Friday, 18 August 2017

Getting at the truth

Julian the Apostate
We all think we know the meaning of the word truth. We all think that, if asked, we can give examples of it. We might even call these examples things we know (for sure).

Yet philosophers have written volumes attempting to define truth. If it’s so simple that everybody knows what it means, what did they find to write about?

My own ideas of truth were probably most profoundly influenced by Bernard Williams. He suggested the first issue for us to resolve must be whether truth is external or internal to ourselves. Is it something out there, waiting for us to recognize it, or is it something in our own heads?

If it’s the latter, then is there anything to stop what’s in my head (my truth) from being different from what’s in yours (your truth)? Might there be as many truths as people? Wouldn’t that be effectively the same as truth not existing at all?

If truth is external, then how did ‘what’s out there’ get into my head? How reliable is the perceptual mechanism that put it there?

The problem here is that we don’t have direct access to the outside world. We perceive by way of senses that are specific to ourselves and yield data relative to ourselves. That’s a good thing. It’s best that I should perceive, say, threats to myself in the most direct way possible. If a charging rhino’s fifty feet away from me, I’d quite like to know about it, and only it, rather than be provided with a total world picture.

The drawback to this system is, we can’t see anything absolutely. Our brains have become expert at deducing what absolutes must be there in order for them to receive the relative impressions they do, and most of the time they’re right, but not always. We may greet a friend in the street, say, only to find when he turns around that it’s not actually him. In other words, we all make mistakes.

Our brains use not only sensory inputs, sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, but also our own experiences and our cultural upbringing in order to make sense of the world and produce the perceptions they register. No two people therefore will have identical perceptions of anything, but similar people from similar backgrounds will have perceptions that overlap a lot, sufficiently for us to call that overlap truth.

It is however important to remember the relative nature of that overlap. Our truth describes the world as seen by people like us. There are alternative truths out there. It is not the case that everyone who disagrees with us is a fool, a rogue, or lying.

We are all rational people, aren’t we? We aren’t going to change our own notion of the truth because someone shouts at us, calls us rude names, or blocks us on Facebook. We’re stubborn, so that sort of thing only confirms our belief we’re right. The only thing that will persuade us we’re wrong is evidence. Like when the person who’s not the friend we think he is actually turns round.

So why oh why do some people apparently think other people will change their minds in response to abuse, threats, no-platforming or anything else except evidence and reason?

Phantaxis - Free Today until Sunday

A reminder that the digital version of Phantaxis' August edition is available for free download from today until Sunday.

My story is called The Ship of Theseus. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Venice by Night Again!

Showing the value of feedback, I'm republishing my four views from Ponte degli Scalzi with a little post-processing courtesy of the freely-downloadable GIMP graphics program. These versions are much brighter and more contrast-enhanced than the orginals. On the other hand they're less dark and mysterious. I'd beinterested to know what you think.



Friday, 11 August 2017

Venice by night

Here are four views of The Grand Canal from the Ponte degli Scalzi:

For photography enthusiasts, the first photo looking towards the church of San Simeone Piccolo was 1/3 sec at f 4.5 on ISO 200. Compare it with the last one. This one I think looks much warmer and softer.

The restaurant on the left in the second picture is where we had our last dinner in Venice, and we couldn't have been much closer to the canal.

Above is the opposite side of the canal from our restaurant.

This one was 1/5 sec at f 11 on ISO 3200 just to see if it would be usable. The difference in result from the first picture is quite interesting, I think. The water of the canal looks almost frozen.

Well that more or less concludes my series of holiday reports. I hope you found at least some of them interesting. Now it's back to daily showers instead of a Mediterranean heat wave, but at least the dogue was glad to see us home!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Venice by vaporetto

We discovered by accident that day tickets (and perhaps longer seasons) on the ‘little steamships’ or vaporettos (such as the one above lower left) are good value. Though this is the ‘bus service’ of Venice, it’s considerably more fun than a regular bus, most of the time.

Forty euros buys you uno giorno per due (one day ticket x 2 people). This entitles you to unlimited journeys during the day. You can hop on for a couple of stops or sail around the lagoon all day. It not only saves your feet but gives you unusual views of the city (such as The Grand Canal from the middle, below left).

Tip number one: get hold of a route map. The variously numbered vaporettos follow different routes and only small sections of a single route are displayed aboard the vessels. When planning your journey and deciding where you need to change lines it’s a nuisance to rely on the full maps that are only posted (if you’re lucky) at the stops.

Tip number two: make sure you’re at the right stop. Sometimes there are several stops next to each other, each serving different routes, and at a major interchange such as Lido di Venezia the array of stops can be about a hundred yards long. Be particularly careful not to get on the right number vaporetto going in the wrong direction.

Tip number three: you have to present the face of your ticket to an electronic card reader each time you access the boarding pontoon, even if there isn’t a physical barrier to be opened. Having a properly recorded ticket is part of the system and you’re not supposed to be on the landing stage without one, let alone the boat.

Tip number four: it’s great to visit the outlying island stops (such as Burano, right)  but try not to schedule your departure for the same time as everyone else, for example late afternoon when everyone’s thinking of heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Failure to observe this rule may lead to overcrowding on the landing stage and failure to catch the vaporetto you want.

But hey, these are pretty simple rules and there are lots of fascinating places nearby. Venice isn’t just St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs you know. In fact if you go fifty to a hundred yards off the main tourist routes you may well wonder what all the fuss over excessive numbers is about.

Monday, 7 August 2017

The Ship of Theseus is in Phantaxis

I'm pleased to announce that my short story The Ship of Theseus has been published in the August 2017 edition of Phantaxis Magazine.

I'm very fond of this story, in which an undercover cop in a dystopian future San Francisco discovers a lot more than he expected about how his world is being run.

Phantaxis is available in paperback or as an e-book.

PRINT: here


Do note that the e-book version will be available for FREE download during a special promotion on Amazon from  Friday August 18th 2017 to Sunday 20th inclusive.

I hope all of you will take advantage of this great offer. And if you like my story, please be sure to let everyone know!

P.S. Change of Promotion Date

The publisher has changed the ebook promotion dates to Friday August 18th, Saturday August 19th, and Sunday August 20th. The promotion will no longer run August 11th through 13th. as previously notified. Phantaxis wish to apologize for this change which was out of their hands.

Lošinj, Croatia

If you’re interested in The Adriatic, it won’t have escaped your attention that it hasn’t escaped anybody else’s attention either. Some of the more popular places are almost overwhelmed by the volume of tourism and some are already taking steps to moderate the pressure on their facilities. That fact is, it’s quite hard to enjoy being a tourist when surrounded by hundreds or thousands of other people all trying to do the same.

Step forward the island of Lošinj, which adds to its numerous attractions the absence of an airport. Though you can fly in by light aircraft or seaplane, the bulk of tourists are dependent upon ships. Last year the island was praised by The Independent newspaper as an overlooked jewel.

I can confirm that the little port of Mali Lošinj is far from overpopulated. Tourists here do seem to have room to breathe. When we visited it was also significantly cooler than our earlier stops, (a blessing). Perhaps this is why it has been called the island of vitality.