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December 2009

Enquiry Concerning David Hume...

Can anyone help me track down a remark from Hume?

When I first read Hume, I remember either the book or a section ending with a sceptical critique of our notion of self and concluded in effect that it was impossible to make this track with any reliability. After observing this, Hume remarked (or so I recall) that he did not know what kind of philosophy was possible in the light of this conclusion.

However, I simply cannot find this remark anywhere. I have scoured the Enquiries and searched the Treatise; the discussion concerning doubt of the self can be found in the section entitled Personal Identity in the Treatise, and echoed again in the Appendix. But not the remark about what kind of philosophy was possible in the light of doubt of the self.

If anyone knows where this remark originates, and can help me track it to its source, I would be most grateful.

Humanists Launch War on Adjectives

The British Humanist Association has launched a billboard campaign with the slogan “Please don't label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself”. It's a clever piece of spin, managing to disguise its bigotry as an apparently reasonable request. What lies behind this campaign is an attack on Faith schools, which in turn amounts to advocating the violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s driven by rhetoric from Richard Dawkins (who part funded the billboard campaign), who believes that parents passing their religious traditions onto their children is tantamount to child abuse.

If what were really being attacked were labels, this would be a grammatical attack on adjectives and would be recognisably insane. Instead, the rhetoric of inclusionism is used to make religion seem expressly and entirely negative: “religious parents force their beliefs onto their children, and this is bad,” claims the underlying logic – it’s something that many non-religious people find easy to believe. You only have to scratch the surface slightly to see the intolerance beneath, as in this blog post which brazenly states:

I firmly believe that the majority of religious people only have those beliefs because they were indoctrinated as children.

There’s little hope of religious tolerance from someone who cannot even imagine a child benefiting from a religious upbringing, nor how one’s life might be enriched by following a faith tradition.

Parents pass their beliefs onto their children as a natural part of the experience of parenthood, be it nationality, religion, political partisanship or sporting allegiance. It was part of the joy of my childhood that I got to share in my parent’s religious journey, and even though what I now believe is very different to what they believed I cannot begin to estimate how much I have gained from the experiences they shared with me. The idea that someone would advocate excluding a child from sharing in their parent’s spirituality or religion horrifies me, and such a proposal is an express violation of our human rights treaties.

No-one is denying that there are problems in the domain of religion, as there is in every sphere of human experience. Humanity is far from a perfect species. But to single out religion in the domain of cultural inheritance constitutes a prejudice, and to advocate the exclusion of children from religion is an assault on our most fundamental freedoms. Besides, if one soberly considers the whole of human history can anyone honestly say that religious identities are definitively more problematic than national identities?

Doctor Who - Finished!

Troughton02 After essentially a lifetime of watching the British children’s science fiction show Doctor Who, I have finally watched every single episode and serial (or at the very least, listened to them while watching production stills).

I came to the end of this journey on Monday this week (the anniversary of the broadcast of the very first episode, An Unearthly Child) as I watched the final Patrick Troughton serial The War Games, a mere handful of days after watching the most recent episode, The Waters of Mars. The War Games was a fantastic serial to close on, a rambling yet neatly constructed mystery which evolves into a tense power struggle, building nicely to a conclusion which I have longed to see for many years on account of it being the first appearance of the Doctor’s people, the Time Lords.

I’d like to thank a number of people for helping me get to this point, including UK Gold for airing the Pertwee to McCoy era episodes on an infinite loop for many years, Matt Mower for his once prodigious collection of Doctor Who videotapes, the Who fandom at large for making reconstructions of the huge number of lost serials, the geeks of the internet for sharing these serials as torrents so that I was able to watch them, and of course the BBC for making the show in the first place.

Emerging from Torpor

Greetings and salutations!

Having been away from the blog for a while has given me a chance to reconsider how I engage with it (and, by extension, with the players of this blog). I don't have all the answers yet, I'm still feeling my way, but here is the potted version of my plans for the time being:

  • Tuesdays will remain the Focus essays, but this will be the only regular scheduled part of the blog for the time being.
  • When there is a Serial, it will run on Thursdays as before. I'll either switch between Focus and Serial, or I'll run the Focus essays in parallel with the serial - this won't get resolved until after Gregorian New Year, since I'm not writing another serial until 2010.
  • I'm dropping the requirement for me to post on games at least once a week. I think this was giving me difficulties as I just don't have something to say on games every week at this point in my life. From now on, posts on games will arrive when I have something I want to write about (taking a leaf from Danc's playbook...)
  • I'm going to try and get back to the more freeform style of blogging I was exploring in the early days of the blog, albeit with less time in my life to do so. To this end, I will be trying to post Shorts (500 words or less) "at will" during the week.
  • I'm suspending the polls for the time being. They may return, I just need a break from them right now.
  • I still like the Minigames, but trying to run them monthly was too much to handle. I'll aim to run these quarterly instead, but I won't worry if I don't have time.

That's about where I'm up to for now. I'm hoping to freestyle through December, although I have a few topics for discussion I'd like to table as soon as I have time to write up my thoughts.

See you in the comments!


Hope you enjoyed "Quotes Month"; I'm going to take my annual break for the Wheel of Fortune a little earlier than usual this year but I shall be back after November for the run up to the Winter Festival. When I return I hope to have reached a new understanding with myself about the blogging, but as of yet I still don't know what that will be. However, I shall return forthwith and in the interim, enjoy the silence.