Sunday, July 31, 2011


Cartoonist Chester Brown stood in front of a room full of people at Comic-Con and described his sex with prostitutes.  As he went through the details, he displayed drawings from his new book, Paying For It:

Brown belongs to that class of oddballs and misfits with a fierce compulsion to share the most scatological, sexual and personal details of their lives.  After Brown showed us drawings of his penis and described how he paid women for sex because he could not obtain sex as part of a well rounded relationship,  I asked whether he considered any part of his life too personal to put in a book.  He responded, "Not as long as it makes for a good story."

The extreme candor of such artists, combined with their vantage point on the outskirts of society, sometimes makes for interesting reading (and occasionally provides insights we couldn't get from more conventional sources).

However,  I don't think Brown's large audiences are lured by his artistic talent.  Most of the time, he draws just well enough to satisfy prurient gawkers looking for unearned intimacy.  Brown is at his best when he is channeling the work of the more talented Harold Gray (in work such as Louis Riel).  

His writing is only a little better-- he manages some nice touches-- but his treatment of sex in Paying For It  has all of the depth, profundity and imagination of a 1970s Playboy Advisor column.

 If you want a sense for how truly insubstantial Brown's work is, compare his treatment of visiting prostitutes with the writings of Henry Miller or Arthur Koestler.  If you want to see vastly superior explicit drawings of the dark side of the soul, check out the work of George Grosz, R. Crumb or John Cuneo.  For me, Brown remains squalor lite.


Anonymous said...

Brown does not need to draw realistically. He has a simple, bleak style that fits well with his stories.


Donald Pittenger said...

Brown's "philosophy" aside, the first panel shown brought to mind a thought I've held for a seriously long time.

Since the early 1960s, many artists, writers, rock stars, etc., etc. seem to have operated on the basis that their "art" should be shocking (as opposed to being beautiful, uplifting or some other goal). It's part of the postmodernist package.

But the concept of diminishing returns comes into play. The low-hanging shock elements were used up a long time ago. I can think of a few "traditional" candidates for shock that might be exploited (mostly related to graphic scatology), but nowadays there is little ore left to mine.

However, as cultural norms shift, other potential PoMo shock possibilities appear and could be exploited if trendy artists have the guts to try.

Here's an example I gave a few years ago when I was blogging at 2Blowhards: A painter creates a large canvas with some interesting, subtle color relationships executed in fine, painterly style as a subdued background (lots of nice craftsmanship helps its artistic cred). Upon that background is painted in large, red letters "Kill [insert vile, racist epithet of the artist's choice here]."

Now that would be shocking and transgressive and hold all sorts of interesting career possibilities for a courageous shock-jock artist.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing bleak or shocking about Brown's work. It's just boring. He's more interested in broadcasting his Libertarian political views than making good art.

Laurence John said...

David: "If you want to see a vastly superior effort to capture the dark side of the soul with explicit drawings, check out the work of George Grosz, R. Crumb or John Cuneo"

is it 'the dark side of the soul' though ? from the excerpts i've seen it seems as if Brown is trying to give a level-headed, factual, even mundane account of his experiences (and not just trying to shock as Donald suggests). heightened expressionism wouldn't seem appropriate. not that i'm defending this work in particular; while i always defend the right of comic artists to work in as minimal a style as they choose (and i've bought Maus and Jimmy Corrigan) if the art looks uninspired i won't buy it.
i won't be buying this one.

Anonymous said...

Frankly I'm baffled by this post David. The characters in the last example are practically rubber-stamped with little variation. It couldn't be more obvious that Brown is unambitious and utterly utilitarian in his approach. I don't understand why you present this as though, in the spirit of modernism, we must carefully examine it to determine if it is of artistic merit or great art. The only thing I can think of is that Brown's work resembles some particular artist whose work resembles some other particular artist whose work might be considered by some to be great art, and that's confusing you.

David Apatoff said...

Etc, etc wrote: "I don't understand why you present this as though, in the spirit of modernism, we must carefully examine it to determine if it is of artistic merit or great art."

Well, I tried to make clear that I don't think it has great artistic merit, but I do think it is worthy of discussion. Brown's book was on a number of best seller lists (while truly talented artists go begging for work). The New York Times wrote, "it will be the most talked about graphic novel of 2011," and indeed there has been a lot of attention paid in print and across the blogosphere (while better work is ignored). Brown received a big award at Comic-Con and got a lot of attention there. The Canadian government helped to fund Brown's work with taxpayer dollars. Why in the world does this happen? The prurient gawkers I mentioned would account for the book sales, but not the government funds or the attention from supposedly serious thinkers.

One of the good things about Comic-Con is that it exposes you to a cross section of talent, some of it outside your comfort zone. I went to hear Brown speak in order to learn if there was something beneath the surface that I was missing. I didn't see it, but I was hoping that readers out there might be able to point out strengths for me.

llj said...

I don't think this book is going to be very stimulating for sexually curious gawkers. There's a lot about Brown's drawings you could criticize, but I am quite sure these drawings are not meant to be erotic.

For the record, I do have a modest yet acknowledgeable collection of "real" adult comics and I can spot all the typical techniques used when an artist is *trying* to stimulate the reader sexually. Brown clearly has taken a distancing, clinical effect here to his subject.

David Apatoff said...

JSL-- the one thing I do like about Brown's drawings for this book is his sparse, barren style which is consistent with the emotionally barren world of his story. The only problem is, this tone is inadvertent. Brown's editorial message is that it is healthy and positive to be a john.

Donald Pittenger-- I agree that our senses have been dulled by decades of art intended to shock. The "low-hanging shock elements" have not only been used up long ago, they have also pushed their way down to younger audiences, and invaded locations (polite circles, official government activities, prime time television) where decorum used to be important. Personally, I think there is a wonderful role to be played by the raw and the coarse and the vulgar, but only if we maintain something with which to contrast it. There is no "shock value" if no one cannot be shocked anymore. Your contrast between a vile epithet and a refined, cultured background sounds like a modern day equivalent of "ceci n'est pas une pipe." I agree it would shock, but fear the shock would last no longer than a month. Then where do we go?

Anonymous, Laurence John and Ilj: I would agree that Brown is not trying to portray the "dark side" or to make these encounters look erotic (although I question whether he has the technical capability to draw something erotic looking). I suppose my point is that there is something horrifying (or at least a little icky) about a creepy, bony little man who is incapable of an emotionally mature relationship concluding that "romantic love" must not exist, and resigning himself to paying young women for purely biological release. (To add to the creepiness, Brown makes very clear that he likes his women young.) I also find it creepy that Brown, who is no dope, expends his intellect on this long manifesto rationalizing why this arrangement is a good thing for the young women involved, and why they are happy to be in a cheap motel room servicing him and other johns. This work may not be deliberately crafted by the artist as an examination of the "dark side" but I am guessing at least some of the prurient gawkers are transfixed by this darkness. I did not mean to suggest that Brown lures readers with erotic pictures of healthy human beings-- this is more about the curious mating practices of weird creatures (just as we are transfixed by watching one insect devour another one alive.)

Anonymous said...

So --- Brown didn't get an invite to your home for dinner ?

Al McLuckie

David Apatoff said...

Al McLuckie-- On the contrary, I think Brown would be a fascinating dinner companion. If I had qualms about dining with predatory creatures, I wouldn't have chosen a career as a corporate lawyer.

Anonymous said...

who is incapable of an emotionally mature relationship concluding that "romantic love" must not exist

I'm not defending his work, but there are lots of emotionally damaged people who are resigned to their fate, and sometimes it does indeed create a great though tragic artist.

kev ferrara said...

It seems clear that Brown is acting out a scenario of great interest to many culture-vultures. The bonus is that family values are spat at in the process. This has only tangentially to do with art. It really has to do with ennui and a hatred of life and self. Brown's work offers vicarious gratification about meaningless gratification.

What next? People watching other people play video games? (Oh wait, that's been going on for years.)

That the noxiously bored and self-loathing gather around culture (and have become so large in number) is the reason culture often seems like a hot sewer overflowing.

The most pressing societal questions for me are; Are Chester Browns inevitable? And are we, due to some societal shift, at the beginning of the rise of the Chester Browns, the end, or has there always been Chester Browns... but only now is there enough people on the planet that the minority of Chester Browns constitute a tappable market?

StimmeDesHerzens said...

Brown's 'portrait' of himself is right on.
If you drive through Big Sur, Santa Cruz, on the way to SF, call.
The Bingham story continues...

Alex said...

He looks like the kind of creep that would have to pay for it.
If I were him I'd keep that sort of thing quiet and try to ennoble myself by writing something uplifting, not squalid.

Unknown said...

You're out of your element, Donnie.

For one thing I don't think you understand how writers use themselves as characters. He can be sincere about his manifesto, and yet still present a bleak world in his drawings and allow the reader to have a different view of his character than he has of himself. Seems like the drawings match his take on the subject.

Your post seems to be about puritanical disapproval rather than anything artistic or graphic. We hear very little from the many people who visit prostitutes. The societal pressure to keep quiet about prostitution seems reason enough for this work to be published. And Miller received a lot of the same criticisms.

Anonymous said...

We hear very little from the many people who visit prostitutes. The societal pressure to keep quiet about prostitution seems reason enough for this work to be published.

Required reading for sociology departments and professionals everywhere, I'd say.

Robin Cave said...

It may well be squalor lite, but a 10 minute documentary can still inform and question things better than your usual half-hour sit-com.

I think this is just another chapter in Chester's (admittedly somewhat strange) life. It follows on from an earlier book he did telling the story of his teenage pre-occupation with Playboy.

I don't think he is out to shock but he always likes to be embarrasingly self-revealing. In the past comics he can be seen masturbating (he has a strange technique) picking his nose, sniffing his fingers. In one of his earliest stories he has drawn about a character who can't stop shitting and the head of a former US president becoming attached to another mans penis.

He has a deep love of Crumb and if you think Chester is weird and degrading you should check out the stuff his friend Joe Matt does. I think there is an element of seeing who can expose the worst sides of themselves with those two, while holding Crumb up as a shining example.

His drawing style is decidedly low key but is has evolved into the very stripped back style he has now. In earlier days he drew each panel separately so that he could interchange and edit them as he went along. He lives a very spartan lifestyle as weird-alternative graphic novels take a long time to make and don't pay as much as even struggling illustrators get.

My favourite story of his is the short "Helder" and the follow up "Showing Helder" He also did a nice short comic talking about schizophrenia and how it affected his mother. Louis Riel was great and I agree with David that the artwork was better, although it was a little offputting as the hands got bigger and the heads smaller throughout.

I like Chester Browns work and I am glad he is out there doing his thing and putting it down on paper for us to see. There are so many crappy/boring and pointless comics out there, these days. Hooray for Drawn and Quarterly, Fantagraphics, NBM etc.

There is a good interview with Chester with examples of his work here.

I wonder if anyone will be optioning this comic for a huge effects laden blockbuster movie over the coming year?

António Araújo said...

His drawings suck, that I can agree with. But I could do without the moralizing.

So you have here a bit of autobiography, reportage, and panflet regarding the experiences and thoughts of a rather bland John. Is this what now passes for "shock-value", "attack on family values", and "squalour"?

Brown makes a reasonably argued case for prostitution, not at all sensational, I think. It is a subject that interests him, why should he not do it?

Let me recall, to elicit some perspective, some issues that in a recent past would have raised this kind of moral disgust:

-Interracial sex - remember when that was considered immoral, disgusting, etc, and how it would lead to chaos and anarchy?

-Homosexuality - remember when people would be arrested and punished for it, and how it would lead to chaos, anarchy, etc?

People writing about such things, or, horrors, advocating for them, would be subject to reactions not unlike these I see here.

"Why is he writing about buggering other men? Shock value? Assault on family values?"

"Why would she date a black man?Yes, she looks like the sort who would have to resort to that."

"This is different!" - you scream! But hey, man, it is *always* different, isn't it? In fact, prostitution has been legal many times in history, and chaos didn't come from it. Gay marriage, I can guarantee, is a far more unique and revolutionary concept in history, and one that would have elicited far more cries of chaos, sin, squalour and anarchy!

But, "Hey, if they have to do it, at least let them keep quiet about it"

Perhaps he is sick of having to pretend he agrees with your morals. Why should he?

Perhaps he is just sick of having bullshit laws pressed on him by peoples whose morals he doesn't share. Perhaps he feels entitled to at least bring the subject to discussion, as it certainly affects him and perhaps a lot of other people who are shamed into silence.

Maybe *you* are morally right, who knows. But it is certainly a subject worth raising and it takes a certain effort to come out of the closet.

For that I forgive him the fact that indeed it made for kind of a lame graphic novel with pretty shitty drawings.

ps: oh, and by the way, David, this is unlike you:

> (To add to the creepiness, Brown >makes very clear that he likes his >women young.)

This is pandering to the rabble. It sugests to the witch hunters that he is some child molester, which is a totally unjustified innuendo. Unless you just mean literally "he likes young women", to which I then answer, that if you prefer Grandmothers, that is fine by me, David, you old perv! Whatever rocks your boat!... :=)

David Apatoff said...

Etc, etc wrote: "there are lots of emotionally damaged people who are resigned to their fate, and sometimes it does indeed create a great though tragic artist."

Agreed. Some of our greatest art comes from damaged people. But not from Brown.

Kev Ferrara: I suspect there have been Browns with us always. I also think it is a healthy thing that we pay attention to people on the margins of society (think Henry Darger). But we shouldn't completely abdicate our critical faculties when we get there.

StimmeDesHerzens-- Thanks for writing. I had no idea you lived around Big Sur. You're lucky, it's truly beautiful there.

David Apatoff said...

Antonio Araujo-- I have consistently argued that it is possible to have excellent art about a morally reprehensible subject. In fact, on my post about Brown I offered two examples of talented authors (Henry Miller and Arthur Koestler) who patronized prostitutes and defended prostitution. Miller's semi-autobiographical character in Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Cancer was a selfish louse. Koestler was accused posthumously of being a rapist. Yet, I read them and recommend them to others because they were brilliant, gifted authors with genuine insights to offer. You may differ with me, but I just don't get anything like that from Brown.

Keep in mind that Brown's book is part work of art and part political manifesto. Henry Miller (like R. Crumb or William Burroughs or dozens of other artists who are social misfits) would never run for political office or suggest that their eccentric views are a model to be adopted by the rest of the world. Mostly they wanted to be left alone. But Brown is a libertarian activist who aspires to be evaluated on a political / sociological level (as well as an artistic level). Taking him on that level, I find Brown's arguments half-baked. I have a hard time believing that his example would be persuasive to anyone who still had half a chance at a healthy emotional life.

When I said that Brown "likes his women young," I did not intend to suggest that Brown was a child molester. But I recall a scene in the book where Brown, who is over 50, says that a prostitute who was 28 was too old to be desirable. I find this "creepy" not just because the age disparity heightens the power imbalance between the two and makes the younger partner more vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation, but also because it reveals the fundamental dishonesty of Brown's position. He claims these women don't mind having sex with an old man, but he would have nothing to do with a woman who was even approaching middle age. All these female sex workers who are the beneficiaries of this wonderful commercial relationship-- what are they supposed to do with the balance of their lives when johns no longer touch them at age 28? I believe the official libertarian position is to set them adrift on an ice flow.

As I told Al McLuckie, I think Brown would make a fascinating dinner companion. He has picked an interesting, self-revelatory subject, taken an unorthodox perspective and put a commendable amount of effort into a major book. But I do think the only reason this book is a best seller is its prurient subject matter. It certainly ain't the quality of the drawing.

David Apatoff said...

Robin Cave-- I suspect that Brown's teen-age preoccupation with Playboy is part of the problem. Most people graduate from Playboy's Advisor column as a result of a series of real life relationships that flesh out their sense of humanity. But if you are an introverted hermit who has trouble finding a genuine relationship, you might never get past the one dimensional Playboy Philosophy. If society is lucky, you turn into Chester Brown. If society is unlucky, you turn into Paul Snider.

I read the interview you suggested and found it interesting, thanks for the link. Mostly, I was newly struck by how charming Brown's art for Riehl was, compared to his art in Paying For It. Really nice.

I have not read Helder or Showing Helder, but I did see the sample pages accompanying the interview and I confess that I didn't like that style nearly as much as the Harold Gray-inspired style. Before I take the ultimate step of purchasing them, can you tell me what you like so much about them?

Unknown wrote: "You're out of your element, Donnie."

That's always a possibility. No guarantees here.

"Your post seems to be about puritanical disapproval rather than anything artistic or graphic."

See my response to Antonio, above. But also, can you explain to me the difference between "puritanical disapproval" and a legitimate, thoughtful conclusion that certain behavior is creepy? In your effort to distance yourself from Puritanism, have you surrendered the right to distinguish between creepy and non-creepy behavior? That's an awfully heavy price for a thoughtful person to pay.

António Araújo said...

>Mostly they wanted to be left >alone

People get arrested for being Johns. In order to be left alone you have to change the law. Gays also wanted to be left alone, but in order to be left alone, you have to become, paradoxically, mainstream.

>because they were brilliant, gifted >authors with genuine insights to >offer. You may differ with me,

I agree with you about his drawings being crap. I also don't think that he very deep insights. But I think his "half-baked" arguments are at least as "baked" as the average political apology of other sexual behaviours that have in the past been sinful crimes and now are mainstream.

> If I had qualms about dining with >predatory creatures

"Predatory"? Brown comes of as a pussy and a pushover, actually, a rather needy guy who was putty in the hands of his gf and in fact would be malleable to any of his hookers. A wide-eyed puppy is not a predator in my book, though he lunges at the pretty butterflies. :p

> to distinguish between creepy and >non-creepy behavior?

Eye of the beholder. I find most ordinary married lives to be creepy with all their fakeness, silent despair, sexual boredom, and enforced monogamy (I said "most"). I personaly see nothing creepy about prostitution of the kind that Brown talks about - a sort of bourgeois freelance job for girls who are free with their bodies and think they are being far more exploited - and I tend to agree - behind a mcdonalds counter than in a room where they can call the shots. I do find the street hooker, or the crack whore, or the sex slave, "creepy". In the same way that I find "creepy" the chinese girl who works like a slave in a factory making ipods for all us enlightened fellows, or the miner with his lungs rotting away for a pittance. Mostly I find that the rich people who exploit them are "creepy" - the same guys I suppose a corporate lawyer has to deal with often. Yet that exploitation, and those "Johns", are the mainstream. Do they still have, you think, a shot at a "healthy emotional life"?

What I find creepy, is the lack of any reasonable choice in the matter, either from the compulsion of force or from the compulsion of hunger. But if a girl would rather screw than serve burgers (whan she *can* choose to serve burgers), then more power to her!

"Creepy" is a word that fits far better in the mouth of teenage girls than in reasoned discourse between adults. It assumes one's sexual norms are *the norm*. That is easy for an ignorant teenager, but I find it just too quaint for an adult in a society where men marry men and we not only accept it, but some of us even commemorate it.

So not at all do we surrender the right to distinguish what is "creepy" or not, but we can beg to differ on our views. And I do find your sexual views rather limited and puritanical, in the same way you may find mine perverse.


António Araújo said...


>who is over 50, says that a >prostitute who was 28 was too old >to be desirable.

Can he choose what he finds desirable? Can a gay man choose to want a girl?

Also, the majority of men find that age group (the early or mid 20s) to be the most desirable. If that is creepy, then most of us are. Were old matrons ever the preference of men? Again, Brown is rather mainstream and humdrum...

>disparity heightens the power >imbalance between

Give me a break!...Age of consent is age of consent. Shall we raise it to 50 now? You are going to tell a 25 year old she can't decide? And where exactly do you see pussyfooting Brown exerting the "power" of his 50 years on a young girl? He does as he is told, on their terms. They have much more to fear from some immature jock, far more powerful and far more unpredictable. Should 50 year old men just roll up in a ball and (sexually) die?

> what are they supposed to do with >the balance of their lives when >johns no longer touch them at age >28?

er...they can sell they wares to another John who feels differently? It's a contract. Both parties have to be interested, no?

But ok, what if they can't find a customer when they are 50? Hey, what if a football player can't play anymore at 40? Lots of jobs make more money when you are young.

I guess they can get another job! An "escort" can accumulate a lot of money during her peak years.

I find your point confusing. First you worry they are too young, then you worry they are too old? :) The fact is *you* just find it creepy. It's a perfectly valid personal choice, but we don't all have to agree with you. We can either abstain all from epithets, or, if not, then indeed all us "perverts" will have to deem you in turn a "prude". :)

Laurence John said...

"Should 50 year old men just roll up in a ball and (sexually) die?"

we have something here in the UK for those who get to 50 and realize no one wants to sleep with them anymore. it's called gardening.

António Araújo said...

Laurence: there's nothing like British humour :D. Cheers!

As a relatively young guy, but old enough to know how fast a couple of decades go by, I hope I have something better to look forward to in my later years than being used for either compost pushing or compost tout court! :D

António Araújo said...

>something better to look forward to >in my later years

someone just whispered "tenure!" in my ear. :) Silence, whench, I shall not be soothed thus! :D

Anonymous said...

:) I suspect there may be some real wisdom in that approach. Call me puritanical, but it seems to me that being overly preoccupied with the gratification of one's sexual and romantic appetites frequently only creates more frustration and misery in the end.

Kirk said...

When people don't know who the prostitute is they don't care. When its their sister,mother or cousin its suddenly degrading and terrible.
The truth is it was degrading and terrible all the time, it just took the personal dimension to see it for what it really is.
Anyone that needs sex that badly needs their brain re-wired because there's something wrong with them.

kev ferrara said...


I think you make many valid points.

However, I think the crux of the issue is that you seem to be arguing that using our sex organs to make money is just the same as using our brains or muscles. Thus hiring someone's sex is just the same as hiring their brains or muscles.

But I think you are dismissing the normal emotional connection that attends one's sex as unimportant or just some manufactured convention to keep societal order.

What makes the issue creepy, it seems to me, is exactly the divorcing of sex and pleasure from one's emotions.... a condition often categorized in the literature among "dissociative disorders."

Which is why prostitutes and exotic dancers are considered a high-risk group for the disorder.

So what is going on here is the risking and/or exploitation of a mental illness in the interest of physical gratification without intimate consequences. This is a degredation of the mental health of both parties to the act (whether or not one has the will to name it as such or not.)

Steve said...

From what I can see, it seems that Brown's perception of the world is colored by the fact that none of his relationships have worked.
out.He's then developed this into a theory regarding the impermanence of all relationships and constructed a self-serving moral code that permits sex as a financial rather than emotional contract.
He's really fucked up. No pun intended.

David Apatoff said...

Antonio Araujo wrote: "Give me a break!...Age of consent is age of consent."

The "age of consent" is only a legal standard for determining whether statutory rape has been committed. There are plenty of other standards that might apply if we are observant: moral standards, standards for classy behavior, even aesthetic standards. But I agree, no statutory rape has been committed here.

"Also, the majority of men find that age group (the early or mid 20s) to be the most desirable. If that is creepy, then most of us are."

Antonio, since you say you are a "relatively young guy," you may not have discovered yet that nature has a funny way of adjusting for these things. There may come a time when you view smooth 20 year old skin as unbaked cookie dough. You may look at clear young eyes with no wisdom behind them, and find them inherently less interesting than eyes that crinkle up at the edges. I'm not saying everyone evolves that way... far from it. There are some men who are so threatened by the prospect of a mature woman that they believe heaven probably consists of 70 virgins. But back to Brown, I think one reason Brown can't see beyond 20 year old girls is that his emotional growth is obviously stunted. Hardly a role model I would follow.

"I do find your sexual views rather limited and puritanical, in the same way you may find mine perverse."

Antonio, my friend, I don't believe I have ever shared my sexual views here. (That's for another blog...)

Craig Wilson said...

I enjoyed "Paying for It" a lot. I have no qualms with the art. I actually appreciate its simplicity. It transmits the information quickly without drawing undue attention to itself, so an informative two hundred plus pages goes by pretty fast. I thought the topics of prostitution and "possesive monogomy" as Brown labels it were covered well. Except for the difference of opinion regarding the art, I find myself in agreement with Antonio. Well said, sir! I also find it unfair of you, David, to label Brown "obviously emotionally stunted" for having a preference which differs from yours. So he doesn't see young women as unbaked cookie dough or something else undeveloped and thus off limits; I don't see how the obvious logical conclusion is "he must be obviously emotionally stunted". Individual preference is a tricky game. Such sentiment also implies that well-adjusted, healthy, emotionally mature relationships cannot oocur between or amongst two or more individuals or greatly varying ages, which I don't think is true at all.

And as I think this is my first time commenting on this blog, let me say I really enjoy following it. Thanks for all the work!

अर्जुन said...

>>(That's for another blog...)<<

Which would surely be a poor substitute for this one.

Robin Cave said...

Well David,

should you jump in and purchase them? Why?

I really like "Showing Helder", more than the "Helder" story itself and here's why.

First up, I really like any story that has an interaction between Joe Matt, Seth and Chester and this one has Chester contacting each and getting their take on "Helder".

Secondly it deals with an artist presenting his work and dealing with the feedback from some of the people involved, mainly his girl "friend" and his boringly embarrassing personal interactions with her.

Thirdly, these two stories fitted so well into his ongoing comics series "Yummy Fur" which was a typical alternative 24 page black and white "floppy comic" rather than the Graphic Novel it eventually turned into..."The Little Man"

Probably the only way you can get the comic these days is to purchase "The Little Man" which is not a bad thing, as it also has the Schizophrenic comic about this mother and another story about his share house days called "Danny's story" and a range of random earlier surreally tinged shorts and a nice silent comic about his girlfriend called "Knock Knock".

You might be able to get the actual individual copies of "Yummy Fur" in America, I had to order them from "Mile-High Comics"in Colorado back in the 90's for about $1.25 each. Free shipping to Australia if you order over $100!

The covers of Yummy Fur were always great, especially the Helder cover. I also like that Chester started the unexplainable "underwater" series and had to let it go as he lost interest.

Back then(in the late 90's) the Australian dollar was only worth about 55 cents US, this week (in 2011) the Australian dollar hit US$ 1.08...if only I had a job, I would be spending a lot these days on the NBM or Drawn & Quarterly" websites... aaaaahhhh_if only!

Anyway if you are interested in Chester, have a look, If you aren't that interested don't bother.

The best thing about "Helder" for me is that it is so mundane, I don't know why that is the best thing about "Independent Comix" for me, but it is.

I really can't stand all that super hero crap, no actually, I hate it!

Genre stuff, adolescent fantasies, But I really love the comics medium.

I think it might just be the best medium ever because one person can be the writer, director, producer and star without the input of anyone else. It combines the best of drawing and writing but isn't really considered much of either. The only downside is that it is SO MUCH work for something that is neither read nor very carefully observed, just glanced over. The only more painful work must be animation, but film work generally requires "the committee".

Anyway, I reckon you can get hold of Chester's work for much less than anything by a "serious artist" so go do it and support your self-deprecating artist. A book about Frank Brangwyn's work would set you back by so much more but doesn't really deal with the world with you are living in... john.

David Apatoff said...

अर्जुन-- If you were Vanna White, I'd be asking you for another vowel right about now...

CW-- thanks for weighing in, I hope you continue to do so. You have a worthwhile perspective.

I did not think I was being controversial by calling Brown "emotionally stunted." Heck, I assumed he would agree with me, but perhaps I am wrong.

Brown does not seem emotionally stunted just because he has "a preference which differs from mine." Brown himself says he is incapable of sustaining an emotional relationship with a member of the opposite sex (or even a purely physical relationship, without paying for it). He is immature in that self-centered way that causes him to believe, "If I have failed in my relationships for the past 3 years, it must be because romantic love is a lie for the entire human race." A more emotionally developed person might view his failures with a broader perspective.

Finally, I find Brown stunted because he does not seem to empathize in a meaningful way with the human beings who are servicing him. He persuades himself that it is fine for them, just another arm's length commercial transaction with someone who is entering your body and poking away at your intimate parts. As Antonio says, I'm sure the sex workers prefer "a pushover, a rather needy guy" like Brown to a violent john. But empathy from a mature adult calls for more than that. As Douglas Adams wrote about riding on a horse: "It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever."

I find more awareness in that brief quote than in Brown's 200 page polemic.

Anonymous said...

"Which would surely be a poor substitute for this one."

I used to have that CD! Such a long way from Thursday Afternoon.

António Araújo said...

>Antonio, my friend, I don't believe >I have ever shared my sexual views >here. (That's for another blog...)

I thought you were doing just that...but I can't wait for that other URL :D

>There are some men who are so threatened by the prospect of a mature woman

I cry "Fallacy!", Sir! :) I take it you prefer the slight wrinkles of a MILF to the deep crags of an 80 year old Grandma. Is this because you feel threatened by Gramma's superior wisdom? :)

António Araújo said...


>But I think you are dismissing the >normal emotional connection that >attends one's sex as unimportant >or just some manufactured >convention to keep societal order.

Not at all. Personally, I would miss that emotional link if I didn't have it with someone...but that doesn't stop me from *also* seeing purely physical sex as something enjoyable. Though I would argue that society constrains us deeply, I wouldn't argue that these things are *purely* constructs of society. I would rather say that there are many types of personalities. Some of us can only have sex that is deeply connected to personal feelings, some of us have a deep separation between sex and emotion, and some of us compartimentalize quite well, being able to separate the sex that is just recreational from the sex that represents a connection with someone we love, and enjoy both types. And some of us can even add "profitable" to the types of sex one can have; and even enjoy that type, as a good day in the office can be enjoyable. I may add that for some men and women, marital sex is of the latter type (the "buy, not rent" variation).

>However, I think the crux of the >issue is that you seem to be >arguing that using our sex organs >to make money is just the same as >using our brains or muscles. Thus >hiring someone's sex is just the >same as hiring their brains or >muscles.

Again, I do not argue that in an absolute fashion, but merely that for *some* people that may be true. You stated that in some cases that stems from a psychological problem or may cause such a psychological problem, and I agree; I merely argue that in other cases it doesn't. Some people *are* indeed quite free with their bodies, and make little distinction between their PC muscles and their biceps! :)...and I don't see that as a problem, quite the opposite, I see it as something I appreciate and identify with. I have never had a problem with nakedeness or sex, and I find the ordinary level of prudeness as disturbing as many people may find my own confort level.

(I would also remind that the attitude to the hired use of the other muscles varies too - some people have argued that work for pay (vs ownership of the means of production, etc) is always slavery, and therefore demeaning, damaging, etc - this was a big debate for a long time, and yet see how it seems alien to the present American mind - yes, much of our hangups are indeed social constructs )

People are sexually very different and one should be careful to judge what that means regarding their "emotional development", "mental stability", or mental health; calling people disturbed has historically been a means of silencing dissent. We should be careful when we make laws that prohibit anything from buggery to prostitution, lest we be just projecting our own preferences; that's my only point.

But as far as the conventions of society ago, I am fascinated by those girls in the old Tahiti who would trade sex for the smallest gifts, and who apparently didn't think much of it. I am sure that much of the fuss we make about sex is an accidental social construct. on a more prosaic level, there are huge differences even between Western countries - in some places couples enjoy pornography together, in others you have women threatening divorce over their undersexed hubbies even watching pornography by themselves. It is all quite amusing until we start to legislate over other people according to our own hangups.

Hence I find it useful to consider all that in the past was an unthinkable sex crime punishable by death (mostly anything that is half fun! :D) and now is the norm, before considering what should now be a sex crime. I freely grant it is far from an easy question.

kev ferrara said...

"You stated that in some cases that stems from a psychological problem or may cause such a psychological problem, and I agree; I merely argue that in other cases it doesn't."

Hmmm... so you agree with the medical community that prostitution will tend to cause psychological problems.

But you assert that, based upon no evidence whatsoever, sometimes it will not.

Wondering if you know any women who have prostituted themselves for money? Whether you've ever been to a woman's shelter? Or read about any police cases involving prostitutes?

Wondering if you would think it okay to prostitute your current girlfriend, or your sister or a female cousin to the average 57-year old john.

(Just trying to cut through the moral fog of your last post with a little anti-romanticism.)

अर्जुन said...

D.A. said, "If you were Vanna White, I'd be asking you for another vowel right about now..."

~ That's a cryptic comment, it better be positive, else i.o.u.

etc.,etc. said, "I used to have that CD! Such a long way from Thursday Afternoon."

~ I love Eno. A long way, yet the road seems so clear. For anyone interested, my suggested aural path from The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch to Thursday Afternoon.

Taking Tiger Mountain - 1974

Golden Hours - 1975

Luneburg Heath - 1976

Spider and I - 1977

Events in Dense Fog - 1978

Chemistry - 1980

The Pearl - 1984

Craig Wilson said...

To be fair to Brown, he looks farther than than just his three years of failed relationships before concluding that contemporary monogamous romantic relationships aren't all that desirable. However, while I do think he has a point, I do feel that he extends the idea a little too indiscriminately and largely ignores the benefits to be had by successful monogamous relationships even if they don't last a lifetime.

I think your Douglas Adams excerpt shoots you in the foot regarding Brown's empathy. Brown's not indifferent to the existence and emotional well-being of prostitutes he patronizes. He does not sit on them all day, nor doesn't he have the slightest thought about them. Obviously he's a given great deal of thought to the those whom he's visited, the profession and its clients, and the conditions that affect them. He's spoken to them and read what former prostitutes have had to say. He regards them as individuals who can form their own decisions, and that laws restricting their trade is an infringement of personal liberties. Then he creates a 200 page polemic about it. I find that all rather empathetic.

But you may very well be right that Brown is emotionally stunted, and that he would agree with you. In all honestly, I think part of the problem I have is with the term "emotionally stunted", which sounds too clinical for my liking to be thrown about in this discussion. What exactly constitutes emotional maturity? How broad is the spectrum of emotional maturity? Who exactly defines such a thing? He definitely seems emotionally subdued, whether he's stunted or not.

Even if Brown were emotionally stunted, I don't think it really weakens the premises on which he advocates for prostitution, and even if we disregard his own limited pre-john relationship experience as such, he's got an interesting and worthwhile case against unthinkingly accepting long-term monogamy as the healthiest or most desirable sort of sexual relationship to be had.

António Araújo said...

>Hmmm... so you agree with the medical community that prostitution will tend to cause psychological problems.
>But you assert that, based upon no evidence whatsoever, sometimes it will not.

I both agree and dissent on the basis of anedoctal evidence, not on the basis of what psychologists say (but see my later comment below, some agree with me). I'd have to know the literature far better than I do before I take that consensus you allege at face value. Psychology has a long history of following and confirming the social fashion of the times - just a few decades ago, and on the basis of much the same theoretical frameworks and methods, you could argue the same for how abnormal and psychologically damaging homosexuality was. My bet is, you'd find that once you accept prostitution as a valid profession and integrate it into society, the psychological studies will change their conclusions, both because much of the damage is caused by society's view of the profession and because the observational bias of the psychologist will change.

Put in another way: legalize bothels, reframe escorts as sophisticated courtesans, sell it as cool and sophisticated to teens through some TV series equivalent to the "L word", and when they grow up you'll have a whole generation of empowered and proud escorts, who will look at your present stance as just as incomprehensible as being a 21st century gay-basher.

Also, you cannot diagnose psychological damage as easily as a broken arm. Do you think all those kids that now are diagnosed with ADD really benefit from being drugged all the time?

I'll let Tom Lehrer give you the caveat emptor on psychology (ok, sociology, but you get the point):

>Wondering if you know any women who have prostituted themselves for money?

Actually yes, but you won't like it. She started in her teens, ended it in her mid twenties, never had a pimp, was a hotel/apartment girl who had the sense to proclaim herself "luxury escort" (on the basis of the proclamation alone) and the body, style, and attitude, to carry it off. She says she made a lot of money (she has a business now that she started on her own), never did drugs beyond the casual reefer and recreational alcohol, enjoyed the sex quite often (though not always, but she wouldn't repeat a customer whose first performance irked her too much and would refuse a customer that irked her on sight, through lack of hygiene or something like that). By the way, she also commented that she didn't mind the old ones ("pleasent gentlemen, most, who offered you gifts and were not very demanding") but avoided men below 30, mostly through pricing them out ("but I still get the snotty rich kids, which I'd rather do without"). Now, I'd never think she was the norm, but she is at least "proof of existence", as they say in maths. Funny enough, she lately wrote a book about her experience and was interviewd on TV - the interviewer, a middle aged lady, tried to get her to admit to some sort of psychological damage, which she denied repeatedly with an almost apologetic smile ("I am sorry, I wish I was damaged so I could please you") ; also, there was a psichologist (young woman) on the panel who said that she knew her and agreed that she seemed to deal well with it, and that this is not so rare among middle-to-high-level escorts like her - which she contrasted with her other experience working daily with street whores who go to shelters. So I guess that at least *some* experienced psychologists do agree with me...


António Araújo said...

> Whether you've ever been to a woman's shelter? Or read about any police cases involving prostitutes?

See above. Like anyone else, of course I've read and watched all the sordid stuff, and I often see the degradation of the crack whores on the street. I also notice that correlation is not causation - the "crack" often preceded the "whore". Most of these girls had no inclination to whore themselves, they are girls with addictions or early pregnancies, who have pimps and do this in despair; many of the ones that are interviewed are actually quite prude! Of course they will be destroyed by this. We are not talking escorts or "apartment girls" here - it's not the escorts that fill up the shelters. (I am giving you my opinion but also, if i remember well, stating almost verbatim what that psychologist on that panel said.)

I can further state that the attitude of the Portuguese street whore (mostly very catholic girls from the interior who come here in despair) is very different from the imported brazilian ones. The brasilians make a show of it, dance samba in winter (to warm up in their skimpy clothes), laugh among themselves, tease passers-by, and, it was a common pattern here, the ones who also work in clubs often end up displacing the portuguese housewifes from their rich husband's homes (it was an epidemic for a while, which amused me greatly to watch, and ended up being a healthy wake-up call to the former depressing sexual attitudes of Portuguese matrons). They just don't seem as prone to damage. Attitudes do vary.

>Wondering if you would think it okay to prostitute your current girlfriend, or your sister

No sister, sorry. My cousin does something much worse than that: she's a lawyer, strictly for the money, and I can attest that it gives her a lot of psychological anguish (I'm disgusted at her legal whoring, but I'll forgive her if on the side she will write a really good illustration blog :D)

>current girlfriend

I can relate her actual comments (besides "will you let go of that computer?"): the current gf says that she doesn't think she's the type (although she can think of worse professions), but she too thinks some people can handle it, and she thinks escorts that can handle it are hot (and a bit threatning as friendly competition). Further, she says that she can't understand why men would be such moralists about it and she rolled her eyes and said "American puritans!...". Further, she thinks what a girl does with her body should be her own business, and even if she fucks up and repents it it should be her own business, and she used the word "paternalist". Further, I have a promise that, if perchance we end up getting old and gray together, I am free, when she deems herself over the hill, to visit young hot escorts and she will do the same (with the male ones, apparently, although I'm hoping for a later change of heart :)). I'm fine with that, by the way.

But ok, if she was up to it, what would I do? Would I be worried? Yes. A bit more than if she did skydiving, a lot less than if she joined the army. So what? Would I still date her? Yep. Sorry if that wasn't the answer you were looking for, but I actually think dating an escort - or porn star, or stripper - would be kind of cool, though I am sure pretty threatening to one's ego. I might ask her for semi-regular health check-ups, though, which I think is reasonable - but I think that thoughtful escorts aren't really more prone to desiase than the stupid teenager who beds a different guy whenever she gets drunk and sometimes forgets to use a condom.

António Araújo said...


>to the average 57-year old john.e

Again, I'd be a lot less worried (both for her safety and for my ego) if all her clients were the average 57 yo. Am I supposed to feel disgusted? She might prefer the young ones, though. But I'll let David lecture you on the beauty of wrinkles, or does that only apply to women? :)

Finally, given that, on the basis of little evidence, I do guess that there is *some* (probabilistic) causation between "escorting" and *some* degree of psychological damage, how can I endorse it? Well, there is much clearer causation between boxing and brain damage, skydiving and broken legs (and deaths), acrobatic gymnastics and broken spinal chords, rock climbing and deadly falls, smoking and lung cancer, drinking alcohol and all sorts of deaths, injuries, and psychological damages, yet I firmly believe that you shouldn't prohibit those things. Not to mention all the workplace related desiases and psychologicla traumas ( by the way,I observe a strong correlation between female math phds and clinical depression - if that turns out to be true should math phd programs come with a warning or be prohibited? :)) I also guess that violent movies, games, and art, do lead to *some* increase of the probability of violent behaviour on *some* vulnerable psychological types, but I don't think that the loss of liberty is justified in preventing that by imposing censorship. It is all a matter of knowing were you stand on personal freedom versus satisfying some particular view of what society you'd like to impose on others.

Further, unlike boxing, that really is a lottery with negative expected value, escorting has a positive expected value; a smart escort with an adequate body and the right kind of mind can at least expect to make a very good living from it, and her *possible* psychological trama isn't nearly as certain nor as severe as the brain damage that comes from boxing. Frankly, I tried boxing for a little while and found it an enlightening experience (getting the shit punched out of you by a stronger opponent and feeling the blood in your mouth really gives you perspective on life), but only for a little while (I ended up ruining my right arm by punching too hard on a bad angle and now I am reminded of that whenever I write or draw, which is only every day). If I had to choose I'd rather be an escort than a boxer, it's much safer and pays better.

Anyway, as a final argument: almost all the young women I know are in favour of either legalization of prostitution or at least of de-criminalizing it (which is more or less the current Portuguese situation). That ex-escort I mentioned is in favour of legalization, while others don't want that because they don't want to have to register their status. The opinions of the people most affected are really good enough for me. The opinions of older, married matrons who fear young whores as competition doesn't strike me as much. Personally, I think we should go for decriminalization with optional registration.

António Araújo said...

(Sorry for writing so much, It'd be better to go back and forth, but I'm short for time so i had to spew it all out while I could and hope it answers whatever you had in mind - totally fine if TL;DR)

António Araújo said...

ps: To lighten up :) (obliquely apropos)

António Araújo said...

pps: btw, speaking of that emotional disconnect stuff, where do you think that comes in when ordinary teenage girls go out on a friday night, get drunk, screw a stranger with no intention of calling on him again, and classify that as having fun? Is there a dissociative disorder there too? Or only when money changes hands? I don't think money is relevant, since there is already a disconnect between emotion and sex in the first case. And is there a disorder when it's the guys who do it, or is this all about how proper girls should behave?

António Araújo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
António Araújo said...

It is not that I discount the possible health problems, it is just that people use them as an excuse to argue their prejudice.

If a girl complains that her knees are bleeding from too much praying, her priest will recommend a soft mat.

If a girl complains that her knees are bleeding from too many blowjobs, her priest will say that her health demands a change of occupation.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Nicely done, अर्जुन.

Eno is about as eclectic as one man can get (wonder if Kev heard some influence from his musical hero in "Golden Hours"? It has Beach Boys written all over it in my opinion).

kev ferrara said...


An argument that emphasizes exceptions over rules tends to treat the argument as more important than the living consequences of the real choices under scrutiny. But I don't think moral questions can be debated academically. Nor should they be.

The issue at hand isn't a question of law, it isn't a question of libertine versus puritan, it isn't religious, and it isn't something to be decided by anecdote (I knew a girl who was fine with it) or calculation, (as in "Well 70 percent of the women seem fine, while only 30 percent seem like they are psychologically harmed, therefore prostitution is a net good.") This is all just talk that distances the inquiry from its consequences.

The above 70-30 figure is made up, but let's take it as true for the moment. Say there are something like 25,000 females who work as prostitues, 30 percent of whom are psychologically scarred by their experience. That makes 7,500 damaged human beings.

For each of those 7,500 damaged lives, the calculation that prostitution is a 70-30 "net good" is the very worst kind of statistical sophistry.

The academicizing of morals makes them exactly the "mere constructs" that are so easily dispensed with from a relativist or bureaucratic position. So we should keep the argument real. (And we shouldn't try to shift the argument from its actuality.) Or our personal moral codes will be mere platitudes lacking in deeper human consideration.

kev ferrara said...


Brian Wilson was already Brian Eno. (1971, backing track)

There are many single measures in Brian Wilson's work that have more interesting music going on than entire compositions of Eno's. Take, for example, the chorus to Child is the Father to the Man from the aborted SMiLE project.

Here’s a pretty good facsimile of the first 16 bars of Child is the Father of the Man put out a few years ago.

Eno's "compositions" put me in mind of Brotman's Law.

António Araújo said...

I wasn't arguing for exceptions rather than rules, what I said is

1)That the numbers seem to be very different between street hookers and escorts (Brown talks mostly of the latter type if I remember correctly)and that I don't the escorts have it all that bad

2)that aside from numbers I argue that this is a matter of freedom of choice.

3)That not all people have the view of sex that you seem to be stating is a constant of the human psyche. For *me*, it really is like using any other muscle. That is how I honestly feel, and yet I have a very deep connection with people at an emotional level, nor do I have the clear history of infelicity that Brown relates in his emotional life (which can of course colour judgement), so I could choose to be mainstream about this, yet the fact is that I think as I do and feel as I do, and I see no contradiction, but rather complementation, between sex as pure physical/aesthetical exercise and sex as emotional connection, and even sex as business practice (and so do most people as long as the commercial sex is of the softcore hollywood variety that in older times would clearly ellicit the same arguments now reserved for actual intercourse-remember when actors were pariahs? Is kissing for the camera a type of prostitution? does it cause dissociative disroders?). Also, maybe it is a generational thing, but I see more people around who share the same view, or at least who think these things should be left to personal choice.

> it isn't something to be decided by anecdote

I gave you my anecdotal evidence because you specifically asked for it.

But I referred the observations a psychologist that works in the field and, I suppose, has a better knowledge of the numbers, and she confirms *your* view regarding street hookers (drug users, pimp-controlled, etc) in the shelters and *my* view regarding escorts/independent apartment girls.

I am, however, not sure of any numbers, I am not an expert, and I do agree that hard numbers *are* important, although, again, they'd have to be pretty bad to make me change my mind about the fundamental issue of freedom of choice.

>For each of those 7,500 damaged >lives, the calculation that >prostitution is a 70-30 "net good" >is the very worst kind of >statistical sophistry.

Yes, but so is the observation that a treatment for cancer is effective in 70% of cases. And yet that is certainly a good way to decide whether to invest in that treatment or not, if you don't know at the start whether you belong on the 70 or the 30 percent group. I really don't get your point here. Net positive means what it means.

You first say that we shouldn't decide on anedoctal evidence, but then you state that statistics aren't enough either. So we don't decide on numbers, no matter what?

Then what do we decide on? But if you mean that we decide upon principle, then I am even more sure of where I stand...

> it isn't a question of libertine >versus puritan, it isn't >religious, and it isn't something >to be decided by anecdote

What I don't get is what you then believe the question *is*. Can you clarify?

>This is all just talk that >distances the inquiry from its >consequences.

Here you seem to imply it *is* about consequences. But then numbers would seem to be in order.
Yet you said this isn't about net results, so again I don't get it.
Unless, and I hope this isn't the case, you meant the old argument "as long as a single person is harmed (...)", which is an obvious fallacy, since it would apply to just about any human activity.


António Araújo said...

>easily dispensed with from a >relativist or bureaucratic >position. So we should keep the >argument real.

I don't argue from "relativization of morals", but from my *actual* morals - but I can't help it if they differ from yours, or if this is an example of how morals are "relative". They are indeed relative. I was just hearing a BBC history of medicine - medical doctors used to argue that women couldn't be doctors both because it was immoral but also because it caused them psychological harm ("denied their femininity") and physical harm ("the exertions of the profession shrivels the uterus"). Sounds familiar? :) How can we be sure that our discussion isn't of this type? We never can. Morality is indeed very changeable.

>Or our personal moral codes will >be mere platitudes lacking in >deeper human consideration.

Well, but it seems that mine and yours deeper consideration led us to a different moral code. That is just a fact. Either one of us made some reasoning mistake or we simply *feel differently* about things (inherent psychological difference?). Regardless: What to do? Should you impose your morals upon me as law? You said this wasn't a legal matter. Then fine, I am ok with our diverging views, as long as you don't use the law to impose your view.

I understand that when there are two different moral positions sometimes one or the other must survive because the application of each to reality precludes the other. I also understand that sometimes there are questions of externalities (second hand smoke precludes the personal freedom of smoking - in public- or not). But barring externalities - and those have to deal with actual numbers - I think that mattters of morals that have to do with the use of one's body should be left to the owner of the body to decide unless a very cogent argument can be made for the law to impose one view. And I don't see that argument being made.

kev ferrara said...

AA, Let me clarify:

I wasn't really asking for an example of a prostitute you know. I was prompting you to make the problem personal because I was trying to emphasize that human beings aren't statistics and shouldn't be treated as numbers or probabilities. (See Stalin: A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.)

Facts (anecdotes) when gathered, rarely result in an understanding of truth. Facts are just data and data is just fodder for computational models and computational models are only as good as the programmers who put them together and most programmers spend their lives staring. A model is just an argument. Arguments beget further arguments. And, as the song goes, nobody was saved.

All we have is our moral sense to guide us to a suggestion of best practice. Immoral people are of no help in the matter. Glib minds are of no help in the matter. Pornographers (of the various sorts) are of no help in the matter. Narcissists are of no help. Children are of no help. Ideologues are of no help. Mathematicians, etc.

Whether someone is moral or not has no predicate that can be tested in a lab or defended in a court. It is simply a sense a tribe has of the social wisdom of someone based on their humanity and experience and circumspection.

You probably would not be surprised to hear that I don't find your social wisdom compelling.

My problem with moral relativism is not that I don't advocate for freedom and a free range of thought, experience, and content available to all adults, but that freedom (we now see) generally results in a blindingly rapid race to the cultural sewers... outpacing any considerate contemplation and taking everybody, including the socially wiser, along for the stanky descent.

So the wiser are forced to suffer for the foolishness of the glib masses. And, in the long run, the masses suffer as well. Because the masses, in being constantly offered degeneration, become degenerates in time. And here we are. (Turn on the television.)

Btw, Your cancer example is off. A similar point would be, If you can reduce your chances of getting cancer by 30 percent by not doing something, you would probably quit doing that something.

António Araújo said...

>All we have is our moral sense to >guide us to a suggestion of best >practice. Immoral people are of no >help in the matter.
> Glib minds are of no help in the >matter. Pornographers (of the >various sorts) are of no help in >the matter.

well, that is a long list of people excluded from being any help.

"all we have is our moral sense to guide us" but yet all those people cannot rely on *their* moral sense...(?)

> Narcissists are of no help. >Children are of no help. >Ideologues are of no help. >Mathematicians, etc.

And so on, but then, who can help?

You are saying, of course, that you are. They have to rely on *your* moral sense.

There is some danger in that position.

You do realize that in the past people would add: "divorcees are of no help, women are of no help, blacks are of no help..."

>It is simply a sense a tribe has >of the social wisdom of someone >based on their humanity and >experience and circumspection.

So what is moral is what the tribe happens to like (right now). Hence, moral stasis would result. Moreover you mean only the part of the tribe that you have not excluded in your long list.

Yet morals have changed over time, always driven by people who first break that consensus, and finally define the new one. The tribe didn't accept women's rights, divorce, sex out of wedlock, slaves emancipation, etc etc. . These were all immoral. (You keep not addressing this point - all these things were immoral to those wise, moral men of the past) Yet the tribe accepts it now...again you offer no criteria for morals except that what will prevail will prevail. That's not much help. But isn't that moral relativism?

>Whether someone is moral or not >has no predicate that can be >tested in a lab or defended in a >court.

But somehow you know that you are moral. all those others, me included, are both excluded from being any help but from testing whether you are moral or not, since you state there is no test one can perform.

Do I just have to trust you on that?

I don't ask you to trust *me* instead, to make the rules. I just ask you to let each person take care of herself in something that concerns only herself.

I don't ask you to trust my morals, just as I don't trust yours. But I decline to grant you any inherent superiority of yours over mine. I don't know for sure if my morals are right, because I know that proposition cannot be tested in a meaningful way. Indeed all I have to guide me is my best judgement. The fact that you are so sure of your morals, however, makes me even more suspicious of yours than i am of mine.

It seems to me I am assuming little and asking for little. I just ask you, and people like you, not to impose your views upon people who disagree with you, be it by force or by law. I certainly won't impose mine upon you if I can help it. Is it too much to ask?

António Araújo said...

>but that freedom (we now see) >generally results in a blindingly >rapid race to the cultural >sewers...

So freedom leads us to both the moral and the cultural sewers.

Maybe. I look into the past and see that freedom also gave us a lot of good things.

Morally: I see women and black men that now can have jobs and vote and own property, I see gays who don't have to hide anymore. I see that people can have divorces instead of suffering a bad marriage their whole lives. I see men that can no longer beat up their wives without punishment. All these are freedoms once deemed immoral.
Is this what you call the moral sewer?

Culturally: I see a vast middle class that has a chance at education (for now, at least). My country lived in a catholic right-wing dictatorship when I was born, I am of the first generation in my family that could have a reasonable education, I am sorry but I don't see the past like you do. I see a far vaster use of the intelectual pool than in the past, where culture was reserved to a few, who, obviously, were self-appointed moral people who made the rules. By the way, I see a world that at least in raw information terms has grown exponentially in the last few decades. I won't try to argue in artistic or literary terms, but I can safely assert that such trinkets as the proof of Fermat's last theorem, hubble's telescope, the human genome project, are at least symptomatic of a world that is not culturally dead.

Certainly I can look on the past and read Thucydides and Cicero and Marcus Aurelius and I can build up some notion of what clear minds there where then; but such rarefied exponents are available now too in such rarefied numbers. As for the masses, weren't the ordinary Romans butchering themselves over the colored factions in the chariot races? How cultured were those masses? Were they more moral? The beasts who butchered each other over whether the Father was consubstancial with the Son? I think our crass middle classes are not more ignorant, or more brutal, or more degenerate than they generally were. Or more miserable.

Basically your argument seems to be that some people don't deserve the freedom to choose because they are immoral, and that you are moral and should therefore choose for me, for my own good. Yet you also cannot prove this to me. You do realise that, unless you have the means to impose your morals by force, I'll be less than seduced by your reasoning?

The greatest beef I have with your position is that you seem to assume that freedom is something that is granted. No. Freedom is the initial state - something that at most may be taken away. I find it disturbing when people assume it is something that is naturally theirs to bestow upon others, if these others are deemed fit to use it.

António Araújo said...
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Anonymous said...

I meant that Eno was influenced by Wilson and assumed that would be obvious from the dates. Sorry if I did not make that clear.

I don't think "composition" in the orthodox sense (in which Wilson operates) is necessarily the point of ambient music, or that a comparison of Wilson and Eno is appropriate in the larger scheme of things, but that's a debate for another forum; I was simply trying to point out that Eno was eclectic and thought you might appreciate that he was clearly influenced by Wilson in the instance.

António Araújo said...

>I wasn't really asking for an >example of a prostitute you know. I >was prompting you to make the >problem personal because I was >trying to emphasize that human >beings aren't statistics

Well, I can only answer what you ask, not what you meant to ask :)

Speaking of which, do *you* have any *personal* experience you may relate? Regarding either escorts you know, or street hookers, or any experience in shelters?

One thing that CW pointed out is that Brown, unlike most here, does know the people we are talking about, not just as abstractions or subjects of documentaries.

>Btw, Your cancer example is off. A >similar point would be, If you can >reduce your chances of getting >cancer by 30 percent by not doing >something, you would probably quit >doing that something.

That was obviously not my point, but I'll take you up on that in your terms, because that's just an example of the bias i talked about earlier. Since there is a 30% probability of damage you conclude that what is rational is obviously not to do it. Yet you fail to even consider the existence of an upside. For instance the fact that escorting may provide a very affluent lifestyle.

Here is a better analogy in the same terms: Suppose there is a treatment for cancer that cures you with probability x, but kills you with probability y. Should you take it? It really depends on x,y, and on what your other alternatives are.

kev ferrara said...


Your constant attempts to switch the argument to some precluded controversy is annoying. (Racism, homophobia, religious or patrician authoritarianism, etc.)

Your new cancer analogy again attempts to link the question at hand to some pro/con calculation. There is no way to formulate a moral equation so that, with proper inputs, it generates a numberical answer that substitutes for human judgment.

The strong minded, business-savvy High Class Call Girl who makes a bundle, is never in danger, can pick and choose her johns, and is very strong psychologically, is a best-case scenario and is barely relevant to the overall point. Take off your rose colored spectacles. The prescription is wrong.

Your inability to understand that I am not for criminalizing our current liberties is also off putting. You seem keen to assign me motives of your own design.

To be clear: I am for a common interest in morals.... the kind that govern conduct through social pressure without appeal to religion, law, or what have you. This means a return to the ideas of moral judgment, shame, responsibility, and actual parenting... (I think we've seen enough of the consequences attending the lack of same.) ... while boding against the likelihood that the oldest profession will form a trade union.

kev ferrara said...

etc. etc.

I agree with you about the kind of music Eno produces being of a different stripe. I think comparisons can be made all the same, in my estimation. For the record, I think Eno is a creative and interesting character and has made a worthwhile contribution to the arts with various other artists besides himself

For some reason I just felt like working in Art of Noise's Close to the Edit to the conversation. But its too late at night to do a good job of it....

António Araújo said...

>without appeal to religion, law, or >what have you

Ok, "without appeal to the law" then...but the fact is that *right now*, prostitution is *already* a crime in the USA. Would you then be ok if we decriminalize it and keep having a strictly moral debate? The law is really what concernes me.

>Your constant attempts to switch the >argument to some precluded >controversy is annoying. (Racism, >homophobia, religious or patrician >authoritarianism, etc.)

I am not switching the argument, I am pointing out the obvious parallel, I really can't make it any clearer. You are making the same sort of moral argument that was made in those cases yet you preclude any chance of falling into the same mistake - that of confusing present custom with absolute moral truth. Shall History teach us nothing?

You exclude the concerned people from the discussion (certainly whores "are of no help") by deeming them immoral from the start. That is *exactly* like having a commitee of Southern Belles deciding on whether to free the slaves or cirgar puffing Lord Hastings down at the club ruling on the fate of the suffragettes. They too were the morally respected people of the tribe and they too were outraged and sure they were morally right. How can you tell you are not unwittingly in their position? That is my point. You are taking the position that, really, people whose moral differs from yours "are of no help" in the debate - such rules would make for too easy a game.

António Araújo said...

>The strong minded, business-savvy >High Class Call Girl who makes a >bundle, is never in danger, can pick >and choose her johns, and is very >strong psychologically, is a best->case scenario and is barely relevant >to the overall point.

Much more relevant than the crack whore, if we are talking about escorts. The truth is somewhere between the two, so numbers *do* matter.

And you can legislate so that these girls can work in environments, if they so choose, were they *can* be safe and they *can* choose their johns. But maybe indeed that would require the oldest professionals in the world to unionize...or at least unite :)

You know, whenever I pass through the center of Frankfurt I can see the sex malls standing right there near the train station (5 or 6 storied building filled to the brim with whores, each in her own little room on display). Yet I still haven't seen Frankfurt crumble into moral decay and general anarchy. Very neat, pretty town, with lots of nice educated people going about. The sex malls aren't exactly ideal, but still are cleaner and safer than what "shame" and the law imposes on the American street whore...

On another angle, and only half-kidding: you do get that whoring is only illegal because the league of old frigid housewifes doesn't like the competition, don't you? :) Here in Portugal they lost that fight and the result is that competition worked its magic and now Portuguese housewifes are actually trying to be better in bed (or else just relaxing and outsorcing that chore if they do prefer to raise the brats and grow fat). If only women would choose more often the services of male escorts the opposite effect might happen too, but, alas, women are just too proud or too cheap to pay for it, so the hubby gets to keep the pot belly and watch football! :)

Another example of the league in action is when you hear psychologists of the morning show variety argue that pornography creates in men irrealistic expectations and a wrong idea of what sex is like...I recall a young friend of mine saying "I don't get what they are talking about - my sex *is* like porn!...unless I am having bad sex!" (the friend being a girl, btw)-I suppose "real sex", for the housewife syndicate, should be 10 minutes in missionary position.

Really, I was born in that country where "shame" ruled, and I don't miss it.

Anonymous said...

How can you tell you are not unwittingly in their position?

How can you tell your brain is not unwittingly being led around by your pecker?

kev ferrara said...


Too much bad faith, argument-switching, insistence on faulty ad hominem analogies... Withdrawing...

António Araújo said...
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António Araújo said...

etc, etc,

>How can you tell your brain is not >unwittingly being led around by your >pecker?

Because i keep him well fed and so he behaves :). Really, I wouldn't trust one who is kept hungry, either by a dirth or by excessive moral dieting.

Seriously, I can't know, and that's my point. Perhaps I am just a pervert and kev is neutral, or kev is a puritan and I am neutral, I don't know, and my guess is that there is no answer, but rather two different value systems here, maybe even two different incompatible psychology types; but yeah, maybe I am even simply wrong - the single difference is I am not arguing for forcing people into doing what I want, I am arguing for letting each person do as she wants.

I think the onus of proof lies on who intends to exclude - especially if by law - a voluntary behaviour of a free person that harms nobody other than (possibly) her. That's all.

Also I add that what I argue for is reflected in the law of many Europeans countries, so apparently whole countries are being more and more led by their peckers. I don't really hold the USA as a bastion of sexual/moral wisdom.

>Too much bad faith, argument->switching, insistence on faulty ad >hominem analogies...


bad faith?
ok, but just because you say so, it doesn't make it true. This sums up, in fact, the whole argument: basically you are a moral person because you know you are, and I (among others) should just shut up and be ashamed and do as you think right. If I misunderstood, it is hardly my fault as you answered few of my questions (they weren't all rethorical) while I tried to answer all of yours (extensively)- but you are of course free to choose the time to stop or what to answer. I overran my self-alloted time anyway and should go back to work.


kev ferrara said...

So many reactive mischaracterizations of my position... Too many to rebut by now. Assume more would just follow if I tried. Not interested.

António Araújo said...

that's fine, I am tired of it too and this is getting us nowhere. No hard feelings.


David Apatoff said...

I have enjoyed reading this exchange, but I stopped contributing a while ago because I didn't feel I had much of value to contribute on the subject of prostitution (other than my own a priori prejudices).

Now that the smoke seems to have settled, a few observations:

1.) I suppose there's no limit to the number of clever arguments on either side of this subject that cannot be proven false. One of the best rhetorical spins I've heard came from Arthur Koestler who wrote (paraphrasing) "People prostitute themselves morally and spiritually all the time. They work every day for causes they despise, and espouse views they don't really believe, in order to earn a living. If opponents of prostitution single out prostitution of the body, it can only be because they believe the body is more important than the mind or the spirit." (This clever argument has left more than one clergyman spluttering, although that of course is not dispositive.)

2.) It is attractive to say that we are going to separate sex from guilt, shame and all those other narrow minded societal constraints, and trade it openly like any commodity. We could pay people for it the way we pay them to carry water or bake a cake. This is a young man's argument. From my perspective (which is apparently older than Antonio's but still many years away from "grandma," thank you very much) people don't function in a psychological vacuum. And to the extent they become capable of it, the results are not something we should look forward to.

3.) I'm sure there are prostitutes (or more likely, high class escorts) who discharge their duties with good cheer. I'm sure there are prostitutes with hearts of gold. I don't know if they would have chosen such work if the job market or their family situation had offered them any other option, but let's agree that everyone does what they have to in order to survive. I think it would be a big mistake for a john such as Chester Brown to put any faith in such a prostitute's assurance that she enjoys sex with him (just as it is a mistake to believe all those Letters to Penthouse about lesbians who are cured by the right pizza delivery man). He is paying for an illusion and then offering it up to us as an observation about human nature.

4.)Returning to the artwork which provoked this discussion (and god bless provocative artwork), I don't think anyone should take personal solace, or form governmental policy, on the basis of a book such as Paying For It. I do think we can learn a lot from the confessions of emotional misfits, and I would not attempt to control their lifestyle, but I would hardly institutionalize their failures as a way of life for all. Besides, he doesn't even draw that good.

A.R. said...

People should have sex until they realize how stupid it is. If their desire for and pursuit of sex is too harshly restricted before this realization, they'll only become obsessed with it and will elevate it to a status it does not deserve. Just like any other addiction.

David Apatoff said...

A.R. wrote: "People should have sex until they realize how stupid it is."

That happens all the time. But after a couple of hours, it begins to look pretty smart again.

A.R. said...

Nice try, but very few people ever come to terms with how mindless, animalistic and stupid sex really is. It is too effective as a stress reliever for most people to stop giving it as much importance in their lives as they do.

Since it isn't a rational way to deal with stress or anxiety, it only provides temporary relief and creates more problems than it tries to solve.

António Araújo said...


Koestler's argument is the perfect statement of something I was trying clumsily to express up there. Thank you.

Speaking of terse statements, I'd like to add something to the discussion:

The true meaning of a policy is it's set of expected consequences.

So, all this philosophizing is very nice, but I am mainly concerned with policy and its consequences. The current policy of shame and criminalization leads to well-know, lousy consequences.

I find it amazing that, in the USA, government will so often shy away from helping people in need when helping means handing out resources (because one can't interfere with the invisble hand!...or something) but is always ready to "help" the same people whenever helping means spending a lot of money in cops to harrass, entrap, and put them in jail.

I could add a (sort of) corollary:

The true motivation of a policy can be inferred from its expected consequences.

And therefore, I don't trust people who say they are motivated by the welfare of women when they opt for a policy that is know to only hurt those women. The policy of prohibition must therefore be serving some other interest, unconscious or not.

A.R.: though I like the conclusion of your first statement, I wonder what human activity is not stupid, then. One draws and paints in search of beauty. Some of us have sex much for the same reason. We only have that cycle of discharge and recurrent despair if, like teenagers, we have sex only in response to the blind hunger of the hormones. There is a kind of sex that is analogous to art - it adds to your well-being both in the act and in the rememberance, and stays with you always.

António Araújo said...

A.R.: Actually, I was wrong...I actually agree fully with your first statement.

Because you can only have the good kind of sex after you indeed exhausted the needy, desperate kind (and that, depending on what kind of person you are, may take a lot of doing!). And indeed that's when you put sex in its proper place (which is, however, in my view, a very hallowed place)

A.R. said...

"There is a kind of sex that is analogous to art"

Statements like these only serve to mask the egotism that sparks the fascination with sex. It's similar to David's comparison between pornography and the more supposedly "mature" versions of sexual conduct. They both stem from the same egotism. The difference with the latter is that it involves more socially traditional agreement between the participants. I'm sure there is also skillful bargaining within the world of pornography, but it's not taken seriously simply because it's porn. I'm also sure that both sides violate the agreements quite frequently.

António Araújo said...

A.R., I am fascinated by the fact that there is a huge irreconciliable chasm between our positions, yet I find myself in agreement with everything you so precisely express... with the exception of your ultimate conclusion :)

But I don't get how far you intend to take your position - do you advocate abstinence? And if so, why not do away with male-female co-habitation altogether? Or do we keep that habit for the sake of procriation?

(A sidenote: I don't see sex as a sex as a stress reliever at all. I think you should get rid of stress *before* you have sex.)

António Araújo said...

>I'm also sure that both sides >violate the agreements quite >frequently.

Somehow you reminded me of the communist manifesto :D....

"(...)For the rest, nothing is more ridiculous than the virtuous indignation of our bourgeois at the community of women which, they pretend, is to be openly and officially established by the Communists. The Communists have no need to introduce community of women; it has existed almost from time immemorial.

Our bourgeois, not content with having wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other’s wives.

Bourgeois marriage is, in reality, a system of wives in common and thus, at the most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalised community of women. (...)"

but then they go and spoil it:

"(...) For the rest, it is self-evident that the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of the community of women springing from that system, i.e., of prostitution both public and private."

Bah! All "improvers of mankind" are the same.

A.R. said...

I advocate abstinence only to those who may be capable of it. Everyone else is at a lower level of mental development. They are not to be punished for this, of course, they should just be treated in accord with their level of understanding, like children or adolescents.

It's obvious to me that co-habitation is not absolutely necessary for procreation.

"I don't see sex as a sex as a stress reliever at all. I think you should get rid of stress *before* you have sex"

Sexual excitement is not possible without the stress that comes with the desire for something one sees as other than oneself. Without this desire, there can be no arousal.

António Araújo said...

>Sexual excitement is not possible >without the stress that comes with >the desire for something one sees as >other than oneself. Without this >desire, there can be no arousal.

Ok, I thought you meant non-sexual stress - the proverbial business man who beds a hooker to relieve is work-related or family-related sex.

At your latest clarification the statement sounds a bit tautological, though (the meaning of "stress" being made so narrow), it is just the reframing of your earlier statement that satisfaction of the sexual urge is always temporary, and so I have to agree.

But I put to you that although this cycle of satisfaction/need is obviously real, there is some other variable that can be made to increase monotonously:

I clearly remember, as a young adult, suffering from a need that is no longer present - the need to see and touch a certain type of physical beauty, and to experience a certain type of physical exertion. This is analogous to a young man wanting to see the view from the Everest before he dies (something, I suppose, which serves even less purpose than sex). When that was done to the satisfaction of whatever criteria my own mind held, that need went away and was replaced by a permanent feeling of satisfaction. I certainly still live the basic cycle of need/discharge, but that lies at a lower, less important level. It doesn't haunt me.

Let's put it like this: before that satisfaction of the aesthetical need, if I suddenly lost the ability to have sex I would have felt I had missed a great deal in life. Right now, if that were to happen, I certainly would be unhappy about it, but I would think that, for the most part, I had managed to "win the game" before it ended. I became, so to speak, a bit more ready to die, like some animals become after procreating. Something changed - there is, at a certain level, such a thing as permanent sexual satisfaction. That is what I mean by "there are two types of sex". There is a sex that is like eating (you still need to eat tomorrow), and there is a sex that is like climbing a mountain (once you reached the summit, you'll have reached it forever; it stays with you). These two types seem to run almost in parallel, independent lines.

>It's obvious to me that co->habitation is not absolutely >necessary for procreation.

Ok, your position is clear. I find it fascinating, though I am not attracted to that kind of austerity. In my personal view, one shouldn't need the pleasure of the flesh, but one should take them happily if they can be had within reason. I am fine with your position, though - you don't seem to be wanting to force it upon others, so I wish you all the luck in the world, especially because if you succeed in reaching that level of austerity, you remove yourself from the competition - I therefore wish you not only a happy fulfilling life, but also a great number of male immitators :))

> like children or adolescents.

As for the fact that you look upon us creatures from above, I don't mind that. I am fine with somebody feeling superior to me - morally, intelectually, or physically - just as long as we are civil with each other and don't try to impose our views by some kind of force. Since that seems to be your position, all is fine by me.

Something further occurs to me, though - suppose sex is indeed just like hunger. Why shouldn't you satisfy it, if you can? Yes, it is a hunger that can be ignored without causing death. But still, why not satisfy it if you can? If it happens to be easy to appease, and if you feel well when it is regularly appeased, why not do it? Why is that satisfaction more nefarious than, say, having regular meals?

kev ferrara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A.R. said...


"before that satisfaction of the aesthetical need, if I suddenly lost the ability to have sex I would have felt I had missed a great deal in life"

Sure, but that doesn't mean you couldn't possibly get over it at a later point by realizing that sex is no big deal after all.

"suppose sex is indeed just like hunger. Why shouldn't you satisfy it, if you can?"

Sexual urges should not be repressed. That would be unhealthy. To deal with them, one must defuse the psychological components that trigger erotic desire. Physical hunger, at root, has no psychological components so it will always arise no matter how perfectly rational one becomes.

Prostate Doctor said...

A.R., you are due for a checkup.

Anonymous said...

Prostate Doctor said...
A.R., you are due for a checkup.

My advice...find a doctor with small hands.

A.R. said...

You guys just want to see me bend over for some reason....

jaleen said...

David wrote: "The Canadian government helped to fund Brown's work with taxpayer dollars. Why in the world does this happen? The prurient gawkers I mentioned would account for the book sales, but not the government funds or the attention from supposedly serious thinkers."

Some knowledge of how federal arts funding works in Canada would help you here. The money is handed out via the Canada Council, which is arm's length, in order to prevent gov'ts from practicing any form of censorship. Award winners are judged according to the submitter's previous works and their proposal for the one they want money for, and the project has to be something that would not easily find commercial funding. It is juried by other artists. This means NO ONE intentionally funded this specific graphic novel. And that's a GOOD thing. It's how we stimulate creativity here - by not interfering too much. It often results in brilliance, but like any open-ended art experiment, results are not guaranteed.

António Araújo said...

>Sure, but that doesn't mean you >couldn't possibly get over it at a >later point by realizing that sex is >no big deal after all.

Were I born blind, I'd do well to reason it away as no big deal either. But, having been born with working eyes, would I not do well to enjoy them and put them to use?

In the big scheme of things, certainly being able to experience sex is no big deal. In the even bigger scheme of things, being able to see is no big deal either; or having cancer; or whatever misfortune, really, for mortal men.

For big enough values of "Big", nothing is a big deal.

Such thoughs are both true and useful, in a way: they are like a shelter, or a fortress, where the mind is unassailable by both accidental and inevitable misfortune.

But, if it is useful and good to always have such a shelter built inside one's mind for a rainy day, it seems silly to live inside it when the sun happens to be shinning.

Build the fortress to retreat into when the need comes. But revel in the joyful outdoors while peace reigns. That is at least what passes for wisdom in my own rather questionable "manual for good living". :p

A.R. said...

Realizing the vacuity of sex is not like retreating into a fortress. It would only seem that way to an addict who felt compelled to abstain and had to cope with it somehow.

It's also possible to see the defusing of sexual desire as the real reveling in the "joyful outdoors while peace reigns" and, I would argue, it is the more rational point of view. Just think of all the free time and energy there would be to focus on more important things. Think how different the world would be, all the possibilities that could be discovered if men weren't obsessed with sex.

David Apatoff said...

Jaleen Grove-- Thank you for your helpful (as always) contribution about the mysterious pratices of our exotic neighbors to the north. If the Canada Council funds Chester Brown's book and it then becomes a best seller (as happened here) is he under any obligation (moral or legal) to pay the money back so that future artists, who are indigent, will have funding?

António Araújo said...

>It would only seem that way to an >addict who felt compelled to abstain >and had to cope with it somehow.

...or to someone who, for some reason being unable to get what he desires, would choose to convince himself that what he desired was pointless.

Many a man became a monk in the middle ages because the law of inheritance, depriving all but the first-born from wealth, also deprived him from access to carnal pleasures anyway. Also, many a man became a monk through being shunned by a favorite. So I would think reasonable to say that, at least in many cases, chastity, and the belief in the merits of chastity, is indeed a retreat into a fortress (though I am not implying that it is always so).

>Just think of all the free time >and energy there would be to focus >on more important things.

I can't speak for your mental endurance, but I can speak for mine. After some hours of focusing on more important things (say, working in mathematics on the kind of problem that takes months to solve) I actually lose productivity and gain a massive headache unless I rest my brain. And resting the brain may mean going out for a run, or some other brainless activity, or it may mean sex. And the fact is that nothing recharges me more effectively than a good round of sex.

Really, it's about balance. It is not the sex that eats away the time, it is the bad relationships that sometimes come with sex. If you find a good relationship then the sex, and the relationship itself, actually boosts the time and energy you have for other important things. I should know, I had lots of bad relationships before I realized this - I'd say that in fact, a good measure of whether a relationship is "good" is whether it is a weight on your other interests or a general boost of your well-being and abilities. It really doesn't have to be a tradeoff.

I guess Brown realized that resorting to hookers is more time-effective and emotionally honest, and more productive, and even cheaper overall, in all senses of the word, than the kind of realtionships he was having before (and that, honestly, are probably *most* relationships). But he might find, if he is lucky, a kind of relationship that is even more effective (and fulfilling) than whoring.

He did at least a first step in that direction. I really don't know how to find a good relationship, but I find this method works best for me:

Relationship workflow:

1-is it good right now?
yes-keep going
no- walk away. goto 2

2-find someone else (see hookup workflow below). Goto 1.

Most people just hang around thinking that a relationship "needs work", or that "he/she will change". That is what takes time away from other things, not the sex.

Also, when working on 2, most people will focus on a girl/guy that doesn't care for them, and will keep going at her for weeks or months, again thinking that "it needs work". No it doesn't. Relationships are easy to start:

hookup workflow:

1-find a girl you want. Approach her. After a couple of dates, does she want you too?

Yes-Take her. Goto relationship workflow

No-Take the hint. Walk away right.

2-Goto 1.

Starting relationships shouldn't take more time than the other social stuff you do painlessly. Having a good sex life shouldn't take more time from those important things than a couple of daily regular meals, and should be just as invigorating to your other tasks. If it isn't so, you are doing it wrong. I, for one, did it wrong for a long, long time.

António Araújo said...

Just to be clear: when I mentioned that Brown made a good first step, I didn't mean his whoring; I meant by that that he dumped his bad relationship (actually his pattern of bad relationships).

But going whoring may in itself be a good step. Most people are unable to establish a different sort of relationship, because 1) they are set in their ways and 2) they are blinded by their urgent sexual needs.

By whoring, Brown separated sex from relationships. This allows him not to confuse his desire for someone for a real affection for the person. If you don't need someone for sex you are less likely to think that you enjoy the company of a girl when you just want to have her body. That may take you into a more realistic perspective of things, and open the way for something better.

The whole thing should be about separating desire from need. The first is healthy, the second is poison.

A.R. said...

"...or to someone who, for some reason being unable to get what he desires, would choose to convince himself that what he desired was pointless."

If what he's trying to convince himself of turns out to be true then it doesn't really matter what provoked him into making that choice.

The truth is that sexual desire, like all emotional desires, is fundamentally delusional in nature. Repeatedly submitting to desire without trying to understand its true nature always causes more problems than it tries to solve, not just for the individuals involved but for everyone else who lacks understanding.

António Araújo said...

>The Canadian government helped to >fund Brown's work with taxpayer >dollars. Why in the world does >this happen?

David: whenever there is public financing of art there is this question. Is the art that gets public money supposed to

1) be a panegeryc of the current views and morals of society/ an outstanding example of current artistic methods.

2) sugest new and different views of what society and morals could become or are in flux of becoming, perhaps in shocking contrast to current majority views/ sugest new artistic forms and methods, perhaps (etc).

In one view, morals and customs are well defined and settled - they are a solved problem - and the purpose of state-funded art is mostly as propaganda. It is supposed to uplift the mind and teach the norms in a colourful and exciting way. The more extreme example is the social propaganda in communist or fascist regimes. On the artistic side, methods too are well-defined and your purpose is to show how much bigger your brush is than anybody else's ;)

The second view supposes that morals and customs are ever-evolving, that the problem is unsolved, and that (and this is a big supposition) artists have something special to contribute (through either novel views or a special ability to communicate the views of others). In this case the justification for the funds is that of artistic and social research, so to speak. On the purely artistic side, methods too are a subject of research, and the point is not to excell but to point new directions.

(I am grossly symplifying, you could break this up into four cases (separating the moral/social from the purely artistic aspect), but for the most part the views go together in this fashion, historically speaking)

In Portugal we had a great film director who depended heavily on state funds. Once, a holier than thou reporter asked in a very haughty tone, regarding an especially controversial movie of his, what he supposed the public would think. To which the director replied, very calmly, "My dear sir, I want the public to go fuck itself".

Of course, this did not go down well. But the fact is, if he made movies that were box office hits, I wouldn't want him to get state funds - that would be unfair competition to the commercial makers of box office hits! Why would I want the state to compete with private enterprise? I expect the state to finance precisely the directors who want the large "public" to go watch spiderman 11 in 3D and then go fuck itself with the popcorn stand. And I don't particularly mind if he who gets the money is polite or not - I just expect him to make great films (this guy I mentioned, in my opinion, happened to be a genius (and a pervert) called Joao Cesar Monteiro - I didn't care if he spat on me, as a member of "the public", I'd still vote for him to get the money)

Of course, then we get to the question of who decides who gets the money. A commitee of "peers" usually decides. This accords well with the notion of state-funded art as research. But if the peers have a comparatively easy time in the hard sciences (although there is still lots of political bickering), deciding what is worthy or not, there is clearly a much bigger problem in the arts, to say the least...

>If the Canada Council funds >Chester Brown's book and it then >becomes a best seller (as happened >here) is he under any obligation >>(moral or legal) to pay the money >back

Actually that makes sense. I don't think it is the case, in my own country. I would indeed put that into law. But would you be asking that if this guy's work didn't happen to disagree with you? :)

António Araújo said...

> submitting to desire without trying >to understand its true nature always

What about fulfilling that desire while fully understanding its true nature? Why isn't that ok?

> always causes more problems than it >tries to solve

(citation needed :))

A.R. said...

If you understand the delusional nature of desire and absorb that understanding into every fiber of your being, the desire will weaken until it no longer arises.

"citation needed"

Just look at the world. It's full of people chasing their desires. Hardly a utopia.

António Araújo said...

David: and if you need any evidence that moral codes are fluid and evolving, watch this

Teacher of the year gets suspended because he finds gay marriage disgusting.

Now, a few years ago - not very many - he would get suspended for even sugesting gay marriage might be ok.

What I find funny is that the more things change the more they stay the same; we step from one extreme to the other. One norm is replaced by the opposite and dissenters are immediately pariahs. This leads me to think that all the people who are raging liberals in a liberal country would be raging nazis if they only happened to be living in germany at the right time - their nature is not to be liberal, or nazi, but to be raging followers of the consensus. Nothing seems to be harder for the majority to do than simply letting the minority dissent.

Most people are not enraged or disgusted at any opinion or at any moral code because of the code itself; they are enraged because the code doesn't happen to be that of the majority. In any society there is only one eternal crime: to do whatever has been decided is a crime. As for the behaviours that constitute a crime, they seem to have only statistical constancy - as a lawyer you know this far better than me, but it seems that not even murder has been universally condemned throughout history (it was never civil behaviour, but I seem to recall that at times it was conditionally allowed, or carried a small fine)... and as for sexual codes, people used to marry girls so young that to even look at, right now, is considered not only a crime but a "psychological desiase", so prostitution is the least of it...

António Araújo said... point being that moderation is the key: being lenient with other people's preferences even if they disgust us (which, yes, includes being lenient with their expressions of disgust at our own preferences)...up until, and not before, the point where they try to impose their preferences on you (and "imposing" doesn't mean offending one's delicate eyes with their existence, it means legislating against your own freedom, or acting violently upon you).

António Araújo said...

Since morals are indeed *completely relative* (envision a Mayan priest, still bloody from a child sacrifice, going on a rant over the declining morals of young people who commit, say, adultery), to the dislike of some who would discard clear evidence in favor of emotional belief, all that remains as an argument in favour of a moral option instead of another is:

-appeal to hard data on factual consequences of the option (say, what measurable consequences come from prostitution, irrespective of considerations of value, e.g., "it is observed that there is an increase on employment of such and such sub-population", "it is observed that there is a % change in the rate of STDs", etc)

-appeal to the present preferences of the individuals in the society who happen to determine the laws. These preferences determine what value is atributed to the measurable consequences the hard data reveals (some of them being considered advantages of prostitution, some disavantages, in ways that are mostly culturally dependent - "Lord Hastings believes women who are self-employed get all uppity!", "Friar Jacobs's cult believes Clamydia is a gift from God", "Brianna believes all that matters is getting bling bling").

-All this tempered by the general principles of freedom of choice the society in question may hold as dear - in the present society, for instance, some speech may be allowed even if considered harmful, because the harm that comes from said speech may be, according to current views, be held as a lesser evil than the curtailment of the freedom of speech. The same may be valid for an activity. In other societies, where what is *right* is considered clear, and freedom is therefore irrelevant (as it leads to dissent from right, and therefore only to error), one is only concerned with the first two questions, and the "right" option is simply imposed on everyone. In such societies, indeed, it is all down to what is right, and the rest are dealt with through law, or at least "shame".

*Personally*, I tend to think that *right* is very hard to determine, so I put a huge emphasis on the third aspect of the moral decision making, for the purposes of legislation. Like everyone, I have my own attributions of value, but I know they are mostly motivated by accident, history, and hormones, and I find myself believing something at one point of my life and the opposite at another, and, always, finding the whole process quite amusing and absurd.

Not as amusing and absurd, though, as believing one has found the one true answer of what is or is not moral, or of what type of sex is "obscene".

kev ferrara said...


If you think your rationality knows better than evolution what our human natures require, I think you are deluded. We are hardwired to satisfy our deepest needs, needs we do not understand well enough to make rational decisions about.

Tangentially, one of those needs seems to be the need to rationalize our failures (to attain what would most satisfy us) in order to assuage our egos.

A.R. said...

My rationality is a result of billions of years of evolution. Sexual desire is not hard-wired. At least in people it isn't.

It's easy to demonstrate how a new piece of information, applied rationally can totally undermine and dismantle lust. Imagine an incredibly sexy woman before you. She says she can't wait to have sex with you and you're raring to go as well. As you're about to get it on, she suddenly tells you that she has a deadly venereal disease, or that she's your sister, or she used to be a man, or that she's the type of woman who decapitates all her lovers like a praying mantis. She may even just tell you some unrelated news that makes you extremely depressed. This is bound to have an effect on your erection. It all depends on what you value.

Since everything that leads to sexual arousal is just a trick of the mind based on personal preferences, anyone who understands this truth and values it above all else can, ideally, eliminate all sexual desire from their psychology.

António Araújo said...

>It's easy to demonstrate how a new >piece of information, applied >rationally can totally undermine >and dismantle lust.

Hit me!

>Imagine an incredibly sexy woman >before you.

I do that all day long, even when I have another sexy woman before me!

>As you're about to get it on, she >suddenly tells you that she has a >deadly venereal disease,

Ok, condoms then!...

> or that she's your sister,

You are my sister?????

That's just so wrong!...LET'S DO IT!

> or she used to be a man,

You are!?

That's really dirty!...are you trying to make me horny?

> or that she's the type of woman >who decapitates all her lovers >like a praying mantis.

It's ok, you just have to pull out at the right time :D

>some unrelated news that makes you >extremely depressed


...let's have sex to cheer me up, then, oh sister-bother-praying mantis-bearer-of-bad-news. :))

António Araújo said...

ps: forgot to make some pun on HARD-wired! :))

A.R. said...

Of course, all those things are possible, António. But remember, I said it's all based on what you value. If any of those revelations clashes with your sexual preferences, your erection will disappear.

The same is not true for something that is truly hard-wired, like the hunger mechanism. No amount of cognition or value system will make you stop feeling hunger if you happen to be starving.

António Araújo said...

A.R., my last post was fully tongue in cheek. :)

Anonymous said...

Gustave Flaubert's biographical information is interesting and relevant here, I think (albeit with the distinction Flaubert was apparently far more interested in honing his craft). If Brown had a thick moustache there would even be a resemblance with Flaubert in the latter's Wiki portrait.

kev ferrara said...


Really now. A modicum of logic would be most efficacious.

Without Sexual Desire, how do the million procreative generations that evolve rationality even happen?

Your examples of surprise information that would quickly mitigate sexual desire are beside the point. I'm sure in prehistoric times, before linguistic precision and good medical information, when people died young and wisdom was as rare as a pterodactyl's beak, very few, if any, of your game-stoppers would have stopped the game.

Rationality only has value when it is well informed. Otherwise it is sure to foster delusion. The one sure way to prevent the rational mind from convincing itself of delusional thoughts, is through a deep understanding of epistemology.

It is epistemology that should prevent the average wag from declaring sexual desire to be a delusion. Maybe you think loneliness, friendship, a sense of community, intimacy, joy and laughter are all delusions too?

A.R. said...

We're not in prehistoric times anymore, kev.

If all sexual desire were to disappear tomorrow we'd still be able to reproduce. Rationality has made that possible.

kev ferrara said...


Typically, with all your talk of rationality, you demonstrate an emotional need to "win" the argument at the expense of appreciating the logic of your adversaries. It is an old truism that most people who aspire to be robots are simply fleeing from the fact that they can't handle their emotions.

Just in case you didn't understand the larger point I was making, I'll make it simple. If one emotion is a delusion all emotions are delusions. So I suggest a test; eradicate all emotions from your life and see how that goes for a while. No laughter, no intuition, no delicious food to provide the delusion of pleasure, no art to entertain you, no ego in anything you do, no friends or family or Internet or media to assuage your loneliness.

A.R. said...

You'll have to try another angle, kev, because that was an appeal to consequences fallacy you just used.

kev ferrara said...


I have serious doubts about your ability to think coherently or to comprehend what you read with any sufficiency. If you understood my gist, the argument of it would hardly seem fallacious. Possibly you chose the wrong fallacy to attempt to pin on my argument?

Either way, the issue is whether emotions have evolved for a reason. And whether they remain necessary to the living of a satisfying life. That is, do they have utility? Possibly utility that we don't fully comprehend?

Or, to put it another way, what you call delusions, I call a self-signalling system refined through a billion years of evolution.

Now, doesn't all utility achieve its efficacious status based upon its ability to foster or assist in the living of a satisfying life?

The question of living a satisfying life as a human being is the one before us, isn't it?

Or is satisfaction another mental chimera?

Maybe your emotions wish to have no emotions at all? (Tropistic Vegetable Robots for Affective Disorders Unite!)

A great Pragmatist-style epistemology test is to do away with the very thing you claim you understand fully, and to check the consequences of its absence.

This is why I suggest you personally forgo emotions, wholly. To test whether your life satisfaction improves based upon what "truths" come pouring out of your warbling maw.

A.R. said...

You are still using the appeal to consequences fallacy. Whether the consequences of a premise are desirable or not has no bearing on the truth of the premise.

António Araújo said...

I agree that one cannot reason from consequences about the validity of a premise, but one can certainly decide that a course of action is unwise by reasoning about its consequences.

However, I think A.R. is saying that

1) reason can eliminate sexual desire (and associated emotions)

2) it is beneficial to do so.

He has not stated (up to now) that

3) reason can eliminate all emotions (although I think he thinks this - can you clarify?)

4) it would be beneficial to do so, even if it can be done.

He could argue that some emotions are useful and some should be eliminated. Hence the fact that eliminating all would have bad consequences is irrelevant if he proposes eliminating only a few.

For instance, maybe he thinks that the emotions that come from listening to music should be preserved? Or those comming from looking at art? Or are such emotions too deemed unnecessary and one should appreciate art only in a cold analytic way?

I don't agree with A.R., btw, but I am still not sure if it isn't only a difference in preferences. I would choose to keep the sex-related emotions for the same reason that I would keep the art-related ones, even if both do take away from more rational pursuits (say, work in maths).

A.R. said...

Emotions are vestigial artifacts of our animalistic past. Sure, they helped us survive before our reasoning faculties had developed but reason is a far more efficient tool. There are far too many drawbacks to relying on emotion for the survival and continuing development of the species.

It's also not necessary to rely on emotion for the creation of art. I'm sure many types of art would cease to exist if emotions disappeared but that would be another appeal to consequences. A non-emotional person could still want to make art just to express a profound understanding of something in an indirect way. I can think of some artworks that I find interesting and valuable despite not triggering an emotional response from me and there's nothing coldly analytical about them. And, if it turned out that all art-making stopped as soon as everyone became perfectly rational, that would be just another appeal to consequences if someone tried to use that as a reason for why people shouldn't try to become purely rational.

António Araújo said...

>hat would be just another appeal to >consequences if someone tried to use >that as a reason for why people >shouldn't try to become purely >rational.

Wait, wait...hold your horses. "appeal to consequences" is a fallacy in which you state that a premise is false according to the (usually bad) supposed consequences of it being true.

But it is not a fallacy to argue that a course of action, with known or agreed upon consequences, *should* not be followed because of such consequences. Not only is that not a fallacy, it is simply good decision take a course according to whether you want the consequences to occur or not.

António Araújo said...

Look, if I want to, I can certainly reason that sex is just a simple rubbing of some inches of one body against another body. But in the same way i can argue, correctly, that dancing is just a bunch of meaningless body motions, music is just a vibration of the air molecules, illustration is just crap on paper, and pretty much anything we do is positively useless and pointless in a finite world. Nothing is enduring and it is pointless ego to care for any finite duration over another.

You said before that sex is ego-driven. What drives then the search for a new theorem, for a new invention, for a great painting? If you say curiosity I'll argue that the same mix of ego and curiosity drives me to the hunt of a red haired girl whose copper locks I must see under a certain light. There's much more ego in the writing of a paper - something to be shared with an audience - than in that private hunt meant to be enjoyed by only two.

Why should I care if I live or die? Why should I defend myself from someone stabbing me? Pain is certainly nothing, and living or dying just means that a muscle in my chest will stop pulsing or not, some neurons will stop firing or not, both of which will happen anyway, given just a few more years.

This is the problem that Arjuna puts to Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, and, as I recall, Krishna didn't really solve it either, except to say "you act because it is your nature to act".

Or take Marcus Aurelius "have I played my part well in this farce", if you prefer.

Really, nothing means anything without a set of mostly arbitraty values, and we take, at least as an initial guide, those of our animal nature: to live is better than to die, to receive a kiss is better than to receive a stab wound. Why? Because my body shouts it is so.

Surely we can both elaborate and revise much of that primal instinct, and I agree we should control our emotions - but to let go of the animal pleasure and of the pleasant emotions...what for? Once controlled, they can be enjoyed. Why discard them unless in fact one fears that they are not really under control? But then aren't we actually putting that emotion, fear, in the highest seat?

A.R. said...

"it is not a fallacy to argue that a course of action, with known or agreed upon consequences, *should* not be followed because of such consequences."

In that case they're just arguing against the consequences, not the premise. It is still fallacious reasoning. Saying that people should avoid becoming purely reasonable because it will cause them to stop making art is not even an argument. It hasn't been proven to be the case and it hasn't been proven that becoming purely reasonable is always less preferable than making art.

"What drives then the search for a new theorem, for a new invention, for a great painting?"

Ego has certainly been the primary motivating factor for all these things but that doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

"nothing means anything without a set of mostly arbitraty values"

All values are arbitrary. We are hard-wired to have values but the particular values we hold are not hard-wired.

"Why discard them unless in fact one fears that they are not really under control?"

Because they are not consistent with reality. Anyone who truly values living without delusion will do whatever they can to discard them.

kev ferrara said...

The issue, dear sir, is that your faith in your powers of rationality is clearly a delusion of its own. This tends to be the case where epistemological humility is absent. Your ego has actually convinced itself that it has more of a grasp of the dynamic necessities of navigating among "things in themselves" than evolution's eonic churning has hardwired into your physiognomy.

This is profound hubris.

When you speak of the "truth of the premise" the glaring question (coexistent with the epistemology problem) is the philosophy of truth you are working with.

I find the pragmatist view here compelling... as it beautifully incorporates an appreciation of how ignorant we may be of the extent of our ignorance. The pop version is, "What is true is what works." But this can be elevated to the more scientific, "The truth is what can be demonstrated."

You should think long and hard about just how little able you are to sufficiently demonstrate your premises. Whereas evolution's track record of sustaining life is unassailable.

A.R. said...

Kev, my "epistemological humility" is limited to that which I absolutely know can never be known with absolute certainty. That the ego is an illusion, belief in which generates all emotions/delusions is not one of these things.

kev ferrara said...

Nice to hear you are a man of faith. I prefer rationality myself.

A.R. said...

I can't have faith in that which can't rationally be doubted. Insisting that there is nothing which can't be rationally doubted is the real faith.

António Araújo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
António Araújo said...

kev, a correction:

>The pop version is, "What is true >is what works." But this can be >elevated to the more scientific, >"The truth is what can be >demonstrated."

I sympathize with the "pop" version, but the "scientific" version is false. Actually mathematicians used to think this was true before Godel came along...but no dice. To be true and to be demonstrable are very clearly not the same thing.

A simple illustration: take a predicate f over the natural numbers. Suppose f(n) is never true. It may occur that there is no way to prove this in finite steps from the premises (hence, there is no proof). But, although not demonstrable, it is clearly true, in the sense that it could be checked in principle by an infinite number of calculations, f(1), f(2), etc. (I shudder to use the colourful metaphor, "it could be proved in the mind of God" :))

Godel proved that for any non-contradictory system of axioms there will at be at least one such true but unprovable statement.

(of course this does not have to be limited to mathematical statements about natural numbers, that is just a clearcut illustration. Godel's statement is true about any system of axioms strong enough to speak of natural numbers, or stronger - hence applicable to discussions about "nature" that are at least as sophisticated as that)

Also note it makes no sense to say that something is demonstrable "tout court". It is assumed one means "demonstrable from set of premisses X". If you left X free then every statement y is demostrable, for instance in the axiom set where y itself is the only axiom, hence such a notion of demonstrable would be trivial.

I'd be careful about what is "undoubtable". Wasn't Kant who claimed the axiom of parallels was undoubtable because it's negation could not be conceived in the human mind? Yet it turned out that not only it could be conceived in some minds (though apparently not Kant's :)) but it could even be conceived in the real world, and now can be clearly understood by the common student. Also, before Einstein, it could not be doubted that two events were either simultaneous or not simultaneous (so clear from the most basic logic and the simplest facts about Time!). Now we know the question doesn't even make sense without asking "to whom". Turns out even such a simple thing as Time had to be redefined to compy to reality.

It is very hard to know what is true; that is why mathematicians have let go of saying that axioms are "clear and simple truths" (a la Euclid) and now just refer to them as "premisses", from which conclusions are taken, these conclusions being only just as valid as the premisses (and the rules of reasoning) may be, and no more. Some philosophers are bolder than this, and possibly they have their reasons, but in doing so they are, or should be, aware that they must always build on unsure foundations. Unless you happen to know something about the nature of truth that protects you from Kant's mistake, that is. I don't think you do, and I would further state that the job of philosophers - and their merit - is to make work on such shaky ground, were unsuspected trails may perhaps be found - but to mistake a mine field for a safe harbour is perhaps not a good idea.

António Araújo said...

> That the ego is an illusion, belief >in which generates all >emotions/delusions is not one of >these things.

Actually I find it hard to take this statement as anything very concrete.
What does it mean to be "an illusion" in this sense? And the belief in the ego generates all emotions and delusions? You seem to be saying the ego doesn't really exist (?). What are your undefined terms (please don't tell me "none" or we are back to Euclid :) - you either leave some terms undefined or you define them circularly, there's no other (known) way)? What are your premises? What exactly is your conclusion? This seems to me to be a perfectly interesting discussions in common language, whith all the vagueness attached to it - hence hardly deserving of any statements of absolute certainty...

A.R. said...

António: "I'd be careful about what is "undoubtable"."

I am.

"It is very hard to know what is true"

Do you have absolutely no doubts about this? In any case, it isn't true. It's quite easy to find things which can't be doubted. For example, I can ask myself if the universe is an absolute nothingness. Just by thinking about it, I can tell that it isn't. If it was an absolute nothingness I wouldn't have been able to ask the question. So it's silly to doubt that the universe is indeed "something" even if we don't know what the nature of the "something" is. If it's possible to know that with absolute certainty then why wouldn't it be possible to know other things in the same way?

"What does it mean to be "an illusion" in this sense?"

Things are generally believed to have inherent existence, including the ego. That's the illusion. Things only exist in relation to other things.

"You seem to be saying the ego doesn't really exist"

It certainly exists but that only means that it appears in consciousness. When people say something "really exists" they mean it can appear even without consciousness, which makes no sense.

António Araújo said...

>"It is very hard to know what is >true"

>Do you have absolutely no doubts >about this?

I know it is hard for me and it was hard for Kant, as experience shows. I know it is easy for some people, except experience shows that those easy truths sometimes turn out to be wrong. Did I mention Kant? :)

>In any case, it isn't true. It's >quite easy to find things which >can't be doubted.

That's what he said (Kant). And yet...

> It's quite easy to find things >which can't be doubted.

The kind of statements you profered are of the self-referential type, or are somehow related to language/logic paradoxes. They are very well-know in logic (Russell's paradox, etc), the problem is that very little can be deduced from them that is not of the same type, hence very little knowledge that is not simply language-related knowledge. They have the sterile nature of tautologies. Or if you prefer, maybe something can be deduced (I'm not sure) but as far as I am aware, it hasn't yet.

>Things are generally believed to >have inherent existence, including >the ego. That's the illusion.

Still not clear. Is "exist" an undefined term or a defined term? (if defined, provide definition, if undefined provide fundamental properties). I'm not being precious. This is needed if you are going to claim even reasonable certainty - you certainly don't mean "it exists" in the ordinary physical sense, so I need clarification.

>Things only exist in relation to >other things.

Is this statement an axiom about the undefined term "exist" or a provable statement about a defined term "exist", for instance? If it is an axiom then ok, whatever, it may be good if you manage to deduce something from it, if it a provable statement, then can you provide a proof?

António Araújo said...

My point is that you are claiming a degree of certainty at least at the level of logical certainty. Then you should be able to prove it to at the least the satisfaction of the usual requirements of that field. That takes a bit of nagging.

António Araújo said...

I'll even indulge you:

>For example, I can ask myself if the >universe is an absolute nothingness.

Ok, tell me how this is more obviously false than

"two events are either simultaneous or they are not"

is obviously true?
Certainly you could even argue, at first sight, that this last statement would have to be true simply because it is a mere particular case of the law of excluded middle. And yet, it happens that, unexpectedly, the whole sentence is simply meaningless in the real world. Who could have antecipated it? The problem lies with the definition of "simultaneous".

In your statement, the possible weak point is the definition of "nothingness". How can you be sure, knowing the history of my statement, that the same won't happen to yours? "The Universe" and "nothingness" are terms related to physical reality, just like "simultaneous" and "events" are. It may turn out that your whole statement has to be redefined in order to merely make sense, just like my statement needs "with regard to an inertial oberver" to even begin to make sense. What is the term missing in your statement? I'd get a nobel for that! Maybe no term is missing. Maybe one is. Maybe the whole statement is meaningless in fact. I don't know for sure, neither do you.

António Araújo said...

Or you can make restricting the definition so much that it is just a play on words, hence of very limited interest. In that way, "Two events are either simultaneous or not" is true in a very particular sense, that assumes me as the observer in question without even realizing what the deep problem is. But that kind of statement achieves obvious truth precisely by being too obvious to be useful.

kev ferrara said...


Math is a slightly different case than biology, but I would say that if an axiom is provably provable it is as good as demonstrated. This is similar to proving to somebody that the earth is, more or less, a sphere. To really demonstrate it fully, one might need to take a spaceflight around the world, but such a spaceflight ain't likely to happen. So second hand reports and math equations will have to do.

There are many ways of formulating the Pragmatist view of truth, and the pragmatists themselves offered quite a few iterations which are worth looking at.


You have again changed around the question or issue in order to set up a snappy, glib answer. Not sure if that's your ego (your theory of you) doing that, or whether you just aren't, again, comprehending what I'm writing sufficiently.

Either way, I have no interest in practicing jui jitsu against confetti, so... peace out, you egomaniac!

António Araújo said...

> if an axiom is provably provable it >is as good as demonstrated

Wha.....aaat? :D

axiom...provably prov...

Is that your way of sugesting I need to get some sleep?

I do. :)

See you guys around.

kev ferrara said...

This is language games, RA. You are confusing how our minds work with how reality exists. Again, this is a problem of epistemology.

You cannot say with any surety that things only exist in relation to other things. If something has intrinsic being-ness, it can stand outside of human understanding. And we can know of it, or not know of it. It doesn't matter, because we are irrelevant to its actual beingness.

If I were dead, wouldn't the cat next door still see my house? Didn't electricity exist before electricity was discovered?

We can say, given what is known about the human mind, that things are only understood in the context of other things.

A.R. said...


"The kind of statements you profered are of the self-referential type"

No. The statement that the universe cannot be an absolute nothingness refers to anything that exists. Because "something" exists, the statement refers to something real, outside of itself and including itself which automatically proves that the statement is true. It is not limited to just language because in every instant we sense something, language or not.

Even if our senses turn out to be completely unreliable, they are still "something", hence not nothingness.

"Is "exist" an undefined term or a defined term?"

Exist means "to appear". Can you reasonably doubt that things are appearing right now as you read this? The answer is obviously no.

"'>Things only exist in relation to >other things.' Can you provide proof?"

Without the contrast between a thing and something else that is not that thing, a thing cannot appear.

"The Universe" and "nothingness" are terms related to physical reality"

No. The Universe means literally everything, the Totality of everything that exists. This includes more than just physical objects.


"You cannot say with any surety that things only exist in relation to other things."

I already did and with absolute surety.

António Araújo said...

>Exist means "to appear". Can you >reasonably doubt that things are >appearing right now as you read >this?

Exist=appear then.

>The answer is obviously no.

Glad you provided the answer :)

>"'>Things only exist in relation to >other things.' Can you provide proof?"

>Without the contrast between a >thing and something else that is >not that thing, a thing cannot >appear.

Now we have "contrast", "thing", and "appear" to deal with, rather than "exist".

Defining "to exist" in terms of "too appear" only kicks the can down the road. Yes, I understood you meant "Universe" as "all that exist", that is what I meant about word games, you are just going on about properties of those words that hinge on the vagueness of meanings with which "exists" is loaded.

In your last sentence you again multiplied terms instead of reducing their numbers. Picture a branching tree, the more it branches the farther away we get from spotting the root. We haven't got a chance of going anywhere while multiplying undefined terms or providinmg them with synonyms.

We should get as few undefined terms as we can and provide premisses about how these terms relate to one another. Then we can reach some conclusions. The premisses themselves, unless you know some trick I don't, can never be made sure of (unless in terms of other assumptions and so on, again kicking the can).

A.R. said...

"Now we have "contrast", "thing", and "appear" to deal with, rather than "exist"."

Contrast: A difference between things

Appear: to be visible or detectable

Thing: that which appears

"In your last sentence you again multiplied terms instead of reducing their numbers."

The number of terms doesn't matter as long as they are all clearly defined.

"The premisses themselves, unless you know some trick I don't, can never be made sure of (unless in terms of other assumptions and so on"

If the premise is based on assumptions then you are correct, it can never be proven with absolute certainty. But I have made no assumptions.

kev ferrara said...

More sophistry, gibberish, glib remarks, and mental cloudiness... more confusing of strongly-held opinions with reality, the ideal with the real, the symbol of a thing with the thing in itself.


Just a few things...

"To appear" is an abysmal, reductionist definition of "to exist." Because, hey kids, life is more than visuals. In fact, how we intake visuals is akin to the linguistic, which is to say, at second hand and through symbolic concepts, concatenated aesthetically in our minds. Direct physical contact is more prime.

When we speak of existence, we refer to the physical thing, the reality, of which we get secondary corroboration by the artifacts of light rays, sound waves, heat, tastes, and scents which come off the physical objects.

Reality as originally defined (etymonline): 1540s, a legal term in the sense of "fixed property."

So there you have it: Reality is comprised of property which endures.

You have "made no assumptions" except that you have made no assumptions. Therein lies the problem.

António Araújo said...

there is some confusion here. I know people used to think (Euclid again) that you start by defining your terms, but we have realized for a long time, and I hope you know this, that you actually cannot do that. Some terms in a theory have to remain undefined (or else they just get defined in a loop, which is worse) - usually the most important terms, in fact, are undefined: in plane geometry you don't define point or line, in number theory you don't define number, and in logic you don't define truth: instead you state without proof that some propositions about these undefined terms are theorems - those propositions are your axioms, and they can never be justified, except by another theory which in turn will just have new undefined terms and new axioms (so, for instance, you can define the meaning of point and line if you build a model og plane geometry on top of number theory, and you can define number if you build a model of number theory on top of set theory). Sorry, but there is no *known* way out of this, and no, nothing leads me to believe you are the guy who found a way out. If you did, then write it up properly for peer review, please, because you have just revolutionized logic itself.

Of course, you can make a pretty good semi-informal, philosophical statement of your informal thesis, and you have done that, and we can discuss it and have done so, and it is interesting and can be enlightening. But to presume to absolute truth, to independence from assumptions, is a whole different ball game. You are reasoning like Kant, and Descartes, and all the long dead philosophers used to, when they still emulated Euclid. That kind of thinking is just quaint after Hilbert, silly after Russel, and preposterous after Godel. Kant had an excuse, you don't, it's too late in history for that.

António Araújo said...

At the most basic level, even by the very act of reasoning, you are using the axioms of logic. Here it goes, in one of many possible versions (this is the shortest I know):

there are two undefined operations: implication (->) and negation (~)

there are three axioms:




there is one rule of inference (modus ponens)

"From a->b and a we can assert b"

So, even in order to REASON as we all ordinarily do, you already are assuming these 4 things at the very least. To REASON in ordinary language, furthermore, you are assuming a ton of things that we aren't even fully aware of.

Now, even these rules of logic are NOT abolute truths, they are just assumptions. Who can guarantee they preserve truth in a deduction? Nobody can prove it (prove it what with, even, if logic is itself at stake?). They have suffered a long and contentious evolution in fact.

Even modus ponens is not peaceful, there was a wonderful discussion abou this from Lewis Carrol:

(enjoy) (I'm actually recurrently pissed off about Carroll's paradox because for a while I thought I had invented the damn thing, until I read it in Hofstadter and got pretty depressed (young adults always underestimate how grown up the world was before they were born - case in point, A.R., read up on Hilbert, Russell and Godel))

António Araújo said...

Oops, I sent you precisely Hofstadter's version instead of Carroll's. Anyway, google is your friend. Gotta run.

A.R. said...


"life is more than visuals."

I know that, which is why I defined "appear" as to be "visible or detectable" that is, in any way that something can be detectable.

"In fact, how we intake visuals is akin to the linguistic, which is to say, at second hand and through symbolic concept"

Obviously not, we can detect things even if we don't know any language or symbolic concepts. If we want to reason about things, then language or symbolic concepts are useful. If what you said was true it would be impossible for infants to learn language since they wouldn't be able to detect anything that could help them learn.

"When we speak of existence, we refer to the physical thing, the reality, of which we get secondary corroboration"

This "physical thing" or "reality" you refer to that exists independently of "secondary corroboration" is an assumption. Physicality itself is no different than "the artifacts of light rays, sound waves, heat, tastes, and scents which" [you assume] "come off the physical objects."

Apparently, your "epistemological humility" does not extend to your assumption that physical objects exist beyond the senses.

"You have "made no assumptions" except that you have made no assumptions."

As I have shown, you are the one making assumptions here.

A.R. said...


You seem to think I am saying things about math when in fact I'm referring to reality itself. Math is just a small part of reality.

I am not basing anything I say on axioms. I'm using the law of identity (A=A) which is self-evident to any logical mind.

Using A=A, I can see that a thing, an appearance is always itself. As I'm typing this, there is the appearance of a computer monitor. It is not an assumption to know that I am seeing a computer monitor right now. It is just a stone cold fact that can never be rationally doubted. Using this absolute certainty as a foundation, I can deduct other absolutes and non-absolute truths about anything I want to. Without it, the reasoning process cannot even begin.

António Araújo said...

>I am not basing anything I say on >axioms. I'm using the law of >identity (A=A) which is self-evident >to any logical mind.

I know that talk. It is very old, familiar talk, and somewhat deprecated - logic didn't stop with Aristotle. Sorry, but A=A is just an axiom about the undefined relation "=". Whatever is stated as true but not proven is an axiom, and "self-evident" is itself an undefined predicate that means nothing by itself.

>You seem to think I am saying >things about math when in fact

No, i don't think that you are talking about "maths", if by maths you mean differential calculus or algebra or topology. I *do* think you are reasoning about the world, and since you are *reasoning*, you are using logic, hence you are following certain laws of thought that at least include those 4 things I stated, hence my comment applies, because the validity of your reasoning depends on the validity of *logic*, hence depends on those 3 axioms+ 1 rule of inference. And I assure you that you cannot deduce those 4 things from A=A, whether the latter happens to be "self-evident" or not (if you can, please do so). Are you prepared to say that *all* these 4 statements of logic are "self-evident" too?

António Araújo said...

or, put in another way:

> I'm using the law of identity (A=A) >which is self-evident to any logical >mind.

Thank you! Couldn't have put it better.

It *IS* "self-evident" to a *LOGICAL* mind, meaning, a mind who follows the laws of logic, meaning a mind that uses *as laws* those 4 things I stated: 3 axioms + 1 inference rule. Unfortunately, that is only so if by "self-evident" you meant simply that it is true when we *assume* the axioms of logic (i.e., we have "a logical mind")

There is no (known) way around this. You either take A=A and a few more axioms as a basis, or you take a bunch of other equivalent axioms to the 4 I gave you and deduce A=A as a theorem. Sorry, but that is how it is. You just don't get the whole of logic from A=A no matter how much you try, and, if you did, A=A would then be the axiom. Am I being clear? these are just basic facts about logic. This is *before* you even start reasoning about the world.

A.R. said...

"the undefined relation "=""

It's not undefined. It means "the same as". A=A means a thing is always itself and never any other thing. How can you doubt that?

"I assure you that you cannot deduce those 4 things from A=A"

All those 4 things and everything else are equal to themselves and are never anything other than what they are. Without A=A functioning we could never use them for any purpose because we could never know what the terms mean. On a deeper level, without identity they could never take any form and we wouldn't even be able to remember what they are or even detect them.

Everything you're saying relies on A=A to the extent that it's reasonable, whether you are aware of it or not.

António Araújo said...

Also, I give mathematical examples and you say "I am conerned with the world!". I know you are. I give mathematical *examples* because they are *simpler*, *easier*, and *clearer* than those related to the world, and, if I show you that you can't even be *absolutely certain* in the safety of math reasoning about math objects, and in formal language (in the safe playground so to speak), then you have even less certainty in the much vaguer reasonings in ordinary language concerning the real world (in the wild, so to speak).

A.R. said...

Actually, you use mathematical examples to equivocate them with simple philosophical points. You want to say with absolute certainty that one can never be certain about anything and when someone points out the obvious contradiction in that statement, you run to your mathematical examples as a smokescreen. It's the same as kev's "epistemological humility" that he conveniently pulls out only when he can't argue legitimately with someone who disagrees with him.

António Araújo said...

Dear probably unexistent god, I despair.

Look, you are using old technology for thought. Technology known to be broken.

For some reason you are fine with using logic that one can read in Aristotle's Metaphysics, but you refuse to learn what any student of logic can and does learn for the previous 100 years.

And you are back to self-referential statements: I don't see the obvious contradiction of "being certain of uncertainty Sure I don't, sarcasm, because I never heard of "it is forbiden to forbid" and "who shaves the barber who shaves everyone who doesn't shave himself". Sure I don't. Or perhaps *you* are not aware of the frailties of *ordinary* language, and keep playing word games that went out of fashion 100 years ago, because you have clearly never read Russell, who dealt with that, much less Godel. Why, I ask? Why do you think it is fine to use Aristotle's logic but refuse to learn the evolutions that that same theory suffered?

António Araújo said...

>Using this absolute certainty as a >foundation, I can deduct other >absolutes and non-absolute truths >about anything I want to.

I despair. Do you know what inference and deduction mean? I mean, have you really studied it, and I don't mean versions of Aristotle's Metaphysics.

I said A=A is not *enough* to deduce the whole of logic.

No, you cannot deduce *everything* from A=A, because you can't deduce all logic from it. IF YOU CAN, DO IT. Don't talk round it, do it. It is a known technical fact that you can't.

>Without it, the reasoning process >cannot even begin.

That is what I said!! :D
Read this slowly: *that* is why it is an axiom. Because you cannot start without it. That being said, it does not work as the *single* axiom, because of what I said above. That being said, also, A=A and the other axioms of a complete set of logical axions *can* be replaced by any set of *equivalent* axioms, for instance the 4 I stated, with an adequate isomorphism (translation) between -">,~" and "=", of course, which should be obvious.

Please address what I *actually* say.

I really despair. I understand what you are saying, but it does not answer the objection.

> Without A=A functioning we could >never use them for any purpose >because we could never know what >the terms mean.

Ok, I really need to know this: have you actually studied logic to the following extent:

-you know how to relate boolean logic to the propositional calculus? How to relate different but equivalent inference systems?

A=A obviously has to be interpreted in the language I gave you, but this is just isomorphism. for instance, if you work in boolean logic then A=A is a tautology, in a provable way. What is the relation with ->? Well, in the system where you have -> and ~ as symbols, A=B would mean that both A->B and B->A are theorems. So A=A could be expressed by A->A (by symmetry) and A->~~A would express another old favorite.

Now, I could tranlate all this argument into another where I use =, if the other symbols confuse you, but I don't want to for the simple reason that you would need around 10 axioms + modus ponens for that, and, sorry, although that proves my point even further (because A=A looks even more puny in the midst of all the other axioms) I simply cannot be bothered to go that far. Just go and read up on any Hilbert-type axiom set for logic, or recall boolean algebra and think how it relates to the propositional calculus and to deduction.

António Araújo said...

Or you could do it in terms of the undefined terms "AND", "OR", "NOT", wand then you would translate by

"A AND B" means "~(a->~b)"
"A OR B" means "~b -> a"
"NOT A" means "~a"

if I haven't messed that up, OR you could do it in a number of ways. BUT in no *known* way, and as FAR AS I CAN TELL or as far as ANYONE I KNOW with any technical expertise in logic can tell (before you acuse me of *certainty*, and I have been careful to qualify my sentences a number of times, and when I didn't I always meant I was certain *as far as I can tell*, or "beyond a reasonable doubt"), as i was saying, nobody I know that has any technical knowledge has ever argued that A=A or any such equivalent can be used to deduce the whole of logic.

And as my advisor always used to say to students who said "this is obvious", if it is "obvious" then don't talk, prove it.

Show me that you can prove all the 4 laws of my system, or of boolean logic, or any equivalent logic, from A=A, and I will eat my hat. With gravy.

Otherwise, it's just talk.

António Araújo said...

(and, oh, even if you could, it would just mean, again, that you had a 1-axiom system of logic)

(which you don't)

(by the way)

(and what about the inference rule? you need one)

(what do they teach you kids at Aristotle's school these days?)


Wait, you didn't learn A=A from Ayn Rand, did you?....:)

A.R. said...

You are just ignoring the inescapable fact that any axiom will always have to be equal to itself. If not, it couldn't even be said to exist. If nothing exists there is no logic (A=A).

Simple as that.

A.R. said...

Ayn Rand is a nobody to me. Even less than all those other philosophers you mentioned.

António Araújo said...

> you run to your mathematical >examples as a smokescreen

Takes some nerve. Mathematical arguments irritate people precisely because they eliminate the smokescreen of long, empty, unending wordplay.

I notice that you are arguing by pickings at my ordinary language arguments, but you never address those pesky arguments that have either a yes or no answer - simple requests like "show how you can deduce the whole of logic from A=A". Takes more than wordplay to wiggle out of that, doesn't it?

And don't evade it by calling it maths. It's logic. "Any logical mind", remember? Then show me.

António Araújo said...

>You are just ignoring the >inescapable fact that any axiom will >always have to be equal to itself. >If not, it couldn't even be said to >exist. If nothing exists there is no >logic (A=A).


I am not ignoring anything like that! What part of *(A=A) IS NOT ENOUGH* can't you understand?

I Said: IS NOT ENOUGH (to deduce logic). YOU NEED **MORE** AXIOMS **BESIDES** A=A.

Do you know the difference between a necessary and sufficient condition?

let me put it more colorfuly:


I am not shouting, I am just wondering if you need glasses.

Christy almighty and the little mermaid.

António Araújo said...

Look, you are a fine individual, but I have enough of this crap with people I get payed to flunk.

Thank you for the dance. If you are not prepared to address my actual arguments at such a basic level, then I cannot make any progress here. You just don't understand logic at the post-XIXth century level and I am not about to regress that far.

You are an interesting fellow (though or perhaps because amusingly eccentric) when discussing in ordinary mode, but when you get on your Kantian or whatever-ian highhorse, it is just impossible.

Thanks for the game. I quit. You win, by argumentum ad nauseam. (captcha, i swear, was "wheping")

António Araújo said...

(and you think *sex* is a waste of time!)

António Araújo said...

ps: It pains me that I forgot to answer your obvious paradox (I have this need to answer every frigging thing, unlike most people, I won't mention whom, who just ignore direct questions). So, a parting gift:

Just because someone tells you "You cannot be sure" it doesn't means that such person is sure that you cannot be sure, hence going into some supposed tedious paradox, it just means that as far as this person can reasonably tell, and to the best of his abilities, he thinks you are wrong to think you can be sure. It also means that, as far as this person can tell, you have completely failed to make a convincing argument that proves, in any way whatsoever, that you can reasonably claim that you can be sure - instead it *seems* to this person, to the best of his abilities, that you are just spouting nonsense and you don't even know what an axiom is. It also seems to this person, that if you claim a type of certainty that goes beyond what mostly anybody else would claim, except for some dead philosophers postumously proven objectively wrong, like Kant, then the burden of proof (meaning, at least reasonably convincing argument on par with the claim) rests with you. And I am *pretty certain*, although not, obviously, *absolutely* certain that you didn't quite cut it.

I am also pretty sure this really shouldn't have to be "clarified".

Now I am rid of my load. I am sure that tomorrow the old irrational hunger will just be back, though. Alas, this filthy drive to clarify! - Oh but for the clean demonstrable rationality of a good old screw.

kev ferrara said...


Again, you argue against my posts utterly devoid of their context and with evident sloppiness in comprehension.

If you were actually paying attention you would understand that I was making the argument for the unknowability of things in themselves. I wrote that touch was more prime than vision, but I didn't write that touch is prime.

That the artifacts of what is generally assumed to be the presence of a physical reality are taken as evidence of the presence of an actual physical reality is no great shock. Such an assumption is the predicate for all meaningful communication, so to deny it in conversation is hypocritical. The assumption of the reality of reality is even a given/axiom in conversations where reality is denied, as here.

Whether there is a reality in itself is another matter. Epistemology tells us not to bother with the question at all.

Regarding how the brain investigates, even for the infant, you clearly haven't investigated the matter... nothing cognates except concepts. All experienced is translated.

I hope this clarifies the whereabouts of your errors in cognition with respect to our exchange. I'm sorry I can't be more comprehensive in bringing your fogbound thoughts into sharper relief. But there isn't enough time to treat them all with the committed hammering they require.

A.R. said...


"simple requests like "show how you can deduce the whole of logic from A=A"."

I have shown that nothing (including logic) can exist or be differentiated without A=A functioning in some way in the mind. You can't make assumptions without A=A because there would be no differentiations (things) about which to make assumptions, so all your mathematical definitions and assumptions rely on A=A.

"And don't evade it by calling it maths. It's logic"

Math isn't logic, it uses logic.


An axiom is a logical statement that is assumed to be true. A=A is not an assumption. An assumption is something that can potentially be proven wrong. A=A can never be proven wrong.

"Just because someone tells you "You cannot be sure" it doesn't means that such person is sure that you cannot be sure"

If they were really not sure they would just say something like, "You may be right but I don't know". That would be the more honest response.

A.R. said...


"I was making the argument for the unknowability of things in themselves."

"Things in themselves" being, of course, an (unnecessary) assumption since it can easily be shown that nothing can exist without something else existing alongside it, hence proving that things do not have inherent existence.

"Whether there is a reality in itself is another matter. Epistemology tells us not to bother with the question at all."

That doesn't mean the question can't be answered.

"nothing cognates except concepts."

That's fine. At the root of any possible concept is the Law of Identity which is a rationally undeniable truth about the nature of existence which forms the basis for any possible truth about existence whether it be absolute or merely conditional.

A.R. said...


I accidentally hit the "publish" button instead of the "preview" button for my last post to you. Here's a clarification of what I wanted to say:

I actually don't mind if you want to call A=A an axiom. The thing is, any other possible axiom must necessarily conform to A=A, so if you are saying that A=A is trivial and nothing can be deduced from it, you are saying the same about every other axiom, including your mathematical axioms.

In order to doubt the validity of A=A you have no choice but to employ A=A, which, if you are honest, makes no sense whatsoever.

António Araújo said...

I can't believe I'm doing this. Call it morbid curiosity.

>Math isn't logic, it uses logic.

That was my point. I said all I was using was logic, so don't evade it by dismissing it as "just math".

>I actually don't mind if you want >to call A=A an axiom.

Thank you.

> The thing >is, any other possible >axiom must >necessarily conform to >A=A

Yes, but conform means "not contradict". Yes. The *other* axioms of logic don't contradict A=A. But they are *independent* from A=A. Hence you need *more* axioms than A=A in order to think logically. Which is all I was saying. You need A=A *plus* more axioms.

> so if you are saying that A=A is >trivial and nothing can be deduced >from it, you are saying the same >about every other axiom

No. True, from each one you can deduce very little. But from *all* of them together you deduce a lot. It is how they work together that matters. Like pieces of a machine, say. No piece makes a clock, but all together they make the clock work. This is just a technical fact. Pick up any of my 4 axioms and play with it. What can you deduce? Only very specific things, mostly trivial. But take them together and you get all of logic.

>If they were really not sure they >would just say something like, >"You may be right but I don't >know". That would be the more >honest response.

I said it several times to that effect. I don't need to say that at every sentence. I use "I am sure" in the usual "apart from human error", and "from my assumptions" sense, like mostly everybody does, everyday - not in your absolute metaphysical sense. For instance, I fully acknowledge I am assuming all axioms of logic, plus I am using a frail ordinary language, plus I can make mistakes in using logic, etc etc. All I can do is my best. While you are saying all you need is A=A, which is (as far as I etc) false, and that you are sure not to be in error, which is (as far as etc) an error.

A.R. said...

"Yes, but conform means "not contradict"."

Yes, which means that A=A must be in effect in any axiom you can imagine.

"axioms of logic don't contradict A=A. But they are *independent* from A=A."

No. Any term in an axiom must be identical to itself which means that it conforms to A=A. Without a term being identical to itself we could never begin to even imagine it much less deduce anything from it.

"I fully acknowledge I am assuming all axioms of logic"

A=A is not an assumption. It proves itself. Anything outside of it that you could, for the sake of argument, use to prove it would just be A=A again.

kev ferrara said...


"Things in themselves" being, of course, an (unnecessary) assumption since it can easily be shown that nothing can exist without something else existing alongside it, hence proving that things do not have inherent existence.

"Things in Themselves" is not an assumption, it is a possibility. Just as "that which can be detected is all there is" is a possibility. Both ideas are indeed assumed to be possibilities.

You will have to show me the proof that one or the other of these possibilities is even falsifiable, before attempting to convince me that one or the other is provable. Otherwise you're just babbling birdsong.

And again, you are mistaking understanding for reality when you say that something can not exist except with respect to something else. Your reflexive solipsism is your achilles assumption in all this. The day you were born isn't the day your family came into existence. This seems... axiomatic. ;)

Speaking of which, this dialog about A=A is also falling into a language trap, in my opinion.

As I see it, A = A neither proves itself, nor is an assumption. It is simply a meaningless statement as written because no additional information is transmitted by the proposition; Therefore to say "a thing is itself" has no place in rational discourse at all, pragmatically speaking.

Furthermore, any further use of A = A type propositions (beyond saying a thing is itself) fails because there is no such thing as true identities (absolute similars, say) because even absolute similars, if they may be compared, must have a different "location" in either real space or "idea space" that differentiates them in some fundamental way. If the two ideas cannot be distinguished, they, again, cannot be compared in any meaningful way.

So I think 1 = 1, for instance, as a statement is merely a convention of math. There is no way to say 1 = 1, (using the "equals" sign to mean absolute equality or identity), of any real set of objects. Because there is no such sensible idea as simultaneous identity. One apple isn't another.

António Araújo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
António Araújo said...

actually no book on logic will begin with A=A, to the surprise of some people in some philosophy department who think Aristotle is still the rage. I am trying to indulge AR a bit because otherwise we just can't talk - I don't think he'll answer to "let's just drop that old clunker, 'kay?"

A=A doesn't mean anything in that version of logic I mentioned, but I I can translate it to mean that A implies A so that me and AR can have a talk (well, I was optimistic)

A=A can also be seen as a true statement in boolean logic (it means that both sides always have the same logical value, which is provably true). In this case it is a theorem, not an axiom.

As an axiom, it *is* pretty lame, your instincts are correct. A related statement, the old A=not(not(A)) is far better, as it would at least tell us something about not.

The place where A=A actually occurs in present-day discourse is actually in the axioms for equality: if you have an *undefined relation* "=" between pairs of certain types of objects, you say that "=" is an "equality" if and only if it verifies:

axiom 1) A=A (here it is!)
axiom 2) A=B then B=A
axiom 3) A=B and B=C then A=C

What is the use of "="? The thing is that A may take forms that are apparently different but in fact mean the same. So, for instance, in boolean logic

(p implies q) = (q or not p)

So you could say that if the left side is "A" then so is the right side, although it doesn't look the same.

Or, in number theory, you state that there is a relation "=" between numbers that verifies those 3 axioms, and then you put in more axioms about addition, multiplication, etc, etc, and you can then prove as a theorem that, say

1+2=3, where 2 is defined as 1+1 and 3 as 2+1.

You see, A=A is not vacuous simply because it is a statement about how we want the symbol "=" to behave, and because, together with axioms 2 and 3, you can actually decude stuff from axiom (A=A).

But all by itself, it *is* pretty vacuous, and that is what A.R. doesn't seem to get.

A.R.: I will not go into a loop again. "Axiom X is Independent from the set of axioms Y" means, in common logic parlance, that
neither X nor (not X) can be proved from Y.

Answer me this:

Can you prove, from A=A, that:

if A=B and B=C then A=C?

Yes or no? (if yes, please do so, because I'd like to learn how)

A.R. said...


"Can you prove, from A=A, that:

if A=B and B=C then A=C?"

If the terms A and B are really equal then it reduces to A=A. Same for B,C and A,C. All you're really saying is (A=A)=(B=B), (B=B)=(C=C), and (A=A)=(C=C). You're just using different symbols to say the same thing.

"actually no book on logic will begin with A=A"

That is an appeal to authority.

A.R. said...


""Things in Themselves" is not an assumption, it is a possibility."

It's only a possibility if you assume that things exist independently of consciousness.

"Just as "that which can be detected is all there is" is a possibility."

No assumptions here. It's absolutely true that all which can be detected is all which can be detected. Now, you may want to say that there is more than just consciousness, but this "more" which would have to be the cause of consciousness itself cannot have any form. It seems to exist outside of consciousness but that cannot be so since we have some awareness of it. Anything we could say to describe it would be an artifact of consciousness itself, making it impossible to accurately describe whatever it is. If we say that it exists we admit that consciousness causes us to sense it, making it part of consciousness itself. So we are left with an empty void.

"The day you were born isn't the day your family came into existence"

Another assumption that things exist apart from consciousness.

"Therefore to say "a thing is itself" has no place in rational discourse"

Except that it makes all rational discourse possible. Just try thinking about something which is not identical with itself.

"even absolute similars, if they may be compared, must have a different "location" in either real space or "idea space" that differentiates them in some fundamental way."

If that's true then they are not literally the same thing. A=A means a thing is identical to itself and not some other thing.

António Araújo said...

>if A=B and B=C then A=C?"

>If the terms A and B are really >equal then it reduces to A=A. Same >for B,C and A,C. All you're really >saying is (A=A)=(B=B), (B=B)=>(C=C), and (A=A)=(C=C). You're just >using different symbols to say >the same thing.

Oh boy, you really don't know what a proof is. But here is what *I* don't know:

I don't know what "really equal" is because you have not stated it. All I know is A=A. I don't know what "A=B reduces to A=A" means because you have not stated it. I don't even know what "reduces" means unless you use the axioms of logic to explain what inferences are allowed.

Now, this one is just lovely:

I honestly wouldn't know what that is even if you had stated all 3 axioms of equality (an equality between equalities? what's that? or is it just A=A=B=B? Then the 2nd equality is just unjustified)


The equality of B to itself implies the equality of C to itself??

First, what is implication at all if you are, supposedly, not using the axioms of logic (because all you need is A=A)?

Second, you really don't know what a proof is: why would you need to prove from B=B that C=C? That C=C, B=B, A=A, are precisely the few things that *you can* prove immediately with your single axiom of identity.

The thing is: when you said "really equal" you actually nailed the problem, meaning, you are assuming that "really equal" has some other *unstated* properties apart from A=A. But because you have not stated those properties you appeal verbally to the "obvious" meaning of "really equal". Sorry, that is just "making it up as you go along" - that only means that you need more axioms to define equality properly. What those axioms turn out to be is precisely those 3 that I stated. When I prove something with those axioms I NEVER have to make verbal appeals of the sort "oh, but if things are *really* equal", and i never have to say "oh, but obviously...". No. All I have to say is: from my first axiom I get this, from the second I get that, etc etc. No appeals to unstated properties of "equal". I don't make it up as I go along. I state ALL my assumptions about equality, and THAT is what equal means - no more, no less. Your axiom of equality is just one among three, no less and no more important than the other two. No two of those three can prove the remaining one.

>"actually no book on logic will >begin with A=A"

>That is an appeal to authority.

No, it is a mere statement of a fact. I was informing kev, who seemed to be in doubt, that he was correct to suspect that this isn't common practice about the vast majority of current workers in logic. This will spare him a futile search through textbooks in logic, if he was inclined to perform one, that is all. However, I don't mean that you are wrong because you differ from that common practice - don't go into persecution mode just yet - I think you are wrong because you fail to make a proper argument that I can understand, while I am pretty convinced by the ordinary arguments of those books. That doesn't mean that those books are the final word at all, just that, as far as I can see, what you propose is far, far more shabby.

António Araújo said...

another take: appealing to unstated properties of "really equal" to prove the statement I gave you from A=A, is exactly the same as trying to prove Euclid's axiom of parallels from the other axioms by saying:

"Well, if the lines are *really* parallel..."

The point is that what is in question is precisely what axioms, and how many axioms you need in order to state clearly at the start what "parallel" REALLY means, so that you NEVER require such implicit assumptions about the properties of "parallel" (or, in our case, "equal"). The list all such needed assumptions is precisely the list of axioms.

António Araújo said...

Look, I have one method of thought: I start from stated assumptions and I reason using stated laws of inference.

Yes, my method has problems I cannot solve:

-I can't know if my assumptions are right or not

-I cannot know if my laws of inference are right or not

But I have one advantage too:

-At least we can know what my assumptions ARE.

-If we are led to strange conclusions we know what assumptions to check for errors.

-If I teach you my rules of inference you can check my reasonings for *internal* consistency

-If I teach you my rules of inference and state my assumptions, you can make reasonings of the same type on your own, and we will agree on the results, and if we don't, we can easily check for errors together.

Your way of reasoning, you say, needs no assumtions (or if it does it's just A=A). That's a big improvement!

However, you make arguments that I simply cannot follow, and your rules are extremely unclear to me, so that it seems to me that you are changing them all the time.

I can teach my rules to a class full of people, and most will get them after a little while. I don't think I could do that with your rules - they seem a free for all, where nobody except yourself can be sure what steps in reasoning are allowed or not.

Whenever I make a reasoning of your type I never can check *for myself* if you'll find that it follows your rules or not. You can always say that "any logical mind will agree with this step" or "but if things are *really equal* then(...)", so I never know on what I can count.

My rules, if nothing else, allow for clear communication between people and to reasonings one can perform and check impersonally.

Also, these rules lead, everyday, to measurable advances in areas where such advances are easy to measure (like maths), which makes me at least expect that in other areas where advances are harder to quantify they probably are useful as well.

Perhaps some day a better system will be found; I wouldn't be surprised at all by that. But your proposal doesn't convince me, that's all.

kev ferrara said...


I'm not sure if you are having problems understanding what I'm saying because of some inability you have with logic, the English language, or because of some ideology you hold to which you can't get past.


Defining the meaning of the = sign seems like a language problem to me. I take it to mean "absence of distinction." And when = appears between two terms, it means "an absence of distinction between the two terms." The location of the term is part of it's symbolism.

The symbolism would hold just as well if, instead of having just two sides to the equation, you had nine:

A = A

Or a hunded and nine. It doesn't matter, as long as = is defined as "absence of distinction", and is situated between all the numbers present.

In a sense the working out of equations is a linguistic movement from connotative differences to a denotative identity. Somewhat like learning upon inspection that cat and feline have the same conceptual referent.

Which is to say A = B is a statement that indicates an identity of denotation overlayed by a trifling problem of "word choice" which is really just extraneous connotation that has no logical meaning.

In any situation in real life where two different words were used to refer to the same thing, this discrepancy would be understood as a meaningless social artifact.

In truth A cannot equal B in any real way that does not immediately imply that one of the symbols, A or B, has been used in error to refer to a distinction that is merely a linguistic one of no import. So Boolean equations, for instance, are really just translations between connotations within the language of math. All equations, in fact, only exist to assist with linguistic networking within the mathematical realm in order to increase the coherence of the overall system, which is to say, it's usability.

The Axioms, similarly, only have pragmatic meaning in the context of the system. And thereby shouldn't be trotted out to answer question in other philosophical realms.

A.R. said...


"Really equal" just means equal, as in "not different". I used the word "really" because you used a different symbol to express the same thing which could lead someone to believe you're saying that two different things are actually the same thing. If the terms in A and B are equal (in fact) then you're really just saying A=A. The same goes for A=B and A=C. You're just using a different symbol for half of the equation.

"The equality of B to itself implies the equality of C to itself??"

No, you're just saying A=A repeatedly. It could be any symbol, it doesn't matter. You could say x=x or @=@. You're always just expressing the law of identity. There is no escaping this.

"That C=C, B=B, A=A, are precisely the few things that *you can* prove immediately with your single axiom of identity."

And as soon as you add A=B, B=C, and A=C, all your really saying is that a thing is equal to itself (law of identity). You're just using different ways to express the same thing, no matter what it is.

"Whenever I make a reasoning of your type I never can check *for myself* if you'll find that it follows your rules or not."

Sure you can. All you have to do is see if your conclusion conforms to A=A. If it does, it's true. If not it's false.

A.R. said...


"I'm not sure if you are having problems understanding what I'm saying because of some inability you have with logic, the English language, or because of some ideology you hold to which you can't get past."

I can't understand it because it makes no sense. The only way it's possible to believe that there might be "things in themselves" is if you assume that consciousness is not required for things to exist. Yet, you don't want to admit an assumption there. The true "things in themselves" are just appearances of things which are just illusions generated by consciousness. I can be absolutely certain that these things exist and I don't need to (nor can I) posit the possibility that without consciousness things still appear.

kev ferrara said...


The extent of your knowledge DOES NOT extend to knowing FOR SURE that there are no things-in-themselves. For all you really know, the artifactual experiences we undergo which seem physical are, in fact, demonstrative of direct interaction with actuality.

Similarly, the extent of my knowledge does not extend to knowing for sure that there is anything beyond detectable phenoma (This is a point that I already made explicit.)

Beyond wondering about the origin of detectable phenomena in the possibility you insist upon, there is little of value to say on the topic. Neither proposition is falsifiable, so that ends the matter. This is basic epistemology.

António Araújo said...

>Sure you can. All you have to do >is ...

The mere fact that we have talked so much and advanced so little proves otherwise. Maybe *you* can, but clearly I, trough either stupidity on my part or a failing of your "method", cannot.

>"absence of distinction."

>"Really equal" just means equal, as >in "not different

That's fine then. But, of course... then you'd have to supply your axioms for the relation "not different", so you have gained nothing.

A.R., so you are a sort of solpisist then? I'll agree with kev on this: I certainly can't prove or disprove that thesis...but granting the thesis for a moment, and back to our initial question, since everything is just an illusion, I don't see why spending so much time arguing with your imaginary friends over the imaginary internet is so much better than sticking your imaginary body parts into those of your imaginary girlfriend :)

kev, I'll get back to you on the "equality" thing, I think it'll be a longer post and I am too pressed for time today.

António Araújo said...

I seem to have given (again) the impression that my arguments were somehow essentially mathematical. They are no more mathematical than the rest. I used formalism only for (attempted) clarity.

We are discussong A.R.'s use of the law of identity. The axioms I used are no more and no less "mathematical" than that, and their origin is very similar:

The inference rule modus ponens comes from the Stoics, I think, and it is a rule of thought we use everyday, in maths and outside it - it is just a part of logic, hence pertinent to any reasoning. Aristotle wouldn't see it, or the other axioms of logic, as in any way more "mathematical" than the law of identity.

The rules of equality I stated were certainly familiar to Euclid, and they are adequate to any definition of equality as people commonly use it, be it pertaining to math (numbers, angles), to physical properties (equal volumes), to more everyday concepts (all men are equal under the law), or to "equality" in a vaguer philosophical sense. Without any symbolism they are simply the statement that whenever I use the word "equal" I mean that these things are assumed to hold, regarding my use of the word, and also that I will use no other assumptions regarding the word:

-A thing is equal to itself (A.R.'s favorite)
-If a thing is equal to another then the other is also equal to the first.
-If a thing is equal to another thing and that other is equal to a third then the first is equal to the last.

This is what i stated above, the symbols just made it faster and clearer to state.

I think both I and A.R and you, and just about any ordinary random fellow, accept all these axioms implicitly when we use the word equal - all I did was state them explicitly. So, A.R., I think, doesn't question that they apply to his own use of the word true. What, however, he seems to believe is that somehow the first already implies the other two, for some reason I cannot fathom. I see no more reason for the first to imply the other two than for the third to imply the first two. Maybe I am just dumb, but I am in good company.

António Araújo said...

On equality:

The fundamental use of a relation that is an equality relation (meaning any relation that satisfies those 3 axioms at least) is to structure discourse by creating *equivalence classes * between objects that, seen from a different viewpoint, are in fact distinct. This is, kev, where I stated that your intuition was right. If there is no such higher level from which we start then you can still have an equality, but basically it becomes pretty useless and void, since only one thing is actually equal to itself. A.R. seems, though I am not sure, to be working in this latter case - what in mathematics would be seen as the trivial case, because nothing much follows from it beyond an endless sequence of equalities A=A, B=B, etc (kev is kev, A.R. is A.R., Antonio is Antonio, etc). In this case he would not indeed have any use for the other axioms, but he also would deduce nothing but trivialities (logical solipsism? :)).

Here is where the concept of equality is actually useful:

"The man I talked to yesterday (say kev)" is equal (is the same man) as "the man I talked to the day before". Clearly this statement implies a certain, very specific use of the word "equal" (as these two men are in some ways also very different, they don't have all the same atoms, their personality has evolved etc). Still, this relation is an equality in the sense that it follows all three axioms (including the first that A.R. likes so much), and allows me to structure my interactions with kev in a useful way (I don't have to introduce myself every 5 minutes to the "new" kev as I assume a certain continuity in his self, I can speak of kev's property, etc)

"All right angles are equal" - well, they are not the SAME, in a way (they can be subtended by different physical objects) but it useful to see them as equal in a certain sense, and this equality verifies those 3 axioms. Again, useful, as I know certain things will be true about *any* right angle (from the many physical right angles we abstract a conceptual right angle which doesn't need to "exist" in some ethereal "platonic" plane, this platonic right angle is just the useful equivalence class created in thought and speech by the equality relation).

"All men are equal before the law". Again, they are not the *same* man, and it would be a pretty useless thing to say if they were - it becomes useful when they are not the *same* man but they are to be treated according to those three axioms. In a solipsists worldview, indeed all men are just one - himself - and this becomes trivial, and useless.


António Araújo said...


Both two ounces of gold and a ton o wheat are *equal* to X dollars. Marx spends a lot of pages in Capital creating an equivalence class between *different* commodities, in different quantities (Adam Smith did it faster in his own tome, Marx does it more mathematically but is also more teadious), with the purpose of being able to say that these things are equal in a way - and through that he can identify a huge set of commodities with a single representative - in this case an equality relation (follows the 3 axioms) is used to create the concept of *money*.

1+2=3 (the obligatory maths example). All we know from the axioms of number theory is that 2 is the successor of 1, 3 the successor of 2, and + an operation defined by certain axioms. In a sense, 1+2 and 3 are quite distinct objects, but we place on the set of numbers a relation =, that verifies those 3 axioms (and a few more), and this creates a useful relationship between numbers: it creates equivalence classes, that makes us understand their properties better, just like in other contexts - non-mathematical ones - the equivalence classes that come from using an equality relation clarifies some properties of those things, for instance the one stated, that 1+2 equals 3, although they are also pretty distinct concepts from another viewpoint.

By the way, an example from physioloy, and related to art: there are classes of very different light waves that, though very different in themselves, excite the brain in the same way - we create equivalence classes in this way and say that these various waves correspond to the same colour. This is an equality (verifies those 3 axioms) on the set of light waves, and defines what "color" means. So, on the one hand you can put yourself in the set of colors already, and then equality is just trivial (a color is equal to only itself - duh!) but you can also look from the viewpoint of the larger set of light waves, and ask if two light waves are *equal* *as colors*, and this leads to interesting productive discussion.

Well, enough examples:

A.R. is always putting himself in the set of equivalence classes themselves, where equality becomes a trivial statement, and all you can say is that, indeed, a thing is equal to itself. He can do that. What does not follow is that, outside of the trivial case, the three axioms of equality follow from the first, or that, if we restrict ourselves to the trivial case, he can deduce much at all, except, as we say in maths, in the sense that an infinte number of things (all of them useless) can be deduced about the empty set.

A.R. said...


"A.R., so you are a sort of solpisist then?"

Not really. Logically, there must be something other than the mind, otherwise consciousness would be an uncaused phenomenon. However, since all we have is consciousness to investigate what this cause might be, all questioning turns back in on itself, back to consciousness. All we can say is that consciousness/mind must be part of the Universe, defined as literally everything. Since we cannot doubt that we see things, we cannot doubt that there is a total sum of everything we see or could possible ever see. But this totality itself cannot exist in the literal sense because, as I've stated before, things only exist in contrast with other things. Since the Universe/Totality is literally everything, there is nothing to give it contrast that could make it exist. However, we know it must "be".

"I don't see why spending so much time arguing with your imaginary friends over the imaginary internet is so much better than sticking your imaginary body parts into those of your imaginary girlfriend"

It's simply a question of what I value.


"The extent of your knowledge DOES NOT extend to knowing FOR SURE that there are no things-in-themselves. For all you really know, the artifactual experiences we undergo which seem physical are, in fact, demonstrative of direct interaction with actuality."

The "artifactual experiences" are already a direct interaction with reality. I don't need to build a division between the reality I experience in every moment and some imaginary reality beyond consciousness that I would have to assume exists.

David Apatoff said...

Antonio Araujo, A.R. and Kev Ferrara-- I haven't had much to contribute on the last several comments, but I've nevertheless enjoyed following your exchange; it takes a special kind of person to argue more vehemently about formal logic and math than about sex.

I almost think Chester Brown isn't worthy of this debate.

A.R. said...

David, I think you just stated the nature of the real problem here, at least as far as the argument between me and António. I'm not talking about formal logic or math. I'm talking about *pure logic* and what it can reveal about the nature of existence. Existence itself is more fundamental than math or the structure of arguments. I'm more concerned with the content of absolute, purely logical truths in regard to the nature of existence itself.

"it takes a special kind of person to argue more vehemently about formal logic and math than about sex."

Well, it's pretty clear to me that all this uncertainty that kev and António are so certain must be the case is really just a roundabout way for them to defend their attachment to sex.

kev ferrara said...

Then, AR, you are both assuming your senses are comprehensively sensitive of all possible phenomena (when they arent even sensitive to all the EM phenomena) and you assume that the phenomena you experience IS "things in themselves" ... which means you assume your senses are infallible... meaning that you assume that the reality reconstructed in your mind is an exact duplicate of reality as it is.

You really haven't thought this through, have you?

A.R. said...

Of course my senses are fallible, kev. Pure, infallible logic tells me so. It also tells me that being conscious in any way of things that exist totally beyond consciousness is self-contradictory nonsense.

António Araújo said...

>It's simply a question of what I >value.

Well, that argument is fine by me.

>Well, it's pretty clear to me that >all this uncertainty that kev and >António are so certain must be the >case is really just a roundabout way >for them to defend their attachment >to sex.

That is humour, right? :)

I value both logic and sex. Why? I don't know why, it's in my framework, whatever that means. They please me both and keep me interested, as a ball of string may please a cat and probably by no better reason.

About sex, it occurs to me that your refusal of it and my attempts to enjoy it while controlling it are just a rehash of the old debate between the Cynics and the Stoics in ancient Greece. Very liitle is new under the sun.

> I'm not talking about formal >logic or math. I'm talking about >*pure logic*

Formal logic was an attempt at making clear what *pure logic* is and what truths it can reach. Anyway, as I made clear, the axioms I stated are at the level of your axiom of identity and even date, historically, from not much later, and were created in the same spirit, so if you bring your law of identity to the field you can hardly exclude my offerings as "formal". I even took the trouble to write them down in plain words, so I'd think we'd be beyond this argument.


Thanks for the clarification of the "solipsist" bit. Would you say that you are taking Heisenberg's stance?
(meaning, speak only of the observables, make no inventions regarding the existence of things *causing* or *existing* beneath the observables?)
I'm ok with Heisenberg, by the way, but I see things in a different way: I think that Heisenberg's stance, the rival "Realist" stance, and so on, are not frameworks about which we can answer the question "which is right", but rather tools that are useful and complementary. When I think of a problem I try to switch the point of view from one to the other to see what each of them has to offer. Sometimes it useful to just look at the observables, sometimes it is better to make up phantasies about their causes, and often it is useful to do both and relate one to the other.

I think unwarranted assumptions are only dangerous if we forget we made them.

António Araújo said...

>Pure, infallible logic tells me so

And you take her at her word? :)

Lady logic protests too much about her purity. She's a bit of a loose woman, who throughout her years has too often proved weak :)

kev ferrara said...


Totally beyond consciousness?

What you are not comprehending is that if you admit that your senses are fallible and you intake artifacts of the world through your senses in order to reconstruct the world in your mind, how do you know how accurate
your inner facsimile of the outer world is?

What second source do you have to confirm the first that does not also need to come through your senses?

So all reality is beyond the powers of consciousness to verify.

This even leaves aside the much thornier problem of you contending that there are no objects in themselves, only the artifacts we detect which imply the presence of objects which are illusory. What is the origin of all these illusions then?

Point being we can't answer any of these questions for sure. And whatever view we hold to will not change the reality. Therefore there is no pragmatic reason to debate, root for, or adopt any position on the matter.