weather is a good ice-breaker, pardon the pun

what is hail?

hail is stones falling from the sky

you hear that? stones are going to fall from the sky tomorrow


sleet is small stones

kamm's principle of permissible harm

"it appears weird that a small segment of track which doesn't even come into play should by the doctrine of double effect now be declared impermissible."

can we flip the switch? - intuitions

push man off bridge: no
lazy susan: yes
trolley : yes
loop trolley: yes
race to brake: no

now, if we want to distinguish and formulate a theory which would justify our intutions, if i can produce another coherent explanation it would show that the PPH is not necessary.

i am leaning towards a psychological error theory, something to do with risk and causal perceptions. in both the trolley and the loop trolley case, the evil that either the 1 or the 5 face the same kind of risk, to be run over by a train, which is an unfortunate consequence of the fact that they happen to be on the tracks. they thus both share the implicit risk of being run over by the train within the situation, which is the evil which is foremost on our minds. it would thus seem unfair to introduce this risk or evil to someone who is crossing a bridge or the road on the way to the brake, although these risks exist in practice, they do not dominate in our analysis of the immediate threat. it thus seems unfair to introduce this new "threat" in which they are used as a means.

lazy susan is allowed because again the implicit risk has been introduced into the question: i.e. the risk that landslides happen and are caused by nature. regardless of the fact that you cause the landslide by rotating the lazy susan, the particular risk is already embedded in the rocks and the strata and it would seem that you did not intentionally put someone in greater danger as a result of your action. you have not increaed the overall risk of the system. and the error is that "natural" causes in these case absolve one of moral responsibility, because trapdoor, running over someone, all seem to be artificial causes, whereas trolley accidents and landlides are simply unfortunate incidents.

paradox of deontology

normative judgements part 2

and clearly even if you thought about things and arrived at no definite answer, there seems to be something about acting after you have thought through something which is better than not thinking about it at all i.e. wilful ignorance.

even if international relations, philosophy, economics provides no good predictors of the way we live, apart from clearing up the confusion of thinking about things, it just allows people to think things through.

reflective equilibrium: how can we use the way we currently do things to justify how things should be done in the future? this is another criticism of this method of morality, and even economics in general. are we just being squeamish in not killing this group of people to save a larger amount? hey, maybe all this being nice and polite to people and going to church on sunday is just slave morality, foisted on us by all these disgruntled slaves? and maybe we like economics so much because it is the justification of a system which makes people rich, and continues to make them richer.

i do find it dangerous, though, to think that we can throw off whatever influences we have, however far back they go, and say, hey morality is not working out for a group of us. let's fuck it. i think an explanation is still owed, similarly, if you wish to change the structure of the world economy, and if you believe that third world countries are being screwed over by richer ones, i like to think that you have to make a good case for it.

but why? why do people like to think things through before making a choice, even in less clear cut cases? clearly they would have to perform a first evaluative judgement in weighing up the things of value on both sides of the questions. the argument will be then on what is of value, and what weights we assign to them, and that would be tricky, as Hume correctly points out. How are we to be sure that our emotions of not interfere with our weightings? but surely it's important to know in the first place what these factors are. and it is only because we are doomed to think and wonder anyway, that we attempt to act rationally (if we do) to try to pre-empt regret which is basically thinking things through ex-post.

so i think it is still important to think about things like medical ethics and morality and why the "ethics as justification" argument makes sense. if you have to do something, it would be nice for a start if you knew why you were doing it. it would help you act according to consistent principles.

abstraction. reading a poem, or watching a film where everyone overcomes the odds, it's so unreal. not everyone can be a rocky balboa. not everyone is persistent and 100% hardworking, but of course, the premise is to give you something to hope for, to do better in, to have that one ideal or dream you can fight for. for every rocky, there's the person who didn't train as hard and got beat by him.

and it is so easy to be a specialist, and be the captain of your soul, to overcome physical hurdles but it is difficult and seems to be slightly different in this world, in this world maybe it is difficult simply to will things to be so and coherent in one principle, in all its messiness, maybe success involves things like sleeping around if you have to or learning how to lie, flatter or deceive. you would not like to think it so, but i am sure a case can be made for it, and where are these success stories in rocky balboa shows? how does the second place guy feel, knn, you think he never train? all this stuff about being the best is bullshit. not inspiring, so shouldn't be a model for our success? but if that's the case, then behaving ethically or in a noble way is not a prerequisite even helps success, but seems to be an added constraint. so if you act noble and succeed, then you get 2 points, instead of 1.

deep down, i feel an urge to be the best in what i do. but i know in many areas i settle for being good enough, even average. what is wrong with good enough (well, because people doing the best strive for human progress and the world moves and everything), but the more i see, i seem to feel that competition makes me unhappy. i enjoy better environments where people are less competitive, perhaps its a lack of drive thing, but maybe i also feel it changes part of me to be a less nice person. i feel changed by the people around me, i feel it is necessary to do well in micro 2 etc etc, or have a good job, or whatever status. i wish i was just good enough. so all this propaganda about making in to the top, for every top, there is an asswipe down there who resents having to clear your trays for minimum wage. and then the only thing to live for is, well, make sure i'm not one of them. that is why cashiers at tesco bug me so and why i am glad they introduce auto-cashiers at tesco. go tesco.

that is why i think hard work, though important, neglects many other variables. and why people always settle for one of the other points, relative failure or ethical failure.


i got over a bit of the boredom of yesterday, and also a bit of the anger, after it was put in disarmingly simple terms, that i don't have a problem or anything, i'm just an introvert perhaps.

the spring is here, the sun has been shining, it's st patrick's day and ireland is trashing italy in the RBS six nations, and the pub fills with irish catholic songs. perhaps catholic is an unnecessary adjective, but it is just soo irish if you know what i mean. sounds very soulful, kinda like dirges.

i was arguing about the relevance of economics in the modern world.

if the objection to economics is that it focuses too much on money and self interest, and that a lot of people end up sitting around doing nothing productive, then why the focus on just subjects which have some inherent productive value? clearly production is not the only thing that matters in this world, and a secondary principle could be fulfilling intrinsic human needs such as curiosity.

secondly, the fact that economics only explains common sense principles. i feel a need to distinguish between "science" and "technology". it is obvious to me that an apple should fall from a tree, but it is not obvious to me why. I am unsure if physics even provides an answer to why apples fall from trees, because they are really describing the dynamics and laws which govern the mutual attraction of objects, but given that why is a question of motivation, and trees, apples are the earth are not assumed to have innate free will, we could even ask the creator why a world should be governed by the laws or physics, or why humans would want to find a way to think about and organise their sensory perceptions. physics really isn't the straightforward if you think about its deeper philosophical foundations.

in the same way, just because something happens and is commonplace experience or common sense does not mean that we shouldn't try to explain it or try to figure out where our common sense intuitions fail us, and this is something i've learnt from doing moral philosophy. we all know it's common sense we shouldn't kill people, but why? why do we respect people's rights, or do we not kill them just because we're scared. of course there are many possible answers, but if you arrive at a principle you live by, i guess it will make choices such as abortion (and i just being selfish or do i have a right to choose?) less random. would you kill 1 person to save 5? if not, why don't you donate your own organs to 5 other people?

okay, but then it comes to technology. the offspring of biology, physics and the pure sciences, and we get magnetic resonance scanners, computers, nuclear energy, you know, stuff that really helps people. economics seems to be a dark art in that respect because by nature (on the micro scale it is a question of choice), on the macro scale it involves decisions taken by a large number of people. it has more variables, and it is less certain if economics is useful as a technology-generating science, or rather, a science with a practical bent and application.

i agree that at best, economics can only aspire towards aims such as better organizational or incentive structures, because that is the business that they deal with. they can recommend laws, systems, or ways to keep the system going because ultimately it is about interactions. what successes do they have to claim, given that countries with or without good economists grow have fantastic GDP growth anyway.

but just because we are economists doesn't mean our job is to make everyone produce more, we are not interested in more, we are interested in efficient. efficient, and equilibrium. there are some things which appear to be common sense, but we have had to learn empirically and understand why through a theory. for example, stagflation, and how not to conduct monetary policy. why are interest rates and inflation so stable nowadays? how did we arrive at a regime targeting interest rates, when 25 years ago they were targeting money supply, or letting interest rates fluctuate? isn't the way things are not more stable for lending/borrowing money?

aren't there principles to auction design? individually, people on ebay act irrationally, but when it comes to companies handling deals wirth some $38 billion on more, one can expect some semblance of rationality when it comes to games of auctioning. to me, the notion that the second-highest bid wins given imperfect information produces the optimal auction proceeds is not a self-evident fact which i would have guessed without economics.

whatever derivatives or black arts mergers/acquisitions and stuff do, or whether capitalism is the best system are still questions for economics. do a history in economics course, and economic thinking applies whether you are a marxist or capitalist (although, given that marxism predicted the collapse of world capitalism, it is a discredited theory), again, proved by experiment. the capitalists would have said, "i told you so". i would say derivatives, like insurance, hedge risk, risk that people are generally afraid of. this is not to say that everyone in finance is doing it for the good of the world, no probably not, it is to make more money and you could quesiton why there are so many financial markets. but you would have to examine development economics, and ask yourself, how are countries crippled from growing if they do not have well-developed lending/borrowing or capital raising markets? a lot of what seems obvious (produce, then produce lorh), is not that simple, how are the funds raised, how do people with a bright idea turn it into a reality in some countries but are just oppressed in others?

no-arbitrage is also a very powerful principle, and you just have to see how the prices of budget airlines converge to prices of super-economy on standard airlines on the internet (a perfectly competitive market) to observe it in action. it is the basis of black-scholes and other pricing formulae which people instinctively gravitate to.

i wanted to review the nobel-prize winning ideas for the past 20 years but i will do that in another post.


The Who: Baba O Riley

What bad hairstyles!

Out here in the fields
I fight for my meals
I get my back into my living
I don't need to fight
To prove I'm right
I don't need to be forgiven
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Don't cry
Don't raise your eyes
It's only teenage wasteland

Sally, take my hand
We'll travel south cross the land
Put out the fire
And don't look past my shoulder
The exodus is here
The happy ones are near
Let's get together
Before we get much older

Teenage wasteland
It's only teenage wasteland
Teenage wasteland
Oh, yeah
Teenage wasteland
They're all wasted!

statistics and lies.

we could set out an entire website on the misuse and abuse of statistics. some of them involve drawing spurious correlations from sparse data sets.

but then there is also stupid probability and lies dressed up as something interesting, or as page fillers. what not to do if you are a journalist:

Excerpt from the Daily Mail, about the FA Cup draw

"Once Clemence had plucked Blackburn from the bowl, the odds were stacked hugely in the FA's favour. A 66 per-cent chance of getting the winner from the two remaining replays. Only a 33 per-cent chance of drawing poor old Watford next."

This is absolute rubbish. Blackburn had a 66 percent chance of facing Man Utd or Chelsea before the first ball was drawn. The fact they were the first ball to be drawn changes nothing.

To illustrate this, say Man United had been drawn first. What is the conditional probability that Blackburn would face them. 1 of 3 remaining balls was blackburn, thefore 33%.

If Chelsea had been picked, the conditional probability is 33%. If Watford was picked, also 33%. Sum up the conditional probabilities and they add to 1, the daily mail has taught us nothing new with that statement.

Still, there are many desperate and smart Russians around who would tell you the same thing. It is interesting how many postgraduate scholarships there are for someone of Eastern European origin


"Nous chassons la richesse quand nous avons la vie
Nous chassons la vie où nous avons la richesse."

kena ask to translate by alex. interesting how when we write, we want to think that everyone is reading/listening, that we have this device that can warp time and space. for example, i didn't read this until march 9, 2007, but when he wrote it on the 28th of february he wrote it as if i were reading it already.

yah it sounds cheem whatever, but it is not one of my favourite french phrases. you also forgot to mention that german also sounds cheem, but that it doesn't look sophisticated and sounds like philosophy or things tumbling over themselves. sorry german speakers. but they must have very precise long words though.

we chase wealth when we have life
we chase life where we have wealth

actually, this kind of thing english also got equivalent saying also right?

occasionally when i stay up late at nights i have the opportunity to trawl through blogs, stay on msn, and do all the things an ex-lonely boy used to do. materially, nothing much has changed, it isn't that my life is positively full and bursting of people.

i wish i were an evangelist now. evangelists irritate people sometimes. i occupy a hole between different types of friends. some friends say, why blog? why share your love, joys and insecurities? on the other hand i have friends whose blogs i trawl, heart on sleeve etc. associated with the first camp, is the viewpoint that the thoughts that matter, you share with someone you can talk to, or otherwise they are invalid and teenage anyway. with the second camp, a kind of shouting from the mountain top. "i want to sing, it's fresh like spring... i want yes i want to pass yes to pass it on passiton passiton passitpassitpassiton." couldn't resist.

why tell the world that you love someone? why don't you just tell her? write it in your diary? but you know, i think it's difficult sometimes. what is in the literature known as "quality time" is in short supply. sure you could create it, but when you feel like talking, i'm doing work, when i feel emotional, maybe you're already sound asleep. so you put off what you have to say sometimes, and the impetus goes away, or comes as unexplained tears (of happiness/sadness?)

when i was lonelier, i wanted to project my feelings onto things. i wanted to think that trees felt sad, or daffodils were happy, or that this protagonist of that book over there was going through the same depths of despair. you notice things more. i was more sensitive.

haha,actually alex blog very nice to read. it's like watching the progression of someone. mine has started to fill with gaps.

no, i guess i don't take a lot of photos of me and michelle anymore. we should more often. maybe posting photos of us together would be my evangelical message. shun the non-believers. shun. i do love her, i wish i had the ability to succintly summarize our relationship in a paragraph without embarassing anyone, (because we did have many experiences, and how many will we forget?) and to sing "jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. red and yellow black and white we are xxxx in his sight, jesus loves the little children off the world.

i have succeeded in attracting mortal scorn, but i have written what i wanted.