William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 3 of 736

The Violent Rule America’s Campuses

Bang! Bang!

Bang! Bang!

Stream: The Violent Rule America’s Campuses.

Time for our News Quiz! How many were arrested and punished in Berkeley among those who rioted, vandalized, and violently beat a man with shovels, almost killing him, when the right-wing comedian Milo was to visit that campus?

Hint: the total was the same as the number of student militants menacingly brandishing automatic weapons who violently occupied Cornell’s Willard Straight Hall in 1969 in protest of Cornell’s “racist attitudes” and “irrelevant curriculum”.

Still not sure? Then here, at the risk of being too generous, is another hint. The number of violent actors arrested at Berkeley is the same as the number punished for their violent storming of the stage at the University of Wisconsin, Madison to prevent mild-mannered Ben Shapiro from speaking on the subject of decency, an event at which “Campus police watched but did nothing to stop the interruptions.” Violent students also blocked Shapiro from UCLA.

If you still don’t have it, the number you’re looking for is the usual count of those arrested, expelled, or otherwise punished for their use of violence to further political causes at colleges and universities all across this fair country. It is a number fewer than the fingers on your right hand to the left of your thumb.

No more clues. Unless you find the answer too distasteful to admit, you have at least an inkling of this circular figure.

Now that we have finished the first question, it is time for our—

—Political Science Quiz! Ready? What do we call those people in a society who are licensed or allowed to use violence?

No hints this time. We call these the people in charge.

Since the violent are in charge, and since folks regularly use violence on college campuses as a means of politics, and that this violence just as regularly goes unpunished or is countenanced, we can therefore say that there is an officially approved climate of violence on the majority of campuses in the United States.

It really is this simple. Violent students (and professors) are in charge, have been in charge, and will continue to be in charge as long as they are allowed to use violence.

Violence in and around universities is so commonplace that its presence is thought natural and necessary. Pepper sprayings, calls for muscle, assaults of speakers calling for free speech (another Berkeley incident), a brawl and students rushing the stage, students occupying by force various campus offices…

Go there to read the rest. Look over your shoulder first if you are on campus.

Editor’s edition: Berkeley activist: No, “fascists”” don’t have a right to speak in public

Induction & Essence

Not that kind of induction!

Suppose we observe a raven. It’s black. We see a second, also black. And so on for a few dozen more. We reason, or rather we argue with ourselves, “Since all the many ravens I’ve seen have been black, the next raven I see will be black.”

There are seeming problems with this self-argument, this induction-argument. It appears to be invalid since, as is probably obvious, it might be that a non-black raven, perhaps even an albino raven, exists somewhere. And if that’s true, then the next ravens I see might not be black. Also, the argument is incomplete—as written, though not as thought. As thought, it contains the implicit premise “All ravens are the same color.” That makes the entire argument: R = “All ravens are the same color and every raven I have seen was black; therefore the next raven I see will be black.” That argument is valid.

Therefore, it is a local truth that “The next raven I see will be black” given those premises. We are back to the same kind of situation as when we discussed Gettier problems. What is our goal here? Is it to assess the truth or falsity of the premises? Or to make predictions? Given the premises are true, then it necessarily follows we will make flawless predictions.

Now “every raven I have seen is black” is true (I promise), so the only question is “All ravens are the same color.” Where did that arise? That was an Induction-intuition, arising from the judgment that having black feathers is the essence of being a raven, or at least part of the essence. If this judgement is true, if having black feathers is essential to being a raven, then the this premise is also true and the conclusion to R follows.

The crux is thus the step, i.e. the induction, from the observations to an understanding of what it is to be a raven. But there have been observed white ravens, and it is said (by biologists) that these suffer from a genetic defect. A defect is thus a departure from the “norm”, from what is expected, and what is expected is the form given by the essence.

With this in mind we can fix the argument. R’ = “All the ravens I’ve seen have been black and it is the essence of ravens to be black; therefore the next raven I see which is properly manifesting its essence will be black.” This is a valid argument, and sound if indeed, as induction tells us, ravens having black feathers is part of the essence of being a raven.

Some people have mistakenly identified features of things thought to be essential but which were instead accidents. It is not for instance essential that swans have white feathers; some have black. But because mistakes are made in the induction of essences does not prove that inductions are of no use, nor does it prove things do not have essences. Many people make mistakes in math—surely more than who make mistakes in inductions of essences—yet we do not say math is a “problem”, where that word is used in its modern philosophical sense as an unresolved, unresovlable or paradoxical question; and we do not say math is invalid and not to be trusted. We do not seek for alternatives to math that explain how it could possibly be, given that some have erred in the calculation, that 1 + 1 = 2. We are not mathematical skeptics. Yet the mere possibility of mistake in induction is enough, for some, to cast doubt on the whole of induction.

Induction, as outlined in this must-have book, comes in various flavors. The kind of induction that extracts essences is not the same as the kind of induction that is statistical and that lets us make empirical predictions.

We did this before: we know via one kind of induction that dogs essentially (and I do not mean this word in its more-or-less connotation, but in the rigorous must-have) have four legs, but we know via statistical induction that some dogs do not fully evince this essence. The kind of prediction we wish to make varies with the type of induction we have in mind. If we want to know via the essential-induction whether all dogs have four legs, the answer is always yes, since it is essential for dogs to have four legs. But if we want to know via statistical-induction how many dogs have four legs in some certain situation, then the answer will be different, and will instead be a counting of the departures from essence. Read the linked article for more.

Summary Against Modern Thought: The Soul Is The Form Of The Body

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

The points made here, while simple, must not be forgotten.

Chapter 71 That the soul is united to the body without intermediation (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 It can be inferred from the foregoing that the soul is united to the body immediately, no medium being required to unite the soul to the body, whether it be the phantasms, as Averroes holds, or the body’s powers, as some say, or the corporeal spirit, as others have asserted.

Notes Because, of course, the soul is the body’s form. Without the form, the (living) body wouldn’t exist.

2 For we have shown that the soul is united to the body as its form. Now, a form is united to matter without any medium at all, since to be the act of such and such a body belongs to a form by its very essence, and not by anything else. That is why, as Aristotle proves in Metaphysics VIII [6] there is nothing that makes a unitary thing out of matter and form except the agent which reduces the potentiality to act, for matter and form are related as potentiality and act.

3 Even so, it can be said that there is a medium between the soul and the body, not, however, from the point of view of being, but of movement and the order of generation. Respecting movement, we find such a medium, since the movement of the body by the soul entails a certain order among movables and movers.

For the soul performs all its operations through its powers; thus, it moves the body by means of its power, and, again, the members by means of the [vital] spirit, and, lastly, one organ by means of another. And in the line of generation, a certain medium is found in the fact that dispositions to a form precede the form’s reception in matter, but are posterior to it in being. That is why the body’s dispositions, which make it the proper perfectible subject of such and such a form, may thus be called intermediaries between the soul and the body.

Notes This is clarified in the following chapter, which is also short.

Chapter 72 That the whole soul is in the whole body and in each of its parts (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 In the light of the same considerations it can be shown that the whole soul is present in the whole body and in its several parts.

2 For the proper act must reside in its proper perfectible subject. Now, the soul is the act of an organic body, not of one organ only. It is, therefore, in the whole body, and not merely in one part, according to its essence whereby it is the body’s form.

Notes The soul is not the mind; the soul is not a ghost in the machine, it is the form and lifebreath of the machine.

3 Moreover, the soul is the form of the whole body in such fashion as to be also the form of each part.

For, were it the form of the whole and not of the parts, it would not be the substantial form of that body; thus, the form of a house, which is the form of the whole and not of each part, is an accidental form. That the soul is the substantial form both of the whole and of the parts, is clear from the fact that not only the whole but also the parts owe their species to it.

This explains why it is that, when the soul departs, neither the whole body nor its parts remain of the same species as before; the eye or flesh of a dead thing are so called only in an equivocal sense.

Consequently, if the soul is the act of each part, and an act is in the thing whose act it is, it follows that the soul is by its essence in each part of the body.

Notes You didn’t miss the first sentence, did you? [T]he soul is the form of the whole body in such fashion as to be also the form of each part. That means a “lump of cells” living inside a would-be mother has a soul, too; i.e., a form, too.

4 And this is manifestly true of the whole soul. For since a whole is spoken of in relation to parts, the word whole must be taken in various senses, according to the meaning of parts.

Now, the term part has a double signification; it may refer to the quantitative division of a thing (thus, two cubits is a part of three cubits), or to a division of its essence (form and matter are in this sense said to be parts of a composite).

Accordingly, whole is used in reference both to quantity and to the perfection of the essence.

Now, whole and part quantitatively so called appertain to forms only accidentally, namely, so far as the forms are divided when the quantitative subject in which they reside is divided. But whole and part as applied to the perfection of the essence are found in forms essentially.

Respecting this kind of totality, which belongs to forms essentially, it is therefore clear that the whole of every form is in the whole subject and the whole of it in each part; just as whiteness, by its total essence, is in a whole body, so is it in each part.

The case is different with a totality that is ascribed to forms accidentally, for in this sense we cannot say that the whole whiteness is in each part. If, then, there exists a form which is not divided as a result of its subject being divided—and souls of perfect animals are such forms—there will be no need for a distinction, since only one totality befits things of that kind; and it must be said unqualifiedly that the whole of this form is in each part of the body.

Nor is this difficult to grasp by one who understands that the soul is not indivisible in the same way as a point, and that an incorporeal being is not united to a corporeal one in the same way as bodies are united to one another, as we explained above.

Notes Yet still we have not reached the point how, the practical how. How does the immaterial intellect “talk to” the corporeal non-corpse? There is an ever-so-slight hint next, which will be italicized (my emphasis). Physicists should pay attention here.

5 Nor is it incongruous that the soul, since it is a simple form, should be the act of parts so diverse in character. For in every case the matter is adapted to the form according to the latter’s requirements.

Now, the higher and simpler a form is, the greater is its power; and that is why the soul, which is the highest of the lower forms, though simple in substance, has a multiplicity of powers and many operations. The soul, then, needs various organs in order to perform its operations, and of these organs the soul’s various powers are said to be the proper acts; sight of the eye, hearing of the ears, etc. For this reason perfect animals have the greatest diversity of organs; plants, the least.

6 Reflection on the fact that the soul needs various organs for the performance of its multifarious activities was the occasion for some philosophers to say that the soul is in some particular part of the body. Thus, Aristotle himself says in the De motu animalium [X] that the soul is in the heart, because one of the soul’s powers is ascribed to that part of the body. For the motive power, of which Aristotle was treating in that work, is principally in the heart, through which the soul communicates movement and other such operations to the whole body.

Gorilla Warfare


I do not understand the human race.

It has so little love for creatures with a different face.
Treating animals like people is no madness or disgrace.
I do not understand the human race.

I wonder —
Why do we treat animals like animals?
Animals treat us so very well.
The devoted ways they serve us
And protect us when we’re nervous,
Oh, they really don’t deserve us,
All we give them is hell!

They give each other hell, too. Here’s the headline from New Scientist: “Chimps beat up, murder and then cannibalise their former tyrant”.

Did they say murder? Aye, they did. An impossibility, as we saw last week. One non-human ending the life of another non-human can never be murder (where by non-human, I mean non-rational-animal). But never mind. Let them have their word.

The murder victim, a West African chimpanzee called Foudouko, had been beaten with rocks and sticks, stomped on and then cannibalised by his own community.

This is one of just nine known cases where a group of chimpanzees has killed one of their own adult males, as opposed to killing a member of a neighbouring tribe.

These intragroup killings are rare, but Michael Wilson at the University of Minnesota says they are a valuable insight into chimp behaviour such as male coalition building.

They’re also an insight into the dietary habits of these hairy, intemperate beasts. The rarity of these beat-downs is another matter, and we can’t help but wonder if the number of incidents is greater than Wilson imagines—or desires.

When will we stop treating them like animals?
Is the human race entirely mad?
Women see a baby goatskin
Or a lambskin or a stoatskin
And to them it’s just a coatskin —
Oh, it’s terribly sad!

When you dress in suede or leather,
Or some fancy fur or feather,
Do you stop and wonder whether,
For a fad,
You have killed some beast or other,
And you’re wearing someone’s brother,
Or perhaps it’s someone’s mother
In which you’re clad?

The New Scientist article quotes one Pruetz, who said, “The female that cannibalised the body the most, she’s the mother of the top two high-ranking males. Her sons were the only ones that really didn’t attack the body aggressively”. Pruetz doesn’t say if this female took (non-digestive) souvenirs or trophies, but given we don’t see many bead-wearing chimps, it’s not likely.

That man should emulate animals is a tacit notion most of the time, but some come right out like the song and lament mankind’s distance from our mute neighbors. Last year we discovered an intellectual who thought it well prostitution should be legalized in men because it occurred in beasts; or rather, some beasts are sometimes found to leave a tokens after engaging in sexual intercourse. Thus prostitution is not immoral.

But then since chimps beat and eat their leaders, it should be allowable for men to do the same. Students at Berkeley may use this as an argument as they descend upon Washington DC with their knifes—and forks!—out for President Trump. Who are we to judge?

Have you seen what some female spiders and the praying mantis do to their former mates? It’s a price for sexual access more than many human males are willing to pay. Still, since the practice is common in the animal kingdom, there isn’t any use prosecuting prostitutes who kill and eat their customers.

Females behave badly everywhere. Just as we were assured by this Wilson above that apes making war is rare, here is another article from the same source: “First case of lethal female aggression seen in orangutans“. “It was a deadly rumble in the jungle. A female orangutan was attacked and killed by another female and a male — the first time lethal aggression has been seen between females of the species.”

That it is it the first case seen we can accept, but that is far from proof it is the first case period.

It’s unclear why Kondor showed such unusually aggressive behaviour. Female orangutans don’t defend their territory and the researchers saw no sign of any provocation. “We think the presence of the male had a lot to do with the fact that she was brave enough to attack and then was so persistent,” says Marzec.

Seems to work the opposite in men. When males are around females are less spirited; but when the cat’s away—well, you get the idea.

Note: Yes, I know it is guerrilla warfare, but this being the Internet the sense of humor of a good number of surfers is less than can be desired, and so this pathetic explanation of the joke.

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