77 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. @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.

  2. @Ikonoclast
    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.

  3. @GrueBleen

    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.

  4. @Ikonoclast

    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.

  5. 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?

  6. @GrueBleen

    “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.

  7. @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.

  8. @Ikonoclast
    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

  9. @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.

  10. @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.

  11. @GrueBleen

    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.

  12. @GrueBleen

    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.

  13. 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.

  14. @Ikonoclast

    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.

  15. @GrueBleen

    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. 🙂

  16. @Ikonoclast
    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.

  17. @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”.

  18. @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.

  19. @Ikonoclast
    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).

  20. @GrueBleen

    “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. 🙂

  21. @Ikonoclast

    “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.

  22. @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.

  23. @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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