Re: Certainty, Experiments & Facts

Sarah Marr (
Sat, 28 Sep 1996 12:39:44 +0100

At 22:11 27/09/96 EDT, Reilly Jones wrote:

>On 9/25/96, Sarah Marr had some comments on my post of 9/24/96. I didn't see
>much worth responding to at the time, following Samuel Johnson's maxim that "It
>is impossible to criticize unresisting imbecility."

Congratulations. I think you've won a prize for the most unpleasant and ad
feminam comment I've ever read on this or the >H list.

Generally, however, I'd say you should be more keen to respond. My
experience of this list is that people always speak out if the disagree with
something, but don't if they simply agree. So I would have interpreted a
lack of responses to my original mail as agreement by the list, not
disagreement (and hence disagreement with you).

>Sarah Marr: <If I'm right, then more than one thing can happen at any given
>instant of time.>
>If two utterly contradictory events occur at the exact same time, and at the
>exact same place, then you must explain how there can be such a concept of

<big snip>

Where did I, or you, mention contradicatory events? Where did I, or you,
mention the same place? What, in short, are you talking about? There's
nothing to stop two events occuring at the same time. It's not surprising
you can refute a claim by me, if you suddenly assert that I've added two
extra clauses about place and contradiction. But feel free to counter _my_
argument, which has no recourse to those latter two concepts.

>RJ: <Really, tolerance in practice is simply indifference. To tolerate
>something is to be indifferent to it, meaning it does not threaten your person
>or your way of life (which is nearly inseparable from your person) and holds no
>interest to you.>
>SM: <A lot of tolerance involves 'putting up with' something which does
>affect your way of life, and which you are not indifferent to.>
>I cannot understand this. If something, really I should say someone, affects
>your life, they either a) help you, or b) hinder you.

Nope. They may help you in some ways, and hinder you in others. Then it's a
balancing act. If you don't believe this, then just come up with a coherent
rebuttable of each of the examples I gave in my last mail, and that'll be fine.

>...they are indifferent to them, which is also a form of
>disapproval or patronization.

Yeah, I always disapprove of things about which I'm indifferent. I mean, what?

>SM: <...toleration is based on the balancing of feelings of the individual, for
>hir own personal happiness. These are personal decisions based on personal
>feelings, they do not require recourse to the concept of group-worth.>
>I am not an adherent of emotivism. If toleration is to be held up as a virtue,
>as something of high worth...

I don't remember doing that. I just tried to explain what toleration
actually is: no judgement call.

>your definition of "justice," in such a "feeling" driven worldview? Why is
>"happiness" important? Does "happiness" point to the Good also? Or is
>"happiness" the Good itself? Why should we care about "feelings" or
>at all?

I base the answers to these questions on feelings, so you wouldn't accept
them anyway.

>If tolerance of others is based on "feelings," then is intolerance of
>others equally acceptable, as long as it is equally based on "feelings"?
Why >or why not?

You're confusing the feelings which _are_ tolerance and intolerance with
feelings _about_ tolerance and intolerance.

An individual's feelings include tolerance and intolerance, but that
individual's feelings _about_ tolerance and intolerance may differ, to the
point of opposition, i.e. it is valid for an individual to feel that
tolerance is a good thing whilst feeling that intolerance is a bad thing.
Personally, however, I don't attach such value judgements to tolerance or
intolerance: i.e. I would not make a blanket statement that tolerance is
good. I choose to tolerate some things, and not tolerate others.

>SM: <...none of us has to agree to anything, do we?>
>Only if we decide to opt completely out of social life. Are we still human
>then? In what sense? This sounds like an expression of vacant freedom to me,
>devoid of content.

Nope. All I'm saying is we don't 'have to' agree to anything. Personally, I
think it would be stupid to always disagree, and generally I'm a fairly
agreaable person, I think. But I could always take a call to be continually
bloody-minded and accept the resulting isolation.

>SM: <It's not a question of a threat to the person or to one's way of life,
>that's too simplistic. It's to do with the nature of that threat, and a
>personal balancing of priorities and desires.>
>I'm a simple kinda guy. Desires aren't balanced, they're indulged or denied.
>Remember, only one thing at a time happens.

I love X. I hate Y. I want to have sex with Z. At the same time. Why not?

>...if you tolerate your destroyers, there will soon be no way for you
>to "honor diversity."

Sure. But my balance would place diversity above being destroyed, so I
wouldn't be in that situation.

>There is no way to produce individuals who all aim for
>reconcilable ideals, or harmonious worldviews, unless humanity's volitional
>freedom is engineered out.

Sure. I've been talking about the individual, not the collective, consciousness.

>RJ: <I get the creeps any time I see the word "tolerance" any more. The word
>has been badly abused by the holier-than-thou politically correct brigades, who
>virtually always mean "intolerance" when they use it. Likewise, when they say
>"inclusive," they mean "exclusive"; when they say
>"multicultural," they mean "monocultural"; when they say "open-minded," they
>mean "closed-minded"; and when they say "diversity," they mean "perversity.">
>SM: <I don't believe you. Please give some concrete examples to prove your
>OK, personal experience is a feeble and lame source of proof...

Proof-schmoof. I was using the word in it's everyday way, not with any deep
conceptualized thinking behind it. I merely meant, please share your
experiences, because I've never come across this, and would be interested.

>...a worldview that says that all human ideals can be harmonized...

There are certain things I believe in and of which I will seek to gain
acceptance from others. But I will do that with cogent argument, and allow
those others to make up their own minds. And if a majority agree maybe
things will change. Everybody else should have the same chance to put their
point of view. So it is those listening who change human ideals, not those

>Sarah again: <I don't believe theories predict what will happen, they only
>predict what might happen. Otherwise they wouldn't be theoretical.>
>Theories predict, not what "might" happen, which could be anything, but
what >the
>experimenter *expects* to happen...

OK. Let's dump 'will', dump 'might' and go with 'expects'.

>Sarah again: <To say observation needs a theory behind it is not true.
>Observation often leads to discovery: it is an error of causality to say
>observation _must_ have some theory behind it; it is quite possible for the
>theory to evolve from the observation.>
>You cannot observe anything at all without your brain performing some
>perceptual categorization prior to pattern recognition.

So what was the theory that Brown had when he observed Brownian motion for
the first time? Remember you're trying to insist on theory _before_
observation, not after the start of observation.

>When you observe
>something in tandem with others, you must speak the same theory-laden language
>and come to a consensus as to what you have observed.

Nope. You speak after you've observed, or at least, after you've started to


Sarah Kathryn Marr