philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

A quick lesson in the philosophy of language.

The big name in philosophy of language is Ludwig Wittgenstein. His insights into language have had implications into pretty much every philosophical field, because whatever the philosophy problem someone is going to need to describe it.

He described the typical understanding of language as the Augustinian view, but it might be more helpful to describe it as the dictionary view. This view is that every word must have a specific corresponding definition, like a dictionary might suggest. On this basis we could form an entire language purely through 'ostensive definitions'. That is, by pointing to things and naming them.

Of course when we use language, pointing and naming will never be enough. For one, what about connective words such as: and, but, as, then? Also the following scenario makes even clearer how poor a tool ostensive definitions are for establishing a language.

The example from Wittgenstein himself is pointing to two nuts. If I point to them and say an unknown word like 'shapistus' what might this strange word mean? Certainly it might mean 'nuts' but it might just as easily mean 'brown' or 'two' or 'food' or perhaps it might even be a question like 'what is this?' Using a word when pointing is not sufficient to establish meaning.

So what does establish meaning? How does language attain meaning? Well Wittgenstein has a phrase which sums it up neatly: 'Meaning is use'.

When we learn a language, pointing to objects might well be helpful, but there's a context involved. And it is the context which enables us to recognise more complex grammar. Language is always fulfilling a role in a social context. Wittgenstein refers to the role of language in a particular context as a 'language game'.

That's why I am left completely perplexed when someone starts discussing football even when I recognise the words being used. I am not familiar with the language game. On the other hand when I discuss movies with friends, some other friends can find it tough to keep up because they don't fully understand the rules of this language game.

It seems that even the languages of isolated communities can be learnt by outsiders through living with them in a social setting. Once again, Wittgenstein has a term for this. He claims that we are able to share common concepts with isolated tribespeople because we are the same 'forms of life'. We have similar needs to them and necessity is the mother of invention. Under such contexts, language inevitably develops to handle those needs.

But if social context is required for language, does that mean we cannot develop a language living on our own? Well technically we can use our pre-existing language and just replace the words, but from scratch? No, we need a community to develop a language. Without a social context, there is no right or wrong way to use a word. On your own you can switch the meanings of words as often as you like and there is no situation where you might fail to convey the meaning to yourself. A language needs correct and incorrect ways of being expressed. A phrase is incorrect when it fails to convey its meaning and that requires more than one language speaker.

(Okay so you actually need to be familiar with Wittgenstein's philosophy to know why I put this image here.)

So why did I write this short introduction to the philosophy of language?

I did it because I had an issue with the use of language in the recent movie "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes". It's not exactly a major criticism, but the discussion could do with these details being understood first.

Basic gist? The apes now all speak in pigeon English and that annoys me.....

Sometimes pigeon english is entirely appropriate. Ahhh Grimlock, my favourite Transformer, but the way he talks is just daft. Thankfully the development of Dinobot language isn't an important part of the Transformer universe...
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)
He may not think he's a good doggy, but zomg is he adorable!!!

(via SMBC)

Quick explanation: Hobbes claims that a "state of nature" is a society without rules i.e. a state of anarchy, such as you'd find in the more chaotic periods of a civil war. (Hobbes himself lived through the English Civil War.) Under a state of nature, as Hobbes puts it: "life is nasty, brutish and short".

For Hobbes, the whole purpose of a society was to avoid this state of nature. That is why we all agree to follow the laws of the land, such as those proposed by a King.

However, there is always the risk that society might collapse and we might revert back to a state of nature. In that case all out rules concerning what is good would be somewhat irrelevant since people would act out of desperation in whatever way they needed in order to survive.
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Okay, so here's a grumpy rant about a term I've been hearing over and over on movie message boards and I am fed up with it. "Plot holes" is a term where the meaning appears to be deeply unclear (at least in the way most people use it). In some cases a short review of a film could actually be as simple as: "It sucked because it was full of plot holes." I am here to argue that such a review is practically meaningless.

Before I even worry about whether "plot holes" is a good term or not, perhaps I should show some evidence than anyone actually uses it. I found myself rather annoyed to see it being used a reviewer. I've recently discovered a reviewer on The London Film Review website called David Ollerton. In an article about "Looper" he said the following:

"Looper is full of plot holes right from the start, and I'm not even talking about the time-travel logic (which makes little to no sense throughout), I'm talking about some of the basic ideas."

I immediately groaned. I keep on hearing this term in IMDB message boards and it is frustrating as hell. However, to be fair to Ollerton (who actually seems to write some pretty good reviews) this wasn't his review of "Looper", but rather an article breaking down what he believed to be some less-recognised issues with the film which people might have missed.

There already is a major problem with using the term "plot holes" in a review. If it is possible for most people to watch the film without even recognising a plot hole, how is it an important criticism of a film? Am I really going to have a poor movie-going experience due to a factor I cannot recognise while I am watching the film? Anyway, more on that later...

Is The Term "Plot Holes" Really Used THAT Much?

Looking at reviews by ordinary internet users on Rotten Tomatoes the following is just a small sample:
Read more... )
How Much Do Critics Use The Term "Plot Holes"?

In one forum post on Rotten Tomatoes an ordinary RT user said this about "The Godfather":

"There were many gaping plot holes in this movie (which critics usually attack other movies for, but not this one)"

Actually I don't think this is true. I think most critics don't actually use the term "plot holes" very often at all, never mind randomly missing out that term in relation to "The Godfather".

Read more... )

"Plot Holes Big Enough To Drive A Truck Through!"

Oh please Lord make it stop!
Read more... )
Plot Holes Don't Matter!

There is one user comment which uses the dreaded phrase which I think helps to make clearer why I dislike the term "plot holes" in the first place.

Timecop 2:
"Talk about your plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. But hey ... I'm a sucker for time-travel flicks. Even if they suck I love them."

I'm going to go one further and not just accept that you can love movies with plot holes, but that plot holes don't matter.
Read more... )

A Case Study: Prometheus

It's been bugging me for a while now that most people hated "Prometheus", while I actually preferred it to the original "Alien". So why was that?

Well "Prometheus" captured my imagination because in the end it's all about the savage origins of religion. The premise of an alien race who are keen on self-sacrifice and the cycle of death and rebirth, while having absolutely no time for human fear of mortality or their attempts to preserve themselves though creating automata to imitate them.

Read more... )

Just knock it off with the term "plot holes" okay?

philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)
Okay, so I'm not like an expert in US law. Or even moderately informed on US law. So yeah, take this as a fairly uninformed view...

Quite often you get instances where there's a conflict between two people for whatever reason and that conflict turns violent. There are plenty of instances of two people getting into a punch up with one another with no witnesses. Quite often that sort of thing doesn't go to court because it's one person's word against the other's and it doesn't normally involve what the courts would view as serious injury.

Now if there's a weapon involved like a knife or a cricket bat or whatever it may be, there's more likely to be a court case involved. Two reasons for this. Firstly because if a weapon was used the injuries are likely to be greater and if one person died from stab wounds or having their skull caved in naturally the courts are going to need to investigate. However, there is another reason involving the presence of the offensive weapon in the first place. Now naturally if you've just come from a cricket game then you've got a good reason to be carrying a cricket bat and you can explain your journey from the fields or park where you were playing. If you are carrying a gun you may have been doing some hunting and you can explain your route from the hunting grounds. You might have a good reason for carrying the item in question, but explaining the presence of that item will be part of your defence since that item may well have escalated the conflict.

Now in America there are gun concealment laws which mean that people need no excuse whatsoever for why they were carrying a gun. Perhaps if they were carrying a kitchen knife, a meat cleaver or a chainsaw, but a gun? No explanation required for a gun. Clearly the gun is required for self-defence.

Now in the Trayvon Martin murder case, Zimmerman claims that Martin attacked him. There are no witnesses, so the courts cannot confirm nor deny this. Since the evidence is so light here, let's just give be ridiculously charitable to Zimmerman and presume for the moment that Martin DID attack him. Naturally we have no reason to suppose this. It's highly probable that Zimmerman simply gunned Martin down in cold blood. But for the sake of argument we'll just presume that Martin attacked Zimmerman here and see where it takes us...

We know from a phone call to police from Zimmerman that Zimmerman had been watching Martin and considered him suspicious, so Zimmerman's presence near Martin was clearly not a coincidence and so, even if we presume for the sake of argument that Martin DID attack Zimmerman, the likelihood that Martin's attack was unprovoked is pretty slim.

I would like to suggest, and I don't think this is controversial, that if Zimmerman had not brought a gun to that conflict no one would have died. The presence of the gun escalated the conflict. Sure Zimmerman might have left with harsh injuries. That's possible. Whether they'd be worse than those received by Martin is questionable. And Zimmerman could sue later and either get compensation, or cause Martin to be given jail time, or both. There would definitely be consequences, but nobody would be dead. The presence of the gun escalated the outcomes of that confrontation. It did more harm than good.

Particularly unhelpful here is the "stand your ground" law which seems to suggest, as I see it, that if someone is violent towards you, you have free reign to go Mortal Kombat on their ass. The most important detail here is apparently nothing to do with what weapons the assailant is carrying and everything to do with whether the person 'standing their group' perceives themselves to be under threat. So if you feel like you are under threat (FIGHT!) you are free to fight the person threatening you to the death (FINISH HIM!) and if you've got a gun and they don't you are clearly going to win (FATALITY!) - unless they have awesome ninja skills and can disarm you or unless (and this is perhaps more likely) you find that in a close-quarters fight you are unable to hit them with any bullets.... Hmmm.

(All the all-caps stuff in brackets above comes from the game Mortal Kombat btw)

Okay, so this is another concern of mine. Zimmerman was supposed to have hit Martin with a bullet to the heart. Are supporters of Zimmerman arguing that this was a lucky shot? Since I would have thought that in a hand-to-hand struggle, getting your gun out and landing a successful shot to your opponent would be pretty tough.

So the Trayvon Martin murder case doesn't appear to give a decent motivation for Martin's supposed attack, it doesn't successfully demonstrate that Martin was doing anything other than defending himself, and no suspicions are raised by Zimmerman's decision to come to the conflict armed with a gun. According to US law this is all perfectly fine. All Zimmerman's defence need to demonstrate is that there is insufficient evidence to convict him of murder. With the victim dead, the evidence on the other side of the argument is limited. The presence of the gun is viewed as entirely unproblematic since everyone can carry a gun wherever the hell they like and if they feel threatened they have the right to kill. And no matter how poorly or implausibly the defence put forward their case, the lack of evidence that Trayvon's death was murder rather than self-defence is enough to get an "innocent" verdict. (Scotland has an alternative verdict of "not proven" which might be appropriate here.)

Considering that the gun rights activists in the US think it's inappropriate to mention gun control when innocent people are gunned down by people who clearly should never have been licensed to hold a gun, I'm sure they think it's even more inappropriate to bring it up in a case where the innocence or guilt of both parties is even less certain. I know I'm just a liberal Brit with no understanding of US gun culture, but the more I hear about it the more I feel like I don't want to understand. What is the benefit of concealed weapons and how does it outweigh the negatives? If people weren't allowed to carry guns with them and gun down anyone they perceive as a threat Trayvon Martin would still be alive today, regardless of all this "who attacked who?" kerfuffle. Escalating a hand-to-hand conflict by introducing a deadly weapon is not a good thing. Isn't this obvious?

philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

But remember, Jesus wasn't a zombie... He was a Lich. (Explanation below.)

(click here or on the image to see it slightly bigger)
philosoraptor42: (Default)

(video link)

This time Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the representative of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland decides to come out with the same BS that we've seen in the past. He says that Christians are being persecuted for wearing crosses in public.

0:31 Beginning of relevant report.
2:24 Interview with Andrew Copson on the issue.

Andrew Copson from the British Humanist Association strikes again. Once again he explains very clearly and diplomatically why the latest "Christians are being marginalised" story is BS. (His phrasing: "their claims have very little basis in fact" rather than "they are making s**t up".)

Also liking the new beard. :)

Cardinal O'Brien has previously claimed that when the New Labour government were in power there was "a systematic and unrelenting attack on family values". Why's this? The introduction of civil partnerships, allowing adoption by same-sex couples, allowing embryo research and not passing a law to lower the legal time limit in which an abortion may be carried out. He also referred to the Equality Bill as "legislation which would completely and permanently undermine religious freedom". And now he has the audacity to push the lie that Christians' rights to wear crosses are under attack. Ugh!

(cross posted to [ profile] atheism )
philosoraptor42: (Default)

Alain De Botton has decided that the current state of atheism is no good and has instead proposed what he decides to call "Atheism 2.0". But is Atheism 2.0 really any different from Atheism 1.0? Who does Alain De Botton think he is arguing against? Why promote this now?

I think we need a bit of background first of all....

Why Have An "Atheism 2.0"?

Read more... )

Religion For Atheists?

Alain De Botton is a popularist philosophy writer. There was a point where his book "The Consolations of Philosophy" was on shelves everywhere, though he wasn't really so interested in exploring the ins and outs of classical philosophy as giving a massively simplified and trivial version. Still, as was noted before, sometimes you can't show the entire depth of the argument if you want to appeal to the wider market.

His latest ideas in his book "Religion For Atheists" are explored in a lecture viewable here:

He also gives an impassioned speech about the ideas of "Religion For Atheists" in the audio form and you can listen to that here.

He says that the most boring question about religion is whether or not it is "true" and says that the issue has become a matter obsession for "fanatical atheists". I think what he ignores here is that while it might be "boring", the matter of truth is actually rather important. There are number of reasons to say this because there are plenty of cases where the unquestionable truth and authority of doctrine and/or scripture is used to justify what are sometimes quite influential political positions. Proposals for limiting access to abortion, limiting rights of certain groups in society, insisting on old traditional stances on gender roles, promoting abstinence education and, yes, even ID Theory are all often (though admittedly not every single time for every single one of these examples) tied to the believed doctrinal truth and authority of particular religions.

Essentially De Botton takes the old line that while you might not believe in religions you should still respect them. The question arises once again: What is it about religions which makes them worthy of respect? I don't think De Botton actually has an answer to this though (or at least not a convincing one).

De Botton claims that religion serves two central needs "which continue to this day and which secular society has not been able to solve with any particular skill":
1) "The need to live together in communities in hamony, despite our deeply rooted, selfish, violent impulses."
2) "The need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to professional failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our own decay and demise."

Or to put it another way:
1) Secularism heralds the breakdown of society.
2) There are no atheists in foxholes.

To be quite frank, the need for secularism would appear to me to arise precisely from the fact that, when people all belong to different faiths, religion doesn't help to promote harmony. Religion is often divisive and sectarian. As such, the idea that setting up non-religious communities must involve learning from the actions of the religious seems like nonsense. Far more often than not, the lessons are more likely to be cautionary tales; examples of what NOT to do when trying to foster a spirit of unity in diversity. Yes, there have already been figures like Martin Luther King and Haille Selassie who have been religious and attacked social injustices in ways that might be inspiring to the non-religious, but these figures can often be seen to be actively subverting the religious ideas they were brought up with. Dr. King, for example, takes the example of "the promised land" but does not imagine it as a contested strip of land or as some kind of post-apocalyptic paradise, but rather as the hope of a united humanity.

On the second point, I'll firstly note that atheists are found in all walks of life and don't appear to see their disbelief in God as a disadvantage. However, I think it's also worth asking, if atheistic modes of tackling these issues are so unskilful, why are there religious groups pretending to offer therapy without the professional background in the subject? Surely if religious methods were superior to secular ones on this front, Churches and places of worship would already be pioneers in the field, with absolutely no need to use fraudulent behaviour like this in order to promote themselves?

Rallying Points For The Failings Of Secularism...

Alain De Botton makes a number of points at this stage on the failings of secularism. But these points about modern society are either patently the result of good common sense or quite clearly false:

Read more... )

Useful and Effective?

Read more... )

Yeah sure we can learn a few things from studying religion, but that doesn't mean religion deserves respect or politeness automatically. Religion used to be a much more central part of society than it is today and inevitably a great deal of what is good in society today will be based on the more religion-centered form that came before. But most often, the better way to tackle these kinds of issues is to cut out the religion. In fact even some religions are retreating from the term "religion", themselves recognising that certain religious ideas are simply no good. Some of these figures will want to retreat to some more primordial and "pure" version of their religion, insisting that their shift away from religion makes their ideas even more traditional, while others will be more progressive noting that old religious ideas have also been tied to old political and cultural ideas (noting, for example, that a morality based on honour and shame is clearly present in the Bible, but is rightly alien to our modern sensibility). Even the religious can tell that religion isn't all great and it would be extremely stupid of us not to share the fruits of this important lesson.
philosoraptor42: (Default)

Okay, so I just heard of her for the first time ever the other night when she appeared on the BBC Radio Comedy show "Museum of Curiosity". I've got lots to say about what I've come across, but for now I'll simply leave you with this transcript of her bits on the show.

Remember that it's a comedy show, so she's being intentionally flippant and her fellow contributors to the "museum" aren't taking it all entirely seriously either:

Host: Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou is the senior lecturer of theology at the university of Exeter, a member of the European Association of Biblical Studies and the presenter and writer of the BBC series "The Bible's Buried Secret". She also happens to be an atheist.

What's more, her time on TV has been spent arguing that Moses never existed, and that the Bible was re-written to malign Eve and erase God's wife from memory.

So Francesca, God's wife who was she then?

Francesca Stavrakopoulou: Well, she's a goddess called Asherah who was responsible for various life-giving functions in the earthly realm along with her consort, her husband, Yahweh. She's kind of fairly well known throughout the ancient Near East and she's pretty cool.

Co-contributor: What was she called again?

Francesca Stavrakopoulou: Asherah.

Co-contributor: So God was married?

Francesca Stavrakopoulou: Hmmm.

Co-contributor: Wow. I imagine that was a big spread in Hello wasn't it?

Francesca Stavrakopoulou: But he divorced her and she didn't do quite so well in the divorce settlement. The God that's worshipped today by Jews, Christians and Muslims isn't the same as the God that the Bible was written about - and that God actually was the God who was married.
Host: That's really remarkable, I mean this has been kept a pretty tight secret then?

Francesca Stavrakopoulou: Really it's like a testimony to how bad scholars are at just communicating stuff that we talk about, because we've been talking about it for a long time. But a lot of people disagree with me. Anne Widdecombe disagrees with me.

Co-contributor: I think calling her "a lot of people" is a bit cruel.

The rest is under the cut... )
Cross-posted to atheism
philosoraptor42: (Default)
The following is a clip from a tv programme about near-death experiences. A major focus is an atheist woman who is a secular officiant. (She performs non-religious weddings and other non-religious ceremonies. In the video they strangely call her an atheist minister.)

The way she describes her brush with death in purely non-religious terms is really uplifting and quite beautiful. Even her interviewer, who understood their own NDE from a religious perspective, seems to be somewhat moved by the way she expresses her interpretation of the experience.

(video link)

(Some little details are cleared up at Friendly Atheist)

(Cross-posted to [ profile] atheism )
philosoraptor42: (Default)

PC Bloggs - Police Officer's Blog

Young People Are Angry

The aftermath of a fundamentalist terrorist attack.
 Young people being angry.

You can understand anger at the police when an unarmed man is accidentally shot by an officer wearing too-big gloves in a raid based on malicious intelligence.  Incidents like that are embarrassing to say the least.  Yet the residents of Forest Gate did not see the need to rush onto the streets and set fire to their own local shops.

Mark Duggan, who was shot on Thursday, came within a whisker of shooting dead a police officer before he was "gunned down" - as the papers describe it.  The Daily Mail, Independent and Guardian have been quick to quote friends who called the gunman "a good daddy" and "not a trouble-maker".
Now local dismay at Duggan's death has been hijacked by arsonists and rioters, who have created scenes similar to those seen on London's streets after the July Bombings.  Yet the usual apologists are already out bemoaning police action to every BBC camera crew they can find.  If the killing of an armed attempted murderer justifies widescale looting and petrol bombing, and the hospitalisation of eight police officers, you wonder how the family of Jean-Charles de Menezes - a genuinely innocent victim of botched police work - restrained themselves from blowing up Parliament.

(Read the rest at PC Bloggs)

Winston-Smith - Youth Offender Worker's Blog

The Riots in London are a Culmination of Decades of Failed Social Policies

The underclass are rising up. No longer content with simply burglaring and mugging the decent law abiding working classes that have the misfortune to dwell amongst them, they have now decided to torch and terrorise the very communities they come from. What we are witnessing in London and in other cities across Britain at the moment is an attack upon the decent and law abiding citizenry of the country. Their places of work have been attacked, looted and even burned down. Opportunisitic burglaries have occured and violent attacks upon the police and innocent individuals are widespread. Fear is endemic and people are anticipating a fourth night of chaos and disorder. The once great nation of Britain is being brought to its knees by a festering parasitic underclass that has been fostered by decades of failed social policies in the spheres of education, criminal justice, social services and welfare provision.
(Read more at Winston-Smith)

Scenes From The Battleground - Teacher's Blog

These Riots Prove Whatever the Hell it was I was Already Saying

I thought I’d join in with the latest internet craze: explanations of the riots which are actually thinly veiled efforts to raise completely unrelated issues. Let me be the first to claim that the riots were the inevitable result of mixed ability teaching, performance management and Brain Gym. Or something.

Well, okay, I won’t actually try and make that argument, but having already seen attempts to blame the riots on tuition fees and “high stakes testing” I could make those arguments and still not be responsible for the most ridiculous riot-related claims in the education blogosphere.
(Read more at Scenes From The Battleground)

An important part of this blog entry within the main of the article:
Even though so many of the rioters are young, the education system could not have prevented this. Better discipline in schools cannot ensure better discipline in the streets.  I never cease to be amazed how the sources that suggest discipline in classrooms used to be clearly much better also suggest behaviour outside the classroom wasn’t. Schools can’t social engineer the whole of society and despite all the reforms I want to see in our schools, none of them are likely to make a difference to a breakdown of law and order.
philosoraptor42: (Default)
People here may remember a relatively recent post where I pointed out a blog entry from a priest/teacher about how utterly untrustworthy the British tabloids are. There's been a follow up post about a story which seems to be making the rounds on the internet right now.

The point is that before we get on our high horse about a particular story it is worth being sure of the details first. If we're not careful we might well find ourselves being drawn into a political agenda which we would otherwise have given a wide berth.

This isn't only true of Islamist/Islamophobia stories. Pat Condell has provided a nice little alternative example recently of what he views as "PC gone mad" regarding racism against the Irish.

The Internet, the Tabloids and the murky world of misinformation

I have a couple of friends who send me stuff from the INTERNET that they receive from other friends. I usually pass them on too. Many of them are very funny, showing the infinite stupidity of humanity; others are very clever and creative and some, Dear Reader, are a bit rude. It is rare for me to delete without sending on but there are categories I won't be party to distributing. Here is one (he says, distributing it more widely).

An incident occurred in a supermarket recently, when the following was witnessed: A Muslim woman dressed in a Burkha (A black gown & face mask) was standing with her shopping in a queue at the checkout.
Read more... )

There's a whole argument that people could go into regarding loyalty to your new home vs loyalty to your original homeland. However, that discussion becomes entirely pointless once you realise that the example of split loyalties under discussion was entirely fabricated to rile up nationalistic sentiments.

(Cross-posted to atheism)


philosoraptor42: (Default)

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