Notes on my reading

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reductionism at Work

"Where did the idea of infinite come from? Does it bring with it some subtle survival value that favored those with the inclination to develop it? Evolutionary psychologists would look for some way of thinking or acting which aided survival on African savannah landscapes a million years ago and had as a by-product the liking for generalization without end. Nothing specific is immediately obvious. Primitive life was brief and immediate. Action was needed. Contemplation was not rewarded. The inclination to think about infinity is something that happens much later in the human story and it emerges from one of many responses to the Universe around us. What are the trails that might lead to forever?"

John D. Barrow, The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless. Pantheon Books, New York, 2005.

An infinitely absurd comment, not worth commenting on, except it's a good example of the reductionistic genre.

But I saw one good quote in this disappointing book, from Jorge Luis Borges:
"There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not
to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

After Virtue

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue.
University of Notre Dame, 1981.

Chapter I. A Disquieting Suggestion
p. 2 "The hypothesis which I wish to advance is that in the actual world which we inhabit the language of morality is in the same state of grave disorder as the language of natural science in the imaginary world which I described. What we possess... are the fragments of a conceptual scheme, parts which now lack those contexts from which their significance derived." Says that philosophy will not be able to help us. We must understand the history - but it is not academic history to which he refers (i.e. in its value-neutral standpoint moral disorder "must remain largely invisible" -- "... the real world and its fate has remained unrecognized by the academic curriculum"). The language of morality is in a state so disastrous that we cannot even afford the cultural luxury of pessimism.
Chapter 2. The Nature of Moral Disagreement Today and the Claims of Emotivism
Interminable character of modern moral disagreements. "There seems to be no rational way of securing moral agreement in our culture." (p.6) There seems to be no way of deciding between rival claims and premises. p. 11: "We simultaneously and inconsistently treat moral arguments as an exercise of our rational powers and as mere expressive assertion..."
emotivism- all moral judgments are nothing but expression of preferences. It makes the claim that every attempt, past or present, to provide rational justification for objective morality has failed. "What emotivism however did fail to reckon with is the difference it would make to morality if emotivism were not only true but also widely believed to be true." (p. 19) Contends that emotivism has become embodied in our culture and that what was once morality has in large degree disappeared, and this marks a degeneration, a grave cultural loss.
Chapter 3. Emotivism: Social Content and Social Context
"A moral philosophy - and emotivism is no exception - characteristically presupposes a sociology. For every moral philosophy offers explicitly or implicitly at least a partial conceptual analysis of the relationship of an agent to his or her reasons, motives, intentions, and actions, and in so doing generally presupposes some claim that these concepts are embodied or at least can be in the real social world." (p.23)
~key to emotivism: obliteration of any genuine distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations. Kant's distinction between treating people as means or ends has no meaning in this type of philosophy.
~self presented in emotivism may pass judgment on anything and everything, there are no limits set to it. "It is in this capacity of the self to evade any necessary identification with any particular contingent state of affairs... To be a moral agent is, on this view, precisely to be able to stand back from any and every situation in which one is involved, from any and every characteristic that one may possess, and to pass judgment on it from a purely universal and abstract point of view that is totally detached from all social particularity. Anyone and everyone can thus be a moral agent, since it is in the self and not in social roles or practices that moral agency is to be located." (p. 31-2)
Chapter 4. The Predecessor Culture and the Enlightenment Project of Justifying Morality
Scottish Enlightenment. Kierkegaard - "The choice between the ethical and the esthetic is not the choice between good and evil, it is the choice whether or not to choose in terms of good and evil." (40) And: "Just as Hume seeks to found morality on the passions because his arguments have excluded the possibility of founding it on reason, so Kant founds it on reason because his arguments have excluded the possibility of founding it on the passions, and Kierkegaard on criterionless fundamental choice because of what he takes to be the compelling nature of the considerations which exclude both reason and the passions.
"Thus the vindication of each position was made to rest in crucial part upon the failure of the other two, and the sum total of the effective criticism of each position by the others turned out to be the failure of all. The project of providing a rational vindication of morality had decisively failed; and from henceforward the morality of our predecessor culture -- and subsequently of our own -- lacked any public shared rationale or justification... the failure of philosophy to provide what religion could no longer furnish was an important cause of philosophy losing its central cultural role and becoming a marginal, narrowly academic subject." (49-50)
Chapter 5. Why the Enlightenment Project of Justifying Morality Had to Fail
~the rejection of any teleological view of human nature -that is, of any view of man as having an essence which defines his true end: this is the key to the failure. "Since the whole point of ethics - both as theoretical and a practical discipline - is to enable man to pass from his present state to his true end, the elimination of any notion of essential human nature and with it the abandonment of any notions of a telos leaves behind a moral scheme composed of two remaining elements whose relationship becomes quite unclear." (55) Rift exposed the fact vs. value dichotomy: on one hand a content for morality, a set of injunctions deprived of teleological context. On the other, a view of untutored human nature-as-it-is - and no bridge from the one to the other. "It is only when man is thought of as an individual prior to and apart from all roles that 'man' ceases to be a functional concept." (59)
Chapter 6. Some Consequences of the Failure of the Enlightenment Project
~utilitarianism; the Kantian project of showing that any rational agent is logically committed to the rules of morality in virtue of his or her rationality (66) The price paid for liberation from what appeared to be traditional authority was the loss of any authoritative content. "Each moral agent now spoke unconstrained by the externalities of divine law, natural teleology or hierarchical authority; but why should anyone listen..." (68)
Chapter 7: 'Fact,' Explanation and Expertise
p. 81: "The Enlightenment is... the period par excellence in which most intellectuals lack self-knowledge."
~Aristotelian understanding of nature repudiated in 17-18th cents. along with Ais. acct of action. "'Man' ceases, except within theology - and not always there - to be what I called earlier a functional concept. The explanation of action is increasingly held to be a matter of laying bare the physiological and physical mechanisms which underlie action; and, when Kant recognizes that there is deep incompatibility between any account of action which recognizes the role of moral imperatives in governing action and any such mechanical type of explanation, he is compelled to the conclusion that actions obeying and embodying moral imperatives must be from the standpoint of science inexplicable and unintelligible. After Kant the question of the relationship between such notions as those of intention, purpose, reason for action... and the concepts which specify the notion of mechanical explanation... becomes part of the permanent repertoire of philosophy. The former notions are... treated as detached from notions of good or virtue..." (82)
p. 86: "Twentieth century social life turns out in key part to be the concrete and dramatic re-enactment of 18th century philosophy." Managerial expertise: claims of value neutrality and manipulative power.
Chapter 8. The Character of Generalizations in Social Science and their Lack of Predictive Power
Chapter 9. Nietzsche or Aristotle?
p. 110: "It was indeed Nietzsche's perception of this vulgarized facility of modern moral utterance which partly informed his disgust with it."
and: "a key part of my thesis has been that modern moral utterance and practice can only be understood as a series of fragmented survivals from an older past and that the insoluble problems which they have generated for modern moral theorists will remain insoluble until this is well understood. If the deontological character of moral judgments is the ghost of conceptions of divine law which are quite alien to the metaphysics of modernity and if the teleological character is similarly the ghost of conceptions of human nature and activity which are equally not at home in the modern world, we should expect the problems of understanding and of assigning an intelligible status to moral judgments both continually to arise and as continually to prove inhospitable to philosophical solutions." (110-111)
~Nietzsche's achievement was to understand that "what purported to be appeals to objectivity were in fact expressions of subjective will" (113)
Rules rather than virtues: key concept. We need to attend to virtues in order to understand the function and authority of rules. (119)
Chapter 10. The Virtues in Heroic Societies
~morality and social structure are in fact one and the same in heroic society. Evaluative questions are questions of social fact. We learn from this that "morality is always to some degree tied to the socially local and particular and that the aspirations of the morality of modernity to a universality freed from all particularity is an illusion; and secondly that there is no way to possess the virtues except as part of a tradition in which we inherit ..." (126-7)
~Nietzsche's mythologized this distant past: "What [he] portrays as aristocratic self-assertion: what Homer and the sagas show are forms of assertion proper to and required by a certain role. The self becomes what it is in heroic societies only through its role; it is a social creation, not an individual one. Hence when Nietzsche projects back on to the archaic past his own 19th-century individualism, he reveals that what looked like an historical inquiry was actually an inventive literary construction." (129)
Chapter 11. The Virtues at Athens
~ belief in the virtues... and belief in human life exhibiting a certain narrative order are internally connected (144). Important to recall that what is at stake in the "Sophoclean dramatic encounter" is not simply the fate of the individual... "in some important sense the community too is a dramatic character which enacts the narrative of its history." (145)
Chapter 12. Aristotle's Account of the Virtues
~ every activity, every inquiry, every practice aims at some good
~human beings have a specific nature; they have certain aims and goals; and they move by nature toward a specific telos
~what is the good for man? Not money, honor, pleasure. He calls it eudaimonia: blessedness, happiness, prosperity. The state of doing/being well through possession and practice of the virtues. "To act virtuously is not, as Kant was later to think, to act against inclination; it is to act from inclination formed by the cultivation of the virtues." (149)
~friendship embodies shared recognition and pursuit of a good, a sharing which forms the essential primary element of any form of community
~both Plato and Aristotle "treat conflict as an evil" (157); the good life is unitary; civil war is the worst of evils. "It follows that conflict is simply the result either of flaws of character in individuals or of unintelligent political arrangements. This has consequences not only for Aristotle's politics, but also for his poetics and even his theory of knowledge. In all three the agon has been displaced from its Homeric centrality..."(157)
~certain tension between Aristotle's view of man as essentially political and his view of man As essentially metaphysical (158)
~virtues unavailable to slaves or barbarians: "Freedom is the presupposition of the exercise of the virtues and the achievement of the good." (159)
~virtues cannot be defined as merely the pleasant or useful. "The standard of utility or pleasure is set by man qua animal, man prior to and without any particular culture. But man without culture is a myth. Our biological nature certain places constraints on all cultural possibility; but man who has nothing but a biological nature is a creature of whom we know nothing. It is only man with practical intelligence - and that, as we have seen, is intelligence informed by virtues - whom we actively meet in history."(161)
~practical reasoning according to A. has 4 essential elements: (1) wants and goals of the agent, presupposed by but not expressed in his reasoning; (2) major premise, assertion that to do or seek for something is good; (3) minor premise, wherein agent asserts that said incident is an instance or occasion of requisite nature; (4) conclusion = action. A.MacI says A's account of practical reasoning is "notably elliptical and in need of paraphrase and interpretation," (162) but enough is said to warrant saying that in Aristotelian terms, reason cannot be the servant of the passions. "For the education of the passions into conformity with pursuit of what theoretical reasoning identifies as the telos and practical reasoning as the right action to do in each particular time and place is what ethics is about." (162)
Chapter 13. Medieval Aspects and Occasions
~medieval vision is historical in a way that Aristotle's could never be... the virtues are those which enable men to survive evils on their historical journey. (176) A.MacI. does not say, but it occurs to me to ask, whether what was the zoon politicon, the polis, for Aristotle, was transmuted in the medieval period as the supernatural - that is, only a supernatural tension could maintain so many diverse, even opposing, virtues. cf. Chesterton, Orthodoxy: "[The] heroic and monumental manner in ethics has entirely vanished with supernatural religion."
Chapter 14. The Nature of the Virtues
~ Benjamin Franklin and Jane Austen
~virtue defined: "A virtue is an acquired human quality the possession and exercise of which tends to enable us to achieve those goods which are internal to practices and the lack of which effectively prevents us from achieving any such goods." (191) This seems a bit labored, but could you find a better? But good, later (194) - "It... turns out ... that every practice has its own history and a history which is more and other than that of the improvement of the relevant technical skills. This historical dimension is crucial in relation to the virtues."
~ p. 200: are there evil practices?
Chapter 15. The Virtues, the Unity of a Human Life and the Concept of a Tradition
~"liquidation of the self into a set of demarcated areas of role-playing allows no scope for the exercise [of]... virtues in any sense remotely Aristotelian" (205)
~"The concepts of narrative, intelligibility and accountability presuppose the applicability of the concept of personal identity... [but] all attempts to elucidate the notion of personal identity independently of and in isolation from the notions of narrative, intelligibility and accountability are bound to fail." (218)
~"The possession of an historical identity and the possession of a social identity coincide." (221)
~"A living tradition is... an historically extended, socially embodied argument, and an argument precisely in part about the goods which constitute that tradition." (222)
Chapter 16. From the Virtues to Virtue and after Virtue
~a "pluralism which threatens to submerge us all" (226)
~ traditional account of the virtues presupposed the concept of narrative unity and the concept of a practice
~segregation of narrative from life (postmodernism?)
p. 227: "The contrast, indeed the opposition, between art and life, which is often in fact the premise rather than the conclusion of such theorists, provides a way of exempting art - including narrative - from its moral tasks. And the relegation of art by modernity to the status of an essentially minority activity and interest further helps to protect us from any narrative understanding of ourselves." And: "... to think of a human life as a narrative unity is to think in a way alien to the dominant individualist and bureaucratic modes of modern culture."
~egotism and altruism ( 229) Altruism both "socially necessary" and "inexplicable." And: "On the traditional Aristotelian view such problems do not arise. For what education in the virtues teaches me is that my good as a man is one and the same as the good of others with whom I am bound up in human community. There is no way of my pursuing my good which is necessarily antagonistic to you pursuing yours because the good is neither mine peculiarly nor yours peculiarly - goods are not private property. Hence Aristotle's definition of friendship, the fundamental form of human relationship... The egotist is thus, in the ancient and medieval world, always someone who has made a fundamental mistake about where his own good lies and [who]... has to that extent excluded himself from human relationships."
~review of Kant, Hume, Stoicism; French Revolution, and Jane Austen - "the last great effective imagination voice" of thought about the virtues (240)
Chapter 17. Justice as a Virtue: Changing Conceptions
Rawls and Nozick. Modern moral incoherence.
Chapter 18. After Virtue: Nietzsche or Aristotle; Trotsky and St. Benedict
p. 259: "It is therefore after all the case that the crucial moral opposition is between liberal individualism in some version or another and the Aristotelian tradition in some version or other." His conclusion is that despite three centuries of moral philosophy, "...[we] lack any coherent rationally defensible statement of a liberal individualistic point of view; and that, on the other hand, the Aristotelian tradition can be restated in a way that restores intelligibility and rationality to our moral and social attitudes and commitments."
Postscript to the Second Edition.
p. 268: "The philosophy of physical science is dependent on the history of physical science. But the case is no different with morality."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sex in History

Gordon Rattray Taylor, Sex in History. Thames & Hudson, London, 1953, 1959, 1968. 392.6 T214s

p. 3: " type of attitude is more fundamental and more indicative of the trend of the personality than are attitudes to sexual matters... Hence the study of the changes in sexual attitudes is the very first step, the sine qua non, of all coherent historical research." Two identifications: 'authoritarian' (identify with the father) he calls patrist and 'permissive' (identify with the mother) he calls matrist.

moral --- mores, customs: "The moral is what is customary."

p. 95: concept of honor arising out of chaste love - says was "the essential character of the paederastic relationship in classical Greece... Every man was expected to take to himself a boy, to whom he should act for a time as a mentor, helping him to find his place in life. The man was called the Inspirer; the boy, the Listener. It seems quite clear that, while a relationship of love existed between them, the performance of sexual acts was strictly forbidden..." Mueller, C.O. History and Antiquities of the Doric Race, Murray, 1830.
Plato's "love that was made for beauty" --philosophia meta paiderastias --
p. 135 Says the Church carried on a war against matrism - Renaissance as "matrist-individualist trend." Think this is too simplistic.
p. 156: arrival in Europe of syphilis, brought back from Haiti to Portugal by Columbus' sailors in 1494.
1560: Fallopius, invention of the condom
p. 159: a very "matrist" book--speaking of the heavy patrist orientation of Calvinism, he says--"As always in patriarchal systems, Calvinism was fanatically against intellectual freedom." he has yet to mention the chief virtue of patriarchy, the legitimization of children. I do think there is often an intellectual narrowness in Christianity, but I would ascribe this to reasons other than patrism.
p. 201: "The search for the mother and the search for wisdom is the romantic quest, as the search for the father and for the stability of the traditional order is the quest of the realist." Good.
p. 230: Greeks used the term theos, god, for the moment of excitement, when one recognizes a long-lost friend, and applied it to the excitement of a new discovery.
p. 233: "... this idea of periodical self-abandonment to Eros and Thanatos, which had at the same time the character of a religious act, was primarily associated with the worship of a mother-figure. In this pure form, it also betrayed another feature worthy of note: a tendency to direct violence against the self... mother-religions exhibit self-flagellation in various forms..."
Description of a ritual of castration (Lucian, in The Syrian Goddess, Constable, 1913, by Strong and Garstang.)
p. 235: psychology of mother-religions: tell of "how the mother-figure was loved by an effeminate youth, who was both son and lover. Thus, just as the Oedipus myth reflects exactly the child's position in the paternal family, so the mother-myth reflects with extraordinary precision the position of exclusive mother-fixation as it would be found in any family where there was no father." Interesting admission.
p. 251: Mithraism: chief priest known as Pater Patrum. Roman soldiers brought the religion from Persia c. 60 B.C. Its central figure is a god, not a goddess. Intercession with heavenly Father. Votaries redeemed by the blood of the bull. Radiate crown worn by Emperors of Supreme Deity, Ahuramazda. In 304 A.D. Mithra was officially made protector of Rome. Yet within 50 years it collapsed "... at the hands of a rival creed whose mythology and ritual were substantially similar, except in one crucial respect. This was Christianity."
Cumont, F. The Mysteries of Mithra, Chicago, 1911.
Mithraism and Christianity concern relationship of son with a father. In Mithraism, the son slays the father, symbolized by the bull (a traditional symbol of father deities) - whereas in Xity the son submits to the father and is himself slain. "Mithraism is a religion of conquest, Christianity a religion of submission...Mithraism became the religion of soldiers, administrators and extraverts, but offered no place for women. In contrast, Christianity...not only attracted introverts but attracted many women and gave them important roles, and also attracted slaves, whom it constantly urged to obey their masters."
Ernest Jones says these two myths gave a solution to the Oedipal situation: the son either conquers the father and replaces him, or he avoids conflict by submitting to him. But at the price of denying his own sexual desires... [of course a psychoanalyst would say this!] "The myth depicts an attempt to avert Oedipal guilt by tabooing sexual activity altogether."
p. 254: "...and while Mithra survives, Christ dies." Says this was a victory "for death-instincts as against life-instincts." What about the Resurrection? Psychoanalytic interpretation is all horizontal, on one plane only. Gordon R. Taylor thinks that Xity is a "guilt-ridden religion."
Keating, J.F. The Agape and the Eucharist in the Early Christian Church. Methuen, 1901.
p. 262: Eucharist est. in 363 A.D. when the Council of Laodicea ruled that Agape should not be held in churches, which had the effect of separating it from the Eucharist. Love-feasts finally disappeared altogether, only to remain as features of funerals and weddings.
------the deliberate substitution of a symbolic for a real meal.............

@ Condemnation of the Artotyritae who put cheese on their communion bread....

p. 263: "The significant feature of this transformation is that it was a change from a group experience, in which all participants were equal, to a religion in which each individual was individually in relation to God..."
---"When the charitic and theoleptic character of Christianity had finally been destroyed, the early Church was able to assert that those who had formerly met in theoleptic groups had been heretics, and to treat them as part of the considerable tradition of theoleptic religious experience, under the general heading of gnosticism..." -- the living experience of religion was squeezed out.... growth of a body of doctrine...The doctrine that Christ was divine made it necessary to establish the Nativity as a major feast: Dec 25, date of principal Mithraic feast (354 A.D.)

p. 265: "The earliest Christians had sought to substitute the transcendence of sexual instincts for the technique of dealing with them by catharsis. The Church abandoned the device of sublimation for the principle of repression." But the issue was to flare up again and again.

Johannine Christians esp. associated with "theoleptic Christianity" - dancing, shakers...
p. 276: "... against this ecstatic tradition can be placed the continuous opposition of the puritan groups, medieval, reformation, and modern, to dancing."

p. 283: three ways of dealing with sex instinct: repression/catharsis/sublimation. "It would seem that the Church felt that to treat sex as unimportant was just as serious as to treat it as divine."
Modern Morality
p. 296: Says that present period inclines to matrism. "The claim that sex might be holy, not sinful, is still the thing that arouses the deepest anxieties of the patrist." Says our system of sexual morality is "muddled and arbitrary." In fact, it is not in any consistent ethical sense a morality at all. It is essentially a hodge-podge of attitudes derived from the past, upon which is erected a shaky and inconsistent system of laws and social prohibitions... The great majority of the prohibitions are, or were, taboos --- that is, prohibitions introduced to relieve unconscious, irrational anxieties." State of the modern West is the "rule of the dead."
At least he acknowledges the task is "to transmute Eros to a constructive form."
p. 305: "The problem of sexual control is the problem of what we do with our creative powers."

Matrism and Patrism
Matrism: Bachofen, Das Mutterrecht (1861) Argued that matriarchy was the original primitive stage of culture everywhere preceding patriarchy; postulated a state of sexual promiscuity with no stable family life prior to the matriarchy; hence the evolutionary development is from promiscuity---- matriarchy----patriarchy.
Patrism: Sir Henry Maine, Ancient Law (1861) Argued that patriarchy was the original and universal system of social organization; postulated that the earliest social unit was the family; groups of families known as clans or tribes pre-existed nations; hence the evolutionary cycle is from a collection of isolated patriarchal families into a patriarchal tribe or nation, with matriarchy as a degenerate form.
Gordon Childe, Social Evolution (1951): disagrees that all societies pass through stages, no "social evolution" as such
G.R. Taylor, Sex in History (1953): patrism/matrism alternate; they concern attitudes rather than institutions.

See also Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Sanctifying Misandry: Goddess Ideology and the Fall of Man, McGill-Queens University Press, 2010.
p. 162: "We suggest that intellectual life is now under siege not by the masses, as in the past, but by academics. Special-interest groups consider themselves immune to any standards of judgment. They ignore facts that contradict their own views..."
p. 167: "The therapeutic focus on self is clearly at the heart of this movement, not worship of a deity."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ernst Mach

From: Die Mechanik in ihrer Entwickelung (5th ed., 1904)
"Even in the simplest case, in which apparently we deal with the mutual action between only two particles, it is impossible to disregard the rest of the universe. Nature does not begin with elements, as we are forced to do. Certainly it is fortunate for us that we can sometimes turn away from the overwhelming all, and allow ourselves to study isolated facts. But we must not forget ultimately to amend and complete our views by taking into account what had been omitted."

Sir Edmund Whittaker F.R.S. (II)

A History of the Theories of Aether and Electricity.
Sir Edmund Whittaker. Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1910, 1950.
Volume II - The Modern Theories

Chapter 1. The Age of Rutherford
ions: particles that carry electric charges
Rutherford-Soddy - general theory on radioactivity pub 1902-3. They asserted that in the radioactive substances radium, thorium, and uranium, there is a continuous production of new kinds of matter, themselves radioactive; when several changes occur together they are not simultaneous but successive; radioactivity consists in this: that a certain proportion of the atoms undergo spontaneous transformation into atoms of a different nature; and these changes are utterly different from anything in chemistry; the number of atoms that disintegrate in unit time is a definite proportion of those present. The proportion is characteristic of the radioactive body and is constant for that body.
Re: chemical ether
1864: John A. R. Newlands and the 'Law of Octaves' - when the chemical elements Are arranged according to the numerical vAlues of their atomic weights, the 8th element starting from any given one is, in regard to its properties, closely akin to the first 'like the 8th note in an octave of music.' Newland's idea was Adopted and developed by D.I. Mendeleev, who arranged the elements in a periodic table. Elements which are chemically inseparable but have different atomic weights were called by Soddy, isotopes.
Rutherford: Structure of the atom, 1911
Like the solar system, a small + charge nucleus in center containing most of the mass of the atom and surrounded by - electrons (electrons with negative charge) orbiting like planets at distances the order of 10 -8 cm.
Chapt II. Relativity Theory of Poincare and Lorentz
p. 28 et seq: One of the most perplexing unsolved problems of late 19th c. science was determining the relative motion of the earth and the aether. The laws of Newtonian dynamics presuppose the knowledge of a certain set of systems of reference [inertial system of reference] Doctrine of the aether, justified by the undulatory theory of light, was generally regarded as involving concepts of rest and motion relative to the aether and thus a means of specifying absolute position. The failure of many promising attempts to measure the velocity of the earth with respect to the aether led to Poincare's saying in 1899 that absolute motion is indetectible in principle whether by dynamical optical or electrical means. "Our aether," he said, "does it really exist?" Also Lorentz in 1904 asserted the same general principle. On 24 Sept 1904 Poincare gave to a generalized form of this principle, the name The Principle of Relativity. "According to the Principle of Relativity, the laws of physical phenomena must be the same for a 'fixed' observer as for an observer who has a uniform motion of translation relative to him: so that we have not, and cannot possibly have any means of discerning whether we are, or are not, carried along in such a motion." And: "From all these results there must arise an entirely new kind of dynamics, which will be characterized above all by the rule, that no velocity can exceed the speed of light." [italics his]
p. 35: The notion of absolute fixity in space, which... was thought to be required by the theory of aether and electrons was shown in 1900-04 by the Poincare-Lorentz theory of relativity to be without foundation.
p. 42: theory of relativity had its origin in the theory of the aether and electrons.
p. 51: now he traces the connection of mass with energy--expressed by Planck in 1908 in the form of a unified definition of momentum, the equivalence of mass and energy
p. 64: "The phenomena studied in natural philosophy take place at a definite location at a definite moment, the whole constituting a four-dimensional world of space and time. The theory of relativity had now made it clear that the separation of this four-dimensional world into a three-dimensional world of space and an independent one-dimensional world of time may be effected in an infinite number of ways, each of which is distinguished from the others only by characteristics that are merely arbitrary and accidental. In order to represent natural phenomena without introducing this contingent element, it is necessary to abandon the customary three-dimensional system of co-ordinates and to operate in four dimensions."
Chap. III. Beginnings of Quantum Theory
(too technical)
Chap. IV. Spectroscopy in the Older Quantum Theory
atomic spectra- essentially a quantum phenomena.
Pauli exclusion principle (1924) - two electrons in a central field can never be in states of binding which have the same four quantum numbers
Chap. V. Gravitation
p. 151: From 1904 onwards the Newtonian law of gravitation was examined in the light of relativity theory of Poincare and Lorentz. 1907: Planck experiments indicated that the gravitational properties of a body are essentially of the same nature as its inertial properties. Now, said Planck, all energy has inertial properties, and therefore all energy must gravitate. Six months later Einstein published a memoir in which he introduced what he later called the Principle of Equivalence... i.e. a uniform gravitational field os physically equivalent to a field which is due to a change in the co-ordinate systems.
Followed up in 1911 w/important memoir in which he argued that since light is a form of electromagnetic energy, therefore light must gravitate, that is, a ray of light passing near a powerfully gravitating body such as the sun, must be curved; and the velocity of light must depend on the gravitational field.
p. 157: FitzGerald, Works, p. 313: "Gravity is probably due to a change of structure of the aether, produced by the presence of matter." (1894) F.'s aether was called by Einstein simply space or space-time and F.'s somewhat vague term 'structure' became with Einstein the more precise 'curvature.' Thus we obtain the central proposition of the Einsteinian theory 'Gravity is due to a change in the curvature of space-time, produced by the presence of matter.'
p. 158: "What differentiates the Einsteinian theory from all previous conceptions is that the older physicists had regarded gravity as merely one among many types of natural force - electric, magnetic, etc. - each of which influenced in its own way the motion of material particles. Space, whose properties were set forth in Euclidean geometry, was, so to speak, the stage on which the forces played their parts. But in the new theory gravity was no longer one of the players but part of the structure of the stage. A gravitational field consisted essentially in a replacement of the Euclidean properties by a much more complicated kind of geometry: space was no longer homogeneous or isotropic..." General Relativity was "essentially a geometrization of physics" (p. 192)
p. 174: In 1920 A.N. Whitehead published a criticism of General Relativity -- "I do not understand how the fixed conditions for measurement are to be obtained." Set forth an alternate theory in his The Principle of Relativity, 1922. Whitehead's doctrine is loosely described as fitting Einsteinian laws into flat space-time. The idea of mapping curved space of General Relativity on a flat space wAs later revived by N. Rosen (1940) who claimed it enabled a more direct explanation for the conservation of energy, momentum, and angular momentum, and also to account for "certain unexplained residuals" in the Michelson-Morley experiment.
Chap. VI. Radiation and Atoms in the Older Quantum Theory
(too technical, but p. 222 on diff kinds of statistics might be worth copying)
Chap. VII. Magnetism and Electromagnetism, 1900-26
(too technical)
Chap. VIII The Discovery of Matrix Mechanics
p. 253: Replacement of Rutherford planetary model of the atom with that of the "virtual orchestra" which emitted radiations of frequencies actually observed. Heisenberg saw that this idea of replacing the classical dynamics of the Rutherford atom by formulae based on the virtual orchestra could be applied in a far wider connection. He took as his primary aim to lay the foundations of a quantum-theoretic mechanics which should be based exclusively on relations between quantities that are actually observable. Previous investigators had found integrals of the classical equations of motion of the atomic system, and so had obtained formulae for the coordinates and velocities of the electrons as functions of the time. These formulae Heisenberg now abandoned, on the ground that they do not represent anything that is accessible to direct observation... and in their place he proposed to make the virtual orchestra the central feature of the theory."
Problems could thus be translated from the beginning into quantum mechanics.
Chap. IX. Discovery of Wave Mechanics.
(too technical)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Justice in Nuremberg

Victor's Justice. Montgomery Belgion, Henry Regnery Co., 1949.
"Crimes against peace"
Germany invaded Poland Sept 1, 1939
Russia invaded Poland Sept 17, 1939 and occupied half of it. But only Germany was punished.
This was "an affront to the conscience of all those to whom justice is not a mere formal observation of rules of procedure," (M.J. Bonn)
Nuremberg in 1946: "Two parties had committed an act alleged to be a crime, and on the charge of having therefore been criminal one of the two parties was being tried by the other."
The tribunal was styled 'international' but in fact represented the four victorious powers - that is, it was the judiciary of prejudiced parties. "For victors in war can never be accepted as impartial judges." (p. 31) The judgment was worthless because, exactly like 'aggression,' the existence of a need to defend 'special and vital interests' by resort to war is not a matter of fact; it is a matter of opinion. In short the "crimes against peace" charge could not possibly be substantiated; it was illusory.
The Dark Side of the Moon - book about Russian atrocities in Poland (1946)
As early as Feb. 1946 it was estimated that 17 million persons had been evicted from their homes, deported -- but long after this date the deportations continued -- these were the postwar crimes of the Allies - for which the Germans had been judged and found guilty.
International law is based on custom and a sense of decency, and relies on mutual consent.
p. 133: "For one state, or a coalition of states, to seek to enforce observance of some rule... of international law on another state is to discard law and rely on force. And force is foreign to international law so far considered."
Two essential features of international law are the absence of force and the presence of consent.
p. 139: "The net effect of the post-war punishment at the hands of the victor of individuals among the vanquished for war crimes must be to make it seem as if war crimes were legitimate so long as it was the victor who committed them."
Perversion of justice and the principles of British justice -- the heresy hunt replaced the principle that it is better for the guilty to go free than for the innocent to be convicted.
p. 180: "For St. George slew the dragon only to find that it was the dragon's features which confronted him when he beheld his natural face in the glass."
Fatal confusion of force and right
p. 182: "The victors had received the unconditional surrender of the vanquished, and having denied to the vanquished a government of their own, they were themselves, as regards the vanquished, in a relation of government to the governed. But that relation could obviously only hold concerning the current discharge of the national government and administration, whereas the Charter (Aug 8, 1945) and the Trial were concerned with the international conduct of the vanquished. In that domain the legal and moral status [of the victors] was no more than that of a gang of lynchers dealing with a victim..."
p. 184: "Only a super-government or World State could have promulgated the charter and held the Trial-- but such a superstate to exist would have to abolish nationality -- "Unless nationalities were abolished, nothing could make a world government effective... If a world government did have the power to rule the whole world, there could be no limit to its power... This is why all talk of a world state... is pernicious and immoral."
Further: international law cannot suddenly become an international criminal code, and "to a world state empowered to enforce the code, the code would be superfluous." Furthermore, such a state could not be moral - "It is the restriction of power that leads the exercise of power to be moral."
p. 187: "Nuremberg: an undertaking fraught with grave menace for the future of civil manners. It was an attempt to degrade the Law of Nations from a set of moral rules (anchored in customs based on mutual consent) to a criminal code, an attempt, which if it could ever succeed, would abolish the law of nations altogether." [italics mine]
Turning points in the history of Western man: one of them was the setting up of the Inquisition. At the French Revolution the inquisitorial methods were discarded from judicial procedures on the Continent.
p.39: "Those Western victors instituted the Nuremberg Trial in order... to confer on themselves a title to mete out retribution and to levy reparations."
All possibility of committing 'war crimes' ceased for Germany with surrender in May, 1945. But for the victors, on the contrary, that was mainly when the possibility began (except for Russia - when it began earlier). Six of the kinds of war crime named at Nuremberg:
1. Murder, ill treatment or depaortation to slave labor camps of civilians of occupied territories
2. use of concentration camps to destroy opposition
3. murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war
4. killing of hostages
5. plunder
6. destruction of cities, towns, etc., not justified by military necessity
Belgio's book is mainly devoted to showing how the Allies were guilty of all of these crimes, before, but mainly after the cessation of hostilities.
p. 125: "The treatment called 'denazification' to which so many Germans were subjected after the unconditional surrender is the equivalent of the 'persecution of the Jews' by the German National socialists in the twelve years before." It was the wholesale arrest, internment and frequently sentence of former members of the National Socialist Party - carried out by the four occupying powers.
p. 126: "The international military tribunal at Nuremberg did not pronounce, in its Judgment, any of the accused guilty of being responsible for the deaths of German Jews. The Jews who were stated to have been killed were from occupied territories. From Germany under Hitler, most if not all Jews who could afford it were up to the outbreak of war allowed to emigrate."
p. 129: The three men set free by the Tribunal - Dr. Schacht, Baron von Papen, and Hans Fritzsche - were afterwards re-arrested by by the German police under the denazification and had to serve 8 years in a labor camp.
p. 152: "Apologists for the Trial, and for the punishment of so-called 'war criminals' in general, had contended, and were to go on contending, that the holding of the Trial would lead to an extension of the dominion of law. But how could the dominion of law be extended by means of the flouting of a fundamental principle of justice?"
Disregard of the adage -- nullum crimen sine lege -
As regards crimes, the Charter purported to make law for the past. Likewise, when the Tribunal pronounced certain associations to be 'criminal,' it was making law for the past. Dr. Stahmer, leading counsel for the defense, reminded the Tribunal that a person was not to be sentenced to punishment unless he had infringed a law in force at the time of his alleged offense (p. 150)


From The Morning of the Magicians. Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. Souvenir Press, 1960.

p. 78: "All our knowledge of the atom and its nucleus are based on the 'Saturnian' model (Rutherford/Nagasoka): nucleus and its belt, or ring, of electrons. Old alchemical texts affirm that the keys to the secrets of matter are to be found in Saturn."