The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

by Joshua Gaskell

Tag: Philosophy

Monday, 25th July 2016

When Corbyn’s supporters say that they believe he can lead Labour to a general election victory because ‘Politics is the art of the possible’, they use possible in its strictly philosophical sense: ‘Logically conceivable; having the property, whether or not it actually exists, of not being excluded from existence by being logically contradictory or against reason’ (OED).

Friday, 7th August 2015

I’m prompted by a discussion on the Moral Maze with Galen Strawson to formulate a ‘free will or determinism’ version of Pascal’s wager:

‘Free will exists or it does not.’ But to which side shall we incline? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that free will exists. Let us estimate the two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing, because you could not have wagered otherwise. Wager then without hesitation that free will exists.

Wednesday, 19th November 2014

The worst of all possible worlds, phr.

Pronunciation: /ðə wɜːst əv ɔːl ˈpɒsᵻbl wəːldz/
Etymology: < by antithesis after Leibniz’s optimism that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds.

1. Philos. The actual world of futile existence and inevitable suffering, according to Schopenhauer.
2. Polit. Econ. The current model of university funding in England, according to the Higher Education Commission.

Sunday, 19th October 2014

I remember hearing years ago that on any Wikipedia article, if one clicks on the first link and then repeats the process as many times as it takes, one will almost always end up on the entry for Philosophy. The idea is that this phenomenon is consonant with philosophy’s status in the groves of Academe, its broad literal meaning (‘love of knowledge’), and the fact that, no matter the subject, a PhD is a doctorate of philosophy: all roads lead to Rome, but all hyperlinks lead to Athens.

To while away the lonely nights, I’ve devised a similar but more involved game to play on the OED website. Rather than trying to get from the most specific to the most general, I try to get from one word to its opposite. Each new word in the chain is used synonymously in the definition of the previous word. For example,

OED: Getting to the Opposite #1 (Good to Bad)

  1. Good: ‘Having in adequate degree those properties which a thing of the kind ought to have’
  2. Adequate: ‘acceptable in quality or quantity’
  3. Acceptable: ‘Tolerable or allowable’
  4. Tolerable: ‘of middling quality, mediocre, passable’
  5. Mediocre: ‘indifferent, of poor quality, second-rate
  6. Second-rate: ‘A person or thing of inferior class’
  7. Inferior: ‘comparatively bad

The theoretical justification for this game would doubtless have something to do with synthesis and the signifier (all words are contronyms!); but not being one who seeks the truth among the groves of Academus, I just play it for kicks.

Saturday, 18th January 2014

Still no positive feedback on the novel. I’m beginning to think I need to go back to square one, or “first principles” as the philosopher saith.


Principle 1: Don’t write five-hundred pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature.

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