Archive for March 22, 2008

Early morning ethics

Posted in philosophy with tags on March 22, 2008 by Philonous

Philonous says (05:06):
are you still awake?

Archie says (05:06):

Philonous says (05:07):
just updated the blog

Archie says (05:07):
awesome man

Philonous says (05:08):
see if you recognise the pictures…

Archie says (05:11):
i cant say i do!

Philonous says (05:11):
oh, well the guy on the left is Baudrillard
and the guy on the right is Grothendieck.

Archie says (05:12):
i see! ive only ever seen the guardian obituary picture of baudrillard

Philonous says (05:12):
yeah, I don’t think it looks a whole lot like the other photos I’ve seen, but hey…
so whadya think?

Philonous says (05:13):
sweet as pie?

Archie says (05:14):
about the pictures? i like them!
i just need something interesting to write

Philonous says (05:14):
that hasn’t stopped me
I’ve asked Le Fox to write something when she gets the chance
she was going to write something on ‘The Sartorialist’

Philonous says (05:15):
hey, do you know much about ethics?

Archie says (05:16):
well i only know the fundamental positions of certain philosophers
and, of course, my own position

Philonous says (05:16):
I was just reading about consequentialism

Philonous says (05:17):
as opposed to deontological ethics

Archie says (05:17):
ultimately they all rest on a ridiculous idea

Philonous says (05:17):
say what??

Archie says (05:17):
namely that you can measure an “outcome”

Philonous says (05:17):
no not really

Archie says (05:17):
even an idea like “positive”

Philonous says (05:17):
deontological arguments are to do with duty and obligation

Philonous says (05:18):
well ok
but the point is, they’re a personal framework

Archie says (05:18):
of course

Philonous says (05:18):
so all you have to do is to be able to make personal judgements on these sorts of things

Archie says (05:18):
i have my own completely arbitrary ethical code

Philonous says (05:18):
there’s another position again
are you a moral relativist?

Archie says (05:19):
i get called that a lot in debates

Philonous says (05:19):
It is sort of an ivory tower of a position

Archie says (05:19):
but, so what?
is there anything wrong with that?

Philonous says (05:19):
well yeah

Archie says (05:19):

Philonous says (05:20):
I think that moral philosophy should be about trying to fit some axiomatic system to the every day process of making moral judgements so that when you find that your intuition fails you, you try and derive something concrete from your framework to help you out…

Archie says (05:20):
of course you think that – youre a mathematician
whereas i think it should be based on an arbitrary set of values
which is how it DOES function

Philonous says (05:20):
well yeah sure

Philonous says (05:21):
but those arbitrary values are exactly these axioms (if you’re a relativist)

Archie says (05:21):
which was my point earlier
if you are going to have “consequentialism”, you might as well have “Archiecentricism” too

Philonous says (05:21):
well no, not really
but if you’re some sort of moral relativist then it’s hardly conducive to the solution of conflicts

Archie says (05:22):
who said i wanted to solve conflicts?

Philonous says (05:22):
oh yeah, I forgot – you’re a nihilist

Archie says (05:22):
not really

Philonous says (05:22):
(and moral relativist)

Archie says (05:22):
i just find definitions of the virtue of these things of ideas a bit shakey
at the very least, worth questioning

Philonous says (05:23):
ok, so if you’re going to get relativist on my ass, then you can climb back up into your ivory tower of theory

Archie says (05:24):
well hey, im not saying that i dont have a functioning ethical world view which values certain actions as “good” and others as “bad”
that doesnt mean that im ready to reduce the patterns into fundamental axioms and call the whole thing a success

Philonous says (05:24):
ok, so your world view is essentially that there is no coherent axiomatic world view

Philonous says (05:24):
it’s a ‘take it as it comes’ kinda thing

Archie says (05:25):
well theres obviously a philosophical sentiment and a seperate practical one

Philonous says (05:25):

Archie says (05:25):
which is where you might think im an idiot

Philonous says (05:26):
see I don’t get it. I figure philosophy ought to be a little bit practical:
I should be able to live by some world view which philosophy can provide (and if philosophy can’t provide it, then by definition, my ‘philosophy’ is my world view)

Archie says (05:26):
im pretty sure you can – the only real question is why you dont…

Philonous says (05:27):
well I think it’s either because language isn’t complicated enough to capture what goes on in our heads (Wittgenstein can go suck an egg) or because we’re not eloquent enough to be able to phrase it.

Archie says (05:28):
sure why not

Philonous says (05:28):
It sorta leads to the question –
Is moral philosophy doomed?

Philonous says (05:29):
it seems like any personal moral philosophy has to be derived from someone’s personal ‘common sense’. But then maybe that’s all there is to moral philosophy.

Archie says (05:29):
well thats my conclusion!

Philonous says (05:29):

Philonous says (05:30):
I don’t like it

Archie says (05:30):
yeah its not a nice thought…

Philonous says (05:31):
I hear there’s a black guy running for president…

Critical Mass

Posted in Activism, culture, cycling, Manchester with tags on March 22, 2008 by Philonous

At 6pm on the last Friday of every month, a motley crew of cyclists gather in front of the main city library in Manchester to…cycle.

The tradition of massing critically began in San Fransisco in 1992 with a handful of commuters cycling together for solidarity. 16 years later, there are critical mass events in most major cities ranging from tens to hundreds of people. Notably most of these gatherings have no official agenda and are publicised as ‘organised coincidence’ rather than any form of protest or activism.

Cycling around Manchester is in general a very stressful experience. Although the council claims to be taking environmental pollution seriously, there seems to be no great effort for the most part to renew cycle lanes or to think of provision for cyclists. Where cycle lanes do exist, they are exceedingly badly planned and maintained, pockmarked by potholes and drain covers. Furthermore, motorists seem to have almost no awareness of cyclists whatsoever. Having cycled in Manchester for two and a half years, I can recall only one occasion where a motorist actually looked in his mirror and stopped before turning left through a cycle lane. This being the norm in most places, cyclists often feel somewhat disenfranchised as road users. Critical mass gives a much needed feeling of solidarity and safety in a domain which is, more often than not, distinctly hostile.

Here’s a video of Manchester critical mass last May:

Last month I decided that having known about it for long enough, it was now time to finally gain some personal experience of critical mass – more than anything else, to sample the prevailing atmosphere. It definitely was a very peculiar feeling. There is no fixed route, the mass of cyclists simply whoever happens to be at the front. I was definitely not disappointed. The thing that struck me most, apart from the novelty of greatly outnumbering cars was the totally relaxed vibe. Being surrounded by cyclists rather than cars leads to enough of a noise reduction to be able to hold conversations with other cyclists in the middle of roads. The usual feeling of being more than slightly harried by passing motorists was replaced by complete relaxation and well-being.

Come along next week at 6pm 28th March in front of the Main Library in St Peter’s Square.