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passing thoughts

"every moment
that you're here
I feel lashes on my ear
subtle difference disappears"


well, anne boleyn was beheaded to-day. that is to say, this day a number of years ago.

soon i should be leaving the company of an old friend. which is just as well i think. sometimes you can learn too much about a person when you are really not looking to find it. and anyways- i have never been in the same spot for more than a year anyways.

i should soon be leaving again after my next move. this time a cross-continental flight is to carry me and my few possessions to a new adventure. my life is one adventure with several chapters. sometimes i wonder how long a book would be if i were to write all of them down. it is hard for people to picture some of the stories i tell, unless of course, they have met me. those of you who know me know that i have some truly great stories. and surely those of you who know me know that i will have a great many more.

i wonder if i will settle down ever. actually plan things out, stop flying by the seat of my pants. if i do- i wonder if the rest of me will change. would i start wearing a shirt? would i seem like a dog who has been fixed? would my words change? words tend to get people into trouble- mine seem to keep me from it, and only in the fact that they tend to make people laugh.

i suppose if i did write a book of my adventures, i would certainly have to devote a whole (and rather long) chapter to grace, for it is just that that has kept me here so long, and kept me from notable setbacks, some of which might have kept me from my newest adventure.

p.s. mattathias- as it stands, i cannot get a masters by coursework for philosophy at the university of melbourne, so i need to do it by masters by research, aka big ass paper. i was thinking the idea of rights, human rights, and their claims to them. what do you think? i can email you more specifics if you would like.

so wait, you're actually moving to melbourne? cool.

not to add myself to a conversation, but human rights sounds like one hell of a good topic.

no please do- i am taking opinions about this topic. i want to stand against utilitarianism view points with it, and getting to the bottom of why humanity is entitled to more than the right to live.

if possession is 9/10ths of the law, and (well, e.g., i own this body) corporations spend billions a yr feeding me info about how i can take care of it, etc., isn't it interesting that it is essentially indentured? but wait...i own it.

(but in this society, a snail has a better life than me...as long as he's not in France. hm.)

quick thoughts from the top of my head:

1. wouldn't human rights inherently trend toward a utilitarian view since, theoretically, ensuring everyone is treated equally be to the benefit of the society? or that might be equal or civil rights as opposed to human...

2. one reason human rights such as freedom from torture, freedom of self-determination, right to education, et al, are so vital is that they determine what makes our existence so very different from that of, say, a snail, which has no need for an education, but we can do quite a bit with it. the right to live is all well and good, but all that basically means is that you can be a homeless bum and no one can walk by and kill you just for the hell of it. but, the right to a standard of living ensures that our right to live actually has something worthwhile attached to it and doesn't just equate to a living hell. those rights define the human experience, so they must be included w/ the right to live.

3. since human rights are 'inalienable', they can't be taken away for any reason (except, of course, to fight W.'s war on terror) and if i'm to posses any sort of free will, then i must be given the freedom to do whatever i damn well please (to a point)

sorry if none of that makes sense; i've been rather sick lately.

right- we all have free will. however, i am trying to show that (hopefully) that one cannot believe that all have the human right to live, and then perscribe euthanasia or death penalty for some. if you can unilaterally say that all should have the human right to live, you can't then utilitarianally (i think i made that word up, but i think you understand) say that some should die.

but i am really hoping to show that humanity is applying so many rights to itself- and i want to go through some of them. it just seems odd that when people say, "i have the right to know" and stuff like that. where does that right come from?

and johanna- i am sorry i disagree about the idea that i (at the least) am an indentured. i believe we all have a choice in that matter. and i tend to think that in this rather post-modern time that we might soon break away from such thoughts that "i need" this or that when we clearly do not. but i could be wrong.

some of it comes from arrogance, and part of me wonders if that's a purely american sentiment in some ways. the whole, 'i have the right buy gas at under $2/gal and the right be able to watch tv with my family and the right to whatever' is a claiming of luxuries as rights and quite often we don't notice the difference or where that line is. when people hear they have a right to a standard of living, i wonder what they attach to that, you know? does that mean cable tv and broadband internet and the like, or does it mean a roof over your head and hot water? the latter, obviously, but i doubt that's the prevelant view.

but we as idividuals probably believe we have more rights than we deserve. the right to know is a good example. i'm not sure where that comes from.

i think part of what you're getting at is that human rights don't mean a thing if they aren't applied universally. if i have the right to ___, then everyone needs to have that right and that right needs to be inalienable. so it almost becomes an issue of equal rights. just because someone's in jail for whatever doesn't mean that we can just take away his right to life to fulfill some larger societal need. are human rights bigger than utilitarian needs?

perhaps you could pare it down to essential human rights (the geneva convention may have already done this) and talk about how those must not be taken away, but that every other 'human right' is essentially just a luxury and subject to sacrifice.

Whoa. i don't believe myself to be indentured, nor would, i gather, anybody on these blogs, but you can bet your ass that society does.

Anyway, if you don't believe me that society believes each of us to be indentured, try this on:

what if everybody in the whole world were to stop going to work, oh, say, Monday. That's the 23rd of May. No holiday, right? A work day for most of us, right? Or, to simplify, what if you said to all of your co-workers, "Hey, let's just all not show up on Monday." How many would do it? How many would get fired? Why aren't you at work? It's a work day and you're not at work...you get the point. That's where I was coming from.

Societal expectations hound us into systems of operation that we can't get out of without one hell of a stab at "shooting the moon".

Nobody expects shit from a snail.

Lucas makes a good point about education, something that is sort of taken for granted in this society, while at the same time not being a guaranteed assurance, i.e., not a level playing field, and often (even in this day and age) not even accessible to some. It's the only way to really elevate ourselves above the animals and - at the same time - the process by which most of us are churned back into a system that harnesses us like dumb beasts. Maybe some workspaces are nicer than others, but you're still part of a hive or something...i mention this because of your interest in utilitarianism. I would rather work in a hive than be yoked, no doubt, but the fact remains that as far as process goes, there aren't many "tangent" routes available for those who don't have tremendous amounts of confidence or faith in themselves or in their ability to better the world.

As far as interpretation of what exactly human rights are, it's constantly undergoing change. But that doesn't necessitate good: if every few years or so, the average citizen feels like he deserves a better shot at life and a higher viewpoint, it doesn't change the fact that his taxes went up while Donald Trump's stayed the same.

What good is a Freedom of Information Act if there is only a limited venue in which the salt of the earth can use it? Do you see? But at the same time (re: where the attitude that many have developed, concerning their "right to know" stuff) while it may not have anything to do with the development of one person's life or artistic goals, there will always be others who feel they have a "right to know" anything that they want to know. The Freedom of Information Act is only one of many institutions that are supposed to serve as a check to the power of the state. I believe you said it yourself, that knowledge is power. It's also true that power flows to those who use it.

I'm going to stop here, though I have plenty more to say, and I appreciate the opportunity to gust.

It's a damned fine topic.

Freedom from torture? Amen.

there is too much to read, but you can bet i'll be weighing in on this soon...

Oh, by the way, Bill. Does U Melb have any PhD programs in CompSci?

well i am sorry that i misunderstood you johanna. but it looks like i have a topic. so... i'll get back at you guys about this in about 80,000-100,000 words.
and at 250 words a page, that's 320+ pages. hooray.

yes, matt, the u of m does have computer science masters degrees.

http://www.cs.mu.oz.au/courses/mbc/

that could help, or not.



shoo shoo camus

gobble gobble Aristotle

There's no need to apologize, Bill. You have too nice a face. Twas passion, not rebuke.

Thank you for asking a good question.

I really am gonna read these some time soon. Not tonight. Miles to go before I sleep and all that.

Bill, masters is no good (just got one as of sat.) so I guess probably won't go, too.

Joanna,

I am not sure if I agree with you about indenture thing (plus I could be misunderstanding).

Suppose I said to my coworkers or friend: 'Hey, just for fun next Monday, let's all pretend we are in the UK and drive on the opposite side of the road all day.' The result? Bad news. While it is true that in a way we are held prisoner in the right lane, it is not the whole truth: by following the rules we get from place to place faster and safer than if no one followed any rules [Side note: I am told, though, that in most places in India no one follows the traffic laws and yet it works out just fine]. The same goes for lots of things that only on the surface seem paradoxical: we are imprisoned by syntax and lexicon, but its existence allows us to express our selves incredibly; we are imprisoned in a soulless cube for 8+ hours a day, yet it gives us the freedom to have food and shelter.

So I don't think that we are indentured or that society believes we are. I think what society basically believes is this: We should all participate in society (however flawed it may be) because such participation is better than an uncertain alternative. Whether our society is correct in believing this is debatable, but this is different from a wholesale belief in common slavery. That are society is not perfect is not quite the point in this discussion.

Actually I think I agree with Bill in this way: not that we have a right to life and don't have a right to anything else, but that we don't even have a right to life and we should be grateful we "got it for free" (as a playwright friend of mine wrote recently). And that goes for snails and Donald Trump also. Unwavering bands of light.

Bill,

On Masters Degrees:

Don't mind the no Masters by Coursework. Having just received one on Saturday, I can tell you that you won't respect yourself unless you write a thesis. Alas, I guess I am now going to have to go for a PhD one of these years to redeem myself.

On Utilitarianism:

When you say you are arguing against Utilitarianism, I think (??) you are basically arguing against the ethics of those like Peter Singer, right? Singer is an eloquent supporter of the poor, especially in the 3rd world (along the lines of what Lucas was speaking of), and animal rights (he wrote the landmark book "Animal Liberation"), but is also supportive of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. How? He replaces "human life" with "consciousness" as a foundation for his ethical thinking. He is always being protested and called a Nazi for his effort. The reason I bring this up is because I think you will have two major problems:
1) Establishing that humans have a right to live (let alone any other rights)
2) Having established that we have the right to live, explain why it is such an important right that it should be favored above all other rights (for instance, the right of the society for common good).

Anyway, here are some ideas which I think interesting foundations for ethics:

1) an ethics that emphasizes our responsibilities over our rights (I hear the philosopher Levinas is a good place to start--though I've never read him--who spoke of radical responsibility. I'm told he would always quote from the Brother Karamazov: We are all responsible for every one else, and I am more responsible than anyone).

2) an ethics that takes seriously the possibility that individuality might be an illusion (taking advantage, I suppose, of the later Wittgenstein as a starting point, but I am not a philosopher so maybe I am wrong).

I stand corrected. I was looking at the whole thing from the wrong perspective. Very sorry to clog the blog with mere opinions, and horribly stilted ones at that.

But please don't misspell my name.

It is always better to look at the nature of humanity from an internal perspective rather than an external perspective. I think I'll have to plead an economic handicap.

There is something that bothers me about this line of thinking, and I think I finally glommed onto what it is...

Can't decide if it is important or not that your own viewpoint be fairly well established before such an undertaking. Should your own political molding determine your examination of the nature of human rights, or is it possible to delve into an aspect as wide-open as the idea that survival does not equate with socialization (i think i'm using that word correctly) w/o getting mired in endless possibilities? In this country, Nate just reminded me recently, we have more religions and cultures represented than any place else, more shards of academic philosophies than any other nation in the world, and I'm not sure you should even think about this on a large scale until you've more or less assessed where it is you fall in the political sphere of thinking.

I don't know, though. Hm.

Sorry about the name thing. It was late and I mispell everything.

i'll attest to that. he does misspell everything. and i do mean everything.

a little off-topic but along the lines of what nate said, that's one of the few things i really like about this country, that we have so much diversity. it makes everything a little more interesting.

Matt, as far as utilitarianism goes- i just hope to show that as far as rights go, i think that it isn't the right way to go about it. and i do disagree with singer.

i think (and believe it is possible to write a paper convincingly) that as with subjects like 1. death penalty, 2. abortion, and, 3. euthanasia- that as we all have the right to live- who is to take that away? and to show that there is too many inconsistancies (i.e. murderers on death row as opposed to 25 years, or life in prison).

t. r. reid writes that in japan if a person is sent to jail, every prisoner is treated the same- tiny room, no t.v., no books, no contact with other prisoners.

i need to make firm definitions however of ideas like 'rights', 'conscienceness', 'life' and things of that sort.

but all in all i believe that i can show that rights should be- at the least within a given institution (albiet prison, medical facility, etc.) unilaterally acrossed the board for everyone.

matt, you are forgiven. it's not everyone that has my keen spelling abilities. in fact, nobody does.

i love the diversity as well - just, well, everything about it.

it looks like you have a surer grip on this thing, bill, and I look forward to meeting you in person. and matt. (i hear he drives a Dodge Stratus...)

i'll try not to talk too much.

Cheers!

hey matt- go here for phd programs.

http://www.acadreg.unimelb.edu.au/isdb/coursesearch/action.lasso




oh and johanna, i'll try not to be too dissapointing when we meet.

1. For some reason the link didn't work...


2. In my line of work we say there are two ways of approaching things: top-down or bottom-up. I guess you can approach ethics the same way: start with a politics and work your way down to an ethics, or start with a set of first principals (the right to life for instance) and build your way up. I am not sure which is preferable.


3. One interesting things about America is that while it is extremely and undeniably diverse, there is a diversity of opinions on the desirability of its diversity. There has always been a strong isolationist and xenophobic streak in American Culture. This has only been getting worse and worse. I think there are three separate things at work: 1) the controls that were put in place for fear or terrorism and the accompanying Americanism thank emerged with 9/11; 2) the rise of information technology making it necessary for citizens of poorer countries to have "a better life" without having to go to American to get it; 3) the homogenized corporate-suburban-massmedia culture which is replacing the more endemic diversity. All this to say, I agree with you: diversity is probably the best and most unique thing about our country. But then also that is what is best about the world, no? Or has Hopkins put it: 'All things counter, original, spare, strange; / Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) / With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; / He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: / Praise him.'

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