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Permanence and Evanescence

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Evanescence: Thinking about a word

Sometimes ordinary-language words embed deep and important truths. I believe this is the case with the word "realty" for example, which English speaking people use for a certain species of property. Realty looks suspiciously like "reality" and the fact may get us to thinking metaphysically about the fecundity of land, the relative permanence of land versus chattels, fixedness, etc. and how these are all earmarks not just of realty but of reality as well.

But I suspect I've said all that before here. Today I'm thinking about another fraught word: evanescence. Or in the adjectival form, evanescent. Indeed, one important feature of this word is that we're much more accustomed to it as an adjective than as a noun: one encounters "an evanescent X" much more often than one encounters "evanescence." 

Further, the connotation is almost always positive. We think of valuable things as fleeting. (Which makes this an odd word to couple with the on…

Spencer and Pippin

[Richard B.] Spencer graduated from UVA in 2001, then proceeded to the University of Chicago for a master’s degree in humanities. He said he studied there with the philosopher Robert Pippin, who “influenced me a great deal.” “It was there I started questioning the fundamental nature of democracy,” Spencer said. (Pippin doesn’t remember him. “I regard his rhetoric and activities as loathsome and despicable,” Pippin wrote to me. “I revere the founding principles of liberal democracy, and want no association with the man.”) At a party during his year at Chicago, he confessed his political leanings to the Marxist philosopher Gopal Balakrishnan, then a professor at the school. Spencer recalls that Balakrishnan gave a professional diagnosis on the spot: “You’re a fascist.”

The above italicized material is from an article in The Atlantic by Graeme Wood. Here's a link: June Issue.

It inspired me to look into this other fellow, Robert Pippin, somewhat further.  

Pippin is a Hegel scholar. The…

Frank Ramsey

I have written before in this blog about the 'Bayesian' interpretation of probability. I have even discussed a construction of quantum mechanics that draws on Bayesianism.

What I'd like to add today is a little bit of history. Bayesianism doesn't come from the Reverend Thomas Bayes. No more than Christianity comes from Jesus. No one seems to have thought Bayes' 18th century contributions to probability theory (real though they were) had a lot of philosophical weight until the early 20th century. It was Frank Ramsey who made that leap, who served as the Apostle Paul of our analogy.

In the mid 1920s and through the early 1930s, Ramsey worked to axiomize a Bayesian/subjectivist

Mladic Found Guilty of Genocide

Recently, (November 22, 2017) the international criminal tribunal at the Hague sentenced Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment for genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of the laws or customs of war.

The charges arose in connection with events in the former Yugoslavia through the first half of the 1990s. For example, in July 1995 troops under Mladic command overran UN established safe areas in Srebrenica and Zepa. More than 8,000 Moslem Bosniaks who had sought sanctuary there were murdered on his orders. 

Not long ago I discussed in this blog the "error" theory of meta-ethics, the view that ethical statements try to assert some moral realities, but they inevitably fail because there are no such realities.

One argument sometimes advanced for the error theory is an argument from dissension about morality.  The underlying idea is this: when a subject is important to a lot of human beings for a long time, and thus comes under intense study, we would expect disagreements, b…