Mac Air, because: (1) need a carry-around and travel machine; (2) sick and tired of windows and of crappy windows laptops; (3) curious!; (4) battery life; (5) a few apps.


Accessories and software



Impetus to start thinking about this again

Hume on Miracles; Chris Eliot mentioning the lottery/NYT paradox to me. (Author Hamburger??) Idea: 1 chance in a million that Fred has won the lottery; 1 chance in 10,000 that there is a typo in the times. So, on the principle of wise belief, one ought not to believe any report that so-and-so has won the lottery; because so-and-so winning the lottery will always have a lower probability than the Times containing a typo.

Puzzling, but: not a problem for Hume in particular, but instead a problem for the general principle of letting probability guide belief especially in cases where the disparity in probability between two alternatives is great, and there is no compelling practical reason for overruling the principle of wise belief. But it had better be the case that probability should guide belief in such cases!

By the way, the beginning of a way of addressing this issue: in general there is a very high probability that someone won the lottery…

Note also: roll five dice, they come up all sixes three times in a row. What are the odds of that? So they must be loaded. Oh, but wait: it is inevitable that “highly unlikely” sequences of dice throws will occur from time to time.

Maybe only occasioned by this puzzle/paradox, rather than directly connecting with it or resolving it: a better characterization than miracles is “intractably anomalous events.” And Hume’s considered view is that (a) intractably anomalous events are conceivable, and (b) it is barely possible for a belief that such-and-such an event is intractably anomalous to be consistent with wisdom, but (c) it can never be consistent with wisdom to attribute an intractably anomalous event to specific divine or supernatural agency.

Consider event E. This event has no apparent cause—that is, it is not connected with the laws of nature so far as we can see, and so far as we now understand the laws of nature.

One possibility is that event E has a hidden cause—that is, that it only appears to be anomalous. In such a case there is no special conceptual difficulty.

Another possibility is that event E is part of a package that requires us to revise our account of the laws of nature. This can seem like a cheat (the case against miracles is unfair! it is a rigged game!) and like a confusion of criticisms (Hume’s explicit line is that belief that a miracle has occurred is not rational, or rather not “wise,” but in the end doesn’t he surreptitiously shift to the different criticism that miracles are inconceivable, impossible—because any purported miracle just shows a need to re-conceive the laws of nature?)

Well, Hume had better allow for the possibility of miracles, both because in his account of causation he explicitly allows for the conceivability/possibility of intractably anomalous events, and because in the discussion of miracles itself there is the 8 days of darkness example.

But what about the claim that revising the laws of nature is just a sort of cheat? No; reflective equilibrium between observed cases (and their circumstances) and the laws. Are the laws of nature a moving target? That is perfectly legitimate, as long as they are moving along with experience and reflection on that experience.

To be continued…

Apparently anomalous—what backs this up?

Picking up from yesterday…

Miracle defined as an event contrary to the laws of nature…

Note that this is an epistemic standard: can this event be brought into an explanatory pattern?

Not enough for the event to be anomalous for the moment, for the day, for the week. Maybe there is an explanation to be offered, in terms of current science (broadly understood), relying on “hidden causes.” (Cf. a “magic” act.) Maybe there is an explanation to be offered eventually, given the extension of current science along its current lines. Maybe there is an explanation to be offered eventually relying on a substantial revision of current science (phenomena that can be understood only in terms of Einsteinian physics, not Newtonian physics.) Quite a lot of openness, if not indeterminacy, here: how long can the wait for an explanation be? How radical can the revision of science be, especially if it is prompted by the desire to bring the temporarily anomalous event under the suitably revised laws of nature? (But note a simple principle: no mere ad-hockery.)

It seems to me, then, that given the likely impossibility of proving that the Inferno maxim (abandon all hope for a natural explanation, ye who enter here) applies in a given case, at most we can categorize an event as provisionally intractably anomalous. But leave that point to one side, and consider Hume’s example of 8 days of darkness. Uniform testimony from independent reliable sources (where reliability partly means lack of a clear partisan stake in the explanation of the event, and partly means a documented tendency to approach scientific explanation with patience, hope, and resourcefulness); a “long time” to pursue natural explanations…

But note: ruling out a partisan stake (which would include the gratification that we find in surprise and wonder) supports Hume in his particular animus against supernatural explanations—explaining the miracle in such a way that it counts as the foundation of a system of religion.

Metaphysical or Epistemic?

Case for metaphysical: Hume is a naturalist and a Newtonian. Stronger case for epistemic: Hume is a perceptual atomist and a skeptic.

Perceptual atomism: all events are perceptions; all perceptions are, really (or as close to really as we can get) loose and disconnected.Therefore every event is intractably anomalous (a miracle in the non-religious sense), strictly and metaphysically speaking.

Yet we do connect events, routinely and successfully. This is an epistemic activity, and a fundamental one. So for an event to be law-governed is an epistemic matter; and therefore for it to fail to be law-governed, either for the moment or durably, is an epistemic matter.

Wny is this important? The epistemic, rather than metaphysical/conceptual, account of Hume’s miracle argument. Lots of reasons for thinking he is not making a metaphysical/conceptual argument against the possibility of miracles. Maybe we can add a new one: from the purely metaphysical/conceptual point of view, miracles are not rare, but omnipresent. (Trying to shock with that formuation. Anyway: the “laws of nature” are an epistemic phenomenon; they are exceptionless regularities confirmed with many instances in many circumstances, and that is purely epistemic, isn’t it?)

Today’s fresh writing

Two definitions of miracle

Possibility of miracle, belief in miracle (rational belief or, to follow Hume’s own framing and skirt issues about his possible different senses of “rational,” belief by the wise)

Second definition includes a supernatural cause. How can this be backed up? Almost by definition, it is beyond experiencing. (But cf. the intelligible voice from the Dialogues.) So what is the point of this causal attribution? “Here is an intractably anomalous event, and so here is the supernatural law that it must be brought under”?

So the point is: reluctance, very great reluctance, to categorize an event as intractably anomalous; but once it is so categorized, have the courage of your categorization!

Why? (Motivation for writing about this)

Standard of belief for wise people

Thinking about a frequently-offered basis for religious belief, and how compelling it is or is not

History of philosophy, religion, and thought; Hume interpretation

Problem, though? (a) Does Hume argue against the very possibility of a miracle, or against the rationality or wisdom of belief in a miracle? (b) However Hume’s arguments are interpreted, how good are they? (c) Is there an alternative vocabulary for expressing Hume’s ideas, a vocabulary that make the structure of those ideas clearer, and shows how those ideas are connected to other issues Hume discusses?

Item (c) is my contribution, or the type of my contribution; and the first bit of vocabulary concerns anomalous events. Now is that a metaphysical characterization? (Not the “events” part, but the “anomalous” part.) Well, bringing events under laws, where laws are taken to be expressions of durable and rigorously specified regularities, is an epistemic matter, in the end, in Hume’s philosophy. For Hume, even in the best case bringing an event under such a law does not display a (real) necessary connection. An anomalous event can be necessitated, and an event brought under a law can fail to be necessitated (all of this because of the slippery nature of necessitation, at least when it is understood metaphysically, or rather intended metaphysically, for as Hume argues it is not so easy to understand the metaphysical content of necessary connection).

To make the epistemic drift of the matter even clearer: apparently anomalous events, and then apparently intractably anomalous events. (Appearances can be deceiving, but the kind of carefully investigated appearances that Hume is relying on in his account of miracles are, in the end, all we have to work with.)

Can I output an outline?

All right, here’s the comment at this level.

But no folding.

Folding would be really nice

But levels are essential

Even with in-line text

Wysiwyg while composing would be nice

But print output that is properly indented is essential


Free software:

Hofstra licensed software

To consider:

Upgrade iCloud?


iPad Air 2

Running out of space?



Advantages to gain:


Upgrade phone

Space, speed, battery life


Set-up concerns/tips?


Kindle Voyage

Pro: resolution, backlight, light weight; crack in Kindle 3 case

Con: only expense (set-up should be easy and fast)

BUT: reviews about lighting issues; wait (maybe one more year?)



#Workflow for notes, upcoming semester#

Assumption: break attachment to NoteMap (orphaned, doesn’t play all that well with others)

Desirable: available on all platforms


Pro: on both platforms

Con: fiddly formatting when formatting is a lot of what I’m after; not a great program for these purposes, especially when I don’t know it well

Upshot: buy, use it for writing projects (probably), but not for course notes


At least as an intermediary? Or: great for quick editing and re-arranging; then export (but to what? Word?)


(1) Copy and paste from NoteMap ito Brainstorm, in installments; careful about each Admin and each For Next Time? (Or is that a deal-breaker?)

(2) Rearrange quickly and easily in BrainStorm

(3) Export? Tried OPML; problem. So: to FreeMind/FreePlane; and then to what? (If Scrivener, all titles, no text, and what a pain.) (Can I go from .mm to Word, say via html?)

UX Write?

Try it out, but: not a lot of outline levels, probably not good for lots of rearranging