Thursday, August 30, 2007

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Men as seen by women, and vice versa

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing "men as seen by women, and vice versa."

This is a very common topic which we have discussed in many guises and
context. Which partly explains why my essay is rather short. But I hope
that this has not prevented me from writing a few things worth reading.

See you Sunday,

Take care,


**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);

Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);

+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Yahoo group >> <
-Old essays:
- Blog:
-Group photos:
-My tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

[the essay could do with a second check!]
Men as seen by women, and vice versa

For practical purposes and matters of logistics, I will focus my
discussion on the vice versa part of the topic. Furthermore, this topic
has appeared in many discussions under various guises and contexts.

For better or for worse, any discussion on this topic must surely start
with the genetic and evolutionary beginnings. And although we do not
have to go into great details it is worth reminding ourselves that
nature has found it fit to divide the reproductive process into two
distinct systems. Some species of creatures do not need this (for
example, amoeba) but not so in our case. We must not confuse nature's
blueprint and our ability today to tinker with this system. This is very
analogous to customised cars; they might look different and perform
differently from the average family car, but once you scratch the
surface (metaphorically of course) we find the same structural basics.

Hence, there is an intrinsic difference, which may be interpreted as a
deterministic difference, between the biological function of the female
and the male. To an untrained philosophical mind we might interpret this
in terms of value judgements. That is judgements that might be based on
our present day moral standards or expected utilitarian function. But of
course nature does not work this way; there are no value judgements in
nature. In nature things just happen, whether we like it or not or
whether we approve of it or not. Never mind that speaking of "nature" or
"nature does not ..." might lead us to think that there is some sort of
being or creature, called nature, with the ability to decide these things.

It is of course this lack of understanding and lack of philosophical
sophistication that some people, most of which males, try to exploit
this difference in the two sexes. Hence, because the woman has to
physically bare the next generation, by necessity it limits her scope
and freedom of movement. But this restriction is interpreted as a
weakness, which, of course, is not the case. For example, if we take
into account the pain involved in childbirth we could not but conclude
that it takes a lot of personal and biological strength to manage and
cope with this pain. It is also true that today medical science has come
up with some solutions to suppress and manage this pain. Nevertheless,
it does not lessen the fact that childbirth pain is a natural process
which requires exceptional strength and something not experienced by males.

We might even go further and suggest that the historical and, in some
places, the current belief that the woman is the property of the male is
the result of this immobilisation of the female during the child bearing
process. But of course the word husband does have a meaning which
originates in the Old Norse concepts of "master of the house" + "a man
who has land and stock." ( husband). in a way the
male is in a better position to have and maintain a house, he is not
immobilised, and most important the male would have a genetic interest
in making sure that the female brings to full gestation a pregnancy and
even beyond that. of course, as I have already said, in our way of
interpreting the world around us, words like 'master,' 'has' and 'stock'
are fully laden with moral connotations, but nature is immune to this
moral way of seeing things. If we owe something, especially such a high
investment ticket item like a house, we would be rather sensitive to its
ownership. It is in our "interest" to protect whatever we have (it is
cost efficient by not having to get again) and it is practical to make
this an instinct (it does not require a lot of time). We mustn't forget
that our state of being today is the equivalent of a highly customised
car that can travel to the moon. During the time when Norse men were
taking Anglo-Saxon women as wives (and much before that) life was
simpler and certainly more basic; as simple and as basic as a run about
that just about takes you the supermarket.

I would argue that if today there are people who still think that women
are objects of possession and ownership this reflects a serious lack of
philosophical sophistication, at the very least. Of course, I am not
suggesting that we ought to be a walking Spinoza or Hume, but I am
suggesting that this lack of philosophical awareness is not something
that should be let to go by unnoticed.

But we still have an intellectual obligation to try and understand this
idea that a woman is a man's possession. As philosophers we have the
luxury of considering and interpreting certain factors which clinical
psychologists, sociologists and law enforcement agents do not have. In
the primordial game of reproduction it is not enough that we get to
mate, but also to make sure that we have a better chance of mating
compared to others. Thus, I would argue, preventing others from mating
is equally beneficial to us as much getting the opportunity to mate.
This idea is not the same as: if we cannot mate then we do our best to
prevent others from mating (the dog-in-a-manger syndrome; if such a
thing exists). But rather, if we are mating and you are not then
genetically speaking we are better off.

And what better way is there to prevent others from mating than to
restrict access to the female population. Thus, the concept of
"ownership" makes genetic sense in the same way that having ownership of
our eyes makes genetic and biological sense. Thus, it is not a
dog-in-a-manger situation but rather a musical-chairs genetic game. If
this is not the case, why would we make such a fuss about adultery?

Today, I would argue, reproduction has become another biological
function which has seriously to compete with other functions; for
example, good health, personal development, quality of life and so on. I
would even go so far as to say that today we even subcontract the
reproduction process from beginning to end: test tube conception, womb
renting, gynaecological care, medical assisted childbirth and later on,
the hiring of nannies and the establishment of kindergarten and schools
in general. Today, we do not even need a boot in our customised car,
since the supermarket makes home deliveries now.

There is, of course, one minor problem in all this: we have forgotten to
tell the genes about the new state of affairs. Thus when a man sees a
woman the genes might be saying reproduce, but all the guy wants is to
have a good time. this is like our little run about thinking that every
time it leave the garage it thins it is going to the supermarket, but in
fact we are going for good time along the coast stopping when we want to
enjoy the view and breath the fresh air. This can lead to some serious

On her blog Andrea Learned (1) quotes from a story in the LA Times (1),
the following: "In 70% of my sales, if the woman likes the home, the man
goes along with it," said Paul Britton, a Prudential California Realty
agent in Bellflower. "Her approval is key to the purchase." For our
purpose it is not relevant what happens in the other 30% of the cases.
What is important about this is that here we have empirical evidence
that contributes to the hypothesis that, "Women see a home; Men see a
house" (which is also Learned's title for her blog entry).
Thefreedictionary entry also says that Old English had a word to
describe the Old Norse concept of "mistress of the house." And although
the words have not survived this idea of "mistress of the house" still
survives not only in our language, but also in many cultures. Doesn't
this suggest to you that the male-female blueprint relationship was
meant to be something like an admiral-captain relationship, rather than
master-slave relations? Except that someone forgot that the captain was
recently (shall we say the 1960's) was promoted to admiral as well.

This might explain why men have some problems adjusting to the idea that
now they have to do some of the housework and chores in the house. In
the past it was enough just to own the house, but not anymore. But, as I
said before, someone has forgotten to tell the genes. Which might also
go a long way to explain and justify the advice given by the British
comedienne, Jo Brand, and quoted in The Independent (2): "How do you
know if it's time to wash the dishes and clean your house? Look inside
your pants. If you find a penis in there, it's not time."

In the world of work and employment it is very commonly believed that
women are prevented by men from advancing their career or discriminated
against. it goes without saying that it is reasonable to supposes that
some people in position of authority or power do thwart the career of
others including would be women high fliers. This has to be balanced
against a background where there are also many women in business who are
in position of authority not to mention owners of their business. What
is often overlooked is that when people compete against each other,
discrimination is a very effective technique to use against one's
opponents. Moreover, maybe it is easier to discriminate against women
than it is to discriminate against men.

Unfortunately, some think that the way to redress this inequitable
situation is either through positive discrimination or maybe excessive
punitive legislation. Of course, an illegal or criminal act should
always be redressed. But for me it is the system that needs fixing. It
is not that women have to be treated fairly in the present system, but
that we have to succeed in a fair system.

One area where the system needs fixing is the way the education system
is financed. The present trend in education, especially universities, is
to move towards self financing of education either directly, by having
to pay fees, or indirectly by having to pay market prices for
accommodation. Thus, for those who do not have independent means of
support are put at a disadvantage against those who do. Some of these
people, without independent means of financing, would include women. And
in the medium term some women would be in another disadvantaged
situation when they come to have a family. In the short term consider
how some women students have to deal with the present fees situation (in
the UK). This story appeared in the Times OnLine (3) in October, 2006:
Female students turn to prostitution to pay fees. Jonathan Milne. "MORE
and more students are resorting to prostitution or other jobs in the sex
industry to pay rising university tuition fees, a study has found."

Another aspect that affects how men see women is when women try to act
or behave like men or worse. Consider what Esther Rantzen, a famous TV
personality in the UK, has to say: "....You might think that with these
shining examples (male bosses) among my influences, when my turn came I,
too, would become an exemplary boss. Alas, you would be wrong. Looking
back, though, I was not only tough, but rough, and that wasn't
necessary." Of course, nobody likes this kind of behaviour especially
from a boss. The fact that Rantzen also had to cope with a young family
at the same time is of no consequence when we evaluate a boss. Hence,
the common feeling that women bosses can be as bad if not worse than man
exists in fact. Of course, speaking from my personal experience, I
cannot say that my women bosses were/are worse or better than my male
bosses. What I can say, however, is that bosses tend to reflect both the
company culture and the limits of their competence.

Maybe there is a natural prejudice against women bosses, not because
they are women, but more because they are bosses. But consider what Dr
Martin said in an article in The Independent (2): "Men see being funny
as a male thing," and then..." More than half the men who took part in
the survey revealed that a witty woman was not what they (men) were
looking for in a partner." The report suggests that this is because men
like to perform to an audience and prefer to be the centre of attention.
If we think that "a woman's place is in the kitchen" is a cliché, then
surely thinking that "women should not try to be funny" is something
very serious indeed.

We know, however, that women can be as funny as men, in the same way
that they can be a good in sports, music and businesses. Hence the
competence and efficiency is not better or worse than men. Any
differences that might exist when men and women see each other must be
based on some psychological or philosophical principle. But these
principles take into account our moral and functional perspectives. In
any event, it would also be difficult to see others in an objective and
unemotional way; we cannot be scientists all the time. Hence, women
might sometimes see men as uncaring, whereas men might see women as

Take care


(1) Women See A Home: Men See A House
Andrea Learned

The original LA Times article can be found at:,1,2896548.story?page=1&ctrack=1&cset=true&coll=la-home-printedition
A woman sees the home in a house
August 12 2007
(requires free registration)

(2) Why men don't fancy funny women
The Independent

(3) Female students turn to prostitution to pay fees
Jonathan Milne
Times Online, October 8, 2006

(4) Why women bosses are bullies
By Guardian Unlimited, Esther Rantzen

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Men as seen by
women, and vice versa

Friday, August 24, 2007

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Personality complexes + Job Offer

Two news items + essay

Dear friends,

This week we are discussing Personality Complexes.

I am sure most of us have to deal with complexes in other people and
maybe in us. But of course we know how to handle these situations, at
least in theory. Maybe you can find the time to come and tell us about
your ideas on personality complexes.

Kim and I are going to the encierro in San Sebastian de los Reys, but if
there is enough interest we can go during the night for the night festa.
Of course, you don't have to join us for the encierro. Please let me
know if you are interested.

In the meantime, Ian has brought the following job vacancy to my
attention. If you know any with the right background please pass them
the details:

TV Presenter (Madrid)
Listed by Roger Casas-Alatriste on July 30th.
Jobs - Television/Film | 1 views | Report
MobuzzTV, Madrid-based online television channel is seeking for female
TV Presenters.

Prior experience not as important as the passion in working of an online
television while having a for interest communicating and be part of a
new media experience.

The position is full-time and based in our main office in Madrid, Spain.


* Female
* 24-30 y/o
* Perfect (native) english / french / german
* Writing skills
* European citizenship
* The ability and passion to communicate
* Knowledge on blogs, online social networks, online video
* Strong willingness to contribute to a small team

Salary: €1.500 Month

Please send CV, photos or audiovisual material to:

Hours: Full-Time
This job is salaried.

See a video about it here:

An example of what they are after here:

take care and see you Sunday,


**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);

Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);

+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Yahoo group >> <
-Old essays:
- Blog:
-Group photos:
-My tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Personality complexes

There is probably a thin line between personality complexes and
personality disorders. Our first objective would be to make sure that we
do not cross that thin line and cross into territory that is not within
our domain. The next thing to do would be to define and establish what
is a personality complexity and how it concerns us philosophically.

A personal disorder is something which ought to concern medical science
and hence outside our scope to find a solution for the problems not that
personality disorders do not have philosophical implications. Moreover,
a disorder might easily be because the brain is damaged or not
functioning properly for physiological reasons. On the other hand, I
would argue that a complexity is more due to psychological or emotional
causes rather than direct brain damage or malfunction. Of course, there
will always be a physical reductionist cause to a complexity but the big
difference is that I assume that someone with a complexity would still
have a normally functioning brain (all things being equal).

The most obvious philosophical issues relating to personality complexes
would involve ethics, philosophy of mind, including the nature and scope
of voluntary and involuntary actions, personal identity, social
interaction and communication. However, what is complexity in the
context of mental health is questionable. Consider this quotation from a
document published on the National Personality Disorder Website (NPDW)*:
Complexity is a word which is often used in literature and policy
relating to current mental health provision, but its legacy is from
concepts which are no longer acceptable and language which is today
regarded as discriminatory and pejorative.

We also do not want complexity to mean difficult or complicated which is
also a meaning hinted at in this document. In psychology the term
complexities was introduced by Jung and is generally accepted to mean
(Wikipedia: complexes (psychology)), "In psychology a complex is
generally an important group of unconscious associations, or a strong
unconscious impulse lying behind an individual otherwise mysterious
condition: the detail varies widely from theory to theory." Which is
much closer to how we use the words "personal complexes" in every day
life when we speak of a person having complexes.

The article on complexes in Wikipedia lists some familiar complexes plus
those discussed by Freud and Jung such as Oedipus complex by Freud and
the father complex by Jung. The popular complexes included in the
article are: God complex, Inferiority complex, Messianic complex,
Napoleon complex, Persecution complex, Superiority complex. Maybe these
complexes are popular and more familiar to us because they are more
common in the population. To this we can add the very real possibility
that talking about sex and sexual matters in the context of child/adult
relationship are still a taboo subjects. We might be familiar with the
Oedipus or Electra complexes, but they are hardly the subject of
conversation in polite society.

These familiar complexes might just be at the extreme end of the
spectrum. Maybe there are milder complexes which we do not recognise
them as such, maybe some of which come across as just irritations.
Others might even be camouflaged to represent acceptable normal
behaviour. For example, the belief by some bosses that working long
hours is best for business. Whatever the reasons for believing that
working long hours is good for business what matters is working
efficiently and effectively. There are many successful business and
managers who do not believe working long hours is the key to success.
However, working long hours is generally seen as a virtue and not an
inefficient use of time. However, some bosses still insist on long hours
without giving any evidence that it is the best strategy for the business.

In general these popular and familiar complexes seem to affect our
behaviour and relationships with others. Someone who has a pronounced
idea of superiority complex will certainly be a nuisance to those around
them. And by equal measure, someone who suffers from an inferiority
complex might fail to be an asset to their community or a benefit to
others simply because they lack self confidence. such a person, who
might contribute to the well being of a community, does not do their
fair share of community work to share with others. Compare this with
personality disorders which are a detriment to the sufferer first and
foremost and then maybe the community.

The ethics of complexes does seem to fall into these two general
categories, nuisance to others or lack of self confidence. Both
categories have ethical consequences as I already pointed out. If there
is nothing more annoying than someone with an acute god or superiority
complex, then there is nothing more unfortunate than an inferiority
complex. And such an inferiority complex need not be one of feeling less
competent than others, but also maybe to other factors. A napoleon
complex is based on being short, a complex about obesity, a complex
about one's family background (working class background for example) or
even a complex of inferiority one notices in some immigrants from third
world countries. At face value, it seems that these complexes are self
imposed and unjustified. A law abiding immigrant has nothing to feel
inferior about living in another country, a short person has nothing to
feel bad about their height; and if they do it is their fault or at the
very least their own doing. Maybe, but their must always be a reason why
someone would want to feel disadvantaged, or lack self-confidence.

The reason is simple, some of these self deprecating complexes are also
the result of how others treat us or behave in our company. Someone who
feels incompetent might have never been encouraged or praised for what
they did as a child, maybe someone who is conscious about their height
might have been rejected by prospective partners for this reason alone,
maybe an immigrant does experience endless discrimination. As the NPDW
points out, complexes are/were regarded as "discriminatory and
pejorative" or the result there of (my inference). after all, children
are supposed to be seen and not heard, Napoleon was taller than the
average French man in his time (see Napoleon Height; AskYahoo), fashion
designers and clothes shops only cater for wafer thin people, and some
countries do have a pronounced sense of superiority complex that can
make some people run for cover. In other words, although there might be
some self-imposed consequences for these negative complexes, they might
also have good cause to point at the real world and how those who live
there behave.

Ethically, it seems that personality complexes are indeed complex,
creating unique situations that cannot be generalised. Trying to avoid
someone because of their irritating complexes might be an accepted thing
to do, but discriminating against some because they have undesirable
person features (short, foreign, etc) is not acceptable. Yet, nature has
evolved us to avoid strangers and short might have signified weakness in
the distant evolutionary past. If, therefore, personality complexes are
at the very least ethically complex, could it be that they are also as
complex for scientific analysis. For example, can we extrapolate general
probabilistic truths based on very individual peculiarities? And
specifically about negative complexes (inferiority, persecution ...),
are they the result of the same cause in all people, and are they
relevant in degrees of justification to experience such complexes.

Personality complexes are also a sort of personal identity feature.
Maybe there is something endearing about the professor who always wears
the same jacket or hardly ever has a hair cut. Or maybe the mother who
does not buy green clothes for her children or venture out in the wind.
These are behaviours which although peculiar and maybe a bit irritating,
they are nevertheless harmless. What they certainly do, though, is that
they contribute to our uniqueness as individuals. These regular
behaviour traits help others establish strategies and ways of dealing
with us. If one of our professors has a particular complex about certain
questions it means that we have to adapt to this situation. If we do not
mind being told off, that is.

Who we are has a lot to do with how we behave. And although we might not
have any doubt about our personal self or identity, others might not be
privy to the same information we have about ourselves. Thus, who we are
in the public domain also depends on what we do in the public domain and
not only what we say. Our complexes show themselves in the public
domain. Which might be quite unfortunate sometimes, we might not think
our complexes are relevant for who we are, but others might think
differently. They might associate us purely on our complexes. Hence,
they might avoid us because of a complex which we might not think is
important, or realise we had. But if they gave us a chance we might be a
good asset in their life. My point is that that who we are and what
others think we are, are two different events. Personal complexes are
material factors in this duality of the public and private identity.

Which is where the issue of information comes in. our behaviour is
information to our observers and how this information is interpreted
depends on the background, experiences, and, dare I say it, the personal
complexes these very same observers have. In other words, personal
complexes are means of communication. If we accept this premise we can
imply that some complexes are aggressive communications and some are
defensive communications. I might be speculating of course, but this
argument surely leads to the conclusion that these are basic
evolutionary survival strategies. In which case, how much complex based
behaviour is voluntary and how much is done through evolutionary instinct.

Of course it is difficult to speculate how each given complex really
works in this evolutionary communication game. An aggressive complex,
such as superiority complex, might function on the principle that attack
is the best defence. But how does an inferiority complex or an obesity
complex work in the scheme of things? Maybe these defensive type of
complexes work by making us more conscious and more aware of the other
people around. If you like a defensive complex works like a super
sensitive radar. Which is quite appropriate since a defensive system
requires real time information about the situation around the perimeter
and sensitive to slight changes. Thus an immigrant with an inferiority
complex is more sensitive, I would argue, to the possibility of someone
they are with will be racist or discriminate against them. A shot person
would be more sensitive to people who might discriminate against them,
maybe because the others are all tall.

How this ties up with, for example, the professor who wears the same
jacket is very speculative. And it is not even clear that we are fully
aware of our own complexes; at least to the point of recognising them as
such, never mind giving them a name. However, what matters is that
complexes are quickly and more often effectively detected in us by
others before we do.

Take care,


*National Personality Disorder Website
Complexity Working Party Brief

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Personality
complexes + Job Offer

Friday, August 17, 2007

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: socialising with others.

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: socialising with others.

This is something we all have to do whether at work, with friends or the
society we live in. How we socialise is regulated by such concepts as
rules, laws, etiquette, culture, tradition or simply politeness.

Unfortunately, due to the holiday season, the crazy heat and the pills I
was unable to write the essay this week. My brain just refused to work.
Maybe next week.

Finally, between the 25th August and 2nd September there is the fiesta
in San Sebastian de los Reys, which might be worth considering a visit
there. Most probably, the night between the 31st and the 1st. This is
the only Saturday when there is an encierro, which starts at 8am. We'll
talk about it; let me know if you are interested.

In the meantime, see you Sunday.

Take care.


+++++++++++++++++VICTOR – FLAT FOR SALE+++++++++++++++++++++++++
Victor has asked me to forward you details about his brother's flat
which he is trying to sell:

Hi, My brother is selling this nice flat with a nice patio, it is just
12 min from Madrid with no traffic jams. If you contact them, tell them
that Victor sent you:
Observaciones del anunciante:
Patio/jardín de 35 m2. 3 dormitorios con a/e. Dormitorio principal
forrado en madera. Salón independiente con mueble de pladur y amplia
cristalera. Aparcamiento en la puerta.

**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);

Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);

+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Yahoo group >> <
-Old essays:
- Blog:
-Group photos:
-My tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: socialising with

Thursday, August 09, 2007

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Traditions

Dear friends,

I hope you are having, will have or have had a good holiday this August.

Talking about holidays, this Sunday we are discussing Traditions. These
are activities which we have all participated in our time. However, as
we know, not all traditions are good for one. If you know of any
traditions that are good for us please come and share them with us.

See you Sunday,

Take care


+++++++++++++++++VICTOR – FLAT FOR SALE+++++++++++++++++++++++++
Victor has asked me to forward you details about his brother's flat
which he is trying to sell:

Hi, My brother is selling this nice flat with a nice patio, it is just
12 min from Madrid with no traffic jams. If you contact them, tell them
that Victor sent you:
Observaciones del anunciante:
Patio/jardín de 35 m2. 3 dormitorios con a/e. Dormitorio principal
forrado en madera. Salón independiente con mueble de pladur y amplia
cristalera. Aparcamiento en la puerta.

**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);

Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);

+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Yahoo group >> <
-Old essays:
- Blog:
-Group photos:
-My tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147


A dictionary definition of tradition would include something like
beliefs or behaviour followed by one generation after another usually
through oral communication. (see. or Webster
website). Traditions are usually associated with religion, society,
culture, politics, and we also speak of traditions in philosophy. For
example the analytical Anglo-American philosophy or continental
philosophy. I shall only consider some general aspects of traditions.

If we take the dictionary definition of tradition we can find a number
of issues that will interest us. I will consider what must probably be
the most relevant issue of all, that of the value of traditions, till
later. If traditions are beliefs or behaviours handed down through
generations then we need to ask ourselves whether what gave rise to a
tradition is still valid many generations down the ages. The Christmas
card can be a good example. If the Christmas card was a means to keep in
touch with people during this religious festivity (the original idea of
Christmas cards was not religious, see Wikipedia: Christmas card) maybe
today the religious sentiment might not be a high priority as it was in
the past. Maybe today it is more doing what one is expected to do during
such occasions. In the late nineteenth century, when personal means of
communication between people were rather limited, a Christmas card would
have had a great deal of meaning. however, and this is not meant to take
away the personal touch and significance of sending a Christmas card,
today we have many means of keeping in touch with people. Maybe sending
a Christmas card today is more a case of another opportunity to network
than a need for personal contact with someone.

What might be a tradition today could also have evolved beyond the
original scope of what the practise or belief were supposed to achieve.
Of course, change is such a fundamental part of nature that it would be
unreasonable not to expect change in traditions. However, we must
distinguish between traditions changing to meet a particular evolving
need, and changing a tradition for the sake of changing a tradition.

Summer holidays in continental Europe used to be a month long affair;
usually August. During this month most of the economies and business in
Europe would shut down. With globalisation and dubious competition from
certain countries shutting down an economy or at least a business for a
month is not tenable any more. Of course, some might not like the idea
of taking holidays over shorter periods. on the other hand, not only do
some of us feel we have the right to manage our time but business and
service providers also need to have the flexibility to manage their
production to meet market needs.

Compare this with instances when certain traditions are abandoned or
proposed to be abandoned just because they are old or simply to prove
that one has power. I am particularly thinking of the campaign by some
sections of the political elite in England in wanting to abolish the wig
and gown which barristers wear in court. The point is not whether
wearing wigs is an old practise; the point is that access to the legal
system is still limited to a privileged few given the cost of
litigation. Or even the frivolous waste of money in taking certain cases
to court. Hence, picking on a tradition might take away valuable
attention from real issues. It is very easy to have an opinion about
wearing wigs, but not that easy to have an equitable system of justice.
The same goes for the traditions of fox hunting or bullfighting. It is
very easy to have an opinion about foxes and bull being killed in a
traditional ritual, but not so easy to remember or even to have an
equitable system to protect factory farm animals or large sea mammals.
However, it is the latter two animal groups that need urgent saving.
Thus witting or unwittingly traditions can easily create a distraction
from what is really important.

Thus while traditions might have to adapt to present times, as Nietzsche
proposed, traditions can also be used as smoke screens for present
inequities. A tradition can be used to prevent an injustice being
removed, for example religious or social prejudices against certain
members of society. Or a tradition can be used to disadvantage some
members of society. For example, the tradition of paying hardly anything
to doctors during their houseman training years or barristers during
their pupillage. Of course, both professionals expect to make handsome
gains when they are fully qualified, but this tradition has an inbuilt
disadvantage against those who do not have independent support during
this training period. the Guardian* published an article by Zoe Williams
in May saying, that some co-pilots pilots are having to work for free in
order to keep their qualifications valid; again putting unfair pressure
on those who might not be in a financially privileged position. And
comments left by some readers of this article say that this practise
also happens with certain media institutions. Thus, an issue with
traditions is that these can be hijacked or abused for aims and purposes
which have nothing to do with the tradition itself.

From a social point of view traditions do help establish links and
bonds not only with our ancestors but with the present generation. They
give us a sense of continuity and stability. First of all because we
know what to expect, how to behave and what to believe. We know that
come the first of January we expect to be recovering from the previous
night New Year's partying. On the 25th of December we expect to exchange
gifts and sit through a huge Christmas lunch. Hence, a tradition can
give us an opportunity to socialise with friends, family and most
important of all other we don't know. Thus, building a social bond with
our community. We also use traditions to link with the past and
ancestors. maybe Christmas lunch has always include a certain family
recipe which one of our grand, grand mothers used to prepare for the
occasion and now the family continues to prepare the same dish some
three generations later.

Religions also make great use of this idea of keeping in touch with the
past and with past ancestors. This need for continuity and stability,
which traditions seem to offer, is maybe used to balance against the
randomness of life itself. I mean looking back to Christmas, how many
events in your life did you or could you have predicted these past eight
months. Maybe not many, maybe the journey to work and back, the
philosophy meetings, but many things we experience we just cannot
predict. Fair enough, we might predict that we are going on holiday in
august, but could you predict what was going to happen on the second day
of your holiday? Traditions, as the dictionary definition points out,
tells us exactly what is to happen practically to the minute. As I said
this sense of predictability and certainty is a welcomed respite from
the sea of randomness in our lives.

The value of traditions, whether moral or social benefit, is an
important issue as I mentioned at the beginning. Many religious and
social traditions have iniquitous and discriminatory effects. For
example, discrimination against women, against certain members of
society and of course, personal freedoms. Maybe what was a practical
solution many centuries ago might today be interpreted as a law from god
or a constitutional right. One such tradition is the question of married
priests in the Catholic Church (Google the subject: married priests).
Historically, it was only in the early Middle Ages that priests could
not marry, although this does not seem to be a problem for other religions.

Should traditions that are obviously inequitable be stopped, changed or
done away with completely? It will of course be difficult to persuade
those that have a stake in such a tradition to agree for the tradition
to be stopped. Whether it is veiled women or unmarried priests it would
be difficult to persuade the present establishment of these respective
religions to give up this obvious power they have over others. It is not
only the Establishment that might provide resistance to change but also
ordinary people like you and me. it is easy for a philosopher to accept
a philosophical argument about a tradition and as a consequence change
one's opinion, but quite another for someone who has been brought up as
a god fearing member of a religion to simply change what one has been
taught to belief over a life time. Believe it or not there are people
who are genuine and honest believers of what they are taught by their
religion. Despite, that is, of any inequities or incongruities such
teaching might include.

Of course, some traditions are so inequitable, that sooner or later
there will be an influential political movement to change such
traditions. Most armies of western countries today have women front line
combatants. Not only has the movement for equal opportunities opened
career opportunities for women in industry and commerce, but also in
bastions of traditions such as the military services. And this, I
suggest it is not only because they followed Nietzsche advice to open
one's mind to change but also for practical reasons. Modern armies today
depend on ultra hi tech equipment and skills and one just has to recruit
suitably trained and qualified personnel. And it makes no sense to
exclude female candidates simply because traditionally women were not
employed on front line duties. There seems to be a natural push to
change a tradition when it is inequitable or impractical. If your best
fighter pilot is a woman, you'd better start believing is the equality
of the sexes.

It seems that the value of a tradition is directly linked to its
utilitarian value whether moral or social. If necessity is the mother of
invention, it also seems to be the father of opportunism.

Take care


*The bumpy playing field
Zoe Williams,,2080438,00.html

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Traditions

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