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Monday, August 21. 2006
Author: GM Raymond Keene OBE
CELEBRATING YOUR FREEDOM AND TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT.
“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”.
THE INDIVIDUAL IN SOCIETY
Our seventh revolutionary thinker, Thomas Jefferson, was one of the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution, which ensured Independence from the British Crown. He was a member of the committee, which drew up the Declaration of Independence, dated 4 July 1776. The committee included John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingstone, and Benjamin Franklin, but it was Jefferson who drafted the final version.
Jefferson's prose was a powerful statement of universal egalitarian and humanitarian ideals, but it was also in perfect harmony with the enlightenment philosophy of the 18th century. From Jefferson you can learn how to celebrate your freedom and take responsibility for it. Jefferson regarded liberty as so important that he said ‘I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending to small degree of it’.
In the following resounding terms Jefferson articulated the optimum political system for protecting and cultivating the dignity and potentiality of the individual in society:
'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter and abolish it; and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness’.
This is, undoubtedly, one of the most quoted passages in the English language.
The premise is equal creation and it echoes one of the most quoted passages from Shakespeare:
“hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands….if you prick us, do we not bleed-if you tickle us do we not laugh-if you poison us do we not die?”
The birth of the United States and the formulation of an equal society constituted a fabulous leap forwards for mankind. The protection, which the new American system gave to freedom, granted potential to human creativity on an unprecedented scale. Jefferson’s example can teach you to think about what freedom means to you and how you can use it. Do the freedoms demanded by different groups, the freedom to be homosexual or the freedom to take drugs for example, really undermine society?
Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body & mind
will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.
Jefferson was a man of many talents, not only a skilled politician and lawyer, but also a philosopher, archaeologist, architect, mathematician and meteorologist. Moreover, his memory was phenomenal and he was fluent in six languages. In his early teens, Jefferson came into a large inheritance, which helped him to establish himself in business and politics.
He was also a passionate admirer of women, which often led to intense emotional turmoil, particularly on one occasion when he tried to seduce a neighbour's wife. He married in 1772, but sadly his wife Martha died ten years later, giving birth to their sixth child. Jefferson was devastated, but later, while travelling in Europe, he fell in love and corresponded with Maria Cosway, an English artist and musician.
It has been suggested that at the age of 65 Jefferson fathered a son by Sally Hemings, a slave at his home of Monticello. DNA tests show that Jefferson could well have been the father of her son, but so, indeed, could 25 other men of the Jefferson family, who lived within a twenty mile radius of Monticello!
Jefferson was prominent in the calling of the First Continental Congress in 1774, which he attended as a delegate and he was only 33 when he drafted the Declaration of Independence. Although the Declaration was debated at considerable length by Congress, it was adopted with just one major change. Jefferson’s denunciation of slavery was removed to appease the delegates from the Southern States, where society and industry depended largely on slave labour. Although Jefferson was a slave owner himself, he believed that slavery was an ignoble tyranny and that eventually the slaves would be freed. He also believed that they should be repatriated to their original homelands. His opposition to slavery was sincere, but at this time he also accepted that the time to free the slaves had not yet come.
JEFFERSON ON SLAVERY
There is nothing I would not sacrifice to a practicable plan of abolishing every vestige of this moral and political depravity.
I have considered the general silence which prevails on this subject as indicating an apathy unfavourable to every hope. Yet the hour of emancipation is advancing, in the march of time. It will come; and whether brought on by the generous energy of our own minds; or by the bloody process of St Domingo … is a leaf of our history not yet turned over … It is an encouraging observation that no good measure was ever proposed, which if duly pursued, failed to prevail in the end’.
Letter to Edward Coles, 1814.
Jefferson on the Future:
‘I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past’.
One of the greatest achievements of his second term of Presidency was the prohibition of the slave trade. However, the United States had to wait for a further half century and Abraham Lincoln before slavery was finally and effectively abolished in 1863, and yet another century after that before Martin Luther King conclusively established civil rights for all black Americans. Nevertheless, Thomas Jefferson, the first major opponent of slavery in the US, was the man who laid the foundations for the achievements of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King and the granting of civil rights to the entire population of the American continent.
Jefferson also helped Virginia to frame a state constitution and served as Governor from 1779 to 1781. Religious freedom was a basic human right for Jefferson and he was particularly proud of his Bill for Religious Freedom enacted in Virginia in 1786 after a decade of campaigning.
When he came to write his own epitaph, Jefferson chose these words to describe his own achievements:-
‘Here was buried Thomas Jefferson author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and father of the University of Virginia’.
From 1784 to 1789 Jefferson served as an ambassador in France before returning to become Secretary of State under George Washington. He served as Vice-President in 1797 and was chosen as third President of the United States in 1801. He was subsequently re-elected, by a large majority, for his next presidential term. He was to become the personal hero of both the 35th President, John F.Kennedy, and of the 42nd President, William Jefferson Clinton, who has said: 'What is most amazing about Jefferson was his ability to pursue not only his ambitious public agenda but also his personal interests. Jefferson did so many things – he invented gadgets, designed homes, rode a horse daily well into his 70s…'
In 1818 Jefferson wrote the report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia. He recommended that the following main subjects should be taught :-
Ancient languages, modern languages, pure mathematics, ‘Physico-Mathematics’ (by which he meant mechanics, dynamics, acoustics, optics, astronomy, and geography), Physics, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Botany, Zoology, Medicine, Anatomy, government, History, Law, and Ideology, which was to be studied through grammar, ethics, rhetoric, belles lettres and the fine arts. This curriculum would form the statesmen, legislators and judges ‘on whom public prosperity and individual happiness are so much to depend’.
Now look at this list again and reflect on which subjects are missing from your own intellectual arsenal and which ones you would like to pursue.
ASSEMBLY OF DEMI-GODS
In 1787 the convention to establish the first Constitution of the United States of America, took place in Philadelphia.
In the words of Jefferson himself, the men who gathered in Philadelphia were 'an assembly of demi-gods'. Although Jefferson and John Adams were absent on diplomatic service abroad, the Convention was attended by Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and of course, George Washington, whose name is associated with the final version of the Constitution.
Their problem was to balance individual freedom with the responsibilities of the citizen. This age old problem was adressed by Plato in his ideal state in The Republic and was raised again during the Renaissance when there was a rediscovery of classical political thought and a rebirth of the emphasis on individual empowerment. From then onwards political systems evolved that could support the rights of the individual, but it was not until the American and the French Revolutions that political systems were formulated that truly celebrated the Renaissance discovery of individuality.
Even the famous English Magna Carta of 1215 and the English Bill of Rights of 1689 did not fully protect the rights of the individual citizen. In America the solution to this problem was enshrined in the immortal opening words of the Constitution:
'We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America’.
The concept of personal freedom contains a central paradox in that the pursuit of an individual’s freedom can impinge on the freedom of others. The philosophers of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-73), tried to overcome this through their philosophy of ‘the greatest good of the greatest number’ – e.g. freedoms would be curtailed if they were harmful to the majority. Jefferson was himself influenced by utilitarianism. In his report for the foundation of the University of Virginia, Jefferson wrote that ‘a sound spirit of legislation … banishing all arbitrary and unnecessary restraint on individual action, shall leave us free to do whatever does not violate the equal rights of another’.
We confide in our own strength, without boasting of it; we respect that of
others, without fearing it.
The men who came together in the last quarter of the 18th century to create the new American nation were an extraordinary group. Their grand endeavor led ultimately to the creation of the most prosperous and freedom-conscious nation the earth has ever witnessed. In his efforts to create a new state, Jefferson was supported by two towering intellects, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. These men took on the might of Great Britain, the world's foremost naval and military power of the day and they won.
Washington, the military leader of the American Revolution became the first President of the United States in 1789.
Under Washington’s leadership the American army with French help forced the surrender of the British General, Cornwallis, at Yorktown in 1781. On 3 September 1783, the peace treaty which guaranteed the Independence of America was signed with Great Britain.
Washington’s main virtues were persistence and the ability to get straight to the point. The story that he confessed to cutting down a cherry tree with the words ‘father I cannot tell a lie’ is probably apocryphal. On other occasions he did summon up the telling phrase.
In his farewell address to the people of the United States in 1796 Washington advised them to ‘labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience’.
JEFFERSON ON CONSCIENCE
Never do nor say a bad thing. If ever you are about to say any thing amiss or to do any thing wrong, consider before hand. You will feel something within you which will tell you it is wrong & ought not to be said or done: this is your conscience, & be sure to obey it. Our maker has given us all, this faithful internal Monitor, and if you always obey it, you will always be prepared for the end of the world: or for a much more certain event which is death. This must happen to all: it puts an end to the world as to us, & the way to be ready for it is never to do a wrong act.
Benjamin Franklin was a journalist, scientific experimenter and Enlightenment thinker. Franklin's achievements are astonishing - his formal education ended when he was ten, but that did not impede his desire for learning. He devised a series of mental training games that were to serve him for the rest of his life.
You could easily incorporate some of these games into your own mental training. They included making notes on essays in The Spectator (you could choose the The New Yorker), and then rewriting the essays based on his notes and memory. He also converted essays into poetry and then back into prose and embarked on a massive training programme to improve his vocabulary.
Franklin started his working life as a printer. In 1729, aged just 23, he bought the Pennsylvania Gazette. These achievements are amazing for one so young and demonstrate his enormous energy and fierce spirit of individual enterprise. Franklin also founded Poor Richard's Almanac, in which he regularly advised readers on how to be successful.
Thoughts from Poor Richard's Almanac:-
Blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
Observe all men; thyself most.
Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.
Franklin also conducted a famous experiment in electricity, which earned him election as a Fellow of the Royal Society in London. He proved that lightning and electricity are identical and demonstrated the distinction between positive and negative charges. He invented the lightning conductor to protect buildings, bi-focal glasses and an efficient stove. He also charted the routes of storms over North America and the course of the Gulf Stream. After acting as a diplomat in France, Franklin was elected President of Pennsylvania state three times and there was international mourning when he died.
CHESS AND THE POLICIES OF THE MIND
Benjamin Franklin wrote and published the first American book on chess. In his autobiography, he explains how useful the playing of chess was in his life, but his most frequently quoted writings about chess come from a piece entitled The Morals of Chess, published in Philadelphia in 1786. In it, he likens the game to life itself:
"The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement; several, very valuable policies of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become ready on all occasions. For life is a kind of chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill-events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence or the want of it".
If you already play chess, you will understand what Franklin meant. If you do not, then you should find out. Buy a set, board and beginner’s book (see the bibliography for a recommendation) and persuade your friends to join you in this new mental exercise. Playing chess will develop your logical thought processes and will also stimulate the your mental spatial abilities.
AMERICA AND THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Franklin obtained French support for the insurgent colonists in their war of independence and at the same time he helped export egalitarian notions of freedom and brotherly love to Paris. He was therefore partly responsible for establishing the notions of "Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité" whereby the French themselves overthrew their own form of despotism in 1789.
Jefferson himself noted in his Autobiography that ‘celebrated writers of France and England had already sketched good principles on the subject of government; yet the American Revolution seems first to have awakened the thinking part of the French nation in general, from the sleep of despotism in which they were sunk’.
I DIDN’T KNOW THAT
Jefferson regarded Francis Bacon (1561-1626), John Locke (1632-1704) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727) as the three greatest men that ever lived for ‘having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences’.
He commissioned oval portraits of the three men to be executed on the same canvas so that ‘they may not be confounded at all with the herd of other great men’.
Jefferson saw mistakes as an inevitable but didactic part of human life:
He wrote that ‘error is the stuff of which the web of life is woven: and he who lives
longest and wisest is only able to weave out the more of it’ and ‘the errors and misfortunes of others should be a school for our own instruction’.
SUMMARY OF ACHIEVEMENT
q Drafted the Declaration of Independence – the most inspiring statement of human rights ever penned.
q Helped frame the Constitution for Virginia and was state governor from 1779-81.
q In 1783 he secured the adoption of the decimal coinage in Congress.
q Acknowledged head of the Republican party from its inception.
q Became President of the United States in 1801.
q Presided over the prohibition of the slave trade.
q Helped to found the University of Virginia in 1825.
“Jefferson was ahead of his time when it came to extolling the virtues of wine:
I rejoice, as a Moralist, at the prospect of a reduction of the duties on
wine, by our national legislature. It is an error to view a tax on that
liquor as merely a tax on the rich. It is a prohibition of its use to the
middling class of our citizens, and a condemnation of them to the poison of
whiskey, which is desolating their houses.
No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage.
It is in truth the only antidote to the bane of whiskey. Fix but the duty at the rate of other merchandise, and we can drink wine here as cheaply as we do grog; and who will not prefer it? Its extended use will carry health and comfort to a much enlarged circle.
Every one in easy circumstances (as the bulk of our citizens are) will prefer it to the poison to which they are now driven by their government.”
JEFFERSON ON EDUCATION
‘If the condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated, as we fondly hope
& believe, education is to be the chief instrument in effecting it’.
q I am aware of and value the freedoms I have in my society.
q I wish to protect the freedoms of other people
q I do not personally wish to do anything, which restricts the freedoms of others
q I cherish intellectual freedom.
q I regard education as a fundamental human right.
q I regard religious freedom as an important right.
q I do not buy products from countries that are run by dictatorships.
q I conduct my private affairs as if they might be made public at any time.
q Even when severely provoked I am very slow to anger.
• CONSIDER FREEDOM AND ITS MODULATIONS WITHIN A CIVILISED SOCIAL FRAMEWORK.
Think about the following points, make notes about them in your notebook.
• What freedoms do you enjoy?
• Are there freedoms you desire but which are prohibited?
• Are there freedoms desired by others which your opinions restrain?
• If granted how much damage from them would impact upon your life?
• Contentious freedoms might include for example: gay rights-even gay marriages-freedom to take certain types of drug-freedom to smoke tobacco-
• Does it not appear curious that there are voluminous laws against taking virtually every type of drug, that there are state warnings against smoking tobacco accompanied by massive class action lawsuits against tobacco companies-yet there are no laws against licking the highway clean with your tongue or drinking gasoline, both of which activities seem infinitely more injurious to the enactor!
• What would have been Jefferson’s reaction to such questions?
• PERSONAL IMPROVEMENT
Now consider Jefferson’s ten-point plan for personal improvement.
Note your reactions to each statement. :
1. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
3. Never spend your money before you have it.
4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to
5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
6. We never repent of having eaten too little.
7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
8. How much pain has cost us the evils which have never happened.
9. Take things always by their smooth handle.
10. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.
Now make your own personal list of ten things that will improve your own life.
Here are five of my favorite Jefferson quotes. Read them and note your reactions to them, then pick out your favorites from your own reading of his works.
• I have ever deemed it more honorable, & more profitable too, to set a good
example than to follow a bad one. The good opinion of mankind, like the lever
of Archimedes, with the given fulcrum, moves the world.
• Rapid integrity is the first and most gainful qualification (in the long run)
in every profession.
• Above all things, and at all times, practise yourself in good humor; this of
all human qualities is the most amiable and endearing to society.
• Above all things lose no occasion of exercising your dispositions to be
grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, to be humane, to be true, just,
firm, orderly, courageous, & c. Consider every act of this kind as an
exercise which will strengthen your moral faculties & increase your worth.
• Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, & exercise them whenever an
opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise
as a limb of the body does, & that exercise will make them habitual. From the
practice of the purest virtue you may be assured you will derive the most
sublime comforts in every moment of life, & in the moment of death.
We have already observed Jefferson’s ringing prose in the final version of the Declaration of Independence-but it is also worth considering the draft original where he wrote-
“ We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Even after the American and French Revolutions it is doubtful whether majority opinion in the western world would have concurred with Jefferson on the point of men’s “equal creation.” However, reinforcing proof was to come from an unlikely direction, the educationally undistinguished and religiously unadventurous scion of an English upper middle class family - Charles Darwin.
Friday, March 17. 2006
An archaeologist unearths an artefact and immediately senses that it must the board for an unknown game. "It's a game," he tells his assistants. Which of course it is not, unfortunately.
What he dug up is the vestige of a game, proof that there once was a game, but the game itself is gone since the rules are gone and almost certainly will never be found - because they were never written. The people who played the game knew the rules, so why should they have written them down?
But fortunately in some cases the line of oral transmission was not interrupted, so that we have actually quite a large number of descendants from ancient games, even though, with the only exception of Go, as far as I know, all the original games have long ago disappeared. But we have their offspring. One curious fact about these games is that almost all are either war games or chase games, these being games in which our principal enjoyment comes from running down or running away from other players' pieces. The people who created those original games must have belonged to a privileged warrior class, who did not have to work and therefore had time to play, and since what they probably enjoyed most in life was to make war and chase animals, or occasionally people, not surprisingly those were the pleasures they tried to reproduce for their entertainment.
But war games and chase games are so profoundly different that we must really think of them as separate species, or even separate genera, with hardly anything in common aside from their being board games. War games are always 2-player games of strategy. Chase games always need a motor, a chance device of some kind, dice or cowrie shells or whatever, without which they could not move forward.
In some of the oldest and most interesting chase games the players have several pieces, which means that after each throw they have a choice and can make decisions. But most fascinating for me, from the point of view of the "pleasure factor", which is what interests me most, as you may have noticed, are the games of pure chance, in which we have only one piece - with which we can identify fully but over which we have no control, no power whatever.
We are completely helpless, which is precisely what we enjoy, I suspect. We have no responsibilities. All we can do is look on anxiously and cry out when an enemy piece is at our heels and coming closer. We need a three to reach a safety:
"Give me a three!" we implore aloud, "Please give me a three]" But we get a one and moan and bang a fist on the table.
The exact opposite of what takes place in a classic war game. Here there is no device to move the game forward. What moves the game forward is the mind of the players, who are silent, composed, eyes fixed on the board. What are they thinking about? Mostly, I believe, each is asking himself what the other is up to. Which is the gist of a game of pure strategy: we play in function of the other player, of what we think is on his mind. The result is a running interior monologue on both sides of the board, and explains, incidentally, why these games can only be for two players. "If I do this, he does that, then I take, he takes, I take... but what if he doesn't, then what?... I better think again... etc."
Very different in a game of strategy is also our attitude toward the pieces. We don't identify with them, but in some fashion we still breathe life into them, or at least some of us do, especially in games such as chess, in which pieces have different powers.
A bishop on a table is nothing. Apiece of wood. But if put on a chess board, it immediately seems to bristle with a desire to move, to be off in its crazy oblique way.
But bishops are relatively latecomers to chess. Whereas in all the classic forms of chess there is always a line of foot soldiers in front of the noble pieces in back: lowly peons which we are ever ready to send forward to be exchanged or sacrificed for minimal advantages; although we know that each one of them has in it the power to promote, some day, to a major piece, a metamorphosis which in Western chess can be particularly devastating. We can almost see our formerly humble pawns grow and swell with importance when they menace to promote. An advanced passed pawn approaching the eighth rank looks like Genghis Kahn. But the most life-like of all the chess pieces is of course the horse.
As a child I had a real passion for this piece, which I have always called a horse, since that is what it looks like. Wherever I saw a surface of squares on a wall or floor I would at once imagine horse-moves on it. I liked the horse's wrong-headedness, that it never stayed in its rank or file and always landed on a square of the other colour. And I also sympathized with the reputation it had of not being very strong. Although, of course, as we all know, in good hands a horse, too, can become a terror, especially when firmly implanted in the centre. Nimsovich said that a protected horse in the centre was like a spine in opponent's throat.
Still, I would like to use this unique opportunity to make two short comments about these games, from a point of view that is not quite the usual one, and which you might therefore find interesting - or so I hope.
My first comment, then, regards the fact that whole populations love these games "of pure calculation". Which means to me that there must be, in all of them, some captivating feature - in no way related to the mental efforts the games require - something that is pure fun. And what this is, I suggest, is the unique mancala gesture: scooping up all the seeds from one of the pits and then sowing them one by one in adjacent pits around the board. A remarkably satisfying gesture, also very elegant, and which anyone can enjoy regardless of the level of play, from calculating wizards at the top all the way down to very small children who may not yet know what they are doing, but have already discovered that it is strangely enjoyable. It is in fact irresistible. And since it appears in all mancala games, without exception, the gesture itself must be extremely ancient, going back, perhaps, to the very origins of the game, two or three thousand or more years ago.
And the second comment I want to make regards the multiple lap mancala games, particularly those that are very complex, of which there are many. In multiple lap games the last seed does not end the move except under certain conditions, for example if it drops in an empty pit, or in a pit containing a particular number of seeds; otherwise the move continues: all the seeds in the last pit are scooped up again and sown afresh, a process that can be repeated a number of times. Such long moves are amusing to carry out but awesomely difficult to calculate in advance.
And so the question is, would it be possible, and would it be meaningful and enjoyable, to play such a game, observing all the intricate rules, but without the burden of calculation? In my opinion, yes. And the reason is, that in practically all mancala games, with only a few very rare exceptions, once a starting pit has been chosen, and all the seeds in it have been scooped up, the rest of the move is inexorably determined; and this regardless of whether the choice was rational or the result of a hunch.
After which it is only a matter or watching the move take its course, which is in any case interesting, much as we might watch a ball descend in a pinball machine, bouncing from ring to ring, until it settles at last in its appointed slot.
My suspicion is that several of the more complex mancala games are very often played in this fashion, that is to say, intuitively.
Incidentally, to return to the gesture, two years ago I saw masters of wari from Antigua play at the Mind Sports Olympiad in London, and was pleased to notice that these great players, too, not only enjoyed the mancala gesture, but clearly enjoyed showing off how smoothly, rapidly and accurately they could perform it.
But the enjoyment of a particular gesture can be had in many other games as well, of course, though perhaps not as intensely. Just to slide a piece the full length of a board, for example, can be quite pleasurable. Or making leapfrogging captures in draughts, particularly long multiple ones on a 10 x 10 board. Or entering Go stones properly, holding them between index and middle finger, then striking them cleanly on the board with a nice "click". Or simply the various gestures we can choose from when we cast dice...
Fascinating little objects. Our symbols of the unpredictable. When I see dice on a table, I find it difficult not to pick them up and throw them at least once, and then be interested in the result. Eleven. But why eleven? Could it not have been something else just as well? And if not, at what point did it become eleven - when the dice were still in the air? Or when they had landed but had not yet settled? Or was it before the launch, when they were still in my hand? Or long before that, long, long ago, all the way back to the beginning of time? I wonder how many philosophers, in the course of history, have used dice to illustrate these ancient and troublesome questions.
I am being pressured to close. But before I do, just one more word about dice and those troublesome questions. Something that most of you may not know, which is how Japanese gamblers cast dice. The normal way, when we gamble, is to first place our bets, then throw the dice - but not in Japan. In Japan the dice are shaken in a cup, then the cup is swiftly turned upside-down on the table, trapping the dice underneath. Only then do they place their bets. But my question is: what about the outcome hidden under the cup, is it still in the future?
And now, in lieu of a conclusion, which after such a rambling talk would make little sense, I would like to end with a suggestion: it is, that when we say board games we give to the word board its ancient meaning of table, hence board games would be all games that are played on a table. For it seems to me a little strange and arbitrary to exclude such games as dominoes, Mah Jong and other tile-games, only because they are played directly on a table. And then card games, of course. There has never been a more ingenious, efficient, economical, ubiquitous playing device than playing cards.
I find it actually exhilarating to know, when I put an ordinary pack of playing cards in my pocket, that I am carrying around fifty or more of the best games ever invented. In any case, my proposal would make it much easier to define what a board game is: it is a game that is played sitting down around or across a table.
Such a straightforward definition would be practical, and useful, I think, especially in view of today's extraordinary proliferation of games that are played in front of a screen. More and more of these games are of high quality and they are evidently fascinating, especially for the young, so much so that there are those who fear that soon they will crowd out all other games and have the whole field to themselves. But I must say that I have no such fears. I don't believe for a moment that board games are endangered, certainly not the better ones. But my attitude has little to do with quality. Simply, I believe that as long as there are tables and people who enjoy the conviviality of sitting around them, there will be games to be played on those tables.
Wednesday, March 15. 2006
From which it is reasonable to conclude that there must be a predisposition in us that inevitably brings about culture, and with it board games, when conditions are favourable - the most crucial one being, when at least a portion of a population can afford leisure. But since it is a fact that cultures can sometimes develop separately and in different periods, obviously this predisposition in us, or potential, or whatever it may be, had to be in us from the very beginning, before the original human group had begun to disperse; and which we then carried with us, unknown to ourselves, for many thousands of years, until at last the opportunity arose, here and there, for it to blossom.
But a potential or whatever consisting of what - and for what purpose. Surely not for what it eventually turned into. There is no such thing as foresight in nature. And so we can only wonder and speculate. For of course we know next to nothing, and only barely that, about our distant past.
Still, today we can at least say with some confidence that a hundred thousand or so years ago, therefore quite recently, geologically speaking, after a number of false starts, there appeared at last this feeble, naked, defenceless creature, without claws or fangs or fur, quite miserable looking when compared to a bear or a tiger, but possessed of something so new and powerful, that in another geological instant it had conquered and populated the entire world, had changed its appearance, and is now in a position to destroy it.
That something was of course of our enormous brain. Never had there been anything like it in the three and a half billion years, which, we are told, it took life to reach its present state. A few other attributes were still needed to make us complete, such as the famous opposite thumb and the special vocal chords that allow us to speak; but nothing to compare in importance with this brain, that gave us, among other things, consciousness and with it the knowledge that we would die, thus making us human.
I would like to propose this hypothesis: that this oversized brain of ours, in order to operate, had to force upon us a number of compulsions, of which one is extremely evident, and that is the urge to make order; or perhaps, which amounts to the same thing, that it forced upon us the deep dread we have of chaos, prompting us to believe that by making order we could keep it at bay, but that if we relented, even for a moment, chaos would take over again. In any case, our everyday urge to make order is visible enough. It is this constant need we have to straighten out, to put things in place - to tidy up, to sort out, to classify.
We are order-making creatures, like it or not. Other creatures have other characteristics, ours is to make order. Which, however, is not a hardship, quite the contrary, for making order can be strangely satisfying, as even the disorderly among us know well, for on those rare occasions when we do put our affairs in order, afterwards we are surprised by how calm and relieved we feel.
I have a recurring vision... of something I was told, or read somewhere, or maybe only dreamed, but in any case a very long time ago: an infant on a beach, barely able to walk, is picking up pebbles and with great concentration is putting them down in a row. That is all, end of vision. There really is nothing else.
I think that what fascinates me so is that the child is proving that it is human. What it is doing is first of all intentional. It is play, but clearly meaningful, which perhaps play always is. And it is rational, hence orderly. Somehow I feel that it is the beginning of everything truly human, and so also, ultimately, of the highest human endeavours, especially those which I find most precious, because they have no purpose outside of themselves, they are themselves their purpose: poetry, art, music, story telling, pure mathematics, pure science, philosophy.... All are spiritual luxuries. Luxuries are things that delight us, that we long to possess, but that we can very well do without. They are not practical. They are not needed for our survival.
And board games? Board games are luxuries, too, of course, albeit minor and marginal; but in the sense of non-utility, perhaps the purest. But they belong to a different order of things. They are ephemeral. At the end of a game there is nothing tangible, such as a poem or a theorem. At the end of a game there is nothing. Unless the game is written down, of course, in which case, however, it becomes a record. There are whole libraries filled with nothing but chess books. Thousands upon thousands of brilliant chess games, but now lifeless and buried in books. They cannot be meaningfully compared to chess games that are alive and in progress somewhere at this very moment.
The category closest to games is probably story telling. Stories, too, are orderly reproductions of life. Events are carefully selected and arranged in a sequence, very much like the child's pebbles on the beach. This is the story line, or in a more complex narrative there may be several story lines intertwined. Contrived scenarios in which things are made to happen. But there are two crucial elements that keep games completely apart from stories, or for that matter from anything else in our experience.
One is uncertainty. We must not know what will happen next. This is the essence of our enjoyment in a game - as it is indeed in real life, from which it is directly and consciously taken. Uncertainty is the key of what makes games not repeatable, never twice the same. It is also what we mean by the term suspense: it means dreading but not knowing what is going to happen. Of course tremendous suspense may be enjoyed in a story, too... but only once. Only the first time. And even that first time, when we weep unashamedly while looking at a movie, or stay up all night, unable to put down a book, some hidden part in us knows very well that what grips us so is not happening now, that the movie was made last year and that the book was written a hundred years ago. Whereas when we sit down to a game, the game is still in the future, has not yet begun to exist. Also, the second time we read a story we may enjoy it much more than the first time, almost certainly so, if it is a good story, but no power on earth can make us not know how the story will end. Whereas in a game, as in real life, nobody knows how the story will end.
And the other element is justice. In a game there must be justice, otherwise it is senseless, it is not a game. This is almost too obvious to mention. Who would think of sitting down to a game that he did not think was fair. But in real life we don't have this choice. Inside of us is a deep sense of justice which I believe is innate. Children reveal very early that they have this sense: the first time they say that something is unfair. But it is also the time when we become aware of injustice, of the humiliating inequalities of life, and that this story that we were all created equal is really an atrocious joke. Social inequalities, but also inequalities in our appearance, in our abilities, in our natural talents. However, we learn to adjust. We are told to make the best of it and we do. But we never cease longing for justice. I am convinced that this is what attracts us so powerfully to games, that makes us need and love them so much.
We know, though it is never said, that games are the only place in life where justice is certain, because it is the only place where it is necessary. An exigency, by the way, that is also clearly reflected in the game boards we use, in their almost maniacal regularity. Whether they are works of art or only scratched on a stone. they seem to cry out that they are fair. And that is what makes them so recognizable.
Tuesday, March 14. 2006
By Alex Randolph
Inaugural speech, third colloquium "Board Games in Academia ",
Florence, April 1999
My purpose in this talk is to touch on some aspects of board games that are often overlooked, and also, perhaps, air some views on matters that I feel are related, but that are rarely if ever mentioned in connection with games.
To begin with then, let me say that after many, many years of very close involvement with board games, I still have not ceased to wonder and marvel at their very existence. How did they come about? And why? And when? These neat little self-contained systems, apparently self sufficient, in which we can enter or not as we please, that serve no useful purpose whatever, and yet have the power, on occasion, to detach and absorb us perhaps more than anything else in our lives.
We can say at least this, I think. That all are set-ups for confrontations. For make-believe conflicts. Taken from real life, for the most part, but drastically simplified and from which all the disagreeable and messy features of real life have been removed. Only the fun part is allowed to stay. And so, free of danger, and quite certain that nothing untoward will happen to us, we can batter each other, or rather feign to do so, to our heart's content, hoping all the while, of course, to come out on top, and at the same time satisfy two very deep and contradictory social urges in us: one to be close together, the other to compete with each other.
But what is a board game, what must it have to be one. First of all, I would say, it must have an identity, therefore a name, also some recognizable physical feature, although in fact neither of these is absolutely essential, since they can be substituted; whereas absolutely essential for the existence of a game are its rules. I would even say that a game and its rules are the same thing, that the rules are the game and vice versa. By sitting down to a game we declare that we accept its rules - which in return must tell us precisely what we want to know: how to play, what is allowed and what is not allowed, and what we must do to win. Years ago I wrote in the margin of my old Homo Ludens, in an attempt to differentiate between games and ether forms of play: "If a play activity has rules that may not be transgressed, and if its scope, aside from sheer enjoyment, is to produce a winner, it is a game, otherwise not."
This applies, of course, to all games, including the "other kind" which we are probably not supposed to so much as mention here... the life-size games we play with our bodies and generally with the auxiliary of a ball or equivalent on which to focus our attention: football, golf, ping pong and so forth. The two kinds have many things in common. But in fact they are worlds apart and the differences are so gross and obvious that I wouldn't mention them, were it not for a neat paradox they bring forth. The charm of board games is that they are miniatures, by definition small enough to be put on a table, meaning that we play them with our imagination, not physically with our bodies. And there lies the paradox. The large-scale games are narrowly limited by the size and reach of our bodies and ultimately by how far we can see, while there are no such limits for board games. Without the slightest difficulty we accept that a board on the table represent a whole battlefield, or all of Europe, or the entire universe, for that matter... or else perhaps some fantastic chimera, a labyrinth in which hungry minotaurs roam and from which we must run for our lives - "we" meaning not our real selves, of course, but our pieces.
Sitting down to a board game is in some ways like sitting down to a very fine meal. There is the same kind of joyous anticipation - provided the players are really hungry - meaning, provided they have a burning desire to win. The desire to win is the fuel that propels a game forward. If one player is indifferent or distracted and does not care if he wins or loses, the game will flounder and become boring, which in a game is worse than death. The holy rule is: if you don't want to win, don't play.
Play is a voluntary activity. Therefore, to survive, a game must be loved -there is really no other criterion of judgment. But what must it contain to be loved, what are the minimum requirements? I would say tension, surprise, a smooth flow - plus some identifiable and if possible inexhaustible fun element, such as the up-and-down feature in Snakes and Ladders, which is what will make it live forever. But what about games at a higher level of depth and complexity? They, too, must be loved to survive, and not everyone finds depth and complexity particularly loveable. But I can think of at least one element that makes all such games if not loveable, at least very enticing, and that is that the deeper and more complex a game, the more players are encouraged to intervene in it, to make decisions that affect its course. At the very top playersmay even feel, and perhaps rightly so, that it is they who are creating the game as it progresses.
There is a famous cartoon of two chess players so deeply immersed in their game that they don't notice a war going on around them. What I like best about this cartoon is that it is only very slightly exaggerated. If instead of war, the scene had been a crowded cafe with loud conversations and a loudspeaker blaring nearby, we would have found their absorption normal - and they, of course, would not have noticed the difference. The fact is that this phenomenon is not at all rare, and that the game on the table need not have been chess. Today there are quite a few remarkable games, including some for up to four or more players, that require deep concentration, which can easily shift to that kind of engrossment. As a matter of fact, we can feel it coming as we play. There is an abrupt change of mood. A cloud of silence descends on the table: no more banter, no more pleasantries, all faces terribly serious. Our eyes riveted on the board. And all at once it has happened. We are suddenly totally isolated. We might still vaguely perceive some noises and motions around us, but they are no longer registered. Nothing matters anymore but what happens on the board, or is about to happen there. We are enthralled, which is probably what we must look like: as if touched by a magic wand.
Huizinga was the first, I believe, to observe and describe this phenomenon in the first chapter of his famous book. He calls it a stepping out of ordinary life. In the English version, which he wrote himself, he uses such appropriate words as "seizure" and "rapture".
There are, of course, other circumstance in life when we experience very similar moments of extreme concentration and detachment from our surroundings. When, for example, we feel a sudden need to write something down, before it has lost its freshness; or feel on the verge of solving a problem: or simply when we are deeply absorbed in reading. But these are experiences which we have alone. In board games we can have them in unison with others.
Altogether, I often feel that in all of civilization there is nothing quite as curious and intriguing as a board game. The more remarkable, then, that it is certain that board games have appeared independently many times in the course of history - as part of cultures that had themselves sprung up separately and independently, often thousands of miles apart, or centuries apart in the case of superposed cultures.
There is a lot of evidence regarding this. Probably the most stunning instance, a little less than five hundred years ago, was the discovery by groups of adventurers of the two native American cultures that had flourished for centuries in complete isolation. As we all know, both were deliberately destroyed. Such disasters have happened many times through the ages, but it is still difficult to think of them without a pang. In any case, it is strange and peculiarly poignant for us that among the debris that survived the destruction in both regions, were a number of board games, a few of which are still played in some form today.
Thursday, March 2. 2006
steve o neill is an officer in the RAF who loves football , chess and pool. in his new book were having a laugh he chronicles the adventures of his local teams and personal adventures and misadventures and contrasts this sporting microcosm with the tragedies and triumphs of his chosen football team on the national stage. the book can be ordered by emailing steve o neill directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
RRP - £8 Postage FREE to the UK
Wednesday, November 30. 2005
this is a rollicking good read in the style of boys own -but with a very serious adult theme. the author is a former SAS officer who was obviously itching to get back into action and the ussr v afghanistan war made a perfect excuse for him. on his adventures in heavy native disguise in the mountain passes of the afghans he meets spies, rebels, mujahedeen, war profiteers and a huge number of philanthropists who want to help the afghan population with medical assistance.the author was once an adviser to the boeing aircraft corporation on terrorism so he certainly has great credentials.this is lawrence of arabia for modern times.
'Yesterday's Enemy' is written fluidly, in a prose style that is both very readable and versatile in conveying Chetwynd's vast experience on the subject of Afghanistan. The author's analysis of the root causes of terrorism in the region (with a close look at both Afghanistan and Pakistan) provide an unexpectedly original take on an issue which I for one had considered tired and overused. It's greatest strength - the wit and ease with which 'Yesterday's Enemy' blends anecdotes with every new discovery, giving the reader a sense of personal participation in Chetwynd's exploration is perhaps at times its main weakness; keeping track of the many names that go with the characters in these anecdotes is not always easy.
All in all, this book is authoritative and makes a very pleasant read. Ideal for anyone wishing to complement other readings on the Taliban and Afghanistan, or for those wishing to cover entirely fresh ground.
Tuesday, November 29. 2005
When Buddhism arrived in China a couple of millennia back it found fertile ground to spread its beliefs, since the common Chinese religion of that time, Taoism, shared many similarities of view with the Buddha's teaching. The idea of dependent origination, for example, is a precise reflection of the philosophy presented in the first verse of the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu.
Whether it is history or mythology is open to debate by historians, but the story has that Hui-neng himself was an illiterate woodsman when he was enlightened. He overheard one line from the Diamond Sutra: "Let your mind function freely without abiding anywhere or in anything." (John Wu trans.) Note how easily this correlates with the "watercourse way" of Taoism's "go with the flow." In fact Hui-neng (supposedly - history is fuzzy) described himself as a "simple, mindless man of Tao," a phrase that recurs in the sermons of Huang-po and Lin-chi.
Lin-chi began his sermons by addressing his monks as "followers of Tao." The phrase "to attain Tao" was synonymous with enlightenment. The common metaphor was that Buddhism was the father and Taoism the mother of the child Ch'an.
A telling episode in Chinese history occurred in 845 AD when the (Taoist) emperor Wu-tsung proclaimed that all the orthodox Buddhist monasteries should be closed. Curiously he did not consider Ch'an monasteries to be Buddhist and overlooked them. Not only were the Ch'an monasteries spared, the prince Suan-tsung who would be the next emperor went to one of them, Hsien-kuan (Hsiang-yen's) to study. Huang-po came to visit and impishly made a point of doing obeisance to a statue of Buddha right under the Prince's nose. (In the following the Prince's lines reflect Hui-neng's teaching.)
Said Suan-tsung: "In our pursuit of Tao, we must not be attached to the Buddha, nor to the Dharma, nor to sanga. What does your reverence seek after in performing these rites of obeisance?"
Huang-po: "I am attached neither to the Buddha, nor to the Dharma, nor to sanga. I am only performing the usual rites."
Suan-tsung: "What is the use of rites?"
Huang-po gave him a slap.
Suan-tsung: "You are being too rough!"
Huang-po: "What kind of thing do you find here in this place that you should speak of 'rough' and 'refined'?" And he gave him another slap.
If this story makes it seem that Huang-po was a confirmed Buddhist it is well to keep in mind a line from one of his sermons: "Adoration of and devotion to all the Buddhas in the universe are nothing in comparison to following a single mindless man of Tao." (Note - this probably refers to Hui-neng.)
Here's some from a Lin-chi sermon: "The true follower of Tao does not grasp at the Buddha, nor at bodhisattvas, nor at the arhats, nor at the exceeding glories of the three realms. In his transcendental independence and untrammeled freedom, he adheres to nothing.… Spare yourself the vain labour of discriminating and grasping at appearances and in a single instant you will realize Tao with spontaneous ease."
Lin-chi gets pronounced Rinzai in Japanese and inspires the most famous branch of Japanese Zen Buddhism. Naturally as time passes the Taoist elements of the teaching recede and become rather invisible.
One Taoist philosopher whose spirit is quite evident in Lin-chi's school is Chuang Tzu from the 3rd century BC. In a way he could be considered "father of the koan" for he had written:
"He who replies to one asking about Tao, does not know Tao. Although one may hear about Tao, he does not really hear about Tao. There is no such thing as asking about Tao. There is no such thing as answering such questions. To ask a question which cannot be answered is vain. To answer a question which cannot be answered is unreal. And one who thus meets the vain with the unreal is one who has no physical perception of the universe, and no mental perception of the origin of existence."
(Chuang-tzu, p. 289, H.A. Giles translation, Shanghai, 1926).
Grr grr, yes, well, here perhaps is the source of all the crazy answers that Ch'an masters gave to the question of "What is Tao?" There is really quite a range:
Monk: What is Tao? Hsiang-yen: A dragon is singing in the ancient forest! [or dry woods, dry wood, old wood, etc. - the variations have persisted.]
Oy, Kuei-shan is so polite, Ch'an for Confucians.
But the turning of the question back upon the questioner is basic Ch'an practice, "who are you?" is the only answer worthy as a reply. It is "ad homonym" but Ch'an is essentially about self-realization, so everything else is off-topic.
Importantly, Hui-neng had noted that at core the individual identity and the Tao were not distinguishable. In non-duality the subject and object blend..
Another Ch'an master clearly trained in the Taoist classics was Tung-shan. An early conversation:
Ch'u: "Oh how wonderful, how wonderful! The ineffable realms of Buddha and Tao!"
Tung-shan: "I would not ask about the realms of Buddha and Tao. I only wish to know the man who is speaking of the realms of Buddha and Tao."
Tung-shan: "Buddha and Tao are but names and words; why don't you resort to the true doctrine?"
Ch'u: "What does the true doctrine teach?"
Tung-shan: "When you have got at the idea, forget about the words."
This last is a direct quote from Chuang-tzu.
The shift between concepts and reality was a Chinese preoccupation. Words were definitely a topic, and Chuang-tzu the "authority."
Ch'an masters had much to say about the limited possibilities of "words." The following is :from a sermon by Chan master Yun-men (d. 949 AD):
"...If you set out in quest of words and sentences, cudgeling your brains with their logical meanings, working over a thousand possibilities and ten thousand subtle distinctions, and creating endless questions and debates, all you will gain is a glib tongue, while all the time getting farther and farther away from Tao, with no rest for your wandering. If it could be found in the (sutras) why should there be a special transmission outside the scripture?...But if you have really found your true self, then you can pass through fire without being burnt...The important thing is your experiential realization of this state."
(The Golden Age of Zen, J. Wu, 1969, p. 164-165).
Perhaps, that "words" don't suffice to explain it, is the ultimate lesson of both Tao and Ch'an.
A final note:
Ch'an is empty, there is nothing in it.
"Who are you?'
The human brain has been described as the most complex structure in the observable universe? Your brain weighs about the same as a bag of sugar, approximately 2% of body weight, yet the brain alone accounts for up to 20% of your body's energy needs, and there are as many cells between your ears as there are stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. Each of these cells can be connected with up to 100,000 others and just counting each possible nerve connection in the human brain cortex -- the outer layer -- at the rate of one per second, would take 32 million years. Indeed, humankind's privileged place on the evolutionary ladder is not the result of powerful physique. Any self-respecting tyrannosaurus would easily have seen off a feeble specimen of Homo Sapiens, if such a time -travelling implausibility had ever taken place. No, our place in evolution is entirely down to our massive mental power, unique in known creation.
Considering the virtues of mental exercise many philanthropists have held the belief that teaching brain power enhancing mental activities ,such as chess or su doku, in our prisons would be a good idea.The notion is generally accepted that a controlled regime of exercise ensures that the inmates of our jails are kept physically fit during their sojourn.
It seems, therefore, logical that improving the minds of those incarcerated, by the teaching and general encouragement of brain stetching games would be a beneficial parallel. Indeed, there are many examples of those imprisoned for political reasons turning to chess as a way of keeping their brains occupied, while they were out of circulation. A notable example was the former
Prime Minister of Israel, Menachim Begin, who helped to keep is formidable mental powers in shape whilst jailed by the British regime in Palestine. There are also cases of strong
chessplayers being jailed in their own right, as it were. The two world champions Wilhelm Steinitz and Bobby Fischer both found themselves under arrest for bizarre reasons. Steinitz, was arrested and accused of spying when the moves of some of his correspondence games were intercepted. The authorities suspected that the moves were coded military secrets. Meanwhile, Bobby Fischer was arrested in Pasadena in May 1981 under suspicion of being a bank robber ..
Such philanthropism, as described above, is doubtless praiseworthy, but recently new thoughts have emerged on how best to handle the criminal classes. Surely, by insisting on physical exercise, we are, according to the Darwinian theories of natural selection and survival of the fittest, helping to breed stronger and fitter criminals to be unleashed onto our streets. Meanwhile, by encouraging chess, bridge, cluedo, monopoly or other mind games, we are
assisting the criminal underclass to develop Moriarty-like cunning for their fiendish new
forays, once released, against the law-abiding citizenry.
However, a startling new solution springs to mind, based on the evidence. Surely to be of utmost value to law-abiding society at large , the ideal prison should be a place where the inmate population should be deprived of all contact with any mind-enhancing activities, and , more importantly, cut off from all forms of physical exercise and fed on an exclusive diet of cholesterol-forming, high calorie cream cakes. This way, society will ensure that instead
of dangerously fit and intelligent malefactors being reintroduced into society, all recidivists would, in fact, be too innumerate to accurately count and divide their loot, too obese to squeeze into their getaway cars and far to heavy on their feet to jump fences when pursued by the myrmidons of the law or , indeed, to run away successfully from any crime, such as the snatching of handbags from octgenarian females, which they might wish to commit after their release. This way our prisons can prove to be of positive benfit to society, instead of acting, as they have been occasionally , if unkindly, described, as breeding grounds or academies for the criminals of the future.
GM Ray Keene OBE
Wednesday, November 23. 2005
this question revolves around the morality of the proposition, not its practicality. it is known that the current level of scientific expertise results in many cases of cloning which are defective or unsuccessful. for the purposes of this enquiry, however, we should assume that the techniques of cloning are not in doubt. we are, therefore, looking forward to possible future-perhaps imminent- moral dilemmas which will face religions, humanists, the medical profession, politicians and of course the individual, once the appropriate techniques have been perfected.
now we must further distinguish between two types of cloning: therapeutic and reproductive. the former is predicated on healing disease and prolonging life. the latter is designed to create new life.
naturally there are longstanding prejudices against certain types of knowledge. superstition still plays a role, even in modern human affairs. for example vaccination against smallpox was introduced in russia during the period of catherine the great. it seemed incredible at the time that this technique might protect rather than infect, so the empress was one of the first to take the treatment herself. inspired by her example the court followed and the path to smallpox eradication had begun.
it seems , therefore, that the objections to therapeutic cloning probably fall into the category of outmoded superstition. it should , accordingly, be a simple step to concur with the propositions that life is precious and needs protection,particularly if this promotes the greatest happiness. if therapeutic cloning fulfills the above functions it must clearly be regarded as a useful and sophisticated weapon in humanity's arsenal for the battle against disease.
finally we move on to reproductive cloning.specifically we are referring to the reproductive cloning of humans.why should this be necessary? from a demographic point of view the planet is not notably short of human beings. why, therefore, shoud we wish to create more beyond those being conceived by natural purposes? furthermore, one could object that human life has a divine source, and that to usurp the divine function with a frankenstein-like act of substitute creation would be to offend against both moral and religious precepts.when man plays at being God, as with the unleashing of the terrible power of the atom bomb, unpredictable, uncontrollable and awesome forces may be unloosed upon the world.
one might also object that any human produced by cloning might prove to be a class apart, either through built -in superior intelligence and physique, or by expendability engendered through the sheer capacity to create infinite copies. in the first case we run the risk of a superclass of human taking control of our affairs, in the latter of producing human cannon fodder for unpleasnt tasks such as wars and fire fighting, or hazardous journeys such as deep sea exploration or space travel.
on the other hand, human reproductive cloning might be confined to the relatively benign activity of the fertilisation clinic, to improve the quality of life of otherwise barren or childless couples.
one thing is certain-science is like a genie escaped from its confining bottle. once out, it can never be forced back in and the bottle stopped. one cannot reverse scientific discovery. whatever the moral and rleigious rights or wrongs of the case, once cloning becomes standardly possible. it will never go away.
GM Ray Keene OBE
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