Sunday, 23 January 2000

From "The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns"

By Benjamin Constant.

Roman censorship implied, like ostracism, a discretionary power. In a republic where all the citizens, kept by poverty to an extremely simple moral code, lived in the same town, exercised no profession which might distract their attention from the affairs of the state, and thus constantly found themselves the spectators and judges of the usage of public power, censorship could on the one hand have greater influence: while on the other, the arbitrary power of the censors was restrained by a kind of moral surveillance exercised over them. But as soon as the size of the republic, the complexity of social relations and the refinements of civilization deprived this institution of what at the same time served as its basis and its limit, censorship degenerated even in Rome. It was not censorship which had created good morals; it was the simplicity of those morals which constituted the power and efficacy of censorship.

From "The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns"

By Benjamin Constant.

The w ill of each individual had real influence: the exercise of this will was a vivid and repeated pleasure. Consequently the ancients were ready to make many a sacrifice to preserve their political rights and their share in the administration of the state. Everybody, feeling with pride all that his suffrage was worth, found in this awareness of his personal importance a great compensation.

This compensation no longer exists for us today. Lost in the multitude, the individual can almost never perceive the influence he exercises. Never does his will impress itself upon the whole; nothing confirms in his eyes his own cooperation. The exercise of political rights, therefore, offers us but a part of the pleasures that the ancients found in it, while at the same time the progress of civilization, the commercial tendency of the age, the communication amongst peoples, have infinitely multiplied and varied the means of personal happiness.

From "The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns"

By Benjamin Constant.

Commerce is simply a tribute paid to the strength of the possessor by the aspirant to possession.

From "The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns"

By Benjamin Constant.

First ask yourselves, Gentlemen, what an Englishman, a French-man, and a citizen of the United States of America understand today by the word 'liberty'. For each of them it is the right to be subjected only to the laws, and to be neither arrested, detained, put to death or maltreated in any way by the arbitrary will of one or more individuals. It is the right of everyone to express their opinion, choose a profession and practice it, to dispose of property, and even to abuse it; to come and go without permission, and without having to account for their motives or undertakings. It is everyone's right to associate with other individuals, either to discuss their interests, or to profess the religion which they and their associates prefer, or even simply to occupy their days or hours in a way which is most compatible with their inclinations or whims. Finally it is everyone's right to exercise some influence on the administration of the government, either by electing all or particular officials, or through representations, petitions, demands to which the authorities are more or less compelled to pay heed. Now compare this liberty with that of the ancients.

The latter consisted in exercising collectively, but directly, several parts of the complete sovereignty; in deliberating, in the public square, over war and peace; in forming alliances with foreign governments; in voting laws, in pronouncing judgments; in examining the accounts, the acts, the stewardship of the magistrates; in calling them to appear in front of the assembled people, in accusing, condemning or absolving them. But if this was what the ancients called liberty, they admitted as compatible with this collective freedom the complete subjection of the individual to the authority of the community. You find among them almost none of the enjoyments which we have just seen form part of the liberty of the moderns. All private actions were submitted to a severe surveillance. No importance was given to individual independence, neither in relation to opinions, nor to labor, nor, above all, to religion. The right to choose one's own religious affiliation, a right which we regard as one of the most precious, would have seemed to the ancients a crime and a sacrilege. In the domains which seem to us the most useful, the authority of the social body interposed itself and obstructed the will of individuals. Among the Spartans, Therpandrus could not add a string to his lyre without causing offense to the ephors. In the most domestic of relations the public authority again intervened. The young Lacedaemonian could not visit his new bride freely. In Rome, the censors cast a searching eye over family life. The laws regulated customs, and as customs touch on everything, there was hardly anything that the laws did not regulate.

From "What Is The Third Estate?"

By Joseph Emanuel Sieyès.

It is enough at this point to have made it apparent that the pretended utility of a privileged order for the public service is only a chimera; that without it, everything that is laborious in this service is discharged by the third estate; that without it the superior places would be infinitely better filled; that they ought to be the natural portion and reward of recognized talents and services; and that if the privileged have succeeded in usurping every lucrative and titulary post, it is at once an odious crime against the generality of citizens and a betrayal of the public interest.

Who would dare to say, therefore, that the third estate does not contain in itself all that is necessary to constitute a complete nation? It is like a strong and robust man whose arms are still in chains. If the privileged order were removed the nation would not be something less but something more. So, what is the third estate? Everything, but an "everything" shackled and oppressed. What would it be without the privileged order? Everything, but an "everything" free and flourishing. Nothing can get along without it, everything will get along infinitely better without the others. Nor is the whole case stated when it is shown that the privileged, far from being useful to the nation, can only weaken it and harm it; further, it must be proved that the nobility does not enter into the social order; that it can well be a burden on the nation, but that it is not capable of being a part of it.

What Is The Third Estate?

By Joseph Emanuel Sieyès.

All privilege, it cannot be repeated too much, is opposed to the common right; therefore all the privileged, without distinction, form a class that is different from and opposed to the third estate.

Saturday, 22 January 2000

From "Rifle squad composition" thread

(By wm, on the Small Wars forum).

Unfortunately, what you find out at Squad level is that those doctrinal principles sound fine and work well on paper -- or even in a MILES engagement. OTOH, when there are a lot of real caps popping, that goes by the wayside. Really. It becomes a rock to rock or tree to tree or room to room effort in disjointed gaggles and Team members get mixed up, the SAW gunner gets hit, Murphy is everywhere. Just isn't as neat and pretty as it is in the book.This is true at all levels. I suspect we would all agree to the old saw that no plan survives first contact. My point was that some things are, or should be, pretty much second nature: things like performing immediate action on a jammed weapon, assaulting directly into an ambush, getting fuel, ammunition resupply, and fire support well forward but still in a position to be coverd and able to una$$ the AO quickly all apply as basic principles that get tailored continuously as the situation unfolds.

Consider also that if you are a Division OpO, Drowning Creek at Camp McKall you will not even notice in your planning; at Bde level you may or may not notice it, probably not but you almost certainly will not think of it as an obstacle. Nor, likely, will the Bn S3.

As a Company Commander, you'll note that it IS an obstacle and as a Platoon Leader, you will flat know it's an obstacle -- and a significant one. Fact of the matter is that Drowning Creek ought to be significant to all levels of the command. How siginificant varies by echelon, but if the Division is dependent on 1-A/1-509 crossing it to seize an objective that is the lynchpin to the division's plan (and the Div 2/3 planners need to look at that level quite often), it needs to loom much larger at higher echelons. I remember having signifcant discussions with my ADC (M) about the terrain in the North German plain--we actually grappled for hours with 1:50,000 map sheets of most of the area, debating such things as how easy it would be to execute a division level or higher delaying action against the Group of Soviet Forces, Germany. Streams that didn't look like obstacles to a Bde-sized force turned out to be significant issues when we started talking about getting an M-88 across them to recover mobility kills or a HEMMT fueler forward to the tank company task organized to a mech bn Task Force. Failure by senior planners to view the problems that could be caused by using one narrow road and a blown bridge (things a good company plan would have noted as issues) had a lot to do with the Arnhem debacle in WWII.

Echelons matter. Significantly. Your stated tenet is one of the major flaws in our doctrine today; all people of the same rank and specialty are interchangeable (they aren't) and all doctrine is echelon immaterial -- it flat is not. Agree conmpletely. I think you missed my point. I never argued that all people of a given grade and/or speciality are interchangeable. Rather I urged us to start with some common basis of training that could be expanded and modified--a building block approach. We don't start our kids out reading War and Peace nor do we expect our budding linguists to be able to explain the grammar of Farsi after a week at DLI. We build to those capabilities through a series of steps.

As the Actress said to the Bishop, size matters... :wry:

As the poet Andrew Marvell said "To his Coy Mistress"
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day
But we have not enough of either so we need some shortcuts to get us trained to do what needs to be done a little faster.

Sunday, 16 January 2000

From "Shrewdly Irrational"

By Robert H. Frank.

[...] there are many situations in which persons known always to pursue self-interest are for that very reason unable to attain it [...] The common feature of these situations is that the optimal pattern of future behavior reckoned at one point in time differs predictably from the one that will emerge at some later point. In order to secure the best possible outcome, people must sometimes commit themselves ex ante to patterns of behavior that it would be disadvantageous for them to follow ex post.

From "Shrewdly Irrational"

By Robert H. Frank.

Rather than take tastes as given, suppose we push the rationalist analysis one step back and ask: "What sort of utility function would a rational agent want to have?" On its face, this question appears incoherent. If a person doesn't have a utility function to begin with, how can he or she possibly choose a utility function in a rational way?

From "Shrewdly Irrational"

By Robert H. Frank.

We trudge through snowstorms to cast our ballots, even when we are certain our votes will make no difference. We leave tips for waitresses at restaurants in distant cities we will never visit again. We make anonymous contributions to private charities. We often refrain from cheating even when we are sure we would not be caught. We sometimes walk away from profitable transactions whose terms we believe to be "unfair." We endure endless red tape merely to get a $10 refund on a defective product.

From "Shrewdly Irrational"

By Robert H. Frank.

Fearing they will spoil their dinners, they put the cashew jar out of easy reach. Fearing they will gamble too much, they limit the amount of cash they take to Atlantic City. Fearing they will stay up too late watching David Letterman, they move the television out of the bedroom. These and countless similar behaviors may be viewed as attempts to avoid specious rewards identified by the matching law.

From "Shrewdly Irrational"

By Robert H. Frank.

Experimental psychology provides compelling evidence that the feelings motivated by rational assessment often lose out to those associated with more direct or immediate forms of reinforcement [...]

In situation A, subjects are asked to choose today between the following two rewards: (1) $100 to be received twenty-eight days from now; or (2) $120 to be received thirty-one days from now. Here, most people respond in what seems like a rational manner by picking the second reward.

[...] In situation B, subjects are asked to choose between [...] $100 today; or [...] $120 three days from now [...] This time, however, most subjects choose the first reward.

[...] Rats behave the same way.

From "If Homo Economicus Could Choose His Own Utility Function, Would He Want One with a Conscience? Reply"

By Robert H. Frank.

Suppose two honest mutants, A and B, arrive in an uncountably large population consisting entirely of dishonest persons. And suppose that the probability that an honest person exhibits an intense blush is, say, 0.999, while the corresponding probability for everyone else is only 0.001. When A sees an intense blush on the face of B, what will then be hls estimate of the probability that B is honest? Assuming that A knows the laws of elementary probability and corrects for the base rate of honest persons in the population, it will be zero. When virtually everyone in the population is dishonest, even a person with an intense blush will be pegged as dishonest, provided that even the smallest fraction of dishonest persons also shows an intense blush. Without a fail-safe signal whereby A and B could identify one another as being honest, each would expect that it would not pay to interact with the other. And so it follows that the honest mutants could not reap the fruits of cooperation under these circumstances. If, however, A and B had a sure way of identifying one another as honest persons, they could then interact selectively with one another and make headway against the rest of the population.

From "Freedom and Resentment"

By P. F. Strawson.

Let us consider, then, occasions for resentment: situations in which one person is offended or injured by the action of another and in which—in the absence of special considerations—the offended person might naturally or normally be expected to feel resentment. Then let us consider what sorts of special considerations might be expected to modify or mollify this feeling or remove it altogether. It needs no saying now how multifarious these considerations are. But, for my purpose, I think they can be roughly divided into two kinds. To the first group belong all those which might give occasion for the employment of such expressions as ‘He didn’t mean to’, ‘He hadn’t realized’, ‘He didn’t know’; and also all those which might give occasion for the use of the phrase ‘He couldn’t help it’, when this is supported by such phrases as ‘He was pushed’, ‘He had to do it’, ‘It was the only way’, ‘They left him no alternative’, etc. Obviously these various pleas, and the kinds of situations in which they would be appropriate, differ from each other in striking and important ways. But for my present purpose they have something still more important in common. None of them invites us to suspend towards the agent, either at the time of his action or in general, our ordinary reactive attitudes. They do not invite us to view the agent as one in respect of whom these attitudes are in any way inappropriate. They invite us to view the injury as one in respect of which a particular one of these attitudes is inappropriate. They do not invite us to see the agent as other than a fully responsible agent. They invite us to see the injury as one for which he was not fully, or at all, responsible. They do not suggest that the agent is in any way an inappropriate object of that kind of demand for goodwill or regard which is reflected in our ordinary reactive attitudes.

From "The Critique of Pure Reason"

By Immanuel Kant.

[...] the natural necessity which cannot coexist with the freedom of the subject attaches merely to the determinations of a thing which stands under conditions of time and so only to the determinations of the acting subject as appearance, and that, accordingly, the determining grounds of every action of the subject so far lie in what belongs to past time and is no longer within his control (in which must be counted his past deeds and the character as a phenomenon thereby determinable for him in his own eyes).

But the very same subject, being on the other side conscious of himself as a thing-in-itself, also views his existence insofar as it does not stand under conditions of time and himself as determinable only through laws that he gives himself by reason; and in this existence of his nothing is, for him, antecedent to the determination of his will, but every action — and in general every determination of his existence changing conformably with inner sense, even the whole sequence of his existence as a sensible being — is to be regarded in the consciousness of his intelligible existence as nothing but the consequence and never as the determining ground of his causality as a noumenon.

[...] One can therefore grant that if it were possible for us to have such deep insight into a human being’s cast of mind, as shown by inner as well as outer actions, that we would know every incentive to action, even the smallest, as well as all the external occasions affecting them, we could calculate a human being’s conduct for the future with as much certainty as a lunar or solar eclipse and could nevertheless maintain that the human being’s conduct is free. If, that is to say, we were capable of another view, namely an intellectual intuition of the same subject (which is certainly not given to us and in place of which we have only the rational concept), then we would become aware that this whole chain of appearances, with respect to all that the moral law is concerned with, depends upon the spontaneity of the subject as a thing-in-itself, for the determination of which no physical explanation can be given.

From Charles Darwin's notebooks

The general delusion about free will obvious—because man has power of action, & he can seldom analyze his motives (originally mostly INSTINCTIVE, & therefore now great effort of reason to discover them…) he thinks they have none [...]

From "The Ethics"

By Benedict de Spinoza.

Men believe they that they are free, precisely because they are conscious of their volitions and desires; yet concerning the causes that have determined them to desire and will they have not the faintest idea, because they are ignorant of them.

From "Beyond Good and Evil"

By Friedrich Nietzche.

The causa sui is the best self-contradiction that has been conceived so far; it is a sort of rape and perversion of logic. But the extravagant pride of man has managed to entangle itself profoundly and frightfully with just this nonsense. The desire for ‘freedom of the will’ in the superlative metaphysical sense, which still holds sway, unfortunately, in the minds of the half-educated; the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for one’s actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society involves nothing less than to be precisely this causa sui and, with more than Baron Münchhausen’s audacity, to pull oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the swamps of nothingness.

From a review of Dennett's "Freedom Evolves"

By John Gray.

If there is no Cathar religion today, the reason is not that natural selection has weeded out the memes that composed the Cathar belief-system. It is that the Cathars were persecuted into extinction.

Wednesday, 12 January 2000

Monday, 3 January 2000

From "The Social Contract"

By Jean-Jacques Rouseau.

For what right can my slave have against me, since everything he has belongs to me? His rights being mine, a right of mine against myself is a word without a meaning.

Saturday, 1 January 2000

From "Me & Bobby McGee"

By Kris Kristofferson & Fred Foster.

[...] Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose [...]

From "Mindfulness In Plain English"

By Ven. Henepola Gunaratana.

It is psychologically impossible for us to objectively observe what is going on within us if we do not at the same time accept the occurrence of our various states of mind. This is especially true with unpleasant states of mind. In order to observe our own fear, we must accept the fact that we are afraid. We can't examine our own depression without accepting it fully. The same is true for irritation and agitation, frustration and all those other uncomfortable emotional states. You can't examine something fully if you are busy reflecting its existence. Whatever experience we may be having, Mindfulness just accepts it. It is simply another of life's occurrences, just another thing to be aware of. No pride, no shame, nothing personal at stake -- what is there, is there.

From "Mindfulness In Plain English"

By Ven. Henepola Gunaratana.

When you first become aware of something, there is a fleeting instant of pure awareness just before you conceptualize the thing, before you identify it. That is a stage of Mindfulness. Ordinarily, this stage is very short. It is that flashing split second just as you focus your eyes on the thing, just as you focus your mind on the thing, just before you objectify it, clamp down on it mentally and segregate it from the rest of existence. It takes place just before you start thinking about it--before your mind says, "Oh, it's a dog." That flowing, soft-focused moment of pure awareness is Mindfulness. In that brief flashing mind-moment you experience a thing as an un-thing. You experience a softly flowing moment of pure experience that is interlocked with the rest of reality, not separate from it. Mindfulness is very much like what you see with your peripheral vision as opposed to the hard focus of normal or central vision. Yet this moment of soft, unfocused, awareness contains a very deep sort of knowing that is lost as soon as you focus your mind and objectify the object into a thing. In the process of ordinary perception, the Mindfulness step is so fleeting as to be unobservable.

From "Mindfulness In Plain English"

By Ven. Henepola Gunaratana.

Mindfulness is a subtle process that you are using at this very moment. The fact that this process lies above and beyond words does not make it unreal -- quite the reverse. Mindfulness is the reality which gives rise to words -- the words that follow are simply pale shadows of reality. So, it is important to understand that everything that follows here is analogy. It is not going to make perfect sense. It will always remain beyond verbal logic. But you can experience it.