What is possibility?

    In a response to this post by Francis Berger, the commenter Tom uses an analogy which I found quite thought-provoking.  He writes:    

    "What if Shakespeare had invented the English language?  No one would have understood anything he wrote, that's what.  It could be explained in the contex of another language, by taking the persistent elements of that language to explain Shakespeare's new one.  Without that context it would be unintelligible nonesense, and arguably not creative at all. 


    The genius of Shakespeare is not that he invented the English language, but that he understood so well the pre-existing tools he had to work with that he was able to assemble them in brilliant new ways.  So even the combinations no one had heard before his plays, like upstairs, were immediately intelligible."

    In what sense was Shakespeare creative?  In theory his plays are just arrangements of letters, spacing, and punctuation.  This has led to the famous thought-experiment that the text of the plays could be produced by a sufficiently large number of monkeys typing for a sufficient length of time.  


    And besides the text, what about the English language itself?  Is it true that once the rules of the English language and the given words have been set up then speaking and writing are just picking combinations out of this vast universe of possibilities?  

    In terms of speaking and writing, this has been satisfactorily explained by pointing out that when humans make words and sentences, they are choosing to combine letters to communicate meaning.  The meaning is what distinguishes any particular choice of speaking or writing from a random choice out of a universe of possibilities.  This is because, from the perspective of randomly generated text or speech, meaning doesn't come into it.  Even the fact that the words are in English is unimportant when considered purely in terms of permutatination of letters, spaces, and punctuation.  It may as well be permutations of pebbles. 

    But when we go to bigger topics, we have to even go beyond that.  I believe that the model of possibility as actualizing a universe of possibilities that are already "there" is unsatisfactory when coming to terms with creation and free will.  (And this is true whether creation and free will are considered according to the traditional understanding or according to the pluralist understanding).  

    For instance, Leibniz famously believed that God chose to actualize the best of all possible worlds.  But the key word here is "possible".  When we think of possible worlds in practice we think of our world but modified in various ways, great or small.  But what does possible world mean before any worlds are created?  

    Or in terms of free will, choices are sometimes conceived in terms of actualizing prior possibilities.  But then this leads us to strange scenarios like the idea that whenever someone makes a choice, the universe splits and all the choices that weren't made happen in some other universe.  And this comes from the idea that those choices are already "there" before they were made.  While it is true that our actions are already constrained because the world is not made by us, I think there's still something more there.  

    Or also, the idea of the Great Chain of Being as something like a probability distribution of beings where God chooses which beings to actualize and which to leave uncreated.  But then that leaves us in a strange situation: where are these uncreated beings?  In fact, if God does create beings from nothing and it really is nothing, not even His thoughts (if such a thing be possible), then that might be one way that free will comes to exist.  

    In pluralist metaphysics, we are faced with the same issue.  There are an indefinite number of beings, each unique.  (On a side note, I will say that the base assumption of pluralism does not specify the characteristics of these beings; there may be many different genera that they fall into).  But then what governs the characteristics of these beings - is it some sort of prior distribution of being or are all possibilities (whatever that would mean) expressed?  I don't think either of those are satisfactory either.

    The nature of possibility is something that human beings will never fully comprehend, but I believe that it is still worth thinking about.  In order to understand creation and free will at a more fundamental level, we need a better understanding of possibility and in particular, we need to understand what it means for something to be truly new, not just selected from a universe of predetermined possibilities.  

The three stages of Institutions

    In the course of their decline, institutions go through three stages.  In the first stage, institutions are a crystallization of a purpose or goal of a group.  The institution is not separated from the underlying purpose and the understanding of that purpose.  

    In the second stage, the institution becomes dominated by rules.  The formal rules which previously had taken second place to the underlying purpose now take precedence.  This stage is the stage of legalism.  If the original institution was good, those who made the rules were well motivated and further, if the rules themselves are good, clearly stated, and respected, then this stage may not be that bad.  In fact, it may actually have much good.  But the weakness is that when the rules have taken primacy, the institution can be manipulated by changing rules and procedures.  

    If this goes far enough, then we get to the third stage, when the institution is co-opted either to do something different from or even opposed to its original purpose.  In this stage, the rules that previously were interpreted legalistically, but fairly, are now selectively (and dishonestly) interpreted to serve whatever the new agenda.  

    All institutions will not progress through these stages.  Some may be simply be outright destroyed in the first two stages.  Or an institution may be taken immediately over by force rather than gradually.  Or an institution may be revitalized by recovering the original impulse or another purpose before reaching the third stage.   

    However, these three stages are useful because this is the path that the institutions in the West have followed over the past century (with roots going back before this).  

    An example of this in a concrete sense is education.  For most of human history, education was in the first stage.  People learned directly from family or community members or through apprenticeship or through schools that were directly connected to the purpose of passing down knowledge and values.  For instance, schools in which teachers were directly paid by parents to teach children or schools connected to churches such as the Cathedral schools during the Middle Ages.  

    Then in the second stage, education was viewed as a "functional system", eventually becoming a free-floating system such that whatever happens in a building called a school is deemed education.  And finally, we have the current stage where education is increasingly being used for cultural subversion, in direct opposition to its original purpose to pass on culture.      

    In a recent post, Bruce Charlton discusses alternative insitutions and the difficulty of building them under the current circumstances.  If institutions are primarily institutions, then they will only succeed by luck.  In other words, if people believe that rules, procedures, and techniques alone will prevent institutions from being co-opted, then this is a mistake.  Rules, procedures, and techniques can be helpful so long as they are at the service of the original purpose and the people in the institution stay true to that purpose.     

Self-Organization or Creation?

    For many decades, there has been wide belief that society organizes itself.  That given facts about human nature, society will just fall into a certain pattern.  And by many these were considered the best kinds of explanations, that to really understand large-scale human behavior, one should look towards these principles of self-organization, which are laws like any law of physics.  

    However, from the perspective of the past two years, seeing that things can change so suddenly and so completely, and looking back and seeing the deterioration that made the birdemic and related events possible, it is clear that these ideas are far from universally applicable.  Not that bottom up organization does not exist, but that it is dependent upon the people who so organize themselves.  If the people change, if the units which make up the larger group change, then the organization of that group also changes.

    It turns out that the traditional means of explaining human behavior by purpose and and understanding is more fundamental than systems-type explanations.  

    But even given all this, what if there is more to the analogy with physics?  One of the most important metaphysical principles is that nothing can give what it does not have.  If society doesn't "just happen", then we might ask whether likewise, the universe doesn't "just happen"?  That while there is self-organization, other things are going on beyond our knowledge.  And in that case, it would be better to think of it as being created than being self-organized.  

True symbols can be obscured but not corrupted

    Two well-known symbols used in the present day, one overtly, the other less so are the rainbow and the five-pointed star.  But both of these symbols have a quite different origin.

    The rainbow has been used as a religious symbol as far back as the book of Genesis, which reads (9: 12-15): 

    "And God said: This is the sign of the covenant which I will give between me and you, and to every living soul that is with you, for perpetual generations.  I will set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be the sign of a covenenat between me, and between the earth.  And when I shall cover the sky with clouds, my bow shall appear in the clouds: And I will remember my convenant with you, and with every living soul that beareth flesh: and there shall no more be waters of a flood to destroy all flesh."

    The pentangle is also both a Christian symbol (in particular in the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), relating to the five senses, the five wounds of Jesus, the five joys of Mary, and the five virtues of knighthood.  The pentangle was also used by the Pythagoreans, who, although they have been unfairly maligned as either a cult or a political cabal, were a force for good in the world, in particular through the purity and austerity of their lives.

    But notice that when the Establishment uses these symbols, they have to change them.  In the Infogalactic article on the subject, there is a picture of both a Pythagorean pentangle and a pentagram design by Aleister Crowley.  They look completely different.  Likewise, the symbol being foisted upon us now does not even look like or have the same colors as a rainbow occurring after rain.

        That suggests that true symbols have a quality of their own which cannot be corrupted, only obscured.  And for that reason we should treasure the true symbols and ignore the fakes.  

    (William Wildbood and William James Tychonievich have also written posts on this topic, about how the rainbow as a symbol has its own significance).

The two questions of AI

     This post is inspired by a recent Orthosphere post on the Turing test as well as the discussion in the comments.  I also read Turing's 1950 paper "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" to see how he considered this issue.  

    The question of whether a machine can think involves two questions.  Although these are related, it is worth distinguishing them for the sake of clarity in thinking.  The first is the theoretical question: Is it possible for humans (or perhaps some other species) to make a machine that can think?  In asking this question, I am using thinking as it is generally understood, in that thinking requires consciousness.  Furthermore, it may also be that all consciousness carries with it some degree of free will, so any conscious machine also is has free will and can be autonomous in its actions.  

    This question has two parts.  First, whether it is possible at all.  Second, whether any human being will ever be able to figure out how to do so.  It may be that there is a method for making conscious artifacts but no human being will ever have the intelligence, creativity, and understanding to discover it.  As to whether it is possible at all, a common response is to flippantly say: "Humans are machines and we think, so it must be possible."  But this statement already begs the question.  It is better to say: "We know that mind and matter can occur together in humans and animals, so it may be possible for artifacts."  

    As to whether this is actually possible, it's completely unknown.  We don't know how mind and matter connect, so we do not know how to bring about such a connection.  We do not know what method, if any, would work; however, we can rule out known methods.   In particular, computation is not sufficient to bring about consciousness.  Computation is simply rule-following; it is lesser than consciousness: a conscious human being can generate computations (by doing an arithmetic problem, for instance), but computation alone does not generate consciousness.

    This brings us to the second question, which is the practical issue: to what extent can human beings make machines that can imitate human behavior, regardless of whether the machines are conscious or not?  

    The answer to this question is also unknown.  We do not know the limits of human inventiveness and we do not know all possible methods by which human behaviour might be imitated by machines, so it is not possible to answer the question in general.  

    By distinguishing these two questions, we can see that there are two distinct approaches to artificial intelligence.  Those interested in the first question are primarily those interested in philosophy, in understanding consciousness as it is in itself, not how it can be redefined as part of a current research program.  

    On the other hand, I would estimate that the majority of AI enthusiasts are primarily interested in the second question.  Their goal is to make more powerful computers and to make computers that can perform more tasks.  They are not really interested in the philosophical issue.  

    And this makes sense because the question of consciousness is not directly related to making machines imitate human behavior or increase in computational power.  There are animals that live in remote places and hardly interact with humans.  These animals are conscious and it may well be that someone discovers a means endow a machine with a consciousness remote from human concerns, as these animals have.  Also, consciousness and computational power do not inherently go together.

Metaphysical Convergence

    Metaphysical convergence is when the same conclusion or idea occurs in different metaphysical systems but is reached by a derivation from different sets of principles.  I chose convergence because of the similarity to convergent evolution, when species evolve similar features, though they are not closely related in terms of a recent common ancestor.  

    In a post at the end of October, "Man and woman is primary - masculine and feminine are secondary abstractions" Bruce Charlton writes: 

    "the soul of a Man is either a man's or a woman's soul.  This is a fact that carries-through whatever happens in mortal life - which carries through attributes, biology, psychology and social roles."

    I commented, saying that Virgil seems to have thought something similar because in the Aeneid, Aeneas encounters the soul of Caeneus in the underworld: 

    "Caeneus, once a youth, now a woman, and again turned back by Fate into her form of old.

    Although Caeneus turned into a man physically, the soul was a woman's soul.  

    Bruce Charlton responded by saying: 

    "Well, Virgil certainly did not have the metaphysical assumptions which I do.  Presumably this is a specific coincidence of conclusions, rather than the same baseline reality."

    And this is an interesting fact if you think about it.  Here we have two fairly different metaphysical foundations giving the same conclusion.  

    One way I find this helpful to think about is by drawing connections to mathematics.  For instance, it is well-known that in addition to the familiar Euclidean geometry, there is also Non-Euclidean geometry, which was discovered when it was realized that the parallel postulate could be replaced with two different postulates, each of which gave consistent geometries.  But in addition, there is also absolute geometry, which consists of those geometric facts which do not depend on the parallel postulate for their proof and hence are true in both Euclidean and Non-Euclidean geometry.  

    The analogy is that we may have a set of metaphysical assumptions where if one or more are changed, then we can derive completely a different metaphysics from the new assumptions.  This is expected, but what is also interesting is that there may be some conclusions that hold between both sets of assumptions.  

    Another situation that might happen is when different metaphysical systems give different justifications for the same conclusions.  They both reach the same place by a different route.  

    Also interesting is, the parallel postulate article lists many statements that are mathematically equivalent to the parallel postulate.  Mathematically equivalent does not necessarily mean that they are saying exactly the same thing, but rather means that given the parallel postulate and the rest of the Euclidean axioms, one can prove the equivalent statement.  And, conversely, given the equivalent statement, and the other axioms, one can derive the parallel postulate.  Two mathematically equivalent statements stand or fall together, if one is true, then so is the other and if one is false, then the other is as well.  

    And there may be something similar in metaphysics as well, metaphysical assumptions that also stand or fall together.  

    Another possibility is metaphysical independence.  Just as the parallel postulate is independent of the other axioms of Euclidean geometry, that is, they can neither prove it nor disprove it, there may be questions that can be asked within any particular metaphysics that can neither be concluded true nor false within this metaphysics.  More assumptions are needed.  

    One could call the study of different metaphysical systems and how they relate meta-metaphysics, perhaps. 

    I do not have any particular thoughts on these matters in this post, but I believe that thinking about these kinds of things could be useful.  I am curious if any readers have any thoughts about or examples of metaphysical convergence or other matters in meta-metaphysics.  

What does it mean to consider the spiritual?

    What does it mean that we should consider the spiritual as well as the material?  This is a question that we must face in the present era.  It is not an abstract problem, where we can simply solve it and write down the answer.  It is a challenge that we have to face, both in thinking and in doing.  In this post I want to write down some thoughts about this issue.  

    I'll start with what considering the spiritual does not mean.  

    Even though the word "spiritual" has been misused, "consider the spiritual" can't be an indirect way to say "do nothing".  This is because the spiritual includes the material.  In a recent post, Bruce Charlton expresses this point: 

    "Everything material is also spiritual. Therefore, all our material actions or behaviors, every-thing that happens in the material realm, has spiritual implications.  


    The material is a 'sub-set' of the spiritual."

    Now, it may be that any particular person, due to their station in life or a special vocation may limit their sphere of activity in the material world.  An example is the case of Sister Andre Randon, who at 117 years old survived the birdemic at the beginning of this year.  She said: "No, I wasn't scared because I wasn't scared to die ... I'm happy to be with you, but I would wish to be somewhere else - join my big brother and grandfather and my grandmother."  

    As one would expect from a 117 year old nun, Randon recognizes that she is at the end of her life and is no doubt preparing for what comes next.  In Randon's case, due to her age her activity in the material world is going to be rather restricted.  Another possible example would be a monk who lives as a hermit and spends all day in prayer.  

    But in neither of these cases (or similar situations) are instances of doing nothing; rather they represent people who operate in a restricted sphere in the worldly sense, either by choice or necessity.  However, the actions of such people do have spiritual implications, even though these may not be readily apparent.   

    As far as what it "consider the spiritual" does mean, in the broadest sense, it means to recognize that the world consists of a greater reality than the material and respond accordingly.  

    One aspect of this is that certain actions are off the table.  Recognizing the spiritual nature of reality means recognizing that there is a moral law, so to do evil, even it would benefit us, even if (we think) it would benefit vast number of other people is forbidden.  "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36).  

    Another aspect of the "practical application" of recognizing the spiritual is that we are better able to understand what is going on.  As Chesterton noticed in his day, and even more so now, it is easy to have no higher perspective than adapt to whatever seems to be happening.  But, by the use of spiritual principles, once can evaluate trends according to how they correspond to actual reality, not virtual reality and thereby avoid being taken in by them. 

    In addition to avoiding what is bad, one can also perceive what is good.  Now, this is not easy by any means.  However, since the spiritual is bigger than the material, we are not limited to our own plans and what we can think up.  The spiritual can take up many different things, and they can unfold in an unexpected manner, providentially.   Bruce Charlton writes in a recent post

    "I am currently thinking much about divine providence ...

    This is - of course - how Jesus told us all to live in the Gospels ('consider the lilies' etc) - which is not to ignore the future, nor to live unthinkingly or in denial of reality; but to do the right things (one at a time, as they arise and not because they are part of a strategy) and trust to God to organize matters for the best. 

    God does this positively and negatively. 

    Positively by weaving-together the work of all Men who do good (and doing includes thinking). 

    Such positive divine providence is shown at work in The Lord of the Rings where the free choices of the characers lead to positive unforseen (and unforseeable - even by the wisest such as Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel) outcomes."

    And the fact that such things are unforseeable and difficult to articulate is not a fault of the spiritual.  In fact, it is not just the spiritual where this occurs.  In general, if something really is different and really is unlike what we are used to, then before seeing it it is difficult to describe it.  And even after encountering something like this, it may take some time to get used to it and to understand it.  Tom Shippey gave an example of this phenomenon in his book J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, where he quotes book critics saying things like: "The next type of literature will be completely different.  It will not just be a variation on what we know, but something entirely unfamiliar."  And then quotes those same critics disparaging the Lord of the Rings in their reviews.  The new literature really was completely different, but even some of those who correctly predicted this were not able to appreciate it.  

    And so, considering the spiritual means considering reality as a whole.  Our task in this era is to do this, even while living in a despiritualized world.  Though putting it into practice is the work of a lifetime.  

Two Chesterton quotes and a thought experiment

    In the section on George Bernard Shaw in Heretics, G.K. Chesteron writes: 
    "Mr. Bernard Shaw is always represented by those who disagree with  him, and, I fear, also (if such exist) by those who agree with him, as a capering humorist, a dazzling acrobat, a quick-change artist.  It is said that he cannot be taken seriously, that he will defend anything or attack anything, that he will do anything to startle and amuse.  All this is not only untrue, but it is, glaringly, the opposite of the truth; it is as wild as to say that Dickens had not the boisterous masculinity of Jane Austen.  The whole force and triumph of Mr. Bernard Shaw lie in the fact that he is a thoroughly consistent man.  So far from his power consisting in jumping through hoops or standing on his head, his power consists in holding his won fortress night and day.  
    He puts the Shaw test rapidly and rigorously to everything that happens in heaven or earth.  His standard never varies.  The thing which weak-minded revolutionists and weak-minded Conservatives really hate (and fear) in him, is exactly this, that his scales, such as they are, are held even, and that his law, such as it is, is justly enforced.  You may attack his principles, as I do; but I do not know of any instance in which you can attack their application.  If he dislikes lawlessness, he dislikes the lawlesness of the Socialists as much as that of Individualists.  If he dislikes the fever of patriotism, he dislikes it in Boers and Irishmen as well as in Englishmen.  If he dislikes the vows and bonds of marriage, he dislikes still more the fiercer bonds and wilder vows that are made by lawless love.  If he laughts at the authority of priests, he laughs louder at the pomposity of men of science.  If he condemns the irresponsibility of faith, he condemns with a sane consistency the equal irresponsibility of art. 

    He has pleased all the bohemians by saying that women are equal to men; but he has infuriated them by suggesting that men are equal to women.  He is almost mechanically just; he has something of the terrible quality of a machine.  The man who is really wild and whirling, the man who is really fantastic and incalculable, is not Mr. Shaw, but the average Cabinet Minister.  It is Sir Michael Hicks-Beach who jumps through hoops.  It is Sir Henry Fowler who stands on his head.  The solid and respectable statesman of that type does really leap from position to position; he is ready to defend anything or nothing; he is really not to be taken seriously.  I know perfectly well what Mr. Bernard Shaw will be saying thirty years hence; he will be saying what he has alway said.  If thirty years hence I meet Mr. Shaw, a reverent being with a silver beard sweeping the earth, and say to him, 'One can never, of course, make a verbal attack upon a lady,' the patriarch will lift his aged hand and fell me to the earth.  We know, I say, what Mr. Shaw will be saying thirty years hence.  But is there any one so darkly read in stars and oracles that he will dare to predict what Mr. Asquith will be saying thirty years hence?"

    In other words, those who did not understand Shaw thought that he was simply taking positions for the sake of novelty while in fact, he did have principles more than the politicians who would say anything based on where they thought the wind was blowing.  Interestingly enough, Chesterton had a similar experience shortly after he wrote Orthodoxy, the sequel to Heretics.  He writes in his autobiography:

    "But there did remain one rather vague virtue about the title [Orthodoxy], from my point of view; that it was provocative.  And it is an exact test of that extraordinary modern society that it really was provocative.  I had begun to discover that, in all that welter of inconsistent and incompatible heresies, the one and only really unpardonable heresy was orthodoxy.  A serious defece of orthodoxy was far more startling to the English critic than a serious attack on orthodoxy was to the Russian censor.  And through this experience I learned two very interesting things, which serve to divide all this part of my life into two distinct periods.  Very nearly everybody, in the ordinary literary and journalistic world, began by taking it for granted that my faith in the Christian creed was a pose or a paradox. 
    The mroe cynical supposed that it was only a stunt.  The more generous and loyal warmly maintained that it was only a joke.  It was not until long afterwards that the full horror of the truth burst upon them; the disgraceful truth that I really thought the thing was true.  And I have found, as I say, that this represents a real transition or border-line in the life of the apologists.  Critics were almost entirely complimentary to what they were pleased to call my brilliant paradoxes; until they discovered that I really meant what I said.  Since then they have been more combative; and I do not blame them."
    And this relates to a thought experiment I have wondered about occasionally.  If many of those from the past who saw themselves as progressives or reformers could come back and see the present day, what would they think?  I believe that pretty much all the ones who actually did have principles, such as George Bernard Shaw, would reconsider their views.  They would realize that what we have now is, despite what its proponents say, not a continuation of their principles, it is a going off the rails, a jettisoning of any principles at all.  

    The inflection point seems to have occurred around the late 1960s, when the Old Left (primarily focused on economics and of which Shaw was a part) transtitioned into the New Left focusing on constantly mutating means subversion.  And so, where we are now, and increasingly so, is not a development from the past, it's a going off the rails.  A replacement of what came before with what is dishonestly claimed to be its continuation.  

A Fable from Aesop

    The Hawk, the Kite, and the Pigeons

    "A Kite that had kept sailing around a dove-cote for many days to no purpose, was forced by hunger to have recourse to stratagem.  Approaching the Pigeons in his gentlest manner, he tried to show them how much better their state would be if they had a king with some firmneses abotu him, and how well his protection would shield them from the attacks of the Hawk and other enemies.  The Pigeons, deluded by this show of reason, admitted him to the dove-cote as their king.  They found, however, that he thought it part of his kingly prerogative to eat one of their number every day, and they soon repented of their credulity in having let him in."

The co-option of words

    It is well known that the Left co-opts language extensively.  One technique is by inventing new terms, which are then used to influence people's thinking in subtle ways.  But another way, which I want to discuss in this post, is keeping certain words the same, but in practice using them to mean entirely different things.  In particular, using a word with a positive connotation in an overly broad manner as cover for doing whatever they wanted to do anyway.  This has been very effective as a means of misdirection.  People become sidetracked into debating and discussing the original word or concept, while ignoring that in actual practice what is happening either has changed so greatly from the original word that it is something very different.  

    An example is shown in Bruce Charlton's post "The 'new socialism' is a fake": 

    "I have noticed (in my shallow, heaadline-perusing way of keeping in touch with current affairs) that both in the UK and the USA there is a pseudo-revival of 'socialism' as an explicit political platform in the coming elections - or indeed crypto-communism in the case of the UK Labour Party- where the leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the shadow Chancellor John McDonnel are both revolutionary communists.  

    But there are no real socialist or communists now; or at least none in public life or positions of power.  Not a single one.  The species is extinct."

    Charlton then goes on to contrast the primarily economically focused Old Left, of which socialism was a part, with the New Left, primarily focused on cultural subversion.  He explains that the Old Left has now completely given way to the New Left and so this talk of socialism is merely "window-dressing".  

    Another example is the discussion about saving liberal democracy.  In actual practice, liberal democracy is dead and had been on the way out for some time.  The Left does not care about liberal democracy; it is just words that they use because people like those words and then they do whatever they want once they have power.  While on the political Right liberal democracy does not provide a strong enough motivation to resist the left.  There are large numbers of people who truly believe in liberal democracy, but the vast majority of them have very little power.  

    And so, what ends up happening is that because the Left says that they care about liberal democracy, people on the right think that if they engage with these ideas they will be able to intellectually refute Leftism.  But on a purely intellectual level, Leftism has already been refuted in many different ways.  Some might say that these refutations are not sufficiently widely known.  And this is true.  But, even if any particular refutation was commonly acknowledged by everyone, Leftism would just pick some other idea to co-opt.  Bruce Charlton has discussed similar matters in his post "What is the meaning of Establishment language?  Manipulation versus communication"

    Yet another example is intellectual property and copyright.  The rulers this world do not care about the abstract concept of intellectual property.  If it is a tool that allows them to profit from another's creativity or labor, then so much the better.  If not, then so much the worse.  It is just one tool among many.  What is at work is primarily the duplicity of these individuals, not the nature of the intellectual property itself.  Discussing the concept, while worthwhile for one's own and other's understanding and in dealing with honest people, is beside the point in this instance.

Some Paintings from Joseph Wright of Derby

    Joseph Wright of Derby (1734 - 1797) lived through the era of the industrial revolution and the beginning of Romanticism.  I didn't live back then, but from what I have read, his pictures do a good job depicting that era and are good art in general.  Here is a self-portrait from 1780: 

The Alchemist Discovering Phosphorus

An experiment on a bird in the air pump: 

A philosopher lecturing on the orrery:

In these two pictures, Wright depicts the beginning of the time when science and scientific thinking was beginning to be part of ordinary people's lives.  And even the cruelty it could bring (as I understand it, the bird is suffocated as air is pumped out of its container).  The picture of the alchemist also shows the earlier era when science was properly called natural philosophy. 

An Iron Forge:

The Iron Forge is another painting showing technology.  In addition to these, Wright painted landscapes in a Romantic manner. 

Vesuvius from Popsilio:

Vesuvius from Portici

Matlock Tor by Moonlight

What is possibility?

    In a response to this post by Francis Berger, the commenter Tom uses an analogy which I found quite thought-provoking.  He writes:     ...