Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’
“There are people who embrace the Oxford comma and those who don’t, and I’ll just say this: never get between these people when drink has been taken”*…
The Oxford comma, so-called because the Oxford University Press style guidelines require it, is the comma before the conjunction at the end of a list. If your preferred style is to omit the second comma in “red, white, and blue,” you are aligned with the anti-Oxford comma faction.The pro-Oxford comma faction is more vocal and numerous in the US, while in the UK, anti-Oxford comma reigns. (Oxford University is an outsider, style-wise, in its own land.) In the US, book and magazine publishers are generally pro, while newspapers are anti, but both styles can be found in both media.
The two main rationales for choosing one style over the other are clarity and economy. Each side has invoked both rationales in its favor. Here are some quotes that have served as shots exchanged in the Oxford comma wars…
Pro: “…use the comma between all members of a series, including the last two, on the commonsense ground that to do so will preclude ambiguities and annoyances at negligible cost.”
Wilson Follett, in his 1966 Modern American Usage, advocates for the comma on the grounds that it can’t really hurt.
Con: “All those commas make the flag seem rained on. They give it a furled look. Leave them out, and Old Glory is flung to the breeze, as it should be.”
This complaint was addressed to Harold Ross, the founding editor of the New Yorker, by James Thurber, who preferred “the red white and blue” to “the red, white, and blue.” Ross, a notorious defender of the serial comma, was impressed by Thurber’s argument and responded, “write a piece about it, and I’ll punctuate the flag any way you want it—in that one piece.”
Pro: “This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God”
A probably apocryphal book dedication, this example has been a favorite of pro-Oxford comma language blogs for a while. Without the comma before “and,” you get a rather intriguing set of parents.
Con: “The English are rather more careful than we are, and commonly put a comma after the next-to-last member of a series, but otherwise are not too precise to offend a red-blooded American.”
H.L. Mencken, who did not use the serial comma himself, implies, in this quote tucked into a supplement to The American Language, that there is something prissy, pedantic, and altogether un-American about the extra comma…
More fuel for the fire in Arika Okrent’s “The Best Shots Fired in the Oxford Comma Wars.”
* Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
As we choose sides, we might spare a thought for a regular user of the clarifying comma, Edmund Burke; he died on this date in 1797. Born in Dublin, he was an author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher, who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party. He’s probably best remembered for his advocacy of the American and his opposition to the French revolutions. While Burke was held up as a beacon by both conservatives and liberals in the 19th century, the 20th century generally viewed him as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism.
In “Consistency in Politics” Winston Churchill wrote:
On the one hand [Burke] is revealed as a foremost apostle of Liberty, on the other as the redoubtable champion of Authority. But a charge of political inconsistency applied to this life appears a mean and petty thing. History easily discerns the reasons and forces which actuated him, and the immense changes in the problems he was facing which evoked from the same profound mind and sincere spirit these entirely contrary manifestations. His soul revolted against tyranny, whether it appeared in the aspect of a domineering Monarch and a corrupt Court and Parliamentary system, or whether, mouthing the watch-words of a non-existent liberty, it towered up against him in the dictation of a brutal mob and wicked sect. No one can read the Burke of Liberty and the Burke of Authority without feeling that here was the same man pursuing the same ends, seeking the same ideals of society and Government, and defending them from assaults, now from one extreme, now from the other.
And indeed, historian Piers Brendon credits Burke’ paternalistic insistence the colonial domination was a trust, with laying the moral foundations for the British Empire: Burke wrote that “The British Empire must be governed on a plan of freedom, for it will be governed by no other”– it was to be so exercised for the benefit of subject people that they would eventually attain their birthright—freedom” …a noble aim that was in the event an ideological bacillus, as Brendon observed, that would prove fatal.
“You can never plan the future by the past.”
-Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791)
“Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all”.
- Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
A fore-edge painting is an image on the edges of the pages of a book. The work can only be seen when the pages are fanned (as illustrated in the GIF above and the videos below). When the book is closed, the image is obscured by the gilding– the gold leaf applied to the edges of the page.
Fore-edge paintings first arose during the European Middle Ages but came to prominence during the mid-17th century to the late 19th century. Anne C. Bromer for the Boston Public Library [which holds one of the finest collections of fore-edge paintings in the U.S.] writes, “Most fore-edge painters working for binding firms did not sign their work, which explains why it is difficult to pinpoint and date the hidden paintings.”
As we hunt for Easter eggs, we might spare an ecumenical thought for Ramon Llull; he died on this date in 1315 [source]. A philosopher, logician, poet, and theologian who was heavily influenced by Islam, he is credited with the first major work of Catalan literature (the romantic novel Blanquerna), with having anticipated by several centuries prominent work on elections theory, and with pioneering work on computation theory (largely given his influence on Leibniz).
One of the earliest Encyclopedists, he gave up the life of a courtier (to King James of Aragon) first to become a hermit, then a Franciscan. After a 1297 meeting with Duns Scotus, he was given the nickname Doctor Illuminatus.
Lars Yenken‘s “The Great Language Game” is an interactive game, being played worldwide, that challenges users to distinguish among (currently) 87 languages based on their sound alone. As Lars explains,
There are perhaps six or seven thousand languages in the world. Even so-called hyperpolyglots, people who learn to speak six or more fluently, barely scratch the surface. You and I will never be able to communicate in all these languages without machine aids, but learning to identify what’s being spoken near us, that’s within our reach…
Besides, it’s fun!
[TotH to reddit]
* Ralph Waldo Emerson
As we prick up our ears, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Alfred North Whitehead; he was born on this date in 1861. Whitehead began his career as a mathematician and logician, perhaps most famously co-authoring (with his former student, Bertrand Russell), the three-volume Principia Mathematica (1910–13), one of the twentieth century’s most important works in mathematical logic.
But in the late teens and early 20s, Whitehead shifted his focus to philosophy, the central result of which was a new field called process philosophy, which has found application in a wide variety of disciplines (e.g., ecology, theology, education, physics, biology, economics, and psychology).
“There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have consequences for the world around us.”
Reptilian humanoids are the force behind a worldwide conspiracy directed at manipulation and control of humanity. He contends that most of our world’s leaders, from George W. Bush to members of the British royal family, are in fact 7-foot tall, blood-drinking reptilians from the star system Alpha Draconia.
According to an interview with David Icke, Christine Fitzgerald, a confidante of Diana, Princess of Wales, claims that Diana told her that the Royal Family were reptilian aliens, and that they could shapeshift. David Icke and others have claimed that U.S. President George W. Bush and his family are part of this same bloodline (Icke, 2004).
Icke claims, based on his exploration of genealogical connections to European royalty, that many presidents of the United States have been and are reptilian humanoids. In his view, United States foreign policy after September 11 is the product of a reptilian conspiracy to enslave humanity, with George W. Bush as a servant of the lizards.
[C.f. also, "What It's Like To Believe You're Controlled By Reptilians."]
* The Queen, to Alice, in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
As we slip on our sunglasses, we might spare a thought for Blessed John (Johannes, Ioannes) Duns Scotus, O.F.M.; he died on this date in 1308. One of the most important philosophers of the High Middle Ages (with his arch-rival, William of Ockham), he was a champion of a form of Scholasticism that came to be known as Scotism.
But he may be better remembered as a result of the slurs of 16th Century philosophers, who considered him a sophist– and coined the insult “dunce” (someone incapable of scholarship) from the name “Dunse” given to his followers in the 1500s.
From the ever-exquisite xkcd.
As we linger over listicles, we might send almost-but-not-quite existential birthday greetings to Albert Camus; he was born on this date in 1913. A Nobel Prize winning author (The Plague, The Stranger, among others), journalist, and philosopher, he was a creator of Absurdism… a resonant but different variety of philosophical thought from Existentialism. Indeed, Camus firmly rejected the Existentialist label: “I am not an existentialist. Sartre and I are always surprised to see our names linked…”