Religion may become extinct in nine nations

Jason Palmer at the BBC:

_51778296_51778294 A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team's mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Their means of analysing the data invokes what is known as nonlinear dynamics – a mathematical approach that has been used to explain a wide range of physical phenomena in which a number of factors play a part.

More here. [Thanks to Omar Ali.]

The Ontology of Moral Realism

Richard Carrier over at his blog:

Moral realism is the view that there are moral statements that are meaningful and true, and true independent of your opinion or culture. I am a moral realist. That means I must be able to ontologically ground the existence of moral facts, and in things other than popular opinions or merely cultural facts. When I say they “exist” I have to explain what I mean by that: in what sense, and in what way, do they “exist,” particularly as I am a first-order physicalist (I believe everything that exists is solely and entirely caused by physical things and events: see Defining the Supernatural), so I must be able to reduce moral facts to physical facts in some way.

Bear-Scariness Realism

To get from A to B on this I have to drive by several destinations in the middle. Take, for instance, the scariness of an enraged bear: a bear is scary to a person (because of the horrible harm it can do) but not scary to Superman, even though it's the very same bear, and thus none of its intrinsic properties have changed. Thus the bear's scariness is relative, but still real. It is not a product of anyone's opinions, it is not a cultural construct, but a physical fact about bears and people. Thus the scariness of an enraged bear is not a property of the bear alone but a property of the entire bear-person system. And it is a physical property (it reduces entirely to the physical facts about bears and people and what the one can physically do to the other). Thus physical systems can have properties that their parts alone do not, yet that are entirely reducible to those parts and their physical arrangement (see Sense and Goodness without God, III.5.4.3 and III.5.5, pp. 128-34).

This scariness is also not simply subjective. Our emotional experience of fear is subjective, but the ability of the bear to harm us is an objective fact of the world. We can say “the bear does not scare me” if, for example, we don’t feel fear. But our emotion would then be misinforming us about the physical fact that the bear can seriously harm us (and therefore, in that sense, is objectively scary), regardless of what we feel. It would then be right to say “the bear ought to scare me,” and therefore the bear actually is scary and in this case we just don’t recognize this fact (we are, in other words, ignorant of the physical facts) or we recognize it (and thus acknowledge the bear is indeed scary) but do not feel the physiological indicators that usually attend that recognition.

Sean Carroll responds:

Carrier goes to great lengths to explain that these moral facts are not simply “out there” in the same sense that the laws of physics arguably are, but rather that they express relationships between the desires of particular humans and external reality. (The useful analogy is: “bears are scary” is a true fact if you are talking about you or me, but not if you are talking about Superman.)

I don’t buy it. Not to be tiresome, but I have to keep insisting that you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip. You can’t use logic to derive moral commandments solely from facts about the world, even if those facts include human desires. Of course, you can derive moral commandments if you sneak in some moral premise; all I’m trying to say here is that we should be upfront about what those moral premises are, and not try to hide them underneath a pile of unobjectionable-sounding statements.

Who Would Dare?

NYC108211_jpg_470x472_q85 Roberto Bolaño in the NYRB blog:

The books that I remember best are the ones I stole in Mexico City, between the ages of sixteen and nineteen, and the ones I bought in Chile when I was twenty, during the first few months of the coup. In Mexico there was an incredible bookstore. It was called the Glass Bookstore and it was on the Alameda. Its walls, even the ceiling, were glass. Glass and iron beams. From the outside, it seemed an impossible place to steal from. And yet prudence was overcome by the temptation to try and after a while I made the attempt.

The first book to fall into my hands was a small volume by [the nineteenth century erotic poet] Pierre Louÿs, with pages as thin as Bible paper, I can’t remember now whether it was Aphrodite or Songs of Bilitis. I know that I was sixteen and that for a while Louÿs became my guide. Then I stole books by Max Beerbohm (The Happy Hypocrite), Champfleury, Samuel Pepys, the Goncourt brothers, Alphonse Daudet, and Rulfo and Areola, Mexican writers who at the time were still more or less practicing, and whom I might therefore meet some morning on Avenida Niño Perdido, a teeming street that my maps of Mexico City hide from me today, as if Niño Perdido could only have existed in my imagination, or as if the street, with its underground stores and street performers had really been lost, just as I got lost at the age of sixteen.

From the mists of that era, from those stealthy assaults, I remember many books of poetry. Books by Amado Nervo, Alfonso Reyes, Renato Leduc, Gilberto Owen, Heruta and Tablada, and by American poets, like General William Booth Enters Into Heaven, by the great Vachel Lindsay. But it was a novel that saved me from hell and plummeted me straight back down again. The novel was The Fall, by Camus, and everything that has to do with it I remember as if frozen in a ghostly light, the still light of evening, although I read it, devoured it, by the light of those exceptional Mexico City mornings that shine—or shone—with a red and green radiance ringed by noise, on a bench in the Alameda, with no money and the whole day ahead of me, in fact my whole life ahead of me. After Camus, everything changed.

Libya – the Case for Intervention: A Discussion

Over at Crooked Timber, Conor Foley makes the case for intervention. The ensuing discussion (and follow up post) are well worth the read:

There are lots of good arguments against the current military intervention in Libya and Michael Walzer sets some of them out in Dissent.

Arguments against ‘humanitarian intervention’ can usually be grouped under three headings: the pragmatic – what is our endgame; the pacific – people will be killed; and the ideological objections – which come from the right and left. Both of the latter have merits, although they self-evidently cannot both be true. They can be roughly summarized as ‘Why should western troops be asked to die for a cause that does not affect our ‘national interests’ and can we believe western governments when they say that they are in fact acting for altruistic motives?’

I find the latter of the three arguments the least interesting because they inevitably descend into a search for the hidden ‘real reasons’ for military interventions. While there is a place for such discussion, I think that the first two are more immediately compelling and would suggest that the case for or against a ‘humanitarian intervention’ rests on answering two broad questions: has the level of violence reached such a threshold that the use of counter-force is morally justifiable and is it a practical, strategic option that will actually make things better for the people concerned?

Where I Live

Amy Ozols in The New Yorker:

Welcome to my apartment. Can I take your coat? Please make yourself at home.

188419_10150121810749425_513199424_6424585_507644_n This is my cat.

It’s a studio apartment, so there’s not much to see, but let me give you a quick tour anyway. Here’s the kitchen. It’s not very big, but there’s a ton of cabinet space, which is nice. Here’s my desk, where I do most of my writing, and that’s the bathroom over there.

Here is another cat.

This is a picture of my family from last Thanksgiving. Here’s my mom—she’s a real pistol. I think that’s where I get my sense of humor. These are my sisters. My dad’s the tall guy in the back. And that’s my grandmother, with a cat on her lap. And that animal crouched menacingly on top of the picture frame—that’s an actual cat, far more knowledgeable and terrifying than the cat in the picture.

This is my couch, where we can sit and watch a movie later, and then maybe make out awkwardly while three to six cats stare at us.

This cat over here—the one burrowing into your overcoat—belongs to my neighbor. But he comes over a lot, so I feed him and buy him toys and take him to the vet and stuff like that. He’s a pretty great cat, so I sort of just let him live here and systematically destroy my clothing and furniture.

This is an antique gramophone I inherited from my grandmother. It’s worth a lot of money, but I’m never going to sell it, on account of how much it means to my family.

I’m kidding, of course. It’s not really an antique. Or a gramophone. It’s a cat.

More here. [Thanks to Kelly Amis.]

who’s the greatest biologist?


So who is the greatest biologist of all time? Good question. For most people it’s got to be Darwin. I mean, Darwin is top dog, numero uno. He told us about evolution, he convinced us that evolution happened, and he gave us an explanation for it. I mean, there just wouldn’t seem to be any competition. Okay, fine, well you might then say: Mendel. Mendel discovers transmission genetics, and that was pretty good. And I suppose then you have to go pretty far down the list to come to people like Watson and Crick, who just discovered the structure of DNA, which is just a bit of structural biology, really, a bit of biochemistry. Okay, but who is the real top dog? For me, the answer is absolutely clear. It’s Aristotle. And it’s a surprising answer because even though I suppose some biologists might know, should they happen to remember their first year textbooks, that Aristotle was the Father of Biology, they would still say, “well, yes, but he got everything wrong.” And that, I think, is a canard. The thing about Aristotle – and this is why I love him – is that his thought was is so systematic, so penetrating, so vast, so strange – and yet he’s undeniably a scientist.

more from Armand Leroi at The Edge here.

the pit


In Montana, you need not go far in search of wounds. The place is rife with them. All you have to do is look between the familiar postcards of The Last Best Place and you’ll see them: slick, deforested hillsides connecting at sharp angles in a quilt-pattern over every national forest; dams holding back decades of poisonous sludge, buried deep in some of the biggest waterways; trees cracking and listing in burns that are bigger than certain East Coast states; vast pits of toxic mineral water sidling right up to the highway. There is something satisfying about all of this. It’s a hard, unhidden truth, and the landscape runs wild with it. The first time I saw the Berkeley Pit was about two years ago during the National Folk Festival in Butte, Montana. I’d been itching to go. I get the same thrill looking at the wounds and scars left by extractive industry that other people get from looking at a mountain or the Grand Canyon, and I’d heard that the Pit really took the cake. It wasn’t a hard sell. After paying my two dollars, though, and stepping out onto the platform of the public viewing stand, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Frankly, the Pit didn’t look like much: a big, brownish-red lake, inside a crater. But on the way out I picked up a copy of Pitwatch and read the whole thing twice on the ride home. I was smitten.

more from Nathaniel Miller at Virginia Quarterly Review here.

egypt and “big history”


Ancient egypt has been misunderstood since Herodotus put pen to papyrus in the fifth century B.C., though its appeal has never flagged. Exhibitions of Egyptian artifacts still draw large crowds at museums, and the “documentaries” on cable channels continue to flood in. But much of this attention feeds into an idea that Egypt is “other” and “exotic”—a changeless, mysterious world of tombs, temples and sorcerers. Hollywood is guilty of promoting this image, but so are scholars, who are prone to emphasize mummies and royal tombs to the exclusion of topics such as agricultural production, social organization and, broader still, economic history. In fact, ancient Egypt—a term encompassing a culture that lasted for more than 4,000 years—offers an incomparable opportunity to study how and why civilizations change over a long period of time. The comparison to China may be appropriate: Egypt, like China, has a long and extensively documented history. The ancient Egyptian language was written and spoken for two-thirds of recorded human history, and a great volume of economic and legal records are preserved in papyri and inscriptions, including some spectacular documents that go back to 2000 B.C. Remarkable, then, that Egypt has been given short shrift in the current trend for “big history.”

more from Joseph Manning at the WSJ here.

Wednesday Poem

Communion at the Gate Theater

This is the time of life when a woman
goes to Dublin to the theatre to get away
the night every Leaving Cert student in Ireland
is up from the country to see the same RSC production.

Hamlet is small and elegant and very English. What did
she expect – that after all those years
he would have grown really Danish, the lies
would be less eloquent, gestures less fluid?

Tonight she finds the prince tedious and self-obsessed.
You are thirty years old for Christ’s sake,
she shouts, startling the audience.
The students are disapproving, then delighted.

Now that they have stopped texting one another,
the girls are shaping some of the words.
There is Royal Shakespearean body language
between Claudius and Gertrude.

The boys whistle, applaud uneasily.
The woman thinks Gertrude is entitled to her lover’s kiss.
What kind of twisted little shit are you?
she asks Hamlet, but silently. Hamlet is relentless.

The actor fifty if he’s a day, torturing his mother
who is the same age. No one cares.
It is as bad as MacLiammoir playing Romeo.
The kids are loving it. We are rearing

a generation of throwbacks, she thinks,
without Latin to sustain them, much less history.
She checks the exits, measures her chances. She rises
in a crouch just as a hush is spreading through the house.

Here and there along the rows the students begin
To mouth Hamlet’s soliloquy. The half-formed faces
half-lit are devout. At What is a man is his chief good be…
but to sleep
…the ungodly voices join in as at Mass.

by Mary O'Malley
from A Perfect V
publisher Carcanet, Manchester, 2006

How Wuthering Heights caused a critical stir when first published in 1847

From The Telegraph:

Wuthering_1853647c The producers of the new BBC Radio 3 adaptation of Wuthering Heights say they want to recreate the 'shocking impact' of the book when it was published. Here is a summary of contemporary reviews.

Atlas, 22 January 1848

We know nothing in the whole range of our fictitious literature which presents such shocking pictures of the worst forms of humanity. There is not in the entire dramatis persona, a single character which is not utterly hateful or thoroughly contemptible … Even the female characters excite something of loathing and much of contempt. Beautiful and loveable in their childhood, they all, to use a vulgar expression, “turn out badly”.

Paterson's Magazine (USA), February 1848

We rise from the perusal of Wuthering Heights as if we had come fresh from a pest-house. Read Jane Eyre is our advice, but burn Wuthering Heights.

Graham's Lady Magazine (USA), July 1848

How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.

More here. (Note: This is one of my all time favorite novels. Read it again and again.)

New science suggests we might soon be able to mix computers and neurons

From PhysOrg:

Nerve Graduate students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, led by Minrui Yu, have published an ACS Nano paper, “Semiconductor Nanomembrane Tubes: Three-Dimensional Confinement for Controlled Neurite Outgrowth,” in which they show that they have been able to successfully coax nerve cell tendrils to grow through tiny tubes made of the semi-conductor materials silicon and germanium. While this ground-breaking research may not portend cyborgs or even human brains enmeshed with computer parts, it does open the door to the possibility of regenerating nerve cells damaged due to disease or injury.

Yu and his team, led by Justin Williams, a biomedical engineer, created tubes of varying sizes and shapes, small enough for a nerve cell to glam on to, but not so big that it could fit all the way inside. The tubes were then coated with from mice and then watched to see how they would react. Instead of sitting idly, the nerve cells began to send tendrils through the tunnels, as if searching for a path to something or somewhere else. In some instances they actually followed the contours of the tubes, which means, in theory, that the nerves could be grown into structures. Scientists have known for a while that nerve cells have a seek feature, but aren’t yet sure what it is they are seeking or if it’s just a random thing they do. By setting up nerve cells to follow pre-planned paths through tiny tubes, the research team hopes to find the answer to that by installing listening devices to record electrical emissions from nerves, which could in theory lead to recorded conversations between nerve cells. The hope of course, in this type of research, is that a way can be found to connect a computer of some sort to a group of nerve cells to reestablish communication that has been disrupted.

More here.

Pakistan can’t handle Fukushima

Pervez Hoodbhoy in The Express Tribune:

ScreenHunter_01 Mar. 23 13.41 Japan’s near tragedy has reminded the world that situating reactors close to a city can be exceedingly dangerous – even more than storing nuclear bombs within it. While a nuclear reactor cannot explode like a bomb, after one year of operation even a rather small 200MW reactor contains more radioactive cesium, strontium, and iodine than the amounts produced in all the nuclear weapons tests ever conducted.

These devastatingly deadly materials could be released if the containment vessel of a reactor is somehow breached.

As the Japanese continue their struggle to bring Fukushima’s reactors under control, they know they had falsely gambled that nuclear reactors could be safe against earthquakes. Still, there was some logic to this risk-taking: Japan’s energy hungry economy gets about 30per cent of its electricity from its 55 nuclear reactors.

Pakistan has much less reason to risk Karachi, its largest city. The Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, (KANUPP) located by the seashore, produces little electricity. This Canadian supplied reactor has been in operation since December 1972, but according to IAEA statistics, has been unavailable for power production 70.4 per cent of the time. Even if it had operated as per design (120MW of electrical power), it could supply only six-seven per cent of Karachi’s total electrical power needs – barely enough for Golimar and Lyari.

Nevertheless KANUPP puts the Karachi’s population at risk. Sabotage, terrorist attack, equipment failure, earthquake, or a tsunami could result in large scale radioactive release. As in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the instinctive reaction of the authorities would be to cover up the facts.

More here.

Can neuroscience explain art?

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

73578_459747454424_513199424_5347281_534151_n Twenty percent of art can now be explained by neuroscience. That, at least, is what V.S. Ramachandran thinks. Ramachandran is the Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Distinguished Professor with the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego. He is, in short, one of the top neuroscientists around at the moment. He is also a clear and engaging writer. His 1999 book, Phantoms in the Brain, brought him much popular attention and his most recent book, The Tell-Tale Brain, is doing more of the same.

Much like Oliver Sacks, his friend and admirer, Ramachandran comes to many of his insights about the human brain by observing its dysfunction. Problems in the brain can tell us meaningful things about what is going on in a normal brain. Take, for example, people who claim that one of their arms belongs to someone else due to damage to their brain; they become lessons in how complex and multi-layered are the functions of consciousness. We seem to ourselves, when everything is going well, to be fully unified “selves.” In fact, when we look at various disorders of the mind, we see how tenuous is the ground upon which that feeling rests. In looking at the disordered mind, Ramachandran gets the impression that he is looking “at human nature through a magnifying glass.”

That is also why Ramachandran devotes two whole chapters of his book to the subject of art and aesthetics. Making art and appreciating art seems to be universal in the human species. From prehistoric cave paintings to modern conceptualism, where you find human beings you also find art. At the same time, no one has ever been able to give a very good definition of art, to explain in any rigorous and satisfying way what it is that human beings are up to when they make art and when they like art. It is a subject that touches on the strangeness of consciousness, the felt sense of being human that all of us experience every day but that is so resistant to explanation or analysis. Art is thus a kind of Holy Grail to those who seek to explain the murkiest aspects of human consciousness. But it is this very fact — the experiential and intangible nature of art — that would seem to preclude the possibility that science can intrude into the domain of art. As Ramachandran himself admits, “One is a quest for general principles and tidy explanations while the other is a celebration of the individual imagination and spirit, so that the very notion of a science of art seems like an oxymoron.”

More here.

An Interview With Nawal El Saadawi

Anna Sussman in The Nation:

Nawal-El-Saadawi-Montreal-Mirror White-haired and feisty, the 80-year-old Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi has been protesting against various Egyptian regimes for decades. A medical doctor by training and a prolific author by disposition, she has tackled difficult topics such as prostitution, female genital mutilation and discriminatory family laws in nearly fifty works of fiction and non-fiction. The Nation spoke to the “Simone de Beauvoir of Egypt” in advance of her appearances at New York University on March 22 and 24.

Were you involved in the planning or the social media activities leading up to the revolution?

There were many groups of young people, and I was communicating with some of them. There are some young people who have a forum; they come to my home regularly to discuss philosophy, literature, politics. So I knew there was going to be a revolution, but I was not following it very closely.

You camped out in Tahrir Square day and night. Did you see or hear anything that surprised you?

I didn’t expect 20 million people on the streets. This has been my dream since I was child, that one day the Egyptian people would wake up and revolt against slavery and colonization. I’ve participated in many demonstrations since I was a child. When I was at medical college, I was fighting King Farouk, then British colonization, against Nasser, against Sadat who pushed me into prison, Mubarak who pushed me into exile. I never stopped. It was like a dream; it was the accumulation of small revolutions.

More here.

Japanese Nuclear Reactor Systems Drawn Like a NYC Subway Map

Joe Kloc in Mother Jones:

Reactor-640-normal_preview Workers in Japan are still pouring seawater on overheating nuclear reactor rods at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in an effort to decrease the risk of further meltdowns. (Read Mother Jones' detailed and regularly updated explainer on the current situation.) Here's what they're up against, as Kate Sheppard and Josh Harkinson explained shortly after the emergency began:

There are six boiling-water reactors on the site, though only three were in operation at the time of the earthquake. These systems, designed by General Electric, rely on an influx of water to cool the reactor core. But the water systems require electricity that was cut off by the earthquake. It also appears that something—the initial quake, the tsunami, or aftershocks—knocked the site's back-up generators offline. Without the cooling system bringing in water, the core of a reactor will start to overheat—which in turn heats up the water already in the system and causes more of it to turn to steam. Emergency responders have been forced to vent some of the steam, releasing radiation, in order to prevent the containment domes from exploding. They are in a race against the clock to bring in new water supplies before the reacting nuclear fuel heats up beyond control.

When I couldn't find a schematic of that showed the Fukushima reactors' failed cooling systems in relation to their various other workings, I set out to remedy the problem in a visually accessible way. Think of the schematic diagram below like a New York City subway map.

More here.

If life is misery, why do we bear it?


There are only 41 of them, but they were the distillation of a lifetime’s thinking in poetry, continually reworked until his death in 1837 at 39. They include some of the most famous poems in Italian. Leopardi lived much of his life in Recanati, a backwater within the backward Papal States near Ancona. This spurred him on to become something of a literary prodigy: by 11 he had translated Horace’s Odes and was well on the way to having taught himself Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish and English. His father had already dismissed the priest who was instructing young Giacomo in Latin for having nothing more to teach him. Through his teenage years he embarked on what he later described as “seven years of insane and desperate study” in his father’s library of 16,000 volumes. He ruined his health and developed a serious hunchback. Leopardi is Italy’s great romantic poet, and while there are similarities with Wordsworth and Coleridge, the contrasts are more striking. Most of these stem from Giacomo’s cosmic pessimism. Leopardi looked to classical authors for ideals of rationality and stoicism to face the suffering and nullity of the world. For this he was at odds with his century’s frenzied rallying calls to nationalism and progress, and more in line with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, both of whom he influenced. For literary historian Francesco De Sanctis, Leopardi’s scepticism heralds the end of the world of theology and metaphysics and the inauguration of material nihilism.

more from Simon West at The Australian here.



THERE ARE so many things wrong with the Libyan intervention that it is hard to know where to begin. So, a few big things, in no particular order: First, it is radically unclear what the purpose of the intervention is—there is no endgame, as a U.S. official told reporters. Is the goal to rescue a failed rebellion, turn things around, use Western armies to do what the rebels couldn’t do themselves: overthrow Qaddafi? Or is it just to keep the fighting going for as long as possible, in the hope that the rebellion will catch fire, and Libyans will get rid of the Qaddafi regime by themselves? Or is it just to achieve a cease-fire, which would leave Qaddafi in control of most of the country and probably more than willing to bide his time? The size of the opening attack points toward the first of these, but success there would probably require soldiers on the ground, which no one in France, Britain, or the United States really wants. The second is the most likely goal, though it would extend, not stop, the bloodshed.

more from Michael Walzer at Dissent here.



The New York Times has just run an online series by war artist Michael Fay that is exceptionally moving and thought-provoking. Over the past decade, Fay has seen action as a war artist with US troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but his latest journey was to a military veterans’ hospital in Richmond, Virginia. In the resulting New York Times blogs, he relays his meetings with three young men severely wounded in Afghanistan. His account of their injuries and rehabilitation is gripping, but what really deepens the reporting are his drawings, reproduced alongside the articles. Fay is clearly sympathetic with soldiers and his affinity with them is reflected in the very style of these drawings. “Strong and sensitive” would be the simplest way to characterise his on-the-spot observations. A bold, manly line delineates damaged faces and bodies, but with a softening edge of affection. There is real feeling in the sketches, as well as a painstaking accuracy that vindicates the idea of sending artists to war. Fay’s drawings have a disarming humanity that it is hard to imagine being captured by a TV camera. You feel – you hope – these drawings were therapeutic for the men themselves.

more from Jonathan Jones at The Guardian here.

Tuesday Poem

Thanks Gilles Deleuze

They were quoting you
Murmuring your name like a prophet coming from afar
From whose mouth a unique music issues

My own French was not good enough even to purchase bread decently
But the ring of your name
In the sidewise discussions had a special magic
Which for long put my extreme ignorance to shame

Migration is a sacred right, you said once
Nobody said that before you, and no one dared say it after
In this country which we married for love
I, Mohamed, Abdelkader, and Fatima
And other Arabs whose dusty names this poem is too narrow to contain.
Until now I haven’t met anyone who could explain the mysteries of your obscure expression
Laws say the opposite from one government to the other
And the caretaker is French of Portuguese origin
Yet he looks down on philosophers

I was in the subway stealing glances at a newspaper someone was reading
When I saw your name printed in bold, and the headline your death
It seems you threw yourself from the window
But why all those who love you to blindness
Love life more than anything else
I felt ashamed of my ignorance once again
And hated myself in plain Arabic
Despite the grumblings of the coloured owner of the newspaper

Migration is a sacred right
An expression which is enough it was once said
For me every morning to pursue my own sacred right

by Abdel-ilah Salhi
translation: Norddine Zouitni
publisher: PIW, © 2004

Gilles Deleuze

Do You Have Free Will? Yes, It’s the Only Choice

John Tierney in The New York Times:

Will Suppose that Mark and Bill live in a deterministic universe. Everything that happens this morning — like Mark’s decision to wear a blue shirt, or Bill’s latest attempt to comb over his bald spot — is completely caused by whatever happened before it. If you recreated this universe starting with the Big Bang and let all events proceed exactly the same way until this same morning, then the blue shirt is as inevitable as the comb-over. Now for questions from experimental philosophers:

1) In this deterministic universe, is it possible for a person to be fully morally responsible for his actions?

2) This year, as he has often done in the past, Mark arranges to cheat on his taxes. Is he is fully morally responsible for his actions?

3) Bill falls in love with his secretary, and he decides that the only way to be with her is to murder his wife and three children. Before leaving on a trip, he arranges for them to be killed while he is away. Is Bill fully morally responsible for his actions?

To a classic philosopher, these are just three versions of the same question about free will. But to the new breed of philosophers who test people’s responses to concepts like determinism, there are crucial differences, as Shaun Nichols explains in the current issue of Science. Most respondents will absolve the unspecified person in Question 1 from full responsibility for his actions, and a majority will also give Mark a break for his tax chiseling. But not Bill. He’s fully to blame for his heinous crime, according to more than 70 percent of the people queried by Dr. Nichols, an experimental philosopher at the University of Arizona, and his Yale colleague Joshua Knobe.

More here.