Pyrrho the younger on mythologies as a guide to action


“Mythology is a very rational foundation for values of life. It gives many situations and how people acted in those situations, and what was the effect of these actions. So, you have many options and one chooses one of them or is guided by one. There is no faith involved in this. Even Gods and Goddesses are under scrutiny, at least among hindus.”


“Mythology is a very rational foundation for values of life. It gives many situations and how people acted in those situations, and what was the effect of these actions.”

No, it gives one fiction about what a character in a story did in some imaginary situation, with the imaginary results.

“So, you have many options and one chooses one of them or is guided by one. There is no faith involved in this. Even Gods and Goddesses are under scrutiny, at least among hindus.”
You are now suggesting that one does not simply do whatever any story suggests, but that one picks one that may be appropriate for one’s situation. But that is not using the story as a guide, but is reasoning regarding what one should do, and then pretending that the story is guiding one when it really isn’t.
One can do the same sort of thing with other mythology. I could make up my mind what to do, and then search the Bible for some story that fits my decision, and pretend to be guided by the Bible. To make it seem more like my pretense is real, I can start reading the Bible before the decision is made.

Swartz on fuzzy concepts

“Trying to define “classical music” in a short phrase (or a few sentences) is a forlorn task. The very attempt is the product of an outmoded and insupportable theory of definition. To cut a long story short, you might want to have a look at my online essay, “Definitions, Dictionaries, and Meanings”, at…definitions.htm . As the last half-century of philosophical research in the area shows, just about everything taught to children in the public schools about definition (yes, this almost certainly includes you) is simply untenable and false.

There is, and can be, no neat definition of “classical music” any more than there can be a neat, capsule, definition of such concepts as “cause”, “justice”, “lemon” [see section 8 and subsections in my aforementioned essay], “science”, “religion”, etc. (ETC.!)

If you want to explain to another person what you mean by “classical music”, proceed by offering examples (instances, exemplars, etc.) If, in your use of the phrase, you include folk songs, say so; if you exclude folk songs, say so. And let it go at that. Don’t assume that there is any one, more or less, universally agreed-upon, ‘correct’ view. And even if there were, so what? What, of import, could possibly hang on such a resolution? Just simply try your best to inform others what sub-genres of music you’re keen to discuss and then get on with it. I don’t have the book at home in front of me, but one does well to recall Karl Popper’s admonition (in Conjectures and Refutations) to avoid trying to define one’s terms.” (source)

Roy F. Baumeister – Is There Anything Good About Men?

Caine at FRDB posted a very nice article that I will post here as well for others to enjoy. Do not be fooled by the title. It is very much science and not your typical newspaper rant about a particular sex.

Roy F. Baumeister – Is There Anything Good About Men?

I made a nice pdf version, both because it is nicer to read and because it will still be available if the link goes dead.

Is There Anything Good About Men

The beginning:

“You’re probably thinking that a talk called “Is there anything good about men” will be a short talk! Recent writings have not had much good to say about men. Titles like “Men Are Not Cost Effective” speak for themselves. Maureen Dowd’s book was called “Are Men Necessary?” and although she never gave an explicit answer, anyone reading the book knows her answer was no. Brizendine’s book “The Female Brain” introduces itself by saying, “Men, get ready to experience brain envy.” Imagine a book advertising itself by saying that women will soon be envying the superior male brain!

Nor are these isolated examples. Eagly’s research has compiled mountains of data on the stereotypes people have about men and women, which the researchers summarized as “The WAW effect.” WAW  stands for “Women Are Wonderful.” Both men and women hold much more favorable views of women than of men. Almost everybody likes women better than men. I certainly do.

My purpose in this talk is not to try to balance this out by praising men, though along the way I will have various positive things to say about both genders. The question of whether there’s anything good about men is only my point of departure. The tentative title of the book I’m writing is “How culture exploits men,” but even that for me is the lead-in to grand questions about how culture shapes action. In that context, what’s good about men means what men are good for, from the perspective of the system.

Hence this is not about the “battle of the sexes,” and in fact I think one unfortunate legacy of feminism has been the idea that men and women are basically enemies. I shall suggest, instead, that most often men and women have been partners, supporting each other rather than exploiting or manipulating each other.

Nor is this about trying to argue that men should be regarded as victims. I detest the whole idea of competing to be victims. And I’m certainly not denying that culture has exploited women. But rather than seeing culture as patriarchy, which is to say a conspiracy by men to exploit women, I think it’s more accurate to understand culture (e.g., a country, a religion) as an abstract system that competes against rival systems — and that uses both men and women, often in different ways, to advance its cause.

Also I think it’s best to avoid value judgments as much as possible. They have made discussion of gender politics very difficult and sensitive, thereby warping the play of ideas. I have no conclusions to present about what’s good or bad or how the world should change. In fact my own theory is built around tradeoffs, so that whenever there is something good it is tied to something else that is bad, and they balance out.

I don’t want to be on anybody’s side. Gender warriors please go home.”

Review: Seth Lerer, Inventing English: A portable history of the language, 2007

It has been some time since I read this book but I got distracted about writing my review of it. Basically, I set out to learn something about the history of english. This being an interest of mine and also relevant to my much stronger interest in language reform. I imagined that I would learn a thing or two useful for thinking about language reform, and I did. The book however, has an extreme focus on fiction especially poetry which makes it annoying to read for those of us who do not care about poetry. For my part, I skipped most of the poems and just read what he had to say about them. I would have preferred a shorter book without focus on poetry. Not having read another history of english, actually evaluating the book is a bit hard (this comes to mind). My guess is that the book is not bad but not particularly good either, unless one is really interested in old poetry (like Beowulf).

Some quotes worthy of interest.


“Philology means “love of language,” but for scholars it connotes the
discipline of historical linguistic study. For Seamus Heaney, or for you or
me, philology illuminates the history of words and those who speak them.
My goal in this book is to illuminate: to bring light into language and to
life. Whether you grew up in New York or New Mexico, whether your first
words were in this or any other tongue, you are reading this book in the
language of an early-twenty-first-century American. Writing at the begin-
ning of the nineteenth century, Washington Irving called America a “logo-
cracy”—a country of words. We all still live in a logocracy—invented then
and reinvented everyday by citizens of language like ourselves.” (p. 13)

This is misleading as the word “philology” is not used anymore or almost not anymore to mean |love of language|. It is getting close to an etymological fallacy.

Compare results in dictionaries:

the OED also reports the greek-inspired meaning as rare or old.


“In morals the agreement of good men, and in language the practice
of the learned, is the determining rule. Therefore writing will have
to conform not to the pronunciation of plowmen, working-girls, and
river-men [bubulci, muherculae, potiores], but to that used by learned
and refined men [docti et culte eruditi viri] in their speech and writ-
ing. And just as accomplished artists represent the appearance of the
human face so that it resembles the living feature, so it should be
proper to transcribe the sounds of the human voice so that we do not
misrepresent the true pronunciation in any way.
(Gil, Logonomia Anglica, Alston trans., 87)” (p. 170)

Hume?! Sounds a lot like Hume and it predates Hume by some 100 years or so.

One may note that he had some good ideas for spelling reform, namely

  • Revive the Anglo-Saxon signs ð () and þ (þorn) for the two sounds of th
  • Use of the letter ŋ ()[4]

I may note that two of these suggestions may as well apply to danish (ŋ and ð since danish does not have the /θ/ phoneme).