Politics and Philosophy

Diary, 5/10/22: Progressive International’s Summit; Johnstone; Truthout; Wittgenstein book quoted and discussed; smoothie with oatmeal; Independent Left News; download woes; neuroscience studies; “reification”; Dr. Bramhall.

Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved


One of my new subscriptions is Progressive International.  They have an upcoming “Summit At the End of the World.”  I can’t see that it’s important at all.  Here’s part of what they say:

“The Summit is a site of construction. We convene the second Summit of the Progressive International to take stock of this dying world, and to build the new one that will replace it — brimming with life, bound by love, powered by popular sovereignty.”

Gee.  I don’t see much room for their dream in futureworld.  I looked through the list of participants, didn’t see Noam Chomsky or Tariq Ali, did see Medea Benjamin and Codepink, Jeremy Corbin, and Yannis Varoufakis.  The others (about thirty in all) were unfamiliar.  No Greta Thunberg?  Bernie Sanders?  Not so far.  I guess I’ll sign up for it, since it’s free, though donations and subscriptions are accepted.  I won’t be donating—money is tight now.

Events start at 5:00 PST, May 12.  I can’t imagine that this will be important to me, but I can imagine watching some of it. It would be easy to be dismissive or pessimistic, but I’m resisting that impulse (except for the above paragraphs).

Smart words from Caitlin Johnstone this morning (link to this piece):

The US doesn’t have political parties, it has narrative control ops disguised as political parties. One of them overtly promotes capitalism and imperialism by appealing to Americans’ worst impulses, the other covertly diverts healthy impulses back into capitalism and imperialism.

More briefly, in my words, both support the class war from the same side, the 1%.

From Truthout, “First Quarter of 2022 Sees Record $1 Billion Spent on Lobbying.”  Where does the money come from?  Here:

Shall I spend more time on this stuff, or go read Philosophical Investigations?  I think today, the latter.

I read the PI for an hour, then had breakfast and napped.  My smoothie this morning was good:  a quarter cup of “steel cut oats” added protein and fiber to my usual orange juice and banana [and protein powder, oops], plus half a kiwi fruit, and the usual Cheetos and Mounds bar.  It occurred to me afterward that I could substitute a slice of bread for the Cheetos, clearly a massive improvement.  The smoothie was quite thick but still drinkable (using a straw these days [because mustache]), good tasting and very satisfying.

I want to use some of the apples I bought, perhaps in place of the orange juice.  Orange or apple juice have neither the protein nor the fiber of the actual fruit, according to my nutrition book.  I also have cucumber, celery, and lots of greens neglected in the fridge, and blackberries, strawberries, and avocado cubes in the freezer.

An email from IndependentLeftNews sends me a link (this goes to Facebook) to a ninety-minute podcast from “Friends of Indie Left,” an interview with “Comrade Misty.”  (Also known as Misty Winston.)  I’ve already decided that I don’t have time for podcasts (I’d make exceptions for Noam Chomsky and perhaps a few others).  If I were a commuter, mebbe…come to think, I have a digital audio recorder, if I could download the podcast onto that, I could listen to it on the bus.  That would be efficient and useful, hence good.  It’s two gigabytes, looks like it will take half an hour.  <sigh>

After downloading 350 megabytes, the rate drops by half, then goes up again but not as high; so it’s looking like an hour.  Hmm.  No, I don’t have a smart phone.  Since I am on probation a smart phone, like my laptop, would have to be monitored, costing $33 per month, so, no.

The download stopped at 613 MB, less than half.  No explanation.  After a few minutes, the progress bar says, “Couldn’t download – Network issue.”  So I try to play the partial file, the extension is “crdownload” which Windows doesn’t recognize, but, on my insistence, it plays.  Well, a partial success.  I’ll note the link (this to Odysee.com) in case I want to try again.  I’ll put the partial file on my digital recorder and try it on the bus; it starts with music.

Neuroscience News has a study reporting, “Mediterranean Diet Helps Beat Depression in Young Men.”  “Significantly improved symptoms.”

Another study sez “A review of 71 studies over 40 years aligns with the hypothesis that belief in the paranormal is associated with differences and deficits in cognitive function.”  Link.  So…New Agers are idiots, as I always figured.  “I am far from jesting,” as Thoreau said in Walden regarding living in a packing crate or some such.

Henry Thoreau (1817-1862)

This podcast is disappointing.  Very chatty, etc., much talk about cats, so I turned it off.  I should have skipped ahead, because I also heard “Julian Assange” in there…not now, though, I want to focus on Wittgenstein, some quotes from Philosophical Investigations:

“461. In what sense does an order anticipate its execution? By considering just that which later is carried out?—but one would have to say ‘which later on is carried out, or again is not carried out.’ And that is to say nothing.”

My comment in margin: I’m thinking

Symbolic logic formula

[translation: p or not p equals null set]. Does this (probably incorrect) translation into symbolic logic clarify or help in any way? Perhaps it might, if I did such things all the time. [Comment, 5/11/22: My translation is incorrect. The intersection (not union) of p and not-p is the null set. I think “intersection” is normally rendered as “and,” not “or.”]

“464. My aim is: to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense.”

“471. It often happens that we only become aware of the important facts if we suppress the question ‘why?’; and then in the course of our investigations these facts lead us to an answer.”

“493. We say: ‘The cock calls the hens by crowing’—but doesn’t a comparison with our language lie at the bottom of this?—Isn’t the aspect quite altered if we imagine the crowing to set the hens in motion by some kind of physical causation?”

My comment in margin: We have a (subjective) choice of models of mental activity—is it based in (physical) neurons, or in “the soul,” or some other thing? To me, the “mental” is “purely physical” and no other model is necessary—though perhaps is useful for communication.

It is for reasons like this that I say things like “this body right now wants…” or what I’m calling “bleakspeak.”  I don’t find “the soul” to be a useful concept for explaining things.  It may be that “it’s your neurons” is no more explanatory—each of us must choose how to talk—but I prefer to avoid reification where possible, a statement that’s probably indefensible, especially so if a “map” is a “reification” of a “territory” or a “mystery.”  The last sentence of the following paragraph is of interest in this context. [Comment, 5/11/22: “The soul” is a philosophical wastebasket, a way of disposing of difficult questions without having to think about them.]

Oxford Reference defines “reification” at great length, as follows (I’ve bolded the “most useful” parts):  “The treatment of a relatively abstract signified (e.g. technology, mind, or self) as if it were a single, bounded, undifferentiated, fixed, and unchanging thing, the essential nature of which could be taken for granted (see essentialism). It is a representational practice which functions to establish the self-evident reality of the concept in question, treating it as if it has the ontological status of a specific physical thing in an objective material world. Reification suppresses the human intervention involved in the defining process as if the signifier were neutral and had been an integral part of a pre-existing thing in the world. Reification makes no allowance for the cultural and ideological frameworks which produced the signifier. Just because we have a word for something such as the self or the mind does not make it a ‘real’ entity, and yet the widespread and routine use of a signifier can appear to validate the existence of the signified as a taken-for-granted thing in itself. Perception itself may unavoidably involve reification. Technological determinists are often criticized for reifying technology in general or a particular medium such as television or the computer. Reification is a difficult charge to avoid, since any use of linguistic categorization (including words such as ‘society’ or ‘culture’) could be attacked as reification.

I’ve argued elsewhere that “essence” depends on your goal.  I’m not going to rehash my old arguments and thoughts…(This body right now doesn’t want to.) [Comment, 5/11/22: I don’t say much about “essence” in the linked document. Apologies.]

Got a new follower of my blog today:  Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall.  Her story and website will be of interest to all in the US [and elsewhere?] who are skeptical of the FBI and the government generally, like me.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s