Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Odd 'n' Ends

Headline of the Week
"So the interesting question is, why did infidelity continue to rise even when divorce became available and accepted and nonstigmatized?"
--Esther Perel, Slate.com, March 27

Why, indeed? 'Tis a puzzlement.

From Where Else Might Such a Thing Erupt?
"Major Solar Flare Erupts From the Sun"
--headline, Space.com, March 31

The Suspense Ends
"Obama Endorses Dem. Senator in Hawaii Race"
--headline, Associated Press, March 31
+ + +

Hey, Maybe We Should Do This More Often!


ISTANBUL, March 9 (Reuters) - Patriarchs of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians ended a rare summit in Istanbul on Sunday calling for a peaceful end to the crisis in Ukraine and denouncing violence driving Christians out of the Middle East.

Twelve heads of autonomous Orthodox churches, the second-largest family of Christian churches, also agreed to hold a summit of bishops, or ecumenical council, in 2016, which will be the first in over 1,200 years.

A "summit of bishops," forsooth.
+ + +

Because You're Mine, I Walk the Line

The White House blog regales us with photographs of long lines of people waiting to sign up for ObamaCare, calling it a "Surge" and pointing to it as a sign that people love ObamaCare. Of course, there are often similar lines to be found at Motor Vehicle Registration and similar "surges" around 15 April in the filing of income taxes; but in neither case is it regarded as a sign that the public loves it.

(Then, too, long lines of people waiting to purchase the necessities of life is often a sign that a command economy, like Venezuela or the old Soviet Union, has mucked things up, supply-and-demand-wise.)

There are also long lines in department stores as 25 December approaches. The lines are more likely due to immanent deadlines than to any great surge of enthusiasm and support. The White House blog's analysis of the facts is no more expert than the construction of the web portal or the provisions of the Law itself -- now modified on the fly by ad hoc delays and exemptions that will almost certainly lead to implosion a few years down the road. The fate, as it were, of actuarial science deniers.

+ + +

Good Thing He Wasn't a Priest

Du Pont Heir Spared Jail
for raping his own 3 year old daughter.

Meanwhile, a few years ago, a homeless man stole $100 to pay the fee to stay at a detox center. When the bank teller turned over all her cash, he pulled out the Benjamin, saying he didn't need more than that. The next morning, he returned the $100 out of shame. As far as TOF knows, he's still in jail serving his 15 year sentence.
-- Digital Journal, Jan 17, 2009

Too bad he was not the wealthy heir to a big fortune. Or perhaps the temporary theft of a C-note is that much more serious to our modern world than the rape of a 3-year old by a rich guy, at least when it cannot be used to cudgel the Church.

Chastek on the masculinism of abortion.

I’ve met a lot of women who want more kids but whose husbands won’t have it; others want to leave work to have kids but whose husbands don’t want to lose the income; and it’s just crazy to think that abortions never happen – or even that they don’t happen a lot – from male coercion.

Have You Found Jesus?


Giving New Meaning to the Expression "Finding Yourself"

On Saturday 25 August, 2012, a tour bus stopped near Iceland’s Eldgja canyon and the tourists spent some time hiking and sightseeing. After her excursion over this rocky terrain one of the women decided to to change her clothes and spruce herself up before getting back on the bus. When she returned, she learned that someone in her group had gone missing. The tourist group then spent the next three hours searching for the missing woman. Around 3AM, the woman who had changed her clothes suddenly realized that the woman they were looking for was her, described as wearing the clothing she had changed out of.

Denying the Obvious

One of the disadvantages of a faulty metaphysic is that it leads its holders into conundrums and paradoxes and the denial of the patently obvious. Slate magazine, oft a repository of such things, tells us in The End of Evil? that "neuroscientists suggest there is no such thing. Are they right?" The author wonders whether Science!™ has finally driven a stake through the dark heart of "evil," Or at least "emptied the word of useful meaning, reduced the notion of a numinous nonmaterial malevolent force to a glitch in a tangled cluster of neurons, the brain?"
The idea that people make conscious decisions to hurt or harm is no longer sustainable, say the new brain scientists. For one thing, there is no such thing as "free will" with which to decide to commit evil. (Like evil, free will is an antiquated concept for most.) Autonomous, conscious decision-making itself may well be an illusion. And thus intentional evil is impossible.
Like a bad penny, the idea keeps turning up. Obviously, the "neuroscientists" could come to no such decision, since by the very decision they are incapable of making decisions. However, we must make allowance for the tendency of Late Moderns to exempt themselves from their own pronouncements. In this they are like the Mainstream Protestants in the opinion of Zev Chafets: Mainstream Protestants tend to locate sin in the moral malfeasance of others—slaveholders, colonialists, capitalists, settlers, oil barons, and the Bush administration.

But the turnabout is interesting, since previously free will denialists have always made sure to affirm their belief in crime and punishment. It might could be that the denial of evil, or rather of personal responsibility for evil, just is the justification for the denial of free will. It's always been aimed at 'anything goes,' hasn't it?
Certainly he pulled the lever that caused the explosion that launched the metal projectile that punctured the intervening soft tissues that caused a sudden decrease in blood pressure. But without referring to substances, you can't call it "murder."  
-- Lawrence Gage, RealPhysics
As Chesterton observed,
The determinist does not believe in appealing to the will, but he does believe in changing the environment. He must not say to the sinner, "Go and sin no more," because the sinner cannot help it. But he can put him in boiling oil; for boiling oil is an environment.
Evil is defectus boni, a lacking or deficiency in a good. Unless the world is perfect -- and this is something that is easily empirically falsified -- then it must be imperfect and the existence of evil is proven ipso facto. That no one chooses evil thinking that he is choosing evil is also self-evident and long-standing doctrine. And that one's choices are often impaired by various obstacles from drunkedness to habit to that crypto-genetic predisposition called 'origin'-al sin is likewise ancient doctrine. The more the neuroscientists learn, should they ever think more deeply upon it, the more they affirm what was anciently known.
In the public realm, most biologists seem, all too often, like scientific geniuses and moral simpletons, applying rational rigor to their investigations of nature but relying on feeling as their only moral compass. And for all its appreciation of nature’s complexity, the scientific mind seems no rival for the Bible or Aristotle or Machiavelli in understanding human complexity. Next to the philosopher, the neuroscientist still looks, all too often, like a fool.
-- Eric Cohen, "The Ends of Science"
 So let's close with a quote from the Duke:
“Life is hard. It’s harder if you’re stupid.”
-- John Wayne







47 comments:

  1. I really don't know about this information but i appreciate your content and blog too. Thanks for sharing this information

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    ReplyDelete
  2. Lots of funny stuff. I couldn't see the picture under "Have You Found Jesus?".

    I don't think it's realistic to claim that there will ever be a world where no male influence will be a part of the decision of a woman to have an abortion, nor would I say that the center of the notion of liberation via access to abortion is supposed to mean liberation from any male influence.

    Determinism still allows for an individual to modify their own behavior based on their own preferences, but perhaps I am taking Chesterton's quote too seriously.

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    Replies
    1. Determinism, as a philosophical concept—"the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will"—allows for nothing of the kind. Are you committing the equivocation fallacy by accident or deliberately?

      And the issue at stake in the abortion-liberation quote is that a great many women are coerced into having abortions, which is not a matter of "liberation from any male influence", but of outright enslavement to male influence. "X is not always wholly identical with Y" and "X is often the complete opposite of Y" are two very different propositions; the quote is the latter, so the former—which is what you're talking about—is irrelevant. Irrelevance is another informal logical fallacy, like equivocation.

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    2. Sophia's Favorite,

      Neither. A persons preference *is* external to their will, and directs it.

      So, your point is that, when removing the women from the coercion of the state, some will be coerced by men in their lives, therefore there is no liberation for these particular women? While removing from women the enslavement to an embryo/fetus, some will be enslaved to a man in their lives, so there is no liberation for these particular women? Basically, not every women would be liberated? I agree, but that's a really bad reason to keep coercing every woman and allowing every woman to be enslaved. If you had an adequate source of freshwater to alleviate a drought for 90% of farms in a given region, would you refuse to use it because the other 10% of farms would still be in drought?

      Delete
    3. In your case, referring to such policies as "enslavement" and "coercion", is nothing but rank ingratitude. The exact same "enslavement" and "coercion"—"nobody shall be killed without due process of law save in direct defense of life and limb"—is almost certainly the only reason that you are still alive, if you are even one-tenth as obnoxious in person as you are on the Internet.

      Please tell me what school of political thought equates "not granting an absolute right of life and death over a fellow human being" to "enslavement"? Is it some radical pro-samurai Bakumatsu-era Neo-Confucianism? Is it perhaps the old Roman "patria potestas"? Do you think mothers should have the right to murder their born children? If not, why not, if you think they should have the right to murder them before birth? A pregnant woman's actions and movements are often less constrained than those of a woman with a toddler; there is at least as much claim to "enslavement" and "coercion" in the latter case as in the former.

      Also, your example is an irrelevant strawman based on a very poor parallel, and that is the only response it warrants.

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    4. Oh, one more point: "preferences" have absolutely nothing to do with determinism—again, defined as philosophers define it. If you are choosing between your preferences, then determinism—as philosophers define it—is not in play. Why don't you argue according to the real definitions of words, instead of always and everywhere committing the informal fallacy of irrelevance?

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    5. Let me add one point: the laws against murder are also the only reason that I am still alive, and there's no "almost" about that certainty. But I have the sense not to argue that some class of people should have the right of life and death over its dependents.

      Delete
    6. Sophia's Favorite,

      I owe gratitude to my mother, who lived in state where abortion was legal when I was born, and bore me nonetheless, because she wanted me.

      I find it curious that you find the use of "coerced" and "enslavement" so very offensive, when it was you that introduced them into the conversation, and under equally ill-founded grounds.

      Please tell me what school of political thought equates "not granting an absolute right of life and death over a fellow human being" to "enslavement"?

      The one that says I can't drug you and take a kidney in order to save the life of another person. I think you also partially subscribe to that school.

      If not, why not, if you think they should have the right to murder them before birth?

      My personal position is that every embryo and fetus should have the right to be removed alive, and to live or die on its own terms. However, practically, this would only apply to fetuses at the age of six months or so, at lest with today's technology.

      A pregnant woman's actions and movements are often less constrained than those of a woman with a toddler; there is at least as much claim to "enslavement" and "coercion" in the latter case as in the former.

      In most Western countries, you can give children up as wards of the state, to my understanding. Very few parents make this choice, but the option is there.

      I agree using "coerced" and "enslavement" were poor parallels. Why did you bring them into the conversation?

      I didn't say "choosing among your preferences" (note the plural), I said "a person's preference" (singular). Among competing desires, there will be an ultimate preferred course of action, the preference, which directs the will.

      I agree no class of people should have the right of life and death over people, and at the same time, the need of one person should not over weigh the bodily autonomy of another.

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    7. The woman's bodily autonomy ends where the fetus' body begins. If she didn't want to get pregnant, she shouldn't have had sex. (Honestly, do you people not know where babies come from? It's like living among the Tiwi.) And if she was raped, her grievance is against the rapist, not his child. Nobody's bodily autonomy ever includes a right to kill a person except in direct defense of life and limb, or as a judicial execution—and abortion meets neither criterion.

      Delete
    8. Sophia's Favorite,

      The woman's bodily autonomy ends where the fetus' body begins.

      Yes, that's what I said. The fetus should be pulled out alive, if it can survive.

      If she didn't want to get pregnant, she shouldn't have had sex. (Honestly, do you people not know where babies come from? It's like living among the Tiwi.)

      So, carrying a child you don't want is the punishment for having sex you shouldn't have? We don't even force death row inmates to donate organs in this country, yet you think a woman needs to loan out her body for having sex.

      Nobody's bodily autonomy ever includes a right to kill a person except in direct defense of life and limb, or as a judicial execution—and abortion meets neither criterion.

      1) There are such things as medically necessary abortions.
      2) In any jurisdiction in the USA, I can defend myself with lethal force to prevent/repel non-lethal battery, as long as my defense stops when the battery no longer is a threat. By contrast, you support the killing of people who are taking nothing but government resources, and not currently endangering anyone.

      You probably think you have moral high ground.

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    9. No, she agreed to loan out her body by having sex. If you consent to sex, you ipso facto consent to the success of the sex act (sex-acts that do not result in conception are called "unsuccessful mating" in biology—I'm sorry you believe that your faith-based beliefs should trump science). I consider the same principle to hold in paternity cases.

      Try that argument in any other context: "when we signed the contract, we never expected the business to succeed". See how far it gets you in a court of law.

      This is your signed affidavit that you really don't know where babies come from.

      There are not, actually, such things as medically necessary abortions. There are medically necessary procedures that result in miscarriages (which is called "abortion" in medicine—it's not "induced" but it still is abortion), but there is never a medical need to induce abortion. Are you familiar with "electivity" in medical ethics? Some procedures become marginally safer if a miscarriage is induced first; but there is never a medical need to induce one.

      For the rest, you have no case so you introduce illegitimate question-begging arguments that deliberately or negligently ignore a key fact. The only reason death-row inmates are "not currently endangering anyone" is they are the most closely watched of all inmates, almost exclusively so we are not cheated of the chance to execute them by them committing suicide—if they were not on death row, they would be as likely to commit murder, assault, and rape as the other inhabitants of our prison system, and, well, 23% of maximum security inmates have been raped, just for one facet of whether they're "currently endangering anyone".

      You combine self-serving disingenuousness with self-righteous posturing in the most distasteful manner. I am through dignifying your screeds with responses.

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    10. Actually, one final point: you don't get to posture self-righteously about "the killing of people who are taking nothing but government resources, and not currently endangering anyone", when you advocate killing people without even a claim of justice. Executions are, at least, punishments for actual actions that were taken by those they are inflicted on. Abortion is inflicted on a person who did not even exist at the time of the action to which abortion is relevant—it is executing a person for the crime of at least one other person, if not two, of creating them. And yet despite advocating that monstrosity, you do actually claim, with enough pomposity to choke a buzzard, that you have the moral high ground.

      Delete
    11. Sophia's Favorite
      No, she agreed to loan out her body by having sex.

      To whom? At the time of sex, there is no fetus, no embryo, not even a zygote. You can't form a contract with a non-existent entity. Are you saying that she agreed to lend out her body to the man she is having sex with? Therefore, if the man agrees to the abortion, there is no wronged party? I don't believe that is your position, so your argument does not support your position.

      There are not, actually, such things as medically necessary abortions.

      Right, there are just women who die as a result of not having an abortion. That's no reason to consider the abortion necessary, after all, it's only a woman that dies. Please don't deny this happens. One recent example is Savita Halappanavar. If you are really committed to your position, you accept that the occasional woman will die from not having an abortion. It is inescapable.

      The only reason death-row inmates are "not currently endangering anyone" is they are the most closely watched of all inmates, almost exclusively so we are not cheated of the chance to execute them by them committing suicide

      I always chuckle when a supposed pro-life person feels cheated by the loss of a chance to execute someone. Personally, I'm not anti-death-penalty per se, but would like to see strong reforms to the process; we know people have been executed for crimes they did not commit.

      I am through dignifying your screeds with responses.

      Thank you.

      ... when you advocate killing people without even a claim of justice.

      Actually, I have specifically said that I would be in favor of removing every viable fetus alive, rather than having it aborted. Perhaps you think I should support removing the non-viable fetuses alive in order to be consistent in that regard, but that does seem cruel. At any rate, lying about my stated position does not enhance your credibility.

      you do actually claim, with enough pomposity to choke a buzzard, that you have the moral high ground.

      Regardless of what I think, I made no such claim.

      Again, thank you for not responding further. Everyone will be happier for it.

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    12. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    13. I knew I shouldn't have ever gone back to this comment thread—your impenetrable pachycephalicism is well-established—but if you're going to misrepresent the situation like that I kinda have to respond.

      First off, where did I say I felt anything about anyone being executed, or not? "We", as in society, only watch death-row inmates to keep them from committing suicide, solely because society reserves their deaths to its own authority. Nobody reasonably disputes that. I am sorry you interpreted remarks about society as being about my own emotional states; perhaps there is a remedial literacy class you can take somewhere?

      Second, you find me where I claimed to be pro-life. You can't, because I am not. I am only anti-murder; I do not make life, as such, into an idol or a fetish, nor do I consider its mere cessation always a moral evil (it is always an "ill", in being the privation of a good, but many if not most such privations are morally neutral). I explicitly told you the principle in question: "nobody shall be killed without due process of law save in direct defense of life and limb". You implication that I am a hypocrite (why don't you ever just once make your accusations, honestly and in plain words, rather than all this simpering implication?) is founded on your own assumptions, not on anything I said.

      Speaking of hypocrisy, though, you object to anyone interpreting your moral grandstanding as what it obviously is (mostly, I assume, you quibble that you did not actually write the words "I have the moral high ground", though absolutely nobody reading your posturing and preening could interpret it any other way). Yet you presume to (completely erroneously) interpret the meaning behind the things that I said, or more to the point, did not.

      That you demand to be judged solely on your specific wording, rather than on the obvious implications of your remarks, while presuming to read meanings into others' remarks that they do not in fact contain, is a whole other level of bad-faith—and then you accuse other people of hypocrisy, which is compounding bad faith with jaw-dropping effrontery. More generally, however, it would behoove you to respond to what people actually say, not your assumptions, misunderstandings, or outright hallucinations/lies, about what they probably meant. I close with two suggestions: "remedial literacy" and "how to argue in good faith".

      Now I'm seriously done talking to you.

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    14. Sophia's Favorite,

      Again, thank you for your renewed determination to not respond further.

      If one does not want people to assume one does not share in society's desire, the usual approach is to say something like "society is not cheated". When one says "we are not cheated", one is implying one's support for this felling of being cheated. That's aside from the very use of "cheated" to begin with, as opposed constructions using "sated" or "required". Your words betray you.

      As for my supposedly calling you a hypocrite, you must be referring to my mentioning that if you opposed abortions as the RCC does, then it is inescapable some women will die. Calling you a hypocrite would have been a rush to judgment. You might of been unaware that such deaths were inevitable. You might not have considered the positions in juxtaposition to each other. I don't know you well enough to assume hypocrisy. I do know the facts well enough to know that a refusal to perform abortions for medical reasons means that some women will die, and I hope you are a person of reason enough to accept that
      A implies B, and therefore either accept B or reject A.

      I hold to my morals because I feel they best meet the ethical considerations of life, and other morals are less optimal. If that means I feel I have the "moral high ground", the phrase becomes universal in scope and meaningless in conversation.

      I request to be taken solely on my position, and I am happy to re-word what I say to better clarify my position. Mis-communication is very common on the internet, I don't see why you need to assume bad faith is a cause for it.

      I explicitly told you the principle in question: "nobody shall be killed without due process of law save in direct defense of life and limb".

      Is a uterus less important than a limb? Abortion is a defense against what, for the women who does not wish a pregnancy, is a bodily attack.

      TheOFloinn,

      I will make a stronger effort to keep a polite tone. Thank you for your tolerance.

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  3. I was almost certain your list of "odds and ends" would include this little gem:

    Arrest Climate-Change Deniers

    You're fond of saying, "Sometimes, the mask slips a little." But I like to say, "Sometimes, the masks falls clean off."

    Re: the homeless man getting 15 years for stealing $100 (which he returned)...

    I wonder whether the judge was boxed in by a so-called "mandatory minimum" sentence law. I will have to read more about the case to find out. Regardless, who needs old, outdated concepts like "mercy" and "compassion" anyway? Slate has kindly informed us neuroscientists have shown there is no free will and evil. Therefore, we are incapable choosing to exercise mercy and compassion. Indeed, such things don't really exist.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, in the "arrest climate-change deniers" case, the mask didn't fall clean off so much as get yanked off, snapping its strings, and flung sidearm like a Frisbee.

      Delete
  4. "In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread." -- Anatole France


    JJB

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    1. It also forbids rich and poor alike to bribe politicians, commit securities fraud, fix horse races, maintain unsafe workplaces, and engage in human trafficking.

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    2. And this is apropos to...?

      I cannot tell if you intend this in a contrarian or supportive fashion to my sentiment regarding the DuPont case.

      JJB

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    3. Contrarian, but with regard to Anatole France. I've come across this quotation before and its anarchist cum class-warfare vibe has always bugged me - this was the first chance I've had to respond. It's one thing to knock lawyers and judges, or particular laws, but quite another to knock the Law.

      And so I'm not sure that M. France's words are really applicable. Both cases cited certainly appear to be instances of gross injustice, but not because of the Law. The first is due to the extraordinary folly of the judge; there's not as much information regarding the second, but callous indifference is a plausible explanation. Taken together, they are not an example of the "majestic equality" of the Law, but a mockery of it.

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    4. Then you need to apologize to Monsieur France for your tone deafness to his irony:

      He took the letter and put it back in his book. Then, arming himself with a horn-handled knife, he began, with its point, to finish a figure sketched in the handle of his stick. He complimented himself on it:

      "I am skilful in all the arts of beggars and vagabonds. I know how to open locks with a nail, and how to carve wood with a bad knife."

      The head began to appear. It was the head of a thin woman, weeping.

      Choulette wished to express in it human misery, not simple and touching, such as men of other times may have felt it in a world of mingled harshness and kindness; but hideous, and reflecting the state of ugliness created by the free-thinking bourgeois and the military patriots of the French Revolution. According to him the present regime embodied only hypocrisy and brutality.

      "Their barracks are a hideous invention of modern times. They date from the seventeenth century. Before that time there were only guard-houses where the soldiers played cards and told tales. Louis XIV was a precursor of Bonaparte. But the evil has attained its plenitude since the monstrous institution of the obligatory enlistment. The shame of emperors and of republics is to have made it an obligation for men to kill. In the ages called barbarous, cities and princes entrusted their defence to mercenaries, who fought prudently. In a great battle only five or six men were killed. And when knights went to the wars, at least they were not forced to do it; they died for their pleasure. They were good for nothing else. Nobody in the time of Saint Louis would have thought of sending to battle a man of learning. And the laborer was not torn from the soil to be killed. Nowadays it is a duty for a poor peasant to be a soldier. He is exiled from his house, the roof of which smokes in the silence of night; from the fat prairies where the oxen graze; from the fields and the paternal woods. He is taught how to kill men; he is threatened, insulted, put in prison and told that it is an honor; and, if he does not care for that sort of honor, he is fusilladed. He obeys because he is terrorized, and is of all domestic animals the gentlest and most docile. We are warlike in France, and we are citizens. Another reason to be proud, this being a citizen! For the poor it consists in sustaining and preserving the wealthy in their power and their laziness.


      Continued...

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    5. The poor must work for this, in presence of the majestic equality of the law which prohibits the wealthy as well as the poor from sleeping under the bridges, from begging in the streets, and from stealing bread. That is one of the good effects of the Revolution. As this Revolution was made by fools and idiots for the benefit of those who acquired national lands, and resulted in nothing but making the fortune of crafty peasants and financiering bourgeois, the Revolution only made stronger, under the pretence of making all men equal, the empire of wealth. It has betrayed France into the hands of the men of wealth. They are masters and lords. The apparent government, composed of poor devils, is in the pay of the financiers. For one hundred years, in this poisoned country, whoever has loved the poor has been considered a traitor to society. A man is called dangerous when he says that there are wretched people. There are laws against indignation and pity, and what I say here could not go into print."

      Choulette became excited and waved his knife, while under the wintry sunlight passed fields of brown earth, trees despoiled by winter, and curtains of poplars beside silvery rivers.

      He looked with tenderness at the figure carved on his stick.

      "Here you are," he said, "poor humanity, thin and weeping, stupid with shame and misery, as you were made by your masters—soldiers and men of wealth."

      The good Madame Marmet, whose nephew was a captain in the artillery, was shocked at the violence with which Choulette attacked the army. Madame Martin saw in this only an amusing fantasy. Choulette's ideas did not frighten her. She was afraid of nothing. But she thought they were a little absurd. She did not think that the past had ever been better than the present.

      "I believe, Monsieur Choulette, that men were always as they are to-day, selfish, avaricious, and pitiless. I believe that laws and manners were always harsh and cruel to the unfortunate."

      Between La Roche and Dijon they took breakfast in the dining-car, and left Choulette in it, alone with his pipe, his glass of benedictine, and his irritation.


      Mortal law is a construct of humanity and reflects mankind's nature -- virtue and vice; striving for justice and falling short. It is a tool, nothing more.

      JJB

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    6. I would contend that it is not Bob the Ape who needs to apologize, but the legions of fools who have torn M. France’s line entirely out of its proper context and converted it into a slogan to promote antinomianism as an aid to revolution. They are entirely serious, and if M. France was ironic, it is despite his irony, and not because of it, that they quote him.

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    7. Firstly: That the quotation in question requires several hundred words of context to be correctly understood would seem to indicate that its irony is not readily apparent when taken by itself.

      Secondly: The context makes it less clear how the quotation applies to the matter under discussion, which does not, in any way, involve "the poor sustaining and preserving the wealthy in their power and laziness."

      Thirdly: Much of Chouette's complaint is irrelevant to this country at this time. Do we have conscription? No. Are those who love the poor considered traitors to society? No (well, maybe by some hard-core Ayn Rand fans). Is anyone called dangerous who says there are wretched people? No. Are there laws against indignation and pity? No.

      Still, I would be happy to discuss the matter with M. France should the opportunity occur - although, since a healthy fear of the demonic precludes me from using a Ouija board, the opportunity may not come for some time yet.

      And one more thing - I am well aware that human laws are imperfect. How could they be otherwise when such sinners as we make and enforce them? But how can we know that they were imperfect unless there is some absolute standard against which to measure them? That is part of what I mean by the Law.

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  5. "For one thing, there is no such thing as "free will" with which to decide to commit evil. (Like evil, free will is an antiquated concept for most.) Autonomous, conscious decision-making itself may well be an illusion. And thus intentional evil is impossible."

    It's amazing how many people, who are at least intelligent enough to be literate, are able to utter this kind of nonsense with a straight face. Obviously - obviously - the denial of free will doesn't just entail the impossibility of intentional evil, but of intentional anything. And if you can't intend anything, then none of the things that you say or write or do or think can have any intended meaning. And if nothing we say or think has any meaning, then none of it can be true or false, and none of it can logically follow from anything else we say or think, which means that "there is no such thing as "free will"" is really just a meaningless bunch of grunts that is neither true nor false and that "thus intentional evil is impossible" is likewise meaningless grunts that does not logically follow from it in any way, and that therefore the "scientific argument" that the author finds so compelling is utterly irrational and invalid, along with everything else the author thinks, and is no sort of guide about reality at all.

    Honestly, it should take any sane and halfway sentient individual about 2 seconds to see that obvious flaw. So how could it not have dawned on Ron Rosenbaum at any point while writing and publishing a whole article?

    "And that one's choices are often impaired by... that crypto-genetic predisposition called 'origin'-al sin is likewise ancient doctrine."

    Ah yes, that.

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    1. Obviously - obviously - the denial of free will doesn't just entail the impossibility of intentional evil, but of intentional anything.

      I suppose that depends on whether you see an intention as the result of a decision/determination, or as containing some addition meaning. You don't need free will make a decision/determination about a course of action; computers do as much.

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    2. That's obviously the case. That's why we don't ask whether a computer intended to take a particular course of action: Anyone with an inkling of how computers work knows that intention is simply irrelevant to how they work.

      Regardless, Rosenbaum's argument is incoherent. He recognizes that denial of free will entails denial of intention when it comes to evil, but somehow can't figure out that it entails the denial of intention in general by that same token, nor does he pause for two seconds to consider what the denial of intention implies about his own arguments.

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    3. You don't need free will make a decision/determination about a course of action; computers do as much.

      Actually, a computer does not even make decisions. At the most basic level, what you have are lines of code somewhere in the software that says:

      if X, then do A
      else, do B.


      Even though these are traditionally called "decision statements" among programmers, it's the programmer who wrote the code who is actually making the decision. He is the one who is choosing what action should be done given certain conditions, either this action or that one; the computer is, therefore, simply executing decisions that were already made by the programmer.

      Therefore, the computer only makes "decisions" in a derived sense. The true source of decision-making is the programmer. A computer does not "make decisions"; it merely executes the decisions of a genuine decision-maker (the programmer).

      So, the example of a computer does not show that one can make decisions without free will. In fact, it shows the opposite.

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    4. The Deuce,

      You seem to say there is something more to intention than what computers do. Can you be more specific?

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    5. jimhenry,

      Your argument seems to consist of stating that programmer make decisions in a way computers do not, therefore computers don't make decisions in the same way programmers do. I do not find this argument persuasive until you can tell me more about what this difference is, and what your evidence for it is.

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    6. If I am presented with two possible courses of action, A and B, I can freely choose (or decide to pursue) either of those courses of action. In fact, in one situation with a certain set of conditions, I may choose A; and later, in another situation with the exact same conditions, I may choose B. Or do nothing at all.

      A computer does not do this. It cannot do this. For a computer, it was already decided beforehand what action -- A or B -- should be taken given certain conditions. The same predefined conditions will always result in the same action being executed. The programmer wrote:

      if X, then do A
      else, do B


      When the programmer wrote that code, that was the moment of decision, not the mere execution of it. The word "decision" comes from a Latin word meaning "to cut off." When a programmer writes code telling a computer to do A when X is true, else do B, the programmer is the one "cutting off" any other course of action; the computer cannot do anything else than what the programmer has "cut off" (decided).

      The computer cannot evaluate X to be true, but decide to do B instead of A. When X is true, A must be performed because that decision was already made by the programmer, and the computer is simply executing the decision.

      To say that a computer makes decisions would be like saying that the hour hand on my clock "decided" to strike five. No, it did not. It performed that action because its designer and builder made a series of decisions -- the construction of its internal mechanisms, painting the number five at that location on the face of the clock instead of, say, a four.

      The clock itself is merely executing its design. The workings of the clock's internal mechanisms are like the computer software's "internal workings" (or algorithms). A computer no more "decides" to pursue action A any more than the clock "decides" to strike five. They are both merely executing a design.

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    7. jimhenry,

      I largely agree with your description of the limitations of the computer. I am unconvinced that the programmer has more freedom.

      If I am presented with two possible courses of action, A and B, I can freely choose (or decide to pursue) either of those courses of action. In fact, in one situation with a certain set of conditions, I may choose A; and later, in another situation with the exact same conditions, I may choose B. Or do nothing at all.

      I'm not sure you can. In choosing A, or B, or nothing, you will be ultimately following what your preference is at a given time, and we can never unwind the clock to see if your preference changes on a second run-through. So, claiming you can freely choose would need to come from freely setting your own personal preferences. I think short-term personal preferences can be re-shaped with effort, when a long-term personal preference takes priority, but I don't see how you can just choose to like the consequences of A over B, or B over A, freely.

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    8. The will is the intellective appetite; that is, a hunger for (or contrary to) some concept.
      You cannot desire what you do not know.
      The intellect does not know most things completely.
      Therefore, the will is not determined to this or that.

      Now, when something is known completely -- say, that 1+1=2 in normal notation -- then the will cannot withhold consent. But when knowledge is incomplete -- what is "world peace"? Is it a good? Of what does it consist? What are the steps required to achieve it? -- then to that extent the will is undetermined. It has "degrees of freedom" or "play" in the engineering sense.

      A free will does not make random choices.
      A free will does not make random choices.
      A free will does not make random choices.
      A free will does not make unpreferred choices.
      A free will does not make unreasoned choices.
      A free will does not make unpredictable choices.
      etc.


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    9. TheOFloinn,

      If the choices of a free will are not random, but preferred, reasoned, and predictable, in what demonstrable way are these different from the choices a computer can make? Computers can weigh differing inputs (something similar to reason), evaluate consequences to see what is best/least bad (have a preference), and will follow a set course (be predictable). They are worse at two of these than humans, and more predictable,, but I don't see why that is a matter of kind, as opposed to degree.

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    10. Because a free will can always decide to do something else. Computers don't weigh different inputs, their internal switching mechanisms respond as programmed to the inputs they are designed to 'notice' and ignore inputs they aren't programmed to notice. It may be similar to reason, but it's not the same thing as reason. The reason is in the programmer, not the programmed.

      A couple of years ago, I read an article that mentioned in passing that Orthodox Jews - some sects of them, anyways - put on their right socks first as a mark of reverence toward God; most people put their left socks on first. Intrigued, I first began to pay attention to how I put my socks on, and indeed, I tended to put my left sock on first. So I started to form the habit of putting my right sock on first (not as an act of prayer, more as a science experiment). Now I tend to put my right sock on first. I'm pretty sure that newspaper-reading, sock-wearing robots would never be able to do that.

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    11. thefederalist,

      One person assures me a free will makes the preferred, reasoned, predictable choice, and another says that a free willed person can choose to make the non-preferred, unreasoned, and/or unpredictable choice. It's almost like I'm trying to address very different notions of free will in the same conversation.

      Again, I don't see much evidence that a free will can choose to "do something else", as I understand what you mean by that phrase.

      As for your sock example, I would expect that robots, like any other computer, would develop bugs in their software that caused them to change behavior from time to time, and would be vulnerable to changes in behavior derived from various bits of code that have been received, sometime by hacking and sometimes accidentally. So, I don't see how your example of changing your behavior after receiving new input is so remarkable that no computer could accomplish it.

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    12. Putting one's left sock on first, or the right one, can't both be preferred, reasonable and predictable? Ok, I would dispute that 'predictable', rigidly understood, is consistent with free will. I presume, however, that you imported 'predicable' from theOFloinn's mantra, "a free will does not make unpredictable choices." You probably think "not unpredictable" means "strictly predictable". I (and theOFloinn, I bet) think it means that you can predict that I will put on my left sock first, my right sock first, or not put any socks on at all. You may choose to assign probabilities to each outcome, but they are all loosely predictable.

      When the robot gets a bug in its software, it will either not put the sock on at all, or apply too much force and rip it to shreds on its articulated titanium toes. A hacker is just a different programmer, though, and if the wiring get re-jiggered by a solar flare or a knock on the head, that's what happens to material things in response to material forces. If it happens to me, it means that my body is not able to carry out the decisions of my will, not that I have no will.

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    13. One person assures me a free will makes the preferred, reasoned, predictable choice, and another says that a free willed person can choose to make the non-preferred, unreasoned, and/or unpredictable choice. It's almost like I'm trying to address very different notions of free will in the same conversation.

      Free will does not require that the will makes choices that are unpreferred, unreasoned, or unpredictable -- only that they are undetermined.

      As for myself, my claim actually goes much deeper: a computer does not have a will at all, free or otherwise. As Flynn said, will is the intellective appetite. A computer does not have an intellect and neither does it have appetites.

      Just because a computer does things that sorta seem like reason and having preferences, that does not mean they actually reason or have preferences. That's like saying Michelangelo's David is an actual person because it sorta looks like one. No, it's sculpted marble.

      Reason is our ability to logically relate our thoughts. Computers cannot do this because computers do not have thoughts. A computer does not think about what it is doing any more than my clock is "thinking about" striking six right now.

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    14. thefederalist,

      Putting one's left sock on first, or the right one, can't both be preferred, reasonable and predictable?

      Not at the same time, in the exact same instance on sock-putting-on.

      Surely you are not claiming that making different decisions in different circumstances is a sign of free will?

      I (and theOFloinn, I bet) think it means that you can predict that I will put on my left sock first, my right sock first, or not put any socks on at all. You may choose to assign probabilities to each outcome, but they are all loosely predictable.

      You can assign probabilities to the output of a random number generator from a computer, as well, but we know that does not indicate the computer could have behaved other than it did. Rather, it reflects our insufficient knowledge of the computer's internal workings.

      If it happens to me, it means that my body is not able to carry out the decisions of my will, not that I have no will.

      What is your evidence you have a free will, as opposed to a will determined by your circumstances and preferences?

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    15. jimhenry,

      I thank you for your explanation, but I am at a loss to put it into an application. How does it translate into evidence for free will?

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    16. The Deuce,

      You seem to say there is something more to intention than what computers do. Can you be more specific?


      Hmm, if you really somehow don't know the difference between doing something intentionally and doing something unintentionally, and can't understand why there is no such difference for computers, I'm afraid I can't help you and have better things to waste time on.

      Or, as is usually the case, perhaps you're determined not to know, in which case I *really* have better things to waste time on.

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  6. "So the interesting question is, why did infidelity continue to rise even when divorce became available and accepted and nonstigmatized?"

    Fox Butterfield is that you?

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  7. I hope the Catholics are invited to the ecumenical council ----

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