Alternative Facts Are Older Than Facts

Categories: Philosophy and Society.

aka Western Philosophy Caused Alternative Facts We are told that so-called “alternative facts” are a new threat to us as a society; to how we view and understand the world and how we make decisions about the world (policies etc). But I think the idea of an “alternative” fact is far older and, worse, rooted in the very basic ideas most of us who’ve grown up with Christianity and Western philosophy believe to be true. I blame Plato for alternative facts. Okay, I don’t just blame Plato for alternative facts, I blame Western normative philosophy. But, as the saying goes, Read More

The Quest for a Moral Compass (2014) by Kenan Malik

Categories: 2014, Books, and Non-Fiction.

I have been reading Malik’s blog for more than a few years at this point (I think), in part because I feel like he has much greater insight into the issues around jihadism than most of the people writing in North America (who I’ve had a chance to read). I find his approach not only measured – which is refreshing – but also imbued with a strong knowledge of the various cultures at play, and a knowledge of history. It is for this reason that I got this book. To be honest, I was initially quite disappointed. I am not Read More

The Physicists (1961) by Friedrich Durrenmatt, adapted by Michael Healy, live at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford, July 25, 2015

Categories: 1961, 2015, and Theatre.

This is a play about the social responsibility of scientists posing as a murder mystery-cum comedy, set in an insane asylum. The play uses comedy and the teensiest bit of mystery to dilute it’s overwise very heavy-handed message. The play itself is so prescient (and so relevant to our time) that I am shocked I had never heard of it or its author and I’ve had to add him to my list as I suspect that he’s written more interesting stuff, even if this is his most famous work. The cast was excellent and the staging was particularly clever, using Read More

The belief in Justice is probably the breeding ground for injustice

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Society.

I have long identified myself as an atheist (even though I’m an agnostic) in religion, an existentialist in philosophy and “anti-apocalyptic” or “anti-ideological” person in politics (i.e. a pragmatist). I have long struggled with this last definition, not because I don’t know what I am – I know exactly what I am, politically – but rather because I have trouble encapsulating it in one word. Politically, I am a centrist or, as I used to jokingly describe myself: a libertarian social democrat with a conservative streak. But I’m not a centrist because of a lack of conviction; I cannot pick Read More

Equus (1973) by Peter Shaffer

Categories: 1973, Books, and Fiction.

I first saw this in the movie version, which featured Richard Burton chewing through the role of the psychiatrist, about 10 or 12 years ago. I must say that after reading a version wherein the original staging is described, I can’t help but feel the filmmakers made a major mistake trying to make the play “realistic” in its setting. I think the artificial staging quite helps the point, but anyway… Equus is difficult but well worth reading if you want think about things most people don’t want to think about – i.e. is there some social or societal root cause Read More

The Poverty of Ideology

Categories: Philosophy.

This article on libertarianism says pretty much what I was trying to say in my book, only more rigorously (and with 0 sense of humour). However, I think the general point of this article – that something like libertarianism is empty theory ignorant of human behaviour and human history – is actually a point that needs to be made, repeatedly, against all ideologies. Yes, even (certain forms of) liberalism. Read More

The Book of Imaginary Lands (2013) by Umberto Eco

Categories: 2013, Books, and Non-Fiction.

This is a history of human beings’ invented worlds, not specifically from fiction but rather (mostly) worlds which human beings invented to explain the unknown parts of the earth, which exploration and science hadn’t yet revealed. The chapters cover worlds such as Atlantis, Shangri La, and numerous other fabled lands. Each chapter is further supported by excerpts from many of the referenced texts. Eco isn’t always obvious in his purpose – though if you have read Foucault’s Pendulum, for example, you already know how he feels – at least in the first chapters but his intent is, rightly, to point Read More

On the origins of the universe

Categories: 2012, Books, Non-Fiction, Philosophy, and Science.

In the CS Monitor‘s book of review of Jim Holt’s Does the Universe Exist?, Troy Jollimore discusses the nature of the universe and the bizarre fact that most scientists and philosophers seem to assume that we have to prove how the universe appeared, as if what existed before the universe – if ever we can say something existed before the universe – was the “default state of affairs.” Read More


Categories: Philosophy and Society.

Futurists are like weatherpersons, only worse. They are wrong 99.9% of the time and nobody calls them on it. Worse, they get paid to predict time and again, even after they’ve rarely been right in the past. Why can’t we all accept that we can’t predict the future? Just because someone reads some books and studies, or does something, with statistics, doesn’t make their forecast necessarily likely. Why not? Because people aren’t predictable. And what’s less predictable than a couple of people? 7 billion people. (This is a reaction to reading an article on globalization which quotes numerous books published Read More

Full Disclosure: Influences

Categories: Personal, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Society.

Existentialism: Hannah Arendt William Barrett Albert Camus Fyodor Dostoevsky Karl Jaspers Friedrich Nietzsche Jose Ortega y Gasset   History: Niall Ferguson Leszek Kolakowski   Language: Northrop Frye   Liberalism: John Dewey John Stuart Mill Jose Ortega y Gasset Karl Popper Richard Rorty Judith Shklar   Libertarianism: (early) Friedrich Hayek Robert Nozick   Literature: Fyodor Dostoevsky William Faulkner Timothy Findley Gabriel Garcia Marquez Graham Greene Aldous Huxley George Orwell Thomas Pynchon Philip Roth Laurence Sterne Kurt Vonnegut   Mathematics: Donald Saari   Philosophy, General: Aristotle Leszek Kolakowski Friedrich Nietzsche Karl Popper Bertrand Russell   Post-Modernism: Hannah Arendt Friedrich Nietzsche Richard Rorty Read More

Why is metaphysics dangerous in the hands of those who govern us?

Categories: Philosophy and Society.

All people generally think alike and don’t think alike at the same time. We have some things in common and other things which aren’t in common. But the claim there is a class, a coherent, self-contained ruling elite, that is distinctly different from the average joe, has no basis in fact; its basis is in the desire of some to believe that they are being directed by powers greater than themselves (which is, incidentally, a form of metaphysics). How did we get back on this again? C. Wright Mills, for example, has been totally utterly refuted. There are other examples Read More

What is reality?

Categories: Philosophy and Society.

Saying “reality is everything” is hardly helpful. In fact, it’s “obscurantist”: a position which, deliberately or not, actually lessens human knowledge. The reason for this is that in order to understand what you mean by reality is everything, we must first understand what you mean by “thing.” There’s no other option because “reality is everything” is far too vague to mean anything in and of itself. Now, you and I no doubt disagree on what “things” actually are, as I would regard them as separate entities in physical reality and you might regard all nouns as things (just guessing). So Read More

Why is metaphysics dangerous in the hands of those who govern us?

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, and Society.

Metaphysics, i.e the study of “things” outside of physical reality, is incredibly dangerous for politics. But first, why do we use metaphysics? For some reason or other, human beings need to use abstracts to express themselves. We cannot always refer our ideas to concrete things. There is a whole field of philosophy that studies this and related issues but I have no time for it. I am concerned with reality and politics, so philosophical disagreements over why we need abstracts are of no interest. But basically we need concepts that are not physically real in order to communicate. So, metaphysics Read More

Why do you beleive that’s the only reality there is and why do you [think] that it is meaningless?

Categories: 2010, Philosophy, and Society.

Dr. Johnson, when confronted with the argument that this reality isn’t the real one, said “I refute it thusly” and stubbed his toe (or was it that he banged his hand on the table?). This is enough for some of us. It isn’t enough for most. But all evidence (based on our own perceptions but more especially based on hundreds of years of observations backed by the scientific method) show indeed that this is reality, that there isn’t another reality. The problem is that we human beings want their to be another reality so much, or feel there is another reality so Read More

Philosophical Differences

Categories: Personal, Philosophy, and Society.

I am finding more and more that I am across a huge philosophical gulf from many of my friends. I assume so many things about the world, assumptions which I of course regard as correct, that other people appear not to share. I feel like I need to come clean on my philosophy, or whatever you want to call it, but the only time I get into these conversations is over booze and then I’m not so coherent. But my positions really are extremely well-considered, even if they don’t sound like it. And as far as I know, they are Read More

Popper and existentialism

Categories: Philosophy and Society.

It seems strange that Popper slags existentialism in Conjectures and Refutations because he seems sort of existential himself. He is fairly dismissive of “essentialism” and he is very much concerned with actual issues, as opposed to theoretical issues. His political ideas seem very existential, in that they are focused on actual institutions and actual people, rather than ideal types. Maybe he is slagging the Sartre / Heidegger existentialism, and not the more sensible versions. Read More


Categories: 2009, Hockey, and Sports.

The media is pissing me off again. It seems that everyone inducts nowadays. Somebody sees something happen and immediately concludes that this event will be true forever or a least a very long time. It is most obvious in sports, though non-sports media is hardly immune. To wit, in the Spectator a few days ago, a reporter from the CP noted that Crosby and Malkin were something like 15th and 30th in scoring respectively. Apparently this means that they are both having bad years, and not fully contributing to their winning team (then leading the conference, if not the league) Read More

Reflections on the god thing

Categories: Philosophy.

I’ve been trying to read up on chaos theory today, as I think there may be some sociopolitical implications that haven’t been addressed by most of what I’ve read for the book. The description of chaos I’m familiar with sounds an awful lot like life: minuscule changes in initial circumstances have a big effect on things later on. The problem is that life can hardly be considered a “deterministic system,” beyond the fact of death. But in reading about this I came across one of those wacky theologian-scientists who believe that there is a god despite what they’ve learned about Read More

Best Books of the 20th Century – Non-Fiction

Categories: Books and Non-Fiction.

I find it a lot harder to pick non-fiction. That’s why this list is shorter. I’ve also read lots of silly non-fiction over the years, that really isn’t very good. Hannah Arendt: The Human Condition; The Origins of Totalitarianism Albert Camus: The Rebel Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs, and Steel Victor Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning Leszek Kolakowski: Main Currents of Marxism Runners-up: Hannah Arendt: On Revolution William Barrett: Irrational Man Bruce Chatwin: The Songlines Northrop Frye: The Educated Imagination Tony Horwitz: Confederates in the Attic Stanley Karnow: Vietnam Leszek Kolakowski: Modernity on Endless Trial Raymond B. Lech: All the Drowned Read More