"Proof,” I said, “is always a relative thing. It’s an overwhelming balance of probabilities. And that’s a matter of how they strike you" Raymond Chandler, Farewell My Lovely
How many bridges carried everyone safely today? How many people received life saving medical treatment today in a publicly funded hospital? How many people did not get chronic diarrhea (or even cholera) today because of an effective water treatment system? How many air traffic controllers safely guided hundreds of aircraft and their passengers to the ground today? How many police officers arrested a drunk driver and saved a life today? These successes were funded largely through tax dollars.
We were rightly upset when the Katrina response was mismanaged. We are rightly appalled by the malfeasance of the city officials in Flint Michigan. We are right to speak out when police officers, though incompetence, bad training or worse, maliciousness, unnecessarily take a life.
We are only upset however, because the success of our civilization has raised our expectations. Our society supports an unprecedented number of people at a level of material wealth undreamed of by any previous generation. Most of us alive today would not have lived past 12 years old if we had been born in any previous era. We complain because we cannot have everything we want when we have more than anyone has ever had. Do you have poor access to healthcare? Poor access to current healthcare is better than good access to the healthcare of 100 years ago. Rather than be only discontented with society, we should be flabbergasted that such a thing exists.
To the rich: You live at a level of opulence beyond the dreams of any king, monarch or potentate in the previous 7000 years of civilization. Don't waste your anger complaining that society taxes you to pay for the infrastructure that supports the system that makes your unprecedented wealth possible.
To the poor: Being poor is not easy. Being poor never has been. You may feel that a person as well blessed as myself does not have the right to criticize but please be patient. Do not waste your anger at the problems and shortcomings of the welfare system. It is only the poor of the last 100 years who have had a welfare system to complain about. Do not waste your anger that the system is not fair. Never in history has the system been fair, but never have the poor of any society been in a better situation than you. Be discontented with injustice but do not waste your anger. Make every effort to take advantage of all the resources that you do have. You may not be happy with current society but the current social structure provides you with more opportunities than 99% of the human beings that have ever lived.
Discontent is the spur of all improvement but it is hard work to make things better. It is easy to tear them down. Let's not let our discontent spoil our good judgement. Our society and our government, even as they are, must be maintained if they are to be improved.
2 hrs · "Neither [Milton nor Aristotle] would dispute that the purpose of education is to produce the good man and the good citizen, though it must be remembered here that we are not using the word 'good' in any narrowly ethical sense. The 'good man' here means the man of good taste and good feeling, the interesting and interested man, and almost the happy man.... Vocational training, on the other hand, prepares the pupil not for leisure, but for work; it aims at making not a good man but a good banker, a good electrician, etc.... You see at once that education is essentially for freemen and vocational training for slaves. That is how they were distributed in the old unequal societies; the poor man's son was apprenticed to a trade, the rich man's son went to Eton and Oxford and then made the grand tour.... One of the most dangerous errors instilled in us by nineteenth-century progressive optimism is the idea that civilization is automatically bound to increase and spread. The lesson of history is the opposite; civilization is a rarity, attained with difficulty and easily lost. The normal state of humanity is barbarism." ~C.S. Lewis
Elizabeth Bowen, Charley Dewberry and 2 others like this.
Charley Dewberry Jacob- If you have it on your fingertips where in Lewis is this quote from? If you don't have it I can of course google it.
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Jrcb Swnsn replied · 1 Reply
Dan McLaughlin If free men work and there are no slaves, both education and vocational training are needed. Are education and vocational training mutually exclusive? The educated man must work and the workman must be educated. An educated man that does not work grows thin. The uneducated worker creates a monster.
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Dan McLaughlin Julie suggested that I change the above from "ceates a monster" to "creates Donald Trump.
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Jrcb Swnsn In the same section Lewis says: "When societies became, in effort if not in achievement, egalitarian, we are presented with a difficulty. To give everyone education and no one vocational training is impossible, for bankers and electricians we must have and they must be trained. Our ideal must be to find time for both education and training: our danger is that equality may mean training for all and education for none -- that everyone will learn commercial French instead of Latin, and 'knowledge of the world we live in' rather than great literature. It is against this danger that schoolmasters must fight, for if education is beaten by training, civilization dies."
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Dan McLaughlin Knowing Lewis I knew that he understood the balance and had said it better someplace else. It is just that the line "vocational training for slaves" poked me with a sharp stick.
What should you look for in a President?
Regardless of where you stand in the political spectrum, you should ask the following questions of the candidates.
Values – What does the candidate value? What things do they hold as important? How do they prioritize their values?
Character – Are they courageous? Do they have self control? Are their values, as practiced, the same as their values in theory? As an example, someone may strongly value the ability to control their temper but not be able to keep their cool. They may value honesty but not be able to frankly tell the truth to people for fear of disapproval.
Judgment – The ability to evaluate a situation, to weigh values, to determine and discover possible options for actions, and to consistently select the option that provides the best outcome. This involves, among other things, understanding the law of unintended consequences and the ability to evaluate the risk that it entails.
Knowledge – Understanding of human nature, government, history, religion and philosophy in general. More specifically, knowledge of the current state of affairs. What are the issues? Who are the players and what are their values, character , judgment and personality. This knowledge constitutes the information that are necessary for the process of judgment.
Specific Skills – Ability to communicate. Administrative skills. Ability to supervise. Ability to negotiate. Ability to inspire. Ability to delegate.
Recruiting – Can they put together a good team? Quarterbacks don't win games; teams win games. Do they have the ability and necessary connections to recruit qualified subordinates and assign appropriate responsibilities to these people, to monitor the results and to take corrective action if necessary. Do they have the ability to get the best out of these people. Who are their current associates? Do they associate with themselves with people who have requisite values, character, judgment,knowledge and skills. Cabinet and other important positions will be filled by people they already know and trust.
"I know that in their common usage these words mean something else. But my purpose is to explain the nature of things, not the meaning of words. I intend to indicate these things by words whose usual meaning is not entirely opposed to the meaning with which I mean to use them. One warning should suffice." Benedict de Spinoza "Ethics" IIIDXXExp
René Descartes: Principles of Philosophy, Part 4: The earth
205. Nevertheless my explanations appear to be at least morally certain. . .
Something can be morally certain, i.e. sure enough for everyday practical purposes, while still being uncertain in relation to the absolute power of God. Without having been to Rome (let’s suppose), you are sure that it is a town in Italy, but it could be the case that everyone who has told you this has been lying. ·And here’s another example·. You are trying to read a document written in Latin but encoded; you guess that every ‘a’ should be a ‘b’, every ‘b’ a ‘c’, and so on through the alphabet, and when you decode the document on that basis it makes good sense. You won’t doubt that you have detected the code and understood the letter—·you’ll be morally certain of that·. But it is possible that you are wrong, and that the document involves some other code and means something different from what your decoding made it mean. •Possible, but hardly •credible—especially if the document is long. Well, now, look at all the many properties relating to magnetism, fire and the fabric of the entire world that I have derived in this book from just a few principles: you may think that my assumption of these principles was arbitrary and groundless, but perhaps you’ll admit that if my ‘principles’ were false it would hardly have been possible for them to fit so many items into a coherent pattern.
206. . . . and indeed more than morally certain.
Besides, even in relation to nature there are some things that we regard as not merely •morally but •absolutely certain. (Being absolutely certain that P involves thinking that it’s wholly impossible that P should be false.) This certainty has a metaphysical basis in the proposition that God is supremely good and in no way a deceiver, and hence that the faculty he gave us for distinguishing truth from falsehood can’t lead us into error while we are using it properly and are thereby perceiving something clearly. Mathematical demonstrations have this kind of certainty, and so does the knowledge that material things exist, as does all evident reasoning about material things. If you think about how I have reached •my results, deriving them in an unbroken chain from the first and simplest principles of human knowledge, you may be willing to count •them among the absolute certainties. You are especially likely to do so if you have a proper grasp of two facts: (1) We can have no sensory awareness of •external objects unless •they make something move in our nerves; and (2) the fixed stars, owing to their enormous distance from us, can’t produce such motion ·in our nerves· unless some motion is also occurring both in them and also throughout the entire intervening part of the heavens. [Strictly, the ‘enormous distance’ clause shouldn’t occur in that sentence; Descartes’s considered view is that something six inches from us can’t stimulate our nerves unless there is motion in it and through the intervening space.] Once this is accepted, it seems that all the other phenomena, or at least the general features of the universe and the earth that I have described
In my opinion absolute certainty is not possible. Moral certainty is the best we can do. Moral certainty is open to critique and analysis. Decisions and actions are necessary. Judgement is needed to analyze the aspects of certainty pertinent to a given decision. Good judgement is the ability to make decisions acceptable to God.
I wrote a paper for my Gutenberg College writing class. It is a little esoteric but I think it turned out pretty good so I posted it on academia.edu. Take a look at it here:
Bayle and Leibniz: Would the Theodicy Have Satisfied Bayle?
Jesus miraculously turns water into wine. He did so at the wedding at Cana. They put water into jars and dipped out wine. No process involved. One minute it was water; the next minute it was wine. Everyone was surprised.
Jesus turns water into wine everyday. Vines grow. People harvest the grapes and press out the juice. People store the juice in certain environments while microbes consume the sugar and excrete alcohol. They put the resulting liquid into bottles and pour out wine. No one is surprised.
Which do you think was easier for God? Turning water directly into wine? Or creating from nothing a world where vines miraculously grow? A world where people miraculously breath and think and eat and drink. A world where these miraculously created people utilize actual (not artificial) intelligence to discover ways to make containers that will hold grape juice. Where by their miraculously created intelligence, these people discover that the juice changes into wine. Where they discover that the juice is changed into wine by miraculously created little critters that are so small that you cannot see them. A world where they discover that there are particular ways to select grapes and ways to store the juice in certain containers at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time that results in wine that provides superior enjoyment.
Which is easier?
Why are we surprised when God changes water directly into wine instead of doing it the hard way?
Actions can be thought of in two (and many other) ways:
Right Actions vs. Wrong Actions;
Wise Actions vs. Unwise (stupid) Actions.
Right and Wrong have to do with their moral acceptability in the eyes of God.
Wise and Unwise actions have to do with whether the action will accomplish the intended ends.
These are different criteria.
Many good people do unwise things. It is not evil to be stupid.
There is, however, a significant relationship between these two criteria.
If you wish to perform a right action, if the situation is such that your actions impact other people, it is incumbent on you to choose an actions that will have a beneficial (or at least neutral) impact on other people. Thus, for these situations, it is necessary to put forth your best effort to act wisely.
If you wish to perform a wise action it is necessary to choose only those actions that are morally acceptable in the eyes of God.
"My father taught me to question everything . . . .
My mother taught me where to find answers . . . .
So thankful for both lessons!"
M. Ellen McLaughlin
Ellen said it. I wish I had.
P. Which is better A or B?
E. Well that depends on the criteria you are using.
P. What criteria should we be using?
E. What are you trying do?
P. Trying to figure out whether A is better than B.
E. Why? Is there a problem?
P. Yes. We are asking if there is a way to tell if A is better than B.
E. There is a way.
P. What is it then?
E. First, why you care whether A is better than B?
P. We are trying to find the meaning of the question, Which is better, A or B?
E. Why are you trying to find meaning to the question?
P. Because it is important to know the meaning of things.
E. Doesn't it mean that you've got these two things, A and B and one of them is not as good as the other and you want to know which?
E. Well then that's what your question means. So what's your problem?
P. Look, you said that there is a way to tell if A is better than B?
P. Well what is it?
E. You got these two things, right?
E. What are you going to use them for?
P. We are going to use them as hypothetical examples.
E. Is there any difference between them?
P. One of them is A and the other is B.
E. Is one of them more hypothetical than the other?
P. No, they are both hypothetical.
E. Is one of them more of an example than the other.
P. No, they are both representative.
E. Representative of what?
P. Of whatever they are an example of.
E. Well what are they an example of?
P. Of things that can be compared.
E. Why are you comparing them?
P. To see if one of them is better.
E. OK. You got these two things. One of them is A and the other is B. Right?
E. Is there any other difference between them?
E. Well if the only difference between them is that one of them is A and the other is B, they are not very good examples of things that can be compared.
P. Yes they are, because we have been able to isolate the question to one variable.
E. Good point. ... So what is there about this A thing that would make it better than the B thing?
P. It depends on what criteria is being used.
E. Well what criteria should be used to determine whether an A thing is a better hypothetical example than a B thing?
P. What is it being an example of?
E. Of something that can be compared with something else.
"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity." -- Albert Einstein (Vohs, 217). Everyone knows that time seems to go faster or slower depending on what you are doing. It is also common wisdom that as people grow older, time seems to go by quicker. Though merely a phenomenon of perception, this idea is not beyond the realm of mathematical and scientific enquiry. This paper presents two attempts to create mathematical models of this phenomenon of perception.
Mathematical Theories of Experiential Time - The Nuhn-McLaughlin Theory by Dan McLaughlin
An easily understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex, incomprehensible truth.
Complex problems have simple, easy-to-understand wrong answers.
Having found my previously workable falsehoods to be unworkable in my current circumstances, I am finding it difficult to discover a new workable falsehood.
It took me a long time to put together the first system of workable falsehoods. It worked very well and I was sure it would be adequate. It was troubling to have it fail. The framework was flexible and had withstood many shocks. It was able to spring back into place or to bend permanently into a slightly modified shape that was usually an improvement.
Circumstances occurred that stressed the framework in such a way that some pieces snapped and the framework collapsed.
I fear that I am too old to adequately rebuild a new framework system. I also fear that any new system of workable falsehoods that I develop will fail as miserably and completely as my previous one did. These failures tend to happen when one is under the greatest stress and a useful heuristic is most needed.
The best we can ever do is muddle through. A good system helps you to muddle through with confidence and peace. I will continue to muddle through the best that I can but it is extremely unpleasant to muddle through without peace.
When making decisions without enough data, judgement is done by utilizing heuristics.
Engineers learn thought patterns that scrutinize heuristic techniques in such a way that optimizes the decision against criteria that has also been scrutinized. Criteria are scrutinized as they relate to values that are also scrutinized such that the values are rank ordered or otherwise organized to balance one against another. The overall goal is improvement of the lot of man. This process defines "good judgement". Utilizing good judgement is an ethical requirement, a core moral component. Any actions contrary to implementation of good judgement is immoral.
Salesmen/marketers work to identify and exploit those heuristic techniques that will motivate consumers to select their product. The overall goal is to maximize sales, regardless of other criteria. This process is one example of bad judgement. Thus sales and marketing activities are by nature immoral.
Thus engineers tend to hold salesmen in contempt. Salesmen don't tend to understand this.
Rules for the Direction of the Mind by Rene Descartes
The aim of our studies should be to direct the mind with a view to
forming true and sound judgements about whatever comes before it.
Whenever men notice some similarity between two things, they are wont to ascribe to each, even in those respects in which the two differ, what they have found to be true of the other. ...
We should attend only to those objects of which our minds seem capable
of having certain and indubitable cognition.
Science & Sanity Alfred Korzybski
Thoughts that occurred while reading.
Dan McLaughlin September 2014
"A map is not the territory."
Quote: If we start ... with "a statement that 'a word is not the object spoken about', and some one tries to deny that, he would have to produce an actual physical object which would be the word, --impossible of performance, even in asylums for the 'mentally' ill."
Quote: "Any map or language, to be of maximum usefulness, should, in structure, be similar to the structure of the empirical world. Likewise, from the point of view of a theory of sanity, any system or language should in structure be similar in structure to our nervous system. It is easily shown that the aristotelian system differs structurally from these minimal requirements ...."
It follows that for maximum usefulness a language should simultaneously be structurally similar to both the empirical world and our nervous system. The question arises whether the structure of the nervous system and the structure of the empirical world are the same. Similarly, are they even commensurable?
The phrase "It loses something in translation." is common and generally accepted.
The Aristotelian system, verbal language (in its multitudinous variations), graphics (drawings, sketches, diagrams, etc.), and mathematics are all language systems with their own structure. Conscious thought occurs utilizing these languages. Unconscious thought occurs in a language that is the structure of the mind. It is analogous to "machine language". To consciously think of something, the mind reorganizes “mental machine language” into one or more of the conscious languages. As with all translations, something is lost.
Increasing the number of languages available to the conscious mind and/or improving the ability to articulate within those languages improves the usefulness of conscious thought. When machine language is translated into conscious language "A" something is lost. When it is translated into conscious language "B" some is also lost, but the thing lost in "A" is in some ways different from the thing lost in "B". Thus multiple conscious languages allow manipulation of the the machine language thoughts with less total loss.
Conscious languages have the advantage of being a tool that can be used intentionally in a way that we cannot employ at the machine language level. At least this seems to be the case. There may be some sort of intentional unconscious process that I am not aware of. That intentional unconscious process may be something that is always lost in translation from machine language to conscious language.
Another advantage of conscious language is that it can be used to communicate with other people. Intentional conscious thought can be converted to voluntary actions of the body (speech, gestures, and so forth) that can be physically sensed by other people. These physical sensations can be recognized by the hearer as having patterns that have meaning.
The machine language of the hearer manipulates the sensations, finding patterns and associating them with other sensed patterns previously detected and remembered. This meaning is translated into a conscious language within the hearer.
Thus the unconscious thought of the speaker is translated within the speakers mind, from its machine language to conscious language "A". The speaker then physically manipulates his body in a manner appropriate to language "A". The hearer then experiences physical sensations. The patterns of these physical sensations are translated via machine language into conscious thoughts in the hearer's conscious language "A'". The hearer can then intentionally manipulate these thoughts. These thoughts can then be internalized (Note 1), translating them from A' to the hearers mental machine language. From the speaker's original “machine level thoughts”, to the hearer's “machine level thoughts” there are thus about 5 different translations. Something is lost in each translation. Through this process, the machine language thought of the speaker results in a machine language thought in the listener.
(Note 1) Internalization is strange. It is not "voluntary" as in the manipulation of conscious thought but one can (via learning exercises?) intentionally internalize the meaning on conscious language thoughts.
The map is not the territory but it is an analogy of the territory. A "word" is analogous to the object. A speaker's original thought in machine language is analogous to the resulting machine language thought in the listener.
An analogy is the setting of one thing alongside another. By listing the attributes of thing one that are also true of thing two, we say how they are alike. On the strength the observed similarities, heuristic inferences are made that some known attribute of thing one will also be found to be an attribute of thing two.
Conversely, by listing attributes of thing one that are not also true of thing two, we say they are different. In the same way, on the strength of observed dissimilarities, heueristic inferences can be made that some attribute of thing one will not be found as an attribute of thing two.
The speakers thought will be in some ways similar to the listeners thought and in other ways different. We can say that the differences are due to the cumulative losses in translation.
If the speaker then uses conscious language "B" to transmit the same machine language thought, and the listener uses his conscious language "B"" to interpret the thought into his machine language, we have created another analogous machine language thought.
M = mental machine language (unconscious)
Ss = Body manipulations creating sensible material conditions
Sh = Body sensations caused by sensible material conditions
A = Speakers Conscious language A (eg. English)
A' = Hearers Conscious Language A (eg. English)
B = Speakers Conscious language B (eg. German)
B' = Hearers Conscious Language B (eg. German)
M -> A -> Ssa --> Sha -> A' -> M'a
M -> B -> Ssb --> Shb -> B' -> M'b
M is analogous to A and to B.
The similarities and differences between M and A
are different than
the similarities and differences between M and B.
Using A as an analogy to B allows the speaker to examine the differences and similarities of A and B to critique the translation losses of M->A and the translation losses of M->B. The total losses due to translation are lowered.
The listener can use the result of the first instance M'a analogy to M'b. Using a similar critique of the similarities and differences between M'a and M'b the translation losses between the speaker and listener. This improved combined translation could be designated M'(a+b)
If we make an analogy of M to M'(a+b) we see that the resultant M'(a+b) will have similarities and differences with M. What heueristic inferences can be made regarding the understanding that one person has of another?
On Exactitude in Science
... In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Use-less, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
Suárez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, LibroIV,Cap. XLV, Lérida,1658
Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, Translated by Andrew Hurley
"It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover. To know how to criticize is good, to know how to create is better." Henri Poincaré
"Mathematicians do not study objects, but the relations between objects; to them it is a matter of indifference if these objects are replaced by others, provided that the relations do not change. Matter does not engage their attention, they are interested by form alone. " Henri Poincaré, Science and Hypothesis, 1905 p. 25
"Most of the CEO's of major corporations are Engineers. You will be running the world someday and I don't want it run by a bunch of idiots." This is a paraphrase of the legendary Dr Babcock of the CE Department at NCSU circa 1979. The occasion was an "all-hands" seminar of the class of 1980. Some unfortunate undergrad had asked (in a whiney tone) "Why do we have to take all these english and history classes? They don't have anything to do with Engineering?" After Dr Babcock's fury subsided, we all knew better than ask that question again.
Engineers are involved in making decisions that change peoples lives. These decisions will involve technical criteria, sure, that's why they need an Engineer. But the issues being addressed and the problems being solved are human. What is needed to make these decisions is an understanding of what it means to be human. Thus, Engineers must study the Humanities.
This, to me, is one of the biggest differences between Engineering and Engineering Technology. ET is a study of the "nuts and bolts" of Engineering. It produces an excellent skill set and can be the the basis of a fine, useful and satisfying career.
The study of Engineering, however, must be a study, not of just the technology of Engineering, but of Engineering in its broadest sense. How does the work of Engineering interface with the work of others? What are the social, legal and environmental implications of our work? What is the historical and cultural context?
Engineering is more than the nuts and bolts of technology and an Engineering education must be broad and deep if it is to truly work toward the benefit of humanity.
"You can't write anything longer than it takes to take the average shit"
-Jeff Goldblum "Big Chill"
And that is too long now because people text in the john.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw
Jerome Bruner, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987.
Review of Jerome Bruner, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987. by Publisher's Weekly Review
If gaining maturity means being adept at seeing the same set of events from multiple perspectives and contemplating alternative futures, then this concept of adulthood says something about the way our minds work. Bruner's ``constructivist'' approach holds that we create our own realities through our interaction with our social world and with symbols. This collection of challenging, often difficult essays takes us beyond his popular On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand, as he explores controversies in the theory of literature, linguistics, cognitive psychology and education. His argument that characters, setting and action are inseparable elements in fiction helps explain why great novels have emotional power. Literature is seen as a vehicle that opens us to dilemmas. Bruner's outlook illuminates sundry topics, from the way a teacher's stance toward the curriculum affects the learning process to the idea of culture as ``semiconnected knowledge of the world'' that enables people to arrive at acceptable ways of acting. (March) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
This copy of Publishers Weekly Reviews may no longer be available in print.
But you go to a great school, not for knowledge so much
Semi-Retired Civil Engineer currently a student of Philosophy, Literature and Art in the context of a Great Books Curriculum at Gutenberg College