Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Technical Difficulties

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Readers may have noticed some technical problems with this 'blog over the previous few days. I believe that the problems are resolved.

Recently, browsers have become concerned to warn users when they are dealing with sites that do not support encryption. Simply so as not to worry my visitors, I have tried to support the HTTPS protocol.

But I found that WordPress was still delivering some things with the less secure HTTP protocol, which in turn was provoking the Opera browser to issue warnings. At the WordPress site, I learned that I needed to modify two fields.

Unfortunately, changing these two fields broke my theme — my presentation software — so that fall-back text, rather than the title graphic, was sometimes displayed; but I didn't discover the breakage for a while, because the symptom wasn't always present. Ultimately, I realized that something were amiss. I tracked the problem to inconsistencies in how WordPress determines the protocol of the URI of the 'blog versus that of the directory holding the themes.

I recoded my theme to handle this inconsistency. (In the process of this recoding, my 'blog was made still more dysfunctional over several brief intervals.) My code is now sufficiently robust that it should not break if WordPress is made consistent in these determinations.

More than Six Weeks

Saturday, 7 April 2018

My paper on qualitative probability has been in the submission queue of the same journal for more than six weeks now. The status of the paper has been listed as Editor Assigned since 23 February (by a European clock). The management system does not report when the handling editor begins seeking reviewers, but it would only be under unusual and rather scandalous circumstances that a paper would have been in the queue for this length of time without a search for reviewers having begun. Reviewers are normally found within four to six weeks of the handling editor being assigned; the editor is probably struggling to find reviewers for my paper.

I have read of a paper being rejected by a journal after about two months, ostensibly because the editor were unable to find reviewers; but most editors do not give-up within that span. I have also read of a paper accepted because reviewers could not be found, but I think that most editors would regard such a decision as inappropriate.

I have been doing some work on the next paper in the programme. Mostly, I have been researching the history of an approach that I want to reject, which history should inform the introduction of my paper.

Three Weeks and Counting

Friday, 16 March 2018

The journal to which I submitted my paper on qualitative probability on 20 February has multiple editors. On 23 February (by a European clock) it was listed as assigned to one. Since then, the listing has remained unchanged; unless it receives a desk rejection (Editor has a decision), the next classification will be Reviewers Assigned, to be followed by Under Review.

It is not impossible that it should be given a desk rejection even after more than three weeks in the hands of an editor, but I think that such a rejection is unlikely. The editor seems to have read or be reading the paper, and to have recognized that it indeed is properly submitted to a journal concerned with philosophy of science, unlike the editor at the first journal to which I submitted it.

It is fairly common for it to take a month or a bit more to find reviewers. It may be harder to find reviewers for my paper than it would be to find reviewers for a typical submission.

A Third Rejection and Fourth Submission

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The third journal to which I submitted my paper on formal qualitative probability had a 10,000-word limit on submissions (with bibliographies excluded from the calculation). I wasn't sure just how they wanted formulæ to be assessed, but it seemed to me that I should still be under their limit with them counted in some reasonable way. As the editors requested a word-count, I mentioned to them that I weren't sure how to assess the formulæ. After barely less than two weeks, the paper was rejected, without a reason being given.

The next journal to which I planned to submit the paper had a 9,500-word limit (with bibliographies included in the calculation). I still thought that I would be under that limit. Unfortunately, they wanted citations and the bibliography formatted in a way for which I was not immediately prepared, so I spent some time wrestling with that. Then, part-way through the submission process, I encountered a note that said that figures were to be counted as if having as many words as the space they occupied could otherwise have contained. What they had called a word limit began to look suspiciously like a page limit (combined with an expectation as to the size of type).

My paper does not have an figures as such, but many of its formulæ are in block-display form. In theory, I could present the formulæ in in-line form, and then the paper would probably come-in under the apparent limit; but it would also become nearly impossible to understand. In order to get my paper under the apparent limit otherwise, I'd have to pare-away more than 18% of its content, which would be dreadful. I might press ahead without making changes, as the editors had not said anything about formulæ, but I felt sure that I'd be wasting my time.

And I think that it is comparatively likely that the previous journal, with its ostensible word limit actually had a similar page limit.

I made some further improvements in the content. One improvement was a consequence of looking again at an article to deal with the citations, and noticing something that I'd long ago forgot. Another was a result of fleshing-out the philosophical discussion, still in the wake of the first rejection. My perhaps too spartan mention of that change puzzled kpm, so I wrote a longer explanation for her, and the process of doing that led to my adding two more points to that discussion.

To-night, I submitted the latest version of the paper to what one might count as the fourth or fifth journal. It is again most likely that I'll get a desk rejection; and, should it instead be sent to reviewers, most likely that they will reject it. Either such rejection would be hard to take, even though anticipated.

But I know that it was a marvelous piece of work when sent to the first journal, and it is still better now.

A Second Rejection and Third Submission

Friday, 26 January 2018

On 25 January, I received a desk rejection (without explanation) from the second journal to which I had submitted my article on qualitative probability. To-day, I submitted to a third journal, adopting one of two suggestions from Anthony Gamst.

This third journal imposes a strict word limit. I am not sure how to adjust a word count in the presence of formulæ, but I removed two tables to ensure that I were below the limit. Possibly they might be restored, if a reviewer wants a pair of claims within the text to be substantiated.

I also made some minor changes in the text to hide my identity in the specific manner demanded by the journal. I don't know whether I would want to reverse those changes should the article be accepted.

Additionally, I added a sentence to the abstract, in order to help the editor (and any other possible reader) recognize the philosophical content within the paper.

Again, most articles receive rejections before being sent to reviewers, and most articles sent to reviewers are rejected. I must be prepared to deal with yet another rejection.

A First Rejection and Second Submission

Thursday, 18 January 2018

I received a desk rejection from the editor of the first journal to which I submitted my paper on qualitative probability. He said that the paper were a highly technical discussion without sufficient engagement with the philosophical literature, and would be better suited to a journal of statistical or probability theory.

There is very little philosophical literature on qualitative probability as such, and I engaged with it; I also discussed philosophical issues that don't appear in that prior literature.

A journal of statistical theory would almost surely reject my paper. One of probability theory might well accept it; but might instead reject it as too philosophical.

I've submitted to another journal of philosophy. That journal demanded to know to where I'd previously submitted the paper, so I told them and gave the editor's argument for rejection. Then, in a set of cover comments, I explained why I thought that argument inappropriate. I also made a point of noting work that this next journal had previously published on probability theory that was formal and did not embrace an interpretation of probability.

My argument not-withstanding, I can expect yet another desk rejection. If-and-when my paper reaches editors who send it on to reviewers, I can expect that at least the first few sets of reviewers will reject it. But, were I unwilling to endure this wretched process, then it would have made little sense for me to write the paper in the first place, as my prior experience informed me as to what to expect in submitting a paper that innovated in a non-trivial manner.

As I told kpm, my submitting to another journal on the same day as I had been rejected was largely a matter of getting on another horse. I might have spent more time investigating my options, and might thus have identified a still more suitable journal, but I didn't want to be bogged-down by such considerations even as I dealt with my frustration and disappointment.

Again into the Breach

Monday, 15 January 2018

As occasionally noted in publicly accessible entries to this 'blog, I have been working on a paper on qualitative probability. A day or so before Christmas, I had a draft that I was willing to promote beyond a circle of friends.

I sent links to a few researchers, some of them quite prominent in the field. One of them responded very quickly in a way that I found very encouraging; and his remarks motivated me to make some improvements in the verbal exposition.

I hoped and still hope to receive responses from others, but as of to-day have not. I'd set to-day as my dead-line to begin the process of submitting the paper to academic journals, and therefore have done so.

The process of submission is emotionally difficult for many authors, and my past experiences have been especially bad, including having a journal fail to reach a decision for more than a year-and-a-half, so that I ultimate withdrew the paper from their consideration. I even abandoned one short paper because the psychological cost of trying to get it accepted in some journal was significantly impeding my development of other work. While there is some possibility that finding acceptance for this latest paper will be less painful, I am likely to be in for a very trying time.

It is to be hoped that, none-the-less, I will be able to make some progress on the next paper in the programme of which my paper on indecision and now this paper on probability are the first two installments. In the presumably forth-coming paper, I will integrate incomplete preferences with incompletely ordered probabilities to arrive at a theory of rational decision-making more generalized and more reälistic than that of expected-utility maximization. A fourth and fifth installment are to follow that.

But the probability paper may be the most important thing that I will ever have written.

A Passing Anniversary

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

I used occasionally to mention a girl-friend in unfiltered entries to this 'blog, but stopped doing so in 2013. The relationship had problems that I didn't and don't care to discuss here publicly — for her sake.

On 30 August 2013, without warning, she hanged our relationship, strangling, at the end of a rope. I don't know exactly when the relationship should be deemed to have died. I can say, to the day, when I reached acceptance of its death, but I don't imagine that, on the previous day, it might actually have been saved.

de transitv Veneris res

Wednesday, 31 May 2017
002 yr

Failing to Recognize an Inner Life

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

In its issue of 19 January 1924, Collier's published The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Edward Connell jr. This now quite famous story — repeatedly anthologized and adapted for film,[1] for radio, and for television — is of Sanger Rainsford, a big-game hunter.

At the start of the story, Rainsford and company are on a yacht, moving through foggy darkness in the Caribbean. In reference to their planned destination, a companion asserts Great sport, hunting.

The best sport in the world, agreed Rainsford.

For the hunter, amended Whitney. Not for the jaguar.

Don't talk rot, Whitney, said Rainsford. You're a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?

Perhaps the jaguar does, observed Whitney.

Bah! They've no understanding.

Even so, I rather think they understand one thing — fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death.

Rainsford dismisses this. The world is made up of two classes — the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters. On this score, his luck does not hold.

Shortly after this conversation, he falls from the yacht as he goes to the railing to listen, having heard shots in the distance. He decides that his best chances for survival are in swimming in the direction of those shots. As he does so, he hears a cry from an animal that he does not recognize, except in-so-far as it is at the extremes of anguish and of terror. Then he hears yet another shot. Continuing to swim in that direction, he finds his way to an island. Thence, he makes his way to the hunter, General Zaroff.

Zaroff recognizes Rainsford by name, and expresses himself as pleased to think that he might now have a hunting companion. But Zaroff hunts men; as game; as the most dangerous game. The resulting argument between Rainsford and Zaroff is rather like the earlier argument between Whitney and Rainsford, with a terrible amplification. And, because Rainsford refuses to become a hunter of men, he is made the game. He is forced into a life-or-death contest that he never sought, against someone whose skills as a hunter are greater, and who additionally has assistance and weapons that Rainsford does not.

Hearing a sound that he has known — the howls and barks of a dog pack when on the hunt — Rainsford learns the fear of which Whitney had spoken; Rainsford comes to know how an animal at bay feels, because he is now an animal at bay.

I don't imagine any of you learning anything from this story about the perspective of the hunted. But there are as well the perspectives of hunters — the perspective of Zaroff, of course; but also the earlier perspective of Rainsford. Those of us who recoil at killing for sport find it easy to imagine Rainsford as a changed man, who has learned an important lesson, in a terrifying way. But Rainsford was capable of such change, because he is not a psychopath, not a sadist, nor too great a fool to learn. He was simply a man who was very mistaken. Perhaps better men would be better creatures of the same time and of the same place, but he was not truly a bad man.


Theunis Botha was guiding hunters who stumbled into a group of elephants. A female grabbed and lifted him by her trunk; she was shot, and fell, crushing him. My reäction to the story wasn't one of regret. But someone about whom I care (rather a lot) has written

I hope he suffered. I hope he felt every crush and the same sense of helpless panic animals feel when being chased, trapped and shot to death by well-armed hunters.

And I think — my God! — why? What good would such suffering do? It is unlikely that Mr Botha rejoiced in the fear and in the pain that he caused; rather, it is far more likely that, as with Rainsford before he met Zaroff, the fear and pain of the hunted did not register with him. If Botha were a man rather like Rainsford, here he had no time to learn from suffering. Can we recognize the inner life of Theunis Botha and still wish terrible punishment upon him for failing to recognize the inner lives of beasts?


[1] See especially the classic movie version of 1932.