vendredi, avril 22, 2005



Everyone talks about Tom Jobim and Bossa Nova and how indebted Hollywood music is to them. But it is obvious that the popular musicians Tom Jobim and Joao Gilberto had been influenced by another key figure of Modern Classic Music, Villa-Lobos. Moreover, whoever listens to Villa-Lobos' work finds a set of incredibly similar features between many of his pieces and the melodies made for films, especially motion pictures produced in the US after 1950. Some of his works were actually made for the Brazilian Cinema, like Discovery of Brazil. But others were not and yet you think they were For instance, the third movement of Bachianas Brasileiras #3 and the 1917 ballet Amazons sound like they were composed to be soundtracks of films forged in big studios like Universal, MGM, Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros, etc.

Indeed, in spite of the very Brazilian, South American and African titles of his works, Villa-Lobos' influence seems to be too Universal, and to have shaped Cinema (and specially Hollywood) music. I have the strong intuition that without Villa-Lobos' works the Star Wars trilogy and Chariots of Firewould have very different themes.

Villa-Lobos' influence on the film industry should be a matter for research.

The vitality and the magic vigour that come from Kankikis is one instance of the greatest enigma of music: the power to transport the listener to another world and time, which is so vague and abstract that we can only think of its contours and nameless sensations and indefinable impressions. Till a certain extent, Villa-Lobos' aesthetics is purely formal in the same sense as formal Logic is, and accesses infinite possible worlds like a modal one. But it is not a linear aesthetics: it is geometric and multidimensional, Apollonian and modern at the same time.

lundi, avril 18, 2005

On the other blog

Unexpected Substitutions
Minimalists about Truth can (and should) be Epistemicists, and it helps if they are revision theorists too
Strict Identity with No Overlap
Probability, Modality and Triviality
The Telicity Parameter Revisited


The mysteries of human actions are the very substance that nurtures Scientific thought.
A very short and compressed reflection

It has already been proposed that all things have the same and one principle and that such principle itself is not cognoscible, but its effects can be studied. If this principle is the principle of all, then it is the principle of human behaviour and of its (seemingly) diversity. Being human behaviour imperfect and the principle of all perfect, how can the former be derived from the latter? This question, as it is formulated, cannot be answered in an obvious manner.

Alternatively to this proposal, there has been a belief that human station is such that it no longer abides by the very laws of nature animals are subject to. Accordingly, the natural human behaviour is non-natural. This is a real paradox and methinks this has been the very force by which Scientific thought has been driven in the West.

It is important to notice that terms may be misleading in this case. Many thinkers who in the past claimed to be Philosophers would nowadays be considered Scientists, and their Philosophical works are de facto considered the foundations of many Sciences. In the incipient era of these branches of knowledge that we now call Sciences, humanity and nature were not always discrete and opposite entities, but rather two edges of one continuum. Clear cases of disruption in the assumed continuum seem to have most importantly propelled the inquiry into the several matters, and not only the drift between kinds of Science.

This is an excessively brief and oversimplified abstract of thousands of years of History though, it contains some basic truths.

Now the explanation for the diversity of human behaviour relies on the assumption that societies are governed by principles that humans construct. It is not clearly known the genesis of such principles, the core of concepts from which humans derive the ethical principles of each society. On the other hand, it is clear that, regardless of what are the origins of the ethical values, the ethics of every given society includes an internal contradiction, whereby they may be divided into two distinct strata:

the first is the super-stratum that consists of the values the society professes, i.e., claims to have;

the second is the infra-stratum which consists of the values the society actually puts in practice.

By recognising this fact, a third way to approach the mysteries of human behaviour would consist in claiming that either it is possible to derive one stratum from the other, or that both are derivable from a third and intermediate system, which would function as the communication and interaction channel between the two. The second option remits us to the earlier proposals mentioned above, while the first seems innovative. Nevertheless, to claim that one stratum is derived from the other, without assuming an interface between them has proven to be a conceptually non-viable alternative.

In the absence of a clear possibility to find the core from which particular human values are derived and at the same time to explain the contradictions mentioned above, Science and earlier Western Philosophy have pursited different specific questions for the same broader reasons. In other words, Natural Science stuies nature to understand humanity's separation from nature. And humanities study humans for the same reason. Therefore both have fallen into a sort of circularity of general questions-answers:
Why is mankind separate from nature?

The answer is:
Because the natural for humans is the non-natural.

Which leads to another question:
Why is the natural for humans the non-natural?

Whose answer is:
Because humanity is separate from nature.

In sum, the answer to the questions are the questions themselves. This circularity seems to be the perpetual motor of scientific thought.

jeudi, avril 14, 2005


A real life episode
This story has appeared in the Brazilian media:

An African-Brazilian man rents a flat in Sao Paulo. The day to pay the rental comes. He goes to the real estate agency and tries to pay with a bank check. The real estate agent says he needs to verify whether the check has sufficient funds and asks if the lessee has another way to pay the rental. The lessee gives him his credit card.

Few minutes later the estate agent says: We cannot accept your check because your bank account is not old. The lessee argues that it could not be a reason for someone to refuse a bank check. The real estate agent insists that that is the company policy. Then use my credit card the lessee says, to which the real estate agent replies this credit card is not yours, it has been 'cloned' from someone else's card. The lessee is in chock to hear that, and asks: what makes you suppose that? The real estate agent offers no explanation or evidence for his allegations.

The lessee feels greatly offended and takes the matter to the Police Station, pressing charges against the real estate agent. He can prove that the credit card is his and that he has sufficient funds in his bank account. Nevertheless, the Police officers begin to suspect that it is the lessee who has tried to deceive the real estate agency. The African-Brazilian man appeals to another public force: TV stations and newspapers.

This story speaks for itself.

mercredi, avril 13, 2005


Brief Note

Michaelangelo through his artistic works has been more influential to the definition of rationality in the West than many Scientists and Philosophers. There would be no Cartesian mentality today were it not the concept of art and true erudition that Classical Artists and Writers imposed on the West. It is from this main frame, where beauty, ethics and knowledge are perhaps one thing in principle, governed by reason, that Descartes and Analytic Philosophers constructed their works.

Everything about Michaelangelo is always news. Recently a portrait of Michaelangelo by Da Vinci has been discovered. It has also been said that the famous Laocoon sculpture, which had been considered one the greatest archaelogical finds of all times, has actually been faked by Michaelangelo.

But for me, Michaelangelo's biggest influence was a subversion of concepts through his David's statue. This is one case in which the name of the masterpiece is not simply a label to the work, but adds something to its meaning. What we see when we look at the sculpture is clearly a statue of the Greek-Roman numen Apollo, but the name of the statue changes the denotatum. This is a master-piece of deification of a common man in a Museum: David, the small guy who became a hero defeating a giant suddenly also becomes an Olympian Deity, embodying an ideal of virility. Michaelangelo's work is subversive in this sense: he borrows one legend from monotheism to read it from a polytheist perspective.

lundi, avril 11, 2005


Heitor Villa-Lobos has enchanted the worl with his music. He must not be confused with another brilliant soul, Jose Villalobos, the Mexican painter, whose work is now becoming famous in the United States. By the way, there is also another painter by the name Villalobos, Alejandro.

dimanche, avril 10, 2005


Jeremy Pierce has posted an entry on a strange issue:

Catholics and the Galatian Heresy

Many Protestants say that Catholicism is simply not part of Christianity. They say that Catholic views about justification and salvation in general are not compatible with what the Bible teaches about such matters, and in fact Catholics are teaching what Paul in Galatians calls another gospel, which is not really a gospel at all but something else. Paul was right to condemn the Galatian heresy as another gospel, which is not really a gospel at all but something else. It's quite clear to me that Catholics do not teach or believe the Galatian heresy, however. That leaves it open that Catholic teaching is another gospel besides the Christian one, but if so it's not the one Paul was confronting in Galatians, as many Protestants seem to insist on.

My own view is that some elements within the Catholic church do teach and believe something that might be characterized as another gospel and thus might not saved according to what the Bible teaches about salvation. I'm not sure if this view is another gospel, but it might well be. However, I also firmly believe that many within the Catholic church do not believe another gospel at all. Now that I've said both those statements, let me point out that what I said is consistent with saying that from the top the Catholic view is another gospel, and many within the RCC are faithful to the true gospel despite that. It's also consistent with saying that from the top the view is the true gospel, and many within the RCC depart from that. I actually think both of those would be false, and the reasons are fairly complicated. The fact is that there isn't a teaching that can be said to be from the top, because the Pope John Paul II and the catechizing wing of the Vatican have endorsed conflicting theologies, one of them as far as I can tell fully consistent with Reformation theology, at least on the matter of justification.

Nestorians could make the same accusation against the Chalcedonians, i.e., that no Chalcedonians are part of Christianity, based on the assumption that what Chalcedonians believe implies that there are two Jesuses.

Jeremy's post has activated a series of comments by some of his Protestant fellows that support the view he attacks. The support to such view, however, shows not only a deep prejudice against Catholics, but also a half-knowledge about the Bible and Christianism itself. This is the sort of confusion that happens when People consider themselves great experts in Religion without proper cultural baggage and try to study any religious book without considering the historic context, without a strong background in Philosophy and/or without taking the words figuratively. In the following I shall try to dispel some confusions about what the biblical passage means, and make a brief point on why these Historic controversies, which ended up in factions accusing each other of heretic, are deeply nonsensical medievalism:

Firstly, underlying the discussion Jeremy mentioned, there is an assumption that the relationship between good works, faith, salvation and divine grace is intermediated by time. The opposite factions in the debate you refer to seem to want to find the right chronological order for such things. That is not possible in any monotheist religious system, for these things are interrelated in an atemporal way. Of course, there is a temporal sequence for each work a man does in his life, but the interrelation with faith, divine grace and salvation is not constrained by such time line, as one ordinarily would think. Time is a property of the material world, while spirituality transcends it.

Secondly, there are two important conceptions when one mentions the expression salvation by works. When Christians, regardless of their affiliation, talk about salvation by the works, they mean that Christianism is an ethical religion and that ethics cannot be dissociated therefrom. But that is not the exact sense in which Paul uses this expression in the Epistle in question.

In the Epistle to the Galatians, the heresy Paul condemns is attachment to the Mosaic law and perpetuation of Jewish practices. It is not just any work he is talking about, he means works in pursuance of Mosaic law. This point is crystal clear for anyone who reads the Epistle. In this respect, a Church that claims to be evangelical but wants to perpetuate old Jewish teachings, such as the day to rest is Saturday, do not eat pork, circumcise your kids, etc. is Galatian in essence. By the way, in practice what we see is that the so called Evangelical Churches are much more inclined to base their doctrines on the Old Testament than on the Gospel. So, before accusing the Catholics of being Galatian heretics, Protestants should look at themselves first. (He, who has no sin, shoots first.)

When Paul criticises the idea of salvation by works as opposed to salvation by grace, he is also rejecting the idea of an ethics without mercy and intolerant towards human failures. An ethics without such elements is humanly impossible and the ethics of the Gospel is for humans with their characteristics.

In order to attack an opposite inflexible legalist view, which, according to Paul, goes directly against Jesus' teachings of mercy and mutual love, he has to destroy the key conviction of its proponents: the conviction that there are People who are morally inferior. Proponents of an ethics without mercy and without mutual understanding often claim to have great merits and deserve the divine consideration, and so may be stern and pass judgement on the others. So, argues Paul, those who propose such stern and merciless ethics make the wrong idea of themselves, if they think they are so good, that they have earned salvation by their merits. He says that if they are saved that is due to God's grace= mercy. A merciless ethics is thus another Gospel, which is to say, an ethics other than the ethics the Apostles are teaching.

But in no way Paul dispenses with the notion that Christians are required to try to make good works, i.e., to behave in accordance with Christian ethics. Luther does not deny that either. But Luther had to fight against other practices, in a context where the subjacent assumption was that salvation could be somehow bought.

Besides these specific aspects of the Epistle to the Galatians, there are more general aspects to be considered. The historic controversies between Reformers and Catholics and between different factions within the same Western Church could not yield any consensus, except by blind obedience to the doctors thereof. The problem is simple and has to do with the manner the Western (or Latin) Church, now split into Roman Catholics and Protestants, approach the Gospel. What priests with basic Catholic background, like Luther and Saint Augustine, do is what nowadays we could call Catersian interpretation of the Gospel.

Westerners at the dawn of Christianism seem to have expected a Philosophical or Scientific work when the Gospel was a novelty. So, they would try to find a chapter defining the basic vocabulary and after a set of theorems with their respective demonstrations. But nothing like that exists in the Gospel, and this manner of structuring a text was not common in the Eastern tradition the Apostles emerged from.

Of course, if one wants to explain the Gospel, one may try to present it in a form of maieutic or dialectic argumentation or through Cartesian schematisations. That is possible, but that is only a representation for didactic purposes. None can expect these schematisations to yield uniform results and that people will be able to agree thereon. Simply because these Cartesian views are not in Paul's writings or in the writings by any other Apostle.

samedi, avril 09, 2005


Brief Note

Kai von Fintel in his blog asks about a Philosopher called V.H. Dudman:

I am preparing a seminar presentation on tense in conditionals, a truly daunting topic. One of my tasks has been to re-read some of the works of V.H. Dudman, who is perhaps the philosopher who has taken the grammatical contribution of tense to the semantics of conditionals most seriously. While spending some idle time on Google, I came across a useful page listing Dudman's main contributions. The page is part of a playful website for a course apparently taught by Bob Hargrave of Balliol College, Oxford. The page says that Dudman

is a very elusive man. We do not know his whereabouts. Only that he worked in Australia for many years. We do not know his full name. No-one knows what the 'H' stands for. Rumour has it that the 'V' stands for 'Victor', which would be a most appropriate name for a revolutionary leader. So perhaps it is indeed just rumour.

V.H. Dudman does not use e-mail. He has no known contact address. Indeed, we know him only through his contributions to the learned journals.

Anybody know more or differently?

Well, in my response to von Fintel, I said that, by going to the website you pointed to, I have found out that Hargrave's manifesto pages seem all to be about D. H. Dudman, whose true name, according to Hargrave, is Emmanuel Goldstein. He explains the change of names in one page. But, in another page he gives a hint that Emmanuel Goldstein was entirely fictitious(sic).

Thus, it seemed to me that Dudman might well be just an invented character, or a pseudonym for someone who, perhaps, has a parallel Philosophical work. Of course, I know several elusive linguists I have tried to contact in vain. But the practices of using pseudonyms and of multiplying noms de plume are not unusual. The Portuguese poet Pessoa used to write whole volumes debating with himself, defending antagonistic views under different allonyms (he called heteronyms), which readers took for different authors to the same publication. Far from being an odd strategy, this sort of practice is seen as a proof of great intelligence and refined intellectual skills in the field of Humanities.

However, later on Greg Restall responded:

I know just a little a bit more. Vic Dudman was my immediate predecessor in the Philosophy Department at Macquarie University in Sydney. He retired from academic life in around 1995. I met him a couple of times over my tenure at Macquarie. I suspect he's still living in Sydney, though I haven't seen him since 2000 or so.

Vic is definitely not a fictional character, and the name isn't a pseudonym. I think you can look him up in the telephone book if you want to write him a letter.

I take Greg's words as true. But the thing is that the sites I mentioned portray Goldstein/Dudman in a manner that gives you that impression.

It seems that even nowadays men can become or be turned into legends, and that is a manner to confer a certain attraction power on them. An elusive life-style seems to intice more curiosity than a non-elusive one, in the case of intellectuals and thinkers.

Salvador Dali and Amalia Rodrigues had so discreete a life that People assumed that they were already dead until the news of their passages had been announced. Many believe Andy Kaufman has faked his death in order to adopt a secluded and monastical way of living till the day he decides to come back and shock the world.