Atheist Aristotelians?

"the overall life of the polis... itself has to be understood... as existing for the sake of that in human beings which links them to the divine" -- Alasdair MacIntyre, p. 142

Just so: Aristotle's philosophy is oriented upwards: the physical is important as the basis for the living, the living as the basis for the conscious, the conscious as the basis for the moral and political, and those as supporting our connection to God.

So encountering someone like Rand, who claims to be a follower of Aristotle, except for that God stuff, is like meeting someone who says they love modern chemistry, "except for the bits about atomic theory," or is a fan of evolutionary theory, "except for the idea of natural selection."

Making Up the History of Mathematics

At about 1:37 in the video below, Professor Roger Bowley begins to recount the "history" of the number zero:

The problem with Bowley's account is that, like with so many scientists, he apparently thinks it is A-OK just to make up history as you go along. First of all, he can't even get the little facts right: the Muslim author he wants to cite was "al-Khwarizmi," not "al-Khwazimi," and he was a Persian living in the Middle East, not North Africa.

But the heart of that passage is how the Catholic Church fought against Fibonacc's introduction of Arabic numerals, since it was the time of the Crusades, they were Muslim, the "work of the devil," as a result they were banned in Florence, etc.

This seemed like typical invented-from-whole-cloth anti-Catholicism, and so I immediately wrote Thony (an actual historian of mathematics), who responded:

"No, I have never come across anything like that in all that I have read about the history…

The Passing of a Computer Scientist

I just received an email from a colleague telling me, "The great computer scientist X has passed."

My response was, "OK, but did he pass by value, or by reference?"

Clarifying Shampoo

I saw that in the bathroom. I have no idea what it is, but this is a clarifying post:

I mentioned how the "We need to remove the stigma on X, because it hurts the stigmatized person" argument is generally a failure. If X is morally fine, then it shouldn't be stigmatized, whether or not it hurts the stigmatized people. If X is immoral, then usually having a stigma attached to it is a positive. (The "generally" qualification is there because there are times when the stigma might be out of proportion to the immorality of the act: spitting your gum on the sidewalk may be bad, but we probably would consider the death penalty a it too harsh a punishment for that transgression.)

I received two curious responses:
One reader wrote, "I don't think it is true that everything stigmatized is immoral."
That response just seems like the person hardly bothered to read the post, which never said anything like "All stigmas are justified." I really can't…

We've Got to Remove the Stigma of X

We hear this frequently in relation to many traditionally disapproved activities: single motherhood, abortion, polygamy, etc. "People  who engage in X suffer from the social stigma attached to that behavior: therefore, we must remove the stigma."

The argument really doesn't work. Why? Well, if the activity isn't immoral, then it shouldn't have any social stigma attached to it, whether that stigma makes people suffer or not. But if it is immoral, then the stigma is a good thing, as it will discourage the behavior.

Notice that nobody ever uses this argument in regards to, say, how the poor neo-Nazis are suffering from the stigma attached to Nazism.

I’m going to hit it big with this idea

They’ve done it with cough medicine, decongestants, allergy medicine, and more. But they have missed a whole category, And I know I can hit it big with this one:
Non-drowsy sleepy aids!
I think I am going to call it Awake!TM.