Due to the increased number of calls…

January 20, 2009

“Have your current vehicle registration card, your driver license and a credit or debit card ready.” Well, no. You will have plenty of time to get all these things while listening to a rather unapologetic voice repeating “due to the increased number of calls, your waiting time may be longer than usual” over and over. Instead make yourself a cup of tea, get comfortable, and a have a copy of Kafka’s “The Castle” ready. Remember to switch the phone from right to left and back every so often while cautiously navigating the dangerous seas of menu options offered by the ever friendly robot. Resist the urge to press “2” for Spanish the third time around in the hope of at least getting some free vocab help. Never opt for “more questions”. Insist that “Speak to a technician” really is what you meant, even if the robot interprets it as “Vehicle Registration”. Then, once in line for the “technician”, start to think about where you might have placed all the important documents you’ll need. Make another cup of tea. And enjoy your Kafka.

Worth reading

December 9, 2008

This article is worth reading, for the views it expresses, but also for who is writing it and in reaction to what. Why now? Shouldn’t this have been said years ago? Or is it meant as a dialectical move?

On another topic, and more informative than opinionated is this piece. Modern pirates are apparently quite sophisticated and hardly come out of nowhere.

Fool proof

November 25, 2008

A temptation so powerful that nobody is immune to it, especially no philosopher. What if you could make it such that nobody can disagree with your core thesis? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? And so, year after year, paper after paper, they try.

For a while it looked like Timothy Williamson had good chances of winning the contest. Witness: “If the original question, read literally, had too obvious an answer, either positive or negative, that would give us reason to suspect that someone who uttered it had some other meaning in mind, to which the overt compositional structure of the question might be a poor guide. But competent speakers of English may find themselves quite unsure how to answer the question, read literally, so we have no such reason for interpreting it non-literally.” (from: The Philosophy of Philosophy)

So, basically, anybody not gripped by the problem of vagueness (hidden in the “original question” referred to) is most likely not a competent speaker of English. But notice that Williamson fails to really rule out all other options. He consciously weakens the claim about linguistic competence to a ‘may’. (Of course, competent English speakers may also “find themselves quite unsure how to answer the question” not because they are unsure what the answer, if any, to the question is, but because they “find themselves quite unsure” about what the hell the original question was supposed to mean, literally understood. But that’s a separate issue.)

Williamson’s attempt, at any rate, is toppled by Theodore Sider’s more concise and less cautious claim: “The very idea of distinguished structure itself, once grasped, is one that must surely be acknowledged.” (from: Ontological Realism) Marvellous. If you disagree with the idea of distinguished structure that just shows you haven’t really grasped it (yet). It’s not just that you are not a competent speaker. It’s more like: you are not a competent thinker. The ‘surely’ gives it away, a little bit, but other than that: there’s really nothing left to argue about, is there? Davidson would be proud.

Health in politics

October 20, 2008

Will McCain die of cancer in the next 10 years? Just how much did Obama smoke? Not only do some people apparently think that these are legitimate questions to be raised and discussed in public; candidates are to be criticized for less than full disclosure of their medical records. Are you serious? Should candidates really be chosen for their cholesterol levels?

But isn’t there a legitimate worry? What if the president gets seriously ill? Or dies? Well, that what vice-presidents are for. No, this public concern for the candidates’ health is much more expression of the kind of fetish health has become than expression of a legitimate worry.

But healthy doesn’t mean invincible. Just the other day, ever healthy and youthful seeming Jörg Haider of Austria killed himself in car crash, drunk and speeding, but still unexpectedly. But at least in his case we now know for sure he’s dead, which is more than can be said for another “beloved leader”, Kim Jong Il. He has disappeared from the public sphere (insofar as this is possible in the absence of a public sphere), but speculations about his death are denied.

How is Fidel Castro doing these days?

Ponderable Matter

October 5, 2008

“I must confess I am jealous of the term atom : for though it is very easy to talk of atoms, it is very difficult to form a clear idea of their nature, especially when compound bodies are under consideration.” – Faraday

The great experimenter obviously had no professional mereologist at hand…

You’d never have guessed

August 5, 2008

Careful and subtle analysis once more helps to improve our understanding of teenage minds. Beware of kids listening to French Rap, though!