Monthly Archives: July 2017

The Identity Theory of Knowing

I am taking an interesting philosophy course online for free from EDx entitled ‎God, Knowledge and Conciousness.  It is introductory and the 1st philosophy course I have ever taken. Since I do like thinking, I am not too surprised that I enjoy this subject even though I can’t fully understand it.
M.I.T. Prof. Caspar Hare is an enthusiastic and energetic teacher. The basic structure of a philosophic argument he says is:
Premise 1     e.g. Animals that fly have wings or equivalent.
Premise 2     e.g. Pigs are animals that do not have wings or equivalent.
Conclusion‎   e.g. Pigs don’t fly.
If it is impossible that the premises be true and the conclusion false, the argument is valid. If the premises are all true then the‎ argument is sound. To attack a philosophical conclusion one must convince the reasonable believer that at least one of the premises is not true or alternatively, convince a non-believer that all the premises are true.
Sounds straight forward?
Our most recent lesson was on physicalists vs. non-physicalists ways of knowing something. Non-physicalists assert that science can never explain everything due to “qualia” – the human experience of finding out what something is like.  This is philosophy of the mind.
Mary is a brilliant scientist who is colour blind but can explain everything in the universe in the language of science including the brain state of someone who sees red. In the thought experiment, she is suddenly able to see a tomato is red for the first time. She says “now I know what it’s like to see a red tomato.”. The non-physicalist deems this a “qualia” and says she now has additional non-physical knowledge that she did not have before seeing the red tomato for the first time.
The physicalist says no it is just knowing the same fact in a different way and not new knowledge at all.  She already knew what the brain state is of someone who sees a red tomato (since she can describe every possible brain state using the language of science.)‎ Hence she merely “self-identifies” with this knowledge saying I now personally know what it’s like to see a red tomato.  It is the same knowledge (the brain state) only she now knows it in a new way.  This is the “identity theory” of knowing something.
Another way to illustrate this is as follows.  There is a terrible train wreck and Maria wakes up in the hospital in traction with no memory of the accident or who she is.  She watches television and hears a report of the accident and that 2 people, Maria from Barcelona and David from Toronto, are in intensive care in this hospital.  She asks herself am I Maria or David?  When a relative comes in and says hi Maria.  She “self-identifies” with the knowledge that she is Maria and from Barcelona.  But she already knew Maria is from Barcelona.  So there is no new fact here that has to be explained by science simply because she now knows she is Maria.  Esoteric stuff.
Well this discussion ‎touched off a lot of angst as many course students felt that the experience of something is indeed different from the prior knowledge of that something. Many of these students in the course are perhaps younger.  Younger people it seems, may intensely value their experiences as unique new knowledge they acquire as they go.
I am less inclined to as I age. The truth exists and my acquired knowledge of it through experience, merely confirms or denies it. It is a different way of knowing the truth through experience, not new truth in itself.  I say this about my Faith that God exists which has been confirmed through some personal conversion experiences I’ve had.
Frank Jackson
If I have confused you, you can read up about Frank Jackson, the renouned philosopher who premised qualia as a way of proving science will never be able to describe everything since there are things in this world that are not physical.‎ I think there are better ways to prove that.  Stay tuned.

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Some More Valley Festivals


We went again this year to the Valley Bluegrass Festival in Horton Township, just north of Renfrew.  It was a pleasant evening on the Johnson farm where the event is held each year.  We only stayed for 4 shows, the first 3 being very good.  The last was a little too slow and dated for us.  Each show runs about 45 minutes with a 5 min pause in between.


Rhyme and Reason put on a great show – that’s a dobro on the left

I particularly like banjo music and the harmony of 3 or 4 singing voices.  Marie enjoys the banjo too and also the overall creativity of the music.   It’s lively and humorous with pranks and crowd banter and light-hearted insults flying back and forth.   It can get repetitive so when some of the bands stray into country and folk music, that’s just extra spice.

Bluegrass music is American roots music, related to county music but influenced by the music of Appalachia – that American cultural region from southern New York to northern Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.  It also has Irish, Scottish and English traditional music influences.  One of my favorite bluegrass radio stations is WDVX in Knoxville, TN.


Foot bridge from the campground to the stage area


The Spinney Brothers from Nova Scotia are really excellent

There are more and more bluegrass festivals popping up locally with some really great Canadian talent.  One is held at the Navcan Centre in Cornwall and another in Iroquois that we plan to attend next spring.  This was the 23rd annual Valley Bluegrass Festival, and the profits go to the Renfrew Hospital.  It’s a great way to spend a summer evening!




Another growing event is the Arnprior Dragonboat Festival.  This year there were 15 boats with 20 paddlers in each entered in the day of racing.  They race in the Madawaska River by the marina.


The weather was great and everyone had fun.  It can be quite physically challenging if you have not trained for the big day.  Luckily there are several doctors present on several of the teams, if needed


Reg and Katherine Gatenby, Arnprior Hospital Team


Doug Algier says get your paddles ready!

Perhaps next year Marie and I will make a team for the first time.  A great fun day for sure.  This festival is putting Arnprior on the map.






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Almonte Celtfest

Liam the Lepraucan 2015

Liam the Leprechaun brings good luck

For about 8 years we have been attending the Almonte Celtfest held in July each year in beautiful Gemmill Park.  Motivated by a love of Celtic heritage, a friend of mine Terry Currie with 2 others founded this festival as a way of keeping their musical traditions alive and to pass on the legacy of Celtic heritage to the wider community.  Fiddling and step dancing have a strong presence in the Ottawa Valley as Celtic music continues to thrive in kitchens, pubs, churches, backyards and festivals.

Celtfest 2015

The Fiddle Mass

Not to be missed also is the unique “fiddle Mass” held in the Holy Name of Mary Parish on the Sunday morning during the festival.  Our friends Glenn and Betty Clarke first started coming up.  They have a large RV which they park in the church parking lot.  They started inviting us and others and we have have kept up the tradition most years.  The first year, I mistakenly drove from Barrhaven to Smith Falls thinking that was near Almonte.  Betty still laughs about this!  Now living in Arnprior, we know much better where Almonte is.

Celtfest 2016

In the rain in 2016

We attended on Saturday this year expecting more rain and the sun came out, thanks to Liam.  Anna Ludlow, a fiddler, vocalist and guitar player originally from Antigonish, NS was the star performer.  She had everyone up and dancing … in the mud.  We had a good time watching all the kids sliding face first in the mud.  Never have we seen this here before!


Another perennial favorite is Louis Schreyer, world champion fiddler from Chapeau, QC.  He performed with Erin Leahy and 2 others.  I still remember their stunning concert together here last year.  Betty and Glenn are hosting them at a house concert in September.  Last year they hosted Anna Ludlow in a great private concert event in their backyard.


Louis 2nd from left, Erin on right


Anna and husband Jarrod

Celtfest 2012

Glenn enjoys the music in 2012

We are blessed to have the Clarkes as close friends and to get to go to the Celtfest with them each year.  Hopefully the mud will dry up in time for next year’s festival!  Highly recommend (more info.)



Slainte! (cheers)

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Why I Love Canada

Happy 150th Anniversary Canada!


I love Canada because we are free to:

  • say what we want to say
  • be who we want to be
  • believe or not believe in God or another deity without persecution and,
  • we have a great educational and health care system

Furthermore, we are one of the last nations in the world not consumed by hate of others.  We are a safe and peaceful country.  The indigenous peoples have shared this beautiful land with us and we are working on improving our relationship.

william h seward

150 years ago we were almost invaded by the U.S.  After the U.S. Civil War ended in 1865, William Seward, Secretary of State, was incensed at the apparent role Canada had played in harbouring Confederate sympathizers, spies and mercenaries.  The U.S had its eye on annexing Rupert’s Land which included most of  western Canada just as it had annexed millions of square miles of Mexico after invading it in 1848.



john a macdonaldIn what has to be one of the world’s most delicate diplomatic negotiating acts, our future first Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald with the help of others including the threat of British naval intervention, managed to sooth the high strung Seward.  War with the U.S. was narrowly avoided on several occasions.

This real threat of U.S. imperialism was enough to overcome stiff anti-confederation political views held particularly in Nova Scotia.   So in 1867 Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia circled the wagons and joined in a new nation called Canada for mutual aid and defence.  (“Kanata” means village in Algonquin.)

We were so close to being absorbed by the U.S. and it is still amazing to this day that we somehow avoided it.  So here is another reason to celebrate Canada today:

– Justin Trudeau is our political leader and not Donald Trump!  Go Canada go, eh!


donald trump 2



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