lev.lafayette's blog

Submission of the Cultural Diversity Review of the Australian Bureau of Statistics

Status of the Submission

The following is a response to an invitation to participate in the Cultural Diversity Review by providing information on possible improvements by the Australian Bureau of Statistics standards and classifications.

This submission follows previous correspondence with the Australian Bureau of Statistics in August 2012 concerning the classification of Unitarians (and Unitarian-Universalists) under Christian (Other) in document 1266.0 - Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups, 2011. The content of this submission is substantially the same as that correspondence.

The Philosophy of Computation and Computers


Presentation to The Philosophy Forum, Sunday August 2nd

1.0 Definition and Types of Computation
1.1 Computation is defined here as any type of calculation and is the foundation of the discipline of computer science. Computer science includes the theory of computation, data structures, programming languages, computer architecture, networks, databases etc. The application of computer science technologies has utterly changed our social life and access to knowledge in an extraordinary manner leading to a global computerised society and with hypothetical explorations on the computation aspects of mind, the possibility of transformation of the human species, and even speculations that the universe itself is computational model.

1.2 Pure computation also has approaches which can be distinguished as (a) digital versus analogue, (b) sequential versus parallel (versus concurrent (c) batch versus interactive (providing feedback as the program completes instances of computation), which can be combined in practise (e.g., analogue parallel interative computation, such as The MONIAC (Monetary National Income Analogue Computer) created in 1949).

1.3 A function is a set of input-output pairs that performs a specific task; it can be embodied as a named section of a program as a procedure or routine. They encapsulate a task with input and output parameters. A function can be described as a formula, and can be considered computable is there is an algorithm (from Al-Khuwarizmi, an Arab mathematician, ca. 780-850 CE) that computes the function. Programmers often use "procedural forgetfulness" when writing functions once written.

1.4 Bill Rapaport, who holds a rare position of a "philosopher of computing" noted four Great Insights of Computer Science (2013)

The Philosophy of Social Development: Of Civilisation and Its Discontents

Ziggurat of Ur
1. Social Development; What Is It?
1.1 Social Development in this context is part of social theory. It is not referring to the individual's ability to interact with others, which can also be described as "social development". The philosophy of social development is about testing a component of social theory, specifically the notion that are developmental, qualitative differences in different societies which have an internal logical consistency and are backed by evidence. The term 'development' is used to differentiate with 'evolution'; both mean change but the former is the result of human-directed change.
1.2 Of a major concern is the concept of civilization, Whilst a dictionary definition (using all those in common use) will give competing and contradictory definitions, there is a more definitions that has a consensus among anthropologists and sociologists, which includes (i) the establishment of the state, political classes, and centralised authority; (ii) urbanisation and agriculture, (iii) currency, writing systems, and religious institutions; (iv) metallurgy, the end of the neolithic stone age, and the rise of violent conflicts between states. The word civilization notably comes from the French root civilis, for "relating to a citizen". Major contributors in the origins of civilization include the archeologist Gordon Childe (urban revolution, three-age system), the philosopher Karl Jaspers (axial age civilisations), the foundational sociologists Émile Durkheim (collective consciousness, distinction between the sacred and profane, religious and legal institutionalisation) and Max Weber (world-views of different traditional religions), and the anthrologist Bronislaw Malinowski (freedom and civilisation, economic anthropology).

The Once And Future King : Mythology and Motivation from the Arthurian Legends

Introduction

Most people when asked about the Arthurian legends will bring to mind well known tropes from idealised British fantasy. Indeed, the Arthurian legends, in combining medieval history and ancient mythology, created those tropes. There are maidens in flowing dresses in extraordinary castles, brave knights in shining armour, old wizards with long beards, seductive witches, changelings, ghosts, giants, dwarves, elves, goblins, unicorns, dragons, magical swords, and otherworldly lands. There are wise rulers, antagonistic offspring, sibling rivalry, obsessions and madness, dangerous quests, romances both pure and destructive, and competitive love triangles. There is the theme of the end of the old ways and the rise of the new. The only thing missing from what we consider staple fare for contemporary fantasy is hobbits; and we all know where they came from.

For those who are a little more familiar with the story, they might mention a youngster who draws a magic sword from a stone during a time of chaos, which determined the King of all the Britons, receives Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, who rose and united the land against invaders, formed a semi-democratic and multicultural council of knights, the Round Table. They may also mention the establishment of chivalry as a knightly code of conduct as the foundations of 'noblesse oblige', a tradition sorely lacking in contemporary times. They may even mention the illicit romance between Lancelot and Queen Guinevere, and the tragic parallel between Tristram and Isolde, the rise of the Waste Land, and the search of the Holy Grail to cure the ills of the world. They will also certainly mention Mordred, Arthur's nephew and son (think about that for a moment and let it sink in), who eventually fights Arthur at the Battle of Camlann and wounds him, leading Arthur to be sent to the isle of Avalon, where he rests, until he will return again, in accord with the 'King in the Mountain' motif, to save the green and pleasant land of the Britons in the time of greatest need.

But what really is this story? Why has it survived for hundreds of years, with its many and various representations? There are literally thousands of published poems, hundreds of books of prose and plays, scores of films, computer games, studies, and so forth. Is there, stripped of even all the supernatural embellishments, even a kernel of truth to the legend? Why is it still popular to this very day, and doubtless will be in the future? What can we learn from it? To answer these questions one must explore the actual history of Britain when the stories were set and compare them to the medieval stories of the Arthurian legend. One must also look at some of the modern reconstructions and interpretations of the legend. One must also engage in literary analysis, to discover the motivating factors that have ensured the tale's continued popularity.

Of Evil and Cows With Guns

Last Sunday (11/01/2015) was the Poetry and Music Service at the Melbourne Peace Memorial Church. My reading was the Dana Lyons classic Cows With Guns, a comical story of a cow that leads a revolution. But a special dedication also had to given on the day to those assembled, and to visitors to this site to Darren Irvine.

The Philosophy of Music

Introduction from Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (Oliver Sacks, 2007)

A World Without Evil?

1.0 What is "evil"? Is there a common language or philosophical definition that is secular, or must it rely on religious and metaphysical attachments?
1.1 A religious-metaphysical notion of evil is that it is associated as a supernatural moral position, commonly associated with extreme forms of blasphemy, heresy etc. In a secular context, where moral norms are not derived from supernatural assertions, moral evil can be described in the context of extreme actions contrary to normative positions.

The Metaphysics of Physicalism and Idealism

"The great basic question of all philosophy, especially of more recent philosophy, is that concerning the relation of thinking and being.... the question of the relation of thinking to being, the relation of the spirit to nature - the paramount question of the whole of philosophy ... The answers which the philosophers gave to this question split them into two great camps. Those who asserted the primacy of spirit to nature... comprised the camp of idealism.

Ontology of Space and Time

1.0 Traditional religious views

1.1 The Hindu Vedas describe a cyclical cosmology of time, in which the universe goes through repeated cycles of creation, destruction, and rebirth, with each cycle lasting 4,320,000 years. Hindu comsology also argues "There are innumerable universes besides this one ... they are unlimitedly large (Bhagavata Purana c750 CE).

Small Gods on the Pale Blue Dot


This address brings together some of the ideas of two great thinkers of our time; Terry Pratchett and Carl Sagan. It is from Terry Pratchett's satirical fantasy novel "Small Gods" that themes of religious oppression, false belief, and sincerity is addressed. It is from Carl Sagan's scientific humanism, espoused in "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space" that a better sense of perspective, our relative importance, and a hope for our future, can be derived. On an abstract level, combining the two could initially be seen as a difficult or even foolish project. One is fantasy fiction, the other is hard science with a humanist angle. But of course, it is not abstract genres that are being discussed here, but rather the thematic content.

Terry Pratchett is an English author of fantasy fiction, most well known for the Discworld series which now spans over forty novels in its own right. In the 1990s he was the UK's best-selling author, and has sold over 85 million books in 37 languages. In 1998 he was awarded an OBE and in 2009 in he was knighted for his services to literature, which I am sure he took with comic humour to the pomp and ceremony. Perhaps more to his liking, he received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2010. In late 2007 he announced that he was suffering from early onset Alzheimer's disease, and just a few days ago he had to pull out from his planned attendance as guest to the International Discworld Convention, stating "the Embuggerance is finally catching up with me".

Carl Sagan was an American astrophysicist and science communicator, a professor of astronomy at Cornell University, and the the author of over six hundred scientific papers and author, co-author, or editor of over twenty books. Whilst his scientific research contributed enormously to the discovering the surface temperatures of Venus, he is most famous as the co-author and presented of the television series Cosmos in the 1980s, broadcast to over 60 countries and seen by over 500 million people. Sagan was also an advocate of the Search for Extra-Terristerial Intelligence (SETI), a view expressed in his best-selling science fiction novel, Contact, published in 1985, and made into a film in 1997. Sagan died of pneumonia at the age of 62 on December 20, 1996.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - lev.lafayette's blog