Arithmetic Is on China’s Side – Truthdig

Eden Collinsworth

Eden Collinsworth is a former media executive and business consultant. She was president of Arbor House Publishing Co. and founder of the Los Angeles monthly lifestyle magazine Buzz before becoming a vice president at Hearst Corp...

Some 30 years ago, I took a bullet train from the airport in Shanghai to the center of that city. I was being hurled ahead at 268 miles an hour on a thin layer of air between the train and the magnetized narrow tracks. But that was not what fueled my disbelief. Far more disconcerting was what I saw outside the window when we slowed down: Some of the peasantsknee deep in rice paddieswere talking on cell phones.

Entering the telecommunications age with satellite-based platforms, the Chinese were able to leapfrog over the expensive cable-based systems in the West. Currently, over 75 percent of its 1.3 billion-plus people have at least one cell phone.

Even before Donald Trump forfeited the United States place at the global table, Chinathe worlds largest nation with a self-appointed government that seeks access to global markets and resourceshas been chipping away at the edifice of Americas dominance. As of May this year, the U.S. debt to China was $1.102 trillion, which is 28 percent of the $3.9 trillion in Treasury bills, notes and bonds held by foreign countries.

Chinas state-owned firms have sought out iconic Western companies for direct investment, taking stakes in Greeces largest port, Portugals biggest power plant, Londons Heathrow Airport and Canadas energy giant, Nexen. These are only a few of the Asian countrys investments in an unprecedented range of overseas deals projected to be worth between $2 trillion and $3 trillion by 2020.

The Chinese government has built other countries infrastructures, and it has made loans to nations hobbled by deficit. To add to this outreach, China is spending billions of dollars a year in the most extensive program of image-building the world has ever seen.

There was a time when WesternersAmericans in particularthought that the Chinese would convert to Western ways. But China has not become more like us. Indeed, it would be an understatement to say that China stage-manages the exposure of Western ideas to its citizens. So, no, the Chinese do not intend to become like us.

Chinese cultureformed over 2,500 yearsembraces a Confucian perspective, which is in stark contrast to the linear rationalism attributed to Western belief. Confucius Analects(sayings) concentrate on the practical rather than the theoretical. They advise against reducing morality to a universal truth. Unlike the West, where Judeo-Christian ethics designate a non-negotiable right and wrong, the Chinese do not adhere to absolutes. Since China comprises 20 percent of the planets population, one in five people in the world believes there is no single way of being wrong and many ways of being right.

Where does that leave the rest of us?

We in the West would like to believe that individual freedom determines our choices, but in reality we are ruled in large part by the prevailing time in which we live, and our world today is interconnected. Like it or not, we must confront a challenging question: What will anchor us in our own distinct beliefs and ethics while respecting other distinct cultures with different ethical and political systems?

To consider this, well need to take our eyes off the mirror in front of us and look at people with different truths and values, because only then will we be able to make the difficult decisions. At times, those decisions will require us to relinquish some part of our ground. At other times, they will call on us to protect the ground we are determined to hold. It will be these hard-won decisionsnot the false promises of politiciansthat will enable us to navigate the future of our conflicted, crowded world.

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Arithmetic Is on China's Side - Truthdig

Donald Trump’s face-off with North Korea has made more than a few people terrified – the Irish News

the Irish News
Donald Trump's face-off with North Korea has made more than a few people terrified
the Irish News
All machismo, no rationalism #NorthKorea. Key, Esq. (@kishenybarot) August 8, 2017. Trump is sittin' here threatening Kim Jong Un and instead of him being scared we are. Sam Without A Hoodie (@hood_goat) August 8, 2017. Observers noted the ...

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Donald Trump's face-off with North Korea has made more than a few people terrified - the Irish News

Thinking their way through new superstitions – Print – Times of India

Bengaluru: Challenge accepted -- AS Nataraj has been waiting to hear these words for the past 16 years after framing a seemingly simple challenge of 10 questions. To make it easier, he insists on only eight correct answers for the challenger to be eligible for the Rs 1 crore reward. The catch? The answers would involve the challenger accurately predicting an individual's future using janam kundali or astrological chart. Now you didn't see that coming, did you?

"The reward was Rs 10 lakh when I first issued the challenge in 2001. I increased it to Rs 1 crore because no one came forward despite initial promises. I am now sure that even if I raise the prize to Rs 100 crore, nobody will volunteer," says Nataraj, the 77-year-old founder of Akhila Karnataka Vicharavadi Sangha. His aim is to debunk astrology's main claim to fame - the power to pinpoint the future. "I know it is not true because I was also an astrologer," laughs Nataraj, author of Jyothishyakke Savaalu (Challenge to Astrology) and a veteran TV talking head on the matter.

The other challenge doing the rounds is aimed at busting a scientifically untested brain training programme. Narendra Nayak, the rationalist crusader from Mangaluru, has been holding demonstrations and challenging proponents of mid-brain activation for the last two years. The groups behind this fad take money from parents to enhance brainpower of their children through the 'activation'. Those trained can apparently see after being blindfolded. "People fall for new tricks all the time. Mid-brain activation involves teaching children to lie (about peeking from behind the blindfold). The organisers use pseudo-science jargons and it becomes difficult for lay persons to understand," says Nayak, president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations (FIRA).


For every new trickster in town, there are a few rationalists like Nayak who demand that fantastic claims should be backed by evidence, scientific reasoning and stone-cold rationale. If not, people like him resort to dramatic one-upmanship and myth busting on public platforms to uphold what they see as truth and rationality.

"Earlier, we used to go after petty godmen who produced ash from thin air or put their hands in boiling water. Now, the picture has changed," says Nayak, a 67-year-old trained bio-chemist. The new age miracles involve coming up with sales pitches to sell anything from yoga, millets, salt room therapy and apple cider vinegar as cures for various ills, including cancer, he says. The marketers rely on scientific terms or the ancient Indian label to bamboozle people.

As a trained scientist, the pseudo science gets Nayak going. Recently, he wrote a detailed complaint to the Advertising Standards Council of India about tall claims made by a coconut oil manufacturer in an ad. The regulatory body found that many of the claims such as the oil being a 'natural antiseptic' , 'restores thyroid function and reduces obesity' were not substantiated and hence, misleading. They asked the adverstiser to withdraw the ad or modify it.


For most such activists, rationalism starts with a healthy dose of atheism. Nayak says he became an atheist at the age of 11 after coming to a conclusion ("maybe hasty") about there being no god despite his prayers. A national science talent scholarship cemented his rationalist leanings and later, after a meeting with the legendary rationalist Abraham Kovoor, he joined the movement.

It isn't easy to break down strong beliefs. Nataraj, who became a rationalist after practicing astrology for several years, says he can hold his own in heated TV debates because he has studied several works about astrology. "There are times when TV astrologers have asked me in private why I oppose astrology as I know so much about it. I tell them we have to have proof," says Nataraj.


Public confrontations have a tendency to deteriorate quickly. Sanal Edamaruku, a Delhi-based rationalist, had to relocate to Finland to avoid arrest in a blasphemy case filed by a Mumbai church. Edamaruku, who exposed 'Pilot' Baba and other assorted godmen across India, says in the Mumbai case, he was held up at a TV studio for hours after a violent mob thronged outside, opposing him for saying that miracle tears of a statue came from a leaky drainpipe. "I am not a hatemonger but I gave my opinion after observation (he was invited to see the statue). Listeners can choose to disbelieve. But the situation turned violent and I escaped through the studio's back gate after three-four hours," says Edamaruku, who is bringing out his memoir detailing 25 of the most memorable investigations he has done so far.

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empiricism | philosophy | Britannica.com

Empiricism, in philosophy, the view that all concepts originate in experience, that all concepts are about or applicable to things that can be experienced, or that all rationally acceptable beliefs or propositions are justifiable or knowable only through experience. This broad definition accords with the derivation of the term empiricism from the ancient Greek word empeiria, experience.

Concepts are said to be a posteriori (Latin: from the latter) if they can be applied only on the basis of experience, and they are called a priori (from the former) if they can be applied independently of experience. Beliefs or propositions are said to be a posteriori if they are knowable only on the basis of experience and a priori if they are knowable independently of experience (see a posteriori knowledge). Thus, according to the second and third definitions of empiricism above, empiricism is the view that all concepts, or all rationally acceptable beliefs or propositions, are a posteriori rather than a priori.

The first two definitions of empiricism typically involve an implicit theory of meaning, according to which words are meaningful only insofar as they convey concepts. Some empiricists have held that all concepts are either mental copies of items that are directly experienced or complex combinations of concepts that are themselves copies of items that are directly experienced. This view is closely linked to the notion that the conditions of application of a concept must always be specified in experiential terms.

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Western philosophy: The rise of empiricism and rationalism

The scientific contrast between Vesaliuss rigorous observational techniques and Galileos reliance on mathematics was similar to the philosophical contrast between Bacons experimental method and Descartess emphasis on a priori reasoning. Indeed, these differences can be conceived in more abstract terms as the contrast between empiricism and rationalism. This theme dominated the philosophical...

The third definition of empiricism is a theory of knowledge, or theory of justification. It views beliefs, or at least some vital classes of beliefe.g., the belief that this object is redas depending ultimately and necessarily on experience for their justification. An equivalent way of stating this thesis is to say that all human knowledge is derived from experience.

Empiricism regarding concepts and empiricism regarding knowledge do not strictly imply each other. Many empiricists have admitted that there are a priori propositions but have denied that there are a priori concepts. It is rare, however, to find a philosopher who accepts a priori concepts but denies a priori propositions.

Stressing experience, empiricism often opposes the claims of authority, intuition, imaginative conjecture, and abstract, theoretical, or systematic reasoning as sources of reliable belief. Its most fundamental antithesis is with the latteri.e., with rationalism, also called intellectualism or apriorism. A rationalist theory of concepts asserts that some concepts are a priori and that these concepts are innate, or part of the original structure or constitution of the mind. A rationalist theory of knowledge, on the other hand, holds that some rationally acceptable propositionsperhaps including every thing must have a sufficient reason for its existence (the principle of sufficient reason)are a priori. A priori propositions, according to rationalists, can arise from intellectual intuition, from the direct apprehension of self-evident truths, or from purely deductive reasoning.

In both everyday attitudes and philosophical theories, the experiences referred to by empiricists are principally those arising from the stimulation of the sense organsi.e., from visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory sensation. (In addition to these five kinds of sensation, some empiricists also recognize kinesthetic sensation, or the sensation of movement.) Most philosophical empiricists, however, have maintained that sensation is not the only provider of experience, admitting as empirical the awareness of mental states in introspection or reflection (such as the awareness that one is in pain or that one is frightened); such mental states are then often described metaphorically as being present to an inner sense. It is a controversial question whether still further types of experience, such as moral, aesthetic, or religious experience, ought to be acknowledged as empirical. A crucial consideration is that, as the scope of experience is broadened, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish a domain of genuinely a priori propositions. If, for example, one were to take the mathematicians intuition of relationships between numbers as a kind of experience, one would be hard-pressed to identify any kind of knowledge that is not ultimately empirical.

Even when empiricists agree on what should count as experience, however, they may still disagree fundamentally about how experience itself should be understood. Some empiricists, for example, conceive of sensation in such a way that what one is aware of in sensation is always a mind-dependent entity (sometimes referred to as a sense datum). Others embrace some version of direct realism, according to which one can directly perceive or be aware of physical objects or physical properties (see epistemology: realism). Thus there may be radical theoretical differences even among empiricists who are committed to the notion that all concepts are constructed out of elements given in sensation.

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Two other viewpoints related to but not the same as empiricism are the pragmatism of the American philosopher and psychologist William James, an aspect of which was what he called radical empiricism, and logical positivism, sometimes also called logical empiricism. Although these philosophies are empirical in some sense, each has a distinctive focus that warrants its treatment as a separate movement. Pragmatism stresses the involvement of ideas in practical experience and action, whereas logical positivism is more concerned with the justification of scientific knowledge.

When describing an everyday attitude, the word empiricism sometimes conveys an unfavourable implication of ignorance of or indifference to relevant theory. Thus, to call a doctor an Empiric has been to call him a quacka usage traceable to a sect of medical men who were opposed to the elaborate medicaland in some views metaphysicaltheories inherited from the Greek physician Galen of Pergamum (129c. 216 ce). The medical empiricists opposed to Galen preferred to rely on treatments of observed clinical effectiveness, without inquiring into the mechanisms sought by therapeutic theory. But empiricism, detached from this medical association, may also be used, more favourably, to describe a hard-headed refusal to be swayed by anything but the facts that the thinker has observed for himself, a blunt resistance to received opinion or precarious chains of abstract reasoning.

As a more strictly defined movement, empiricism reflects certain fundamental distinctions and occurs in varying degrees.

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A distinction that has the potential to create confusion is the one that contrasts the a posteriori not with the a priori but with the innate. Since logical problems are easily confused with psychological problems, it is difficult to disentangle the question of the causal origin of concepts and beliefs from the question of their content and justification.

A concept, such as five, is said to be innate if a persons possession of it is causally independent of his experiencee.g., his perception of various groupings of five objects. Similarly, a belief is innate if its acceptance is causally independent of the believers experience. It is therefore possible for beliefs to be innate without being a priori: for example, the babys belief that its mothers breast will nourish it is arguably causally independent of his experience, though experience would be necessary to justify it.

Another supposedly identical, but in fact more or less irrelevant, property of concepts and beliefs is that of the universality of their possession or acceptancethat a priori or innate concepts and beliefs must be held by everyone. There may be, in fact, some basis for inferring universality from innateness, since many innate characteristics, such as the fear of loud noises, appear to be common to the whole human species. But there is no inconsistency in the supposition that a concept or belief is innate in one person and learned from experience in another.

Two main kinds of concept have been held to be a priori. First, there are certain formal concepts of logic and of mathematics that reflect the basic structure of discourse: not, and, or, if, all, some, existence, unity, number, successor, and infinity. Secondly, there are the categorial conceptssuch as substance, cause, mind, and Godwhich, according to some philosophers, are imposed by the mind upon the raw data of sensation in order to make experiences possible. One might add to these the more specific theoretical concepts of physics, which are sometimes said to apply to entities that are unobservable in principle.

In the long history of debate over the a priori, it was long taken for granted that all a priori propositions are necessarily truei.e., true by virtue of the meanings of their terms (analytic) or true by virtue of the fact that their negations imply a contradiction. Propositions such as all triangles have three sides, all bachelors are unmarried, and all red things are coloured are necessarily true in one or both of these senses. Likewise, it was held that propositions that are contingently true, or true merely by virtue of the way the world happens to be, are a posteriori. John is a bachelor and Johns house is red are propositions of this type.

In the 1970s, however, the American philosopher Saul Kripke argued to the contrary that some a priori propositions are contingent and some a posteriori propositions are necessary. According to Kripke, the referential properties of natural kind terms like heat can be understood by imagining that their referents were fixed, upon their introduction into the language, by means of certain definite descriptions, such as the cause of sensations of warmth. In other words, heat was introduced as a name for whatever phenomenon happened to satisfy the description the cause of sensations of warmth. Of course, the phenomenon in question is now known to be molecular motion. Thus heat refers to molecular motion, then and now, because molecular motion was the cause of sensations of warmth when the term was introduced. Given this introduction, however, the proposition heat causes sensations of warmth must be a priori. Because its introduction stipulated that heat is the phenomenon that causes sensations of warmth, it is knowable independently of experience that heat causes sensations of warmth, even though it is only a contingent matter of fact that it does. On the other hand, the proposition heat is molecular motion is a posteriori, because this fact about heat was discovered (and could only be discovered) through empirical scientific investigation. But the proposition is also necessary, according to Kripke, because once the referent of heat has been fixed as molecular motion, there are no imaginable circumstances in which the term could refer to anything else. This conclusion is supported by the intuition that, if it were discovered tomorrow that sensations of warmth in humans are actually caused by something other than molecular motion, one would not say that heat is not molecular motion but rather that sensations of warmth are caused by something other than heat. Kripke proposed a similar analysis of the referential properties of proper names like Aristotle, according to which a proposition like Aristotle was the teacher of Alexander the Great is contingent but a priori.

Empiricism, whether concerned with concepts or knowledge, can be held with varying degrees of strength. On this basis, absolute, substantive, and partial empiricisms can be distinguished.

Absolute empiricists hold that there are no a priori concepts, either formal or categorial, and no a priori beliefs or propositions. Absolute empiricism about the former is more common than that about the latter, however. Although nearly all Western philosophers admit that obvious tautologies (e.g., all red things are red) and definitional truisms (e.g., all triangles have three sides) are a priori, many of them would add that these represent a degenerate case.

A more moderate form of empiricism is that of the substantive empiricists, who are unconvinced by attempts that have been made to interpret formal concepts empirically and who therefore concede that formal concepts are a priori, though they deny that status to categorial concepts and to the theoretical concepts of physics, which they hold are a posteriori. According to this view, allegedly a priori categorial and theoretical concepts are either defective, reducible to empirical concepts, or merely useful fictions for the prediction and organization of experience.

The parallel point of view about knowledge assumes that the truth of logical and mathematical propositions is determined, as is that of definitional truisms, by the relationships between meanings that are established prior to experience. The truth often espoused by ethicists, for example, that one is truly obliged to rescue a person from drowning only if it is possible to do so, is a matter of meanings and not of facts about the world. On this view, all propositions that, in contrast to the foregoing example, are in any way substantially informative about the world are a posteriori. Even if there are a priori propositions, they are formal or verbal or conceptual in nature, and their necessary truth derives simply from the meanings that attached to the words they contain. A priori knowledge is useful because it makes explicit the hidden implications of substantive, factual assertions. But a priori propositions do not themselves express genuinely new knowledge about the world; they are factually empty. Thus All bachelors are unmarried merely gives explicit recognition to the commitment to describe as unmarried anyone who has been described as a bachelor.

Substantive empiricism about knowledge regards all a priori propositions as being more-or-less concealed tautologies. If a persons duty is thus defined as that which he should always do, the statement A person should always do his duty then becomes A person should always do what he should always do. Deductive reasoning is conceived accordingly as a way of bringing this concealed tautological status to light. That such extrication is nearly always required means that a priori knowledge is far from trivial.

For the substantive empiricist, truisms and the propositions of logic and mathematics exhaust the domain of the a priori. Science, on the other handfrom the fundamental assumptions about the structure of the universe to the singular items of evidence used to confirm its theoriesis regarded as a posteriori throughout. The propositions of ethics and those of metaphysics, which deals with the ultimate nature and constitution of reality (e.g., only that which is not subject to change is real), are either disguised tautologies or pseudo-propositionsi.e., combinations of words that, despite their grammatical respectability, cannot be taken as true or false assertions at all.

The least thoroughgoing type of empiricism here distinguished, ranking third in degree, can be termed partial empiricism. According to this view, the realm of the a priori includes some concepts that are not formal and some propositions that are substantially informative about the world. The theses of the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant (17201804), the general scientific conservation laws, the basic principles of morality and theology, and the causal laws of nature have all been held by partial empiricists to be both synthetic (substantially informative) and a priori. As noted above, philosophers who embrace the Kripkean notion of reference fixing would add to this class propositions such as heat is the cause of sensations of warmth and Aristotle was the teacher of Alexander the Great, both of which derive their presumed aprioricity from the hypothetical circumstances in which their subject terms were introduced. At any rate, in all versions of partial empiricism there remain a great many straightforwardly a posteriori concepts and propositions: ordinary singular propositions about matters of fact and the concepts that figure in them are held to fall in this domain.

So-called common sense might appear to be inarticulately empiricist; and empiricism might be usefully thought of as a critical force resisting the pretensions of a more speculative rationalist philosophy. In the ancient world the kind of rationalism that many empiricists oppose was developed by Plato (c. 428c. 328 bce), the greatest of rationalist philosophers. The ground was prepared for him by three earlier bodies of thought: the Ionian cosmologies of the 6th century bce, with their distinction between sensible appearance and a reality accessible only to pure reason; the philosophy of Parmenides (early 5th century bce), the important early monist, in which purely rational argument is used to prove that the world is really an unchanging unity; and Pythagoreanism, which, holding that the world is really made of numbers, took mathematics to be the repository of ultimate truth.

The first empiricists in Western philosophy were the Sophists, who rejected such rationalist speculation about the world as a whole and took humanity and society to be the proper objects of philosophical inquiry. Invoking skeptical arguments to undermine the claims of pure reason, they posed a challenge that invited the reaction that comprised Platos philosophy.

Plato, and to a lesser extent Aristotle, were both rationalists. But Aristotles successors in the ancient Greek schools of Stoicism and Epicureanism advanced an explicitly empiricist account of the formation of human concepts. For the Stoics the human mind is at birth a clean slate, which comes to be stocked with concepts by the sensory impingement of the material world upon it. Yet they also held that there are some concepts or beliefs, the common notions, that are present to the minds of all humans; and these soon came to be conceived in a nonempirical way. The empiricism of the Epicureans, however, was more pronounced and consistent. For them human concepts are memory images, the mental residues of previous sense experience, and knowledge is as empirical as the ideas of which it is composed.

Most medieval philosophers after St. Augustine (354430) took an empiricist position, at least about concepts, even if they recognized much substantial but nonempirical knowledge. The standard formulation of this age was: There is nothing in the intellect that was not previously in the senses. Thus St. Thomas Aquinas (122574) rejected innate ideas altogether. Both soul and body participate in perception, and all ideas are abstracted by the intellect from what is given to the senses. Human ideas of unseen things, such as angels and demons and even God, are derived by analogy from the seen.

The 13th-century scientist Roger Bacon emphasized empirical knowledge of the natural world and anticipated the polymath Renaissance philosopher of science Francis Bacon (15611626) in preferring observation to deductive reasoning as a source of knowledge. The empiricism of the 14th-century Franciscan nominalist William of Ockham was more systematic. All knowledge of what exists in nature, he held, comes from the senses, though there is, to be sure, abstractive knowledge of necessary truths; but this is merely hypothetical and does not imply the existence of anything. His more extreme followers extended his line of reasoning toward a radical empiricism, in which causation is not a rationally intelligible connection between events but merely an observed regularity in their occurrence.

In the earlier and unsystematically speculative phases of Renaissance philosophy, the claims of Aristotelian logic to yield substantial knowledge were attacked by several 16th-century logicians; in the same century, the role of observation was also stressed. One mildly skeptical Christian thinker, Pierre Gassendi (15921655), advanced a deliberate revival of the empirical doctrines of Epicurus. But the most important defender of empiricism was Francis Bacon, who, though he did not deny the existence of a priori knowledge, claimed that, in effect, the only knowledge that is worth having (as contributing to the relief of the human condition) is empirically based knowledge of the natural world, which should be pursued by the systematicindeed almost mechanicalarrangement of the findings of observation and is best undertaken in the cooperative and impersonal style of modern scientific research. Bacon was, in fact, the first to formulate the principles of scientific induction.

A materialist and nominalist, Thomas Hobbes (15881679) combined an extreme empiricism about concepts, which he saw as the outcome of material impacts on the bodily senses, with an extreme rationalism about knowledge, of which, like Plato, he took geometry to be the paradigm. For him all genuine knowledge is a priori, a matter of rigorous deduction from definitions. The senses provide ideas; but all knowledge comes from reckoning, from deductive calculations carried out on the names that the thinker has assigned to them. Yet all knowledge also concerns material and sensible existences, since everything that exists is a body. (On the other hand, many of the most important claims of Hobbess ethics and political philosophy certainly seem to be a posteriori, insofar as they rely heavily on his experience of human beings and the ways in which they interact.)

The most elaborate and influential presentation of empiricism was made by John Locke (16321704), an early Enlightenment philosopher, in the first two books of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). All knowledge, he held, comes from sensation or from reflection, by which he meant the introspective awareness of the workings of ones own mind. Locke often seemed not to separate clearly the two issues of the nature of concepts and the justification of beliefs. His Book I, though titled Innate Ideas, is largely devoted to refuting innate knowledge. Even so, he later admitted that much substantial knowledgein particular, that of mathematics and moralityis a priori. He argued that infants know nothing; that if humans are said to know innately what they are capable of coming to know, then all knowledge is, trivially, innate; and that no beliefs whatever are universally accepted. Locke was more consistent about the empirical character of all concepts, and he described in detail the ways in which simple ideas can be combined to form complex ideas of what has not in fact been experienced. One group of dubiously empirical conceptsthose of unity, existence, and numberhe took to be derived both from sensation and from reflection. But he allowed one a priori conceptthat of substancewhich the mind adds, seemingly from its own resources, to its conception of any regularly associated group of perceptible qualities.

Bishop George Berkeley (16851753), a theistic idealist and opponent of materialism, applied Lockes empiricism about concepts to refute Lockes account of human knowledge of the external world. Because Berkeley was convinced that in sense experience one is never aware of anything but what he called ideas (mind-dependent qualities), he drew and embraced the inevitable conclusion that physical objects are simply collections of perceived ideas, a position that ultimately leads to phenomenalismi.e., to the view that propositions about physical reality are reducible to propositions about actual and possible sensations. He accounted for the continuity and orderliness of the world by supposing that its reality is upheld in the perceptions of an unsleeping God. The theory of spiritual substance involved in Berkeleys position seems to be vulnerable, however, to most of the same objections as those that he posed against Locke. Although Berkeley admitted that he did not have an idea of mind (either his own or the mind of God), he claimed that he was able to form what he called a notion of it. It is not clear how to reconcile the existence of such notions with a thoroughgoing empiricism about concepts.

The Scottish skeptical philosopher David Hume (171176) fully elaborated Lockes empiricism and used it reductively to argue that there can be no more to the concepts of body, mind, and causal connection than what occurs in the experiences from which they arise. Like Berkeley, Hume was convinced that perceptions involve no constituents that can exist independently of the perceptions themselves. Unlike Berkeley, he could find neither an idea nor a notion of mind or self, and as a result his radical empiricism contained an even more parsimonious view of what exists. While Berkeley thought that only minds and their ideas exist, Hume thought that only perceptions exist and that it is impossible to form an idea of anything that is not a perception or a complex of perceptions. For Hume all necessary truth is formal or conceptual, determined by the various relations that hold between ideas.

Voltaire (16941778) imported Lockes philosophy into France. Its empiricism, in a very stark form, became the basis of sensationalism, in which all of the constituents of human mental life are analyzed in terms of sensations alone.

A genuinely original and clarifying attempt to resolve the controversy between empiricists and their opponents was made in the transcendental idealism of Kant, who drew upon both Hume and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (16461716). With the dictum that, although all knowledge begins with experience it does not all arise from experience, he established a clear distinction between the innate and the a priori. He held that there are a priori concepts, or categoriessubstance and cause being the most importantand also substantial or synthetic a priori truths. Although not derived from experience, the latter apply to experience. A priori concepts and propositions do not relate to a reality that transcends experience; they reflect, instead, the minds way of organizing the amorphous mass of sense impressions that flow in upon it.

Lockean empiricism prevailed in 19th-century England until the rise of Hegelianism in the last quarter of the century (see also Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel). To be sure, the Scottish philosophers who followed Hume but avoided his skeptical conclusions insisted that humans do have substantial a priori knowledge. But the philosophy of John Stuart Mill (180673) is thoroughly empiricist. He held that all knowledge worth having, including mathematics, is empirical. The apparent necessity and aprioricity of mathematics, according to Mill, is the result of the unique massiveness of its empirical confirmation. All real knowledge for Mill is inductive and empirical, and deduction is sterile. (It is not clear that Mill consistently adhered to this position, however. In both his epistemology and his ethics, he sometimes seemed to recognize the need for first principles that could be known without proof.) The philosopher of evolution Herbert Spencer (18201903) offered another explanation of the apparent necessity of some beliefs: they are the well-attested (or naturally selected) empirical beliefs inherited by living humans from their evolutionary ancestors. Two important mathematicians and pioneers in the philosophy of modern physics, William Kingdon Clifford (184579) and Karl Pearson (18571936), defended radically empiricist philosophies of science, anticipating the logical empiricism of the 20th century.

The most influential empiricist of the 20th century was the great British philosopher and logician Bertrand Russell (18721970). Early in his career Russell admitted both synthetic a priori knowledge and concepts of unobservable entities. Later, through discussions with his pupil Ludwig Wittgenstein (18891951), Russell became convinced that the truths of logic and mathematics are analytic and that logical analysis is the essence of philosophy. In his empiricist phase, Russell analyzed concepts in terms of what one is directly acquainted with in experience (where experience was construed broadly enough to include not only awareness of sense data but also awareness of properties construed as universals). In his neutral monist phase, he tried to show that even the concepts of formal logic are ultimately empirical, though the experience that supplies them may be introspective instead of sensory.

Doctrines developed by Russell and Wittgenstein influenced the German-American philosopher Rudolf Carnap (18911970) and the Vienna Circle, a discussion group in which the philosophy of logical positivism was developed. The empirical character of logical positivism is especially evident in its formulation of what came to be known as the verification principle, according to which a sentence is meaningful only if it is either tautologous or in principle verifiable on the basis of sense experience.

Later developments in epistemology served to make some empiricist ideas about knowledge and justification more attractive. One of the traditional problems faced by more radical forms of empiricism was that they seemed to provide too slender a foundation upon which to justify what humans think they know. If sensations can occur in the absence of physical objects, for example, and if what one knows immediately is only the character of ones own sensations, how can one legitimately infer knowledge of anything else? Hume argued that the existence of a sensation is not a reliable indicator of anything other than itself. In contrast, adherents of a contemporary school of epistemology known as externalism have argued that sensations (and other mental states) can play a role in justifying what humans think they know, even though the vast majority of humans are unaware of what that role is. The crude idea behind one form of externalism, reliablism, is that a belief is justified when it is produced through a reliable processi.e., a process that reliably produces true beliefs. Humans may be evolutionarily conditioned to respond to certain kinds of sensory stimuli with a host of generally true, hence justified, beliefs about their environment. Thus, within the framework of externalist epistemology, empiricism might not lead so easily to skepticism.

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Rationalism and Nuclear Lunacy – Center for Research on Globalization

The Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea is ramping up its nuclear deterrence, and this is causing consternation and wild proclamations from western officials and corporate media. What is particularly galling for the United States side is that North Korea appears to have achieved the capability of hitting the US mainland with ICBMs.

However, is the US not capable of hitting North Korea from wherever? So why does a rival created by the US [1] cause panicked rhetoric upon achievement of an ICBM capacity?

If your castle is capable of being targeted by a bellicose castle with inter-castle projectiles, would you leave yourself undefended? Especially when the bellicose castle has already destroyed the disarmed Iraqi castle as well as the disarmed Libyan castle.

US Senator Lindsey Graham said,

The only way they [the North Korean government] are going to change is if they believe there is a credible threat of military force on the table.

Graham believes any war will be confined to the East Asian region.

Why would Graham speak such provocative words? Follow the money. Grahams campaign fundraising appears aimed at the arms industry: Security through Strength.

US secretary-of-state Rex Tillerson is advocating peaceful pressure against North Korea and a willingness to hold talks. However, there is a condition, which certainly will not entice the North Koreans to talks. That condition is that the North Koreans disarm themselves of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. What is unstated is thatthe US will not disarm in any way whatsoever. The lessons of the disarmed and subsequently destroyed Iraqi and Libyan castles would seem to urge a cautionary approach.

Jack Rice, a former CIA agent, referred to North Korea as a threat. Why? Who is threatening who? North Korea haspledged no-first-use of nukes. The US has not. So who is the actual threat?

The US is modernizing its nuclear stockpile which is a stark abrogation of its undertaking as a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The NPTs Article VI states:

Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating tocessation of the nuclear arms raceat an early date and tonuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general andcomplete disarmament under strict and effective international control. [emphasis added]

North Korea has never attacked the US. It was the US that attacked North Korea during the so-called Korean War. The US used chemical and biological weapons, resulting in an estimated 4-10 million Koreans being killed. [2]

A Rationale Analysis of What a Nuclear-armed North Korea Portends

1. It is clear from the cases of Iraq and Libya that a disarmed US-designated enemy is not spared from a violent opportunistic attack. That North Korea was included on George W Bushs axis of evil along with Iraq triggered alarm bells in North Korea.

2. The US refuses a peace treaty with North Korea. [3] And the sanctions against North Korea constitute anact-of-war. Trump tweeted, China could easily solve this problem. But it is not China maintaining a state-of-war with North Korea.

3. The US is nuclear-armed, has used nuclear weapons, and does not adhere to a no-first-use policy.

Given the above three points would it be rationale to be without an effective deterrence against a military attack?

Furthermore, when North Korea did enter into anAgreed Frameworkwith the US in 1994, among the obligations was an end to hostilities; normalization of relations, no nuclearization of the peninsula; freezing operation and construction of North Korean nuclear reactors in exchange for two proliferation-resistant nuclear power reactors; and, while awaiting completion of the nuclear reactors, the US was to provide oil for North Korean energy needs. The US did not fulfill its obligations. In other words, the US cannot be trusted to uphold its end of any agreement.

If North Korea were ever to launch a nuclear weapon or even launch a non-nuclear attack against another country, then the North Korean government would be committing an act of suicide. Kim Jong-uns grandfather and father were not suicidal, so there is no reason to suspect familial psychosis.

If North Korea has achieved and maintains an effective nuclear deterrence, then a US attack is only imaginable in a nightmare Bizarro World. An attack on a nuclear-armed North Korea would be mad. The US would not be unscathed in such an attack. Major population centers such as Seoul, Busan, and Tokyo (all where US troops are stationed) and perhaps the US mainland would be hit. Of course, North Korea would be obliterated. Even if continental US were not hit by nukes, the radiation from nuclear fallout and a potential nuclear winter will affect the entire planet.

Consequently, all the talk in the media of a war is irrational conjecture or bluffing.

Rationality demands that all sides avoid any brinkmanship.

Kim Petersenis a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at:[emailprotected]. Twitter:@kimpetersen.


1. At the end of World War II, the Korean Peoples Republic arose and the first cabinet was formed on 14 September 1945. US scuttled the Korean Peoples Republic. See Nhial Esso,What You Dont Know about North Korea Could Fill a Book, (Intransitive Publishers, 2013): 15%. See Bruce Cumings,Koreas Place in the Sun: A Modern History(New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005): 238.

2. SeeKorean Truth Commission, Report on U.S. Crimes in Korea: 1945-2001(New York: 2001).

3. Said former US secretary-of-state Colin Powell: We wont do nonaggression pacts or treaties, things of that nature. Quoted in Steven R. Weisman, U.S. Weighs Reward if North Korea Scraps Nuclear Arms,New York Times, 13 August 2003.

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Rationalism and Nuclear Lunacy - Center for Research on Globalization

A New Short Film Offers a Private Look Into the Life of an Italian Architect and Design Enigma – Vogue.com

Though he was one of Italys most influential mid-20th-century architects and interior designers , very little is known about the inner world of Turinese legend Carlo Mollino. Born in 1905 in the northern Italian city of Turin, Mollino became a figure of fascination for design enthusiasts worldwide, many of whom were transfixed by his hidden private life and ability to create dreamy, sensuous spaces inspired by his various obsessionswhich ranged from the voluptuousness of the female form to symbols and talismans of witchcraft and the occult. At a time when the style of the day was, for the most part, defined by a movement known as Rationalism (led by fellow design giants like Gio Ponti and the Castiglioni brothers, who looked to architecture primarily as a self-effacing entity, created more for streamlined functionality than for decoration), Mollinos work was particularly unique, overtly romantic, and a far cry from the goings-on in Milan.

Carlo Mollinos RAI Auditorium, built in 1952. Photo: Courtesy of Oscar Humphries

After graduating from college, where he studied engineering, architecture, and art history, Mollino began working for his fathers architecture firm. There, he entered several design competitions and won for projects like the Agricultural Federation in Cuneo, Italy, and the Turin Equestrian Association headquarters, both of which, for buildings intended for public use, were unusually artsy and illustrated his predilection for sloping forms and circular spaces. After Mollino left his fathers firm, he spent the rest of his life picking and choosing his own projects, many of them commissions for private homes that were hidden from public view. His most famous work, the grand Teatro Regio in Turin, an opera house, is one of his only buildings still standing today.

As Mollinos oeuvre has grown in appreciation over the years, the scarcity of what is available to view and acquire has only added fuel to the fire. In 2005, a Mollino table earned a record-high sale for 20th-century furniture at Christies, going for $3.8 million. Its great appeal is the immediately seductive look, a former director at Christies, Philippe Garner, told The New York Times in a 2009 interview. The fact that virtually every piece can be traced to a specific commission and that production was very limited add the appeal of rarity.

The chairs in Carlo Mollinos RAI Auditorium. Photo: Courtesy of Oscar Humphries

It was only until Mollino expert and curator Fulvio Ferrari and his son Napoleone discovered and restored an apartment Mollino had been secretly working on did the doors to the architects world open. A social recluse for most of his life, Mollino spent years creating and decorating a home for himself on the River Po in which to live out his later days. Inside, both his dark strangeness and genius were revealed: Rooms immaculately decorated, strange voodoo imagery hung on walls and ceilings, and hundreds of erotic Polaroids taken of women who modeled for him were found. Obsessed by the Ancient Egyptian mummification process and beliefs, Mollino also created a wooden boat-like bed that served as a symbolic vessel of passage into the afterlife, placed in a room prepared meticulously for his death. Though he never actually lived in this apartment, it spoke most aptly to his deep love of all things beautiful, revealing how carefully he tried to construct the world around him. It is within this spacenow known as the Museo Casa Mollino, a highlight for visitors to Turinthat Mollino has been brought back to life.

In a beautiful new short filmdirected by Felipe Sanguinetti, produced by Oscar Humphries, narrated by Fulvio Ferrari, and given exclusively to Vogue we are offered visits to Mollinos Teatro Regio and Casa Mollino. It provides private insights into Mollinos mind and how he saw the world. Shot from around corners and through half-opened doors, the visual narrative is atmospheric in its secrecy, just as one would imagine for spaces of Mollinos. His presence is palpable and, in many ways, evidently vulnerable in the navigation of the cameras lens: As viewers, we get the distinct impression that we are walking side by side with Mollino himself, reseeing the spaces so close to his heart.

The completed Teatro Regio, 1973. Photo: Courtesy of Oscar Humphries

Mollino is so famous for the Polaroids he took and his iconic pieces of design, that as an architect hes often overlooked, said Humphries, who shot the film with friend Sanguinetti in June. But he was an architect first, and we wanted to show that.

Of the films humanized perspective, Sanguinetti noted: I wanted to share what I felt in these two spaces. Its unlike anything Ive ever experienced before, and what Mollino brings out in people is such a unique and emotional response to his work. I hope the spectator, when watching the film, can feel that.

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A New Short Film Offers a Private Look Into the Life of an Italian Architect and Design Enigma - Vogue.com

Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers by Daniel Dreisbach – Church Times

NAME the American Founding Fathers, or at least the ones everyone knows, and then describe their religion. George Washington: reticent, probably lukewarm; Jefferson: accused of atheism, disliked organised religion, basically a deist; Franklin: another deist; Hamilton: youthfully religious, lost his enthusiasm, not keen on churchgoing. Madison: largely indifferent. Only really John Adams and John Jay can lay claim to piety.

Add to this the Fathers undeniable enthusiasm for Enlightenment rationalism, the new nations desire to keep Church and State separate, and the First Amendment to the Constitution (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion), and you seem to have built up a pretty godless, or at least God-uninterested, picture.

One of the many merits of Daniel Dreisbachs book is to show how misleading this picture is. Against this popular image, the Bible was referenced more often than any other text, or even writer, during the Revolutionary period. The most prominent Founding Fathers were not typical of American revolutionaries, and even they were steeped in, and often fascinated by, biblical ideas and figures.

Dreisbach shows how prevalent the Bible was in early American culture and politics: think England or Scotland c.1650, and you wouldnt be far wrong. He also demonstrates, in the books best chapter, that the Revolutionaries political theorising, in particular their justification for rebellion, would have been impossible (or at least unrecognisable) without two preceding centuries of Protestant resistance theology: Vindiciae contra tyrannos was an extremely useful text when you found yourself defending liberty against those you considered to be tyrants.

Dreisbach recognises that the Fathers biblical rhetoric was sometimes only skin deep, borrowing figures and phrases to lend political speechifying a weight, dignity, and significance that it would not otherwise have had. Nevertheless, to dismiss it all as theological window-dressing is mistaken. Even when the Bible was not embedded in the Fathers lives (and chapter three shows that it often was), it underpinned and defined the sense of justice, rights, duty, liberty, providence, and destiny that created the new nation.

Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers is a scholarly book, drawing on an abundance of source material and demonstrating an admirable familiarity with the period and the Bible. It is also somewhat repetitive: having established that the Fathers were deeply informed by biblical language, narrative and ideas, Dreisbach effectively goes on repeating the conclusion with different examples and from different angles. By the end, you have well and truly got the point.

Still, it is a point that needs to be got. In the United States polarised climate, this book will remind culture warriors that the nations robust constitutional secularism was grounded, paradoxically, in its equally robust Christianity.

Nick Spencer is Research Director at Theos.

Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers

Daniel Dreisbach

OUP 19.99


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Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers by Daniel Dreisbach - Church Times

With the Mooch gone, rationalism finally has a chance – The Globe and Mail

The comedy industry should certainly be giving thanks to Anthony (The Mooch) Scaramucci, and so, too, should the Republican Party. So, too, should Donald Trump. The Mooch might turn out to be the best thing that never happened to him.

A great day at the White House, Mr. Trump tweeted following the latest upheavals, including the Moochs rapid execution. He could be right. It could turn out, in terms of management style, to be a turning point for the White House.

At the House of Trump, chaos had reached critical mass, Mr. Scaramuccis plutonium-enriched persona being the prime cause. His smut-laden rampage in a New Yorker interview, besting even the Presidents normal ribaldry, was wrenching enough to finally and critically make real change happen, it being the appointment of retired Marine Corps general John Kelly as chief of staff.

In the scattershot, morally bankrupt Trump world, there will now be, for the first time, a chain of command. Things should get better not only because the bar is so low they cant get much worse, but because adolescence has been derailed.

As a military man, Mr. Kelly will bring discipline. Frogmarching the Mooch out the door was the perfect opening gambit, establishing his authority. Reince Priebus, the former White House chief of staff, was a welterweight. Competing power centres blossomed all around him, chewed him up, spit him out. The grenade-hurling Mr. Scaramuccis first act was to blow up Mr. Priebus before thankfully detonating charges under himself.

Not insignificantly, he also humiliated Stephen Bannon, the alt-right impresario whose clout has been shrinking steadily. Mr. Kelly is no fan of Mr. Bannon and his crew of white nationalist America-firsters, which is another reason why things should get better. Conventional thinkers now hold more sway. Rationalism has a chance.

Theres another reason why this past week should be seen as a critical juncture. It was the week that Congress Republicans finally got the message through to Mr. Trump that they are not going to take it any more. They forced him to back down on his intention to fire Attorney-General Jeff Sessions for the senseless reason of his doing the right thing in recusing himself from the Russian-meddling investigation. They put him on notice that any intent to torpedo the inquiry of FBI director Robert Mueller on Russian collusion would be suicidal. As well, three Republicans came forward to defeat his bid to repeal and/or replace Obamacare.

Mr. Trump cant go on the way he has been. He is the oddest of leaders in that while others seek to avoid controversy, he seeks to create it. He revels in the havoc and the storm. Mr. Scaramucci was viewed, given his brashness, his vulgarity, his ego on stilts, as a mini-Trump. Had his appointment as director of communications taken hold, it would have buttressed and augmented all of the Presidents seething quixotic tendencies.

Its no sure bet that Mr. Kelly may be able to rein them in. In his work as head of Homeland Security, some were dismayed at how readily he sided with Mr. Trumps attitudes on immigration. He curried too much favour, they say. No small wonder the President likes him so much.

But Mr. Kelly, widely experienced in Washington, has a mandate to bring order, which is what military men do best. Two other generals, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Defence Secretary James Mattis, both no-nonsense individuals, will likely see their clout enhanced.

For all his madcap proclivities, Mr. Trump is sometimes capable of listening to reason. He didnt rip up the Iran nuclear deal or the North American free-trade agreement, lift sanctions against Russia, or move the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. As for the Mexican wall, Mr. Kelly has been pushing him to back off. He may get his wish.

On all these issues, rationalists have made headway. They were able to do so in getting Mr. Trump to fire the Mooch as well. That decision, which required seeing the scars in someone with a similar persona and modus operandi as himself, may be a sign that his presidency is not a hopeless cause.

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With the Mooch gone, rationalism finally has a chance - The Globe and Mail

More and more Puneites come forward to donate body for research … – The Indian Express

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published:August 3, 2017 6:34 am Taher Poonawala

The family of Taher Poonawala, a rationalist who died on Monday night, donated his body for educational and research purposes at the Sane Guruji Hospital, Hadapsar. This is not an isolated case as, according to anatomy experts across the city, the practice of body donations is increasingly being seen in the city. Taher Poonawala had already pledged to donate his body for medical research several years ago, said Dr Girish Kulkarni, associate professor of the Department of Anatomy at the Sane Guruji Hospital.

The hospital has the capacity to preserve as many as 30 bodies and every month, they receive at least four forms pledging body donations. This is a trend that has picked up over the years. Noted socialist leader G P Pradhan had donated his body and several prominent people had pledged to donate their bodies, said Kulkarni.

At the B J Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital, Professor B H Baheti, head of the Department of Anatomy, said that nearly 40-45 bodies are donated every year. The trend has picked up. In fact, the hospital has a capacity to preserve 30-35 bodies and we receive a lot of applications pledging body donations, said Baheti.

The Armed Forces Medical College has also seen an increase in body donations, said official spokesperson Colonel Abhijit Rudra. This year, till July, we have had 10 body donations and many have also filled forms pledging body donations. Overall, the awareness levels have increased and people are encouraged after they see a sympathetic interaction between the staff and relatives of those who donate their bodies, said Colonel Rudra.

Other activists remember Taherbhai: A grateful salaam for him

For several activists in the city, the death of eminent rationalist and progressive thinker Taher Poonawala was a huge loss. Taherbhai was a friend, philosopher and guide for my father Dr Narendra Dabholkar. A strong supporter of the Maharashtra Andhashradda Nirmulan Samiti, he was the one who actively supported the need for progressive thinking, said Hamid Dabholkar, son of the slain activist. Poonawala, who was 95, died on Sunday night. He is survived by his wife and a daughter.

Anwar Rajan, who was a member of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties along with Poonawala, recalled how he had been ex-communicated due to his revolutionary views.

Phir bhi kisike saath dushmani nahi thi. (Still, he did not have any enemies) We thought his shop would shut down due to immense pressure but Taherbhai is an example of how the ex-communication turned out to be a good opportunity to spread his progressive thinking, said Rajan.

Social activist Razia Patel said Poonawala had strongly opposed orthodoxy in the Bohra community. It is difficult to stand up against religious authorities, but he did it. In his personal life, he staunchly followed principles of secularism and rationalism. How can we ever forget him? A grateful salaam for our Taherbhai, said Patel.

Ajit Abhyankar, a member of the CPI-Ms state secretariat, remembered Taherbhais kind heart and great sense of humour. He was a committed rationalist and was associated with several social organisations like the Mahatma Phule Samata Pratishthan, Rashtriya Ekatmata Samiti, Samaji Krutdnyata Nidhi and Peoples Union for Civil Liberties.

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More and more Puneites come forward to donate body for research ... - The Indian Express

We can’t rehabilitate our way out of Baltimore’s crime problems – Baltimore Sun

The Readers Respond comments regarding crime and punishment in Baltimore (Yet another reminder of why I left Baltimore, Aug. 1) prompt reconsideration by Baltimore civic leaders on how best to address our horrific homicide rate and increasing criminal activity. Their perspective on the causality of crime, and the corresponding more lenient sentencing trends, seem rooted primarily in a belief that the best approach to mitigating crime is through a rehabilitative approach. While rehabilitation and resolution of some of our systemic poverty issues are certainly needed, our city leaders need to not forget that there are other mitigation models that must continue to be used in order to prevent further rampant crime and homicide in the city.

In 2010, David Mulhausen, Research Fellow in Empirical Policy Analysis for The Heritage foundation, testified before Congress on the foundations analysis regarding theories of punishment and mandatory minimum sentences. In his testimony, Mr. Mulhausen cited the generally accepted methods of reducing criminal activity: deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation.

Deterrence postulates that increasing the risk of apprehension and punishment in society deters members of society as a whole from committing crime. In layman terms, deterrence ensures that the administration of punishment is certain, swift, and imposes a severity commensurate with the crime, sending a message that crime will not be tolerated. According to the deterrence model, criminals are no different from law-abiding people. Criminals rationally maximize their own self-interest subject to constraints that they face in the marketplace and elsewhere. Increasing the certainty, swiftness, and severity of punishment will result in the utilitarian goal of reduced crime.

Incapacitation does not require any assumptions about the criminals rationalism, or root causes of the criminals behavior. Incarceration is beneficial because the physical restraint of incarceration prevents the commission of further crimes against society during the duration of the sentence.

Rehabilitation assumes that society is the root cause of criminality. Under this model, crime is predominately a product of social factors. Consequently, criminal behavior is determined by societal forces, such as poverty, racial discrimination and lack of employment opportunities, so the object of criminal justice is to mitigate or eliminate those harmful forces. Assuming that structural defects in society cause crime, then criminals deserve rehabilitation, not punishment. Supporters of the rehabilitation model hold the perspective that correctional treatment programs can successfully reduce crime.

The study found that while rehabilitation is an important societal goal, it cannot come at the expense of deterrence and incapacitation. The root causes (poverty, racial discrimination and lack of employment opportunities) are systemic issues, and discussions about the best approaches to mitigate those issues are under continuing debate. In the meanwhile, criminals will continue to commit crimes, which is detrimental to society, including those living within the root causes environment cited above. Rehabilitation is a much needed and important component of mitigating our crime problem, but it cannot be used in isolation. The immediacy of criminal activity and the safety of our citizens require a recognized use of deterrence (swift and sure punishment) and, when warranted, incarceration as well. Society cannot rely solely on altruistic thinking while criminals continue to threaten our safety and well being. This type of broad, holistic approach will better serve the needs of our city.

Jerry Cothran, Baltimore

Send letters to the editor to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

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We can't rehabilitate our way out of Baltimore's crime problems - Baltimore Sun

Thinking their way through new superstitions – Times of India

Bengaluru: Challenge accepted -- AS Nataraj has been waiting to hear these words for the past 16 years after framing a seemingly simple challenge of 10 questions. To make it easier, he insists on only eight correct answers for the challenger to be eligible for the Rs 1 crore reward. The catch? The answers would involve the challenger accurately predicting an individual's future using janam kundali or astrological chart. Now you didn't see that coming, did you?

"The reward was Rs 10 lakh when I first issued the challenge in 2001. I increased it to Rs 1 crore because no one came forward despite initial promises. I am now sure that even if I raise the prize to Rs 100 crore, nobody will volunteer," says Nataraj, the 77-year-old founder of Akhila Karnataka Vicharavadi Sangha. His aim is to debunk astrology's main claim to fame - the power to pinpoint the future. "I know it is not true because I was also an astrologer," laughs Nataraj, author of Jyothishyakke Savaalu (Challenge to Astrology) and a veteran TV talking head on the matter.

The other challenge doing the rounds is aimed at busting a scientifically untested brain training programme. Narendra Nayak, the rationalist crusader from Mangaluru, has been holding demonstrations and challenging proponents of mid-brain activation for the last two years. The groups behind this fad take money from parents to enhance brainpower of their children through the 'activation'. Those trained can apparently see after being blindfolded. "People fall for new tricks all the time. Mid-brain activation involves teaching children to lie (about peeking from behind the blindfold). The organisers use pseudo-science jargons and it becomes difficult for lay persons to understand," says Nayak, president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations (FIRA).


For every new trickster in town, there are a few rationalists like Nayak who demand that fantastic claims should be backed by evidence, scientific reasoning and stone-cold rationale. If not, people like him resort to dramatic one-upmanship and myth busting on public platforms to uphold what they see as truth and rationality.

"Earlier, we used to go after petty godmen who produced ash from thin air or put their hands in boiling water. Now, the picture has changed," says Nayak, a 67-year-old trained bio-chemist. The new age miracles involve coming up with sales pitches to sell anything from yoga, millets, salt room therapy and apple cider vinegar as cures for various ills, including cancer, he says. The marketers rely on scientific terms or the ancient Indian label to bamboozle people.

As a trained scientist, the pseudo science gets Nayak going. Recently, he wrote a detailed complaint to the Advertising Standards Council of India about tall claims made by a coconut oil manufacturer in an ad. The regulatory body found that many of the claims such as the oil being a 'natural antiseptic' , 'restores thyroid function and reduces obesity' were not substantiated and hence, misleading. They asked the adverstiser to withdraw the ad or modify it.


For most such activists, rationalism starts with a healthy dose of atheism. Nayak says he became an atheist at the age of 11 after coming to a conclusion ("maybe hasty") about there being no god despite his prayers. A national science talent scholarship cemented his rationalist leanings and later, after a meeting with the legendary rationalist Abraham Kovoor, he joined the movement.

It isn't easy to break down strong beliefs. Nataraj, who became a rationalist after practicing astrology for several years, says he can hold his own in heated TV debates because he has studied several works about astrology. "There are times when TV astrologers have asked me in private why I oppose astrology as I know so much about it. I tell them we have to have proof," says Nataraj.


Public confrontations have a tendency to deteriorate quickly. Sanal Edamaruku, a Delhi-based rationalist, had to relocate to Finland to avoid arrest in a blasphemy case filed by a Mumbai church. Edamaruku, who exposed 'Pilot' Baba and other assorted godmen across India, says in the Mumbai case, he was held up at a TV studio for hours after a violent mob thronged outside, opposing him for saying that miracle tears of a statue came from a leaky drainpipe. "I am not a hatemonger but I gave my opinion after observation (he was invited to see the statue). Listeners can choose to disbelieve. But the situation turned violent and I escaped through the studio's back gate after three-four hours," says Edamaruku, who is bringing out his memoir detailing 25 of the most memorable investigations he has done so far.

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Thinking their way through new superstitions - Times of India

The Fundamentalist Christian Chokehold On America – HuffPost

Prior to the 1970s, a persons faith had little impact on the way they voted. Make no mistake, however, there have always been those who believed religion should play a larger role in American politics. Colonies were often ruled by strict religious observance prior to the Declaration of Independence. In fact, it could be said, the reason our country implemented the separation of church and state was because of the conflict and dissention caused by the rigorous and divisive theology within the colonies.

In New England for example, the civil government dealt harshly with religious dissenterswhipping Baptists or cropping the ears of Quakers for their determined efforts to proselytize. A religious revival came through the colonies between the 1730s and 1740s, called the Great Awakening. This movement challenged the clerical elite and colonial establishment by appealing to the poor and uneducated. It focused more on an emotional relationship with God than one based in reasoning. The Great Awakening was the basis for what would become the current fundamentalist, evangelical Christian faith.

Historian Patricia Bonomi noted that rationalism, nevertheless, remained the predominant religious underpinning and was often present in the religion of gentlemen leaders by the late colonial period. As American civilization progressed in scientific discoveries, modernists seamlessly wove their understanding of God and their holy texts together. Fundamentalists, on the other hand, found their beliefs contentiously out of step with rationalism and modernization.

Until the 1970s, religious fundamentalists primarily stayed away from politics, believing politics distracted them from their calling to bring people to Christ and deliver the message of salvation. But through the charismatic leadership of people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson, and savvy political strategists like Paul Weyrich, Christian fundamentalist extremism found a new platform in American politics, unlike any time in history.

Most of the popular Republican candidates in the 2016 presidential election claimed God told them to run for president. What they share in common is a brand of Christianity, which is historically racist, homophobic, xenophobic, dangerously nationalistic, and exclusive. It is a form of Christian Sharia law, which forces those who believe differently into strict adherence to their version of religious freedom.

Fundamentalist Christian religious freedom laws allow for sweeping discrimination and removal of federal protections for people who believe differently. For example, Mississippi passed the Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act in 2016, which said public businesses, social workers, and even public employees cannot be punished for denying services to people who believe that sex should only be reserved between married people in opposite sex relationships. Additionally, if someones religious belief is different than those of an adoption agency, the agency can refuse the adoption of a child to that person. In many ways, it is stepping hundreds of years backwards in Americas history. The government isnt doing the punishing, per se, but laws prohibit it from equally protecting citizens.

At the beginning of Trumps presidency, he initiated an executive ordered called Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom. Most agree the order was little more than a nod to the fundamentalist Christians that helped elect Trump into office, and it has no teeth. However, the order essentially allows discrimination from the highest offices in the country, letting individuals deny health care, education, employment, government grants and even government contracts to people who believe or behave differently. If someone simply claims a strongly held religious belief, they can discriminate for virtually any reason without retribution.

The question is, why are Americans allowing this to happen? Surveys show that much of what Christian fundamentalists represent is out of step with what Americans want. Most Americans oppose Trumps immigration ban. Most Americans support gay marriage. Most Americans support abortion rights. Americans are religiously diverse, with more and more people disassociating with their evangelical roots. Trumps election to the White House has splintered evangelicals even further, with many recognizing the blatant hypocrisy of Trumps Christian supporters.

The fundamentalist chokehold on American politics seeks to destroy the religious and cultural plurality on which the country, and the Declaration of Independence, was based. These theological divisions which pit believers against non-believers, and those who believe correctly against those who dont are a major contributor to Americas sharply divided politics. When someone believes he or she holds absolute truth, there can be no compromise, no middle ground, and no discussion.

Fundamentalism - Christian, Islam, or any other religious ideology - is the antithesis of progression. Fundamentalisms dangerous anti-science stance threatens the worlds environment, reduces the efficacy of American education, and leaves citizens unprepared for life in a global economy. Fundamentalism is shrouded in ignorance, backed by authoritarianism, and places an enormous amount of trust in individual leaders. To free us of the religious chokehold, citizens must recognize, and actively vote against the powerful political machine of the Fundamentalist Christian right.

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The Fundamentalist Christian Chokehold On America - HuffPost

A dangerous misunderstanding – Professional Planner

When I entered the accounting profession three decades ago, it was the preserve of middle-aged white males, conservative politics and the old school tie. I remember being expected to disclose my religion and school in order to win a graduate position at one of the big eight accounting firms in Sydney. And the cleanliness of my black lace-up Oxford-style business shoes (not brogues) was also a matter of considerable significance to the interviewer.

Comedian John Cleese reinforced this unattractive image of accountants in his description of them as appallingly dull, unimaginative, timid, lacking initiative, spineless, easily dominated, no sense of humour, tedious company, irrepressibly awful and whereas in most professions these characteristics would be considerable drawbacks, in chartered accountancy, theyre a positive boon.

While unkind observers might suggest that the personality traits of chartered accountants havent changed all that much, there is no doubt that the professional and business environment has changed a great deal. I was reminded of this when I received (circa 1985) an unusual letter from my professional body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, about the future of our profession. The letter informed me that the accounting profession had entered a new world of technology, marketing and economic policy, in which we would become chief executives, entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

As a result, the letter claimed, traditional professional partnerships were finished. These would be replaced by multi-disciplinary consulting businesses. They would be built on the modern concepts of profitability and return on equity, rather than the quaint notion previous generations adopted of engaging in a trusted professional vocation in the public interest, irrespective of commercial reward. We were told that if we didnt get with the program we would be left behind, reduced by the end of the 20th century to low-value bookkeepers and compliance officers.

Free-market origins

Its hardly surprising that the accounting profession jumped onto the 1980s bandwagon. Those were the days in which powerful and compelling forces of deregulation, securitisation, free markets and globalisation were transforming much of the world. Societies became economies and economics faculties became business schools. And it was into this securitised free-market environment that the aspiring profession we now know as financial planning was born.

One of the strongest political supporters of this ideology was UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who famously declared: I think weve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, its the governments job to cope with it. I have a problem, Ill get a grant. Im homeless, the government must house me. Theyre casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. Its our duty to look after ourselves and then also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. Theres no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.

Over the following decades, the dominance of these ideas, often referred to as economic rationalism or neo-liberalism was assured. Australian academic Michael Pusey describes economic rationalism as a dogma that argues markets and money can always do everything better than governments, bureaucracies and the law. Theres no point in political debate because all this just generates more insoluble conflicts. Forget about history and forget about national identity, culture and society. Dont even think about public policy, national goals or nation-building. Its all futile. Just get out of the way and let prices and market forces deliver their own economically rational solution.

This view of the world was channelled by corporate cowboy Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, in the 1987 film Wall Street: Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

An improper role

So pervasive has been the influence of this ideology, especially in the Anglosphere, that many professional designations have taken on the characteristics of product brands. This has coincided with the employment in professional associations of marketing managers and customer service specialists, many of whom apply their considerable expertise in the promotion of consumer products to the selling and protection of professional designations as though they are brands of soap powder.

As a result, the focus of many professional associations has turned to image, membership retention and growth at the cost of their traditional emphasis on the articulation and enforcement of professional and ethical standards. The problem with this approach is that it leads to the conclusion that the reputation and commercial value of a professional designation must be protected and upheld, right or wrong, rather than to the conclusion that the public interest must be protected and upheld, even to the detriment of the commercial interests of association members whose behaviour has been found wanting.

This misunderstanding of the proper role of professions in society has also led to the expectation amongst members that their associations exist principally to protect and enhance their commercial interests in a free market (as would a lobby group), rather than to protect the public interest in society as a whole. I was surprised to observe this confusion in the documents supporting the creation of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (formerly the Institute of Chartered Accountants), in which the following statement appeared: Our aspiration is for the new Institute to be recognised as the leading trans-Tasman voice for business. The danger here is that by taking on the attributes of a vested-interests lobby group, the public will conclude that chartered accountants are hypocritical and untrustworthy. I suspect many financial planners already think that.

At the heart of any true profession must be its members duty to society. This is often called our duty to protect the public interest. It is a higher duty than our duty to act in our clients (or our employers) best interests and it must always receive priority in the ordering of our duties as professionals.

Simon Longstaff, executive director of the Ethics Centre, explained it this way: The point should be made that to act in the spirit of public service at least implies that one will seek to promote or preserve the public interest. A person who claimed to move in a spirit of public service while harming the public interest could be open to the charge of insincerity or of failing to comprehend what his or her professional commitments really amounted to in practice If the idea of a profession is to have any significance, then it must hinge on this notion that professionals make a bargain with society in which they promise conscientiously to serve the public interest, even if to do so may, at times, be at their own expense. In return, society allocates certain privileges. These might include the right to engage in self-regulation, the exclusive right to perform particular functions and special status.

We risk being devalued

Given this unique and privileged role in society, it follows that when aspiring professions such as financial planning choose to become involved in thought leadership and the development of public policy, our commentary must not be primarily motivated by a desire to engage in a public relations exercise or a brand management campaign. Furthermore, we should never allow commercially motivated pressure from vested interests to dictate our conclusions.

Sadly, we have seen the latter occur in recent years in our industrys compromised and misguided attitude toward the development of ethical and professional standards. In that regard, professional associations often refer to the importance of balancing stakeholders interests when, in truth, all they are seeking to do is maintain the commercial status quo of powerful members (or a section of powerful members). I accept that avoiding commercial pressures is not always easy, especially when they are sourced from our own profession. However, unless we do so, our members, government, the media and, most importantly, the public whose interests we are privileged to serve, will devalue or ignore our contributions to important debates in which our professions voice should be heard and respected and they will ultimately mistrust and devalue our advice.

Therefore, as we grow and evolve the profession of financial planning we must defend without fear or favour the fundamental ethical principles on which any true profession is built: namely trust, integrity, objectivity, conflict avoidance (not mere disclosure), technical competence, due care, confidentiality, professional behaviour and uncompromising support of the public interest. Of course, as individual financial planners, we are obliged to make important contributions to our clients wealth and financial independence, but that must never be at the expense of our overarching responsibility as a profession to create a fairer and more equitable society for all citizens.

TOPICS:Ethics and financial planning,Market forces,Professional associations,professional standards,professionalism

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A dangerous misunderstanding - Professional Planner

Ask A Pastor: ‘I reject the Bible on philosophical grounds.’ What do you say to that? – Eastern Arizona Courier

I can get myself into a lot of trouble sometimes by making a blanket statement, but Im not sure that anyone ever rejects the Bible or Jesus Christ on philosophical grounds. Israel certainly did not.Israels decision to reject Christ was based solely on moral grounds (Gods definition of holiness differed from that of Israel).

It is my observation that the man who continues in his rejection of Christ has some hidden sin somewhere, a sin that he has no intention of letting go.Hes in love with it. He wants to keep what God declares is reprobate, and the result is a personal, moral conundrum.

At that point, because there still remains some shame should the sin become public (unless, of course, you are beyond shame: Ephesians5:12; Philip3:19), man hides behind a straw man an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent's real argument.We call it a philosophical choice or an intellectual crisis and reject God, when the real problem is that man is morally reprobate.

Your rejecting God has nothing to do with Gods creating the world in six 24-hour days or the fact that Jonah was swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it.

When we love our sin, we can come up with a thousand reasons to stay away from the cross.But when a person gives up his pride, puts away his sin and looks at the light that is in Christ and His gospel, that man will put away his rationalism and atheism.He will never be able to tell you why because psychology can never explain the new birth. But that man will smile and agree that the light of God has flooded his heart and soul.

A blind man can argue until he is blue in the face that there is no such thing as light but that doesnt make it so. Jesus said, For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved (John3:20).If that means anything, it means that people who reject God reject Him for His teachings on moral grounds.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil(John3:19).

Disregarding the light God has given you is bad enough (man is condemned already John3:18).But to reject the light you were given is the ultimate slap in the face to a holy God. Jesus called the men of His day stiff-necked and hard of heart.They had a perverse hatred of light because it interfered with their sin.

And thats mans problem today.

Do you have a question? You can contact Pastor MacDonald by writing to this paper or New Testament Baptist Church, 150 E. Trinity Acres, Safford, AZ 85546; e-mail:info@ntbcsafford.org.

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Ask A Pastor: 'I reject the Bible on philosophical grounds.' What do you say to that? - Eastern Arizona Courier

Penn’s Netter Center Expands Global Impact and Outreach – Penn: Office of University Communications

Penn: Office of University Communications
Penn's Netter Center Expands Global Impact and Outreach
Penn: Office of University Communications
In the aftermath of the economic crisis, we face the emergence of populist politics and a rising tide of non-rationalism in which debate based on evidence and consideration is being displaced by arguments centered on emotion, which are then amplified ...

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Penn's Netter Center Expands Global Impact and Outreach - Penn: Office of University Communications

Oil Today: When Emotionalism Trumps Rationalism – Seeking Alpha

Reed Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, recently said that the first truth of entrepreneurship and investing is that the very big ideas are contrarian because being a contrarian is why other competitors haven't already done the same thing, which leaves the space for the creation of something. For entrepreneurs, that something is a company that can dominate its space and for investors its higher returns. This hero's journey isn't without risk as the pitfalls are plentiful, and sometimes the room to fail can seem large and lonely.

If this were a prom, not only has no one showed up, but we've also been stood up as the investment community abandoned the energy sector and energy stocks in droves these past two quarters. Energy has turned out to be the worst investments among the entire S&P this year, as the initial year-end celebration of oil cuts and inventory drawdowns gave way to the difficulty of actually seeing it come to fruition. We've seen the shares of our oil companies falter dramatically, and many famous oil investors have become apoplectic, abandoning their oil thesis and declaring that oil inventories will rebalance too slowly and that "lower for longer" is the new reality. Sentiment as they say turned negative:

As oil prices tumbled past 20% from the highs reached in Q1 to the lows reached in Q2, their sentiment became our reality, and yet . . . we're still bullish on oil.

We continue to test and retest our thesis because while we could be wrong, we just don't think we are at this stage. We frankly utterly failed to predict the sentiment shift, but the vagaries of emotions aren't where we've historically excelled at. Our advantage, if there ever was one, was in examining the fundamental data. So when you read that we're still "bullish" our conviction isn't borne of consistency bias or fear of reputation risk, it stems from the data.

For now, reality is that investors have effectively decided oil is worthless, but as capital retreats and stocks and bond prices fall, the bearish prophecies inevitably create a "new" reality (the opposite of "fake" news if there ever was one), one where the industry begins to contract, produce less and draw down inventories.

This is the nature of economics in the short term and the long; what's proven unprofitable will be starved of capital until supply and demand resets and profitability restored. It's an immutable law, and one of the few certainties in the capital markets. In the meantime when excessive inventories predominate, fundamentals and sentiment can dislocate. Prices first decline because that's what they do when there's too much of a commodity, but as the market tentatively begins rebalancing, the perception of if/when/how the market will/will not rebalance plays a much larger role. This perception change means prices can overshoot in either direction, and in times of plenty, it's usually down. Once fundamentalists abandon the sector, the energy market is increasingly left to traders and computer trading advisors (i.e., quant funds), which further exacerbates the momentum change.

Much of the recent fall is simply due to market sentiment, which turned from healthy skepticism to outright cynicism. Cynicism over OPEC/non-OPEC's production cuts, cynicism that the oil market can rebalance in the face of overwhelming growth in US shale production, and a creeping fatalism that oil will forever stay below $50/barrel because shale technological breakthrough means "this time it's different."

Our thesis has and continues to be that it's not. The logical frameworks are fairly simple. We're wagering that three historical rules that applied three years ago still apply today:

So unless economics reversed itself in the last few years, it will act as gravity to restrain and eventually constrain oil supplies and the downward spiral of prices we've seen the first half of this year will reverse.

Contrary to what you see in the price action, oil fundamentals are not that bad. There, we said it. Someone had to say it and we did -- italicized, no less.

"Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance." - Plato

Fundamentally, how the oil picture looks depends on how you interpret the data. Coming out of Q1 we updated our oil thesis and explained that the recent swoon in oil prices was caused by three factors that increased inventory and negatively affected sentiment:

These factors in Q1 rolled into Q2, masking the underlying demand and affecting the perception of rebalancing. For their part, OPEC and Non-OPEC also failed to inspire confidence. On May 25th, both groups decided to renew their 1.7M barrel per day (bpd) cut ("Vienna Agreement") for another 9 month (to now expire in March 2018) and rein in exports. Normally, you'd expect an extended production cut to lift prices, but the participants bungled the announcement. In an attempt to bolster the market a few weeks before the meeting, Russia and Saudi Arabia, the two key players for the agreement announced that they'd extend the cut by nine months, oil prices quickly rallied. This unfortunately heightened market expectations. It began expecting even better news such as a deeper or broader cut, but none materialized. Oil prices then fell after the meeting as the market was left with "only" a nine-month cut. In a nutshell it was a public relations disaster for OPEC and non-OPEC.

A week later, the calendar turned to June and sentiment deteriorated further. US oil data in early June showed light inventory draws, and the market began surmising that demand may have fallen off. A respite in domestic violence in Nigeria and Libya allowed both to increase productions, which negated close to 30% of the cuts in the Vienna Agreement. Faced with the additional prospect of increasing US production, investors lost faith and the sky promptly fell.

In our view though, all of the above, all of the shifting inventories, overproduction and subsequent "channel stuffing," OPEC and Non-OPEC's meeting and the market's bipolar sentiment is simply volatility caused by the ongoing rebalancing. If inventories continue to decline, then prices will rise. Everything else is noise. In the next series of articles, we'll look at what's happened, what's currently happening, and reasons we think the trend will continue to be favorable for oil bulls. In the meantime, keep the faith, being contrarian can be often dark at times, but we'll let the data and our rational mind lead the way.

As always, we welcome your comments. If you would like to read more of our articles, please be sure to hit the "Follow" button above.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Oil Today: When Emotionalism Trumps Rationalism - Seeking Alpha

Silicon Valley’s Poverty Of Philosophy – HuffPost

Silicon Valley has a political theory problem: the failure to engage with it at all. From tech billionaires to its many residents who harbor bizarre worldviews, the tech industry prides itself on changing the world for the betteras they claim, always non-ideologically, always apoliticallythrough tech. But this success is invariably measured through economic efficiency. This is all a farce; there is no such thing as changing the world apolitically, and good is measured in more than utils.

In my first month living in San Francisco, a friend took me to a party of people who work in tech. One of them insisted to me that Chinas single-party government is superior to American democracy because it is more efficient. In response to my insistence that, though imperfect, American democracy preserves many of our political freedoms and secures rights of workers to an extent unknown in China, he pointed to the massive growth of the Chinese economy over the course of the past two decades.

Before I moved, many friends warned me to brace myself for precisely this. The Bay Area, they told me, is infested by a bizarre free market-corporatist scientism, rationalism, a worldview which valorizes laissez-faire economics and innovation and distrusts democratic process, all while pretending at neutrality. Those who subscribe to it proudly reject political theory; in their eyes doing so makes them free from the divisions that characterize our political scene, and allows them to posture as purely rational thinkers who arrive at non-political decisions. By implication, all other policy proposals, those from people with explicit political or philosophical commitments, are irrational, arrived at because they serve political interests, not because the proposals are worthwhile.

But as Ive said, there is no such thing as nonpolitical policy, and techs failure to take political theory seriously has led it astray. Rather than serving as the purely rational thinkers they believe themselves to be, rationalists have arrived at where they are because of their failure to take theory seriouslya hollowed-out version of libertarianism that embraces the most oppressive aspects of its worship of the private sector, most notably the totalitarian nature of the employer-employee relationship.

The figures who loom largest in the Bay Area are just as bad, if not worse. They are rarely shy to weigh in on political matters, their confidence buoyed by their belief that their wealth is indicative of their brilliance and the continued fetishization of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Mark Zuckerberg recently launched a listening tour, through which, ironically, which he has delivered numerous speeches across the United States. Some say he plans to run for president, despite the fact that he would barely meet the age requirement in 2020 and has not a single policy accomplishment to his name.

Elon Musk, even generally as a person, presents another example. He has repeatedly propounded the most implausible proposals. He wants, for example, to construct a hyperloop, which would transport commuters between New York and the District of Columbia in about thirty minutes. This is something he has pushed for years. When he first proposed it, he claimed a 100-mile portion of it would cost only $6 billion; in reality it would likely cost over $100 billion. Moreover, experts found the plan entirely implausible. One determined that theres no way the economics on that would ever work out. Others were skeptical of the technology itself.

Silicon Valley must contend with something deeper if it truly wants to meet its goal of changing the world. It is not enough to churn out half-baked policy ideas or run for president by force of having invented a social networking site; it is not enough to play policy. It is time to dispense with pretensions of neutrality.


Silicon Valley's Poverty Of Philosophy - HuffPost

Olivia Colman is devastatingly good in Lucy Kirkwood’s dazzling … – Telegraph.co.uk

Lucy Kirkwood is a playwright who tackles giant themes with a swaggering showmanship. Her 2013 work, Chimerica, meditated on US politics, Tiananmen Square, photojournalism, air pollution and much much more. Now comes Mosquitoes, a tale of sibling rivalry, set against a backdrop of particle physics at CERN. The production, directed by Rufus Norris, sometimes overreaches itself in its seemingly limitless ambition, but it is still a fascinating and provocative work which uses science as a way of questioning our humanity.

Alice (Olivia Williams) is a dazzlingly clever physicist working on the Large Hadron Collider. Her sister, Jenny (Olivia Colman), is based in Luton and sells health insurance to women with vaginal cancer. At the start of the play, Jenny is in the late stages of a longed-for pregnancy. Half an hour in and a year or so later, we learn that the baby is dead because her mother has followed some spurious online advice against vaccinating her. The two sisters represent success and failure, rationalism and emotion, perhaps even remain and leave. As Jenny tells Alice: Im Forrest Gump and youre the Wizard of F------ Oz.

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Olivia Colman is devastatingly good in Lucy Kirkwood's dazzling ... - Telegraph.co.uk

Scientist, rebel & reformer – Calcutta Telegraph

Yash Pal

New Delhi, July 25: The Manmohan Singh government had returned to power for its second term a month earlier, with a stronger mandate and without the Left's leash - intent on allowing foreign universities virtually unfettered access to India's domestic higher education market.

At 82, scientist-educationist Yash Pal was getting frailer. But on a June morning in 2009, Yash Pal, aided by a brown walking stick, walked into then human resources development minister Kapil Sibal's third-floor office at Shastri Bhavan, to tell him the government was wrong.

Singh had in February 2008 appointed Yash Pal to head a panel to prepare a blueprint for higher education reforms. Now, 16 months later, he handed in the panel's report, explicitly cautioning against throwing open India's education market without rigorous regulations.

Wavy-haired Yash Pal, a pipe-smoking cosmic ray physicist who pioneered satellite television in India, sought to propagate science and rationalism by transforming himself into a TV star, and coaxed universities to break out of silos to collaborate in research, died yesterday. He was 90.

His resume brimmed with standard markers of success - the first director of the Space Applications Centre (SAC) in Ahmedabad in the 1970s, secretary of the department of science and technology in the early 1980s and chairman of the University Grants Commission later.

Millions of Indians who watched television in the early 1990s recognised him through his appearances on a science TV show called Turning Point. And since 1991, successive governments turned to him for blueprints to reform school and higher education.

But to many who knew him the longest, Yash Pal was also a rebel - a man who would merrily breach protocol to assert his views, even at the risk of offending the day's political leadership.

"He never hesitated to speak what he believed in, to those in power," recalled Anita Rampal, veteran educationist and Delhi University professor who knew and worked with Yash Pal from the 1970s. "That's a trait we're going to miss even more in today's climate, where academic leaders are not so forthright."

Born in 1926 in a town called Jhang in what is now Pakistan Punjab, Yash Pal moved with his family to Jalandhar - where his father, a government employee, was transferred - and then to Delhi, where he witnessed the joy of Independence and the pain of Partition.

He bore the determination common to many of his generation, to study more despite the challenges of a young nation seared by violence and hobbled by poverty. As refugees from Pakistan poured in, he worked with Daulat Singh Kothari, fellow physicist and one of India's preeminent educationists in its initial years after Independence, to turn war-time barracks in the city into classrooms.

His passion to take science to the masses long preceded the official positions he held across governments of all hues. V. Siddhartha, a retired Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientist, was 10 years old when in the mid-1950s, Yash Pal visited his private school in New Delhi.

Yash Pal was those days flying weather balloons using cosmic ray lead plate array detectors.

"Yash was persuaded by the school principal to allow me to watch a flight," Siddhartha remembered today. Siddhartha stayed at the school overnight, woke up at 4 am, and sat in a jeep that took him to the launch site - the roof of a Delhi University building. The balloons were tracked by a World War II British military radar mounted on a truck-trailer.

By the 1960s, Yash Pal was working at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. He went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he earned his PhD, and then returned to TIFR to continue research before he was appointed director of the new SAC in Ahmedabad.

Rampal, who had started science teaching schools in Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh, in the 1970s, was surprised when Yash Pal, then at the TIFR, visited her.

They worked together to set up Eklavya, a rural science education programme that attracted scientists and teachers from premier universities across India, like the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institute of Science and TIFR.

"Scientists from the big science institutions didn't always think that much about linking their work to society," Rampal said. "Yash Pal was different, and his support was critical for the success of Eklavya."

As secretary of DST and then chairman of the UGC, he encouraged government funding for rural science education programmes like Eklavya, Rampal said. "He opened up these institutions that were closed before him," she said. "He was a collaborator, an ally, a mentor who went out of his way to encourage and promote those he believed in."

Bureaucracy frustrated Yash Pal, said Rampal, who recalled how he often told her about a sense of helplessness when he was at the UGC.

But he nevertheless succeeded in creating premier hubs of collaborative research like the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune and the Nuclear Science Centre in New Delhi.

Even those theoretically in his line of fire admired him.

"He would look at higher education in an integrated manner, and refused to accept walls between different streams of education," recalled Sukhdeo Thorat, who was chairman of the UGC when Yash Pal, as a part of his 2009 recommendations, suggested the body be merged with other regulators - like the All India Council for Technical Education and the Medical Council of India, and be reformed to ensure greater autonomy for universities and colleges. "Freedom and autonomy of higher education were critical to him."

The school education reforms Yash Pal proposed in the 1990s as head of a panel set up by the Narasimha Rao government remain a benchmark frequently cited by educationists. In the mid-2000s, when the Singh government asked him to help draft a National Curriculum Framework, he withstood bureaucratic pressure to propose new-age textbooks, Rampal said.

But Yash Pal was also open about his policy views even at times when they were sharply contrary to those of the political leadership of the day. Sibal wasn't the first to realize that.

In 1990, the Rajiv Gandhi government had been voted out of power, and Sam Pitroda, one of Rajiv's closest aides, was no longer welcomed the way he once was in government policy circles.

But Yash Pal, as President of the Indian Science Congress that year, used his address in Kochi to laud Pitroda's contribution to the spread of telephones across rural India, pleasantly surprising the US-returned technocrat who was present in the audience.

More than 25 years later, Yash Pal took on the Congress government in Chhattisgarh - at a time the party also ruled at the Centre - after it had pushed through a controversial law that had in two months spawned dozens of private teaching shops that could call themselves universities.

Yash Pal approached the Supreme Court, which struck down the Chhattisgarh law. "When he thought something was wrong, he acted on it," Thorat said.

As he aged, his hearing had started failing him. But the naughty twinkle in his eyes remained - as did the search for his approval among educationists.

Rampal recalled the comfort she felt each time he responded to her ideas with an approving nod and a hug. The last time they met was a year back, at a television studio where they were on a debate panel.

After the show, she recalled, she held his hand to walk him down the stairs. "'Aah,' he told me in his typical way," Rampal said today. '"You realize I need help.'"

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Scientist, rebel & reformer - Calcutta Telegraph


The growing religious-ideological discord and presence of an assortment of religiously inspired extremist movements and groups in Pakistan have complex socio-political implications. Where these processes of negative social change will lead Pakistan is a worrying prognosis.

The religious discourse in the country, though diverse in sectarian terms, is largely monolithic intellectually. Even ideological diversity is rare; historically two trends have remained dominant, ie a traditional religious-political discourse, and Islamisation.

Although the two trends have some common violent and non-violent expressions, Islamist movements have also nurtured certain rational tendencies. These rational tendencies acted as a catalyst for overall religious trends in the country. On the one hand, rationalists shaped their own movements and established their institutions and on the other, under their influence or in reaction the traditionalists and Islamists tried to amend their strategies. However, the rationalists have failed to completely transform the religious discourse in the country. Their desire to become distinguished among the religious discourse would be a reason for this failure. This is strange, that in South Asian intellectual discourse leading Muslim scholars, rather than contributing, established their own movements while being part of the mainstream tradition.

An examination of why post-Islamist movements are unable to transform into populist social movements

Scholar, researcher and professor Dr Husnul Amin argues in his doctoral thesis about why the rationalists could not develop a populist approach. He counts many reasons, including the countrys peculiar societal structures, rationalists comfortable relationship with the power elites and most importantly the rationalists larger focus on the middle classes and special interest in academic issues. These findings give an impression that the rationalists failed on a strategic level, but one can argue about their whole intellectual paradigm, which may be borrowed from the West and influenced by contemporary socio-political environments rather than be linked with philosophical tradition or evolution of Islamic thought.

In pursuit of alternative modernity, the rationalists are developing compatibility with Islamic text and democratisation. Amin has tried to understand the dynamics of this process in his book Post-Islamism: Pakistan in the Era of Neoliberal Globalisation. This is indeed an important contribution to understanding the construct of Muslim intellectual movements in contemporary societies. He takes Javed Ahmed Ghamidis blueprint as a case study to comprehend the phenomenon, but uses the term post-Islamism for Muslim rationalism.

Post-Islamism is not a new term. French scholar Olivier Roy, as well as Iranian Asef Bayat, have mainly constructed the framework of post-Islamism, which is taken as a transformative form of Islamist movements of post-world wars that emerged in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Bayat contributed more in shaping the conceptual framework of Amins thesis, as he has acknowledged, but Amin applied this framework in a different context and with some variation. Amin believes post-Islamism is not the dead end of Islamism. It may not be dubbed anti-Islamic or secular, but secularisation of state/society. Post-Islamism proffers a framework where political reform is linked to religious reform. The Islamist parties have shifted their focus to minorities, youth and gender concerns and adopted a rights-based approach this is a practical manifestation of post-Islamism.

As far as Islamism is concerned, Amin considers it a revivalist movement and lists three factors that contributed to the conceptualisation of Islamism: 1. Political interpretation of religious text and thus blurring of categories of collective obligation and personal obligation. 2. Socio-political struggle to enforce Sharia, pursuance of an Islamisation programme through the institutional arrangement of the state and re-affirmation of Islam as a blueprint of socio-economic order. 3. Islamists openness to adopt and deploy all modern means of propaganda machinery, technology, print, electronic and social media.

In that context, he distinguishes post-Islamism as a social movement with a retreat from the idea of creating an Islamic state and an outcome of neo-liberal globalisation inspirations on modern Muslim minds. The Ghamidi movement is a perfect manifestation of this phenomenon as it has succeeded in creating an interpretive community in Pakistan that engages with liberalism and democracy.

It is interesting that Ghamidi thought was promoted by military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf as his top-down project of enlightened moderation. It could be conceived as an enforced moderation project, that was part of a political tool and foreign policy agenda of the military government. Amin rightly argues, Ghamidi and his close associates received disproportionate media coverage on newly liberated private television channels. He became a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology in 2006 and remained in this position for two consecutive years. Despite an overwhelming emphasis on the status of democracy in their [Ghamidi movements] religious discourse, Ghamidi has hardly directly questioned the legitimacy of the system in place in which he gained the opportunity to flourish.

It is also interesting that Ghamidi does not subscribe to major Islamic schools of thought in the Indian subcontinent and places himself in a self-constructed category, Dabistan-i-Shibli. Amin believes that this imaginary school of thought has served the Ghamidi movement in multiple ways. It enables them to place themselves in the middle of two popularly known opposite poles, namely Deobands conservatism and Sir Syed Ahmed Khans rationalism. As a post-Islamist, Ghamidi has challenged the notion of the Islamic state projected by the Islamists including Maulana Maududi, who believes in the supremacy of Sharia over all aspects of social, political and religious life.

Amin also examines existing religious political movements in the country in the third chapter Islamism Without Fear. He argues that though the Jamaat-i-Islami is a well-structured and organised party in Pakistan and played a leading role in shaping the Islamism discourse in the country, compared to the Jamiat-Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), which is a loosely connected party, the latter remains more accommodative to religious minorities and in its political approaches. It can be assumed that despite its conventional credentials, the JUI-F has more flexibility to accommodate post-Islamism concepts of a social life.

Despite making some visible intellectual contribution, post-Islamist movements have failed to transform their ideas into a popular social movement. Amin is not hopeless and he agrees with Bayat that post-Islamism is an evolving concept and a conscious attempt to conceptualise and strategise the rationale and modalities of transcending Islamism in social, political and intellectual domains. Most importantly it provides an inward-looking approach, which may have a slow impact.

Amin is a fine scholar with exposure to the best international academic forums and his attempt will provoke healthy academic debate in Pakistan.

The reviewer is a security analyst and director of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, Islamabad

Post-Islamism: Pakistan in the Era of Neoliberal Globalisation By Husnul Amin International Islamic University, Islamabad ISBN: 978-9697576050 198pp.

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, July 23rd, 2017

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