2020, News, Philosophy

Zooming HTLGI Weekend


We were meant to be in the glorious landscape of Hay, with our two new friends from Springe Socratic Dialogue, Maddie and Mitko. The virus came, locked down, their flights have gone into limbo and we are here at Magnolia House, looking out of a window garlended with a yellow climber I do not know the name of. While Michael  negotiated a transfer of tickets to next year, I bought tickets for us 4 to attend the Zooming HTLGI.

Yes HTLGI took a courageous step into the zooming world and do the festival online. We have all stepped from the shore, for a first time for us too, zooming a festival. The weekend was full of summer sunshine, while we looked at a screen, yet it was not uncomfortable, for the indulgence of a weekend mind yoga was intense and rewarding. Of course, it was a curates egg. Some speakers spoke far too fast, were far too political and not to the point, and some where over my head (those Material ones). Sometimes my ideas were affirmed, sometimes challenged, and some times even shifted.

It was another dimension too, to meet up with the ebullient and energetic Maddie each morning and evening – 2 hours later for her than us – in her flat somewhere in Bulgaria, and sometimes catch a glimpse of Mitko, and of their lives.

In their individual rooms, backdropped with book cases, blank walls, paintings, windows, with the company of sleeping or cuddling dogs, the speakers from all over the world, repeated one thing: how in this CORVID time we had heard the birds singing.

“There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in”, goes the Leonard Cohen song from which the festival gets its name.

Michael Imison HTLGI


Fri 22 May John Ellis: Exploring the Dark Side of Physics

It was the first one. I was distracted, getting 2 machines up and running, uncertain if we were registered, if Bulgaria was on line too, had the dogs been walked? Ah the stress of technology!

If nothing else the main purpose of the Hedron Collier was made clear to me, and I was reminded of the side story to it, the WWW, which I used to lecture about, in a previous life.

Matter – Quarks, Electrons, Nutrinas – the cosmic DNA. Without mass, the electrons would fly away. Particles without mass for example light.
Newton, then Einstein finally Higgs. At this point John Ellis stood up and displayed his impressive t-shirt, with Higgs formula on it. Higgs predicted the existence of a new particle, the Higgs boson, but it was not until  2012, CERN announced the discovery of the boson, confirmed by the physics of  the Large Hadron Collider. (The Higgs mechanism is generally accepted as an important ingredient in the Standard Model of particle physics, without which certain particles would have no mass.)

Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator Begun in 2008, it consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way.
The LHC  simulates millions of collisions, and from this we can understand how the universe began.

With thousands of scientists working together, there was a critical need to share data, and so it was Tim Berners Lee developed the in house web, which became what we know now as the WWW.

The Return of Good and Evil
Shami Chakrabarti, Theodore Dalrymple, Simon May. Joanna Kavenna hosts.

The format of these debates becomes clear: each gives a 3 minute presentation of their view to the question, after which the facilitator asks 3 or more questions, then audience questions chip in.

Simon May presented the ‘new moralism’ – positioning yourself as virtuous. He is surprised how unengaged the new moralism is. (Simon May:Nietzsche’s ethics and his war on ‘morality’ In Our Time. ) However, he concluded there was progress with some  some values, eg gender equality, racism, sexual abuse, all had become less prejudiced and more equitable.

Theodore Dalrymple spent most of time defining and avoiding answering.  However he was to the pointed on the Oscar Wild example. Given as an example of one mans evil is another mans good, time wise, by the host (Joanna Kavenna): Oscar Wild was described as evil  and imprisoned for ‘gross misconduct’ of homosexual act with Bosie, where as today we would describe the action done to him as evil and the act as natural. Not quite Dalrymple said, for Wild did much to encourage or rather not discourage the judgement, he fanned the flames. He was not completely innocent.

Shami Chakrobarti,spoke about the outrage to teachers returning, as an example of a not settled view on good and evil.

In the end Simon May’s definition held: Good is that which is conducive to the flourishing and evil is that which hinders the flourishing.

Risk, Evidence and Lockdown
Sunetra Gupta, Hugh Montgomery, David Spiegelhalter. Rana Mitter hosts.

Suneta Gupta – questioned who is vulnerable, process of disease, process of lockdown.

Hugh Montgomery – important to differentiate between Risk and Hazard. The Hazard is catastrophic. 70% get it mild. 20-25% become ill. 5-10% to to hospital. 1% never recover and die. Over the age of 80, 6% die. (Covid-19 kills an estimated 13.4% of patients 80 and older, compared to 1.25% average)

How to mitigate lockdown? We in the UK have chosen the shouldering approach. Do we know how risk is distributed? Varies region to region, so should this be a regional decision. So many variables. For example those countries with integrated Health and Social Care – for example Korea – have faired better. (Gill you are right!)

Power to the People
Julian Baggini, Claire Fox, Matthew Taylor. Mary Ann Sieghart hosts.

As Mary Ann Sieghart introduced, everyone claims to be in favour of democracy. But in what form, and in whose interest? Is democracy in trouble?

Despite the fact we were here to see Julian – first seen in Hay last year (cool, shabby jeans, laughing eyes, easy with philosophy) it was Mathew Taylor who stole the show. Ex political advisor to Tony Blair his position was:  Governments with the greatest federalism, most devolved,  have been the most effective at dealing with CORVID. Not more democracy but better democracy. Our current representative kind is inadequate – polarised – more demanding – blunt. He drew the analogy of the supermarket elected to provide all our food for 5 years. We can enhance by distributive government. For example Ireland had to look at constitutional reform, in particular abortion that could have easily been a divisive and heated dualistic battle. Instead through Citizens Assembly’s it wasn’t. Instead it bought Ireland together.

Clare Fox spent  her time defending Popularism. I gather from Rupert she started out as a Communist and crossed the floor and became a Brexit MEP. I did not warm to her, she spoke too fast, and in a cleaver political language that did not engage.

Julian – the reason I was here – agreed with Mathew. Not more but better. He also echoed my view (!), ‘I don’t know the best policy for CORVID, it’s not my area of specialisation, I want a car mechanic to mend my car, in the same way as I want my MP to acquaint him/herself with knowledge and steer the ship. He made the point that a decision is good when it is reasoned collectively. And let’s not forget, MPs are influenced by us. We choose (organic over non organic) and they follow.

Is the will of the people always right? (Naturally yes (Brexit) according to Clare Fox, and not obeyed by Parliament look at the consequences) Junk in Junk out, the others said, misinformation and wrong information misleads. We need to educate, and provide accurate information.

The UK has the most centrist government in Europe. We have stripped away devolution.

Julian finishes his red wine. It is the end of the day for us too. A mixed bag, new ideas. A zoom with Maddie and Mitko in which we met Rosie, Mitko’s daughter, who corrected Maddie’s English, ‘No not that but shy’ she said.

(Image below, the elephant limbs of the great Beach tree in Michael's garden)



11:30 The Age of Independence
Barry C Smith (host), John Millbank, Deirdre McCloskey, Yassmin Abdel-Magied

I was attracted to the ideas behind the move from living in the same village for generations to now living globally.  Has it led to the decline of the family and is it a passport to isolation and social breakdown?

John Millbank – protested against hypo individualism – which reduces peoples ability to become individual. After the 60’s particularly. Why? We are going more online, our sex is diminishing, we move into our shells, and we are accepting being controlled that way. By weakening the family, and community we are loosing these complex organic structures, we are strengthening monopoly forces of the market.

Deidre (Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Crossing: A Memoir) protested again extreme individualism. Roman Greek Asian, times – there was movement. Adam Smith emphasised you cannot be a flourishing individual if you are not in within a society.  You need flourishing economy. I am for economic growth, she said

Yasmin – originally from Sudan, via Australia to the UK, drew on her own story of mixed diversity. Age of independence and COVID has emphasised our interdependence, she said. ‘I think of myself as an independent person and as part of a Sudanism family in a collectivist culture. Balancing these things has bought tension. Split between prioritising individual and collectivism.  But what is the unit of collectivism that we care about? Family? Nationalist? Ethnic? For example an Indian cricket player in Birmingham.  Do we have new collective identities now?

Example today – Individualsim and Collectivism – As individuals we are asked to stay in home, give up our liberty, hoping others will do the same, for the benefit of us all. If you were pursuing freedom for its own sake, it is empty, because ultimately it is freedom for. Prioritising values. eg. If the community demands something of me which compromises my life? (Japanese older men returning to Fukushima, knowing that individually they would be affected but for the greater good of community) Back the individual against the group – individual against Shiria law. Individual freedom


Extinction and Renewal

Natalie Bennett, Henry Gee, David Pearce. Myriam Francois hosts.

Natalie Bennet like so many of the spearkers, remarked about the COVID birdsong, a glimpse of the changes we need to make. COVID shows us it is possible to ameliorate the pollution and problems caused by humans.

Henry Gee – (Paeleotoligist, editor Nature, with a dog (gotta be a good man) lives Cormer). We are not destroying the planet, we are destroying the planet for ourselves.Whenever we throw in a raspberry then the planet responds by evolving and adapting.The real action is going on at the Microbe level (the only thing a mother could love)

David  Pearce – (technological solutions) we took a calculated risk to get rid of small pox. Should we phase out malaria mosquito which kills 50% of the population. Darwinian life engine of suffering. eg factory farming – huge suffering to animals, threatening antibiotics. If we don’t intervene, in the next 500 years mass extinction.

Henry Gee responds: Intervention has a  poor record, because of unintended consequences classical example the introduction of cane toads into Australia. Answer reduce sugar, better health. A win win (farmer would have to diversify)

There have been changes. Green party once marginal and hippy, now mainstream. Even conservatives are on board. Corporations are having to be responsive. iPhone – the extinct record player –  heat chemicals.


Caroline Hickman: How to Talk to Climate Change

Caroline, a climate psychologist, asks what are our problems with talking about Climate Change? (these problems are a hurdle to doing something about it).  A couple of reason: a  it’s scary b. it’s not us (unless we are in Maldives). Or is it a mix of anxiety, apathy, greed, mixed messaging?

Concentrating on scary and anxiety, she gave us the iceberg image – Conscious 5% Unconscious 94% and some sub-conscious (1%) How do we change the story without overwhelming?She invited us to imagine climate change as an animal, plant creature, anything but human. What would you be? What would you say?

The Maldives children say things like: We know we’ll be underwater, we create our own death.

So enthrawled with this idea,  I tried it out with Mitko’s daughter. Unbelievably she chose an Elephant!

Science to the rescue

Patricia Churchland, Heather Douglas, Carlo Rovelli. Anil Ananthaswamy hosts.

It is my first view of Patrician Churchland, acclaimed by Maddie and Mitko. Carlo Rovelli’s book we dipped into at Caroline Wiseman’s Time weekend.

Carlo Rovelli said: careful not to confuse science with the confusion of politics (Sara Scienceism). We are asking science so much now, but politicians are hiding behind science. Science is a process, a practice to increase knowledge, trying for consensus.  Testing against evidence. Always open to challenge.
Right now our dilemna is which science to believe when we don’t have the luxury of time? What is the risk?

Patricia: Uncertainty within science. How quickly we got the genome and simularity with SARS. Yes, there are fixed facts –  Oxygen is an element. This in response to Heather, who’s view was no hard facts, fluid, and that was our difficulty now.

Rovelli both are right, we question our assumptions. We may use google maps, we choose Newton today to build airplanes. Getting fed up of this argument Patricia chipped in. ‘But what are we doing about it?’

There is diversity amongst scientists (Climate Change). So close to this story we have  incomplete information. Our preference is for absolute certainty. Science progresses  at one funeral at a time.

Ephanies – experience of value. Transformative experience. In a direction away from ourselves. Our responses, LOVE POETRY CREATIVITY. Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination.

How do ephinies lead to action? Grasping the experience, and forgeting the world obstacles.

To my great delight she quoted Iris Murdoch from The Sovereignty of Good, an example I often use myself as a moment of change. As she said an example of the direction away from myself.

The opposite of war is conversation, Moses Mendleson. Conversational republic, Plato’s dialogue.



Living Dangerously

Shami Chakrabarti, Daniel Kahneman, Steven Pinker. Anil Ananthaswamy hosts.

My hero, Steven Pinker, who I found disappointing last year in Hay as he simply read from a series of graphs in his lecture, here redeemed himself, not so much during the debate, but afterwards when we all met in the zoom room.

Pinker outlined our challenges. Climate change v Virus / Outside V Inside / Some of us   v all of us. / Nothing I can do versus I can take care of myself and others

Role of government, taxation for example carbon/sugar.

Daniel – speaking as an elder – questioned if the vulnerable should sheild themselves? Protecting Life years. Prejudicing the young, on a scale – they have longer to live. Quality adjusted life. Life of 75 year old less valuable than that of a 15 year old. Or do all have equal value?

Role of Science and evaluation of risk. Risk to individual health (a proportion of the community particularly at risk) Risk to collective health (we all infect each other). Risk of economic downturn and individual and society suffering. Risk aversion or liberty?

Daniel and Pinker agree that in the US Science has lost it’s authority. It has become like another denomination, like religion like economy. Sciencism. Pinker – yes, scientists make mistakes but by their defined declaration they are open to being falsified. (Popper)

Mindful of restriction of liberties as is happening in Hungary. Government could abuse.

Libertarian Paternalism?Libertarian paternalism is the idea that it is both possible and legitimate for private and public institutions to affect behavior while also respecting freedom of choice. Idea coined 2003. (behavioral economist Richard Thaler and legal scholar Cass Sunstein) Paternalism “it tries to influence choices in a way that will make choosers better off, as judged by themselves” Libertarian in the sense that it aims to ensure that “people should be free to opt out of specified arrangements if they choose to do so”  The possibility to opt-out is said to “preserve freedom of choice”

When questioned Does transparency increase trust? Daniel responded You don’t want to see how sausages are made. I’m all for smoky back rooms for negotiations. Benefits of the pandemic / Science and tribal identity – mostly we listen to our own tribe and are irrational. / Environmental legislation works.



Later Maddie would explain to us that in Bulgaria we are not socalists but liberals. Rosie gave us an Elephant, when asked what annial she thought climate change was, and so blew our minds. Brilliant response. I gave her homework, 5 things she knows and 5 things she does not know about climate change.


Mark Littlewood: The Future of Liberalism

Knowing that this view stood diametrically opposit my own, I came to this talk open minded. ‘Classical liberals want freedom, toleration and economic prosperity under the rule of law. But their critics argue they’ve got human nature all wrong. Mark Littlewood, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs, makes the economic and moral case for classical liberalism, and dispels the myths surrounding the ideology.’

Classical Liberalism: Fundamentally it’s a light state, light handed, less interference, allowing more individual liberty. Maintain the rule of law, but get out of peoples lives to let men and women carve their own lives.
How to define the role of the state? he begins with definitions. The Frazer Institute – an economic think tank – does what it calls the Freedom Index. Of 163 countries it measures as objectively as possible, different so called democratic states and their spectrums, from liberals to democratic dictatorships, and puts them into divisions, like football, the 1st to 4th. Measurements such as Rule of Law, Property Rights, Economy, regulation frame work, trade freedom or restriction etc.

Mark Littlewood,  myth buster, makes the economic and moral case for classical liberalism. Later I see this is a pat lecture, that he has been giving lately

One way of measuring is what proportion of National Economy comes from the state?
Typically USSR 70%. Hong Kong 20%, Western Europe average 40-45%.
Classic liberals want to get it down to 25%. It’s not just economic – there is also intervention mechanisms. While China 20% it is authoritarian.

Free market and capitalism works. The evidence of small state low taxes is the best route to health, weath and happiness. The jury is back in, is his phrase. But it’s not popular. Anti capitalist marches, Guy Fork. Michael Moore etc.

Let’s look at the evidence: Economic average CAPITALIST $36,000 SOCIALIST 6,000
CAPITALIST Average income 6 times higher
Ah but more extreeme rich and poor? No to the contrary.
CAPITALIST live longer (14 years) Less infant mortality (6 times less) have greater gender equality.
Corrolation but not cause?
The example is Hong Kong. Pre 1950 average income 30% lower than that of the UK equivelent. Today CAPITALIST 68% higher than that of the UK. 7 years longer life expectancy.
Take the example of 2 like countries Venezuala and Chili VEN – some corruption, but essentially free market economy, in 1950’s had one of the highest GDP in the world, in 1975 15th rank of free index. Then became socialist. All land became property of the nation. Now least. Catastrophic. Inflation 800%
Chili – huamn rights viololation. 1970 government abandoned socalism and embraced liberal. No 15th on the index. Mass degulation and state light.
These are not marginal differences.

This is what I’ll take away from this event: Socialism appeals to certain people,  people who want to re design solutions. Usually very bright people. But the way to get results is NOT to interfere, but to allow a flourishing of solutions from the ground up. Nothing more powerful than markets.

I think of a woodland, how the skill in managing a woodland is what you do not do as well as what you do. If I left a wood to manage itself (like the rain forest wood),  it would survive and thrive ok, as they have done for millions of years. I manage the wood, to balance my own needs of firewood, shelter and food.

Later in the zoom room my question to him was as follows: How do you protect the land and the people against things that are profitable – at lestin the short term – but potentialy harm them? For example historically the tobacco industry, in agriculture pesticides used by chemical companies, and today soil errosion and climate change?

His response was  Industry is led by market, and markets follow corrections more effecively and swifty than governments.He advocates tax incentives rather than meddling legislation. eg solar panels.

The Known and the Unknown
Simon Blackburn, Philip Goff, Renata Salecl. Joanna Kavenna hosts.

Michael did this one. Renowned philosopher and ethicist Simon Blackburn, psychoanalyst and sociologist Renata Salecl, and author of Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness Philip Goff try to find their way through the fog of uncertainty.

We need to know what cannot be known, and uncertainty drives scientific research.

Philip Goff: far less certainty, scientific method celebrated by limited. Consciousness and the nature of matter is not covered by science nor are moral values.

Malcolm Rifkind: After the End of History

In 1989 The End of History was declared. But from the rise of China, to populist election victories, we are living through a period of seismic change. Rifkind gives the historic perspective, from one who has been inside politics.

I came in late and to Rifkind saying:  Not so much the end of history as one door shuts and another slams shut, typically Bosnia emerging from the gap left after Yugoslavia imploded, the return of nationalism. After the ideological glue of communism.

Russia – Putin is not an evil man, he’s not dangerous. He’s an opportunist. Yes, he took Crimea but failed in long game for example lost all respect from Ukraine.

China – capitalist revolution. Will they replace USA as superpower? Unlikely All super powers created colonies out of places or times of weakness. The British Empire occupied under-developed nations and enabled the Indistrial Revolution. USA after WW2. China can bully but not take over. (Africa?)
It is interesting to see India allied with Japan – against China. Geopolitics of SE Asia. Policy of Containment, system of alliances.

Values of the West

Kehinde Andrews, Myriam Francois, Raymond Tallis. Mary Ann Sieghart hosts.

Tenant: The West once saw itself as the driver of global progress.. Now we have Post Colonian re-evaluation. Kehinde, founder of the first Black Studies university course, was almost impossible to hear, which was naturally a shame.

Cultural critic and philosopher Raymond Tallis,

Myriam Francois (She has an interesting background. English-French writer, broadcaster and academic on issues related to Islam, France and the Middle East. Acted in Sense and Sensability aged 12!) began by questioning all the words. Who is We? What values? What is the west? America? Israel? (I thought Classical Greek values, which have informed Christian values, and led to enlightenment spring boards.) Any set of values mixed sources – many western ideas for example now encompass Islamic views.

There is a clear fault line between the values and how they were implemented eg Colonialism. The values may haven been christian, but the way implemented were not.

Imperial Guilt? Myriam countered: Acutally polled recently 30% were proud of UK position in British Empire and 37% neither one way or the other. 67% positive or neutral!

Tallis. Western value system took off in Enlightenment. Universal rights from Kant (although deeply anti-semetic and racist) Values after WW2, encompassed universal declaration Human rights. etc.

Challenge from Myriam. Tallis responds with success of Immunistion vaccination programmes, and acknowledgement that all of life is important.

Myriuym challenges – will the vaccine for Covid be freely given? doubtful.

Ray Tallis finally acquised and found denominator: We should question our motives. Global organisations like WHO, offer a way of thinking, elite.


Media, Responsibility, and a Good Story

David Goodhart, Jess Phillips, Nick Robinson. Mary Ann Sieghart hosts. Only caught 10 minutes of this – dogs returned by Julia (who was looking after them all day yesterday and this morning) pestering for a walk.
David Goodhart made a good challenge to the role of both politicians and media during COVID. Politicians made the mistake and never admitted to it, so we loose trust. Media sensationaist, emotional and treat us like 4 year olds, compared to French and German media, who at least treat people as young adults.

Meg Rosoff: A Writer’s Voice

“Like Samuel Beckett on ecstasy” Times she is billed. The brain as a colander, collects some stuff, lets go of other stuff. The stuff that remains, if it’s emptied out is our compost. Uniquely different from any other. Metpahore of people looking out of a train, they will all describe something different. Dreams access the unconscious mind which is rich in ideas for us to harvest.
At the age of 46 she began to write and was published. At the age of 48 she took up horse riding
Resonance – vibration of one item over another
Stillness of Mark Rylace, Rembrant

She extolls the importance of dreams to inform us of our unconscious, and a good pool from which to take ideas.

Avoid memoir like the plague, she said.
Passion – Horses, Hillary Mantal, Mark Rylance, Rembrandt. Children.
High Wind in Jamaica / Elizabeth Jane Howard / Arc of Life: Paul Krugman

Capitalism and Covid

Grace Blakeley, Paul Krugman, Deirdre McCloskey.

I bemoan my lack of knowledge of economics. Universal basic income would be woefully inadequate, and too expensive for the state. Why do we worry about national debt? 2008 we had a household debt problem. Repaying debt: historically governments never pay debts, but repay individual bonds.  Eg repay after WW2 to US, never paid off, they shrank.

Raymond Tallis : The Truth About Free Will

Free will – a subject always fascinated me. Raymond Tallis, philosopher, poet, novelist, cultural critic and a retired medical physician and clinical neuroscientist, sounded an interesting man. Began well. Fasten your seat belts, he said.  We praise and blame. We own up to actions. Our freedom and will is at the heart of human relations and what we expect.

Material events are connected by laws or law govern causes.
Causes have prior causes etc at least to events that took place before I was born.
In stead of being the origin of my actions.

Are we the source of our action?

Tallis introduced then repudiated Neuro determinism – Benjamin Libet and John Dylan Hayes – the brain is calling the shots. The brain action was before the action . Brains calling the shots. BUT they mis represent voluntary action. Motive, incentive of scientist.
However, they remind us of our nature.

INTENTIONALITY – Tallis introduced as the key characteristic. Seeing a glass.
Actions do not have causes but reasons and justifications. a pull from the future front. Joining Intentionality. eg pointing, then language sharing.
Rawlisan society – live in a society as if you don’t know who you are. This was just about the only sentence I understood. I was getting too full. I was not absorbing any longer.



Morning Philosophy with David Pearce

I booked Michael in for this private zoom seminar. Philosophy Breakfast for Michael. Pearce was a trans-humanist. Suffering would be solved with a happiness gene.

Bernardo Kastrup: The Case for Idealism


Beyond Material


Peter Atkins, Nancy Cartwright, Bernardo Kastrup. Barry C Smith hosts.
Does anything non physical exist? Tired, no doubt, but also limited. This one did not rock my boat.


Anandi Hattiangadi: The Epistemology of Fake News

This was the one that rocked my boat this day. We even got The-Epistemology-of-Fake-News-Handout. She was a wonderfuly clear and sympathetic speaker.

Anandi outlined 3 distinct and inter related THREATS presented by Fake News.

1. Irationality 2. Rational polarisation 3. Relativism.

1. Irationality
Yes, we are often irrational. We act to confirm our prior beliefs without examining the opposite. For example the experiment with anthroppgenic climate change, both liberals and conservatives were invited. Both were shown scientific studies for and against. Both were asked for their views before and after the evidence. At the end all people were even more in their position. They had political motives to remain. A badge of membership of a tribe.

2. Rational Polarsation
Eating garlic is good for colds and flu
COVID 19 is like flu
Eating garlic is good for COVID 19
Nothing wrong with reasoning.
Conservatives trust Trump – the efficacy of hydroxychloride. Trusting.
eg the Santa Clara study spread on conservative networks at the same time were issolated from scientific networks.

3. Threat of relativism
Sometimes called ‘post truth’, this is the philosophy of ‘anything goes’. Exeplified by the Alt Right Mike Sternavitch against Hilary Clinton. He admitted all facts didn’t check out, saying look I read about post truth. It doesn’t matter. Success is measured in the number of tweets.
No objective truth about the shared world. Only what is relatively true to you or me.
What’s true can and does vary.

Dogmatist – I’m right
Sceptic – I don’t know. I cannot know whether I know
Relativist – We are all right

Is the rim of the glass circular, oval or a line – which perspective is right.
eg 5G we don’t believe or disbelieve in 5G, no point at which to challenge or go from or to. OK with 5G but not in the midst of a crisis.
A relativist likes the beginning but not the ending.
That committement to your own believes does not trash anothers
Eliza Jane’s parents denial of connection between HIV and AIDS
relativism does not council openness.
When you find the difference, the debate can begin to find the common ground. Before that point there is no point of departure.

Dogmatist is unattractive
Sceptic is suicidal
Relativist poses a threat to knowledge

PART 2 – what we can do

Relativism. Rim of glass – many perspective. Which perspective gets reality right? Since we cannot shed our perspectives. I cannot know weather I know it therefore i cannot know if i know it at all.

To know something you need to know that you know it. (The KK principle)

I know that Covid-19 is caused by a coronavirus on the basis of testimony. I do not know that I know it, because I do not know that the full chain of testimony going back to the fact is reliable. The view from nowhere, the relativist argument.

Relativists have a problem with civilised disagreement. What is pernicious about relativism, the only point to engage with is persuade.
Even an undogmatic realist wants to find a common ground, persuasion not the only aim of debate.

Undogmatic realism can guide us to the threat of fake news. Individuals and together.

We need to guard against uncritical identities. By examining the counter. eg Climate Science Merchants of Doubt. Each time the climate deniers came up with some alternative hyposthisis, the scientists went off and examined it. May be volcanic activity… Scientists behaving like undogmatic realists. Irrationallity enemy of objective knoweldge.


Relativism allows you to make up your own rules. Anything goes.

Rational polarisation: We need to think twice before we share. Santa Clara study shows that have not been peer reviewed, may be mis leading.

Spread through conservative networks. True to relative community (not scientists)

Undogmatic realists engages with the other views, and our views to be scruitinsed

When we know we have to present our group to those who will challenge us we tend to be more careful in presenting case. We are more rational together than on our own.

In effect to leverage disagreement.

Presenting only facts and evidence off putting. Examine arguments. Interest is drive by a desire for the truth.


Fake news poses 3 threats to knowledge. One of issues that gives rise to relativism is disagrement. All three of those position was unattractive for various reasons.

How to respond to threat from relaviism KK principle.

Carved out a realist position, neither skeptic nor dogmaitc. Undogmatic realism. How UR can deal with fake news.

Afternoon Philosophy with Mark Littlewood

The tenant here was not the general state lite, but specific to our NHS. It’s an institution, a sacred cow not to be challenged or threatened with improvement. It is not compared, unlike any other system. Take life expectancy – the chances are higher of dying younger in the UK than anywhere else in Europe. Do not touch our NHS, god forbid America.

The NHS is largely funded from general taxation, with a small amount being contributed by National Insurance payments and from fees levied in accordance with recent changes in the Immigration Act 2014. From direct taxation and NI tax  the average worker pays about 1800 pounds a year for the NHS. As percentage of GDP the UK spends about 9% of GDP on health. The EU average is about 10%.

‘Michael, Candy is here’ I say, thinking i am muted. I am not
‘Rachel  – we can all hear you talking to Michael!’ says Mark Littlewood

Candy very impressive in her challenge. Part challenge part in agreement, and every even handed, calm and with evidence. Mark Littlewood spotted she was affiliated to the system.

I left early for a scheduled Green Party meeting, after which I slept on the idea, then threw my hat in to the ring to be considered as a candidate. Influenced by all this philosophical politics no doubt.Step from the shore.

Blaenavon Male Choir

Final Zoom with the lovely Maddie, as the Blaenavon Male Voice Choir sang in the background of a Bulgarian flat. We both have pages of notes. What will become of them, we wondered. Well some of them are here, to be sifted and cut and reduced like a good sauce to the essential, the essential for now.