Archive for February, 2014

The WORST Love Album In The World… EVER!!!

14/02/2014

BrokenHeart

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of us who are only too aware of the false promises of love and relationships.

Track / Artist / Album

1. The Everlasting / Manic Street Preachers / This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours

2.  Love Will Tear Us Apart / Joy Division / Permanent: Joy Division 1995

3.  She’s A Star / James / Whiplash

4.  History / The Verve / A Northern Soul

5.  America / Razorlight / Razorlight

6.  Nothing Compares 2 U / Sinéad O’ Connor /  I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

7.   I’ll Take The Rain / R.E.M. / Reveal

8.  Life Becoming A Landslide / Manic Street Preachers / Gold Against The Soul

9.  With Or Without You / U2 / The Joshua Tree

10.  Can’t Stand Me Now / The Libertines / The Libertines

11.  Try / Nelly Furtado / Folklore

12.  The Scientist / Coldplay / A Rush Of Blood To The Head

13.  Every Breath You Take / The Police / Synchronicity

14.  Man Of The World / Fleetwood Mac / The Very Best Of

15.  I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself / The White Stripes / Elephant

16.  She Is Suffering / Manic Street Preachers / The Holy Bible

17.  You Oughta Know / Alanis Morissette / Jagged Little Pill

18.  Run / Snow Patrol / Final Straw

19.  Train In Vain / The Clash / London Calling

20.  Under My Thumb / The Rolling Stones / Aftermath

21.  Wish You Were Here / Pink Floyd / Wish You Were Here

22.  The Power Of Goodbye / Madonna / Ray Of Light

23.  How Soon Is Now? / The SmithsHatful Of Hollow

24.  Say Hello Wave Goodbye / David Gray / White Ladder

25.  Last Christmas (performed by James Dean Bradfield live on TFI Friday, 1996) / George Michael/Wham! / Lipstick Traces: A Secret History Of

Sam Harris responds to Daniel Dennett’s review of ‘Free Will’

14/02/2014

HarrisFreeWillCoverI recently blogged on New Atheist writer and philosopher Daniel Dennett’s lengthy review of fellow “Four Horseman” Sam Harris’ views on “free will” contained in his short book of the same name and additional articles and public speaking, which I reviewed and summarised last year.

Harris has now posted a response to Dennett’s review, which (mercifully) is far shorter than Dennett’s original review.  Rather than correcting Dennett point-by-point, Harris has limited himself to calling Dennett out on his condescending tone and misrepresentations of his work:

I want to begin by reminding our readers—and myself—that exchanges like this aren’t necessarily pointless.  Perhaps you need no encouragement on that front, but I’m afraid I do. In recent years, I have spent so much time debating scientists, philosophers, and other scholars that I’ve begun to doubt whether any smart person retains the ability to change his mind.  This is one of the great scandals of intellectual life: The virtues of rational discourse are everywhere espoused, and yet witnessing someone relinquish a cherished opinion in real time is about as common as seeing a supernova explode overhead.  The perpetual stalemate one encounters in public debates is annoying because it is so clearly the product of motivated reasoning, self-deception, and other failures of rationality—and yet we’ve grown to expect it on every topic, no matter how intelligent and well-intentioned the participants.  I hope you and I don’t give our readers further cause for cynicism on this front.

Unfortunately, your review of my book doesn’t offer many reasons for optimism. It is a strange document—avuncular in places, but more generally sneering.  I think it fair to say that one could watch an entire season of Downton Abbey on Ritalin and not detect a finer note of condescension than you manage for twenty pages running.

(…)

You do this again and again in your review. And when you are not misreading me, you construct bad analogies—to sunsets, color vision, automobiles—none of which accomplish their intended purpose.  Some are simply faulty (that is, they don’t run through); others make my point for me, demonstrating that you have missed my point (or, somehow, your own).

I’m going for another beer now.

FacePalmStarTrek

Video of William Lane Craig’s misrepresentation of Sam Harris during and after their debate on morality

03/02/2014

Further to my posts reviewing the debate on morality between atheist Sam Harris and Christian apologist William Lane Craig, together with Craig’s distortions of Harris’ written work, nooneleftalivekibo has cited my first post in the above video, for which I am grateful and flattered.

Having watched a few nooneleftalivekibo’s other videos, I recommend those that expose Craig’s misrepresentation and quote-mining of Stephen Law, Michael Ruse and Stephen Hawking.

Daniel Dennett reviews ‘Free Will’ by Sam Harris

03/02/2014

HarrisFreeWillCoverLast year, I reviewed and summarised the writing and public speaking of Sam Harris in relation to “free will”.  Fellow “Four Horseman” and New Atheist writer and philosopher Daniel Dennett has written a lengthy review of Harris’ work.  In his short book, Free Will, as well as this article, Harris replied directly to Dennett’s account of “free will” in the latter’s book, Freedom Evolves.  Harris has also promised to respond in detail to Dennett’s latest review.

I have not read Dennett’s Freedom Evolves, (it is on my rather-large-and-ever-growing “to read” pile) and to be perfectly honest, I find his review of Harris’ Free Will to be rather dense and far less compelling than its subject matter, which I cannot praise highly enough.  My overall opinion (which I am happy to change once I have obtained a better grasp of Dennett’s work on the matter) is that Dennett has an almost presuppositional commitment to the notion of “free will” and will interpret the evidence any which way he can in order for it confirm to his notion of “free will”.  I also side very much with Harris’ charges in this article that Dennett has redefined what most people think is “free will” and declared it by fiat to be “the only one worth having”.

Daniel Miessler provides a useful executive summary of Dennett’s article at the beginning of his article that is just as long:

It serves as the most elaborate, learned, and desperate hand-waving I’ve ever witnessed. It was such a weak argument that it looked more like an example that a brilliant philosophy professor, like Daniel Dennett, might use to highlight poor arguments to his students.  Sadly it wasn’t a strawman used for instruction—it was his real position.

Here’s what he basically said:

1.  It seems like we make choices, so we do.

2.  It’s useful to hold people responsible for their actions, so moral responsibility is real.

I just saved you ~30 minutes of exasperation.

Nevertheless, the closing paragraph of Dennett’s review dispenses with all the philo-neuro-psycho-babble that has gone before and is all the more persuasive for it:

If you think that the fact that incompatibilist free will is an illusion demonstrates that no punishment can ever be truly deserved, think again.  It may help to consider all these issues in the context of a simpler phenomenon: sports.  In basketball there is the distinction between ordinary fouls and flagrant fouls, and in soccer there is the distinction between yellow cards and red cards, to list just two examples.  Are these distinctions fair?  Justified?  Should Harris be encouraged to argue that there is no real difference between the dirty player and the rest (and besides, the dirty player isn’t responsible for being a dirty player; just look at his upbringing!)?  Everybody who plays games must recognize that games without strictly enforced rules are not worth playing, and the rules that work best do not make allowances for differences in heritage, training, or innate skill.  So it is in society generally: we are all considered equal under the law, presumed to be responsible until and unless we prove to have some definite defect or infirmity that robs us of our free will, as ordinarily understood.

While I accept the bulk of Harris’ account/demolition of “free will”, Dennett has encapsulated the one glimmer of an objection that I have to it.  While the range of human thought and action – from sexuality to psychopathy – may be determined by prior causes over which humans have no control, I still cannot abandon the notion that degrees of human behaviour can be freely controlled.

Dennett uses the example of fair play in sports.  I draw on my own experiences of manners and etiquette (or lack thereof) in a professional (allegedly) office environment.  I have had to deal with rudeness and bullying – both face-to-face and via that accursed medium known as “email” – by men and women who are well-educated, otherwise well-mannered and who clearly know the difference between treating someone well and treating them badly.

Leaving aside the findings of Channel 4’s Psychopath Night that bankers and lawyers are among the top professions populated by psychopaths (!),  I cannot escape my impression that they know full well what they are doing, they are acting in a deliberate, calculating and manipulative fashion, that they are aware of the potential consequences of their actions and that they ought to be held fully accountable for what they are doing.

“They” may well have chosen “A” de facto, but “They” sure as hell ought to have chosen “B” de jure and deep down “They” themselves (whoever “They” are) know this full well.

In this sense, the illusion of “free will” is so powerful that it is virtually indistinguishable from reality.

Farewell, Philip Seymour Hoffman

03/02/2014

One of my favourite actors of all time, Philip Seymour Hoffman has died aged 46 of a drug overdose, BBC News reports here, here, here, and here.  I have not seen all of Hoffman’s films, but in all those that I have, he lit up the screen with his unique persona and made an indelible impression, whether in a lead or a supporting role.

The above video is a quintessential Hoffman scene/performance from Todd Solondz’s indie black comedy, Happiness (think American Beauty a thousand times darker and more fucked up!), with Hoffman playing Allen; a sexually repressed, emotionally stunted pervert who (quite literally) gets off by calling women at random from his phone book and a man so boring that even his own shrink zones out on him.  As Empire magazine commented in their review of Red Dragon where Hoffman played doomed journalist Freddy Lounds “no-one plays snivelling and enfeebled like Philip Seymour Hoffman.”

Hoffman’s greatest performance, and the one that deservedly earned him an Oscar for Best Actor was as Truman Capote in Bennett Miller’s 2005 film, Capote, documenting the eccentric New York writer’s researching of his masterpiece “non-fiction novel”, In Cold Blood: an account of the brutal murders of Herbert Clutter and his family by Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Edward Smith in Holcomb, Kansas in the penultimate month of the 1950s.  Hoffman brilliantly portrayed both the good and the bad sides of Capote’s charismatic genius, presenting him as a sympathetic and compassionate man, while at the same time being manipulative and deceitful in his quest to obtain the truth from the two killers in a project that ultimately would leave the writer mentally scarred for the rest of his life.

Hoffman is the latest in a long line of truly great artists whose tragically early demise has secured their legendary status.

BBC News’ Obituary / In Pictures

Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967 – 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman
1967 – 2014