Archive for the ‘disturbing the peace’ Category

Sexual [Meta]-Preferences

Friday, 20 May 2022

As I noted in an earlier 'blog entry, I use the words choice and choose simply to refer to selection; and, when I say that someone prefers X to Y, I mean that if given a set of mutually exclusive options that include X and Y then Y will never be selected. Some people try to mean something else by one or both of these terms. In the case of choose, they seldom if ever explain what that something might be. R[obert] Duncan Luce proposed to define preference in terms of probability of selection, rather than in an absolute manner as do I; that difference won't bear meaningfully upon what I have to say here.

One might have preferences about one's preferences. For example, preferring-not-to-prefer simultaneously X to Y, Y to Z, and Z to X for any X, Y, and Z. But note that making choices based upon the preferences that one has is different from choosing to have the preferences with which one makes the choice. Choices about preferences are meta-choices; preferences determining meta-choices are meta-preferences.

In theory, all choices could be determined by preferences, all preferences could be meta-chosen, all meta-choices could be determined by meta-preferences, all meta-preferences could be meta-meta-chosen, all meta-meta-choices could be determined by meta-meta-preferences, &c out to any finite level of meta that you might imagine. But the levelling cannot be infinite. At some point, one reaches a level that wasn't chosen. Varieties of choices and preferences that are turtles all the way down are an impossibility. A class of choices cannot have any members if it is defined such that each member is underlain by a choice of that same class. Likewise for preferences.

And hence I come to the expression sexual preference. As introduced and still generally to-day, it refers to what one sexually prefers; it says nothing about what one meta-prefers or meta-chooses. People said to have sexual preferences are thereby said to choose with those preferences, not to have chosen the preferences themselves. Someone said to have heterosexual preferences is not thus said to have chosen heterosexuality itself, and so too of someone said to have homosexual preferences. And if we deny that sexual preferences can be real because they are not underlain by a choice of sexual orientation, then we must claim that all non-sexual preferences are likewise not real, because it's never turtles-all-the-way-down.

The only people who will be offended by the term sexual preference itself will have confused preferences with meta-preferences — or will be those people who have simply embraced the claim that the term is offensive without much thought as to why it should be so. And a rather large group will not actually be offended, but will rôle-play as if offended, because they observe that this behavior is the practice of their political tribe.

On Taking the Law into One's Own Hands

Monday, 17 May 2021

In almost every instance in which the admonition Don't take the law into your own hands! is used, the intention is that one should defer to some other party. But there are various parties to whom one could defer, some of them rival. A choice to defer at all is itself a choice about what is the law and implicitly about how it should be applied. In choosing to defer to one of these parties, rather than to another, one has already taken the law into one's own hands, if only then to let it go. A person is always responsible for such choices. Sometimes, deference is a very appropriate choice, and perhaps even the only appropriate choice, but one is responsible for choosing when and to whom to defer. The only way that a person could perhaps not at all take the law into his-or-her own hands would be in utter passivity — not even acting to draw some other party into the situation as giver or enforcer of law. And, still, to choose passivity would be a choice, and sometimes a morally unacceptable choice.

Those who insist that we should not take the law into our own hands almost always intend that we should defer to those with the most social power concerning law. Various concerns might motivate that intention, but most often the admonition comes from members of that group (state officials), or from people who take it that the social power somehow arises from virtue of some sort, or from those who believe that the only alternative to deferring to those with the most social power is so obviously barbarism that no argument need be made. If a reader believes that I need to critique any of these cases, then he-or-she should comment below to that effect.

Might as Well Be Me

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Every day, I encounter one or more academic studies arguing that this or that historical figure were homosexual.

Then it occurred to me that, should I ever become famous, someone will write an article or monograph or book arguing that I were homosexual.

Then it occurred to me that I won't even have to become famous; there are so many academics who want to argue that someone were homosexual that none of us will be ignored. Sooner or later, in the case of each person for whom there is material to be interpretted, one of those academics will get around to arguing that the person were homosexual.

Then it occurred to me that I might be able to get a publication in a journal of sociology or of gender studies by arguing that I were homosexual. I wonder how that would look on my CV.

I Still Don't Know Why He Ever Liked that Guy

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Years ago, a friend and I were talking about something, and he mentioned Hitler. I declared

I don't know why you ever liked that guy!

in reply to which he barked

Oh! That is a lie![1]

Well, no, it wasn't a lie. I escalated by betting him dinner on the matter. Then I explained to him that, since the truth of a proposition is a precondition for it to be known, one of the ways that I could not know why he'd ever liked Hitler would be if he'd never liked Hitler. Another way would be if I'd never believed that he'd liked Hitler, regardless of how my friend really felt about Hitler.

Indeed, the contradiction of I don't know why you ever liked that guy! is I know why you at some time liked that guy! Formally,[2] [formal logical expression] So,

I don't know why you ever liked that guy!

was a truth (though perhaps not a simple truth, as he'd had trouble seeing it).

Having won the wager, I waived the prize; my objectives in betting had all been met. Now, had he won the wager, then I'm sure that he'd have collected; but had I claimed, as he'd thought, that he'd once liked Hitler, then he'd have been quite justified in extracting the dinner; it would have disincentivized my insulting him in such a way, and off-set the felt sting of the calumny.

[1] That was how he spoke. He often began with Oh!, and when learning English in Hong Kong he had been taught to avoid contractions.

[2] (2015:09/24): I have edited the formal expression, seeking to have it capture more completely the structure of the natural-language expression.

Self-Locating QR Code

Friday, 14 June 2013
QR Code pointing to

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day Is Here!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

To-day, 20 May, is Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. I'm quite disappointed that its founder has retreated; I could not have withdrawn in good conscience, even though my contribution demonstrates that I am pretty poor at working in charcoal: [drawing of the head of a bearded man of Mediterranean stock]

Some people have chosen to draw caricatures, but my objective was simply to violate a grossly illegitimate prohibition. As such, I sought to draw Mohammed. If the death threats become more narrowly focussed on those who creäte caricatures, then I will creäte a caricature.


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

I received notice this morning from eBay:

We received a report about a message you sent to another eBay member through our Email Forwarding System. The message violates the Misuse of eBay Email Forwarding System policy. We want to let you know about the report and invite you to learn more about communication between sellers and buyers. To learn more about the Email Forwarding System guidelines, please go to:

We're taking a neutral position regarding the report we received, but if we continue to receive similar reports, we'll have to investigate. Policy violations can result in a formal warning, a temporary suspension, or an indefinite suspension.

If you have concerns related to this matter, you can contact us by going to:

Well, I'd like to know about what message this complaint was levelled. But, naturally (this being eBay), there's no appropriate option at index_selection.html, and the best fitting options require that in one field I provide a relevant item number or user ID about whom I'm complaining. My own user ID is rejected from this field.

Over the years, eBay, like many other corporations, has modified its interface and protocols to make them dumber in ways that specifically increase the difficulty of confronting it with responsibility.

eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar, whose user ID is pierre. So I entered that user ID in the field, and it was accepted. Doubtless that, if others do likewise, then the software will be tweaked to prevent it.

Doing the Bidding of the Beast

Friday, 31 July 2009

I am amused by this eBay bid history:

I'll translate:

  • On 27 July, at 11:30:10 PDT, seller posts item with an opening bid of $1.00 and some still unknown reserve price.
  • At 19:36:05 PDT, first bidder enters a maximum bid of $6.16; this does not meet reserve price, so first bid is $1.00.
  • On 29 Jul, at 12:45:05 PDT, second bidder enters a maximum bid of $5.00; entry automatically pushes bid of first bidder to $5.50.
  • 10 seconds later, second bidder enters some maximum bid more than 50¢ than first bidder's maximum bid, and finds that his or her bid is now $6.66.
  • 12 seconds later, second bidder enters some higher maximum bid, but his or her bid remains $6.66.
  • Another 12 seconds later, second bidder enters some even higher maximum bid, but his or her bid remains $6.66.

If the second bidder were to enter a bid not less than the seller's reserve price, then his or her bid would become that. Otherwise, his or her bid will remain at $6.66 until some other bidder enters at least $7.16.

(BtW, I put the words reserve and maximum in quotes, because, as far as I'm concerned, eBay abuses each term, one way or another.)

Shepherding the Sheep Art

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

I recommend that the reader follow any one of these links

each of which should be to a copy of the same video as that of the other two links.


Thursday, 25 December 2008

Some of you will recall my highly-localized tradition of anonymous Butterfinger bars. Last night, I went to the local CVS pharmacy and bought an eight-pack of Butterfinger Mini bars, took it home and gift-wrapped it, and then snuck it under the miniature Christmas tree on my neighbors' table.

While at CVS pharmacy, I encountered Chris, who was despairing over an immediate lack of consumer choice. He had an urgent need to replace a mislaid umbrella. He had checked at the local Rite Aid and found none. At CVS pharmacy, his choices were amongst just two children's umbrellas, one with a race-car theme, the other a pink princess thing. Recognizing that the ironic charm of the latter would be quickly exhausted, he chose the former.

My very best seasonal wishes to my friends who are reading this. As to the rest of you, I eye you with suspicion. Don't try nothin' funny!