PHILOMADRID

PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Thursday, February 26, 2015

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The joy of breathing + NEWS

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: the joy of breathing.

Sometimes the practitioners of democracy throw a curved ball at the gate
keeper to see if they are paying attention. The joy of Breathing is not
only a philosophical curved ball, but a spinning ball with a chaotic
wobble. In my few paragraphs I argue that the meaning of this phrase
might have nothing to do with language after all.

But first some news and then Ruel's essay link then my essay:

----message from Miguel
Tertulia de Poesía dedicada a la poetisa norteamericana Elisabeth Bishop

Estimado tertuliano,

Te invitamos a la próxima Tertulia de Poesía, dedicada a la poetisa
norteamericana Elisabeth Bishop
(http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Bishop).

Día y hora: Domingo 1 de Marzo de 2015, 19:00h
Lugar: Cafetería del Hotel Conde Duque, Plaza del Conde del Valle de
Suchil 5, 28015 Madrid

Como siempre, puedes traer y leer algún poema propio o ajeno inspirado
por el tema.

Saludos cordiales,
Tertulia de Poesía

------message from David
Friends / Amigos del Cementerio Británico, Madrid
INGLÉS
The baron Theodore de Budberg, who died in 1916 and whose tomb in the
British Cemetery has been restored by the efforts of the Russian Church
in Madrid, was the last Russian Ambassador before the Bolshevik
revolution of 1917. The front page of ABC newspaper of 11 March 1916 (
scanned and attached ) shows the esteem in which he was held.
The Russian Embassy will commemorate the 99th anniversary of the Baron
de Budberg's death at the British Cemetery ( Madrid ) on 10th March at
13,15 hours.

This message is so that any Friends of the British Cemetery who wish to
be present for this historic reappraisal of a diplomat recognised in his
day for his statesmanslike qualities may attend.

ESPAÑOL
El barón de Budberg, fallecido en 1916 y cuya sepultura en el Cementerio
Británico ( Madrid ) ha sido restaurada por la Iglesia Rusa en Madrid,
fue el Embajador de Rusia previo a la revolución bolchevique de 1917. La
portada del ABC con fecha 11 de marzo de 1916 que acompaña el presente
mensaje demuestra el prestigio de este diplomático tan reconocido en su
día por sus grandes calidades de estadista. La Embajada Rusa celebrará
un acto conmemorativo el día 10 de marzo a las 13,15 horas por el 99
aniversario del fallecimiento del barón de Budberg : les aviso para que
los que lo deseen entre los Amigos del Cementerio Británico acudan para
conmemorar a dicho diplomático tan reconocido en su día.

DAVID BUTLER

-----Essay link from Ruel
Hello Lawrence,
Here is the link to the essay I wrote on Sunday's PhiloMadrid topic,
"Joy in Breathing".

https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/joy-in-breathing/
See you on Sunday.
All the best,
Ruel


-----my short essay

The joy of breathing


The ambiguity of language knows no bounds. Which is quite well for us since philosophy is first and foremost about disentangling the vagaries of language and language use. In our case the challenge is making sense of a valid utterance in a natural language to, hopefully, an equally valid meaning.

But a valid utterance does not mean that it is also a meaningful utterance; grammar is not the end game, meaning is. The missing link between the structure and the meaning is of course the context. And we are given no context for our topic: the joy of breathing.

We can construe this phrase in the context of metaphor - to breathe may be interpreted here as being alive. Thus, from –the joy of breathing- we end up with -the joy of being alive. But we have no reason to assume that this is the meaning intended and not some other meaning. An alternative meaning would be the literal meaning of “joy” and “breathing”: the pleasure we derive from breathing, in this case the acts of inhaling and exhaling air. Again, there is no reason from the topic title to suppose or to speculate that what we are breathing is nothing but fresh air. That is we have no reason to suppose that from this statement we can interpret it as: the joy of breathing the aroma of freshly baked bread.

If we did go the metaphorical route and assume breathing to mean alive, then this would be a matter of fact whether being alive is indeed joyful. It would be joyful if we were deriving some pleasure from life, or being happy, which is basically the same thing. Our frame of mind, might even override physical experiences by imposing a circumstantial context to neutralise any pain or sadness. For example, under the sad circumstances of the passing away of a good friend or when going through a difficult time when we are seriously ill. But the statement of the topic does not even give us a hint that this is its legitimate meaning.

But we are still hypothesising here since the phrase itself does not have enough information to extract any “meaning DNA” for us to culture and evolve into a full meaning. Maybe this is a very important difference between a strand of a functioning DNA and a valid language utterance; the DNA has information to extract meaning, i.e. its function and context, but somehow language needs to convey the context which is not always part of the message (utterance/phrase) as in our case.

Admittedly, DNA (and here the topic is not only too complex for us but also not within our scope) is a self contained structure that once we know that the chemicals and patterns are DNA we know that the context is human (biological) life. Hence, knowing that what we have in front of us is biological matter we don’t need to try and understand the strand of DNA by looking at typewriters or Ming flower vases. A phrase in our natural language is very easy to identify, contrary to a few DNA chemicals and a pattern, but that does not tell us whether the phrase is part of an essay, a poem or a legal contract. For all we know the-joy-of-breathing might very well be a sub clause in multi million euro contract for a super star.

Even taking the meaning of the words at face value, it won’t get us too far and we cannot just apply them in a language game in the same way we would apply a strand of DNA to see what it is of. Breathing is something we do every second of our life; but it is not something we necessarily enjoy every time we breathe. Breathing is something we do but don’t normally pay too much attention to it, although there are some occasions in determined contexts when we derive great pleasure from breathing. Now compare the joy of breathing with the joy of love making.

If we had to enjoy every act of breathing it would suggest that there is something wrong with our state of health or state of mind; we really do not want to spend too much time being conscious of enjoying breathing, we want breathing to function normally every time all the time. Love making is different; this is a perfect self contained message, like a DNA strand, the context is clear because the context can only be one and it is a scarce event in our life. There is no metaphorical meaning here! Sure, not all acts of love making are pleasurable, but every act is a scarce event in our life compared to breathing; even for those who are super active at this activity. We’re not involved in love making every second of our life all the time!

Is it a surprise or a coincidence that love making is causally linked with our real DNA and genetics hence the phrase, the meaning of “the joy of love making” is self contained? But breathing is part of the mechanism of a biological system; hence the idea of associating joy with a functioning mechanism without further elucidation is just meaningless. Moreover, it is sufficient for all instances of a biological system to be alive if that system is breathing, but love making is neither necessary nor sufficient for every instance of a biological system to be alive. A biological being needs to breathe to make love but not the other way round. I grant you that there will be many disappointed creatures about but that’s a different story.

Could it be that the meaning of utterances like –the joy of breathing- and –the joy of love making- depend not so much on the language but on the scarcity, or not, of the activity? In other words, after the few successful tries at breathing in our early life, the law of diminishing returns kicks in and we derive less pleasure from the act of breathing; after a few hundred successful attempts at breathing the novelty wears off and we just want the process to go on, hopefully, for a very long time. Not so with love making, love making is so scarce in our life that the law of diminishing returns might not have time to kick in during our life; and then dementia or obesity take over. Hence, the joy of love making has a self contained meaning and context attached with the language, but not so with the phrase “the joy of breathing”; it was such a long time ago that we got any joy from simply breathing that it ceased to have any meaning.

So what matters for us is that language utterances do not generally make sense if they don’t include a context. But language utterances that purport to describe a specific biological event are more likely to make sense without an explicit context. For example, “we need to drink from the fountain of life” just makes no sense even with a context. However, “we need to drink clean water” makes all the sense in the world even without a context. The “we” and the “water” immediately imply biological system (i.e. these are the components of language DNA), but what on Earth is a “fountain of life”?

However, we are on more dodgy ground when we represent the biological world in terms of human emotional experiences and human language. Again consider “the joy of breathing” (no idea and no meaning), ”the joy of sex” (biological experience), and “the joy of love making” (very human emotional context, but do dogs make love?). The point is that the more we introduce human characteristics to a language utterance the more we need to provide a context. Or, the more we stick to biology the more redundant are emotional words for the meaning of an utterance.


Best Lawrence


tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
<http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-----------Ignacio------------
Open Tertulia in English every
From: January 15 at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h
http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/
<http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/>
----------------------------



from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The joy of
breathing + NEWS

Friday, February 20, 2015

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is moderate activism a waste of time? + NEWS

Dear friends,

This weekend we are discussing: Is moderate activism a waste of time?

I am in no doubt that this question only makes sense in our modern
context. Our concept of human rights introduces the idea of activism to
protect and exercise these rights. In my short essay I try to identify
who would be a "moderate activist" and what is the difference between a
moderate activist and a violent activist? I also explain why I use the
term violent activist.

In the meantime Ruel has sent us the link to his essay:

Hi Lawrence,
Here's the link to the essay I wrote on Sunday's topic:

https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/is-moderate-activism-a-waste-of-time/
See you then.
All the best,
Ruel
----------------------


Now for something that I should have tackled a long time ago. From time
to time I receive messages of events that happen during the week but
before I send out my Thursday email. This happens very often with news
from Miguel. So, the thing is that I don't want to send out many emails
to the list, about 350 addresses, that might be of interest to only a
handful. What I propose is those people who are interested in receiving
this local information letting me know that they want it ASAP so I can
prepare a separate list just for this purpose.

Alternatively, I can send a message to my twitter account @lolang or my
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lawmoment or just post it on the blog
and hope for the best. Let me know if you are interested. And of course
if you have any news to share!!!

-----ITMT news from Miguel
Estimado tertuliano,

Te invitamos a asistir a la próxima conferencia y tertulia de
Matemáticas el próximo Martes 24 de Febrero a las 19:00h en El Centro
Segoviano de Madrid: Matemáticas en la Matemática (
https://sites.google.com/site/tertuliadematematicas/24-2-2015 )

Aprovechamos para informarte también de la conferencia el próximo Jueves
19 de Febrero a las 19:00h en la Real Academia de Ciencias Exactas,
Físicas y Naturales: De Números y Rectas

Saludos cordiales,
Tertulia de Matemáticas
https://sites.google.com/site/tertuliadematematicas/

----------Lawrence
Is moderate activism a waste of time?

Presumably extreme activism would involve violence against people such
as the murders in the US of doctors who work in abortion clinics;
violence against researchers in the UK who use animal testing. And we
can add violence justified in the name of some religion or worse, some
crack pot religious sect.

However, violence, need not be aimed at the targets of the activists,
but rather the risks some activists put themselves in may result into
violence against them; challenging the Japanese whalers on the high
seas, scaling some steam stack of a nuclear power station or maybe
running in front of a huntsman during the fox hunting season.

Violence certainly attracts people's attention and certainly focuses
minds – violence is a headlines grabber without any doubt. The question
we have to ask ourselves is whether violence is the only option we have
to bring about the radical change activists desire? Could there have
been a quiet transition from monarchical France to republican France,
from a Tsarists Russia to Communist Russia? Or to ask our question in a
modern setting, can we achieve a prosperous economy without the
political violence being caused by the austerity measures in the EU?

I am using the term violence on purpose so not to get mixed up with
civil disobedience which is the common term used in political philosophy
and political science. For me there is a very clear difference between
civil disobedience, which may or may not be violent, and violent
activism. Furthermore, civil disobedience is usually activism not to
obey certain laws or dictates of those in power. Violence against
people, or their property, is a human biological activity; attacking
people because we disagree with them and hence it is an attack on the
person. Murdering a doctor because they perform abortions is personal
violence against that doctor. However, blocking the highway to protest
against abortion is by all accounts civil disobedience.

But civil disobedience interpreted as refusing to follow the prevailing
law challenges the power of the state rather than any particular person.
Whilst it is never justified to attack an individual for doing something
lawful, refusing to follow the law may sometimes be justified because
the law itself may be illegal, immoral, or discriminatory. A law that
discriminates against a section of the population by forcing them to sit
at the back of the bus is clearly illegal, immoral and discriminatory.

But what about a law that prohibits photojournalist from taking and
publishing images of police officers at work? There is no doubt that
members of the security forces need special protection because of their
job protecting society. And it is unacceptable that mainstream media do
not hold governments to account when they fail to protect members of the
security forces. But should a legitimate law that seeks to protect the
security forces be used to hide acts by members of the security forces
that are clearly illegal and ultra vires? Would it be civil disobedience
if the press published images of individuals who the press in good faith
thought these individuals were acting beyond their power? We mustn't
forget that in our society we hold the press as independent and
objective observers of those responsible to exercise power and to be the
instrument for society to make those who exercise power accountable.
Indeed the press is part of checks and balances of the exercise of power
by the state.

Indeed, would a photojournalist, determined to exercise their right of
free speech and their right to gather information, be a moderate
activist if they did publish images of people abusing their powers even
if the law prohibits such publication? Or would this be civil
disobedience on a par with the activities of Ghandi, Nelson Mandela or
Martin Luther King?

Let's make the issue a bit harder; what is the status of a conscious
objector who leaks state secrets that might reveal the dastardly acts of
a government? Are they moderate activists, whistle blowers, or
practicing civil disobedience? Indeed are whistle blowers activists,
spies, or morally principled people?

Back to our topic, is moderate activism a waste of time? Indeed,
moderate activism does suggest that the activist does pursue some
activity with vigour to achieve their goals. I would understand moderate
activism to be well beyond the couch potato revolutionist.

The key issue for the moderate activists is to attract the attention of
the people. It has taken the green party over twenty years to get people
to notice that there is an environment out there and that trees and
clean water-ways are really useful. It took the Bolsheviks only a few
years to change the political landscape of imperialist feudal Europe to
a self imposed feudal political system.

So the biggest challenge for the activist is to get support, people need
to know about one's cause to be able to offer support. Hence,
communication is a key tool for the moderate activists, but once again
this means good visual appeal and access to the opinion leaders in the
media industry. An NGO in Spain that is active against animal cruelty,
regularly hold public protests by painting themselves in red paint to
signify blood sports or hold dead animals during protests to signify
cruelty to animals. Recently they have introduced an equally fun
activity to replace the running of the bulls. Even with their well
organised PR programme these moderate activists still have a long way to
go before society fully respects animals, a least enough not to cause
unnecessary pain or harm.

Activism is also a social inter action, it is about changing behaviours,
beliefs, tolerances, customs and traditions, hence the need to persuade
others through communication. We can, however, communicate by shocking
or we can communicate by persuasion. Although violence can bring some
immediate change, e.g. the Russian revolution, history tells us that
such success come at a very high price for individuals and society in
general.

On the other hand, it has taken more than eight years of moderate
activists against austerity measures in Europe, mostly by conducting
peaceful protest, social media campaigns, etc, for a party to be elected
to government in Greece who promises to address the inequities of the
recession and the violence caused by the austerity measures imposed on
the Greek people. Persuasion, it might be said, is a very cumbersome and
slow process, but how effective are the changes?

As I have said, violence attracts people's attention sometimes even the
most lethargic people working in the high echelons of government and
power. But how easy is it to attract the attention of people for causes
that are not good candidates that can benefit from the shock of
violence? The primary problem for moderate activists is probably the
fact that people just do not care about the cause, a cause that
sometimes might be very obscure for them. Or they are too busy with
their lives to go beyond the couch revolutionary stage.

The relevance of the cause of the moderate activist also seems to
dictate the amount of attention they get from the population and the
support they obtain for the cause. Nuts in food, salt in popcorn sold in
cinemas, no absurd photoshopping of film starts are hardly causes that
will set the passions of people on fire. Even given the fact that we
know that nuts can kill some people allergic to them, salt is bad for
people who suffer from high blood pressure (which is very common these
days) and excessive photoshopping is basically dishonest.

But I want to argue that the enemy of the moderate activist is not the
media, nor the obscure nature of the cause, and not even oppressive laws
passed by governments, but rather the indifference of people at large.
In this respect, a moderate activist is no different from any young
artist: indifference kills art and it also kills activism.


Best Lawrence




tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
<http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-----------Ignacio------------
Open Tertulia in English every
From: January 15 at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h
http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/
<http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/>
----------------------------



from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is moderate
activism a waste of time? + NEWS

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is moderate activism a waste of time? + NEWS

Dear friends,

This weekend we are discussing: Is moderate activism a waste of time?

I am in no doubt that this question only makes sense in our modern
context. Our concept of human rights introduces the idea of activism to
protect and exercise these rights. In my short essay I try to identify
who would be a "moderate activist" and what is the difference between a
moderate activist and a violent activist? I also explain why I use the
term violent activist.

In the meantime Ruel has sent us the link to his essay:

Hi Lawrence,
Here's the link to the essay I wrote on Sunday's topic:

https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/is-moderate-activism-a-waste-of-time/
See you then.
All the best,
Ruel
----------------------


Now for something that I should have tackled a long time ago. From time
to time I receive messages of events that happen during the week but
before I send out my Thursday email. This happens very often with news
from Miguel. So, the thing is that I don't want to send out many emails
to the list, about 350 addresses, that might be of interest to only a
handful. What I propose is those people who are interested in receiving
this local information letting me know that they want it ASAP so I can
prepare a separate list just for this purpose.

Alternatively, I can send a message to my twitter account @lolang or my
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lawmoment or just post it on the blog
and hope for the best. Let me know if you are interested. And of course
if you have any news to share!!!

-----ITMT news from Miguel
Estimado tertuliano,

Te invitamos a asistir a la próxima conferencia y tertulia de
Matemáticas el próximo Martes 24 de Febrero a las 19:00h en El Centro
Segoviano de Madrid: Matemáticas en la Matemática (
https://sites.google.com/site/tertuliadematematicas/24-2-2015 )

Aprovechamos para informarte también de la conferencia el próximo Jueves
19 de Febrero a las 19:00h en la Real Academia de Ciencias Exactas,
Físicas y Naturales: De Números y Rectas

Saludos cordiales,
Tertulia de Matemáticas
https://sites.google.com/site/tertuliadematematicas/

----------Lawrence
Is moderate activism a waste of time?

Presumably extreme activism would involve violence against people such
as the murders in the US of doctors who work in abortion clinics;
violence against researchers in the UK who use animal testing. And we
can add violence justified in the name of some religion or worse, some
crack pot religious sect.

However, violence, need not be aimed at the targets of the activists,
but rather the risks some activists put themselves in may result into
violence against them; challenging the Japanese whalers on the high
seas, scaling some steam stack of a nuclear power station or maybe
running in front of a huntsman during the fox hunting season.

Violence certainly attracts people's attention and certainly focuses
minds – violence is a headlines grabber without any doubt. The question
we have to ask ourselves is whether violence is the only option we have
to bring about the radical change activists desire? Could there have
been a quiet transition from monarchical France to republican France,
from a Tsarists Russia to Communist Russia? Or to ask our question in a
modern setting, can we achieve a prosperous economy without the
political violence being caused by the austerity measures in the EU?

I am using the term violence on purpose so not to get mixed up with
civil disobedience which is the common term used in political philosophy
and political science. For me there is a very clear difference between
civil disobedience, which may or may not be violent, and violent
activism. Furthermore, civil disobedience is usually activism not to
obey certain laws or dictates of those in power. Violence against
people, or their property, is a human biological activity; attacking
people because we disagree with them and hence it is an attack on the
person. Murdering a doctor because they perform abortions is personal
violence against that doctor. However, blocking the highway to protest
against abortion is by all accounts civil disobedience.

But civil disobedience interpreted as refusing to follow the prevailing
law challenges the power of the state rather than any particular person.
Whilst it is never justified to attack an individual for doing something
lawful, refusing to follow the law may sometimes be justified because
the law itself may be illegal, immoral, or discriminatory. A law that
discriminates against a section of the population by forcing them to sit
at the back of the bus is clearly illegal, immoral and discriminatory.

But what about a law that prohibits photojournalist from taking and
publishing images of police officers at work? There is no doubt that
members of the security forces need special protection because of their
job protecting society. And it is unacceptable that mainstream media do
not hold governments to account when they fail to protect members of the
security forces. But should a legitimate law that seeks to protect the
security forces be used to hide acts by members of the security forces
that are clearly illegal and ultra vires? Would it be civil disobedience
if the press published images of individuals who the press in good faith
thought these individuals were acting beyond their power? We mustn't
forget that in our society we hold the press as independent and
objective observers of those responsible to exercise power and to be the
instrument for society to make those who exercise power accountable.
Indeed the press is part of checks and balances of the exercise of power
by the state.

Indeed, would a photojournalist, determined to exercise their right of
free speech and their right to gather information, be a moderate
activist if they did publish images of people abusing their powers even
if the law prohibits such publication? Or would this be civil
disobedience on a par with the activities of Ghandi, Nelson Mandela or
Martin Luther King?

Let's make the issue a bit harder; what is the status of a conscious
objector who leaks state secrets that might reveal the dastardly acts of
a government? Are they moderate activists, whistle blowers, or
practicing civil disobedience? Indeed are whistle blowers activists,
spies, or morally principled people?

Back to our topic, is moderate activism a waste of time? Indeed,
moderate activism does suggest that the activist does pursue some
activity with vigour to achieve their goals. I would understand moderate
activism to be well beyond the couch potato revolutionist.

The key issue for the moderate activists is to attract the attention of
the people. It has taken the green party over twenty years to get people
to notice that there is an environment out there and that trees and
clean water-ways are really useful. It took the Bolsheviks only a few
years to change the political landscape of imperialist feudal Europe to
a self imposed feudal political system.

So the biggest challenge for the activist is to get support, people need
to know about one's cause to be able to offer support. Hence,
communication is a key tool for the moderate activists, but once again
this means good visual appeal and access to the opinion leaders in the
media industry. An NGO in Spain that is active against animal cruelty,
regularly hold public protests by painting themselves in red paint to
signify blood sports or hold dead animals during protests to signify
cruelty to animals. Recently they have introduced an equally fun
activity to replace the running of the bulls. Even with their well
organised PR programme these moderate activists still have a long way to
go before society fully respects animals, a least enough not to cause
unnecessary pain or harm.

Activism is also a social inter action, it is about changing behaviours,
beliefs, tolerances, customs and traditions, hence the need to persuade
others through communication. We can, however, communicate by shocking
or we can communicate by persuasion. Although violence can bring some
immediate change, e.g. the Russian revolution, history tells us that
such success come at a very high price for individuals and society in
general.

On the other hand, it has taken more than eight years of moderate
activists against austerity measures in Europe, mostly by conducting
peaceful protest, social media campaigns, etc, for a party to be elected
to government in Greece who promises to address the inequities of the
recession and the violence caused by the austerity measures imposed on
the Greek people. Persuasion, it might be said, is a very cumbersome and
slow process, but how effective are the changes?

As I have said, violence attracts people's attention sometimes even the
most lethargic people working in the high echelons of government and
power. But how easy is it to attract the attention of people for causes
that are not good candidates that can benefit from the shock of
violence? The primary problem for moderate activists is probably the
fact that people just do not care about the cause, a cause that
sometimes might be very obscure for them. Or they are too busy with
their lives to go beyond the couch revolutionary stage.

The relevance of the cause of the moderate activist also seems to
dictate the amount of attention they get from the population and the
support they obtain for the cause. Nuts in food, salt in popcorn sold in
cinemas, no absurd photoshopping of film starts are hardly causes that
will set the passions of people on fire. Even given the fact that we
know that nuts can kill some people allergic to them, salt is bad for
people who suffer from high blood pressure (which is very common these
days) and excessive photoshopping is basically dishonest.

But I want to argue that the enemy of the moderate activist is not the
media, nor the obscure nature of the cause, and not even oppressive laws
passed by governments, but rather the indifference of people at large.
In this respect, a moderate activist is no different from any young
artist: indifference kills art and it also kills activism.


Best Lawrence




tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
<http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-----------Ignacio------------
Open Tertulia in English every
From: January 15 at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h
http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/
<http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/>
----------------------------



from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is moderate
activism a waste of time? + NEWS

Thursday, February 12, 2015

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: What is success?

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: What is success?

Way back in September 2008 we discussed "Do we learn from our success or
do we learn from our mistakes?"
(http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/2008/09/from-lawrence-pub-philosophy-group.html
)

And although I have to read my short essay again, I wrote my few lines
below before checking if we discussed the topic before, this time round
we are very lucky to have an essay written by Ruel for us; details
below. I also realise that I am going through a philosophical rebellious
phase so in my very few lines on the topic today I try to question the
underlying thinking society has of success, especially is that
fundamental activity, education.

------
Hello Lawrence,
Here is the link to my essay on Sunday's PhiloMadrid topic:

https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/what-is-success/
Thank you very much.
All the best,
Ruel

-------Lawrence
Success can mean two things; things we achieve based on our criteria and
objectives and things we achieve by the criteria of others or society.
We can define the necessary and sufficient condition beforehand for what
we qualify as success (successful exercise). Or society, including
others, establishes these criteria for us.

There is also a hazy difference based on the very subjective nature of
what we understand by success: someone's considered success might very
well be someone else's criteria for failure. This subjectivity might
very well be motivated by the elation and emotional high we feel when we
are successful at something. And it is this emotional kick that makes
the concept and even the language of success so positive and sought
after. Thus, this euphoria of success can harnessed to achieve positive
things that might otherwise seem beyond our capacity or too arduous and
thus not very attractive as a personal goal.

Even still, the concept of success has its dark side. The criteria for
success established by others can be abused to control or exploit
others. For example, success can be based on conformity or elitism
instead of merit and achievement.

Thus, creating an education system based on ability to pay, as if we
were buying a super duper sports car, means that any academic
achievements are obtained first and foremost by privilege rather than
merit. This, of course, is not to say that the individual, usually a
young person who has no idea of the value of money, is not bright and
hard working; but then again money gives people this opportunity.
However, for our discussion it does mean that being given the
opportunity to succeed is a pre condition for success. And it is this
pre condition of being given an opportunity that maybe be used to
manipulate people. Our emotional need to succeed maybe used to gain our
loyalty and obedience that can easily blur the line between the moral
and the legal and the immoral and the illegal.

But there are other subtle ways of exploiting this very human need of an
emotional kick. We can design books and teaching material to feed on
this emotional kick that success gives us. We can design material that
creates an addiction to this emotional kick by feeding us small doses of
successes.

By having an emotional kick every time we get a small problem in an
exercise book correct we get addicted to this methodology, and, thus not
only ensuring the sale of such material but also the big picture
programme. This approach is usually justified because it encourages us
to learn; if a methodology was ever Pavlovian this must be it.

In reality we know that the best way to learn is to create a sense of
curiosity and motivation in the student and then the actual learning
happens explaining the nature of their mistakes. The irony is that the
nature and reaction to mistakes by the student are a much better
barometer of what they know rather than a balance sheet of emotional
kicks. But creating curiosity and motivation in students, especially
young people, is a very difficult task indeed. It's much easier to whip
them into conformity like a circus chimpanzees. In any case, curiosity
and motivation are very dangerous traits to have in a conformist
society; it might give individuals a sense of freedom and achievement.

Best Lawrence




tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
<http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-----------Ignacio------------
Open Tertulia in English every
From: January 15 at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h
http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/
<http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/>
----------------------------



from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: What is success?

Thursday, February 05, 2015

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Minority Rights

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Minority Rights.

We are also fortunate to have three essays for our subject; Charles
kindly sent us some of his ideas on the topic despite his work pressure;
Ruel, no doubt, wrote one of his usual authoritative essays on the topic
(I don't read the essays before I send out the email) and I have tried
to share with you some of my ideas on the subject.

My basic position is that I am not too keen about speaking of minority
rights; for me there are only rights that we all have in equal measure
by virtue of being born a human being. Thus, from my perspective there
are two basic issues about our topic: first, our topic is basically
about conflict resolution, and secondly, how do we persuade some people
who believe that they have some special rights, over and above the
others, that such rights do not exist? The challenge for us is to find
an objective method that will help us decide whether a right does exist.

Hello Lawrence,
Here is the link to the essay I wrote on Sunday's PhiloMadrid topic:

https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/on-minority-rights/
Thanks. See you on Sunday.
All the best,
Ruel

--------Charles

MINORITY RIGHTS (or what rights should minorities be endowed with) – AN
ESSAY

The issue of Minority Rights has become a constant and ever increasing
subject of discussion and controversy both in governments and in the
public at large in Western countries. Almost on a daily basis we read or
hear about minorities whose rights – or who consider that their rights
-- are not being properly attended or indeed violated. We appear also to
learn more and more often concerning the reaction of minorities (in the
Western world) who are starting to react forcefully and even violently
at what they consider discriminating attitudes towards them by either
the public or even more importantly, by governments of the countries in
which they reside.

It would be rather presumptuous on my part even to pretend that I can
give a proper answer to the very complex issue to the problem of what
are (or should be) the rights of minorities. Nonetheless I will attempt
at putting some of the issues revolving around Minority Rights into (my)
perspective and submit these to your better judgement.

For starters lets us look at the concept of "minorities". What really
constitutes a minority (or minorities)? Do ten people constitute a
minority or would maybe a hundred people or possibly a thousand people
constitute a minority? Is it really a question of sheer numbers, or is
there anything else involved in considering a number of people
constituent of a "minority" . There are possibly as many definitions of
the concept "minority" as there are people approaching the subject. For
the time being I would consider that a definition offered in 1977 by
Francesco Capotorti (Special Rapporteur to the United Nations
Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of
Minorities) provided the following definition:
"A minority is a group of numerically inferior to the rest of the
population of a State,
in a non-dominant position, whose members—being nationals of the
State—possess ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics differing
from those of the rest of the population and show, if only implicitly, a
sense of solidarity, directed towards preserving their culture,
traditions, religion or language.

While the nationality criterion included in this definition has often
been challenged, the requirement to be in a non-dominant position
remains to my liking as quite important. In many instances a minority
group will be a minority in numerical numbers, but in other situations a
numerical majority may also find itself in a minority-like or in a
non-dominant position, such as for instance Blacks under the apartheid
regime in South Africa.

Secondly, exactly what is meant by the concept of "(human) rights".
Again, borrowing from the United Nations Charter of Human Rights, the
definition reads:
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever their
nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour,
religion, language, or any other status. Minorities are all equally
entitled to the recognition of human rights without discrimination.
These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

Western countries ever more so than before go to great lengths to ensure
that minorities occupy their rightful place in their societies, and yet
those countries appear to encounter the most trouble with Minorities,
then their Eastern counterparts. Nowhere and never before has there been
so much concern regarding the well-being of minority groups as there is
in the West, and yet, Europe and North America have to cope with very
angry minorities. What is it then that those Minorities are trying (or
demanding) to achieve, at times rather violently.

The concept of Minority Rights to my mind is already a misnomer. Why
should we talk, or why should we even consider, the term "Minority"
Rights. The concept Rights cannot have a qualification. To speak of
Minority Rights should put us immediately on guard, as it does appear to
seek the establishment of an echelon over and above the Rights of the
Majority. Rights are Rights, and Minorities who wish to achieve – if
that is what they try to achieve – recognition of equal status with
their Majority brethren should not seek to have Minority Rights, but
simply "Rights". Or is it really parity that which Minorities wish to
achieve, and not a special status, ie some type of exemption to the
rules by which the Majority is governed. If such special recognition is
what Minorities seek to achieve it would mean yet again that their aim
is to differentiate themselves from the Majority, and we are so to
speak, back to square one, namely that by achieving a special status
they become differentiated from the Majority and again are not on equal
footing with their Majority brethren.

Suppose for sake of argument that a Minority which comes from a far off
land consider it part of their cultural heritage to make human
sacrifices; a tradition dating back to hundreds of generations and which
give that particular Minority their sense of belonging. Could a western
democratic country ruled by law tolerate such a tradition? Or, to take
another example, an ethnic Minority which claims as their inherited
right to bury the widow with her deceased husband. Again, could a
Western society tolerate such practice? To both examples the answer
would surely be nay. And yet, Minorities could be well-posed to demand
from the Majority the right to continue such practices, undisturbed.

We go then back to the question of "what are then Minority Rights"?
Should not Minorities in claiming for their Rights trying to achieve
equal and not differentiated treatment from the Majorities?

It would appear reasonable then to assume that when a given Minority
seeks asylum in a country for political, religious, ethnic or whatever
other reasons, it also accepts the fact that the given country has
rules, norms and regulations that they will have to adhere to, as those
rules, etc are the basic norms that the Majority living in that country
has given itself. And further, should it not be accepted by such
Minorities that every Right carries with itself also a Duty, and that
Duty is precisely to abide by the laws and customs of the country that
grants them asylum.


Charles

-------------------Lawrence
Minority rights

The impression we might get from a general title like -minority rights-
is that minorities might not have any rights, or maybe they have some
special rights different from the rest of us or even still, they ought
to have some extra rights which the rest of us should not have.

Of course, this topic does not mean any of the above mainly because
right are granted to people by virtue of being born and being a human
being. To have rights one does not need any further qualification and we
are all granted the same standard issue rights. Like in most military
institutions, personnel who have blue eyes do not get to wear blue
coloured uniforms and the rest brown coloured uniforms or whatever.

So our topic is really about abusing the rights of a group of people by
being different from the rest of society. In other words, the topic is
about discrimination and racism.

A rough and ready definition of discrimination is to apply different
criteria towards someone to exclude them or disadvantage them from
something. And the justification for this disadvantage is some
characteristic of the person: they are short, belong to a different
religion, their sexual orientation, their gender, etc. Racism is
basically to disadvantage someone for the sole reason that they are from
a different social or genetic group. Usually, based on colour of skin,
maybe the accent they speak our language and habits and customs.

The biggest challenge we have is not that discrimination or racism are
whimsical dispositions we have from time to time. But rather
discrimination and racism are embedded in us as a left over from our
primitive and primordial state of existence. The problem is that these
primordial instincts have not been filtered out by the evolutionary
process partly because evolutionary strides tended to favour the
development of the brain in human beings rather than remove redundant
behaviour.

We therefore find ourselves in the rather surreal situation of being
able to create wonderful technologies, such as television and radio,
build super structures, like stadia, not to mention the marketing
strategies that will rival any biological creature on the planet, and
yet we use all this talent for twenty two men to run after a leather
ball. Probably leather ball no different from the dead goat the original
cave people played with. While this may or may not be entertainment and
on the whole quite harmless, discrimination and racism are certainly
redundant behaviour in modern society and they are harmful and
dangerous. The problem is that some people prefer to behave like a
biological blob, and only activate their primitive and primordial
instincts, rather than engage their rational intellect that is so
necessary for a civilized society.

And it is this ability by some people to behave like a biological blob
that highlights one of the main drawbacks of evolution. Evolution does
not progress at the same pace everywhere and nor does it impose the same
talents and rationality on everyone. The challenge for a civilized
society is certainly to limit the damage that can be caused by
primordial behaviour over a rational civilization. And because a society
is an open dynamic system there is always the danger that negative
behaviour might creative a positive feedback loop (ie create more
negative behaviour) to the extent that primordial behaviour might once
again take over any rational standard; or to put it in vulgar terms,
rationality will be replaced by blobbery!

However, there is also an immediate challenge for ethicists and
political scientists: how do we resolve conflicting behaviour people
might have due to social or racial differences; especially behaviours
allowed by their respective groups or societies, but are conflictive
when they come in contact with other societies.

If my society allows me to eat Christmas puddings at any time of the
year and not just Christmas, then surely I can eat Christmas pudding at
any time of the year and where ever I want? But what if I am not allowed
to eat this pudding in the neighbouring country or only on Christmas,
who has the right me or the country next door?

In the case of the Christmas pudding, I am happy to say that we have a
much higher authority than the zealots at home or next door to decide
for us (especially me) where and when we can eat the pudding. That
authority is known as our Family Doctor; our doctor usually decides for
us what we should and shouldn't eat. But the authority of our GP does
not come from some super natural powers but the product of many years of
study and the validity of scientific results our doctor is experienced
in; at least that's the theory.

There is nothing in medical science that says that certain people with
certain diseases are not to be treated. Any decisions not to treat
someone are usually based on clinical criteria and not arbitrary
characteristics of the patient. And if treatment is not available this
is either because none have been discovered or for political reasons
such as resources not being made available. My point is that if we have
an objective method to establish what is morally right or wrong, then we
know what is discrimination or not and what is a right or isn't. The
mind set of medical science practitioners, as opposed to the attitudes
of political masters, is to try and find treatments or solutions for any
ailment. The scientific method can take us a long way to establish such
an objective method, advocating we should physically harm people is not
an objective method.

Conflicts about rights can, therefore, be solved by appealing to some
objective criteria. Thus, like medical practitioners will never
prescribe people with infectious diseases, such as ebola, to mingle with
other people, social authorities ought not to allow practices that hurt
society, or rather the members of society: taking away the rights of
people harms them irrevocably.

Thus there is no right, minority or otherwise, for Female Genital
Mutilation (FGM) on children, nor restricting access to education or
freedom of movement to half the population, nor excluding some from a
job opportunity because of the colour of their skin or the accent of
their voice.

Sometimes, however, certain characteristics do not qualify a person for
a certain activity. For example (as practitioners), actors, sports
people, members of the armed forces, health carers, electricians etc.
Someone who freezes from vertigo when six inches above the ground is not
exactly qualified to remove the dead bugs from the blades of a wind
turbine high up at the top of a turbine tower. But this is not
discrimination nor racism, but common sense.

Thus, the issue for us is: how do we stop people from abusing the rights
of others? And even more important, how should we deal with people who
believe they have a right, minority or not, when no such right exists?

Best Lawrence




tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
<http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-----------Ignacio------------
Open Tertulia in English every
From: January 15 at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h
http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/
<http://sites.google.com/site/tertuliainenglishmadrid/>
----------------------------



from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Minority Rights

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