Thursday, September 24, 2015

from Lawrence, SATURDAY (SEPT) PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Gender


Dear Friends,

For this last Saturday of the 2015 Spring-Summer season we will be
discussing: Gender.

We have already discussed this topic before, indeed Ceit and I have
included the link to our previous essays; Ruel has also sent us the link
of his essay.

It is not surprising that we have already discussed the topic, gender,
because after all philosophy is about human beings. And human beings are
first of all about being female or male. Hence, because there cannot be
any human beings without the two different genders does this mean that
humanity is made up of two equal parts? Except, of course, there is a
difference between what nature has evolved into and how we understand
nature. The difference is what philosophy is all about. Now for the essays:




Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813 <>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SATURDAY (SEPT) PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Gender

Friday, September 18, 2015

from Lawrence, SATURDAY (SEPT) PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: What’s in a name? + News

Dear friends,

This Saturday we are discussing: What's in a name?

In my few paragraphs on the topic (see below) I try to show how an issue
in philosophy of language can in reality affect our lives and more
importantly, give power to those who govern us. In other words
philosophy is no less real than politics or commerce.

Ruel has also kindly sent us a link to his essay:
Hello Lawrence,
Luckily I did find time last Tuesday night to write a very short essay
on Saturday's topic. Here's the link:
See you on Saturday.
All the best,

-- News about the next visits to the British Cemetery in Madrid:
Redacto el presente mensaje tanto en español como en inglés con el
objeto de comunicarles el programa de visitas guiadas para empezar la
nueva temporada.

El punto de encuentro, la entrada del Cementerio, y la hora será a las
11.00 horas
sábado, día 17 de octubre con explicaciones en español
sábado, día 24 de octubre con explicaciones en inglés
sábado, día 7 de noviembre con explicaciones en español

Si prefiere hacer la visita en una fecha no programada y siempre que
formen un grupo de un mínimo de 8 personas, avíseme a <>

*Como colofón al presente mensaje la comisión gestora del Cementerio les
llama la atención al cartel que se acompaña sobre el evento que se
celebrará en el patio de la Iglesia Anglicana de San Jorge, c/NÚÑEZ DE
BALBOA 43, Madrid el día 24 de septiembre a partir de las 19,00 horas.
(please send me a message if you want the poster which is in pdf format)

*Aquéllos que tengan interés en el idioma inglés van a encontrar en este
evento la ocasión para conocer las diversas actividades de la comunidad
angloparlante de Madrid. Para aquéllos que no tengan nada más que unas
nociones incompletas del inglés el evento será de todas formas una
oportunidad singular para encontrarse en un ambiente que les anime a
acercarse más a nuestra comunidad y hay suficientes hispanoparlantes
entre nosotros para recibirles con entusiasmo. Por descontado, el
Cementerio estará entre las instituciones representadas.


************************************************************ I am
writing this note in both Spanish and in English to provide you with the
programme of guided visits to open the new season.

We will meet at 11.00 a .m at the Cemetery entrance
Saturday, 17th October : the visit will be in Spanish
Saturday, 24th October : the visit will be in English
Saturday, 7th November : the visit will be in Spanish

If you would like a visit on a different date and you can form a group
of 8 persons or more, let me know at <>

*As a postcript to the programme of visits, the Cemetery Committee want
you to know about the event on the poster which is attached which is to
take place in the " patio" of St George's Anglican Church, c/NÚÑEZ DE
BALBOA 43, Madrid from 7 p.m. onwards on 24th September.
(please send me a message if you want the poster which is in pdf format)
*Those with an interest in the English language will find this a useful
occasion to meet and mix with people of the English-speaking community
in Madrid . However, those among you who do not speak English will
surely enjoy the occasion too as most of those present speak Spanish
well and will take the opportunity to tell you about all the British
institutions represented. It goes without saying that the Cemetery, with
its rich history, will be represented.
David Butler
David Butler

-------------my short essay

What's in a name?

Both our knowledge and our beliefs reside in our brain. Knowledge helps
us to manage future events and beliefs help us manage present emotional
experience. The key it seems is to bring these two brain states together
that will culminate into an act. Emotions already play a major role in
how we act and what we act. Indeed, without emotions we would be nothing
more than automata in a constant state of indifference.

Furthermore, our sense perception also gives us access to the external
world, external that is to us. And one category of sense perception we
experience is of course language. Language comes to us in packets of
data that we usually call words. But words are only part of a code, and
like the secret numbers that will open a safe, the language code,
precisely the meaning of words, has to be perceived in a given order for
language to activate the grand mechanism of the emotions and ultimately
manifest into an act; hopefully these acts are reasonable and rational.

For the purpose of our topic, that is the term "name," the debate in
philosophy has centred on the relationship between the language word,
that is the name, and the object it refers to. A particular problem has
been the connection between a name and a nonexistent object, for example
a name in a work of fiction. Another issue is the causal relationship
between the name and the object. Indeed the centre point of our topic is
the causal relationship between a name and an object. What causal effect
does a name have on us?

I personally do not think that there is a serious issue regarding
fictitious names. Basically the brain state of a fictitious name is the
same as a name of a real object. Both types of names exist first and
foremost as a language component and then a component of human brains.
The closest we come to a direct physical causal effect of a real object
is a sense perception and even then at a very superficial level. Meeting
my friend John in the street I can see him and maybe even hear him, but
these sense perceptions don't tell me much else about John. My
friendship with John such as experiences, biography, opinions and so on
are stored in my brain; there is more to John than just a chance visual
encounter in the street. Whilst, yes, there is a causal connection
between a name and a real object the real stuff about the object is in
our head.

And we can overcome the question of fictitious names by arguing that
these names are language structures and their reality is the imagination
of the person who coined the name; this is Descartes 101. For example,
we know that Sherlock Holmes was a fictitious character created by
Arthur Conan Doyle. Before I go any further I must also confess that
proper names and other nouns and words are the same language components;
proper names such as John, Jane and Tom are no different than nouns such
as cats, dogs and fish and no different than "is", "have", "on", "up"
"etc" etc. These are all part of the same language code, the fact that
we categorise these words differently is just the way we organise
language. Incidentally, I also do not like the term "word" I prefer the
term "concept" but that's a challenge for another day.

So what's in a name? Names, maybe, have a more direct impact on us
because they have a specific and narrow meaning: my friend John is more
specific than the more general term, my friend. Thus the word "John" has
a more impactful effect on my emotions than for example telling me "I
saw your friend." My reaction here would be which one?

Except that there is a big problem here. Language, especially a natural
language, is a public language that gives us universal meaning and
stability in a language. Can you imagine if we went around like Humpty
Dumpty believing that "When I use a word it means just what I choose it
to mean - neither more nor less." (Through the Looking Glass Lewis
Carroll; Humpty Dumpty was not a character created by Carroll). But like
any open systems, such as biological systems, languages are also subject
to infectious diseases and parasites, or in our case meaning memes.

In other words, a public language can easily be manipulated. For example
take the word "austerity". Not so long ago this term was used only for
mega huge disasters the most important of which was after the Second
World War (and usually during a war) or during the depression. In both
historical events most countries were in an economic disaster because of
the war, large movements of population because of the wars and after WW1
the impact of Spanish flu on European population. Governments after the
WW2 and beyond used other terms to describe economic problems and
deficit issues, such as: to economise, to tighten one's belt, to make
sacrifices, to look after the pennies. These were big words, but no one
ever understood these terms to mean drastic action or else (it's the end
of the universe). Only the term "austerity" had that meaning.

Hence, by governments using the term "austerity" by changing or
attempting to change the terms reference to what was once described as
"to economise" or "tighten one's belt", these same governments have
given themselves unlimited powers to cut down social spending beyond
what was once unimaginable. Rights that were established as a
consequence of the Second World War. Indeed names are very important in
politics and commerce.

A name is more than just a language reference to an object. A name can
be used in such a way that we believe it to be a real object, but in
reality it is just a chimera, for example the "American Dream" or the
"European Union". Indeed, marketers also believe that any technological
product would sell more if it had a number in the name; for example
iPhone 6 would sell more than just iPhone or Apple mobile phone.

My gut feeling is that the classical philosophical problems with names
stem from the belief at the time that language was somehow something
independent of our brain. But because language lives in our brain all we
need to do is to infect that brain with the meaning we want others to
use. Indeed, Humpty Dumpty had a good point and today there are many
Humpty Dumpties in commerce, politics, finance, and so on telling us
what to mean when we use words.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813 <>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SATURDAY (SEPT) PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: What's in
a name? + News

Friday, September 11, 2015

from Lawrence, SATURDAY (SEPT) PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The effect of global English on our thinking

Dear friends,

This Saturday we are discussing: The effect of global English on our
thinking. You remember that for September we meet on Saturdays at the
Centro Segoviano at 6:30pm.

Lola has kindly sent us her thoughts on the topic:


The effect of global english on our thinking

The English language is everyday more and more useful and sometimes a
primary need to be able to communicate with in almost all areas of our
present life.

However we must think that it is not without a price to focus ourselves
on learning and speaking this language for several reasons.

The other day some friend of mine who are English by birth told me
about the bad quality of this language when it´s exclusively used for
work reasons by non native speaking people.

Lack of time and need to act do not sometimes are not compatible with
the pleasure of learning Shakespeare´s rich language, as it is said.

There is a bit of confusion when you see people from almost two hundred
countries speaking English with different accents and different
mentalities, so it´s been necessary to adjust to a pattern of standard
English which we would say is one of the forms E.L. takes. So, a
different language has been born and more and more, people don´t care if
it´s not real British or U.S. or Australian and so.

However, as it happened in the past with Greek and Latin, our minds are
rapidly changing, some of the anglosaxon spirit has penetrated into our
neurons and it is partly the effect provoked in our minds turning into
more and more anglo´s thinking.

I think this civilization belongs to English trained minds, and it´s
also a leading mind of the technological wave we´re into.

We deny the evidence and trying to protect our culture of origin use
the E.L. in a degrading way, (only for practical reasons).

Despite that, today with our level of E.L., we even dream in English: I
mean, whenever we remember a dream in which a conversation has taken
place with a native speaker, in the fictional space of our brains,
subliminally, we talk English.

Lola. 10-09-2015

And a few ideas from me:

English is by far the most important language spoken as a foreign
language. Some might take a political perspective and argue that the
influence of the British Empire followed by the American empire makes it
natural that English should be a dominant international language. This
would be something very similar to Latin during the dark and middle ages.

This might explain the circumstances of why English became a dominant
language, but it does not tell us anything about how it affects our
thinking. Except that the term "affects our thinking" is a bit vague.
Indeed, "how does language affects our thinking" is a huge debate in
linguistics, psychology and philosophy, but how English affects our
thinking assumes that language affects our thinking in a causal way. One
of the leading researchers on the subject is Keith Chen who gave a brief
TED talk called: Could your language affect your ability to save money?
He's got an interesting theory about how language affects our thinking,
but I think he fails to explain a causal link.

However, it is far from certain that language, and especially English in
our case, affects our thinking causally or circumstantially. But,
surely, for a language to affect our thinking it suggests that language
has a dominant relationship to our thinking; I personally doubt it. I
doubt that, especially today when we accept that language is a public
phenomenon. In other words, I am more inclined that thinking came first
and that thinking affects our language and not the other way round.

I am therefore more inclined to believe that language leads us
circumstantially to influence our thinking. Language gives us an
efficient way to communicate with our neighbours and strangers in our
society thus we are more likely to use language that has evolved for our
surroundings. Hence English would be a very suitable language to use
amongst a large section of the world's population who happen to speak in
various degrees of accuracy, the same language.

And the way English changes our thinking is by giving us access to a
more varied base of information and knowledge. We'll have more insight
into different people and their experiences and culture. The only caveat
to this is that we can benefit from using one of the widest used
languages not because we speak this language but we want to have direct
access to many other people in the world than just our compatriots.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813 <>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SATURDAY (SEPT) PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The effect
of global English on our thinking

Friday, September 04, 2015

from Lawrence, SATURDAY (SEPT) PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: New ways of communication

Dear friends,

This Saturday we return to our tertulia. I hope you had a good summer
whilst we were away on holidays. You will remember that for September we
meet on Saturdays at the Centro Segoviano at 6:30pm.

Our topic is "New ways of communication" which might suppose physical
means of communications such as the internet, mobile phones, 24/7 news
bulletins, radio and so on. And then we have the social media itself
such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These social media have two
things in common: ordinary people share their experiences and knowledge,
and secondly this information once diffused is difficult to hide.
Compare this with the distant past when a handful of editors and media
owners controlled the content of what we read and the government was
basically a closed boxed when it came to truthful information.

But in my opinion there is a third aspect to new ways of communications
and that is the language we use. We are more direct with our
information, we are also to the point and today we certainly don't mind
expressing our beliefs in their raw form; politeness can easily be
excluded in favour of emotional impact. And most important of all today
we share a huge amount of information with the rest of the world through
images such as platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Flickr.

Today we don't want to be told that a leading company has a new mobile
phone, today we want to see a picture of the phone; today we don't just
want to be told that a storm destroyed a village we want to see an image
of the damage. Today we want evidence, proof and the most important
thing of all, we want to be there to see for ourselves. Hence, a new
form of communication are the cheap flights (low costs) that actually
make it possible to be "there". Of course cheap is not necessarily
better or good, cheap (cheaper) means crude and impersonal!

The downside of all this is that not only do we have information
overload but also a huge amount of white noise and misinformation. Just
because we have access to more information it does not mean that we now
live in a utopia. The predator-prey game is still there, and those who
do not have access to real time information are certainly exposing

The event horizon, i.e. the time it takes for information about an event
to reach us, of many world events has been shortened to minutes if not
seconds. Compare this with the state of affairs when our main source of
information was the nine o'clock news and the morning dailies. However,
there is a catch with today's plethora of information: all this
information we have access to is written in different languages. And
although English is by far the most used language on the internet (see
wikipedia) some of this information originates in a different language
other than English. And we cannot always ignore this information
especially the more we travel to places where they speak a different
language from us. The question for us is whether this rapid and fast
acting technology means that we are also converging into a single
dominant language?

Hopefully next week I'll try and write a more detailed essay.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813 <>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SATURDAY (SEPT) PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: New ways
of communication

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