Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 1st, 2022

‘They’re Just Going to Let Me Die?’ One Woman’s Abortion Odyssey

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Men should not be passing laws on abortion. This long read from the NY Times (gift link, no paywall) tells a harrowing story:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Madison Underwood was lying on the ultrasound table, nearly 19 weeks pregnant, when the doctor came in to say her abortion had been canceled.

Nurses followed and started wiping away lukewarm sonogram gel from her exposed belly as the doctor leaned over her shoulder to speak to her fiancé, Adam Queen.

She recalled that she went quiet, her body went still. What did they mean, they couldn’t do the abortion? Just two weeks earlier, she and her fiance had learned her fetus had a condition that would not allow it to survive outside the womb. If she tried to carry to term, she could become critically ill, or even die, her doctor had said. Now, she was being told she couldn’t have an abortion she didn’t even want, but needed.

“They’re just going to let me die?” she remembers wondering.

In the blur around her, she heard the doctor and nurses talking about a clinic in Georgia that could do the procedure now that the legal risks of performing it in Tennessee were too high.

She heard her fiancé curse, and with frustration in his voice, tell the doctor this was stupid. She heard the doctor agree.

Just three days earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the constitutional right to abortion. A Tennessee law passed in 2020 that banned abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy had been blocked by a court order but could go into effect.

Ms. Underwood never thought any of this would affect her. She was 22 and excited to start a family with Mr. Queen, who was 24.

She and Mr. Queen had gone back and forth for days before deciding to terminate the pregnancy. She was dreading the abortion. She had cried in the car pulling up to the clinic. She had heard about the Supreme Court undoing Roe v. Wade but thought that since she had scheduled her abortion before the decision, and before any state ban took effect, the procedure would be allowed.

Tennessee allows abortion if a woman’s life is in danger, but doctors feared making those decisions too soon and facing prosecution. Across the country, the legal landscape was shifting so quickly, some abortion clinics turned patients away before the laws officially took effect or while legal battles played out in state courts.

Century-old bans hanging around on the books were activated, but then just as quickly were under dispute. In states where abortion was still legal, wait times at clinics spiked as women from states with bans searched for alternatives.

It was into this chaos that Ms. Underwood was sent home, still pregnant, and reeling. What would happen now? The doctor said . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

1 August 2022 at 11:24 am

In praise of aphorisms

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Andrew Hui, associate professor in literature at Yale-NUS College in Singapore and author of The Poetics of Ruins in Renaissance Literature (2016) and A Theory of the Aphorism (2019), has an interesting essay on the aphorism as a philosophical device, but aphorisms enliven and encapsulate discourse beyond philosophy. One famous example is Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr’s dictum “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” Another example, so far less famous (since I wrote it just minutes ago) is “A routine is a ritual that has lost its soul — or has not yet found it.” (That now is in my post on Covey’s method.)

Hui writes in Aeon:

Atypical university course in the history of philosophy surveys the great thinkers of Western civilisation as a stately procession from Plato to Aristotle to Descartes to Kant to Hegel to Nietzsche. These magnificent intellects offer their ideas in weighty philosophical tomes, stuffed with chiselled definitions, well-reasoned arguments and sustained critiques. In turn, instructors present the grand narrative of ideas to a new generation of students.

Immanuel Kant typifies this magisterial approach. In the closing pages of his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), the German philosopher narrates the history of Western philosophy from Plato to Aristotle to Locke to Leibniz to himself as a series of attempts to construct systems. Indeed, he is nothing if not a scrupulous architect of thought:

By an architectonic I mean the art of systems. Since systematic unity is what first turns common cognition into science.

That is, science turns what is a mere aggregate of random thoughts into something coherent. Only then can philosophy become a doctrine or method of judgment of what is knowledge and what is not. No systems, no real philosophy.

But might there be more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in Kant’s philosophy? What happens when we consider the history of philosophy not from the point of system-building, but through an alternative account that pays attention to the fragments of thinking?

Consider Heraclitus’ ‘Nature loves to hide’; Blaise Pascal’s ‘The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me’; or Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘If a temple is to be erected, a temple must be destroyed.’ Heraclitus comes before and against Plato and Aristotle, Pascal after and against René Descartes, Nietzsche after and against Kant and G W F Hegel. Might the history of thought be actually driven by aphorism?

Much of the history of Western philosophy can be narrated as a series of attempts to construct systems. Conversely, much of the history of aphorisms can be narrated as an animadversion, a turning away from such grand systems through the construction of literary fragments. The philosopher creates and critiques continuous lines of argument; the aphorist, on the other hand, composes scattered lines of intuition. One moves in a chain of logic; the other by leaps and bounds.

Before the birth of Western philosophy proper, there was the aphorism. In ancient Greece, the short sayings of Anaximander, Xenophanes, Parmenides or Heraclitus constitute the first efforts at speculative thinking, but they are also something to which Plato and Aristotle are hostile. Their enigmatic pronouncements elude discursive analysis. They refuse to be corralled into systematic order. No one would deny that their pithy statements might be wise; but Plato and Aristotle were ambivalent about them. They have no rigour at all – they are just the scattered utterances of clever men.

Here is Plato’s critique of Heraclitus:

If you ask any one of them a question, he will pull out some little enigmatic phrase from his quiver and shoot it off at you; and if you try to make him give an account of what he has said, you will only get hit by another, full of strange turns of language.

For Plato, the Heracliteans’ stratagem of continual evasion is a problem because they constantly produce new aphorisms in order to subvert closure. In this sense, Heraclitus is opposed to Plato in at least two fundamental ways: first, his doctrine of flux is contrary to the theory of Forms; and second, the impression one gets is that his thinking is solitary, monologic, misanthropic, whereas Plato is always social, dialogic, inviting.

Plato’s repudiation of his predecessor’s gnomic style signals an important stage in the development of ancient philosophy: the transition from oracular enunciation to argumentative discourse, obscurity to clarity, and thus the marginalisation of the aphoristic style in favour of sustained logical arguments. From Socrates onward, there would simply be no philosophy without proof or argument.

Yet I think it is possible to defend Heraclitus against Plato’s attack. Perplexity arising from enigmatic sayings need not necessarily lead one to seizures of thinking. On the contrary, it can catalyse productive inquiry. Take this well-known saying: . . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more.

Written by Leisureguy

1 August 2022 at 10:35 am

Inside the British Columbia Parliament building

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BC Parliament building, click to enlarge; Photo by JG.pixel –

Written by Leisureguy

1 August 2022 at 9:52 am

Posted in Art, Daily life, Government

Ousia and a reprise of the iKon Stainless Slant

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Ousia is an interesting concept. From Wikipedia:

Ousia (Ancient Greek: οὐσία) is an important philosophical and theological term, originally used in ancient Greek philosophy, then later in Christian theology. It was used by various ancient Greek philosophers, like Plato and Aristotle, as a primary designation for philosophical concepts of essence or substance. In contemporary philosophy, it is analogous to English concepts of being and ontic. In Christian theology, the concept of θεία ουσία (divine essence) is one of the most important doctrinal concepts, central to the development of trinitarian doctrine.

The Ancient Greek term ousia was translated in Latin as essentia or substantia, and hence in English as essence or substance. . . has more:

In classical Greek philosophy, ousia (a noun derived from the present participle of the Greek verb “to be”) most often expresses one or another of four closely connected concepts: (1) what something is in itself, its being or essence; (2) an entity which is what it is, at least with respect to essential attributes, on its own and without dependence on any more fundamental entity of another type outside itself (in Plato’s middle dialogues, the forms; for Aristotle, substance; for the Stoics, the material substrate); (3) for Plato, being as opposed to becoming; and (4) for the Stoics in some instances, existence as opposed to nonexistence. Depending on the context, ousia may be translated as “being,” “essence,” “reality,” or “substance.”

Employed in ordinary Greek to speak of a person’s wealth and possessions, the word ousia was put to philosophical use by Plato in his early dialogue Euthyphro to state a requirement on definitions. Asked what piety is, Euthyphro answers that it is what is loved by all the gods. Socrates responds with a clear statement of concept (1), saying that Euthyphro has mentioned merely something that qualifies piety externally and has failed to give the ousia of piety, what it is in itself that leads the gods to love it.

The transition from concept (1) to concept (2) occurs most clearly in the Phaedo, a dialogue of Plato’s middle period. There the character Socrates introduces several forms, including the just itself and the beautiful itself, and speaks of them as the ousia of other things, in the sense that other things become just or beautiful, for example, only by participation in, or dependence on, the corresponding form. Each such form is an ousia according to concept (2), a being or reality that is always the same and unchanging, an object of thought rather than sensation.

In the Republic a similar picture obtains, but there . . .

Click to enlarge

And there’s much more, but now to the Ousia of the moment: a special edition of Grooming Dept’s Kairos-formula shaving soap that includes lamb tallow and emu oil. And, like so many Grooming Dept soaps, it’s wonderful.

Scent Notes: – Fennel, Crystallized Mandarin, Ginger, Immortelle, Tobacco, Vanilla, and Vetiver.

As soon as I lathered up, I made a mental note to bring this soap out more often. Wonderful lather, today made with Mühle’s Gen 2 synthetic. 

(I know that Grooming Dept’s website is now out of stock on most of his soaps (though some are still available), so I suggest you check the dealers who carry Grooming Dept products. They often have stock that the website doesn’t, including soaps and the wonderful Moisturizing Pre-Shave.)

I just used iKon’s stainless slant, but it is so good I had to return to it again right away, and for a Monday shave. For me, now that I know its best angle, this is a thoroughly enjoyable razor, which excels not only in comfort and efficiency but also in materials, manufacture, workmanship, and (for me) aesthetics.

Three passes did a superb job, and a splash of Pashana, with a couple of squirts of Hydrating Gel, finished the shave to perfection. 

And since today is the first of the month, I got a FutureMe letter from a year ago, and I’ve written a response to be delivered a year hence. This is a pleasant ritual that helps me see progress (or a need for it) in various areas.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Royal Grey: “Currants and cream with a twist of bergamot, a modern take on the timeless Earl Grey.”

Written by Leisureguy

1 August 2022 at 9:34 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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