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Dako
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PostSubject: Interview with Forest_Dump   Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:47 am



Interview with Forest_Dump

Dissidents Philosophy Forum has made a very special effort to bring you this very special interview.

A moderator of one of the most important philosophy discussion groups on the 'net!

He agreed to be interviewed, but was understandably a bit hesitant about associating with the likes of us...

"...so long as I can keep my semblance of anonymity."

Now, let's get to know one of ephilosophy's more shy, but also influential members!


How and when did you get involved in philosophy?


In particular, how did you get involved in ephilosophy? Is it addictive like computer games or something like that?


Discussions can get emotional. Have you made many real friends -- or enemies through ephilosophy, or is it quite anonymous, and if so, is it impersonal?


Do you have a favorite philosopher or school of thought that you are most interested in?


"How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Forest_Dump   Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:54 am

Okay, here are my first responses


-How and when did you get involved in philosophy?

Well, I have had a mild interest since taking an undergraduate course. However, I have long been interested in theoretical questions in anthropology and some philosophy has always been a part of anthropological theory, both because of concerns about the extent to which anthropology and its subdisciplines can be called science and because, by its very nature, anthropology deals with the philosophies of different cultures and/or societies. I also decided at some point that, if I was going to be awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree, I should know something about it.


-In particular, how did you get involved in ephilosophy? Is it addictive like computer games or something like that?

Purely entertainment and a bit of an escape from my "real world".


-Discussions can get emotional. Have you made many real friends -- or enemies through ephilosophy, or is it quite anonymous, and if so, is it impersonal?

I prefer to keep it as anonymous as possible. I do of course engage in debates and think teaching students how to engage in various debates is a primary part of my responsibilities. Therefore, even in face to face confrontations, I try to teach being dispassionate and trying to think objectively. So, a very important lesson is not to get too emotionally attached to your own ideas.


-Do you have a favorite philosopher or school of thought that you are most interested in?

Well, aside from a realist perspective in the philosophy of science (perhaps Alexander Bird?), I would have to say my favorite philosopher is Voltaire. Sometimes he just cracks me up.


-How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

As far as I know woodchucks don't chuck wood. At least none have chucked wood at me so far.
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Forest_Dump   Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:18 pm



Part II

This gets more interesting with every reply! Let's continue this fascinating interview with Forest_Dump, moderator at PCF...


Some of your readers might have questions about your User Name, is it a pun the film, or is there something more?


You have been involved with PCF (philosophychatforum) for a while. It's a fairly serious philosophy discussion group? You mention that Voltaire "cracks you up." So there is a lighter side to your philosophical thinking as well?


You have a relatively important role, moderator, on PCF. Does that take up a lot of your time?


You recently wrote, "As with many who like to take shots at the Bible and Christianity, I think your problem is...." Christian religion is an important part of your philosophy? Is there an afterlife?


Are you affected by visions?


In keeping with the theme of this forum, what does 'dissidence' mean to you?


"Since I became a reader of lofty books, I have become a defender of lop-sided causes." Years ago a lazy-eyed dwarf told me this and attributed it to Voltaire. I can't find where he wrote this. Did he?
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Forest_Dump   Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:23 pm

- Some of your readers might have questions about your User Name, is it a pun on the film, or is there something more?

Well, of course I referred to the movie but there is more to the pun. I am an archaeologist. Archaeologists love digging up middens which are prehistoric garbage dumps and just full of artifacts and food remains, etc. A midden in a forest (i.e., a forest dump) is more likely to be undisturbed by ploughing and relic collectors or looters and therefore more likely to contain more useful information because they are harder to find.


- You have been involved with PCF (philosophychatforum) for a while. It's a fairly serious philosophy discussion group? You mention that Voltaire "cracks you up." So there is a lighter side to your philosophical thinking as well?

Well, of course. If you are not having fun, I think you should change what you are doing.


- You have a relatively important role, moderator, on PCF. Does that take up a lot of your time?

Sometimes and sometimes too much of it (although I am definitely not the most active of the mods). However, usually I spend more time on it as a distraction from marking or writing and editing a paper for publication, etc.


- You recently wrote, "As with many who like to take shots at the Bible and Christianity, I think your problem is...." Christian religion is an important part of your philosophy? Is there an afterlife?

I was Christian in my younger days but grew out of that. I may have been atheist for a while as a reaction against Christianity but grew out of that too - always seemed to negative and didn't really give me anything useful of positive. Over time, I mostly described myself as a reverent agnostic but I think I am drifting more towards some kind of soft deist or theist. I suppose I could say I am more like some of the 19th century "free-thinkers" who do not necessarily accept any of the organised religions but would definitely not call myself an atheist. Maybe "hopeful" is a better term without loosing some of the polite skepticism.


- Are you affected by visions?

Never really drank that much.


- In keeping with the theme of this forum, what does 'dissidence' mean to you?

Well, purely for me, that is a term that means against something, usually political. In fact, although not a serious student of these things, I would generally suspect that most dissidents may be against something but they usually also want to impose their own views and I think often too extremely. So, I don't consider myself necessarily against anything except perhaps those who would want to impose their views on others. While I am definitely not sure "egalitarianism" can exist in this world anymore, I do lean more towards that.


- "Since I became a reader of lofty books, I have become a defender of lop-sided causes." Years ago a lazy-eyed dwarf told me this and attributed it to Voltaire. I can't find where he wrote this. Did he?

I am not sure but I suspect that might come from Candide and Voltaire's shot at Newton. But I can't seem to put my hands on my copy of that book at the moment so I have to go by my faulty memory.
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Forest_Dump   Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:47 am



Part III


This is the third and final part of Interview with Forest_Dump. We have learned quite a bit about this interesting thinker and important member of the ephilosophy community. Let's conclude by ask about some of his recent writings.


You recently wrote, "...being an avowed liberal...." What is a "liberal"?


"In short, I don't believe there is anything like self-evident truths, natural rights (in fact I would be willing to debate "natural" anything), "universal good," etc." you wrote. Could you elaborate on what this means?


You also wrote recently, "You could argue that there have been a number recent empires or civilisations that declined or are in decline." Some of your readers may know that you are based in the United States. Is America one of those empires that are in decline? A lot of people are calling for 'Death to America!', myself included, is this a foregone conclusion, or rather is it impossible?


How does your expertise in the field of archaeology affect your philosophical thinking?


With your work, have you had an opportunity to travel to exotic locations. Or are you more of an 'ivory tower academic'? Mao for instance wrote in On Practice, "'A scholar does not step outside his gate, yet knows all the happenings under the sun' -- mere empty talk."


What does the future hold for ephilosophy? Could YouTube become more important? Real-time formats? Or is the Bulletin Board System really as perfect as it seems to be for a subject that requires time and concentration to unfold?
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Forest_Dump   Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:51 am

- You recently wrote, "...being an avowed liberal...." What is a "liberal"?

Big question. I believe in both individual rights and collective rights since the collective is simply individuals working together to meet common goals. Now "liberal" often enters discussions under a variety of headings. Sometimes the idea of "big government" is used. I do not believe in "big government" when it comes to individual preferences, etc., such as dictating religion, sexual preferences, etc. But I do believe in "big government" when it comes to ensuring everyone has equal access to things like health care, education, etc. I do not believe that any one economic system works for everyone so communism or socialism may work best in some parts of the world but, in North America, because of history of various beliefs, etc., capitalism, at least for now, works better. Some functions of political economy work best as individual, capitalistic endeavors while for some others, perhaps most often seen in privatization of some government functions, privatizing means inserting a kind of "middle man" into the equation and I am not often convinced this really works well because somehow the increased efficiency asserted does not match up with the profit margin. So, the profit margin usually means increased cost to tax payers and decreased benefits from that cost, usually by fewer people directly benefiting. Additionally, "liberal" first was defined as benefiting the average folk more than the aristocracy. I think today, we simply have a different aristocracy emerging based on differential inheritance of social (economic, political, etc.) benefits.


- "In short, I don't believe there is anything like self-evident truths, natural rights (in fact I would be willing to debate "natural" anything), "universal good," etc." you wrote. Could you elaborate on what this means?

First, I do not believe much of real importance is genetically determined. Genetics certainly provides a "scaffold" or "platform" on which we as a species build but that is all. On the other hand, many people accept the idea of "natural rights" etc., as being along the lines of what Comte meant as things that are ultimately metaphysical in nature and exist outside and above what humans create politically, etc. This, to me, is a religious kind of belief, not unlike, in fact, the idea of "natural laws" - by their very nature, we can never know that these things exist or existed in all time and space but we have to take them on faith (my old favorite - how do you absolutely know gravity worked on the moon one million years ago? I may not have any reason to doubt this but that does not mean I know it absolutely). So, truths, rights, good, etc., are entirely human constructs based on context and can never be considered universal or absolute except by people who believe that these things were put in place and enforced by some kind of supernatural being. And, therefore, even if you believe in this supernatural being, if you accept that humans have any measure of free-will or even can "sin", then these things can't be universal and absolute (because someone always "sins", etc.).


- You also wrote recently, "You could argue that there have been a number recent empires or civilisations that declined or are in decline." Some of your readers may know that you are based in the United States. Is America one of those empires that are in decline? A lot of people are calling for 'Death to America!', myself included, is this a foregone conclusion, or rather is it impossible?

Hmmm. Yes and no. Since I believe the world is always changing, then change must come to all. All empires and civilizations have collapsed but the impacts on the people vary. Perhaps one classic example might be the Mayans. Classic Mayan civilization certainly fell but the Mayans are still around (as are the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, etc.). One worthwhile question, with I think many different answers, is did "they" ever know their civilization was falling? America, as we "know" it was built and grew under an obviously successful political and economic system but it was one that required a high degree of isolation. In fact, America grew under a relatively closed economic system. Well, that created the very seeds for inevitable change, largely now through information technology. The US is no longer capable of existing under a closed economic system because the free movement of information and money does not allow for that. To make a long story short, the crushing symptom of that is and will be debt. The US is going to go bankrupt, IMHO, just like the USSR did and for almost identical reasons. Money pumped into the economy flows out to other parts of the world too quickly and always more than is recovered because of the tax system and because the transfer of money out is simply too easy. So, net debt will continue to grow until it can no longer be successfully financed. Either the economic system will inevitably fully collapse or people will eventually realise that they are being saddled with debt beyond what they have benefited from and beyond what they will be willing to pay for. We often talk about what the "west" may no longer be able to afford and this is most often raised in terms of environment fuel and resource use, etc. I think before this, we will be looking at the massive bureaucracies of things like some large private sector industries will go. Health care could serve as a great example. HMOs are a huge bureaucracy with massive buildings, high paid CEOs, etc. But their purpose is to health care for individuals and, now, not everyone can afford this because too much money is spent of keeping those HMOs wealthy. Canada is able to provide health care for a far greater percentage of the people and at least part of this is that this "infrastructure" of HMOs simply does not exist (although they certainly have their lobbyists working on that). HMOs are one example of a "middleman" I don't think we can afford any more.


- How does your expertise in the field of archaeology affect your philosophical thinking?

I suppose in two ways. First, it allows me to think over much longer spans of time and over broader geographic areas than can gained from history. And, since in part I tend to distrust history as a different kind of bias, I tend to look more at what people actually do rather than what they say, think or believe they do. I look more for the real products of human behaviour. In fact, this is an on-going debate in anthropology broadly. Even when ethnographers go out and observe different people, there has been an element of wondering how much ethnographers bring their society, culture, etc., with them (i.e., usually the ethnographer has to be fed and housed, etc., so that will have some impact on the people who have to care for this stranger). As an archaeologist I won't say that we are free of bias and impacts on the people we study (even if they have been dead for thousands of years) but the biases we bring are, I think, less. I definitely study, for example, people who lived without any possible form of contact with industrial or western society and therefore have to take it for granted that they lived under contexts that would be as foreign to me in some ways as people from another solar system.


- With your work, have you had an opportunity to travel to exotic locations. Or are you more of an 'ivory tower academic'? Mao for instance wrote in On Practice, "'A scholar does not step outside his gate, yet knows all the happenings under the sun' -- mere empty talk."

"Exotic" is in the eye of the beholder. I dig sites, look at artifacts from literally hundreds of thousands of years ago, etc. I also deal with living people who are very traditionalist and only on the margins of industrialisation and what we like to call western civilisation. Mao, as far as I know, never did this kind of thing. While perhaps entirely in reaction against capitalism, etc., communism, etc., is only a different side of the same coin. It is definitely not independent of it. I suppose one analogy might be "satanism". This religion does not exist independently of Christianity - it is merely a polar opposite of it, however construed. In this kind of thing, Mao (and of course Marx) was an "ivory tower" type because, again as far as I know of him, even in his ideas about peasants, the bourgeoisie, etc., I am not sure he ever really dealt with and certainly did nothing for, egalitarian peoples. The very act of creating, maintaining, etc., a nation with any kinds of laws, police, etc., destroys any kind of egalitarianism. That, in fact, is the only real function and purpose of laws.


- What does the future hold for ephilosophy? Could YouTube become more important? Real-time formats? Or is the Bulletin Board System really as perfect as it seems to be for a subject that requires time and concentration to unfold?

Well, I am a bit of a luddite. I still think nothing beats reading for prolonged periods of time and fully debating, etc., on a person to person basis. I think people are being a little fooled that the quantity of information available somehow translates to quality of information. I think attention spans are decreasing and, when confronted with unfamiliar ideas or ones they don't like, the very nature of the electronic format encourages "flight" to other things and ideas without having to really deal with the substance. I often think of cities, for example, as being "culture-free zones" because if people don't like someone or something, they are perfectly free to move on to something else and have learned to do so. That is why I have always preferred small scale societies. There, if people don't like someone or something, they must learn to deal with it and compromise, etc. They usually don't really have to full freedom to move away permanently and ignore the problems. But this is also the real problem egalitarianism - it is very hard to get the 100% consensus necessary so, more often than not, egalitarianism looses to the broader encroaching world and this just creates the conditions for inequality, etc. Of course, I am also very much aware that truly egalitarian systems, for these very reasons, are xenophobic and this often translates into racism, etc., but this, I think, is simply a symptom of a recognition that "outsiders" of any sort will inevitably bring in foreign ideas that will of course bring change, etc., that destabilises that very system. Somehow we need to find ways to balance some of the values and benefits of small scale society with the values and benefits of our increasingly cosmopolitan world. And if I knew how to do that, then there would be the danger that, like all demagogues, I would try to impose that on everyone making me as bad as the rest from all sides of the political spectrum. That is ultimately the problem with everyone from ephilosophers to anarchists, Mao to Bush, conservatives and dissidents - everyone who has convinced themselves and those around them that their ideas are best, then tries to impose those on everyone else, immediately becoming the opposite of what they started out trying to be.
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with Forest_Dump   Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:13 am

This concludes DPF's interview with Forest_Dump, mod of PCF philosophychatforum. This has been very educational for the readers as a lesson in praxis. Further results might humor. Peace be with you.
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