Tuesday, October 30, 2012

content as commodity

This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value.

~ Bob Iger on Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, quoted here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

step backward for uncertainty

Reuters reports that six Italian earthquake scientists have been jailed for manslaughter for "failing to give adequate warning of the 2009 earthquake in the city of L'Aquila."

Prediction of events with some component of randomness is necessarily uncertain—to think otherwise is to misunderstand the whole endeavor. The fault here is not with the scientists, for predicting incorrectly, but with the public for believing this prediction came with certainty. To suppress predictors of random events for predicting incorrectly is to court ignorance and block progress, as it discourages the very research which will one day improve our ability to predict such events.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

mach on academia

Similarly, esprit de corps, class bias, national pride, and even the narrowest minded local patriotism may have high value, for certain purposes. But such attitudes will not be shared by the broad-minded inquirer, at least not in moments of research. All such egoistic views are adequate only for practical purposes. Of course, even the inquirer may succumb to habit. Trifling pedantries and nonsensical discussions, the cunning appropriation of others' thoughts, with perfidious silence as to the sources, the metaphorical dysphagia suffered when recognition must be given, and the crooked illumination of others' performances when this is done, abundantly show that the scientist and scholar have also the battle of existence to fight, that the ways of science still lead to the mouth, and that the pure quest of knowledge in our present social conditions is still an ideal.

~ Ernst Mach (1885) Contributiosn to the Analysis of the Sensations

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

gegen gedankenexperimente

[Another vow aimed at improving the discipline]


Dealing with logical (rather than physical) possibility, the only plausible purpose of thought experiments is conceptual clarification through appeal to intuition;

Intuitions by their very nature may only be used to investigate intuitive concepts; yet

Firstly, there is no guarantee either that intuitive concepts may be made sufficiently precise, nor even if they can be, made sufficiently relevant for the problems of philosophy; and

Secondly, the assertion that intuitive concepts are indeed so relevant begs a mere statistical survey of "folk" intuitions on their content, a procedure widely reviled yet nevertheless the inevitable consequence of the practice of appeals to intuition in general and thought experiments in particular;

Consequently, thought experiments can serve no purpose in philosophical discourse other than to distract from and avoid real philosophical issues, and to block, misdirect from, and otherwise frustrate the precise definition of concepts constructive for clarifying philosophical problems through the red herring of intuition;


I vow never to utilize thought experiments in my philosophy, nor to succumb to the temptation to appeal merely to intuition, when considerations of philosophical work may direct my conceptual clarification in a more constructive direction than that of mere intuitive appeal.

[signed, dated]

Monday, October 1, 2012

darkness, light

The first film I ever saw by Jan Švankmajer—shown as part of a late night, public access TV program from Rice University in the early 90s which showcased avant garde animation.