The Nth Degree

I have no recollection who spoke at my graduation ceremony. Probably an entrepreneur or retired civil servant or something, like I said, I really can’t remember as it is a more than a decade ago now.

Here however, is one I wouldn’t have forgotten and in the spirit of what he says, I’m sharing with anyone who’d like to watch it here as it is something I like, and it’s nice to be “pro-stuff”.

Fingers In Ears

Jonathan Swift is often quoted as having said…

You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place.

This idea has been criticised as simply the waving of a white flag in the face of ignorance, and I think that is a fair criticism.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that it is nothing more than a “deepity“…

Deepity  refers to a statement that is apparently profound but actually asserts a triviality on one level and something meaningless on another. Generally, a deepity has (at least) two meanings: one that is true but trivial, and another that sounds profound, but is essentially false or meaningless and would be “earth-shattering” if true.

E.G. “love is just a word.” On one level the statement is perfectly true (i.e., love is a word) but the deeper meaning of the phrase is false; love is many things — a feeling, an emotion, a condition — and not simply a word.

Although he is a frequent source of deepities, the name does not come from Deepak Chopra.

I think people can be reasoned out of positions they didn’t reason themselves out of, but only if they are willing to listen.

Take this for example, a right-winger starts on criticising Chomsky, has each of his points clearly and decisively taken apart, and then just starts off again.

If he had actually been willing to listen, he’d have changed his mind.

For Your Listening Pleasure – 1 – Against The Grain

For a while I’ve been meaning to do a little something on other podcasts that I think are worthy of note.

This is because as well as making my own (if you’d like to donate to that by the way, the button is on the right of this page), I rather like the medium and think there are a lot of good things out there that don’t get enough exposure. Therefore, I’d like to add what little I can by way of listeners to some of these people.

First up in the series is the Against The Grain podcast. If you like your politics heavy and very much to the left, then I am sure you will enjoy this one (NB – don’t be expecting a laugh a minute).


Sometimes it goes on very practical matters, and other episodes are more academic or philosopical in nature.

To give you a feel for an episode one I downloaded a while ago but only listened to this morning was with philosopher Steven Vogel who started out interestingly by saying that the concept of alienation from the natural world, that we all think we understand the meaning of, is problematic at best.

As I said, comedy is not its strong point.

He went on to explain that much of the misunderstanding comes from the fact that we use two different meanings of the word natural/nature – one where the opposite is supernatural and the other where the opposite  is the word artificial. What is more,  we tend to slide between them when we talk about alienation.

The problem comes because in the first sense of natural, everything that humans do must by definition be natural, whereas with the second definition, as it is applied to mean things that haven’t been touched by humans, everything (or almost everything) that we do is by definition unnatural. Without a clear definition of what you mean by natural, the concept of alienation from nature or the natural world is therefore at best difficult and at worst meaningless.

I won’t ruin the episode for you, that was just the opening shot.

I don’t listen to every episode as some of them are very US specific. However, many have a global outlook and are well worth your time and I do listen to most of them.

Avg Length for an episode is about 50 minutes.

This is the homepage.

To Baroness Warsi, From Diderot…

Baroness Warsi recently decided to talk about militant secularisation being a danger…

“For me one of the most worrying aspects about this militant secularisation is that at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant. It demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes – denying people the right to a religious identity because they were frightened of the concept of multiple identities.”

Therefore I decided to many one of my little pictures  for her. It is worth bearing in mind when looking at the picture that the term philosopher was also in some times and places a synonym for scientist.

P.S. If you like this picture there are lots more of them here (scroll down a bit).

Political Realities Explained For Children…With Penguins

Now kids, if you watch the little video below you will see 99% penguin. 99% penguin works hard to build his little nest but because he is so busy building that little nest, he cannot see 1% penguin behind him stealing the things he has worked to collect.

1% penguin’s nest looks very good and he has almost finished it, without doing any real work. 99% penguin will have to keep working if he is to finish his nest.

1% penguin is also ready to respond with violence or the threat of violence if someone tries to take back the things he stole.

The Sleeper Must Awaken


In our age, the idea of intellectual liberty is under attack from two directions. On the one side are its theoretical enemies, the apologists of totalitarianism, and on the other its immediate, practical enemies, monopoly and bureaucracy. Any writer or journalist who wants to retain his integrity finds himself thwarted by the general drift of society rather than by active persecution. The sort of things that are working against him are the concentration of the press in the hands of a few rich men [and] the grip of monopoly on radio and the films.

With the exception of not mentioning the TV, that all seems very current, doesn’t it? It was actually written in 1946 by George Orwell as part of the essay The Prevention of Literature.

However, please don’t take my printing of this as an expression of “nothing changes”. Things do change, as Orwell pointed out here.

Maybe what hasn’t changed, and what we should be trying to find a way to mitigate,  is this by David Brin…

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.


Where are we? – A question that has been ever more accurately answered by a long stretch of people from Aristarchus of Samos to Edwin Hubble and many many before, between and after. Suffice to say we have a very good idea now.

Who are we and what are we? – I would posit that both of these have been satisfactorily answered by Darwin but not in the sense that many people who seek to misrepresent Darwin for right-wing political ends would suggest. Let us not forget that one of the reasons that Darwin got time to study  his science more was that he fell out with the ship’s captain (whom he was employed to talk to…he wasn’t employed to be ship’s naturalist) because the captain agreed with slavery and Darwin vehemently did not.

How are we and/or how should we be? – This one is the province of the philosophers ie all of us.

Why are we? – Probably unanswerable question.

When are we? – This has also been convincingly answered. Look it up yourself – you have the time.

And today we got a lot closer to another one…

Are we alone? – I know that this is not a definitive answer but the odds just changed considerably. It is possible that over time this will become one of the biggest stories in history. If it isn’t this one, there is a high possibility it will be another one… and soon.

Check it out. I am completely unashamed to say that the fact we are attaining such a level of understanding is one of the great things about being alive in this time. The tragedy, as it has been pointed out before, is that just as we are on the point of getting it we are also on the point of fucking our little corner of it up beyond repair.

Here is what won’t help…


There has been a lot of “of the decade” stuff  recently. I normally vomit in a corner of the room if these things are not turned off quickly enough.

However, here I would like to use the technique that these things employ here which is simply to use the changing of a few numbers on a clock as an excuse to draw attention to something you think should have attention drawn toward it.

The technique is simply that giving it an “of the decade” or “of the century” just gives it an air of profundity that simply writing “I like this” doesn’t usually have.

So here we go with my quote of the decade….

“If you put all of them into a big bag and then hit the bag with a big stick, whichever one of them you hit would deserve it.”

– Franz Beckenbauer

Beckenbauer was talking about the Germnay national football team after a bad performance but I would like to thank him personally for the perfect summation of my attitude to party politics and party politicians.