Snow Leopard in my Mac: Latest version of Mac OS

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker’s Weblog.

Yesterday saw the public release of the latest version of the Mac OS, that is the Operating System for Macintosh computers. This is OS X.6 (the sixth iteration of OS 10, the X is the Roman numeral for 10 and should be pronounced as ten), mostly know as Snow Leopard, following on the big cats used to identify different iterations of OS X since its first release in 2002: Cheetah (a very short lived debut version), Panther, Jaguar, Tiger, Leopard. The release of OS X, and every new iteration, have marked a constant revival of Apple which lost its way after the breakthrough of the first Macintosh computer in 1984.

Snow Leopard is being sold as an upgrade for Mac computer users, who already have Leopard, as well as coming ready installed in new mac computers, The DVD which upgrades Leopard also upgrades Tiger, though Apple does not advertise this. Snow Leopard will only work on Macs with Intel chips, and not the older Macs using PC World chips. The upgrade DVD is 25 US dollars in America, and somewhat more in other countries, but in case is still very cheap for a new OS in all countries.

Anyone using a pre-Tiger version of OS X needs to get a much more expensive set of installation DVDs for Snow Leopard and the latest versions of iLife and iWork. ILife is the set of lifestyle applications which comes preinstalled on all Macintosh computers, and includes iTunes, iWeb (which I’m using to create this post), iPhoto, Garageband and iMovie. iWork is the Apple equivalent to Microsoft Office (Pages is the Word equivalent, Keynote is the Powerpoint equivalent, Numbers is the Excel equivalent), but with the same kind of advantages over Office that the Mac OS has over Windows, that is great user friendliness, intuitiveness, and aesthetic qualities. iWork is not preinstalled in Mac computers, but is cheaper than Office. iWork opens all Office files and all iWork files can be exported as Office files.

I installed Snow Leopard yesterday. The default setting for the DVD is upgrade rather than clean install, which means changing the OS while leaving all applications, files and settings in the hard drive so that they work as before once the install is completed. Clean install means deleting everything from the hard drive, so that everything needs to be backed up before the install. The backup can be done very easily in Leopard, using the Time Machine application and an external hard drive.

Some techies on Apple oriented sites claim they get a better result from clean install than upgrade. I suspect that this is because these are people who have far more in the way of third party software, applications and hacks into the OS, than average users. I have some third party apps, but very little which hacks into the OS, maybe only iStat Menu which displays a wide variety of information about what the computer is doing on the menu bar. The upgrade went very smoothly, and took no more than an hour and a half between inserting the install disc and the computer finishing its house keeping after it reboots the computer onto Snow Leopard.

The only loss I have is that iStat Menu is not working at at present, though iStat Pro (free to download despite the Pro designation) is working on the Console with all the same functions. A Snow Leopard compatible version of iStat Menu is promised soon from iSlayer.com.

Looking at the Mac orientated web sphere, and reports from independent PC websites and magazines, most people have had a very quick and trouble free experience, but as with anything else involving computers there is no 100% guarantee of a problem free experience. Looking at the evidence, I would say that you have to be extremely unlucky to have a bad experience. The sources also agree that the Snow Leopard runs nearly everything more quickly, though this may not always be noticeable as a 10-30% saving of time on an operation which takes less than a minute may not be subjectively noticeable, All the same those savings to add up to meaningful saving of time for the user. I haven’t checked times, but the computer has been feeling snappy since the upgrade.

Anyone upgrading from Windows Vista (or XP) to the Windows 7, which will be released in a few weeks, is going to have to go for a clean install and therefore back up everything before starting the upgrade.

What are the gains? Most of the changes between Leopard and Snow Leopard are concerned with increasing performance and stability, both of which were already very good. Snow Leopard is fully adapted to 64 bit computers, and has a new system for running programs with maximum efficiency, Grand Central Dispatch.

On the User Interface, there are the following useful changes.

Exposé (which brings up a grid of all windows in use) has a better display.

Playing Mp3s in Safari has a difference visual interface, including indication of time left and time used.

Several gigabytes of space on the hard drive are saved as Snow Leopard is more economical in its demands on system space.

System preferences has a few new options.

Minimising windows can now be done into the App icons on the Dock, which I really like. I prefer a clean Dock with large easily visible icons, so I don’t use stacks and I prefer minimised windows to not take up space on the dock which shrinks the icon sizes. Control and click while the cursor is over the App icon gives a clear indication of which windows have been minimised.

Time settings can now automatically adjust to the the region the computer is in, which I have chosen, and is part of the increasing integration of online Wifi enabled capacities into the OS.

If you have a Macintosh computer then Snow Leopard is very much worth the price. If you still use Windows, or belong to the small crew of Linux users, Snow Leopard increases the reason to go over to the Apple side.

Link: Ellen Clarke, Darwin and Left Anarchism

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker’s Weblog.

‘Anarchy, Socialism and a Darwinian Left’, Ellen Clarke. An article Clarke originally published in 2006, now freely available.

Hat tip. PhilPapers (New papers)

I’ve linked to this largely because of the surprisingly large number of people who are not aware that Anarchism refers to a tradition in political theory, not a descent in chaos. The point of Anarchist theory is to show who rule governed societies can emerge without coercion on a purely voluntary basis. I’m not advocating this point of view, but I am startled by sometimes encountering people who work in political theory and appear to be unaware of this position. Clarke refers to Left Anarchism, but there are many varieties of Anarchism: capitalist and socialist; conservative and progressive, revolutionary and evolutionary; and many other gradations.

The real merit of Clarke’s paper is to discuss the possibility of Left Anarchism, through game theory, in reaction to Peter Singer who uses ideas of game theory and co-operation to arrive at a more statist kind of leftism. Clarke’s comment on Anarchist ideology and its history are less detailed. Her main examples of Anarchist thought are Bakunin and Kropotkin, but she does not notes the differences between them. Kropotkin seems the most relevant to her case, since he was a biologist concerned with evolution. His vision was of anarcho-communism, while Bakunin advocated a society where economic property is taken over by workers’ collectives, but is not completely communistic in its attitude to private property. Kropotkin seems the most relevant to what Clarke argues, since he did write on Darwinism and the role of co-operation in evolution in his political theory.

Clarke’s argument focuses on the use of the ‘prisoners’ dilemma’ in theories of social choice and politics. For a full and expert explanation of the ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ in philosophy, go to Steven Kuhn’s entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Briefly, this refers to two prisoners in isolation from each other. Various formulations exist, but they have the pattern that the best outcome for each prisoner is to co-operate with the police if the other does not, since the co-operator goes free and the non-co-operator gets a long sentence. If both act the same way, the best outcome is if both refuse to co-operate which is a better outcome for both than if they both co-operate. The dilemma for the prisoners’ is whether they can trust the other prisoner not to co-operate with the police and so have a reason to not co-operate with the police as well. The prisoners have an incentive to co-operate with each other, but if one behaves co-operatively to the other and the other does not, the latter prisoner benefits. This expresses a social and political dilemma that as individuals we do best if we exploit other people’s trust, but the average benefit of all individuals in society benefits if there is trust. The kind of game theory that looks at the dilemma, suggests that over time rational actors will build up reciprocity and trust, and will co-operate after a sufficient number of repeated experiences which show that trust and co-operation beat distrust and betrayal.

Clarke is concerned with this as an evolutionary survival strategy of humans, arguing that rationality and times lead us to co-operate without a coercive agent to make us obey co-operative rules, such as the state. However, there are more people who take the position that Clarke refers to ‘Axelrodian co-operation’ in which a coercive agent is necessary for co-operation to trust to get established. I’m inclined to agree with the latter position, though in a lore mitigated fashion than the left-statism that Clarke is arguing against. The reason, I would limit the role of the state more than most social democrats and conservative is that I would argue the achievement structural order for society as a whole, is to allow voluntary co-operation to flourish through the market, and all other forms of voluntary association.

The important thing here is that anarchy is not just a name for collapse. In political theory, it refers to a rich and varied tradition according to which there can be an evolving order without the state.

Stoic disintegration in Philosophy and Literature.

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker’s Weblog.

‘Stoic’ ethics and reason (the position that reason is sovereign, is sovereign over the self, and is tested in living) is both reaffirmed and taken apart in the 16th and 17th Centuries. This can be seen in Montaigne and Descartes; Shakespeare’s plays and Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Descartes seems to parallel Cervantes in Discourse on Method, Part I when he refers to the fantastic stories that people may believe in enclosed in the world of books

But I believed I had already given enough time to languages and even to reading ancient books as well, and to their histories and stories. For talking with those from other ages is the same as travelling. It is good to know something about the customs of various people, so that we can judge our own more sensibly and do not think everything different from our own ways ridiculous and irrational, as those who have seen nothing are accustomed to do. But when one spends too much time travelling, one finally becomes a stranger in one’s own country, and when one is too curious about things which went on in past ages, one usually lives in considerable ignorance about what goes on in this one. In addition, fables make us imagine several totally impossible events as possible, and the most faithful histories, even if they neither change nor increase the importance of things to make them more worth reading, at the very least almost always omit the most menial and less admirable circumstances, with the result that what’s left in does not depict the truth. Hence, those who regulate their habits by the examples which they derive from these histories are prone to fall into the extravagances of the knights of our romances and to dream up projects which surpass their powers.

Descartes refers to the knights of romances and their influence on those who give too much importance to old fables and histories. Paying too much attention to such old books is like travelling away from our own country too much (this from Descartes who spent his life in the Netherlands, Bohemian and Sweden, rather than France). It is useful to travel so that we can compare customs, but if we travel too much we forget our on country and don’t belong anywhere. The reading of old books may take us away from the home of our own time. The interest in the value of comparing customs may come from Montaigne, though for Montaigne such knowledge comes from reading and writing at home, and sometimes from meeting people in France. The emphasis on journey into the past, and its dangers, marks a deep sense of the difference between past and present. A difference great enough that to be in a past time for too long is too become alienated from the present, and from our own mind.

Accidentally, or not, Descartes seem to describe the premiss of Don Quixote, the crazy poverty stricken minor aristocrat who reads so many books of chivalry, he thinks he is living in such a story full of magicians and giants. In this we see the breakdown of the ‘Stoic’ ideal of the sovereignty of reason, a sense that unreason is something pressing in on us, which is something Descartes deals with in the idea of the deceiving demon. With that thought, Descartes tries to push back into some deep core of the sovereign reason of the self, going well beyond the Stoic sense of self-regulation through reason. The defence of Stoic reason is just as much a recognition of its breakdown as a defence. Once reason is pushed back into this inner sphere of absolute rationality, it is losing its contact with the philosophy tested by how we live life. Descartes appeals to reason as an ethic of life, but that disappears in the purely internal struggle of mind to exclude deception.

Montaigne had already started this disintegration of ‘Stoic’ ethics and reason exploring itself. For Montaigne, reason does not just reflection on reason, or lead the will and the passions to a proper place under reason. Reason reflects on itself as something subjective and embedded in passions and will. The point becomes to understand the self as subjective self, and to understand others in their subjective selves better.

Link:Debating European Union.Hulsman & Kupchan

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker’s Weblog.

Worldwise Transatlantic Pragmatism. John Hulsman and Charles Kupchan at bloggingheads.tv.

A moderate Euro-sceptic and a moderate Euro-integrationist engage in an admirably constructive dialogue on the problems and achievements of the European Union, from an American perspective. Topics include: varieties of right-wing Euro-scepticism in the UK and the USA; the EU and USA economic models; relation between public opinion and élites in the EU; the rise of new powers in the Third World (China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt); the less integrated role of NATO after the Cold War; the death of American led interventionism, whether peaceful liberal internationalism or armed neo-conservatism; the death of a global order defined by the USA or the EU; the political problems of the integrationist project in the EU, and the reasons.

The Decline of Theology; the Growth of Aesthetics

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker’s Weblog.

I’m sure there are plenty of discussions about this, all I can remember right now is Carl Schmitt in Political Theology and Political Romanticism, which address different but relevant points.

As I suggested in yesterday’s post, Hume marks some kind of transition from a ‘Stoic’ belief in the sovereignty of reason overs the passions to a belief in the sovereignty of passion, to use a crude formulation I hope has a useful function in elucidation. The interest in ‘taste’ is tied up with this loss of sovereign reason, not that I’m suggesting that Hume is an irrationalist, but that some kinds of Reason are undermined by him.

One form of Reason that Hume undermines, famously, is metaphysical theology and its centrality to philosophy. While I don’t think there is a such a thing as an outright victory or defeat in arguments about religious and naturalist views of the universe, or the existence of God, Hume and then Kant’s arguments on this topic are nevertheless about as successful as any set of philosophical arguments have ever been in shifting the central pre-occupations of philosophy. This is not necessarily anything to do with abandoning God and religion: Hume avoids such an argument and has been taken up by Faith based thrological thinkers; Kant intended to strengthen a way of thinking about ethics which gives us a reason to believe in God. However, their arguments certainly make it easier to abandon God and religion, and shift philosophy away from putting God at its centre in metaphysics.

Very broadly, the arguments of Hume and Kant depend on making a separation between the evidence of our perceptions, and our knowledge of ultimate reality. There is no way tracing our perceptions back to a unified divine cause. There is also no basis for the argument that there is a kind of being that must exist, because it is perfect being, which means a whole shift away from any assumption that some kinds of beings are dependent on higher kinds of being, and so on until we reach Perfect Being as the source of all beings. That is, we move away from the idea of a hierarchy of being.

In Hume and Kant, aesthetics and taste enter into areas where God would have entered, in earlier philosophy. Ethics in Hume is linked with aesthetic taste, in the explanation of how it is formed and how it develops in human history. Kant harmonises ethics and knowledge with reference to an account of the power of judgement, the first half of which is taken up with aesthetic judgement. Understanding and sensibility are harmonised through beauty, coming into the role Descartes, Occasionalists and Leibniz attributed to God, of harmonising different substances. When Kant talks about harmonising understanding and sensibility he is approaching the issue of harmonising mental substance and physical substance in earlier philosophers. Beauty symbolises moral ideas for Kant, and that symbolism is the model for grasping God. The sublime is a way of grasping God, as what is greater than any force of nature. Agreement on taste is the basis for communicability between humans.

Reason is no longer sovereign over the passions, God is no longer sovereign over events. Taste emerges as a way of explaining how the passions organise and unify different people; the beautiful and the sublime emerge as ways of unifying the faculties of the mind, and grounding social communication. We are not necessarily talking about a total aestheticisation of philosophy here, but we are taking about its ineliminability from a less theological philosophy.

Link. Apple’s White MacBook may Stay and Grow

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker’s Weblog

Apple to retain, redesign plastic MacBook family. AppleInsider. 25th August 2009.

This refers back to my post of 27th July on Apple Tablet/MacTouch/iPad. In that post I noted the very consistent and frequent rumours of a forthcoming 10 inch device from Apple with a touch screen. I suggested then that the White MacBook was in its last days as a legacy product, and would be killed off when the new portable device was released. I was then referring to AppleInsider, and many other sources, for the predictions of the new portable. This time I;m only relying on AppleInsider, but I think the item makes a very strong case for saying that Apple has had a change of mind. AppleInsider is generally respected for its reliability and this item has been picked up by other Apple oriented sites.

The linked item refers to a change of mind of Apple as the White MacBook continues to outsell other Macintosh computers, despite the lack of advertising and the difficulty of finding it on Apple’s online store. Perhaps this is not surprising, for two sets of reasons.

Intrinsic qualities.

The White MacBook handles normal computing needs extremely well, it has been upgraded and the price has been cut. There’s little reason for getting a MacBook Pro unless a high level computer is really necessary, and Apple reinforced when the aluminium 13 inch MacBook was relabelled as the entry level MacBook Pro.

Extrinsic circumstances.

The recession increases the incentives to choose the plastic MacBook over the aluminium MacBook Pros, including the 13 inch version which initially seemed destined to replace the plastic White MacBook.

Apple has survived the recession remarkably unscathed despite claims from some quarters that the Mac computers are overpriced niche, boutique items, which would lose market share heavily in a recession. In addition Microsoft was heavily advertising claims that Macintosh computers are overpriced compared with PCs designed for Windows. A somewhat dubious claim if computers are compared at list price feature by feature, particularly taking into account the lack of viruses for Mac Operating System, the much greater most people take in using it compared with Windows, and the greater number of features ready bundled with the OS X. Apple responded by cutting prices and upgrading, so that though its products are certainly not cheap they are certainly much better value, for what many including myself would argues was already very good value for the quality of the products.

It now looks as if Apple may revive the White MacBook line, in a niche between the new 10 inch portable and the MacBook Pros. I had earlier predicted that the new devices might become the standard Mac computer, like the White MacBook has been. That is less clear now. It might increase the number of people with two Mac computers.

The Death of Stoicism and the Birth of Aesthetics

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker’s Weblog.

Returning to a topic I addressed on 3rd July, ‘Racine, Hume and the Death of Tragedy’, I’ve been considering the birth of philosophical aesthetics in the 18th Century in relation to ethical changes of the time. I refer to the birth of philosophical aesthetics in the 18th Century, partly because that is when ‘aesthetic’ began to be used as a term for philosophy of beauty and art. There was such a philosophy in Plato and Aristotle, but in the 18th Century we get questions not asked before: what is taste and why does it change? What can we learn about history through poetry? How can aesthetics harmonise nature and human history?

These aesthetic questions arise from uncertainty about the movements of humans consciousness, the feeling that the passions moves beyond the control of reason and not in a sense that can be resolved by focusing on rationality. It is Hume who says that reason can only be, and only should be, the slave of the passions. What Hume meant by the passions is more expansive than our sense of inner intensity. In Hume it refers to a much more general sense of ideas in the mind and the way they combine and bring about actions and thoughts. The important point here is that the mind can never be completely rational, and should not be completely rational, though rationality is a state we should pursue.

The idea of an ethics of reason controlling the passions, would have been something Hume associated with Stoicism. He also associated it with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, but in his time Stoicism was much more at the forefront of what people thought had been bequeathed by the Ancient world. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, were seen through a Stoic understanding. Hume sometimes refers Cicero, who had a dominant position in republican political thought and as an ethical thinker, which has disappeared since the 19th Century, though has been recently revived. Cicero was maybe not a pure Stoic, but is understood to have been sympathetic to Stoic ethics.

Very briefly and crudely, I am defining Stoicism as rationality over the emotions in a balanced self, which fully understands itself. We can see the force of this ‘Stoicism’ in Montaigne and Descartes, but also the strain placed on it by a philosophical interest in self-reflection. That strain is made clear by Pascal. Jumping back to Hume, whatever relationship he did or did not have with Montaigne or Descartes (who he certainly took very seriously) or Pascal, he belongs to a moment in which ‘Stoicism’ is collapsing though Hume hangs on to a mitigated interest in it. But because Hume, himself, undermines the ‘Stoic’ self through his scepticism about causality, personal identity, and free will, he starts to think of taste for beauty as something variable and subjective, in a way which would have seemed highly peculiar to Plato and Aristotle. Hume needs to think of ways in which human sociability allows common standards of taste to emerge.

The ‘aesthetic’ in Hume emerges from the disintegration of the ‘Stoic’ and this is the background to the ‘aesthetic’ (taste, poetics, the sublime and the beautiful) in Hutcheson, Burke, Vico and Kant.