Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The true size of Africa

This is mind boggling - Africa is actually bigger in area than China, USA, India, Mexico, Peru, France, Spain, PNG, Sweden, Japan, Germany, Norway, Italy, New Zealand, UK, Nepal, Bangladesh and Greece combined!
Also a great example of the power of visual/graphic data display.
More info and an enlarged version of the image above at:
Thanks to Izzy for this.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Scepticism: it's a tough job, but someone has to do it

'Scepticism does not suit everybody.  It supposes a profound and careful examination.  He who doubts because he is not acquainted with the grounds of credibility is no better than an ignoramus.  The true sceptic has counted and weighed his reasons.  But it is no easy matter to weigh arguments.  Which of us knows their value with any exactness?  Out of a hundred proofs of the same truth, each one will have its partisans.  Every mind has its own telescope.  An objection which is invisible to you is a colossus to my eyes, and you find an argument trivial that to me is crushing in its efficacy.  If we dispute about their intrinsic value, how shall we agree upon their relative?  Tell me how many moral proofs are needed to balance a metaphysical conclusion?  Are my spectacles at fault, or yours?  If, then, it is so difficult to weigh reasons, and if there are no questions which have not two sides, and nearly always in equal measure, how come we to cut knots with such rapidity?  How do we come by this convinced and dogmatic air?  Have we not a hundred times experienced how revolting is dogmatic presumption? "I have been brought to detest probabilities", says the author of the Essays [Montaigne], "when they are foisted on me as infallible; I love words which soften and moderate the temerity of our propositions - peradventure, in no wise, some people say, methinks, and the like; and if I had to teach children I should train them to answer in this hesitating and undecided manner: 'What does that mean? I do not understand; maybe; is it true?' that they would have the appearance of apprentices at sixty years of age, rather than of doctors at ten, as at present.'  Denis Diderot, Philosophic Thoughts XXIV, 1747, translated Jourdain.

Diderot was so modern.   Compare this with, for example, Nietzsche: 'All seeing is perspective, and so is all knowing', virtually identical with 'Every mind has its own telescope'.  Of course I am even more pleased to see him quote Montaigne, and I am resolved to use the words peradventure and methinks whenever the opportunity presents itself.

I am reading a collection of Denis's early works, and expect there may be more quotations from it here before long....