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On Philosophy's envy of her four sisters (series: notes to myself)

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Philosophy has four sisters: Mathematics, Poetry, Religion, and Science. She envies all of them. She would like to be as powerfully abstract, and rigorously demonstrative, and practically useful, and timeless ... as she believes Mathematics to be. But failing, she ends up calculating the qualitative, formalising the undefinable, inferring the trivial, and missing the obvious: useless, empty, self-referential. She would like to be as delicately perceptive, and existentially fine-tuned, and meaningfully profound, and experientially rich ... as she believes Poetry to be. But failing, she ends up blathering obscure intuitions, prophesying in an esoteric language, playing with words while disrespecting facts and reasonings, obsessed with invented etymologies but oblivious of actual meanings: unhinged, nonsensical, unaccountable. She would like to be as methodologically driven, and systematically explanatory, and epistemically foundational, and progressively cumulative ... as she believes

On the value of semantic compost (series: notes to myself)

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Roses need compost, a mixture of ingredients used to fertilize and improve the soil. So do good ideas: they grow better with some semantic compost. Wrong hypotheses and failed experiments; fallacies and non-sequitur; cliche, imitations, commonplaces, and boilerplates; half-baked ideas, wrong ideas, and just silly ideas; nasty dogma and deeply-rooted superstitions; recurrent mistakes and plain errors; the trash and the kitsch; the inevitable confusions, delusions and illusions; untenable ideologies and falsified theories; unjustifiable beliefs, irrational convictions, false views... semantic compost is obtained by decomposing and recycling our mental waste, wherever it grows: in the arts and humanities, communications, cultures, laws, procedures and techniques, religions, sciences and STEM of all kinds... We constantly produce a boundless amount of semantic waste. It is not useless, but a resource that contains the beneficial elements that can help the next generation to understand more

On those who fail, but criticise the problems, not their solutions (series: notes to myself)

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I have met many people unable to accept, let alone admit, that they were ever wrong or might have made a mistake. The fault is always something else's or someone else's. Others were wrong:  they failed to comply; they mismanaged something or misunderstood something else; they were late, or delayed them; they did not get it, or did not understand; they did not write or did not reply, did not receive it or did not send it. They , not themselves. I call them hetero-blamers, with an inverted reference to Kant's heteronomy of reason. For the hetero-blamers of the world, it is always circumstances or people that did not work. When their solution fails, it is the problem's fault. Some people are naturally born hetero-blamers. They use the same, simple, counterfactual mechanism we all deploy, at least occasionally, to protect our skins from our failures: "I could have, ... I would have ... if only...". But they apply it not just to what they fail to achieve - as

On the need to be exposed (series: notes to myself)

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To be exposed.  Perceiving something in such a way as to be affected, painfully, by what is imposing itself on one’s own perception, because of its barely bearable absence or presence.  The boundless blue of space and time, beyond the trees, in a lately lightful evening.  The unlimited blackness of nothingness, beyond one’s exiled existence.  The endless green intricacies of malleable meanings, latching onto each other, beyond themselves.  The bottomless whiteness of hollow horrors we inflict upon ourselves, beyond understanding.  Being exposed to all this precedes wonder ( thaumazein ). And protecting oneself from this exposure prevents wonder.  The mind does not bear too much exposure.  There is a reason why we prefer to linger in the darkness.  The cave is refreshing.  We do not wish to be blinded by the light outside, skin burning under the sun.  Still, a life unexposed cannot be a life lived philosophically.  So, philosophy begins in maieutic pain. It all begins with exposure. To

On books that I shall not write (series: notes to myself) - version 2

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There are books I may write.  Others I should, because I want to finish those drafts, before I die.  But some will remain forever notes, no more than titles on empty folders. A book on inconsistencies and whether Dolet dies in two different ways in Yourcenar's  The Abyss ( L'Oeuvre au Noir , Paris: Gallimard, 1968): p. 151: Dolet ... mon libraire ... il n'ent pas l'occasion d'essayer de ma dragée, s'étant fait dépecher à Venise dans une ruelle obscure par le meme spadassin qui l'avait manqué en France. p. 185: Depuis qu' E'tienne Dolet, san premier libraire, avait été étranglé et geté au feu pour opinions subversives, Zénon n'avait plus publié en France. A book on invisible objects and Roland Barthes missing the third soldier in the picture from Nicaragua: "9 [...] a ruined street, two [but there are 3 in the picture reproduced above] helmeted soldiers on patrol; behind them two nuns." Camera Lucida - Reflections on photography , Vin

On the importance of being absent (series: notes to myself)

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There is a quiet space, inside your mind, where facts, and reasonings, and sensible ideas, are expected to prevail. There, they grow undisturbed, duly attended. There, details matter, meaning is essential, logic applies, noise is unwelcome.  It is an hortus conclusus , the walls of which have been built through decades of carefully honed distraction, deeply-acquired habits of hardened indifference, and willful rejection of pleasant whispers. That quiet space is not natural. But it was already a naturally protected corner of your solitude.  A promising spot in a gentle valley, where the winds of chatting voices always struggled to reach, hollow concerns never had strong roots, fashionable trends were usually a rare and short season.  It took efforts to build the protections. Distance from people. Some readings, chosen. Thoughts shaped and reshaped like pebbles in the river of doubt. Feelings, but only the robust ones, that could cement the unfelt. These and other heavy stones are now sh

On the expression "not necessarily" (series: notes to myself)

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I have a smart colleague who, when he disagrees about something, likes to premise his objection with a "Not necessarily".  He is not a logician, a mathematician, or a serious philosopher (the hilarious ones use the expression "not necessarily" as he does,  ad libitum ). He is a scholar of great learning and of subtle views. Yet he deploys the expression with an attitude so cavalier that, no matter whether he might actually have a point, it grates on my rational nerves. Painfully. Because the clause gives a whiff of credibility to anything that follows, when in fact it is almost inevitably mere rhetoric, and of the pretentious kind to boot. Say you argue that Brexit is a disaster, or that true AI of the Hollywood kind is not going to happen. "Non necessarily..." he may reply. And of course, he is right. Brexit is not necessarily a disaster, not in the same sense in which a triangle has necessarily three sides. But a disaster it is nonetheless. Patently, ob