Travel Theme: Minimalist

Black Swan of Paynesville
Black Swan of Paynesville

The term black swan was a Latin expression, “a good person is as rare as a black swan” (“rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno”). It was a common expression in 16th century London as a statement that describes impossibility, deriving from the old world presumption that ‘all swans must be white’, because all historical records of swans reported that they had white feathers. Thus, the black swan is often cited in philosophical discussions of the improbable. Aristotle’s Prior Analytics most likely is the original reference that makes use of example syllogisms involving the predicates “white”, “black”, and “swan.” More specifically Aristotle uses the white swan as an example of necessary relations and the black swan as improbable. This example may be used to demonstrate either deductive or inductive reasoning; however, neither form of reasoning is infallible since in inductive reasoning premises of an argument may support a conclusion, but does not ensure it, and, similarly, in deductive reasoning an argument is dependent on the truth of its premises. That is, a false premise may lead to a false result and inconclusive premises also will yield an inconclusive conclusion. The limits of the argument behind “all swans are white” is exposed—it merely is based on the limits of experience (e.g., that every swan one has seen, heard, or read about is white). Hume’s attack against induction and causation is based primarily on the limits of everyday experience and so too, the limitations of scientific knowledge.*

Had these philosophers lived in Australia, this discussion may have been quite different, or at least, different examples may have been used to illustrate the point. Black swans are common place and can be found in briny shallow water and lakes around Australia

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A good person is as common as a black swan!

Thanks Ailsa, I’m hoping to embrace a bit of minimalism now that the Festive Season is over.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Swan_(2007_book)

14 thoughts on “Travel Theme: Minimalist”

  1. I love your reasoning that the conversation would have been very different, had it taken place in Australia!! Some overseas friends visited a year or so ago and they found the black swans very curious. They seem so normal to me now I have to remind myself people in other countries have never seen one. Again, your interpretation of the theme is very unique. I, too, am happy to be returning to a more minimal lifestyle.

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    1. Minimalism has some appeal at this time of the year. I know my take on this theme is rather odd, but I woke up and thought ‘Black Swans’, and so stuck with it. Seasons Greetigs Ardys. I am still pondering your thoughts from your post of the other day. x

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  2. The Philosopher’s Song (Monty Python)
    Immanuel Kant was a real puissant. Who was very rarely stable
    Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar. Who could think you under the table.
    David Hume could out-consume Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel,
    And Wittgenstein was a beery swine who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.
    There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya’ ‘Bout the raising of the wrist.
    SOCRATES, HIMSELF, WAS PERMANENTLY PISSED…
    John Stuart Mill, of his own free will, On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
    Plato, they say, could stick it away; Half a crate of whiskey every day.
    Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle, Hobbes was fond of his dram,
    And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart: “I drink, therefore I am
    “Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed;
    A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he’s pissed!

    This is why they couldn’t get their heads around black swans!
    Thanks for the song plant. 🙂

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  3. Sigh! Minimalish seems an unreachable and unachievable memory of the past. I’m so tired I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around your philosophical reflections, but the photo is gorgeous, as is the day! I’m minimizing with a little downtime…

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    1. Nothing like winding up a house and a Christmas all in one month to make one tired. I just had Christmas and that was wearying enough. Mr T wondered about the relevance of black swans to the theme of minimalism, and I sadly had to admit there was little.

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  4. The philosophical discussion reminds me that the understanding of our own life is based on our experiences. If we only know of white swans we can easily believe that black swans are mythical creatures. If we only know of our own little patch we can easily believe that the way we do things, our beliefs and customs are the only way. Thank heavens for travel and the internet to link us to a world beyond our own.
    Have a wonderful year!

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