Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Heuristics of Formalism

 Heuristics of Formalism    


Exhuastion: if a formalism is old, then we probably know everything worth knowing about it.

Sterility: If a formalism needs lots of work to justify simple results, then it's probably the wrong one.

          Similarity: If two wildly different formalisms are doing oddly similar things, then there's probably one uniting them.

          Contagion: If two formalisms derive from a single one, then they probably do the same things.

          Illusion: If a formalism's ideal/abstract entities outweigh its concrete/calculational ones, then it can probably say nothing useful.

          Connection: A formalism's value equals the extent to which it can freely interact with other formalisms.

Fluidity: In a good formalism, what you can do, you can also undo.

          Diversity: Many theories derive the same theorems. There is no single best explanation.

          Novelty: Only essentially new ideas count. Stale thought sickens.

          Obscurity: The destructiveness of a formalism equals the number of thoughts it prevents us from thinking.

          Humanity: Proving that you can do it, given infinite time and unlimited knowledge, is not the same as proving that you can do it, given little time and paltry knowledge.

Inquiry: Questions teach us more than answers. The purpose of a formalism is to produce better questions.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Arbery and Rittenhouse cases compared

Arbery and Rittenhouse cases compared


These cases have similarities and differences. In both cases, three White men, at least one heavily armed, pursued one person; the one pursued, when cornered, resisted; the three men attacked; shots were fired, someone died, and the case went to court.

In the Arbery case, the pursued one was Black, and unarmed, and died. In the Rittenhouse case, the pursued one was White, and armed, and his assailants died or were maimed. In the Arbery case, the pursuers were found guilty and imprisoned by the law; in the Rittenhouse case, the pursuers were shot by the pursued.

In the Rittenhouse case, two of the three men were lightly armed (with a plastic bag of hospital supplies, and a skateboard), and the third heavily armed, with a pistol. The two died, the one was maimed.

In both cases, all of those who had firearms survived, and all of those who did not died.

In both cases, the pursued one was found to be in the right by judge and jury, and the pursuers suffered.

In both cases, the pursued had good reason to fear for his life, and a pursuer later claimed to fear for his life. So in both cases, mutual fear caused mutual attack in mutual self-defense.

In both cases, a pursuer later claimed altruistic motives for the pursuit; namely, protecting the public from a suspected intruder.

In both cases, the pursuers should have broken pursuit after repelling the pursued.

          Where the cases differ, it is clear that it was better to be White than Black, and better to have a firearm than not.

There are possibilities not explored in these two cases. What if the pursued one was Black, and armed, and killed two pursuers, and lived? And what if the pursued one was White, and unarmed, and died? How would judge and jury rule afterwards?

          In the case of an unarmed White man slain after pursuit, I am fairly sure that the judge and jury would find the pursuers guilty. But in the case of an armed Black man slaying his pursuers, I am not at all sure that the court would find him not guilty. Given the history of this country, I am not at all sure that the law, as practiced, applies the principle of self-defense consistently across skin-tint lines.

The real rules appear to be: if you’re Black, and pursued, then you must die or be punished; and if you’re White, and pursued, then you must die or be armed. And even in these hypothetical cases, the pursuers should have broken pursuit after repelling the pursued.


Friday, November 26, 2021

No White People, 5 of 5



One morning, when Richard Spencer awoke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a white man.

          The back of his hands were white. White, as in cloud-white, paper-white, snow-white, cotton-white, milk-white, bone-white. White white. So were the palms of his hands. So were his arms, his chest, his stomach, his thighs, his shins and his feet.

“What has happened to me?” he thought. It was no dream. He bolted out of bed and ran to a mirror. In it he saw that his face was white and his hair was white. So were his eyebrows, his irises, his lips and his tongue.

          He pulled out his waistband, and looked down, and yes, even little Richard was as white as a sheet of paper.

          He called for an ambulance. It took ten minutes to arrive, which seemed like forever. The driver took one look at him and ordered him into the wagon. The ambulance hurtled to the hospital, sirens screaming, blowing past stop signs and red lights. It screeched to a halt at the entrance to the Emergency Room.

          The nurse in attendance took one look at Richard Spencer and waved him in, past all the other patients. While filling out the form she said, “Whoo-ee! Ain’t ever seen a white man before!”

          The nurses led him to a bed and attached sensors to him. They took a blood sample, a urine sample, and a stool sample. All three were white.

          As nurses and interns crowded around Richard Spencer, three of the doctors walked over to a corner to quietly confer.

          Rex Morgan, MD, said, “I have never seen a case like this.”

          Dr. Kildare said, “Nor have I.”

          Dr. House said, “Idiopathic symptomology. Diagnosis?”

          Rex Morgan said, “He’s... white?”

          Dr. House said, “Cause?”

          Dr. Kildare said, “Unknown.”

          Dr. House said, “Treatment?”

          Rex Morgan said, “Unknown.”

          Dr. House said, “Prognosis?”

          Dr. Kildare and Rex Morgan looked at each other. Rex Morgan shrugged. Dr. Kildare slowly shook his head.



Thursday, November 25, 2021

No White People, 4 of 5

 White People That I Have Seen


          I myself have seen white people; but they were always fictional.

          Consider Boris Badenov and his sidekick Natasha Fatale. They’re white! Look at Caspar the Friendly Ghost; he’s white all over! But they don’t count because they’re animated cartoons.

The Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man starred, alongside Bill Murray, in a blockbuster movie. He’s white! But he’s a special effect.

Take Nosferatu. He’s white. Or the Borg. They’re white. But really they’re all actors wearing white grease-paint. Mimes don’t count as real white people, for the same reason.

One Halloween, I saw a man dressed as the Pillsbury Doughboy. He was wearing white shoes, white pants, a white shirt, and a white chef’s hat; and he had white grease-paint on his hands and face. Even his lips were white. A truly spooky Halloween fake!

How about Frosty the Snowman? Here’s a song, sing along:

Frosty the Snowman was a frozen golem freak;

He was so uncanny-valley that he made the children shriek.


Frosty the Snowman, he would joke and jump and dance

And do other undead antics that made children wet their pants.


Frosty the Snowman would affright you at first sight

For like Boris, Caspar and the Borg, he was snowy, creepy white.


Frosty the Snowman had a tint so twee you’d wince

He’s the one white man I’ve ever seen, and I haven’t seen one since!


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

No White People, 3 of 5

           The Milk Test


          If, despite your eyes, you still believe that there are white people, then consider this scenario:

          David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, is told that there are two glasses in the room next door; that he may drink what he wishes, but he is warned that one of those glasses is full of milk, and the other is full of paint.

          In the next room there are indeed two glasses with two liquids. In one glass, the liquid is the same color as snow. In the other glass, the liquid is the same color as David Duke.

From which glass would David Duke drink?

The snow-white glass, of course; that’s the one full of milk. The Duke-colored glass must be full of paint, not milk; and that’s because milk is white, and David Duke is not white.

What’s more, he knows that he isn’t white.

          There are other versions of the milk test. For instance, if a cloud floated overhead, and it were the same color as you, and it dropped snow the same color as you, then would you go out and play in that you-colored snow? And maybe taste some of it? Or would you instead hide indoors, and call the EPA to report an environmental disaster?

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

No White People, 2 of 5


Politics Of Illusion


Maybe this essay’s absurd literalism annoys you. So what if “white” people aren’t really white? Must we adopt some correct but clumsy term? “Caucasian”, perhaps? “European-American”? How inconvenient! “White” is such a short, simple word; it takes so little time and thought to say; so won’t it do?

No, it won’t. Here’s a riddle, one told by Abraham Lincoln:

Suppose you call a tail a leg. How many legs does a dog have?

Answer: Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

Likewise, I say: calling people white doesn’t make them white.

Dear reader, I urge you to see with your own eyes, rather than with other people’s lies! For whiteness is a lie. It supports the pseudoscience of race and the tyranny of supremacism, and it is itself an illusion. Anyone who sees white people is literally hallucinating.

Racism requires such hallucinations, for race does not exist. Race is an exaggeration. It is a genetic tan. It’s skin-deep. It is no more than a tribal signifier; and tribalism fights for symbols, not realities.

How spooky, that race doesn’t exist, but racism does; and that the favored race doesn’t exist either. Because nobody is really white, nobody can be white enough. What a scam! And after everything that the world has done for white people, they don’t even have the common courtesy to exist!

Humankind’s skill at manipulating symbols leaves us vulnerable to being manipulated by our own symbols. Thus we can be ruled by illusions. How to dispel such ensorcelment? This essay proposes an aesthetic antidote and a moral tactic. The aesthetic antidote is optical precision. Mark Twain defined the moral tactic with this aphorism:

One horselaugh is worth a thousand syllogisms.