Battle Cry Explained

As no one answered my post about the poem A Little Boy Lost (featured on my sidebar), I've decided to explain my take on it.

In the first two stanzas, the boy questions God and Christianity. In the first, he doesn't see how he could know about or understand God, when all he has to work with are his lesser (compared to God) thoughts. In the second, the boy proposes that he should love all of God's creations equally, which all share the Earth with him. Thus, he cannot love the Priest more than a bird.

In the third stanza, the Priest grabs the boy, angry at his blasphemy. Questioning the faith is not looked upon favorably. But there's something else here too: the observers, the other members of the church, do not see the Priest as attacking the boy, but only as helping him. Even when the Priest uses physical force, nothing seems amiss to the faithful.

The fourth stanza is the money stanza. Here, the Priest declares the boy a fiend, and spells out his offense. His offense was using reason to examine and judge church doctrine. The Priest considers his doctrine a "holy mystery" which is not supposed to be explained or thought about rationally.

The final two stanzas describe the brutal punishment of the boy. It's not clear if he's literally burned to death, or only metaphorically. But it is clear that he is badly hurt, and that the church turns a blind eye to the boy's parents' tears. Also note that Albion is England.

The final line is a very powerful one. Everything up to this point tells a tragic story where the Priest is clearly wrong (I suppose this may not be so clear to everyone; feel free to discuss that in the comments). Phrasing the line as a question is very important. There are no accusations to deny. There are no claims to refute. There's nothing to argue with. There's just a question to ponder. Are such horrid things done in England? Certainly they have been. And certainly some people still trumpet faith over reason. Maybe they don't burn blasphemers any longer, but how different are the suppressions of reason in favour of faith that do take place?


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Bad/Evil

on a more interesting note, here's an email i just wrote:

I'm going to layout what I think bad is. I'm aware my answer doesn't tell us everything we'd like to know.

To start, we need to examine what a stable worldview is. A worldview can be said to be stable if new conjectures, new observations, new criticisms and arguments, won't send it off in new directions or otherwise cause it to change. A perfectly stable worldview would have to be entirely consistent, and entirely complete, otherwise it could be changed by new ideas.

Next, we ask what sort of stable worldviews can exist. I propose that there are three. The true, inverse, and null ones (alternatively: good, bad, and empty). The true one is stable because it's right about everything, and understands everything. The inverse one is stable because it's exactly the opposite of the true one, and persistently misinterprets all new ideas in the opposite of the true way, so that they are consistent with the inverse of the truth. The null worldview is stable because not only does it not say anything, but it can't learn anything either. It never hears of a new idea.

None of these perfectly stable worldviews exist (unless you feel like saying rocks qualify for the null view). They aren't real. But they can be approached. In practice, good ideas approach the true view, evil approaches the inverse view, and nihilism and relativism approach the null view.

Anyway, what is bad? Well, the ultimate in bad is the complete inverse worldview. And also, there can be lesser versions (ones with inconsistencies, and ones that don't yet deal with all subjects).


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pasting from aim is easy :-)

curi42 (9:25:42 AM): there's 2 main approaches (plus a mixture is possible too): 1) absolutely ignore everything false or stupid the person says, and just write about better ideas and better ways to think and live. hopefully he'll see the good in them, like them, adopt some, and eventually he'll realise he doesn't act on his old, crap theories any longer (or maybe he *won't* ever notice the change, but will act good)
curi42 (9:27:01 AM): 2) criticism! i'm sure we could make a nice list of 50 reasons his ideas don't work. the premises are flawed in lots of ways. even if the premises were true, his conclusions still wouldn't follow. he contradicts hismelf repeatedly. etc etc etc
curi42 (9:27:40 AM): style 2 seems to have bad results with most people (though perhaps something similar to style 2, that somehow takes into account detailed knowledge of the person, would work very well)
curi42 (9:27:59 AM): but style 1 is easy to ignore.


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roleplaying is surprisingly fundamental

page 342 of Fabric says Thomas Kuhn thinks we can't comprehend two paradigms (ways of looking at the world) at once (and thus having one blinds us). i wonder what he thinks roleplayers do. ho hum.


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gogo thinking

I got positive feedback on this email to the Philosophy Now yahoogroup, so I thought I'd share it more widely:

On Saturday, November 8, 2003, at 01:27 AM, nowhere man wrote:

Can someone please explain to me why these type of discusion groups inevitably end up with people being rude and insulting? I was unaware that in order to make a comment about a subject one had to be pompous and demonstrate the very worse in psuedo-intellectual skills. Hell, I thought these discussions were simply meant to be a bit of fun.
It's not so much inevitable as common.  There are some generally accepted ideas in our society that say things like, "For certain subjects, if you aren't well-read, you can't say anything intelligent, or at least can't come up with any good ideas, or any new ideas."  And for other subjects, you're supposed to need a PhD.  Philosophy is one of the worst in this respect.  Most academic philosophers spend their time worrying about dead people, and seems under the impression that even if you study the dead people extensively, it's still very difficult to come up with an actual new idea.  They're also very good at sounding pompous and being hard to read, and most people seem to have accepted that's what philosophy is *supposed to be like*.  So, then, untrained philosophers tend not to sound like that, and thus get dismissed.  (That style is, in actuality, bad.  And a few notable philosophers did rebel against it.  Like Karl Popper, who was very concerned with writing clearly and understandably, and good at it too.)


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gogo morality

some people wonder something like, "How can anarcho-capitalism work? What if the people running the police/army kinda companies decided to stop playing nice, and take over?"

well, it seems to me this question is absurd. what if President Bush decided to stop playing nice and take over? there aren't even competing armies in the US! what would stop him?

well our society! he would be disobeyed at every level of the chain of command. his generals wouldn't do it. and no common soldiers would either. no one would.

if we evolved to an anarcho-capitalist society, we'd still have a country of good people who wouldn't obey orders to become conquerers.


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i wonder if anyone is listening

Dan is a bit confused about democracy

if you had an "ideal" democracy in the really absurd and stupid sense that everyone votes on every issue, and everyone's vote counts (and yes, if you're thinking that isn't coherent, you're right), well what would happen is, most things that got voted on....well you'd have 7% for one policy, 4% for another, 3% for another, etc...

So then what? We could just have the highest thing win. Then 93% of the people get screwed I suppose (though they'll form parties, coalitions, and voting blocks so that won't happen as much in the future).

Or you could do run-offs. This slowly forces minority opinions to pick a more popular opinion to support, too. similar effect to parties/coalitions/voting-blocks

What we couldn't have is a mixed law that incorporates the ideas of every single voter. it wouldn't come out to have a coherent meaning. cause different people will support contradictory ideas.

so we discover the reality of our system is very similar to the real effects of a so-called "ideal" democracy (and also that you have to make some tough choices to have a workable democracy, and can't just rely on the "ideal" notion that everyone has a voice). and truth is there are very good reasons for a two party system. ok, i admit that point is debatable, but saying the US isn't a democracy is absurd (BTW I'm aware that there are technically other parties, but stuff *is* setup for only two parties to be powerful at a time).


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Ageism Watch

source

"I've learned that 99% of the time when something isn't working in your house, one of your kids did it."


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split post

curi looks about 15, skinny, goes barefoot with shorts and a t-shirt in any weather, and moves unnaturally fast. He's standing in front of a bridge over a small, calm river. A long line of people are crossing in silence.

curi: "Salutations! Welcome to my domain!"
Elliot (no description ;p): hmpf
curi: *Waves at people* "What?"
Elliot: They're so quiet.
curi: Hah! Watch this.
curi: *Jumps up and down shouting* Hey everyone! Speak or I'll fire this machine gun *holds up machinegun* into the crowd!
crowd: *stops walking, cowers and cringes*
two bold souls: *shouting* Please don't shoot.
Elliot: ...
curi: see, they talked
Elliot: ...
curi: I'll give you sushi to cheer up.
Elliot: ...
crowd: *trudges on again*
curi: *rolls eyes* Fine, fuck you.
Elliot: no
curi: Now introducing...
curi: *pauses*
curi: Virtue Pure!
Virtue Pure (an adult, dressed classy, and always illuminated by a personal beam of light from the heavens that follows him): Hi everyone. I'm so happy to be here.
Elliot: Why?
Virtue Pure: It's really an honor to be invited. I'm ecstatic just to be in your presence, Elliot. You're brilliant, ya know?
Elliot: You mean bored.
Virtue Pure: No I don't.
Elliot: Are you contradicting me? I thought I was the brilliant one. ;p
Virtue Pure: I meant no offense. I'll try to help you with your boredom.
Elliot: ...
Virtue Pure: Well, give me a moment to think.
curi: you people suck. well at least if I add more it'll make a good orgy...
Elliot: Worst. Pun. Ever.
curi: whatever. now introducing: Isyn Kaitsol.

Isyn Kaitsol is 18, tall, and fairly strong. He wears chainmail under a black robe, and a longsword on his belt. He is a priest of Amilise Siliv, and hopes to one day master arcane magiks as well. He has a bit of an evil problem.

Isyn: Hi! Hi! Glad to be here. Now, you may be thinking, "I know him. He worships an evil Goddess, and would ritually sacrifice children to gain ancient magiks." But I wanted to assure you that Amilise is very beautiful.
Elliot: Oh. Great. I'll sleep easy then.
curi: Hey, stop using sarcasm, that's part of my domain.
Elliot: yeah, sure...
Isyn: Hey, I resent this suspicion. I wasn't even the one who killed Myrdin.
curi: Speaking of killing Myrdin, here's Caeli (also known as Lia)!

Caeli approaches in a polished, steel breastplate with gold inlays, with a longsword on her belt. She stands up straight and seems tall despite being 5'7". Confidence and determination show in her blue eyes. She seems to radiate light, and her pale gold hair flies freely behind her in the light wind. But as she approaches Isyn, the light around her dims and her hair darkens and becomes mixed with brown.

Caeli: *strides up to stand beside Isyn* Myrdin was a traitor that deserved to die. He would have killed us in our sleep if I had not stopped him.
Isyn: *intones* Death comes for us all.
curi: riiiiiiight, *ahem*, so, let's not bring *that* incident up. who wants icecream?
Elliot: not me
Virtue Pure: icecream sounds nice

Tirin Veil, 14, small, quick, and wearing leather armor and a white cape comes running up carrying staff with a sword on his belt. He is an air mage, but unskilled in that art. However, he is skilled with sword and staff.

Tirin: Hi, I thought there just wasn't enough of a crowd, so I'd join in. But fear not, I'm sure I won't get in the way or be a nuisance. In fact, I'll even sing for you. *starts singing Lucky by Britney Spears* "Early morning, she wakes up..."
curi: ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, turn him off, turn him off! i thought i didn't invite him!
Elliot: who made you boss?
curi: i did.
Elliot: oh....
Isyn: *slips up next to curi and nudges him* "So tell me about this becoming boss thing. what's the trick to it?"
Tirin: *singing* She's so lucky, she's a star. But she cry, cry, cries in her lonely heart...
curi: well, first you have to not suck. then not be evil. then be as cool as me. and *then*, maybe learn how to alter reality at will.
Isyn: You can alter reality at will?
curi: *snaps fingers*

A hail of peeled bananas rains down on Virtue Pure.

Isyn: *drools*
curi: You like bananas that much? I'll make you some.
Isyn: Fool.
Tirin: *sings* "Lost in an image, in a dream. But there's no one there to wake her up..."
Elliot: ya know, so many people is really a mess. what were you thinking? you should introduce new characters more slowly. and only when you have some idea for what they might do that'll be entertaining or interesting.
curi: whatever.
Virtue Pure: This is important. What about the poor readers who have to endure this mess? Don't you care about them? Wouldn't the moral thing to do be to try and make a good skit, with some content or at least jokes?
curi: this is easier
Virtue Pure: The path of ease and the path of virtue sometimes go in different directions.
curi: yeah, that's why i picked one....
Caeli: You departed from the path of virtue intentionally? What kind of foul demon are you? *draws sword, which has a slight blue-white radiance* Draw your sword and meet your maker!
curi: you're on, bitch. *draws sword out of nowhere* (curi didn't have a sword until just now)
Isyn: Save his heart, I think I could use it in a ritual.
Tirin: *sings* "Best actress, and the winner is…Lucky!" "I'm Roger Johnson for Pop News standing...
Elliot: argh! stop fighting! can we please have a serious discussion?
curi: hey, no sweat, I can multi-task. *lunges at Caeli*
Caeli: *deflects curi's blow easily and tries to counter*
curi: *blinks out before Caeli's blow cuts him, and appears behind her*
Isyn: What dark sorcery is this? *draws sword and mumbles a prayer*

The sky turns dark, and rain begins to fall. Thunder booms and lightning strikes. Strong winds blow away everyone in the crowd except the main characters (did you even remember the crowd? heh), and the river turns into turbulent rapids. The beam of light from the heavens on Virtue Pure goes out, and Caeli's aura of light flickers with black. Isyn's muscles bulge, and his sword burns with a red-black fire.

curi: hah! I'll take you both on, bitches. Even with your curses.
Isyn: That was a blessing! I'm blessed now!
curi: uh huh
Tirin: *sings* If there's nothing missing in her life, Why do tears come at night?
Virtue Pure: I'm not sure this violence is conducive to flourishing. Maybe we should talk things out.
Elliot: Fuck you all. I'm leaving.

Elliot beings to walk off. Rain pelts his face. He trudges along slowly, looking down but not seeing and thus stumbling on every rock and rut. Virtue Pure chases after him.

Elliot: Leave me alone.
Virtue Pure: But I want to help.
Elliot: I'm not the one who needs help, baka. They're the ones who can't talk about anything and just get in sword fights or invoke dark powers.
Virtue Pure: Erm, but.....
Elliot: Go bug them, goodie goodie.
Virtue Pure: *hesitates*
Elliot: *runs off*

Meanwhile, Tirin finishes singing Lucky, as curi melees with Caeli and Isyn.

To Be Continued...

Translation Note: Baka means idiot in Japanese.


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Government Is Good (Despite What Some Libertarians Say)

One Perspective On Government

Some libertarians oppose governments on the principle that they are organised gangs of thugs. They consider the defining characteristic of governments to be that governments claim the right to initiate force ... and people listen (whereas most thieves don't pretend to be legitimate and aren't considered as such). They point out that they never agreed to pay taxes, and don't want to, and don't like most of the stuff that taxes pay for, and consider that conclusive.

Some of these libertarians support the war on terrorism. They realise that terrorism is a great threat, and to wish see it fought against. Terrorism is so bad that anyone at all fighting it is good. I suppose they must see the matter as a powerful pickpocket guild beating up a renegade gang of murderers. A "lesser of two evils" situation.

(Some libertarians would oppose the war on terror, either because they figure "If we leave them alone, they'll leave us alone, and nevermind Israel," or "No collateral damage is ever acceptable, under any circumstances, for any purpose, even if it is only caused because the enemy is using human shields." But I won't go into how silly I think those approaches are right now.)

Some of these libertarians, if given the option, would be happy to see the US government disappear tomorrow. The institution, the knowledge of how to run it, the taxes, the laws, etc... This is absurd, notably, even within the pickpocket metaphor, as it means foregoing protection.

But there's more than that; there are good reasons to like our government and support it besides self-defense. Our government does various things, some important. Now, the libertarians will insist that all these functions could, in theory, be done by private companies. Well, yes, I agree. But so what? I don't see these companies. They don't exist (yet).

It's not as if an anarcho-capitalist society (in short: free market capitalism with all government functions replaced by private companies and taxes replaced by user fees for people who want the services) would simply come into being without our government. Anarcho-capitalism is not the natural state of affairs that once existed until it was destroyed when a group of evil thugs invented government and took over. It is, rather, a very advanced notion that requires lots of knowledge to implement. This knowledge must be created gradually, through the improvement of existing institutions. Government functions must not disappear overnight, but instead slowly be replaced by private institutions that function better. We need good traditions, not a revolution.

Why Government Is Good

Governments create consent. That's the reason in a nutshell, but of course it needs an explanation.

Let's imagine a group of people living somewhere with no government, and little knowledge. Some will be bad, and will want to dominate over the others. So most people will form mutual defense pacts. And somewhere not too far off, some bad person will have conquered an empire, and formed an army, and thus our people will want to form one big defensive pact, instead of lots of scattered ones, so that they can fend off the entire army if need be. So they will form institutions to cooperate in regional defense. When an invasion looms, there may be disagreements about how many soldiers are needed to fight it off, and who must become a soldier, and where their equipment will come from. Thus, a system to resolve these issues is needed.

And these people will also set up institutions for small-scale defense against criminals. And they will need some system of deciding who is and is not a criminal. The answer to this is not self-evident despite what some libertarians seem to think. There will be disagreements, and thus some way to resolve them will be needed.

One day, Joe's crop goes bad. He asks others for help. They form some food-sharing institutions. They create rules to govern these. The people all value security, and thus put in provisions to help anyone who does not have enough.

One day they invent medicine. They realise that if they only pay the doctor when they are sick, he will starve in the mean time. And also that he will have no motivation to help prevent people from becoming sick. So everyone pays a low price all the time, and the doctor helps whoever needs help at recovery and prevention both. Some people disagree about who the doctor should be helping, saying he favours his friends, and they create institutions to resolve disputes of that nature.

What will all these institutions look like? Well, at first they will be very crude. The defensive agreement might simply state that all able-bodied men must fight when there is a war, or be put to death. The food agreement might allow anyone who is starving to take food from his neighbor, "as long as he made a genuine effort to create his own food." And the system of resolving disputes might be to ask the town elder.

And, over time, people will come up with better ideas. And after a while, and a lot of progress, something like our current government and courts might form.

If this society (that we've imagined) progresses to use a completely voluntary army, that will be an amazing advance. And if it has elected leaders who consent to voluntarily step down when their term ends, that will be an amazing advance. And if criminals are presumed innocent until evidence is presented against them, that will be an amazing advance. And if there are property rights defended by law, and a system of consensual trade, that will be an amazing advance.

When we know how to do better than using government for these things, we will. But we do not. The path to a better society is not to rail against our government, but rather to acknowledge it for what it is: an imperfect, evolving tradition and a great force for good.


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