Comments by hodgmo

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Posted on June 8 at 10:51 p.m.

Perhaps St Billy is a poodle.

On Survival of the Beautiful

Posted on June 8 at 9:59 p.m.

pk - Thou doth protest too much. Look at your initial post. It is you who began the abusive and dismissive tone. "Perhaps the Independent's Pet Psychic could help." Really? What have you added besides that? The following?

"Since you're the one who claims to have principles of beauty, the challenge is for you, not someone who denies there are such universals, to identify the supposed commonalities in my examples and show how they follow from your principles."

Seems you "just asserted" something that is "just a private redefinition to suit your metaphysical presuppositions." And without any reason or discussion. Why is that? Why are you sure there are no unifying principles of beauty? Do tell.

Seems, at best, you have a double standard. I don't see anything constructive in your comments, rather only reflexive ad hominem and defensive posturing.

On Survival of the Beautiful

Posted on June 8 at 9:03 a.m.

@pk: Let me see if I can simplify this for you: your examples were unclear and appeared to involve only the visual. Beauty is not limited to the visual, it is deeper than that. A “better-balanced, broader, and better-thought-out” example would involve the senses, action and syntax. For example, paintings and music, philanthropic acts, and mathematical formulations can all be perceived as ‘beautiful.’

What do these things have in common? As Tam’s essays make clear, many people have explored that question and looked for unifying ‘principles of beauty.’ Of course, those principles may or may not exist. And if they do, they may be human constructs or be objective quantities. But one who “denies there are such universals” without offering any reason, adds nothing constructive to the dialog.

On Survival of the Beautiful

Posted on June 7 at 8:40 p.m.

Pk thinks that Erin McGraw’s definition of beauty is a “collection of question-begging generalities” that “gets us no closer to what there is in that thing that makes that person react in that way.” While I acknowledge the difficulty in nailing an elusive quality like the subject one, I wonder why no alternative definition or a definition of a quality similar to beauty is offered as a point of reference. One is left to study pk’s previous post which, upon reflection, either indicates a shallow and narrow understanding of beauty, or an imbalanced and poorly thought out example. Paintings and sunsets are superficially beautiful. A woman may be perceived as a beautiful object, or be appreciated for the more subtle qualities KV alludes to and made famous in the saying “Beauty is what beauty does.” If pk was listing his wife with a painting and sunset because she looks good in a bathing suit (for example), then his earlier post suggests the narrow understanding of beauty. If the latter, then his examples are not well-thought out. Either way, it makes the value of further correspondence suspect.

It is interesting that Merriam Webster also uses a collection of question-begging generalities to define beauty that are similar to those used by McGraw: beauty is “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”

On Survival of the Beautiful

Posted on June 7 at 10:43 a.m.

“What do a painting by Ni Tsan, a sunset on a partly cloudy evening, and my wife have in common? Answer: I consider them all beautiful, a judgment unconnected to your so-called “principles” of beauty.” Pk

“pk, I challenge you to find the commonalities in those things you consider beautiful. Surely it's not random? This is what I mean by principles.” TamHunt

Erin McGraw addresses pk’s question and answers Tam’s corresponding challenge with her principles of beauty when she writes “…the presence of some display of harmony, intelligence, and genius—that will do, I hope, as a rough and ready definition of beauty”

On Survival of the Beautiful

Posted on June 7 at 9:56 a.m.

@DrDan: Sad but true. The suicide rate in the US is going up, most suicides are done by gun (and gun suicides are about double gun homicides and gun homicides occur at about the same rate as deaths due to drunk driving)….

Go with dog.

On Atheists Saved!

Posted on June 7 at 7:47 a.m.

Billclausen: Your comment generalized too much, introduced straw-man arguments, and recalled ‘good old days’ that didn’t really exist. (And the communism comment is too funny to touch!)

Certainly some things are worse than they used to be, but in many ways life is better for most US citizens than it was 50 years ago: longer life span, less hunger (in fact obesity is now one of the biggest causes of death), lower accidental death rate, and more social tolerance. Certainly if you are a person of color or gay, life is better in most ways. And despite lay public perception, the rate of mass killings (mainly using a gun) hasn’t changed much for more than a century ( and the rate of gun murders, though tragically high compared to other western nations, is actually going down ( Not everything is better, off-the-cuff: traffic is denser and slower, the separation between well-off and less well-off people has widened dramatically and is growing, retirement is more difficult and less certain for many, etc. Perhaps most dire in the long term is the human effect on our eco system, specifically, the negative impact we have on the atmosphere, ocean and forests. Our activity has resulted in apocalyptic extinction rates, reduced the protective ozone layer and contributed to climate change in general – the impact of these changes is not yet understood.

Religion played a positive role in earlier human history – before we ‘conquered’ the world it was an important part of the glue that helped small isolated tribes to survive. Religion is now a problem because it often guides or influences policies that would be better guided by secular, logical thought processes. But I don’t think religion is ‘the’ fundamental problem, it only is a contributor. I see the fundamental problems as those responsible for uncontrolled population growth in the poorest parts of the world, and a lack of intelligent coordination in global policies addressing use of resources and pollution. Has religion helped or hurt in these areas?

Human nature is of course the basic problem. The question whose answer will determine our fate as a species is: Can we survive our success? To do so will require our human nature to change, and I believe part of this change will be outgrowing our psychological dependence on myths such as religion. Atheism is a step in that direction.

On Atheists Saved!

Posted on June 6 at 6:41 a.m.

I’m with Starshine on this one. As long as you don’t impose your god on me, we can live together.

BC’s story is interesting but irrelevant to the question of existence of a god. It’s yet another anecdotal example of how little we understand the human mind.

Religions are vestiges of our tribal past, the result of the human need to deal with the fear of death. While having positive social and personal support value, religions are based on myths whose details vary with locale of origin and thus have come to confuse more than help modern human relations, especially on the global scale. If religious leaders were truly interested in harmony amongst humans, wouldn't they advise the unsure to explore different faiths? How many wars and riots have been fundamentally due to differences between the religious tribes, that in the end masked the base goals of political leaders? At worst, religions are tools used to harness those of faith. At best, religions are akin to a blind men touching the elephant of reality, each proclaiming truth to be whatever they touched: ear, trunk, leg, etc.

But does the elephant of reality include a god? Interesting question, but impossible to answer without defining what we mean by “god.” And I doubt developing a widely accepted definition of “god” would be straight forward, or even possible without understanding reality a lot better than we do. We’re guessing in the end, and in this world, we’re demonstrably on our own. Logically, it’s simplest to conclude there is no universal god, agree on a set of practical rules that define what is and isn't allowed in our societies, and get on with life. If the big guy in the sky exists and cares what we think, we’ll damned well find out.

On Atheists Saved!

Posted on June 5 at 7:21 a.m.

Hermann Weyl, the great mathematical physicist and philosopher, was fascinated by the relationship between mathematical symmetry and the sensation of beauty. He once said:

“My work always tried to unite the truth with the beautiful, but when I had to choose one or the other, I usually chose the beautiful.”

His semi-popular book, “Symmetry” is relevant and worth reading. It is available online, for example, at

On Survival of the Beautiful

Posted on May 16 at 9:39 p.m.

I want to drive like Eckermann

On Sleep with Dogs, Wake with Flea Powder

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