2007 — 9 October: slightly drizzly Tuesday

Time now (07:56) and the end of a nice bit of "stuff" on BBC Radio 3 to get me going. The cello concerto No. 1 by Saint-Saëns (though I wouldn't have known). It's now three hours later. All meds are onboard and She is up and about downstairs sewing away. I am delighted to report that She has now suffered no breakthrough pain for a fortnight — the radio-therapy seems to have done exactly what it said on the tin, which is marvellous. We fervently hope the main tumour is out for a nice, long count. The GP was delighted to hear how bright and cheerful She sounded during the weekly phone call and, so far, every day we remember to take things easyish is turning out to be a Good Day.1

Today's first adventure

May well involve going to pay2 for the new car. But not before brekkie, surely? And not before checking that the right account got the right cash topup — which it did, yesterday. Magic, this Internet banking malarkey! And we won't get out the wheels until the meals have arrived, either. [Pause] Well, we're now several thousand pounds lighter, but I also picked up a book in Borders paying with an elderly book token for which they gave me change in further tokens:

The Pythons were on to something... department

I'm feeling cheerful enough, today, (despite the now pouring rain) to wax lightly philosophical. Stephen T. Asma is a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago. On the evidence of this article, he is a lot easier on the mind than Bertie Russell3 ever was:

An emblematic approach can be found in Gary L. Hardcastle's article "Themes in Contemporary Analytical Philosophy as Reflected in the Work of Monty Python," a chapter in Monty Python and Philosophy: Nudge Nudge, Think Think!, a 2006 book in the Open Court series. Hardcastle, an assistant professor of philosophy at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, unpacks the 20th-century epistemological debate between verificationism (logical positivists like M. Schlick, R. Carnap, and A.J. Ayer), and semantic holism (W.V. Quine, Thomas Kuhn, and the later Wittgenstein) by using the famous Python parrot sketch and the Black Knight dismemberment fight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In the parrot sketch, John Cleese (Mr. Praline) attempts to return a dead parrot to the pet store where he purchased it, and Michael Palin (the shopkeeper) uses an infuriating casuistry to deny the deceased state of the parrot.

"Mr. Praline, the man attempting to return the parrot, is our verificationist, as is evidenced by his attempt to verify the death of the parrot by reference to experience, such as seeing that it's motionless, its falling to the ground when sent aloft, its being nailed to its perch, and so on. The shopkeeper is our philosophically more sophisticated holist. He knows that maintaining the truth of other statements, concerning for example the bird's strength and its affection for the fjords, will allow him to maintain that the parrot is alive."

Notice that the shopkeeper is like the famous Black Knight from Holy Grail, who, despite having his limbs successively chopped off, continues to define himself as the victor in his battle with King Arthur. The holist shopkeeper need never accept that the parrot is dead, if he keeps explaining the observation of its motionless state by appeal to increasingly elaborate theories.

Stephen T. Asma, in his article "Looking Up From the Gutter: Philosophy and Popular Culture"

One can philosophically deduce, I suppose, that all our political spin doctors (both in Whitehall and in the White House) are (by natural inclination or training) semantic holists. Particularly when describing the successes in Iraq, the war against drugs, the progress in halting global climate change, or the underlying strength of what looks increasingly like a global economy held up by smoke and mirrors.



1  Even the task of fitting a roller blind in Her study in place of the curtains went reasonably smoothly (though I needed a shower afterwards) and the result has delighted Her, which gladdens my heart considerabubble...
2  I repeat I will never understand the dismal science of economics. I offer this link as evidence.
Although we could pay cash, Toyota's finance arm is lending us a chunk of the money with which to pay for this new toy. The loan is repayable over two years, at 0% interest. What's in it for them? I did ask. I did not understand the answer. But I am assured there is no catch!
3  In my more intellectually arrogant youth I took several runs at his History of Western Philosophy but I'm forced to concede, many years later, that his autobiography and shortish extracts from his various works are more to my taste and grasshopper mind's ability. Here's an example.