In the sciences, it's quipped that the reason people see so far nowadays is that they're standing on the shoulders of giants. In philosophy, it's said that the field consists of giants shouting to another across barren stretches of time. The latter only holds true for the narrower meaning of the field of philosophy - areas closer to math and logic, disciplines, follow their own rules, but, at least to me, are far less interesting than the relatively raw thought-on-living, values, and shoulds. Convergence and the role of aesthetics is a good metric for dividing the two - axiomatic suppositions help shape thought in theoretically convergent directions, and for the sciences and engineering, one can have traditional metrics that provide lenses through which to more-or-less objectively judge things, but the (narrow-meaning) philosophies either provide their own (equally arbitrary) metrics that rely on aesthetics for appeal or pose ideas that would directly appeal to aesthetics. Why might we accept the original position and its tied concepts as the start for Rawls' philosophy, or Descartes' "Je pense, donc je suis' as a foundation for Cartesian philosophy? We agree to go down the journey because we want to see where they can go with these ideas, and how they help us make sense of ourselves as people, of society, and as thinkers. Nietzsche's appeal, once one dispenses with the old ways of thinking he attacks, is primarily aesthetic (and romantic) as well. I don't think this makes the kind of philosophy I'm talking about more ephemeral - rather, I think it makes it more honest because it directly splashes around and works with the unsureness and personal nature that lies beneath all human thought. Sciences and formal logic have a place, but none of them are (nor can be) founded on hard ground - there is no hard ground to be found. At most, they can rest on a form of empiricism (yea, even logic) - I consider the field of these aesthetics and thought to be a more attractive area to play in because when statements and philosophies are bold, they're bold in a way where the field regularly can and does attack all their underpinnings - the children of the larger field of philosophy, as fields, easily become divorced enough, intellectually, from their underpinnings, that they lose sight of their limitations and justifications. Individual philosophies may do this as well, but as a field, everything is disputable and disputed, which creates an attractive honesty.
I had a daydream - fifteen bathrooms in a house, based on hair colour/style (and presence) rather than gender. I've been thinking again about Fussel's book Class, having read it again on the airplane. Some parts of it didn't make sense to me - he described the upper classes as being empty of opinions and ideas, the middle class to be afraid of expressing ideas, and his lower classes were presumably not educated enough to have ideas. His ideas about class X don't necessarily paint that as being a reliable source of ideas - either there are other classes that he didn't see worth mentioning in his model or are an oversight. Honestly, I find his book more amusing than necessarily accurate (although it does feel like it has insights), and I don't accept his model as being more than an interesting sketch, although for people looking for enough ideas to churn into a working model, his book is great feed. Still, I wonder how many people in a society are actual sources or carriers of anything but the most trivial of opinions. Maybe it's a small group, maybe not. It seems a pity to me if he's right about the upper classes, with what he described as the most rigourous education, wasting those insights by failing to try to understand the world with them beyond self-interest.
I met someone from India today. I am not surprised that I have been pronouncing "Devanagari" very badly. He showed me how to write my name in the script, which if I managed to match the characters up correctly, is "पैट गन"..
Recently I played with xUbuntu for a bit. It's kind of slick (as a liveCD), although some of the applications, like the music player, were badly broken. As is too often the case with distros, it needed some more QA. I'd like to play a bit with filesystems again soon - ZFS, XFS, etc. I might toss together a system at work to do that if I get the time. I'm not fond of some design decisions done by the ZFS Linux port, but I understand they're largely driven by license issues rather than a real choice. Oh well. The other option is to just set up a few toy boxes running Solaris, Irix, etc. I have the hardware for most of that...
Things should probably start to calm down again this weekend, thankfully.
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