Sarah and Duck



by Robert Earleywine


She lies at the foot of our bed so she can be close to the big TV.  Now she is the length of the width of the standard sized bed.  She has her bottle.  We expect her to give it up soon, rather like the way she potty trained herself.

I work the remote, looking through Netflix’ menu for a cartoon that could possibly help her get to sleep.  I’d like to find an old Mickey Mouse, so well drawn, with a full story, but instead find Mia and Me: a pubescent girl transforms into an elf with wings and finds friends and unicorns.  Or Tinker Bell, and though our girl looks much like Tinker Bell, she doesn’t much like her.  (By the way, fairies can’t fly when their wings are wet.)  All this great CGI, like Masha and the Bear, a Russian import.  In each episode, this tiny green-eyed girl, usually wearing a headscarf, destroys the order in the huge bear’s house and yard, but he loves her.

I work the remote:  “This one …  This one?”

She shakes her head, says no, her mouthful of teeth clinging to the rubber nipple.

“This one.”  She points.

I don’t like it.  There’s a little cartoon girl and a duck, both too simply drawn and, though the duck has a pale green head, the two characters have no color.  Even the background is white.

The girl’s face is white, her head a circle, like her big round eyes with tiny black dots for the eyes themselve.  She has no nose and a small slit for a mouth.  The duck, in profile, hardly looks like a duck.  But I hit play.

If you want to practice your British, watch Sarah and Duck.  It’s from the BBC.  A Brit narrator says “Sarah and Duck” four times in slightly varying intonations as the two characters move backwards four times from a close up to a long view.  The duck bends over and wags his short tale and the story begins.  One episode opens with this sentence, “Today Sarah and Duck are in the park looking for patches of grass they haven’t yet stepped on.”

No big excitement here, and the computer-fed drawings lack color.  Of course the grass is green, the bench is white.  In each episode other characters wander in and out, like Scarf Lady, an old lady always knitting with a knitting bag that talks—though Duck only quacks.  For Sarah’s birthday, Scarf Lady says, “Here you are, dear.  I’ve knitted you  some pastries.” Scarf Lady has a pet donkey.  She says he’s a good porpoise.  She calls the huge wandering tortoise, “Green Bean.”

There’s a significant cast of characters, but never more than four fill the screen at the same time.  There’s Rainbow who talks.  And Moon drops by when he’s not working, usually carrying his lunch box.  Moon is an excellent painter, giving Sarah and Duck much more color and detail than the authors do.  The narrator talks to the characters and they to him, but we never see him.  Surprised he says, “My word,” or “Well, I never,” which makes me wonder, What’s the word? Or never what?

Until I watched and listened I rather hated the lack of color, the lazy looking drawings of most everything, although the black and white tiles in Sarah’s kitchen are in perfect perspective.  She and Duck drink lemon water.  Duck is seen eating only bread, with relish.  No, not with relish, but he relishes the eating, shaking the bread in his simply drawn beak.

But to the point.  No gunplay or swordplay. No violence period, not even the slapstick of early Disney. There is a problem to be solved, a journey down the street or to the park.  For example, together they leave the house, in which of course there are no adults.  “Come on, Duck,” Sarah says and Duck quacks and follows.  His head is not quite as tall as her shoulder.  He can fly, a little, like up to the top of her head or up to a tree house, but usually Duck prefers to walk.  You’d think he’d have a name, or the show would be called Sarah and the Duck, but no.


But to the point.  I Google, “how to draw Sarah and Duck.”  But I don’t much care about Sarah.  I care about Duck.  His full profile can be drawn in exactly ten lines, apart from the pale green coloration of his head (he’s said to be a mallard) and the dark yellow of his bill, legs and feet, except for his eye, an oval inset with a black dot just like Sarah’s eyes.

What amazes me, if not the little girl at the foot of our bed, is what Duck does.  As Aristotle says a character is what he does.  In their house Duck’s room has a bath tub.  He sleeps in the tub, but with white covers and sometimes his toy robot.  On the floor are blocks and things and train tracks and a train he pushes with his head.  The closest the program has ever come to an act of violence, though hardly that, is when Sarah decides to put a talking cake in his room and, not wanting to share, Duck throws a tantrum, quacking, beating his wings, shoving his toys around with his head, tossing them with his beak.  When Duck misbehaves Sarah says, “Du-uck,” turning his name into two syllables.  But what cracks me up again and again is when Duck looks head-on at the camera, his closed bill an ellipse.  His eyes set on the side of his head like elliptical bubbles and the black dots of his eyes would look crossed if they were not so far apart.  His expression is always of a kind of puzzlement, as if his name has been called and he’s looking at you as though you’ll tell him what you want.  I’ve never seen a more ridiculous and endearing little face that is absolutely silly.

By now Grandma is slumbering beside me.  It occurs to me that something deep in this isn’t necessarily funny, that “at the end of the day,” as politicians and commentators like to say on CNN, there is a relief—a quietness that can put a child to sleep, or show an adult how many things remain the same despite this administration, and what can be an impending war if this regime is not changed.

And something a little bit deeper:  The voices in Sarah and Duck do not sound like adult voices imitating those of children.  There are no blatant morals woven through or ending the episodes.  In fact, there is no  hugging and very little petting, so I come away from the show thinking what Saint-Exupery says, that love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.

Her bottle finished the baby sits up.  There’s a problem to be solved.  Or a journey.


A sample of “Sarah and Duck”:







SS: “What is a Human”


What Is a Human? What the Answers Mean for Human Rightshuman
by John H. Evans
Oxford University Pres, 2016
Review by Bob Lane

metapsychology Feb 21st 2017 (Volume 21, Issue 8)

Without a doubt the answer to the question ‘What is a human?’ has been a long term and ongoing project — perhaps as old as human life here on this planet. The question, simple in form and a mere four words long has been the center of attention for religion, philosophy, and the sciences for as long as those disciplines have been around.
And now Oxford Press presents this social science study addressing the question, in a book rich with survey data and analysis of two main concerns: What is a Human? And what might the answers mean for human rights? In eight chapters and several appendices, notes, citations, and index, John H. Evans presents a report on “a sociological research project” which will NOT attempt to argue for a correct answer to the main question but will tell the reader what the public thinks a human is.

Read the review.


“Mistakes Were Made . . .”

Mistakes were made (but not by me)

Mistakes were made (but not by me) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


There is a vast body of literature on how to do well, how to be happy, what to do and choose for one’s own benefit and that of others. This body covers a range from the vulgar to the great moral philosophers. We are not short of such analyses or guidance.

In contrast, the body of work which considers our failure to do well and be good is decidedly smaller, and also, it must be said, rather lamer, particularly in its power to explain why we fall into foolish beliefs, make bad decisions and commit hurtful acts. We remain opaque to others and to ourselves, thinking, acting and responding in ways which are harmful, counter-productive and baffling. Most baffling of all is our propensity to continue in these patterns, to compound error with error and throw good vigorously after bad. [Source]





Ergo is an open access philosophy journal accepting submissions on all philosophical topics and from all philosophical traditions. This includes, among other things: history of philosophy, work in both the analytic and continental traditions, as well as formal and empirically informed philosophy. Ergo is strongly committed to diversity and especially welcomes submissions from members of groups currently underrepresented in philosophy.

Submission and publication are free, and authors retain copyright under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 license. Generous support from the undergraduate departments of philosophy at the University of Toronto’s St. George and Mississauga campuses and the University of Toronto’s graduate department of philosophy make this arrangement possible.

Papers are published as they are accepted; there is no regular publication schedule.

  1. Epistemic Exploitation

    Nora Berenstain

  2. Cabbage à la Descartes

    Devin Sanchez Curry


Sunday’s Sermon

One of our regular authors presents: “Comedy in the Age of the Absurd: Helping or Harming?”


It’s an absurd new[s] era, and when faced with the question of “should we laugh or should we cry?” the choice is being made for us. Comedy news outlets (our ever-increasing primary news source) are having a heyday; observing and reporting with an almost glee. They couldn’t make this shit up.

And us? We’re devouring it.

The one to rule them all.

It feels good to laugh. That’s probably why humour is the preferred coping mechanism for dealing with the reality that is Trump. But might getting our news in this way have its downside? If comedy is our news and their business, who’s gonna tell us it’s no laughing matter?

There is certainly an argument for humour as being an effective weapon here,  as it’s clear that Trump can’t tolerate any form of criticism – and what’s more harmful to a man like this than the public buying the notion that he is a Joke on the world stage. He spends an inordinate amount of time reacting to haters with childlike petulance that he fails to see just adds to the comedy.  Perhaps shows like SNL, John Oliver, Stephen  Colbert and the like aren’t just capitalizing on the circumstance, but are here at exactly the right time and doing their duty as commanders of the Army of Comedy that will ultimate cause him to implode. It could. Or it could do the exact opposite.

Because here’s what needs to be taken seriously:

That Donald Trump, Actual President of the United States, is mentally ill. Saying so is not meant to be insulting or inflammatory. It’s to state what is plainly obvious but is being obscured by the sweet panacea of comedy. He displays all the criteria of someone with a serious psychological and/or medical condition that makes him – unfortunately, comically – unfit to be any kind of leader.  A pathological liar; and not on disputable matters, but on facts of which there are images and recordings (of himself too).  And not just occasionally, but constantly. And not after some thought, but reflexively. And not over insignificant things, but facts that matter. A level of emotional control and articulacy that is rarely observed in any mature, stable person, let alone . . .  you get the picture. This is only what shows. Can you imagine?

(And then there’s this, which I consider to be the crown jewel on top of the trash pile of evidence for incompetency which at the same time is a mint example of this laugh/cry coin. For this to even BE, let alone get a pass as the very first broadcast of the official news outlet of the Trump Administration, boggles my mind and reduces me to tears of laughter despite myself. Just watch.)

We can certainly count his overall anti-environment, anti-education, anti-social security (anti-humanity, really) attitude as evidence that he is incapable of considering the welfare anyone outside of him and his. But I’m not so sure if that’s mental illness so much as the natural result of being born and raised in a bubble of extreme self-indulgence that this late in the game is psychologically incapable of being popped. Or is that mental illness too? Is greed evil or illness? And does mental illness imply that his behaviours are more excusable than, say, evil?

Now I’ve realized I’ve gone off track and opened up a can of worms about what mental illness is, and how or if it’s distinct from evil. You all better join in on discussion now.

Personally, I think there are not evil people so much as those with a lack of knowledge of good; and this moral confusion + power + fear of being irrelevant = the path of least resistance, which to a weak mind with strong negative influences can certainly cause evil, easily justified as something other than.

Anyways, my point is that if Trump’s behaviour can be explained by at least Narcissistic Personality Disorder (and possibly untreated syphilis, possible dementia), then he either needs treatment or to be treated like a person with special needs who doesn’t know his own strength.

And we need to stop laughing.

…or do we?

Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Nationhood in the 21st century

English: Devonian Pond,Ryerson University, Tor...

English: Devonian Pond,Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The CJMA welcomes proposals from individuals who are interested in presenting a paper at its 2017 spring conference.

Saturday, May 27 to Sunday May 28, 2017
Ryerson University,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

In the 21st century, diverse tendencies appear to be altering or even undermining nationhood, understood as belonging to a sovereign people with a shared heritage. Philosophers have discussed individualism, multiculturalism, and globalization – in Canada we have the recent contribution of substantial thinkers like Charles Taylor, John Ralston Saul, George Grant, and Leslie Armour. In addition, the role of religion is emerging as a prominent factor determining nationhood: from political and patriotic Christian Evangelism in the United States, Canada, and Latin America to the traditional theocratic tendencies in the Middle East, and the role of Hinduism and Confucianism in promoting national identities is significant. Furthermore, any discussion of nationhood in the 21st century must take into account concerns associated with the role of Islam in European and American societies, and the contribution of Native American religion to our appreciation of the natural environment and cohesive community.

All papers addressing the role of philosophy and/or religion in determining the meaning of nationhood in the 21st century are welcome.

Those who wish to present a paper should send a one-page abstract or proposal to:

Dr. Elizabeth Trott

Deadline for submission of proposals: February 15, 2017