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Freedom and ethics (principles of universal morality)
Posted: 28 July 2014 01:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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Bugrib,
Again, I think you’re confusing redefining something with correcting a factual error.  The fact that “most people think of atoms as small planetary systems…” simply means they’re factually wrong.  When scientists themselves realized that they were incorrect in envisioning atoms that way, they didn’t redefine the word “atom”, they improved their description of atoms to be more in line with objective, physical reality.  Nonetheless, they were still talking about the same thing—atoms.

The word atom is not a definition. The description of an atom is it’s definition.  Thus correcting a factual error in the description is in fact redefining the noun atom (correctly), not the atom itself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nByekIx7XXw.

[ Edited: 28 July 2014 02:40 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 29 July 2014 09:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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VYAZMA - 23 July 2014 06:38 AM

why are we placing significance on the one step?

I think it is obvious, and you partially gave the answer: because it allows for a correct definition of what we call free actions. An action is free when it is according to my own wishes and beliefs. Now, you say these wishes and beliefs are caused in itself, so why stress these causes?

What sense does that make? If I, e.g. want to give the cause of a bush fire, do I say then that Mr X bought cigarettes yesterday, or that Mr X got hooked to nicotine when he was 17 years old? No, I want to know the immediate cause of the fire, which is that Mr X threw his burning cigarette into the dry bushes. His nicotine dependency was necessary for this to happen, without it the bush fire would not have occurred, but it is not relevant. Not every nicotine junkie causes a bush fire, the chance is extremely low. But throwing a burning cigarette in a dry bush has a huge chance to cause a fire.

Same with free actions. It is perfectly true that wishes and beliefs have a causal history, but it is not relevant for the questions if an action was free: the only relevant fact is if the action was according the wishes and beliefs of the actor, i.e. when his wishes and beliefs are the causes of his actions. It is the way to distinguish between free and coerced actions. And that is a distinction we need for deciding if somebody was responsible for his action or not.

VYAZMA - 23 July 2014 06:44 AM

The point is punishment. That is your query.
Punishment follows dysfunction…you disagree?

Yes, fully. Criminality is not being dysfunctional. People that normally very well are able to act responsibly, who also want to be seen as responsible persons, who want to get what they earn for their actions, who can argue for why they did what they did, are not dysfunctional. They take the wrong choices in the eyes of society, and are therefore punished. Somebody who arguably cannot act responsibly in general is not culpable for punishment.

[ Edited: 29 July 2014 09:54 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 29 July 2014 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

But first let me say that, since Dennett and Harris are pretty much in complete agreement about the nature of reality and the workings of consciousness and decision making, there really is no disagreement between them at all—except whether to rescue the term “Free Will” from the dustbin of history by redefining it.  It’s a purely semantic argument.

Yep. That was my main point with these two questions (even if I did not necessary meant it in the context of the Harris - Dennett ‘discussion’).

But there also comes the critical point: there are many neuroscientists who think that we should change our practice of making people responsible for their actions, based on… Yes, on what? That there is no ghostly homunculus in the brain? Is that a serious discovery? But that is all what they found! They found out better and better how the brain works, and that there is no room for an immaterial homunculus, yes, even that what people consciously feel and do has a causal history in the brain! Wow! How naive are they to present Libet’s discovery as a discovery that a conscious decision has a causal history in the brain. Who did expect something else? Naive believers in the soul maybe? The same people that believe in Libertarian Free Will? Or should we clear them up about their naive conceptions of what feelings, thoughts and feeling really are, and they do not need an independent res cogitans, and that therefore Free Will is also something different than they thought?

So if this really is a semantic argument, then why all the fuzz?

BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

All Harris is saying is that this does not fit anybody’s conception of Free Will, so when compatibilists proclaim that this still fits the definition of Free Will, it is nothing more than a confusion.

No. The confusion arises when people say we have no Free Will, and therefore we must change or judicial system. The therapy for the confusion is to show that Compatibilist Free Will can bear the burden of everything we associate with it, except the naive idea that an immaterial soul that is uncaused in itself, can interfere with the causal fabric of the universe.

BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

Dennett is therefore not just redefining “Free Will”, he is (unwittingly?) redefining the “I”/“self” to include non-conscious functions of the brain.  I don’t know of anyone who overtly define’s the “I”/“self” as including non-conscious functions of the brain/body.

Unwittingly? You really underestimate him.

BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

And Dennett doesn’t even disagree with that!  He just disagrees with the way Free Will is defined by the vast majority of the population!

Yes. Because it is wrong. It is connected to naive notions of the soul, that are scientifically unsustainable.
And because it cannot help to solve the intelligibility problem of responsibility and determinism.

BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

As Sam Harris says, this is actually a reason to be more compassionate towards “evildoers”, since they are ultimately not responsible for their actions. 

Ultimate responsibility is a none-concept that people should drop. That also follows from CFW. We still punish people, but take into account how culpable for punishment they are. Should we not punish Madoff, because we are compassionate with him? Or did he very well know that society would not approve of his Ponzi scheme?

BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

In practical terms, we can still assign personal blame and responsibility to people, even though in a deep philosophical sense, they may not really carry any blame or responsibility.

Yeah, that is the joke of it all: there is no deep meaning (see here). All we need is ‘agents’ that are capable of anticipating the future, and act because of reasons. Blame, responsibility, praise and Free Will are social constructs based on these capabilities. Where 99.9999% of the population thinks we need LFW for that, we know we don’t.

BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

In other words, the only difference it makes is that it means there is no logical reason to punish “evildoers” for punishment’s sake.  “Punishment” should serve a utilitarian purpose—primarily deterrence and protection of society by separating those likely to cause harm from the rest of us.

Exactly. Practically, Dennett and Harris are not that different.

BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

Did that help?

Yeah. Thanks

[ Edited: 29 July 2014 10:01 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 29 July 2014 10:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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GdB - 29 July 2014 09:07 AM

I think it is obvious, and you partially gave the answer: because it allows for a correct definition of what we call free actions. An action is free when it is according to my own wishes and beliefs. Now, you say these wishes and beliefs are caused in itself, so why stress these causes?

Firstly, that wasn’t any part of my answering. Secondly, we don’t need to define definitions here. What is the need for definitions here-correct or otherwise? Before we can give names to things we must be able to properly describe them.
I’ve asked you this a thousand times already. Obviously you are “stuck” on this point.
When are your actions not according to your wishes and beliefs?

Criminality is not being dysfunctional.

Did you not at least take note of my sarcastic last sentence in my last post? Are you not aware that you are just playing word and semantic games?
For hundreds of pages you have made this difficult by oscillating between the empirical, the philosophical, the semantic and worst, the ideological.
This phrase here invites what GdB? What?  “Criminality is not being dysfunctional.”
Those are your words. Remember when I asked you if you were posting all of this from prison?
It sure seems like you are. You go back to this and other themes again and again. Like you have a complex about it.
In as much as the word “dysfunctional” has meaning, so does the word “criminality” GdB.
And so, with that basic parameter of syntax yes, criminality is being dysfunctional.

[ Edited: 29 July 2014 10:23 AM by VYAZMA ]
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Posted: 29 July 2014 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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VYAZMA - 29 July 2014 10:12 AM

I’ve asked you this a thousand times already. Obviously you are “stuck” on this point.
When are your actions not according to your wishes and beliefs?

When you act according to the wishes and beliefs of somebody else, because you are put into an artificial situation intentionally by somebody else to let you act otherwise than you normally would do.
Bodily movements apart from actions are not preceded by any wishes and beliefs.

VYAZMA - 29 July 2014 10:12 AM

Criminality is not being dysfunctional.

Did you not at least take note of my sarcastic last sentence in my last post? Are you not aware that you are just playing word and semantic games?
For hundreds of pages you have made this difficult by oscillating between the empirical, the philosophical, the semantic and worst, the ideological.
This phrase here invites what GdB? What?  “Criminality is not being dysfunctional.”
Those are your words. Remember when I asked you if you were posting all of this from prison?
It sure seems like you are. You go back to this and other themes again and again. Like you have a complex about it.
In as much as the word “dysfunctional” has meaning, so does the word “criminality” GdB.
And so, with that basic parameter of syntax yes, criminality is being dysfunctional.

This is so tedious.

Not worth to react on this BS, VYAZMA. You want a serious discussion, or you don’t.

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Posted: 29 July 2014 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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GdB,
Bodily movements apart from actions are not preceded by any wishes and beliefs

Can you clarify that sentence?

Are you saying that bodily actions are preceded by wishes and beliefs? Free will?

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Posted: 29 July 2014 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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GdB - 29 July 2014 10:25 AM
VYAZMA - 29 July 2014 10:12 AM

I’ve asked you this a thousand times already. Obviously you are “stuck” on this point.
When are your actions not according to your wishes and beliefs?

When you act according to the wishes and beliefs of somebody else, because you are put into an artificial situation intentionally by somebody else to let you act otherwise than you normally would do.
Bodily movements apart from actions are not preceded by any wishes and beliefs.

Wow! We’ve been through all this before.
Great so we can agree that twitching or spasms are not “acting according to wishes and beliefs”.
Let’s just leave it there shall we. You go on ahead. You got this.

[ Edited: 29 July 2014 03:41 PM by VYAZMA ]
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Posted: 29 July 2014 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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GdB - 29 July 2014 10:25 AM

Vyazma-In as much as the word “dysfunctional” has meaning, so does the word “criminality” GdB.
And so, with that basic parameter of syntax yes, criminality is being dysfunctional.


Not worth to react on this BS, VYAZMA. You want a serious discussion, or you don’t.

I don’t know. What do you want to discuss exactly GdB?

[ Edited: 29 July 2014 03:38 PM by VYAZMA ]
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Posted: 30 July 2014 12:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:50 PM

That being said, Harris does have B.A. degree in philosophy, and any of his books would have been top-notch M.A. or Ph.D. thesis papers had he chosen to enroll in those programs.  And he’s been writing acclaimed works of philosophy for over ten years. 

Acclaimed works of philosophy? Sorry, I studied philosophy, and I can say, Harris just does not count (Not because his standpoint of hard determinism, there are other philosophers who defend that, but because the quality of his arguments.). His ‘Free Will’ is just a pamphlet, and his standpoints about Islam and Muslim terrorism are abstruse. A lot of sweeping statements, heavily criticised by people who do know what they are talking about because they did field research (like Scott Atran). That what I know of Harris does not rise above talk in his favourite hangout. His support for a hate monger like Geert Wilders is absolutely abject.

BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:50 PM

So you admit that Free Will “on logical grounds is already known to be rubbish”?  wink

Libertarian Free Will is rubbish, yes, already on conceptual grounds. One does not need scientific research to know that. So all those neuroscientists yelling we have no free will are pretty pathetic.

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Posted: 30 July 2014 01:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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Write4U - 29 July 2014 01:15 PM

GdB,
Bodily movements apart from actions are not preceded by any wishes and beliefs

Can you clarify that sentence?

Yes.

If you have a nervous twitch e.g., or spastic movements, then these do not count as actions. Also some reflexes do not count. Say, you knock over a vase (yes, I’ve seen the Matrix again recently wink), but it was because you touched something very hot, and so it was due to the reflex that you touched the vase. Then it does not count as a free action, because you had no intention in any way to knock over the vase.

Write4U - 29 July 2014 01:15 PM

Are you saying that bodily actions are preceded by wishes and beliefs? Free will?

Yes. That is the difference between actions and mere movements. Actions are intentional movements. Important to see is that immediate conciousness is not necessary involved. E.g. it can be a near automatic reaction to brake when a child runs into the front of your car. You will acknowledge that it was your action to brake, even if it was initiated before you are fully conscious of what happens, because it would also be the action if you were conscious of the complete event.

This shows an important aspect of what counts as free actions: that we acknowledge an action as our action. a free action is social construct, not some physical category. That is the error that incompatibilists make. They treat free actions as needing some physical aspect of reality. Actions need some conditions: the capability to anticipate the future (which all animals can do), and to act based on reasons (which possibly only humans can). If I recognise my action as based on my own reasons, then it was a free action.

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Posted: 30 July 2014 05:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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GdB - 30 July 2014 01:04 AM
Write4U - 29 July 2014 01:15 PM

GdB,
Bodily movements apart from actions are not preceded by any wishes and beliefs

Can you clarify that sentence?

Yes.

If you have a nervous twitch e.g., or spastic movements, then these do not count as actions. Also some reflexes do not count. Say, you knock over a vase (yes, I’ve seen the Matrix again recently wink), but it was because you touched something very hot, and so it was due to the reflex that you touched the vase. Then it does not count as a free action, because you had no intention in any way to knock over the vase.

Yes, automatic reflexes are ipso facto deterministic, there is no choice involved.

Write4U - 29 July 2014 01:15 PM

Are you saying that bodily actions are preceded by wishes and beliefs? Free will?

Yes. That is the difference between actions and mere movements. Actions are intentional movements. Important to see is that immediate conciousness is not necessary involved. E.g. it can be a near automatic reaction to brake when a child runs into the front of your car. You will acknowledge that it was your action to brake, even if it was initiated before you are fully conscious of what happens, because it would also be the action if you were conscious of the complete event.

This shows an important aspect of what counts as free actions: that we acknowledge an action as our action. a free action is social construct, not some physical category. That is the error that incompatibilists make. They treat free actions as needing some physical aspect of reality. Actions need some conditions: the capability to anticipate the future (which all animals can do), and to act based on reasons (which possibly only humans can). If I recognise my action as based on my own reasons, then it was a free action.

I also believe that actions taken in anticipation of a future event are a form of “motivated intentional” will.
An example I cite frequently is building a dike to prevent a future seasonal flooding, or in a more abstract sense, deciding to build a spaceship to go to the moon.

[ Edited: 30 July 2014 05:05 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 30 July 2014 05:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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Write4U - 30 July 2014 05:02 AM

Yes, automatic reflexes are ipso facto deterministic, there is no choice involved.

That are two different things: automatic reflexes and free actions are both determined. But in actions choices can be involved. You see a contradiction where there isn’t one: choices are just as determined as reflexes. You still think about free will as libertarian free will.

Write4U - 30 July 2014 05:02 AM

I also believe that actions taken in anticipation of a future event are a form of “motivated intentional” will.
An example I cite frequently is building a dike to prevent a future seasonal flooding, or in a more abstract sense, deciding to build a spaceship to go to the moon.

You don’t have to think about such big examples. If you walk to the fridge for getting a Heineken or Amstel you are also anticipating the future. You know that there is a beer in the fridge, and you know that when you go to the fridge and open it can get it. That is also anticipation of the future. Most higher animals can do this, however humans are top. (But if I think of AGW not top enough…)

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Posted: 14 August 2014 12:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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Write4U - 30 July 2014 05:02 AM

I also believe that actions taken in anticipation of a future event are a form of “motivated intentional” will.
An example I cite frequently is building a dike to prevent a future seasonal flooding…

Yes so what is prevented is what would have happened if the dike wasn’t built.

Rocks could fall into the water and do the same preventing but it would be different because they wouldn’t do it on purpose. They wouldn’t be making an attempt to make the future one way rather than another, they simple would make the future one way rather than another.

So there is a difference but always you’re looking for the difference to have something to do with indeterminism. It hasn’t it’s to do with our having an understanding of the laws of physics, so having some idea of what will happen if we do this or that and having a preference and being motivated to act by those things.

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Posted: 07 December 2014 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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Okay, I’m responding now…

GdB - 29 July 2014 09:52 AM
BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

But first let me say that, since Dennett and Harris are pretty much in complete agreement about the nature of reality and the workings of consciousness and decision making, there really is no disagreement between them at all—except whether to rescue the term “Free Will” from the dustbin of history by redefining it.  It’s a purely semantic argument.

Yep. That was my main point with these two questions (even if I did not necessary meant it in the context of the Harris - Dennett ‘discussion’).

But there also comes the critical point: there are many neuroscientists who think that we should change our practice of making people responsible for their actions, based on… Yes, on what? That there is no ghostly homunculus in the brain? Is that a serious discovery? But that is all what they found! They found out better and better how the brain works, and that there is no room for an immaterial homunculus, yes, even that what people consciously feel and do has a causal history in the brain! Wow! How naive are they to present Libet’s discovery as a discovery that a conscious decision has a causal history in the brain. Who did expect something else? Naive believers in the soul maybe? The same people that believe in Libertarian Free Will? Or should we clear them up about their naive conceptions of what feelings, thoughts and feeling really are, and they do not need an independent res cogitans, and that therefore Free Will is also something different than they thought?

So if this really is a semantic argument, then why all the fuzz?

Because Dennett doesn’t seem to understand that it’s a purely semantic argument.  If he did, he’d be arguing about why it’s useful to redefine Free Will rather than ridiculing Harris’ book with mischaracterizations and factual errors about Harris’ position.

GdB - 29 July 2014 09:52 AM
BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

All Harris is saying is that this does not fit anybody’s conception of Free Will, so when compatibilists proclaim that this still fits the definition of Free Will, it is nothing more than a confusion.

No. The confusion arises when people say we have no Free Will, and therefore we must change or judicial system. The therapy for the confusion is to show that Compatibilist Free Will can bear the burden of everything we associate with it, except the naive idea that an immaterial soul that is uncaused in itself, can interfere with the causal fabric of the universe.

I’m not sure what your point is here.

GdB - 29 July 2014 09:52 AM
BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

Dennett is therefore not just redefining “Free Will”, he is (unwittingly?) redefining the “I”/“self” to include non-conscious functions of the brain.  I don’t know of anyone who overtly define’s the “I”/“self” as including non-conscious functions of the brain/body.

Unwittingly? You really underestimate him.

You’re probably right about that.

GdB - 29 July 2014 09:52 AM
BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

And Dennett doesn’t even disagree with that!  He just disagrees with the way Free Will is defined by the vast majority of the population!

Yes. Because it is wrong. It is connected to naive notions of the soul, that are scientifically unsustainable.
And because it cannot help to solve the intelligibility problem of responsibility and determinism.

No, the way people define Free Will is not wrong.  It’s the definition of Free Will.  The fact that the definition is logically incoherent doesn’t make the definition itself wrong.

GdB - 29 July 2014 09:52 AM
BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

As Sam Harris says, this is actually a reason to be more compassionate towards “evildoers”, since they are ultimately not responsible for their actions. 

Ultimate responsibility is a none-concept that people should drop. That also follows from CFW. We still punish people, but take into account how culpable for punishment they are. Should we not punish Madoff, because we are compassionate with him? Or did he very well know that society would not approve of his Ponzi scheme?

“Ultimate responsibility is a none-concept that people should drop.”  Why do you have a problem with the word “ultimate”?  It seems you’ve scolded me once before about using that word.  And as for punishing Madoff, the fact that you even ask that question strongly suggests you don’t understand Harris’ point about how jettisoning the traditional concept of Free Will should inform the ethics of crime and punishment.  Yes, of course we should punish him, but for purely utilitarian/consequentialist reasons, not because he is ultimately responsible for his actions (there’s that concept, “ultimate”, again).

GdB - 29 July 2014 09:52 AM
BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

In practical terms, we can still assign personal blame and responsibility to people, even though in a deep philosophical sense, they may not really carry any blame or responsibility.

Yeah, that is the joke of it all: there is no deep meaning (see here). All we need is ‘agents’ that are capable of anticipating the future, and act because of reasons. Blame, responsibility, praise and Free Will are social constructs based on these capabilities. Where 99.9999% of the population thinks we need LFW for that, we know we don’t.

Which is why philosophers should simply abandon the concept of Free Will.  Redefining it just confuses the general public into thinking their notion of Free Will is supported by philosophers.  I’m guessing that probably less than 1% of the population has any notion of the difference between Libertarian and Compatibilist Free Will.  The simply hear that most philosophers believe in “Free Will” and assume it means what they intuitively feel they have, which is Libertarian Free Will.  This is why I think the whole compatibilist project is intellectually dishonest and guided by ulterior motives (that society will be hurt if people stop believing in Free Will).

(Ah, you also don’t like the word “deep” when used in the philosophical sense since it is basically synonymous with “ultimate”.  Personally, I think the way I’m using those terms is pretty straightforward and uncontroversial, but I’ll check out the link you provided.)

GdB - 29 July 2014 09:52 AM
BugRib - 24 July 2014 02:27 PM

In other words, the only difference it makes is that it means there is no logical reason to punish “evildoers” for punishment’s sake.  “Punishment” should serve a utilitarian purpose—primarily deterrence and protection of society by separating those likely to cause harm from the rest of us.

Exactly. Practically, Dennett and Harris are not that different.

Well, based on Dennett’s critique of Harris’ Free Will, he quite clearly doesn’t seem to understand that.  I mean it, he really doesn’t.  Yet, you do.  So why doesn’t he?

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Posted: 07 December 2014 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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GdB - 29 July 2014 09:52 AM

Yeah, that is the joke of it all: there is no deep meaning (see here

...I don’t think this is the right link.  It doesn’t say anything about deep meaning.  Was I supposed to read Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Wittgenstein?  ‘Cause I’m not gonna do it.  I’m just not…  smile

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