Otto was a farmer – repost

wheatMy step-father was a dry-land farmer. He worked with his hands all of his life. He worked with mules, horses, and later tractors. Otto was primarily a wheat farmer. He took pride in his farming. Straight rows [once when my brother was home on leave during WWII, and was new to farming, Otto had him working in a field where he was supposed to drive the tractor at an angle across the face of a hill, Bud’s rows got so crooked that he decided to fix the line by working up and down the hill to correct the line! The result was a disaster as the rows now ran up and down the hill side instead of across its face.], sowing at the right time, cultivating, knowing when to harvest. There was a German Lutheran toughness to him and a real pride in growing crops and beasts to feed the people.

It was a real shock to him when he made his first trip to the east coast. He went up to the top of the Empire State Building and looked out over the city. He noticed barges in the Hudson River that were dumping their loads into the river. He asked what they were dumping. He was told they were dumping excess wheat and also milk. He could not believe it.

Why would they do that he asked. For the futures market he was told. Too much wheat brings the prices down now and in the future.

When he came back to the farm he was changed. Those barges had stolen his life’s purpose.

At about the same time Camus was writing his Notebooks 1951 – 1959. He writes (35) :

According to Melville, the remora, a fish of the South Seas, swims poorly. That is why their only chance to move forward consists of attaching themselves to the back of a big fish. They then plunge a kind of tube into the stomach of a shark, where they suck up their nourishment, and propagate without doing anything, living off the hunting and efforts of the beast.

The remora reminds me of the Wall Street speculators of today. They do not produce any wheat or corn – they merely bet on its price in the future. And they don’t manufacture anything to use for anything – they specialize in gambling. Oh, and gas prices? Betting on the futures is responsible for a large share of the price.

Oh, yeah, and Otto paid his fair share of taxes.

More stories.

What are we doing when we conduct ‘thought experiments’?

Displaced Hours is an out-of-print novel by Ace Boggess (Gatto, 2004). In this tale of magic realism, a professor develops the belief that he can insert his consciousness into other people’s bodies, whereby he briefly controls their actions and enjoys their experiences before returning to his own body. The mechanism for this consciousness shift is a haunted clock. The device “gave me everything I wanted,” he says. “There was nothing I couldn’t find in time. Now I used that clock like a wiretap or a hidden camera.” He takes the journey many times.

Book cover of Displaced Hours by Ace Boggess.

Another character in the novel calls the concept “cross-consciousness.” Whatever such experiences may properly be called, they allow the professor to “go anywhere and do anything” and thus turn his life into a series of philosophical “thought experiments,” especially of the ethical sort. That is: By granting him a temporary lease on life that is measured in minutes and is devoid of consequences, these experiences allow him to make choices that are ethically questionable and that he would not otherwise make. The professor refers to the haunted clock as an “ethical device” and a “morality machine” because “it set up an infinite number of hypotheses I could test to their extremes.”

Cross-consciousness experiences become increasingly alluring for him. They also lead him to madness.

“…I locked myself away like the changing werewolf in an old horror film, except that I was more dangerous in my cage than out. I think I might have said a prayer of some sort, but I doubt anyone heard it. These were idle words without repentance and just a few hints of remorse. I pulled my chair over as usual and opened the dome of the clock.”

—Ace Boggess, Displaced Hours

The novel makes me wonder what philosophers are really doing when we engage in “thought experiments.” When we provisionally consider a course of action, are we mainly curious to establish what it would feel like to take that action? Do we also need to know what the consequences would be for ourselves or others? Is the assumption that, if the consequences were bad, we would immediately end the thought experiment rather than stick around and take responsibility?

It also reminds me that there are many real-life consequences we never face because our actions cannot be tied back to us in a straightforward manner with evidence a detective could use. This happens for nearly all collective actions (as when a million people use a scarce resource that is denied to another million people, for example), and also for personal actions that no one else happens to witness or follow up on. By some twist of fortune, we often escape others’ prying eyes and don’t have to take any more responsibility for our choices. But in another sense, the lingering consequences are tied to us in (shall we say?) a “spiritual” sense. That’s because, after all, we were the ones who did it. Not some experimental personae. It was we who made the choice. We remember (even if no one else does) that we used our conscious minds to make the choice. We know this is true, even if there is little evidence in the material world that traces the current state of affairs back to us. We live with the knowledge of what we did.

Sexuality

Over the past few decades, American society has increased its tolerance and acceptance of differing sexualities. Those that voice opposition to acceptance of homosexuality on religious grounds often consider homosexuality to be “unnatural.” However, homosexual behavior is widespread across the animal kingdom. In addition to well-known examples such as in mammals and birds, homosexual behaviors occur in reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates. Among the primate order, homosexual behavior is most frequently observed in bonobos. However, it also occurs in other species, such as Japanese macaques and capuchin monkeys. Recent observations of homosexual behavior in male spider monkeys adds to our knowledge of these behaviors and may help us answer questions about the evolutionary functions homosexual behaviors may play, as well as allow us to consider if other animals have sexual orientations similar to the identities that humans construct. SOURCE

Wisdom from the Hebrew Bible

English: Hebrew Bible text as written in a Jew...

English: Hebrew Bible text as written in a Jewish Sefer Torah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time when I was teaching a course using the books of the Bible as the main reading assignment, a student asked me why I always used the phrase “Hebrew Bible” instead of “Old Testament” when talking about the earliest books.

“Simple.  Because “Old” has a certain connotation, as in”superseded”. But for many it’s not old at all.”

Here’s an old (as in been around a while now) response to Dr. Laura.


English: Radio counselor Dr. Laura Schlessinger

English: Radio counselor Dr. Laura Schlessinger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


On her radio show, Dr. Laura said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Schlesinger, written by a US man, and posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as quite informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman,

Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,

Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

P.S. (It would be a damn shame if we couldn’t own a Canadian.)

And watch a dramatization here:

 

Professor Severus Snape

Watch a video?

Obviously,’ to quote Alan Rickman’s trademark retort as Severus Snape. It’s old news for scholars that Heidegger was a Nazi (if rather swiftly discarded by the Nazis) and it matters that Heidegger was an anti-Semite, as Peter Trawny shows and not less that he was racist, and misogynist, too – in the fashion of professorial womanizers. Condemnation, righteous or not and despite being deeply seductive, takes so much energy that philosophy welters. And we’re compelled to condemn. But to whom are we condemning Heidegger? Snape had Dolores Umbridge – but who disagrees concerning Heidegger? We’ve no patience for hermeneutics or context or really reading the notebooks themselves and the few bits we read are damning. What remains of the thinker? If Heidegger’s philosophy is extraordinary, bashing Heidegger is a hobby horse that drives whole careers. The most durable consequence could echo an older dismissal: “A bad man,” Gilbert Ryle once observed, “can’t be a good philosopher.” Yet from a logical point of view, Ryle’s equation fails: a good philosopher may be liable to political error, anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny. These are things we need to think about.

Prof. Babette Babich

Sunday’s Sermon: Review

Certainty is demonic. Hypocrisy is omni-present. Politics is religion. Religion is politics.

“Even the well informed tend to have very short attention spans when it comes to evangelicals. Many equate evangelicals with fundamentalists or the Christian right when only a minority belong to either group. Others dismiss them as a marginal group doomed to extinction with the process of modernization. In fact evangelicals compose nearly a quarter of the (US) population.” (p.2)

Those founding Puritans continue to have an influence on the culture and particularly the politics in the USA. The clash between fundamentalism and modernism erupted after World War I and affected all Protestant denominations. The core beliefs of the fundamentalists seem to be: what the Bible says is true and inerrant (particularly, of course, the New Testament); abortion is categorically evil; homosexuality is also evil and same sex marriage an abomination. As Fitzgerald points out “For them the first chapter of Genesis is to be interpreted literally. Even today two thirds of evangelicals say they believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” (p. 625) These beliefs are manifest in the opposition to the SCOTUS decision banning prayer and Bible readings in public schools, almost all of the civil rights movement, the 1960s protests against the war in Vietnam, and the Roe v. Wade decision.

Read the review.

Science and facts.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration published a report Friday on climate change from its own scientists that left no doubt about its grim reality and its causes.

So now what? (multiple choice)

  1. Minds will change.
  2. Nothing will change.

Meanwhile in Canada:

One month into her new job as Canada’s Governor General, Julie Payette is taking on fake news and bogus science.

“Can you believe that still today in learned society, in houses of government, unfortunately, we’re still debating and still questioning whether humans have a role in the Earth warming up or whether even the Earth is warming up, period,” she asked, her voice incredulous.

“And we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.”

Her statements were supported by our PM – which led the Conservative leader to opine:

“It is extremely disappointing that the prime minister will not support Indigenous peoples, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Christians and other faith groups who believe there is truth in their religion,” Scheer said in a statement posted to Facebook.

“Respect for diversity includes respect for the diversity of religious beliefs, and Justin Trudeau has offended millions of Canadians with his comments.”

An interactive report from the New York Times here.