Monday, May 20, 2019

Freud's Narcissism of Small Differences

 If you take the idea of confronting something like a Toad in the vegetable garden, they're fairly well camouflaged they're always aware of you before you see them, and for those of us who may not be men of steel they can give you a little bit of shock, then in the very brief first moments of the confrontation you know everything you know about Toads. Of everything you know about Toads in the Vegetable Garden some things float higher than other things. Between people, those things that float higher will vary. Entirely possible some people don't like Toads, others might see them as a food source, and yet others might consider them potentially very dangerous. Not certain when I first confronted a Toad, possibly an illustration in a fairy tale book of a Toad being popped into a cauldron, there was a Toad in Wind in the Willows, he was wealthy, basically out of control, drove recklessly in his automobile, got himself kidnapped by Weasels. He has a whole series of character flaws. Then as I aged I recall waking up in a hedgerow and there was a Toad inches away from my face, just staring at me. The expression on the Toad's face was a tad accusatory, I'd clearly done something terribly wrong and had that Toad been larger than I, pretty certain blessed release would have ended the struggle much earlier for me. The Toad is an appraising creature, there's always a question in his or her stance. Which is why whenever I confront a Toad in the vegetable garden I can't help but recall a Toad which as a result of careless shovel work on my part I'd somehow managed to cut off three of his or her fingers, on the left front paw, if I remember. Nor was this act of mine terminal for the Toad, the creature, three fingers missing, hung out along the Asparagus bed for a couple of years. A Toad in the wild can live a good ten years, sometimes more, and have lived fifty years as pets, so I was never certain whether my action had reduced his or her time upon earth.

"What's this got to do with the narcissism of small differences?" People like to think of themselves and their relationships as unique and wonderfully special, but you can't really be even remotely unique and special and live in a society. Society to function requires a common denominator that limits specialness. Some societies do more to quell uniqueness and specialness than other societies. There's an argument that suggests that the entire edifice that is modern commerce basically revolves around a relationship between granting the opportunity to pursue uniqueness within a common denominator that allows for cohesion in society. Take for example buying a pair of shoes, and I don't know whether you've ever dared go into a shoe shop, but if you have, you'll notice that it's not in the least straightforward. First of all there are millions of shoes, they don't all look alike, some are more expensive than others, many of them have absolutely nothing to do with foot comfort. There might have been a time when shoes were about feet, more likely in the current iteration of the way we are shoes are about granting a person his chance to feel unique, unusual, different, richer poorer or whatever. Then when I see two people dressed identically pushing the same cart in the grocery store, I kind of think there must be something seriously wrong with them, which suggests a narcissism of small differences is very well engrained in the tapestry such that you kind of need to see differences otherwise things aren't quite right. There's the suit and tie brigade, each minute difference vital to self esteem, the color of the lining, the cut of the waist and so on, and it's almost a joy to see a suit that fits so badly clearly it's wearer doesn't give a fat damn, or maybe it's their specialness. But it's something like the episode in Charlottesville, it was a uniform, white shirts and identical hairstyles, torches and chanting, an uncompromising ugliness of a narcissism of small differences that finds satisfaction in us against them. There are three Toads in the vegetable garden, each one reacts slightly differently to our confrontations. Stranger thing is the Toad that hangs out near the Asparagus has all his or her toes, and is the most skittish around me.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Stress, Leon Festinger, Cognition and Dissonance

Your correspondent is inclined to use the word stress in a most random manner, it's also true that aging brain cells tend to revert and stress is one of the words that sounds right for a fourteen year old looking for a reason to avoid visiting his cousins. The professionals, however, have indeed defined stress as a feeling of pain and pressure. Stress can be motivating, in the sense of  adaption and reaction to the world you live in. And the pain and pressure of stress can be mentally and physically debilitating. In many ways it's how you deal with stress that marks the distinction between Eustress which is positive stress and Distress which is negative, more destructive stress. And certainly it's an easy distinction to make from the comfort of a bubble bath with a good view of a distant calamity in an ant heap, yet in the area of cognitive dissonance, I'd argue Eustress and Distress are necessary areas of consideration. Prior to the 1950's people reckoned on thinking in terms of Behaviorism, which basically says that our behavior is a response to stimuli within the environment and we determine our behavior based on our past experiences and the various reinforcing mechanisms of behavior that surround us. Then a man called Leon Festinger. and others. suggested with us people the whole response to stimulus and reaction thing was considerably more nuanced, so much so we people are downright diabolically devious. They'd studied an Apocalyptic Cult that had been much influenced by Hubbard's Dianetics, which is all about getting rid of that source of every ailment physical and mental. The Reactive Mind, they argue, is an unconscious stimulus/reaction response and a part of the mind that should be totally ignored. For cult members, the end of the world was nigh on December 21st 1954, people had sold their possessions, got all ready for it, but nothing happened, no rapture, no flood, same old same old. Far from discouraging the cult members, the failure of the prophecy served to reinforce cult members belief in their leader, who claimed the world had obviously been saved by the 'force of good and light' and cult members became ever more fervent in their determination to spread the word about the majesty of their calling. Many would just say the gullible are anomalous, and you can't really build useful theories around people who could be totally Nuts.

Not Festinger and his collaborators, because the cult they'd studied was a real world thing that happens far to often. In the book When Prophecy Fails, Festinger and his collaborators reached five conclusions about how and why it was the cult didn't drift off into nowhere, it's actually still around today, and you can certainly still find Hubbard's Dianetics happening in Scientology. The first conclusion, was that the Belief had to be held with conviction and the belief had to be motivating in terms of the believers actions and behaviors. Secondly, the belief had to have produced actions and behaviors that were difficult to undo, you sell all your stuff and your option is to either react to the stress by feeling like an idiot, or carry on believing in your 'firmly' held conviction by finding other reasons why it makes sense. The belief has to be sufficiently specific so that when something happens that runs entirely contrary to the belief it has to be obvious that something went wrong, i.e. the end of the world didn't actually happen. Finally believers have to have support from other believers, so they can scurry around like ants trying to put the eggs back in the bowels of the Ant heap where they could be kept safe from little boys with sticks. From this work, Festinger proposed the idea of Cognitive Dissonance. A person, he argued, likes to feel a good balance between his or her beliefs, ideas and values, it's a satisfied feeling, nothing wrong with me, and the high odds are that all of us have contradicting beliefs, ideas and values. "Though Shalt not Kill" "Nothing wrong with a bit of an eye for an eye even if some might by mentally disabled or innocent." Festinger suggested that when the mind contains contradicting, beliefs, ideas or values it gets stressed out when presented by in you face facts or events that challenge a persons beliefs, ideas or values. So what does a mind, (the cognition) do to relieve the pain and pressure of the contradiction (the dissonance)? Eustress, good stress, would be to add new parts to cognition, try to make sense of it all, adjust to the circumstance cognitively and that way ease the pain. Distress, a more negative response, would be to avoid the awkward facts and circumstances, just carry on in a "let's not talk to them shall we" kind of way, which could well serve to increase the magnitude of Cognitive Dissonance, and soon enough you're living in Fairy Land which is not necessarily an adequate response to the longer term demands of the ever changing and very real environment we have lived in and whether we like it or not will have to continue to live in. I'm told Scientology is big in Hollywood, where dreams come true.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Kitten

The Kitten was missing this morning, a downward spiral for the Primary Caregiver who is an early riser, pops up like toast and is raring to go. The Secondary Caregiver has to stumble around for a good half an hour before reacquainting himself with the anything like a capacity to comprehend, a bit of a burden for others in moments of intense stress, the sort of thing that produces a little more than a raised eyebrow in a significant other. It's not that the Kitten doesn't go missing on a fairly regular basis, it's just that each time she does go missing the behavior from caregivers follows a predictably pattern from which there is no escape. I blame Bald Eagles and go directly to Franklin's excellent reasons for not choosing the Bald Eagle as a National Bird, unlike the Turkey, Bald Eagles are lazy, unprincipled thieves, but there again who knew there'd be retardation of one of the Nations Political Parties, a predictable retreat from a valuable definition of greatness into something so puerile it'll be laughed at by future generations, should there be any, inevitable really that momentum flounders, trips over itself and starts punching itself in the face in an attempt to hasten extinction, we're all doomed and it's perfectly natural, the Kittens lucky, hope it was quick. The Primary Caregiver visualizes death by Coyote in horrible detail, a terrifyingly vivid imagination that includes Coyote puppies learning to kill, and lonesome the heart becomes that searches for tufts of grey fur, if there was a corpse there'd be something to mourn, could be in the tick infested longer grass.

Then, following a brief period of self loathing, it's all my fault, she should never have been allowed to go outside, what were we thinking, nothing wrong with a cat pan, something like stability returns. It's little reminders, the stain on the carpet where the Kitten vomited, there's her food bowl, how noisy she was when she wanted something, her incredibly aggravating habit of sharpening her claws on the kitchen rug. It's a line of thought that proceeds to a variety of acceptance bolstered for me a little by things like "at least I'm not going to have to fight for my chair anytime I want to sit down."  Soon after these elements of mental gymnastics there are hints of silver linings, a visit to the pound with the grandchild, bound to be a little kitten and nothing like a bright eyed little kitten chasing a feather to warm a little girls heart, and it's all kind of mawkish in a revolving kind of way, sentiment goes round and round in decreasing circles, it's just no wonder we're doomed. Then at 8.30 am there's a presence in the kitchen, it's four paws are damp from heavy dew, a stick-tight or two that really should be carefully combed out before partaking of breakfast, which is after all the most important meal of the day even if I just want to sniff at it, and you know I can't settle on the day bed unless I know it's there.  In the Caregivers there's a huge sense of relief, followed by a period of castigating, it's like finger wagging only with curse words and dire, entirely meaningless threats.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Etiquette, Communication, Scoundrels and Samuel Johnson

 ".....As his political melancholy increases, he tells, and, perhaps, dreams, of the advances of the prerogative, and the dangers of arbitrary power; yet his design, in all his declamation, is not to benefit his country, but to gratify his malice...." Declamation is an artistic form of public speaking, a dramatic oration, hand gestures and sometimes set to music, Mussolini and others were very good at it.  Often pretty pointless just quoting something ripped from a long essay, or pamphlet. For example what is the context of the writer's reference to 'political melancholy'? The title of the essay is Patriotism and the essay was written by Samuel Johnson in the year 1774. My own purpose for going to the essay was to better understand Boswell quoting Johnson who apparently had said "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."  The essay also contains a masterly use of semi-colons in this passage "...These, however, are the most honest of the opponents of government; their patriotism is a species of disease; and they feel some part of what they express. But the greater, far the greater number of those who rave and rail, and inquire and accuse, neither suspect nor fear, nor care for the public; but hope to force their way to riches, by virulence and invective, and are vehement and clamorous, only that they may be sooner hired to be silent...." My own appraisal is that for Johnson patriotism was ill defined, appeals to it were both good and bad, and best to think of the motives behind calls for Patriotism before leaping to conclusions, however, in Johnson's view the odds were most appeals to patriotism fell foul of upright, honest and in the Public Interest. In short, for Johnson, appeals to patriotism were no substitute for reasoned argument and open handed debate. Yes indeed, Johnson had high hopes for a rational civic society and you got to love him big time. He died in 1784, he was 75 years old. His dictionary went toward formalizing word use in language enabling disparate language users to communicate with fewer misunderstandings. It can be argued that etiquette had a similar origin for a delicate species prone to both misunderstandings, taking things personally, rampant self aggrandizement and heavy duty sulking.

When Johnson was writing Patriotism around 3% of Britain's population of around eight million had the vote. They voted for Members of Parliament. One of the issues was that new growing towns with dramatically increasing populations such as Leeds and Manchester didn't send anyone to Parliament, whereas a little country village in the middle of nowhere like Dunwich with a population of around 30 people did send someone to parliament. Of interest Dunwich used to be the Capital of the East Anglians, a big important town on the coast, sadly for Dunwich, soon after its mention in the Doomsday Book of 1086 most of the town that once numbered 3000 very important people disappeared, swallowed up by coastal erosion. Not sure what Johnson's position was on universal suffrage, he was a Tory, but he had high confidence in what he called advances in the "Science of politics" which these days includes Sociology. I do know that Johnson is supposed to have said, "Man alone is born crying, lives complaining and dies disappointed." I also know that it was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United states who recently attacked computer literate scientific studies of gerrymandering presented to his court  with the expression "Sociological Gobbledygook." The question of course, did the Chief Justice understand the science, or was his remark based upon a 'ditsy' knee jerk pompous ass reaction to a failure of comprehension, or was it something else? And here, a man called Mathew Motta, a Social Scientist in the field of communication, has argued that the growing negative affect popular anti-intellectualism has on science and opinions of experts can be mitigated by improving verbal intelligence, which is language based reasoning, otherwise everything cleaves toward a blind trust in the propaganda arm of this or that capricious, or whimsical, political movement. Brexit, Wallace, Trump. So probably better when the scientifically literate are explaining scientific investigations to something like a gathering of Supreme Court Justices not to get all carried away by the non-kindergarten assumptions implied by the Nancy Gowns of the court and just go ahead, hand out Sippy-Drinks, employ cartoons, Disney Characters, lots of colorful pictures.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

War, Board Games and Chainmail

It was a while ago, but one of the things about the Vietnam War was that if you volunteered for the National Guard or the Reserves you wouldn't necessarily be sent to the front line in Vietnam, but if you got drafted odds are you would be sent to the front line in Vietnam. In 1970 the current National Security Adviser for the United Sates, joined the Maryland Army National Guard. His argument was that by 1969 he knew the war was lost and had no real desire to die in a paddy field. Another of his explanations included his assertion that he had no desire to participate in a war for a territory that would be returned to "people I might have died to take it away from." A mustachioed and very convoluted way of saying you're far too important to be wasted, but it was a while ago, people get older, they become right wing politicians, yet you got to wonder at the Board Game, bluffing, counter bluffing, huffing, puffing and strutting, until someone starts moving tiddlywinks around, then whatever they say, nothing is calculable.

In the age of Chivalry as it was called, the order of battle, until English Kings started cheating, was fairly well established. Knights were expensive, beautifully dressed, well armored and skilled. A suit of armor was heavy, chainmail and weapons all added up. For the knights it was always possible to die in battle, but much more  likely you'd get knocked off your horse, you'd fall to the ground, lie there like an upside down turtle and you'd get captured. Once you were captured you were worth more money than you would be if you were dead. Good chance your armor would be taken, but you yourself, especially if you came from a well landed family would be held for ransom. It was good money to be made. Then if your side happened to win the battle and you distinguished yourself as a mighty warrior, others thought you rather fantastic, girls tossed wimples and kings took notice of you, gave you something like a special hat and a province to run.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Vote as a Tool of Labor

Toward the end of the Middle Ages the Guild System was increasingly attacked by the new understandings within Capital. The Guild System of production limited the number of apprentices a Master could employ, but a Master could employ limitless day labor for certain limited, unskilled tasks at a regulated daily rate. Other rules required prices to remain constant, so following something like a terrible storm, Roof Tile makers couldn't raise their prices to take advantage of the increase in demand and what with one thing and another no one got rich as a maker of things. Merchants, Traders and Money Lenders got rich. Some Masters resented the limitations placed upon them by the Guild System and along with the increased pace of technological advances there was a movement toward using new technologies to make things. The trouble was a Master rarely had the resources to invest in the new technologies because extra money all belonged to Merchants, Traders and Lenders all of whom had a long practice of appraising the potential of investing money in anticipation of making more money. The whole Guild System became a fuddy-duddy thing of the past, nor did this happen quickly, it happened slowly over time.

One of the traditions in the Guild System was the rules and regulations within Guilds that regulated the rights and responsibilities of Masters and their Apprentices. In the early Days of Capital those rights and responsibilities didn't exist in the newer manufacturing enterprises, labor was primarily a resource limited not by custom and practice but by supply. In the early days Labor Unions were unrecognized by law, they were called Combinations, they were much frowned upon by Owners who saw them as a monopolistic interference which could leave Owners at a disadvantage in the free movement of free markets, and Owners had some terrible things to say about labor organizers especially when Owners were discussing the state of affairs with the Political Class. One of the things that used to often happen with Combinations was they'd endure the hard slog, manage a degree of good faith organization, get a sense of their dignity and objectives, begin to get their act together, achieve an idea of their possibilities in the matter of improving conditions of employement and whoop the treasurer would disappear in the night taking the Combination's working funds with him. I guess these days, Doctors, Dentists and so on, are in the traditions of Guilds. The NRA and so on are in the tradition of Combinations. What the Guild System called Day Laborers, these days can, or could, vote in elections in an attempt to preserve or improve or change their conditions.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Sad, sad day for a Nation when sports writer Rick Reilly can refer to "an orange blotch on the golf course" and a substantial percentage of citizens know exactly who he's talking about and they know why. Margaret Thatcher had a huge number of nicknames, my favorite is Attila the Hen. I guess too some society's have less reverence for their political leaders than others. Tony Blair had a number of nicknames one of which was Bliar. President Johnson was Light Bulb Johnson for some, not so much for his brilliant insights but because he got kind of ratty when people left lights on. I was around for Dutch, Poppy, Bubba, Dubya, No Drama and whatever kind of fruiting body we got now. 

It was down to a French Teenager to call Emanuel Macron, the French President, by his nickname which is Manu. It was one those meet and greets politicians are so fond of, a chance to prove how down to earth and sensible you are. And sure, the teenager in question was a kind of scraggly character, but President Macron reacted poorly, he got a little upset and he directed the teenager to call him Monsieur Le President. A perfectly normal reaction for an older person around teenagers, but I think the incident grants insight into what inevitably happens when people achieve power. Never was I a fan of Dubya but when he called Vladimir Putin, Ostrich Legs, I had to give 43 a smile.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Artificial Intelligence

I wonder if the New Being will require a variety of something like narcissism to maintain the contribution individuality is said to play in evolution or will it be a great big static oneness driven by a singular purpose. Then when that singular purpose is realized will there be a sense of the end time and the New Being stops, has nothing left to do, goes round and round in circles. The characteristics of life on earth include an ability to respond to the environment, to grow and change, reproduce, have an ability to turn stuff into energy, has to be able to maintain some kind of balance between its various parts and it has to pass along these capacities and changing traits in these capacities to its offspring. It's a definition of a mechanical process. Always a chance intellect is a mechanical process, and one has to assume that Artificial Intelligence is more about the mechanical processes of intellect than it is about producing a being that fends for itself, doesn't die every now and then because it needs a new battery.

One of the things about life is that over the generations it has benefited from imprecision. It never knows enough and in the mechanical processes some errors have if only briefly proved beneficial. In short a mechanical process produces solutions from certainties, life has a capacity to produce solutions from uncertainties. A mechanical thought process depends for its solutions upon things, facts or figures that are fed into it. If some facts, some figures are unknown  or wrong then the solution my well be flawed. No doubt that our intellect is very flawed, we pull things out of thin air and claim they are real. Which is why its possible to argue that we people are creative, and it's this creativity that allows for leaps of comprehension, as well as leaps into deep folly. My own view is that without many of the more aggravating qualities of mind that we people are the proud possessors of, Artificial Intelligence will remain limited. Give it being and it becomes closer to limitlessness. Nor will they need fresh vegetables to keep them regular as they cruise the Milky Way, tip-toe around Black Holes.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Elements of Process

So what we got is an idea of a society as bunch of individuals struggling with a paradox within the tapestry our generations have woven. In brutal terms, we can't live with each other and we can't live without each other. If we think of it as an enabling paradox we can think of it in terms of a process that starts somewhere and is going somewhere. Where that somewhere might be no one can really predict. What are sometimes referred to as pathologies, plagues, angelic hosts, cheating, lying, martyrdom, and it's a long list in society, are more like elements of a process. This would mean that doing something as apparently ludicrous as going to Mars or taking the Kitten to a Cat Show, is an element of the process. So you can kind of understand why Idealists have spent lifetimes attempting to map the process in an attempt to find out whether there's a going to be a happy ending to the story of our species. And you can kind of understand why Positivists have asked a few very awkward and aggravating questions. And you can kind of understand why Empiricists have basically said, "to the devil with both of your empty houses."  It's the triumvirate of the tapestry, I guess, and long may they be with us.

However, another element of the process is the capacity of our species to make and use tools. Say what you like, but language is a tool, so are shovels, tractors, science is a tool and so are technical devices. All of them real things. We people develop relationships with them, a passion for, as well as a dependence on, tools. Call it love/hate, of you wish to. And again you can say what you like but the duality between mind and body is comforting myth. The reality is our minds are our body. A better and better chance that one day mind/body will be put into a technical device and we will have created a new species of being, which in turn will be capable of regulating its own processes of adaption to the environment in which it finds itself, and it'll probably be able to do this much quicker than we can. When this happens will our species sit back, take a break and say our purpose is now fulfilled. Odds are we'll be an angry, bad tempered, get off my lawn type creator and our creation will pass through some kind of ungrateful teenage-hood before getting away from us just as quickly as it can, which is exactly what the collection of beings in the vegetable garden is trying to do at this moment. 

Saturday, May 11, 2019


If you think of ontology as a way of looking at something, a sort of lens through which to grapple with an area of thinking such as for example society, then it's the ontology that defines the terms of a framework within to manage thinking. Early sociologists looked at society from within the framework of Darwin's theory of evolution. Society was a developing organism that had been through identifiable phases in it's movement through the generations, kind of like Warthogs. Invariably such an approach produces a hierarchy of terms that represent the movement from early forms of society to later forms of society, and often these terms because they belong to language contain subjective preconceptions. The word Primitive, the word Advanced, and the associations these words have in the complexities of language with the ideas within the words Inferior and Superior, can detract from the exercise which is an attempt to study society objectively. In another way Language doesn't lend itself to science. Which is one of the reasons why there's a debate about whether or not disciplines that depend upon Language as a primary source of explanation and the vehicle for objective sharing should develop their own specialized language where the definition of words are very precisely defined. But we people are subject to mental processes that hop around words in a manner that can suggest impure motives in our search for whatever it is that drives us along the winding road toward a sense of fulfillment.  Inevitably an ontology that includes the expression "social evolution" can do stuff like justify holocausts, segregation and so on. That being said Durkheim built his theory around a progression of society from Primitive to Advanced and he hung his theory together by suggesting there was a movement in the varieties of society from a Mechanistic Collective Consciousness to an Organic Collective Consciousness. The Mechanistic was Primitive, maintained by penalties that were kind of extreme and they limited individual variation, everyone had to be pretty much the same because everyone played petty much the same role in society. The Organic was Advanced, and because division of labor more specialized, everyone played different roles, collective consciousness relied upon less repressive more restitutive sanctions, more organic if you like, and individual variation flowered. For Social Evolution a collective consciousness that valued individual variation was useful in evolutionary terms. In both types of society the collective consciousness was central to social cohesion. For Durkheim inequality was natural, but equity was kind of central to the evolution of a society, otherwise things would begin to revert to the more mechanistic forms of social consciousness, which meant less individual variation. This was tricky because it meant that for a society to retain a forward momentum toward the future of a truly cohesive self maintaining Organic Consciousness equity had to be somehow maintained. Durkheim reckoned that conflict, disorder in the more modern society was a pathology, that with time would hopefully pass. Which is where an anxious and possibly unnerved student reaches an understanding of what Durkheim might have meant by Anomie.

Anomie comes to English through French from a Greek word for lawlessness. A translator into English of Durkheim's Division of Labor researched Durkheim's word Anomie and found Anomy in an English dictionary which found a 16th Century usage of anomy  that described a "disregard for divine law." Anomie has been used to describe an Identity Crisis and has been used in connection with a number of other personality disorders. Some have suggested Anomie has to do with "Normlessness," and you can read the passionate refrain in current events which goes something like "this is just not normal," and you can sort of sense normlessness as you watched the edifice that is expectations of correct or equitable behavior from others crumble. Then you got the idea of Anomie as an uncertainty that produces a sort of desperate blankness out of which anything is possible, there are no limits, the old rules don't matter any more, why trust any one to speak truth, so get while the getting's good and to hell with tomorrow. There were no angels no devils it was "a malady of the infinite aspiration" unconstrained by any kind of regulation, rule or expectation. Oddly enough it's the kind of thing that happens to some when something unfathomable like Bubonic plague suddenly starts decimating society. Durkheim used the word to describe pathology within Collective Consciousness as it travelled through the difficult transition from Mechanistic to Organic, a period of ongoing intensity referred to as "Trans-political" by early 20th Century functional thinkers, most of whom preferred to see the transition as a phase which like teenage-hood would sort itself out painfully, and organically, with maybe a spell in jail.  Merton in the mid 20th Century took Anomie to the idea of social structure and expectations people had of social structure to the American Dream. The two he argued did not meet in any cohesive kind of way, the American Dream he suggested was unfulfilled promise and for many it resulted in an anomie. A strain in society that led to the kind of lawlessness amongst some that robs banks and steals from others in order to secure the material rewards promised by the American Dream. His Strain Theory was all the rage for criminologists anxious to lock fewer people up until the Critical Thinkers secured funding, dragged out their tool kits of analysis to search for the evidence that would demonstrate Merton's assertions. They didn't find anything their judgment would call a conclusive demonstration of Strain Theory. Today, in this part of the 21st Century, it's far too easy to think of an idea as bolstering a financial or political ambition rather than grant it the benefit of any doubt you might have. Then when deceits are made apparent it reinforces an anomie that increasingly declines to have faith in the words and speeches of others. The facts they quote become instantaneously suspect. The Sky is Blue like an Orange, a beautiful description of a warm sunny day pretty much becomes a conspiracy theory propagated by Madison Avenue to promote the sale of Oranges or some kind depression medicine to aid the process 'living the dream.' And we find security in an insularity that attempts to rid itself of the individual on the understanding that if we're all the same we can finally trust each other. Back in the days of the Guild System, townships were kind of unaccustomed to outsiders, and many town leaders anxious to encourage trade had to issue edicts which basically directed townsfolk to stop throwing stones at or robbing or beating up on strangers, shops had to sell ale and bread to strangers, farriers had to service a stranger's horse and established prices were not to be raised. Nor, according to town records, was this a popular edict.

Friday, May 10, 2019

A Malady of the Infinite

Critical Analysis means looking at the facts and forming judgments. Easier said than done, and clearly two people can look at the same facts and form entirely different judgments, this problem can be ameliorated a little by a solid understanding that facts are facts when they are known to be consistent with reality and are more reliable than opinion. "The Kitten is adorable" is a long way from a fact. "The Kitten is a cat" despite some behavioral peculiarities, could well be a fact. Sadly not all facts are as straightforward because they come to us from a depth of research that you and I have had no part in, little understanding of and if a fact from so mysterious a source rocks our world in an unappealing way our first inclination is not to believe it. On the other hand if a fact rocks our world in an appealing way we're only too happy to believe it. Critical Analysis is an outcome of Critical Thinking, and here you can't think critically unless you accept certain limitations on your will by directing it to trust a process that doesn't come to us intuitively. One of Hegel's issues, he was adamant about the centrality of Idea, was that in his view an empirical unearthing of facts was insufficiently critical, it was too mechanical and how could you possibly know that all the facts had been unearthed. Hegel's detractors basically argued, "So what! Better than making stuff up out of thin air and reckoning you've got the answer to everything." Then came that wave of people who wanted to study society as scientifically as they possible could, and to do that they needed facts. These days, after grappling with Conflict Theories, the study of society is dominated by Critical Analysis, looking at facts, understanding their limitations and hopefully followed by judgments well informed by facts. These days there's an increasing reliance upon computers, algorithms and so on, that can detect patterns of behavior in society by churning through vast amounts of data and in the process using it to make vast amounts money on the understanding that the measure of success in our species is down to how much money you can make. The essential impetus behind the drive for AI has to do with its money making potential. The question, is wealth an empirical measure of a successful society?  Well, you can argue about what success is when applied to society, but the empirical answer is down to a judgment of the facts, which is not something Hegel would have had to concern himself with, he was all about an inevitable process that would wend its weary way despite all efforts to direct it because in the end we'd successfully get where we're going wherever that was.

You can get all sneering around those who attempted to understanding society in functional terms, call them old fashioned fuddy-duddies. You can claim that society can't really be examined through the ontology, the concepts and categories, of something like biology or mathematics, we're far too weirdly anomalous a social species for that to work with any degree of accuracy. Doesn't mean that contributions from functionalist thinkers from the past have suddenly become irrelevant. If it's about forming judgments through a critical analysis of facts then you'd be wrong to dismiss anything as irrelevant to an understanding of society. So where do you begin. One of Plato's points was where you begin anything is kind of central to where you end. It sets the tone and direction, and you've got to be a little wary of that because it can lead you badly astray. So I reckon, in a most subjective way, that Durkheim's idea of Anomie from his Division of Labour in Society is as good a place as any for me. The book was first published in 1893. A time when the English thinker Spencer was influential. Spencer applied Darwin's ideas about the evolution of species to an understanding of society and while society could be healthy it could also get sick and if it got sick the cure was to evolve or succumb to an extinction leaving room on the planet for new forms of society. Spencer was a Victorian liberal thinker, he reckoned freedom was about enabling and permitting good and successful progress because it allowed for "individual variation" to use a Durkheim term. Spencer, like Durkheim was influenced by Comte, a French socialist thinker who wrote about Social Evolution in an attempt to reawaken the spirit of equality, fraternity and liberty that had he reckoned had characterized the French Revolution. Auguste Comte is thought of as the Father of Sociology, and have to think he might have had a bit of an agenda that some would argue followed the discipline of Sociology, gave it a wishy-washy reputation in the public eye that probably lasted until the study of society produced ontology's that enabled the sort of monetization that produces billionaires. I know full well that I was going to talk about Merton's Deviance Theory today, but you can't get there without Durkheim's Division of Labour, a look at production as social relationships from olden days, through the guild systems, the industrial revolution, on into the future, and his understanding of Anomie. It's been said that Anomie for Durkheim was a "derangement," it was driven by "an insatiable will," it was "a malady of the infinite," "desire without limit can never be satisfied, it only gets more intense." Fact or Fiction? Either way, what with everything else it seems like a good place to start.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Max Weber's Legitimate Rule and Whatever This Is

Max Weber who died in 1920, devoted his years of scholarship to attempting a rational understanding of society, an area of study that's seems increasingly untenable. One of his lasting contributions, however, began with his essay The Three Types of Legitimate Rule, in which he suggested three ideal types. Legitimate belongs in the moving feast of perception, something's either right or it's wrong or depending on the day it's somewhere in between. The ideal type is when you chose characteristics that are typical of a particular set of behaviors, it's a mental image, subjective and a long way from a perfect A+B=C understanding. In short you got to start somewhere. Weber divided authority into Charismatic, Traditional and Legal. Traditional, included patriarchs which is the daddy thing, it included patrimonial which is when the accepted tradition has been that just the one man's in charge everyone else does as they're told, it included feudalism. Legal included what we like to call the rule of law, a bureaucratic state which is when a great many decisions are made by state employed officials rather than a rag tag bunch of power hungry elected representatives hell bent on selling their souls for votes. The characteristics of Charismatic Authority included character, heroism, leadership and religious. For Weber in his Politics as a Vocation, a must read for any bright spark entering politics, he wrote "Men do not obey the charismatic leader by virtue of statute or tradition but because they believe in him." So the actual power or the capabilities of a charismatic heroic leader are irrelevant so long as enough people believe in the charismatic leader. For Weber, this meant that because the authority of a charismatic leader doesn't come from any kind of tradition, or set of rules and norms within a society it's the charismatic leader's followers who legitimize the leaders authority, and without that following of faithful, unnaturally devoted believers a charismatic leader has no power or authority. And according to Weber, no one has yet lived forever, so when a Charismatic Leader achieves his end time, then woopsy-daisy the sources of authority tend to revert to either Traditional types or the Legal types, the interlude of his or her time on earth remembered as total unmitigated disaster or a golden age of possibilities.  Once Weber had set out his three mental images or ideal types of domination, or authority, he set about identifying further characteristics.  How was the position determined? How was the position legitimized? What was the nature of loyalty relations? How cohesive were the relationships? How where the relationships maintained?

Interesting in Weber's understanding was this area of relationships. A charismatic leader tends toward relationships that are emotionally unstable and volatile.  A traditional type authority achieves cohesion through an idea of common purpose, which is a little different to the legal type authority where cohesion is maintained by obedience to the laws. Weber goes on to suggest that the charismatic type is characterized by a leader and disciples, traditional type by obedience to forms of social conduct, and the legal type values rules not rulers. Weber's point was that hard a fast categories, or types, were probably impossible to achieve, each circumstance was unique, so for the student these three mental images were usefully enhanced by the understanding that between the types there were degrees of exchange, a bleeding between, if you like. However, it's been argued that governance through charismatic authority has the least stability. With Mohammed, a most charismatic leader, his dominance was secured and legitimized by victories and conquests which had gathered a winning momentum of their own. This momentum outlived Mohammed, there were some big quarrels around a legitimate successor to the charismatic leader, but the momentum was overwhelming, not enough of the faithful were tired of winning, it was God given, and the structures of a traditional tribal authority were still very much in place because in his own search for political fulfillment Mohammed had used them most effectively. I'd argue Jesus had to wait for the manipulations of the Roman State to achieve security of his tenure in our world. Traditional types and charismatic types share more commonalities with each other than they share with legal types of dominance, or authority. May well be the current impasse is a crisis of confidence, far too ill considered for the title charismatic authority which leaders like Mohammad or Jesus were able to inspire, closer to a narcissistic bubble implosion, a sort of reach for adhocracy which is a spontaneous non-permanent governing internet type structure of authority based upon likes on face book as much as anything, a structure much admired by the entrepreneurial, mythical Hollywood and by Spartacus. A notion Weber would have dismissed as ludicrous, but nonetheless has been  propagated and encouraged by an increasing mismatch between people and the many clearly false assumptions within the established social structure, that will be resolved or not by the extent to which the Rule of Law, rules not rulers, the deep state if you prefer, remains sufficiently attractive to retain believers, and because of the hungry wolves out there it all looks rather grim for orderliness and what is loosely referred to as a stability that permits freedom. Tomorrow, with luck it'll be raining, so it'll be Robert K Merton who died in 2003 and his Deviance Theory, fascinating stuff.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Opacity and Herman Hesse

"The opacity of much philosophical writing." It's an example of usage and the word in question is 'opacity.'  According to my sources, an online etymology dictionary, 'opaque' 'opacity' comes to the English Language from Latin 'opacus' and has to do with the condition of being 'impervious to light.' All very well going on about much philosophical writing being incomprehensible, but in anyone's world, no matter the opacity of legal minds, shadiness is shadiness. So if anyone happens to be wondering what Herman Hesses' Glass Bead Game was all about, the current impasse has much to offer those who might still reckon it was about the nuances of judging the Westminster Dog Show, or competitive stamp collecting, or Cat Shows which is easy to do when your world is comfortable.

Hesses' game was all about creaming off the top at an early age, setting them apart from the rest of us by sending them to elite schools and when they reached the age of majority keeping them pointlessly occupied by giving them a game to play. The game was pretty much totally opaque to your average person in the streets and it's purpose was to offer an arena for the overly ambitious to engage in mental fisticuffs and come away feeling incredibly successful and important.  Invariably of course, the man in the street, wondered what the game was all about, and more important why couldn't they play for the rewards of being incredibly successful and important? Hesse had to leave Germany in the early 1930's. The Glass Bead Game was his final book. In the 1630's opacity/opaque also meant dumb and probably still does.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Double Down

Doubling Down for us gardeners mean's digging a risky hole even deeper and at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere there's a lot of hole digging going on. But it's not just holes, there's the matter of walking across nicely raked tilth to dig a couple of holes, and after rain anything like walking around on nicely raked tilth that contains a little clay and not enough humus can cause a compaction of the soil that does no one any favors, it looks terrible, the more genteel plant roots hate it so you got a hot spot for the more aggressive little buggers that can quickly drive a gardener to engage in impure thoughts about The Creator. Nonetheless your gardener doubled down in the morning hours, he planted 5 Tomato in nicely raked tilth that was far too wet following three days of rain and drizzle.

"Why-Oh-Why-Oh-Why?"  Strictly speaking the fault lies in what could well be a variety of Tomato Planting Senility that expresses itself by spending half an hour staring at the weather forecast, looking for novel weather-ism, those high end literary moments from the text version of the forecast such as "an abundance of convection cooling can be anticipated along the track of these storms." Go ahead work that one out, and you'll double down on the principle assumptions you made when you took your morning coffee to the weather forecast zone, and in the excitement of the possibility of finally grasping what convection cooling might mean, come away from the zone entirely forgetting what day the rain is forecast to arrive.  I thought it was coming tomorrow. But no, it's not forecast until Wednesday night into Thursday. Could be thunder storms.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Cheka

In 2006, so it's not that long ago the more neo conservative leaning had an issue of one of their their online magazines, that's still published, which claimed that during the Soviet era there was around one KBG operative to every four hundred and fifty Soviet citizens, and the magazine went on to suggest in 2006 there were around one FSB operative to every three hundred Russian citizens. Back then of course the more rightward leaning had distinct ideas about evil empires and these statistics suggested some kind of improvement in routines of Russian citizens. It's true also that any pronouncement by a politically motivated online magazine should be taken with several ladles of salt. But the point is without the Cheka, Soviet Union's early iteration of the KBG, the Soviet Revolution might never have succeeded. During the Russian civil war from 1918 to 1921 the Red Army had in excess of three million deserters, it was the Cheka that was charged with sorting the problem out. Lenin wasn't much interested in Hearts and Minds, in one of his early speeches he had no problem with rounding up counter-revolutionaries and shooting them in the interest of the revolution, later in his career it wasn't something he liked to boast about in public speeches, he preferred the George Washington type father of the nation, more of a cult following.

The Cheka hung around, often for political reasons it changed it's name, it changed its practices, it evolved, became more subtle, but it didn't go away. Chekism has come to mean the less visible organs of the state charged with neutralizing perceived disruptive influences. There's an argument that when members of a virulent Political Party confront a reality that might rob them of their power they see an easier solution to their worries in versions of Chekism. Perceived disruptive influence becomes the competing party, and less and less to do with the constructive solutions and more and more to do with blindly clinging to power. Wishy-washy snowflake implies a devotion to the constructive sportsmanship of relativist thinking and a deep suspicion of intuition, the gut the more absolute minded claim to trust to the point of worship. Possibly the example of neo conservatives is worth considering. They were leftward leaning people, but the left was way too wishy-washy and they yearned for a Cheka of their own, the snarling result hasn't much added to Zoroaster's Good Progress. I guess too the Cheka has everything to do with Ends justifying the Means, and funny thing about Ends in politics they never arrive, which has long been the potential for Liberal Democracy being an End in and of itself, a place to keep the Wolves from killing us all, a zoo if you prefer. Inefficient and chaotic, we're talking Wolves for goodness sake, of course it's inefficient and chaotic! Look what happens when they escape.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Golden Years

Your gardener is struggling a little with an industrial action. A demand for better working conditions and a much, much closer adherence to work rules. None of this kneeling on gravel paths without an adequate and functioning knee pillow. Correctly tied shoe laces, no flopping around without proper arch support. Nor is the spine without its demands, and here things might have gone a little further than "for god's sake lift with your back, you idiot." All of which means a rain day was met with almost religious fervor.

Kind of no wonder back in the Middle Ages we gardeners lingered at our peril, we became dispensable and were returned to the blissful tilth at a rosy age, preferably before the middle of May while Spring still feels hopeful, before the onslaught of Hoppy Bug, and whatever dishonorable cowardly creature it is that nibbles little Chards in the dead of night and then completely disappears. It's Cossack behavior of the worst kind, and I'm far too old to dodder around at night with a lantern, stress out the Mockingbird nestlings, probably trample the Spinach, trip and end up in the emergency room..

Thursday, May 2, 2019


Frankly, without beating about the bush and what with everything else when a Bobby Soxer Attorney General uses the word "snitty" in a public setting, as opposed to say a perverted grandfather trying to be cool at a preteen pajama party, it's enough to pretty much destroy anything like faith in process. There's "in a bit of a snit." There's Chicken Snitty, an Australian dish. Snitty, unappetizing as it sounds, in the antipodes and where I live is easier to pronounce and spell than schnitzel. A Snite is another word for a Snipe. And there's a knot called a snitch knot.

Then there's the word Snitch which basically means petty and random pilfering or acting as an informer on the mob, a very interesting combination of meanings. In terms of etymology the word Snit is a German word for a thin slice of Apple. And while the origin of snitty is unknown you can kind of think of pilfering a thin slice of apple as a gateway drug to grand theft auto, bank robbery, money laundering, and I guess anyone inclined to ignore process entirely for the purpose of self interest is snitty. Still reckon an old man who uses the word "snitty" under any circumstance is probably suffering a dementia of some sort.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Hand Spun

May Day. M'aider means Help Me in French, and the expression mayday-mayday-mayday, because apparently it sounds like m'aider when transmitted through early radio receivers, came to mean Help Me in English radio language. If you think that's nuts consider breaker-breaker. In the 19th Century the long tradition of celebrating May Day as the dawn of the moments when spring turns to summer, May Day also became a celebration of the success industrial workers had had in wrestling power over wages and conditions from Capital. It became International Workers Day and back then elements of labor saw a lasting strength in organizing internationally. A strong union in Mexico would get the same hourly rate as a strong union in Detroit, only seemed brotherly. It was a dream of stability that stumbled as production changed, fell prey to the Ricardo's economics of comparative advantage and the profit motive. It's a painful lesson when you've lost what you thought was a safe job, and sulking helps nobody except the fascists.

My own May Day was celebrated with a visit to the Dentist, followed by the Planting of the Noble Sweet Potato. There were no flags or banners, no drums to march along with, no songs of freedom, no bars to preach in. But I did think about Gandhi's visit the Lancashire Textiles Mills, which occurred at the beginning of the Great Depression of the 1930's. India produced a lot of cotton, the vast majority of which was sent to Lancashire where it was turned into cloth and then exported to India. Gandhi reckoned India should make its own cloth. As a part of his campaign of civil disobedience he called for a boycott of foreign textiles and encouraged Indians to use their home grown cotton to make their own cloth. Indian cloth is or was called Khadi, which means hand spun. The thing was Lancashire cloth was was made on the very latest machines, even with the shipping it was cheap, Indian Cloth was hand spun and hand woven on a loom. In the US, before the Revolution, animal hides had to be sent to England to be tanned, and there was something about Tea to aggravated city folk.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Henri Bergson, Mystics, Visions, Prophets and Science

Henri Bergson didn't like the idea of concepts. They had their place, but once annunciated a concept, or mental representation, became static. Indeed intellect couldn't really see the world in real time, it could only see the world in the way that a camera sees the world. He suggested that our relationship with the world was constantly moving, but because our intellect produced static understandings, through mental representation, our intellect, while incredibly useful, had limitations. He suggested that to better understand what happens in our mind, you'd do better to think in terms of what he called Duration, which he'd readily admit was itself concept. Duration was a flux or a becoming. It wasn't something that couldn't be reversed, it was always "straining toward the future," it was continually creating newness, which meant it was basically unpredictable, it could never be communicated by concepts, and it was the "inexhaustible source of freedom." Duration wasn't something that could be shared or given, but the nature of it was available to person through "intellectual auscultation." Auscultation is what doctors do with a stethoscope when they examine a person's body. So, I'd argue that what Bergson was saying is that results of science are wonderful, very useful, couldn't get by without them, but the reality of being in the world is something we know intuitively and not as a result of a logical, mechanistic, step by step progress toward a conclusion. In short we people can see an arrow flying through the sky, but science can't, it can only conceptualize an  arrow flying through the sky by describing a series of points, and at each point the arrow is motionless.

Bergson was concerned with metaphysics, which despite all it's various nuances in the language, would have been defined by Bergson as examining the nature of reality, the relationship between mind and matter, what stuff is and how it can be described, and the relationship between what facts are and what value is. And he was one of those rare Philosophers who wrote a best selling book which is still occasionally published called Creative Evolution, in which he tore down an edifice that had been built around Darwin which proposed that the mind could be explored almost entirely in terms of evolution, the passing along and multiplying of successful genes and attributes. In their place Bergson proposed a metaphysics of evolution based upon his notion of Duration. Without concepts this was much easier said than done, and generally his work Creative Evolution contains many unverifiable mysteries wrapped in wonderful language that highly pissed off the Analytical Philosophers many of whom were sympathetic to Duration but because they could find nothing concrete or static kind of shrugged it off as an interesting digression. Bergson's point was that his metaphysics does not oppose science, rather it complements science. William James who was all about pragmatism greatly approved of Bergson's thinking. Bertrand Russell disapproved of anything that suggested a drift away from the empirical approach in Philosophy. One thing's for sure in the philosophy of Bergson, he saw no end point, no finality. Duration as motion is uncertain and unpredictable. Several of the notions in Quantum Physics say pretty much the same thing. I read somewhere that Heisenberg, one of the key figures in Quantum Physics, defended Bergson against Einstein's dismissal of Bergson's Duration as an understanding of time. So who really knows about the mind Visions and Mystics and Prophets.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Mystics, Visions and Prophets

 Saint Teresa of Avila wrote a great deal about her relationship with the Christian Church. Looking at her writing you get the sense that she might have been a little intense in her determination to do right by her understanding of God. When she was eleven she and her brother had decided it run away from home to fight for the Crusades, they were half way down the road when the parental side caught up with them and dragged them back home. Later in life Teresa had a more pacifist approach, "I do not fear Satan as much as I fear those who fear Satan." Of the orders, joining the Carmelite order, an easy going kind of order, was probably the best one to give her personality a chance to evolve in a more accepting environment. The problem was she struggled with a regular series of often very frightening, painful and physically draining visions over which she had no control. In analyzing her writings members of the medical profession have suggested that she may have suffered from a form of epilepsy. When her visions first started she understood them in terms of levitation and was concerned that she might have been possessed by a demon. Whenever Teresa felt levitation coming on, she asked her young sisters in the convent to hold her down and not tell anyone. This request of hers, she knew was a bit sinful and she took her worry to her father confessor, poured out her heart to him, which itself was slippery slope for a young nun because of the more innate boy/girl circumstance and she sort of knew that her confessor had a special fondness for her, and she knew of a women outside the order who had so special a fondness for him she'd given him a copper charm to wear around his neck. The whole thing was difficult for a person very determined to remain in God's favor and who had definite ideas about what remaining in God's favor required. Fortunately Teresa's confessor told her that far from being possessed by the devil, her levitation was a grant of rapture from God. And there are some strange reports that Saint Teresa would sometimes levitate, or whatever, during Mass.

In her writings Teresa talks about learning how to manage her afflictions. She been bedridden for a year. After a levitation on one occasion she was so paralyzed, all her joints seem to have un-jointed and she could only move one finger. She sometimes just liked to be alone, she knew it wasn't right, she loved others but she sometimes found the presence of others painful. But however it occurred or whatever caused it, her devotion to God grounded her, offered her a path. Her desire to be alone became "devotion to silence" so that she might in silence better commune with her creator without distraction. It was path she chose and not an easy one, "Dear Lord, let me suffer or let me die." Teresa's mysticism, taken from her visions of hell, of Saints, the phases of prayer, and the phases a soul went through on its journey to heaven were for the Catholic Church very re-affirming at a time when the Protestant Reformation was gaining strength, causing some distress in the more political corners of the Church of Rome which had failed to void the schism by simply declaring the Protestors heretics without the church being able to find sufficient political support to punish the heretics. Teresa too had a quarrel with Rome, it was too interested in earthly matters and needed to revert to its more spiritual foundations. The other point about her visions, I think worth mentioning, is the detail with which she was able to recount them. One of her visions involved her being repeatedly stabbed by an angel, she could see the spear in her belly and when the angel withdrew the spear she could see her entrails. The pain was intense, but the sweetness of the pain was "so surpassing... I could not wish to be rid of it." Teresa in her heart understood the truth of her journey through life in a wonderful way, "the feeling remains that God is on the journey, too." Quarrel if you want, but Teresa had visions as a mystic in and for the patterns of her faith, her visions weren't the revelation of a prophet with a mind to add to and sort out a perceived confusion in the tapestry of an established understanding.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Prophets of God and of Man

In the 17th Century a man called Thomas Browne wrote a book called "Religion of a Doctor." The book was a more personal, self-examining to the point of self analyzing type of book wherein Thomas Browne far too honestly explored his relationship with science and religion, an uncharacteristic confession that was too private for those days. The book was greeted warmly by the more scientific minded but it was a little on the radical side for the more religious minded and soon enough it went on the list of books banned by the Pope. Thomas Browne was a physician, and one of his contributions to the English Language was the word Hallucination which he took from the Latin word for 'wandering in the mind.' Not a dream, but something that happens when you're awake. And ever so easy to suggest that there's no actual difference between a Vision and an Hallucination. Strictly speaking when it comes to understanding ideas whether something is sourced through a spiritual vision or an hallucination shouldn't really matter. But for some reason it does. During the early days of Muslim expansion, if conquered people were people of the book, which initially included Jews and Christians,  they were under the early Muslim Sharia law to be granted protected status, they could keep their property and religion. None protected groups were considered fair game for theft, looting and so on. In time the list of protected people grew to include Hindus, it was practical politics by a well disciplined invading force as much as anything. And worth keeping in mind that the early Muslims in their faith had a definite definition of pagan, they were people who worshiped animal Gods and/or multiple Gods. The early religions of Arabia were polytheistic.

Expanding into the mysterious lands of Persia Muslim invaders discovered there were three schools of Zoroaster. All three schools claimed that Zoroaster was a prophet but the trouble was centuries previously, they claimed, Alexander the Great had burned all their sacred books so there was no real concrete way to prove that Zoroaster was a recognizable prophet of the one God of sufficient importance to grant Zoroastrians protected status. Under questioning by the often acquisitive and much less numerous, invading forces, the representative of only one of the schools of Zoroaster in Persia was able to persuade the inquisitor that they deserved protection. And to demonstrate that Zoroaster was a prophet this Zoroastrian representative is purported to have quoted Zoroaster:  "They ask you as to how should they recognize a prophet and believe him to be true in what he says; tell them what he knows the others do not, and he shall tell you even what lies hidden in your nature; he shall be able to tell you whatever you ask him and he shall perform such things which others cannot perform."  No mention of miracles or God and not easy to make immediate sense of a translation from a 12th Century Arab historian writing about an event that occurred several centuries earlier. But if you take the first sentence as the question and the second two as the answer, I get the sense that you recognize a prophet by the confidence of his insight into your confusions, and a prophet can go on to confidently explain things in a way that you can understand, and he can do this in a way that others can't. So in a sense it's us who decide who a prophet might be, a "he who has ears to hear , let him hear" type thing, otherwise he or she might just as well wander lonely as a cloud in the wilderness. Inevitably I could well be wrong. I'm told, a Canadian named Osler, who's been called the father of modern medicine, had read Thomas Browne's far too honest book so many times he knew it by heart.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Zoroaster, Druj and Asha

Zararthustra, Zoroaster, by most accounts was member of a more nomadic clan. His name means something like, "He who manages Camels." Nor did he appear out of nowhere, he belonged to a tradition of Idea that predated his time upon earth by many, many generations. The Idea when he was born had a professional class, a body of understandings and a priesthood, and when Zoroaster was around seven years old he started his training to become a priest. While a person is born with many attributes, capacities that enable them to get a toe hold on the world they are born into, no one is born with a body of knowledge that builds through the course of passing through the world. Choosing to become a priest suggests an interest in something other than managing Camels, and oddly Zoroaster's name has been translated as "with angry/furious Camels" "who is fostering/cherishing camels" "desiring Camels" and "with yellow Camels." Then in his thirties Zoroaster had a vision, he saw a shining being which introduced himself as "Good Purpose" and "Good Purpose" taught Zoroaster about what is was to be a "Wise Spirit." As the vision continued Zoroaster began to sense the presence of another more primal spirit which seems to have two parts, one part hostile and lying called Druj, the other part true and honest called Asha. The experience was a Revelation which persuaded Zoroaster to spend the remainder of his days devoted to Asha.

It's also the case that visions can be very confusing and describing them not always easy. Too accurate a description might make very little sense to a listener, so there's a certain interpretation that occurs. At the same time back in those days there was a drink that people concerned with higher callings reckoned was a big assistance in the whole process of visions. It was an infusion of herbs, spices and probably honey. There's a vague suggestion by more recent researchers that one of the ingredients was a Mushroom that grew on Cow manure, but the point is that revelation is an act of revealing or disclosing, it's usually dramatic and includes the idea of realizing something previously not known. And of course revelation is sometimes thought of as a manifestation of the divine will or truth. As well it's probably wrong to assume that just because you're high on Mushrooms therefore God must be talking to you. But suddenly realizing something, sorting it out, making that nagging something comprehendible in your mind, doesn't necessarily require God or Mushrooms. In many ways how you explain your revelation to others is somewhat central to "Good Purpose." You can't just say, this  ring was made for Henry III, it's all gold and 20 carat diamonds,  and you can have it for two million dollars, without some sort of provenance. And if you want to know why you might not be able to sell Henry III's ring without some sort of provenance, well you can call it a Druj and Asha kind of thing.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Climate Anomalies of the Middle Ages

The Medieval Climate Anomaly began around 950 and went on until around 1250. It was a warming trend. And excellent for agricultural production in Europe. A good harvest of Wheat was around 1:7. That is one grain of Wheat for seed stock, seven grains of Wheat for consumption. A poor harvest of Wheat was around 1:2, which meant widespread hunger and hardship. A Wheat farmer today expects around 1:30. Then in 1300 something happened to the climate it started to cool and around 1315  intense weather patterns produced a series of very wet, cold summers. Hay could not be cured, Wheat failed to mature. This was famine for Europe and out of the 1315 to 1317 famine came the story of Hansel and Gretel which some have suggested was inspired  by accounts of cannibalism which may or may not have occurred during the struggle to survive. By 1318 weather patterns returned to something like normal and in the following years Europe entered a period of climate known as the Little Ice Age, cold winters, cooler summers.

The 1315-1317 famine was by no means the first famine or the last famine experienced in the Middle Ages but the lasting effects of the famine went on for years. Seed stock had been consumed, draft animals had been slaughtered, and it took many years to recover these seed stocks and raise livestock. But not only did the famine reduce the population by between 15 and 25%, it also had an effect upon the health of the population, made us more susceptible to sickness. Nor did the Black Death of 1350 help the situation. Much worse for the way of life in the Middle Ages, central authorities had no capacity, or desire, or foresight sufficient to manage so large and dramatic a series of crises. On several occasions during the famine The King of England, while progressing through his realm had to go without several meals, this for a royal personage was an outrage of gigantic proportions. During the famine the King of France chose to carry out his plan to invade the Netherlands, his army got bogged down by rain, mud and cold, he had to burn his baggage train and retreat. During the famine it was our fault we'd upset God, we'd failed to obey the logic of the Idea. It was slowly in the following two centuries that the Idea was challenged and by the 1960's we had stuff like the Measles Vaccine.

Thursday, April 25, 2019


The Middle Ages in Europe are well worth a thought or two. I'll tell you why. It was doubt which brought them to an end. This doubt was characterized by a growing mistrust of the Institutions which I'd argue included allegiance to the Church, allegiance to the King and an industry that was controlled by the power of the Guild System. A series of crisis that started with two years of famine, which was climate related rather than Locust, and this was followed forty years later by the Black Death which wiped out easily a third of the population. Typhus in urban regions and what might have been Anthrax reduced livestock.

There was an increase in a search for what can be called the literal truth of the Bible, new interpretations from the Old Testament which often cast doubt on the correctness Church Doctrine. Towns became increasingly fed up with not having control over their own destiny. There was dramatic increase in popular and often bloody unrest, Kings and Nobles had increasing conflicts which resulted in both civil and international wars.   And as Idea ran rampant through the population soon enough what had been centuries of uninterrupted European prosperity came to a crashing halt.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Mercury Smiles Again

   For non-astrologers Mercury in retrograde is an illusion. Mercury never actually starts to go backwards and has no effect whatsoever on earthly affairs. But one of the problems for this non-astrologer is how to explain the past nearly four weeks, a period of time when pretty much every technical device in the dwelling chose to submit to this or that ailment rendering them worse than useless, and during this period of high stress the Kitten hurt both her foot and her hips. Then there was an outright break down, kind of a relief, and soon enough the local gossip mill produced the idea that somehow or other while repairing a culvert the county had cut through a vital telephone cable.

    At the news your correspondent nodded wisely as some of us went on about how vital it was to know when Mercury might be heading toward retrograde so that one and all might concentrate and tread very warily. Clearly had the county followed this rule, they never would have cut through a telephone cable. Finally, here at home, wise men were sent for, the Kitten had to visit the vet, she's a little on the temperamental side and I'm told had a conniption fit in the vet's office which meant she had to be sedated, and today a genius arrived in the morning hours who was able to follow the principles of his calling which are not to be polite to his customer but to listen to his customer. He slowed the internet down and lo the New Medieval Period of Saints has been briefly delayed. Oddly today Pluto enters retrograde, so let's all say our prayers. 

Missing  Days

Tuesday April 23rd 2019 

    Still no landline, mixed blessing, means no telephone and it means no internet. And for some reason or other I feel it necessary to again put my own nail in the coffin of the expression Medieval Period. The word Medieval is an abridgement of the Latin for Middle Ages, and Medieval has come to have an association with barbaric behaviors, funny costumes, witchcraft and it's a long list. My own use of the term Medieval applies entirely to the institution of Sainthood as it was when Saints weren't subject to the central authority of a Devil's Advocate dictated to be a long list of rules. Instead they were chosen by the likes of you and I sitting around, hanging out with well minded friends and saying of a departed one that he or she should be a saint, followed by a reasonable discussion about what counts as a miracle and whether the party in question had managed one with sufficient evidence to produce the determination within the group to do stuff like renaming a well or a fold in the land or a rock outcrop. Then if the name sticks through the generations you got your genuine, unadulterated Saint.

The Middle Ages began following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and came to end around the time of Luther which was The Protestant Reformation of the 1500's. Like all reformations this was a disruptive time for people characterized by the uncertainty as the secular world began to dominate Europe and resulted in new certainties, or what we now call Nation States, a central authority with control over distinct territory, and it was this Secular Administrative State that introduced the Modern Period to history. And worth noting the current political fad, or at least it was when I was last in a position to read the news, is to undo the Administrative State just as quickly as possible, because apparently it's the source of all evil and nothing good ever came of it. We Modernists can all wallow as much as we want, but I do feel a certain gratitude to the Telephone Company for being unable to repair the telephone line that leads to my dwelling. Yes indeed, while others might be clinging to the past I consider it a privilege to be on the cusp of what the more sensible very distant future ancient historians might well refer to as the Second or New Medieval Period of Saints.

Monday April 22nd 2019

    Inalienable is defined as: cannot be transferred to others.  In the language the word belongs to the quality of dueness, what's owed, indebtedness. But the question to explore within the word is why, rather than OK that's settled for ever and ever, let's not mention it again. Nor have I ever been quite certain what Thomas Jefferson meant by inalienable when he wrote "Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and inalienable rights of man." Yet to reach this conclusion he must have made a wonderfully bold assumption because you and I don't actually have any rights, what we have is a society in which certain behaviors and actions are less acceptable than other behaviors and actions. Some behaviors rewarded, some behaviors punished. And you can go on to explore the shades of grey, and see a constant movement in the back and forth, the inherent right of kings, the right to this, the right to that. Go ahead, quarrel if you want, but in the discussion between Idea and Material the rights of man are Idea.  My own view is that you can list the rights all you want, but rights are neither inherent nor inalienable and over time they are subject to change. Idealists tend toward an end point where all is settled to the point of entropy, which in physics means to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity, and like it or not because life as consciousness is by necessity irrational, an assumption of mine, that point of entropy is not so much inconceivable as it is greeted by a "nah" which is kind of like a sneering "no" in the more visceral regions. Always a depressing reaction and very typical, it inclines the great and the good, as they cling to the Constitution, toward saying things like "clinging to their bible" and "the deplorables" or something like "The Libtard have no idea and are just stupid." An overall level of discourse that suggests one of two things neither of them particularly attractive or encouraging, and yet serves to remind us all how short a distance it is from the Tree to the Cave.

Thomas Aquinas was a most interesting man in the development of thought for us Westerners. We're looking at the 13th Century. His mother didn't like the idea of him becoming a Dominican, one of the poorer more begging of the religious orders, so she confined him to the family castle for a couple of years in the hopes that he'd pull himself together. But he was stubborn for the great ideas and finally off he went to become ordained as a Dominican priest and get his doctorate in Philosophy, which in those days was mostly Plato and Aristotle. At the time the Church of Rome was struggling with a very divisive quarrel. On the one hand were the Averroists who were all about Revelation as the sole source of Church doctrine. Truth they argued was revealed by god and certainly not by man, and while stuff like philosophy, adding up and earthly learning had it's lowly place, it shouldn't play much of a role in the church. The problem with that for the church was it meant any wild eyed nutcase could come out of some rural nowhere and declare a new and possibly crazy revelation and the chaos, the fracturing that this could produce in the faithful would result in endless conflict. Thomas became an advisor to a Pope who was anxious to put an end to the Averroist dispute. He argued that revelation, faith, believing something, was a sense like any other sense. But it's through the intellect that we people make all the senses intelligible, and this meant the church would be pretty dumb to ignore the capacity God had given us to make intelligible any revelation he might see fit to grant his many, many children. Oh sure, he went on, some things can only be known by revelation, these he argued were the higher truths, but most things can indeed by known by experience of the day to day here on earth. The Averroists had to agree. Thomas basically saved the church as a useful institution with a functioning bureaucracy and he went on to formalize his doctrine, which included the useful assertion that all animals have souls, but only human souls were immortal, so no chance of someone's Parrot receiving anything like a comprehensible revelation. Fifty years after his death, despite never having performed a traditional miracle, the Pope made him a saint.

Sunday April 21st 2019

    Survival of the Fittest, but there's more than one side to Darwin. To begin it might be a good idea to go back to Anaximander. He reckoned all things on earth emerged from fire, earth and water. And he reckoned there was a kind of justice between these substances, not one of them could ever dominate and if by chance one of them did then the world would be either just water, just earth or just fire. In the interaction between these substances, the fire of the sun would dry the earth and we got plants. Same with creatures that lived in water, where the fire of the sun had never so dominated as to produce plants. Animals of the land, including people came from fishes. The justice part of the relationship between fire, earth and water you can think of as being a blind justice, a gentle justice, an evil justice, a whimsical justice, any kind of justice you want but without it there would be no tapestry, everything would be either fire, earth or water.

And difficult to think of fire without fire having something to consume, which put a preeminence upon fire in the minds of some. But difficult to think of fire as a creator of anything without earth and water. In remembering Anaximander people have considered him more scientific in the way he thought about how the world, its plants and its creatures came into being, how they developed, and how they were still subject to that process of development. It was the justice part that figured large in idea, what did it want, where was it going, what side was it on, does it love us? Much easier for justice if it and the world was created not by the universe of earth, fire and water but by something else, something with definite opinions and solid plans. Yet a time came in some ancient societies when even the Pantheon of Gods were subject to justice. Idealists explore the issue through ideas, more practical minds need a little concrete evidence. Darwin was planning to be a clergyman, but following his voyage around the world as the ship's naturalist, he become a scientist.

Saturday April 20th 2019 

    There's a lot out there that's completely unknown. For all I know the internet might never return, gone for ever and the option for me is to either wail and gnash for the rest of my days, or calculate in a scientific and empirical manner the possibilities of it ever returning and from these calculations plot a way forward, or I could invoke the assistance of The Mysteries. And what with one thing and another I'm in a Mysteries invoking mood at the moment. I remember my friend Okanya, whenever we lost something incredibly valuable like a nail, which we seem to do with a frequency, he'd spit on the palm of his hand and with the two long fingers of his other hand he'd slap the spit, sending it flying. The direction the bulk of the spit took pointed toward the lost object and we'd carefully follow that line, sometimes for what felt like hours. Success rate wasn't high, but comfort wise the whole process was very rewarding, and at least we'd done something constructive. In that part of the world a whirlwind was a not infrequent sight and central to our understanding was to point at the whirlwind so that it would not come our way. Failure to do so pretty much guaranteed one or other of many dire possibilities. And it's also true that we both had great faith in these mysterious rites, which when they failed to work simply meant that we'd been a little too casual in observing our part of the rite. The internet however is a much trickier area than lost nails and whirlwinds, it has flashing lights, telephone wires, un-conversable boxes, a stoic and obnoxiously polite support staff who are clearly well versed in a jargon rich positivity around the unknown which is something mere mortals in their right mind are very averse to, and if you add an emotional, almost addictive, paranoid dependence to the internet experience you're beginning to think about maybe the kind of entirely self centered rite that requires sacrificing virgins.  Though what virgins ever did to deserve sacrificing, I've never really understood, you'd just sort of assume that the more sullied members of any community would by ceremoniously dispatched as a gesture of good faith, but maybe it has something to do with sending our best and our brightest to do the negotiating, the more sullied and guilt ridden would probably give the Internet a wrong impression of us internet addicts.

The question, where to start? Of The Mysteries, which in my view haven't changed much in the past at least four thousand years, there are three main traditions, and without beating about the bush they basically call for behaviors that go from the poetic gathering to the licentious gathering. I'd argue that those who followed Orpheus were more prone to poetry, the Eleusinian tradition was harvest celebration civilized followed by a bit of an aren't we wonderful knees-up and the Dionysian tradition which was drunken revelry and high order un-virtuous behaviors that so shocked Roman Senators they finally required them to be outlawed, which is quite a thought. And of course to legitimately qualify as an adherent to any one of these traditions you couldn't just turn up, a person had to go through an induction rigmarole involving secret oaths, supplication, ceremonies, a contribution of some sort and probably quite a long list. Me, I'm really far too old for Dionysian behaviors, at my age the music of Orpheus is likely a more productive source of inspiration for an Internet Resurrection Rite. Orpheus was a brilliant musician if you like the Lyre, not for everyone, and I'll probably have to substitute a little shimmying while maybe thinking about Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Tina Turner.  The point being that with Orpheus, when the devil took his wife he decided to go down unto Hades and use his musical abilities to retrieve her. The Devil was mightily impressed and agreed that Orpheus' wife could return to the world so long as Orpheus didn't look at her before he had escorted her out of Hades. Simple request, but Orpheus was tempted to renege and true to the bargain the Devil did not allow Orpheus' wife to leave Hades. Orpheus was devastated and he wandered the wilderness playing his music until a group of Thracian women killed him and threw his severed head into a river. And I too have on occasion felt like following the natural instincts of Thracian women around the lyre, the harpsichord, the tambourine and Bluegrass music. Details of an Orphic Internet Resurrection Rite will include shimmying to Sam Cooke's Chain Gang as might be sung by Bob Dylan and Tina Turner, and as I ascend and descend the stairs I will not look at the Flashing Internet Not Working Check Light, and should I turn to look at this flashing light I have to go outside and walk once around the field on the off chance there's a band of Thracian Women who might oblige me by cutting off my miserable head and throwing it into the Green River.

Friday April 19th 2019

    Positive, Positivist, Positivism when used to describe thinkers refers to a 'faith' in the idea of rules, laws or whatever you want to call them, imposed by what's referred to as Human Authority rather than by Nature or by Reason Alone. And 'faith' is a word that should be distinguished from 'blind belief.' The whole point about faith is you're not absolutely certain, instead you have a degree of high confidence. Easy enough to have high confidence in Pythagoras' hypotenuse. But to have blind belief in anything subjects you to the possibility that under certain circumstances, such as the event horizon of a black hole, Pythagoras' theorem might not hold true and your event horizon traveling machine could come to a sticky end if you happened to have built your machine around the theorem. So best to test the theorem before flying into the black hole or you risk the same fate as those who reckoned they could fly by gluing feathers to their arms. All of which is good practice in scientific exploration but when it comes to human society the testing of the theory isn't really possible and always worth remembering our world is littered with very badly failed experiments.

Pol Pot was a fan of Sartre, whose work I'd guess he would have read in the original French. He'd studied in Paris sometime in the late 1940's early 1950's and went home to become a teacher. Some minds might reject Sartre's work as a result of this association with Pol Pot. What Sartre said in his existentialist writings was something like this: We people are beings who create our own world. We do so by rebelling against authority over us and by taking personal responsibility for our own actions. Why we did this has to do with the idea that to be authentic, true to our nature, to our existence, we individual people had to have absolute freedom of choice, explore all the possibilities. And I think it's accurate to say that no way did Pol Pot apply any of what Sartre might have had to say to anyone other than himself and you have to wonder where Pol Pot put Sartre's idea of personal responsibility. One of the things about judging Sartre as a man and his understandings, is his rejection of the Nobel Prize for Literature. He reckoned the pat on the head would compromise his integrity. To often in the interpretation of the Idea, it seems to only belong to the enlightened, the rest of us it would appear need to be educated or reeducated. Indeed education was and still is a big thing for the Positivists.

Thursday April 18th 2019

    In the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's Logical Positivism was a newish way of saying to hell with the Ancient Greeks from the Foot of Italy, German Idealism, phenomenology and metaphysics, it's not getting us anywhere, what we have to do is think sensibly about what we know about the world and how we can make that knowing more accurate and as a result more useful, constructive and so on. The likes of Bertrand Russell not only saw this as a necessity but they reckoned it was entirely possible through logical and scientific verification and they put great effort into tearing down the arguments of the Idealists, who in general had reached the point where thinking about stuff was almost completely outside living the day to day life, their interest was the grand scheme, the great theory, a magnificent edifice from off the top of a cloud, and yet it was edifice that accepted brutality, war and horrible cruelty between us people because that was the way things were, and the good news for everyone it was all going somewhere that was on the one hand kind of inevitable and on the other hand kind of good in the sense the whole thing was taking care of itself, not much we tenured professors or our devoted pupils can do about it, not really our section.

More recently, the faith Logical Positivists placed in science and logic was modified a little by the understanding that there were areas in logic that couldn't do away with all the subjective stuff that obsessed Idealists, and they decided to call themselves Logical Empiricists. The difference is, Logical Empiricists accepted the element of subjectivity, but they reckoned the scientific methods of math, science, logic and so on while subject to distractions of idealism, nonetheless had a higher degree of accuracy than just saying it's all in the mind. And here the beast in the distant forest for the positivists is a man called Parmenides, he was a Foot of Italy Greek, a former student of Pythagoras. Pythagoras has, amongst many other things, the title "First True Mathematician." The sum of the squares of the lengths of the sides of a right angle are equal to the square of the hypotenuse. It's an amazing idea, quite mind blowing, and here on earth at least if you can do the math it's always true, and you can understand why it was kind of like magic to those who first experienced the calculation, and try as some might of done they couldn't show Pythagoras was mistaken about the hypotenuse. It was Parmenides who reckoned that all we could know existed in the mind, what lay outside the mind didn't exist, if you're mind forgot something, it didn't exist. Far too uncomfortable an idea, easy to dismiss Parmenides, but in my view it's an error to do so.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


I guess if King David had had the internet there would be more than a couple of comforting Psalms pretty much devoted to souls that have been left wailing and forsaken by the internet.

There is progress, I'm reliably informed.  There are two possible causes of the problem, either a hugely complicated part needs replacing or "Something's been nibbled."

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Public, Private Cogs

In my reading of Kafka I don't recall ever coming away with an understanding of bureaucracy. Rather I came away with an understanding of what it was like to be a cog in a machine, as familiar an experience for me as it would have been for anyone else unhappily employed by endlessly repeating tasks within the walls of a factory or an office. I say endlessly because there was no place or moment within the task where this side of getting too old to perform the task I could see a completeness. I was, and I have to admit this, a surly, uncooperative, pain in the neck cog who found solace in abject bolshevism until the shift was over and I could go home where if it was a Friday the bulk of my pay check went to the landlord. And, I suspect, Kafka's writing being associated with the dour hopelessness of bureaucracy lies somewhere within an experience of the dispirited cogs of a bureaucracy without any experience or appreciation by the observer of the purpose, possibilities and function of a bureaucracy. 

Literature is replete with explorations of meaninglessness and how we cogs have managed. The Good Soldier Schweik, a series of stories by Jarolsav Hasek about a soldier in the Austro Hungarian army, is humor. Schweik was drafted into the military despite being classified as a congenital idiot, his common sense or enthusiastic incompetence revealed the farcical nature of a rule bound, unquestioning environment. Invariably the issue of bureaucracy and efficiency is rich with discord, and more recently the move of those in high places is toward reducing the bureaucracy of government by offering government functions up to the management of what for one reason or another is called the Private Sector. The issue of whether we cogs fare better in the Public Sector or the Private Sector is so far as I can see entirely avoided by those who currently dominate the high places, their philosophy is essentially 'Cogs should be powerless, because look at us, of course we know what's best.' And in this assertion are the foundations to the debate about whether government can manage healthcare. It's a mixed blessing, yet the current administration is a wonderful opportunity to observe the workings of and motivations behind a rampant Private Sector. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Meade and Symbolic Interaction

George Herbert Meade died in 1931. If you take the Idealism of Hegel and add a little bit of the Materialism of Marx, you get a sense of Meade's understanding of how to study society.  For Meade language was the content of the mind and the content of the mind developed, formed its opinions, understandings, shared them and so on, through Social Interaction. And social interaction wasn't something that interacted in a glorious isolation, rather it more often revolved around matters arising from how people chose to deal with the day to day of a material world. A material world of the city for example being different to the material world of the rustic idyll or nightmare depending, the mountain, the forest, the beach, the retirement home and you can go on.  It's also my current view that there's  massive chasm between those who study behavior and those who labor under the illusion that the study of behavior can be used to modify the behavior of the unwilling which is an area that more often than not becomes Walking Stewart's beast of the forest, Human Resources, which don't be fooled is essentially a pursuit of tyranny in the interest of a particular and usually unsavory goal, the purview of management.

But, and I believe this would be Meade's point, a flourishing society for all people requires two main ingredients. The first would be an informed populace, the second a working Democracy. And by working I assume his argument would include the idea of a pluralism where everybody counts as equal. It's an idea of democracy that might never have actually held true but struggles on because electing legitimate leaders by vote of the public is infinitely better than having to endure civil war every ten years or so. And you have to admire almost to the point of worship a man like General Washington, who given all the uncertainties of the time had his chance to become like an emperor, but he didn't and possibly he didn't because the new country of the United States as it worked toward a more perfect union was to be a Republic, and in 1789 the vote was to be limited to white male landowners, the majority of whom had shall we call it a shared desire to keep the wild eyed ideological fringe and girls at bay. In Meade's pragmatist view it's the day to day of social interactions around the materiel world that produce meaning in us people and it's around meaning that shades of purpose or complete absence of purpose or total dick-headedness emerges. Have to wonder in what legal milieu a Barr was fostered.