I am horrified to find that I seem to be missing some of the mental clarity I once had when it comes to highly abstract mathematical topics. I am uncertain if this is because I'm just rusty, or if the inevitable changes in the brain that come from age are leaving their mark. On the other hand, I think my perspective grows ever broader and deeper in philosophy. I find myself wondering about the interplay between aging and reading widely in achieving philosophical depth.
Today, despite considering myself a very seasoned, possibly expert Perl programmer, I learned a new base language feature -- hash slices. This is very useful -- I can now, sans loop, assign a list into a hash given a position list of keys. Additional expressive power is always welcome.
A number of the problems in my life are the result of my wanting things that are diametrically opposed to each other, and being unable to satisfy both. Unfortunately, having a powerful value theory (which I believe I do) cannot help me do the impossible.
I have been amused with one of Mikhail Bakunin's famous quotes on Communism -- "When the people are beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called the peoples stick". To put the quote in context, Bakunin was a member of the workers movement and a contemporary of Marx, and both were part of the First International (a movement to put an end to capitalistic power structures in society). As the movement grew and began to have an effect on the real world, tensions began to emerge between various wings, eventually leading to a heated disagreement between Bakunin and his supporters and Marx and his supporters. Bakunin was expelled, and his followers became the Anarchist movement, while Marx's ideas continued through further Internationals as the Communist movement. The key difference between Anarchism and Communism, at the time, was the means to societal transformation -- the goal shared between the movements (both of which still exist today) is to restructure society to put an end to private ownership of the means of production (meaning businesses and other forms of capital). Anarchists would smash all the mechanisms of the state, relying on people to come to political Anarchy as enlightened people soon after the state (which is seen as the primary source and mechanism of brutality in societies) is dissolved. Marxism posits a transitional state before the people as a while are ready to manage the state (it also posits that the state will wither away or drastically shrink, something I don't think is necessarily true, although I would think it would change form, as the public-private distinction dissolves). Anarchists of Bakunin's flavour (who can probably be seen as the intellectual ancestors of all present-day political anarchist movements) are idealist in the sense that they believe that natural law and human nature are sufficient to create good government, whereas Marxism requires a belief that people can be transformed by societal change into non-selfish beings, and that the period of time when society's interests are managed by the party can avoid corruption that would derail the process. (A comparison between Bolshevik and Menshevik views in this framework would be interesting.. maybe someday). I hold the Communist view, although I should note that the concerns that Bakunin raises are very real, and I believe that by and large the early successes of Communism have been corrupted by its managers in most of the places it has been tried. One of the very difficulties that Communism (and other socialist movements) came to deal with, greed and privilege, is one that has slain it in practice -- human nature as it is is a difficult foe. Anarchists, while not allies to the end, are at least long-term allies (the end goal is at least fairly similar). Philosophically, libertarians and objectivists are probably the greatest obstacle to our advancement, not because they would hold society in its current "holding pattern" until it falls apart, but rather because they stand diametrically opposed to the kind of societal enlightenment and values that keep it together and civil. Greed is one of the most anti-virtue, anti-civil, destructive forces in human nature, and philosophers like Ayn Rand deify it with their all-encompassing notion of liberty that points the nose of the flight of civilisation straight at the ground in a way that not even the most fundamentalist priest or mullah can. In any case, returning to the point, the use of the word "people" does not mean, in that context, that something is managed with the good of the people foremost. When this is actually accurate is an exercise for the reader.
Hooray for interesting dreams. Last night, I dreamed that I had spider-man like powers, but I kept running out of the web ability. Lo and behold, I looked up at the top of my vision, and there was a web meter, and it was empty. I was digging through the menus to set it to infinite web when the dream changed. I was in a strange variation of the house back in Brecksville, and some semirecent events had not happened, but somehow I still had the same permagrudge I have now. I was aware that my reality didn't quite fit together right, and was trying to reconcile the anger with the different reality when I woke up to a cat stampede.
Oh, and yes it is valentine's day, and that in itself doesn't bug me too much, but it's really heart-wrenchingly sad to see other people get flowers and look so happy, or see singing valentines. Oh well. So it goes, eh?