{modification}

About {theme} theory

{modification} is a {theme}. The most important single {theme} is {linkage}, < >, which, like other {themes}, plays a fundamental role in the mind's making sense of experience, as well as concepts not originating in experience. For more detailed information about the {themes} and my approach, a study of Introduction to {theme} theory would be very useful (I have to say, indispensable). From the introduction:  

'{theme} theory is completely general and philosophy is only one application-sphere. These illustrative examples are very diverse in subject matter and  in degree of abstraction: for example ethical argument, concrete problems in applied ethics, Nazi atrocities, Stalin, the death penalty, mathematical and philosophical relations, the completion of a  proof, scientific correlation.  There are also marked differences in tone: the tone appropriate to abstract and systematic subject matter but also forthright criticism, for example of Nietzsche, the juxtaposition sometimes of the abstract and  the impassioned.'

'{theme} theory is based upon the conscious, and justifiable, ignoring in many cases of sphere-boundaries, such as the boundaries separating the material sphere, the conceptual sphere, the spheres of the different senses. A mathematician may attack a problem in the mind just as a soldier may attack an all-too-concrete machine-gun post. A scientific model may be material, the model constructed from materials of different kinds, such as wood and plastic, or the model may be purely conceptual, without material expression. Scientific modelling is an activity which can be practised in material or conceptual ways. Linkages may be material, such as a connecting rod in a mechanical system linking mechanical components or non-material, such as the ties of shared history linking, in some cases, nations.'

List of {themes}:

{adjustment}
{completion}
{contrast} ( )
{direction}
{distance} D
{diversification}
{linkage} < >
{modification}
{ordering}
{resolution}
{restriction} ==
{reversal}
{separation} //
{substitution} S

In the list, the name of each {theme} is followed by the symbol for the {theme}. Clicking on the {theme} gives access to a page which gives instances of the {theme}. These instances show something of the range of {theme} theory, which addresses the most diverse areas of human experience and knowledge.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction
The Journey
James Connolly and the Easter Revolt
Innovation
Nietzsche
Transformation in Rembrandt and Rilke
Mind, body and the rest of the world
George Orwell and capital and corporal punishment
Activism and opposition
{diversification}
the necessary, the impossible, the contingent
The Ship of Theseus
Invariance
Variables, and cultural pretensions
Corroboration and falsification

Typography and action
Variables
Modal properties
Pseudo-scientific views
Philosophy of mind

Introduction

Hardness, determination, stubbornness, intransigence are valuable qualities which are often squandered, often misdirected - used for petty reasons, used in self-defence against real or imagined slights, not against suffering, injustice, the moronic. Sometimes, people who avoid this mistake, who are committed to opposing suffering and injustice, or the moronic, find it impossible to confine their hardness to what they oppose, and turn their hardness on other people who are engaged in exactly the same struggle.

The ability to implement {modification}, is not the same at all as the ability to show flexibility. Later, I criticize severely Nietzsche for his inflexibility - and for his praise of hardness, his contempt for pity and compassion - but this is because I see his inflexibility as mechanical.

{modification} has degrees. Something may be discarded, replaced completely: {replacement}. Something may be changed radically: {transformation}. Something may be modified far less drastically: {adjustment}. The metaphysical problem of the Ship of Theseus, described below, has to do with problems of {replacement}. In practical matters, but not only in practical matters, there's the need for judgement, for skill in assessing degree, extent. Often, things are replaced entirely which could be repaired, so that there is an unnecessary environmental cost. On the other hand, scientific theories are patched up, in the illusion that they can now account for the phenomena, at least for the time being, when they should be discarded entirely. These errors are the result of mechanical habits, a failure to be skillful.

The Journey

Long trade routes date from very early times: flint implements were carried through Europe and Asia in neolithic times. Imagine that someone decided to follow one of these routes using only methods which were available at the time - on foot, without any reliance upon machines. To implement this idea would be almost impossible. The fixed idea would almost certainly be frustrated by realities. Perhaps very extensive flooding made following the 'authentic' route impossible, and a very long detour was called for. A refusal to modify the route would lead to drowning of the traveller. A traveller who couldn't walk because of extreme exhaustion but who refused all offers of help from vehicles would be very unlikely to finish the journey.

A refusal to modify in the course of the imaginary journey shows that failures of {modification} may be obviously self-defeating, disastrous, suicidal. Failures of {modification} in other spheres may be just as obtuse but the consequences recognized not nearly as readily. For example, natural phenomena may be misinterpreted, natural causes not acknowledged - by people who recognize, as they have to, the use of a hard, rigid material rather than a soft and flexible material for a practical use, in constructing a building. These failures are common in most of the so-called 'great religions of the world.' Scientific theories and ideologies may be defended long after it should have been obvious that they should have been modified to the point of discarding: {discarding} is one limit of {modification}, the other limit being almost imperceptible {adjustment}.

James Connolly and the Easter Revolt

James Connolly was a radical socialist who allied himself with conservative nationalists and became the leader of the rebellion of 1916 against British rule in Ireland. He was executed by firing squad with fourteen others.

The tendency of radical socialists in general not to modify isn't my concern here. I focus on James Connolly's marked ability to modify. First of all, the attempt to modify his instinctive personal responses. From 'The Easter Rising' by Michael Foy and Brian Barton:

"As a leader Connolly emerges as an authoritative and inspirational figure who displayed bravery, decisiveness, enormous energy and resilience. Furthermore, he was aware of the importance of showing a greater ease and warmth in order to establish a rapport with the rank and file. He had never been known for a lively sense of fun, but tried his best in the Post Office to soften his habitually brusque manner with some rather wooden attempts at humour." (Page 159).

And the ability to modify tactics and strategy:

"In terms of his reading of the overall strategic situation, Connolly emerges quite impressively. He had grasped quickly on Easter Tuesday the implications of the failure of the country to rise in support of the Dublin forces and he had reacted flexibly to that disappointment. He had remodelled his strategy, redeploying his forces in the city and strengthening the defences around the Post Office in readiness for an anticipated British assault. It is often argued, correctly, that Connolly was found out by his insistence that the British capitalist class would never permit an urban insurrection to be suppressed by an artillery bombardment which would cause widespread devastation to property. However, if Connolly was blinded by Marxist theory it must also be remembered that many other people of very different ideological persuasions had also reached the same conclusion. Indeed, to almost everyone before Easter 1916 it would have seemed inconceivable that any British government would approve the levelling of much of the centre of one of the largest cities in the whole of the United Kingdom. If Connolly had miscalculated then so had almost everyone else. Furthermore Connolly was prepared to admit his miscalculation and to act accordingly. Above all it was the men under his command who mattered most to him. While he certainly expected them to be prepared to die for their cause, he never swerved from the belief that the least they deserved was a fighting chance. Once the British had revealed their strategy as one of blasting and burning the rebels into defeat, Connolly was not prepared to let his men simply stay to be physically annihilated from a distance without having any chance of retaliating effectively.' (Page 159-160).

A survey of the methods available to those who wanted an end to British rule in Ireland includes more than the option of armed struggle, of course. It includes non-violent methods, of the kind which Gandhi employed in his opposition to British rule in Ireland. During the uprising, a strange figure, Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (shot out of hand on the orders of the deranged British officer Captain Bowen-Colthurst) argued for non-violence. From 'The Easter Rebellion' by Max Caulfield:

"...Sheehy-Skeffington was probably Dublin's greatest eccentric. Most Sunday afternoons he could be heard near the Custom House expatiating to amused crowds on any subject involving Justice and Fair Play. He was for Votes for Women and Socialism; he was against War. Most people regarded him as a crackpot. Both Pearse and Connolly, however, considered him as a man of high principle and intelligence, though he had often argued with them that they could achieve their ends more easily by civil disobedience than by rebellion."

The successors of those who took part in the rising in Dublin to end British rule refused to modify the option of armed struggle. I witnessed some of the results when I lived in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles.

Innovation

Failure to innovate is failure to practise {modification}. By diversification, innovations include things which are of no actual benefit, of negligible benefit, things which can cause unintended harm, as well as things which are very beneficial - although this doesn't exhaust the possibilities. By 'innovations,' I always mean 'substantial innovations,' ones which are genuinely beneficial.

Nietzsche

To carry out {modification} is often to recognize the extreme stupidity of an idea, an idea based on superficial thought or superficial experience. Change it! Nietsche's thinking, or 'thinking' about pain is a case in point. Section 326 of 'The Gay Science' is a case in point:

"It seems to me that people always exaggerate when they speak of pain and misfortune, as if it were a requirement of good manners to exaggerate here, while one keeps studiously quiet about the fact that there are innumerable palliatives against pain, such as anaesthesia or the feverish haste of thoughts, or a quiet posture, or good or bad memories, purposes, hopes, and many kinds of pride and sympathy that almost have the same effect as anaesthetics - and at the highest degrees of pain one automatically loses consciousness. We know quiet well how to drip sweetnesses upon our bitternesses, especially the bitternesses of the soul..." (Translation of Walter Kaufmann.)

For more on Nietzsche and pity.

Transformation in Rembrandt and Rilke

Supreme, or very great, artistry, may modify - transform - so readily as to be in danger of almost transforming what should never be transformed, or cannot be transformed. Poverty and disease of the most desperate kind are untransformable. The art of Rembrandt in his painting 'Isaac and Rebecca (The Jewish Bride) is, it can be felt, an art so great that it could transform so many other subjects, but so many other subjects are resistant. They require not just the corrective demonstrated in van Gogh's 'The Potato-Eaters' of 1885 but the correctives which came much later, and which did not transform, or attempt to transform, untransformable experience.

Rilke's poetry transformed, or attempted to transform, much too readily. Separately, these attempts are convincing. Together, they amount to {distortion}. A premature death, the panther confined in the cage, a new technique in bull-fighting - they amount to a neutralization of pain, a denial of experience.

Mind, body and the rest of the world

I simply state here, without giving arguments, that I accept a dualist view of mind and body: a view which resembles Cartesian dualism and Cartesian interactionism. In some way, a mind, which is unextended, can cause {modification} in something which is separated, an extended body. I accept the reality of psychosomatic illness, as an instance of this interaction. There's no clear evidence, I think, that the mind can cause {modification} of anything else in the world except the body, but this possibility isn't excluded by this view. There's no good evidence for telekinesis, for example.

George Orwell and capital and corporal punishment

From 'The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius:'

"The gentleness of the English civilization is perhaps its most marked characteristic...And yet the gentleness of English civilization is mixed up with barbarities and anachronisms. Our criminal law is as out-of-date as the muskets in the Tower. Over against the Nazi Storm Trooper you have got to set that typically English figure, the hanging judge, some gouty old bully with his mind rooted in the nineteenth century, handing out savage sentences. In England people are still hanged by the neck and flogged with the cat o' nine tails. Both of these punishments are obscene as well as cruel, but there has never been any genuinely popular outcry against them. People accept them...almost as they accept the weather. They are part of 'the law', which is assumed to be unalterable." (My emphasis.In my terminology: 'not subject to {modification.}' or 'not modifiable.' In symbols ~(These are explained in the 'Introduction to Themes')

Activism and opposition

In the section on this page concerned with {diversification} I state the importance of doomed action, hopeless action. Not all activism is like this. This poem of mine makes a plea for activism whether or not the activism has realistic prospects of success or not. The poem is in two strands, one of them in bold print:

You cannot alter
Never falter, never fail all those
everything, or anything, but oppose,
who have only you, ones like you.
You have to
oppose them in everything,
no matter how many do nothing.
forget "forgive...
live and let live."
Let it be your anger
that is stronger.

{modification} has different spheres of application: intellectual debate, for thinking, for contemplation - but, also, action!

See, also, the page 'Arrest, activism, boycotts.'

{diversification}

{Diversification} is explained in a short entry in the General Glossary of the site. Click here to read this entry.

At the time I wrote this entry, I hadn't begun to work on 'themes,' including the use of brackets {} to enclose a theme. This accounts for the fact that in the glossary entry, the term isn't bracketed, whereas it is here. The context here is, {/diversification} within {modification}, which is a theme with vast inclusiveness, demanding sub-themes also with great inclusiveness.

To focus attention on (to use {separation} by {isolation}) one particular instance of {diversification}, a concrete one, and a very important one: trends. Many people - far too many people - regard many trends - far too many trends - as inevitable forces, unstoppable, irreversible: an assumption. They also believe that the only course of action is to follow the trend, to submit to it.

To simplify - but this simplified account is adequate to suggest the benefits of stating a wide range of possibilities, even if not all the possibilities are given here: by {diversification}, trends may be (1) entirely good, beneficial (2) entirely bad, harmful (3) partly good and partly bad.

Trends may be reversible or irreversible, completely or in part. Action, activism to oppose a trend regarded as completely or partially bad may offer a probability of complete success, partial success or no success at all. The success or otherwise of action and activism may be very easy to anticipate in advance, reasonably easy or completely impossible. But obviously, any discussion which is based purely on results is an inadequate survey. Heroic efforts against overwhelming odds, or determined and committed if not heroic efforts against overwhelming odds, should also be included in the survey.

In brief, oppose the assumption of inevitability, the assumption of powerlessness, the assumption that even 'doomed action' is valueless.

Trends which I oppose, by, for example, 'personal boycotts:' the decline of small shops, the increase in the power of supermarkets, buying books over the internet as the automatic first choice, multiculturalism, political correctness, the pervasive use of mobile phones, the 'dumbing down' of the media, the assumption that climate change is the most important of all issues. Most of these trends, of course, are widely opposed already, but not all.

A very different example of {diversification}: {diversification} in mathematics is carried out without reference to application in empirical science. By {diversification}, mathematical concepts and techniques have (1) applicability to empirical science at the present (2) applicability to empirical science in the future and perhaps (3) without any applicability either in the present or the future. In other words, empirical science may be, or may be not, within the sphere of application of these concepts and techniques at the present or in the future. Meanwhile, empirical science is diversified, and, when diversified, either demands the use of mathematical concepts and techniques or not. Mathematical {diversification} is not subject to {modification} by {diversification} in empirical science, or vice-versa.

Consider doubling of a natural number and doubling of biomass. (This is formulated without reference to imprecision: the 'doubling' may be 1.98X in each case.) The two are incommensurable, but, despite the difference, share a common theme, which can be applied whether the sphere of application is a priori or a posteriori: {/doubling}, which has {multiplication.} In turn, {/multiplication} has {modification}. These comments don't solve the (as yet) unsolved problem as to how mathematics is applied to science, but are contributions to a possible future solution, I think.)

The necessary, the impossible, the contingent

Reinterpretation of these terms in philosophy and logic in terms of the theme {modification: of these, only the contingent, a modal property, one which is neither impossible nor necessary, can be modified. A striking illustration of a theme which includes such disparate instances as logical truths and ethical and practical prescriptions, evaluated and non-evaluated components.

The 'impossible in practical terms' and the 'almost completely impossible' are sub-categories, not, of course, sub-themes, of the contingent, not the impossible. These sub-categories include such instances as the extreme improbability of abolishing bull-fighting in Spain in the next year, the extreme improbability that Saudi Arabia will adopt a comprehensive set of animal welfare legislation in the next year.

I extend my schematic notation to give information about the Universe of Discourse which determines the content of Contents Brackets [] If the modal property of contingency is at issue, then [=proposition, state of affairs, event, object Qn] where 'Qn' is the Question Indicator (whether this property can be attributed to an object is a matter of dispute).

The Ship of Theseus

From the very useful and very clear 'A Survey of Metaphysics' by E J Lowe:

"According to legend, when the hero Theseus died, his famous ship was preserved in the harbour at Athens for many years. In the course of time, parts of it began to decay and these were replaced by new parts of the same form and materials as the originals. Eventually, none of the original parts remained, posing the question of whether the ship in the harbour was still the same ship as the ship that Theseus had sailed in - that is, whether it was numerically identical with the original ship of Theseus. Since we customarily allow that an artifact can undergo replacement of its parts, at least if the replacement occurs in a gradual and piecemeal fashion, the obvious answer to this question would seem to be that the renovated ship, as we may call it, is indeed identical with the original ship. The only alternative would be to impose some limit on the proportion of a ship's parts that could be replaced without loss of its identity - that is, without its ceasing to exist. But it is easy to see that this will compel us to say that a ship cannot survive the replacement of any of its parts, which seems absurd, or at least strongly in conflict with common sense." (Page 25-26. See also the extended discussion.)

In my notation, if A is the original ship and 'A the ship after replacement of some or all of its parts,

[A] <Qn> ['A]. 'Qn' here is the Question Indicator.

In general, for all degrees of {modification}, adjustment, transformation, replacement, if X is the entity prior to modification, then 'X is the entity after modification.

Invariance

I use the term 'sphere of application' if a theme can be applied to another theme without a claim that one theme is a sub-theme of the other. For example, {ordering} is within the sphere of application of {modification}, that is, {modification} can be applied to {ordering}. {modification} has {/reversal} and orderings may be reversible or non-reversible. The position of time-points along a time-continuum is, so far as we know, irreversible, for example. Invariance is lack of modifiability. In Euclidean space, distance is invariant under rotation. In algebraic topology, {modification} takes place - continuous distortion - but the properties of the figure are not subject to {modification}.

Variables, and cultural pretensions

Independent variables and dependent variables are both modifiable, of course, but there's a significant difference in the method by which modification takes place (the modification-method.) The independent variable is under the control of the investigator. The investigator modifies, for example the pressure of a fixed mass of gas at constant temperature. Pressure is the independent variable. The volume of the gas is the dependent variable, and to use a loose phrase, this is modified by nature, not the investigator. (The volume of the gas is inversely proportional to pressure, according to Boyle's Law.)

A failure to recognize the difference between what can be modified by us and what can't be modified by us, what we can control and what we can't control, underlies disastrously wrong-headed ventures which are instances of clear-cut 'hubris.'

Cultural bureaucrats (not the same as 'cultured bureaucrats') and people infected by bureaucratic thinking increasingly try to gain prestige for a city, a town or a whole country by simply stating, stating backed up by finance, committees, advertizing, propaganda. So, Edinburgh is declared to be a 'City of Literature' and Liverpool a 'City of Culture.' There are no literary or cultural values here, only the values of finance and power politics - and between these two there is {separation}. Literary, musical, artistic, intellectual achievements are not wished into being, stated to occur. Bureaucrats, politicians and financiers can supply the funding, the buildings, the support, the publicity. What they can't do is bring about the mysterious, the frustratingly mysterious, achievement itself.

Corroboration and falsification

Corroboration of a scientific hypothesis is lack of {modification} of the hypothesis as a result of a test. Falsification of a scientific hypothesis is {modification} of the hypothesis as a result of the test. However, this is to simplify.

In 'The Corrobaration of Theories,' (published in 'The Philosophy of Karl Popper'), Hilary Putnam argues, in connection with Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation, that predictions may come "not from the theory alone, but from the conjunction of the theory with A.S. [the 'auxiliary statements,' which are simplifying assumptions, such as "No bodies exist except the sun and the earth." Any observations which seemed to falsify the Law of Universal Gravitation would more likely be evidence casting doubt on the auxiliary statements "Given the overwhelming success of the Law of Universal Gravitation in almost all cases, one or two anomalies are not reason to reject it. it is more likely that the A.S. are false than that the theory is false, at least when no alternative theory has been put forward.

Typography and action

I think it  very unlikely that typographic experiments can cause {modification} of political realities but the scholar Johanna Drucker claims as much  for Dadaism, 'which was concerned with opposing the established social order through subverting the dominant conventions in the rules of representation.' The claim for  typography as an agent of subversion can certainly be questioned. Roberto Simanowski comments on Johanna Drucker's claims, 'In this perspective, the deconstructive play with the symbolic order of language is considered to question social patterns and to even have revolutionary potential.'

Variables 

Independent variables and dependent variables in a scientific experiment are  both subject to {modification}, of course, but there is  a significant difference in the method by which  {modification} takes place.  The independent variable is under the control of the investigator: {modification}free The investigator modifies, for example the pressure of a fixed mass of gas at constant temperature. Pressure is the independent variable. The volume of the gas is the dependent variable, and to use a loose phrase, this is modified by nature, not the investigator: {modification}bound

Modal properties

The philosophical concepts of the  necessary, the impossible and  the contingent can be re-stated by using {modification}. Of these, only the contingent, a modal property, one which is neither impossible nor necessary, can be modified. 

Pseudo-scientific views

Many pseudo-scientific views are immune to {modification} by the adverse results of crucial tests, unlike scientific theories, although the pseudo-scientific views may undergo {modification} as a result of other processes. In some cases, the convictions of those holding the pseudo-scientific views are gradually eroded as a result of adverse comment and ridicule.  Pseudo-scientific views also use a defective ((survey)). They ignore the primary ((survey)) item in scientific research (+ Popper), falsifiability  using observational or experimental evidence, and include ((survey))-items such as 'expanding [allegedly] cosmic consciousness' or, more modestly but still, arguably- erroneously, 'enhancing the sense of well-being.' A theory may  be rejected simply because it  seems to diminish the sense of well-being. 

Philosophy of mind

The use of {modification} can clarify some problems in the philosophy of mind. For example, a neo-Cartesian may think about the ways in which unextended mind acts upon extended substance in terms of {modification}. Psychosomatic medicine seems to provide some evidence that mind can act on matter, that of the subject's own body. The evidence for telekinesis is disputed and quite slender: evidence that mind can bring about {modification} of matter by moving it.