Protasis and Apodosis

In grammar, conditional sentences are “If …, then …” statements. They make a statement that if something happens, then something else will happen.

The ‘if’ clause is referred to as the protasis by grammarians. It comes from the Greek words ‘pro’ (meaning before) and ‘stasis’ (meaning ‘stand’). So, the protasis means ‘what stands before’ or ‘comes first’ as far as these two clauses are concerned. The ‘then’ clause is termed the apodosis; it is what ‘comes after’ the protasis.

A Short Digression on the Pig

‘All religions have a tendency to feature some dietary injunction or prohibition, whether it is the now lapsed Catholic injunction to eat fish on Fridays, or the adoration by Hindus of the cow as a consecrated and invulnerable animal (the government of India even offered to import and protect all the cattle facing slaughter as a result of the bovine encephalitic, or “mad cow,” plague that swept Europe in the 1990s), or the refusal by some other Eastern cults to consume any animal flesh, or to injure any other creature be it rat or flea. But the oldest and most tenacious of all fetishes is the hatred and even fear of the pig.

It emerged in primitive Judaea, and was for centuries one of the ways—the other being circumcision—by which Jews could be distinguished. Even though sura 5.60 of the Koran condemns particularly Jews but also other unbelievers as having been turned into pigs and monkeys—a very intense theme in recent Salafist Muslim preaching—and the Koran describes the flesh of swine as unclean or even “abominable,” Muslims appear to see nothing ironic in the adoption of this uniquely Jewish taboo.

Real horror of the porcine is manifest all over the Islamic world. One good instance would be the continued prohibition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, one of the most charming and useful fables of modern times, of the reading of which Muslim schoolchildren are deprived. I have perused some of the solemn prohibition orders written by Arab education ministries, which are so stupid that they fail to notice the evil and dictatorial role played by the pigs in the story itself.

Orwell actually did dislike pigs, as a consequence of his failure as a small farmer, and this revulsion is shared by many adults who have had to work with these difficult animals in agricultural conditions. Crammed together in sties, pigs tend to act swinishly, as it were, and to have noisy and nasty fights. It is not unknown for them to eat their own young and even their own excrement, while their tendency to random and loose gallantry is often painful to the more fastidious eye.

But it has often been noticed that pigs left to their own devices, and granted sufficient space, will keep themselves very clean, arrange little bowers, bring up families, and engage in social interaction with other pigs. The creatures also display many signs of intelligence, and it has been calculated that the crucial ratio—between brain weight and body weight—is almost as high with them as it is in dolphins.

There is great adaptability between the pig and its environment, as witness wild boars and “feral pigs” as opposed to the placid porkers and frisky piglets of our more immediate experience. But the cloven hoof, or trotter, became a sign of diabolism to the fearful, and I daresay that it is easy to surmise which came first—the devil or the pig. It would be merely boring and idiotic to wonder how the designer of all things conceived such a versatile creature and then commanded his higher-mammal creation to avoid it altogether or risk his eternal displeasure. But many otherwise intelligent mammals affect the belief that heaven hates ham.’

Hitchens. C. 2007. God Is Not Great London, Great Britain: Atlantic Books (2008) p. 37-38

Dichotomies of the Rational and the Linguistic

Osiatynski: I’ve read several times that we think in language but “feel” in nonlinguistic ways.

Chomsky: I know that it’s false of me, at least if “language” refers (in my case) to English, and I assume that it’s false of everyone else. I don’t think you would have any trouble at all in deciding that you are thinking of some event and then visualizing it happening with its consequences, and constructing a rational analysis of it without being able to verbalize it adequately in anything like its full complexity.

Osiatynski: You used the expression “rational analysis.” Do you believe that all our thinking is rational and linear?

Chomsky: I don’t think all thinking is a kind of rational structure. But I don’t think it is correct to identify the rational-nonrational dichotomy with the linguistic-nonlinguistic dichotomy.

Osiatynski: Can language be nonrational?

Chomsky: Yes; so those are two dimensions that do not correlate. It’s true that language is in a sense linear but that is as obvious as perceptual space is three-dimensional.

– Wiktor Osiatynski (ed.), Contrasts: Soviet and American Thinkers Discuss the Future (MacMillan, 1984), pp. 95-101

On the Capacity for Doubt

“The press and the public like certainty and affirmation of popular biases. But real science thrives on the capacity for doubt.”

– Wendy Kaminer

Talk Talk Talk

Gift of the gab
1.6 million – 600,000 years ago

All great apes have air sacs on their vocal tracts, which let them make loud bellows. But humans don’t, because the air sacs make it impossible to produce different vowel sounds. Our ancestors apparently lost them before we diverged from our Neanderthal cousins, suggesting the Neanderthals could also speak.

See other: What Makes Humans Human?

On Happiness and Bullshit

“Look at them, all the Christians. It’s not fair. I could be that happy if I believed a lot of rubbish.”

– Mark Corrigan