lev.lafayette's blog

Is Pantheism an Atheism?

Etymology and History

The word 'pantheism' in popular translation means "all God". Which at least on an initial level, would seem to be the polar opposite of atheism. The Oxford dictionary defines the term as "A doctrine which identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God" and, interestingly, "The worship or tolerance of many gods." This does not sound very atheist at all. However as one digs a little deeper into the etymology some further understanding is gained in the history. The Ancient Hellenic "pan" is a relatively unproblematic translation of "all". But "theos" is alternatively "god" or "divine", derived from the Proto-Indo-European "to do, to put, to place". It is not related, despite similarity in form and meaning, to the Latin 'deus', whose Proto-Indo-European root, is "sky" or "heaven". In fact, in Latin, it is a lot closer to the words feriae ("festival days"), fanum ("temple"), and festus ("festive"). Immediately from the etymology one can see to core themes; simultaneous association with reverence and immanence.

Race conditions for the Human Species : A Global Perspective

1.0 What are Race Conditions?
1.1 Not be confused with "the human race" (French origin from Italian, razza); but rather a race of movement (Middle English from Old Norse, ras). It is an expression from electronics and programming which is applicable to other systemic environments. It refers to uncertainty in an output when there is a multiplicity of operations occurring concurrently in the same environment. The multiple signals or threads are in a "race" with each other often with disastrous consequences (e.g., Therac-25 radiation therapy machine).
1.2 Placing locks in a system with race conditions will enforce sequential behaviour (at a cost to parallelism and speed) but may also introduce "deadlocks" which bring signals to a halt (e.g., apocryphal Kansas railway statute) or "livelocks", where signals are active but cannot progress (e.g., polite corridor problem).
1.3 The interactions of human beings with their environment constitutes a massively system with parallel signals, feedback loops, and programmer intervention. Modern science had significantly reduced the degree that this system as a whole is unpredictable; evaluation in such circumstances is carried out in terms of risk evaluation (likelihood and consequences).

The Abolition of Crime: New Principles in Criminology and Justice

The Cost of Crime

Those who follow the pithy aphorism, "crime doesn't pay" should also be more attentive to the costs of crime. The Australian government's Institute of Criminology estimated that on 2005 figures, that crime costs Australia nearly $36 billion per annum - about 4.1% of the GDP. Forty per cent of this is the result of fraud, followed by burglary at ten per cent, then drug offenses at nine per cent, arson at eight per cent, and and assault at 7 per cent). The Australian Productivity Commission determined that on 2009 figures the Australian governments spent more than $10.7 billion on criminal services; police accounting taking up 66.7 per cent of the total cost, followed by corrective services at 22.7 per cent, criminal court administration at 5.7 per cent, and civil court administration at 4.9 per cent.

Free Will, Compatibilism, and Determinism: A Pseudo-problem

The debate between advocates of free-will, compatibilism, and determism is certainly on-going. Recently The Philosophy Forum had a meeting with Tim Harding of The Logical Place with his views on the subject (PDF attached of his presentation). Behind the walled garden of Facebook Alice Knight continued the discussion with contributions from Philosophy Forum regular Leslie Allan, Tim Harding, Stephen Lawrence, Trick Slattery, and others. Leslie Allan post a summary of his views, leading to the amusing possibility of a debate between "the logical place" and "the rational realm"!

Epistemology of Madness

1.0 Epistemology and Madness in Context
1.1 Epistemology, the study of the knowledge and scope of knowledge (intellectual and experiential), and the groundings and justifications of claims. It is differentiated from ontology (being, becoming, existence).
1.2 As an epistemological review it is not the reality of madness that is reviewed here (e.g., a review of causes); but rather how does one know whether a behaviour or person suffers from madness.
1.3 'Madness' has a number of definition; it can refer to insanity, folly, rage, or intense enthusiasm (as a proper noun, it can also refer to a 1970s/1980s popular ska band). It is mainly the former sense that is discussed in this presentation, although one could suggest that the definitions can be associated with the primary definition.
1.4 Note that 'insanity' derives from the Latin for 'not healthy' (sanus), a "sickness of the mind". Thus insanity can be considered a defective mental process.

A Modern Reconstruction of Buddhist Karma

Address to the Melbourne Unitarian Church, September 6, 2015


This address comes with a number of caveats. I do not consider myself a Buddhist, although I have been an interested observer for some decades, and have skirted on the edges of being involved in the "three jewels" of community (sangha), the teachings (dharma), and hopefully the practise (Buddha). Personally I also have very fond memories of the pilgrimage my housemate and I took in 1996 to the Woolongong Nan Tien Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. This pilgrimage included spending a night in a ditch on the road to Gundagai, meeting a self-identified friendly elf, a mind-reading radio engineer, and spending some time with an electronic music collective and an IT company named the "The Evil Brotherhood of Mutants, Inc" in a mafia-owned warehouse. Perhaps one day this very strange and wonderful journey may one day be an address in its own right. Alas, time will not permit an elaboration today.

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, 2015

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


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.


Subscribe to RSS - lev.lafayette's blog