In the Spotlight

18 December 2014

The most effective way to hide some things is to shine a light directly upon them. People will then not believe what they are shown.

καταγέλως μῶρος

17 December 2014

There’s a recurring joke that proceeds along these lines:

What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual What do you call someone who speaks just one language? American.

Sometimes, the reference is instead to the British. But let’s consider the reality that lies in back of this joke.

The vast majority of people who are bilingual speak English as their second language. Why English? At base, because of the economic significance of those who speak English, especially of those for whom English is their native tongue. This significance originates in the past scope of the British Empire, especially in North America. The American economy was once the world’s largest — at the present, the matter is muddled — and the combined size of the American economy with that of other primarily Anglophonic regions still exceeds that of the Sinophonic[1] or Spanish-speaking regions.

If no language had something like the economic significance of English, then most people who are now bilingual would instead be monolingual. As it is, they had good cause to know English, but it wasn’t their first language, so they learned it as their second.

Thus, mocking people for being strictly Anglophonic generally amounts to mocking them for having been raised amongst the peoples of the linguistic group that has the greatest economic significance. It would be actively stupid to mock them deliberately on this score, and doing so thoughtlessly is not a very great improvement.

(I’m certainly not saying that there are no good reasons for those who know English to learn other languages.)

[1] It may also be noted that the differences amongst what are called dialects of Chinese are often greater than the differences amongst what are regarded as separate languages. These variants of Chinese are labelled as dialects as part of a more general effort to create an illusion of national unity. Mandarin is a widely spoken language, but Chinese is really a family of languages.

To Write, or Not to Write, That Is the Question—

16 December 2014

I wonder whether I’m engaged in soliloquy. Some people have accounts on this 'blog, allowing them access to restricted entries, but I don’t know that anyone is actually logging-in and reading those entries.


30 November 2014

Off-and-on, I work on the plans for a couple of pieces of serial fiction. And thus it is repeatedly brought to my attention that, for the stories really to work, a profound necessity must drive events; essential elements must be predestined and meaningful.

This characterization contrasts markèdly from my view of real life. I think that people may be said to have personal destinies, but that these can be unreälized, as when we say that someone were meant to do or become something, but instead did or became something else. And, if I did believe that the world were a vast piece of clockwork, then I’d be especially disinclined to think that its dial had anything important to say.

Fifth Rejection and Sixth Attempt

30 November 2014

My short article was rejected by one journal yester-day, and submitted to another in the wee hours of this morning. And, yes, that’s just how the previous entry began.

This time, an editor at the rejecting journal informed me that an unnamed associate editor felt that the article didn’t fit the purposes of the journal. I got no further critique from them than that. (It should be understood that, as many submissions are made, critiquing every one would be very time-consuming.)

With respect to my paper on indecision, I had some fear that I would run out of good journals to which I might submit it. With respect to this short article, I have a fear that I might run out of any journal to which I might submit it. It just falls in an area where the audience seems small, however important I might think these foundational issues.

Fourth Rejection and Fifth Attempt

11 November 2014

My short article was rejected by one journal yester-day, and submitted to another in the wee hours of this morning.

At the journal that rejected it, the article was approved by one of the two reviewers, but felt to be unsuited to the readership of the journal by the other reviewer and by the associate editor. Additionally, the second reviewer and the associate editor suggested that it be made a more widely ranging discussion of the history of subjectivist thought, which suggestion shows some lack of appreciation that foundational issues are of more than historical interest, and that the axiomata invoked by the subjectivists are typically also invoked by logicists. (I say appreciation rather than understanding, because the reviewer briefly noted that perhaps my concern was with the logic as such.)

I made three tweaks to the article. One was to make the point that axiomata such as de Finetti’s are still the subject of active discussion. Another was to deal with the fact that secondary criticism arose from the editor’s and the objecting reviewer’s not knowing what weak would mean in reference to an ordering relation. The third was simply to move a parenthetical remark to its own (still parenthetical) paragraph.

The journal that now has it tries to provide its first review within three months.

December Song

24 October 2014

As he lay in his death-bed, he expressed his profound sadness that he’d just never found the woman with whom he were to share his life. Some day, the right one will come along. insisted someone reflexively.

A nurse entered the room. Before the light completely faded into darkness, he saw her look at him and wink.

The Little Pink Little Blue Book

20 October 2014

I have made available a PDF file assembling scans of Little Blue Book 1564, Homosexuality in the Lives of the Great, by J[ames] V[incent] Nash. The file size is 51,140,131 bytes.

This Little Blue Book seems to be one of the more difficult to acquire. I don’t know if that’s because the existing stock is peculiarly small or because those who have copies are especially reluctant to part with them. Meanwhile, though my investigation concluded that the work has slipt into the public domain, I have not found the contents reproduced elsewhere.

Though the scans are imperfect, I believe that the whole body of the text is easily read. As to that imperfection, I was reluctant to increase wear-and-tear on my copy, and I did not want to commit a great many hours to the project.

There are passages in this booklet that will make many modern readers wince, but it represented a relatively enlightened view for the time in which it was first published (c. 1928).

Disjunctive Jam-Up

26 September 2014

The Eight Amendment to the Constitution of the United States declares

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

(Underscore mine.) The constitution of the state of California has a much more complex discussion of bail; but its Article 1, §17 declares

Cruel or unusual punishment may not be inflicted or excessive fines imposed.

(Underscore mine.) Plainly these words are an adaptation from the US Constitution.

The replacement of and with or was apparently to indicate that cruel punishment were not to be deemed acceptable simply by virtue of being usual. Indeed, Article 1, §17 of the constitution of the state of Florida used to declare

Excessive fines, cruel or unusual punishment, attainder, forfeiture of estate, indefinite imprisonment, and unreasonable detention of witnesses are forbidden.

(underscore mine) and the state supreme court made just that interpretation in cases of the death penalty. (The section has since been radically revised.)

However, a hypothetical problem arises from the replacement. Just as cruel punishment is not acceptable regardless of whether it is unusual, unusual punishment is not acceptable regardless of whether it is cruel. And if most or all prevailing punishments were cruel, then any other sort of punishment were unusual; and unusual punishment has been forbidden. Thus, under such circumstance, all punishment were forbidden!

This problem may not be merely hypothetical, in the context of problems such as prison over-crowding. (Of course, when push comes to shove, lawyers and judges tend to shove logic out the door.)

It's All in the Timing

29 August 2014

The Administration has timed its decision on what sort of immigration reform to implement by Executive Decree so that the President can be informed by whatever occurs on 11 September. Any considered reforms that would, in light of 11 September, seem foolish to the voting public will be shelved. If nothing happens domestically, then the President will feel that he has a freer hand.