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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Day vs Sandifier: the transcript

Upon reading this, I think I made a better case against THE WASP FACTORY than for ONE BRIGHT STAR TO GUIDE THEM, but on the whole, I'm content with how the debate turned out.

Day: And this also touches on my third part, which is: this is an idiot plot. I mean, this is what Roger Ebert described as – you know, he said that “the idiot plot is any plot that would be resolved in five minutes if everyone in the story were not an idiot.” So, you’ve got somebody who literally has never looked in her pants to discover that she’s got a vagina, you’ve got the father who is beyond idiocy with the whole story about the dog and the creation of the fake genitals just in case she ever asks, and then of course you’ve got Eric, who apparently never figured out that his sister was actually his sister either. I mean, this is an idiot plot. There’s no way around that.

Sandifer: This is grotesque, it’s a grotesquery. I think that the ludicrousness of it is a joke in the same spirit as “killing three people was just a phase I was going through.” I don’t think it’s an idiot plot so much as it is a parody of rural grotesquery that is deliberately at the absolute limits of what is even remotely plausible.

Day: I personally think it’s well beyond those limits, and, you know, I’m not saying that there’s no humor to it, but, you know, I didn’t find it funny, for the most part. The occasional one-offs, like you mention, you know, those were mildly amusing, but just to wallow in that depth of depravity and violence and murder, you know, it’s literally disgusting, and I didn’t find it funny, I didn’t find it edifying. Like I said, the plot is a literal idiot plot. Whether you want to say it’s because it was parody or not, it’s still an idiot plot. I’m not one of those people who finds… What’s that show, the guy from The Office…

Sandifer: U.S. or U.K.?

Day: Ricky Gervais.

Sandifer: Yes.

Day: He has that television show where he pretends to be retarded or something, and every ad he’s gurning, you know what I mean? It’s a relatively new show. I don’t find that funny either. And so, maybe the fact that it’s got an idiot plot but it’s a parody, therefore it’s supposed to make it intelligent, but to me, the plot is still what the plot is, and so I found it very, very disappointing, because the whole plot is totally dependent on the three major characters being and behaving like complete idiots.

And the problem I have when you talk about the whole psychosocial aspect of Frank is Banks, in my opinion, gets the characters completely wrong. Frank is not convincing in any way, shape, or form as a girl who believes she’s a boy, and that sort of thing. I’m pretty sure that Iain Banks never had any daughters, because if you’re a parent, and you’ve got both boys and girls, there is not a chance in hell that a little girl, even if you raise her as a boy, is going to behave like a boy.  This is where I think it goes beyond parody and is a level of absurd that is not credible. I would have found it much more credible if Frank had some female attributes and characteristics in his thinking that he couldn’t explain. But instead, like you said, he’s more of a parody of a hyper-male, and that to me makes no sense whatsoever.

Sandifer: I agree that there’s an element of extreme implausibility, obviously, to some of the plot elements. I do think, going through, I note that Banks takes care to find some explanation for pretty much all of the elements of it, so that he at least has a sort of nice Aristotelian unity, where everything is either made necessary or likely by some other event, even if the characters are certainly very extreme. But it seems to me like your objection is less that you don’t believe that Frank would have physically figured it out – because there is the explanation, for instance, of the male hormones enlarging the clitoris so that it looked like the stump of his penis.

Day: Yeah, I get that, but where did the vagina come from?

Sandifer: I would assume that Frank just assumed it was the mutilated and tattered remnants of the wound.

Day: Well, except for the fact that the urine is not coming of the stump of the clitoris. And the fact that it kind of goes pretty deep. I mean, we’re dealing with somebody who is literally retarded, which we know from his behavior he’s not.

Labels: ,

230 Comments:

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Anonymous WhiteKnightLeo #00368 June 11, 2015 12:39 PM  

It doesn't sound like he's trying all that hard to defend the story.

Anonymous Stephen J. June 11, 2015 12:46 PM  

And you have just now guaranteed I will never read The Wasp Factory.

Blogger VD June 11, 2015 12:47 PM  

See, my case against it WAS effective.

Blogger Jack Ward June 11, 2015 12:50 PM  

@Stephen 2:
Agree, whole heartily. Thanks for the transcript.

Blogger CarpeOro June 11, 2015 1:00 PM  

Not that I have ever had any interest in Banks' writing before, but even this short excerpt makes it highly unlikely I'd change my mind. I've reached my limit for reading the boys will be girls will be boys stuff. Just too many years of observation that it isn't so and no interest in making believe that it is. Wasn't even amused by that song when it came out.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 1:03 PM  

That is not the excerpt I would have expected you to use.

Anonymous VFM #104 June 11, 2015 1:04 PM  

See, my case against it WAS effective.

Understatement of the year. Wow, just wow.

OpenID malcolmthecynic June 11, 2015 1:06 PM  

Sandifer: Why is this sort of slab of axe-grinding necessary and important to the story?

Bingo. This is Sandifer's first actual criticism of the story after interrogating Vox Day's politics (which,,,I don't know what that was about), and it's not a criticism of the story.

It's a criticism of the message.

Which is exactly what I said he'd do. Criticize the message, not the story.

Let's see if this holds true throughout.

Later on: He claims he's never seen a theology like Richard's before, and this seems to be a problem. He does not criticize the plot, or the writing, but rather that he thinks Wright is being unfair to occultists. Once again, no criticism of the writing, only a criticism of the message. It's wrongthink.

Ah, happily, Vox picks it up and totally nails him:

Day: No, I don’t confuse reading for entertainment with a political op-ed. I mean, this is not a political op-ed, this is a story. Now, it does have a message to it, and that sort of thing, and maybe you like the message, maybe you don’t, but you can appreciate it for what it is. I mean, you know, I read… I’m an Austrian economist, I think China Miéville is, economically speaking, an utter moron. [8] And yet, I have absolutely no problem reading his stories, understanding the message, appreciating what he’s saying, and knowing it’s a good story, even though I think that the message that he happens to be putting out there, which in the case of his best work is almost literally Satanic…

Nicely spotted.

Sandifer gets the last word, but it doesn't work very well as a response to Vox's previous statements.

I think you wiped the floor with him.

Blogger Mark June 11, 2015 1:10 PM  

I'll have to review parts of the transcript, but after the "aftershow party" reinforced my thoughts from before, PS is not terribly intelligent, and is a liar to boot. Thus providing another data point that SJWs always lie.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 1:15 PM  

Vox,

Everytime I see some half-educated intellectual try to downplay the declining state of civilization, they bring up the re-occuring nature of the complaint. The "even Cicero complained about it" comment must be a trope somewhere that these types on the first day of orientation at big universities.

I've always wanted to respond with "Cicero was right, you mal-educated fool". And there it is, right in the middle of this interview. A blistering response:

VD: No, but Cicero was right! I mean, the republic collapsed!

And his response was, first to footnote it, and then, essentially agree in footnotes. This is a not-small concession, it cuts to the heart of the progressive mindset, that there is an inevitable march towards progress and utopia, that is only being held back by those wishing to hold back change. Sandifer has concded the point.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is huge.

Anonymous Stephen J. June 11, 2015 1:18 PM  

I must admit out of fairness that my visceral repugnance is a reaction of taste and not in itself a reasoned criticism.

Anonymous Krul June 11, 2015 1:19 PM  

'"THAT"S THE JOKE!" you argue
"THEN WHY AREN"T I LAUGHING?" I retort'
- Yahtzee

Anonymous BigGaySteve June 11, 2015 1:20 PM  

idiot plot- How many tv crime shows would be over in 5 min if law abiding people carried guns?

Anonymous Starbuck June 11, 2015 1:21 PM  

Day: Well, except for the fact that the urine is not coming of the stump of the clitoris. And the fact that it kind of goes pretty deep. I mean, we’re dealing with somebody who is literally retarded, which we know from his behavior he’s not.

Good grief, what on earth are you guys reading? WHAT on EARTH are some people writing? This does not even reach the level of trash.

Am I suppose to take this debate seriously? Well, I take VD serious, but seriously?
Clitoris a penis stump? Not peeing through it... VD, can you ever get yourself to unread whatever it is you read?

OpenID malcolmthecynic June 11, 2015 1:22 PM  

I actually thought Vox did a much better job defending Bright Star. Go figure.

Anonymous Steve June 11, 2015 1:26 PM  

I thought The Wasp Factory was about a factory that made wasps.

You could custom order your preferred type of wasp, and they'd be sent to you in a jam jar with air holes punched in the lid.

Then you could give them to your enemies as a Christmas gift.

You could shout "Merry STINGmas!", then shake up the jar, open it, and run away laughing.

Blogger Joshua_D June 11, 2015 1:29 PM  

SPOILER ALERT!

Sandifer lost the debate as soon as he started whining about the abortion dialogue in OBSTGT. And that whining made me wonder if he had really even read the story, because it seems obvious to me that abortion was not even directly related to the ritual.

Anonymous Krul June 11, 2015 1:34 PM  

Steve - "I thought The Wasp Factory was about a factory that made wasps."

I'll take a dozen Methodists, a dozen Presbyterians, a half dozen Lutherans, a half dozen Baptists, and one red headed Calvinists just to spice things up.

It is a WASP factory, right?

Blogger Sean June 11, 2015 1:34 PM  

I made this comment in the other thread, but I thought I would share it here because I think this debate perfectly illustrates why the Puppies are needed. I think we on the right can appreciate well written stories if we don't agree with the ideas. The other side would miss out on the next great American novel because they don't like the by line.

"I think there is big difference between the two sides. One side doesn't like things because they find the viewpoint offensive. The other side doesn't like it because the offensive viewpoints aren't written particularly well. At least that's what I noticed. That's why it seemed the JCW half of the podcast seemed to be a debate on theological ideas and concepts and the Banks half dealt with the actual context of the book."

Blogger Blume June 11, 2015 1:35 PM  

That's sounds awesome.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 1:37 PM  

Starbuck--

The whole episode just goes to show how many moves head VD is of his ideological enemies, for the most part. Like all good battle commanders, VD did everything he could to make sure he had the advantage from the start.

No one who was intending to win would agree to defend Banks first published novel. If you know about Banks as a person, you know that before The Wasp Factory was published, he had previously tried to get several science fiction works published, but failed. He engineered The Wasp Factor to not be a genre novel so that it had a better chance of being published. It wasn't a work of passion, it was a work of calculation.

Accepting the defense of a contrived piece of fiction that was born to be commercially successful was a huge mistake on Sandifer's part. A huge mistake.

From there, all else flowed naturally. Banks, even though green, was a a solid craftsmen and has a strong if not pungent style. Vox concedes the style, and then rips the plot and characters to shreds, which Sandifer barely attempts to refute, going back again and again to the style.

Here is the heart of it:

Day: Right, but my point is how ultimately trivial the whole thing is.

And his response, that the story, characters, plot all have no point?

Sandifer: Well yes, that gets back to, again, what I love about doing this grandiose fantasy novel about this animist magical system and this madman visionary who has this functional magical system, and then discovers it’s all a lie, and having it take place in rural Scotland on the most remote island imaginable with people who are, yes, idiots, hillbilly idiots. I mean that’s the point, I think Banks is laughing at the idiocy of these characters.

Banks is laughing at these characters. His own characters. His own characters he made up and put into the book, on his own. Banks is laughing at himself in the mirror.

Anonymous RedJack #22 June 11, 2015 1:38 PM  

I finished the podcast yesterday.

What interested me most was the points that Phillip and Vox chose as their attack.


Phillip was bothered by the description of the sex magic sacrifice that Richard did.

Vox was bothered that "Eric" didn't realize she was peeing out of indoor plumbing.

Phillip is a (if I understand it right) practicing pagan. He was overly concerned about the ritual, even than Mr Wright stated later that it was based off of Wiccan and Celtic beliefs. He was concerned that it misrepresented paganism, or rather his paganism.

Vox pointed out that the plot of the "Wasp Factory" was pretty weak. If you have little girls and boys running around, you will notice they know that they are different. My one year old is a girl, and acts very differently than her boy cousin of the same age. It isn't just what clothes or outside stimulants they have, they act in different ways. The boy is rough and tumble. The girl is more gentle. If you have kids, that parts falls apart.

Both of you fixated on a part of the story that "broke the spell". Both of your worldviews are different enough that you couldn't quite see the other side.

One thing that struck me, was that Phillip also kept going back to the killing of the cat in "Star", yet didn't seemed to be bothered by the random killings by Eric in "Wasp". It came across that he valued the cat, who willing gave himself as a sacrifice, more than the three people Eric killed as part of her magic.

Blogger Joshua_D June 11, 2015 1:39 PM  

Krul June 11, 2015 1:34 PM

It is a WASP factory, right?




This always makes me laugh.

Blogger Nate Winchester June 11, 2015 1:39 PM  

There’s certainly a call-out to George McDonald in there, the original fantasy writer, and so there’s a fair amount of depth there for those of us who were into that type of literature.

Vox, you've simply GOT to tell me which G.Mac shout out you found. (I'm in the process of reading him so its entirely possible that I haven't got yet to the story referenced)

Anonymous Steve June 11, 2015 1:40 PM  

Krul - Ha!

You're thinking of the WASP Factory and Country Club.

It's completely unrelated to Buzz-Kill Enterprises Incorporated Limited (a subsidiary of Evil International SpA).

Anonymous Soga June 11, 2015 1:45 PM  

A book that revolves around genitals?

Unless it's a medical book on urology or the Kama Sutra, of course it's going to be terrible.

SJWs can't resist talking about how terrible their genitals are and how they need to chop it off or inject enough hormones to turn James Earl Jones into a soprano.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 1:45 PM  

And his response was, first to footnote it, and then, essentially agree in footnotes. This is a not-small concession, it cuts to the heart of the progressive mindset, that there is an inevitable march towards progress and utopia, that is only being held back by those wishing to hold back change. Sandifer has concded the point.

Well, first of all, I sharply dispute my ability to concede a point on behalf of progressives in general. I am as idiosyncratic a progressive as Vox is a conservative.

That said, this is something I think about a lot, and my thought drifts depending on the day. If you read my work on Doctor Who, where I use the show, as a lens to look at post-War Britain in general, I do end up making more of a traditionally progressive "the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice" sort of argument. Though even there, I was always acutely aware that progress has the capacity to be destructive, and that material social progress and tearing the world down are inextricable from each other. But that project is ultimately basically comfortable with that, in no small part because I think Doctor Who is generally comfortable with that.

More recently my interests have strayed more towards the apocalyptic. I suspect much of this is simply the growing confidence that climate change will prove a slow-unspooling apocalypse in which a massive human dieback is a best case scenario. This lends itself to somewhat more pessimistic angles, and those angles are most certainly reflected in the stuff I'm writing now.

Certainly I would not argue for the historical inevitability of what I would consider the politically ideal world. I think everyone who has ever tried to argue that has been impressively shown up by history, which chews them up and spits them out as easily as it does anyone else. I would argue that it is historically inevitable that the United States as we know it will collapse, along with every other nation on Earth, the entire system by which we currently recognize the notion of "nations," and global capitalism as we currently understand it. I think this can be predicted with 100% confidence with no attention paid whatsoever to any questions of causes. Everything falls, every historical moment ends.

As a strictly material question, I feel about this much like I do about the exchange in which Vox declares death to be a form of evil, which is, philosophically, the moment I recoil with the most horror from his position. To my mind, death is completely morally neutral. (This is, obviously, distinct from the statement "killing is completely morally neutral," since I have little doubt someone would try to strawman it if I didn't make that clear.) Similarly, the collapse of civilization as we know it is morally neutral. It is not good. It is not evil. It is just inexorable, like gravity.

That said, I *don't* think that applies to the world of ideas. Unlike the civilizations of the material world, structures of ideas endure. They wether and change, and are sometimes obscured by what is built on top of them, but they endure, held in the foundations of later ideas. I am as confident that our entire conception of what science is will eventually change dramatically, just as it did in the wake of philosophical empiricism, as I am that the United States of America will someday cease to exist. But unlike the material world, I am also confident that the intellectual world does have a sense of progress. It is a stumbling sort of progress that often goes two steps forward and one step backwards, but it is a sort of progress that seems to build continually.

But again, all of this is just me, and in no way indicative of progressive thought in general.

Blogger VD June 11, 2015 1:49 PM  

I am also confident that the intellectual world does have a sense of progress. It is a stumbling sort of progress that often goes two steps forward and one step backwards, but it is a sort of progress that seems to build continually.

Why? Isn't the intellectual world also morally neutral? And what is this progress towards?

Blogger Nate Winchester June 11, 2015 1:53 PM  

Also:
I think that Wright was just combining – I think, I don’t know – I’ve never heard of any Occult rituals involving abortions, either, unless you look at it at on a societal level.

Of course we could ask him, but I thought of this as a brilliant take on someone combining the occult and science. A kind of industrialized ritual: "We need an innocent, virgin sacrifice for [ritual]." *think* "Well what's more innocent and virgin than a child not even born yet? We'll make sure these dark forces get what they want!"

Anonymous Huckleberry (#87) -- est. 1977 June 11, 2015 1:53 PM  

Similarly, the collapse of civilization as we know it is morally neutral. It is not good. It is not evil. It is just inexorable, like gravity

Says the guy with the pickax.
You bet.

Anonymous MrGreenMan June 11, 2015 1:54 PM  

As a well-known fan of the music and the VP bar service, Mr. Sandifer appears to be conversant at a higher IQ than we've usually seen from your detractors. Halfway through the transcript - I don't get the sense that you're having to try to translate down, down, down to get some understanding. (By way of comparison, I forgot his name already, but the guy with the regular web show that played a little gotcha about 10 year old columns - it seemed like a lot of energy was spent in recalibrating the level of what you said in that one that I don't read in this transcript.) This is particularly more enjoyable. (I haven't seen an attempt to embrace utilitarianism appear yet..it's usually straight downhill from there...)

OpenID malcolmthecynic June 11, 2015 1:57 PM  

As a strictly material question, I feel about this much like I do about the exchange in which Vox declares death to be a form of evil, which is, philosophically, the moment I recoil with the most horror from his position.

That's fine, but thinking of death as an evil is a big part of "One Bright Star". Agree or disagree, you need to accept that premise to give the book a fair shake.

Anonymous Steve June 11, 2015 1:59 PM  

RedJack - It came across that he valued the cat, who willing gave himself as a sacrifice, more than the three people Eric killed as part of her magic.

I'm a cat man myself, so I can relate.

Cats are amazing animals. More vicious than a rattlesnake - snakes don't kill for fun - and yet affectionate, aloof, mysterious, and unwittingly comical. Once you earn a cat's trust you have a friend for life. And they're not cowardly either - they're skittish to be sure, but I've seen cats stand up to dogs and other animals several orders of magnitude bigger than themselves.

The kitty tends to avoid conflict if possible, but if cornered or if their young are imperilled they will fight like lions.

There's a scene in Dan Well's serial killer / demon hunter novels, where the protagonist murders a mean old alleycat just to satiate his bloodlust.

Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I found it more disturbing than all the humans who are butchered.

I think the only thing I'd find more upsetting would be a story about someone kiling a child. Cruelty against the helpless, the trusting, and the innocent - be they little people or furry creatures - seems to me to be somehow more viscerally disgusting than violence against adults who are at least notionally capable of fighting back.

I haven't read One Bright Star yet, but will do before voting.

Blogger Nate Winchester June 11, 2015 2:01 PM  

33. Steve

Then I dare say you will find JCW has quite aptly captured the spirit of cats in Tibalt.

Blogger JartStar June 11, 2015 2:05 PM  

His chief complaint about One Bright Star is that Tommy ever listens to the cat and the cat spoke the truth.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 2:06 PM  

Why?

I think it follows from my observation that, unlike civilizations, ideas do not weather to nothingness, but instead find themselves buried within the foundations of new structures, perhaps lost, but not without import. I also am, I will admit, inclined towards a sort of Platonism of ideas in which they have an enduring reality separate from mere synaptic firing.

And what is this progress towards?

Taking this one out of order; I have no idea. I do not imagine that the endpoint of human intellectual endeavors is any more intelligible to me than _The Critique of Pure Reason_ would be to an ancient Assyrian.

Isn't the intellectual world also morally neutral?

Potentially. I cannot rule out the possibility of a fundamentally nihilist world in which consciousness is an evolutionary defect whose endpoint is destruction, or, at least, I can't do so without recourse to faith.

That said, I have faith. Not so much in a fixed and utopian endpoint as in the idea that the Great Work is eternally unfinished, and that I am obliged to toil at it for as long as I remain able.

Blogger Nate June 11, 2015 2:08 PM  

ya know.. I can honestly say I had no desire to read The Wasp Factory.

Its good to see my instincts so thoroughly vindicated.

Anonymous Bz June 11, 2015 2:14 PM  

I'd forgotten the transsexual part entirely and mostly recall The Wasp Factory for that disgusting scene with the maggots. Banks had a good eye for that sort of viscerally disturbing concept. Maybe he would have been better as a horror writer.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 2:15 PM  

I've been ignoring this whole offensive, mostly because Sandifer is the sort of self-treasuring, mincing, oh-so-intellectual brony that makes me itch. Under the skin. Like bugs crawling under my skin.

I just want to punch him in the head until he shuts up, but he never will, because he loves the sound of his own voice so very much. He's incapable of actually thinking outside his own defense mechanisms, and yet thinks he's reasoned everything out.

But I have to say that Wasp Factory sounds like the reason I don't read much fiction any more. Really, does the world need yet another novel where the discerning reader hates every single character and wants them all to kill each other?

And anyone who who doesn't like One Bright Star is either lost beyond hope, has never read Narnia, or identifies with one of the villains.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 2:16 PM  

I think it follows from my observation that, unlike civilizations, ideas do not weather to nothingness, but instead find themselves buried within the foundations of new structures, perhaps lost, but not without import. I also am, I will admit, inclined towards a sort of Platonism of ideas in which they have an enduring reality separate from mere synaptic firing.

Sorry. I want to engage with you because I want you to know that I am smart person with smart things to say, but any person who animates ideas into mystical things that have import even when lost to time or civilization is not a credible thinker.

An idea must have a medium. Without a medium, an idea is not "symbolically nothing", it is not "in a state of nothingness", it is not waiting to rediscovered in the "foundations of new structures".

An idea without a medium is nothing. I figured that a nihilist would be familiar with nothing, but there it is.

Anonymous RedJack #22 June 11, 2015 2:19 PM  

Steve,
I am an old farm boy, and we had plenty of great cats.

Tibalt chose to sacrifice himself, in order to force the Empty men back a bit. Tommy didn't kill him for fun.

I am a dog person myself, with a fondness for Terriers. Most cats I have had or known are not part of the family. A good dog IS family. We had working dogs growing up, and they were like another man when it came time to move the live stock.

My little Carin Terrier has no fear. I saw him wander into a pack of Dogo Argentinas and come out leading them. His best friend is a Rotty. He is also a bit nuts, and may one day get in a fight with something that will smash him. But he will allow my one year old to pull on his tail, and my six year old to dress him as some sort of Strawberry Shortcake character. Cats won't do that.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 2:19 PM  

Sandifer is the sort of self-treasuring, mincing, oh-so-intellectual brony that makes me itch. Under the skin. Like bugs crawling under my skin.

I am heartened to learn that I have the same effect on Vox's supporters that he does on so many of my friends.

Blogger Joshua_D June 11, 2015 2:20 PM  

40. dh June 11, 2015 2:16 PM

I figured that a nihilist would be familiar with nothing, but there it is.


I think most nihilists claim to be such, because cool. Most sane people reject the concept of nihilism out of hand because if there truly were nothing, it would be too horrible to tolerate.

Anonymous Huckleberry (#87) -- est. 1977 June 11, 2015 2:23 PM  

I think it follows from my observation that, unlike civilizations, ideas do not weather to nothingness

Right.
Because it's not like they burn down the libraries or anything.
Or, for a contemporary allegory, all it takes is one bad day for the Internet to go *POP* and that's that.
By the way, "ideas" aren't some romantic, enduring layer of the human condition. They are an ephemeral luxury, and if history is any guide, the first things to get pitched out the back of the wagons when the going gets tough.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 2:23 PM  

@RedJack,
I think it's not random that VFMS tend to be dog epople and SJWs tend to be cat people.
Dogs are loyal. Cats are treacherous
Dogs are valiant. Cats are terrified.
Dogs kill because they must. Cats kill because they enjoy killing.
Dogs love. Cats tolerate.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 2:23 PM  

Vox's supporters that he does on so many of my friends.

It's cute that you think that this website is full of Vox supporters. I have been a thorn in his side for almost 10 years. I more completely liberal than any of your big city friends, and based on your interview, I disagree with more of Vox's positions than you do.

I'd say there are more comments on Vox's blogs from his detractors than than any other major blog on the internet.

Which should tell you something about the quality of intellect you are dealing with. Whereas his detractors, nearly weekly, make big bold prouncements and then shut off comments, or block the reaction on Twitter, Vox continues apace, in the open.

Blogger SirHamster (#201) June 11, 2015 2:27 PM  

I've avoided listening to the debate since I haven't read Bright Star yet ... but this excerpt ...

Wow just wow. How much did people actually pay to read the Wasp Factory?

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 2:29 PM  

Sorry. I want to engage with you because I want you to know that I am smart person with smart things to say, but any person who animates ideas into mystical things that have import even when lost to time or civilization is not a credible thinker.

An idea must have a medium. Without a medium, an idea is not "symbolically nothing", it is not "in a state of nothingness", it is not waiting to rediscovered in the "foundations of new structures".

An idea without a medium is nothing. I figured that a nihilist would be familiar with nothing, but there it is.


My somewhat milquetoast phrasing of "inclined towards" was not accidental, for many of these reasons. I find the idea that there is some sort of Platonic realm in which all thought is pre-existent, and that we merely uncover the contours of this realm to be tremendously soothing, but I ultimately suspect that it's simply my own version of "there's a bright light and the voices of all your loved ones." It is what I wish were true.

The truth is that I find no compelling evidence that consciousness exists anywhere in the universe save for in humans, and believe that human extinction would simply mean that the entire realm of ideas that I value and indeed worship would simply blink out of existence as though it had never been.

This position ends up viewing humanity and material civilization as a sort of cloud computing platform upon which the realm of ideas is stored and develops.

Anonymous RedJack #22 June 11, 2015 2:31 PM  

Danby,

My mother in law loves cats. She is a widow, and a cat is easy to care for. They are more like a roommate, and have a life separate from you.

Dogs are like family. You are their life. A dog will barge in, ball in it's mouth, and demand attention. A good dog will be working with you in the field.

Not everyone wants that type of commitment.

Blogger Jim June 11, 2015 2:36 PM  

I think it follows from my observation that, unlike civilizations, ideas do not weather to nothingness, but instead find themselves buried within the foundations of new structures, perhaps lost, but not without import. I also am, I will admit, inclined towards a sort of Platonism of ideas in which they have an enduring reality separate from mere synaptic firing.
Interesting. I'm currently trying my hand at a story where this is true and the basis of all magic. Coincidentally, all such Platonic forms in the story are evil, because they are grounded in nothing but themselves.

And I have difficulty believing in intellectual progress as you do when the fashion of the hour is to regard history as though it began yesterday. Pride has caused postmodern man to cast contempt on the lessons of his forbearers.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 2:37 PM  

This position ends up viewing humanity and material civilization as a sort of cloud computing platform upon which the realm of ideas is stored and develops.

Okay, well this is testable. (DID I MENTION I FUCKING LOVE SCIENCE).

1. Come up with an idea. Don't tell anyone what it is. Tell 5 friends you have the idea, but not what it is.
2. Shoot yourself in the head, twice if necessary (depends on your aim/caliber).
3. We'll ask your 5 friends to restore the idea from the cloud.

Did I mention how much I fucking love science?

Blogger A Wiser Man Than I June 11, 2015 2:39 PM  

"Progress is a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative." - G. K. Chesterton

Anonymous Daniel June 11, 2015 2:39 PM  

I like the comment at Phil's that it was written in 1984 when openly transgender people were fairly rare.

Uh, no they weren't.

Blogger Daniel June 11, 2015 2:41 PM  

Taking this one out of order; I have no idea. I do not imagine that the endpoint of human intellectual endeavors is any more intelligible to me than _The Critique of Pure Reason_ would be to an ancient Assyrian.

Then it can't be stumbling progress, only stumbling.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 2:42 PM  

And I have difficulty believing in intellectual progress as you do when the fashion of the hour is to regard history as though it began yesterday. Pride has caused postmodern man to cast contempt on the lessons of his forbearers.

It seems worth pointing out that, in terms of my occultism, while I'm intellectually in the chaos magick camp, which asserts that all ritual and symbols are arbitrary trappings and that magic is just the exertion of individual will, my own practice is based heavily on adapted ceremonialism and hermeticism.

Which is to say, I have no contempt for the lessons of my forbearers, but I also do not pretend that they were solving the same problems I am.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 2:43 PM  

I like the comment at Phil's that it was written in 1984 when openly transgender people were fairly rare.

Uh, no they weren't.


You misunderstand; my point was that cultural understanding of trans people has changed a lot in the past 30 years, not that trans people themselves are a new invention.

Anonymous Gecko June 11, 2015 2:44 PM  

Cue Peter Boyle's "Holy crap!"

Anonymous Krul June 11, 2015 2:46 PM  

Philip - "It seems worth pointing out that, in terms of my occultism, while I'm intellectually in the chaos magick camp, which asserts that all ritual and symbols are arbitrary trappings and that magic is just the exertion of individual will, my own practice is based heavily on adapted ceremonialism and hermeticism. "

What about spirits and gods and fair folk and suchlike? Any of those?

Blogger Alexander June 11, 2015 2:46 PM  

Philip Sandifer,

I do not understand how the statement that death is an evil could make one 'recoil in horror'. I can see how you might find it a strange concept, but to be horrified by it...

I may be wrong on the next point (I understand the need in a debate to make sure points are clearly laid out, for oneself and third parties), so please correct me if I am: it seems that when Vox said this, you responded as if this was a new claim that you were not familiar with, which struck me odd:

The wages of sin is death. That's not exactly a Biblical backwater.

Whereas I can understand quite clearly why a non-Christian, particularly in this era, would be horrified at the idea of voluntary and total submission. I disagree with you, but I understand where that comes from.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 2:49 PM  

1. Come up with an idea. Don't tell anyone what it is. Tell 5 friends you have the idea, but not what it is.
2. Shoot yourself in the head, twice if necessary (depends on your aim/caliber).
3. We'll ask your 5 friends to restore the idea from the cloud.


Why should I expect those five particular people to be where the idea re-emerges?

I'm being serious, to be clear. The basic mechanism you're describing is demonstrably one that happens - note the independent and near-simultaneous emergence of calculus in both Newton and Leibnitz, for instance. There are very few, if any ideas held by exactly one person in the world.

Blogger luagha June 11, 2015 2:49 PM  

Quite a debate; very well done. I have so much I could respond to.

I got the idea that Penny in One Bright Star killed herself, though I know it isn't stated outright. That would make her crime one of despair. And her letter from beyond the grave is what hit me hard, because I know if that I and my little childhood friends went into faeryland I'd be the one who had studied Latin and ends up with Merlin's book and has to figure out the puzzles and the riddles and the lights - while being exposed to stories past and future I could do nothing about.

There's a famous case about a boy who, due to a botched circumcision shortly after birth, was castrated, sexually reassigned, and given hormone treatments, then raised as a girl.

http://articles.latimes.com/2004/may/13/local/me-reimer13

Despite the clearly biased doctor who did it to him and continuous attempts of feminists to use him as proof of equality and that sex can be reassigned; he clearly rejected his feminized self.

He only learned at the age of 14 what had been done to him, and without reading The Wasp Factory I'm guessing that Banks is referring to this famous case in male-female reverse.

But as Vox says in the interview, the character in the Wasp Factory doesn't show the same rebellion and role-seeking as this famous case which demonstrated that gender was immutable.

Blogger Alexander June 11, 2015 2:54 PM  

But unlike the material world, I am also confident that the intellectual world does have a sense of progress. It is a stumbling sort of progress that often goes two steps forward and one step backwards, but it is a sort of progress that seems to build continually.

There we disagree. Any society that accepts north of 50 million abortions and subsequently replacing the descendants of those who built the society with those who didn't is not heading towards intellectual progress, nor enduring a slight 'stumble'.

I'm not even talking western society, or defining civilization. Hispanics or Muslims replacing Christian Anglo-Saxons will no more progress a culture founded by the latter than said Christian Anglo-Saxons could go to Japan or Zimbabwe and progress the indigenous cultures there: they will destroy it and replace it. And unless you claim that all cultures and ideologies at all times are inherently equal (which you do not, because if they were so the very idea of progress would be impossible), then it stands to reason that the progress will only go forward if the replacing group is better than the former.

I doubt you believe that invading cultures are uniformly improvement to the indigenous ones.

Blogger luagha June 11, 2015 3:02 PM  

"the precise details of the occult rituals conducted by Enron executives."

England has routine pedophilia scandals which are clearly hushed up. Every so often reports come out of hundred of people involved in the rings including those 'highly placed' and yet we never hear of it until they kick off dead or until they piss off someone else in power.

Hell, ex-President Bill Clinton regularly flew on the Pedophile Express to Kid-blanker Island where they could routinely indulge in such matters away from silly things like official jurisdictions.

It doesn't take much exploration on the internet to see what crazy sexual fantasies people really seem to have. Then ask yourself what rich Alpha males who think they are above the law and have the money to achieve their desires would do.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 3:03 PM  

I'm being serious, to be clear. The basic mechanism you're describing is demonstrably one that happens - note the independent and near-simultaneous emergence of calculus in both Newton and Leibnitz, for instance. There are very few, if any ideas held by exactly one person in the world.

I'm also being serious. Your "idea" presupposes a method of transmission of ideas should be a measurable event. You can increase the sample size if you want. I am pretty sure if you are game, I can get at least 1 million people to participate in your experiment. Maybe more. I have an opening next Friday at 2PM. Nate can recommend a grain and caliber.

The basic mechanism you're describing is demonstrably one that happens - note the independent and near-simultaneous emergence of calculus in both Newton and Leibnitz, for instance.

Instead of spending all your time reading and writing and giggling with friends, you should spend some on being a person who does productive things. If you were a programmer, for example, you'd know the difference between an idea and a method. You'd know that calculus is a method, and methods are routinely re-invented and re-engineered. Methods are made by people solving problems. Two people solving the same problems with the same tools will often solve the problem the same or similar way. Leibnitz and Newton were both trying to solve similar problems regarding calculating derivatives, and they both had Barrow's proof as tools.

This is why talking to you is makes people itch. You are both wrong in nearly everything you say, and also, no fun. It's an unpleasant combination. A very unpleasant combination.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 3:04 PM  

I do not understand how the statement that death is an evil could make one 'recoil in horror'. I can see how you might find it a strange concept, but to be horrified by it...

I may be wrong on the next point (I understand the need in a debate to make sure points are clearly laid out, for oneself and third parties), so please correct me if I am: it seems that when Vox said this, you responded as if this was a new claim that you were not familiar with, which struck me odd:

The wages of sin is death. That's not exactly a Biblical backwater.


"The wages of sin is death" and "death is a form of sin/evil" are, to be fair, distinct statements.

As for my horror... part of it is idiosyncratically personal. My wife is a nurse with considerable hospice experience. There isn't a week where she doesn't come home with a story of people whose families are literally torturing them out of nothing save for a desperate attempt to deny or stave off death. And every time, all they achieve is a week where their loved one is in constant pain, incontinent, and usually well past talking or communicating, followed by death, only without the dignity or comfort that could have been achieved had everyone gone for comfort measures instead of "hoping for a miracle" or "heroic measures" or whatever way we want to prettify what is nothing save for pointless, cruel torture. So with an acute familiarity of the awful things that are done in the name of declaring death evil, I do have a degree of horror.

Beyond that... as I suggested, death is an inextricable part of history and progress. And while I am inclined towards viewing it as morally neutral, I think part of that is an acceptance of the fact that it can be a source of beauty and progress. The blanket declaration that it is a form of evil as opposed to a fundamental aspect of the world seems to me to cut off far too much that is beautiful.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 3:04 PM  

@RedJack

I'm not saying cats are evil, but that their appeal is to a fundamentally different type of person.

Dogs are like family. You are their life.

I think you've hit on the difference there. SJWs don't want and aren't looking for family. Normal people do and are.

One interesting thing I've noted, I have 4 married offspring. Every single one of their spouses was looking for something in particular from a marriage prospect. They wanted a strong family. They all came from typically broken homes (all from Boomer parents come to think of it)

My eldest daughter's mother-in-law abandoned her family when her youngest was 16 to shack up with her new lover.

Her younger sister's mother-in-law went through twenty or so live-in boyfriends while her kids were growing up.

My eldest son's wife will invite us over on occasion to just be in the presence of non-crazy relatives, typically after her mother's latest suicide threat.

Any Boomers who wonder why I apologize to Millenials for my generation, this is why.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 3:05 PM  

I'm also being serious. Your "idea" presupposes a method of transmission of ideas should be a measurable event.

It does nothing of the sort.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 3:06 PM  

I think you've hit on the difference there. SJWs don't want and aren't looking for family. Normal people do and are.

/looks at his family

/looks at his dog

You make some very strange assumptions about me, mate.

Blogger Alexander June 11, 2015 3:06 PM  

You don't even have to be a rich Alpha male capable of getting outside of official jurisdictions: a name like Mohammad and a taste for english children, the government will help you keep it hush hush and brand anyone who expresses the sentiment that your actions are unreasonable a 'racist'.

Forget Nickelodeon, the UK is an underage cuckholding revenge porn writ nation-wide.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 3:10 PM  

It does nothing of the sort.

Of course it does. If ideas are transmitted without a medium we can test this by taking away the medium and looking for evidence of idea transmission.

It also means that we should be able to find the conditions that make medium-free idea transmission occur most frequently, and optimize those conditions to increase the incidence of this newly discovered mode of idea transmission.

This is basic science. I know you have all your education is the soft sciences, but surely you had to take basic level science classes at sometime in your past.

If you don't have that much faith in your idea of transmission, you could instead demonstrate by example ideas that have actually be transmitted using this mystical method. You tried with calculus, but failed. What else do you have?

Blogger Salt June 11, 2015 3:13 PM  

“oh guess what, Frank’s a girl.” And the Eric story doesn’t come to a climax

/facepalm

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 3:16 PM  

Of course it does. If ideas are transmitted without a medium we can test this by taking away the medium and looking for evidence of idea transmission.

I have never used the word "transmission" or "transmitted" in this discussion. It is not a concept I have expressed any sort of viewpoint on here.

Blogger Jim June 11, 2015 3:18 PM  

Which is to say, I have no contempt for the lessons of my forbearers, but I also do not pretend that they were solving the same problems I am.

And so, history repeats.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 3:21 PM  

Progress, you keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means. Progress implies a destination

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world it's pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We're on the wrong road. And if that is so we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on” --C. S. Lewis

Your naive belief in Progress is unjustified. It's like saying "The car has always gone forward, so it must always go forward. And now that we're off the road, off the road must be a better place than on. Since we're rushing toward a cliff, that must mean that the bottom of the cliff will be a better place than here."

History is rife with debased civilizations, horror stories of debauchery and bloody terror, most of them justified in the name of relativism and Progress.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 3:22 PM  

And so, history repeats.

A dull tautology. Yes, there are similarities between historical moments and the present one, just as there will be similarities between the present moment and future ones. These similarities can be usefully analyzed.

There are also differences. And ignoring those differences is as foolish as ignoring the similarities.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 3:24 PM  

Your naive belief in Progress is unjustified. It's like saying "The car has always gone forward, so it must always go forward. And now that we're off the road, off the road must be a better place than on. Since we're rushing toward a cliff, that must mean that the bottom of the cliff will be a better place than here."

I largely address this mischaracterization in comment #36.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 3:25 PM  

Philip Sandifer--

"This position ends up viewing humanity and material civilization as a sort of cloud computing platform upon which the realm of ideas is stored and develops."

So in your view, how do ideas, which are stored there, and develop there, get out of the cloud and to people?

At this point it's probably just better for you to admit that you believe in magic and be done with it.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 3:25 PM  

Not a tautology. The implication is that history repeats because people like you believe that there's anything new under the sun. If you looked honestly at history, instead of through the lens of you own assumed superiority, you'd see that there is not.

Anonymous Soga June 11, 2015 3:25 PM  

And before the aspies say that history doesn't "repeat", it should be pointed out that rather than implying that time loops or that events are, by their own merit cyclical, the saying implies a concept that programmers would understand very intuitively. Specifically, the concept of class derivation. We derive from our ancestors. They are our base classes, so to speak. As derivatives, we face the same problems our ancestors did, but we use more refined tools to do so. We also face new problems.

Progressives want to do away with the base class (dismissing ancestors), which means they are ill-equipped to handle many problems that we face in common with our ancestors.

Blogger Daniel June 11, 2015 3:28 PM  

CUltra understanding of trans people hasn't changed since 1984.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 3:30 PM  

If you have no idea of the destination, then how can it be labelled Progress?
By your definition of Progress, any motion is Progress, and there is no regress. The winners win, and their policy is Progress. The Dark Ages were Progress, as was the Third Reich. And when we round up all the Progressives, shoot them, and bury them in unmarked mass graves, that will be Progress as well.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 3:32 PM  

The obvious answer is, if it makes you feel good, it's progress. If it gives you badfeel, it's not progress. I'm sure we'll get some other non-sense answer, but that's what it always comes down to.

Lucky our ancestors were not afflicted with the affluence to have leisure, else they would have been eaten by predators while diddling themselves and trying to extract a few drops of alcohol from some old grapes.

Anonymous Oblivious June 11, 2015 3:35 PM  

If any of my kids end up with a PhD in English... I will disown them.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 3:35 PM  

So in your view, how do ideas, which are stored there, and develop there, get out of the cloud and to people?

Erm. You're really misunderstanding the idea here. The people are the material composition of the cloud; the literal hardware.

Let's try this a different way, going back to the calculus example. You point out that Newton and Leibnitz were working on similar problems. This is true. And they both arrived at essentially the same solution, albeit framed in very, very different philosophical worldviews. The implication, then, is that the solution "calculus" has an inherent relationship with the problems of derivatives or fluxions. The solution, in other words, exists independently of anyone finding it.

Ergo mathematics is discovered, not invented. And the shooting of one discoverer does not destroy the discovery any more than burning a map destroys the territory.

At this point it's probably just better for you to admit that you believe in magic and be done with it.

You do realize I explicitly identified as an occultist in the course of my debate with Vox, yes?

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 3:36 PM  

If you have no idea of the destination, then how can it be labelled Progress?

Faith.

Anonymous Faggoty Anne June 11, 2015 3:39 PM  

You stupid troll, WTF are you talking about? The average PhD in English makes $32,000 -- that's just barely enough to qualify for an ObamaPhone. If nobody got these awsome credentials, not only would we have no employees to staff Starbucks, but no Phils to lecture us why the dictionary is incorrect.

Blogger Cail Corishev June 11, 2015 3:40 PM  

I've been ignoring this whole offensive, mostly because Sandifer is the sort of self-treasuring, mincing, oh-so-intellectual brony that makes me itch.

Just so you know: you're not alone. I can't get through a single paragraph of his without wanting to punch something. I think the only experience that's come close was debugging a particularly bad PHP program.

(Hey, DH, I'd like to talk to you about programming sometime, if you'd drop me an email (cail.corishev at gmail). I was going to ask Vox to pass a message along since your name isn't linked, but since you're here...)

Anonymous Faggoty Anne June 11, 2015 3:40 PM  

Guy: Phil vs. The Dictionary ... who wins?

Me: Does a dictionary have PhD in English??

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 3:45 PM  

Faith


We keep giving you opportunities to demonstrate you supposed intelligence and you keep demonstrating a desperate reluctance to do so.

OpenID malcolmthecynic June 11, 2015 3:48 PM  

Okay, strong comments aside, I didn't think Sandifer came off looking totally awful in the interview, at least when talking of the merits of "The Wasp Factory".

But my God, he is one of the most philosophically incoherent people I have ever seen. Every time he tries to clarify his position here it makes less and less sense. I feel like we're all trying to argue with the Mad Hatter.

Blogger automatthew June 11, 2015 3:57 PM  

"Every time he tries to clarify his position here it makes less and less sense. I feel like we're all trying to argue with the Mad Hatter."

He knows, and he does it on purpose. Do what thou wilt is the whole of his law.

Anonymous Soga June 11, 2015 3:58 PM  

Phil is now talking about something called a "problem space", a well known concept in logic, engineering, and mathematical disciplines, and is attempting to pass it off as being something mystical.

In reality, many problems in logic-related disciplines have rigid properties that mean that a discovery of how to formally solve them is merely an intrinsic nature of the system on which the discipline is based. There is nothing magical about it. There is no "cloud" of ideas. It's like how 1 +2 = 3 just as 4 - 1 = 3. The properties of mathematics using certain axioms imply that there are multiple ways to find the number 3 from performing addition or subtraction on numbers.

However, it is certainly a fascinating testimony of God's logical nature that an infinite set of problems can have such logically defined qualities that can be exploited to come up with a solution.

Blogger automatthew June 11, 2015 3:59 PM  

It's kind of a who/whom difference.

"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" is absolutely correct when you know to whom your will belongs.

Blogger Cail Corishev June 11, 2015 4:00 PM  

Every time he tries to clarify his position here it makes less and less sense.

Do you think he's trying to make sense?

Anonymous BigGaySteve June 11, 2015 4:00 PM  

I like the comment at Phil's that it was written in 1984 when openly transgender people were fairly rare.
Uh, no they weren't.


They are still very rare. Even in San Antonio when RuPaul and Dennis Rodman lived there I only saw them in the vicinity of gay bars. Even at drag night at a gay bar trannys are a minority.

Anonymous Songs of Titan June 11, 2015 4:02 PM  

"I feel like we're all trying to argue with the Mad Hatter."

Sometimes genius can be misinturpted by the simple as incoherence.

For example, that homeless guy who lives by those garbage cans a few blocks down? He might be a genius. I am just too simple to comprehend him when he says stuff like "the government poisoned by potatoe salid." It SEEMS incoherent to me, but he is probably constructing some philosphohical point that I simply will never understand, because I lack the intelletucal accumen. When he says, "Yo man, you gots five dollars? I needs to get HIGH oooh yeah, higher than a motherfucker" ... well, this is like the Monolith in 2001 trying to communicate with a bunch of chimpanzees. The sad truth is, that people like us... we of low intellegence... we just don't get, and we'll never get it.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:02 PM  

We keep giving you opportunities to demonstrate you supposed intelligence and you keep demonstrating a desperate reluctance to do so.

I mean, this seems a strange accusation to lob in context; I don't take the bulk of folks here to be hostile to faith as a form of knowledge. Nor do I deny that large portions of my beliefs are underpinned by a profound and intense faith. It is not the entirety of my beliefs. But at the end of the day, my faith in the value of the Great Work is absolute.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 4:03 PM  

Ergo mathematics is discovered, not invented. And the shooting of one discoverer does not destroy the discovery any more than burning a map destroys the territory.

No, because once again, mathematics is a method, and not an idea. If ever had done anything resembling work you'd know the difference between work, that is, doing something, and an idea. Methods are developed, engineered, implemented, etc. As non-writers, we don't imagine that literature formed atomically from nothing, it would be helpful if showed the same courtesy to the scientists and grown-ups in the room.

The people are the material composition of the cloud; the literal hardware.

This is helping you not very much. You should get away from the terrible analogy and just get back to real life. Having the literal hardware of the cloud unable to talk to each other because of a lack of transmission doesn't make them anything like a cloud, it just make them computers, disconnected, which have never been the natural state of computers. Since the first minute there were two computers in proximity there have been transmissions between them. The cloud implies communication which implies transmission. There is no way your analogy works without transmission of informata between the nodes.

You do realize I explicitly identified as an occultist in the course of my debate with Vox, yes?

I just assumed that there was typo and that you were actually an oculist, and were expressing a strong preference for eyes and eye care.

The fact that Vox thoroughly handled a person with credentials in English literature (PHd, no less), when we've all been informed he's an idiot is not the most surprising part of this conversation. The most surprising part of this conversation is actually that you are are so vastly overrated as an intellectual force.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:03 PM  

Do what thou wilt is the whole of his law.

Nah. Fuck Crowley.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:05 PM  

Phil is now talking about something called a "problem space", a well known concept in logic, engineering, and mathematical disciplines, and is attempting to pass it off as being something mystical.

In reality, many problems in logic-related disciplines have rigid properties that mean that a discovery of how to formally solve them is merely an intrinsic nature of the system on which the discipline is based. There is nothing magical about it. There is no "cloud" of ideas. It's like how 1 +2 = 3 just as 4 - 1 = 3. The properties of mathematics using certain axioms imply that there are multiple ways to find the number 3 from performing addition or subtraction on numbers.

However, it is certainly a fascinating testimony of God's logical nature that an infinite set of problems can have such logically defined qualities that can be exploited to come up with a solution.


I would argue that, by the time you get to describing problem space as a fascinating testimony of God's logical nature, you've found the same mystical resonance in it that I do.

I am, however, inclined to extend the concept outside of the strictly rationalist disciplines.

Blogger Joshua_D June 11, 2015 4:06 PM  

97. Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:02 PM

I don't take the bulk of folks here to be hostile to faith as a form of knowledge.


coughs ... clears throat

Please clarify.

Anonymous Soga June 11, 2015 4:14 PM  

No, you're twisting what I'm saying. I don't find the same mystical resonance in it that you do. And you most certainly did not understand the concept of a problem space. And from your comments here, I have inferred that you have a nonexistent-to-poor grasp of set theory, much less how that would apply to logical problems, both solved and unsolved.

Do you, too, consider gravity to be magic?

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:14 PM  

Having the literal hardware of the cloud unable to talk to each other because of a lack of transmission doesn't make them anything like a cloud,

I do not know where you are getting the idea that I think people cannot talk to each other or transmit ideas. I have said nothing of the sort, nor do I believe anything of the sort. Communication is self-evidently possible. Ideas are communicated among people. Just as one who discovers a new land can communicate the land's existence and bring people to the land, so can one who discovers an idea.

But again, transmission isn't really relevant to what I'm describing, which is not a position about the precise interrelation of human consciousnesses, but rather a position about the degree to which it is meaningful to talk about human consciousnesses as an aggregate instead of as a set of discrete locked rooms shouting at each other across the void.

mathematics is a method, and not an idea

I completely, utterly, and emphatically reject this position, and more to the point the position that "method" and "idea" form any sort of meaningful dualism. I am not surprised that my views would appear incoherent to someone who is committed to thinking otherwise.

Anonymous Shut up rabbit June 11, 2015 4:16 PM  

...the growing confidence that climate change will prove a slow-unspooling apocalypse...

It's OK. just pay your carbon tax and Al Gore will make it all go away. Just give him the money and everything will be fine, no need for you to worry about it, just give him the cash.

After all, 97% [of the 30%] of scientists [previously publishing in support of the possibility of man made global cooling, sorry global warming, err I mean climate change] agree [in support of their funding bodies] that if you pay your climate tax it will all go away.

Don't you feel better now knowing you can do your part? Just put your hand in your pocket and pay the new tax [along with all the others] and you can save the plant.

Why are they always all-in on every fucking thing? Brain damage?

Blogger SirHamster (#201) June 11, 2015 4:16 PM  

But my God, he is one of the most philosophically incoherent people I have ever seen. Every time he tries to clarify his position here it makes less and less sense. I feel like we're all trying to argue with the Mad Hatter.

Like a run away feedback loop in a sound system, the solution is to turn down the gain. There is no signal.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 4:20 PM  

@Phillip
/looks at his family
/looks at his dog
You make some very strange assumptions about me, mate.


So, tell me about your parents.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:20 PM  

Do you, too, consider gravity to be magic?

I do not treat "magical" and "mystical" as synonyms. Magic is a human practice of creation, defined by the presence of will. Magic makes things. Mysticism is an aesthetic of observation and contemplation. They're certainly related, but they are not synonyms, and I do not use them interchangeably.

I do consider gravity to be mystical, in that it is full of mysteries. Which is a factually true statement: there are major gaps in our understanding of how gravity works, and numerous theoretical physicists have remarked on the sheer weirdness of it as a phenomenon. Also unquestionably existent, and something we can make reasoned and definite statements about, to be clear: I'm not saying it's unknowable at all. I am saying that I have a sense of wonder about it, and that this sense of wonder is fundamental to what limited understanding of the divine I have.

Anonymous DavidKathome June 11, 2015 4:21 PM  

idiot plot- How many tv crime shows would be over in 5 min if law abiding people carried guns?

While watching the hijacking at the beginning of the first Fast and Furious movie, I thought to myself. "They try that against a trucker carrying a gun and it is game over." And the cops actually state they have to stop this crime crew before truckers start carrying guns, as if it will be total anarchy should that happen.

The movie then proceeds to show I was right and the cops in the movie are idiots.

Blogger Joshua_D June 11, 2015 4:21 PM  

Philip, please explain how faith as a form of knowledge.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 4:25 PM  

I completely, utterly, and emphatically reject this position, and more to the point the position that "method" and "idea" form any sort of meaningful dualism. I am not surprised that my views would appear incoherent to someone who is committed to thinking otherwise.


You are like an person who thinks "An app that would make me coffee is cool", and then goes on to claim they invented it.

A method is something you do. An idea is not. It's not dualistic, it's not that they two sides of the same coin. If you had ever made something, you'd know precisely that a method and an idea are not the same thing.

Anonymous Faggoty Anne June 11, 2015 4:27 PM  

Holy shit, Phil just knocked out the dictionary AGAIN. This guy is a machine! See Websters laying there on the mat, all busted up, pages spilling out? Hand Phil the belt. Champion of the English Language, this guy. No dictionary can stop him.

OpenID malcolmthecynic June 11, 2015 4:29 PM  

Faith is evidence of things unseen.

If you have no evidence for something it's absurd to have faith in it.

Anonymous Porky June 11, 2015 4:30 PM  

I suspect much of this is simply the growing confidence that climate change will prove a slow-unspooling apocalypse in which a massive human dieback is a best case scenario.

Progressives truly hate humanity. Massive human death is always their "best case scenario".

Yet for some reason none of them seem willing to lead by example.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 4:31 PM  

"Faith" is Phillip's word for "Obviously stupid, having no philosophical justification, but I want to believe it because it makes me feel good, so I'll believe it intentionally.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:33 PM  

So, tell me about your parents.

I have never met anyone smarter than my father. He is a historian of mathematics, focusing specifically on the career of Leonard Euler, and on understanding the ways in which the mathematics Euler did were inseparable from Euler's historical circumstances and religious/philosophical beliefs. He's written multiple volumes of a series called How Euler Did It, in which he explores Euler's specific method and viewpoint, showing the differences between Euler's understanding of the truths he discovered and our modern understanding.

Once, when we were on a train to the city to see a play (Michael Frayn's _Copenhagen_, I believe, which remains one of the greatest works of drama ever written), I asked him about his religious beliefs. After a lot of thought on his part, he finally said, "the only way I know how to worship is to understand and appreciate," and I don't think anyone has ever said anything that had as fundamental an impact on my worldview as that. I have, in my life, discovered one further way to worship that he... is not unfamiliar with, certainly, but which he clearly has a different relationship with than I do, namely to create.

A few years ago he had a massive stroke that left him with debilitating aphasia. I don't think there is any sense of agony and loss in my life as raw and awful as the fact that I can no longer fully communicate with him. It is a gnawing wound; one of the most awful things there is in my mind to think about.

My mother grew up in a devoutly Catholic family, and displays the same appreciation of grace that most relatives in that branch of the family do. I have nothing but admiration for her ability to simply be at peace with her nature and what she is in the world. It is through her that much of my sense of wariness with the idea of absolute submission to an external authority comes from. It is evident to me that she submits absolutely to something bigger than herself, but it's not some external force. Rather, it is to her own intrinsic sense of herself and her place in the world. The simplicity of her sense of duty is breathtaking to me. I aspire to serve my own sense of spiritual obligations so well.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 4:33 PM  

...slow-unspooling apocalypse in which a massive human dieback is a best case scenario.

Progressives truly hate humanity. Massive human death is always their "best case scenario".

But it's Progress, because progress is inevitable! Let's accelerate it!

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:36 PM  

Philip, please explain how faith as a form of knowledge.

I'm not sure how to approach the question, because it seems self-evident. Faith is a way that one discovers things to be true. It is a way that one knows things. I know the chair I am sitting in exists because I observe it with my senses. I know that a higher power exists because I have faith in it.

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 4:36 PM  

But again, transmission isn't really relevant to what I'm describing, which is not a position about the precise interrelation of human consciousnesses, but rather a position about the degree to which it is meaningful to talk about human consciousnesses as an aggregate instead of as a set of discrete locked rooms shouting at each other across the void.

This is once again a thing that can be tested. If consciousnesses is aggregated then this inherently testable. Find the seams and tug, and see what falls out.

You have once again tried to weasel, and reverted back to analogy and misdirection.

This is why I find you to be so vastly overrrated. It's all the same word games: "but rather a position about the degree to which it is meaningful to talk about human consciousnesses as an aggregate".

Filled with the words of a PHd desperately trying not to make a simple declarative sentence.

Not a credible thinker.

Anonymous Shut up rabbit June 11, 2015 4:38 PM  

I'll say one thing for the Sandifers of this world, they will all be equally interchangeable as ciphers in their utilitarian, egalitarian "for the greater good" utopian futures, exactly as they would like.

Not a single one of them has an original thought in their heads. Its all cerebral onanism in support of their hand-me-down narratives aimed to bore the opponent into giving up the field so they can claim victory.

Thank god if you ever meet one of them in the rancid flesh you can just offer to punch them in the face and have done with it. Its only on the internet they are allowed to become so tedious.

Anonymous T June 11, 2015 4:41 PM  

Watching dh take this guy apart is truly hilarious.

Seriously Phil, you and your buddies should be absolutely terrified. Look how much fun we're having!

How much fun is it in the SJW commune these days?

Be very afraid.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:42 PM  

"Faith" is Phillip's word for "Obviously stupid, having no philosophical justification, but I want to believe it because it makes me feel good, so I'll believe it intentionally.

This seems to me a perfectly reasonable description of the belief that death can be overcome and is not an absolute fact of your existence. Which is to say that if one wants to be hostile to faith, well, one can be.

It is of course possible I am merely engaged in some elaborate act of self-delusion, but the idea that there is anything intentional about my faith is very much alien to me. The things that I have faith in I believe precisely because I am incapable of doing otherwise.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:43 PM  

Seriously Phil, you and your buddies should be absolutely terrified. Look how much fun we're having!

How much fun is it in the SJW commune these days?


It's a blast, man. The afterparty podcast was an absolute hoot.

This isn't quite as fun, but still I'm having a great time, thanks for asking.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:46 PM  

Filled with the words of a PHd desperately trying not to make a simple declarative sentence.

Declarative sentences are boring. Excessive fascination with them is a form of spiritual decay leading inexorably towards vulgar nihilism. The world is complex, and its nuance grows exponentially. To be hostile to that complexity is the mark of a savage.

Anonymous zen0 June 11, 2015 4:47 PM  

> This is why I find you to be so vastly overrrated. It's all the same word games: "but rather a position about the degree to which it is meaningful to talk about human consciousnesses as an aggregate".


There is no "there" there, is there.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 4:49 PM  

Progressives truly hate humanity. Massive human death is always their "best case scenario".

Yet for some reason none of them seem willing to lead by example.


You're making an "is implies ought" error here.

Blogger Russell (106) June 11, 2015 4:50 PM  

Presented without comment.

dh: Your "idea" presupposes a method of transmission of ideas should be a measurable event.

PS: I have never used the word "transmission" or "transmitted" in this discussion. It is not a concept I have expressed any sort of viewpoint on here.

dh: There is no way your analogy works without transmission of informata between the nodes.

PS: I do not know where you are getting the idea that I think people cannot talk to each other or transmit ideas. I have said nothing of the sort, nor do I believe anything of the sort. Communication is self-evidently possible.

PS: Declarative sentences are boring.

Blogger IM2L844 June 11, 2015 4:50 PM  

Phil, either your thinking is muddled or you're being intentionally obfuscatory. I think the latter is more likely.

Why don't you spend a few short paragraphs clearly explicating your beliefs and ideas regarding magic, metaphysics, materialism and the nature of consciousness. Trying to put your perspectives in context shouldn't need to be like pulling teeth.

All this dancing around is ineffectual and trying to follow along is quickly becoming tedious and uninteresting.

Anonymous a. savage June 11, 2015 4:50 PM  

To be hostile to bullshit is the mark of a savage.

Anonymous Soga June 11, 2015 4:52 PM  

Honestly, dh, I find that most PhDs do try to make weasel statements so you can't really pin them down to definitively saying something. That's their modus operandi. People caught poisoning the well tend to lose their heads, but if you can claim that that's not quite what you're doing or saying, then the idiot masses of conservatives, ever the excessively trusting dunces they are, will "give them the benefit of the doubt", and they get off scot free.

Why do you think Vox pushes so hard for clear definitions in debates? The way to kill a writhing snake is to hold it in place so you can drive the nail into it.

Anonymous Shut up rabbit June 11, 2015 5:01 PM  

Funny how Vox writes short, declarative sentences and gets his point across while Sandifer vacillates continuously between whatever interpretations seem to obfuscate his beliefs the most effectively.

Who would you trust?

Blogger JartStar June 11, 2015 5:02 PM  

"To be hostile to that complexity is the mark of a savage."

How declarative! Why, in all of my years I've never seen such savagery.

Anonymous Shut up rabbit June 11, 2015 5:03 PM  

touché Soga!

Blogger RC June 11, 2015 5:06 PM  

"You are like an person who thinks "An app that would make me coffee is cool", and then goes on to claim they invented it." - dh

I have lived this inside of a courtroom, unfortunately. That whole "reduced to practice" is non-trivial.

Blogger Jim June 11, 2015 5:08 PM  

Declarative sentences are boring. Excessive fascination with them is a form of spiritual decay leading inexorably towards vulgar nihilism. The world is complex, and its nuance grows exponentially. To be hostile to that complexity is the mark of a savage.

So said the thousands who came before the Gordian knot, leaving the world for Alexander.

Anonymous Krul June 11, 2015 5:09 PM  

Man, this thread is dull. No offense, Philip, but wading through your quirky personal philosophy is a dreadfully tedious and unrewarding chore.

OpenID michaeltho June 11, 2015 5:10 PM  

Philip Sandifer seems mostly pointlessly complex word salad surrounding relatively simple concepts.

Anonymous Steve June 11, 2015 5:10 PM  

Songs of Titan - Sometimes genius can be misinturpted by the simple as incoherence.

For example, that homeless guy who lives by those garbage cans a few blocks down? He might be a genius. I am just too simple to comprehend him when he says stuff like "the government poisoned by potatoe salid." It SEEMS incoherent to me, but he is probably constructing some philosphohical point that I simply will never understand, because I lack the intelletucal accumen. When he says, "Yo man, you gots five dollars? I needs to get HIGH oooh yeah, higher than a motherfucker" ... well, this is like the Monolith in 2001 trying to communicate with a bunch of chimpanzees. The sad truth is, that people like us... we of low intellegence... we just don't get, and we'll never get it.


I laughed so hard at this. Brilliant.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 5:14 PM  

Phil, either your thinking is muddled or you're being intentionally obfuscatory. I think the latter is more likely.

You are correct to think the latter, for two reasons. First, I think that the world is a complex place in which lack of understanding is an intractable condition, and that there is more truth in nuance and ambiguity than in certainty. (There's a bit in the afterparty podcast where I talk about what nihilist propaganda would look like in contrast with a propaganda of absolute certainty that spells this out more.) Second, I'm a snarky bastard who enjoys playing my own version of Vox's "make a statement that is likely to be misread by people who are being careless to see who's smart enough to keep up" game.

Why don't you spend a few short paragraphs clearly explicating your beliefs and ideas

The thing in the world I have the least doubt about is that I am a conscious being. That said, external reality and the existence of other conscious beings looks certain enough that I don't spend much time worrying about Cartesian demons or anything like that. All the same, it's not meaningful to talk about the universe as something that exists separate from my understanding and experience of it. Ultimately, all I have is what's inside my own head. I believe in a world separate from my senses, my memory, and from the language I use to describe and understand it, but it is a world I will (literally) never see or understand. Accordingly, my world is full of ambiguity, nuance, and mystery. These are fundamental aspects of it. I do not aspire to escape them, because escape is impossible.

The thing I have the next least doubt about is my sense of aesthetics. I like the Kantian categories here of the agreeable, the beautiful, the sublime, and the good. When I find something to be one of those, I find it to be so with the most powerful certainty that exists in the world. The contemplation of beauty and sublimity, in particular, is the closest thing to an understanding of the divine that I have ever found. My capacity to understand, appreciate, and create beautiful and sublime things is the core of my ethics, which do not fall neatly into the utilitarian/deontological divide.

As I have grown older, I have learned to find beauty and sublimity in new things, including things that left me cold or repulsed me as a child. I believe, therefore, that it is possible to expand one's aesthetics, and by doing so understand more of the divine and grow closer to it. I think trying to do so is a moral duty. This is at the heart of my commitment to diversity and social justice.

I am also confident in the existence of my will. The freedom of said will is, of course, among the unknowable things, but the existence of it is not. In particular, there is a very strange phenomenon that occurs whereby I will my body to move and it does so. I classify this, and other instances in which my will and consciousness make changes to the external universe as "magic."

The most interesting and powerful form of magic, to me, is the creation of art: of beautiful and sublime things that cause the other consciousnesses in the world to have mystical experiences of the divine. It is my will and duty to create such things. This twin practice of broadening my aesthetic taste and creating works of art is what I refer to as the Great Work, a term consciously appropriated from the occult tradition.

My goal in life is simple: to die with as profound a sense of wonder and appreciation as I can. To come as close to understanding the divine and holy beauty that flickers within beautiful and sublime things as I possibly can. To know the mind of god as closely as I can. This is what I was made for. This is my purpose. I aspire to submit, as completely and totally as I can, to my own sense of aesthetics.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 5:18 PM  

Why don't you spend a few short paragraphs clearly explicating your beliefs and ideas

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
ah ah ah
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 5:20 PM  

The most interesting and powerful form of magic, to me, is the creation of art: of beautiful and sublime things that cause the other consciousnesses in the world to have mystical experiences of the divine. It is my will and duty to create such things.

hence the Dr Who fan crap.

Anonymous zen0 June 11, 2015 5:23 PM  

My goal in life is simple: to die with as profound a sense of wonder and appreciation as I can.

Believe me Phil, we are rooting for you on that. In fact, could you speed it up a little?
I think if you bear down and focus, you can achieve your life's ambition in a very short time.

We are behind you 110%.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 5:23 PM  

hence the Dr Who fan crap.

It's no Chicks Dig Time Lords, I'll grant.

Anonymous Billy Madison June 11, 2015 5:24 PM  

No I will not make out with you. Did ya hear that? this girl wants to make out with me in the middle of class. You got Mystical Man up there talking about God knows what and all she can talk about is making out with me. I'm here to learn, everybody, not to make out with you. Go on with the mystical.

OpenID michaeltho June 11, 2015 5:25 PM  

So you know you think.

You like things you consider beautiful.

You know you think again.

You think writing, drawing, singing, and acting are magical things.

You want to die happy.

Got it.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 5:28 PM  

You know you think again.

No; "Sometimes I think new things."

You want to die happy.

No; "I want to die wise."

Blogger Student in Blue June 11, 2015 5:29 PM  

Funnily enough, my eyes end up skimming past Sandifer's posts in exactly the same way my eyes do with Thordaddy's posts.

I didn't quite realize it until just now, but it's for the same reasons too: pointlessly long sentences with hazy, almost-made-up definitions. I'm pretty sure it's for the same reasons too - they're both attempting to blitzkrieg their ideas, and I mean it in the military sense, not the "oh they're just trying to be fast".

I ain't even trying to be insulting too. It is what it is.

Blogger Cail Corishev June 11, 2015 5:32 PM  

"Phil, either your thinking is muddled or you're being intentionally obfuscatory. I think the latter is more likely."

You are correct to think the latter,


Say no more.

Please.

Anonymous Steve June 11, 2015 5:33 PM  

Danby - I must dispute your blood libel against kitties.

Cats are super awesome animals, in every sense imaginable and some that aren't.

Beautiful. Mysterious. Deadly. Fluffy. These are just some of the adjectives I could use to describe felis catus.

"But Steve..", you might say, "cats are evil!"

And so what if they are? Is this the (spit) Goody Two Shoes Legion of Kindness and Cuddles now?

No way, Jose! I didn't sign up to become a vile, faceless minion so I could hold bake sales for the unfortunate. I became a vile, faceless minion for the hatred, insanity, terror, death, and the cool sticker.

All the great Machiavellian masterminds of malice appreciated the elegant sadism and superlative selfishness of the mouser:

Blofeld. Don Corleone. Cardinal Richelieu. Others.

These men of sophistication, wealth and taste didn't want some stinky, mindlessly obedient pooch humping their legs. They were cat men, all. Unearned adulation is only sought by the insecure and the unrefined.

Cats are the Ayn Rands of the pet world. They couldn't be further from social justice bumpickery if they tried.

Anonymous Porky June 11, 2015 5:33 PM  

You're making an "is implies ought" error here.

If you don't want to be held to an ethical standard you should refrain from making ethical judgements.

i.e. "massive human death is the likely scenario" instead of "massive human death is the best scenario".

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 5:34 PM  

hence the Dr Who fan crap.

It's no Chicks Dig Time Lords, I'll grant.

Well, you do have that, at least, going for you.

Anonymous Soga June 11, 2015 5:36 PM  

I dunno, I actually like Thordaddy more. At least his nonsensical madness has a method to it.

Phil would argue that his madness doesn't have a method to it, and that rather, there's an idea to it, but not quite. Because idea = method, but not when idea != method. Or whatever.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 5:44 PM  

@ steve
Montgomery Burns does not say "Release the cats."

Dogs are dangerous.When we used to keep sheep, I once had to pull a wolf/shepherd cross off of a ewe she had killed, with my bare hands. That wound up with 32 stitches and a dead dog.

Then again, I know someone who was tracked for 2 miles though north Idaho by a cougar, while (uncharacteristically ) unarmed. I'd rather the dog.

And, as Terry Jones explained in Mr Toad's Wild Ride "Don't go in the Wild Woods if you haven't got a gun."

Anonymous Huckleberry (#87) -- est. 1977 June 11, 2015 5:46 PM  

I actually like Thordaddy more. At least his nonsensical madness has a method to it

See, the problem with Thordaddy is I've never been able to get a straight answer as to whether it's "ANTI-WHITE SUPREMACISTS" or "ANTI WHITE-SUPREMACISTS" that he's going on about, because he can't manage hyphenation at an even elementary level.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 5:47 PM  

@Soga
And madness is really spontaneous Faith in Progress because madness is an idea but it is a method too, if you occult the method of the madness to faith of Progress of Mystics in practice to create new ways of being the the creative universe. That much We know and have Faith in.

Blogger SirHamster (#201) June 11, 2015 5:54 PM  

"Then again, I know someone who was tracked for 2 miles though north Idaho by a cougar, while (uncharacteristically ) unarmed. I'd rather the dog."

Aggressive, aren't they? Was rather awkward getting hit on by a woman old enough to be my mom. "I have a fast car!"

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 5:57 PM  

Somehow, I don't think that Jaylene would have been receptive to that sort of cougar.

Blogger Cail Corishev June 11, 2015 5:58 PM  

"If a drunken lout could find the power to express himself on paper," said Dr. Stadler, "if he could give voice to his essence -- the eternal savage, leering his hatred of the mind -- this is the sort of book I would expect him to write. But to see it come from a scientist, under the imprint of the Institute!"

"But, Dr. Stadler, this book was not intended to be read by scientists. It was written for that drunken lout."

"What do you mean?"

"For the general public."

"But, good God! The feeblest imbecile should be able to see the glaring contradictions in every one of your statements."

"Let us put it this way, Dr. Stadler: the man who doesn't see that, deserves to believe all my statements."

----

The book they're talking about is called Why Do You Think You Think? The phrase that resonates at the moment, and the reason I typed that in, is, "leering his hatred of the mind."

Blogger VD June 11, 2015 6:02 PM  

My goal in life is simple: to die with as profound a sense of wonder and appreciation as I can.

If that's all you're seeking, I highly recommend two tabs of LSD. I have never, ever, so appreciated the light from a ceiling lamp. The beauty was literally overwhelming and I was entirely convinced that I'd been granted a glimpse of the mathematics underlying the structure of the universe.

Sadly, the copious notes I took turned out to be gibberish and I felt as if I'd bruised my brain for the next six months.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 6:05 PM  

If that's all you're seeking, I highly recommend two tabs of LSD. I have never, ever, so appreciated the light from a ceiling lamp. The beauty was literally overwhelming and I was entirely convinced that I'd been granted a glimpse of the mathematics underlying the structure of the universe.

Sadly, the copious notes I took turned out to be gibberish and I felt as if I'd bruised my brain for the next six months.


I found it to be a much milder, but nevertheless valuable experience.

Blogger VD June 11, 2015 6:05 PM  

First, I think that the world is a complex place in which lack of understanding is an intractable condition, and that there is more truth in nuance and ambiguity than in certainty.

That may be, but there is not more truth in nuance and ambiguity than in precision and accuracy. There is observably less. That's why you modern mystics always fall back on science.

Second, I'm a snarky bastard who enjoys playing my own version of Vox's "make a statement that is likely to be misread by people who are being careless to see who's smart enough to keep up" game.

But you're only playing half the game. The full game does not merely involve providing a red herring, but also accurate substance for those capable of seeing past the red herring. You're omitting the latter.

Blogger Nobody June 11, 2015 6:07 PM  

Why is that?
Because even if He had made but two, a third would still appear behind them which both of them would have for their idea, and that would be the ideal bed and the two others.

Very true, he said.
God knew this, and He desired to be the real maker of a real bed, not a particular maker of a particular bed, and therefore He created a bed which is essentially and by nature one only.

So we believe.
Shall we, then, speak of Him as the natural author or maker of the bed?

Yes, he replied; inasmuch as by the natural process of creation He is the author of this and of all other things.

And what shall we say of the carpenter --is not he also the maker of the bed?

Yes.
But would you call the painter a creator and maker?
Certainly not.
Yet if he is not the maker, what is he in relation to the bed?
I think, he said, that we may fairly designate him as the imitator of that which the others make.

Blogger Mark June 11, 2015 6:11 PM  

I'm pretty sure Phil has failed the Turing test. But then, he admitted on the afterparty show he's trolling, so that shouldn't be a surprise.

The big surprise was that he failed the same test during the afterparty show.

And he needs to learn not to cough into the microphone.

Anonymous David June 11, 2015 6:15 PM  

"My goal in life is simple: to die with as profound a sense of wonder and appreciation as I can."

I don't really think that the end can be assessed as of itself as being the end because what does the end feel like? It's like saying when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how - what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what's stopping it, and what's behind what's stopping it? So, what's the end, you know, is my question to you.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 6:16 PM  

But you're only playing half the game. The full game does not merely involve providing a red herring, but also accurate substance for those capable of seeing past the red herring. You're omitting the latter.

The cheeky response, of course, is to suggest that you may just be failing to see past the red herring.

The more honest response is to point out that I have a tremendous amount of published work revealing the substance of my beliefs and worldviews, but that I am aware that the overwhelming majority of folks on your side have no interest in (or, I suspect in many cases, ability to) studying. Which is fine. I freely admit that my inclination to understand the precise details of your worldview is an individual pathology.

I am not, in the end, all that difficult to understand. Loads of people do so just fine. Indeed, I suspect for the most part you do so just fine.

Blogger Philip Sandifer June 11, 2015 6:32 PM  

That may be, but there is not more truth in nuance and ambiguity than in precision and accuracy. There is observably less. That's why you modern mystics always fall back on science.

That's only the case if you assume that certainty is truthful and not a lie we tell ourselves because we are too scared to face the possibility that truth is simply not something that can exist within the limitations of human consciousness.

As Debord puts it, "In a world that is really upside-down, the true is a moment of the false."

OpenID michaeltho June 11, 2015 6:34 PM  

"... the overwhelming majority of folks on your side have no interest in (or, I suspect in many cases, ability to) studying."

(or, I suspect in many cases, ability in)

It's best to be grammatically correct when you imply that people are stupid.

Blogger Daniel June 11, 2015 6:37 PM  

Yes, Phil. Most of us see you just fine. This does not make your "ambiguity" any more clever or useful.

Example, your general ambiguity allows you quote Cicero as evidence that people have always fretted (unnecessarily so) about civic decline and barbarism, while ignoring the fact that he accurately predicted a real period of decline and barbarism.

Would I be correct in guessing that you are one who not only sympathizes with the kindly residents of the Isle in Wicker Man, and experience a catharsis (if heartfelt and tragic one) at the fate of the Christian policeman?

Blogger automatthew June 11, 2015 6:38 PM  

I have never met anyone smarter than my father. He is a historian of mathematics, focusing specifically on the career of Leonard Euler..

Philip, this is purely curiosity, with no hidden trap. Were you what Thomas Sowell calls a "late talking child"?

Blogger automatthew June 11, 2015 6:39 PM  

That's only the case if you assume...

Has any honest man ever led off with this phrase?

Blogger VD June 11, 2015 6:51 PM  

The cheeky response, of course, is to suggest that you may just be failing to see past the red herring.

But not credible, because I have demonstrated my ability to cut through the word fog. And you've been unable to do the equivalent of pointing out that sub-Saharan Africans are the full Homo sapiens sapiens, to give one well-known example. If you can't, or won't do that, the trap doesn't close and probably doesn't exist.

I am not, in the end, all that difficult to understand. Loads of people do so just fine. Indeed, I suspect for the most part you do so just fine.

I think many people here do. This is one of the few places where you'll find that no one is impressed by PhDs and other professional credentials because we know they indicate the third and fourth tier of the cognitive elite, not the first tier as so many erroneously assume.

It's one reason why the midwits hate it so much. They can't actually follow.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 7:12 PM  

I have never met anyone smarter than my father. He is a historian of mathematics, focusing specifically on the career of Leonard Euler..

And I have never met anyone who is as smart as my father was. He dropped out of school at the age of 14 to support his family by trapping furs, driving tucks, repairing electronics, semi-pro boxing and hockey, and busking with his fiddle. In later life he repaired aircraft and helicopters, including a 3-year stint in Viet Nam, at the age of 55. I would put his IQ in the 180-200 range, although I doubt it was ever tested. He taught himself calculus "because it looked interesting" and cracked encryption for mental exercise. He designed and helped me build a 4-bit,128 byte computer out of discrete parts when I was 14, despite not having worked in digital electronics before.

He also told me "If your can't write it out clearly, you haven't actually thought it out. You're just displaying your presuppositions as if they were the result of thinking."

Something to consider, Mr. Sandifer.

Anonymous Pete June 11, 2015 7:23 PM  

@Danby

Cats and dogs. Get a bunch of both. Yes, there are differences and some will argue for one or another depending on personal preference. But you get out of them exactly what you put into them, and both are among the most powerful evidences of creation I've ever seen.

Blogger IM2L844 June 11, 2015 7:29 PM  

Duty, by definition, is an absolute. I suspect you don't see the difficulty with categorical imperatives.

I may have overestimated you, Phil.

Blogger Foster June 11, 2015 7:34 PM  

"...There’s no end to the story. And I think that, like I said, I think that it would have been a lot better if it had actually ended in fire, the way that the wasp factory predicted." I was surprised and rather disappointed no one made a reference to the Hugo awards after this comment.

Blogger CM June 11, 2015 7:41 PM  

My mother in law loves cats. She is a widow, and a cat is easy to care for. They are more like a roommate, and have a life separate from you.

Dogs are like family. You are their life. A dog will barge in, ball in it's mouth, and demand attention. A good dog will be working with you in the field.


I'm a dog person... but i own a cat.

I tell people I like my babies growing up and gaining independence.

Dogs are perpetual babies. Absolutely wonderful and loveable, but he will always need me to take him to the bathroom.

Yes, I'm lazy.

Anonymous Porky June 11, 2015 7:42 PM  

That's why you modern mystics always fall back on science.

And they'll abandon science in a heartbeat if they don't get the feelgoods they are looking for.

Anonymous MelodiousThunk June 11, 2015 7:48 PM  

Sandifer finds The Wasp Factory to be hilarious and beautiful as it skewers retarded outsider whites "hillbillies". I wonder whether his views on its artistic merits would have changed merely by aiming the story at a different demographic group. Would he call it fascistic propaganda if it were a murderous black woman who couldn't tell her parts from a permanently open dog bite?

Blogger Krul June 11, 2015 7:48 PM  

Philip - "That's only the case if you assume that certainty is truthful and not a lie we tell ourselves because we are too scared to face the possibility that truth is simply not something that can exist within the limitations of human consciousness."

Whereas if certainty is impossible and truth is unknowable, then anything goes and you can play it deuces wild. "What's two plus two? PURPLE! WHOOO!"

Anyway, it's a category error to say "certainty is truthful" (or "certainty is a lie").

Anonymous I Am Irony, Man June 11, 2015 7:57 PM  

""Out, out, brief candle! Phil's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: [he is] an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Apologies to Bill.

Blogger Russell (106) June 11, 2015 8:29 PM  

Rarely does one find a perfect example of someone merrily fitting themselves into the Procrustean bed of men without chests, adhering to cargo cult mode of thinking, and using enough word salad to make the reader wonder if the author is a fabled p-zombie.

Blogger Foster June 11, 2015 8:36 PM  

"...There’s no end to the story. And I think that, like I said, I think that it would have been a lot better if it had actually ended in fire, the way that the wasp factory predicted." I was surprised and rather disappointed no one made a reference to the Hugo awards after this comment.

Anonymous Malcolm Edwards June 11, 2015 8:43 PM  

53. Daniel

I like the comment at Phil's that it was written in 1984 when openly transgender people were fairly rare.

Uh, no they weren't.

That was my comment (I completely screwed up the log in).

I don't know where you were living in the early 1980s, but in the quaint provincial backwater where Iain Banks and I both lived (London) I assure you they were very rare.

Blogger Krul June 11, 2015 8:44 PM  

Philip's personal philosophical perspective turns out to be more interesting than I anticipated. Interesting in how typical it is.

Hence it can be instructive. When a mystic like Philip tells you that truth is unknowable, take this to mean that truth is unknowable to him, not necessarily to you. When he tells you about the limitations of consciousness, take from this that his consciousness is limited, not yours. When he tells you that certainty is a lie, he is informing you that certainty is unavailable to him, that he dwells in the chronic uncertainty characteristic of mystics, and the only explanation he can offer for the certainty he observes in others is that they are deceived by a lie whereas it is implied that he knows the "truth" (somehow despite the fact that he claims truth is not available to human consciousness).

Anonymous zen0 the Unconcerned June 11, 2015 8:52 PM  

I fear Mr. Sandifer's attachment to rhetoric is so profound that it is the only vehicle through which he processes every experience of his personal existence not handled by the reptile brain.

I dare wonder.........does he fake masturbation?

(That was rhetorical, Phil. I really don't want to know.)

Blogger IM2L844 June 11, 2015 8:54 PM  

"What's two plus two? PURPLE! WHOOO!"

Ha! Yes, but not only that: It's purples all the way down when you ignore contingency and the principle of sufficient reason.

Anonymous ticticboom June 11, 2015 9:24 PM  

Hmm. Reminds me of this comic.

Blogger buwaya June 11, 2015 9:26 PM  

For what its worth, at then end of all this re the Wasp Factory, Iain Banks was indeed a great science fiction writer.

Wasp Factory is not at all representative of his other work, especially the Culture series.

It would be a pity to be put off Banks by this.

Anonymous zen0 June 11, 2015 9:44 PM  

> Hmm. Reminds me of this comic.

I blame Descartes.

Always have.

Blogger Nate June 11, 2015 10:03 PM  

"
That's only the case if you assume that certainty is truthful and not a lie we tell ourselves because we are too scared to face the possibility that truth is simply not something that can exist within the limitations of human consciousness. "

Do you often find public mental masturbation to be useful in discussions?

Blogger rcocean June 11, 2015 10:10 PM  

If you want a friend buy a dog. Dogs will sacrifice for you and obey you. Cats can't be made to do anything they don't want to do. Which can be frustrating because that attitude often gets them killed.

Anonymous The other robot June 11, 2015 10:11 PM  

That's only the case if you assume that certainty is truthful and not a lie we tell ourselves because we are too scared to face the possibility that truth is simply not something that can exist within the limitations of human consciousness.

Of course, only an Evolution denier would deny that Evolution would equip us (and other organism) with an ability to detect the important truths.

Blogger rcocean June 11, 2015 10:13 PM  

The Wasp factory sounds like one of those boring novels full of phony "shocking" violence that gets repetitive and tiresome. I'd rather read "Tender is the night" which I've almost finished. F scott certainly could turn a phrase.

Anonymous MelodiousThunk June 11, 2015 10:16 PM  

" ... and having it take place in ( some region associated with a specific people ) with people who are, yes, idiots, ( some racial or ethnic slur ) idiots. I mean that’s the point, I think Banks is laughing at the idiocy of these characters."

Hey Dr. Sandifer, SJWs are usually so punctilious about the use of hurtful and racist speech; what other phrases or terms would you be comfortable putting between the parens? Would you be willing to use the phrase "hillbilly idiot" in the presence of impoverished rural whites or is something you would only say when totally protected from the consequences of your hate speech?

Blogger rcocean June 11, 2015 10:17 PM  

“In the dead white hours in Zurich staring into a stranger's pantry across the upshine of a street-lamp, he used to think that he wanted to be good, he wanted to be kind, he wanted to be brave and wise, but it was all pretty difficult. He wanted to be loved, too, if he could fit it in.”

Anonymous dh June 11, 2015 10:25 PM  

I've seen more interesting games played by more interesting characters, but not usually in this public a fashion. At the end there is nothing in Sandifer's philosophical backdrop that a morphine drip and a variety pack of psychedelic medications can't provide.

Anonymous Shutup, Tad June 11, 2015 10:39 PM  

Tad does the same thing, only with less words.

Sandifer makes me miss Tad.

Tad, come home.

Come home to Papa.

Blogger Danby June 11, 2015 10:51 PM  

@Shutup, Tad
Shut up, Shutup, Tad.

What rankles is that he actually thinks he's got a good bead on things.He thinks he's seriously thought about these thinks in any meaningful way. It consists of nothing but defense mechanisms, protecting the self-image. He's obviously got the mental horsepower, put he's using it to burn tires and spin in circles, like a literary Jeremy Clarkson.

The level of bafflegab and self-deception is really astounding. The level of anti-think is off the charts. The stupidometer broke.

Blogger Daniel June 11, 2015 11:14 PM  

Here, ultimately, is what Sandifer, apparently quite honestly, fails to grasp:

I am intimately familiar with his worldview. I not only "get" postmodern philosophy and it's offshoots, including 3rd wave feminism and queer literary theory, I not only understand to fair detail the variety and nature of occult magic and pagan and neopagan ideology and its influence on left wing schools of thought as well as the culture of higher education; I not only know how to defend a deconstruction of a text and the elements of intertextual criticism...but I have also measured this philosophy in its scope and depth, and found it sorely wanting. It is nihilism stripped of sobriety, a warm fuzzy decadence that serves to stupefy the intellect and atrophy the pathways of independent thought, replacing them with commercial, ready-made abstractions - artificial memories and insights - fake and empty "Eurekas."

He is - mentally - so saturated by the Coke commercial, a delusion engineered for the selfish intellectual conceit of the Baby Boom, that it is no wonder at all that he can so effortlessly and smugly express his ignorance with such elegance and energy.

tldr; poor guy don't know what he don't know. Bless his heart.

Anonymous The other robot June 11, 2015 11:36 PM  

Instead of spending all your time reading and writing and giggling with friends, you should spend some on being a person who does productive things. If you were a programmer, for example, you'd know the difference between an idea and a method. You'd know that calculus is a method, and methods are routinely re-invented and re-engineered. Methods are made by people solving problems. Two people solving the same problems with the same tools will often solve the problem the same or similar way. Leibnitz and Newton were both trying to solve similar problems regarding calculating derivatives, and they both had Barrow's proof as tools.

This accords with my experience and I learned something as well.

There have been numerous occasions when I have said that we only need to do X, only to discover that upon trying to do X it actually required much more.

Of course, things that I have done before are now easy to quantify, but the SJWs simply do not understand how hard it is to change human nature. They do not seem to understand R = H^2 * S, although, given their willingness to kill people, perhaps they do understand truncation selection.

Blogger Achillea June 11, 2015 11:49 PM  

Later on: He claims he's never seen a theology like Richard's before, and this seems to be a problem.

And yet he's fine with handwaving all of Banks' Did-Not-Do-The-Research fails with 'grotesquery!' That one and 'unreliable narrator!' are the go-to copouts for lazy, sloppy writers. The emperor be nekkid.

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