Sunday, May 20, 2007

The end of amateur hour

The fiasco of partisan bickering in the house reflects the failure of the Reform/Canadian alliance wing of the Conservative party to learn how parliament works, or get over the cynical idea that Canada is governed by a parliamentary dictatorship. Certainly, all parties vie for popularity, but usually, they have recognised that some measure of cooperation is necessary. Members of Parliament also recognised that the committee process required a high degree cooperation away from the partisan grandstanding in Question Period. Unfortunately, Canada's New Government, as the Stephen Harper Conservatives style themselves, has embraced the view that "winner takes all" and that opinions of the plurality, or today the majority of Canadians who didn't vote Conservative don't count.

This rather petty and puerile attitude has lead to the subsequent result:

Conservatives' lead dwindles: poll
Sat May 19, 2007 11:52 AM EDT
TORONTO (Reuters) The Strategic Counsel survey for the Globe and Mail newspaper found the Conservatives had 34 percent support while the Liberals had 31 percent. In an April 26 survey by the same pollster, 36 percent of those surveyed said they backed the Conservatives and 30 percent favored the Liberals.

Canadians expect their politicians to compromise on solving the issues. This reflects the diversity of opinion amongst canadians, and a certain recognition that nobody is going away, so we have to get along.

A disturbing sense of entitlement pervades many politicians of all stripes, (Don Boudria's son was coronated as his successor in his riding- the Liberals haven't been chastened enough in the last election). This sense of entitlement leads to pompous ad hominum attacks on critics. This defensive attitude serves only to dishonour its authors and diminish the political process in the eyes of an already disillusioned citizenry.

I think most people want their MP's to represent their interests, not steam-roll the interests of other canadians. Hopefully, this parliament will fall, and a more cooperative spirit arise in the next one. At least, I'd like to see the amateurs sent packing.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Plagiarism, Creativity and snarkiness

"Most of my Google results for Plagiarism dealt with academic plagiarism on the high-school and undergraduate level. This is because many young students are sneaky. And lazy. And on drugs. Sneaky, lazy, young people on drugs don’t make for original, successful scholars. Poets? Perhaps (see Shelley, Byron, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Lowell, every single Beat poet, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Bukowski, and possibly Rod McKuen[6])."

-Eric Cambell, The Virginia Quarterly Review

I'm not sure what this statement proves, as regards plagiarism, but I like the snarkiness of it.

The article ruminates on where the line between plagiarism and originality falls.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Indian Democracy: the clash within civilizations

Martha Nussbaum writes about the challenges of democracy within ethnically and religiously diverse India. She offers a hopeful analysis of the situation there and what it means for other democracies, especially in the face of religious extremism, ethnic friction and political manipulation of these tensions.

"The real "clash of civilizations" is not between "Islam" and "the West," but instead within virtually all modern nations — between people who are prepared to live on terms of equal respect with others who are different, and those who seek the protection of homogeneity and the domination of a single "pure" religious and ethnic tradition. At a deeper level, as Gandhi claimed, it is a clash within the individual self, between the urge to dominate and defile the other and a willingness to live respectfully on terms of compassion and equality, with all the vulnerability that such a life entails."
-Martha Nussbaum
Section: The Chronicle Review
Volume 53, Issue 37, Page B6

Friday, May 11, 2007

The world as will and representation, ch2

"The body is object among objects and is subordinated to the laws of objects , although it is an immediate object."
WWR p.5

Schopenhauer regards space,time and causality as a priori, that is knowledge that exists prior to any particular experience. Merely being a subject gives us this insight.

This phenomenological position, privileging our subjective experience, pressents my starting point for a theory of knowledge that is live, momentous and forced, to use Dewey's criteria. Neither Schopenhauer nor myself advocate a solipsistic view of the universe. However, our own experience is the lens that we must approach it through. The experience we can first look at is the experience of being embodied.

Do we find space, time and casuality a priori through the immediate experience of the body?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

the world as will and representation, Chapter 1

" The world is my representation...[the reflective person] does not
know a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun,
a hand that feels an earth."
Schopenhauer, Arthur, The World as Will and Representation, E.F.J. Payne, trans. Dover, New york,1969.p.3

Schopenhauer argues for the supremacy of the subject, not because of the lack of a material world. Rather he argues we only know that world through subjective experience. The failure to avoid solipsism is a fault that he acuses the british philosopher Berkeley of, while commending berkely's assertion of subjective nature of experience.

This reflects view that Schopenhauer frequently expresses throughout WWR, that he is a kantian, and only desires to correct Kant's few mistakes. Thus Schopenhauer tries to deal with the divide between the noumenal world(what really is) and our subjective experience of that world(which may or may not reflect the actual state of reality).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Reading the world as will and representation

About 23 years ago I asked a question about Kant's epistemology. My college instructor couldn't answer it. For about ten years I assumed it was a dumb question. Then I discovered that the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had asked a similar question, and had written his own answer in 3000 pages in his masterwork, The World as Will and Representation. You can find it online here

My question was that if we make mistakes, what does that say about the nature of the universe?Why shouldn't we "get it right"? To say we make mistakes because we're stupid is simply to say we're prone to error- a tautology. To say we're imperfect is the same and to say we lack God's perfection heads-off in the direction of magic and superstition.

My intention is to read it (the original volume, not volume 2 that Schopenhauer wrote years later), chapter by chapter, and post my response to each chapter in this blog. Why blog my reading of this dense work? Because since there is no one I know who is remotely interested in this topic, I can pretend to have a dialogue, which is the way I philosophise best. Each day I'll blog one chapter (and/or one section of
Arthur Schopenhauer entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Arthur Schopenhauer entry in Wikipedia

If by some chance you read this, please post a hello, or better yet, a comment.

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster