Friday, October 28, 2011

So Apple is becoming less evil in the sense that back in June they somewhat eased the restrictions on apps with respect to what people making apps that let you buy subscriptions to things can do.

However, they are still evil, in that they still forbid apps from having links to places outside of the app (and therefore outside of Apple’s gigantic cut of the proceeds) where you can buy the stuff they play.

I understand why they want to do this in order to make money, and it is probably legal and even within their rights, but it is still evil. (There are various evil things that one has the right to do; consider the writing of vile racist tracts as an obvious example.) It is evil because it is restricting the programs that I can get on this iPad I own, not in order to make my experience with the device better (which is the reason we iPad owners put up with Apple being the app gatekeeper in the first place), but just in order to advantage Apple itself.

I don’t really mind using a device that reeks slightly of evil, and I hope and imagine and even expect that it will continue to get less evil over time. On the other hand, it does lead me to keep one eye on possible more-open alternatives.

Doy

I was noticing this morning on the drive to work that “Yodels” is “Sledoy” backwards, and that made me think about the lexeme† “doy”, and how amusing it is, and I then noticed I couldn’t think of any English words containing it. Sometime during my first coffee I came up with “doyen”, but that was it. Some random /usr/dict/words produced only “Doyle” (a proper name, doesn’t count), and the Ispell English Word Lists (found in various places on the Web) had “Doyle” and “doyen”, and rather unconvincingly added “doyley” (which is an obscure variant spelling of the already rather obscure “doily”). One or more online dictionaries offers “doyly” as another alternate spelling, but now we’re really off in the weeds.

So, readers! Do you have any good “doy” words to hand? Or an explanation for why there aren’t more? Lots of untapped potential there!

“This is going to be a doyantic day!”

“Could you pass the pandoy?”

“Whoa, look at that saradoya!”

Maybe it’s just part of the “reserved for future expansion” part of the space…

† “lexeme” is almost certainly the wrong word. Readers are invited to suggest the right word.

More evil

Government could hide existence of records under FOIA rule proposal. Or, as I saw it linked originally, Justice Department Wants To Be Able To Lie In Response To Freedom Of Information Requests.

Which seems like a bad idea.

Watching every bit of The Daily Show you can find is of course a good idea. But a recent notable snippet: Climate Change is Real (but the media isn’t nearly as interested in the debunking of “ClimateGate” as they were in the original pseudo-scandal, somehow).

And of course Jon Stewart on Pat Robertson worrying that Republican rhetoric has become too extreme. Which rather boggles.

iTunes-U and Kant and all

I have discovered iTunes U, and it’s pretty hoopy (another reason I am willing to put up with a certain level of evil from Apple). All sortsa free stuff to learn!

You may recall that the other day I was listening to a (decidedly non-free) course on Consciousness and its implications, which was kinda cool, and although I’d gotten a little tired of Prof. Daniel Robinson for some of his odd little quirks of speech and for being wrong about stuff and like that, I was up for some more random audio philosophy, so I downloaded the first couple of lectures from a free iTunes U course on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and started listening.

And it was Prof. Daniel Robinson again!

Which is either quite a coincidence, or there’s not really all that much material out there, or Prof. Dan has done a lot of these things.

So far it is not bad to listen to, although as well as the same little verbal tics (random “you see?”s and “capito?”s and “of.. what? of experience!” and so forth) there is also the occasional burst of cellphone-static on the recording. And there is also Robinson (who outs himself as a Aristotelian, which does not bode well for my agreeing with him about very much) saying rather offhandedly that mathematics and the physical sciences are “riddled” with synthetic a priori truths, and giving as examples “there is no number so large that one cannot be added to it”, “every effect has an antecedent cause”, and “there’s no line so long that you can’t increase its length”.

And of course I disagree.

The synthetic a priori

Synthetic a priori statements are supposedly those that can be known without any reference to experience (so a priori, rather than a posteriori or “empirical”), but which are not true just because of the meanings of the words (so synthetic).

Myself, I rather doubt that there are any of these (for any reasonable construal of “because of the meanings of the words”), and I certainly don’t think that any of Robinson’s examples count. Most of the time when someone claims that something is synthetic a priori, it actually means that they just aren’t imaginative enough to come up with a possible world in which it isn’t true (but there are such possible worlds, and therefore it’s not a priori at all; you have to check the actual world to see if it’s true here or not). Or, alternately, the statement is true but follows so directly from the meanings of the words that it’s hard to justify calling it synthetic if “synthetic” is to have any actual meaning.

“There is no number so large that one cannot be added to it” is clearly not true if we’re working in the domain of, say, positive integers less than 1000. Oh, but that isn’t what we mean by “number”! Well, what do you mean? The answer to that will be a set that has no upper bound, which makes “no number so large that one cannot be added to it” true essentially by the definition of “number”. So that one’s analytic a priori.

“There’s no line so long that you can’t increase its length” is only true in some spaces. It’s not true, for instance, on the surface of a sphere. So this is either synthetic but empirical (i.e. to know it’s true we have to check to make sure we aren’t in a space that’s like the surface of a sphere), or if we add “on a flat plain” to the end it’s again analytic a priori (analytic because it follows directly from the definition of “flat plain”).

The one in the middle, “every effect has an antecedent cause”, is awfully vague, but again can be read in at least two ways, neither of which turns out to be synthetic a priori. Either it’s saying that, in the actual world, events happen in temporally-ordered causal chains (which is something one would definitely have to check the actual world for, since there are scads of possible worlds where things just sort of happen at random and uncaused), or it’s saying that there’s a subset of events, called “effects”, which are those that have “antecedent causes”, and that all of those have antecedent causes. And that is obviously analytic.

Readers are invited to submit more convincing examples of the synthetic a priori. With or without accompanying “doy” words… :)

Update: I meant to close with this picture!

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