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Jun 17, 2011           

More on bullshit + more on Bayle
After my submission to the APA

now for something different, though I wrote about both subjects in my title before.


1. More on bullshit
More on Bayle

1. More on bullshit

To start with the bullshit, also in view of the APA's DSM-5 bullshit linked above, here are first two links to earlier pieces in Nederlog about the subject:

And to start with, the reader should realize that real empirical 
science, mathematics and logic are the only human cognitive endeavours
whose main end is to arrive at the truth - that may be a truth to an effect like: It is true this is quite (im)probable - by means of human reason, and where the concern for the truth is predominant and trumps all other considerations. (*)

It is otherwise in ALL other human enterprises, including  religion, politics, business and the media: In these fields other human ends dominate what's happening, such as the defeat of the infidels; the furthering of the Party's (leaders') interests; the increase of profit; and the manipulation of the masses by pretense, promises, deception and using their penchant for wishful thinking. (**).

This also means that in ALL other human enterprises - except perhaps sometimes between real friends or real lovers - bullshit and its close kins lies, wishful thinking, posturing, and "public relations" prevails over truth and probability, though indeed usually expressly in the name of truth and for the general interest of all, which may be called the standard meta-bullshit. (***)

In the first of the links I gave above, I quote from professor Frankfurt's On Bullshit (<- Princeton University) and from the article : Bullshit in Wikipedia, which are both good introductions to this truly enormous field of human enterprisse, and here is a bit from the latter with a bit from the former repeated for your information and delectation:

Bullshit is commonly used to describe statements made by people more concerned with the response of the audience than in truth and accuracy, such as goal-oriented statements made in the field of politics or advertising.
"Bullshit" does not necessarily have to be a complete fabrication; with only basic knowledge about a topic, bullshit is often used to make the audience believe that one knows far more about the topic by feigning total certainty or making probable predictions. It may also merely be "filler" or nonsense that, by virtue of its style or wording, gives the impression that it actually means something.

In his essay On Bullshit (originally written in 1986, and published as a monograph in 2005), philosopher Harry Frankfurt of Princeton University characterizes bullshit as a form of falsehood distinct from lying. The liar, Frankfurt holds, knows and cares about the truth, but deliberately sets out to mislead instead of telling the truth. The "bullshitter", on the other hand, does not care about the truth and is only seeking to impress:

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

And here I can link again to my

to show how bullshit is done, and how it may be controverted. To do the last well - that is: rationally and logically, with or without satire - it helps a lot to have some relevant knowledge, which you may find outlined here

Also, I found the following link, that may be helpful, though I did not read it and don't know the author, who gets interviewed in the New Scientist by one Alison George - and check out the note (****) for bullshit about bullshit, for that occurs as well, like lies about lies:

The interview is interesting, and starts thus

You describe your new book, Believing Bullshit, as a guide to avoid getting sucked into "intellectual black holes". What are they?
Intellectual black holes are belief systems that draw people in and hold them captive so they become willing slaves of claptrap. Belief in homeopathy, psychic powers, alien abductions - these are examples of intellectual black holes. As you approach them, you need to be on your guard because if you get sucked in, it can be extremely difficult to think your way clear again.

But isn't one person's claptrap another's truth?
There's a belief system about water to which we all sign up: it freezes at 0 C and boils at 100 C. We are powerfully wedded to this but that doesn't make it an intellectual black hole. That's because these beliefs are genuinely reasonable. Beliefs at the core of intellectual black holes, however, aren't reasonable. They merely appear so to those trapped inside.

You identify some strategies people use to defend black hole beliefs. Tell me about one of them - "playing the mystery card"?
This involves appealing to mystery to get out of intellectual hot water when someone is, say, propounding paranormal beliefs. They might say something like: "Ah, but this is beyond the ability of science and reason to decide. You, Mr Clever Dick Scientist, are guilty of scientism, of assuming science can answer every question." This is often followed by that quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy". When you hear that, alarm bells should go off.

For more, see the original.

In any case: You can do something about the bullshit that reaches you from almost all sides, sites and sources: Learn logic, learn science, learn mathematics, and learn something about the art of writing and the field of rhetorics.

There are some good sources, though most are a bit dated, I suppose mostly because of the the levelling of education: Some of the good stuff about rhetorics is in literary criticism - published before World War II, when most students attending universities had a good intelllect, and therefore could be directed to buy or borrow good but intellectually somewhat demanding books - is in "literary criticism", by I.A. Richards; and some is in philosophical logic or law.

I hope later to return to this very important subject of bullshit, and the tools to recognize and combat it, and provide some useful references. Meanwhile, you find the choicest and most artful bullshit in advertisment and in psychiatry (and if you ever were convinced by Freud you need help as linked above :O)).

2. More on Bayle

I mentioned some days ago

that I want to put Bayle "An historic and critical dictionary" on line in English, mentioned that I use the English edition of 1824 that Google scanned, and also mentioned that, as usual with the books I have seen that Google scanned and sort of appropriated by putting its nauseating logo on each page, their were picture of scanners fingers, and mistakes in the text-file provided.

I decided yesterday that I want to do it in a similar format as my Philosophical Dictionary, simply because this is the most appropriate form for Bayle's great work, and have started on that, and will continue that soon.

For the moment, there are just the titlepage of volume I, the advertisement, and the biographical note on my site, but I hope volume I will be soon available in my html-edition, simply because it is great, and I also hope to have the health and energy to write my own comments on it, that now is rather more probable I may find than it was some weeks ago, as I will explain in Nederlog, probably later this month.

There also is a pdf of the lot, done by Google, which is - so far as I've seen it - properly scanned, apart from the title page, with textfiles I have been downloading and using for my edition, which are passable for volume I, but with mistakes.

Interestingly and oddly, I found yesterday Google scanned volume II meanwhile and put the associated textfiles on line, about which I must admit - glad as I am about it, and usually fair minded - that this time it seems quite well done, but also, quite oddly for a textfile, with rather a lot of small images of fingers inserted.

This I can't explain well, but as I said: I am glad that the pdf for volume II and its associated textfiles of Bayle's "An historical and critical dictionary" seem to be quite good.

If Google now could be persuaded to NOT put its logo on every page they scan, possibly I might praise Google, but as long as they do, I am merely thankful if and when the editions they do provide are well done, and a tribute to their original authors, rather than a quick, dirty and partial copy of a great and classical work, everywhere sporting Google-logos like a pimp sports bling-bling.

And finally to tie this in with the previous subject of today:

Bayle was one of the greatest opponents of all manner of bullshit, though especially of religious bullshit and bullshit inciting folks to be intolerant of others, there ever was.


(*) I am aware that people who have been educated during the last 40 postmodern years full of pomo bullshit have probably learned otherwise at school and in university. But see for example, or my for another.

(**) This is one reason why real science is so very important, and why I like it so much, and also a reason why postmodernism is so dangerous: It denies the existence of truth, and thereby serves the worst types and institutions in politics, religion and business.

(***) "Meta-bullshit" is a term of art like "metaphysics", "meta-mathematics a.s.o. Indeed, it is mostly a bullshit term: A bit of obscure Greek instead of a plain "about".

(****) There is, of course, also a kind of bullshit posing as if it is enlightened thinking battling bullshit. You can find it e.g. on the Bad Science forums, directed - of all people - by a psychiatric pupil of the major bullshitter Simon Wessely.

So it is certainly not the case that everyone doing battle with bullshit is honest and rational - but there are two fairly good clues: Those who really do battle with bullshit generally have taken the trouble to acquire some real science and mathematics, while those who pretend did not, and if an opinion is fashionable it generally is bullshit, for what Byron said about England and cant applies everywhere:

"The grand primum mobile of England is cant; cant political, cant poetical, cant religious, cant moral, but always cant, multiplied through all the varieties of life."

And yes: "cant" is a euphemism for bullshit - that all too often is a euphemism for intellectual fraud.

P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1.  Anthony Komarof Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
3.  Hillary Johnson The Why
4.  Consensus of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.   Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.

                       Maarten Maartensz (M.A. psy, B.A. phi)
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