Saturday, 15 December 2007

John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 28

It would have been wholly inconsistent with my father’s ideas of duty, to allow me to acquire impressions contrary to his convictions and feelings respecting religion: and he impressed upon me from the first, that the manner in which the world came into existence was a subject on which nothing was known: that the question, “Who made me?” cannot be answered, because we have no experience or authentic information from which to answer it; and that any answer only throws the difficulty a step further back, since the question immediately presents itself, Who made God? He, at the same time, took care that I should be acquainted with what had been thought by mankind on these impenetrable problems. I have mentioned at how early an age he made me a reader of ecclesiastical history; and he taught me to take the strongest interest in the Reformation, as the great and decisive contest against priestly tyranny for liberty of thought.

Note from KBJ: It sounds as though Mill’s father didn’t want his son to be a theist. But why? Why would he care whether his son believed in God? The smartest people in the world differ on this matter. For every Hume, there is a Hobbes. For every d’Holbach, an Aquinas. For every Russell, a Wittgenstein. For every Mackie, a Swinburne. The world as we experience it is compatible with both God and nonGod. You might say that the existence of God is underdetermined by the evidence. Mill’s father should have been indifferent about his son’s religious beliefs, especially since, whatever John believed in his youth, he could change it later. Mill’s father went from theism to atheism. Others go from atheism to theism. Did Mill’s father not trust his methods? Did he not trust his son to come to his own conclusion about the existence of God?

Curro Ergo Sum

This is getting ridiculous. This morning, in Fort Worth, I did my ninth footrace of the fall: the Hawaiian 5K. I got second place for the fifth time. I got first place once, for a total of six awards (four trophies and two medals). The race was held alongside the beautiful Trinity River. I was worried that it would rain, but it didn’t. The temperature was fine (about 40º Fahrenheit), but a stiff northerly wind (17.4 miles per hour, with gusts up to 33) made it feel much colder. I wore a long-sleeved cotton shirt over my running jersey, plus cotton gloves. I was glad when the horn went off, because the sooner I got going, the sooner I would get back to my car for warm clothing.

I did the first mile in 6:55, which was about what I expected. The second mile had a small hill in it, and by then I was feeling the effects of the first mile, so I slipped to 7:15. There was a man in my age group ahead of me, so I stayed close to him and burst past in the final quarter of a mile. I thought I was going to die. How embarrassing it would have been if he caught me at the finish! But he didn’t. The man who beat me was ahead of me the entire way, and finished 26 seconds earlier. I ran the final 1.107 miles at a mile pace of 6:41.71. I ended up with a mile pace of 6:56.70. (Elapsed time = 21:34.7.) I was the sixth overall finisher, of 59.

I hate running. But I love having run.


Here is your Saturday-evening entertainment. At 1:36 into the song, the bottom falls out.

Addendum: Okay! Okay! Put your cigarette lighters away. Here is the encore. (In case you’re wondering, that’s Steve Howe.)

Addendum 2: You want a second encore? You got it.

Addendum 3: You’re a tough audience! I give you one more song this evening. It’s a cover of AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill.”

Kant Attack Ad

A couple of people (including James Drake) drew my attention to this video, which is hilarious.

Addendum: Here are two additional videos about philosophy.

Addendum 2: Here is a Jefferson attack ad. I can’t believe John Adams would stoop to such a thing.


A few weeks ago, someone said that Rudy Giuliani is “scary.” I just typed “Rudy Giuliani scary” into Google’s search engine. It brought up 315,000 sites. I then typed “Hillary Clinton scary.” It brought up 383,000 sites. Make of it what you will.

Capital Punishment

In the perennial struggle between good and evil, or, in this case, between preserving the lives of innocent people and preserving the lives of murderers, the editorial board of the New York Times comes down squarely on the side of evil.


I was 26 years old when I flew on an airplane for the first time, and I haven’t been on an airplane in more than 10 years. This is one reason why.


Are you burning ethanol in your vehicle? If so, let us know about it. Here is a New York Times story about ethanol, which is cheaper than gasoline but reduces mileage.


The following blurb appeared in today’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

The Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association might drop Roger Clemens as a guest speaker for a convention Jan. 12 in Waco, after the pitcher was named in the Mitchell Report on steroid use in major league baseball. According to the organization’s Web site, the title of the seven-time Cy Young Award winner’s speech is “My Vigorous Workout, How I Played So Long.”

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Addendum: I don’t see Clemens’s name on the list of convention speakers. It may have been removed already. Here is what readers of the Dallas Morning News think of Clemens. Remember: This is Texas, and Clemens is a Texan. It’s unlikely that Clemens will get any endorsements from now on, for he is tainted. This is fitting, since his use of performance-enhancing substances was motivated by greed.

Addendum 2: I agree with this reporter that the Yankee era of 1996-2000 is “tarnished.” I’m waiting to hear Yankee fans concur. But maybe they’re Yankee fans first and baseball fans second.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Once upon a time, some 60-odd years ago, I was a baseball fan. It was a time when we called baseball players “heroes,” before we really knew the definition of the word. And yet, fielders showed up for every game, pitchers occasionally pitched complete doubleheaders, and all were available to sign autographs free for kids after the game was played.

As television came upon the scene, so did money—big time! This changed America’s pastime forever.

No longer did the average players earn 50 or 60 times the wages of ordinary Americans, but were being paid much more—almost 1,000 times the pay of an ordinary worker. By that time, my interest in the game started to wane.

It should be no surprise to anyone still interested in baseball today to witness the expected results of the Mitchell report on steroid use. Why did players use these substances? For money—to hit the ball farther, to throw a ball harder, to run a little faster or to negotiate a better contract after their improved performance.

I abandoned the game with the baseball strike in 1994, when both sides minimized the impact on fans of the game in pursuit of wealth and greed. I do not regret my decision to leave what was once a wonderful game.

James D. Cook
Streamwood, Ill., Dec. 14, 2007

Note from KBJ: You don’t abandon your children when they do wrong.

A Year Ago