summary and links. We hope you enjoy this selector and we encourage your further philosophical explorations. - Tara Anderson

Two posts below was an item on capital punishment, and how justice may not be the same as vengeance and those sorts of things - you know, morality and ethics and stuff like that.

Why did I say what I said? Into which "school" of philosophy do I fall? I took this quiz and here are the folks with whom I align.

And I always thought I was a cynic!

1. Kant (100%)
2. John Stuart Mill (89%)
3. Jean-Paul Sartre (87%)
4. Jeremy Bentham (73%)
5. Stoics (63%)
6. Ayn Rand (62%)
7. Aquinas (59%)
8. Prescriptivism (56%)
9. Epicureans (55%)
10. Aristotle (55%)
11. Spinoza (51%)
12. David Hume (46%)
13. Nietzsche (38%)
14. Plato (35%)
15. St. Augustine (32%)
16. Nel Noddings (30%)
17. Ockham (28%)
18. Thomas Hobbes (25%)
19. Cynics (25%)

And Tara gives me these summaries, which I find a bit silly.

From the top down:

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
... We can make a priori judgments; the negation of such judgments would a logical absurdity because a priori knowledge is known without sensory data. (huh?)
... We combine a priori and a posteriori knowledge
... We have freedom
... God is not essential for his moral argumentation
... The objective facts about the human knowledge leads to Kant's morality
... We must act ought of a sense of duty in order to be moral
... Moral action does not come out of following inclinations
... Moral standards must be followed without qualification
... We must always act so that the means of our actions could be a universal law
... We must always treat people as ends not means

Mill, John Stuart (1806-1873)
... The Utilitarian principle is correct when the quality of pleasures is accounted for
... Liberty is the most important pleasure

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
... When we choose something, we affirm the value of our choice because we have chosen it above other choices
... When we choose something for ourselves, we should choose it for all people.
... We must be consistent in our interpretations of moral situations regardless of whom the agent is.
... Logic cannot help us specific situations
... Making conscious moral choices is more significant than consistently following moral guidelines
... The conflict between the interests of two people is in the end, irresolvable

And at the bottom of my list?

... All the fruits of civilization are worthless
... Salvation is found in a rejection of society and a return to simple ascetic living
... Virtue consists in finding salvation in oneself


Take the quiz and see where you fit in with the big guns of Western philosophy.

And you might want to check out a little Austrian humor from Universit?t Innsbruck where you'll find A Non-Philosopher's Guide to Philosophical Terms

a posteriori:
(Non-Philosopher) things you think of when you're sitting down
(Philosopher) knowledge which is the result of and is based upon experience of some kind

a priori:
(Non-Philosopher) something you've thought of to head your "things to do" list
(Philosopher) things you think of when you're sitting down, in an armchair, usually with a snifter of brandy in one hand

(Non-Philosopher) almost precisely cubical and made of concrete, probably a multi-story car park
(Philosopher) one who believes that the morally right action is the one with the best consequences, so far as the distribution of happiness is concerned; a creature generally believed to be endowed with the propensity to ignore their own drowning children in order to push buttons which will cause mild sexual gratification in a warehouse full of rabbits

... and so on and so forth

Posted by Alan at 19:59 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 15 December 2003 20:18 PST home

Topic: Oddities

Be there! Don't miss the Flaming Sideburns tomorrow night!

In Strasbourg: Flaming Sideburns
High-octane Finnish rock and roll band fronted by an Argentinean singer who sings in both English and Spanish.

December 16 - La Laiterie, 13 rue Hohwald
67000 Strasbourg Tel: 03 88 23 72 37

In Arles: Dr Feelgood
Pile-driving, 1970s rhythm and blues band from Essex heads south for the winter.

December 20 - Cargo de Nuit, 7 Ave Sadi Carnot
13200 Arles Tel: 04 90 49 55 99


Yep, Finnish rock and roll by an Argentinean channeling Elvis....

No, I did NOT make this up.

Posted by Alan at 11:56 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 15 December 2003 18:08 PST home

Topic: The Culture

Quote for the day - having something to do with the death penalty, or war, or any of the ideological reasons one might have for killing other folks because it's the right thing to do, as with the Saddam Hussein or the DC snipers. Or maybe it's the right thing because it's someone who disagrees with your particular ideological preference... whatever.

"A further reason for my hatred of National Socialism and other ideologies is quite a primitive one. I have an aversion to killing people for the fun of it. What the fun is, I did not quite understand at the time, but in the intervening years the ample exploration of revolutionary consciousness has cast some light on this matter. The fun consists in gaining a pseudo-identity through asserting one's power, optimally by killing somebody--a pseudo-identity that serves as a substitute for the human self that has been lost."
- Eric Voegelin, Autobiographical Reflections

Say what? Interesting, but way too deep.

So see Iraqi-Run Trial Holds Promise and Peril
The nation could grow as a democracy if it adheres to the rule of law -- not vengeance.
Alissa J. Rubin and Henry Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2003

They quote Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch: "The capture of Saddam provides an opportunity that either will continue the cycle of revenge or begin the rule of law."

So what's this justice stuff? Not the same as revenge (vengeance)? How so?

See Definitions of Justice at the site Body and Soul where "Joan" has some thoughts:
I've been thinking this morning about a moment in 2000 that helped move me from simply not voting for Bush to actually fearing he might win. During a debate, Al Gore raised the issue of hate crimes legislation, and spoke about the death of James Byrd, who was chained to a truck and dragged to his death. There are reasonable objections to hate crimes legislation. I have some concerns about them myself. But Bush's objections were far from reasonable:

"The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what's going to happen to them?" Bush said, smiling. "They'll be put to death. A jury found them guilty. It will be hard to punish them any worse after they get put to death."

... no matter how much benefit of the doubt I tried to give Bush, I ended up seeing a man grinning at the thought of execution, smug in what seemed to me the bizarre belief that justice is all about catching bad people and killing them. I'll try to give Bush the benefit of the doubt once more and assume it was not bloodlust that provoked that smile, but reveling in his own sense of righteousness. But it was repulsive either way.

That revelation of character and beliefs has come to be far more important than I imagined. So much of what has gone wrong with this country since Bush became president stems from a belief in simple justice, a belief that if we just eliminate all the bad guys, good will triumph.

Saddam Hussein's capture this morning triggered this old memory. I'm happy that one of the most brutal tyrants on earth was captured, not killed. Good. Maybe we will get some answers. Certainly there will be a trial.

I admit to a somewhat less civilized pleasure over the fact that he was caught in a hole in the ground, imprisoned by himself, buried. Is anyone so noble that he doesn't delight in that? Would God herself expect us to rise above such pleasure? (On the other hand, I will never get used to the sound of joy and gloating at misery. It is simply beyond my understanding, and there is always something that startles and scares me about that noise.) "Enchanting" is a horrible word choice to describe it, but it is certainly a fitting end for a man who imprisoned and buried so many innocent people.

But there was something very disturbing in the reports of Saddam's own response to his capture:

"He was unrepentant and defiant," said Adel Abdel-Mahdi, a senior official of a Shiite Muslim political party who, along with other Iraqi leaders, visited Saddam in captivity.

"When we told him, 'If you go to the streets now, you will see the people celebrating,'" Abdel-Mahdi said. "He answered, 'Those are mobs.' When we told him about the mass graves, he replied, 'Those are thieves.'"

Justice is simple. If you capture and kill all the bad people, all the people who oppose you, good will triumph.
Well Joan, "simple" works for most folks these days.

Back in the sixties I shouldn't have read that long, book-length poem by that Jewish writer from the UK - In a Cold Season by Michael Hamburger, about the trial and execution of Adolf Eichmann. Apart from the poet's odd and amusing last name, as I recall the idea was to ask the question of whether it was good for us that instead of six million dead, we now had six million and one dead. What does that make us? Yadda, yadda. You get the idea.

Well, everyone these days thinks death is a good thing. Or at least a useful thing. I don't want to be the odd man out here.

Readers of the magazine might want to reference my October 12, 2003 Review of Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing With the Death Penalty; Scott Turow; Farrar, Straus & Giroux: 166 pp., $18 - where such things are further discussed.

As Turow points out, on the one hand, murder is a crime so extreme that it requires the most extreme retribution. On the other, state-sanctioned killing reduces our society to its lowest common denominator, making all of us complicit in the taking of a life. But then again as for those who are enthusiastic about the death penalty as "a statement of moral value" to be applied widely, and often, to say exactly who we are - to clearly show what we just won't tolerate - what about that view?

I guess I'm basically a Hamburger helper.

Posted by Alan at 09:18 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 15 December 2003 09:35 PST home

Sunday, 14 December 2003

Topic: Photos

A rainy Sunday in Los Angeles, and these guys don't like it much...

Posted by Alan at 14:21 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Iraq

One more view on the question of the French - Should we "share" contracts with Old Europe now that Saddam Hussein has been taken care of?

James Taranto in his Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal: Best of the Web Today - December 14, 2003 regarding the comments of John Kerry:
On "Fox News Sunday," the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam, elaborated: "Diplomacy is critical. You need to reach out here and bring other countries to the table. It's the lack of the United States' willingness to share the authority and responsibility that is keeping other countries from being involved."

Kerry has a rather blinkered view of diplomacy; he seems to equate it to "making nice with your adversaries."

Sometimes, of course, that's a wise thing to do, but this isn't one of them. This is a time for recrimination and finger-pointing! The French and others actively worked to obstruct the liberation of Iraq and keep this vicious tyrant in power. We didn't need their help, we did it without them, and rewarding them now would send precisely the wrong message to all the nations of the world. They must pay for their perfidy so that everyone else will know such betrayal has a price. That's diplomacy too.
Indeed, it is.

Well, we won a big one today - without anyone else's help at all. One knows some gloating is a natural reaction.

And he adds this:
Oh, and isn't it a sweet coincidence that Saddam's capture occurred on the third anniversary of Gore's concession?
Really? Today? Interesting.

Posted by Alan at 12:45 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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