Thursday, December 31, 2020

Coronavirus -- symptoms of Covid

Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID, According to New Study

1. Amnosia - loss of smell
2. Ageusia - loss of taste
3. Difficulty concentrating
4. Dyspnea - shortness of breath
5. Memory loss
6. Confusion
7. Headache
8. Heart palpitations
9. Chest pain
10. Pain with deep breaths
11. Dizziness
12. Tachycardia fast heart rate
13. Fatigue

I assume the more symptoms you have, the stronger the sign. Some singly, e.g. headache, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue seems more likely a sign of something else.

Happy New Year and take care.

Monday, December 28, 2020

U.S. Election 2020 #1

The people voted. A record number of mail-in ballots were used, many spurred by the ongoing pandemic. The Electoral College voted with Joe Biden beating Donald Trump 306-232. Vocal, super-loyalist ‘Trump won no matter what” supporters allege the election was rigged by Democrats and stolen from Trump. Success in proving that enough for Trump to win has been very weak.

Unsurprisingly, President Trump has been most vocal about a fraudulent vote. He even said he should have won because he got more popular votes than anybody in history. How many popular votes did Biden get? Blank out.

Unsurprisingly, Trump takes maximum credit for himself related to the pandemic such as the rapid development of vaccines, while deflecting any personal blame for the pandemic. He said if anybody but him were President -- "according to almost everybody, even the enemy" -- it would have taken at least 5 years to develop the vaccines (link). LOL. 😁  Raising his hand and pointing up, he shows his eagerness to say something well before the reporter pauses talking.  

Congress will meet January 6, 2021 about accepting or rejecting the Electoral College vote. It will be very, very newsworthy and noisier than a New Years Eve party in 1999.

Friday, December 25, 2020

A posteriori and a priori #1

Frankenstein is the 1818 novel written by English author Mary Shelley that tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a hideous sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. The monster has some, but not all, ordinary human characteristics.

The nature of the human mind according to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant has some parallels to the nature of Frankenstein’s monster. The cognitive aspect of mind Kant depicts as human is not an ordinary human mind. This is so regarding Kant’s a posteriori – a priori distinction. A priori and a posteriori ('from the earlier' and 'from the later', respectively) are Latin phrases used in philosophy to identify two types of knowledge, justification, or argument, characterized by the use of empirical evidence found in experience (a posteriori) or the lack thereof (a priori).

If Kant had kept closer to the Latin meaning of a priori, his theory of cognition would have differed. However, this is not how he made his distinction – nor is it -- twofold. According to Kant human a posteriori cognition is empirical, based on the content of experience. His distinction is threefold. Kant held that a priori knowledge is not entirely independent of the content of experience. However, he held that a priori cognition, in its pure form, that is without the admixture of any empirical content, is limited to the deduction of the conditions of possible experience. These pure a priori, or transcendental conditions, are seated in one's cognitive faculties, and are not provided by experience in general or any experience in particular (although an argument exists that a priori intuitions can be "triggered" by experience).

The reproductive and productive imagination that Kant discussed in his Critique of Pure Reason produce determinate (rule-governed) judgments. Kant's thoughts on the creative imagination, which produces indeterminate (non-rule-governed) judgments, as set down in his Critique of Judgment.

Judgment in general is the ability to think the particular as contained under the universal. If the universal (the rule, principle, law) is given, then judgment, which subsumes the particular under it, is determinative (even though [in its role] as transcendental judgment it states a priori the conditions that must be met for subsumption under the universal to be possible). But if only the particular is given and judgment has to find the general for it, then this power is merely reflective.(Critique of Judgment, 179).

Reflective judgments "do not constitute acts of knowledge, since they do not involve the determinate structuring of a field of representations according to a definite concept. Reflection is an imaginative activity in which the mind 'plays over' various representations (percepts, images, concepts) in search of possible ways that they might be organized, although this process is free from the control of the understanding (which is the faculty that supplies concepts)" (Johnson 1987,158).

In reflective judgment, there is no previous, given concept that is automatically applied to experience. This ability to generate new concepts and new organization in our experience is not guided by any concept that guarantees success, but it results in novel ideas that can make sense (Jetton 1991).

I don’t consider this very problematic. Kant’s pure a priori is the problem.

For the following I retain the Latin meanings. A posteriori means experienced, i.e. retrospective. A priori means prospective and experimental. The distinction will not be limited like Kant’s to knowledge, justification, or argument. It will be about cognition more widely, including what Kant called imagination or reflective judgment.

Consider trying to do some action X that you have done very successfully in your past experience. You wish to perform a future action that ist very similar to X under present, similar conditions. You consider how action X could be modified to X* to better fit the partly different present conditions. In other words, X is known a posteriori and X* is largely a posteriori but also partly a priori.

Another useful distinction is between identical – with exceptions for time and location – and similar. ‘Similar’ means identical in some respects but not all. Of course, there are degrees of similarity.

That is a very abstract thesis. One or more future posts will be more concrete.


Jetton, M. 1991. Imagination and Cognition. Objectivity 1.3. Online:

Kant, I. 1987 [1790]. Critique of Judgment. W.S. Pluhar, translator. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Teen: "Math isn't real" Revisited

Three months ago I commented on a teenager who made a video saying “Math isn’t real.” Link. The video went viral. She also said the math she learned in school is real. She was obviously confused and naive. She asked three related questions: 
1. How did people come up with algebraic formulas?
2. How did they know what they were looking for?
3. How did they know they were correct?

I gave answers to them then. However, yesterday something else occurred to me about the second question. Why did she assume one has to know what one is looking for in order to find it?

Maybe it is partly her age and experience. Being a teenager, searching on the Internet became a common activity before she was born. She likely does it a lot. For that activity, one does need to be aware of what one is looking for in order to find it. Sometimes when one is looking for something quite specific, one has to already be aware of exactly what one is looking for. Else the search engine returns can overwhelm what one is looking for. What you are looking for will be buried deep in the stack and thus hard to find. Whereas using optimal search terms will put what you are looking for at the top of the stack or close thereto.

I learned that when I did a search about myself and something specific. What I was looking for was very local news. Hence, it was reported in only one not widely read publication. Searching only for my name on Google, there were 1500 hits. That's with a very unique name (first and last together). What I was looking for was well below the middle of the stack. Searching for my name and two more terms, what I was looking for was on top of the stack. Imagine the more general search had millions of hits.  

This may seem like an insignificant point. However, it is more significant from a philosophical perspective. It is an aspect of Empiricism. Experience shapes and limits knowledge.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Moral debate per Alasdair MacIntyre

In After Virtue Alasdair MacIntyre asks, What salient characteristics do debates and disagreements about morality share? He says there are three kinds.

"The first is what I shall call, adapting an expression from the philosophy of science, the conceptual incommensurability of the rival arguments in each of the three debates. Every one of the arguments is logically valid or can be easily expanded so as to be made so; the conclusions do follow from the premises. But the rival premises are such that we possess no rational weighing the claims of one as against another. For each premise employs some quite different normative or evaluative concept from the others, so that the claims made upon us are of quite different kinds. In the first argument, for example, premises which invoke justice and innocence are at odds with premises that invoke success and survival; in the second,  premises which invoke rights are at odds with those that invoke universalizability; in the third it is the claim of equality that is matched against liberty. It is precisely because there is in society no established way of deciding between these claims that moral argument appears to be necessarily interminable. From our rival conclusions we can argue back to our rival premises; but when we do arrive at our premises argument ceases and the invocation of one premise against another becomes a matter of pure assertion and counter-assertion. Hence perhaps the slightly shrill tone of so much moral debate" (p. 8, pb). 

"A second, equally important, but contrasting, characteristic of these arguments is that they do none the less purport to be impersonal rational arguments" (p.8).

"A third salient characteristic of contemporary moral debate is intimately related to the first two. It is easy to see that the different conceptually incommensurable premises of the rival arguments deployed in these debates have a wide variety of historical origins. The concept of justice in the first argument has its roots in Aristotle's account of the virtues; the second argument's genealogy runs through Bismarck and Clausewitz to Machiavelli; the concept of liberation in the the third argument has shallow roots in Marx, deeper roots in Fichte. In the second debate a concept of rights which has Lockean antecedents is matched against a view of universality which is recognizably Kantian and an appeal to the moral law, which is Thomist. In the third debate an argument which owes debts to T.H. Green and to Rousseau and competes with one which has Adam Smith as a grandfather" (p. 10).  

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Two Articles by Walter Williams, RIP

Sadly, Walter E. Williams died December 1 at age 84. Here is a tribute to Mr. Williams by the great Thomas Sowell (90 years old).
'Correct Diagnostics Needed’ is a recent article by Mr. Williams.

Costs Must Be Weighed Against Benefits’ is another.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Schumer and Warren yearn for a dictator

Senators Chuck Schumer (link) and Elizabeth Warren (link) yearn for a dictator. They want Joe Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt per person, and they want him to do so by Executive Order -- bypass Congress and just do it. Apparently they did not learn, have forgotten, or don't care that the Executive Branch is for executing the law, not making it. It is Congress's role to make law. That follows the principle of separation of powers. A primary definition of "execute" in most dictionaries is to carry out or put in effect, not to create or make.

Even the left-leaning Brookings Institution said Biden shouldn’t listen to Schumer and Warren on student loans. The objection was not based on separation of powers. "Many student loan borrowers are advantaged, well-educated high earners. About 56 percent of student debt is owed by those with masters or professional degrees, and almost 35 percent of loan balances are owed by individuals in the top 20 percent of the income distribution. Many student-borrowers need relief, but well-off borrowers who are thriving — thanks, no doubt, to their college degrees — do not."

Even the Washington Compost is against itI doubt it is based on separation of powers. I don't subscribe to the Compost, so I couldn't read the article.   

Joe Biden has proposed only cancelling up to $10,000 (link). He might also accept an income cap, such as $125,000, or limiting it to undergraduate debt. More significant -- and unlike Schumer and Warren -- he wants Congress to make the law.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

A Metaphysics for Freedom #8

My final post of this series gives my personal comments on the book A Metaphysics for Freedom by Helen Steward.

Overall I thought it was very good and well worth reading. I think the book could have been significantly shorter. She spends many words saying what she is going to say later in the book. She repeats in only slightly different words. She often expresses things tentatively, using lengthy clauses and sometimes entire sentences to do so.

Regardless, I believe her broad thesis is sound. Hard determinism assumes a lot, more than it delivers. Physics has nothing to say about goals, motives, and intentions, nor language. The concept of agency in its many and various ways, including when not limited to humans, is needed to give a plausible or better understanding of our complex existence.

Steward bases her case for agency on an animal's ability of moving its body, wholly or parts. The sort of movements she means is not entirely clear, but it seems she mostly means moving its entire body to a different place. I believe her case could be made somewhat stronger by tying some of those bodily movements to perceptual or sensual capacities. Examples are moving the eyes or head, ears, or nose to direct more attention to something visual, auditory, olfactory, or thermal in the environment. More specific ones include the eyes of a falcon, the nose of a bear, and the ears of a fox. Such movements are instrumental to the animal's survival or well-being -- for food, water, or safety.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Coronavirus - vaccine development

The Vaccine Story’s Heroes Do Not Fit the Liberal Narrative


"Moderna had hundreds of vials of its vaccine shipped to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland by February 24. Everything that has happened since — 1.4 million deaths worldwide, crippling lockdowns — has gone on while we were waiting for that vaccine to be tested, approved, and distributed."

"Moderna’s testing was slowed for a critical juncture by demands to include more racial minorities in the trials."  

I guess the demands came from the FDA. Regardless, clinical trials were yet to be done, and they take a long time. Reference: Coronavirus – clinical trials #2

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Coronavirus -vaccine approval

The U.S. FDA drags its feet and the UK acts quickly to grant emergency use authorization to the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. 

Dr. Marty Makary [Johns Hopkins University] blasts FDA timetable to approve coronavirus vaccine: 'Why are they waiting three weeks?'

TheHill Nov. 28: UK to approve Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine next week

Update Dec. 2, 2020.

"LONDON — Britain gave emergency authorization on Wednesday to Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine"

The European Union authorities say they will decide by December 29.

"White House officials reportedly summoned FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn [nominated by Trump Nov. 2019] to the West Wing earlier this week for an explanation as to why the U.S. still has not granted emergency use authorization to Pfizer, which applied for FDA approval late last month."

“We are one of the few regulatory agencies in the world, if not the only one, that actually looks at the raw data from clinical trials,” Hahn told CBS News on Wednesday. “So we’re not going to take a summary from a company and take their conclusions and base our decision on that.”