I appreciate e-mail and I try to answer it. Unfortunately, I do not have time to sort through diffuse and rambling missives. Ars longa, vita brevis. So if you want to get a rise out of me, keep it brief and to the point.
π day is 3/14. But today is super π day: 3/14/15. To celebrate it properly you must do so at 9:26 A.M. or P. M. Years ago, as a student of electrical engineering, I memorized π this far out: 3.14159.
The decimal expansion is non-terminating. But that is not what makes it an irrational number. What makes it irrational is that it cannot be expressed as a fraction the numerator and denominator of which are integers. Compare 1/3. Its decimal expansion is also non-terminating: .3333333 . . . . But it is a rational number because it can be expressed as a fraction the numerator and denominator of which are integers (whole numbers).
An irrational (rational) number is so-called because it cannot (can) be expressed as a ratio of two integers. Thus any puzzlement as to how a number, as opposed to a person, could be rational or irrational calls for therapeutic dissolution, not solution (he said with a sidelong glance in the direction of Wittgenstein).
Yes, there are pseudo-questions. Sometimes we succumb to the bewitchment of our understanding by language. But, pace Wittgestein, it is not the case that all the questions of philosophy are pseudo-questions sired by linguistic bewitchment. I say almost none of them are. So it cannot be the case that philosophy just is the struggle against such bewitchment. (PU #109: Die Philosophie ist ein Kampf gegen die Verhexung unsres Verstandes durch die Mittel unserer Sprache.) What a miserable conception of philosophy! As bad as that of a benighted logical positivist.
Many people don't understand that certain words and phrases are terms of art, technical terms, whose meanings are, or are determined by, their uses in specialized contexts. I once foolishly allowed myself to be suckered into a conversation with an old man. I had occasion to bring up imaginary (complex) numbers in support of some point I was making. He snorted derisively, "How can a number be imaginary?!" The same old fool -- and I was a fool too for talking to him twice -- once balked incredulously at the imago dei. "You mean to tell me that God has an intestinal tract!"
Finally a quick question about infinity. The decimal expansion of π is non-terminating. It thus continues infinitely. The number of digits is infinite. Potentially or actually? I wonder: can the definiteness of π -- its being the ratio of diameter to circumference in a circle -- be taken to show that the number of digits in the decimal expansion is actually infinite?
I'm just asking.
Now go ye forth and celebrate π day in some appropriate and inoffensive way. Eat some pie. Calculate the area of some circle. A = πr2.
Dream about π in the sky. Mock a leftist for wanting π in the future. 'The philosophers have variously interpreted π; the point is to change it!'
UPDATE: Ingvar writes,
Of course the ne plus ultra pi day was 3-14-1592 and whatever happened that day
at 6:53 in the morning.
So we have one yearly, one every millennium, and one
I Ain't Superstitious, leastways no more than Howlin' Wolf, but two twin black tuxedo cats just crossed my path. All dressed up with nowhere to go. Nine lives and dressed to the nines. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Superstition. Guitar solo starts at 3:03. And of course you've heard the story about Niels Bohr and the horseshoe over the door:
A friend was visiting in the home of Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, the famous atomic scientist.
As they were talking, the friend kept glancing at a horseshoe hanging over the door. Finally, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he demanded:
“Niels, it can’t possibly be that you, a brilliant scientist, believe that foolish horseshoe superstition! ? !”
“Of course not,” replied the scientist. “But I understand it’s lucky whether you believe in it or not.”
Robert Paul Wollf here replies with wit and lefty snark to a charming request by one Pamela N., a personal assistant, who wants to know who Immanuel Kant is referring to when he writes, "Caius is a man; man is mortal; therefore, Caius is mortal." Pamela confesses,
I will admit, I have not read Kant's works. I have, however, spent the last couple of hours combing through post after post after post about this particular quote from the book and cannot find a single soul who would say who they think Caius is.
In reading these many posts, I have come to the conclusion that Kant is probably referring to Pope Caius as he has been venerated by the Catholic Church as a Saint. Given that title, and the fact that Saint's [sic] are given to [sic] a quasi-immortal status [sic], I have ascertained that this is who Kant is most likely referring to. My question for you is, do you think that my assumption is correct? or do you have a deeper insight into who he is referring to?
Big road trip last weekend: Phoenix, Barstow, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara and back by a different route. The Jeep Wrangler runs on unleaded regular. Paid $3.349/gal on 9/27 at Quartzsite, AZ off of I-10, one of the last Arizona gas-ups enroute to California. Wait 'til Blythe on the California side of the Colorado River and you will get 'hosed.' In Barstow, same day, I paid 3.579/gal at a Circle K. In Bakersfield on 9/30 paid $3.979 at a Shell station. Back home, yesterday, at Costco, $3.099/gal. Home, sweet home.
I'd like to get my hands on a copy of Maria Reicher, ed., States of Affairs (Ontos Verlag, 2009). I didn't find it in the ASU catalog and so I headed over to Amazon.com where I found a used copy for the entirely reasonable price of $9,999.99 plus $3.99 shipping and handling. I kid you not. You might think they'd throw in free S & H on orders over $5,000.00.
Maybe it is like this. The whole world is Amazon's oyster, and in that wide world there are quite a few ontology freaks, your humble correspondent one of them, and probably a couple crazy enough to fork over $10 K for this collection of essays. So why not ask a ridiculous price? You just might get it.
Does anyone in Ontology Land have a copy of this collection that he or she is willing to part with?
I will put it to good use. I have been invited to contribute an essay to a volume commemorating the late David M. Armstrong. My essay is tentatively entitled "Facts: Realism, Anti-Realism, Semi-Realism." So I need to be en rapport with all the latest literature.
Update (9/3). My explanation three paragraphs supra is mistaken. See Mark B.'s comment for a much better one.
Summer once again subsides into the sweetness of September. This calls for a song, September in the Rain, not that there is much that could be called rain in these parts. But the Arizona monsoon looks to be over, the lambent light and delicious dryness have returned, and autumn's in the air. Life is good, for some of us leastways, and pro tempore.
Until he hung hanged himself, that is. Williams, that is.
I knew who Williams was, though I have seen only two of his films, The Dead Poets' Society and Mrs. Doubtfire. From what I know of the others I have no desire to see them. The gushing over celebrities at their passing is as tolerable as it is predictable. One only wishes that people had better judgment about who is really worthy of the highest accolades and encomia.
Here is the memorable carpe diem scene from The Dead Poets' Society. I think Dalrymple would appreciate it.
A lot happened that fabulous and far-off summer of '69, now 45 years past. I won't bore you with any autobiographical tidbits, and of course some of you remember the moon landing; but that was also the summer when Ted Kennedy's car killed Mary Jo Kopechne.
But these days, it seems, no one wants to be a dog racist—and this is where things start to get really weird. “The opposition to pit bulls might not be racist,” Junod writes in his Esquire piece. “It does, however, employ racial thinking.” Jeez, Louise. I suppose, then, it is time that I confess: I am a pug supremacist. Go ahead and judge me, America. Say what you will, but the worst thing a pug can do is fart you to death.
Hilary Putnam took up blogging on 29 May of this year. Well, better late than never. He has entitled his weblog Sardonic Comment. He might also have considered It Ain't Obvious What's Obvious, which is a line he uses somewhere.
In 1976, when I delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford, I often spent time with Peter Strawson, and one day at lunch he made a remark I have never been able to forget. He said, "Surely half the pleasure of life is sardonic comment on the passing show". This blog is devoted to comments, not all of them sardonic, on the passing philosophical show.
I am regular reader of your blog from Serbia. I have an plea for you - if you find it inappropriate just skip it.
You may know that my country and its neighbors was hit by terrible floods last few days. I will be very grateful if you can share a call for help on your blog. I must clarify that I am aware that this is very unusual appeal for blog dedicated to philosophy and I will continue to follow in good faith whatever be your decision.
I've had only three vehicles in the past 31 years: (1) a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass, purchased from my brother Glenn in May 1983; (2) a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am, purchased new in August 1989; and (3) a 2007 Honda Accord, purchased new in February 2007. How many vehicles have you had in the past 31 years?
In one sense old Keith has me beat. I've owned four cars during this time period: (1) a 1978 VW bus purchased used in spring '79; (2) a 1988 Jeep Cherokee bought new at Thanksgiving 1987; (3) a low-mileage, immaculate, 2005 Jeep Liberty Renegade 'stolen' used for a paltry $12 K on St. Valentine's Day, 2009; (4) a 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sport purchased new at Thanksgiving 2012.
So I've owned four vehicles during the period when Keith owned three.
But there is a sense in which I have him beat: I owned the Cherokee for over 21 years, whereas the longest he has owned a vehicle appears to be less than eight years.
The old Cherokee is celebrated in the first article below.
In my whole life I have owned only four cars, the ones mentioned and a 1963 Karmann Ghia convertible purchased for $650 from my half-brother in 1969. The license plate read: GOE 069. I kid you not. I sold it in 1973 when I headed east for grad school. I should have kept it. Just like I should never have sold that Gibson ES 335 TD. That was the dumbest thing I ever did.
Image credit. (HT: Bill Keezer) By the way, I am grateful to all my correspondents. Don't take it amiss if I forget to credit you by name. And of course some of you I do not mention by name for your own protection.
If you send me something, but don't want it posted, just say so and I will honor your request. Otherwise, everything you send me is potential blog fodder.
In these "times that try mens' souls" one has to be very careful. But there is also such a thing as civil courage.
Long-time friend of and commenter at MavPhil sends me the very good news that he is on board at NRO. Congratulations, Spencer! We definitely need more philosophically-trained journalists, and given the corruption and ever-worsening decline of the academic world 'thanks' to leftists, young philosophers like Case do well to consider alternative careers in which they can write and think and preserve their liberty far from the hothouses of political correctness.
Spencer's debut article is Polemics and Philosophy from a British Contrarian, a review of two new books by Roger Scruton, the novel Notes from Underground, and the philosophical work, The Soul of the World. Case's description of the novel make me want to read it, especially given my visit to Prague last September:
Notes from Underground is mainly set in 1985 in Communist-occupied Prague. Earlier in his career, Scruton covertly visited Prague behind the Iron Curtain, traveling as a lecturer, so the harsh descriptions have an authentic ring to them. Such descriptions allow Scruton to argue against leftist collectivism merely by describing its effects. Sometimes the storyline is coupled with searing polemics, which are most effective when they catch the reader off-guard. For instance, his protagonist observes, “Defenestration is a Czech tradition, the only one that the Communists had retained.”
The story is told in the first person by Jan Reichl, a Czech academic in the United States, who recounts his youth under Communism. Once valued for his past as a dissident writer, he now finds his worth diminishing in the eyes of the academy. Jan writes about his experiences from a meditative distance, full of references to the literature of Kafka, Dostoyevsky, and Zweig, as well as to the music of Schubert and Mahler. The book’s title itself is a reference to Dostoyevsky, whose novella Notes from the Underground is considered one of the first works of existentialist literature. The narrator’s distance from events reduces the emotional immediacy of some scenes, but it also gives the whole story a thoughtful melancholy.
Spencer has some meaty things to say in criticism of Scruton, so I suggest you all head over to the former's ComBox to register your approbation, disapprobation, congratulations, whatever. My guess is that he will be evaluated by the NRO editors in part by the length and quality of the comment threads he generates.
John Kaag in Harper'stells a fascinating story of William Ernest Hocking and his library, and he tells it well. (HT: Seldom Seen Slim) No bibliophile could fail to enjoy it.
And this raises one of life's greatest mysteries. Why do some of us value good books above bread while others of us are indifferent to them? A harsh answer tempts me: the latter are human only in a biological sense. But I warn myself not to succumb to misanthropy.
. . . is 'One Man's Terrorist is Another Man's Freedom Fighter.' And that is probably because Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlanticcited it. So I tell myself that I am having some influence, and doing some good. But even if I had no influence on anyone, the life of the mind would remain for me an end in itself and its own reward.
I tend to take a dim view of tattoos, seeing them as the graffiti of the human body, and as yet another, perhaps minor, ingredient in the Decline of the West. Christians believe that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; they ought to consider whether tattoos deface the temple. But I do not dogmatize on this topic. You can reasonably attack my graffiti analogy, and if you insist that tattoos are beautiful, not ugly, I won't be able to refute you. If you argue that there is no, or needn't be, a connection between tattoos and cultural decline, you may have a case. You might even be able reasonably to maintain that the bodily temple is beautified by judicious inking. Leviticus 19:28, see article below, cuts no ice with me.
I only advise caution: permanent or semi-permanent modifications of the mortal coil are to be made only after due deliberation. You might want to consider such things as: the signal you're sending, your future employability, and, for the distaff contingent, how ugly that tattoo will look on your calf when you are 45 as opposed to 20 and the ink is cheek-by-jowl with varicose veins and cellulite. Cute baristas in hip huggers with tattoos on their lower backs invite impertinent questions as to how far down the patterns extend. If you are thinking of a career in public relations, a bone through the nose is definitely out, as are facial hardware and a Charley Manson-style swastika tattooed onto the forehead.
So while I am pleased that one of my readers was sufficiently impressed with one of my sayings to tattoo it onto his forearm, my pleasure is alloyed by my slight aversion to tattoos. In the second shot below, the same person sports the Logical Square of Opposition on his leg. Perhaps he should follow it up with E. J. Lowe's Ontological Square of Opposition on the other leg.
Banned on the Left Coast in the People's Republic of Californication! It figures. It's sad to see what has become of my native state. But I am fortunate to flourish in Arizona where bright sun and hard rock and self-reliant liberty-lovers have a suppressive effect on the miasma of leftists. So with a firm resolve to stick it to the nanny-staters I headed out this afternoon in my Jeep Liberty to Costco where not a single incandescent was to be had. So I went to Lowe's and cleaned 'em out. I bought four 24-packs. Three packs were Sylvania 60W 130V A19's @ $10.03 per pack and one pack was Sylvania 100W 130V A19's @12.02 per pack. Total: $42.11 for 96 bulbs. That comes to less than 44 cents per bulb.
The 130 volt rating means that I will get plenty of life out of these bulbs at the expense of a negligible reduction in illumination. A voltage check at a wall socket revealed that I'm running just a tad below 120 V.
And now I am reminded of what were supposed to have been Goethe's last words: Licht, Licht, mehr Licht! Light, light, more light!
Today I went to Home Despot Depot to bag the last of their stock. I bought 24 4-packs of Phillips 60W A19 1000 hour soft white bulbs @ $1.47 per 4-pack. So I paid $35.28 for 96 bulbs. That comes to less than 37 cents per bulb. Nice warm cheap light.
I reckon I'll burn out before they all do.
So that's my politically incorrect act for the day. Or at least one of them.
To make it right is a royal PITA. First I make a killer sauce from scratch, a Bolognese or something pork-based. That's plenty of work right there. Then I cut an eggplant lengthwise, run the slices through egg wash, bread 'em and fry 'em in olive oil. Extra virgin, of course. Why monkey with anything else? Then I make a casserole with the cooked eggplant slices, intercalating plenty of sauce and mozarella and other cheeses between the slices. Then into the oven, covered, at 350 for 35-40 minutes until bubbly hot.
To make the one-pan quick version, crosscut the eggplant (so that it fits better in a large skillet) and fry with olive oil at moderate-high to high heat. Eggplant sucks up oil something fierce, so keep adding the stuff. Don't worry, it's a good fat. After all the pieces are cooked to the point of tenderness, set them aside to 'rest.' Now, in the same pan, add more oil and saute a blend of chopped onion, garlic, green peppers, and sliced mushrooms. When that mixture is tender, layer on the eggplant slices with mozarella and a store-bought sauce. There is no need to grate the mozarella, just slice it with a sharp knife. It melts readily. Dump in the usual spices: fresh-ground pepper, oregano, basil. Cover, and let simmer at low heat until you have a nice molten mess of vegetarian chow:
Serve with pasta, but you must absolutely avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of Pasta. Otherwise, I kill you. I prefer capellini, but it's all good. The true aficionado avoids oversaucing his pasta, and he doesn't mix pasta and sauce together a priori as it were. Do that, and I kick you, a posteriori. A trencherman true throws some sauce on top of the pasta and adds a little more or a lot more extra virgin olive oil. Freshly grate some Romano or Parmesan cheese on top of that. No crap out of a cardboard cylinder. Then add a green garnish to set it off such as Italian or American parsley, or, as I did last night, cilantro for a Southwestern accent. Fresh from the garden. Yes, you can actually grow stuff in Arizona in late December, which is another reason why Arizona is a terminus ad quem of Continental migration as oppose to a terminus a quo such as Minnesota. Some places are for leavin' as some are for arrivin.' You should get something that looks like this. Serve on a big white plate. Enjoy with a glass of Dago red. Not as good as the real thing, but good enough, especially on the second day, reheated.
When I was eight years old or so and first took note of the phrase 'Merry Xmas,' my piety was offended by what I took to be the removal of 'Christ' from 'Christmas' only to be replaced by the universally recognized symbol for an unknown quantity, 'X.' But it wasn't long before I realized that the 'X' was merely a font-challenged typesetter's attempt at rendering the Greek Chi, an ancient abbreviation for 'Christ.' There is therefore nothing at all offensive in the expression 'Xmas.' Year after year, however, certain ignorant Christians who are old enough to know better make the mistake that I made when I was eight and corrected when I was ten.
And there are some dumb atheists who think 'Merry Xmas' is an insult. These punks need to wise up on this point as on many others.
It just now occurs to me that 'Xmas' may be susceptible of a quasi-Tillichian reading. Paul Tillich is famous for his benighted definition of 'God' as 'whatever is one's ultimate concern.' Well, take the 'X' in 'Xmas' as a variable the values of which are whatever one wants to celebrate at this time of year. So for some, 'Xmas' will amount to Solsticemas, for burglars Swagmas, for materialists Lootmas, for gluttons Foodmas, for inebriates Hoochmas, and for ACLU extremists Antichristianitymas.
A reader suggests some further constructions:
For those who love the capitol of the Czech Republic: Pragmas. For Dutch Reformed theologians of Frisian extraction who think Christmas is silly: Hoekemas. For Dutch Reformed philosophy professors of Frisian extraction who like preserves on their toast: Jellemas. For fans of older British sci-fi flicks: Quatermas. For those who buy every special seasonal periodical they can get their hands on: Magmas. One could probably multiply such examples ad nauseum, so I won't.
How could an ACLU bonehead object to 'Xmas' so construed? No doubt he would find a way.
A while back I quipped that "Aporeticians qua aporeticians do not celebrate Christmas. They celebrate Enigmas." My man Hodges shot back: "But they do celebrate 'X-mas'! (Or maybe they 'cerebrate' it?)"
One morning recently I was talking with a thirtysomething woman about Obamacare. "If you like your period, you can keep your period" came out of my mouth. I was intending, "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan, period."
Thanks to Obama, the period is one punctuation mark that will never be the same. From now on, no one will be able to say 'period' without conjuring up the great man, just as words like 'inhale' and 'is' conjure up the first black president, Bill Clinton, along with images of chubby star-struck interns. "But I didn't inhale." I suppose it all depends on the meaning of 'inhale.'
Presidents need to realize that there is such a thing as videotape and that lies are easily exposed. In this clip, Bubba say that he tried marijuana a time or two, didn't like it, didn't inhale, and never tried it again. But obviously, there is no way to tell if you like it without inhaling it, and quite a bit of it, over several sessions. The man was obviously lying, and he must have known that we knew he was lying.
I tried it, and from '68-'72 smoked my fair share of it, inhaling deeply as one must to get any effect, but I did not like it. I'm an intense guy whose life is already plenty intense. My reaction was similar to Lenny Bruce's: "I've got enough shit flying through my head without smoking weed." (Quoted from memory from How to Talk Dirty and Influence People which I read around '66. My copy is long gone, my mother having confiscated it and thrown it away.)
Having just checked the quotation, I was pretty close. What Bruce actually said was this:
"I don't smoke pot, and I'm glad because then I can champion it without any special pleading. The reason I don't smoke pot is because it facilitates ideas and heightens sensations. And I got enough shit flying through my head without smoking pot."
I just wasted 30 minutes on the phone with a customer service representative straightening out a screw-up emanating from their end. The automated intro said that a "helpful customer care" rep would be available in one minutes (sic)." Don't tell me how helpful and caring you are. Just do your job and do it right.
This change from 'service' to 'care' is squishy, bien-pensant liberal feel-good bullshit and quite in keeping wth the Age of Feeling, the Age of Obama Yomama. It's humbug I tell you, humbug!
1. Mark Anderson's Halloween greeting takes the form of a quotation from Moby Dick, the relevance of which escapes me: "The subterranean miner that works in us all, how can one tell whither leads his shaft by the ever shifting, muffled sound of his pick?" Wider context here.
5. On this date in 2008, MavPhil moved to Typepad which has proven to be a satisfactory blogging platform with an extremely reliable server. It works best with Mozilla Firefox. Traffic is up: on good days 2000 pageviews and up.
On Halloween I take to class a medical-school skull with a removable skull cap.
Inside are various gloomy or semi-gloomy thoughts on slips of paper. Each
student takes one, and next time we meet students read them aloud one by one,
and when they're done we discuss them. Anyway, I was preparing the skull this
morning and thought you might enjoy Melville's thought.
10. October, sadly, ends once again. How fast she flies. But here in the Sonoran desert she is the harbinger of the loveliest time of the year. Happy Halloween, everyone.
Attached you will find two PDFs: a copyedited version of your manuscript and a version indicating changes to the original file. This is your final opportunity to make any clarifications or stylistic changes to the manuscript.
An honest mistake, no doubt, so I won't reveal the names of the editor or the journal. But it is a little ironic that a copy editor would make such a mistake. It's tough being an editor. It's a lousy job. So I want to thank all of the editors out there without whom those of us who publish would not see our words in print.
Let me end with a bit of praise for the tribe of bloggers. Most people 'massacre' my name and it "pisses me off" in the phraseology of Jeff Dunham's Walter; but bloggers almost universally get it right. No surprise, I suppose: bloggers are an elite group of highly literate natural-born scribblers.
Because of comments like these, though they are surely not the worst one can find. (I cite them only because my Referral List pointed me to the post to which they are appended.) But they are characteristic. In my experience, to discuss religion with the irreligious and the anti-religious is a sheer waste of time. You may as well discuss logic with the illogical, music with the unmusical, or poetry with the terminally prosaic.
I am regularly surprised by how much garbage Victor Reppert tolerates in his ComBox. He will even allow people to insult him in vile ways. It may be that he is a model of Christian detachment, slow to anger, quick to forgive, tolerant to a fault. It may also be that he doesn't appreciate that to tolerate bad behavior is to invite more of the same. A conservative, I take a harsher line, one more in keeping with the realities of human nature, realities liberals tend to ignore. Conservatism as I espouse and practice it subsumes the classically liberal commitment to toleration. But toleration has limits. In any case, a weblog is private property where no one has free speech rights.
A man's home is his castle, and his blog his cybercastle. Just as I do not tolerate bad behavior in the first, I do not tolerate it in the second. But bloggers are free to run their blogs any way they see fit.
You might think that disallowing comments limits my traffic. Not so. Traffic is better than ever, recently up around 2000 pageviews per diem. Readers I respect tell me that they like my Comments Policy.
To end aphoristically:
The best arguments against an open combox are the contents of one.