Lisa's Notebook

Writing Exercises by Lisa McNulty.

Defining Your Terms

It is sometimes taken as a criticism of philosophy that philosophical questions cannot be answered, ⊕ it might be more accurate to say that they cannot be answered correctly. the implication being that if questions cannot be answered there is no point in asking them. (Note: we are talking here about questions which are impossible to answer, rather than questions which are difficult or time consuming to answer).

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Locke’s Conduct of the Understanding: A Translation Section Two

The project continues! Just a short one today. Section II. Parts. Original Text There is, it is visible, great variety in men’s understandings, and their natural constitutions put so wide a difference between some men in this respect, that art and industry would never be able to master; and their natures seem to want a foundation to raise on it that which other men easily attain to.

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Locke’s Conduct of the Understanding: A Translation Section One

I’ve got a new blog project which should provide me with some shortish, simpleish writing exercises for some time to come. I intend to write a translation of Locke’s Conduct of the Understanding. Now obviously Locke wrote in English, but in seventeenth century English, which I am given to understand is not as easy a read for most people as it is for me. So I’m going to go through section by section and re-write it into modern English.

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Truthful Lies

Imagine the following scenario: a teacher, talking to her class of six-year-olds about the solar system, explains that the sun is made of burning gas. However, the teacher is sufficiently knowledgeable about physics to be aware that, in fact, the sun is composed of plasma. The electrons in plasma are not bound to the nucleus as they are in a gas, so plasma is a fourth state of matter.

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The Contrasting Epistemic Approaches of Thales of Miletus and the Insane Clown Posse

I’ve spoken before about falsificationism and foundherentism, but I’ve recently noticed a rather lovely contrast between the epistemic approaches of Thales of Miletus and the Insane Clown Posse which illustrates both pretty well. So to start, here’s a brief refresher. Falsificationism, as put forward by Karl Popper, is the idea that science doesn’t advance by conjectures being proven correct, but by them being falsified; or else by our best attempts to falsify them failing, at which point we can be justified in treating the conjectures as true - although we haven’t proven them to be true, as they may later turn out to be false.

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Joseph Merrick, and the Privilege of Telling Your Own Story

I met Joseph Merrick the way most people do, which is via the David Lynch film adaptation The Elephant Man; in my case closely followed by reading the original text it was based on, namely The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences by Dr. Frederick Treves. The film adaptation follows Treves’ account relatively faithfully in spirit, although it does swap around the order of events for dramatic effect, and give Merrick a far more comprehensible speaking voice than he actually had (for understandable practical reasons) and with it an inexplicably middle-class accent.

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‘Urgh’ Fields and ‘Argh’ Fields

My online course ‘How Not To Think Like Sherlock Holmes’ has finally started. This is based on an idea that I had years ago, that I’ve invested quite a lot in, in bits and pieces over time, and the fact that it’s finally underway feels like kind of a big deal. The strange thing is that it shouldn’t be a big deal. Teaching an online class of this kind is well within my abilities.

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July Reading

Here’s what I’ve been reading in July: Novels The Passion, Jeanette Winterson It’s atmospheric and poetic and sensual and basically it’s Written on the Body again, but with Bonaparte and Venecian boatmen, and it leads me to believe that Winterson has a thing for women with red hair. I liked it, but it’s possible that I needed a longer gap after reading Written on the Body in order to enjoy it properly, because I was very aware of the similarities.

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Painting and Procrastination

Houseboats need paint. They need quite a lot of paint, quite often. I got some advice when I first bought the boat: figure out how much you can get done in an hour, or half an hour, including setting up your equipment and cleaning it and putting it away. Do this because you will often have an hour to paint, but you will far less often have a day to do it.

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Philosophy and Therapy

I find the relationship between philosophy and therapy fascinating, problematic, and potentially dangerous. First let’s unpack what the relationship is, and I’ll show you what I mean. Firstly, and least controversially in my view, there are qualified therapists who openly use philosophy as part of their toolkit. The most typical example of this is existentialist psychotherapy, which draws on existentialist philosophical texts, and frames client’s experiences around ‘existential anxiety’ about freedom and responsibility, death, isolation, and meaning/meaninglessness .

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