Monday, November 06, 2017

moral philosophy: honest description precedes solution

Honest description of an issue / problem precedes any possible solution to that issue or problem.

The reason that Plato banned the artists from his republic is that he felt they would tug on emotional heart strings and sentiment would get in the way of truthful description.

The world is full of clever people who talk the talk but don't walk the walk

I encounter people coming up with solutions to problems before they have fully described or delved into the problem. For some hard to fathom reason they don't talk to people who might know more about the problem than they do. They are more concerned about looking good on paper to those above them in the hierarchy than an honest and open dialogue with those below them in the hierarchy. The lazy solution is accompanied by slogans. eg. "No child left behind" (reality check: we did leave quite a few behind)

Programmatic solutions often don't work even though they look good on paper. The nitty gritty reality on the ground, the tremendous suction generated by dysfunctional forces can tear the program to shreds. The makers of programs often hide in their offices and leave others to be the sacrificial lambs of their failed paper work.

As their failed solution spin out of control, they plan the next step in their career pathway.

I like the Iris Murdoch quote about the artists: "Rilke said of Cezanne that he did not paint 'I like it', he painted 'There it is.'"

In more detail the Iris Murdoch quote goes like this:
"One might start from the assertion that morality, goodness, is a form of realism. The idea of a really good man living in a private dream world seems unacceptable. Of course a good man may be infinitely eccentric, but he must know certain things about his surroundings, most obviously the existence of other people and their claims. The chief enemy of excellence in morality (and also in art) is personal fantasy: the tissue of self aggrandising and consoling wishes and dreams which prevents one from seeing what is there outside one. Rilke said of Cezanne that he did not paint 'I like it', he painted 'There it is.' This is not easy, and requires, in art and morals, a discipline. One might say here that art is an excellent analogy of morals, or indeed that it is in this respect a case of morals. We cease to be in order to attend to the existence of something else, a natural object, a person in need"
- On 'God' and 'Good', from pp. 437-8 of 'Existentialists and Mystics'

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Bob Dixon "Searching for aboriginal languages"

I've finished Bob Dixon's "Searching for Aboriginal languages".

It's an amazing book. He manages to get inside the head of aboriginal people and report their life truthfully and eloquently. He achieves this through his love of language and over time that translates into a love for the people who were giving him their dying languages.

It's full of interesting anecdotes as well as a whole lot of of linguistics, most of which I didn't understand. It's available on line you can download the pdf from here: Searching for Aboriginal languages. This book will help you understand aboriginal culture, the positive, the negative and the interesting, more so than most.

My quick, very inadequate notes included:

60 talk in language about wanting to kill the author (see below)
99 language forms reflect the present mountainous environment
100 I'll walk in front of you because even though I like you I don't like white people; if I walk behind I'll be tempted to knife you in the back
115-6 making woman's sexual organs
157 different language used for talking near in laws, shame built into the culture, error is shame
166 the taboo on the name of a dead person leads to borrowing words from another language
212 test out the author by talking BS at the first meeting
238-9 Yarrabah depressed, aboriginal culture destroyed replaced by nothing
251 hunger 2 days before welfare cheque
298 green ants medicinal so don't complain when they bite you

I have worked with family of some of the people in the book, which made it special. Details not included here.
"Mabi bayingala yawangga malagangu jangganany nyinany," Maggie said. "he's like a tree-climbing kangaroo sitting high in a tree eating malagan vines, that white man there. I'd like to throw him to the ground," she continued, "hit him when he's down there and the dog might bite him. Then peel his skin off, cook him in the fire and eat him. I'd eat his liver first. Cut his hands off and his tail, and put him back in the fire to cook a bit more. Cut the carcass up with a knife and share pieces around to all the kids ..." (p. 60)
update: for an outline of Bob Dixon's remarkable life see here (James Cook Uni site)