TIME OUT OF JOINT.

As the first decade of the twenty-first century draws near its close, there is still no accepted way to refer to it (parallel to “the teens,” “the twenties,” and so on), and perhaps there never will be. But on the radio today I heard a startling abbreviation for the coming year; an economist talked about the prospects for “oh nine and oh ten.”

Comments

  1. 20 oh 10? Oh, about 11…

  2. I had a professor who referred to the first decade of the 20th century as the “naughts” or (usually for comic effect) the “naughties” ; that would applying equally to the current decade.

  3. apply equally….apply equally.
    That was the Phantom Typo making another appearance.

  4. oh ten is wrong, no? one oh maybe

  5. In 2010 are people finally going to start pronouncing the year with “twenty” rather than “two thousand”?

  6. Also, are ’10, ’11, and ’12 part of the teens?

  7. I process credit card payments sometimes, and I find it quite natural: I pronounce 2009 “ought nine,” and when I’m muttering to myself as I’m entering expiration dates, I proceed with “ought ten” and “ought eleven” without a second thought. At twelve I begin to get uneasy, though, and find myself switching to “year twelve.” (I can’t bring myself to use plain “ten” “eleven” or “twelve” to name a year, they’re just too common to feel right as proper names — which is presumably why people also won’t call 2008 “eight” either.)

  8. “aught”… but it sounds terribly 19th century. There’s all those gauges with aught in them–double aught steel wool:
    http://www.westernwooddoctor.com/steelwool.htm
    and sandpaper and heavy gauge wire. It sounds like a word you should use in an old fashioned hardware store where you can buy one screw that’s exactly the size you need, wrapped in a brown paper bag instead of a plastic bubble.

  9. “Two thousand and (01-09)” and then “Twenty-X” for me and my friends. That seems to the standard usage in NZ media, too.

  10. dale,
    At least you realize the problem. I had to puzzle over what was wrong with the phrase for a few minutes, for some reason. Hopefully it was just a long day…

  11. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was “the year one”, “the year two” and so on, as Aubrey/Maturin fans know.

  12. i’ve been using aught since back in aught nil.
    but i may have just picked that up from mr. burns on the simpsons.

  13. AJP Crown says:

    i don’t think ‘aught’ exists in England, they say only ‘naught’, but in the date context they say o-eight (owe).
    What do the other languages do about this problem?

  14. What about “for aught I know”? This sounds a tad conscious nowadays, I grant you, but this site would not exist were it not for this kind of consciousness.
    I suspect aught is used widely in Scotland, by ordinary folks.
    However that may be, in the USA there are many locutions using “ought” (not “aught”)instead of “zero” or “oh”. My father owned a thirty-ought-six (30/06) deer rifle. Others will remember the song by Tom Waits.
    Nijma, who seems to think that the 19th century is old-fashioned and thus slightly ridiculous, clearly does not visit hardware stores as frequently as internet sites. In the former, fashion sits cheek by jowl with heavy-gauge wire. Sag mir, mit wem du umgehst, und ich sag dir, wer du bist.

  15. that would apply equally to the current decade
    Yes, it would, but nobody uses it (by which I mean nobody I’ve ever heard).
    In 2010 are people finally going to start pronouncing the year with “twenty” rather than “two thousand”?
    We can only hope.

  16. AJP Crown says:

    In 2010…
    You can say ‘twenty-ten’, but not ‘twenty-nine’. My grandmother was born in nineteen-oh-three, but she could equally have said ‘nineteen-three’, and in fact did.

  17. You can say ‘twenty-ten’, but not ‘twenty-nine’.
    Perhaps not, but you could say “twenty oh nine”.

  18. AJP Crown says:

    Sure, i was conflating, I know.

  19. John Emerson says:

    Open the window, somebody, Kruunu is conflating again.

  20. John Emerson says:

    Open the window, somebody, Kruunu is conflating again.

  21. Since the years are in base 10, why not follow the standard positional values — ones, tens, hundreds…? (E.g., “Why, I remember — musta been back just toward the end of the ones — when they finally got the designation of the decades right.”)

  22. There’s no problem. It’s 2009 and 2010.

  23. AJP Crown says:

    Emerson, did you read the very bitchy and very funny review by Adam Phillips in the LRB (4 Dec.) of Alex Waugh’s book about the Wittgenstein family (‘Waugh sometimes gives the impression that had it not been for the suicides, the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the two world wars and the rise of Fascism in Germany the Wittgensteins would have been living the life of Riley.)? i know you don’t approve of books about philosophers’ lives, Lifestyles of the Smart and Not Very Well-Known, but, anyway, it had this thing about his brother Paul who lost his arm in WW1 and subsequently went on to become a concert pianist, and I just want to know how he managed that. Anyone know?

  24. AJP Crown says:

    Oh, never mind, he’s got his own wiki page.

  25. It’s 2009 and 2010.
    Then the former should be “oh oh nine”. Or “double oh nine”. With licence to crash. Or perhaps licence to bail out.

  26. John Emerson says:

    Thanks for the tip.
    Ludwig gave 100,000 Kronen to various Austrian artists, including Trakl, Kokoschka and Adolf Loos. (Also Rilke, IIRC.)
    That’s a lot of Krons. You must have mixed feelings about seeing your kin being passed around in such a cavalier fashion.
    Waugh must have asked himself: “What European family is weirder and more eminent than mine?”
    I’m actually OK with biographies of philosophers, as long as the biographer doesn’t invent or surmise a love interest. I’m reading Grayling’s Descartes right now. It turns out that Descartes was a Jesuit spy who died because Christina insisted on being tutored at 5 am in an unheated room in January.

  27. John Emerson says:

    Thanks for the tip.
    Ludwig gave 100,000 Kronen to various Austrian artists, including Trakl, Kokoschka and Adolf Loos. (Also Rilke, IIRC.)
    That’s a lot of Krons. You must have mixed feelings about seeing your kin being passed around in such a cavalier fashion.
    Waugh must have asked himself: “What European family is weirder and more eminent than mine?”
    I’m actually OK with biographies of philosophers, as long as the biographer doesn’t invent or surmise a love interest. I’m reading Grayling’s Descartes right now. It turns out that Descartes was a Jesuit spy who died because Christina insisted on being tutored at 5 am in an unheated room in January.

  28. marie-lucie says:

    … lost his arm in WW1 and subsequently went on to become a concert pianist
    If he lost his right arm, he could play specially composed music for the left hand only (composed either for regular practice or for pianists in precisely this predicament), or arrange some other tunes so as to play them with the left hand. I don’t know of music composed just for the right hand, but Janina Fialkowska, a Canadian pianist, at some point had a problem with her left arm and kept on practicing entire pieces (with some adaptations) just with her right hand. I don’t think she actually performed those in public though.

  29. AJP Crown says:

    he could play specially composed music for the left hand only
    Yes, that’s what the wiki article says:

    Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Schmidt, and Richard Strauss all produced pieces for him. Maurice Ravel wrote his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, which became more famous than any of the other compositions that Wittgenstein inspired. Sergei Prokofiev also wrote a concerto for him, his fourth; but Wittgenstein said that he did not understand the piece, and he never played it publicly.

    Angela Hewitt is the only Canadian woman I know of who’s a famous pianist. What she’s done with Bach is incredible.

  30. I don’t see how something composed “for the left hand” would be different from something composed for just one generic hand. Why would it matter which finger a note was played with.
    I did know a local 40′s style big band director, and was lucky enough to hear them play at a dance hall long after that music had gone out of fashion. He later had a stroke–I’m not sure which side was affected–but continued to play the piano with one hand in the nursing home.

  31. AJP Crown says:

    I’ve read Grayling’s Descartes. I couldn’t take the dog bit. What a nasty, nasty man. I’m glad he choked to death, frozen in Sweden; it was too good for him, servile asshole.

  32. Nijma, who seems to think that the 19th century is old-fashioned and thus slightly ridiculous, clearly does not visit hardware stores as frequently as internet sites. In the former, fashion sits cheek by jowl with heavy-gauge wire.
    Ever read that awful poetry they inscribe in concrete on those 19th century public monuments? Surely there are better uses for concrete.
    Fashion? In a hardware store? Maybe at Menards, Sears, or Home Depot, but surely not in the kind of hardware store where you can walk in and help yourself to one sheet of 440 grit wet-dry sandpaper for 79¢ and carry it home in a brown paper bag.

  33. John Emerson says:

    Queen Christina hunted bears, but she did not have sex with bears, because she wasn’t Canadian. A common misconception.

  34. John Emerson says:

    Queen Christina hunted bears, but she did not have sex with bears, because she wasn’t Canadian. A common misconception.

  35. Ever read that awful poetry they inscribe in concrete on those 19th century public monuments? Surely there are better uses for concrete.
    I agree, but concrete poetry is not one of them.
    Fashion? In a hardware store?
    I meant the fashionable hardware – the cool unnecessary stuff they must flog to finance today’s big, bright stores.
    … help yourself to one sheet of 440 grit wet-dry sandpaper for 79¢ and carry it home in a brown paper bag.
    Abashed, I must retract my insinuation that Nijma is unfamiliar with hardware stores.

  36. Thank you, Stu. My new motto is:
    Die Axt im Haus erspart den Zimmermann.

  37. Or maybe since the topic of this thread involves numbers I should adopt this one:
    Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.

  38. Equally numerical is an old proto-feminist favorite that I just remembered:
    Einmal gebockt ist nicht gelammt.

  39. On the subjects of Descartes and “oh”, I just thought up some corny puns:
    Hume said you couldn’t derive an ought from an is.
    Descartes claimed you could at least derive an is from aught – by summing over the cogitations.

  40. Cryptic Ned says:

    oh nine and oh ten
    Reminds me of the guy I heard call in to a radio sex advice show…he was describing himself to the host, he said he was “good looking, not overweight, about five eleven, five twelve”….

  41. John Emerson says:

    I’m half through the Grayling Descartes book, and he does seem to be an unpleasant fellow. I have to check with my own personal Cartesianist to see how reliable the book is.
    Apparently the Rosicrucians and the Hussites were both defeated at White Mountain, with Descartes’ help.

  42. John Emerson says:

    I’m half through the Grayling Descartes book, and he does seem to be an unpleasant fellow. I have to check with my own personal Cartesianist to see how reliable the book is.
    Apparently the Rosicrucians and the Hussites were both defeated at White Mountain, with Descartes’ help.

  43. “good looking, not overweight, about five eleven, five twelve”
    I would describe myself as a skilled parallel parker, about five oh eight, five oh nine. Tall, not short like Kron.

  44. AJP Crown says:

    I wanted to know if there was anything about René and the White Mountain in The Thirty Years War, by C.V. Wedgwood, but Language said not (I got it, but I haven’t read it yet). I think all that stuff about him being a soldier and a spy is fun speculation, but not that convincing.
    The thing about Descartes is — and I respect him for coming up with analytical geometry, let alone all the other lines of inquiry he started as well (even the medical ones) — that he totally fucked everybody by sticking us with three-hundred years worth of anthropomorphic bullshit about God and man. Some say he let the Church manipulate his work only because he was scared of the Inquisitors. But if you don’t like Michael Palin & Co pulling your arms out of their sockets, then don’t go around saying all that stuff. Grayling points out that the Cogito was produced by Descartes in French, not Latin, because he wanted it to be accessible to more people. Those who say that he had no choice but to appease the Inquisition also forget that Descartes was raised by Jesuits (Grayling makes a big deal of that, if I remember right).
    Another book, one that shows that Descartes is still screwing with our perception of human morality, is John Gray’s Straw Dogs. It’s something I especially recommend to anyone who likes both animals and God.
    One small antidote to Descartes (and Kant, for that matter) is Wittgenstein’s demonstration that sets of rules are inherently paradoxical and it’s crazy to determine a course of action from a paradox (see 3.5 Rule Following), although Nietzsche is the great comfort to anyone of an atheistic persuasion.
    I’m not, by the way, especially anti-Roman Catholic. I love the outfits and the baroque buildings of the Jesuit Inquisition and I think Martin Luther was as horrible as Descartes (worse, if you were married to him).

  45. AJP Crown says:

    Tall, not short like Kron.
    Not to be prescriptivist, but I think you forgot some punctuation, ‘Tall, not short: like Kron’.

  46. …let alone all the other lines of inquiry he started as well…
    In fact philosophers are still going on about this or that “Cartesian legacy”, usually with disapprobation. Descartes was renowned as a dangerous mechanist in his own time: all goings-on in creation can be explained in terms of the push and shove of physics, with only the higher levels of the (human) mind exempt. To put it heterodoxically, this looked like a species of materialist monism, and accordingly it upset folks, even as it freed physics from its mediaeval fetters. Posterity has on the contrary regarded him as a dangerous dualist, because of that impassable ontological gulf between the res extensa of physics and the res cogitans of mind. Gilbert Ryle (in The Concept of Mind) did only a partial pioneering job of undoing the damage, and we still struggle with its modern manifestations in, for example, the virtuoso neo-dualist programme of David Chalmers.
    So Grayling, huh? I have found him not a clear writer. But he sure is prolific.

  47. Wittgenstein’s demonstration
    For what it’s worth, it’s very far from clear that the later Wittgenstein, i.e. the Wittgenstein who is usually credited with this, wasn’t therapeutic, rather than apodeictic, with interesting similarities to urbane Pyrrhonian skepticism.

  48. AJP Crown says:

    I haven’t read his other books. I didn’t find him unclear in this instance and he tells you all you need to know about Descartes’ life, but I don’t remember Grayling having a very juicy discussion of the philosophy (perhaps because as a philosophy professor he doesn’t feel he can do it justice in a biography, I don’t know). I’m sure it’s better than Alex Waugh’s book on the Wittgenstein family (mentioned above).
    I noticed that in the Wiki article on Paul W., an estimate of $US 6 billion is given as the pre-Nazi, contemporary worth of the Wittgenstein family (making them the richest family in Europe), but there’s no cited source for that claim.

  49. AJP Crown says:

    it’s very far from clear
    No, nothing much is clear in the later Wittgenstein. That’s half the fun.

  50. it’s very far from clear
    That was unfair of me: zetetic and ephectic perspicuity is his stated aim.

  51. that he totally fucked everybody by sticking us with three-hundred years worth of anthropomorphic bullshit about God and man.
    I hold no brief for Descartes (I’ve disliked him ever since I read about his practicing vivisection because he believed animals don’t feel pain), but I don’t think he can be blamed for that. It’s in the Bible, to start with.

  52. AJP Crown says:

    Gilbert Ryle devoted himself to eliminating errors of category such as dualism, and although I know nothing of his dualist tendencies I doubt David Chambers or any other philosopher will be allowed to fall into that trap. He certainly seems like a nice guy (look at his photos of conferences he’s attended). Maybe in contrast to their ugly European ancestors all Australian philosophers are nice. I’m mostly interested in two things in philosophy: its historical relation to visual art from around the time of the Critique of Judgment and the consequences to animals that arise from moral philosophy that Peter Singer has focussed attention on. Wittgenstein for me is just a freebie, but I like him, he said the role of philosophy was to free us from ‘the bewitchment of the intellect by means of language’, fiosachd, take note.

  53. AJP Crown says:

    Descartes…It’s in the Bible
    I didn’t say he invented it. I was really talking about dualism.
    Though it’s one of the things Anthony Grayling discusses in his biography — together with the fact the Descartes spent years with animals on a family farm, so it’s even more difficult to understand how he could tie down unanaesthetised dogs, cut open their chest cavity and snip off the bottom tip of their heart, just in order to see how the blood flowed (and do it over and over again) — I cannot understand his vivisection except as part of his idea about religion. It only makes some kind of ‘rational’ sense if he believed something like I think, therefore I am, but animals don’t think, therefore they aren’t — aren’t of any consequence to him (or ‘God’) at least.

  54. fiosachd, take note.
    Trust me, I have, which is why I do Wittgensteinian research into the philosophy of language.

  55. John Emerson says:

    My theory is that some of Descartes’ ideas were the real product of his thought, and others (dualism, animals are machines, and even the cogito) were convenient assumptions making the rest possible (in part by protecting him from the Inquisition). In other words, I think that his scientific and mathematical work is valuable and that a lot of his philosophy isn’t.
    After reading Grayling’s bit about Descartes being a Jesuit secret agent, I considered that maybe Descartes was also keeping secrets from the Jesuits about his true beliefs. The way he plugged God into his system seems pretty wishful and perfunctory.

  56. John Emerson says:

    My theory is that some of Descartes’ ideas were the real product of his thought, and others (dualism, animals are machines, and even the cogito) were convenient assumptions making the rest possible (in part by protecting him from the Inquisition). In other words, I think that his scientific and mathematical work is valuable and that a lot of his philosophy isn’t.
    After reading Grayling’s bit about Descartes being a Jesuit secret agent, I considered that maybe Descartes was also keeping secrets from the Jesuits about his true beliefs. The way he plugged God into his system seems pretty wishful and perfunctory.

  57. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: I don’t see how something composed “for the left hand” would be different from something composed for just one generic hand. Why would it matter which finger a note was played with.
    It would not matter if you played only one note, but that would not be music as we understand it. It matters because the hands are not “generic”: even if you are lucky enough to be ambidextrous, surely you must know whether you are putting on a right glove or a left glove – and are baseball mitts “generic”? There is no symmetry within each hand: the length of the fingers, their inherent relative strength and mobility and the intervals that can be encompassed between them are very different, so unless you only play music composed for beginners, those factors can make a lot of difference. An interval like a fifth, which can easily be played on the piano with the thumb and index of the right hand, cannot so easily be reproduced using the little and ring finger of the left hand (and vice-versa), especially if the two sounds are part of a chord, meant to be played at the exact same time. One might as well ask why music is not composed for a “generic” instrument.
    Another factor is that the piano keyboard is quite wide, and it is a lot easier and more comfortable to extend each arm in its normal direction (eg the right hand towards the right) than across the body in the other direction, which not only is awkward in itself but requires an unnatural and possibly harmful hand position to play the notes properly, especially if they are meant to be fast or part of chords or both. So left-hand only music will tend to avoid the very high notes, which would normally be played with the right hand. It still sounds good, but right-hand only music could sound thin without the bass foundation.

  58. AJP Crown says:

    I do Wittgensteinian research into the philosophy of language.
    Then I guess you’re licensed to use phrases like ‘zetetic and ephectic perspicuity’ in public, but don’t count on a response, except from Noetica, John and the A-team (MMcM).

  59. John Emerson says:

    Pyrrhonian skepticism is the only way to go. Montaigne and Stephen Toulmin also affiliated that way.

  60. John Emerson says:

    Pyrrhonian skepticism is the only way to go. Montaigne and Stephen Toulmin also affiliated that way.

  61. Not just any Pyrrhonian skepticism, though, urbane Pyrrhonian skepticism, as found in Sextus (on the right reading), but – perhaps surprisingly – not Pyrrho.

  62. Siganus Sutor says:

    Noetica: In fact philosophers are still going on about this or that “Cartesian legacy”, usually with disapprobation.
    One philosopher, who was to be later elected at the Académie, wrote a little book in 1976. Its title was taken from Pascal’s Pensées: “Descartes inutile et incertain” (Descarte useless and uncertain). It starts with these words: The author who could undo the link between the adjective “Cartesian” and the notion of rationality would be a powerful myth breaker, and he would deliver us from the usage of “Cartesian” as a synonym of “methodical” and “logically coherent”.
    (Ce serait un puissant briseur de mythes, l’auteur qui parviendrait à défaire le lien établi entre l’adjectif “cartésien” et la notion de rationalité, qui nous délivrerait de l’usage habituel de “cartésien” comme synonyme de “méthodique” et de “logiquement cohérent”. Une grave erreur historique serait ainsi effacée et, d’autre part, on verrait disparaître un tic de langage bien superflu — l’invocation du patronage de Descartes à propos de toute démarche impliquant apparemment quelque suite dans les idées.)
    [I don't know if this book has been translated in English.]
    Indeed, in French “cartésien” does mean “logical”, “rational”, “scientific”, and the French love their Descartes (to the point of putting his face on their biggest banknote, i.e. the 500 Francs one). I remember that during my “terminale”, i.e. the last year in secondary school during which you are “taught” a subject unknown to you before (philosophy), we had to study Le Discours de la méthode as the main philosophy book, and the teacher was particularly eager to prove the science students that we were how much Descartes’ reasoning was powerful. That was in the 80s.

  63. AJP Crown says:

    The way he plugged God into his system seems pretty wishful and perfunctory
    Grayling had that view, didn’t he? He said that Descartes was brought up by Jesuits and so he knew how to deal with them. There may be some truth in that, or else why did he move to Protestant Holland if he still agreed with the Jesuits. I wasn’t convinced his professed views were a cynical manipulation of his Jesuit friends in order to accommodate the French authorities, as Grayling implies (as far as I remember), I think, as I said above, that the only reasonable explanation of (for example) his cruelty towards animals in the face of a lifetime of living around them is that he thought the philosophy covered all those areas: God, humans and animals (he wouldn’t have put it like that, obviously) and there’s no reason to think that view wouldn’t have been acceptable to the Jesuits too.

  64. Actually, in what I’ve read so far Grayling seems to think that Descartes was sincerely Jesuitical. But then, the Jesuits themselves were extraordinarily subtle in their beliefs. Before Grayling I had already thought that Descartes’ religion was pretty perfunctory. (At my URL: I wrote this based on a blind reading the the DoM).

  65. Actually, in what I’ve read so far Grayling seems to think that Descartes was sincerely Jesuitical. But then, the Jesuits themselves were extraordinarily subtle in their beliefs. Before Grayling I had already thought that Descartes’ religion was pretty perfunctory. (At my URL: I wrote this based on a blind reading the the DoM).

  66. marie-lucie says:

    I have not read the book in question, but everyone seems to make a big deal of Descartes’ being educated by Jesuits: but at that time, almost everybody who was anybody in France (among males, that is) was educated by Jesuits, as they ran the only secondary schools. So there is no reason why Descartes, as opposed to other writers, should have been particularly subservient to the Jesuits. That he moved to Holland (at that time a refuge for European freethinkers) in order to write freely should surely count for something.
    Also, he broke with tradition in writing in French not Latin, in a clear style, in order to make his philosophy accessible outside the Jesuit-educated circles, and that included women, since even educated ones did not usually know Latin. It can’t be just a coincidence that Queen Christina invited him to teach her philosophy. Too bad he had to leave his comfortable quarters in Holland (provided with a stove, and where he kept a cat) for the frigid room where the queen expected to be instructed at dawn, with fatal consequences for his health.

  67. AJP Crown says:

    Sig: That was in the 80s.
    Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind demolished Descartes’ big idea that people have a mind and a body that are harnessed together, and that after death the mind floats away and continues to function. He also demolished a bunch of other (mostly Cartesian) stuff related to what he called ‘errors of category’. His book came out in 1949. There are probably reasons for subsequently keeping Descartes on a scientific pedestal in France– just as England does with Newton (ignoring that Newton devoted years of his research to alchemy) — it’s using patriotism to get people interested in science, or scientific method, in the case of Descartes. Americans probably use Ben Franklin and the lightning conductor, or something.

  68. AJP Crown says:

    M-l, it’s true that he wanted women to read what he wrote. It’s not true that he escaped the Jesuits by moving to Holland, he published in France, in French, with the help (approval) of the Jesuits.

  69. AJP Crown says:

    Now I get my copy of Grayling’s book down I see that Descartes was very short, five feet one or two (c.1550mm). What’s that thing Newton said about standing on the shoulders of giants? He sure wasn’t thinking of Descartes.

  70. Charles Perry says:

    Well, just to get back to the issue of the aughts for a moment, at Princeton there’s a dormitory named 1906, because it was built by the class of 1906. It is always called, parallel with twenty-one and up, as “Aughty-Six.”

  71. AJP Crown says:

    M-l:almost everybody who was anybody in France (among males, that is) was educated by Jesuits, as they ran the only secondary schools.
    That’s not true, according to Grayling. He says their main rivals were the Benedictines. He also says that Henry IV had thrown the Jesuits out of France for eight years, until 1603, and Descartes started the Jesuit school at La Flèche only three years later, so it was hardly his only option (it was a better education, though).

  72. AJP Crown says:

    R.D. started at the Jesuit school, he didn’t start the school, on account of the fact that he was only ten years old at the time.

  73. Googling around has not brought up any knowledgeable reviews of Grayling.

  74. Googling around has not brought up any knowledgeable reviews of Grayling.

  75. AJP Crown says:

    Did you read the bit in yesterday’s Guardian?

  76. Wow:

    My mother was difficult, not affectionate, fiery tempered and controlling. She was an angry, frustrated woman, the sort of person you avoid. I was a late mistake and my mother used to say, “It was so annoying I got pregnant with you.” But we didn’t have a difficult relationship. She’d tell me: “I don’t have to worry about you. You’re as smart as a bag full of monkeys.”
    She did teach me about love. She said that most people think what they feel in the first flush of a relationship is love. It isn’t. It’s infatuation. You can only talk about loving somebody when you’ve lived with them for 10 years, with the smelly socks and the quarrels. Only then will you know what you mean when you say you love them.

  77. Wow:

    My mother was difficult, not affectionate, fiery tempered and controlling. She was an angry, frustrated woman, the sort of person you avoid. I was a late mistake and my mother used to say, “It was so annoying I got pregnant with you.” But we didn’t have a difficult relationship. She’d tell me: “I don’t have to worry about you. You’re as smart as a bag full of monkeys.”
    She did teach me about love. She said that most people think what they feel in the first flush of a relationship is love. It isn’t. It’s infatuation. You can only talk about loving somebody when you’ve lived with them for 10 years, with the smelly socks and the quarrels. Only then will you know what you mean when you say you love them.

  78. David Marjanović says:

    What do the other languages do about this problem?

    Neunzehneins, neunzehnzwei, neunzehnneunundneunzig (silent d here), zweitausend, zweitausendeins, zweitausendzwei, zweitausendzehn… maybe that’ll change in 2100.
    Some people insert “und” into the numbers that lack it. That’s rare over here, so I hate it…
    The French are only now starting to say dix-neuf instead of mille neuf cent, but the current century is always deux mille: deux mille un, deux mille deux…
    Only the Chinese pronounce the zero: one nine nine nine year, two zero zero zero year, two zero zero one year (èr líng líng yī nián)…

  79. scarabaeus says:

    oh! one,…. oh! nine, oh! ten, what can the matter be.
    x is to why as why is to zed. ego that iam.

  80. AJP Crown says:

    Sounds like German is the easiest. I’m surprised they don’t say DIN-neunzehnneunundneunzig, though. They do with most things, :))

  81. I have danced on Wittgenstein’s grave. Why? Thereof I must say nothing.

  82. Most BBC broadcasters have said ‘two thousand and one …’ except for Charlotte Green (Radio 4 newsreader), who followed the previously usual pattern, and said ‘twenty oh one …’, until some time in 2004 (I think it was) when she ‘capitulated’, and came into line with her colleagues. I asked her why she had changed, and she said it was as a result of all the adverse comments she had received from members of the public, some of which were quite abusive.
    Another interesting year is ’2000′, which is rarely referred to as simply ’2000′. It is usually called ‘the year two thousand’. Presumably because ’2000′ seems too much like a simple number.

  83. all the adverse comments she had received from members of the public, some of which were quite abusive.
    That’s astonishing. There’s no end to the weirdness of people.

  84. AJP Crown says:

    It’s not so much people in general as BBC Radio 4 listeners, typically the mythical British middle-class conservative character ‘Disgusted, of Tunbridge Wells’.

  85. marie-lucie says:

    The French are only now starting to say dix-neuf instead of mille neuf cent,
    My grandparents and other older people used to say dix-neuf cent (with silent f) but my parents and my generation said mille neuf cent (with the f sounded), even though for earlier dates, for instance those of historic events, most people used onze cent, seize cent, dix-sept cent, dix-huit cent, and so on for numbers in between (but not for numbers above 1000). Perhaps it is now fashionable to omit the cent in imitation of English, but I haven’t heard this usage.

  86. marie-lucie says:

    The French are only now starting to say dix-neuf instead of mille neuf cent,
    My grandparents and other older people used to say dix-neuf cent (with silent f) but my parents and my generation said mille neuf cent (with the f sounded), even though for earlier dates, for instance those of historic events, most people used onze cent, seize cent, dix-sept cent, dix-huit cent, and so on for numbers in between. Perhaps it is now fashionable to omit the cent in imitation of English, but I haven’t heard this usage.

  87. David Marjanović says:

    I have danced on Wittgenstein’s grave. Why? Thereof I must say nothing.

    My day is saved.

  88. AJP Crown says:

    I didn’t even know he had one. Where is it, Dearie, or have you said too much already?

  89. marie-lucie says:

    It’s not true that he [Descartes] escaped the Jesuits by moving to Holland, he published in France, in French, with the help (approval) of the Jesuits.
    I did not say he escaped “the Jesuits”, but that he escaped from France to Holland where the political and cultural climate was more tolerant. It is true that he published some of his early works in France, some of them in French, but after he heard of Galileo’s condemnation by the Catholic Church he moved to Holland for good. And “the Jesuits” were not a monolithic block, you probably mean Mersenne who was one of the great scientific personalities of his time. Many of the Jesuits were not particularly religious, just extremely well-educated, especially in science. This is what made their schools so sought after, and partly what often got them into trouble with governments and with the Church.

  90. AJP Crown says:

    you probably mean Mersenne who was one of the great scientific personalities of his time
    Yes, I did mean Mersenne. Yes, he was a ‘scientific personality’ (but not, as you imply, Marie-Lucie, any less of a religious fanatic for that: he was one of the leading persecutors of the Rosacrucians, whose occult magic had been taken by the Jesuits to be a Protestant manifestation), as well as a friend of the revolting pervert dwarf, Descartes. Descartes told Mersenne in a letter, according to Grayling, ‘in the first known observation of the conditioned reflex, that if you whip a dog repeatedly when a violin is playing, after half a dozen or so times the dog will whimper and cower merely at the sound of the violin. Grayling points out that the only defense (if that is what it is) for his cruelty is theological, that he believed dogs had no souls and could be cut open with impunity. It therefore makes no sense to say that he was a victim of the Inquisition, like Gallileo. Unlike Gallileo, Descartes was philosophically in league with the evil ways of the Church, to the extent that it is his contribution (dualism) to Church theology that has kept the whole can of worms alive, still in the twenty-first century.
    M-L: And “the Jesuits” were not a monolithic block, you probably mean …
    I never said the Jesuits were a monolithic block.
    M.-L.: Many of the Jesuits were not particularly religious, just extremely well-educated, especially in science.
    You are quite wrong, the Jesuits are most certainly a religious order, but you are maybe misunderstanding how they see their work.

    The unofficial Jesuit motto is: Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (“For the greater glory of God”). This phrase is designed to reflect the idea that any work that is not evil can be meritorious for the spiritual life if it is performed with this intention, even things considered normally indifferent. (from Wiki)

    That is not the same as saying ‘Jesuits were not particularly religious’, in fact it is the opposite.
    M.-L.: This is what made [the Jesuits'] schools so sought after
    Although Jesuits had been teachers since the inception of the Order a half-century earlier, Jesuit schools were really not so sought after in France when Descartes started at La Fleche, in 1606, as I already said. La Fleche was set up by Henri IV, an early proponent of education, only a year or two before Descartes arrived there. The King gave it to the Jesuits to run and make into an elite institution, but until 1603 they had been banished from France for eight years.

  91. marie-lucie says:

    It therefore makes no sense to say that he was a victim of the Inquisition, like Gallileo.
    Obviously Descartes was not a “victim” of the Inquisition, but it seems that he saw the way the wind was blowing for scientists in Catholic countries and did not want to take any chances.
    Unlike Gallileo, Descartes was philosophically in league with the evil ways of the Church, to the extent that it is his contribution (dualism) to Church theology that has kept the whole can of worms alive, still in the twenty-first century.
    I don’t know that much about ancient or modern philosophy, but I never heard Descartes’s philosophy extolled in support of Church theology. I think it is putting far too much responsibility on Descartes for the survival of the Church.

  92. AJP Crown says:

    I don’t know that much about ancient or modern philosophy, but I never heard Descartes’s philosophy extolled in support of Church theology. I think it is putting far too much responsibility on Descartes for the survival of the Church.
    I never said that Descartes is responsible for the survival of the Church, I said that Descartes’ contribution to Church theology has kept that alive, and indeed if you look at the comments above, notably one by Noetica, you will see that Cartesian dualism was only first convincingly refuted by the Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle, in his book ‘The Concept of Mind’, of 1949. Wiki has a good article on dualism, the distinction between ‘mind’ and ‘brain’, the separation between mind and body. It is Descartes’ explanation of and/or argument for dualism, known as ‘Cartesian dualism’ (as opposed other, mostly earlier, ideas about dualism, as well as to monism and materialism) that the Church has used subsequent to Descartes’ ‘Meditations on First Philosophy’ (which is subtitled In which the existence of God and the immortality of the soul are demonstrated).

  93. I’m of the opinion that Descartes’ Catholicism was more prudence as belief. And cautious and orthodox though he was, he came close to trouble with the Church. Those were bloody days, and all the churches persecuted heretics.

  94. I’m of the opinion that Descartes’ Catholicism was more prudence as belief. And cautious and orthodox though he was, he came close to trouble with the Church. Those were bloody days, and all the churches persecuted heretics.

  95. AJP Crown says:

    Does prudence as belief mean he didn’t believe in God, for example? If he was unsure about God’s existence, wouldn’t he have investigated, starting from first principles? Yes, he would, and he did. The evidence points the other way (‘In which the existence of God and the immortality of the soul are demonstrated’). I think you’d need some evidence for a claim that Descartes may not have believed in God.
    You could say maybe he kind of believed in God but wasn’t that interested. But he was interested in everything else, and his famous way of working was to start from first principles. If he was unsure about God’s existence, wouldn’t he have investigated, starting from first principles? Yes, he would, and he did, and there’s, again, no evidence that he was even unsure.
    So he believed in God, but wasn’t a Catholic? He had every opportunity to change sides, but didn’t ever attempt it. He was brought up by Jesuits and never rebelled.
    I think that to question his attitude to the Church you have to second guess so much that you end up labeling him a cynic. Not only is that bad historiography — something I’m sure you could bear to live with, John — but it’s ahistorical and it runs counter to his education and methods.

  96. marie-lucie says:

    John Emerson: Amen!

  97. AJP Crown says:

    I don’t like Descartes.
    I did a drawing of him a couple of years ago as a dog. I may send it to some muslims.

  98. Descartes had things he wanted to do. In order to do these things he had to a.) stay alive and, if possible, b.) get the approval of the church. He very early committed himself to Catholic orthodoxy as a survival tactic. This made sense, because heretics were the the most vulnerable: an orthodox Catholic, Lutheran, or Calvinist would be protected by his respective church, whereas these same churches would compete for the privilege of burning heretics who were not orthodox anywhere. A kind of worldly Pascal’s wager, with real fire substituting for hellfire.
    Since his main interests were scientific, mathematical, and metaphysical, he wasn’t actually terribly concerned about theology, and was not motivated to get to the bottom of theological questions. So basically he stopped thinking at the point when he thought his theology was Catholic enough. Even so, he got some serious flak.
    It’s not really that he was a closet atheist. It’s just that he was strongly disincentivized to follow certain inconvenient trains of thought, which fortunately could be easily separated from his serious interests.
    The Cartesianist at my link disagrees with me, however.

  99. Descartes had things he wanted to do. In order to do these things he had to a.) stay alive and, if possible, b.) get the approval of the church. He very early committed himself to Catholic orthodoxy as a survival tactic. This made sense, because heretics were the the most vulnerable: an orthodox Catholic, Lutheran, or Calvinist would be protected by his respective church, whereas these same churches would compete for the privilege of burning heretics who were not orthodox anywhere. A kind of worldly Pascal’s wager, with real fire substituting for hellfire.
    Since his main interests were scientific, mathematical, and metaphysical, he wasn’t actually terribly concerned about theology, and was not motivated to get to the bottom of theological questions. So basically he stopped thinking at the point when he thought his theology was Catholic enough. Even so, he got some serious flak.
    It’s not really that he was a closet atheist. It’s just that he was strongly disincentivized to follow certain inconvenient trains of thought, which fortunately could be easily separated from his serious interests.
    The Cartesianist at my link disagrees with me, however.

  100. AJP Crown says:

    was not motivated to get to the bottom of theological questions.
    He may not have been up for a Pascal’s wager, he may have been a devout coward, but I think if he had doubts about the existence of God it would have shown up somewhere. We know he thought about it.
    Let me go check out the Cartesianist…

  101. I have to agree with John: few people are so committed to scientific investigation that they apply it to every single area of life, especially when such investigation might well get one painfully dead. It’s one thing to vivisect animals, quite another to invite such things to be practiced on oneself.

  102. AJP Crown says:

    John you write well about Descartes on your site.
    That T.H. Huxley piece I abhor. Just because he was very very smart, it’s all hushed, Victorian reverence for The Great Man (René Descartes, the Josef Mengele of the seventeenth century).

  103. Descartes explicitly states his firm intention of being prudent via orthodoxy in several places, and his Catholic enemies suspected him of atheism. But as Febvre (“The Religion of Rabelais”) says, in those days everyone accused their enemies of atheism. (Popkin’s “History of Skepticism” was also fun).

  104. Descartes explicitly states his firm intention of being prudent via orthodoxy in several places, and his Catholic enemies suspected him of atheism. But as Febvre (“The Religion of Rabelais”) says, in those days everyone accused their enemies of atheism. (Popkin’s “History of Skepticism” was also fun).

  105. AJP Crown says:

    Catholic enemies suspected him of atheism
    Yeah, that’s not the same as producing any evidence that he was one.

  106. I’m of the opinion that Descartes’ Catholicism was more prudence as belief.
    Well, I am intrigued by more prudence as belief, which is like plus prudence que croyance, noting that que can mean “as” or “than”. Care to gloss your usage, John Emerson? Do you mean something like more prudence qua belief or something like more prudence than belief, or something else entirely?
    While we’re at it, what are people’s preferences: Descartes’ or Descartes’s? Both are used above. I prefer Descartes’s, myself. See Wikipedia, where I must acknowledge an interest.

  107. “as” = “than”. Mistype.
    Part of my evidence for Descartes’ weak religious belief is the shoddiness of his proofs of the existence of God, and the opportunistic use he made of his “God” once he had invented him. Basically God bailed him out from some of the difficulties of his system.
    I don’t really say that Descartes was an atheist. I’m just saying that he prudently didn’t develop certain ideas that might have led him that way.
    According to Grayling, no successor had much interest in Descartes’ God, and in my opinion, with very good reason.
    I am willing to grant that he was a very sincere Catholic whose religious belief was rather dubious.

  108. “as” = “than”. Mistype.
    Part of my evidence for Descartes’ weak religious belief is the shoddiness of his proofs of the existence of God, and the opportunistic use he made of his “God” once he had invented him. Basically God bailed him out from some of the difficulties of his system.
    I don’t really say that Descartes was an atheist. I’m just saying that he prudently didn’t develop certain ideas that might have led him that way.
    According to Grayling, no successor had much interest in Descartes’ God, and in my opinion, with very good reason.
    I am willing to grant that he was a very sincere Catholic whose religious belief was rather dubious.

  109. scarabaeus says:

    It is very rare for one to revoke one’s belief over staying alive, England at time of Jesuit influence in England had many a fervent Catholic attend the communion of the boss, and then have their confessor available for salving their conscience.
    Most Humans are like the moon only expose one side the publick and keep other under mattress, and it was so with Descartes.
    Look at the Russian resurgence of bell and candle and look at Kosovo Albanians as they stand in line for economic help.

  110. AJP Crown (Mrs) says:

    Basically God bailed him out from some of the difficulties of his system.
    Same thing with Jesus, but I’m pretty sure he believed in God.

  111. AJP Crown (Mrs) says:

    expose one side the publick and keep other under mattress, and it was so with Descartes…Look at the Russian resurgence of bell and candle
    This is exactly where you get in trouble. To use some group as a contemporary example of people who have held dangerous opinions, as heretics also did in the past is reasonable; to use that to imply that Descartes was a closet atheist is the kind of clumsy jump that professional historians rightly censure.

  112. AJP Crown (Mrs) says:

    In case it has escaped anyone’s notice, by saying that Descartes probably wasn’t an atheist I am trying to give the little scumbag the benefit of the doubt. If he actually didn’t believe — even though he said he did– that people have souls and animals don’t, and that animals are machines that cannot think, then how do you justify his vivisection and general treatment of animals? You can’t say that he grew up in a city and never saw any animals, he lived on a farm as a child and was presumeably surrounded by animals until they found who they were dealing with. Descartes is supposed to have thrown a cat out of an upper-storey window while he lived in Leiden to demonstrate its lack of emotion and sensation.*
    For anyone who thinks I’m on my own with my opinion, I’ll quote A.C. Grayling:

    If nothing else, these aspects Descartes’ thought establish his bone fides on the theological front. The fact that he inserted his finger into the heart of a dying dog, having first sliced off the heart’s apex, shows that he really held the standard view, or something very like it, about souls and their exclusivity to human beings.**
    * Grayling, p.160
    ** Grayling, pp.160-1

  113. While we’re at it, what are people’s preferences: Descartes’ or Descartes’s?
    The latter is certainly correct according to the rules, but for some reason it looks funny to me. Must brainwash self.
    This smoldering argument about Descartes’s’s’s belief or lack thereof is not only an odder than usual derail but inherently unresolvable. Just thought I’d mention that.

  114. AJP Crown (Mrs) says:

    Smoldering? Odd derail? You don’t want me to tell you about Descartes panties? Ok, fine, but it was really good.

  115. AJP Crown (Mrs) says:

    Descartes’s panties, that should be. White lace. Very, very tiny, obviously.

  116. панталонах, that should be, Mrs. ÅJP Krøn.

  117. We don’t know that he wouldn’t have vivisected human hearts, given the chance. We don’t even know that he didn’t.
    More evidence for Descartes’ religious indifference, mediocrity, opportunism, or whatever you want to call it (I don’t say atheism) is the role prudence seemed to play in his belief. I believe that he even cited cujus regio ejus religio, meaning that he believed and would believe whatever he was required to believe.
    In short, he probably would have been an atheist, if he’d allowed himself to think about it, but he had good prudent reasons for not allowing himself to think about it. So he patched together a theology which didn’t make much sense but which was robust enough for people to keep revising indefinitely, with more and more kludges and patches.

  118. We don’t know that he wouldn’t have vivisected human hearts, given the chance. We don’t even know that he didn’t.
    More evidence for Descartes’ religious indifference, mediocrity, opportunism, or whatever you want to call it (I don’t say atheism) is the role prudence seemed to play in his belief. I believe that he even cited cujus regio ejus religio, meaning that he believed and would believe whatever he was required to believe.
    In short, he probably would have been an atheist, if he’d allowed himself to think about it, but he had good prudent reasons for not allowing himself to think about it. So he patched together a theology which didn’t make much sense but which was robust enough for people to keep revising indefinitely, with more and more kludges and patches.

  119. AJP Crown (Mrs) says:

    he had good prudent reasons for not allowing himself to think about it.
    Don’t you think he must have thought about everything like that a million times? The kind of person who hides their beliefs is not the kind of person who stops thinking things they’re not supposed to think.

  120. Frue Krøn, I’m afraid you vastly underestimate the capacity of people—even highly intelligent and analytic people—for cognitive dissonance and not noticing or thinking about things it would be bad for them to notice or think about.

  121. not allowing himself to think about it
    Any number of people have no interest or no aptitude for a variety of topics, but do we say that a color blind person doesn’t “allow” himself to think about color when he lets someone else choose his wardrobe? Or that a tone deaf person does not “allow” herself to think about pitch when she listens to a concert rather than picking up an instrument and playing in it? When you get in a car, do you remind yourself of the theories of internal combustion; when you walk in a building do you need to know about the structural engineering principles behind it? No one has the time or the inclination to become an expert on every subject there is, especially something they might find boring or unintelligible.
    That’s a terrible story about Descartes, Krøøn–is it true?

  122. The latter is certainly correct according to the rules,…
    Now I am curious. According to which rules do you mean that Descartes’s is “correct”, LH? I had thought that published rules were all over the place on this point. From Chicago:

    7.21 Words and names ending in unpronounced “s”

    To avoid an awkward appearance, an apostrophe without an s may be used for the possessive of singular words and names ending in an unpronounced s. Opt for this practice only if you are comfortable with it and are certain that the s is indeed unpronounced.
    Descartes’ three dreams
    the marquis’ mother
    François’ efforts to learn English
    Vaucouleurs’ assistance to Joan of Arc
    Albert Camus’ novels (the s is unpronounced)
    but
    Raoul Camus’s anthology (the s is pronounced)

    Earlier at 7.18 Chicago gives Malraux’s among examples of standard practice, without special comment.
    Like much in Chicago, 7.21 strikes me as quirky. Why should the apostrophe alone be good only in cases where the s in the non-possessive form is silent? Consider the English surname Bates, by way of appropriate contrast with Descartes. If it is among candidates for the apostrophe alone, this is because it has an s that is already sounded. According to Chicago we must write this, since pastis is pronounced /pastis/:

    The pastis‘s effects came over him slowly.

    But how are we supposed to pronounce pastis‘s in this sentence? Is it /pastis/, /pastiz/, or /pastisəz/? This last seems to be what pastis‘s requires. Myself, I would write pastis‘ and pronounce it /pastis/, simply because that sounds to me more euphonious, and the meaning is quite clear without piling on the sibilants – regardless of practice for native English words. Chicago would have us write this:

    The chablis‘ effects soon wore off.

    Why? In that case I would write chablis‘s, and say /ʃabliz/.
    Hart’s New Rules stipulates ‘s without qualification for addition after a silent s, and gives Dumas’s and Descartes’s as examples.

  123. And of course I meant New Hart’s Rules.

  124. “New Harts’ Rules” says quite otherwise.

  125. “New Harts’ Rules” says quite otherwise.

  126. Yes, John E. And New Hart’s Rule’s even permits greengrocers apostrophe’s. But let us not let the heart of the cabbage rule the head of lettuce.
    Speaking of which duality, I cannot agree with you about Descartes and God. You write, for example: “The way he plugged God into his system seems pretty wishful and perfunctory” (taken up for discussion by Krɶn); and: “…the shoddiness of his proofs of the existence of God, and the opportunistic use he made of his ‘God’ once he had invented him. Basically God bailed him out from some of the difficulties of his system.”
    For me none of that rings particularly true. Crucial details of Descartes’s physics rely on the notion of God. For example, there cannot be atoms because they must of their essence be indivisible, and so must be indivisible by God; but such a limitation on God’s perfect omnipotence is impossible. Similarly, the traditional complement to atoms – the void in which they are supposed to exist – is ruled out because a void is not something that can be created (it is a mere nothingness, and has no properties), and therefore has no place in a creation! Whether or not these are good arguments, they do not have the appearance of opportunism. Why, after all, should we suppose Descartes to have an independently motivated preference against atoms and the void? And of course, such arguments are typically caricatured as I have done just now. In their fully articulated form they can be far more weighty.
    As for the shoddiness of Descartes’s proofs for the existence of God, there he stands in an honourable tradition! His ontological proof is comparable to earlier versions, and looks as flawed to us jaded moderns as any mediaeval precursor. And yet, ontological proofs continue to exercise our contemporary philosophers, even if this is principally in showing how they have been misunderstood and too lightly dismissed in the past.
    Certainly “God bailed him out from some of the difficulties of his system.” For whose system of the time did the notion of God not perform such a service? A sort of deus ex mundo mechanistico is invoked even in Newton’s scheme, as a necessary prime mover.
    Descartes is an immense figure in the rise of modern philosophy, and of modern physics. He set these disciplines on a new course, and thereby arguably enabled the world as we now find it. But as I have said, at least in philosophy there is a price to pay; and we are still working off the debt.

  127. AJP Crown says:

    not only an odder than usual derail but inherently unresolvable. Just thought I’d mention that.
    Don’t underestimate its value. I have been forced to think about this now. Parts of these topics are related to something I’m writing and it’s useful to get the views of some smart and knowledgeable people. Whether Descartes was an atheist may be unresolved for you, but I feel quite sure now that he was not — I will proceed from that assumption from now on, in other words. It is very good to have Noetica’s comments (not only because I agree with most of them).

  128. The question of God’s existence has been debated from the time of Anselm on down, and no one has ever proved (or disproved) it. You would need a small cart to carry the books of all the philosophers who have worked on the question. We live in a time now where differing religious views are very easy to come across, and anyone can follow a guru from some far-flung religion without too much comment. But was Descartes’s’s time like that?
    I don’t know how much parallel you could draw from a modern example, but I have also seen in officially Moslem country , educated, yes, in scientific field maybe, who are skeptics, or at least not devout. They keep their mouths shut, but don’t make a lot of pious statements, just go with the flow. If the wife sets out a Ramadan feast, they just keep the feast quietly without saying anything. This was advice given to me as a presumed Christian when I first arrived. I met some I knew were like that and others I thought were probably like that, and others with simple devout faith and others with a political intensity and faith as almost an afterthought. In theory could they be killed as apostate/kafir? Maybe. By an anonymous person, any open killing would certainly be avenged, and therefore would not happen in the first place. Maybe unbelief/polytheism/atheism would be dangerous, but more likely it would not even be understood, and such a person would have an easy time to conceal their feelings.

  129. AJP Crown says:

    Nidge, not sure which story you’re referring to, but the cat one is, according to Anthony Grayling, ‘legend’, though he has ‘seen the window in question’. The dog stuff is of course authenticated.
    My big problem with all this is not Descartes’s cruelty per se, there are, unfortunately, plenty of sickos in the history of the world. My problem is the influence Descartes had on the Church so that everyone until fairly recently divided the world into humans, with souls, and other living creatures, without souls, and that that distinction has led to very much more cruelty than Descartes ever had the opportunity to perpetrate during his own life.

  130. AJP Crown (Mrs) says:

    His ontological proof is comparable to earlier versions, and looks as flawed to us jaded moderns as any mediaeval precursor.
    I think Anselm’s ontological argument is much more thorough and subtle than Descartes’s, even if they both look a bit quaint to us nowadays. That doesn’t mean, however, Language and John and Marie-Lucie, that Descartes didn’t believe in the existence of God; on the contrary, he quite clearly did believe in God. If his only interest in putting forward proof of God were to get the Inquisition off his back I could understand his submitting ONE proof: say, the ontological one, but then why did he also make what’s called the ‘Trademark argument’ (it’s in the Third Meditation)?
    You can say, despite all the evidence that Descartes did believe in God and no evidence that he didn’t, ‘I’ve chosen to think that he didn’t believe’ or ‘I think he didn’t really care’; just don’t fool yourself that this is a rational decision in the best tradition of Descartes.

  131. AJP Crown (Mrs) says:

    The question of God’s existence has been debated from the time of Anselm on down, and no one has ever proved (or disproved) it.
    As it happens, I do have a proof of God’s existence. Unfortunately, it’s quite long and the Comments box is too small to contain it.

  132. According to which rules do you mean that Descartes’s is “correct”, LH? I had thought that published rules were all over the place on this point.
    They are, and I did not express myself clearly. I didn’t mean “Descartes’s is correct and everything else is incorrect,” I meant “Descartes’s is correct according to at least some rulings, so it can’t be called incorrect.”
    Don’t underestimate its value. I have been forced to think about this now.
    Excellent! That’s why I have no problem with derails; they’re usually either thought-provoking or funny.
    That doesn’t mean, however, Language and John and Marie-Lucie, that Descartes didn’t believe in the existence of God
    Just so we’re clear, I have no opinion one way or the other—all I know about Descartes is what Mme Ruegg told me in high school. I was merely pointing out that to neglect to think very hard about discomforting matters is human, and Descartes, despite his occasional inhumanity, was human.

  133. Well, if I had been Descartes and had no particular religious interest, with skeptical tendencies, and was suspected of heresy by an orthodoxy that burned heretics at the stake, and had other things I wanted to do in life besides be burned at the stake, I would trim my public expressions on religious questions to the strictest orthodoxy. And that’s pretty much what Descartes says he did, though of course he did not confess to the skeptical tendencies.
    And if I was also constructing a world system, I would make sure that I called some essential principle in the system “God”, even if it was essential only because it allowed me to magically escape an inconvenient consequence of my system, or to ground some principle that I would otherwise have to bldly assert.
    And then I would whip up cockamamie proofs of the existence and goodness of God, and the immortality of the human soul, and enough other principles to make the motherfuckers happy.
    And then, when the orthodox pointed out how lame and insincere my proofs were, I’d whip up another, longer version of the same cockamamie BS.
    In short, everything Descartes did was exactly the same as what I, and atheist, would have done in the same situation. Does that prove that Descartes was an atheist? Yes, absolutely. About as much as any of his proofs prove what they claim to prove.

  134. Well, if I had been Descartes and had no particular religious interest, with skeptical tendencies, and was suspected of heresy by an orthodoxy that burned heretics at the stake, and had other things I wanted to do in life besides be burned at the stake, I would trim my public expressions on religious questions to the strictest orthodoxy. And that’s pretty much what Descartes says he did, though of course he did not confess to the skeptical tendencies.
    And if I was also constructing a world system, I would make sure that I called some essential principle in the system “God”, even if it was essential only because it allowed me to magically escape an inconvenient consequence of my system, or to ground some principle that I would otherwise have to bldly assert.
    And then I would whip up cockamamie proofs of the existence and goodness of God, and the immortality of the human soul, and enough other principles to make the motherfuckers happy.
    And then, when the orthodox pointed out how lame and insincere my proofs were, I’d whip up another, longer version of the same cockamamie BS.
    In short, everything Descartes did was exactly the same as what I, and atheist, would have done in the same situation. Does that prove that Descartes was an atheist? Yes, absolutely. About as much as any of his proofs prove what they claim to prove.

  135. AJP Crown says:

    all I know about Descartes is what Mme Ruegg told me in high school.
    Good for Mme Ruegg, a woman with scruples. Was she from Alsace, by any chance?

  136. AJP Crown says:

    Hmm… John, it’s quite fun, I’ve discovered, to read Descartes and everywhere he uses the word ‘God’, to substitute ‘some essential principle in the system’…

  137. AJP Crown, Mrs says:

    Taken almost randomly, then:
    “And there is only one substance which can be understood to depend on no other thing whatsoever, namely ‘some essential principle in the system‘. In the case of all other substances, we perceive that they can exist only with the help of ‘some essential principle in the system‘s concurrence.”
    (Principles of Philosophy, Part 1)

  138. AJP Crown, Mrs says:

    And then, when the orthodox pointed out how lame and insincere my proofs were, I’d whip up another, longer version of the same cockamamie BS.
    This could possibly be shown to be true or false were you inclined to take the trouble (and I know I wouldn’t be) to see if the substance of the argument and the persuasiveness with which he wrote it fits with any sequence of time and events.

  139. Was she from Alsace, by any chance?
    Bien sur! She also taught German.

  140. AJP Crown says:

    A woman who knew what to do with a cabbage then.

  141. IIRC, it was “Discourse on Method” first (simple lameness) and “Meditations” second (fully-articulated lameness).

  142. IIRC, it was “Discourse on Method” first (simple lameness) and “Meditations” second (fully-articulated lameness).

  143. A woman who knew what to do with a cabbage then.
    I’m sure she did, though I never had the opportunity of finding out. She kept a bottle of brandy in the bottom drawer of her filing cabinet, which she thought we didn’t know about. Note to teachers: Your students know everything.

  144. until fairly recently divided the world into humans, with souls, and other living creatures, without souls, and that that distinction has led to very much more cruelty
    That doesn’t make any sense. Why would it be okay to cause something pain just because it was thought not to have the potential for immortality? You would think that would evoke pity or sympathy, instead of the urge to speed the creature out of this existence as unpleasantly as possible. There was also a debate about whether women had souls or were some sort of subspecies. Perhaps this was another variation of the age old practice of demonizing a group before you persecute them or seize their property.

  145. It’s not like they were nice to heretics because they had souls and felt pain.
    Damn right heretics feel pain. Watch this…..”

  146. It’s not like they were nice to heretics because they had souls and felt pain.
    Damn right heretics feel pain. Watch this…..”

  147. AJP Crown, Mrs says:

    Perhaps this was another variation of the age old practice of demonizing a group before you persecute them or seize their property.
    That’s right, but what did the Nazis do before they killed the Jews? They didn’t just demonize them, they dehumanized them.

  148. AJP Crown says:

    And now, for something completely different.
    John, did you end up liking A.C. Grayling’s book? Noetica thinks he ‘s difficult to understand, but I think he’s very lucid. Even though he’s a good and knowledgeable writer I didn’t think he wrote a perfect biography. It was difficult to see his own view of the material. I felt he doesn’t draw clear enough conclusions (e.g. about Descartes’ belief in God). Also the spy thing was a silly gimmick, as I said.

  149. Noetica thinks he ‘s difficult to understand, but I think he’s very lucid.
    But I haven’t looked at the Descartes book. I only know bits of Grayling’s prodigious output. I said above “I have found him not a clear writer.” But I’m ready to revise my opinion, and to look at his more recent work. Must get hold of the Descartes piece.

  150. To me it was a very interesting book. Philosophically it wasn’t anything special, but then, as people may have surmised, I’m out of sympathy with Descartes’ philosophy anyway and probably wouldn’t read a careful exposition. Lots of little tidbits about his feuds and friendships, and his princesses (one of them the great-great-aunt of George III.) I won’t believe that “spy” conjecture until I’ve seen what others say.
    I was sad to see Descartes at the Battle of White Mountain, which to my mind was a cultural disaster.

  151. To me it was a very interesting book. Philosophically it wasn’t anything special, but then, as people may have surmised, I’m out of sympathy with Descartes’ philosophy anyway and probably wouldn’t read a careful exposition. Lots of little tidbits about his feuds and friendships, and his princesses (one of them the great-great-aunt of George III.) I won’t believe that “spy” conjecture until I’ve seen what others say.
    I was sad to see Descartes at the Battle of White Mountain, which to my mind was a cultural disaster.

  152. AJP Crown says:

    Sorry for misquoting you, Noetica.

  153. Battle of White Mountain, which to my mind was a cultural disaster.
    Great name for a battle, though. i always think it sounds like something out of C.S. Lewis.

  154. I wish I could remember where I recently saw these two rationalisations (prolly on Pharyngula):
    the Zeroes, since they were in charge.
    the Oughts, because there was so much we ought to have done.
    On that line of thinking the Naughties both makes sense and no sense (for the US, at least), depending on what one considers naughty.

Speak Your Mind

*