73. Some Uses and Misuses of Reason

rationa2When can the use of rea­son lead to bet­ter lives and soci­eties, and when can it under­mine them?

Thor May
Bris­bane, 2014

Think­ing point: The Aus­tralian Attor­ney Gen­eral, George Bran­dis has just declared that argu­ments for cli­mate change are irra­tional and that those who assert it should take a lesson from Voltaire … http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/climate-change-proponents-using-mediaeval-tactics-george-brandis-20140418-zqwfc.html#ixzz2zDYtpzHx


Pref­ace: This is a dis­cus­sion paper, not a researched aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ment. The read­ing list at the end is mostly a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary links from the Inter­net and pretty acci­den­tal, not edited for qual­ity. Where a topic is of broad gen­eral inter­est comes up with friends, I have adopted the prac­tice of post­ing dis­cus­sion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that oth­ers might also find them worth think­ing about.


 

1.  Islands of Rea­son and the deep blue sea between

 

When the sun rises each morn­ing we may say the rea­son is that the earth on its ellip­ti­cal orbit spins so that one point faces that star. Or we may say that the Sun God has mounted his char­iot. Or we may say, after Ptolemy and the Chris­tian elders until a few cen­turies ago, that the sun is mov­ing around the earth. Take your pick. They have all seemed good rea­sons from rea­son­able men in their time. Our accep­tance of what passes for rea­soned argu­ment has a great deal to do with the com­pany we keep. Per­haps for most peo­ple, the word of accepted author­ity is the ulti­mate para­me­ter on where those rea­soned argu­ments may ven­ture. Con­tinue read­ing

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72. Crime without Punishment – the journey from means to ends

Means&Ends1.jpg

Sooner or later every­one – indi­vid­u­als, gov­ern­ments, com­pa­nies – has to make choices about whether to put aside cer­tain val­ues to achieve a desired end. Michael Pas­coe, an Aus­tralian finan­cial jour­nal­ist, has recently dis­cussed this at http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/comment-and-analysis/abandon-principles-and-pay-the-price-20140331-35tz4.html


Image credit: Hugh Macleod @ http://www.gapingvoidart.com/ 


Pref­ace: This is a dis­cus­sion paper, not a researched aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ment. The read­ing list at the end is a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary links from the Inter­net and pretty acci­den­tal, not edited for qual­ity. The author is a prin­ci­pal orga­nizer for a Bris­bane, Aus­tralia, dis­cus­sion group whose mem­bers come from diverse back­grounds, and which deals with an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of top­ics. Where a topic is of broad gen­eral inter­est I have adopted the prac­tice of post­ing dis­cus­sion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that oth­ers might also find them worth think­ing about.


1. Actual Vs hypo­thet­i­cal choices of ends and means

 

In the real world of events, as opposed to philo­soph­i­cal state­ments of “should”, deci­sions about ends and means always come down to who, if any­body, is respon­si­ble for con­se­quences. Where con­se­quences are not clear for actors, and espe­cially if con­se­quences are not per­sonal, almost any ends can be argued for, and almost any means might be ratio­nal­ized. For this rea­son, the read­ing list at the end of these notes is slanted towards a focus on real world sit­u­a­tions.

Con­tinue read­ing

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71. Is learning “grit” is the best way to succeed?

How have you man­aged your fail­ures, and has fail­ure made you a bet­ter per­son? Every­one fails at some­thing sooner or later. The impor­tant thing is how they han­dle fail­ure. A recent edu­ca­tional fad in Amer­ica is to teach stu­dents “grit” (http://www.npr.org/2014/03/17/290089998/does-teaching-kids-to-get-gritty-help-them-get-ahead ).

For those who are unclear, here are a cou­ple of def­i­n­i­tions of “grit” from the Inter­net:

– “firm­ness of mind or spirit :  unyield­ing courage in the face of hard­ship or dan­ger”

– “per­se­ver­ance and pas­sion for long-term goals” 

Pref­ace: This is a dis­cus­sion paper, not a researched aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ment. The read­ing list at the end is a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary links from the Inter­net and pretty acci­den­tal, not edited for qual­ity. The author is a prin­ci­pal orga­nizer for a Bris­bane, Aus­tralia, dis­cus­sion group whose mem­bers come from diverse back­grounds, and which deals with an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of top­ics. Where a topic is of broad gen­eral inter­est I have adopted the prac­tice of post­ing dis­cus­sion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that oth­ers might also find them worth think­ing about.


1. Intro­duc­tion

Is grit worth it? I think so, but that might be more a state­ment of hope than full con­vic­tion. As a teacher for 35 years, no qual­ity in stu­dents has been so dis­may­ing as the fail­ure of many to per­sist and over­come dif­fi­cul­ties in a par­tic­u­lar area of study. A teacher’s job is to raise indi­vid­u­als to their full poten­tial, so to the teacher a stu­dent falling short of poten­tial feels like absolute waste. Some­times the refusal to per­sist can seem like a mass psy­chosis, as when almost any native Eng­lish speaker off the street, for exam­ple, will declare that “I am no good at learn­ing lan­guages. Once I enrolled in a course for a semes­ter, but …”. 

Yet the issue is more nuanced than that. A pro­por­tion of those indi­vid­u­als in war, or extreme depri­va­tion, or in hos­tile work­places, or in set­ting up a small busi­ness against the odds, will show extra­or­di­nary per­sis­tence and even­tu­ally tri­umph where oth­ers fail. On the other hand, there are whole social groups who decide (and tell each other) that “I am no good at school”,  or (proudly) “I’m lazy. So what? Just get wasted. I’ll get screwed what­ever I try any­way”. Or they will look at the so-called paragons of suc­cess and say with hon­est dis­like, “why would I want to be like those dick-heads any­way?” Reflect­ing on my own life, I have to say there are things I have grimly per­sisted at, some­times for years, and emerged empty handed. At other times acco­lades have come for achieve­ments which seemed barely earned. It is not a fair world.

Con­tinue read­ing

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70. Are diet and exercise really personal choices?

  A human epi­demic of obe­sity / near-obe­sity has cor­re­lated world­wide with the spread of man­u­fac­tured food & bev­er­age, and motor­ized trans­port. Diet & exer­cise though seem to be intensely per­sonal choices. How can this dilemma be solved?

Diet&Exercise1 lasagne


Pref­ace: This is a dis­cus­sion paper, not a researched aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ment. The read­ing list at the end is a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary links from the Inter­net and pretty acci­den­tal, not edited for qual­ity. The author is a prin­ci­pal orga­nizer for a Bris­bane, Aus­tralia, dis­cus­sion group whose mem­bers come from diverse back­grounds, and which deals with an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of top­ics. Where a topic is of broad gen­eral inter­est I have adopted the prac­tice of post­ing dis­cus­sion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that oth­ers might also find them worth think­ing about.


 

1. This dis­cus­sion about diet and exer­cise is mostly grounded in Aus­tralia. The issues them­selves do impact on every coun­try and cul­ture, although in dif­fer­ent ways. For exam­ple 3rd World and devel­op­ing coun­tries tend to show quite dif­fer­ent pat­terns of con­scious phys­i­cal activ­ity from post-indus­trial soci­eties, although the mar­ket­ing of man­u­fac­tured food is impact­ing on them in increas­ingly sim­i­lar ways. Aus­tralia itself as a nation of immi­gra­tion with over 200 sources of eth­nic origin hosts a huge diver­sity of prac­tices and atti­tudes. Nev­er­the­less pat­terns are dis­cernible, and not all of them are encour­ag­ing. Con­tinue read­ing

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69. How do we judge literary value and artistic value?

Pref­ace: This is a dis­cus­sion paper, not a researched aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ment. The read­ing list at the end is a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary links from the Inter­net and pretty acci­den­tal, not edited for qual­ity. The author is a prin­ci­pal orga­nizer for a Bris­bane, Aus­tralia, dis­cus­sion group whose mem­bers come from diverse back­grounds, and which deals with an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of top­ics. Where a topic is of broad gen­eral inter­est I have adopted the prac­tice of post­ing dis­cus­sion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that oth­ers might also find them worth think­ing about.

ArtisticValueLiteraryValue

 

 

 

 

 

1.  Intro­duc­tion

Art emerges from the hand of the cre­ator, and the mind of the beholder. Art as dis­cussed in this arti­cle is taken very broadly. The broad mean­ing can encom­pass not merely paint­ing and sculp­ture, but lit­er­a­ture, music, dance, film, syn­the­ses made pos­si­ble by elec­tronic tech­nol­ogy, and so on. It can be a lit­tle con­fus­ing, at least in Eng­lish, as to how all of these enter­prises might be col­lected under a sin­gle head­ing. We do have an expres­sion in Eng­lish though about any activ­ity which requires mys­te­ri­ous but sophis­ti­cated human abil­i­ties: “It is more art than sci­ence”. The sug­ges­tion is that some human activ­i­ties depend upon a dynamic syn­the­sis skills, expe­ri­ence and judge­ment which is too com­plex to analyse, yet which yields out­comes of high qual­ity. “More art than sci­ence” cer­tainly under­lies our under­stand­ing of what artis­tic cre­ators have been able to achieve.

When it comes to par­tic­u­lar judge­ments how­ever, art, what­ever its form, has no sin­gle cri­te­rion of inter­pre­ta­tion. Depend­ing upon the time and the place, the cir­cum­stance and the human actors involved, the sta­tus of art (or its rejec­tion) is resolved through a mul­ti­tude of prisms. Here are some, but not all, of con­texts for con­sid­er­ing art and lit­er­a­ture: Con­tinue read­ing

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68. Are We Too Wealthy?

Do we demand an unsus­tain­able and unre­al­is­tic qual­ity of life? Does our desire to be wealthy place too much pres­sure on the econ­omy and on the envi­ron­ment? Is it pos­si­ble that we may have to think about accept­ing less? 

Thor May
Bris­bane, 2014

 

Pref­ace: This is a dis­cus­sion paper, not a researched aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ment. The read­ing list at the end is a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary links from the Inter­net. The author is a prin­ci­pal orga­nizer for a Bris­bane, Aus­tralia, dis­cus­sion group whose mem­bers come from diverse back­grounds, and which deals with an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of top­ics. Where a topic is of broad gen­eral inter­est I have adopted the prac­tice of post­ing dis­cus­sion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that oth­ers might also find them worth think­ing about. 

 

TooWealthy.jpgCarpeDiem.jpg

  Con­tinue read­ing

Posted in culture, economics, ethics, ideology, individualism, intellectuals, lifestyle, merit, motivation, philosophy, politics, proportion, refugees, wealth, work | Leave a comment

67. How Can We Treat Refugees Humanely? – An Australian Perspective

Refugees-opinion2010.jpgRefugees,  or more par­tic­u­larly asy­lum seek­ers arriv­ing by boat in Aus­tralian ter­ri­tory with­out prior autho­riza­tion, are a hot but­ton polit­i­cal issue in Aus­tralia. The pub­lic sen­ti­ment against them has hard­ened in the last sev­eral years, partly as a result of relent­less pop­ulist polit­i­cal rhetoric. In 2013 the Aus­tralian peo­ple elected a new fed­eral gov­ern­ment which has con­tin­ued to pur­sue an antag­o­nis­tic pol­icy against asy­lum seek­ers. In this envi­ron­ment, a Bris­bane dis­cus­sion group which is prin­ci­pally orga­nized by the present writer, decided that it would be inter­est­ing to con­duct a round table debate on the refugee issue. The analy­sis which fol­lows, together with the read­ing list, were part of the prepa­ra­tion for that dis­cus­sion. Note that the read­ing list draws heav­ily on cur­rent Aus­tralian jour­nal­is­tic report­ing since this report­ing in itself forms an impor­tant part of the pub­lic debate. Con­tinue read­ing

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