Downgrading Hungary’s ’56 Uprising

Ervin Kulcsár of the Vitézi Rend delivered a xenophobic speech at HungaroFest in Toronto

H & H: Horthy had established the “Vitézi Rend” in 1920
Insignia of the “Vitézi Rend”

Well, well, a simple-minded bigot, and member of a fascistoid organization (Vitézi Rend) has been invited (by whom? why?) to give a talk at an event commemorating the 1956 Hungarian uprising.

Apart from making some incoherent, triumphalist remarks about the “freedom fighters” (even then a mixed crew of genuine democrats alongside crypto- and overt fascists and xenophobes), this grateful “$5 immigrant” (whatever that means) — who in the ensuing 6 decades managed to earn a living in his new home, but not to learn its language — uses the occasion to malign subsequent generations of immigrants to the country that generously and humanely took him in, managing to insult Canada’s current Parliamentary Secretary of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Arif Vinari, in the process.

And this shameful spectacle was no doubt orchestrated and bankrolled by Hungary’s current fascistoid, anti-immigrant government. What an irony! Hungary has long lost whatever admiration it inspired in the rest of the world in ’56. Kulcsár is right that (some) Hungarians are different. But not in the way he imagines…

Tree Hugger (2)

“If you love trees, don’t read The Overstory: it will break your heart.  I kept having to put it down to read something else.”

Yes, I love trees, and, yes, it breaks my heart, whether or not they are sentient (or essential in the support of planetary life).

The wanton way we exploit and destroy trees, whether or not they are sentient, is of a piece with the wanton way we exploit and destroy animals (nonhuman and human) even though they are sentient.

We destroy art that way too (the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan) but there the only victims (if any) are the art’s creators and admirers, not the art.


Although I don’t think trees feel, I share your feelings about trees, Simon.

And whether or not they are feeling, plants are certainly living; and treating them like inert materials feels wanton.

Not to mention the dependence on them of all life — sentient and insentient.

Life is a product of evolution — Dawkins’s “Blind Watchmaker” — who is blind not just in the sense of lacking foresight and design, but in lacking moral sense (or any sense).

Evolution is merciless, psychopathic. Life feeds on itself, literally.

And although no one knows what the causal function of sentience is (the very query has been dubbed “the hard problem.” it is indisputable that sentience evolved, hence it must have conferred adaptive advantages.

The advent of sentience was also the advent of suffering.

But the advent also of compassion, at least in some sentient species — chiefly, I think, the mammals and birds and other species that did not just split in order to reproduce, like microbes, or lay and leave countless eggs, like turtles, but spawned only a few helpless (“altricial”) young that had to be cared for to survive. Thus was empathy born — and that “mind-reading” ability that is perhaps the most acute in our own species, paradoxically the most monstrous as well as the most merciful of them all.

So it’s a complex problem on which you are embarking, Simon, in pleading for mercy for trees. Not the “hard problem,” but a heart-rending one, coupled as it is with the fate of all living creatures, suffering or not.

Moral Necessity

“gastronomically necessary”? 
On Tom Nagel’s review of Christine Kosgaard’s book, Fellow Creatures: Our Obligations to the Other Animals.
Philosophers’ make commendable (but unavailing) efforts to rationalize (and even formalize) morality.
It’s all much simpler than all this, but I haven’t the time to sketch it long-hand.
The only biological necessity (vital interest) is survival and freedom from suffering.
it is sentient living organisms who have vital interests.
There can be conflicts between the vital interests of different sentients (e.g, predator and prey).
The only moral imperative is to not cause unnecessary suffering.
Taste is not a vital interest.


When I was 9 or 10, I used to feel sorry for bus transfers and candy-wrappers. I felt it was wrong to throw them in the garbage as if — as if they were just objects. So my mother kept a drawer in her office in which I could put them. They grew for several years, until I realized what I had really been feeling. I became a vegetarian when I turned 17, and told my mother she could empty that drawer now. But it was only in 2012, when I was 67, that I became a vegan and realized what I should be doing — and what I should really have been doing, all along.
Anthropomorphism — natural in children — is what makes humans humane. Easily cultivated, easily ignored, easily snuffed out.

Trump’s Korean Kaklomacy

One finds oneself almost — but not quite — wishing that Trump’s Korean kaklomacy fizzles. But one must suppose, I suppose, that nuclear war is a greater menace than the metastasis of Trump’s vulgar, ignorant, infantile, egocentric, amoral and anarchic buffoonery.


Explaining Feeling

All we have to do… is to define ‘consciousness’ explicitly to mean what you call ‘feeling’ (I usually use the word ‘experience’ to avoid ‘conscious’, and define ‘experience’ accordingly). We know what we mean!

A conscious/mental/experiential/phenomenological/subjective state is a state that it feels like something to be in. Hence I prefer to stick to feeling: its much the simplest, most direct and face-valid descriptor.

I think [stones] may be constituted of experientiality.

It feels like something to be a stone? (Or a part of a stone?)

I can even accept ‘decorative’. I understand this to mean that classical zombies are logically possible even though Kirk zombies aren’t.

I think leptons, stones, toasters — and probably also microbes and plants — are zombies. But I can’t explain how and why we (sometimes) aren’t. (It never feels like anything to be them, but it [sometimes] feels like something to be us.) (“Decorative” because we cannot explain feeling’s function.)

Mistake to think [feeling] is a theoretical ‘cost’, for [1] radical emergence is a greater theoretical cost, [2] non-feeling reality is already a cost, because it’s a unwarranted theoretical posit.

I have no problem with molecules and stones and toasters and microbes and plants being zombies. Nothing to explain. Their states are unfelt. I have enormous problems explaining how or why other organisms are not zombies too. But they’re not. Having (genetically coded) traits is surely more costly than not having them.

the biologist doesn’t need an explanation for the very existence of feeling, and has an excellent explanation for the existence of feeling tuned to serve adaptive purposes.

I have yet to hear that adaptive explanation; if (as I believe) feeling is a biological trait, it does need a causal (adaptive) explanation.

One useful terminological option here is to define ‘mind’ in such a way that feeling doesn’t entail mind (see e.g. Russell, perhaps also Damasio) … feeling is v low-level, mind is essentially useful in some way

Hi or lo, I see no causal explanation of this “usefulness.” It’s doings, and the capacity for doing them, that are useful. And if a state is not felt, I have no idea what is meant by calling it mental (and vice versa).

[feeling is physicists’] problem insofar as they propose to offer a general theory of concrete reality

It seems to me feeling’s just biologists’ problem, just as, say, digestion or photosynthesis is. No new physics there.

[functing, ordinary causal explanation, whether in physics or in biology] doesn’t explain the existence of non-feeling matter … to explain that, one would need to answer the question ‘Why is there something rather than nothing’?

Here I show my non-metaphysicians’ pedestrianism: Try as I might, I can’t help but feel that that sort of onticism is otiose.

the view that consciousness is everywhere but isn’t all there is) is [1] independently motivated and [2] explains this for free. Biological evolution sometimes produces an organism O that is not simply made of feeling stuff, in such a way that it (O) isn’t itself a subject of experience, but is also itself a subject of experience, be it is adaptive.

Unfortunately, to my naive realists’ ears this sounds more speculative (and complicated) than explicative. Shouldn’t the explanans be simpler than the explanandum? All I wanted was to know how and why (some) organisms (sometimes) feel rather than just funct!

Aesthetics and Adaptation

It’s not really adaptationist selection vs (female) aesthetic selection. The best way to understand it is to set aside birds and birdsong and plumage and vision and hearing and sexual selection and just consider (gustatory) taste:

What is an organism, and what is “environment”? We feel like eating because we feel hungry. It feels like something to be hungry, and it feels like something to slake your hunger on food you can consume. (These are called the proximal stimuli.) So we have a taste for the nutritious and an aversion for the toxic. But things come in degrees and variety. So an organism’s taste co-evolves with what’s available in the environment, and that co-evolution includes Baldwinian evolution (evolved propensity to learn and do things that did us good): we discover fire and cooking, we accidentally burn some food, it tastes good to our current (evolved) taste-detectors; then this opens up many new targets for eating that would not have been edible if raw; we start to experiment with cooking them, and even cultivating them, and we manage to feed ourselves better and more, and our tastes change because of this change, to adapt to the new landscape we’ve created. But there’s no adaptive advantage to the (vegan) lentil soup I happen to prefer over fried tofu. Nor to Beethoven over Spohr (at least until Trump de-funds and stigmatizes Beethoven and subsidizes social events and performances featuring Spohr, and his successor dynasty of presidents, Ivanka, Barron, et al., keep following suit, promoting and rewarding the preference…)

With birdsong and plumage, it’s two genders doing the tango. The “environment” for the male is the female’s current preference mechanism; the “environment” for the female is the male’s current anatomical and performance resources. Of course they keep co-evolving. But it’s not adaptationist pragmatics versus arbitrary subjective aesthetics. The current “tastes” are just a rough, provisional (evolved) preference mechanism, grounded in its adaptiveness, but leaving lots of degrees of freedom, flexibility for evolution and co-evolution. (Including learned taste preferences — which can then go on to become inborn dispositions, by Baldwinian evolution…)

Two principles I’ve noticed with evolution: Natural selection does not like to make behavior too rigid, nor even to pre-encode much of it. If anything can be off-loaded on predictable environmental cues rather than being inflexibly encoded in the genes, it will be. That means that at any particular time there is a lot of variety, genetically and behaviorally. This is evident already in the huge genetic variance among individuals (and its ultimate advantages, in the long run); recombinant DNA itself. It’s evident in neoteny, where evolution, rather than being driven only or mainly by mutations, often just capitalizes on the existing variation, for example, accelerating or slowing existing developmental patterns if they prove useful.

So there’s an adaptive bottom line, but a lot of the actual action is in the available run-time degrees of freedom.

The key is to remember that female tastes are not sui generis: They were shaped (roughly) by adaptive consequences, but with a lot of wiggle room. The wiggle room we call, among other things, aesthetics.

Michael Ryan and Sarah Wooley might be touching on some of this at The other minds problem: animal sentience and cognition

The Unpardonable: Can You Face It?

Is there anything on earth that could justify this monstrous cruelty? that could excuse doing this to countless innocent, terrified creatures every single day? for the taste? for the taste? shame. shame and horror.

A short life of relentless misery, deprivation, fear and pain, followed by a cramped 2-day transport nightmare of starvation, thirst, cold, injury and terror, to face a final paroxysm of horror and pain as the price for release from the man-made hell inflicted on them from birth — because we must have our bacon, our ham, our rib, our pork chop.

By scale, this is already humanity’s greatest crime. 10,000 per day at Fearman’s alone, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.