My journey through the world’s languages

I seem determined to wait until a later and later month to make my first post of each calendar year. In this case, I'm not even posting a fully self-contained essay on a recently-contemplated topic; rather, this post is a culmination of a personal project that has carried on for longer than the past three years. It feels very satisfying to finally be able to put a cap on it now.

[Heads up: this post ends with a full diagram of language relationships that I constructed and is the part of this post that I put the most work into and am most proud of -- feel free just to scroll to the bottom and check that out if you don't feel like reading the full explanation and commentary and general linguistics geek gushing that I'm about to launch into.]


Aiming true

Lately I've been thinking over some common threads to my writings in this spot over the past three years. Well, perhaps the most general overarching theme is "Here's another pervasive mode of thinking that annoys me!", but there are certain commonalities between those failed thinking modes and I decided to write about one of them today. (Or I decided to write about it back at the beginning of the year but then wound up taking a six-month-long hiatus from this blog due to a continual work-related time crunch, so in the end I'm writing about it now. Somehow after lamenting in my last post what a long gap of time it had been, I managed to top myself.) One of those commonalities lurking behind the mental processes I've criticized in several past essays -- the one I want to discuss today -- is when people assume that maximizing truth and morality means aiming indefinitely far in one direction. Or, to put the misconception another way, that going as far as possible in one direction will always be a win-win. Read more...

The original Hawks and Handsaws

In my very first entry to this blog, when discussing what led me to start Hawks and Handsaws, I mentioned that I had made a previous attempt at blogging once upon a time.

Some years ago, I actually did start a blog under an anonymous identity, and wrote a total of three posts for an entirely empty room before losing interest. After that, I pretty much gave up on the idea.

Since apparently I've declared summer of 2018 to be Blast From The Past Summer, displaying a good bit of my philosophy-related university writing on here for us all to look back on, I figure why not explain a little more about that first attempt at blogging and put up some of what I wrote there as well. After all, there are a few people out there reading what I write now, which is a few more readers than I had back during my first attempt. Read more...

A second-order confirmation bias

I'm going to begin by diving right into a super current politically charged topic that one hears discussed quite a lot nowadays, although this is far from a motivating example for me and the idea I'm using it to lead into has been in my mind for a long time. This particular political topic feels way overused, but the potential biases involved are so clear to demonstrate that I can't resist. Anyway, let's just start there and get it over with.

So, how 'bout that Trump and his dealings with Russia.

Read more…

My brief career as a philosophical squib II

In my last post, I described my first and only experience taking an actual philosophy course, how throughout that semester we took a quick journey through a good number of the major topics in philosophy, and how we were assigned a couple of short essays that semester apparently named after a marginalized demographic of the Harry Potter universe. I remember distinctly that the first topic of the course was free will, and accordingly, this subject inspired the prompt for our first squib, which I put up in the other post. Apparently one of the topics very soon to follow was the issue of personal (and perhaps also object) identity, as this prompted our second squib, which I've also found tucked away in the form of a Word document dated October 15th, 2007. Read more...

My brief career as a philosophical squib

(or, How the way I talk about the free will problem hasn't much changed since 2007)

Time for another "blast from the past" post, the past once again referring to my days of writing essays in university. Back in my college days, I was very passionate about philosophy (in many respects, more so than today!), but I was also very lazy when it came to studying what actual philosophers through the ages had to say. I guess my attitude has always been inclined towards reinventing the wheel. Accordingly, I was the only heavily committed member of the undergraduate philosophy club (eventually I became its vice president) who wasn't a philosophy major or even a minor. I don't think I even tried to register for a philosophy course until my third year.

But eventually, with some elective credits left to fill, I decided to sign up for a sort of easy Philosophy 101 course which was called something like "Intro to Philosophy". This was what was known as a BS course (and the acronym BS didn't stand for Bachelor of Science). Read more...

Does laziness exist?

(an analysis of E. Price's recent article on students' invisible mental barriers)

After last year's sequence of lengthy blog entries on the whole high-agency vs. low-agency dichotomy, I wasn't intending to write any more on that for a good long time. I really wasn't. Although I could imagine some subjects that touch on that stuff that I hoped to write about in the farther future, I was figuring on 2018 being more or less a determinism/agency-discussion-free year on Hawks and Handsaws.

Then just the other day, I came into contact with this article on Medium entitled "Laziness Does Not Exist" (with subtitle "But unseen barriers do."), which struck a nerve with me as it quite straightforwardly talked about a number of, well, those particular issues. And I decided that, instead of filing the article away to pull out at some Designated Time For More High-vs.-Low-Agency Posts, I should write down my thoughts and feelings now while they're running fresh through my mind. Read more...

Russell’s Metaphysics and the Foundations of Mathematics

(revisiting an essay from 12 years ago)

There's a good bit of writing I've been hoping to do during these months, but currently I seem to be in a bit of a rut. So for the moment, I'm turning to the other thing I planned to do here sometime around this summer: revisit some of my writing from a long time ago. In particular, this summer will be the 10th anniversary of my first short-lived attempt at blogging, and I intend to display and comment on (the least embarrassing) parts of those posts someday soon, but I've stumbled across other writings from even further back whose content seems appropriate for Hawks and Handsaws. Today I want to put up and briefly comment on one of those. Read more...