Philosophy, Film, Politics, Etc.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Philosophy and Religion

A lot of people conflate philosophy and religion.  In their devotion to science and rationality, they criticize both philosophy and religion as useless nonsense.  One of the most common criticisms of philosophy is that virtually no substantial progress has ever been made on any issue of philosophical importance.  Another common criticism is that philosophical problems have no discernible consequences for our lives:  It doesn't matter how you respond to them, whether you ignore them or whatever, because they are figments of our imagination and of no practical importance.  On these grounds, it is believed that philosophy and religion are more or less the same.  Sure, philosophers might sometimes give us important tools or insights, just as religious leaders might sometimes give us important moral insights or works of art.  But these came despite the philosophical or religious devotion, and not because of it.  At least, that's what a lot of people believe.

I'm not going to say anything about religion in this post.  Whether or not religion is nonsense and impractical is not at issue.  My belief is that the meaning and value of philosophy is entirely independent of the meaning and value of religion.

The association between philosophy and religion does not just occur in some obscure corners of the blogosphere.  On the contrary, it is manifest in the organization of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS).  The AAAS currently has close to 6,000 members (including almost a thousand foreign honorary members).  They list their members according to area of specialization.  It is very hard to determine how many members are professional philosophers, however, because they do not have their own section.  Instead, they are listed under "Philosophy and Religious Studies."  If you want to know how many professional philosophers are members of the AAAS, you cannot tell by looking at their list of members or their statistics.  You have to go through the list of "Philosophy and Religious Studies" members and Google each one to find their area of expertise.

With 189 members, Philosophy and Religious Studies is one of the smallest sections of the AAAS.  The only smaller sections are Literature (158 members), Computer Science (143), Social and Developmental Psychology and Education (120) and Public Affairs, Journalism and Communications (158).   In contrast, there are over one thousand members representing the Biological Sciences alone.  I'm not primarily concerned with the relatively small number of Philosophy Professors in the AAAS, however.  (I don't even know how small that number is, since I haven't tried to count them.)  I'm more concerned with the fact that the AAAS does not make a practical distinction between religion and philosophy.  

The AAAS is not alone.  Many accredited universities do not have a Philosophy Department.  They have a Philosophy and Religious Studies Department.  It seems that many professionals in the field believe that Philosophy and Religious Studies should be linked.  We can assume, however, that most philosophers would disagree.  While there are presumably a good number of philosophers out there who enjoy the association between philosophy and religion, it is safe to assume that most (perhaps all) of them are philosophers of religion.

This means that the harshest critics of philosophy share something in common with philosophers of religion and other theologically-minded professionals:  They all think philosophy deserves to be intimately associated with religion.  Theologically-minded defenders of philosophy think so because they value philosophy as a way of exploring, promoting and defending religious thought and practice.  Scientifically-minded critics of philosophy do so because they see philosophy as a way of exploring, promoting and defending nonsense.  Of course, they see religious thought and practice as nonsense, so their reasoning is not all that different from the theologically-minded.

Philosophers (especially those of us who are not theologically-minded, which is the large majority) are confronted with a problem.  We feel a lot of pressure to defend philosophy against the two criticisms I mentioned at the outset (i.e., that philosophy does not make progress and that philosophy is impractical and disconnected from reality).  Most recently, David Chalmers, one of the newest members of AAAS and a Philosophy Professor at New York University (as well as Australian National University), has recently given a talk about the discipline--specifically, about whether we should be optimistic or pessimistic about progress in philosophy.  He says that philosophers have made a great deal of progress, and there has been significant convergence towards the truth over the years, but that it is not as much as we might like.  He is optimistic about the future of the discipline, at least, but asks us to consider reasons why progress in philosophy is so slow.

I wonder if Professor Chalmers is optimistic enough.  Research can and should be done documenting the degree of progress and convergence that has occurred in philosophy.  I think there might be more convergence than we commonly assume.  When we look at the intellectual landscape without rigor or method, we might focus more on our particular interests, and these are generally defined by their opposition to competing views.  We may thus tend to notice our differences more than our commonalities.  This could create a bias in our perception, so that we fail to notice all the fundamental ways our philosophical thinking has converged.  A rigorous, systematic study of developments in philosophy over the centuries could help fight such a bias and therefore be of great value.  A comparative analysis of developments in Philosophy and Religious Studies would also be useful, to fight the tendency to conflate the two disciplines.  Perhaps such research could help overcome the prejudices against philosophy and its practitioners.

Edit: It occurs to me that convergence may not be a necessary criterion for progress in philosophy. While a lack of convergence may warrant attention in its own right, I would question the assumption that convergence has anything to do with philosophical progress.  Unlike in the physical sciences, whose various fields are united by shared methodologies, philosophy is methodologically opaque.  You can be in a philosophical field without feeling clearly bound by all of the basic methodological principles shared by others in that field.  It's not that philosophers don't share any methodological principles.  They share many, and rigorously so.  But many aren't shared, and those that are might be less determinate than those in the physical sciences.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ball State continued: My Letter to Higher Learning Commission

Here is the letter I am sending to the Executive Office at Higher Learning Commission, the agency responsible for Ball State University's accreditation.  (See here for background.)  It would be wonderful if university professors with good standing were to send similar letters.

Subject: Ball State University's Accreditation

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you because Higher Learning Commission is currently in the process of determining whether or not Ball State University will receive accreditation for another ten years.  Please consider the following concern when making this important decision.

In April of this year, some undergraduate courses at Ball State University came under public scrutiny.  HONR 296 "Inquiries in Physical Sciences" and ASTR 151 "The Universe and You," both taught by Assistant Professor Eric Hedin, satisfy parts of the university's core requirements.  HONR 296 is one of three Honors Science Courses which satisfy the Honors Science requirement for students in the Honors College.  ASTR 151 (which is also sometimes called "The Boundaries of Science") satisfies a Tier 2 Core Curriculum requirement in the Natural Sciences.  The syllabuses and reading lists for ASTR 151 and HONR 296 are very similar, and they show a strong bias towards Intelligent Design and Christian apologetics.  Furthermore, these courses focus entirely on theology, cosmology, evolutionary biology, the philosophy of science and the study of human consciousness.  Yet, Professor Hedin has no competence in any of these fields.  It is reasonable to conclude that these courses, as taught by Professor Hedin, do not fairly represent the values, methods, findings and competences of contemporary science.

As part of their "Vision and Mission" statement, Ball State writes:

"We promote habits of mind that will enable our graduates to value and appreciate the arts, sciences, and humanities. . . . As civic and professional leaders, we value civic engagement with the larger communities of which we are a part and are dedicated to preparing civic and professional leaders for the future. We accept our individual and institutional responsibilities to improve the economic vitality and quality of life in the greater society we serve." 
However, a Ball State University graduate will have a hard time learning to value and appreciate the sciences if their scientific literacy depends on HONR 296 or ASTR 151 with Professor Hedin.  If Ball State wants to prepare civic and professional leaders for the future, and improve the economic vitality and quality of life, they must make sure that their students possess an adequate level of scientific literacy.  This cannot be achieved if their core science requirements present a heavily skewed and intellectually dubious vision of contemporary science.  To maintain the integrity of the university in relation to its own mission statement, Ball State should not allow HONR 296 and ASTR 151 to satisfy core requirements--at least as these courses are currently taught by Professor Hedin.

As the institution responsible for Ball State's accreditation, Higher Learning Commission is in a unique position to take a stand against this affront to scientific literacy and academic integrity.  Please help improve the state of science education by taking a stand on this issue.  Tell Ball State University that, in order to receive full accreditation, they must only allow students to satisfy core requirements with courses that respect the fields they purport to teach.

Respectfully yours,
Jason Streitfeld
International Baccalaureate Teacher
Szczecin, Poland

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Ball State Controversy: The limits of accreditation

As Inside Higher Ed reports, there's been a lot of discussion of Assistant Professor Eric Hedin and Ball State University's approval of his Physics and Astronomy courses, "Inquiries in Physical Sciences," "The Boundaries of Science" and "The Universe and You."  (Jerry Coyne has written most extensively about them herehere and, most recently, here).  The courses apparently share the same basic syllabus, and if you read it you can see that Hedin has tailored the courses to promote the Intelligent Design movement (which is known for its intimate political and intellectual connections to Christian apologetics).  It is hard to imagine that these courses fairly represent the methods, values, findings and competences of contemporary science.

Many critics of Intelligent Design say it shouldn't be subject to discussion in science classes.  I disagree.  I think a science class is the perfect place to debunk ID propaganda.  And if you're going to let instructors debunk it in the science classroom, you can't very well censor those who lend it a more sympathetic voice.  If the courses were forcibly kept out of the university (or out of its science department), it could set a worrisome precedent for academic freedom.

However, I do think something should be done.  My concern is that two of these courses fulfill part of Ball State's science requirements.  ("Inquiries in Physical Sciences" is one of three courses that fulfill a special science requirement for the Honors Course; "The Universe and You" fulfills one of the university's Core Curriculum requirements in Natural Science.)  Students can graduate from Ball State with a major portion (if not the entirety) of their shot at university-level scientific literacy coming in the form of ID propaganda.  This might run afoul of acceptable standards for accreditation.

I think this concern should be brought to the attention of the institution responsible for Ball State's accreditation, the Higher Learning Commission.  They are currently in the middle of proceedings to determine whether or not Ball State will remain accredited for the next ten years.  (The evaluation process ends in October of this year, from what I understand.)  When I have time, I will draft a letter and post it on my blog, inviting others to copy or improve upon it as they see fit.  (Update:  My letter can be found here.)

I will also mention that, similar to PZ Myers and Laurence Moran, I don't see a good reason to think this is a First Amendment issue and I would not jump to the conclusion that we should try to get Ball State to curb Hedin's bias.  So I disagree with Jerry Coyne.  Since Ball State is a public institution, Coyne thinks that any use of its funds to promote religious belief is unconstitutional.  In addition to the posts by Myers and Moran, there are several good commenters on Coyne's blog who have spelled out several reasons why Coyne is wrong.  Universities, even public ones, should be places which nurture academic freedom.  University professors are bound to be biased in various religious and ideological ways.  Many of them are going to teach classes that focus on unpopular and even downright idiotic arguments, and sometimes those are going to have religious affiliations.  It comes with the territory of academic freedom.  Since no students are coerced into taking Hedin's classes or listening to his religious speech, there is no clear violation of the First Amendment.  However, as legally free as Hedin should be to teach Intelligent Design and pass it off as science, we should be very suspicious of any school that would let such a course fulfill a core science requirement.  We should question whether such a school deserves accreditation.

Edit: Upon reflection, the question of coercion might not be so simple.  Since only three classes satisfy the Honors Course science requirement at Ball State, it is quite possible that students in the Honors Course will be pressured into taking Hedin's course--e.g., if the other two courses are full, or if scheduling conflicts make his course the only option.  While the students are not coerced into attending Ball State to begin with, it is possible that many Honors students are forced to take his course because the alternative would be to either drop out of the Honors program or switch universities entirely, and those might not be fair options for a lot of students.  That could open the door to a First Amendment case.

Update:  A word about Hedin's qualifications.  He has published most extensively in the field of nanoscience, which is listed on the Ball State faculty Website as one of his research interests.  The Website states that his other research interests are Information Theory, Teleology and Cosmology.  Those are some of the areas he is drawing on in his ID-infused Physics/Astronomy courses.  Yet, Hedin has not published in any of those areas.  I cannot find a copy of his CV online, but it is reasonable to assume that he has no formal qualifications relating to information theory, teleology, cosmology, evolutionary theory, the philosophy of science, or any other area of research which directly bears on the content of these controversial courses.  Hedin is teaching bunk with a religious bias in areas that are far outside his competence.  In my mind, that is reason enough to conclude that these courses should not satisfy any of Ball State's core requirements.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Possibility, Actuality and Necessity

In my last post, in response to Timothy Williamson's hesitations regarding naturalism, I rambled a bit about possible difficulties in sorting out a naturalistic understanding of mathematical truth.  I was reflecting on the problem of universality:  Logical and mathematical truths are not truths about the actual world, but extend to all possible worlds.  That would seem to be very hard to explain, if logical and mathematical truths are limited by local factors--factors which ground them in facts about our world.  Today I have worked out a possible solution.

The first step is to distinguish between two types of possibility:  logical possibility and physical possibility.  Another way of putting it is that possibility can be relative to a logical framework or a physical one.  When we say that something is physically possible, we mean it cannot be ruled out by the laws of physics (or, if you don't want to favor physics above other sciences, we can just say "laws of nature").  When we say that something is logically possible, on the other hand, we mean it is consistent with the rules of logic.

The next step is to consider that there is more than one possible set of physical laws.  (This can mean that there is more than one logically possible set of physical laws, or even that there is more than one possible set of laws which could adequately describe the known universe.)  I think of physical laws as predictive models or frameworks.  So, to say that something is physically possible is to say that it cannot be ruled out by our current predictive model for understanding the actual world.  Physical possibility, in so far as it is conceivable, is relative to a predictive model.

Similarly, there is more than one possible logical system.  To say that something is logically possible is to say that it cannot be ruled out by whatever logical system (or systems) we are using.  To put it more generally, we might say that logical possibility, in so far as it is conceivable, is relative to a logical system.

How then can we speak of all possible worlds, analytic truth--what is called "logical necessity?"  If something is true in all possible worlds ("logically necessary" or "analytically true"), it means that it is true according to the rules of a given language.  Analytic truth is truth by definition.  It is truth by language.  We can conceive of "all possible worlds" only so far as we have language.  Our linguistic capacities limit our understanding of all possible worlds.

Thus, we can distinguish between actuality and possibility, and speak of necessity, without postulating knowledge which is beyond the constraints of the actual world.  The actual world makes language possible.  The actual world places constraints on our language and thought.

A question arises:  Is it possible for there to be a world which is not constrained by any properties identical to any local (actual world) properties constraining our thinking?  If so, could we conceive of it?

Let X = such a world.  If X is conceivable, then we can conceive of something which is not constrained by anything local which constrains our thinking.  Therefore, either nothing local constrains our thinking or we arrive at a contradiction.  The contradiction may most easily be avoided by claiming that X is inconceivable, in which case we cannot say it is possible.  So either there is no possible world beyond the constraints of the actual world, or our thinking is not constrained by the actual world.

It is hard for me to comprehend the idea that our thinking could be unconstrained by the actual world.  So it seems more intuitive (to me) to say that there is no possible world beyond the constraints of the actual world.  However, this does not mean the actual world is the only possible world.  It rather means that we cannot conceive of a world that is completely unlike the world we inhabit.  Our powers of conception cannot completely transcend what we experience.

In my last post, I regarded science as testing claims about the actual world against claims about particular possible worlds (empirical hypotheses) and universals (all possible worlds:  the rules of language and logic).  I think it is more accurate to say that science tests empirical hypotheses (models of possible worlds) against the actual world (observation) via previously adopted models of possible worlds, the rules of logic and language.  What science gives us are possibilities, not actualities.  Philosophy, on the other hand, explores, deepens, illuminates and at times challenges the rules of logic and language.  What then of mathematics?  Does it provide models of possible worlds?  Does it explore the rules of logic and language?  Maybe it does something else entirely.  Maybe it gives us, not possibilities, but actualities.  Mathematical theorems are truths about the actual world.  However, they are truths which (at least partially) structure the rules of logic and language.  So they are also truths about all possible worlds.

The initial question was, How is it that we can have necessary truths in mathematics if we are constrained by the actual world?  The answer is:  Because mathematical truths are both truths about the actual world and truths which structure our thinking about logical and linguistic possibility itself.  And since necessary truths are truths by virtue of logic and language alone, then mathematical truths are by definition necessary truths.  They are no less empirically grounded for all that.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A challenge to naturalism?

In a 2011 Stone column, Timothy Williamson writes:

"One challenge to naturalism is to find a place for mathematics. Natural sciences rely on it, but should we count it a science in its own right? If we do, then the description of scientific method just given is wrong, for it does not fit the science of mathematics, which proves its results by pure reasoning, rather than the hypothetico-deductive method. Although a few naturalists, such as W.V. Quine, argued that the real evidence in favor of mathematics comes from its applications in the natural sciences, so indirectly from observation and experiment, that view does not fit the way the subject actually develops. When mathematicians assess a proposed new axiom, they look at its consequences within mathematics, not outside. On the other hand, if we do not count pure mathematics a science, we thereby exclude mathematical proof by itself from the scientific method, and so discredit naturalism. For naturalism privileges the scientific method over all others, and mathematics is one of the most spectacular success stories in the history of human knowledge."

Quine's naturalistic position is that we judge mathematical validity by relation to empirical observation.  In contrast, Williamson says that mathematical validity is determined by looking only at mathematics itself, and not the world.  Williamson's reasoning seems obviously flawed.  If Quine is correct, then whenever we look at internal consistency or coherence in mathematics, we are looking at consistency/coherence within an empirically-grounded framework.  So, when mathematicians determine whether or not a proof is mathematically valid, they are determining whether or not it fits with empirical givens.  They might not always be doing so directly, but then, physicists and chemists don't always deal directly with observable givens, either.

If there is a problem with Quine's naturalistic position, it will have to be found elsewhere.

Edited to add the following clarifying remarks (which, unfortunately, are a bit on the rambling side):  I have strongly naturalistic tendencies.  I might not say that science is the only way to knowledge, though.  I would rather say that science is the most reliable way to shared knowledge of the world.  (Actually, I would define "science" as the pursuit of shared methods for discovering new knowledge about the world.)  And I would say that all facts about the world can, in theory, be discovered scientifically--even if nobody will ever be in a position to discover them.  That makes me a naturalist, I think, but it leaves open two possibilities:  one is that we can have private knowledge of the world; the other is that we can have knowledge which is not worldly.

Philosophical knowledge--knowledge of logical relationships (and we might include mathematics here)--is not necessarily worldly.  I think philosophical knowledge must have a worldly foundation, but it might not be reducible to facts about the world.  It might better be thought of as facts about all possible worlds, even if our knowledge of all possible worlds must, in some way, be limited by the facts about the world we live in.

For example, consider mathematics:  Our mathematical knowledge might be empirically grounded, as Quine claims, but, at the same time, it is knowledge of all possible worlds.  Our knowledge of logical relationships--like the analytic truth of "all bachelors are unmarried"--is similarly grounded in empirical knowledge.  (We know through experience what "bachelor" and "unmarried" are, as well as the verb "to be" and the qualifier "all.")  Yet, the extension of that knowledge is beyond the actual world.  All bachelors are unmarried in all possible worlds.

The issue here is between claims about particulars (facts about the actual world, or individual possible worlds) and universals (facts about all possible worlds).  Science and philosophy deal in both, but in different ways.  Science comes down to developing methods for testing claims about the actual world against claims about possible worlds.  A scientific experiment uses facts about individual possible worlds (empirical hypotheses) and all possible worlds (mathematical and logical relationships) to test claims about the actual world. In contrast, philosophy explores the consistency and coherence of facts about possible worlds.  These are two different ways of pursuing knowledge, and they are not mutually exclusive.  So it seems to be that science (as the pursuit of methods for discovering shared knowledge of the world) is not the only path to gaining knowledge. We also have philosophy, which can work with science for their mutual benefit.  But philosophical knowledge as such is not knowledge of the actual world (even if it has an empirical foundation).  (This is leaving aside the possibility of an intrinsically private knowledge.)

We have to wonder, though.  If mathematics is true of all possible worlds, then how can it be arrived at by empirical means?  How can we determine universal truths if we are limited by the particulars of the actual world?  It's tempting to dismiss this as a language game.  Mathematical truths are true of all possible worlds only because we define them that way.  Mathematics is a universalized construction based on certain empirical features of our world--specifically, features which allow for the analysis of patterns.  To say that mathematics (or logical relationships) are true in all possible worlds is only to say that the features which make pattern analysis possible are universalizable. But that universalizability is a feature of the actual world.  It is a feature of all possible worlds.  To put it another way, you cannot have a world with features that make pattern analysis possible without those features being universalizable.  This is part of the identity of those features.  At this point, I have to pause and reflect on what it means for such features to be universalizable, and also on how it can be that we can know that they are universalizable.

Update:  See follow up:  Possibility, Actuality and Necessity

Iron Man 3 Review (with mega spoilers)

I may be the only person I know who thinks Iron Man 2 is the best of the three Iron Man movies. I'm not much of a fan of any of them. I probably enjoyed the second the most because I went into it with very low expectations. I had been disappointed by the first Iron Man, which strained credulity beyond the breaking point, and even thematically seemed utterly confused. So I went into Iron Man 3 with very low expectations, too. Given that, I was surprised at how disappointing it still was.  To put it bluntly, I see no reason to recommend this movie unless you're devoted to the franchise or just can't live without a superhero fix, no matter how unfulfilling. It's passable as blockbuster entertainment, but that's about it, and that's not saying much.  The biggest problem I had was that the charisma and charm that carried the first two movies is almost nowhere to be found in this installment. That made the rest of the film's weaknesses that much graver.

That's it for the spoiler-free portion of this post.  What I have written below spoils some of the movie's biggest plot points. You've been warned. What follows is NOT a review for people who are deciding whether or not to see the movie. It's a review for people who have already seen it and who are looking to dwell on its faults.

Here are some of them:

There is no reason to give Tony Stark anxiety attacks. They never get worked into the plot. Strangely, he never has an attack that makes any difference at all to the story. He never has any problems engaging his enemies, or getting from point A to point B. Furthermore, he never actively tries to deal with his anxiety. His anxiety attacks have no function in the movie whatsoever, except as a gimmick. But for what? To make him more sympathetic? We don't need any gimmicks to make Tony Stark sympathetic. We're already invested in the character by now. The anxiety attacks are a distraction, plausibly an attempt to make the movie seem more character-driven than it really is.

The attempt to make Stark into a sort of father figure was not convincing or compelling.

There is no explanation for the villains' powers (apart from the power to regenerate). Why do their eyes turn red? Why are they able to burn things? Why are they super strong?

How is Pepper able to kill Killian by shooting a curiously shaped grenade she kicks at him, but Stark can't kill him by exploding him inside of one of his robotic suits? (And did the serum give her sensational martial arts skills, too?)

We are led to believe that Stark perfects the science behind Killian's project, leading to its reasonably safe application as well as a viable process for reversing its effects. (He reverses the effects on Pepper, and he uses the process on himself to get rid of his chest problem.) And then what? Stark destroys a technology that would cure the human race of all disease and ailment? What does he do with it? Nothing, apparently.

Why, with an army of JARVIS-controlled robots waiting to be deployed, does Stark spend half the movie more or less out of service (or out of robotic suit, at least)?

How did Favreau's character survive that blast? How did he survive it without major burns covering his entire body?

How is Stark able to save 13 people from falling to their deaths when JARVIS says he can only carry four? Is it supposed to be because they're all "carrying" each other? That doesn't make sense, physically speaking. Stark is the only one able to resist the force of gravity. The fact that they're all holding hands doesn't make one whit of difference. He tried to carry 13 when he could in fact only carry four. They all should've died.

Those are some of the more ridiculous plot holes that annoyed me as I watched the movie. Plot holes don't generally ruin a movie for me, unless the movie exists primarily because of the plot, or unless the holes are so numerous and gaping that they take me out of the story. Superhero movies don't generally rest on the integrity of their plots. They're more about character and action. So I'm usually able to forgive a large number of gaping holes. I think you have to, if you're a fan of the genre. In this case, the action and characters weren't strong enough to keep me happy, so the plot holes were a major nuisance. The action in this movie was okay. Nothing special, nothing original, but not particularly boring. The biggest problem was the characters. I just didn't believe them. They had some moments, but rarely engaged me enough.

One of Russell Blackford's major complaints is what the movie does with the character of The Mandarin. You might come away from the movie thinking that the entire character is fictional (a fiction within the fiction of the movie itself). Kingsley's character was supposed to be The Mandarin, but he turns out to be the farthest thing from a supervillain. I think the idea is that Killian was The Mandarin all along--a point which Killian inexplicably and ridiculously announces to Stark at the end of the movie. Killian has at least some of the powers traditionally attributed to the Mandarin. He is an excellent fighter, able to destroy an Iron Man suit with his bare hands, and he has fire-breathing and heat-inducing abilities. So he resembles the traditional Mandarin a little. They just had to give him a few more abilities and worked the rings in somehow. They totally could've done that. I attribute the failure to laziness. But I like the idea of a bait-and-switch. And it was fun watching Kingsley take full advantage of the role of the pathetic actor.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Musical Interlude: Plod-ting

I haven't recorded much of my piano playing lately.  I've been playing a lot of Chopin and Prokofiev, with a little Beethoven and Mozart, too.  I might record some of that soon.  For now, here's an improvisation from last year.  This is one of my favorite recordings of my own playing.  Not sure why I didn't share it here before.  It's been on YouTube for a while.

The title is meant to suggest an ambivalence between plodding (as in, "to move or walk heaviliy or laboriously") and plotting (as in, scheming).