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“How Can We Know What The Probability Is?” And Other Objections And Remarks

The following, of course, is not yet developed.

“Where did you get that 99% probability from?” someone may object.  “Did you pull it from your ass?”  Well, I did stipulate it.  But the general objection remains valid nonetheless:  it would seem that there is no way to come up with an objective evaluation of what the probability actually is unless it is 0 or 100%, these figures being based on the physical laws of the universe or the laws of probability.  Deal with this.  See if Dretske’s discussion of this works.

Inductive:  probability of less than 100% but greater than 0.  Deductive (or what supports deduction):  conditional probability is 100%.  Absolute reliability, absolute safety.  What makes the transmission a case of information is also what makes it something supporting deduction.

IF p THEN p — either a complete lack of transmission of information or the exact opposite — a complete surfeit of “transmission” (quote unquote) at the “zero point”.




The Problem

The Problem:  What Does Relevance Consist In?  Following Relevant Logic, we can avoid Classical Logic’s paradoxes (or at least weirdnesses) of Material Implication, according to which the following statements are true…

1) If Cliff lives in Houston, Texas, then the earth has just one moon

2) If Cliff lives in Orange County, California, then Paris, Texas is the capital of France

…by insisting that the antecedent p be relevant to the consequent q.

But what is it that makes p relevant to q?  What is relevance anyhow?




Back To The Main Page

Next Snippet:  What Is Relevance Anyhow?


Edit Log: June 04, 2017: Made some minor changes.

Berkeley’s Direct Tactile Realism In His NEW VISION

Oddly enough for those of us used to thinking of Berkeley as a thoroughgoing idealist, Berkeley maintains in his AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION a direct realism regarding tactile perception.  Whereas the objects of vision — for example, the visible moon — do not exist outside the mind, the objects of touch — what is touched, tangible objects — do exist outside the mind in external space.  As George Pitcher puts it, speaking of what Berkeley is claiming in black and white in the NEW THEORY OF VISION:

What we feel are the tangible objects — i.e., the objects that are spread around us at various points in physical space.  What we see are objects that exist only in the mind.

George Pitcher, BERKELEY: THE ARGUMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS  (Routledge, London and New York), p. 28. Henceforth BERKELEY

Tangible objects, in the system of the Essay, exist around us in real physical space.

George Pitcher, BERKELEY, p. 43.

And from the Master himself:

For all visible things are equally in the Mind, and take up no part of the external Space.  And consequently are equidistant [in the next sentence Berkeley says ‘Or rather to speak truly…are at no Distance, neither near nor far…] from any tangible thing, which exists without the Mind.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraphs CXI and CXII, in The GEORGE BERKELEY COLLECTION: 5 CLASSIC WORKS, Amazon Print-On-Demand Edition, no pagination.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION. 


Perceiving for Berkeley (I will venture now…though I may end up chipping away at this claim) is always a two-place relation between a Mind that perceives something and the thing that is perceived.  In the case of vision, this relation is for Berkeley a two-place relation between the Mind and an entity that exists only in the mind, a visual Idea.  In the case of touch, this relation is a two-place relation between the Mind and a hard or soft or rough or smooth or sharp or rounded…object existing in external space (or at least this is what Berkeley cares to state explicitly in black and white in his NEW THEORY OF VISION.)

In the case of vision, I perceive extra-mental object existing in external space only indirectly, or mediately, in a three-place relation between my Mind (me), the Visibile Idea (e.g., the Visibile Moon) to which my Mind is related directly, and the external object (the physical, tangible Moon) for which the Visibile Moon serves as a sign.  So with regard to vision, Berkeley maintains (at least in what he sets down in black and white on the page) a representational theory of perception.  He is an indirect realist with regard to vision:  we see the physical object in external space just indirectly, in a way mediated by the mental object of color and shape that we do see directly.

But with regard to touch, Berkeley is a direct realist.  We perceive the physical object directly through touch.  We don’t perceive it by ‘touching’ or ‘feeling’ a mental object that represents the physical tangible object.  We are in contact with the object itself.  Put another way, our perception reaches all the way to the felt object.  In the case of touch, the perception is a two-place, not a three-place relation.

This direct realism in the case of touch comes as a bit of a surprise to those of us who think of Berkeley as a thoroughgoing idealist who thinks that everything is mental.  And in fact Berkeley apparently claimed in later writings that he theorized touch this way only to prevent his readers from freaking out from far too much counterintuitive idealism (Pitcher, BERKELEY, p. 28) which would only have served to distract his readers from what he wanted to focus on, namely, vision. In his own thoughts, ostensibly kept to himself at the time of A NEW THEORY OF VISION, he regarded the objects of touch as in fact mental.  But regardless of what the historical George Berkeley thought or did not think inwardly as he wrote that tract, treating touch in a direct realist fashion as involving direct perceptual contact with the touched/felt physical object is strongly motivated by how he conceptualizes the (ostensibly just mental) objects of vision.

As I have discussed in a previous post, The Truth Of Bishop Berkeley (Part 0),  Berkeley treats the visible object has properties.  The Visibile Moon, for example, is round, flat, luminous, and of a certain pale cheese-like yellow. If we think of the objects of touch as having analogous properties, those properties would be rough, smooth, hard, soft, and so on.  But surely no mental things can be rough etc.  Only physical objects — for example, the bark of a tree, the cool smoothness of marble — can have these properties.  Thus conceptualizing Ideas as having properties puts Berkeley straightway on the road to regarding physical objects existing in extra-mental space as the objects of touch.

Touch lends itself to a direct realist interpretation in a way that vision does not.  The seen object at least seems to be at a distance from the sensing surface of the see-er.  How can the visual experience include anything at a distance from this sensing surface?  It would seem prima facie that anything away from that surface would have to be outside the experience. The visual experience would therefore be confronted with the impossible-to-fulfill need to “reach out” to the seen object.  This, at least, is how I try to articulate the intuition that vision poses a problem for a direct realist interpretation of the seen object.

By contrast, there is zero distance between the sensing surface of my skin and the rough bark of the tree as I run my hand along the bark’s surface. Through touch, I am in contact with the physical object itself.  There is no question of the tactile experience having to “reach out” to the object because a physical me, engaging my physical hand, has already done the reaching out.  Touch is the direct realist sense par excellence.

And, as I hope to show (soon, or at least sometime before I die), the visual experience actually does reach out (in some sense of ‘actually does reach out’) to the physical object (Merleau-Ponty), or at least seems to so reach out (Berkeley) because of the way touch is implicated in the visual experience.  Touch informs the direct realist character (real or ostensible) of visual experience.




This time my homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM takes the form of Brad Pitt in THE FIGHT CLUB.  This image seems appropriate for a disquisition on touch and brutal physical reality.


If Plato can have a thing for Alkibiades, I can have a thing for gorgeous rednecks.  This particular redneck needs to stop smoking, however.






















Evolution And Being Gay

Based on identical twin studies, being gay seems to be about 50% genetic.  Gay genes get passed on from generation to generation.  But the persistence of these genes poses something of a problem for obvious reasons.  One would expect these genes to be selected against, since (it would seem) they make reproduction less likely.

What follows is my rendition of one evolutionary theory that attempts to explain how gay genes could have a selective advantage in a population.  This rendition is a bit humorous, of course, but it may not be too far off from the gist of the theory.

There are a bunch of genes that make it more likely that your brain will develop in a more feminine direction.  If you have any one of these genes, or just some of them, you will not be likely to be gay.  If you have enough of them, you are considerably more likely to be gay, though the chances still aren’t 100 percent.  Let’s step through the possible cases.

Case 1:  You have no gay genes at all.  Your brain has developed in a completely masculine direction.  You are a completely hairy gorilla, and you pee in the sink.  Women say ‘Ew, yuck,’ and avoid you at all costs.

Case 2:  You have just a few gay genes.  Your brain has developed in a slightly more feminine direction.  You are slightly less hairy, and  you usually remove the dishes before you pee in the sink.  Women still say ‘Ew, yuck,’  but they also say, ‘Well, given that I am stuck on a desert island with you and you are the only male available, I guess I will hold my nose and have a kid with you.’

Case 3:  You have more gay genes.  Your brain has developed in still yet more of a feminine direction, with the result that you are reliable, and stick around to support your children.  You pay attention to your partner.  You never pee in the sink.  Women go up to you and say, “Please, I want to have your baby.”

The gay genes get passed down through the generations because of this selective advantage.

Case 4:  You have still more gay genes, and your brain has developed in even more of a feminine direction.  You go up to guys and say, “Please, I want to have your baby.”















2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 730 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 12 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Jesus Joke A Nun Once Told Me (2)

“They now have definitive proof that Jesus was actually Italian, not Jewish.”

“How do they know?”

“He didn’t leave home until he was 30, and his Mother thought He was God.”

A Jesus Joke A Nun Once Told Me (1)

Saint Peter felt like he had been on call at the Pearly Gates for eons…come to think of it, he had been on call at the Pearly Gates for eons.  He desperately needed a break.  Seeing Jesus walking by, he asked Him to spell him out for a while.

Jesus was a bit dubious.  “Gee, I don’t know,” he said.  “I’ve never done this before.”

“It’s real easy,” Saint Peter said.  “All you have to do is greet the people as the come in, and strike up a bit of conversation with them.  Then you record their names in The Book.  There is nothing to it.  It’s nothing like being a DBA on call.  You’ll do fine.”

“Oh, okay,” Jesus said, still a bit reluctant.  But he didn’t see any easy way to refuse Saint Peter’s request.  Jesus took Peter’s place at The Desk, situated just to the side of the Pearly Gates.

Everything went very smoothly for a while.  “Gee,” Jesus thought to himself.  “I think I am starting to get the hang of this Pearly Gates Greet and Record Name business.”

But then he saw an old man approaching the Pearly Gates.  The man’s eyes were rheumy.  His gait was slow, his back was badly bent forward.  He clearly relied heavily on his cane.

“This man seems strangely familiar,” Jesus thought.  But He could not quite place him.

“Say, old man,” Jesus asked.  “Did you happen to be a carpenter back on earth?”

“Why yes sonny,” said the old man in a crackly voice, his hands pressing his cane down upon the cloud to steady himself a bit.  “As a matter of fact, I was  a carpenter  back on earth.  How did you know?”

“Oh my God!” Jesus thought, his heart pacing.  “(Well, come to think of it, I am God.  Or more precisely, one Member of the Trinity.  Jesus ((that’s me!)) this stuff confuses me so much sometimes).  Oh my God!!!! Can it be? Could it be?!!!!!”  Jesus decided to venture one more question.

“Say, old man.  Back on earth, did you sort of have a son?  I mean, not really have a son, but sort of have a son?”

“Why yes, sonny.  As a matter of fact, back on earth I did sort of have a son…not really have a son…but sort of had a son.”

Jesus’ heart practically leapt out of his body.  “Oh my God!!!! Jesus Christ!!!!” he thought.  He joyfully rose from his desk, arms outstretched.  “Father!!!!!!

The old man raced towards the Pearly Gates as fast as his aged body would let him.  He flung his cane away.  Arms outstretched in preparation for a deep embrace, he cried out: