Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Albert Einstein

«— Touché
—» Hellenic Stream-of-Consciousness

Connection Reset by Peer

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This is it. Today is the last day. Farewell, Technical Support Center. I will miss all of my coworkers. Clue rating for my customers: ranging from none to barely aware of their own cluelessness. Likelihood that I will miss talking to them everyday: not very much at all. Oh, wait, is that a twinge of pain? Oh. No, it’s just an itch in my crotch.

*** basil has quit: Connection reset by peer. ***

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Filed under: — Basil @ 11:49 am

«— ack.
—» Connection Reset by Peer

Touché

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Wayne responds to my earlier blog about his proposal. My first response is, “You are obviously deep in research on your proposal, whereas I have not done any serious philosphy since I graduated in 1997.” (Read: I’m rusty.)

However, this statement stands out: “Moreover, how would one even verify that first person reports are generally correct?” I think perhaps this is really the crux of my discomfort. Essentially, questioning an agent’s reports about internal processes gets into competing argumentia ad ignorantia. In general, we trust a person’s reports about internal states, unless we know that individual to be unreliable in toto, because we have no means of objective disconfirmation.

That’s not really a response. I need to digest more of Wayne’s blog. That’s more of a note on the smell of the food.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 1:09 pm

«— Exchanging God for Kizmet
—» Touché

ack.

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To all who care: My posts have been sparse — though I’m trying to not make the mistake of forgetting my blog entirely — mostly because I have mucho, mucho things that I’m doing right now. A non-exhaustive list: my resume, graphics design pro bono for a client, and my church is moving to a new space, with all the work that a move entails. (If you’ve never moved a church, it’s like moving a family, except the family is bigger.) Plus, I’m on the ad hoc committee charged with designing and purchasing a sign for the parish.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:24 pm

«— Repent! The Lizard is for Users!
—» ack.

Exchanging God for Kizmet

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Well-meaning friend: Cheer up, Basil. There’s someone out there for you.
Basil: Hmm?
WMF: God has someone out there just for you.
B: What makes you think that?
WMF: God has that “one” person out there for everyone.
B: I’m Orthodox. I happen to think celibacy is a perfectly legitmate form of sexuality. You seem to be working from at least one faulty presupposition.
WMF: You don’t believe that God has someone out there for you?
B: I’ve been in love before. Perhaps one of them was that one?
WMF: [silence]
B: Have you ever thought of how manipulative God would need to be in order for your romantic notion to work? Once you get down to the metaphysical nuts-and-bolts of it all, the warm, fuzzy feeling kinda goes away. You would have to be a robot, you see. God would have to be directing your every action.
WMF: [silence]
B: And, if God is indeed like this, my experience is that he is not good. If he is responsible for everything in my life, I’m not sure he’s worthy of my respect, much less my love and my worship.
WMF: [silence]
B: OK. Well, thanks. But I’m not a fatalist.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 11:20 am

«— The Unknowable Knower
—» Exchanging God for Kizmet

Repent! The Lizard is for Users!

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Asa : “I don’t have any usability data to back up my claim either but it seems pretty obvious to me…” blah blah blah, lots of blather that is neither obvious nor intuitive.

User interaction design means thinking outside the box of user interfaces. Looking at interaction from different angles increases the possibility of solutions that increase an interface’s usability. Repeat after me:
User interaction != user interface

From this perspective, broken pages are a usability problem. User Foo goes to a page written badly (say, using a poor joke of a WYSIWYG HTML generator, like FrontPage). In the dominant product, Internet Explorer, the page works just fine. In the browser that does not ship with my computer and is a pain to install (from the end-user perspective), the page does not display correctly. Why would I think the problem is with the browser that is simple to use because it’s a seamless part of the operating system? That’s the browser that’s displaying the page “correctly”!

Better example: user Bar goes to a page designed using another wussy-wig application, say Dreamweaver. It has all sorts of JavaScript inserted to do important things, like say, submit the form on the page. Let’s further pretend that the user really needs this form to work. It’s a form on her bank’s website. The page designer has tested it in Netscape 4.7 and Internet Explorer 4x and above. It does nary a thing in Mozilla. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilcho. What end-user is not going to think, “That’s a nasty bug. I guess Mozilla’s not ready for prime-time”? Only the power-user that’s a Mozilla evangelist with enough time and energy to sift through the steaming piles of MM_foo scripts and enough knowledge to find the non-ECMA/non–W3C-DOM objects and functions.

Thus, this is a top usability problem for Mozilla. It is a usability problem because it prevents users from using the browser for their daily operations. The answer? The answer certainly is not making Mozilla act badly, though recent checkins would appear to suggest that drivers@mozilla.org think otherwise.

mpt is simply suggesting a simple element in the UI to indicate to the user when the problems are not Mozilla’s fault. The happy standards evangelist, free with your download of Mozilla!

Of course, Asa will remind me that Mozilla is only made available for testing. It’s not for end-users. What bosh.

So, for everyone else besides Asa (who either won’t care or has already read them), some things to read:

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Filed under: — Basil @ 10:30 am

«— Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump.
—» Repent! The Lizard is for Users!

The Unknowable Knower

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Wane Olson proposes that the human intellect is such that it does not have “priveleged access” to its own processes. Specifically, Wayne is proposing that the human mind is incapable of reliably reporting the process of forming beliefs. He plans to support this thesis with insights from current cognitive science and psychology. This sounds familiar: It is a fundamental tenet of human interface engineering that users should not be trusted to report reliably on their own actions and processes.

The paradox, it seems to me, is this: If I do not have priveleged access to the process within my own mind of forming beliefs, it is impossible for any external observer to have that access. External agents can only make inferences about the mental processes of other agents. Thus, judgments by external agents only probable and susceptible to degrees of error. It becomes impossible, then, to know how we form beliefs, and therefore, impossible to know how we know anything. Therefore, arguing that the human mind is incapable of accurately reporting on its own belief-forming process renders the field of epistemology irrelevant — little more than the fantasies of people who do not understand human nature.

This, in turn, makes it impossible to claim knowledge in the first place. At least, it’s impossible with the old foundationalism.

I am very interested in Wayne’s project. He has already made it clear that he is neither a fideist nor a foundationalist. He has not mentioned Reformed epistemology, and I cannot tell if he is familiar with Alvin Plantinga. (Bluntly, I’m not sure he will be able to construct a credible account of warrant if he follows his current line of thought.) Additionally, he is pointing to W. V. O. Quine as significant in the field, without pointing to responses to Quine that have come more recently, like Plantinga’s.

But then, he’s only published a proposal for a paper, not the paper itself.

It will be interesting to see if Wayne will be able to posit a “fourth way” for epistemology. He clearly does not believe that his work will mean the end of epistemology. I’m not quite so confident.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 12:21 pm

«— Stirring Up Trouble
—» The Unknowable Knower

Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump.

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I think I hear a heartbeat! Perhaps he lives yet.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 1:16 pm

«— Let’s Try This Again
—» Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump.

Stirring Up Trouble

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There appears to be quite a discussion over at Chris’ blog. I was going to ignore it altogether, but then I realized that Chris allows you to add comments. Fun.

Anyway, a comment by James got me thinking about the relationship of Scripture to the Logos, or Word, of God. James refers to his grace, Bp. Kallistos, saying that the Bible is about the word of God but not itself the word of God. Since I’m not sure to which of his grace’s writings James refers, I went looking. I found an electronic version of his How to Read the Bible, originally published in the Orthodox Study Bible. Although perhaps not the reference James was alluding to, it opens with an interesting statement,

We believe that the Scriptures constitute a coherent whole. They are at once divinely inspired and humanly expressed. They bear authoritative witness to God’s revelation of Himself — in creation, in the Incarnation of the Word, and the whole history of salvation. And as such they express the word of God in human language.

That seems to make a very strong coupling between the word of God and the Scriptures. Moreover, there is a canon in the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea II) that essentially says (paraphrase): “The ikons are the Word of God expressed in images. What the Scriptures express in words, the holy ikons express in images.”

I have always wondered about the importance of saying that the Scriptures are the Word of God. It seems to come down to authority. The Scriptures must have authority for the Christian. Yet, that authority does not find its expression in the interaction of the individual person with the Scriptures, but with the interaction of the whole assembly — the Church — with the Scriptures. For the Church, the Scriptures, as they have been passed down to us, are ultimately the determining factor for faith. But for the individual Christian, it is the Scriptures as interpreted by the Church. There’s an interesting tension there, which I need to explore further.

Just stuff to think about. I’m such a troublemaker.

Update: I fixed the link, Chris. And, hey, the pop-up has got to go. Ewww.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:04 pm

«— Farewell
—» Stirring Up Trouble

Let’s Try This Again

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OK. $1k later, my car might be fixed finally. Thanks again to all the people I listed earlier. Stay tuned to see if the car remains repaired.

*** basil crosses his fingers ***

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Filed under: — Basil @ 11:57 am

«— A Point of Clarification
—» Let’s Try This Again

Farewell

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Well, it appears that the not-blogger has returned from vacation. Having not touched a computer during this time, he evidently has forgotten entirely how to blog. What a loss to the blogging community. We will miss him dearly.

Memory eternal!

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Filed under: — Basil @ 1:54 pm

«— The Locus of Catholic Orthodoxy
—» Farewell

A Point of Clarification

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There is a misconception floating around that the blogs4God statement of faith that I blogged about earlier is the “revised” version. It is not. I have that on very good authority.

I have every confidence that the current statement of faith will be revised to better reflect the breadth of Christians associated with blogs4God.

I’m familiar with waiting. Hey, I joined a non-canonical orthodox church, confident that my coreligionists would realize that we needed to be in communion with a canonical Orthodox Church. I waited patiently for seven years. Now we’re canonical, and everyone says, “I can’t believe we did it!” And I say, “Well, duh!

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Filed under: — Basil @ 1:18 pm

«— Everybody Dies
—» A Point of Clarification

The Locus of Catholic Orthodoxy

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Mark Shea, speaking about a recent document by the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops:

Well, first of all its just some bishop’s committee. Second, even if the American bishops signed off on it, we have to ask ourselves ‘Should I have bailed on the Church when most of the bishops were Arian in the 4th century?’ If not, then what should I have done?

Mr. Shea is absolutely dead right on 99.9% of the time. I used to read with joy and fascination his articles in Roman Catholic magazines during my short stint as a Roman. However, here his papalism comes to bear.

For the Roman Catholic, the center of catholic orthodoxy is the Pontiff, the Patriarch of Rome, the Pope. The Second Vatican Council (if I remember correctly) begins making some important moves back toward the ancient model of conciliarity, wherein each bishop is responsible for upholding the catholic faith. But, utlimately, it does not matter if your bishop is a rank heretic — it’s the Pope’s job to rap him on the knuckles.

I’m a little confused by Mr. Shea’s statement quoted above. Does he not think that the orthodox bishops bailed on the Arians? Of course they did! They blasted them as heretics and excommunicated them and pronounced anathemas against them. It is only the hindsight of history that allows us to make sense of it all. (And that, with great difficulty and much learning — which I do not have.)

Mr. Shea seems to forget that schisms are started over very little things. Little things like single words interpolated into ecumenical creeds by local councils and then approved by one bishop too big for his britches.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:42 am

«— Just a Clarification….
—» The Locus of Catholic Orthodoxy

Everybody Dies

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Today is the Dormition of the Theotokos. As Fr. David noted in a vespers homily last night, the ikon of the Dormition imitates the bier in an Orthodox funeral, while the center of the ikon features Christ glorified holding his own mother as a child — reversing the ikon of the Theotokos wherein she holds the child Christ as his mother.

Besides being the last of the Twelve Great Feasts in the ecclesial year, Orthodox place a lot of emphasis on the Dormition because we learn to see our own mortality through the lens of this feast. As I mentioned earlier, we fast in preparation for the Dormition; this is one of four fasting seasons of the year.

Which means today, it’s party time! Roast beast. Beast! Beast!

Ugh. Must stop avoiding my résumé!

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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:03 am

«— Credo in unum Deum
—» Everybody Dies

Just a Clarification….

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I hope my last blog was not too harsh. Dean responded to it quite quickly, as I might have expected. “And if you do have a complaint, concern, comment, how about directing it my way first? If I’m a jerk, then beat me with your blogs.” I hope you didn’t take the late night ramblings of a sinner too personally, man. Part of what I do with this blogging beast is blather. It’s sort of like a journal, except I don’t put private stuff in it. (Believe me, you would not want to read it anymore if I did.)

Dean, if I was upset enough to want a change, I would email you first. But, as I said, it really doesn’t bother me, except that it does. Enough to ejaculate some quick thoughts on it. Not enough to complain directly via email. Which is why I hope you don’t take it personally.

And you should not feel like I’m beating you up. Especially with technical, legal, and somnolency issues plaguing you, giving credence to a pompous windbag is probably not a good idea, man. Please accept my apologies if my random mumbling added to your stress.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 1:20 am

«— Take This Job…
—» Just a Clarification….

Credo in unum Deum

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I guess I hadn’t noticed before, but blogs4God has a statement of faith. This bothers me. Not really any one thing about it — just the thing in toto. Statements of faith bother me because they implicitly invalidate the authoritative statements of faith that were written in blood by the martyrs and confessors of the unbroken, catholic Church. There is an implicit dismissal of these authoritative creeds — either from ignorance or arrogance. Every modern statement of faith risks unintentionally introducing novelty into the faith “once and for all delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3) Often, this potency gives rise to actual heresy. I don’t like them because I have to scrutinize them just to give a grudging, “Yes, O.K., well, I guess — if I really must!

It strikes me that the statement of faith at blogs4God may make just that unintentional mistake. The very first article of their new creed speaks not of God, the Trinity, Christ, or salvation, but the written witness of them: holy Scripture. Many orthodox and catholic bloggers list themselves at blogs4God. So it confuses me that a template is being used which I often see employed to keep us out. This creed clearly was not written by the webmaster; he is using a stock template picked up from somewhere else. So, Dean, I hope you don’t take this personally!

First, let’s pick some nits. Things (inanimate objects) are not infallible, because they have no knowledge. Therefore, no book (even the Book) can be said to be infallible. Writings are often said to be “inerrant,” but that doesn’t really help.

“Without any mixture of error”? Pardon me, but “he founded [the earth] upon the seas and established it upon the waters”? (Psalm 23[24].2) “God made the dome, and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it”? (Genesis 1.7, NAB) These statements bring out in stark relief some elements of the Hebrew worldview which we all believe to be false. Even the most provincial fundamentalist has had these facts reinterpreted to mean everything under the sun but what they actually mean. So, even before we get to the ecclesial problems, article one just doesn’t stay crunchy in milk.

But it also bothers me that such a strong statement about holy Scripture really finds no root in classical creeds. We only find this kind of language in creeds that are downstream of the Lutheran schism. Primarily, statements like this lead out a list of typically catholic articles of faith. Thus, the strong Scripture article serves to place them on the “correct” side of the reformer’s break.

Moreover, the article on Scripture makes no reference to its necessary place in the assembly of the people of God. Outside of this assembly (gr. synaxis, lat. ecclessia, church), Scripture is meaningless. Give it to a man of the world, and his esitmation of it will be equivalent to his estimation of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is only within the context of God’s people that these inspired words of men become the Word of God.

Interestingly, the only truly authoritative statement of faith, the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (usually called the Nicene Creed for short), does not even speak of a “belief in” Scripture. It mentions that our beliefs are “in accordance with the Scriptures.” Clark Carlton has observed that we “believe in” God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church — which St. Paul calls the “foundation and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3.15) — but we only believe “in accordance with” the Bible. Bible believers suffer the same fate that they attribute to their Roman brothers and sisters: idolatry.

I have seen so many statements of faith like this one that it no longer matters to me what it actually says about the Bible. The rhetoric always gets modded down. It always turns out that “what we’re really trying to say here” means something mostly palatable to a modern and classical Christian. So, I rarely bother making a fuss.

I’m not sure why I did this time.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 12:03 am