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About mjr247

Trainee Human since 1960.

An Attempt to Control ‘Psychopaths’: One Possible Origin of Religion and Why that Attempt Did Not Work Part 5

Additions in red.

talking about the American word zit, meaning pimple or skin blemish (in Scots: pluke), the English comedian Jasper Carrot continued, “I’ve got this mole.” He then paused, “it’s playing havoc with my lawn”. This is an example of elision or the confusion between two meanings that share one term. Elision, or the act of eliding, is permissible in comedy, but not in philosophy or in logical argument and it is logic systems I want to discuss in this post.

[For those of you whose first language is not British English or who are not European mole here means a skin blemish and also a small mammal that burrows. That’s the problem with language; it’s not just used for communication but manages to set up barriers between people. It is not my intention to exclude anyone from the discussion.]

There are three main systems of logic in basic use: inductive, deductive and abductive. Inductive logic is the most commonly used one, basically as a phenomenon has occurred tat least twice it may be assumed this phenomenon will always occur: for example, that swan is white, the next swan is white; therefore all swans are white. Clearly, this method is very fragile as even if there is only one instance that does not fit the perceived pattern, that is, a counter-example, then the theory is wrong, that is, it is refuted. Turning back to the example of the swans, in Australia, there are black swans; in New Zealand, there are black-necked swans. With just one counter-example, the theory proposed that all swans are white is refuted.

The inductive logic system is also known as the Aristotelian. It is also the one most used every day as we use it to confirm patterns, for example, the Sun will rise tomorrow morning as it has always done before.

You will have noticed that I have introduced the words theory and refutation. Both these words have been very much misused at times. But a theory can be just your conjecture that a phenomenon exists, and if you have a theory, then a refutation of that theory is the piece of evidence that proves that theory to be false. Note that a theory can be confirmed countless times, but one valid counter-example invalidates it. The theory may continue to be useful, for example, Newton’s theory of gravity has been refuted but is still used as a useful approximation to reality. Note however that is it is not a wild conjecture but an honest attempt to explain facts (amongst other things) and has only been superseded by the more accurate Einsteinian theory.

Turning now to Deductive logic and we have a logic system that iff used correctly, that is if its rules are followed, will always give true results. Please note that iff is correct and not a misprint for if.  Iff stands for if and only if. This is an important term in logic as-is or and note that or can mean either one thing or another but not both those things or can mean one thing or another or both those things, so or is ambiguous and must be used with care. The first meaning is exclusive or (which can be called xor) and the second is inclusive or (which can be called ior).

A deductive argument, or syllogism, at its most basic consists of two premises, that is two statements that when put together lead to a conclusion. (Arguments can have several premises and several sub-conclusions and these can then become further premises.)

A deductive is judged in two equally important ways. Firstly, it is sound iff, when specific rules are followed, the premises lead to a correct conclusion, that is, given the premises, the conclusion follows from them. Secondly, the premises themselves must be true and the conclusion must follow from those premises for the argument to be valid.

To complicate things, you can have an argument that seems to have only one premise leading to a conclusion. The missing second premise is a hidden premise; it does exist, but the arguer will assume it is well known and not needing to be stated.

A valid argument has at least two factually true premises leading to a conclusion.

A sound argument is one where the premises lead to the conclusion regardless of whether they are true.

This is a sound and valid argument.

Deductive argument is powerful and so can be misused, for example, a premise can be false, the rules misapplied or when the conclusion sought is already one of the premises. There will now follow some really bad arguments.

“Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding,” Trump declared in an early morning June 23 tweet. “With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!” [From]

Trump’s argument is you can’t find CoVid-19 without testing, CoVid-19 is found by a test for CoVid-19, therefore testing causes CoVid-19.

I am sure many people were going to reject the argument as it comes from US President Donald Trump as they would suppose any argument from him would be bound to be wrong. This is known as ad hominem or judging an argument not on any extrinsic worth but on who argued it. It is best to look at an argument without seeing who made it, so it can be judged fairly.

In the above argument, it would just plain wrong whoever made it. CoVid-19 exists whether it is tested for or not.

The second example of a bad argument is actually laid out as if its protagonist knew what he was doing. I have not named him as I thought it would be kinder not to. It is as follows.

Premise 1: According to third law of Logic, (Law of excluded middle

.) Everything which exist are created or un-created

Premise 2: Everything which had a beginning (created) has to be created by either un created things or by self creation

Self creation is a logical fallacy, called Circular reasoning

, so the only way of created things to exist logically is created by the un-created things

These un-created things we call as gods/GOD, which are eternal by definition”.

Premise one is confused. The law of excluded middle is misapplied. Either a proposition is true or its negation is true, but there is no proposition here, merely a claim things have either been created or un-created. However, a thing could be self-created or partially created and partially not. The law has been used illegitimately.

Premise two brings in the definition of created, which should have been a separate premise, so let’s set out the argument more clearly.

Premise 1: everything which has a beginning is created

Premise 2; everything which exists is created or un-created or self-created

Premise 3: everything which is created has to be created by either un-created things or by self-creation

Premise 4: nothing can be self-created (seemingly because “Self-creation is a logical fallacy, called Circular reasoning”)

Conclusion 1: there is something (or somethings) which is uncreated that is responsible for creating other things

Conclusion 2: the only way of creating things to exist (logically) is created by the un-created things

Conclusion 3: un-created things we call as gods/GOD, which are eternal by definition.

Having sorted this out we can see that no premises are known to be true (they may be, but are not known); 3 sounds the most possible as it seems to cover all possible states (except and we have dropped the misunderstood use of Excluded Middle. Premise 4 asserts that self-creation is impossible but it is claimed that is because it a logical fallacy and that logical fallacy is called circular reasoning, except that self-creation is not a case of circular reasoning and there is no issue about circular reasoning, unless it is viscous, that is there is no way to break out of the circle. As none of the premises is true then conclusion 1 fails. Even if the premises were true, then conclusion 1 is as far as we could go. Conclusion 2 makes a leap from creation to sustained existence and Conclusion 3 just makes no sense being just a definition added on at the end for no other reason than the originator wanted to have this argument ‘prove’ that ‘God’ existed.

Conclusion 1 is claimed by its originator to have only one thing ’which is uncreated that is responsible for creating other things’, but gives no reason for this.

Conclusion 3 has the claim that ‘gods/GOD’ are eternal by definition. This again is a contentious claim. There are belief systems where supernatural beings of this sort are not eternal, but immortal or even mortal.

With the premises not being true, this brings us to discussing facts, that is, things which are true and facts are tricky things. According to the poet Robert Burns, “facts are chiels that winna ding” (facts don’t change), and from his eighteenth-century perspective this looked certain. The problem is that many facts do change and very few seem to be eternal. Part of the problem is that we cannot prove a fact as true, although we can feel certain of it. The best we can seem to hope for (and it is good enough to establish knowledge) is a web of facts that support one another (an example of useful circular reasoning). Of course if one fact changes, this may affect other facts.

We can now turn to the third system to examine. Abductive logic is the one that Sherlock Holmes (that is, the character created by Arthur Conan Doyle) claims is deductive logic, but as we have discussed that in some length, we can see that is it not. Abduction is the one where the conclusion reached is one that fits the facts, but is not impossible. The abductive argument can be laid out much like a deductive argument with premises and conclusions, but of course, the conclusion is provisional as it necessarily admits that there may be a better explanation to be found. Using this logic also admits that the conclusion reached may be proven wrong as the premises may change. It does not have the certainty of a valid and sound deductive argument.

There is quite clearly a great difficulty in actually proving things, so instead should we just consider if there are good grounds to hold that something is true?  I would say so.  Are there good grounds for the above Conclusion 1 and Conclusion 3.  Conclusion 1 may become more plausible, but I doubt it.  Conclusion 3 remains just as implausible.

An Attempt to Control ‘Psychopaths’: One Possible Origin of Religion and Why that Attempt Did Not Work Part 4

This is a post on the Euthyphro and also on Occam’s Razor.

The Euthyphro is a work by Plato and seems to have been a real encounter between Socrates and a man called Euthyphro.  Socrates was a stonemason and one of the greatest philosophers of all time and at the time the work is set he would soon be on trial for his life.  Socrates has many youthful, aristocratic followers.

We know little about Euthyphro as we only know him from this work of Plato, but we can assume he is well to do; his father has servants and slaves.  We can guess that he would be in roughly the same social standing as Socrates.  Clearly, he is not an aristocrat.

Euthyphro is on his way to court to prosecute his father for impiety.  His father found that a servant killed a slave, so his father tied up the servant and left him in a field while he fetched help.  On his return, the servant had died and it is for this act that Euthyphro intends to prosecute his father.

Socrates finds this out and discusses the nature of impiety with Euthyphro, who assumes he is an expert on this subject.  Socrates poses the question, do the gods love an action because it is pious, or is an action pious because the gods love it?  If it is the former then piety is external to the gods ( that is, piety is not a property of the gods) and if the latter then piety is arbitrary, that is, the definition is not fixed but subject to whim.

[Please note that I am using the strong definition of arbitrary meaning random here and not the weaker one that because of vagueness means we choose a reasonable limit.  For example, there is an arbitrary speed limit on roads, which is a reasonable one, but which could be higher or lower; it is not a speed limit picked at random.]

This definition can be changed to an analogous one by substituting morality for piety (the terms are related) and the (Abrahamic) God for the (Greek) gods.  This argument has been around almost as long as the Euthyphro’s (as do the gods love an action because it is moral, or is an action moral because the gods love it?).  In other words: is an action moral because God approves of it or is it moral independently of God?  In the former case, it is arbitrary (even if you believe God can never perform or approve of an immoral (or amoral?) act) and in the latter, God is not necessary for morality, which raises the question of where morality comes from.

I shall make an attempt at answering that question in a later post.

Turning now to Occam’s Razor.  This is also known as the principle of parsimony and though it predates William of Occam by at least a millennium, it is named after this English Franciscan friar.  There are a number of formulations, but, simply it is to look for the simplest explanation of a phenomenon.  It is a tool and like all tools must be used with care and for suitable purposes.  It is also a ‘rule of thumb’ tool, something to used as an approximation or best guess, but is a good reminder not to overcomplicate an explanation.

One of the reasons why this is a rule of thumb and not a law of logic is because of the ambiguity of what is meant by simple.  A thing can be both simple and complex.  Take for example a tablet computer.  This is very simple in that it is one thing, that is not two things like a laptop computer, which has a separate base unit and a screen, or it is simple to use, but it is very complex in the way it works so that it can be simple to use.

Some people will claim the (Abrahamic) God is simple as it is one thing, but the close analogy is to the tablet.  This should be born in mind to those who use God as the simplest explanation for any phenomenon.

Fora good summary and a different analysis of the Euthyphro see Plato’s ‘Euthyphro’ by Emrys Westacott  at

For a good discussion of Occam’s Razor see

An Attempt to Control ‘Psychopaths’: One Possible Origin of Religion and Why that Attempt Did Not Work Part 3

On reflection, I realised that the discussion on reflection is incomplete.  All additions are in red.

This post is an aside to deal with values.  These are held by persons and form part of their motivation to action.  One of those actions could be to spread the values held to others, perhaps with the world.

In Part 2, I said “[v]alues … are arrived at through intuition, imitation, education and imposition and, also, by reflection on what values we have or what other people possess.”  There I noted five vectors to acquire values, but there may be more ways.  However, we can deal with these five.

Firstly let’s look at intuitions.  We are not born with intuitions.  We are, though, born with empathy (unless we are psychopathic) and Instincts and, more importantly, dispositions.  As we are born with empathy, so we are born with Kindness.  Dispositions are vital to human survival; these are what allow us to, for example, learn a language as they just simply let us learn.

Due to dispositions, we learn by imitation.  This allows us to observe our family, friends, peers, acquaintances, indeed anybody and if another person or group has enough authority over us and we adopt the value.  Our observation need not be immediate, it could be media, such as a letter in a newspaper.  Of course, the values observed could be good or bad.

The area of ethics concerned with following good and bad examples of behaviour is Virtue Ethics.  Sometimes, the practice is carried out not by reference to actual human behaviour but by using a superhuman exemplar, such as Jesus Christ or the Buddha.

By education, I do mean when someone actively tries to teach values.  When, for example, this teaching is set down in a book, this becomes less like teaching and more like waiting for the intended subjects to begin imitation.  From this, you can see there is no clear border between imitation and education.

Turning now to imposition, this is where values are forced upon the subject.  This may be done legitimately with say a young child, for example, to get him/her to share toys with other children.  It can, of course, be when the values useful to a ruling elite are imposed on adults: values such as blind obedience to that ruling class.  Again, there is no clear border between education and imposition, as some legitimate force may be used in education.  The imposition of values leads us back to part 1, where the psychopath is being persuaded to help his fellows.

At the extreme end of imposition is totalitarianism.

Finally, we can turn our attention to reflection, that is the examination of our values.  This means that we can reject values and replace them with new ones, add new ones and perhaps even invent some. Hopefully, reflection will be guided by reason and empathy.  To some persons, this ability to choose one’s values is just wrong and, will lead to bad values being adopted.  To them,  good values have to be imposed.  Of course, the imposers will choose which values are good; the values chosen as good will, naturally, be those the imposers consider as good.  These could be, for example, that women are inferior to men, only white people deserve to be treated as human beings or murder is wrong (unless the victim does not belong to your tribe or religion).  I have deliberately chosen (what I consider) bad values and from real examples, as I wanted to illustrate what can happen when values are imposed.

Good values could be imposed but with two dangers that come readily to mind,  Firstly, the psychopath could ignore them and, secondly, the non-psychopath make only hold the values weakly, that is, as the value has been imposed, may not fully commit to the value, but hold it only as a dogma (as J. S. Mill warned about any idea).

Reflection on values (and this includes both internal reflection and open discussion with other people) helps one decide if a value is worth having and will help others.

There is a sixth vector to add for acquiring values: insinuation.  This seems like education, but differs in that it is more like rumour and propaganda.  Also, education usually aims to give good values; insinuation almost always to give bad.  One of the downsides of the internet has been the creation of platforms that allow insinuation (of bad values) without challenge.  The values of these platforms are often that making money trumps other values.

Another aspect of values is that they can be ranked.

‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ from ‘South Pacific’ by Rodgers and Hammerstein

“You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
The above song is a good illustration of how to give people bad values, in this case, racism.

Of note, before we leave this topic is the temporary nature of values.

An Attempt to Control ‘Psychopaths’: One Possible Origin of Religion and Why that Attempt Did Not Work Part 2

Undeterred by little feedback to the previous post, I shall now turn to organised religion.  Could anyone reading this post, please read the first 1 fo their own orientation.

An organised religion will, almost by definition, have a hierarchy, which for the sake of convenience, we can call a clergy.  In an unorganised religion,  you can have special people who have direct contact with the supernatural entities, but with an organised one, often, only the clergy can legitimately claim they are in direct contact or can interpret what the supernatural entities want.  It is possible for others to make such claims, but the clergy will add them to their numbers, brand them a heretic, accept them as exceptional or ignore them.  In some religions, the ordinary members may have communication, but the clergy will have the final say in the interpretation.  So for many religions, there is considerable power invested in the clergy.

The areas that religions claim power over can be extensive, even all aspects of the lives of the followers.  The aspects to be looked at here will be values, morals and ethics, which are all closely related.  These are of interest because if you can control these, you can possibly control a person’s behaviour, partially or wholly.

We need a quick aside at this point to talk of values, morals and ethics and what distinctions to make.  Morals and ethics are often thought of as the same and they are very closely related and often are interchangeable.  Morals can perhaps be thought of as internal rules, that is, as part of a person and ethics as external ones, as part of society or as a member of an organisation.  Values are the result of morals and ethics and are arrived at through intuition, imitation, education and imposition and,  also, by reflection on what values we have or what other people possess.

Having said this for the purposes here ethics and morals will be treated as one and henceforth referred to as ethics.

Values are one of our most important spurs to action (or inaction).  Actions (and the lack of them) are how we all make a difference to the real world.  These actions can be judged to be ethically good or bad or neither, by ourselves and others, so different ethical systems may give different opinions.  The result(s) of our actions or inactions may be immediate or may never be known and are usually in the vast period of time in between, but we carry them out in good faith, reasoning that the results will be good.  There will be times when we carry out an action, in the knowledge that there cannot be a good outcome.  In such a case we look for the least bad outcome.

To give an example from real life (in which we have to ignore the wider ethics of war and government control and concentrate only on the actions of the protagonist), I recall a documentary about the landing of American forces on the island of Okinawa during World War II.  One of the American Marines was stationed on cliffs looking at other cliffs.  The Okinawan civilians had been ordered by the Japanese government to kill their children.  Some carried out these orders by throwing their children from the cliffs across from the Marines.  The children would land on rocks below and this would not kill then but would break their legs or backs and when the tide came in they would drown.  Faced with this, the Marines shot the children as they fell as this would be a quicker and less agonising death.

There are, of course, ethical codes which say that no matter the suffering to be endured, under such circumstances the children would be left to suffer.

This bridges us (somewhat callously) into ethical codes and the systems used to derive or support them.  It will be seen by some that I am clearly a consequentialist, that is, I look at the outcomes to judge actions.  An example of a consequential ethical system is Utilitarianism.  Usually, an ethics system which rigidly adheres to its values and ignores consequences is called deontology and a clear and powerful example of this is Kantian Deontology.

Religious ethics are often deontological, being concerned with forming a code that is to be adhered to, regardless of the outcome, as that comes from God or the Gods or the Will of Heaven or some other supernatural source that is to be held higher than the human subjects that the code applies to.

This code is delivered by the clergy and may be altered by them due to their direct and special connection.

In further posts, I will set out my views on values and their acquisition, briefly discuss the merits of ethical systems, give my views on their application and further look into the topic of the psychopathy and religion.


An Attempt to Control ‘Psychopaths’: One Possible Origin of Religion and Why that Attempt Did Not Work Part 1

This post is about one possible origin of religion, which may not apply to all religions nor exclude other origins.  I am not claiming it applies to all religions, but it will apply to many; indeed, I think it applies to the bulk of them.  I am aware there are various other origins, but that this theory I propose is not incompatible with any of them, excepting those that propose (rather, demand) that the origin is strictly from a supernatural phenomenon or supernatural phenomena (with Earthly intermediaries), that it is revelatory.  It is possible that instead of being an origin, it is instead a modifier.  I am not talking of a single instance, but this would occur several times.

I am assuming no one else has proposed this, but I would be surprised if no one else has.

Shortly, I shall state the theory and then discuss.  I have only one more preliminary.  By unorganised religion, I mean one that has no hierarchy (in paraphrase, no specialised clergy) to distinguish it from organised religion.  I say this instead of primitive religion because, firstly, I think the term primitive religion is quite dismissive; it implies that as someone is a (for example) hunter-gatherer, that means they cannot possibly have sophisticated thoughts, which is absurd (at least borderline racist), or be right (in some way).  Secondly, complex societies may have disorganised religions.  Even the highest intellects from advanced civilisations have been wrong or put forward absurd notions.

The theory is that when psychopaths were noticed in society, an attempt was made to make these persons useful to society by having an external supernatural force (for example, spirits, gods or ancestors to name a few – call them watchers) make them useful members of society.

There is a lot to discuss in this summary of the theory.

Firstly, I see the setting as being in a simple society (such as a hunter-gatherer one), where there are few roles in it; for example, you are either a hunter, a gatherer or a dependent (a child or someone infirm).  If you are not a dependent but expected to take one of the active roles (as a member of society) and you are not doing so or are carrying out the role only for yourself, then this raises issues for the society.  It may be your mental health is the cause and maybe you are (temporarily) categorised as a dependent.  Even after this reclassification of people into this role, this still leaves those who are not working for the good of society.  It could be they want to leave this society, either going solo or joining another society, or we can assume, instead of dissenting from this society, they have no empathy to help provide for all.  This last type I think we can classify as a psychopath (I think this fits in with clinical definitions), especially if they are taking from the society without giving anything back.

The society, composed as it is from those with empathy, would like the psychopaths to join in with them, but how?  It is at this stage I would propose, that someone from the society (call him/her, the elder) noticing that the normal bonds of empathy, internal to an individual, are not working tries to bring in an eternal source, that is, invokes the gods or spirits or whatever, claiming they are watching over everyone and expecting the psychopath to take part in society, to do his or her part in hunting and/or gathering, sharing responsibility and resources equally.  At this stage of the argument, it does not matter if the supernatural phenomena exist or are invention, for this argument to work.  If the people of the society already believe in these phenomena, the effect on the argument is only that this is not an origin, but a later modifier.

A psychopath would not be changed by these phenomena of watchers.  S/he would still have no empathy, so almost immediately, the elder invents punishment, that is, ‘the gods will punish you’.  The psychopath may believe this and become a useful member of society.  Of course, they may not.

There are potential drawbacks to the psychopath rejoining the society.  Empathy holding together the society is threatened with redundancy, replaced by threats of punishment; bonds of empathy are weakened, being displaced by avenging gods, spirits or ancestors.  Worse, if the psychopath believes the watchers do not exist or that s/he is special to the watchers, then this can become a weapon to take over any society that believes in the watchers, by convincing them that s/he should be given special treatment.

This second drawback may not have such an effect in a disorganised religion.  It is possible to reason that the punishment is not incompatible with the old way of empathy.  Or, as a disorganised religion has no orthodoxy and clergy to determine and enforce that orthodoxy, for persons to determine that the psychopath’s interpretation is just wrong.

This stage of the argument brings us to organised religion and will be the subject of my next post.

I hope to have some feedback on this post and this could alter the post as it stands.


Imagine you come across a major road traffic incident and there are multiple casualties.  Suddenly, someone shouts out to you, “Phone for an ambulance!”  Do you think “who put you in charge?!” and refuse to phone or do you phone?  That is, do you accept this person’s authority?  What kind of a person are you that would not phone?

I use this as an illustration of accepting authority.  It is quite congenial for you to phone, because you would after all.1

Do I believe that there is currently a global warming, that is, an artificial climate change brought about by humanity activities that can be brought under some form of control?  Yes, but why?  Because those who specialise in climate, who study it and use the scientific method2 tell me that this is happening.  I trust in their authority in this matter (and I like to think I am intelligent enough to understand their conclusion and evidence.

So we have two types of authority.  One of orders and another based on trusting some person or people to have special knowledge.  And, as so often happens, we allow the two meanings to elide into one another.  This can be serious when we believe our specialists in politics to have specialist knowledge, because of what they specialise in.  Politics, like Morality, is not the special preserve of specialists as are various fields of science or arts or farming or almost any activity that is humanly possible and even then any intelligent person can critique that activity.  Here, by special preserve, I merely mean an area  of human activity that someone specialises in.  Politics and Morality are both areas of activity in which all that can, should take part in, although there are areas ancillary to the high-level area that can be left to specialists, but these should remain supportive of the high-level area.  They should have influence , not control.

In practice, of course, we have people who claim to specialise in politics and these are of two types: those in (elective) office and those in public service.3

So let’s distinguish the two types of authority as order authority and knowledge authority.

Order  authority is there in our evolution.  Just look at animals and see how they behave and, apart from occasional challenges, the leader of the herd, pack, flock, etc., is obeyed.  A moment’s reflection helps you realise the survival value of this; the group stays together.  It is not a collection of vulnerable individuals, but one entity with a common purpose.  Authority ensures survival.4

However,  just as a bit of further reflection should make you realise that being able to question that authority and getting agreement from as many of the people affected will be more beneficial to everyone.  The experience and the ideas of all can make a better decision.  This can go wrong when those in authority strive to either not inform or actively mislead.  The result will often be a disaster for the collective involved.5

Finally, it should be noticed that following the advice or orders of Authority does not mean that the system is Authoritarian.  The idea that it is either due to the elision of the two types of authority so that the advice of the specialists is confused with orders or to think that there is no context in which  obeying orders is still compatible with the exercise of personal freedom.


1  There is a part of me that goes why has no one else phoned, especially the one giving the orders?  So let’s say his/her battery has run out or s/he is already dealing with a  casualty.

2  This will be the subject of another post.

3  This will be the subject of another post.

4 With persons, rather than animals, it is useful, at times and under certain conditions to simply obey.  Apart from the armed forces in combat, situations like the one described at the start of this post can be used to illustrate this.  Note the restricted use.  Danger arises when the authority for a particular situation is extended beyond that.

5 To my mind, this partially (not wholly, of course) explains the result of the UK’s EU Membership Referendum of 23/6/16.  Many of the areas that voted for ending membership have a population that is both the least consulted by government and which has had its social and economic  deprivation halted or reversed by EU projects.  Once these projects stop and are not replaced,  then the deprivation will start anew.

Wittgenstein and Family Resemblance: An Aside

Aristotle was perhaps the original fan of logic as a discipline.  Previous philosophers had recognised logic an argument, but Aristotle was, by comparison, obsessed.  His main interest was in inductive logic, that is, given a series of events (such as the sun rising every day), then the next event can be predicted (so the sun will rise tomorrow).  This may be the type of logic that we use most, but it is of limited use.  In the example, the sun will eventually not rise one day.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes would solve crimes by the use of what he claimed was deductive logic.  Holmes’s method of detection was to decide between theories of how a crime was committed by eliminating the impossible theories until only one theory (no matter how improbable) was left.  This is, however, not deductive logic, but abductive logic.  One issue with this is type of logic is simply, what if there is another theory that fits the facts but which has not been considered?

Deductive logic, in its simplest form, starts with premises, that is, alleged facts and is used to argue for a third fact (providing rules are followed) or conclusion.  I say alleged as the premise may be false.  Socrates was a man and all men are mortal are facts and the conclusion that Socrates was mortal is a true conclusion.  If instead we claim that all men speak with Irish accents, we get the conclusion that Socrates spoke with an Irish accent, which is wrong.

To come to the conclusion, that is, show, that Socrates was mortal, we had to know that Socrates was a man.  This is an example of a necessary reason.  It was needed to show that he was mortal.

In this case, it is also a sufficient reason to show Socrates’s mortality.

Let’s turn to something a little more difficult.  Why are football, chess, hide-and-seek and Suduko all games, when all are so different?  Did people just attach the word game to all is there one fact about each of them that marks them out as all being games (and other activities being not games).  All have rules, but so does logic and this is not a game.  Is there one feature?  Why has no one found that one feature?

Wittgenstein is not an easy philosopher to read.  He published one book in his lifetime, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and his students collected his lectures for another book, Philosophical Investigations.  Leaving aside, that his work was conducted to show there is no such thing as philosophy, he did make big contributions to philosophy.  I want to consider only his notion of family resemblance.

Wittgenstein looked at games and wanted to see what was the sufficient condition to show what was a game.  He realised there was not one, but there were conditions that overlapped from one distinct type of game (like a sport) to another and then to another and called this a family resemblance.

How big is the family?  As large as there is some connection, but no so large that the name given becomes meaningless; football and tennis are sports, chess, tennis and football are games, but logic is neither.

More we can now see resemblances between political creeds and religions (say) and can apply similar critiques with greater justification.  In the next post, I would like to explore authority, which is deeply embedded in (organised) religion and in most political creeds.

Non-Participation and Consent in Democracy (Part Three)

In this part, I want to consider consent.

One question has to be asked at this point, what is meant by democracy?  The first two parts just assumed that we knew what we were talking about and even gave two examples.1  Democracy is a multiply ambiguous word but, for our purposes, we can consider that democracy describes a variety of systems on a continuum and we are using democracy to cover at least a large part of this.2

In whatever way democracy is defined, it must be to do with the will of the people, or more accurately the will of a section of the people, who are entitled to vote on decisions or for representatives (called, of course, the voters, or better still as they have rights beside this, citizens).  This still gives a wide segment of the continuum, where the definition of who are the people is important as they could narrow the range of citizens quite significantly.  To go back to the first recognised modern democracy, that of Athens (from 508 BCE onwards), we have quite tight restrictions on who can be citizens [footnote: women, metics (foreign residents or freed slaves), slaves, youths and others were excluded, leaving a citizen body of about 10% of the entire population].  This does mean that the citizens were ruling over a number of people who were many times larger than they were.  This means that a vast body of people within the democracy were not giving their consent.

So to take a stab at a, to me, more congenial definition, I propose to use the Lincoln definition of “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” [footnote: Gettysburg Address from] This is, of course, little better than a slogan, however inspiring it is.  There are also two different meanings to people in this short phrase as ‘by the people’ will mean the citizens, but anyone else who will be affected by the decisions of the voters and their elected representatives.  Even in the widest franchise possible, there will be those who cannot vote, such as infants, those in comas, those deemed to not be competent and those excluded as having not joined the society.

Democracy is, almost by definition, inclusive.  A democracy should be aiming to include not only current voters, but anyone else that is otherwise eligible, but currently excluded.  Taking this notion further, we can see that there is no such thing as a democracy where the citizens all give their consent and without consent, democracy loses legitimacy.  And this is where I find difficulty when I started out on this three part blog, I had thought I would at this stage show that a democracy worthy of the name would be based on the consent of its citizens and though it is and no matter how many times I have redrafted this, I have failed to show this to my satisfaction.  This is a bigger topic than I had first thought and I will return to it once I have worked out what I mean and what I think is required, but much later.

1. One is more democratic than the other; it should also be clear that the UK systems have substantial undemocratic elements – this will be looked into later.

2.  Some regimes, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo or the German Democratic Republic, were only democracies if severe damage was done to what would generally be meant by democracy.  Note that I am not an essentialist and that one word means only one concept, but neither do I think that any old meaning should be attached to a word; sometimes a meaning for a word has to be defended.

Non-Participation and Consent in Democracy (Part Two)

In the previous post, I talked about four reasons for non-participation.  These could be grouped as internally-decided and externally-decided; the distinction being those reasons decided by the actual person, even if this is not well-reasoned, are internally-decided, whilst those decided for a person by others are externally-decided.  This distinction will, of course, blur, but is still useful.  An internally-decided reason is one that comes from the free thought of a person and, as such, can be reasoned with or can persuade.

An externally-decided reason may be accepted by a person for many reasons.  It can be imposed by order or can accepted by the person as coming from a (true) authority on this matter [there will be a later post about authority, but as that is a big subject I do not want to expand too much on it here], to give two examples.  From these examples, it can be seen that this is quite dangerous.

Following the Risorgimento, a limited democratic franchise was introduced (around 1% of adult male suffrage; increased to full adult male suffrage by the early 20th century CE) and the Popes ordered Catholics not to vote.  One can think of Anarchists taking the externally-decided route, that because it is in their principles and without examining them.

Of course, persons will normally decide by both internally- and externally-decided factors.  There is a complex relationship between these factors and this could be a topic to return to later.

I will now examine three further reasons for non-participation.  Fifthly, the political party’s non-reflection of the actual view’s of the voter.  It may be the voter has no political party that reflects his/her views or that the party that comes closest has policies that the voter is against, for example, a voter may agree with many of the policies of the Scottish Green Party, but consider her/himself to be British and not wanting to vote for a separatist party.  This reason may be coupled with the third reason from Part One; instead of voting for a party, s/he is active in other societies.

Sixthly, there is the worry that a vote cast will not count or not make any difference to the outcome.  This is a reason often put forward to prevent people voting as a reason not to vote.  Clearly, one individual vote amongst thousands may not be decisive, but if sufficient supporters of one position or a party decide not to vote then that party or position will lose and an opposing position or party will triumph and perhaps will be regarded as having a sufficient mandate to rule or be implemented against majority opinion.

Seventhly (and the fourth reason may be seen as a special case of this), the voter has a lack of confidence in him/herself despite political and legal equality.  This is different from the sixth reason which is about confidence in the outcome, whereas this is about the inner confidence of the voter.  We are now into an area of positive freedom.  Supporters of pure negative freedom could claim that anyone and everyone has full political and legal rights and it is up to them to exercise them and, if they do not, that is their issue alone.  Part of my reply that democracy is a social system intended for the benefit of all (that is, not just all the enfranchised, but save that for a later post) and that anyone entitled to vote should be encouraged to do so and part of that encouragement is to find out why not.  As stated, this is because of lack of confidence and this lack of confidence will be from poor education.  This is, admittedly,  rather a sweeping statement; there may be other elements but a lack of confidence for most people will be from their education where they have not been encouraged to see themselves for what they are, that is, the rulers of their society, which they must be if democracy is to be more than endorsement of other people’s rule, that is, where democracy is merely a formal process open to the anarchist’s criticism, that the citizen of a democracy is merely voting to take part in his/her own oppression.

Another part of my answer is legitimacy for a democratic system is through consent.  Consent will form the main subject of  Part 3.


Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Non-Participation and Consent in Democracy (Part One)

One of the most disturbing aspects of democracy for committed democrats (like myself) is the low participation, at least in the official participation known as an election.  Take, for example, the recent Scottish Parliamentary elections, where SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon claimed that “[t]he result of the election was emphatic…we won a clear and unequivocal mandate.”1  The SNP had won just less than half the seats and had attracted  44.1% of the votes cast from a voter turnout of 55.7%. Now this is considered a good turnout (the Westminster turnout is higher; 66.1% for the UK as a whole; 77.1% for Scotland) and the percentage voting for the winning party being 36.9% giving the Conservative and Unionist Party over 50% of the seats3.  These are usually regarded as good turnouts.

A few observations can be made and I shall attend to only a few of those.  In the Westminster election, you do not need very many voters to give a political party power.  This does not seem at all democratic.  The Holyrood system gives a better reflection of the wishes of the electorate, but still the political party in power has less than half of the votes of the entire franchise.  I shall return to this issue of lack of legitimacy due to low support for both ruling party and representative democracy later.  For now, the issue to look at is non-participation.

Without a survey of the non-participants (some of whom may actually turn out to be the most important non-participants as their views may suggest the way forward), I shall suggest at this time four reasons.

Firstly, the person is an Anarchist and will not vote as s/he perceives this is against his/her principles.

Secondly, the person is in a (usually religious) movement that forbids voting (either explicitly or implicitly).

Thirdly, the person is actually politically active in various movements, such as wildlife societies and considers that s/he is carrying out his/rights and duties towards society in an adequate manner.

Fourthly, discrimination.  Just because one has the vote does not mean that one is regarded as a free and equal citizen by others and this may discourage one from voting.



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