Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ramin Jahanbegloo II

Ramin Jahanbegloo is out of jail, thank God. (Al Jazeera, NYT, Google)

Apparently he was released yesterday on bail, and the Iranian authorities refuse to confirm that he won't be re-arrested. Canadian diplomats, and Michael Ignatieff, seem to have done their bit.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Omniscience and self-knowledge

Reposted from comments here.

a. Bits of knowledge are differentiated at the level of sense (or description if you like), while objects of knowledge are differentiated at the level of reference. There's a nice bit in Aquinas (at least, I think its Aquinas) where he points out that knowledge of the road from Thebes to Athens is different from knowledge of the road from Athens to Thebes, even though the object of knowledge is, of course, identical to itself.

b. There are bits of knowledge that can be known only by their knower. Consider the sentence I am married to N, where N is some proper name. The only person who can truthfully assent to the statement usually expressed by that sentence is the spouse of the person named by N. Probably, God knows this as So-and-so is married to N. Plainly, the two bits of knowledge have the same object (the marriage relation between So-and-so and the referent of N). Equally plainly, they're distinct bits of knowledge. That's basically all that's required to get the case off the ground. It's easy to produce a bit of self-knowledge that a knower once had which he now lacks and can't regain.

To borrow John Perry’s example, suppose I’m walking around a supermarket shelf following a sugar trail, when suddenly I realise that the sugar-trail I’m following is my sugar trail. The truth that it is my sugar trail I’m following is a truth that only I can know. (everyone else knows something like: Cirdan is following his sugar trail.) If I then became amnesiac, then for as long as I was an amnesiac, there would be a truth nobody could know.

If that case, or a similar one, survives, then there are unknowable truths in a strongr-than-usual sense. This is not particularly a problem for omniscience, for omniscience is knowledege of everything that can be known - if it's impossible to know something, then omniscience doesn't require that it be known.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How not to give in to despair.

Jonathan Edelstein:

The next task in the Middle East is to rebuild what has been destroyed and to headl what can't be rebuilt: to restore the houses and the roads, to comfort and provide for the bereaved families. Rebuilding northern Israel is an urgent priority, reconstructing southern Lebanon much more so. Lebanon sustained more damage than Israel - environmental as well as structural - and it has fewer resources to rebuild. Lebanon, has also been under a blockade for the past month and is running short on humanitarian supplies in addition to its longer-term needs.

Some, Shimon Peres included, have proposed a massive international effort to rebuild Lebanon - a Marshall Plan of sorts. It's important, for both political and moral reasons, that this happen and that Israel take part in it. Such a program would be both a way to ensure that the south is rebuilt by someone other than Hizbullah, and a chance to make good on the promise that Israel is not at war with the Lebanese people. But aid programs, especially major ones, always take time to plan and implement, and there's a great deal that can't wait for the international community to get its act together.

For this reason, I will match up to US $1250 in reader donations for reconstruction of southern Lebanon and up to US $750 to rebuild northern Israel. I strongly encourage Israeli and Jewish readers to donate to Lebanese charities and vice versa, but that isn't mandatory; I will match all donations to non-extremist-controlled charities up to the stated sum. For those who may not be sure where to contribute, this portal, which links to charities helping both countries, may provide a starting point.

This is a marvellous thing to do, and I'll be giving what little I can in the suggested ratio. Jonathan points to a list of safe charities. Please give whatever you can. It's the right, as well as the self-interested, thing to do.

Hilzoy of Obsidianwings has already run a similar drive.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Notes from all over

Diane Stinton, who teaches at Daystar, has a new book out on African christologies; here's a review. (via Commonweal)

Billmon coins a word, punditburo, that needed coining.

The BBC has a dedicated Pronunciation Research Unit; three full-time pronunciation linguists (orthoeptists, they're called) who maintain and update a 200,000-entry database of pronunciations. More here, greatest hits here. (via languagehat)

Me, sparring with Deogol, over at his.

Google tries to stop people using google as a verb, looks ridiculous. (slashdot, via Yglesias)

Friday, August 04, 2006

every whole is smaller than its parts

Either there's an infinite hierarchy of composition for concrete objects, or there isn't. If there are basic parts of concrete objects, themselves without parts, then the basic parts have real magnitude, for if they didn’t, then neither would composite concrete objects.

Now, suppose A is a composite concrete object. A has at least three parts: its proper parts and at least one improper part (A itself). But the improper part is identical to A and hence has the same magnitude as A. However, all the proper parts have real magnitude and are each distinct from the other, as well as the whole and the improper part. Hence, for any composite object built out of basic parts, the sum of the magnitude of its parts is always greater than the magnitude of the object. So, either there is no end to composition, or every composite object has a magnitude smaller than the the combined magnitude of its parts.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lebanese Christians

Here's a Lebanese-American Christian blog; the writer has family in both places. (via politicaltheory, and this interesting article).

Reason # 310976886 to not buy the Times, ever.

This wonderful editorial.