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"A weblog is a frequently updated web site where the content is often in reverse chronological order." (Mena Trott)
It contains a perfectly random assortment of thoughts, ideas, references and complaints, and they are all mine! (CD)

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Name: Christian Dreyer
Location: Switzerland

September 13, 2009

Witzig, witzig

On rare occasions, there's a German post on this blog. This is one of those rare occasions, because the post's object is a German language talk that I attended. Sorry about that.

Vor ein paar Tagen habe ich im Rahmen einer Flying Science Reihe einen ausgezeichneten Vortrag von Jochen H�risch mit dem Titel Witzig, witzig - was ist lustig? geh�rt. Meine Aufnahme des Vortrags ist - mit Placet des Referenten - hier verf�gbar. Die Kernthese des Vortrags hat mich schockiert: Das einzige, wor�ber man heute nicht lachen d�rfe, sei die Religion. Begr�ndet wurde diese Feststellung mit den m�glichen Folgen solcher Witze - d�nische Karikaturen usw lassen gr�ssen.

Meiner Meinung nach ist diese These falsch auf so vielen Ebenen, dass ich ohne umfangreiche Abhandlung nicht darauf eingehen kann. Nur soviel: allein die Fixierung auf die Religion ist viel zu allgemein, da sich nur monotheistische Religionen so ernst nehmen, dass sie Humor nicht zulassen. Den G�ttern sei Dank kann ich mir eine detaillierte Kritik aber ersparen, weil der Referent selbst seine These in derart vielf�ltiger Weise k�stlich gebrochen hat, dass er sie offensichtlich selbst nicht Ernst nimmt. Ein wahres Lehrst�ck der Selbstironie und echtes Vergn�gen also - nur schade, dass nach dem (kurzen) Referat keine Diskussion zugelassen worden ist.

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December 01, 2008


This is quite a magic moment in Swiss TV, indeed - it's an interview with Harro von Senger, Swiss sinologist who popularised the Chinese 36 Stratagems in western thinking. In this programme, he discusses both the concept of stratagems as well as his most recent book�Moul�e�which reveals an ultra-long term, targeted thinking that is beyond what we consider to be strategic. The discussion, or rather, the somewhat clumsily scripted monologue is a useful first introduction into von Senger's subject. It is interesting to observe how very outlandish that subject appears to be to his interviewers, even though they have evidently done their homework.�

I've read Moul�e a while back, and I've been fascinated by the book. Von Senger's writing is chattier than his TV presence, meaning that it has its lengths. But these lengths are filled with a lot of erudite detail about Chinese literature and practice, so they are easily suffered. The concept itself of thinking "strategically" (for lack of a better word) over multiple generations with a view to a defined objective is quite an eye-opener, especially in conjunction with dialectical materialism as practised by the Communist Party. Many think that China has gone native with capitalism, but I have my doubts ...

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September 20, 2008

The way out of the moral matrix

Here's an excellent presentation about moral psychology. I particularly like the way in which the speaker comes across as very confident of his own political position despite of the apparent moral relativism (but it's actually moral humility) that he proposes. Being aware of and respecting your opponent's standpoint doesn't have to mean that your own position is weak.

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August 12, 2008

Pascal's wager

Why are people still so impressed by Pascal's wager after all those centuries? Surely, if there were a god in any meaningful sense (i.e. omniscient and -potent), she would send him to the other place for thinking that he could deceive her by faking his faith. I guess that would count as pride ...


May 13, 2008

Mr Bragg's bees

Here's a nice interview with Melvyn Bragg, host of one of my dearest podcasts, In Our Time. Why don't you take out a trial subscription?

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December 12, 2007

Seeing Red

It is an exceptionally slim book, and a beautifully made one, too. But despite of its tiny format, its ambition is quite monumental:�Seeing Red�proposes a non-technical operational model of consciousness. Humphrey answers Joe King's emailed question: "Hello, my name is Joe King. I am severly disabled, 20 years old. I am 33 inches tall, 40 lbs, 47 broken bones and 6 surgeries. I have been concerned lately that when I die this crippled body might be all I have. My question is. Do u believe consciousness can survive the death of the brain? Is there good scientific evidence for this?" I am not going to be a spoilsport, but suffice it to say that Humphrey's answer is sufficiently clear.

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October 19, 2007

Wise evolution

Here is an intuitively convincing essay which is meant to demonstrate the possibility of evolutionary systems despite of their counter-intuitivity. I like the style and the ambition (via /.).

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October 12, 2007

How does it feel?

The New Scientist answers a question that probably everyone wonders about: How does it feel to die? Interesting!


March 31, 2007

From egghood to personhood

Somewhere on that journey, consciousness happens, according to Paul Broks' excellent review of Seeing Red. This is the best book review (in the format of a standalone essay) that I've read in a long time, and it's even got a cliffhanger! Have a go at it, and then I am sure you'll be in for its object, too (via virtual philosopher).

Btw, when did you order your first book online? My first traceable Amazon order happened on 11 August 1998: Paul Krugman's Accidental Theorist and Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma.

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December 27, 2006

Reason's Greetings

In line with my favourite English language newspaper's current promotional slogan, I finally got round to reading this comprehensive, yet somewhat contrarian piece on the New Atheism. It is probably in reaction to the ascendancy of religious fundamentalism that there have been some topical publications which now serve as focal points for the New Atheist movement called The Brights.

Personally I harbour strong sympathies towards that movement, although I accept some people's need to hedge against the negligible, but non-zero probability of god's existence. However, I wouldn't go as far as to reject the approach on that ground, as the article's author does in conclusion. My biggest problem with it is the apparent doctrinary approach, which brings it into the vicinity of another neo-movement. Combine that with the contingency of faith's reality and you have a recipe for failure. It is much more promising to just let the idea quietly run its course. The genie of Reason is out of the lamp ...

P.S. It just crossed my mind that another reason against being a fervent New Atheist is that faith can be, and in the posited absence of freedom of religion rightly should be, seen as an instance of the freedom of thought. To which The Brights surely cannot object.

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