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Also see this.

Q: What is the strength of Russia.

A: It’s people.

Technology and the most modern weapons will be had by other armies. The main thing is something else. The people — such as our pilot officer Roman Filipov — they will never have.

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漫漫長路,起伏不能由我

老家 laojia

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Update: MCA and Malaysian Chinese future

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The World’s Greatest Vocalist

李健 Li Jian

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《紅豆曲 + 一生所愛》

Red Bean Rhapsody + Love All Through Life

《尘缘》

Dust’s Destiny

《在水一方》

At the Water’s Edge

True to his Chinese upbringing Li Jian is very socially conscious, always mindful of other people (see clip immediately below and Jayant’s) — another reason why he is adored in China. He reflects the Chinese society we are rebuilding, our renaissance, which is opposite to the egoist, narcissistic Western/Christian/Anglophile or Islamic cultures/civilizations that pay more attention to personal, individual salvation, whatever that is.

《懂得》

Understand

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The future of humanity is in East Asia

Jayant Bhandari may be right about East Asia humanities. His mention of the Chinese reading habit is true. In Jian’s village, population 18,000, there is one library and one stationery shop. But every morning a couple will push and pull a cartload of books and park themselves outside the wet market. They will stay there until dust. Books alone won’t earn enough, so they also sell stationery. This reading habit is also prevalent in Korea and Japan, and has to do with the Confucian emphasis on education, both formal and informal.

Jayant doesn’t seem to know there is a springboard common to the region. That is, the bedrock of Korean and Japanese cultures, like language, society, rituals, critical thinking and habits of mind had their origins in China, namely Confucianism and Daoism — both of which, for crying out loud, are not religions; these are religion-free. Which is another way of saying, Christianity and Islam are utter voodoo. We, as humans, can be good, far, far better even, without the tyranny of some bothersome, foreign desert god, 10,000 km away, cultivated out of camel dung. See this: China’s role in East Asia.

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Postscript: Li Jian’s 紅豆曲 + 一生所愛 medley. Below are the original and other renditions:

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We Chinese had one long, long look at the western philosophy school of critical thought. Some of the methods, as in scientific reductionism, are good, we’d say, but why are their results so shitty?

Even to defeat a thing as stupid and as voodoo as ‘Belief in God’, it took them 2,000 years! After which, they proceed to write the same belief into their individual, national constitutions to make voodoo Law. A ‘Right’ even!

What is wrong with white people? And to think of all these Anglophile motherfuckers and coconut head Malaiyoos pining after them. (Think of the entire Malaysia/Singapore parliamentary shebang.)

Philosophy Day

From Quartz

Philosophers around the world: rejoice, for the entire world shall pay homage to the great subject this week.

In 2002, UNESCO first declared the third Thursday in November to be world philosophy day; this year, the United Nations agency organized discussions and lectures to celebrate philosophy from November 14 to 16. In honor of world philosophy today (Nov. 15), here are some of the philosophical musings of great philosophers throughout history on the very subject to which they are devoted:

Sharon Lebell on the comforts of philosophy

“Philosophy’s main task is to respond to the soul’s cry; to make sense of and thereby free ourselves from the hold of our griefs and fears,” writes musician and philosophical writer Sharon Lebell in her 1995 book The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness. Her writing, highlighted by Maria Popova in BrainPickings, explores the comforts philosophy can bring: “Philosophy calls us when we’ve reached the end of our rope. The insistent feeling that something is not right with our lives and the longing to be restored to our better selves will not go away. Our fears of death and being alone, our confusion about love and sex, and our sense of impotence in the face of our anger and outsized ambitions bring us to ask our first sincere philosophical questions.”

Socrates on the necessity of philosophy

To others, philosophy is not a comfort, but a necessity. When Socrates was sentenced to death for “corrupting the young” through his philosophical provocations, he responded that it was all worth it. In Plato’s Apology of Socrates, which chronicles the trial, Socrates claims that “the life which is unexamined is not worth living.” Socrates details his pursuit of knowledge and truth, and declares that the philosophical discourses that led to his death sentence ultimately made life rewarding.

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein on how philosophy engenders humanity

Socrates died more than 2,400 years ago, but the value of philosophy has not diminished. In 2014, philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of “Plato at the Googleplex, told The Atlantic that philosophy teaches people to “think critically” and “challenge your own point of view.” She added:  It’s us at our most human. And it helps us increase our humanity. No matter what you do, that’s an asset.”

Bertrand Russell on philosophy’s ability to expand the mind

For a lengthy philosophical treatise on the value of philosophy, turn to 20th century thinker Bertrand Russell, who wrote an entire essay on the subject in his 1912 book The Problems of Philosophy. Russell acknowledges that philosophy struggles to arrive at any one definite truth, but argues that is besides the point. His concluding paragraph reads:

Thus, to sum up our discussion of the value of philosophy; Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.

And if that seems too abstruse an introduction, Twitter has a far pithier take: https://twitter.com/existentialcoms/status/1062768872900648960

In honor of world philosophy day, why not give such impossible, complex thinking a go? You probably won’t arrive at a new truth; it’s far more likely that you’ll realize all your existing truths are false. But philosophical thinking is a beautiful and mind-expanding process, regardless of whether it arrives at a definitive answer. So read Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and Camus, and reckon with the great questions and disintegrating reality. For the sake of UNESCO and philosophers around the world, acknowledge that certainty is nothing more than a myth.

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The trouble with the West is, they believe too highly in their ability to philosophize and this doesn’t humble them.

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What’s the matter with these gweilos? This olang putih.

為無為
事無事

We have been philosophizing the same, deepest secrets 3,000 years ago. The answers from the Daodejing 道德經:

If everybody knows what beauty is,
then beauty is not beauty [anymore];
If everybody knows what goodness is,
then goodness is not goodness [anymore].
Therefore,
Being and nothing give birth to one another,
Hard and easy are mutually formed,
Long and short made each other,
High and low measure each other,
Music and voice are harmonized with each other,
Front and back follow one another.

Put thirty spokes together to one hub,
The original empty space makes the use of wheel.
Knead clay into vessels,
The original empty space makes the use of vessel.
Shape door and windows for a house/room,
The original empty space makes the use of house/room.
So the things that are made are only conditions,
What [we] are using is still the original empty space.

Discard conventional doctrines and be relieved from anxieties.
Approval or flattery, what difference does it make?
Good or evil, what difference does it take?
Just because the people are at awe, you cannot be indifferent?

Knowing people is being intelligent,
Knowing self is being enlightened.

Those who know talk not,
Those who talk know not.

Knowing that you do not know, is superiority;
Not knowing that you know, is defectiveness.

Truthful words are not pleasant,
Pleasant words are not trustworthy;
Those who are good do not dispute,
Those who are disputatious are not good;

And then this…

The more that’s accomplished, the less is accomplished until nothing is accomplished.

Related image

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Update: Liberalism, 1MDB and Goldman Sachs

Pakatan Harapan is Liberal. But, what is it to be Liberal?

Pankaj Mishra (below), an Indian national, writes on international politics and ideology. What’s special about him is, he refuses to do all that thinking and writing sitting in New York or London. He does it from his homeland, India. Like us at shuzheng, he is sick of the duplicitous tongues of Asians — that is, Anglophiles — regurgitating white man ideological deceits on some moral high ground, liberalism being the most prominent. It not only goes to show that Anglophiles are stupid but they are hypocritically disingenuous.

Mishra’s warnings are as applicable to Malaysia and Singapore as they are to India and the rest of the world outside the West. Liberalism is the crucible, in fact, the womb of authoritarianism. Such an idea cannot be expected to come from the West — they made it up after all — though some academics among them have made the same observation. Helena Rosenblatt, for example: Liberalism and Totalitarianism are cut from the same cloth.

Pankaj Mishra is a lone voice, yes. And, like him, we too don’t care. Harsh words, but they must be said. Mishra was interviewed by Francis Wade recently and the full text can be found here. Excerpts below which are broken down into sub-topics.

Read it carefully and you will see, picture even, in Mishra’s words Goldman Sachs which has piously proclaimed, 1MDB? This is not us. But it is you, exactly you, motherfucker!

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The Liberal Order is the Incubator of Authoritarianism

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Liberal — the last person to be counted on for freedom

There is no doubt that the individual freedoms central to liberalism ought to be cherished and protected. The question is how, and by whom? Are many self-declared liberals the best defenders of individual liberties? As it happens, many powerful and influential people who call themselves liberals are mostly interested in advancing their professional ambitions and financial interests while claiming the moral prestige of progressivism for themselves. They are best seen as opportunistic seekers of power, and they exist in India…

Liberalism blackmail

As Trumpism and other authoritarianisms become powerful, their liberal critics engage in a kind of moral blackmail based on a spurious history: “Are you against the ‘liberal order’ which guaranteed peace and stability, and other wonderful things for so long?” The obvious answer is that your much-cherished liberal order was the incubator for Trumpism and other authoritarianisms. It made human beings subordinate to the market, replacing social bonds with market relations and sanctifying greed. It propagated an ethos of individual autonomy and personal responsibility, while the exigencies of the market made it impossible for people to save and plan for the future. It burdened people with chronic debt and turned them into gamblers in the stock market. Liberal capitalism was supposed to foster a universal middle class and encourage bourgeois values of sobriety and prudence and democratic virtues of accountability. It achieved the opposite: the creation of a precariat with no clear long-term prospects, dangerously vulnerable to demagogues promising them the moon. Uncontrolled liberalism, in other words, prepares the grounds for its own demise.

Liberalism, handmaiden of Imperialism

…[T]he question of liberalism’s relationship with imperialism — whether the former is contingent on the morally tainted successes of the latter and therefore tends to weaken when the empires totter — has become particularly urgent as non-Western powers emerge and an endless economic and political crisis forces Western liberal democracies to expose their racial and inegalitarian structures, their leaders resorting to explicit appeals to white supremacism. I wrote in 2015, in a survey of liberalism’s record in the non-Western world, that “liberalism” has come to be seen “as an unaffordable plaything of rich Westerners: the elevation into universal values of codes that long favoured a tiny minority, and are unlikely to survive the rise of everyone else.”

After Anglophile comes the Yankeephile

We still need a sociology of these new elites — their connections to the US and Europe through networks of colleges, universities, think tanks, NGOs, foundations, and fellowships, and their ideological indoctrination at various institutions. Anecdotally, I can confirm that in India a whole new American-educated — or America-philic — class emerged to argue for untrammeled markets and to institutionalize their ideas. They often called themselves liberal, but they were also to be found on the Hindu right, and the traffic between the two camps was brisk. …

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Bullshit

Now, come again, What is it you said, Matrasad of Cambridge?

This is something we Chinese have long suspected. Whitney Sha went to Princeton to master the western humanities curricula (that would include Malaysia’s hotshot Khoo Kay Kim history), German philosophy in particular, Cultural Semiotics, Heidegger, Carnap, the like, and this is what she found: Bullshit.

Western culture is just so full of bullshit (and those are Sha’s words) that it is today the normal. It starts in primary. Consider this: ‘Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.’ That title appears impressive because the jargon reads difficult? But, what if it was neither impressive nor difficult, whatever the jargon. In truth, it is actually a faked title of an academic faked treatise. That is, it is meaningless, utter bullshit.

But guess what? It was hailed as a scholarly paper and actually published in an academic journal.

Next, consider the more common words, the “Absolute,” “the Infinite,” “non-being,” “essence,” and Heidegger’s “Nothing.” Tossed about and mixed, they distilled into words like “freedom” and “rights”, which nobody can get a grip on and they, in their turn, spill into reports by AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, Asian Wall Street Journal, Malaysiakini, and, of course, out of Steven Gan’s ass hole. Also, think of the comments online, from matrasad here, in Annie of the Valley, Helen Aku Cina Ang, Ahi Attan, Outsyed the Box, and tons and tons more.

Wrote Sha, citing Carnap in part:

“We call bullshit even on texts with relatively simple wording…. Statements in which these words appear cannot be judged true or false because they lack determinate referents and therefore do not claim anything at all. To a philosopher working in (one) tradition, a discourse on “the Absolute” is utterly meaningless, and Hegel and his exegetes complicit in an industry of what Sokal denounces as “superficial erudition.”

Now, if simple, everyday words like Absolute and Infinite and Freedom and Holy are bullshit, where will you then find the world’s biggest bullshit of all times? The Holy Bible, of course. This is not to leave out the runner-up, the ‘Holy Quran’.

Sha’s full essay below. Title is mine. It is something we Chinese have long complained about those La Salle schools, and their Anglophile products. The language, English itself, is just so much of gibberish. And they want to bring back English?

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Whitney Sha

The Anglophone School of Bullshit

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“One of the most salient features of our culture,” writes philosopher Harry Frankfurt in the opening line of his essay “On Bullshit,” “is that there is so much bullshit.” Because bullshit is almost everywhere, we assume we know how to recognize it and thus what it is. According to Frankfurt, however, few of us actually do. What we need (and what he gamely offers) is a theory of bullshit. Although most of us would agree that both bullshit and the outright lie are modes of misrepresentation, there exists a key difference between the two. Neither the bullshitter nor the liar can be relied upon to tell the truth. But in order to lie, the liar must first believe that she knows the truth; only then can she persuade her audience of what she knows to be untrue. The bullshitter, on the other hand, maintains no relationship at all with the truth: it is irrelevant to the bullshitter whether what she says is true or false, and what she is guilty of misrepresenting is precisely her concern for the distinction between the two. The epistemological indeterminacy under which bullshit is produced is, Frankfurt argues, what really characterizes bullshit as such.

If a high volume of bullshit is a mark of our culture, then “bullshitting a paper,” as anyone who has attended high school or college can attest (me included), must be one of the preeminent rites of passage in our educational system. I was already well into my compositional career when I came across Frankfurt, but as I thought back to all the bullshit I had heard about, witnessed in action, and been personally responsible for, I realized that Frankfurt’s theory was significant for academia as well. A bullshit paper intends to misrepresent, but not in the way a report sponsored by a cigarette manufacturer claims that nicotine is harmless or an embellished resume claims that I can speak fluent Russian. The bullshit paper does not misrepresent its topic; rather, it misrepresents its author. The bullshitter’s aim is not to convince her audience of anything in particular, but merely to convince them that she is saying something in particular.

That the humanities are especially hospitable to this kind of bullshit is the source of a complaint I first remember being voiced by a friend who had decided to major in computer science. He loved novels and had taken a number of literature classes, but he had found them frustrating because, it seemed to him, “you could write whatever you wanted in papers and still get an A.” He had nothing against literature on the whole, he assured me, but he preferred majoring in a discipline where the standards for genuine achievement were clear. It is a grievance I’ve heard all too often since then. What is usually considered one of the humanities’ greatest strengths—the tolerance, even encouragement, of a multiplicity of responses to a single question—can easily become their undoing. How do we evaluate these responses? If there is no one right response, who’s to say that any given response is wrong? When we say, as we commonly do, that the humanities are “subjective,” we leave ourselves vulnerable to a constant and gnawing doubt: How can we be sure that our work isn’t bullshit?

The humanities, as we all know, are in crisis. Federal funding has dried up and enrollment is on a steady decline; departments are being slashed; adjuncts labor at less than a living wage in hopes of clinging on to the periphery of academe. In response, politicians have called for redoubled investment in math and science, touting enrollment in business, computer-science and engineering as the solution. All the while, critics demand to know how studying Confucius could be more important than learning how to balance a checkbook.

According to this view, the humanities are a bad bet because they’re frivolous, impractical, self-indulgent. But this objection—the predominant one among politicians and other outside judges of the humanities—may well be related a yet more fundamental one, which is internal to the humanities themselves. The humanities, as we are constantly reminded, are “subjective”—so subjective, in fact, that the contributions of self-proclaimed fakes find company with those of chaired professors. This is a complaint we hear not only from disaffected undergraduates but, even more damningly, from other humanists: we need only to look to the recent “Grievance Studies” hoax, in which a team of humanists wrote and submitted twenty spoof articles to top journals in their own field (seven were accepted and seven more were still under review as the team was detailing their findings). If for the liar, according to Frankfurt, “there are indeed facts that are in some way both determinate and knowable,” the hoax once again made explicit the challenge of deciding good from bad work in a field where there are no determinate facts. The fact that so many of the parodic articles had been accepted by academic journals, said the political scientist Yascha Mounk on Twitter, revealed that many humanists cannot tell the difference between serious scholarship and “bullshit.”

Before “Grievance Studies” (which Mounk has dubbed “Sokal Squared”), there was the 1996 Sokal hoax, in which physicist Alan Sokal set out to show that scholarly legitimacy in some “fashionable sectors of the American academic Left,” concentrated mostly in the humanities, had been overtaken by arguments from authority and homage to trendy buzzwords and theories. To prove his point, Sokal wrote and submitted to Social Text, a journal of postmodern cultural studies, a parody article entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” His premise: there was no such thing as a “transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity”—which he knew because he’d made it up—and if Social Text happened to publish the article anyway, the academic community would see just how fraudulent scholarship in the humanities had become.

Social Text fell for it. After “Transgressing the Boundaries” came out in print, Sokal confessed to the hoax in a separate journal, declaring that his article was nothing but “a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense.” In “Transgressing the Boundaries,” which argues that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct, Sokal denies science’s claim to objective truth (left-wing cant), invokes Deleuze and Derrida (fawning references), and cites Lacan’s claim that the human psyche can be modeled by a Möbius strip (grandiose quotations). Most importantly for our purposes, though, the article succeeds as a caricature, offering a ready example of what we talk about when we talk about bullshit:

One characteristic of the emerging postmodern science is its stress on nonlinearity and discontinuity: this is evident, for example, in chaos theory and the theory of phase transitions as well as in quantum gravity. At the same time, feminist thinkers have pointed out the need for an adequate analysis of fluidity, in particular turbulent fluidity. These two themes are not as contradictory as it might at first appear: turbulence connects with strong nonlinearity, and smoothness/fluidity is sometimes associated with discontinuity (e.g. in catastrophe theory); so a synthesis is by no means out of the question.

One popular answer to the question of what makes bullshit bullshit is gratuitous jargon. What is the “theory of phase transitions”? Or “turbulent fluidity”? “Nonlinearity”? “Discontinuity”? The best defense, the bullshitter knows, is a good offense, and she flashes complex terminology in order to mask her own ignorance. But does this answer really grasp what’s essential to bullshit—or jargon, for that matter? If I flipped to a random page in a middle-school biology textbook I could read about “heterotrophism” or “anaerobic respiration” or “independent assortment”; in a math textbook I could find sections on “prime factorization” or the “multiplicative inverse.” Yet few call bullshit on math or biology, even though journal articles in these fields are often packed more densely with jargon than Sokal’s parody article.

Besides, we call bullshit even on texts with relatively simple wording. Take for example one passage from Heidegger’s essay “What Is Metaphysics?”:

Where shall we seek the nothing? Where will we find the nothing? In order to find something must we not already know in general that it is there? Indeed! At first and for the most part man can seek only when he has anticipated the being at hand of what he is looking for. Now the nothing is what we are seeking.

None of the terms in the passage would be unfamiliar to the average middle-schooler. Nevertheless, Heidegger’s contemporary Rudolf Carnap descended hungrily upon this passage in his critique of metaphysical writing, arguing that Heidegger’s terms were “meaningless,” his statements “pseudo-statements,” and his pretensions to philosophy better suited to a creative medium like poetry. But if the presence of jargon does not guarantee that something is bullshit and the absence of jargon does not preclude it, then jargon alone cannot explain what makes bullshit objectionable—or indeed what makes it bullshit.

Carnap, however, had a larger point to make. In denouncing Heidegger and other metaphysicians, he argues that there exist certain “words without meaning”—words that philosophers have been perplexing themselves over for millennia without realizing that they do not refer to anything at all: “the Absolute,” “the Infinite,” “non-being,” “essence,” and Heidegger’s “nothing.” Statements in which these words appear cannot be judged true or false, Carnap says, because they lack determinate referents and therefore do not claim anything at all. Might this be an adequate criterion for judging bullshit? It is “not just false,” as Sokal writes of his use of technical language in Fashionable Nonsense (his book-length follow-up to the Sokal hoax), “it is gibberish.” The trouble with the phrase “turbulent fluidity,” Sokal might say, isn’t that it means the wrong thing, but that he doesn’t know what he means by it. And if he doesn’t have to commit to a certain meaning, his work is above reproach: any attempt at criticism can be brushed off as the critic’s failure to grasp what he is really trying to say.

The problem with this approach to defining bullshit is that humanists often disagree about which words have determinate referents, and even about the acceptable threshold for terminological vagueness. To a Hegelian, for example, it is indeed possible to have serious discussions about “the Absolute”—the term refers to a specific concept within Hegel’s philosophy, and one can distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate uses of it. But Hegel, while a cornerstone of philosophy departments in continental Europe, is systematically passed over in Anglophone ones (my undergraduate institution offers one class on Hegel every two years in the religion department). To a philosopher working in the latter tradition, a discourse on “the Absolute” is utterly meaningless, and Hegel and his exegetes complicit in an industry of what Sokal denounces as “superficial erudition.”

The notion of erudition unmerited—erudition that is no more than superficial—is what lies at the heart of bullshit. This is what makes the problem of bullshit a psychological and sociological question as well as a linguistic and philosophical one. Only great work, we believe, deserves our consideration and praise, and great work in any field presupposes great skill and great effort. Accusations of bullshit, therefore, call into question the existence of a hierarchy of expertise: is there any difference, in the humanities, between being an amateur and being an expert?

What does it mean to study the humanities? If you, like me, were educated in the American public-school system, you were probably treated early on to a version of the claim that “the wonderful thing about literature is that there can be many right answers!” If you had art or music or drama classes, you were graded based on participation. Perhaps later, in middle school, you came across a more sophisticated formulation of the difference between the sciences and the humanities, something like, “The sciences study the world outside us and the humanities study the world within us.” But the human condition can’t be quantified. What metric can tell us if Raphael or Michelangelo is the better painter? How do you calculate the effect of a poem?

Your high school English teacher asked you for your interpretation—or if the class was feeling collegiate, your “reading”—of a passage. In fact, your English class abounded with interpretations, and if you had a string of especially uninspired experiences you might have concluded that literature consisted of nothing more than extracting as many interpretations from a text as possible. (There’s a satirical internet meme that goes “‘The curtains were blue.’ What your teacher thinks: ‘The curtains represent his immense depression and his lack of will to carry on.’ What the author meant: ‘The curtains were fucking blue.’”) At the same time, you were writing essays and short responses, hundreds of them, from book reports to historical analyses. And you were realizing that “many right answers” might actually mean “no wrong answers.” Your teachers were now telling you that it didn’t matter what your thesis was as long as you defended it well. You learned how to find reputable sources, to organize your argument persuasively, to cite and then refute opposing viewpoints. At some point in your writerly development you grew conscious of your ability to argue persuasively as a form of knowledge in itself. After all, until very recently the SAT writing section featured an essay prompt with which it was equally possible to agree and disagree. The side you chose, multiple practice books assured you, made absolutely no difference; the College Board simply wanted to test you on how well you could justify your position with critical reasoning.

One might find a more regimented vision of humanistic study at the university level, but there a different foe rears its head: if the purpose of a university education is to prepare young people for their careers (the argument from practicality), then the university should teach employable skills. Understandably, a number of humanistic commentators have worked to turn this argument back upon itself. The value of a humanistic education—or liberal-arts education in general—is precisely that it isn’t directly practical, they contend. Rather what the humanities cultivate is “critical reasoning,” that mystical and omnipotent faculty that gives rise to all our applied abilities. In our globalized economy, the comparative-literature major who understands the cultural and historical forces driving a particular foreign market as well as the classics major who writes clearly and convincingly thanks to her training in textual analysis have immense advantages over their business- and science-major peers. Anyone, anytime can learn how to make a spreadsheet or use a pipette; it is in unquantifiable skills that we need special instruction. In an elegant twist, the humanities actually turn out indirectly to be the most practical choice because the knowledge they impart is lifelong and universal.

But if this defense is meant to save the humanities from their critics, its means are quietly subverting its ends. What we suggest when we invoke it is that the humanities have a form but no content, that their value lies not in what they can teach us about art or religion or philosophy itself but in how a distilled understanding thereof will enable us to achieve our immediate goals. An education in the humanities, in short, is an education in rhetoric. But an all-purpose rhetoric, one that allows its practitioners to sweep aside knowledge of particulars with their superior ability to debate, persuade and negotiate their way to what they want. It is the singular talent for which the Ancient Greek sophists, who Socrates says knew how to “make the stronger argument the weaker and the weaker argument the stronger,” were notorious. When we promise students that the humanities lay the foundation for any and all career paths and will make them far more successful than their vocationally oriented peers, we promise that we will teach them how to bullshit well.

This conclusion is rarely discussed on a systematic level, although humanists have proposed individual responses to it. Some, for starters, play the “no true humanist” card: there may be bullshit in some humanistic disciplines or by some humanists, but real work in the humanities is just as rigorous and legitimate as work in the sciences. Classicist and philosopher Martha Nussbaum, for example, has accused literary scholar Stanley Fish of radical relativism and gender theorist Judith Butler of deliberate obfuscation; philosopher John Searle has combed through Jacques Derrida’s work to reveal that, for all its ambition and difficulty, it is ultimately “unintelligible.” If Fish and Butler and Derrida have somehow failed in their charge as humanists, then the humanities as a whole don’t have to be responsible for justifying their work.

Meanwhile, others deny the humanities’ need for “objectivity” altogether: So what if there are multiple ways to write a history or if no one can tell you what a line of Cavafy means? The humanities are qualitatively different from the sciences, and as such they call for different methods; it would be unsound to condemn humanistic work just because it doesn’t conform to the scientific model that has come to dominate our assumptions about the production of knowledge. This is an attractive claim, and to a certain degree I am sympathetic to it. But it does less to settle the underlying question than to raise it in a different form: if the humanities do not conform to scientific standards, what standards do they conform to?

Perhaps the question of standards, then, is the first question a comprehensive defense of the humanities must address. Is it true that there is no hierarchy of expertise in the humanities at all? I often think back to the first time I opened a calculus textbook and compare it to the first time I opened Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. I understood neither, but I was inclined to believe that with enough time and effort I would eventually grasp calculus, whereas with Hegel I was far more pessimistic. But why? A student who wants to learn calculus will attend class, read the textbook, do the practice problems and approach her teacher with any struggles she might have. A student who wants to learn about Hegel, or any other “obscure” author, is advised to take a similar path. And many students do eventually understand Hegel—or at least understand him better than they did at first—provided they put in the time and effort. Of course, since there is little consensus on what counts as bullshit, drawing the line between bullshit and work that is genuinely difficult is, at least for now, an exercise left up to the individual humanist. The fact remains that humanistic work does admit of its own kind of difficulty, which most humanists know well—and describing the nature of this difficulty is where, it seems to me, the most productive defense of the humanities can start.

_ end of essay on bullshit_

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Ever wonder about Francis Fukuyama bullshit, Sha? Unlike you, has he even got a mother he bullshits about? A Freudian Francis nothingness.

***

When Anglophiles and Malaiyoos label the Chinese as a ‘pragmatic’ people, they mean to say, we are realists, with feet firmly planted on the ground, no holy this and holy that. But, if we are pragmatic, what does it make of them?

My guess is this: Snaky. Snakes have no legs. Small wonder Anglophiles and Malaiyoos like giving forked-tongue speeches. And break contracts! Manifestos, too. In a word, unreliable.

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Liberal Totalitarianism

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The Totalitarian as Liberal Gentleman…

A meeting to betray an entire continent and killed 25 million.

https://i1.wp.com/cdn1.spiegel.de/images/image-9624-860_poster_16x9-grbd-9624.jpg

Two forms of totalitarianism: One as fine liberal British gentleman (left), the other a fine, upright Aryan national socialist. And both are white.

Sweet words.

The tyrant as liberal, Chamberlain: “Go home, get some sleep, I have brought you peace with honor….”

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On Liberalism:

  • matrasad
    (Troll from Cambridge, UK, smack in between Cambridge University’s Christ’s College and Emmanuel College, red dot above.
    mat.rasad10@gmail.com
    IP address 46.17.166.113)

    Nonetheless, liberalism is the one of the few only systems where it is even possible for dissenting views to be published. Your views, and those of the many intellectuals quoted in that article, are usually not tolerated under most other forms of society. Furthermore, what the article calls “Anglo-American liberalism” is really a peculiar form of liberalism that evolved in 20th century America. It’s quite distinct from the classical liberalism of the British 19th century.

    It also posits no real alternative.

    ***

  • rihaku

    matrasad, you should re-read the article on these two counts (a) you conflate liberalism as a political form of ordering society, including governance, and as ideological worldview, and (b) you read it with the western mythological baggage, internalize into your worldview, that liberalism being liberalism is, therefore, the most ‘liberal’, the most free, hence tolerant of ‘dissent’.

    There are other related issues inferred in your comments, standard in liberal claptrap, which if stripped to the bare bones don’t stand up to scrutiny, and this shows up prominently today in the west: liberalism as ideology shares totalitarianism’s intellectual roots. That was the thrust of Rosenblatt’s essay.

    You also say, dissenting views are “not tolerated under most other forms of society”. Which society? Western societies only? The world? Since when? How do you know? And what’s so good about dissent? Or what’s the use of the dissent that should be tolerated? Especially your kind of dissenting stupidity? You, as liberal, can’t tolerate this dissent, which is why you are commenting, isn’t it? Are we not entitled to freedom from dissenting bigotry like yours? In Wonderland Alice, Muslims would tell you: “Off with the head!” If there’s dissent, it suggests that there’s something wrong with liberalism to begin with, No?

    You conclude, “It posits no real alternative.” How do you know?

    Get an education, boy. A real education. You’ve been brain-washed in liberal, classical Cambridge. Get your brains re-washed. That, or grow new roots. Or maybe ask your forebears, if you have one.

 

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On Culture:

  • matrasad

    Even most Chinese today have ancestors that weren’t Chinese, but possibly Austronesian or Tai-Kadai speakers. Cultural change and assimilation happens all the time. New roots are always grown. Fossilising culture as if it has never changed, and insulting individuals who decide to adopt different cultures, is insulting to your own forebears.

    ***

  • rihaku

    matrasad: “Even most Chinese today have ancestors that weren’t Chinese…”

    Chinese whose ancestors weren’t Chinese? So, what’s Chinese? So they are today western cultures that are not in the past western? What were they? African? White but not white? Western but not western? What is that? You sound very confused.

    matrasad: “…but possibly Austronesian or Tai-Kadai speakers”

    Possibly? You are not sure? And “speakers”? My forebears are speakers of “Austronesian speakers”! Tell me about it! Read it to me! I want to hear….

    matrasad: “Fossilising culture…”

    Which culture has been “fossilized”? If I dig deep enough, will I find it under your bed? Do you know what was Chinese culture like, say, 3,000 years ago compared to the present? Don’t know? Want a hint? But, what for since you are so cocksure, so brain fossilized?

    matrasad: “New roots are always grown.”

    Oh! really? Show me your ass where your tail once was.

    matrasad: “Cultural change and assimilation happens all the time.”

    How do you know? Why, you were born a hundred years ago? Two hundred? Two thousand? And who says culture don’t “change”? But why should people “change” cultures? And who says, and why must, people assimilate? Who should assimilate to who? Or, what to what?

    matrasad: “…individuals who decide to adopt different cultures”…

    Why adopt? What’s the big deal with the culture Anglophiles had adopted? But why bother to adopt since, as you say, culture would be different tomorrow from today, No? What are Anglophiles buying into? Given change, Anglo-Saxon culture might even revert to their original (or worse) godless, heathen barbarism, No?

    matrasad: “…insulting to your own forebears.”

    My forebears would be delighted to read those insults. That fucking piece of banana. Are you a banana? Or, a coconut? Or, since new roots grow all the time, as you say they would, are you a cross between a banana and a coconut? What would you call your newly rooted cultural specie? Bananut?

    matrasad, you are a fine product of a pathetic culture, intellectual culture included. And inferior to boot. Why don’t you assimilate? Move up, you know. Try Islamism. Join ISIS, there you could learn to slice throats and truly assimilate.

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Postscript note to self: Why do I even bother talking with this piece of motherfucking troll called mat.rasad….

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Image result for hitler chamberlain quotes

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While Liberals played God

Tyranny played with God

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The West sees in, and through to, the world, indeed experience it, with a set of filters which, if not ideological it is religious, if not the Bible it is the Torah or Quran or whatever name they give to their superstition. We Chinese have no such filters and could therefore better see the world and all nature, as is, clearer and unencumbered. That is the beginning true understanding and knowledge.

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Image result for Maszlee

Shoe Minister Maszlee Malik: He tried marrying liberalism and Islamism and ended up with black vs white shoes. What a motherfucking piece of moron.

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Preface: Caution

The West have rather peculiar ways of seeing themselves and the world around them. Political philosophy, the subject of Helena Rosenblatt’s article below, undertakes to examine those worldviews. That’s to say, those ideas, their ideas were generated in the mind, toyed with then experimented in government, in academia, in media, spreading onto the streets.

Malaysian Anglophiles go to Australia, the US, the UK, pick up those labels without truly knowing, understanding much less, what’s in the package. After which, they buy those packages in bulk after reading about the promotions in the utterly racist Asian Wall Street Journal.

One result today and a critical one, too, is Pakatan Harapan and you get motherfuckers like Rais Hussin and Phar Kim Beng and their Mahathiristic sycophants like Kadir Jasin and Hannah Yeoh. The same results come, too, with Malaiyoos going to some stupid Al-Azhar University in Cairo or when they go camping in Mecca, throwing desert rocks on the side. They return completely fucked up and the even more fucked-up ones join ISIS. (And so, too, you get the shoe minister named Maszlee Malik.)

Asia, in spite of its long histories and sophisticated cultures, have no counter-balance to the above, Chinese political philosophy excepting.

But, here is a problem: While the West are interested in export, the way Jesus Christ and the Quran are also exported, we Chinese prefer to live lives only to ourselves. Our framework and our ideologies are no framework and no ideologies. Call it naturalist or what you will. We take whatever works, and this means relying on and applying ourselves. Such a Daoist conception has stood China well for 5000 years — and into modernity, too — whereas Western ideas (political ones in particular) go through eras of cleansing with murderous periods, all very unstable, reflecting their artificiality, that is, something made up.

The instability is reflected, in turn, in what you see today, in the frivolous, the wish-washy, foot-shuffling character of politics in Malaysia: yesterday Pakatan Harapan was this, today it is that, tomorrow would be another story. In another phrasing, they don’t even know what it’s they are saying or doing. Also, in a word, hypocritical.

All of which demonstrates a truism: those Anglophile motherfuckers are stupid to the degree, to the extent that trusting them, from Mahathir to cunt holes like Yeo Bee Yin, becomes suicidal. Here’s what to do, the rule of thumb, whatever it is they say, go the opposite direction. If you must ask them for road directions then do this, they say right, you turn left. That way, there’s no way you can go wrong.

Rosenblatt’s article serves as a warning: things are not what they seem or you think they seem. And she is right. (So thank you.) Article originally from LitHub. She is professor of history in NY City. Titles are mine.

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Totalitarianism and Liberalism: Shared Values

https://s26162.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/9780691170701-194x300.png

Image result for Helena Rosenblatt

Liberalism and Tyranny:

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Cut from the Same Cloth

by Helena Rosenblatt

That liberalism owes something to totalitarianism would strike most people today as counter-intuitive, if not preposterous. How could a political belief system so dedicated to the protection of individual rights be indebted to its very opposite? Yet it is largely due to the threat of totalitarianism that we even speak of an Anglo-American liberal tradition and that we emphasize individual rights to the degree that we do.

We tend to think of liberalism as having roots that lie deep in English history. Some locate its origins as far back as the Magna Carta of 1215; others point to the ideas of John Locke in the 17th century. From there, liberalism is said to have slowly gained traction until it was brought to America, where the Founding Fathers enshrined its principles in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

It’s a nice story, but the truth is quite different. The word “liberalism” did not even exist until the early 19th century, when it was invented to encapsulate the principles of the French Revolution. Toward the end of the 19th century, liberalism was then reconfigured with the aid of German ideas. “Liberalism,” as a word and concept, only came to America in the 1910s.

In its earliest iterations, “liberalism” referred mainly to the rule of law, civil equality, constitutional and representative government as well as a number of rights, among which freedom of the press and freedom of religion were the most important. Over the course of the 19th century, and in response to the great dislocations and hardships brought about by industrialization, liberals became more concerned with economic questions. They grew receptive to the ideas of a group of German political economists who advocated government intervention on behalf of the poor. Some liberals began to express sympathy for socialist ideas and even began calling themselves “liberal socialists.” In 1909, the future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, championed what he referred to as a “socialistic” form of liberalism dedicated to improving the lives of the “left-out millions.”

It was around this time that the word entered the American political lexicon and it was to this “socialistic” brand of liberalism that it referred. According to the notable political commentator, Walter Lippmann, the word came into common usage thanks to a group of reformers who were Republican Progressives in 1912 and Wilsonian Democrats from around 1916. It was then disseminated by the flagship progressive magazine The New Republic. Herbert Croly, the magazine’s co-founder and editor, began calling his ideas “liberal” around 1914, and by mid-1916 the term was often used in the magazine. It is notable that President Woodrow Wilson called himself a “progressive” in 1916 and a “liberal” in 1917.

With the rise of extremist ideologies in Europe, and the fear that they inspired, liberalism’s association with socialism became increasingly seen as a liability, if not a danger. Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, first published in 1944, profited from and amplified this growing fear. A virulent critic of FDR-style liberalism and the New Deal, Hayek warned his readers that embarking on “collectivist experiments” would put countries on the slippery slope to fascism. The “social liberalism” toward which Britain and America were heading would invariably lead to “totalitarianism.”

American critics of the New Deal seized on this idea and further disseminated it. Robert Taft, Republican senator from Ohio, accused American liberalism of displaying “Russian overtones.” Liberals who subscribed to FDR’s conception of liberalism were not really liberal, he said, they were “totalitarian.”

In the increasingly anxious and pessimistic Cold War climate, a number of prominent Catholic thinkers helped the idea gain ground. Among the most important were Waldemar Gurian, a Russian-born German-American political scientist, and Jacques Maritain, a  French Catholic philosopher. Protestant thinkers also joined the fray. Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the most influential American intellectuals of his generation, played a critical role. Gurian, Maritain, and Niebuhr all spread the notion that liberalism was responsible for the crisis in which the West found itself. They argued that liberal societies had a paradoxical tendency to become illiberal. “Antiliberalism,” wrote Gurian, was nothing but the “completion of liberalism.” The “totalitarian state” represented not a rejection of liberalism, but “its last and most radical consequence.”

In articles carrying titles like “The Pathos of Liberalism” and “The Blindness of Liberalism,” Niebuhr weighed in on the dangers lurking within. Totalitarianism was the logical outcome of human arrogance, he said, a danger that threatened any place where original sin was denied and Christian principles rejected. He cautioned Americans about their liberal culture’s failure to understand the depth of evil to which they could sink when they tried “to play the role of God in history.” Given what had occurred in Germany, Niebuhr recommended that American liberals temper their plans for social reform and view all collectivist answers to social problems with trepidation. Almost every experiment in social engineering contained “some peril of compounding economic and political power.” Hence, “a wise community will walk warily and test the effect of each new adventure before further adventures.”

American critics of the New Deal seized on this idea and further disseminated it. Robert Taft, Republican senator from Ohio, accused American liberalism of displaying “Russian overtones.” Liberals who subscribed to FDR’s conception of liberalism were not really liberal, he said, they were “totalitarian.”

In the increasingly anxious and pessimistic Cold War climate, a number of prominent Catholic thinkers helped the idea gain ground. Among the most important were Waldemar Gurian, a Russian-born German-American political scientist, and Jacques Maritain, a  French Catholic philosopher. Protestant thinkers also joined the fray. Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the most influential American intellectuals of his generation, played a critical role. Gurian, Maritain, and Niebuhr all spread the notion that liberalism was responsible for the crisis in which the West found itself. They argued that liberal societies had a paradoxical tendency to become illiberal. “Antiliberalism,” wrote Gurian, was nothing but the “completion of liberalism.” The “totalitarian state” represented not a rejection of liberalism, but “its last and most radical consequence.”

In articles carrying titles like “The Pathos of Liberalism” and “The Blindness of Liberalism,” Niebuhr weighed in on the dangers lurking within. Totalitarianism was the logical outcome of human arrogance, he said, a danger that threatened any place where original sin was denied and Christian principles rejected. He cautioned Americans about their liberal culture’s failure to understand the depth of evil to which they could sink when they tried “to play the role of God in history.” Given what had occurred in Germany, Niebuhr recommended that American liberals temper their plans for social reform and view all collectivist answers to social problems with trepidation. Almost every experiment in social engineering contained “some peril of compounding economic and political power.” Hence, “a wise community will walk warily and test the effect of each new adventure before further adventures.”

Catholic and Protestant arguments overlapped in significant ways. When you banished God from the world, these Christian theorists said, every foundation of morality was undermined. The loss of faith in God leads to a moral relativism that makes people vulnerable to demagogues and dictators. “Totalitarianism,” a phenomenon these theorists were among the first to analyze, was the result of the liberal disenchantment with the world. Knowingly or unknowingly, these Christian theorists repeated an old accusation: liberal secularism was to blame for the ills of Western civilization. By attacking religion, liberals had brought the catastrophe of Totalitarianism on themselves.

Niebuhr placed much blame on “liberal Protestantism,” that undogmatic religious movement whose roots stretched back to the early 18th century and became particularly influential in the early 20th. In an article titled “Let the Liberal Churches Stop Fooling Themselves!” Niebuhr chastised their optimism and idealism, claiming that they had helped cause the rise of totalitarianism. Liberal Protestantism projected a dangerously naïve and utopian idea of human goodness and educability. Men were not naturally good, Niebuhr insisted, but sinful, irrational, violent and selfish. Without recognizing that fact, no moral society was possible. Totalitarianism lurked around the corner.

By his Christmas Message in 1945, Pope Pius XII had also made his position clear. He repeated, in an updated form, the age-old and frequently reiterated Catholic condemnation of religious and political liberalism. Simply stated, liberals had banished God from the world and had thus given rise to totalitarianism. Liberalism’s destructive force, Pius declared, had brought only brutality, barbarity, and ruin.

Catholic propagandists spread this message. Jonathan Hallowell’s book, The Decline of Liberalism (1946), warned that the spiritual crisis out of which totalitarianism emerged was a crisis peculiar not to Germany, but to all of Western civilization. Liberalism, with its rejection of transcendent truth, was to blame. In The Rise and Decline of Liberalism (1953), Thomas Neill underlined the point. Since it destroyed all spiritual values, “the logic of liberalism” was that it led straight to totalitarianism. Some years later, in 1964, yet another anti-communist Catholic crusader, James Burnham, called liberalism the “ideology of Western suicide,” since it was infected with communism.

Influential émigrés to the United States from Nazi Germany concurred with this damning appraisal of liberalism. Hannah Arendt, the German Jewish political philosopher and friend of Gurian, who would later pen the now-famous Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), wrote that liberalism was the “spawn of hell.” For the German Catholic émigré Eric Voegelin, communism was only the radical expression of liberalism. By supplanting the “truth of the soul” and promoting the disenchantment of the world, liberalism was in large part responsible for the self-destructive politics of the West. Leo Strauss, another German Jewish émigré accused what he took to be liberal relativism of opening the door to nihilism and totalitarianism. Liberals and totalitarians, he thought, had much in common.

This purported association with totalitarianism had an enduring influence on liberalism. Thrown on the defensive, liberals clamored to distinguish themselves from socialists and communists. They emphasized their commitment to the protection of “individual rights” like never before. They toned down their plans for government-led social reconstruction. And they invented an “Anglo-American liberal tradition” that stressed property rights to an unprecedented degree. John Locke, virtually ignored by liberals before, became a founding father of the liberal tradition.

https://i1.sndcdn.com/artworks-000413383362-rhdpu8-t500x500.jpgHelena Rosenblatt is professor of history at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her many books include Liberal Values: Benjamin Constant and the Politics of Religion and Thinking with Rousseau: From Machiavelli to Schmitt. She lives in New York City.

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Two-in-One Lim Kit Siang, Fascist and Liberal

Image result for lim kit siang malaysian first

Other than shoe minister Maszlee, another clear example into the marriage of totalitarianism and liberalism is Lim Kit Siang’s ‘Malaysian First’, a xenophobic, fascistic idea with supposedly liberal intentions. LKS’s Anglophile credentials are eminently suited to the contradiction and hypocrisy for an asshole who, having grown up in a Johore pigsty, sees nothing wrong with it, the same way he sees nothing wrong with screwing around with a tyrannical motherfucker named Mahathir Mohamad.

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In case you’ve been wondering

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQX1KNinpdTw_9s7OBEz0AqSwShpq0Gt13I4PlEXU0gtdfrXgmO

…how the world’s supposedly greatest Democracy (so sought after by none other than the Lady of the Valley) can be run by the world’s greatest Racist, god-fearing Christian to boot. Now you know….

And that is the world’s greatest Democracy pined after not just by Annie and her ‘captain’ Ahi Attan but it’s also from where their sworn political enemies Hannah Yeoh’s churches import their priests and Sunday school books.

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Mahathir Hypocrisy Then and Now

The way Mahathir Mohamad pummels Najib Razak and his entire family today reminds of the former’s treatment of Anwar Ibrahim exactly 20 years ago, 1998. Even the morality in his arguments are identical.

Here is the sort of Mahathir/Anglophile morality-made-into-law 20 years on: “The woman was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and six lashes after she admitted to the charge of offering sexual services to a man.

Here’s what wrong with the morality because, rewritten, the law becomes: “The man was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and six lashes after he admitted to the charge of accepting sexual services from a woman.

In China, we go after the man. That way, half of Mahathir’s Cabinet would be in jail and Malaysia saved — from Anglophiles, bananas and coconuts.

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往事 wǎngshì

An Affair Once Upon a Time

那戴着蝴蝶花的小女孩
小河流 我愿待在你身旁
听你唱 永恒的歌声
让我在回忆中寻找往日

Little girl with pansies on your hair
Like a little river I shall be at your side
listening to you sing eternal songs
that I may find memories in my memory.

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Chinese art and political culture. Bottom of post.

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Malaysia Illogic

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The essay further below by Eugenia Cheng dwells primarily on this question, What is Logic. Take her explanation and apply it in Malaysiakini and you’d find it produce different answers each day. Does two and two make four? The result may be arithmetically true but it doesn’t have to be in another set of conditions or, we sometimes say, real world circumstances. Why that is so is explained by Cheng. A hundred out of one hundred of its articles make no sense if you were just to scratch the surface. Malaysiakini’s Steven Gan may call this day-in, day-out garbage production ‘news and views’, but what you read is typically wrong, false, fallacious, presumptuous, illogical but mostly it is all the above.

Take her argument further, you’d find that Cheng is enunciating a building block of the thing that epistemology (philosophy) students call ‘knowledge’. This is a commonly used word. But it points to a problem of understanding the world around us and which draws, in its turn, on the intuitive premise: All that you know doesn’t belong to you (as Proust puts it). This has profound ramifications. Take a word, a line, a passage or take any subject, view point, then regress it. Keep pushing far back enough, you can see why endless online contents, typically comments by Annie Assholes and in Malaysiakini is just nothing but fluff, gas given the appearance of solidity because it’s written, in pixels.

In the headline below, Malaysiakini demonstrates the point cited above; we are dealing with people who have very low intelligence and low intellectual capability (hence all the yada, yada). The headline draws from Joseph Lim Guan Eng, the evangelical Christian camouflaged as a secular politician. But contrast it against earlier official stance about ECRL, against countless ‘news’ reports, against the racist gang of Wall Street Journal reporters and especially against Jomo Sundram labeling the project a ‘hoax’.

The trouble is this: because they have the power, their stupidity have real world consequences.

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What’s wrong with the statement above? A zillion things. But figure it out yourself.

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https://s26162.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Screen-Shot-2018-09-25-at-10.26.49-AM-100x100.png Author of two books ‘How to Bake Pi’ and ‘Beyond Infinity’, Eugenia Cheng is the scientist in residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This essay originally appeared in LitHub on Sep 27. The title is mine. Almost 3,000 words long, it is not for Malaysiakini and Annie Assholes type readers. (They can’t handle it, not even when written in plain English. They will be better off going to RPK’s MT where copies written by morons will serve morons well.) But, it would be worth your while if you are a serious student in the sciences, literature and especially philosophy. Read it closely. As is characteristic of good arguments, opening paragraphs tend to be bad. Terrible in fact. Get past that, the rest is solid logic.

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When 2+2 Doesn’t Make 4

 

The internet is a rich and endless source of flawed arguments. There has been an alarming gradual increase in non-experts dismissing expert consensus as elite conspiracy, as with climate science and vaccinations. Just because a lot of people agree about something doesn’t mean there is a conspiracy. Many people agree that Roger Federer won Wimbledon in 2017. In fact, probably everyone who is aware of it agrees. This doesn’t mean it’s a conspiracy: it means there are very clear rules for how to win Wimbledon, and many, many people could all watch him do it and verify that he did in fact win, according to the rules.

The trouble with science and mathematics in this regard is that the rules are harder to understand, so it is more difficult for non-experts to verify that the rules have been followed. But this lack of understanding goes back to a much more basic level: different uses of the word “theory”. In some uses, a “theory” is just a proposed explanation for something. In science, a “theory” is an explanation that is rigorously tested according to a clear framework, and deemed to be statistically highly likely to be correct. (More accurately, it is deemed statistically unlikely that the outcome would occur without the explanation being correct.)

In mathematics, though, a “theory” is a set of results that has been proved to be true according to logic. There is no probability involved, no evidence required, and no doubt. The doubt and questions come in when we ask how this theory models the world around us, but the results that are true inside this theory must logically be true, and mathematicians can all agree on it. If they doubt it, they have to find an error in the proof; it is not acceptable just to shout about it.

It is a noticeable feature of mathematics that mathematicians are surprisingly good at agreeing about what is and isn’t true. We have open questions, where we don’t know the answer yet, but mathematics from 2,000 years ago is still considered true and indeed is still taught. This is different from science, which is continually being refined and updated. I’m not sure that much science from 2,000 years ago is still taught, except in a history of science class. The basic reason is that the framework for showing that something is true in mathematics is logical proof, and the framework is clear enough for mathematicians to agree on it. It doesn’t mean a conspiracy is afoot.

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“Some of the disagreement around arguments in real life is unavoidable, as it stems from genuine uncertainty about the world. But some of the disagreement is avoidable, and we can avoid it by using logic.”

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Mathematics is, of course, not life, and logical proofs don’t quite work in real life. This is because real life has much more nuance and uncertainty than the mathematical world. The mathematical world has been set up specifically to eliminate that uncertainty, but we can’t just ignore that aspect of real life. Or rather, it’s there whether we ignore it or not.

Thus arguments to back something up in real life aren’t as clean as mathematical proofs, and that is one obvious source of disagreements. However, logical arguments should have a lot in common with proofs, even if they’re not quite as clear cut. Some of the disagreement around arguments in real life is unavoidable, as it stems from genuine uncertainty about the world. But some of the disagreement is avoidable, and we can avoid it by using logic. That is the part we are going to focus on.

Mathematical proofs are usually much longer and more complex than typical arguments in normal life. One of the problems with arguments in normal life is that they often happen rather quickly and there is no time to build up a complex argument. Even if there were time, attention spans have become notoriously short. If you don’t get to the point in one momentous revelation, it is likely that many people won’t follow.

By contrast a single proof in math might take 10 pages to write out, and a year to construct. In fact, the one I’m working on now has been 11 years in the planning, and has surpassed 200 pages in my notes. As a mathematician I am very well practiced at planning long and complex proofs.

A 200-page argument is almost certainly too long for arguments in daily life (although it’s probably not that unusual for legal rulings). However, 280 characters is rather too short. Solving problems in daily life is not simple, and we shouldn’t expect to be able to do so in arguments of one or two sentences, or by straightforward use of intuition. I will argue that the ability to build up, communicate and follow complex logical arguments is an important skill of an intelligently rational human. Doing mathematical proofs is like when athletes train at very high altitude, so that when they come back to normal air pressure things feel much easier. But instead of training our bodies physically, we are training our minds logically, and that happens in the abstract world.

Most real objects do not behave according to logic. I don’t. You don’t. My computer certainly doesn’t. If you give a child a cookie and another cookie, how many cookies will they have? Possibly none, as they will have eaten them.

This is why in mathematics we forget some details about the situation in order to get into a place where logic does work perfectly. So instead of thinking about one cookie and another cookie, we think about one plus one, forgetting the “cookie” aspect. The result of one plus one is then applicable to cookies, as long as we are careful about the ways in which cookies do and don’t behave according to logic.

Logic is a process of constructing arguments by careful deduction. We can try to do this in normal life with varying results, because things in normal life are logical to different extents. I would argue that nothing in normal life is truly entirely logical. Later we will explore how things fail to be logical: because of emotions, or because there is too much data for us to process, or because too much data is missing, or because there is an element of randomness.

So in order to study anything logically we have to forget the pesky details that prevent things from behaving logically. In the case of the child and the cookies, if they are allowed to eat the cookies, then the situation will not behave entirely logically. So we impose the condition that they are not allowed to eat the cookies, in which case those objects might as well not be cookies, but anything inedible as long as it is separated into discrete chunks. These are just “things”, with no distinguishable characteristics. This is what the number 1 is: it is the idea of a clearly distinguishable “thing”.

This move has taken us from the real world of objects to the abstract world of ideas. What does this gain us?

The advantage of making the move into the abstract world is that we are now in a place where everything behaves logically. If I add one and one under exactly the same conditions in the abstract world repeatedly, I will always get 2. (I can change the conditions and get the answer as something else instead, but then I’ll always get the same answer with those new conditions too.)

They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something different to happen. I say that logic (or at least part of it) is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same thing to happen. Where my computer is concerned, it is this that causes me some insanity. I do the same thing every day and then periodically my computer refuses to connect to the wifi. My computer is not logical.

A powerful aspect of abstraction is that many different situations become the same when you forget some details. I could consider one apple and another apple, or one bear and another bear, or one opera singer and another opera singer, and all of those situations would become “1 þ 1” in the abstract world. Once we discover that different things are somehow the same, we can study them at the same time, which is much more efficient. That is, we can study the parts they have in common, and then look at the ways in which they’re different separately.

We get to find many relationships between different situations, possibly unexpectedly. For example, I have found a relationship between a Bach prelude for the piano and the way we might braid our hair. Finding relationships between different situations helps us understand them from different points of view, but it is also fundamentally a unifying act. We can emphasize differences, or we can emphasize similarities. I am drawn to finding similarities between things, both in mathematics and in life. Mathematics is a framework for finding similarities between different parts of science, and my research field, category theory, is a framework for finding similarities between different parts of math.

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“They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something different to happen. I say that logic (or at least part of it) is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same thing to happen.”

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When we look for similarities between things we often have to discard more and more layers of outer details, until we get to the deep structures that are holding things together. This is just like the fact that we humans don’t look extremely alike on the surface, but if we strip ourselves all the way down to our skeletons we are all pretty much the same. Shedding outer layers, or boiling an argument down to its essence, can help us understand what we think and in particular can help us understand why we disagree with other people.

A particularly helpful feature of the abstract world is that everything exists as soon as you think of it. If you have an idea and you want to play with it, you can play with it immediately. You don’t have to go and buy it (or beg your parents to buy it for you, or beg your grant-awarding agency to give you the money to buy it). I wish my dinner would exist as soon as I think of it. But my dinner isn’t abstract, so it doesn’t. More seriously, this means that we can do thought experiments with our ideas about the world, following the logical implications through to see what will happen, without having to do real and possibly impractical experiments to get those ideas.

Getting to the abstract, logical world is the first step towards thinking logically. Granted, in normal life we might not need to go there quite so explicitly in order to think logically about the world around us, but the process is still there when we are trying to find the logic in a situation.

A new system was recently introduced on the London Underground, where green markings were painted onto the platforms indicating where the doors would open. Passengers waiting for the train were instructed to stand outside the green areas, so that those disembarking the arriving train would have space to do so, instead of being faced with a wall of people trying to get on. The aim was to try and improve the flow of people and reduce the terrible congestion, especially during the rush hour.

This sounds like a good idea to me, but it was met with outcry from some regular commuters. Apparently some people were upset that these markings spoilt the “competitive edge” they had gained through years of commuting and studying train doors to learn where they would open. They were upset that random tourists who had never been to London before would now have just as much chance of boarding the train first.

This complaint was met with ridicule in return, but I thought it gave an interesting insight into one of the thorny aspects of affirmative action: if we give particular help to some previously disadvantaged people, then some of the people who don’t get this help are likely to feel hard done by. They think it’s unfair that only those other people get help. Like the absurdly outraged commuters, they might well feel miffed that they are losing their “competitive edge” that they feel they have earned, and they think that everyone else should have to earn it as well.

This is not an explicitly mathematical example but this way of making analogies is the essence of mathematical thinking, where we focus on important features of a situation to clarify it, and to make connections with other situations. In fact, mathematics as a whole can be thought of as the theory of analogies. Finding analogies involves stripping away some details that we deem irrelevant for present considerations, and finding the ideas that are at the very heart making it tick. This is a process of abstraction, and is how we get to the abstract world where we can more easily and effectively apply logic and examine the logic in a situation.

To perform this abstraction well, we need to separate out the things that are inherent from the things that are coincidental. Logical explanations come from the deep and unchanging meanings of things, rather than from sequences of events or personal decisions and tastes. The inherentness means that we should not have to rely on context to understand something.

We will see that our normal use of language depends on context all the time, as the same words can mean different things in different contexts, just as “quite” can mean “very” or “not much.” In normal language people judge things not only by context but also relative to their own experiences; logical explanations need to be independent of personal experiences.

Understanding what is inherent in a situation involves understanding why things are happening, in a very fundamental sense. It is very related to asking “why?”, repeatedly, like a small child, and not being satisfied with immediate and superficial answers. We have to be very clear what we are talking about in the first place. Logical arguments mostly come down to unpacking what things really mean, and in order to do that you have to understand what things mean very deeply. This can often seem like making an argument all about definitions. If you try having an argument about whether or not you exist, you’ll probably find that the argument will quickly degenerate into an argument about what it means to “exist.” I usually find that I might as well pick a definition that means I do exist, as that’s a more useful answer than saying “Nope, I don’t exist.”

I have already asserted the fact that nothing in the world actually behaves according to logic. So how can we use logic in the world around us? Mathematical arguments and justifications are unambiguous and robust, but we can’t use them to draw completely unambiguous conclusions about the world of humans. We can try to use logic to construct arguments about the real world, but no matter how unambiguously we build the argument, if we start with concepts that are ambiguous, there will be ambiguity in the result. We can use extremely secure building techniques, but if we use bricks made of polystyrene we’ll never get a very strong building.

However, understanding mathematical logic helps us understand ambiguity and disagreement. It helps us understand where the disagreement is coming from. It helps us understand whether it comes from different use of logic, or different building blocks. If two people are disagreeing about healthcare they might be disagreeing about whether or not everyone should have healthcare, or they might be disagreeing about the best way to provide everyone with healthcare. Those are two quite different types of disagreement.

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“Understanding mathematical logic helps us understand ambiguity and disagreement. It helps us understand where the disagreement is coming from.”

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If they are disagreeing about the latter, they could be using different criteria to evaluate the healthcare systems, for example cost to the government, cost to the individuals, coverage, or outcomes. Perhaps in one system average premiums have gone up but more people have access to insurance. Or it could be that they are using the same criteria but judging the systems differently against those same criteria: one way to evaluate cost to individuals is to look at premiums, but another way is to look at the amount they actually have to pay out of their own pockets for any treatment. And even focusing on premiums there are different ways to evaluate those: means, medians, or looking at the cost to the poorest portion of society.

If two people disagree about how to solve a problem, they might be disagreeing about what counts as a solution, or they might agree on what counts as a solution but disagree about how to reach it. I believe that understanding logic helps us understand how to clear up disagreements, by first helping us understand where the root of the disagreement is.

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Show you a little color

《给你一点颜色》

Pakatan’s Arab Motherland

The video recording reminds of growing up when, as a child, you are taken to see one of those (free) roadside Chinese theatre shows held to commemorate an important festival or major historical event. In Malaysia and Singapore, the folk art is gone thanks to, in combination, Anglophiles, Christianity and Ketuanan. It survives though in China (if not there, where else).

The opening segment in the clip shows the modernization of an ancient performing art. It’s a medley, with opening title translated ‘I’ll show you a little color!’ This phrase is an euphemism for…guess what? Exquisite. Neither Malaiyoos nor Anglophiles have this artistic culture; they are busy with the morality of some voodoo dead, white, desert bearded guy sometimes they call god, other times prophet.

When, imported into our world, Malays, Christians and Anglophiles shamelessly claim and sequester Arabian, Palestinian and Anglo histories as if these are theirs, as if they are the inheritors, like these places are motherland, they indoctrinate themselves to believe shamelessness to be a righteous thing. Hence, after Anglophiles, you have Islamization, Arabization and so on.

No wonder, the voodoo and the lying persist to this day so that the same morality delusion and irrationality turns up in Mahathir’s speeches, 20 years ago and today, in Anwar going to jail, in Yeo Bee Yin singing to the desert, in Pakatan Harapan, in their forked-tongue, hypocritical speeches and contradictory policies governing the country.

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安妮:

For a change from Korean drama consider the movie title in the clip below. In Chinese 琅琊榜 it reads langya bang. This is translated as ‘Nirvana in Fire‘ though I prefer the more accurate, abstract title which is, ‘The Langya List‘, Langya being the name of a place. Chinese viewers are very discerning. Yet upon its release in 2015, there were more than 5 million views in the first two days and, on the internet alone, more than 13 billion views since. Yes, 13 billion.

It wasn’t there before, but now you can find it on YouTube, the full series.

Why the popularity?

Though the story is dramatized (based on a novel), but the historical background is true; the settings, mannerisms, clothing, from the hairpin and makeup to the shoes, the food, court etiquette, war, weapons and steel technology, printing, everything are culturally accurate to the last detail, some 1,600 years ago, long before the English language was even invented. That is, the film producers didn’t make it all up. It is not for nothing we Chinese inherit the world’s longest, continuous civilization.

This renders your mother a part of that history, our history, our culture and that makes you an inheritor as well. Below is the theme song; top of the post is the musical guqin version played at home.

Long ago, we Chinese were labelled by the foreign barbarians as huaren, an accomplished people. In the film series, you can see why. Notice the architecture and interior design, the garments (including those of the soldiers), the etiquette and ritual similarities with the Koreans and the Japanese today. It was around 200 to 500 AD that they began to emulate the Chinese culturally.

The Japanese seppeku or commonly called hara-kiri and the Korean ritual suicide of failed officials were borrowed from that Chinese era; absolute loyalty being the underlying idea. You will also see that court rituals and edicts and announcements are highly poetic and stylized because, by then, an elaborate education system (known as the Han School) was already in place and that allowed for palace and government officials to be picked from the best students, the most highly literate not just in verse and prose but also in things like archery and swordsmanship.

Forget communism. China’s government and its officials are the inheritors of that culture in the film (also the poetry ‘When the heart meets‘ below) that now drives its modernization. So, we, too.

This is what the West, its media and its copycat Anglophile underlings don’t understand. But, better they don’t. You do. Only pay attention and you will see the same in your mother and in countless of her expressions. She was steadfast and wasn’t corrupted by Anglophilia.

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心相交 When the heart meets

以金相交,金耗则忘;
以利相交,利尽则散;
以势相交,势败则倾;
以权相交,权失则弃;
以情相交,情断则伤;
唯以心相交,方能成其久远。

The above lines, from an ancient poem, were told by Xi Jinping, China’s President, in a recent speech there. Former premier Wen Jiabao used to do it as well. No other world leader recites old poetry to their people as frequently as the Chinese. And Anglophiles say we China is an oppressive, dictatorial country. (In case you are thinking of Mahathir: He is not a world leader, much less a literate one.)

Why only the Chinese? In translation:

Where gold meets, gold is soon squandered,
Where interest meets, interest melts away,
Where expediency meets, expediency will break,
Where passion meets, passion will injure,
Where the heart meets, only then do we endure to the end.

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Cell Phone Gallery Secrets

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Remembering…

https://s26162.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/oct-5-960x430.png

YESTERDAY: In 1900, Bing Xin 冰心, birth name 谢婉莹, is born, Fuzhou, Fujian. One of the most prolific Chinese writers of the 20th Century, she wrote mostly for young readers and translated into Chinese works by, for example, Rabindranath Tagore. It seems she had traveled to the US and communicated with Virginia Woolf. In her later life, she was a member of China’s National Senate.

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