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August 29th, 2016

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

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  1. August 29th, 2016 at 23:01 | #1

    Markets are an efficient way to find the best price for goods and services.

    Money markets are a grossly inefficient way to find the best use of investment funds where the measure of efficiency is the capital cost per unit of real output. Inefficient money markets now cost the economy at least as much as the total value of the output of non-financial, goods and services.

    Money markets maximise money by getting the most money from the least amount of investment.

    What we need are ways to invest the least amount of money to get the greatest value of goods and services.

  2. Ikonoclast
    August 30th, 2016 at 08:36 | #2

    The Great Malaise continues as Stiglitz predicted.


    We need massive investment in public infrastructure and services. This includes the transition to renewable energy. We could do all this while consuming equal or less resources by reducing wasteful and indulgent overconsumption in consumer items. We need to move money from consumption and the FIRE sector to productive investments in a new, renewable, sustainable economy.

  3. August 30th, 2016 at 09:09 | #3

    @ikonoclast Here is how to do it. We can start by repairing the budget by removing debt then issuing more Tax Rewards to fund infrastructure. This will soak up the excess cash. I am making progress in selling Water Rewards to a Water Authority. See here for other opportunities. https://kevinrosscox.me/2016/08/22/money-markets-destroy-value/

    The Federal Government can solve the debt problem by allowing people to pre-pay their taxes. Those who pre-pay taxes get a Tax Reward voucher on their taxes. The Tax Reward is an 8% discount on tax for each year held. The value of a Tax Reward voucher increases with inflation and is transferrable.

    Everyone in the country gets an allocation of the right to purchase Tax Rewards, and they can sell their rights or use them to buy Tax Rewards. Every company that has paid tax gets the right to purchase Tax Reward vouchers.

    The government uses the money from the Tax Rewards to pay off overseas debt. Paying off debt saves the government paying interest and repairs the budget. At the same time, it gives superannuation funds a government-backed inflation-adjusted high yield investment.

  4. Ikonoclast
    August 30th, 2016 at 13:54 | #4

    @Kevin Cox

    Sorry m8, it sounds like smoke and mirrors to me. I mean the promised 8% or 10% annual return in perpetuity on a one-off “investment” in taxes or water and not linked to any market variables. This is now a low interest environment and your scheme appears to have no connection to market rates or to anything else that I can discern. How can anyone pre-pay taxes? The liability is not known until the income is known.

    Overall, I agree that the modern money-finance system has many serious problems. However, if there is anything worse than a money system, it’s a voucher system.

  5. GrueBleen
    August 30th, 2016 at 21:13 | #5

    Your #4

    Well Australia had a few Federal Budget surpluses during the Howard/Costello era. Surely all we need do is drag them both back out of retirement to do it again, but this time spend the surplus on infrastructure instead of tax breaks for the well-to-do and rich.

    Problem solved.

  6. Ikonoclast
    September 1st, 2016 at 11:28 | #6


    Nice try but no cigar. By both definition and by budgetary axioms, a surplus is unspent. If you were heading for a surplus after all other budget incomes and outflows and then spent the “otherwise surplus” on infrastructure, you would finish with a balanced budget and not a surplus. A true surplus is pointless unless you want to withdraw spending power from tax payers in order to damp an overheated economy.

    If you declare a “surplus” and then put it in a future fund as Howard/Costello did then ipso facto it is not a budgetary surplus. The budget outcome balance in this case is the surplus minus the monies transferred to the future fund.

    Australia’s future fund is pointless. It serves no useful purpose. The monies placed in it should either have been;

    (a) not taxed; OR
    (b) taxed and withdrawn from the money supply by way of budgetary surplus; or
    (c) taxed and spent on infrastructure.

    The most appropriate course of action at any point in time depends on the state of the economy and infrastructure at that point in time.

    Norway’s accumulation of a future fund or sovereign wealth fund did and does make sense. State revenue from oil as foreign earnings was so large compared to Norway’s economy and annual budget that it could not all be absorbed into the Norwegian economy in each year of receipt (as investment in infrastructure or in any other way). Thus it was invested outside of Norway to provide future income from the rest of the world to Norway when Norway’s oil fields ran dry, as they are now doing. This presupposes that the investments don’t fail and that the economy of the rest of the world doesn’t fail.

  7. totaram
    September 1st, 2016 at 16:37 | #7

    Spot on! Agree completely.

  8. GrueBleen
    September 2nd, 2016 at 08:34 | #8

    Your #6

    Now that’s a strange thing to say about Ausland’s much vaunted Future Fund, Ikono.

    Its point is that when it reaches Au$140 billion it will cover the withdrawal of Au$7 billion per year for 20 years to “… meet the government’s future liabilities for the payment of superannuation to retired civil servants of the Australian Public Service.”

    That is, to cover the supposedly “unfunded commitment” to pay the ‘Defined Benefit Super’ that pubserves accumulated before such things were wiped out by neoliberal “reform”. Otherwise, that Au$7 billion would have to come out of consolidated revenue every year – and we can’t have that. Why, we could end up with a massive budget deficit if we did that – you just ask Peter Costello – that world famous ex Treasurer – and he’ll tell you so.

    Besides, if Gillard hadn’t been terrorised out of imposing the ‘mining excessive profits’ tax, our FF would have been just like Norway’s SWF, except with coal and iron oil instead of hydrocarbons.

    But looking up our FF in Wiki, it says that we have no less than 5 separate “Nation Building” funds:

    1 Building Australia Fund – An infrastructure fund to improve and create major infrastructure projects (including road, rail, ports and broadband). At 30 September 2015, it was valued at A$3.64 billion.
    2 Health and Hospitals Fund – A health infrastructure fund to provide increased spending on hospitals and medical equipment. At 30 September 2015, it was valued at A$459 million.
    3 Education Investment Fund – A fund to provide capital investment in higher education and vocational education and training. At 30 September 2015, it was valued at A$3.69 billion.
    4 DisabilityCare Australia Fund – A fund to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Fund receives contributions from the 0.5% increase in the medicare levy from 1 July 2014. At 30 September 2015, it was valued at A$3.40 billion.
    5 Medical Research Future Fund – At 30 September 2015, it was valued at A$1.01 billion.

    Now, doesn’t all that make your heart skip a beat with a swell of national pride ?

  9. September 2nd, 2016 at 18:53 | #9

    @Ikonoclast Think it through.

    This is not a perpetual rent scheme. You pay your taxes and the amount you have goes down. With debt, if you only pay the interest your capital remains. The existing system is a “perpetual money machine”. Capital goes down when you repay any amount with discounts. It is not a money generating machine.

    You can pre-pay taxes. You don’t have to know how much. If you pre-pay too much then you can sell your pre-payments.

  10. Ernestine Gross
    September 3rd, 2016 at 16:34 | #10

    From a merely financial perspective, a safe and high rate of return investment opportunity during the past year was cigarettes. The rate of return was high (relative to bank deposit rates or very low risk superannuation options) because of the high tax increases. The rate of return on investment was safe because the additional tax had been announced – in steps – and the stuff doesn’t decay quickly. Here you go, there is a way to beat the low deposit rates offered by banks for relatively small amounts. As is the case almost universally, this investment opportunity also was not available to people on very low incomes with no ‘capital’.

  11. GrueBleen
    September 3rd, 2016 at 21:52 | #11

    @Ernestine Gross
    Your #10

    I dunno, Ernestine … how much storage space would I need for Au$1 million worth of cigarettes ? And where would I buy them all ?

    Not that I exactly have “a cool million” to spend on cigarettes, you understand, it was an entirely hypothetical question, of course.

  12. Ernestine Gross
    September 3rd, 2016 at 23:04 | #12


    The storage space requirement depends on the time of purchase. Given post 1 September 2016 retail prices, you’d need about 5.5 cubic m space. But the supply would last for over 100 years, given 1 pac a day consumption. I suppose I should have mentioned this ‘investment opportunity’ exists only for smokers with a little bit of capital (who were reminded of the old notion of ‘opportunity cost’ when reading JQ’s blog). For reselling you’d need a licence and pay taxes on profits and you wouldn’t buy from retailers.

  13. GrueBleen
    September 4th, 2016 at 03:01 | #13

    @Ernestine Gross
    Your #12

    Only 5.5 m^3 ? Strewth, smokes must be expensive now. By 1 pack a day, I take it you mean a pack of 20. Last time I bought fags, I bought them in a carton of 4 packs each of 50.

    But no, I gave up the weeds several years ago: like all of life’s little gifts (Poseidon shares at $2 and Berkshire Hathaway at whatever they were 50 years ago), this too has passed me by. Caveat emptor indeed, but also carpe diem.

    Is “opportunity cost” really an “old notion” ? I always thought it was timeless. Then again, there’s not much left I really want to do any more- I guess I missed my chance to paddle up the Amazon or climb Mt Everest – so I guess fewer ‘opportunities’ means much less cost.

  14. Ernestine Gross
    September 4th, 2016 at 13:39 | #14


    In reverse order of appearance:

    1. Opportunity cost. Old or timeless are both o.k. with me, although for different reasons (talked or written about before I was born, therefore ‘old’ – easy; is defined independent of time – often ignored in economic texts other than those which work with comparative rates of change, called rates of return in finance, etc in other areas).
    The number of alternatives is interesting. IMHO, opportunity cost is reasonably well defined conceptually if there is only 1 alternative. If there is none, then the opp. cost is zero or undefined. If there are more than 1 alternative, say n, then there are n opportunity costs. In general I don’t find this notion very helpful.

    2. Budget repair. You queried this phrase. Perhaps the cig tax example will do to explore this ‘new’ phrase.

    The Fed Gov announces a sequence of tax increases with the aim of reducing its budget deficit on the grounds that: (a) it increases tax revenue and (b) it reduces smoking and therefore increases public health and decrease expenditure on public health, all else unchanged. In summary, ‘budget repair’ refers to reducing a budget deficit (setting aside those who seem to think that a surplus is the aim on the grounds that the Gov, like business, has to be profitable).

    A smoker buys cig inventory to avoid paying the announced tax increases to reduce an anticipated budget deficit on personal account. In summary, ‘anticipated budget repair’.

    Depending on the number of smokers who are into ‘anticipated budget repair’, the Fed Gov’s budget repair objective in this regard will be frustrated. The Gov could avoid or mitigating this by not increasing the tax rate by no more than the lowest deposit rate or the lowest borrowing rate. As it stands, an approximately 10% risk free rate on investment in inventory for individuals is for the taking.

    The cig example shows a limitation of focusing only on financial variables. The ‘risk free rate on investment’ ignores the risk to health of the tax minimising, anticipated budget-repair invididual. By contrast, the Fed Gov talks about it, even though they actually don’t have control over it because cig smoking is not illegal. However, the Fed Gov talks about the need to repair the budget to save future generations from increased taxes while ignoring the future ‘health’ of the environment on which the life of future generations depends. A stark reminder that ‘markets are incomplete’.

    The example also shows that the Fed Gov needs to take into account not only its financial budget but that of everybody else. It is relative prices that matter even for merely financial budgets, not the ranking of expenditure items by size to determine cuts or increases.

    So, there is a lot left to be done under the heading of ‘budget repair’.

  15. Ikonoclast
    September 4th, 2016 at 14:03 | #15

    @Ernestine Gross

    A bit of fun.

    Question 1.

    (a) Will markets ever be complete under capitalism? Explain reasoning.

    (b) Will markets ever be complete under any economic system which includes markets in any form? Explain reasoning.

    (c) What social or institutional measures can adjust for the incomplete nature of markets?

    Question 2.

    What is the opportunity cost of denying opportunity?

    Question 3.

    In setting a Pigovian tax on tobacco, is there a best trade-off point between health costs averted, enforcement costs incurred and revenue lost to illegal tobacco trading?

  16. GrueBleen
    September 4th, 2016 at 16:31 | #16

    @Ernestine Gross
    Your #14

    This is the second time you’ve done this to me; replied to my naive questions in a way that will require me to think ! And what’s the opportunity cost in lost mnidless pleasure if I have to spend hours thinking.

    However, I still have some difficulties with adressing the question of “What is this thing called Budget ~Repair~”. I don’t think that our two financial non-whizzes, Malcolm and Scott have any more idea than a previous pair: John and Peter.

    I keep wondering where we’re going if we (Australia) has to continue to accept a perpetual Current Account Deficit because we seem absolutely determined to maintain a perpetual Trade Deficit. We have had the Federal Budget in surplus quite a few times (Hawke-Keating and then, courtesy of a large mining resources boom which vitiated the Trade Deficit considerably, Howard-Costello – but isn’t that just a form of Dutch Disease ?).

    As to your cigarette narrative, well I only have one question at this very moment: how high can the tobacco tax go before a flood of cheaper supply on the black market (including my “cool million’s” worth of fags) actually reduces the net tax take on tobacco/cigarettes ? Will this be a kinf of ‘American Prohibition’ all over again, but in Australia ?

  17. Ernestine Gross
    September 4th, 2016 at 16:45 | #17


    I’ll respond with a bit more fun.

    (a), (b), and (c): Your questions are examples of the problem of an indeterminate system.

    Q2: No idea. Not sure anybody could answer this question in good faith, that is, without interpreting the question until it fits a known answer.

    Q3: If the sequence of cigarette tax rate increases of the Fed Gov were arrived at via a Pigovian tax calculation then talking about trade-offs is merely hypothetical because it missed an obvious tax loophole without violating any laws. (Just as it is not illegal to buy say 50kg of rice as private inventory when the commodity is on special at about half the average price, it is not illegal to do the same with cigarettes.

  18. Ikonoclast
    September 4th, 2016 at 21:03 | #18

    @Ernestine Gross

    Tricky questions. Only if you feel like answering.

    1. Is it necessary to microeconomics that the economic agent be considered as having free will?
    2. Or is it sufficient to regard the agent as an algorithmic-heuristic goal seeking entity?
    3. If point two is answered in the affirmative, are preferences considered as given and fixed or are preferences considered to be any or all of labile, malleable or “evolvable” over time in some sense?
    4. If point 3 is answered in the affirmative in whole or part, how would this be modeled (in very concise overview obviously).

    Note:- I am not committed to the view that human free will exists. This does not mean I think human decisions are all deterministic. I lean to the view that human “free will” is generated by a combination of indeterminacy effects and fuzzy logic. Neurologically, there are active structures just small enough to be possibly affected by quantum random events. Very speculatively and unclearly I admit, the neural net of the brain could be an “indeterminacy harnessing engine” (my term) which produces what we may term “pseudo free will”.

  19. Troy Prideaux
    September 5th, 2016 at 09:13 | #19

    Lots of headlines today about the “internal war” within the Climate Authority. No doubt JQ can’t publicly say much about it, although I suppose there’s not many gaps to fill in.

  20. GrueBleen
    September 5th, 2016 at 09:52 | #20

    YOUR #18

    Now you do realise, Ikono, that the “free will” argument is just about the most senseless waste of time ever invented. Apart from the point that there is simply no even approximately operational/meaningful definitions for “free”, “will”, and “free will” – so nobody ever knows or can say what they’re actually rambling on about – if there is, in some way, actually no “free will” then every last word said on the matter is totally preordained and will not change anybody’s mind on the matter.

    Though it might appear so – except that there’s nothing for anything to “appear to” – if it has been preordained that, upon hearing or reading certain words is the ‘trigger’ for when certain “people” will change what they say – so go ahead, keep writing your preordained words and I will keep on ignoring them in my preordained way because if there is no free will, there is no “people”, is there ? Just automatons – walking bags of protoplasm exhibiting their preordained “behaviours”. But why, I plaintively ask, did nature “create” the Ikonoclast automaton and then make more automatons like me who have to give the impression of “responding” to you ?

    However, I quite like the quantum uncertainty and the “indeterminacy harnessing engine” though – but how can you say that means “indeterminacy effects” when clearly you are just substituting “free quantum physics” for “free will”. But I like the “fuzzy logic” bit – a little statistical uncertainty never hurt anybody.

  21. GrueBleen
    September 5th, 2016 at 11:17 | #21

    @Ernestine Gross
    Your #17

    Well I think this “Budget Repair” thing is finally starting to get through to me. Oh, the endless ways that can be found to confound almost anything. Is this, I ask, why neither Capitalism nor Socialism will ever work ? <- that's rhetorical, btw, so it isn't Q1

    But I think I will have to formally notate my questions in future – you know, 1a 1b etc – so that then you can just reply as:
    1a – No.
    1b – Yes.
    1c – Maybe.

    That will make life simpler for us both, won't it ? <- that was Q1 by the way.

    However, I do have to thank you for these words: "…interpreting the question until it fits a known answer." Oh, that I haven't until now actually articulated that thought with such clarity. Oh yes, we have our "hammers and nails" and suchlike, but your words just kinda hit the spot, and now I can plagiarise you all over the joint.

    And now for something different. I imagine that you might go to Mark Thoma's Economist's View blog often, and if so, you might have noticed, in Mark's links for "09-04-16" (or 4th September as I might say) a post from the Stumbling and Mumbling blog titled "On Incompetence". I found it a most confirmatory post. Have you perchance read it, and if so, what is your response (but don't tell Ikono – unless your total lack of "free will" compels you to – because it would destroy his belief system – if his non-deterministic fuzzy quantum unfree will determines that that is what it will do). <- that is Q2.

  22. Ikonoclast
    September 5th, 2016 at 15:12 | #22


    One cannot know beforehand which investigations, philosophical or scientific, will prove to be fruitful and which will not. One may follow hunches, educated guesses or various programmatic approaches building on existing advances. The branch of philosophy called metaphysics is the precursor of science and is still necessary to assist science at the broadest conceptual level. Without metaphysics, no science firstly, and no ordered science secondly.

    I accept all your points about the need for definitions and the difficulties in attempting definitions for the seemingly undefinable. This is no reason to give up the attempt. First up, “free will” is an hypothesis or a working assumption or a common sense “truth” for the many and varied people who settle for one or another of these categories. Surely all that needs to be investigated. Granted, a philosophical analysis of “free will” will not affect our subjective experience of free will and will not change free will qua (in the very capacity of) free will, if free will exists in some manner. A change in philosophical outlook or the development a new philosophical system will not dispel the standard qualia experienced by most humans including apparent free will as experienced. These qualia will remain precisely or much the same as before. On the other hand, illness and madness certainly can and do change qualia. I do not expect or even want philosophy to perform the offices of illness and madness. I do however want philosophy to re-examine hypotheses and assumptions and suggest a more nearly accurate re-casting of them where it can. Just my opinion of course.

    “The unexamined life is not worth living.” – attributed to Socrates.

  23. GrueBleen
    September 5th, 2016 at 15:52 | #23

    Your #22

    So, you reckon that just because something is impossible, doesn’t license not to try doing it.

    Now let’s get this clear: the only reason there was ever any discussion of “free will” was because some early Christians reckoned that if God punishes man because of his sins (and hers too), then we must have the capacity to know what is sin and to be able to resist it – ie to possess a will free enough to recognise and resist sin. Hence the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil” and of the original “sin” of having consumed said fruit.

    That’s it, mate. That’s all of it. That’s where the idea of “will” comes from, and that’s where the qualification of “free” was added. You can call that philosophy, or metaphysics or any other category you can think of, but it is simply juvenile theology because God’s “punishements” had to at least appear to be “just”.

    Metaphysics doesn’t contribute anything to physics, it was just an invention of Aristotle’s that was done away with as soon as Francis Bacon invented the ‘Scientific Method’ which incorporated both ontology and phenomenology. Thereafter, he Novum Organum superseded the Organon.

    Sokrates was a hoplite who wouldn’t (or couldn’t) write things down. So every last little thing that is associated with him is always “attributed”. And most of it was freely “attibuted” by Mr Broad-Shoulders aka Aristocles.

  24. Alphonse
    September 5th, 2016 at 16:53 | #24

    Hamilton, Karoly, Q … ?

  25. Ikonoclast
    September 5th, 2016 at 19:16 | #25


    Thanks, I get the message. It’s a waste of time communicating with you.

  26. GrueBleen
    September 5th, 2016 at 20:01 | #26

    Your #25

    You didn’t get the message at all, then, did you. But your choice, Captain, your choice.

  27. Ikonoclast
    September 6th, 2016 at 12:40 | #27


    Well, I think I did get the message. The message was that you weren’t interested in serious discussion, including serious rebuttals. You preferred dismissive jibes, sweeping statements and factually incorrect historical claims. The problem of human agency, in various guises or forms, is already there in Plato and Aristotle, if not in even earlier Greek philosophers. This places it at least 400 years before the common era; thus even more years than that before the Christian philosopher-theologians. Jewish philosophy / theology also addressed the issue of human agency well before the Christians; derivative, syncretist borrowers that the latter mostly are.

    Bacon did not do away with Aristotelian empirical thinking so much as refine it and develop it (as did Berkeley and Hume further develop issues later on). Bacon, instigated formal scientific method and did so by pure reasoning or induction (philosophy, logic, metaphysics). It was a passage of Hume’s which gave the seed idea of evolution to Darwin as Darwin attested himself. Clearly philosophy and especially the metaphyics of ontology and epeistemolgy have assisted the inception and progress of science. Plenty of philosophers and scientists (I could cite a long and illustrious list down to the present day) think there are profound, extensive and useful links between metaphysics and science and that these disciplines continue to assist each other. Excuse me if I rate them as higher authorities than you.

    Arguably science has moved on from being little sister to big sister in the relationship but metaphysics is still necessary and useful. I don’t mean speculative metaphysics, I mean of course ontology and epistemology. Even less do I mean theology. But these are serious arguments and I doubt your interest in same. You prefer poking fun at serious inquiry. That is fine and your right. Just don’t be surprised if someone attempting to think seriously gets annoyed. Considered assays at rebuttal would be another thing but as I have demonstrated, your post very clearly was not a considered rebuttal.

  28. GrueBleen
    September 6th, 2016 at 16:26 | #28

    Your #27

    Ok, from you: “The message was that you weren’t interested in serious discussion, including serious rebuttals. You preferred dismissive jibes, sweeping statements and factually incorrect historical claims”.

    For me, that shows that you aren’t interested in serious discussion, nor in making serious rebuttals, but just in personally demeaning jibes, sweeping statements and factually incorrect claims. So thank you for taking our “communication” out of the public and into the realm of private abuse. Now tell me, Ikono, have I ever insulted you in a similar way ?

    Perhaps you think you don’t indulge in “dismissive jibes”, perhaps, in your self-presumption you really do think you always deal in factually correct historical claims.

    In the meantime, try to see if you can distinguish between ‘human agency’ – ie (pre)determinism versus agency. Perhaps you would like to go to Wikipedia – the article titled ‘Free Will’ and therein you will find this statement:

    “The term “free will” (liberum arbitrium) was introduced by Christian philosophy (4th century CE).”

    So, Ikono, you only deal in factually correct historical claims, do you ? So who was “factually correct” here: me insisting that “free will” is a Christian theological construct, or you insisting it goes back to the Greeks ? Maybe next time you might do just a weeny bit of research yourself before telling porkies.

    Now, if you actually want to discuss the broader question of (pre)determinism and human agency, just say so. I’ll read the rest of your missive shortly, and try to separate it it from this.

  29. GrueBleen
    September 6th, 2016 at 17:02 | #29

    Your #27 again

    Ok, I read the rest. So, here we go

    Yes, Ikono, Bacon seriously did do away with Aristotle’s thinking which basically was not empirical. Surely you know about the problem with Mrs Aristotle’s teeth ?

    Bacon’s Nouvum Organum, like I said, superseded Aristotle’s Orhanon, Ikono. You do know, or can at least Google, the meanining of ‘supersede’ ? In any case, nobody reads Aristotle or Bacon or Berkeley these days – Hume still maybe. These days we read Kuhn and Feyerabend – well at least I do, have you ? And, mostly we read Alan Chalmers’ ‘What is This Thing Called Science’ – I’ve read three editions since the first in 1976, but I just haven’t gone on to the 4th yet. You have, of course.

    But as for your little sermon about ‘metaphysics’, I am truly moved to know that you go for the logical fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam. Perhaps you could divert yourself from lazy putdowns to actually tracing where the wondrous ‘metaphysics’ has actually helped.

    And thank you again for that childish putdown of me as not being interested in serious argument. Is that what you call serious argument, Ikono ? So far you’ve been wrong just about everywhere – don’t you think you could get past the gratuitous insults and actually show that you have done some reading and ‘intelligent’ research ?

    Yes, Ikono, I like poking fun at simple-minded so called “inquiry”. And there’s a lot of it in the world, and a huge amount of it on the web, and, if you’ll forgive me for delivering a serious evaluation of your ‘inquiry’, there’s plenty of it in your posts and even a fair bit in mine. Learn to laugh at yourself a little, mate. It’ll help you in life no end.

  30. Ikonoclast
    September 6th, 2016 at 17:31 | #30


    We’ll have to agree to disagree. I do not think you have at all made your case. I am accused by you of the “logical fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam” yet you approvingly quote Kuhn, Feyerabend and Chalmers as authorities. How could that piece of hypocritical argumentation possibly work on your behalf and against me? It cannot. My objection on this point is valid whether or not I accept some or all of the positions of Kuhn, Feyerabend and Chalmers. I wonder if you can see that?

    Your lack of understanding of certain branches of metaphysics, their methods and content, is clear in your cavalier dismissal of it. I have noted that I dismiss theological and purely speculative metaphysics. You clearly don’t yet understand that there is more to metaphysics than that, nor what valid metaphtysics is nor its sources of validity. In this respect a blanket dismissal of metaphysics as a discipline is a bit like a blanket dismissal of climate science (to use a current example). It merely shows how little you know on the topic.

  31. GrueBleen
    September 6th, 2016 at 17:48 | #31

    Your #30

    So not content with throwing insults at me – and thanks for acknowledging them – you want to keep on doing it. Sheesh.

    So, I can see that my mistake all along was assuming you had at least secondary-school levels of reading comprehension, but clearly you do not. In case you think I’m sinking to your level let me illustrate what I mean:

    I mention Kuhn and Fayerabend and Chalmers as being the thinkers and writers that inform modern discussion, it having moved on from Aristotle and Bacon (but probably not Hume). So your reaction is to immediately go spastic and accuse me of hypocrisy because you, somehow, think I’ve claimed them as ‘authorities’. Now you clearly used the word ‘authority’, Ikono. Or are you going to do a Trump and claim you didn’t. I didn’t use the word ‘authority’, Ikono, because I don’t think of Kuhn, Fayerabend or Chalmers as ‘authorities’.

    Can you get any of that Ikono ? Can you actually read what you have said and what I have said and try to understand what actually was said instead of some derogatory bulls**t you want to make up ? Can you ?

  32. Ikonoclast
    September 6th, 2016 at 20:00 | #32

    I will add to my post above to GreuBleen.

    How did Bacon, whom I greatly admire as a philosopher BTW, develop his argument for a first prototype or model of the scientific method? He could not have used scientific method to develop scientific method. A method not yet extant cannot be employed to develop itself. Philosophy must have played a role. Bacon’s work after all is still catalogued in the philosophy section and with good reason. Which aspects or methods of philosophy did Bacon use? He used philosophical logic but what kind of philosophical logic is a reasonable (and complex) question. He also demonstrably used elements from classical Greek philosophy relating to empiricism. “Sextus of Chaeronea, a late Stoic crica 160 AD, would continue this (Stoic) idea of empiricism in later Stoic writings as well. Sextus argues: “For every thought comes from sense-perception or not without sense-perception and either from direct experience or not without direct experience.””

    One of Bacon’s key advances, IMO, was the demonstration of a proper and judicious use of induction, to develop a scientific method by explicating the manner in which particular, systematic and numerous empirical observations could be employed to generate a firm “law” (which at that time he still termed an “axiom” IIRC). I recall, but cannot find a reference at the moment, that Karl Popper claimed to have solved the problem of induction (I think in relation to science and scientific method). I don’t even recall by what precise method he claimed to have done so. I also recall reading Bacon some time later but still quite a while ago now and being brought to a halt with surprise. My basic reaction was “WTF, The problem of induction is already solved in Bacon! What is Popper talking about? What a dodgy and vainglorious claim on his part.” I admit I am hazy on all this now and would have to re-research it to back up this personal anecdote.

    More basically, the specific issue in contention is whether metaphysics (as ontology and epistemology) is anything substantial at all and whether it could have functioned, in any useful form, pre-scientifically yet philosophically or post-scientifically in any manner other than as useless, broad-brush speculation. Broadly, metaphysical ontological suppositions, with “meta-physical” understood rather literally as “beyond or across the physical or after “mere” physical sense experience” seek to use inductive reasoning to develop from few or many particularities showing some aspect or aspects of resemblance, a general “law” or “axiom”. We now tend to reserve the term “law” for real systems (a law of physics) and the term “axiom” for formal systems (an axiom of a given mathematical system). The difference between metaphysical induction and scientific induction is a matter of degree. There is no black and white cutoff point. There is rather a part of this reasoning spectrum with gradations of grey where scientific induction slowly but surely shades into metaphysical induction.

    Metaphysical ontological inductions with bold leaps from surprisingly few physical or empirical particularities or data can be startling accurate on some occasions and they are clearly more than lucky guesses. They can come from surprising sources too. Bishop Berkeley (he of his own special spiritual substance idealism school) by a process of induction of premises and then strict logical deductions from those premises, obtained particular results such as;

    (a) all motion must be relative motion; and
    (b) Newton’s premise of an absolute void as the inertial frame of reference must be false.

    Both induction-generated deductions proved, about 150 years after Berkeley, to be correct. I refer of course to Einstein (and his immediate precursors and scientific desscendent). It might seem passing strange that these results could come out of pure Idealism. The key however is the thoroughly Monistic nature of his spiritul substance Idealism which in essence is a mirror-image of physicalist substance Monism as both share the key characteristic of seeing all of existence as one complex, linked system. It was the complex system aspect, all existence as a unitary monistic system which was the key.

    It is now thought that the Universe, the Cosmos, or all that exists, is best understood as a single, entangled system. The scientific form of this idea, the cosmos as a single, entangled, physical system, has arisen from discoveries and developments in fields from cosmology to quantum mechanics. The consensus view of modern physics interprets the cosmos in this fashion and this view underpins much of the continuing research program. While a comprehensive Theory of Everything (ToE) has not yet been realised, progress is continually being made in discovering further dependable patterns and relationships. The overarching principle is that of Relational Theory. In physics, a relational theory is a system model which regards all that is existent, in the scope of physics, as a single, unified system of existence such that the positions and other properties of objects, processes or fields can only exist relative to the properties of all other objects, processes, or fields. Specific, local properties are conferred, nearly or distantly, by the interrelations of all parts of the whole.

    To reiterate, Berkeley’s induction of all-existence monism (from an admittedly dodgy a priori and dogmatic assumption of “God”) was the key to his prefiguring, in some respects, developments in modern physics. Monism is a clear example of a concept which spans right across the metaphysics – physics spectrum and enables a useful dialogue between the two.

    To return to the issue of philosophical logic – in plain language or mathematical form – in terms of the signifiers and operands of logic. Why does logic work (if it does)? Why does logic apply to the external world (if it does)? There are probably several ways to approach this question. I approach it like this.

    The theory and method of the correspondence theory of truth – which can also be termed “analogical congruence” as in the congruence of but not the identity of a map with the territory mapped – as a theory of truth and a methodical analytical tool, encompasses both the operations of strict mathematical language and the operations of ordinary language. An analogy is a comparison. The Greek root is analogos, meaning “proportionate.” Mathematical operators like “equal”, “greater than” and “less than” compare proportions. Language uses metaphors and similes (among other figures of speech) as comparators. Just as physics abstracts a shared characteristic from real world existents, like mass from different objects, and then uses comparators to compare quantities, so do language “figures”, meaning figures of speech, abstract a characteristic, a “quality”, from reality and compare it between existents. Analogical expressions like similes or metaphors use analogies or refer to them. Comparisons like “She is like a mouse.” or “I was a pig at dinner” are analogical. An essential quality or characteristic of the mouse or the pig, as the case may be, is implicitly or explicitly extracted and likened or equated to a quality or characteristic in the subject of the expression.

    The relationship between mathematical language and figurative or standard language (e.g. English) is thus closer than might first appear. They each operate on the same logic of abstraction of an essential “quality” or “existent characteristic” from diverse objects and then apply comparators in logical or quasi-logical operations. The linguistic descent of mathematics from general language should thus be clear to any who analyse it properly. Why does language exist and why does it work? Answer this question and we also answer why mathematics and logic, as direct descendants of general or ordinary language and as specialist languages in themselves, exist and work; meaning they “work” practically and operatively.

    Language exists (for humans) as a transmission of patterns via the carrier mediums of light or sound (or sometimes touch). This is how it exists in form. How it exists in content is a much more complex issue. Why human language exists and works requires an evolutionary explanation. A survival advantage for humans in terms of competition and natural selection was and is conferred by the development and continued use of language. This must be the base hypothesis for the real world development and use of language. In turn, language “objects” as signifiers, as predicates, objects and operators must themselves undergo natural selection. Useful names, useful concepts and useful operators (the latter developing as logical operators like “and”, “or”, “not”, “if” and so on) must confer a competitive, natural selection advantage from their uses and this advantage must be conceived as operating at natural levels as social-species interactions with inanimate nature and interactions at intra-species and inter-species levels. Language logic operators must themselves be “naturally selected” over the course of human brain evolution, mind evolution and social evolution by their usefulness in conferring real natural selection advantage to populations using such operators.

    How could language operators be selected? The answer must be that they possess an analogical congruence with some aspect of external reality (reality external to mind and language) which congruence confers higher probabilities of success for some or all members of a social species, initially at familial or tribal group levels, in various survival endeavours. Reality is here understood, and must be understood, as comprised completely of interacting real systems. All “parts” of reality are comprised of interacting sub-systems of the monistic, all-existent system. The mind, or collectively communicating minds, as a sub-system or as a system of sub-systems respectively, of the larger natural, monistic real system is/are always and only connected to other sub-systems of the monistic system (such as other mind systems and the biosphere subsystem and then the universe monistic system) by matter-energy transfers and information transfers and these only. There is no need for any other postulate. This postulate satisfies Occam’s razor and is consistent with and “in the general line of growth of scientific ideas” in all the arenas of the hard sciences, namely physics, chemistry, biology, ecology and neurology.

    Overall, this entire entry is the best summary I can make currently and at blog-speed, for the proposition that metaphysics, as ontology, is a valid and useful discipline. I haven’t much touched on epistemology.

  33. GrueBleen
    September 7th, 2016 at 00:49 | #33

    Your #32

    A long and apparently substantial comment Ikono which I will read a little later. A brief inspection indicates that you’ve discontinued the insults, however it didn’t reveal that you had accounted for Mrs Aristotle’s teeth.

    It also doesn’t – again I stress on a very cursory glance – doesn’t tackle the difference between people thinking about, and thinking up, various things, and whether anybody actually took any notice of them. Can you actually show any evidence that any ‘professional’ scientists have ever actually taken any notice of Bacon et al ?

    Certainly very few of them have ever taken any notice of Kuhn or Feyerabend or Popper.

    There is, by the way, a comment of mine that chronologically comes between your #30 and your #32 (you did notice the gap, yes ?) which, for some reason, is currently “under moderation” – probably because I had to go through validation for some reason. You have fairly substantially answered it anyway, so stay placid.

  34. Ikonoclast
    September 7th, 2016 at 07:24 | #34


    1. On the matter of being insulting. I found your post #20 insulting and dismissive. On review of that, I think I was just being too thin-skinned and precious about my own theories. Mea culpa.

    2. On the matter of “free will”. It seems to me, we are getting into disagreements because of our different focuses (or foci). You are focusing on the strict term “free will” (liberum arbitrium) as a theological concept and perhaps also the linking of the concept to Christian morality debates. I am focusing more broadly on the idea of human agency in general and as I noted that discussion does go back to the Greeks (at least).

    3. On the matter of the “logical fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam”, you did nominate me for this award and then within a few sentences started producing your own authorities. On this matter I still consider you are culpable but it’s hardly the “crime of the century” so we can put it aside. More broadly, there are gradations from arguing just from authority and arguing from deductions, inductions etc. and then citing authority for support. I believe the latter is how university theses work outside arenas where primary research is required. (There are many quibbles here about secondary research and empirical and non-empirical disciplines. There are even quibbles about the precise meaning of “empirical” which has somewhat different technical meanings in the philosophical and scientific arenas respectively. If we get into these quibbles they will never end.)

    4. On the matter of Mrs. Aristotle’s teeth. There is also the matter of the waterfall and the illusory motion of the grass. I was not aware of these anecdotes until now. I would never assert that Aristotle was an “empiricist” in the modern scientific sense. Nor would I assert he used or developed the empirical method in the modern scientific sense. Here, I do have to get into the somewhat different technical meanings for “empirical” in the philosophical and scientific arenas respectively.

    In scientific theory and practice, “empirical means “based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.” In philosophy, “empirical” means or tends to mean “strictly from sense experience” which is a stricter definition when one examines it. Modern science follows a “world-view” or a view of reality which assumes that the phenomena presented to us by our senses do in fact indicate that there is something real and external to be detected: that the external world is real. This is, strictly speaking, a position which has already made a metaphysical assumption. There can be no proof that any sense perception is of something real and external. It could be an illusion or delusion generated by the subject. In turn, there can be no complete proof that the external world is real. Berkeley’s philosophy is worth reading. He takes this very strict approach to attack materialism or physicalism as we now call it.

    Berkeley’s logic is impeccable and he substitutes for materialism what I would call an idealism of the spirit. However, the entire edifice is based on an a priori premise of “G o d”. From that premise he makes the induction that the material or physical need not exist. There is another way to explain all our sense impressions. There is just G o d’s spirit and human spirits (which He created). G o d sends “impressions” direct spirit to spirit. This is Berkeley’s contention. I don’t agree with him but strictly speaking I can’t prove him wrong, just as he cannot prove himself right.Overall, he then makes sets of impeccable deductions from his audacious induction. However, I do consider there are chinks in Berkeley’s system.

    An important chink is that it is still a dualist system, surprisingly enough. Berkeley does away with substance dualism (Descartes’ res extensa and res cogitans) and institutes a substance monism. In philosophy, a “substance” may be material or spiritual or perhaps something else the philosopher might define and he might define one, two or more substances. Problems arise in multi-substance philosophy as to how substances communicate with or affect each other. The body-mind or body-consciousness problem under pretty much any version of dualism is an example of this dilemma. There is only “spirit” substance according to Berkeley and this is how he attempts to solve the problems of dualism.

    However, a type of dualism is still required. G o d’s spirit is vastly different from human spirit(s). Positing two kinds of “spirit” is a technical move to operatively bring the essence of dualism back into the philosophical system while formally denying it. I have analysed out some of the implications of Berkeley’s system by treating it as a “virtualism” hypothesis. To the modern mind familiar with computers and “virtual worlds”, there is a clear and obvious temptation and indeed an incentive to analyse Berkeley’s Idealism as operatively akin the creation of a virtual world. One can then map the G o d Spirit – human spirits system as a communication network system running an MMORPG . G o d is the main server, the central operating system and program. It is quite amusing to map it out. In this schema, G o d is an all-powerful transmitter and receiver of impressions operating via many channels. Human spirits on the other hand have only one channel to and from G o d. In a crude sense there are what I suppose (at this stage) logic gates which define who can send and who can receive impressions and how these are routed through the system. As a logical exercise it exposes possible flaws in Berkeley’s system. I won’t go into it here.

    Now, I happen to agree with the metaphysical assumption made by modern science. I do hold to “realism” in that I do agree that a real external world exists (as a system) and human minds exist (as systems). The manner in which I hold “things” to exist is somewhat different from any view I have come across thus far. I hold dualism as untenable because of the influence problem. How do different subtances influence each other? My views are Monist as I have said, viewing the Universe or all that exists as one entangled system. However, in a pure Monism the word “physical” comes to have no meaning. If I were a pure physicalist Monist what meaning would “physical” have? It has no meaning if there is nothing non-physical to contrast it with. The same holds for “spirit substance” monism. What meaning can such a term have with nothing to contrast it to? It comes to the point where we can simply point to “existents” but cannot say what the existents are in substance or in essence. The only “thing” or rather process consistency we can get a hold of is that of the interactions of existents in super system (universe) systems and sub-systems which interactions occur in various law-like manners: the regular, dependable laws of the hard sciences being the best examples. Laws may exhibit deterministic and non-deterministic characteristics. With indeterminism the laws appear in probabilties.

    To summarise, it’s not so simple as to assert “”empiricism” therefore every contention which follows that word is correct”. That’s a crappy way to end but my weet-bix are getting too soggy, maybe along with my mind eh? 🙂

  35. Ikonoclast
    September 7th, 2016 at 09:11 | #35

    GrueBleen, Addendum to my comment above which did not address this question of yours.

    “It also doesn’t – again I stress on a very cursory glance – doesn’t tackle the difference between people thinking about, and thinking up, various things, and whether anybody actually took any notice of them. Can you actually show any evidence that any ‘professional’ scientists have ever actually taken any notice of Bacon et al ?

    Certainly very few of them have ever taken any notice of Kuhn or Feyerabend or Popper.”

    I take your point here. I have asked myself this question. I have wondered whether the inventors of the steam engine followed the physicists or whether the physicists followed the invention of the steam engine. The same question applies to philosophy and science. Do the practitioners of the scientific method follow philosopher-theorist inventors of the method or do the philosopher-theorists see what practical people are doing and then theorise it and systematise it?

    I think this is rather like the chicken and egg question. My answer would be that both happen in a long iterative, self-reinforcing manner: many complex links in a developmental chain. Some bloke or lady does something clever in a practical task. Someone else clever in a mental way observes it, puts it together with they have seen someone else do or that they have done themselves, and begins to make a method or a proto-theory out of it. Someone else practically clever gets hold of the proto-theory. This suggests about 10 things he/she could try out (the idea that this is “experimenting” is not formed yet). Two of these ten things work and are useful. The person is happy but has no real idea why the things that worked did work. Someone else again hears of the two new things which worked. He/she puts this together with the proto-theory which he/she was already aware of. This person now makes a pretty grand theory which covers quite a lot of stuff and is actually pretty good work. It gets well known. It takes off and leads to exponential progress in the field.

    Bear in mind this happens in say Britain which circa the early scientific revolution (Bacon to Newton say and then maybe on to steam engines) is a pretty small place, geographically and socially. Everybody who knows something (is educated and connected) just about knows or knows of everybody else who knows something, I mean in the theoretical arenas. And so far as finding and seeing practical inventions goes, the geographic distances are not so great even in the horse and carriage era. The mail service is passable (mail coaches or post coaches) and the practice and discipline of corresponding (as the need to put it all in one letter at a time and express it well as there is no immediate chance of correcting ambiguities and misunderstandings) perhaps actually assists rather than detracts from clear communication.

    Also, bear in mind that a rationalism (pure reason) derived idea can kick off a thought that makes someone try something practical. This could be pure serendipity or it could be a bit more than that. I actually argue, in my amateur, naive, progressing, never to be published philosophical work, that there are reasons why rationalism, as so-called pure reasoning, can sometimes make correct deductions about the real world. This is not withstanding that pure reason, employed carelessly, unwisely or just too enthusiastically, can come up with buckets, nay tankers, of absolutely speculative nonsense.

    The reason pure rational deduction can work, sometimes, is that it works with signifiers and logical operators already evolved in language over millennia to actually refer usefully to real (external) objects, processes and systems. This systematic “analogical congruence” of a language useful for referring to systematic external reality can ensure than some extended logical operations in the language (using only language) can successfully replicate or describe real, existent operations in the external world.

    The limits of useful, valid rational deduction are related to the limits of language itself. Languages, as various whole extant languages, really only describe a fraction of real world objects, processes and laws. The key importance of taxonomy for example (in this context) is in expanding the language’s (now a scientific language and maybe in Latin) vocabulary to increase the languages number of drescriptors of real objects, species, processes etc. This is a precursor to being able to develop more comprehensive, unifying hypotheses for testing. Thus language must be expanded, to expand the scope of hypothetical conceptualising (be the hypothesis physical or metaphysical). In turn, under the scientific method the hypotheses must be tested in the proper manner. See Humboltian Science for some reference to these issues.

    If I may I will give an example of how language can contain the necessary elements for pure rational deduction to indicate something real about the real world. It is claimed that while we have one word for snow, the Eskimos have about twenty words for snow. In English a rational deduction about snow from language evidence about snow (and I assert pure reason deduction simply happens in pure language) might be the simplistic “ah snow, it’s just snow, it’s all the same.” Given some pre-existing knowledge, from empiricism, that the characteristics of “something” can depend strongly on its fine structure, such a person would deduce, “all snow has the same fine structure”, an incorrect deduction. A person fluent in “Eskimo” who is also a scientist might well make a different deduction from pure reason, which essentially means from pure language.

    Proposition 1: There are several kinds of snow named in “Eskimo”.
    Proposition 2: The characteristics of “something” can depend strongly on its fine structure.
    Deduction: Each kind of snow could show a different fine structure.

    Then off they go to scientifically test their “pure reason” deductions which are really just “pure language” deductions from two different languages.

    “The dispute between rationalism and empiricism concerns the extent to which we are dependent upon sense experience in our effort to gain knowledge. Rationalists claim that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience. Empiricists claim that sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge.” – Stanford Philosophy online.

    It would seem the empiricists are correct. However, such correctness does not exclude the possibility of “pure reason” at least as “pure language” – which I posit is the only sense in which pure reason exists – from making correct deductions without full direct primary empirical investigation. Pure reason or rather pure language can do this because it uses “embedded empirical observation” in its construction of at least some signifiers and operands. Of course pure language also uses “embedded fancifulness” in its construction of at least some other signifiers and operands. Hence in attempting to use pure reason (that is pure language) one has to be very careful because quite literally “Here be dragons”.

    This in turn explains the rationale for the construction of specialist languages like scientific language and nomenclature, some pure logics and some mathematics. These languages represent an attempt to purge out signifiers and operands which do not refer to reality (reality here being all systems external to language systems) or which do not allow a consistent abstraction from reality such that abstracted quantities can be manipulated consistently and successfully and then successfully be applied back to reality systems external to the mathematical language systems. This is true of at least of a good proportion of physics and applied mathematics. Of pure mathematics and “imaginary” quantities I am not so sure. I am not at all qualified to speculate about what goes on there. I have some very sketchy theories about that too but they are way too speculative.

  36. Tim Macknay
    September 7th, 2016 at 11:33 | #36


    I have wondered whether the inventors of the steam engine followed the physicists or whether the physicists followed the invention of the steam engine.

    I’m no expert on the history, but my understanding is that the field of thermodynamics developed very much in conjunction with, and was largely informed by the study of, heat engines, particularly the steam engine.

  37. GrueBleen
    September 7th, 2016 at 15:04 | #37

    A partial resopnse to your #32 (rather than wait until I’ve been through all and produce an even longer opus)

    The problem of induction

    As we know, deduction is going from the general (a “law”) to the particular (an instance of that law applying to the ‘corporeal universe’). Thus, if “All swans are white” (law) then “if this is a swan then it is white” (instance).

    Induction, au contraire, is going from multiple occurrences of an “instance” to formulate a “law”. Thus: if this swan is white, and this different swan is white and …. and all the swans I’ve ever seen are white (multiple “instances”) then I conclude that “All swans are white” (“law). So far, so good. But we like to gather confirmatory evidence if we can, so we start looking around us and see an old pair of brown boots. Oh, now the canons (axioms) of logic – at least in the simple forms we know them – tell us that “all a are b” is fully and irrevocably equivalent to “all not-b are not-a”.

    So, if all swans are white, equivalently, all not-white things are not-swans. So, in fact a pair of old brown (ie not-white) boots is logically a confirming instance of the law that “all swans are white”. Thus the vast majority of things in the universe – all those that are not white = are instances of confirmatory evidence for the law: “all swans are white”. Capiche ?

    Would it help to mention that nowadays we don’t use induction, we use Bayesian probability instead ? Which could indeed be considered a “solution to the problem of induction”.

    Is that the “problem of induction” you had in mind, Ikono ?

  38. GrueBleen
    September 7th, 2016 at 15:32 | #38

    A further partial response to your #32

    Bishop Berkeley of the noiseless falling of unobserved trees ? He who is the unnamed hero of this little exchange:

    There was a young man who said “God
    Must find it exceedingly odd
    To see that this tree
    Still continues to be
    When there’s no-one about in the quad”.

    Dear Sir, Your astonishment’s odd;
    I am always about in the quad;
    And that’s why the tree
    Still continues to be
    Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.

    I really dunno whether Berkeley’s prescriptions are Einsteinian because unfortunaley, Berkeley didn’t understand tensors

    (But we do:
    Tenser, said the Tensor.
    Tension, apprehension,
    And dissension have begun…. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester)

    Then again, Einstein didn’t understand tensors either which is why he had to get his mate Grossman (with a little help from Minkowski) to do the space-time mathematical development.

  39. GrueBleen
    September 7th, 2016 at 15:58 | #39

    A yet further partial response to your #32

    Re the language, logic, mathematics (and why they work) and your concern with “theories of truth), well they’re your horse and I’m happy to leave you to flog ’em.

    However I do highly recommend A C Grayling’s opus ‘An Introduction to Philosophicsl Logic’ (ie not the philosophy of logic but the logic of philosophy). Upon obtaing this work, you can look forward to many low, slow evenenings – so best to start in late spring when the evenings are longer. Though I have long thought the ‘correspondence theory of truth would be helped immeasurably if only we could perceive something for a truth” to correspond to. You would surely be aware of the concept of ‘intersubjectivity’, yes ?

    But apropos of semiotics, did you know that “bistro” is actually derived from the (Cossack) Russian word “bistra” meaning ‘fast’ or ‘quick’. Now, why would the French have adopted a Cossack word ? 🙂

    And that, from me, is more than enough for now.

  40. Ikonoclast
    September 7th, 2016 at 17:35 | #40


    “The cossacks are watering their horses in the Seine!” – General Ney to Napoleon when the Russians entered Paris, Battle of Paris 1814 – Admittedly a line from the movie “Waterloo” by Sergei Bondarchuk.

    There is a pdf doc available online;

    By Alexander Mikaberidze, FINS
    Louisiana State University (Shreveport)

    There is a painting or plate;

    Russian Cossacks passing by the Arc de Triumph in Paris (by Georg-Emmanuel Opitz)

    There is another painting or plate;

    Russian troops bathing in the Seine River by Georg-Emmanuel Opitz.

  41. GrueBleen
    September 8th, 2016 at 03:53 | #41

    Your #40

    Ah yes, the (in)famous Marechal Ney who, at Waterloo, mistook a British withdrawal of wounded for a retreat and ordered, and led, an infantry and later cavalry charge against the British artillerymen which were repulsed with great losses.

    I remember reading somewhere that Napoleon had been late arriving at the battlefront that day, and Ney had ordered the charge in Napoleon’s absence, however, Napoleon was directly involved later in the action.

    I’ve also been told that the Cossacks in Paris drank champagne from the cellars of the Veuve (widow) Clicquot but that she declined to get upset because “they’ll be drinking it next year in Moscow’. Which they apparently were, thus opening up a whole new market for Clicquot.

    C’est la vie.

  42. Ikonoclast
    September 8th, 2016 at 07:07 | #42


    1. Overall, I think we can see how bistro entered French. The Russians entered Paris. The Cossacks entered cheap eating establishments and yelled “bistra” as they wanted their food fast. Later on, after glasses of Veuve Clicquot, the Cossacks entered places of disreputable entertainment. I could continue this story but I had better not. It does play on the word “enter”.

    Of course, “Cossack” is not synonymous with “Russian Soldier” or “Russian Cavalryman”. The Cossacks were light, irregular cavalry from the Cossack Nations, a distinct ethnic group or groups comprised of the so-called Cossack Hosts. The Wikipedia entry is worth a read.

    I am a tragic of the computer game Cossacks. As version 3 is out next week I am sure my posts here will decline markedly.

    2. Also worth checking on Wikipedia “Stigler’s law of eponymy” on the issue of inventions. As Mark Twain wrote;

    “It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite — that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.”

  43. Julie Thomas
    September 8th, 2016 at 07:20 | #43

    Does anyone else think that it is a chicken and egg thing, whether Dastaryi was influenced to ‘like’ China because they gave him money or if he was willing to take money without understanding the consequences because he already liked China?

  44. Tim Macknay
    September 8th, 2016 at 08:52 | #44

    Speaking of Dastyari, Julie, do you (or does anyone else) know exactly who he got the money from? The ABC has described the donor as a ‘company with links to the Chinese government’, but other reports I have read say that the donor was actually an Australian resident of Chinese origin.

  45. Julie Thomas
    September 8th, 2016 at 09:11 | #45

    @Tim Macknay

    Nope, I’ve listened assiduously to RN, read all my usual sites and it just isn’t clear. But then that isn’t something I’ve been wondering about. As usual my focus is on the psychology of the actors in the theatre of the absurd.

    There is something much bigger going on, I am imagining. To do perhaps with the change in global politics and our alignment with the US.

  46. Tim Macknay
    September 8th, 2016 at 11:14 | #46

    @Julie Thomas

    There is something much bigger going on, I am imagining. To do perhaps with the change in global politics and our alignment with the US.

    Yes. Coming back to your earlier question, it has occurred to me that Dastyari’s situation may reflect him having sought to build a support base in the ethnic Chinese community. If that was the case, it is hardly unusual for a politician (particularly a Labor one) to try to build support in an ethnic minority community, regardless of the propriety or otherwise of Dastyari taking the money.

    But the degree of apparent conflation of Chinese ethnicity with, in effect, allegiance to a foreign power, which appears to have been across the board in the reporting of the Dastyari issue, is something that, it seems to me, hasn’t been seen in Australia for a long time, possibly even since WWII. As you suggest, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it reflects a deeper social anxiety about the rise of China to global power. The repeated media panics about Chinese ownership of agricultural land (the extent of which is actually quite minor) also reflect this, I think.

  47. Tim Macknay
    September 8th, 2016 at 11:17 | #47

    I should add, if the media is going to get into the habit of conflating Chinese ethnicity with “foreign allegiance”, that does not bode well for Chinese Australians, who may be in for a period of heightened xenophobic paranoia against them, notwithstanding that ethnically Chinese people have lived in Australia for at least 150 years.

  48. Ikonoclast
    September 8th, 2016 at 13:41 | #48

    “There is something much bigger going on, I am imagining. To do perhaps with the change in global politics and our alignment with the US.” – Julie Thomas.

    Agreed. Indeed, there is always something bigger going with respect to international relations. The Dastyari imbroglio is a storm in a tea-cup. Someone on this blog has already pointed out the relative insignificance of Dastyari’s slip-up compared say to the WA liberal’s donation from Chinese sources.

    “Chinese businessmen with links to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have donated half a million dollars to the Western Australian division of the Liberal Party during the past two years, it’s been reported.

    All the donors have links to the Chinese government, and the vast bulk of the money was given by companies with no apparent business interests in WA, Fairfax Media reports, based on political disclosures.

    Ms Bishop, the leading federal member of the party in WA, has singled out each of the three key donors for praise.” – News dot ect. – 26 Aug 2016.

    Dastyari had to step down or be stood down, fair enough. Likewise, Julie Bishop should resign.

    On other issues, the Chinese government and probably a lot of mainland Chinese regard the Chinese diaspora as still Chinese even if many of the diaspora do not so regard themselves. I mean the Chinese diaspora are not just regarded as ethnic Chinese by the Chinese government but are regarded as still properly owing their final allegiance to the Chinese nation and Chinese civilization. This does not justify paranoia about a Chinese fifth column in Australia but it does justify vigilance of Chinese state actions including spying, cyber war and pressure on the diaspora.

    China is just like any great power. Great powers seek their own interests at all times, like all powers. Unlike the weaker powers, great powers actually do have considerable ability to gain some of their interests. China suffered its “Century of Humiliation” at the hands mainly of the West and Japan. This is never far from their minds when it comes to geo-strategy. The West is losing power relatively speaking. China has surpassed the USA as the world’s biggest economy. China produces far more real goods than the USA. Its industrial capacity is now far greater. Its scientific power also overtakes that of the USA. Given the mess the USA is getting itself into domestically, it seems likely that China’s political and national cohesion, even if it marks time, will soon exceed that of the USA.

    China is not particularly interested in world domination in the way that the USA is: which in the USA’s case means projection of force over great distances via expeditionary warfare. China seeks an unassailable core position with a sufficient peripheral buffer to push enemies away from its core. Hegemony over current mainland China, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, the South China Sea and of course Taiwan, would probably satisfy China at least until 2050. It’s very hard to project out further than this. Beyond the secure core territory and “joseki” moves to stake out safe periphery territory, China is and will remain most interested in de-industrialising the West. A relatively de-industrialised rest of the world, except for resource gathering infrastructure and transport of those resources to China would most suit China’s geostrategic thinking and civilisational view of itself. This is my opinion.

    China is using capitalism to defeat capitalism. This is perfectly in line with a form of Marxist theory combined with the Chinese “Art of War”. Given the dynamics of capitalism, it was intrinsic to the system itself that if China adopted a form of capitalism then its cheap labour would enable it out-compete the West, Japan-Korea, Russia and Brazil. In turn it could sell goods to the West and progressively deindustrialise the West. When the West is sufficiently deindustrialised and dangerously dependent on manufactures from China, China will gradually switch to using its enormous manufacturing power to advance all its own people. China still has a billion people who are very poor and can be brought fully into the national modern economic system as China’s own vast internal market. China simply will have very little use for foreign markets and customers from this point onwards.

    China will however require resources from the rest of the world. China will achieve this, if its geostrategy succeeds, gradually and without using its military offensively. The military will keep its core and periphery safe. If and when the USA pushes back hard, China will relax a little, retreat a little, hold and wait. It waits for the USA to slowly destroy itself with imperial overreach. The Chinese understand, I believe, the dangers of imperial overreach, and will not succumb to that temptation themselves. So long as the rest of the world becomes “resource tributary” to China while yet ruling itself in any way(s) it pleases, China will consider its geostrategic objectives substantially achieved. China is not interested in “regime change” abroad nor in direct domination. Rather it is interested in regime regress abroad, using the capitalist system of the West against itself to permanently weaken and bring down the West as a serious rival. This is more or less the natural path world history would follow from this point anyway while relatively unfettered capitalism holds sway. All China has to do now is nudge matters a little from time to time to keep things moving on their preferred path.

    Could the West do anything to meet China in its own game? Yes, it could. The best course of action would be to follow John Mearsheimer’s prescriptions re a hemispheric hegemony goal only for the West. That is, the West should wind back its imperial overreach. Economically, the Chinese move of fighting capitalism with (a form of) capitalism needs to be countered by Western economic nationalism including some re-nationalistion and some protectionism. Protectionism is not the bogeyman which neoliberal propaganda makes it to be. All the great Western industrial nations industrialised under infant industry protectionism.(1) To re-industrialise requires much the same policies.

    1. As example evidence, see the paper: HOW DID DEVELOPED COUNTRIES INDUSTRIALIZE?
    The History of Trade and Industrial Policy:
    The Cases of Great Britain and the USA
    Mehdi Shafaeddin


  49. GrueBleen
    September 8th, 2016 at 14:55 | #49

    Your #42

    Oh do please play on the word ‘enter’. I tried (via Google translate) the Russian words for both enter and entrez but neither seems to be memorable.

    I was thinking it was probably the Don Cossacks, and particularly those from Ukraine – they seem to have been the most involved in the creation and maintenance of the Russian Empire.

    As to how many ‘men’ it takes to invent something, I’m sure we’re all familiar with Ayn Rand’s ‘Anthem’ and the “20 great men who invented the candle”. Actually, it probably took more than that to get the candle from its very simple origin to the sophisticated, mass-producible item that Ayn Rand would have known … well, would have known after she left the Soviet Union, anyway.

  50. GrueBleen
    September 8th, 2016 at 15:10 | #50

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #45

    Do you think maybe that there’s the beginning of an awakening to the thought that if the Chnese ever did get aggressive towards Australia, the USA simply would not come to our aid ? And that if the worse came to the worst, the USA would under no circumstances initiate nukes on our behalf ? And thus we are not under the MAD umbrella ?

    No, neither do I. But just maybe we should either become the 51st State of the USA or otherwise simply become a Chinese province. What’s that fine folk wisdom again: the powerful do as they please, and the weak suffer what they must.

    But any nation, even the 12th (approximately) biggest economy on the planet, that is prepared to waste $billions upon $billions on useless “fighter” aircraft that will never fire a weapon in anger (or probably in peace, either) and on French “submarines” that haven’t even been designed yet … well, what more can be said.

  51. GrueBleen
    September 8th, 2016 at 15:34 | #51

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #43

    Or maybe he’s just a grifter who needed some extra cash and went to those – based on the WA example – who are most likely to contribute it.

    He’s certainly an amoral ‘careerist’, but unlike, say, Shorten, he’s never had to serve an apprenticeship in the Union movement that might have provided him with some perspective. Or at least shown him how to better hide his cupidity.

  52. GrueBleen
    September 8th, 2016 at 16:28 | #52

    Your #34 – some selected responses, just to keep your mind on the job.

    Re ‘authorities’, you can consider me as “culpable” as you wish, but if you want your charge to stick, surely you should at least be able to show that I somehow included people as “authorities”. Can you show me where I did that ? But let me be simple and clear: I consider nobody as an “authority” – after all, as somebody of our mutual acquaintance quoted a little while ago: errare humanem est – but I do defer to people I have good reason to believe are truly expert in a field.

    Back many annums ago when I was still a paid up member of Australian Skeptics, we used to chant the company song (no, it wasn’t Ever Onward IBM): seek ye the evidence. So I regard Aristotle and Bacon as “conversation starters” and Kuhn, Feyerabend and Chalmers (I’m quite ambivalent about Popper and Lakatos) as “conversation continuers”, but I am yet to find anybody in any arena to be a “conversation finisher” – though there are those who reach a high point that it might just be very hard to improve upon.

    I am quite attracted though to Feyerabend’s idea (ex Against Method) of a ‘science’ as something that not necessarily includes Popperian falsifiability, but that includes a ‘research program’ that actually makes measurable progress – not a corporate or university “find the answer to this unknown” program, but a general ‘program’ that large numbers of people commit to as an ongoing human endeavour.

    As to “free will”, yes if you use that term then you are discussing a specific aspect of what might be considered a general question = but the Xtian God, you see, is not subject to quantum uncertainty because he is, now and always, totally omniscient. Incidentally, have you ever considered what it would be like to be totally and infallibly (redundant, of course) knowing of all that has, is and will be happening. Every infinitesimal moment of your infinite existence would be identical. Nothing could alter or change because you already know they have/are/will. Sounds like God’s heaven is actually an exquisitely nasty form of hell to me. But I digress.

    “Mrs. Aristotle’s teeth. There is also the matter of the waterfall and the illusory motion of the grass”. Well, I’m pleased to have been able to enlighten you, even if it did require a serving of Bertie Russell to achieve it. Go thou and read “A History of Western Philosophy”.

    “I would never assert that Aristotle was an “empiricist” in the modern scientific sense.” Excellent, because I wouldn’t either. But do let me introduce you to some homegrown conversation starting: the purpose of the academic, philosopher or other, in any endeavour is to provide a vocabulary and an initial roadmap so that investigations and discussions don’t all have to start from scratch.

    Now if you think about that, you might conclude that a ‘vocabulary plus roadmap’ is almost equivalent to an ontology plus phenomenology’ (you do seem to leave ‘phenomenology’ out of the discussion. Why ?). So you may conclude that I don’t entirely disagree with you if you wish.

    Enough for now.

  53. Tim Macknay
    September 8th, 2016 at 16:52 | #53


    I am quite attracted though to Feyerabend’s idea (ex Against Method) of a ‘science’ as something that not necessarily includes Popperian falsifiability, but that includes a ‘research program’ that actually makes measurable progress – not a corporate or university “find the answer to this unknown” program, but a general ‘program’ that large numbers of people commit to as an ongoing human endeavour.

    That sounds more like Lakatos than Feyerabend to me, although I seem to recall that Feyerabend claimed that Lakatos’ thesis was actually the same as his own, only masked in rational-sounding language. But I admit it’s been a few years since I read that stuff.

  54. Tim Macknay
    September 8th, 2016 at 17:22 | #54


    The Chinese understand, I believe, the dangers of imperial overreach, and will not succumb to that temptation themselves.

    I doubt that. I think it’s more likely that the Chinese elite is not yet in a position to be considering the prospect of imperial overreach. I don’t think the ruling elite of any great power really understands the concept of imperial overreach until they get into that situation.

  55. Ikonoclast
    September 8th, 2016 at 19:25 | #55

    @Tim Macknay

    You have much to learn, grasshopper. 😉

  56. Julie Thomas
    September 8th, 2016 at 19:52 | #56

    Hugh White – Professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University – has written a review of the book ‘The Pivot: The Future of American Statecraft in Asia’, by Kurt Campbell

    He says in the review, “In particular, The Pivot has nothing to say about the most important single question facing America in Asia today: is it willing to go to war with China to preserve US primacy? This question, more than anything else, will determine the shape of future Asian order and America’s role in it. China’s recent conduct strongly suggests that it will only abandon its challenge to American primacy if it is really convinced that the answer is ‘yes’.

    But nothing Beijing has seen or heard from Washington in recent years has convinced it of that, which is why it has been acting so boldly. Unless that changes, the chances of facing down Beijing’s challenge are very low.”

    There is more here http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2016/07/04/Book-review-The-Pivot-The-Future-of-American-Statecraft-in-Asia-by-Kurt-Campbell.aspx

    Hugh White also blogs at the Lowy Interpreter I think it is called – my comment will go into moderation if I post the full link – and he says that Hilary will not be as hawkish as people expect.

    “It seems that Trump’s lousy polling and chaotic campaign mean Clinton will win in November. Most assume we can then relax: we know Hillary Clinton from her time at State, and she will be reassuringly orthodox – more orthodox indeed than Barack Obama. US foreign policy will be back to ‘normal’: a strong military, robust alliances, free trade and decisive interventions wherever the US-led global order is challenged. Well, maybe, but don’t bet on it. ”

    Is he making this up?

    And as for Dastaryi, it seems he just didn’t want to pay for something if he could get someone else to pay for it. Makes sense but grifter is a bit harsh. He could have some Scottish ancestry somewhere?

  57. Ikonoclast
    September 8th, 2016 at 21:11 | #57


    “you do seem to leave ‘phenomenology’ out of the discussion.”

    Phenomenology, it’s a modern fad. 😉

    I deal with this issue by regarding (individual) consciousness as just another real sub-system of the entire real system of existence (the Cosmos).

    Systems have boundaries/interfaces, maintain an identifiable “entity order” inside the (semi-permeable) boundary and exchange matter, energy and information with other systems.

    Life and especially higher consciousness (like that of humans) is characterised by a high ratio of information transfer relative to matter-energy transfer.

    Consciousness is not special in the following sense. Consciousness is not a privileged system. It is a system which like any other system is in a system of systems. The “viewpoint” and subjective qualia of a consciousness system ought not be regarded as privileged with regard to “reality checking”. In turn “reality checking” turns out to be no more and no less than the processes of systems impinging on other systems: imparting and receiving matter, energy and information transfers.

    I am sure you won’t agree.

  58. Ikonoclast
    September 8th, 2016 at 21:35 | #58

    @Julie Thomas

    Well, without having read the book in question, I would say Hugh White needs to remember a great power does not go to total war – including the danger of nuclear war – with another great power over trifles. The cost-benefit equation will be all out of whack.

    No doubt, the USA will have a “line in the sand” somewhere, it just isn’t across the sand islands of the South China Sea. It’s probably on the beaches of Taiwan.

    Where they can and will draw the line will change over time. One day they mightn’t feel strong enough to defend Taiwan. When China senses that day has come, it will attempt to take Taiwan.

    I don’t think China wants more. It doesn’t want Korea, Japan or Vietnam. They’d all be mongrel difficult to conquer fully and more trouble than they would be worth after they had been pulverised. Does the USA want Canada or Mexico? One is more valuable as an ally and the other would send even more refugees north if it was pulverised. So why we would we think China is so dumb it would do something even the USA analogously would not do?

    China is out to defeat us but in another way entirely as I outlined above.

  59. Tim Macknay
    September 8th, 2016 at 21:56 | #59
  60. GrueBleen
    September 9th, 2016 at 02:26 | #60

    Your #57

    Oh, I see: you only consider “phenomenology” in the context of human consciousness.

    No, Ikono, phenomenology is a much broader concept than that. In particular, phenomenology centres on how we communicate with our ontology. There’s no point having some idea of what the things that inhabit our ‘universe of discourse’ are unless we can interact with them. No interaction = no empirical knowledge = no science.

    So, take the Wikipedia article titled “Phenomenology” which is a ‘disambiguation’ entry and you get the following:

    Phenomenology may refer to:

    Empirical research, when used to describe measurement methods in some sciences
    Empirical relationship
    Phenomenology (architecture), based on the experience of building materials and their sensory properties
    Phenomenology (archaeology), based upon understanding cultural landscapes from a sensory perspective
    Phenomenology (particle physics), a branch of particle physics that deals with the application of theory to high-energy experiments
    Phenomenology (philosophy), a philosophical method and school of philosophy founded by Edmund Husserl (1859–1938)
    Phenomenology (psychology), subjective experiences or their study.

    It’s naturally “Empirical Research” and “Empirical Relationship” whereof I speak. But taking an interest in Husserl (for instance) might yet get us to understand that whilst we indeed do not have objectivity, we can at least achieve some level of intersubjectivity. Though I’m not sure what exactly that says about the ‘Miracle at Fatima’ in Portugal on Oct 13, 1917

  61. GrueBleen
    September 9th, 2016 at 02:48 | #61

    @Tim Macknay
    Your #53

    Hmm. Well, I read them both quite a few years ago now (about 30 or so), hence I’m running on my definitely non-eidetic memory. I recall being less impressed by Lakatos than by Feyerabend, so I may be selling him short.

    However, I did a quick Google and found the passage below. My (non-eidetic) recall is that in his version, Feyerabend did “issue orders to scientists” which may be why I took him more seriously, but I don’t think I’ll reread Against Method just to check.

    Anyhow, from the Wikipedia entry titled ‘Paul Feyerabend’:

    In Against Method Feyerabend claimed that Imre Lakatos’s philosophy of research programmes is actually “anarchism in disguise”, because it does not issue orders to scientists. Feyerabend playfully dedicated Against Method to “Imre Lakatos: Friend, and fellow-anarchist”. One interpretation is that Lakatos’s philosophy of mathematics and science was based on creative transformations of Hegelian historiographic ideas, many associated with Lakatos’s teacher in Hungary Georg Lukács. Feyerabend’s debate with Lakatos on scientific method recapitulates the debate of Lukács and (Feyerabend’s would-be mentor) Brecht, over aesthetics several decades earlier.

  62. GrueBleen
    September 9th, 2016 at 03:03 | #62

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #56

    So basically under HRC it’s just back to the 21stC version of The Great Game and the 20thC version of The Washington Consensus.

    Yippee ! Except for Australia, of course, Americas most disposable suzerain.

  63. Ikonoclast
    September 9th, 2016 at 08:41 | #63


    I can’t cover everything. Certainly, there’s a limited ambit to what I am investigating. Well, I am investigating “everything” but it is only one aspect of everything. It’s the system-ness of it. Remember the movie “The Castle” and the line “It’s the vibe of it.” Well, I say “It’s the system-ness of it.” Now, it’s your turn to say, “Tell him he’s dreamin’.” 😉

    In terms of simplistic assumptions and deductions it goes like this.

    1. The Universe, or all that exists, is best understood as a single, entangled system.

    2. This system is a “real system” in the sense that modern physics uses that term.

    3. All sub-systems of the entire real system are real systems.

    4. It follows from no. 3 that brain, mind, consciouness, qualia are all real systems.

    5. A system is a “complex of interacting processes which are interrelated in such a way that interactions between them sustain a boundary-maintaining entity”. (Adapted from Laszlo.)

    5. The “entity” will have a consistent or identifiable internal order or nature be it static or dynamic, evolving or devolving.

    5. Each system boundary of an entity is also an interface in that matter, energy and information may transfer through the interface.

    6. The “definitions” of matter, energy or matter-energy are those of modern physics. (Actually physics strictly does not define existents but rather relates them by “laws”.)

    7. Information is any propagation of change through a system or systems.

    Note: I don’t subscribe to “cause and effect” ontology strictly speaking, as I prefer “Law” ontology. Some processes can be linked by reliable laws as in the expression “the laws of physics”. I also don’t subscribe to “object” ontology but rather to an ontology of “collections of processes as systems”.

    8. Information is any pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns. (This follows from no. 7)

    9. Life and thence brains, minds, consciousnesses and qualia “process” information.

    10. “Processing” can be characterised as the application of algorithmic methods to achieve replications and transformations of information.

    This is full of holes I know. I can think of a lot of objections myself. I haven’t figured this out yet. I probably never will. Keeps me off the streets.

  64. Julie Thomas
    September 9th, 2016 at 08:55 | #64


    Who knows what it will be under Clinton; that was my non-point. I don’t think ‘it’ – whatever it is – can be predicted because it hasn’t actually happened yet. The US libertarians who are reasonably sane, are taking an interest in Australian strategists such as White and even Rudd and I find that an interesting little thing that sticks out as being a new direction in the pattern of their thinking.

  65. Ikonoclast
    September 9th, 2016 at 09:42 | #65

    Frankly, I think Indonesia is a greater threat to Australia than China. Since I set China’s offensive war threat to Australia as very, very low, this does not mean I set Indonesia’s threat of offensive war very high either.

    But Indonesia (really the Modern Javanese Empire) has shown an appetite for expansion and Javanisation. The annexation of West Papua against the wishes of the indigenous people is a case in point. Of course, Australia played it’s usual shameful role of selling an indigenous people down the river.

    “Following the Act of Free Choice plebiscite in 1969, West Papua was formally integrated into the Republic of Indonesia. Instead of a referendum of the 816,000 Papuans, only 1,022 Papuan tribal representatives were allowed to vote and all of these were coerced into voting in favour of integration. While several international observers including journalists and diplomats criticised the referendum as being rigged, the United States and Australia support Indonesia’s efforts to secure acceptance in the United Nations for the pro-integration vote. That same year, 84 member states voted in favour for the United Nations to accept the result, with 30 others abstaining.[62] Due to the Netherlands’ efforts to promote a West Papuan national identity, a significant number of West Papuans refused to accept the territory’s integration into Indonesia. These formed the separatist Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Free Papua Movement) and have waged an insurgency against the Indonesian authorities, which still continues to this day.” – Wikipedia.

  66. Tim Macknay
    September 9th, 2016 at 11:30 | #66


    I deal with this issue by regarding (individual) consciousness as just another real sub-system of the entire real system of existence (the Cosmos).

    Systems have boundaries/interfaces, maintain an identifiable “entity order” inside the (semi-permeable) boundary and exchange matter, energy and information with other systems.

    The word ‘system’ seems to do a lot of work in your… system.

  67. Tim Macknay
    September 9th, 2016 at 11:41 | #67


    My (non-eidetic) recall is that in his version, Feyerabend did “issue orders to scientists” which may be why I took him more seriously, but I don’t think I’ll reread Against Method just to check.

    I suppose Feyerabend’s dictum of “anything goes” could be thought of as an order of sorts, although I always interpreted it as rather the opposite. However, I don’t think we’re in substantial disagreement over anything, and I have no plans to re-read Against Method either. 🙂

  68. Tim Macknay
    September 9th, 2016 at 11:49 | #68

    I wrote my last response before I read your comment at #63. I now see that my attempt at a wry observation was premature – thinking of everything in terms of systems is in fact your conscious goal.

  69. Ikonoclast
    September 9th, 2016 at 12:08 | #69

    @Tim Macknay

    LOL. For sure, so it would behove me to define the concept well and link it to other concepts well. I am still working on all this. My main text, not counting sundry voluminous notes, is upwards of 25,000 words. This will eventually comprise, as I mentioned to GrueBleen, my unpublishable “magnum opus”. It keeps me off the streets. Existentially, it’s what I decide to do with part of my time. The building of a private “philosophical system” is like the building of a private garden. It really exists for the occupation and pleasure in the process not for the final result or viewing. But the kicking back and forth of arguments with others certainly does help one to refine arguments.

    There are always struggles. For example, I am now struggling with differentiating how information behaves and is propagated in (a) inanimate systems and (b) animate systems. I think it is a key (not the sole key) to understanding how animate systems react to and essentially differentiate and maintain themselves as qualitatively different from inanimate systems. I think at this stage that “animation or life is differentiate-able from the inanimate by the appearance of algorithmic processes which process information via replications and transformations.” Of course, computers do this too with the wrinkle that life appeared (had to appear?) first and a form of life made computers later. Thus understanding computing reflects back and is useful on understanding life. At the same time, it makes it difficult to define life at this level without defining computers as alive. Lots of problems as I said.

    The appearance of the word “system” a lot is interesting too. For example, in a book on process metaphysics the word “process” appears a real lot, which is not surprising of course. Among other things, a book on process metaphysics is a book length definition of the term “process”. It’s the same with a text that uses the word “systems” a lot. Among other things the whole monograph is a definition of “systems”.

  70. GrueBleen
    September 9th, 2016 at 16:03 | #70

    @Tim Macknay
    Your #67

    Agreed, though in retrospect I think it may be that reading Feyerabend’s critique of Lakatos contributed to my “remembering” the research programme idea as being Feyerabend rather than Lakatos. So thanks to your input, my tired old memory is now just a tiny bit more accurate.

    But of course if you are ‘against method’ then it must be that ‘anything goes’ in the epistemology stakes – ‘anything goes’ that produces reliable and usable results, that is. Which is what I took the ‘programme’ part of the Lakatos/Feyerabend dictum to be about. ESP, for example, actually uses some quite normative epistemology (including single and double blind) but has, and is, simply failing to produce any results – other than the usual occasional Bayesian hiccough, that is.

  71. GrueBleen
    September 9th, 2016 at 16:14 | #71

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #64

    Earth abides[*], and we must too.

    [*] – both Ecclesiastes 1:4 and George R Stewart 🙂

  72. GrueBleen
    September 9th, 2016 at 16:49 | #72

    Your #63

    You think you’re dreaming ? You should be so lucky.

    Your ‘outline’ is unexceptional basically – at least to a simple-minded ‘realist’ like me. But a “whole system” universe is way too complex for me; I’m basically a reductionist who believes that we can only talk about things that are simple enough for us to create computationally amenable models of.

    And, of course, it is only “things” with which we can define a reliable phenomenology for interactions that we can investigate at all.

    But then, mate, they always tell me that to travel hopefully is much better than to arrive. (“They” I have always found to be just moderately useless in life).

  73. Ikonoclast
    September 9th, 2016 at 18:22 | #73


    “Earth abides”. Actually it doesn’t.

    “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” – Ecclesiastes.

    The earth will be swept away when the sun fails in some manner or the earth is hit by a sufficiently large planetoid, comet etc. to fragment it. There are probably other catastrophes which could destroy earth and many more which could destroy the biosphere. Hate to be a pedant. Oh OK, no I don’t. I love being a pedant. 🙂

  74. Tim Macknay
    September 9th, 2016 at 18:29 | #74


    “Earth abides”. Actually it doesn’t.

    Actually, it depends how you parse the statement, which is an aphorism, and not necessarily meant to be taken literally.

    /pedant^2 😀

    PS – My only excuse is that it’s Friday.

  75. Ikonoclast
    September 9th, 2016 at 23:01 | #75

    @Tim Macknay

    The two meanings of “aphorism” permit both of us to be right! It’s a win-win!

    1. a pithy observation which contains a general truth.

    2. a concise statement of a scientific principle, typically by a classical author.

  76. Tim Macknay
    September 10th, 2016 at 00:11 | #76

    Excellent. A fine way to go into the weekend. Have a good one. 🙂

  77. GrueBleen
    September 10th, 2016 at 14:58 | #77

    @Tim Macknay
    Your #76

    Just between you and me, but don’t tell Ikono:

    Ecclesiastes 3King James Version (KJV)

    1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

    2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

    3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

    4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

    5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

    6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

    7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

    8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

    9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

    10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

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