PHILOMADRID

PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Monday, February 28, 2011

From Lawrence, philosophy meetings

Dear friends,


Following the announcement yesterday evening that we cannot meet at
Molly Malone's any more, today I managed to speak to the manager of the
pub and he kindly explained the situation. I will give you the facts as
they were told to me:


- The management of the pub were not happy that many of us did not buy
drinks from the bar. However, this in its self was not the biggest issue
for not allowing to meet there any more.

- They were concerned that during busy periods on Sunday evenings many
of us were occupying stools when they did not buy anything and yet
customers upstairs left the pub because there were no stools for them to
sit.


- They said that many people only asked for a glass of water, and that
some also asked for crisps to go with the water.

- They resented the fact that after the meeting people did not stay at
the pub to buy drinks there. I pointed out that I was under the
impression that the bar next door was part of the pub management, but
apparently they are under different management and therefore not
financially connected.


- The most serious objection of all was, however, that after the meeting
many people went to other bars in the area.


I think that in the circumstances it is only fair that I should solicit
your opinion, feedback, suggestions and any other comments. I will
report back on Thursday which I will, of course, do in an anonymous
manner. So please you can be as honest as you care or wish to be.

Finally, I will send out this email again tomorrow just in case someone
does not receive it tonight.

Looking forward to your comments

Best

Lawrence

From Lawrence, philosophy meetings

From Lawrence, philosophy meetings

Dear friends,


Following the announcement yesterday evening that we cannot meet at
Molly Malone's any more, today I managed to speak to the manager of the
pub and he kindly explained the situation. I will give you the facts as
they were told to me:


- The management of the pub were not happy that many of us did not buy
drinks from the bar. However, this in its self was not the biggest issue
for not allowing to meet there any more.

- They were concerned that during busy periods on Sunday evenings many
of us were occupying stools when they did not buy anything and yet
customers upstairs left the pub because there were no stools for them to
sit.


- They said that many people only asked for a glass of water, and that
some also asked for crisps to go with the water.

- They resented the fact that after the meeting people did not stay at
the pub to buy drinks there. I pointed out that I was under the
impression that the bar next door was part of the pub management, but
apparently they are under different management and therefore not
financially connected.


- The most serious objection of all was, however, that after the meeting
many people went to other bars in the area.


I think that in the circumstances it is only fair that I should solicit
your opinion, feedback, suggestions and any other comments. I will
report back on Thursday which I will, of course, do in an anonymous
manner. So please you can be as honest as you care or wish to be.

Finally, I will send out this email again tomorrow just in case someone
does not receive it tonight.

Looking forward to your comments

Best

Lawrence

From Lawrence, philosophy meetings

Thursday, February 24, 2011

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The sociology of work today

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: The sociology of work today.
In the meantime, Peter is still looking for a flatmate:
Peter has asked me once again to remind you that he is looking for
someone to share his flat with in Mostoles close to public transport;
very good conditions. Central heating and central hot water. English
spoken at home if you wish. Single room still available. : tel 609257259
-------------------------
best
Lawrence
+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.30pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Tertulia in English with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30
to 21h, at Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).
http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/
*************************************

The sociology of work today

Before we can talk about work today we have to find the essence, so to
speak, of work structure itself. What we usually mean by work is course
earning a living.
We might be tempted to think that work is an activity we engage in to
earn money to support ourselves in our daily life to obtain and use
resources. Money to buy food, money to pay the rent or mortgage, money
for clothes and if there is any left, after taxes, to pay for our holidays.
We might also be tempted to think that work today is something we have a
right to and something that we engage in to further our selves and our
future.
The problem, however, is that the model of work we have today, the
essence so to speak, is that it does not allow for all these things.
Yes, of course, we get up in the morning and go to work, and even get
paid, sometimes we are even promoted.
We even have a whole body of ethics, theology, politics and maybe even
philosophy to justify the existence of this work model today. Indeed,
any revolutionary, and not so revolutionary, changes we have had of the
work model is to share in the wealth created by the enterprise. Indeed,
a share that reflects the wider economic structure of the country: in
other words, we need to get paid enough to be able to afford the basics
things for life. Many people do it and many people succeed. So where is
the problem?
The problem is that the model of work we have today is something that we
have inherited from the feudal system. My purpose was to get at the
essence of the work model today. And today, as in feudal times, that
essence is this: a balance between fear and peace of mind.
In the feudal times the fear was the violence of the feudal lord, maybe
in the form of heavy taxes, aggression towards individuals and so on.
Peace of mind was of course, being left alone as much as possible, from
the whims of the feudal lord. One thing was sure though, the scope of
the individual to better themselves and enjoy their wealth was limited
to the fancy of the feudal lord.
Of course, today we don't have feudal lords, and even the worst of
bosses do not use naked violence against employees, unless we happen to
live in a third world country and working in a sweat shop. Nor do we
need to be left alone in peace today, we have strong privacy laws to
protect us from prying people; at least when those who care about these
things pretend to be interested in the private citizen. Unless, of
course, you happen to work in a sweat shop or a factory city where one's
freedom on movement is limited to the four walls that surround us.
Today's modern worker is afraid from losing one's job, and the peace of
mind we need today is to consume worldly goods when we want and how much
we want in peace and tranquillity. I mean whenever there is a political
hiccup in a oil producing country the price of petroleum does not go up
to save some money for the wretched victims of violent dictators. But
rather because we are worried that we won't have enough petrol to drive
our gas guzzling four by fours to the shopping mall, and in these
situations cash is king!
Today someone who is in a job is kept in fear of losing that job maybe
by moving operations to a third world country; forget being replace by a
robot. Robots are today replacing slave labour in third world countries.
So this is real fear we are talking about!
And, therefore, anyone who is not earning an income today, is
theoretically, excluded from the social group that identifies itself as
being successful. Of course, the romantic nature that lives in all of us
would have us believe that everyone can turn from rags to riches in a
life time; maybe. However, if we want to keep our two feet on the ground
we mustn't mix up starting small to starting with nothing. And the test
is this: who pays the rent?
The feudal model basically was a one way channel of wealth creation to
wealth distribution. The serfs created the wealth, and got a small
portion of that wealth, and the rest being passed on to the feudal lord;
some of this wealth was of course passed on to the king or even more
powerful lords. Of course, we are more civilized today, we don't have
serfs anymore, at least not in our small corner of the world, we have
career seekers.
And all those revolutionaries and political observers who pointed out
that those who create the wealth do not get to enjoy it were absolutely
right. However, they were and still are fatally wrong in thinking that
all we have to do is redistribute this wealth that's been created a bit
more evenly. Indeed, most labour disputes, apart from safety at work,
that demand pay rises are victims of the flaws of the feudal model.
The issue ought not to be wealth distribution, but rather wealth
creation. Wealth distribution makes sense if we have wealth to begin
with, and we're not going to get that if our mind set is still six
hundred years in the past. And if there is anything in common between
the feudal work model and the modern work model is wealth distribution
since none of these models are about wealth creation.
Once again, we mustn't mix up wealth creation with profit making. But
today's work model has inherited even more anomalies from the feudal
system which today make very little sense.
One of these anomalies is the eight day week, from nine to five. This is
a schedule based on an agricultural work structure, but of course today
we have electric power that can light up the world 24/7 and it does. Of
course, with the eight hour day we have inherited the twelve month
financial year; another one of those things we inherited from the days
of agriculture. Consider how ridiculous this set up is today. It takes a
pharmaceutical company, at the very least, twelve to fifteen years to
developed an effective and safe drug. And yet each year a pharma company
has to do a marathon of gymnastics to square scientific investigation
with paying taxes and end of year bonuses every twelve months; never
mind the dividends to shareholders and taxes to the inland revenue.
But in a way the feudal system was as much a product of life at the time
as our system is a product of our enlightened times. First of all,
nature does turn on a twelve month cycle in northern Europe. So planning
for twelve month periods made sense. And probably more relevant, life
expectancy was not that long anyway, so planning for the short term had
a different meaning from what it means today. Taking quarterly stocks of
one's wealth made sense because wealth changed with the change of the
seasons.
The sociology of work today cannot even therefore begin to get off the
ground until we identify these anomalous parts in our work model that we
inherited from the feudal model. The work model today is like running a
V8 luxury sports car but using the wheels from a Ford T4 model.
But the bottom line –pardon the expression- real problem with the feudal
and, hence, the modern work model is that the feudal lord was only
concerned with how much money he and his people had. Life was short at
the time, literally, and the king was whimsical to make things worse.
Today, we ought to be concerned on how people make their money; or not
as the case may be. What our sociology of work should be is in how we
create work methods that create wealth for our life style and life span.
And how much money people have is nobody's business. That's as private
as the fluff between one's, well you know what I mean!!
Take care
Lawrence

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The sociology of
work today

Thursday, February 17, 2011

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Punishment + event today Friday

Dear Friends,
This Sunday we are discussing Punishment: is it natural or cultural?
I have tried to put a few ideas together, and apologise in advance for
the usual typos.
In the meantime Susanne has sent me details of the following evening
taking place today, Friday:
Hola, os mando una interesante propuesta para este viernes:
El viernes 18 a las 18:30
Cortometraje y diálogo filosófico
La cooperativa Centro Sofía nos ofrece esta interesantísma actividad en
el local:
"Esta vez os ofrecemos que os acerquéis a una ventana algo más pequeña
por donde mirar: el cine.
Tendremos la suerte de contar con el cortometraje del director David
Alejandro Gen; The Revolt of the Mouses
y a continuación dialogaremos filosóficamente sobre alguna de las
cuestiones que vosotros y vosotras elijáis
y que os haya sugerido este corto tan repleto de problemáticas filosóficas".
http://centrosofia.wordpress.com/
Lugar:
Asociación Danos Tiempo
C/ Mar del Japón nº 13 (Hortaleza)
http://www.danostiempo.blogspot.com/
Un saludo.
Susanne

------- Alfonso is organising an exhibition of his paintings: details
below and this link is for a pdf file of the exhibition catalogue
http://tinyurl.com/alfonso-exhit

Scala La Paloma
c/ Toledo 108
Madrid
Date: 15 – 25 February
Time: Monday – Friday 10:00 to 14:00 and 17:00 to 20:00

------ Finally, Peter is still looking for a flat mate:
Peter has asked me once again to remind you that he is looking for
someone to share his flat with in Mostoles close to public transport;
very good conditions. Central heating and central hot water. English
spoken at home if you wish. Single room still available. : tel 609257259
-------------------------

best
Lawrence
+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.30pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Tertulia in English with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30
to 21h, at Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).
http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/
*************************************

Punishment: it is natural or cultural
In biological animals (systems), who live in social groups, punishment
is a natural phenomenon. However, the type and form of punishment are
the product of culture.

That we, human beings, have also inherited this biological trait is in
no doubt. What is more curious about punishment in human beings is how
the type and form has changed and evolved over time.

Of course, when I say evolved we must keep in mind that evolution does
not happen to a timetable or schedule. Indeed, we do know that evolution
takes place over time, over very long periods of time. Thus, a human
punishment in one society, might not have evolved in another. Or, of
course, a punishment would have been selected out of a society.

A punishment, therefore, might be on its way out and in the process of
being replaced by a different one. My belief is that the more we
developed sophisticated rational and, maybe even, moral societies, the
more a punishment would reflect this new state of affairs. Thus, to use
vulgar language, the more barbaric a society the more barbaric would be
the set of punishments in that society; and vice versa. I would even,
for example say, that capital punishment is a reflection of an immoral
barbaric society. The question is whether abolishing capital punishment
would make society more dangerous. My inkling is that it does not.

An analysis of punishment must address the question of purpose: why do
we resort to punishment? Indeed, we can resort to punishment as a method
to influence and change the behaviour of others. Or, even more common,
to express disapproval.

Answering the question of purpose, we can say that punishment is
something we have inherited from a pure social-biological state, which
has long lost its Raison d'être in a society based on reason and
morality. Punishment, is something that works fine at the biological
dimension and since this is an important part of our existence, it is
something we cannot avoid doing, in the same way we cannot avoid
running, sleeping, breathing and so on. Also punishment might be seen as
another weapon, another tool, to dominate and oppress others.

I am in no doubt that punishment, as a means to change behaviour, is
very inefficient and ineffective. It is so inefficient that I doubt if
punishment was ever intended as a means to change behaviour. I mean
thieves still take other people's property even after this crime has
been punished by death, exile, long prison sentences, and in modern
times prison with probably behaviour counselling. Yet, there are still
thieves out there, at this very minute, taking the property of others.
And if you are not convinced children still misbehave today in the same
way their parents did when they were children.

On the other hand, as a means to change behaviour punishment is not
easily dismissed as I might have suggested. Even, Machiavelli mentions
the usefulness of punishment for the Prince. The difference is probably
a question of time; I mean it is a question of time before a punishment
becomes inefficient or counter productive.

It is therefore, also evident, that changing behaviour and expressing
disapproval are not the same thing. Changing behaviour, at least, has
the lofty objective of changing a person's behaviour maybe even for
their own good, if not the good of society.

But if punishment is to be employed as a means of disapproval, then this
raises some difficult issues. The very first of these issues is this
question: why should I care whether you disapprove or not? And if the
answer is because "I will punish you" then punishment can be reduced to
might is right.

The irony, about punishment is that it is very closely associated with
justice. Now, whatever our opinion about punishment might be, we can all
agree that punishment is something physical, something we manifest in a
physical form. And by this I include psychological type of punishments.

And the irony is this. Justice is something that is based on reason and
rationality; forget for the time being such fancy ideas as theology and
religious beliefs and keep to reality. Justice is something that we
expect in the future -we already know what the past is like- and any
rationale about the future must be based on reason and rationality, if
not morality.

Yet punishment is based, fair and square, on brute force and biological
instinct. And to cap it all, punishment by its very nature looks at the
past. However, what is the status of the idea that punishment is
backward looking, something that we do by looking at the past?

Well, we might easily argue that punishment is backward looking because
the act that gives rise to punishment must first take place. Maybe, but
is it the act that is being punishment or the fact that we know that the
act took place. Thus there can be no punishment until we know about the
act. Indeed this, we might also argue, it what happens: there is an act,
we find out abut it and then we administer the punishment.

Even laws , that are supposed to be the pinnacle of justice, follow this
model. First there must be a act (with or without intention), then the
judicial process and, if found guilty, the punishment is administered.

However, there are some laws to prevent us from doing some acts because
the act itself might be dangerous to others. To distinguish these two
laws, we might have laws based on the linguistic structure of "if you do
x, then y will happen to you" (theft or homicide). The second form of
laws follow the semantic form, "do not do x (because of g), but if you
do y will happen to you" (highway code type of laws, smoking laws).

We can easily see the justification for these type of rules and laws.
There might be a justifiable reason, but more importantly, the
punishment is given to the perpetrator only. Only those that are guilty
of theft go to prison, and only those who drive over 120 kph get fined.
In jurisprudence the principle is generally that a punishment is there
to take away a right of an individual; freedom, reputation, property and
so on.

But there is a type of punishment that is not only controversial in
philosophy but probably equally controversial in jurisprudence. This
punishment takes the form of taking away a right not because the act in
itself in illegal or even immoral, nor because it is an act we have
done, but simply because someone, we don't know who, might do the now
prohibited act, we don't know what or when.

You might have already guessed what I am referring to, for example,
taking a photo of a government building, buying digital recording media,
taking water on a plane or buying chewing gum. Taking photos in public
of a public place is one of those rights which is well established in
most democratic societies. But now, usually based in the excuse of
terrorism or personal privacy, this right is slowly being eroded on the
belief that some terrorist might take some photo of some building that
might be use in some act sometime in the future.

The frightening thing about all this is not that a terrorist might take
a photo that will be used to in a criminal act, but rather the belief
that taking away the right to take a photo in public from 45, 65, 300
million people it will stop a terrorist from taking said photo.
Thankfully the present British government is changing these policies and
laws hopefully by others that will enable 65 million people to exercise
their right and maybe at the same time help catch a terrorist or a criminal.

The same with digital storage media (tax for illegal copying), chewing
gum (clean roads), taking water on a plane (could be an inflammable
liquid used by terrorists). Consider taking water on a place, apart from
being an immoral act to waste water, it ought to be a crime as well,
testing for water can be very easily done; make the person drink some!

But the point about this third form of punishment , it seems to me, is
not so much the injustice of these laws, they are unjust, but that the
mindset of punishment (especially by authorities) prevents us, or at the
very least hinders us, from exploring rational and reasonable options to
an unsocial behaviour.

Earlier I said that the more rational we become the more sophisticated
punishment will also become. Of course, by sophisticated I do not mean
fairer or more just, but more complex or more far reaching, the digital
tax is a case in point. Indeed this complexity does away with the idea
of punishment and introduces the idea of justice and tax, two concepts
well within the sphere of justice.

This discrepancy between justice and punishment does not necessarily
arise, in my opinion, from the fact that some people are bad. But maybe
because unsocial behaviour is the product of injustice and punishment is
just a primitive instinct.

The question is not what shall we replace punishment with? Or how can we
stop punishment? The question we should be asking is this, if we want
justice shouldn't we checking is justice is actually being done? And we
don't achieve this by waiting for some unsocial behaviour to occur but
by introducing just systems in society.

The other question, we might care to ask, besides punishment being
natural or cultural, is whether punishment is futile or inevitable.
Futile maybe because punishment is counter productive, and inevitable
because we might still be primitive biological systems despite the
paraphernalia of rational agency.

Take care
Lawrence
from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Punishment + event
today Friday

Thursday, February 10, 2011

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: do we need myths? + News

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: do we need myths?

We are all victims of myths, so most probably, we do not need them. Then
how do we come to have so many myths lurking in every corner of our
lives? In the short essay I try to consider this issue.

In the meantime Alfonso is organising an exhibition of his paintings:
details below and this link is for a pdf file of the exhibition
catalogue http://tinyurl.com/alfonso-exhit

Sala La Paloma
c/ Toledo 108
Madrid
Date: 15 – 25 February
Time: Monday – Friday 10:00 to 14:00 and 17:00 to 20:00

Finally, Peter is still looking for a flat mate:
Peter has asked me once again to remind you that he is looking for
someone to share his flat with in Mostoles close to public transport;
very good conditions. Central heating and central hot water. English
spoken at home if you wish. Single room still available. : tel 609257259
-------------------------

best
Lawrence
+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.30pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Tertulia in English with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30
to 21h, at Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).
http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/
*************************************

Do we need myths?

What stands us apart from other animals is the way we use our thinking
capacity. We use our brain, as most animals do, to plan things,
understand those around us and the environment, create strategies and of
course understand ourselves. But what distinguishes us from other
animals is the way we extrapolate what is useful for us.

For example, horses have developed powerful legs that can transport them
over long distances at a fast speed, we developed the automobile for the
same purpose. You must agree, we do things in style, maybe a bit
gimmicky, but certainly in style.

The point I wish to make is that not only can we understand the outside
world around us, but we can come up with some quite sophisticated ways
of interacting with those around us and also with what is around us. But
what underlies this success of human brains and any other animal brain
are two things: understanding and information.

We might, therefore, be inclined to assume that before we can solve a
problem we first need to understand the problem, and to understand the
problem we need all the information we can get about the issue at hand.
True as this might be, it is also a deceptive principle to accept at
face value. First, if we don't have perfect information we start
slipping away from understanding the problem correctly. Dentists are
very good at proving this point: we have a slight persistent pain in a
tooth, but it takes root canal treatment to fix the problem. This
problem in philosophy is the induction problem.

Secondly, our principle seems to imply that we are acting consciously
for both the understanding process and the information gathering
process. Today, however, we know better, the unconscious brain is no
less active and involved in the process as the conscious self. Maybe
even more so. Thus what we, in our conscious self capacity, might think
is an issue, the unconscious brain understands the problem differently.
For example, today we also know that stress plays a key role in obesity
(13.5million hits in Google for the term, obesity and stress), and we
also know from experiments that mice experience high levels of stress
when lots of them are placed in a confined space. City dwellers don't
need mice to tell them that city life is stressful. However, the common
knowledge in the street is that obesity is caused by eating fatty or
sweet foods. Yes, unhealthy foods do cause obesity, but the issue is why
do we eat such harmful foods, and why do we it so much of it any way?

Thus consciously we think we are getting obese because we are eating
fatty foods, but the reality is also that stress is also playing an
important role in shaping our waist line. Unfortunately, for modern
society we can understand the issue much better, and think we have a
more efficient solution, if we describe the problem of obesity in terms
of not eating certain foods, instead of keep away from stressful
situations. In the first case, we can just not buy the pack of doughnuts
we have in our hands, in the latter case, we just have to give up our
middle management job with Super Company Inc.

But what does all this have to do with myths? Let us take a working
definition of myths to be beliefs or a set of beliefs to be true, but in
reality are anything but true or useful. The problem with defining myths
is that we can define myths as the stories or tales we find in classical
literature, i.e. Mythology, or the common use of the word, a belief
(beliefs) held to be true but in reality are not necessarily true. For
philosophical purposes we are interested in the second meaning of myths:
the myths we find in Mythology are something different.

Of course, my definition of myth does not exclude looking at classical
mythology, but our issue is not whether myths can tell us anything, but
rather if we need myths why do we need them? Or to look at this in a
different way, what sort of creatures are myths that we cannot do without?

Let's look at some modern myths to have a feeling of what we are talking
about: if you work hard you will succeed and become wealthy (or words to
that effect), all men are rapists and all women are only interested in
money, and my favourite, a home is an investment. I am particularly
interested in the home investment myth because I was there when it
really blossomed and so many years later it is creating havoc with the
lives of people.

What all these myths have in common, like most myths, is that they are
very easy to understand; I might have never owned a house nor had
investments, but in our modern society these words are recognised by
every one in the same way that hamburger and chips are recognised by
everyone.

And I would argue that this is true for two reasons, first we use common
day language to describe these myths and secondly there are cases that
prove the myth: many people do work hard and make it big, some men are
rapists, some women do like money, and some houses are a good investment.

The difference between myths and scientific type beliefs is this. Once
we have enough instances of an event we create the myth these individual
data bits and convert them into a general linguistic form with a meaning
that holds true under all circumstances. In fact it is this
universalisability character of myths that makes them so powerful.
However, scientific or even philosophical, observations are always
subject to confirmation (or falsified).

The language structure of a myth leads to universal confirmation - a
house is an investment, - whilst scientific observations would use a
probabilistic language and not universal language - some houses are an
investment. What the first statement is telling you is that if you have
a house, you have an investment, but the second statement is telling you
absolutely nothing since you don't know what you have until you try and
sell the property.

An other feature of these modern myths is that they fit quite nicely
with the modern concept of the sound bite. What this means in real terms
is that we remember the concept of investment, and then the good side of
investment, and basically forget the other things involved in owning a
property. In our city dwelling life we are constantly receiving huge
amounts of information which needs to be processed immediately by our
brain. And process I really mean evaluate or interpret information. Thus
information that can be processed quickly has a certain natural bias in
its favour.

Take the traffic sign "Stop." This bit of information is much quicker to
process than the description "start driving your car slowly, when you
approach the end of the road your car should not have any forward
momentum left. Now from your ........and so on and so forth." As social
animals with a family stricture the concept of "home" and even "house"
is hard wired and the modern word investment is equally well know in our
society. Compare this with, risk management theory, Return on
Investments, net and gross yield from a fixed asset, inflation growth
rate, depression and appreciation of assets and so on.

You will remember that earlier I said that to understand an issue
correctly we need perfect information to understand it correctly, and
that sort of information is not really coming our way any time soon for
any situation. Of course, the rational thing to do under these
circumstances is to keep investigation the problem and adjust the
solution according to new discoveries.

Unfortunately, only scientists with endless grants, and philosophers
with enough money to survive, can afford to live with a half baked
solution. Most of us need a fully baked solution for most problems in
our life: do I buy the house or not, do I take the job or not, do I date
this man, does she really love me, that sort of thing. And thanks to the
versatility of our brain we have found a reliable working solution, or
rather some brains have found a solution for their problem. And we call
this solution a "myth." We need a house to live in, but don't know what
to do, and the banker needs the sale and commission as soon as possible.
The myth, that a house is an investment, solves two problems at the same
time.

From myths we get the perfect information our brain tells us we need to
solve certain problems especially socially related issues: a house and
not some houses – this grammatical structure implies that even the house
we will buy is an investment. And the banker get to turn on our
emotional switch with the right warm feeling they need to close a sale:
investment - we cannot make money useless we invest and crime and the
lottery are not real options. And the word investment is sufficiently
technical to dazzle the modern brain.

So, do we need myths? What we know for sure is that we need perfect
information to make rational evaluations of a problem, we also know that
such information does not exists. We also know that the brain is
excellent at solving problems in the short term, even if the solution
does not stand the test of time. An over the counter analgesic might
solve a toothache, but rationing our sugar intake and visiting the
dentist every six months requires a herculean effort: we find sugar in
most of our processed foods and dentist fees are not exactly cheap.

What we need for sure is stable and reliable information, which leads me
to conclude that we need myths as much as the Trojans needed a horse.

Best

Lawrence

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: do we need myths? +
News

Thursday, February 03, 2011

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Why do revolutions happen?

Dear Friends,
This Sunday we are discussing: Why do revolutions happen?
The most complicated issue with this subject is defining what is a
revolution. And although we might be able to identify a revolution when
we see one on television, what causes revolutions is another matter.
I try and address this other matter in my short essay.
In the meantime, I was hoping to have some news about an exhibition by
Alfonso, but I have not received anything yet. If I have the information
I'll post the details on the blog: philomadrid.blogspot.com
Finally, Peter is still looking for a flatmate:
-------from Peter-----
Peter has asked me once again to remind you that he is looking for
someone to share his flat with in Mostoles close to public transport;
very good conditions. Central heating and central hot water. English
spoken at home if you wish. Single room still available. : tel 609257259
-------------------------
+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.30pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Tertulia in English with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30
to 21h, at Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).
http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/
*************************************
Why do revolutions happen?

Philosophers and politicians ignore the individual at their own peril.
Indeed, both politicians and philosophers are very good at rendering the
term "the people," as in "the voice of the people" into a meaningless idea.

Unfortunately, it is not always their fault that they ignore the
individual or make the concept, "the people", meaningless. They are born
that way; in fact we are born that way. We are born with the capacity to
generalise, create mental groups, and speak in terms of collectives
rather than individuals.

This linguistic tool helps us to be more efficient and, indeed
rationalise, the world around us. For example, imagine if we did not
have the word forest to describe a collection of individual trees? It
would be very difficult to talk about the world we live in, especially
if we happen to live in a country with a lot of trees. Thus we
rationalised individual trees into a sapling, a tree, a cops, a forest,
a bush (not the shrub), and, of course, a jungle.

Indeed, we can easily argue that when we see a tree we are seeing
reality (whatever reality means) but when we see a forest we are seeing
an optical illusions. As it so happens sometimes this optical illusion
serves a good and functional purpose. Thus when we see a forest nothing
has happened to the individual trees, it's just that our perception of
these individual trees has changed.

However, what does all this have to do with revolutions? But first, what
do we mean by revolution? And what kind of revolutions are we concerned
about?

In the history of humanity there have been many revolutions, but the
ones that I will concern myself with are political revolutions; or at
least revolutions that are connected with politics.

A key philosophical issue is whether there is a single universal cause
of events for revolutions to take place or whether every revolution has
its own set of causal circumstances. So the issue here is, how do
revolutions happen?

Another issue concerns the nature of revolutions. Are revolutions always
violent or could some revolutions take place in an orderly way. Even if
we accept that words like violence and aggression are vague and
relative, we can still distinguish, say, the revolutions that brought
about better labour conditions and the feminist revolutions. No doubt
the revolutions that improved labour relations have not always been
peaceful and orderly. And although some might argue that the feminist
revolution is still not over yet and did involve pain and anguish, we
cannot really say that it has been as violent as the labour revolution.

At this point we encounter a problem. Whilst we are concerning ourselves
with the causal chain of events that lead to a revolution we are in
effect considering a rational process, whereas when we are discussing
the violence or aggression that revolutions bring about we are in effect
talking about real pain felt by real people. And let's face it, it is
the violence in revolutions that we find most distasteful.

One of the problems is of course that we can immediately relate to pain
and violence, but we cannot easily relate to the physical causal chain
of events that bring about revolutions. The average peasant in the late
stages of the 18th century France, wouldn't have the necessary
scientific information to confirm his or her feeling that the poor
weather conditions were the cause of the erratic harvests over a period
of time, and in turn were part of the causal chain of events.

For us to relate to the causal chain we need to be privy to all the
relevant information. This is of course the objective of historians,
piecing bits of information that might hopefully lead us to understand
the causal chain of events that lead to a revolution. But doing history
might be too late for those who are just about to be victims of a
revolution.

In the meantime, we can point at particular events and say that such an
event played a key part or a minor part or whatever part in the
revolution. A cursory look at the French Revolution (1789–99) for
example, we will discover such players or factors as the Ancient Regime,
hunger, financial crisis, fluctuating weather, the large cities that
were being populated by people from the rural regions and so on.

Basically, if we try to find the causes of a revolution we might get
involved into a thankless task and even then we might be way off the
mark. And if we cannot discover the real causes of a revolution we
certainly won't be able to answer our question, Why do revolutions
happen?, to any satisfactory degree of confidence.

A failure to find the real causes of a revolution is more than just a
failure to find out why a revolution took place. Rather, failure to
discover the real causes of revolutions would mean that we are not
learning anything useful that might help recognise and prevent
revolutions from happening in the first place. Or rather, from evolving
into violent and aggressive political events. We certainly won't be able
to discover whether revolutions follow some universal pattern; at least
not by looking at conventional causes.

This might mean that we have to look at the issue from a different
perspective. So what do we know about revolutions? The first thing we
know is that revolutions are about change because the established system
is failing a number of people. Revolutions also need a sufficient number
of people to collectively try and change the status quo. We also know
that those who are now benefiting from the present situation would be
reluctant to make any changes that will take away any privileges they
might enjoy.

We also know that some revolutions, involve violence and aggression. And
although violence and aggression are relative terms, pain is absolute.
And the reason why the term "the people" is made meaningless is because
it is individuals that feel the pain of oppression, failure of the
system, hunger, poverty, and so on.

Our starting point to understand revolutions is not, therefore, the
question what caused a revolution?, but rather, how many individuals are
suffering or feeling pain (physical or psychological) from the situation
they are in?

And since a revolution takes place in order to change the current status
quo the three questions we now need to ask are these: how much pain does
an individual need to suffer before taking steps to bring about change?
How many individuals does it take to start and maintain a revolution?
And how long does it take to start and conclude a revolution?

Pain itself, as a measure of political disharmony, is not only very
difficult to do but even more controversial. I mean should the
government introduce a compulsory pain test to measure the "political"
pain people are suffering? And then there is the issue of interpreting
biological events in a person to predicting what that person will do and
how they feel (in a political context). Whilst we can safely assume that
someone who is unable to feed themselves might quite easily resort to
criminal behaviour, how can we interpret the same pain as being a cause
of a revolution. However, we do know that hunger and starvation could
easily lead to social unrest.

Maybe the approach is not necessarily to measure physical pain but to
measure the factors that would create the right environment to demand
change maybe through violent means.

Today we know that fear is a compelling factor that leads to a desire
for change. Using fear as political weapon might work in the short term,
but in the long term it is counter productive. Counter productive either
through direct challenge (French revolution) or simply through self
inflicted fatal wounds (Nazi dictatorship).

Hunger is also often cited as a catalyst for revolutions, either
directly or indirectly. But there is a problem with hunger in my
opinion. Hunger leads to malnutrition and mal nourished and starving
people are not like to have the strength to go out and fight for change.
For example the Wikipedia article on the French Revolution identifies
one of the factors that led to the revolution, as failure of the
transport system to move food from the rural regions to the cities.

Most probably it is not so much hunger or the lack of food per se that
leads to revolutions but rather the inequitable distribution of food in
the first place. Whatever the answer might be we know for a fact that
access to food and other human welfare needs are features very high
priority in the life of a person.

I would, therefore, say that such welfare type factors play a key role
in helping us understand what would push a human being to want to change
their lot maybe by resorting to violence. Fear, oppression, inequitable
distribution of food and other resources are all front line survival
features.

Indeed most labour related revolutions addressed the inequitable
distribution of the profits of a company and not profit as a concept.
The fact that some revolutionaries got themselves serious mixed up
between profit and the distribution of profits had serious repercussions
to the people they were supposed to represent and more importantly the
companies that paid the wages. Basically, what these revolutionaries
ended up doing was to destroy the goose that laid the golden egg; which
probably explains why there is very little manufacturing going on in
Britain today.

Going back to our question, most probably we stand a better chance of
finding a suitable answer by looking at the welfare of the individual,
not the people, than trying to find some external causes – that relate
to "the people". Indeed politicians love to do things in the name of the
people, but hardly ever for the people.

Of all the factors that could lead the individual to initiate or get
involved in violent or aggressive action to bring about change, I would
put fear as the first amongst equals. Fear is the only human emotion
that has a clear cut two option reaction: fight or flight. Now whether
we fear oppression or uncertainty of the future, given enough fear and
given enough people having the same experience, the political stage is
set to demand change.

What is also curious for us is why is it that many violent revolutions
do not seem to last in relative terms at least? Despite the touristic
value the French revolution has today, the France of today is nowhere
near the France that was established after the French Revolution. And
the most catastrophic revolution of all in Europe, the Russian
revolution, came and went within the tail ends of a century, with many
years to spare. And the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in Chine
(1966-1976) that was initiated by Mao Tse Tung to get rid of capitalist
thought has given way to the great feeding frenzy of greed from the
trough of capitalism.

My conclusion is the same as my introduction, politicians ignore the
individual at their own peril. Or to use the vernacular, if you pi.s.s
off enough people long enough, sooner or later they'll come knocking at
your door.

Best

Lawrence

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Why do revolutions
happen?

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