The Gettier Problem with Activism

Edmund Gettier is most well-known for a thought experiment that challenged the fundamental understanding of epistemology and what understanding is. In the experiment, a character makes an assumption about the outcome of an event based on a justified belief, but is wrong because he still fails to collect all of the data.

The story is about two people who are applying for a job, I’ll call them William and Amanda, and I will temporarily exclude gender issues. Each of them are wearing a Columbia jacket and they are each waiting for the results of their application. Amanda comes to the conclusion (belief) that the person wearing a Columbia jacket will get the job. From this belief, she infers that William will get the job, failing to realize that she is also wearing a Columbia jacket because it was a gift and she never paid attention to what brand it is. Furthermore, she is the one who will be getting the job, not William. Amanda does not know that the person wearing a Columbia jacket will get the job, therefore it is a belief. It being validated by her getting the job on account of her also wearing a Columbia jacket, though unwittingly, does not make that belief knowledge because of precisely the fact that she didn’t know. Her belief is justified, but only happens to be true by virtue of luck.

This thought experiment became relevant to me yesterday as I was thinking about the mobilizing structures of some activist groups, in particular the anarchist movement. In talking with some self-proclaimed anarchists, I have noticed this idea of us vs. them repeated regularly. This is an important part of social movements, as activists require an outsider identity in order to build strength for their campaign. But sociology, and in particular the idea of symbolic interaction, is a generally collectivist interpretation of the workings of society; that we are all a part of the building of society, and society is a part of the the building of the self and identity.

Personally, through my own experience, I have come to take the “Looking-Glass Self” to be the fundamental truth behind the workings of society. In other words, the idea of us vs them is impossible, we are all equally complicit in the creation of the problems in our society, because, through the process of interacting with each other in certain ways, we are creating the society around us. Marx would likely agree with me because he argued precisely for an oppositional movement not against specific people or organizations, but against the fundamental structure that he had declared to be the problem. “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains.”

Yet the fundamental structures of our society that participate in creating social problems are not seen as the problem, instead the burden is placed on specific people (i.e. the 1 percent). In so doing, an oppositional movement is still created, which does indeed create social change, but only because by opposing those in power people refuse to provide for the system that gives those people their power.

As a result, the appropriate effect is reached, but for a misunderstood reason. Just like Amanda.

By the way, I only happen to be wearing a Columbia jacket, this is not intended to be an advertisement for Columbia, though I’m sure there are wonderful people who work in that company.

Posted in Blogging, Soapbox, Sociology by Preston on September 19th, 2012


Posted in Blogging, Diversions by Preston on August 24th, 2012

Continuing Creativity

So, I thought today was going to be a work day, and it turned into a make-music day, which culminated in a new song. I don’t think it’s -that- great of a song, but to me it showcases new things I’ve learned with the program I’ve been using. Here it is, enjoy.

Posted in Blogging, Music by Preston on April 18th, 2012

The Serendipitous Event

I don’t like starting a story with a tragic event, but in truth, I’m beginning to feel like tragic events are no less significant than any other kind of event. I was thinking about that at the grocery store the other day, my total came to exactly $20.00. “It’s your lucky day” the cashier told me, smiling, finally something interesting, they must have just gotten the job.

Yes, it is interesting, serendipitous, that I should choose precisely the correct amount of vegetables and fruits that my total would amount to an even dollar amount. But really, I though, actually it is not so lucky, I mean why this obsessions with even numbers. In fact, every total purchase amount should be fortuitous, and lucky. Really, the person before me with eggs and milk $7.59, I wonder how often their purchase matches that exact amount.

I began to think about how tragic events are not so significant, really, as I walked out of the store. Why should they excite a reading more than a guy going to the grocery store?

So, as I crossed the street, lost in my thoughts, you can imagine I was only mildly shocked when I was struck forcefully by a car running the red-light.

– – –

A little story I found in my notebook the other day, you know it’s fictional because when would I be a customer and not a cashier at a grocery store?

Posted in Blogging, Stories by Preston on March 15th, 2012

The Only Way I Can Express Myself

I’ve been working on this song well over a month now and I’m so happy to have finished it. I started out with just the chord progression and built the rest from there. There were some exciting accomplishments with this one. In my opinion, it has my first ever successful build-up and climax. And it used a vocal loop as well, from my friend Taylor Gruye’. I like the end of the song quite a bit more than the beginning. And at the end of the song, that would be Taylor telling me, “don’t… don’t put that on the internet.”

Hope you enjoy. =D

Posted in Blogging, Music by Preston on January 17th, 2012

“I know.”

I stood at the register, my feet holding the ground solidly beneath me. I wore a slight smile, the kind you can wear all day, as customers passed me by like waves, my hands pulling the cans of tomatoes and stalks of broccoli and celery over the little red eye in seeming slow-motion. Like a meditation, it was so simple, only the moment existed and I knew it, yet, secretly, I was indifferent to it. Every passing breath as empty as the moment that held it. Until a familiar man and woman came to the register. When I had first met them, many years ago, they were children and so was I. But here they were, before me, smiling, jolly with holiday cheer, ignorant of the moments passing before them, splashing them in the face.

I greeted them. They looked like they might be a couple, now, after all these years, and they’re together. 10 years in the same school. It’s enough to make this big city seem like a small town. They weren’t paying together. She just wanted a few chocolates, he wanted a soda. It was christmas eve, home for the holidays, holiday spirit. We must imagine each other to be such ordinary folk, but really, you, I, and our families, are as dainty and civilized as our cheap, tawdry smiles.

Of course, none of that really matters anymore. We’ve all grown up. I work in a grocery store, they live their lives. I couldn’t ever forget they’re faces, even now. Signs of age and maturity emanated from their pores. Let them have their life, I thought. Enough time has passed. Like moments, we move on. Still, the sight of them made my name-tag feel suddenly heavy on my collar.

“Is your last name Palmer?” he asked me. He had to ask me. I was surprised he hadn’t asked sooner.

“Yes. It is.” Here we go.

“We used to go to school together.”

“I know,” I said, maybe hoping to surprise them, confuse them. They’ll enjoy chatting about it later, I figured. Yes. I know we went to school. Do you remember? Do you remember how we related to one another back then, in those halls and classrooms. I remember it all, but I’m too old to hold a grudge, and too old to pretend like we’ve ever known each other any differently.

“It’s been a while,” I say, taking a $10 bill from him and making change in the drawer.

“Yes it has, how are you?”

“I’m alright, in school, you?”

It feels strange. I hope they don’t consider this “reconnecting with an old friend.” 10 years together and we have always been strangers. But the boy you knew then is a stranger to me too. I just cant seem to help myself here, smiling like a man with too much to say, saying, “well, have a nice holiday,” as you walk away.

Yes. It’s fun to see a familiar face after such a long time. Perhaps when we meet again, instead of stopping, when you see me, you will walk silently by, your hand in hers, moments washing over you like rain. And I will be fine, making my own friends, who remember when they first met me, who know who they are.

Posted in Blogging, Stories by Preston on December 25th, 2011

Nothing® The Game

Back in 2005, when I was a mere sophomore in highschool, my friend Taylor Gruye’ and I would always sit at the same table as a group of kids who would regularly play a game of Magic: The Gathering. Most of them were our friends, or friends via association if nothing else. But Taylor and I were both amused and annoyed by these immense card games. The playing card concept seemed banal and trite to our highly advanced, creative 15-year-old minds. And so we decided to come up with our own game that would mock and satirize playing cards. We, of course, called it Nothing®. I cut a pack of 50 index cards in half, and split it between the two of us, and these were our trading cards.

One day, our friends showed up at lunch time to find me trading my Hideous Monster card for Taylor’s Washing Machine of Death card. (A far superior card, of course.) We spread our cards out on the table and began playing, like a playing card version of Calvin-ball. For a few weeks we were the talk of the lunch-room.

For a short time, I though the idea might even be marketable. This was right around the time when commercials for kids toys started to seem extremely obnoxious and stupid to me. But they inspired me. I figured, if they could sell all the crap they sell to kids now, why couldn’t I sell a pack of blank white cards? I could even sell special Premium packs, with just 7-8 “special” cards. $9.99/each. You’d buy that for your kid, wouldn’t you?

It’s a real improv game, through and through. And it really was quite a bit of fun to play. When you held the cards in your hand, you had to think totally differently about how you would use your cards because, of course, there was nothing on them, they’re blank cards. Winning and losing was something more of a mutual agreement between the players than something tangible. And in the end, we were playing more as entertainers, so we had to be able to get into one another’s minds to figure out how the game would play out.

Unfortunately, the idea was short-lived and was forgotten until just now, when I was looking through some old papers and the game instructions showed up. So, here it is for all to see.

– – –

Each Player begins with 50 Nothing® Cards

Potions-Effect foundations, actions, or animals, can only be played once, unless summoned from discard pile using a side effect.

Animals– The main cards

Effects– Change the game play

Side effect– Can be played with an effect

Actions– A battle between all animals in play for points or other

Foundation– An effect that lasts one turn can only be played once unless summoned from the discard pile using a side effect or a potion.

Armor– Protects animals.

Character– The character card is a person in real life

To Begin: After determining a point total to play to (i.e. 10 or 3.14159265), each player draws five cards, the first to finish drawing begins their turn.

Game Play: Each player must have six cards at the beginning of the turn and less than five cards a the end of their turn, if that is not so, then a card(s) must be sacrificed from the player’s hand.

Nothing®: The Game

Potions: Potions can be played to make simple one-turn effects that cannot affect any future plays. They are played with the card they are affecting for the turn of the effect. They are placed face down in the bottom row until used.

Effects: When an effect card is played it modifies the way both players play Nothing®. The effect lasts until a potion or a foundation is played or if another effect is played. No two effects can be in play at the same time.

Side effects: Sometimes when effects are played a player will play a side effect that is in effect as long as the effect is. It can affect animals, armor, actions, or the effect itself.

Foundations: When a foundation is played it changes the game play for one turn.

Actions: When an action card is played both players’ animals must fight each other in a battle that the Action card describes. When an action card is played, the battle must occur two turns after the action card is played, no sooner, no later. Both players must battle regardless of their situation.

Character: When a character card is played, whoever the card is, determines the players following moves for as many moves as the player decides. Any move made by a character card cannot be stopped by any card. Character cards are the rarest and most powerful cards. Each deck is only allowed one.

All cards on either side of the field affect each other. Only cards protected by another card are safe.

All plays must be spoken aloud.

No game can last under 8 minutes

To win: The first person to the total number of points determined at the beginning of the game wins. OR if one player loses all of her/his life points, they lose.

Posted in Blogging, Diversions by Preston on December 20th, 2011

Learning Everyday

This is how I procrastinate. I have a test in Spanish on Monday. Okay, granted, I still have two whole days to study. Nevertheless, I made another song using Audiotool that I’m proud enough of to share with the world.

It utilizes two elements. One is called an LFO, short for Low-Frequency Oscillator, which creates a sweeping effect, generally, but I applied it to the filter so it ended up splitting the sound almost like a piece of glass bends light, which makes that tinkling sound at the beginning and end of the song. Then I learned how to use the amplitude envelope to give the chords in the background more of a beat and rhythm. It still isn’t that great, in fact I like my other song better, but I feel as though it’s another check-point in my progress in learning this software.

Posted in Blogging, Music by Preston on November 18th, 2011