Thursday, 23 November 2006
Monday, 20 November 2006
.....One can imagine that the chief-constables and commissioners of this land read the Peelian principles aloud to one another over drinks, and snigger at their quaint, old-world charm.
…..“And I can’t find the word ‘proactive’ anywhere.”
…..“What about ‘strategic partnership’?”
…..“Not a trace.”
…..“My God! One can’t run an efficient, twenty-first-century police force without using the words ‘proactive’ or ‘strategic partnership’. Surely he stresses the importance of acronyms?”
…..“Sadly not. Just bangs on about the basic mission of the police’s being the prevention of crime and disorder, and how we’re not meant to usurp the powers of the judiciary.”
…..“Heh-heh. Another brandy?”
…..“It’d be a crime not to.”
 Ben Leapman, “Police give teenage tearaways lessons in handling the media”, The Sunday Telegraph, 19th November 2006.
Wednesday, 15 November 2006
The Philosopher of Loquacity
For many years, the pragmatist-philosopher Richard Rorty has been telling us that the world outside the mind — or outside a community of minds — is unknowable. Unlike his less sophisticated brethren, however, he has never claimed to know so; rather he has always maintained a “liberal irony” towards the view. That he remains committed to so bold a view only through this liberal irony, however, speaks not only of a very odd mind, but also of the poverty of the arguments formed in favour of that view, arguments so poor that they cannot persuade even the philosopher of pragmatism who proposes them. A typical example:
[O]nce you have said that all our awareness is under a description, and that descriptions are functions of social needs, then ‘nature’ and ‘reality’ can only be names of something unknowable. 
Here is the argument in a clearer syllogistic form:
All awareness is under a description,
All descriptions are functions of social needs,
All descriptions (of “nature” and “reality”) are names of something unknowable.
The conclusion does not follow. Furthermore, the premises are far from established; for nowhere is there to be found any compelling evidence for the view that all awareness is under a description or that all descriptions are functions of social needs. Indeed, for Rorty and his kind, there could be no evidence, and therefore they are forced to feed themselves on a diet of fanciful theories:
To say that everything is a social construct is to say that our linguistic practices are so bound up with our other social practices that our descriptions of nature, as well as ourselves, will always be a function of our social needs.
Naturally, in the slough of his liberal irony, Professor Rorty himself wouldn’t claim to know that all awareness is under a description or that all descriptions are functions of social needs. Such would presuppose what he sets out to deny. Thus, he sets his argument upon premises in whose truth he claims not to believe, in order to establish by a non sequitur a conclusion in whose truth he claims not to believe, in favour of a view in which he is far from being compelled to believe by the impress of his everyday life. One might well wonder why he bothers. Professor Rorty, however, is rather keen to “keep the conversation going”.  He is the old fishwife of the philosophical world.
 Richard Rorty, “A World without Substances or Essences”, in Philosophy and Social Hope (London: Penguin Books, 1999), p.49.
 Ibid., p.48.
 Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), p. 377.
Radical Constructivism in the Slums
Radical Constructivism does not deny the existence of a reality independent of the mind of the historian, but states that, as the historian is limited by his or her experiences, such a reality cannot be known. 
The key to evaluating competing knowledge claims, therefore, is not to seek to compare them to a mind-independent reality that cannot be known, but to assess their cognitive viability or functional fitness. 
Thursday, 9 November 2006
Anachronism in the Circumstantial Sense
Tuesday, 7 November 2006
The Coldest of All Cold Monsters
It takes a delusion of some grandeur to imagine that an all-seeing eye really cares what you are up to every minute of the day. But it’s one that seems to be shared by the vociferous campaigners against ‘the surveillance society’......ID cards is the issue these fears coalesce around. . . . [T]he threat to fundamental civil liberties somehow eludes me. 
Many technical, demographic, and social circumstances conspire to devolve the responsibility for more and more areas of life onto the State. We are accustomed to expect from the State ever more solutions not only to social questions but also to private problems and difficulties; it increasingly appears to us that if we are not perfectly happy, it is the State’s fault, as though it were the duty of the all-powerful State to make us happy. This tendency to bear less and less responsibility for our own lives furthers the danger of totalitarian development and fosters our willingness to accept this development without protest. 
[F]or as long as the state remains democratic we can decide what use is made of it and how we are protected from possible abuses. 
[W]ith a publicly owned government . . . [t]he distinction between the rulers and the ruled as well as the class consciousness of the ruled become blurred. The illusion arises that the distinction no longer exists: that with a public government no one is ruled by anyone, but everyone instead rules himself. Accordingly, public resistance against government power is systematically weakened. While exploitation and expropriation before might have appeared plainly oppressive and evil to the public, they seem much less so, mankind being what it is, once anyone may freely enter the ranks of those who are at the receiving end. Consequently, not only will exploitation increase, whether openly in the form of higher taxes or discretely as increased governmental money ‘creation’ (inflation) or legislative regulation [but also] the number of government employees (‘public servants’) will rise absolutely as well as relatively to private employment, in particular attracting and promoting individuals with high degrees of time preference, and limited farsightedness. 
[A] government entirely dependent on [public] opinion looks for some security what that opinion shall be, strives for the control of the forces that shape it, and is fearful of suffering the people to be educated in sentiments hostile to its institutions.