Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

Are rights real in this age of entitlement?

March 11, 2020
  1. A right is an entitlement to a privilege.
  2. A privilege is an actual advantage available (whether granted by anybody or not) to a particular person or group. (By analogy, your right is your ownership of another’s debt, an entitlement is that the credit is in your account and a privilege results when it is encashed).
  3. Having an entitlement is no guarantee that the privilege will result.
  4. A grant of an impossible entitlement or an entitlement granted by an incompetent authority cannot be realized as a privilege.
  5. The universe is not in debt to any living creature.
  6. There are no entitlements which flow from the laws of nature as rights of any kind except the obligation to comply with the natural laws.
  7. No living thing is born with any entitlements.
  8. There is no entitlement even to life. Survival is a result, not an entitlement.
  9. The primal drivers for all living things are survival and self-interest.
  10. Humans are not born equal. Each human is born with a unique set of genes and has the potential and the constraints given by that set of genes (nature). All humans are born naked, with no resources, no debts, no liabilities and with only those privileges as may be granted, or liabilities that may be imposed, by the local, surrounding human society.
  11. Humans are not brought up equally. Every individual receives varying amounts and quality of support from the surrounding community (nurture).
  12. Human lives are not equal in value. The value of a human life to its surrounding society is neither static nor a constant. It varies across individuals, across societies and across the lifetime of the individual.
  13. An individual’s capability for behaviour lies within the envelope of what is allowed by an individual’s genes (nature), as enabled or constrained by upbringing (nurture).
  14. An individual’s actual actions are limited first by capability (nature and nurture) and then as motivated or constrained by individual cognition.
  15. Every individual is free to act within his capabilities and his desires but within the physical constraints that the surroundings (environment or society) may have applied.
  16. Human brains give us the ability to reason which, in turn, gives our assessments of self-interest. All human behaviour is governed first by perceived self-interest.
  17. Even apparently altruistic actions are only as a subset of perceived self-interest.
  18. An individual’s immediate, perceived self-interest can override any consideration of causing harm to others.
  19. Coercion, physically or by the application of threats (including by legislation), can change the perception of self-interest.
  20. All societies – from family groups and up to nations – grant their members various privileges conditional always upon their behaviour.
  21. “Acceptable behaviour” is a dynamic, local, value-judgement. It varies across individuals, families, societies and over time.
  22. All societies create legislation to try and coerce “acceptable” behaviour from their members by rewarding “good” behaviour and penalizing “bad” behaviour.
  23. In practice, protecting or rewarding the perpetrators of “bad” behaviour shields and perpetuates that behaviour.
  24. “Improvement” of individual behaviour means eliciting a greater compliance with a society’s standards of behaviour.
  25. Global declarations of entitlements can only be effected (encashed) locally.
  26. There is no global, timeless definition of what constitutes “acceptable” or “barbarous” behaviour which is shared by all 7 billion humans.
  27. No society attempts to, or has the competence to, guarantee that any of its members will not be victims of “unacceptable behaviour” received from others.
  28. Human rights are an imaginary social construct.
  29. All declared human rights are of universally applicable, irrevocable, unconditional entitlements to some privilege of received behaviour.
  30. Declared human rights are free of cost and require no reciprocal duties.
  31. A declaration of human rights in itself creates no social contract.
  32. All claims of human rights are claims against the behaviour received or not received from others.
  33. Human rights entitlements are theorized to apply only after birth and cease with death. (A living murderer retains rights but not so the victim).

 

Writing versus blogging

January 10, 2020

The empirical evidence is in.

It has been 6 months since I suspended my blog posts in favour of trying to move forward with some of my many stalled “writing” projects. Though the last 6 months have been a little rough on the personal front, I take it as proven that refraining from writing blog posts has increased my productivity in other areas, since 3 of 9 stalled projects are now reaching completion.

  1. A biographical article which I started over 5 years ago is now complete and I am finalising the citations and illustrations,
  2. A book which I started in 2010 is now a complete draft where only a final revision is needed, and
  3. An attempt at fiction has achieved a complete – if incoherent – plot. The only problem is that some of the best bits I have written don’t quite fit the plot. The dilemma is whether to massage the plot or to rewrite whole sections.

In any case the progress made means that my blog posts will now slowly restart, though probably very intermittently. Hopefully these 3 texts can be finished/published by this summer.


 

Cleansing the “the”

April 20, 2019

The alphabet gives us the possibility to create a limitless number of words.

In any alphabet where the length of a word is not restricted, there are an infinite variety of ways of creating combinations of letters to be words. In practice most languages have working vocabularies of a few hundred thousands and even if all possible variations and forms, past and present, are counted, the vocabulary may be around one million words. The Oxford English Dictionary has around 177,000 words as being in current usage and another 50,000 as obsolete. Similarly German has around 150,000 words as being in current use and Swedish has around 125,000. However current usage is not the whole story. Current usage is only a part of the total number of words available in a language where the total number depends on the age of the language. It is said that Japanese has around 100,000 active words in a total vocabulary of around 500,000. The OED estimates the total number of words in English to be around 750,000. Other estimates put the total English vocabulary at just over one million words.

So there is no need to include the definite article to create a word. The the atre is so unnecessary. Stripping away the initial “the” is required, if nothing else, on the grounds of language parsimony. Words beginning with “therm” are excused as are those where the remnant is an existing word. Excluding derivatives, the list of commonly used words which could happily lose their “the”s is not so long. Pronouncing “ft” might be a challenge.

Removing the indefinite article would not work especially as an initial “a” is so often used to create the opposite of a word or a negation.


 

 

Values embedded in language

March 16, 2019

The most fundamental value there is, is the distinction between “good” and “bad”. It is a characteristic of every individual. For humans this value surely originated from long before we were anatomically modern humans. Within the world of living things, and whether the individual living thing is aware of the value or not, all that aids survival is “good” and all that does not is “bad”.

The fundamental value scale of goodness therefore precedes language. Awareness of the value scale may need consciousness, but what is “good” or “bad” applies to every living thing whether it is conscious or not. Language, of course, is a means of “quantifying” thought. It is language which allows the past and the future and the abstract and the unreal to be described.

Language has allowed us to describe many other value scales. Each scale seems to be independent though it is clear that many of the scales are related. (Length can be related to weight and thickness, beauty can be related to cleverness or to complexity, …….). I cannot find any value scale though, which does not always map – even if sometimes indirectly – to the value scale of goodness.

It is as if “good” and “bad” are embedded in the framework of language, such that every other value scale we may describe always leaves a shadow on the scale of “good” and “bad”. It is therefore we tend to associate certain values with others and, I suspect, it is because of their underlying projection onto the good-bad scale. Beauty is good, noise is bad. Sweet is good, bitter is bad. Tall is good, short is bad. Thin is good and fat is bad. Certain combinations of values feel “right” and others feel very “wrong”. “Tall, slim and beautiful” feels right, but “short, fat and beautiful” is discordant in composition.

Logic and – it would seem – fundamental valuations of good and bad are embedded in language. They make up the framework for language and non-compliance with the inbuilt logic or the values creates discomfort and a discordance.


 

 

Darker Nhaikus

January 14, 2019

Even “not quite haikus” can get quite dark.

46.

Awake again,

It is the first day of

The rest of my life

47.

26,000 gone,

Less than 7,000 left;

Allotted span

48.

One wedding

And six funerals last year,

Life’s winter

49.

Trees also die

Of storms and fire and murder,

But not old age

50.

Orbits and seasons,

But in a cyclical world

A linear life

Winter sunrise 20190114

 


 

Even more “not quite haikus” /3

January 8, 2019

I have caught the bug and seem to be adding 2 or 3 “not quite haikus” every day.

This set is to round off the present infection.

If I ever get to over 100, I will have to make a little book of Nhaikus.



11.

Before the beginning

And after the end of time

Iswas stasis

12.

TV News

Change the channel

Reality shift

13.

Science describes,

Even explains the how

But never the why

14.

Powerful car, but

The end of the journey

Is where the road ends

15.

Born, lived, died

Then relegated to history

Now forgotten

16.

Born, lived, died

Earned a Wikipedia entry

Immortality

17.

Without any Gods

Invented by others

No atheists

18.

Corks apopping

Another New Year to usher in

Déjà vu

19.

Three score and ten

A never-ending bucket list

Tick tock, tick tock

20.

Beyond infinity

Smaller than the infinitesimal

Unknowable


Previously:

Not quite Haiku

Some more “not quite Haikus” /2


 

Some more “not quite Haikus” /2

January 5, 2019

Challenging enough to condense a meaning into 3 phrases in 3 lines and even more so when restricting the syllables and trying to get some measure of juxtaposition.

Some more attempts at “not quite haikus” to follow my earlier attempts.

Surely amateurish but oddly satisfying.

Basho

6.

Sitting in the car

Raindrops merging on the windscreen

Wife shopping

7.

Silence all around

Unheard cacophony in the air

Radio waves


 

8.

A hole in the thick ice

Groaning and creaking all around

Grilled fish for dinner

9.

Visitor at the door

Rolling to expose his belly

Neighbour’s cat

10.

Low winter sun

Hanging in a crystal blue sky

Brilliantly blinding


Not quite Haiku

January 3, 2019

I was reading some Japanese Haiku (in translation) and had to have a go.

Not quite haiku which should be 3 lines with 5, 7, 5 syllables (17 total).

1.

Enveloped by a dark

Where your mind cannot tell

If your eyes are open

2.

Hiss and crackle in the glass

Of whiskey pouring on to icy rocks

Anticipating contentment

3.

A library in my hand

But no rustling of turning pages

Oddly disconcerting

4.

Beyond known and unknown

Lie the when and what and where and why

Of the unknowable

5.

Roaring deafening winds

But in the eye of the storm

The silence is music


Year Zero

October 25, 2018

The ghost year zero.

There is common usage (AD, BC), politically correct usage (BCE, CE) and then there is the astronomical counting of years. In archaeology there is YBP (Years Before Present).

In sixth century Europe, the concept of “zero” was still unknown. Thus, the year 1 BC was followed by the year AD 1. …… The convention is that “BC” is a suffix (used after the year) while “AD” is a prefix (used before the year). …. ….. (This has been replaced by) the use of the religiously neutral abbreviations BCE (for “Before Common Era”) to substitute for “BC,” and “CE” (for “Common Era”) to replace “AD.” These secular terms are both used as suffixes making them better suited to computer generated tables.

The “astronomical” dating system refers to an alternative method of numbering years. It includes the year “0” and eliminates the need for any prefixes or suffixes by attributing the arithmetic sign to the date. Thus, the astronomical date for 2000 CE is simply +2000 or 2000. The astronomical year 0 corresponds to the year 1 BCE, while the astronomical year -1 corresponds to 2 BCE. In general, any given year “x BCE” becomes “-(x-1)” in the astronomical year numbering system. Historians should take care to note the numerical difference of one year between “BCE” dates and astronomical dates. — NASA

Counting the years


 

Straightness of the curve

October 22, 2018

There are around one million words in English though probably less than 200,000 in active use.

The number of possible words is infinite.

The number of valid word combinations is determined by the meanings of the words and the meaning to be conveyed by the combination.

Just playing ……

straightness


 


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