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Old 01-26-2007   #1
marct
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Default About This Forum: Social Sciences, Moral and Religious

I'm starting this thread for, roughly, the same reasons that Steve started his in the History section. In many ways, this forum is a "grab bag" for both the social sciences (minus History) and religion.

In many discussions on this council, we have talked back and forth about the importance of cultural knowledge in small wars. As an Anthropologist, that is, I suppose, my stock in trade .

But "cultural knowledge", in order for it to be useful, must be more than just a cheat sheet of rules and taboos - it must be an understanding of how a group of people "construct their reality". This means that "religion", in this context, is not a dry examination of texts but, rather, a "lived and living reality".

That is one of the reasons why this forum exists as "Social Science and Religion" (the other reason is probably parsimony, but we don't want too many forums, do we?). Still and all, "religion", as many Anthropologists define it, is "living and lived", even if many people wouldn't consider this definition as "true".
"Religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."
Clifford Geertz, 1973 The Interpretation of Cultures
One of the reasons I like this definition is that it allows us to look at symbol systems that are not generally considered to be "religions", e.g. ideologies, "totemic systems", regimental traditions, etc. Another reason I like this definition is that it totally changes ones understanding of Mao's work on Guerrilla War from a "secular" war to a "sacred" war.

I'll freely admit that this is one of my own "pet rocks", to use Steve's phrase. I look at many of the small wars that have been fought in the past and, most especially, the GWOT as quintessentially ideological ("religious" in the Geertzian sense) wars - they are a fight over how (and who) "reality" will be constructed.

Marc
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Old 01-26-2007   #2
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Default The Softer Side

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That is one of the reasons why this forum exists as "Social Science and Religion" (the other reason is probably parsimony, but we don't want too many forums, do we?). Still and all, "religion", as many Anthropologists define it, is "living and lived", even if many people wouldn't consider this definition as "true".
Hello Marc !
I like this (yes, that would be a compliment) !
I am only now gaining an appreciation for your free anthro lessons

Truth be told, back when Rob started his thread and You, Tom and I jumped in with all "fours", I neglected to check your profile and simply jumped in hammering the need for Anthro classes! I would later feel like a real Delta Hotel (but I did get over it ).

Social Science and especially religion was something I ran away from once in the Armed Forces and away from what I, a 17 year old, felt was no longer relevant.

In reality, it was not only relevant, but significant. I used it, learned from it and made it out of Africa with it. Much like Tom's descriptions once he left, my nightmares would also come, very unwelcomed.

Have a Nice Weekend !
Stan
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Old 01-26-2007   #3
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Default Models for Expansion

Marc

One question that pops into my mind is the issue of patterns of expansion of religious, political, commercial, and other theories, ideologies, and systems. the linkages are obviously multi-layered and therefore complex. We talk much about the Judeo-Christian system of values and that alone makes large assumptions about unified views on social mores, structures, and languages.

Islam is inherently self-limiting in some regards because the Koran is only the Koran when it is in classical Arabic. On the other hand as the religion spreads, the new adherents have to learn enough Arabic to at least understand basic tenets.

Christianity especially Catholicism when services had to be delivered in Latin shared some of this. But Christianity allows translation and we would not have a "King James" version of the Bible if that had not been the case.

What brought all this to my mind was a comment made by a reviewer on an article I sent to SWJ for another of my authors here. The author began the article quoting the April NIE which said:
Quote:
“We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse,"
The reviewer pointed out the fallacy in that statement: there is a strategy and it is global.

That it is not "coherent" to the authors of the NIE is a statement of their analytical failure.

You know that I see that strategy and method as a global insurgeny based on ideology of a particular distorted sect within the Muslim world. What got me thinking about patterns of expansion is the use of the internet. The article in question centers on that issue and I will not reveal more because it is in the SWJ inbox. But in the interim, Islam has spread through conquest--especially in its early years and through the peak of the Ottoman empire. Parallel to that expansion by the sword, Islam spread via trade and local contacts.

Periodically through the centuries, local Muslim leaders--like the Mahdi in Sudan--emerged and used the sword once again. Since then (19th Century) the spread has been largely through trade and establishment of local mosques to serve the Muslims in that trade.

What seems to me especially relevant in all of this is the emergence of the internet and its applications for global prosletyzing. It has become in many ways the electronic model of the spread of Christianity via disciples early on and the creation of a Church with a priesthood.

Rambling I know but thinking as I type. Any comments?

Tom
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Old 01-26-2007   #4
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Hi Tom,

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One question that pops into my mind is the issue of patterns of expansion of religious, political, commercial, and other theories, ideologies, and systems. the linkages are obviously multi-layered and therefore complex. We talk much about the Judeo-Christian system of values and that alone makes large assumptions about unified views on social mores, structures, and languages.
I've always found the spread of ideas fascinating, myself. The more I study them, the more convinced I am that some of what Richard Dawkins is talking about with "mind viruses" is probably correct. I think he analogy plays well into some of the trends we have sen n the New Religious Movements and in the return to "fundamentalisms" in the mainstream religions and political ideologies.

You are quite right about the assumption of unity within a belief system and the concomitant social-structural assumptions that are, supposedly, contained in it. That's also one of the big problems Islam has had in many of the immigrant communities - an inability to separate the "cultural" from the "religious". I'm pretty sure I know why that has happened (a rather strange process of symbolic accretion tied in with fairly standard patterns of immigrant enculturation and a consequent mis-mapping of perceptual topologies), but very few symbol systems contain quick ways to adapt.

Sorry, I know that sounds like a lecture.

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Islam is inherently self-limiting in some regards because the Koran is only the Koran when it is in classical Arabic. On the other hand as the religion spreads, the new adherents have to learn enough Arabic to at least understand basic tenets.

Christianity especially Catholicism when services had to be delivered in Latin shared some of this. But Christianity allows translation and we would not have a "King James" version of the Bible if that had not been the case.
I think that this is a crucial strength of Islam and, to a much lesser degree, of pre-Vatican II Catholicism. It really enforces a common language for communication, together with all of the perceptual biases inherent in that language. The reason Islam is stronger is that their scriptures are written in the "common language" whereas one of the Christian scriptures are written in Latin.

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What brought all this to my mind was a comment made by a reviewer on an article I sent to SWJ for another of my authors here....

The reviewer pointed out the fallacy in that statement: there is a strategy and it is global.

That it is not "coherent" to the authors of the NIE is a statement of their analytical failure.
I've got to agree with you there. Still, remember that phrase I used earlier "perceptual topologies"? I suspect that that is what stymied the NIE analysis: I fully suspect that they cannot conceive of an "insurgency" being a broad social movement without having a centralized leadership function and a "coherent" (i.e. comprehensible to them) strategy (hey, I really like the new "wry grin" smilie!!!).

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You know that I see that strategy and method as a global insurgeny based on ideology of a particular distorted sect within the Muslim world. What got me thinking about patterns of expansion is the use of the internet. the article in question centers on that issue and I will not reveal more because it is in the SWJ inbox. But in the interim, Islam has spread through conquest--especially in its early years and through the peak of the Ottoman empire. Parallel to that expansion by the sword, Islam spread via trade and local contacts.
....
What seems to me especially relevant in all of this is the emergence of the internet and its applications for global prosletyzing. It has become in many ways the electronic model of the spread of Christianity via disciples early on and the creation of a Church with a priesthood.
My first real contact with the Internet was back in 1986 when I got involved with a distributed BBS system called PODS (Pagan Occult Distribution System) as part of my research. Utterly fascinating how it worked and how "communities" would be built without any face to face contact. That experience certainly conditioned most of my future research and thinking .

Once the WWW showed up back in '93 (okay, December '92 for the purists), I spent a lot of time tracking down how it was being used by religious groups. I think your analogy to the early Church is, actually, quite sound, especially if we look at the epistolary tradition (e.g. St. Paul). The main difference I see is that there has been a vast increase in the "communicative density". In effect, if I can now reach 100 million people, I am quite likely to find several hundred, or thousand, who believe whatever I do. There's a parallel in law enforcement circles with the rise of child-porn trading rings and the spread of the 'net (excellent MA Thesis on that here).

The spread of the Radical Safali version of Islam is, to my mind, a somewhat different case. Basically, I think w have a situation where a radical, ideological insurgent group, the Muslim Brotherhood, lucked out in finding a very rich ally, the Wahhabist movement in Saudi Arabia, and he two of them have orchestrated a very effective, and long reaching, IO campaign i both real space and cyberspace. We should get Terri to comment more on this, since she's the expert n the area.

The 'net has played into their hands in that it has given them access to a lot of Muslims who have been raised pretty much "secular". As such, they don't really have a well developed religious "immune system" to pretect hem from the "mind viruses" being spread by the MB. This may sound a little weird, but the same pattern has played out inside Christianity and Judaism in North America and Western Europe. Without that "immune system", they are definitely "at risk".

Marc
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Old 01-26-2007   #5
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Hello Marc !
I like this (yes, that would be a compliment) !
I am only now gaining an appreciation for your free anthro lessons
Free? Damn, don't tell my wife!

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Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
Truth be told, back when Rob started his thread and You, Tom and I jumped in with all "fours", I neglected to check your profile and simply jumped in hammering the need for Anthro classes! I would later feel like a real Delta Hotel (but I did get over it ).
LOLOL Hey, Stan, I feel like that all the time - and, yeah, I get over it .

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Social Science and especially religion was something I ran away from once in the Armed Forces and away from what I, a 17 year old, felt was no longer relevant.

In reality, it was not only relevant, but significant. I used it, learned from it and made it out of Africa with it. Much like Tom's descriptions once he left, my nightmares would also come, very unwelcomed.
I guess it's always been one of my passions . What has always toasted my cookies is that both social science and religion tend to be taught so poorly! I've tried to remember that when I teach... to make it interesting and relevant to what's going on. I remember one class I had on the Anthropology of Religion, and I'm lecturing on about the great theorists and their models. Needless to say, my students decided that "meditation" (aka sleep") was a good response. So I thought, "What the heck" and asked them if any of them knew how to cast love spells. That perked them up! In the end, I spent 2 hours talking about it and sneaking in the theory.

Marc
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Old 01-27-2007   #6
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I needed a way to step outside "my" way of doing analysis - talking to Marc has helped me out allot. However, now it makes my head hurt since I can't just take the "well - its what I would have done if I were them" approach out of hand. Funny, the longer I stay here, the less I think I understand why some of this stuff happens (its why I responded to the thread ref. the memo from Mahdi leadership). Its hard to sort random decision from planned decision in many cases. Its difficult to make connections about one act to another act unless its either obvious (ex. everything happens at roughly the same time, on roughly the same types of targets, to achieve a roughly the same effects). We spent a day one tie trying to figure out if the guy the IA found stuffed in a rice bag was just an IED gone bad for the emplacer who was being taken back home, or he was somebody killed in manner that allowed him to be stuffed in a rice bag (there is no Iraqi CSI and once a guy is in a rice bag (maybe a 3 ft x 18 in bag), nobody really wants to dump him out to "examine" him).

Connecting one thing to another can lead to some bad assumptions. Assuming motivations are tied to your motivations can also be deadly. While I have not "figured it out", Marc's and the SWC members comments cause me to reconsider first assuptions and challenge them. I always liked Johnathan Hume, the Scottish philosopher who once remarked (paraphrased) that he had to drink beer while he played billiards because else he'd get to caught up in the physics of the blliard balls and get a headache. Currently I need a beer or two myself, but its still about 6 weeks out
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Old 01-27-2007   #7
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You are quite right about the assumption of unity within a belief system and the concomitant social-structural assumptions that are, supposedly, contained in it. That's also one of the big problems Islam has had in many of the immigrant communities - an inability to separate the "cultural" from the "religious". I'm pretty sure I know why that has happened (a rather strange process of symbolic accretion tied in with fairly standard patterns of immigrant enculturation and a consequent mis-mapping of perceptual topologies), but very few symbol systems contain quick ways to adapt.
I pretty much agree. (so far and if I understand you correctly )

Hey Marc, reading further in Tribesmen - you were right, it is quite alright. I was way too quick in closing it, it is interesting.

Martin - Wheel reinventor

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Old 01-27-2007   #8
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Hi Rob,

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I needed a way to step outside "my" way of doing analysis - talking to Marc has helped me out allot. However, now it makes my head hurt since I can't just take the "well - its what I would have done if I were them" approach out of hand. Funny, the longer I stay here, the less I think I understand why some of this stuff happens (its why I responded to the thread ref. the memo from Mahdi leadership). Its hard to sort random decision from planned decision in many cases.
You know, there's a type of "knowledge" called "tacit knowledge" (I think the termw as coined by Michael Polanyi) that is "sub-conscious". It's one of the ways that cultural anthropologists are trained to operate, adn it can drive you crazy . What you seem to be describing, Rob, is similar to what we go through about 3 months into fieldwork - a kind of "Nothing makes any sense!! I want to go HOME!! THEY"RE ALL CRAZY!!!" reaction.

"Understanding" is often based on unconscious assumptions about reality. Remember when you were telling us about your CO and his belief in the djinn? That's part of it. After a while, parts of "their" worldview - how they conceove and perceive reality - filters into you brain where it runs head on into "our" worldview. And sometimes, the two don't match. Even "random" decisions are conditioned by your worldview, rather than being truly "random" in the mathematical sense.

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[Its difficult to make connections about one act to another act unless its either obvious (ex. everything happens at roughly the same time, on roughly the same types of targets, to achieve a roughly the same effects). We spent a day one tie trying to figure out if the guy the IA found stuffed in a rice bag was just an IED gone bad for the emplacer who was being taken back home, or he was somebody killed in manner that allowed him to be stuffed in a rice bag (there is no Iraqi CSI and once a guy is in a rice bag (maybe a 3 ft x 18 in bag), nobody really wants to dump him out to "examine" him).
There's a limit to the inductive method, and that limit is your comprehension of the reality of the perpetrator. It's one of the reasons I've always found criminal profiling so interesting. Operationally, the important thing would be to identify the body and return him to his family with "honour". Sometimes you just have to say "I don't grok this" and leave it at that <sigh>.

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Connecting one thing to another can lead to some bad assumptions. Assuming motivations are tied to your motivations can also be deadly. While I have not "figured it out", Marc's and the SWC members comments cause me to reconsider first assuptions and challenge them. I always liked Johnathan Hume, the Scottish philosopher who once remarked (paraphrased) that he had to drink beer while he played billiards because else he'd get to caught up in the physics of the blliard balls and get a headache. Currently I need a beer or two myself, but its still about 6 weeks out
I've always thought well of beer, myself . Maybe the US colleges will institute Heinlein's course in "Doubt" - I think it would prove very usefull.

Marc
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Old 01-27-2007   #9
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Hey Martin,

Good to hear from you again.

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I pretty much agree. (so far and if I understand you correctly )

Hey Marc, reading further in Tribesmen - you were right, it is quite alright. I was way too quick in closing it, it is interesting.
Sahlins is pretty cool; I've always liked his stuff. If you want a more detailed one, that may be useful in some future COIN ops (i.e. Sudan / Darfur) try E.E. Evans-Prtichard's The NUer. Good book, on the whole, although I always prefered his Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande.

Marc
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Old 01-28-2007   #10
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Hey Martin,

Good to hear from you again.

Sahlins is pretty cool; I've always liked his stuff. If you want a more detailed one, that may be useful in some future COIN ops (i.e. Sudan / Darfur) try E.E. Evans-Prtichard's The NUer. Good book, on the whole, although I always prefered his Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande.

Marc
Marc, good to hear you too.

Before overseas armed social studies, I better actually accomplish something.
I might have a look at it if there is time inbetween studies, but I am in a pretty intense course and I still have some programming work to do (plus PT, etc).

Have you read Atkinson's Social Order and the General Theory of Strategy? Interesting subject and fits in with my current attempts at understanding the bonds between governance, politics, economics, military and the moral/social order, but the only praise I have heard of the book is its listing in Boyd's reference list. Would be interested to hear your opinion. On that account the Federalist Papers is very interesting beyond understanding history and the constitution.
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Old 01-28-2007   #11
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Hi Martin,

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Have you read Atkinson's Social Order and the General Theory of Strategy? Interesting subject and fits in with my current attempts at understanding the bonds between governance, politics, economics, military and the moral/social order, but the only praise I have heard of the book is its listing in Boyd's reference list. Would be interested to hear your opinion. On that account the Federalist Papers is very interesting beyond understanding history and the constitution.

I haven't read it (Oh God! Another book on the "to read" pile!!!!). I read the Federalist papers quite some time ago. Maybe I'll go back and reread them after the "to read" pile drops a bit lower .

Marc
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Old 01-28-2007   #12
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I haven't read it (Oh God! Another book on the "to read" pile!!!!). I read the Federalist papers quite some time ago. Maybe I'll go back and reread them after the "to read" pile drops a bit lower .

Marc
Those old books are quite interesting in their ways, finished Common Sense a few weeks ago. I still prefer the stories from people with experience on the ground though, Contra Cross is up next along with Unfettered Mind.

How does your theory of symbolic warfare differ from PSYOPs and related? Is it a subset expansion?

M
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Old 01-28-2007   #13
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Hi Martin,

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How does your theory of symbolic warfare differ from PSYOPs and related? Is it a subset expansion?
It's still in the "visual stage" - I'm a visual thinker which means I think in pictures rather than words. It's still not clear as a picture, yet, although some of the elements are fairly clear.

I'd have to say that it is pretty far away from PSYOPs in general; it's closer to Dave Kilcullen's Framework and the larger model in his Countering Global Insurgency, but with a chunk of Korzybski's General Semantics and some stuff on perceptual topologies. I'm hoping to have a rough paper together on it in the next couple of months.

Marc
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Old 01-29-2007   #14
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Hi Marc,

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Hi Martin,

It's still in the "visual stage" - I'm a visual thinker which means I think in pictures rather than words. It's still not clear as a picture, yet, although some of the elements are fairly clear.

I'd have to say that it is pretty far away from PSYOPs in general; it's closer to Dave Kilcullen's Framework and the larger model in his Countering Global Insurgency, but with a chunk of Korzybski's General Semantics and some stuff on perceptual topologies. I'm hoping to have a rough paper together on it in the next couple of months.

Marc
It will be interesting to read what you come up with. I have a feeling you are so well read that when you mention a few sources, you are actually stretching across many other fields and possibilities.

However, I have a hard time understanding how methodologies under the header Symbolic Warfare, operating primarily on the mind in individual and varying group contexts, can be so far away from psychological operations, or even if it is, may not still expand the category. That it can be operated in the environment defined by Kilcullen does not change its methodological category... or maybe I'm completely lost?
I'm just really curious, don't take it as discouragement. If you want to elaborate, please do. Otherwise I'll try to shut up for a while.

I like Kilcullen.

M

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Old 01-02-2010   #15
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I used to think to think I knew something about everything until I started communicating with Marc, but now I realize that I know nothing about everything...actually, I used to think I knew something about anthropology (I have a masters in applied anthro) until I started reading Marc's reply and that's even given the fact he's trying to make it simple!

Just a small point. I've been in situations (japan, Africa) where I feel so different and "outside" that all those differences stand out and seem obvious. Yet, it's the similarities that struck me. And in those countries for which I was more familiar and like the populace (Ukraine) I found I assumed similarity when it wasn't really there (or true) and had a harder time understanding (perhaps given my assumptions).

One last thing. I know many hard core anthropologists think Edward hall was either not rigorous or pure for their preference, but I have found that the way he breaks down culture easy(ier) to understand and that he explains culture in real, every day terms is helpful. I think some of his work has been misunderstood and misused (turned in to simplistic scales of high vs. Low context, etc), but when I first started learning about culture and anthro, I thought it was useful.
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Old 01-02-2010   #16
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Default True,

what I really like about talking to Marc is it almost always leads me to consider things in new and interesting ways. The discussions we've had on epistemology have really been useful in helping me think - although they have occasionally sent me in search of more beer

Best, Rob
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Old 01-02-2010   #17
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e-pissed-emology?
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Old 01-03-2010   #18
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Talking

That is worth a big grin. Its a bit like reading the likes of David Hume - except you have to hear an obligatory Canadian "ehh" and you don't have to eat haggis

I was looking for a Hume quote - I think I remember one from the treatise on the senses about billiard balls and beer - but since I cannot find it this one is a pretty good one:

"If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, "Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?" No. "Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?" No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."

Best, Rob
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Old 01-03-2010   #19
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I was looking for a Hume quote - I think I remember one from the treatise on the senses about billiard balls and beer - but since I cannot find it this one is a pretty good one:

"If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, "Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?" No. "Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?" No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."

Best, Rob
What are we to make then of Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion?
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Old 01-03-2010   #20
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Hi Wayne, Happy New Year -

If I recall my takeaway was that there is no adequate human measure of the divine - to say or infer otherwise would be deceptive. Of course I was reading allot of Rilke back then too

Best, Rob
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