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The Damage and Repair of Misattributions

Albert Einstein
Misattributions are unfortunately commonplace. However their prevalence should be not be an excuse to let them go unchallenged. In a public sense, a misattribution can harm the reputation of a speaker as defamation (typically libel in the written form, slander in the spoken). In a political sense, misattributions are used to improve or denigrate organisations, policy proposals, etc. on the basis of an appeal to authority; in this case, the damage isn't limited to an individual, but rather to the capacity of the society as a whole to make rational decisions. Academics typically have very little tolerance for misattributions, seeing it as a type of falsification of data, and all that follows. Perhaps one of the best collections is the highly recommended They Never Said It : A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions, was compiled by Paul F. Boller Jr. (Emeritus Professor of History Texas Christian University, Oklahoma), and John George Jr. (Professor of Political Science and Sociology Central State University) and was published by Oxford University in 1989.

With the advent of social media the capacity to distribute such falsehoods is, of course, amplified. The combination of a general sense of information overload plus an enhanced capacity in distribution provides opportunities for an enticing quote (subject to confirmation bias), added to a pleasing image, along with superficial "voting" methods (such as Facebook's "like" button or Google's "+1") and capacity to "share". As a recent example, a friend added a picture of Albert Einstein with the quote: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left." Now being slightly familiar with the works Einstein, it just didn't sound like him. Call that a hunch; a subsequent google search reveals over three million references to the quote. But how accurate is it?

The Contribution of Unitarian-Universalists to Isocracy

Initially I felt some unease when approached to present today's address on 'isocracy'. I do not particularly care for presentations here which are solely dedicated to political issues that do not refer to our liberal religious tradition, least of all by members of the church. If I want strictly social and political discussion there are these organisations called "political parties" where one's contributions are far more useful and effective.

Notes From: Towards a Transformation of Philosophy

Karl-Otto Apel (trans. Glyn Adey, David Frisby), Towards a Transformation of Philosophy, Routledge and Kegal Paul, 1980 [FP 1972, 1973]

Preface

Apel's collection of essays is to reconstruct philosophy in such a manner that combines the insights of ordinary language philosophy, thus dispensing of metaphysics, but extending it to incorporate pragmatics, resulting what he calls...

"the programme of transcendental pragmatics" pix

Chapter 1: Wiggenstein and the problem of hermeneutic understanding p1-45

The Importance of A Secular Political System

Presentation to the Melbourne Atheist Society, November 14, 2012

It is appropriate, given a recent interest in the affairs of the United States of America to refer to some writings of early political leaders of that country, and compare them with words from some of their contemporary leaders. For the latter are very well known. They have been raised to prominence in the world media in the most recent weeks. For it is in the political system that the distinction between the secular and theocratic have the greatest practical importance. The state, and all its subsystems, are what makes up so much of our lives in a direct and visceral manner, and highly influences our environment and habits. Many atheists obvious enjoy picking on what they consider to be the comically irrational among metaphysical theists of all shades - "Fundies Say The Darnest Things" certainly makes for entertaining reading. Sometimes however there is anger; Richard Dawkins, for example, argued that we should take astrology seriously as "a wicked fraud". To be sure, there are an unfortunate few who take it seriously, but through perception, expectation, and motivation these can even have a positive placebo effect - the same can be said about various forms of ritual and prayer, psychoanalysis, and so forth. Likewise we can also find a great deal of value in the inquiry of metaphysics where it is intellectually challenging; the debate between the atheist, the gnostic, the pantheist, the panentheist, the deist, various forms of personal theism, the antitheist, the questions of immanence and effability, and so forth. Sometimes however people become very angry at these discussions - at which point a dose of apatheism, a practical lack of pathology on theological issues question, is suggested. When Denis Diderot was accused of being an atheist, he responded with indifference: "It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley; but not at all so to believe or not in God."

Utopian Tragedies : Cautionary Tales for the Philosophy of Politics

Presentation to the Melbourne Unitarian Philosophy Forum, Sunday 4th November, 2012

1.0 Politics and Philosophy
1.1 A definition of the relationship is the contribution of political theory (the management of the polis, the community of people) to philosophy (ontology, epistemology, logic) and the application of philosophy to political theory. Political theory is the point of intersection between politics and philosophy.
1.2 As a pragmatic complex political theory must account for individual behaviour towards the social world (i.e., moral reasoning), the systematic considerations of institutional effectiveness and efficiency, and where these positive claims meet normative claims in law. As an applied knowledge, political philosophy will review questions of liberty, property rights, and legitimacy.

The Book of Amos and the Arab Spring

Address to the Melbourne Unitarian Church, August 12, 2012

Wine and Philosophy

Wine and Philosophy: From Orphic Mysticism and Hellenic Symposiums, to Enlightenment Salons, and beyond.

Presentation to The Philosophy Forum, August 6, 2012

Domestic Violence: What Can Be Done?

Service to the address given by Virginia Geddes, July 22nd, 2012, Melbourne Unitarian Church

Opening Words

Findings from the 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey show that among the female victims of physical assault, 31 percent were assaulted by a current or previous partner. Among male victims, 4.4 percent were assaulted by a current or previous partner. Thirty per cent of people who had experienced violence by a current partner since the age of 15 were male, and seventy per cent were female.

Reading

Terrorism: A Unitarian-Universalist Response

Address to the Melbourne Unitarian Church, Sunday July 8, 2012

Beyond Zero Emmissions

Service for Peter Castaldo's address on Beyond Zero Emmissions, Melbourne Unitarian Church, Sunday 9th June, 2012

Opening Words

Science fiction author Ray Bradbury died this week. A regular attender and presenter at American Unitarian-Universalist churchers, he was one of the most celebrated writers of speculative fiction, and a recipient of the the Congressional Medal of Honour. Some people (not safe for work) have described him as the 'greatest science fiction writer in history'.

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