Plato’s Trinity

Since quitting UM (in disgust and indignation), I have been restructuring my life around Plato’s famous trinity. I don’t mean the trinity of truth, beauty and goodness (because of course I have been doing that); I mean the trinity of philosophy, sport and music. As Plato says, each of these three needs the others in order that the soul should not sicken by going too far in one direction (hence music, for example, corrects the excessive roughness that comes from exclusive attention to sport). The intellect, the body and the emotions are served, respectively, by Plato’s trinity. For me, philosophy goes on, one way or another; but I have had more time for sport and music since I stopped teaching and other professional activities. Tennis, trampoline and archery have occupied my athletic hours; drums and guitar take up my musical time. I sense a Platonic harmony in these three types of activity, just as if each compensates for the deficiencies inherent in the others. It is an experiment in living: test to see if Plato’s theory of the happy life works. I have had these three aspects to my life for many years, but now I am explicitly focusing on balancing and deepening the three elements of the divine trinity. So far, I like it.

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Trampoline

I recently installed a full size competition-level trampoline in my garden, having left trampolining some forty-seven years ago. I used to be a keen trampolinist back in my gymnast/pole vaulter/diver days. It’s gradually coming back, though the fear factor is more pronounced these days. Everyone agrees that trampolining is fun (though strenuous) but what is the metaphysics of trampolining? As I happily bounce, I ponder this question–the bouncing philosopher. It has something to do with using gravity to defeat gravity: being both subject to gravity and free from it. And that is human life: bound freedom, spirit-in-matter. You come down, inexorably, but you go right up again, with a quick flex of the legs. Danger and possible death shadow your every bounce. You keep rebounding from an unstoppable downward force–up to heaven and then dragged down to earth again. Then there are the aerials, in which you twist and turn in the air–the weightless moments, the miraculous landings. But most of all it is the exhilarated dread: yes, you soar, but you might bounce off the edge at any time. You become very aware of the fragility of your neck. But you keep on bouncing anyway. What’s a neck in the larger scheme of things?

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E.J. Lowe

I was saddened to hear of the death of Jonathan Lowe. He was an excellent philosopher, with a strong independent mind, and very productive. Also a very likable and decent man. When I last saw him in Miami a couple of years ago, he reminded me that he had sat behind me during our B.Phil exams in 1974, though we were not friends at the time. He had come to Oxford from Cambridge after studying history; I had come from Manchester after studying psychology–so we both had a lot of catching up to do. He also was born in 1950, a fortnight after me (on March 24), and had spent his boyhood in Kent, like me (he Dover, me Gillingham). In addition, he spent most of his career in Durham, where I was born. I wish I’d had the opportunity to know him better, but our careers were spent in different places. Anyway, his work lives on.

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Alan Turing

The “royal pardon” of Alan Turing is far too little far too late. But I am glad to see it. This story is so shameful that it needs to be etched firmly into everyone’s mind. When I used to lecture to students about the Turing Test I always made a point of telling the story. The injustice and stupidity of the old “gross indecency” laws and of prevailing popular attitudes are simply staggering. But please don’t think we are now free of such evil, especially where sex is concerned. I suggest we all respect an “Alan Turing day” once a year. Let me also add that apologies, however “royal”, are no substitute for right action and real restitution.

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The Space Trap

In the next few days I will be publishing on Amazon a new edition of my 1992 novel, The Space Trap. It was originally published in hardback by Duckworth, before the advent of e-books. I have now (with invaluable help) prepared an electronic version of it with extensive revisions. It will be available on Kindle and in paperback form. It is my hope that it will find a new generation of readers. (Let me note that, despite the title, it is not a science fiction novel, but a novel about home and abroad, confinement and liberation, moths and men.)

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Comment on Review

A Review

 

I don’t as a rule reply to reviews of my books, but every rule has exceptions. Kerry McKenzie’s review of my Basic Structures of Reality in Mind calls for brief comment. There is much I could say about this review but I will confine myself to one very telling point. She pours scorn on my contention that physics is epistemologically limited in important ways—that physicists (and everyone else) are deeply ignorant of the intrinsic nature of the material world. She contrives to make it sound as if this view is an eccentricity dreamt up by me alone. The reader would never guess from her review that the view in question is derived from the work of Poincare, Russell, Eddington, Chomsky, Galen Strawson, Michael Lockwood, and many others. It is by no means original with me but entirely derivative and commonplace (I cite and quote these authors often). So I am placed by our intrepid reviewer in the same class as these ignorant nincompoops who don’t understand the first thing about physics. McKenzie never mentions any of these figures in her review in connection with the view in question. I wonder why not.

About other aspects of the review I will only remark that it is absolutely hysterical, ad hominem, and completely devoid of any sense of critical decency. Nor did I detect any real philosophy in it.

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