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Naked Humanity

This morning, I was surprised by a utility person, and it led to philosophy!

As I often am when hanging around my apartment, I was not dressed this morning, alternating between doing stuff for work, cleaning, and listening to the usual set of interesting things on the net (ok, I was playing some Civ 3 too!). I looked up, and was a bit surprised to see a utility person on a ladder working right by one of the giant ceiling windows in my place - yeah, kind of awkward (although he was high enough up that he wasn't seeing naked Pat at the time). Should I get dressed?

Well, is it appropriate? Mandatory? Courteous? So many ways to approach the question...

Issues:What are the expectations in our society? Is nudity inherently problematic? If we think not, do we still conform in our less-than-ideal society, or do we, knowing that society is what we make it, act as members of our ideal society and hope to change what's normative in so doing? That doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. Maybe an analogy - roomates in university - we would probably get at least a bit dressed for them... but is it really analogous? This is an unannounced and unwelcome(ish... they surely are doing a job, but it has nothing to do with me so I'm not welcoming them to be there not that I think what they're doing in their job is problematic) person who has accidentally stepped against the normal strategic coverings of windows that keep me from being visible accidentally - is it instead analogous to a "Honey, I shrunk the kids" type situation where someone sees up somebody's kilt by virtue of being where/as people don't expect? Well, maybe not that either.

Why think about it that way? Don't I have a value-framework that I spent some time concocting? Why yes! But that doesn't employ quite the same style of discussion, it's more where we put our values (likely felt out through the process of achieving a Rawlsian Reflective Equilibrium) and futz with them until we're happy. It says a bit about how one reaches conclusions, but not a lot. Still, I feel that whatever conclusion I reach, it's weak enough to be a preference, and I barely even have one at that. The purpose of a value system being to precompute our decisions in ways that stop us from doing this kind of chewing-on-things all the time, because I don't really care (except in that it's fun to chew on it), it kind of fails. It's certainly not something I'd chide anyone else for doing differently than whatever I end up doing, and exerting stronger pressures is incredibly unlikely.

Side question that becomes the main - why do I use that as such a metric for values? What's the reasoning behind tying how we respond to value-laden situations to our overall analysis? Is this conflation?

Answer: The conflation is intentional - three reasons:

  • Value-active situations are usually two-or-more sided and how people react is likely to come up as people assert things they see as their value-perogatives
  • By grouping values as I do, I help situate the values among their kin, which reminds us of their cohesion, how the strengths and nuances interrelate, and reminds us not to take things too far
  • We fail to live values should we see them as divorced from what we would do about them. This is fine for theoreticals, not so fine for life. Value-philosophy must be lived (or, when we visit other value-frameworks (e.g. in debate, thought-experiments, etc), we must at least imagine them situated in a context of real people living in a real society)
In any case, I put a towel on. I'm not shy about being naked (nor photographed or sketched in that state - hey, you can even download MRI images of my brain, and if my genetics is ever sequenced, I'd probably share that with the world too), but I decided that situationally it'd be nice not to distract or bother said maintenance person once I knew he was there.

I don't remember how I came across this, but it makes me happy to think about piles of kittens.

Random goodies:

  • mjd asks a variant on the philosophical question on Star Trekのtransporters (came across this when emailing him requesting he put the archives for his old social game, "Advocacy", back online)
  • On the spirituality of atheists. I'm not fond of the term "spiritual" myself, in that for a lot of people it literally implies spirits, although I do value moments of emotional attachment to sights and concepts, appreciation of the intricacy of things, feelings of peace or of gushing. I think over the years I've become more comfortable with my positions and their stability in my mind - I don't mind religious metaphors so much as I once did, so long as they don't threaten my actual identity.
  • Economic reforms in Cuba
  • I have hotel reservations for the Stewart/Colbert DC rally - I initially was bothered that the travel reservation sites indicated no rooms were actually available for several inexpensive-ish-and-near-the-national-mall hotels, but it turned out that it was very possible to just go directly to the sites for those hotels and they had rooms. Technical error, or were these sites trying to drive business to more expensive hotels? Also cute: sattelite events are being planned in other cities. I remain curious as to if there will be a coherent message and ifso, what. (Also, Colbert tiptoes into political matters offstage)
  • I agree with this article that Bill Clinton remains very influential on the political stage. Part of it is that, like many democratic presidents we've had, he's been an active do-gooder in the years since, and part of it is no doubt to his wife proving very well-suited to her role as Secretary of State. I am pleased so far with what the Clinton Global Initiative has done - I may write more about this later (or maybe I already have?) with how it relates to Slavoj Žižek's claims about efforts to soften capitalism through ties with charity - in brief I think Ž is correct when it comes to shallow charity like his Starbucks example - charity is meaningless or harmful when it's sold as part of a purchase (but not if it's bought as part of a purchase), but as part of donations in the right light, the act of charity is healthy and positive in any society and strengthens the kind of social bonds that form some of the ethical prerequisites for the kinds of socialism we would build. Fits under general reasoning: societies require certain virtues particular to their system in order to properly enact that system appropriately.
  • Recently bought the Oxford 「Atlas of World History」. The ability to visualise history helps me pull together some things I never understood before, and I've now curious to what extent the expansion of the Russian Empire eastward was similar to the United States pushing westward - it seems a lot of analogies can be drawn, particularly regarding how natives were displaced.
  • Curious about LLVM (as an alternative to GCC). I have a lot of reading to do when I get around to it. Given how it seems to depend (or at least fit into) some parts of the GCC effort, could it eventually come to have the same relationship to that project that EGCS did?
  • Interesting analysis on how the current Conservative-LD government in Britain is (not) engaging Scotland. It makes the coalition government interesting, I'm sure.
Tonight: going to a friend's birthday gathering. Haven't seem them for awhile.


scanning and uploading

Weirdly enough, i just read two Greg Egan stories about essentially that very question. Well, maybe not too surprising -- it's one of Greg Egan's favorite themes.