10 May 2010

Idealist lives

My favourite free-form textual database, Bekon/Blackwell Idealist, continues to impress me. Last week my Thinkpad finally died (well it was six years old) and I replaced it with another Thinkpad – this time an X60s running Windows Vista (which turns out to be not nearly as bad as many of the pundits made out). My main fear about the move was that Idealist would not work on the new operating system, but I need not have worried – within minutes it was up and running (using Win95 compatibility mode). The version I am using was last updated in 1999. When I started using it, I was running it on a Compaq laptop with Windows for Workgroups. Since then I have used it with Win95, Win98, Win2000 and XP Pro. Unlike most other pieces of software, it has never let me down; it has never crashed; it has never lost or mangled any of my precious data (currently something like 30,000 records spread across half a dozen databases).

Another recent piece of good news about Idealist, which is buried deep in the comments on one of my earlier Blog entries on Idealist, is that someone is actively working on an open source replacement for it. The first alpha release was posted on the web a couple of days ago (here). Its developer says:
Unlike Idealist, it has 'field' buttons (to the left of each field, support for WWW and DOI addresses, and uses colour. Also, record and field definitions are saved in each database, which I think is an improvement over the idealist way of doing things. I developed it on Kubuntu Lucid Linux. It should run on Windows, although several other packages will have to be downloaded and installed. A Windows exe is not yet available so it must be run as a Python script. Searching by integer, float, record-number and date are implemented, but as yet word/phrase searching is not. 
Fortunately there are some open source text indexing engines already available (e.g. Xapian) that can be used. Progress is quite slow and so I'm still hoping to find some 'helpers' - particularly with some of the more advanced programming. Also, the project needs a more distinctive name (suggestions welcome).
By the way, if you want to try out the original, you can download version 3 of Idealist from here.

04 May 2010

‘Philosophical’ arguments against Twitter

Here’s a little something from James Anderson via Robin Parry:

Semi-Serious Warm-Up Argument
(1) Twittering requires communication in 140 characters or less.
(2) Almost nothing of substance can be adequately communicated in 140 characters or less.
(3) Therefore, almost nothing of substance can be adequately communicated by Twittering.
(4) A method of communication is intrinsically flawed if almost nothing of substance can be adequately communicated by it.
(5) Therefore, Twittering is an intrinsically flawed method of communication.
(6) One ought not to act in such a way as to participate in, promote, or legitimize an intrinsically flawed method of communication.
(7) Therefore, one ought not to Twitter.

Virtue Ethics Argument(1) One ought always to act in good faith.
(2) Therefore, if one Twitters, one ought always to Twitter in good faith.
(3) One can Twitter in good faith only if one believes one’s life to be so important as to merit the attention of others.
(4) It is narcissistic to believe one’s life to be so important as to merit the attention of others.
(5) Therefore, one can Twitter in good faith only if one is narcissistic.
(6) Narcissism is not a virtue.
(7) Therefore, one can Twitter only if one is unvirtuous.
(8) Therefore, one ought not to Twitter.

Aristotelian Argument(1) One ought to aim for the Golden Mean between two extremes.
(2) Twittering all the time is one extreme.
(3) Not using the Internet at all is another extreme.
(4) Using the Internet without Twittering is the Golden Mean between those two extremes.
(5) Therefore, one ought to use the Internet without Twittering.

Augustinian Argument
(1) Evil is essentially the lack of goodness.
(2) It is good to be able to use more than 140 characters to communicate.
(3) Twitter prevents one from using more than 140 characters to communicate.
(4) Therefore, Twitter lacks goodness.
(5) Therefore, Twitter is evil.

Leibnizian Argument
(1) This is the best of all possible worlds.
(2) All else being equal, a world in which Twittering is morally impermissible is better than a world in which Twittering is morally permissible, for numerous reasons that are too obvious to spell out here.
(3) Therefore, this is a world in which Twittering is morally impermissible.
(4) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Plantingan Modal Argument
(1) It is at least possible that all moral truths are necessary truths.
(2) It is at least possible that Twittering is wrong.
(3) Therefore, it is possible that, necessarily, Twittering is wrong.
(4) According to modal system S5, what is possibly necessary is necessary.
(5) Therefore, necessarily, Twittering is wrong.
(6) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Kantian Argument
(1) Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
(2) I can will that it should become a universal law that no one Twitters; indeed, I can do so with ease and without the slightest whiff of self-contradiction.
(3) Therefore, no one should Twitter.

Utilitarian Argument
(1) It is wrong to act in such a way as to reduce the overall net happiness of the human race.
(2) Twittering not only keeps people from countless other activities that might actually increase the overall net happiness of the human race, it also makes people more aware than they otherwise would be of just how banal other people’s lives are.
(3) Therefore, Twittering reduces the overall net happiness of the human race.
(4) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Natural Law Argument
(1) It is wrong to do what is not natural.
(2) There is nothing remotely natural about broadcasting the minutiae of your life to all and sundry whenever it takes your fancy.
(3) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Emotivist Argument
(1) I strongly dislike the idea of Twittering and I strongly dislike hearing about Twittering.
(2) Therefore, you should stop Twittering and stop talking about Twittering.

Alternative Emotivist Argument
(1) Boo to Twittering!
(2) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Prescriptivist Argument
(1) Don’t Twitter!
(2) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Intuitionist Argument
(1) I just know that Twittering is wrong.
(2) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Subjectivist Argument
(1) Twittering is wrong for me.
(2) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Cultural Relativist Argument
(1) I believe Twittering is wrong and the people I hang out with agree with me.
(2) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Rortian Argument
(1) Truth is whatever your peers will let you get away with saying.
(2) My peers will let me get away with saying that Twittering is wrong.
(3) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Divine Command Theorist Argument
(1) “Thou shalt not Twitter.”
(2) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Pop Christianity Argument
(1) Would Jesus Twitter? Probably not.
(2) Therefore, Twittering is wrong.

Inductive Argument
(1) As demonstrated above, according to (nearly) all known moral theories, Twittering is wrong.
(2) Therefore, Twittering is (probably) wrong.

03 May 2010

Pleione hookeriana

One of the orchids I bought at the orchid fair in the Glasgow Botanic Gardens a couple of weeks ago is now in bloom (see left). This particular specimen is Pleione hookeriana, a native of the rhododendron forests of the Himalayas.

As a child, I went through a phase of being interested in gardening and remember being fascinated by this genus of orchids. Somehow it seemed appropriate that one my first forays into orchid growing should be a Pleione.