George Iordanou Politics, Philosophy and (not much) Real Life
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What makes a hero? — the elephant in the room (part 5)

Previous posts: What makes a hero? — introduction (part 1) What makes a hero? — outcomes (part 2) What makes a hero? — thinking about motives (part 3) What makes a hero? — two types of motives (part 4) In this series of posts I try to make sense of what makes a hero. These posts are a record of my thoughts on the matter, and might not always be coherent. If you have feedback or thoughts you want to share, I would love to read them either in the comments below, or via email. This discussion is taking place in a room that has a big pink elephant at its centre, whom we have thus far ignored. The elephant screams that our understanding of human agency and the motivations that are so central to the analysis, have been abstracted so much that they do not describe human beings who, contrary to...

What makes a hero? — two types of motives (part 4)

Previous posts: What makes a hero? — introduction (part 1) What makes a hero? — outcomes (part 2) What makes a hero? — thinking about motives (part 3) In this series of posts I try to make sense of what makes a hero. These posts are a record of my thoughts on the matter, and might not always be coherent. If you have feedback or thoughts you want to share, I would love to read them either in the comments below, or via email. The earlier discussion on outcomes distinguished between outcomes in relation to the success or failure of the act — i.e. whether the children were saved from the burning school building — and the outcomes in terms of the personal detriment endured by the act-doer. A similar distinction is relevant in the discussion on motives. They can be divided into the motives...

What makes a hero? — thinking about motives (part 3)

Previous posts: What makes a hero? — introduction (part 1) What makes a hero? — outcomes (part 2) In this series of posts I try to make sense of what makes a hero. These posts are a record of my thoughts on the matter, and might not always be coherent. If you have feedback or thoughts you want to share, I would love to read them either in the comments below, or via email. We now turn to motives. By the end of the discussion we must be in position to consider whether our determination of the heroism attached to saving the schoolchildren from the burning building changes if the random bystander is replaced by a fireman. The parameters of the example remain the same. The only change is the actor. It is no longer a third-party, an unrelated by-stander that runs into the burning building. Now...

What makes a hero? — outcomes (part 2)

Previous post: What makes a hero? — introduction (part 1) In this series of posts I try to make sense of what makes a hero. These posts are a record of my thoughts on the matter, and might not always be coherent. If you have feedback or thoughts you want to share, I would love to read them either in the comments below, or via email. This is the second post on What makes a hero? Here, I will explore two scenaria in order to tease out our intuitions on outcomes; whether the outcomes of an act play a role in determining if the act is indeed heroic. In the first scenario, our hero is someone who enters into a burning school and saves the lives of two children who are trapped inside. If our rescuer is a random bystander who is unrelated to the children that are trapped in the burning school...

What makes a hero? — introduction (part 1)

In this series of posts I will try to make sense of what makes a hero. These posts are a record of my thoughts on the matter, and might not always be coherent. If you have feedback or thoughts you want to share, I would love to read them either in the comments below, or via email. I am always weary of people who call other people heroes. What does it mean anyway? That was, until recently, my immediate thought when confronted with a hero-type statement. My response was a product of performative conditioning. Simply put, when we observe the same phenomenon over and over again, we associate it with those that perform it, thus leaving the concept itself — heroism in this case — unexplored. In essence, the performative conditioning, the fallacy that I have been committing when confronted with...

On Useless Statistics

I run to podcasts. My favourite podcast is More or Less: Behind the Stats, by Tim Harford. It is broadcasted weekly by BBC Radio 4. Tim humorously examines mainstream statistics that come up in the news. Listeners send their questions and he tries to analyse the numbers to examine the claims that are made. For instance, in the latest show, Tim analyses two interesting statistics. The first, was that joggers who run for more than two and a half hours, for more than three times per week, are as likely to die as those who are couch potatoes, whereas those who run for up to two and half hours for less than three times a week and at a slower running pace, enjoy increased chances of survival of non-joggers and strenuous joggers alike. The conclusion reached by the statisticians who conducted...

Word and Endnote almost made my cry

[et_pb_section][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text”] Today is Sunday, exactly a week since I realised that my referencing application broke my PhD by mixing the thousands of footnotes that I have. It was around 8am. I had waken up a few minutes before E., made us some coffee and turned on the computer. The plan was to keep editing until the bloody PhD is done. The night before, I was editing the “Conclusion” chapter and I noticed that its only reference was misplaced. I assumed that I had made a mistake, corrected it and called it a night. The morning after, on Sunday, sitting at my home desk drinking coffee at 8am, I decided to go over the references to catch similar mistakes. It was during that time that E. entered the room...

Scotland’s big day, morning thoughts on devolution and inequality

Today is the big day. The Scots are voting for or against their independence from the United Kingdom. Some thoughts before I start my day. The polls show the two sides starting the day head-to-head, with a slight advantage given to the Better Together campaign. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, it is safe to say that the tendency towards decentralisation will continue, and more powers will be devolved to Scotland. Quite a lot of focus has been placed on the devolution of powers, mostly to reassure those that have been flirting with a YES vote. The message is clear: this is not the end of the road, more powers will be coming to Scotland anyway, there is no need to break-up the union for this. The Tory angle was also interesting. Don’t vote YES just to get rid of the effing...

Time to rethink the book ban

A Cypriot was stopped at Stansted Airport because he was carrying emergency flares with him. The person that will likely carry mini-explosives to the airport is either a potential terrorist or “stupid and naive”, and it makes sense for the authorities to assume that he is the former. As it turned out, the defendant was not a terrorist. If this was a story about a 22 year-old with a box of distress signal mini-flares in his luggage, then there would be nothing controversial about it, besides perhaps the fact that the police actually returned the flares to him once they charged him. As it turns out, the problem were not the flares, but rather a book he was reading, called the Anarchist Cookbook, which was published in 1971. Five months before his airport arrest, Andreas...

Brief review of Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

I have read Haruki Murakami’s new novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, and I am afraid to say, I didn’t like it as much as his other books. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki is a young man, part of a group of five friends in high school, who suddenly finds himself excommunicated from the group. Sixteen years later, Tsukuru visits his three remaining ex-friends, to find out why they had stopped talking to him back then. The book is mostly a narrative of Tsukuru’s visits to his three friends. On the back of it, a love-story is unfolding between Tsukuru and Sara, a young friend of his who is encouraging Tsukuru to find out more about his excommunication. The book has all the traits that distinguish Murakami’s writing style: the metaphors, the existential crises, the...

Against the protection of primary residences, in favour of general welfare

Published in the Cyprus-Mail on August 17, 2014, under the title “When should the state help?“  I don’t think it’s the government’s job to protect primary residences. Here, I said it. Considerations of general welfare take precedence over protecting people from the bad choices that they have made, even if those choices generate unfortunate circumstances due to no fault of those that made them. Let me explain. Private individuals made private contracts with private organisations (banks) regulated by the state (Central Bank of Cyprus) to get mortgages to build houses. In some cases these loans were sensible, in others they weren’t. Some of the non-performing loans (NPLs) are a product of error (POE) — the banks and their debtors during the initial loan agreements have miscalculated the...

Not very British #BritishValues: how Cameron silences minorities

In his article on Mail on Sunday, the British Prime Minister explains that values such as freedom, tolerance, social responsibility and the rule of law are virtues distinctively British that should be taught in schools. Cameron is factually, conceptually, historically and empirically wrong. These values he describes — tolerance, freedom, social responsibility, the rule of law — are desirable and worth upholding, but they are not ‘British’. They are global values that feature at the core documents of the biggest intergovernmental organisations like the Charter of the United Nations and the Lisbon Treaty. At best, they could be described as ‘Western Values’; an equally misguided conclusion since it assumes that non-Western countries endorse slavery, which is the opposite of freedom. Cameron...

I still feel guilty for my indifference towards football

I have absolutely no interest in the World Cup. Until yesterday I didn’t even know which country was hosting it. My relationship with football is rather peculiar. When I was young I used to attend all the games of my local football club, OMONOIA Nicosia. Football in Cyprus is politicised and OMONOIA reflects my political views — it is supported by left wing working class people and it emerged as a reaction to the ethnic nationalism of APOEL, the other big football club in Cyprus. I never liked football though. I grew up in a politically active household where both mum and dad claimed to be socialists, with football being at the centre of their social relations. Naturally, I tried to like football. I remember going to OMONOIA games with my walkman listening to music and trying to find the...

Mr Cameron: when you bully the EU you threaten one of the most productive groups in the British economy

David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, does not want Jean-Claude Juncker, the EPP Candidate, to become the next president of the European commission. I’m the last person to support an EPP candidate, but I’m also pissed off at David Cameron for threatening me all the time. My partner and I are European citizens, studying and working in the UK, paying taxes and national security contributions, who feel threatened every time Cameron tries to bully the EU. The two of us are a classic example of educated, specialised and mobile young people; far from being a burden to the economy, we actually add value to the workforce of the United Kingdom. Why does the British government make us feel unsafe? On the national front, Cameron and the Tories lost the European election. They came third after...

George Iordanou Politics, Philosophy and (not much) Real Life

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