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Tuesday 06 January 2009

ADMIN USE ONLY | 17:18 UK time, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Gaza Crisis
Our Diplomatic Editor, Mark Urban, is in Jerusalem tonight.
Heavy fighting on the ground in Gaza has intensified dramatically. Possibly the moment that will symbolise the conflict came today when an Israeli tank apparently blasted a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, where hundreds of Palestinians had taken refuge, killing forty. Israel insists aid is getting in; but the UN has described the conditions in Gaza as horrific. Could this be the turning point in the conflict ?
Jeremy will speak to the Israeli Government and a UN representative dealing with the Gaza crisis.

Energy CrisisFrom our Economics Editor Paul Mason.
"Gas supplies to Eastern Europe are shut down - but who pulled the plug? And is Britain doing enough to protect its energy supplies? I'm on the phone to some very cold places today to get the answers."
Jeremy will be talking to the Energy Minister Mike O'Brien.

Politics From our Political Editor Michael Crick:
"I'll be looking ahead to what's in store at Westminster in 2009. On the economy, Europe and our special relationship with a new America - the year ahead promises to be eventful for all parties. "
And the Newsnight political panel join Jeremy for their musings on the world of politics this year.


  • Comment number 1.


    Until leadership falls to the most stable and able, nothing humane or sustainable will be established on this planet.
    Unless the PRIORITY of leaders is (genuinely, rather than delusionally) to instil stability and ability in the highest number of 'the led', future leaders can only arise from a 'pool' of the aberrant and incompetent.

    This is equally true for family, community, state or superstate. All else is secondary.

  • Comment number 2.

    I look forward to Jeremy tonight. I couldn't stop laughing at Jeremy's immortal lines to George Osbourne last night - "you're like the man who walks behind the horse with a bucket." Utterly priceless :o)

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    The key factor is that the Israeli attack on Gaza is driven by crude party political objectives, not military ones nor even wider national objctives. After the Kedima Party's humiliating defeat in Lebanon its chances of winning the upcoming election were rock-bottom. Like Margaret Thatcher in the Falklands war they had nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by another war. Unlike her, though, they probably willl lose. Hamas has only to survive for them to win this particular war.

    The timing in the context of its international position was, it is true, masterful. They have only to 20th January to continue their action - once more supported by a compliant Bush administration - before Obama will probably take a much harder line with Israel. It was indeed as clever to launch it at the time when western leaders would be on their christian holiday(as indeed would islamic ones). Moreover, the Israeli's have learned the lessons of controlling the PR, though nothing can blot out the sight of chidren's bodies piling up.

    The problem is that the situation is not susceptible to a military solution. There can be no win, only a loss. It remains for Tony Blair and Obama, who is the key new player, to provide a viable (long-term) solution post januray 20th.

  • Comment number 5.

    The drivel coming out of Israel as justification for their disproportionate attack on Gaza is breathtaking, as is the limp response by the international community. The latter serves only to reinforce not just Israel's behaviour, but any other state which considers doing the same thing in the future.

    We hear stories of how bombings of mosques and UN run/marked schools are justified because of alleged 'secondary explosions' indicating proximal storage of explosives, but what does it take to drop two bombs, or a pair with the second having a delayed fuse? We hear of airburst shells which are allegedly smoke-rounds or white phosphorous, but again, what are the bursts on the ground if not cluster munitions? The press are conveniently not allowed close enough to report, but one thing is for sure, any government prepared to authorise such disproportionate attacks against civilians won't hesitate to spin a few tales if it helps secure their objectives.

  • Comment number 6.

    Energy Crisis:

    What percentage of UK gas comes from Russia?

    I thought we got extra gas from Norway or the Dutch ?

    When is Germany's direct gas pipe from Russia going to open ?

    Are we still selling cheap gas to Europe for them to store it and sell it back to us at high prices during winter ?

    I await your program with interest !

  • Comment number 7.

    No mention of D.I.M.E weapons being used.

    No mention of White Phosphorus munitions being used.

    Depleted Uranium being used, I reckon...

    Seeing Israeli civilians 'Rubber Necking' last night made me feel sick...

    End of list.

  • Comment number 8.

    obama will do zilch he's too tied to corporate America to be effective and he couldn't give a monkeys about the middle east so don't get your hopes up guys

  • Comment number 9.


    Obama is a product of America+politics+obscene expenditure; exactly like Dubya. The only time one 'hole' has delivered chalk and cheese individuals, was in the Hollywood film 'Twins'. I know America has a lot in common with Hollywood but I think this lawyer-minded, charismatic orator shares too many similarities with Our Tony to be a saint. Rule one: gain power. Rule two: get re-elected. Rule three: there are no rules after 'two'.

  • Comment number 10.

    How many economy bulbs would it take to compensate for the various wars and their effects on the environment?
    Given that humans can have enough food, shelter and warmth yet cannot maintain stability within large parts of the planet or even in many families, the greatest threat to our existence is ourselves. The light bulbs are needed in our heads.

  • Comment number 11.


    barrie (#9) "I know America has a lot in common with Hollywood"

    You bet. Yet not enough appear to be able to join up the dots on this and that.

    Why is that do you think? Why is it SO offensive to point out what's obviously true?

  • Comment number 12.

    Why didn't Jeremy ask the obvious question: why aren't BBC (and other) reporters allowed to walk the streets of Gaza? We all know the answer but it would have been nice to hear what meaningless excuses would have been trotted out.

    Thank God that there are still decent people like the UN spokesman from the school who spoke in Mark Urban's report around. It's almost unbelievable that this sort of attack can go on while the lickspittle Blair and the already disappointing Mr Obama wring their hands.

  • Comment number 13.


    Miliband's UN speech was a traversty. He clearly ignored the democratic election of Hamas and endorsed Abbas' PA control instead demanding that the 'smuggling' of weapons into Gaza must stop.

    Clearly the message is that Israel has the right to defend itself, but Gaza does not have the right to defned itself against economic blockage.

    That's going to go down well....

  • Comment number 14.

    Neither the UN spokesman or Jeremy Paxmean seemed remotely interested in the fact that Hamas was using a UN school as a military base from which it was firing on Israel's troops. All they were interested in was suggesting Israels had committed a crime, but not that it might also be a crime to use a UN school in such a way.

  • Comment number 15.

    I have always liked Jeremy Paxman's approach to journalism. However, his interview tonight with the Israeli spokesman on the Gaza situation was a disgrace.

    Totally dismissive of investigating the facts, he disregarded the spokesmen’s assertion that the Israeli forces had received mortar attack from the UN building. Instead, he ridiculed the suggestion. How dare he.

    The loss of life is terrible. But why is Mr Paxman choosing not to verify that Hamas is firing from residential areas, from houses, hiding behind civilians.

    There is no argument against the Israeli action. In 2005 Israel gave up land for peace, left Gaza on the road to reaching a lasting agreement. Instead of peace, Israel received rockets. Over 8,000 rockets have been fired into Israel, terrorising the population. Which country on earth would have waited for three years to respond. Hamas refused to continue with the ceasefire; the Eygptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in December “The Israelis have been warning you that this was coming if you continue your cross border rocket attacks. Egypt has been imploring you to stop firing rockets into Israel, but you ignored our words. We have been urging you to renew the cease-fire with Israel, but you refused. You have brought this upon yourselves. You are responsible for what is happening to the people of Gaza”.

    Imagine Kent were an independent country and was ruled by a regime which launched a rocket at London. Would the British Government respond after one rocket? Would the British Government wait three years whilst the south of England were subject to 8,000 rocket attacks. Of course not. Yet Israel has endured this level of provocation.

    So Mr Paxman, why not report the story rather than adopting aggressive sensationalist journalism. It is awful that civilians are being killed but place blame where it is due.

  • Comment number 16.

    The arrogance of Israel’s spokesmen Mr Shitreet and Mr Reger is truly shocking.
    They showed their complete disregard for the life of Palestinian civilians.
    Three different UN schools were hit in one day and so many civilians were killed but there is no apology, no regret. It seems that Israelis consider themselves above International Law and the Geneva convention doesn’t apply to them.
    Israelis are justifying the attack on Gaza by saying that Hamaz are firing rockets at South Israel.
    How many children were killed by Hamaz’s home-made rockets in Israel?
    How many children were killed by Israeli war planes in Gaza since 27 December?
    - Over 100

    The truth is there is NO JUSTIFICATION for KILLING INNOCENT and DEFENCELESS women and children!
    Whatever Israelis say - it’s a barbaric act!

  • Comment number 17.

    Excellent Jeremy again tonight and my favourite politcal trio of Danny/Olly/Peter were present too!

    The reason the school was hit today was because Hamas was hiding in the school and firing from the inside, using the children as a human shield.

  • Comment number 18.


    Nice point got2 - and there's more. Bog standard low energy bulbs do not give full light: a) when just switched on, and b) WHEN COLD.
    All the old folk who have fitted them in the 'War on CO2', and to save money, will be coming to grief in their homes right now (on the stairs, in the loo, on the porch) and ending up in large-footprint NHS facilities. I wonder if David Miliband even KNEW the performance parameters, when he was our ecology genius? (I hope he is better at annoying foreigners.) Be a fine thing if home insurance premiums go up for low-energy bulb users!

  • Comment number 19.

    THE COST OF BEING CHOSEN ONES (whilst writing The Book)

    There's nothing quite so painfully frustrating as having to witness so many self-centred people naively trot out the same dysfunctional scotoma which have been trotted out for generations, especially when such defensive neuroticism/narcissism (if not projected paranoia) serves to preserve their endogamy/alienation/isolation.

  • Comment number 20.

    On the level of this world, there is room to feel suffering for both nations. However, it is written: “He who raises a sword against you, let him die by the sword,” and, “He who rises to kill you, kill him first.” After many years of watching the civilian population of Israel being bombed, I don’t think there’s any alternative but to destroy the enemy – Hamas (but not the civilian Arabic population of Gaza). Hamas aspires to kill as many civilians as possible, and the fact that they are using their own people as a shield is no reason to sit and wait for them to destroy. Let the population of Gaza rise up and deal with their own government, whose actions are forcing them into this catastrophe.

    By the way, Israel regularly sends humanitarian aid to Gaza. The wounded civilians of Gaza are admitted to Israeli hospitals and treated free of charge. However, as for whether the humanitarian aid (hundreds of trucks a week) actually gets to the people – that is the UN’s job to monitor. These international organizations shouldn’t blame anyone but themselves for their indifference toward the hungry residents of Gaza!!!

    And after all, wasn’t it the people living in Gaza who voted for Hamas to be their leader at the free elections? So indirectly, aren’t they also responsible for what is happening and are accomplices to some degree? “The people suffering are the civilians and the innocent children” - but they are suffering because of their own choice to have Hamas be their government! A person can say that this is their fault, and today they are reaping the fruits. By the way, most Arabic countries hate and fear Hamas: just look at their reactions to what is happening.

    The commentary above is a dual-sided look on the level of our world.

    Here is a look at the situation on a deeper level. Everything taking place in the world is the revelation of man’s evil nature, the recognition of this evil, the search for its correction, then its correction and the attainment of the goal of creation. All the conflicts throughout the entire human history gather together into one sensation of evil, and they must bring us to the feeling of, “That’s enough!” And this will take place in our time. It's written that the final clashes taking place in the world will be against Arab fundamentalism.

    The Arabic world also includes voices such as Wafa Sultan. Look her up if you don't know about her. She like many others across the world, see the necessity of unity needed now before all of humanity leads itself to self-destruction. This change of our egoistic relationships with one another. Also if any unity is done for the sake of others, and moreover, if it is done in order to pave the way for future universal unification, then it strengthens them. However, if the unification is private, done in order to set them against others – then it will destroy the people who do it!

    In the future, the world will not have to become one country; there may be many countries and nations, each with its respective culture. However, the relationships between them will have to be harmonious and amicable. It’s just as in a body, where all the parts are different, but each one is exactly what the others need. For the time being we are like cancerous cells in a body. And our own egoism causes all levels of crisis in the world including this war. In the near future instead of suffering and global crisis pushing us to the point of no return, I hope that it awakens all of humanity sooner than later and at least the majority will see coming out of self love to the love of others is more important than selfish pride.

  • Comment number 21.

    Erratum #13 blockade.

    Is anyone going to disarm Israel, disable its arms industries, or limit its imports/exports and prevent the USA from re-arming it? If not, why not? What right does Israel have to do this to Gaza?

    Unless one can ask such questions one
    isn't objectively appreciating what's going on and is just a passive recipient of Israeli/USA spin/propaganda.

  • Comment number 22.

    Has my comment been withdrawn because I used the term 'battery hen' to describe the status of the imprisoned, and overcrowded Gazans? seems like fair comment to me. Was it the word cult?
    The dictionary states:


    "A system or community of religious worship and ritual."

    Are not all Zionists Jews? But, all Jews are not Zionists, therefore Zionists are a subset. All cults are a subset of something else, or am I mistaken?

  • Comment number 23.

    No matter which way you look at it what's taking place in Gaza now are horrific.
    Israel is using disproportioned force against 1.5m Palestinian people, resulting innocent children and women killed.
    Pictures don't lie if there were Israeli children killed believe me we would have seen as their PR are always proactive in pointing out that 4/6 Israeli civilians died. compare that to 600+ Palestinian, how can they justify what we are seeing the pictures of Palestinian children killed or maimed. I tell things as i see it:
    Israel is doing no favours for it self and it's allies in fact they are sawing the seeds of hatred for it's future. I think our government should distance it self from Israeli, they've already driven American foreign policy in to a ditch and we can't afford to loose many friendly governments in the middle east in order to keep one liability(Israeli) friend. As anyone who visited the middle east knows that the region is simmering with hatred of Israel, America, and even their own governments for having associations with Israel, look no further then Egypt I would not be surprised if a coup takes place in the next five years and the government there is replaced by hostile regime.
    Israel should not blame anyone but it self for their diplomatic cock up in trying to solve every problem they have with the Palestinian through the barrels of gun since 1948.

    As to the assessment given by the top spy in UK for the reduction of threat by militant Muslims in this country. I would like to point out that this is the combined efforts of all that are involved including the Muslim community in this country, I myself mentor a group of young vulnerable boys who otherwise would end up in the hands of hard-liners. But all this work is at risk now that Israel has wrote the script for the next Bin Laden video. Peace will prevail.

  • Comment number 24.


    [Could this be the turning point in the conflict ?]

    Maybe this could be the turning point!....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 25.

    Paxman has severely disappointed me with his interview of the Israeli spokesman on the attack of the UN school. Baldrick could have done better.
    The spokesman justified the action by stating that Hamas were firing from or very near from, the school. Paxman pointed out that Israeli had been supplied with the details and co-ordinates of all UN sites in Gazza. Why did Paxman point out that British troops in Afganistan face exactly the same dilemma? The Taliban regularly fire on our troops from behind a shield of women and child and our troops have strict rules
    of engagement.
    Why did Paxman not put this point to him?
    The Spokeman then tried to justify the action with the 'fog of war' argument. Why was Paxman not asking questions about the 'chain of command' of a very well established and experienced army? He seemed to justifying it by stating that Israeli soldiers were acting on their own initiative!! Hardly a very disciplined army!! Paxman questioned him about an independent investigation and had that question blocked by a statement about Israeli conducting their own investigation. Come on Jeremy!! Where were the questions about the press being excluded from Gazza? Where were the questions about UN observers?
    A very, very, poor show Mr Paxman - 0/10

  • Comment number 26.


    Nachum (#15) "Totally dismissive of investigating the facts, he disregarded the spokesmen?s assertion that the Israeli forces had received mortar attack from the UN building. Instead, he ridiculed the suggestion. How dare he. The loss of life is terrible. But why is Mr Paxman choosing not to verify that Hamas is firing from residential areas, from houses, hiding behind civilians."

    On the contrary. Watch the interview again. Paxman was making the point that neither he not Regev knew, they only knew what they had been told. Nevertheless, Regev persisted in asserting what he had been told by his intelligence people (as if that in itself made what he believed true!). Paxman was asking whether Regev agreed that what was required as an INDEPENDENT investigation, and Regev wouldn't have that.

    Mistress76uk (#17) "The reason the school was hit today was because Hamas was hiding in the school and firing from the inside, using the children as a human shield."

    No, that was what Israel asserted. The point of the interview last night was to highlight the controversial nature of this assertion given that the UN on the ground disputed this assertion and said that it needed to be independently investigated.

    The value of having neutrals in the area (proscribed by Israel) is independent reporting. You are confabulating what is said by a combatant at war with what is true. The first thing that goes in (the fog of) war is truth, and one has to accept that some of the fog has been laid down by Israel (and no doubt Hamas as well) to further justify its agenda.

  • Comment number 27.


    People should look far more critically to the extent of mendacity closer to home....

    As to #21 above, Clegg has said something sensible, not that it will make any difference.

  • Comment number 28.

    the reason people (usual pro Israel) criticise Jeremy is that he won't be fobbed off with lame excuses and that is why he is worth every penny of the license fee to get at the truth. The slaughter of innocents cannot be washed away with a ten second soundbite from Israel PR, these deaths will haunt Israel for decades to come. If you want the real truth read Robert Fisk in todays Independent, it is all there based on fact, undisputed fact from the UN and peacekeeping organisations not over the last ten days but over the last fifty years and it all makes to the inevitable conclusion that we in the west do not give toss for the suffereing of the Palestinians because if we did none of this horror would have happened. Israeli apologists read his account and weep.

  • Comment number 29.

    Leftie, I'm Pro-Israel and Jeremy (or Newsnight for that matter) certainly is NOT biased towards either party. Both sides are given a fair chance to speak, and both sides are questioned throughly.

  • Comment number 30.

    Mistress76uk (#17) "my favourite politcal trio of Danny/Olly/Peter were present too!"

    They may well be your favorities, but what's the alternatve? What do they contribute to Newsnight other than vacuous spin and gossip? When Hyman was temporarily replaced, it was with disgraced spin-doctor turned psychotherapist, Derek Draper. In my view, this trio peddle nothing but inconsequential gossip/spin and disgrace the Newsnight production team.

    Incidentally, this is classic Israeli tactics. It was done during the Lebanese war too, and it should come as no surprise that this self-published 'research' is not reliably or validly done.

  • Comment number 31.

    #15 "In 2005 Israel gave up land for peace,"

    Was it ever theirs to give up?

  • Comment number 32.

    Some of the Israeli PR makes Comical Ali seem credible.

  • Comment number 33.


    Are we not signed up by default to both the 'War on Terror' and the doctrine of 'Preventive Action' anywhere in the world?
    Since Guantanamo, do we not, again by default, condone ANY AND ALL inhumanity towards the known terrorist, presumed-terrorist and 'well-he-could-be' terrorist? No one can argue that random rockets meandering towards places occupied by 'them' is an attempt to terrify 'them' rather than win a victory directly. This is a gift to 'them' in that they can then label you 'terrorist' and act with impunity.

    By far the craziest performance in this tragedy, is given by that old pro Christian Blair (with micro-adjusted dogma) who aligned with Crusader Bush in a slaughter of the innocent to rival anything from the past. Blair wafts, fragrantly about, delivering vacuous platitudes, like blessings, over the whole nihilistic impasse.

    Weep World.

  • Comment number 34.

    There can be no hope for peace, whilst the Zionist tail wags the American dog. The only escape for both sides from this eternal conflict, will be the remote chance of Obama, with his multi-ethnic background to revoke his pledge to the first political body that approached him just before the end of the election; the 'Recognise Israel at any costs' group. He has to pull his presumed blind support, and ask Israel to withdraw to the 1967 position.
    Didn't Hamas actually mention in recent years that they would accept this rather than their preferred total removal of Israel.

    Although not perfect, and omitting several key questions, Jeremy does a brilliant job, and probably a better one than most if not all, considering the constraints of the BBC. The mere thought of interviewees having to get their agenda's across against the barrage of Jeremy, is always a highlight for me.

    Anyone other than me, noticed that this whole conflict is a simulation of the arcade game of Breakout. No need to say who is controlling the paddle and destroying all the blocks, with the occasional surprise block causing the player to drop the ball...

    I don't want anyone to die, but am powerless to do anything about it, except my pledge not to eat any of the food from Israel. I may change my mind when the Palestinians have a viable, internationally trading country. I won't eat American sanctioned bananas either, after the Windward Island fiasco. But that's just my way of expressing my disapproval...

  • Comment number 35.


    Planet Earth is in a 'failed state'; overrun by a failed ape. In elite corners, we have increasingly intimate understanding of cellular life and cerebral function, yet persist in incompatible and intractable beliefs, in fabricated gods.

    Rather than Newsnight persisting in trying to de-bag politicians, might it be more productive to 'de-frock' religious dogma - across the board? (But leave out Dawkins - he is the most dogmatic believer of all.)

    Lets get Jeremy to do a 'Kyle' with Chief Rabbi Sachs and The Arch of Cant, belabouring them to admit error on both sides - kiss - and stop making it up!

    Down with dogma.

  • Comment number 36.

    I thought tonight's edition balanced on the subject of Gaza.

    [Off topic but Melanie Phillips has a very pointed blog on the subject of BBC bias in its reportage of the conflict at which I agree with (I'm the commentator GC in that blog)].

    The Paxman - Regev clash was fine by me. Two tough nuts having a fair old go and it was good to see our favourite rottweiler in genuine form tonight and not just faking it as he has taken to of late and which just embarrasses me.

    I thought it discourteous and unfair that Newsnight took its leave of Regev without really giving him the chance to say goodnight. I thought him a decent and thoughtful chap and really liked him.

  • Comment number 37.


    barrie (#35) At the risk of appearing cynical, wouldn't that put them both out of a job? Some things never change.

    A little fomented out-group hostility through in-group collective audacity can be very good for in-group cohesion/solidarity/nepotism.

  • Comment number 38.


    interesting use of the word 'war'

    war happens between states. is gaza a state?

    if not then its not a war?

    Begin launched an invasion just before an election. So its a standard israeli political tactic to win elections.


    not a word on the feed in tariff that generates more energy in germany than the whole of uk nuclear and generates 100,000s of jobs? why do the govt block it?

    Council Tax

    when everyone in the real world seems to be taking a pay cut to keep their jobs why does the State not follow suit. Along with the economy should the state not also contract?
    Why do CEO of Councils get 200K?
    by how much will council tax rise? Is the State still living in the boom time mindset?

  • Comment number 39.

    bookhimdano (#38) "Is the State still living in the boom time mindset?"

    First they restructure the Civil Service (repeatedly), then they clobber LAs by devolving to people's choice, then they flood the public sector with incompetent people who can't do the job because of equalities quotas, then they encourage the electorate to resent those in the public sector for their apparent incomptence but security.

    Kiss the country good-bye, and it's all being done ever so democratically. That's anarchism/free-market de-regulation aka 'freedom' folks.

  • Comment number 40.


    Virtue, integrity, altruism, honour, humility, dignity. Now THERE'S the basis of a dogma, both church and state might sign up to, to some advantage. But we will need to nurture our young to stable maturity (rather than Mammon-friendly squaro-roundist peggery) before ever that 'comes to pass'.

  • Comment number 41.

    barrie (#40) "Virtue, integrity, altruism, honour, humility, dignity."

    Have you noted that all of these words are intensional/mentalistic (cf. Quine) and therefore a) can only be referred to in terms of each other and b) failing the tests of quantification and substitutivity are non-truth-functional and therefore of dubious scientific/technological utility? They are just poetic/rhetorical terms, hence all the fruitless argument.

    Hence Beyond Freedom and Dignity' which is still far too radical for most people 38 years on.

  • Comment number 42.

    @ #35 - Oh Barrie - I can't get the image of Jeremy P doing a Jeremy Kyle impersonation now...the guests in tracksuits/tattoos/hooped earrings and even a lie detector test! The captions at the bottom of the screen and all in front of a live studio audience. Fabulous!!!! Ha ha ha!!!

  • Comment number 43.

    i see darts follows newsnight?

    did they hope the darts fans would sit through NN or the NN audience might be tempted by a bit of dart chucking?

    for those who missed it try

  • Comment number 44.

    FUZZY LOGIC (#41)

    Oh JJ! Don't ALL words exist in terms of each other? Dog/volcano - volcanic mud - mud wallow - animals wallow - dogs are animals

    Skinner ruled out a lot of things I am fond of - I think it was, probably, his loss.

    Perhaps it is better to savour the fruit of fruitlessness than to chew over the husk of certitude?

  • Comment number 45.

    barrie (#44) "Oh JJ! Don't ALL words exist in terms of each other?"

    No. The languages of maths, and the sciences are not prone to this.

    This was a fundamental discovery in the philosophy of language/logic which becamse very clear by the mid 1950s. Since then most of us have been living with intensional Natural Language terms as elements of a modus vivendi. The language of science on the other hand are largely extensional, a point we seem to be less and less aware of as we feminise more and more.

    Ironically, psychology jetisoned the language of mental life even earlier given that many realised that the intensional comprises a closed, constructed, solipsistic world which has nothing to do with what people actually do.

    "Skinner ruled out a lot of things I am fond of - I think it was, probably, his loss."

    That's a pity, as what he ruled out, Quine ruled out too. The pair held the chairs of Harvard Philosophy/logic and Psychology during its most respectable years, and were arguably the most influential pair in these subjects' histories (whether one appreciates this or not).

    Take that on board - you might find yourself 'rocking' less ;-)

  • Comment number 46.


    Thanks JJ - I had been forgetting to rock and weep. I KNEW I was not feeling myself lately.

    Does Quine's absolute rightness prove Skinner's absolute rightness, and vice versa? (',o[

  • Comment number 47.

    #45 JJ

    Beware the seduction of sciencism. As someone who has a great fondness for maths and science, I also have a sense of skepticism. To elevate it to the heights of purity and truth could be dangerous and misleading. What if maths is nothing more than an abstract artifact of the human mind (not an inherent property of nature)?

    My greatest fear is that the practise of Behaviorism has grasped the lure of sciencism and become the prevalent Western theory of human nature, surreptitiously enveloping economics, management and human relationships.

    I'm working my way up reading Quine, so please be patient with me.

    In the meantime, as you are clearly a very well read person, you could repay the courtesy of dipping into some of the references I made in the following post:

    Long live Narrativium!

  • Comment number 48.

    barrie (#46) Pretty much ;-). They did a tandem. Sorry to be so dull about this but what they did was driven by empirical observation and logic. Sadly, a bunch of misguided constructivists invaded Harvard in the early 60s and things have never been the same since.

  • Comment number 49.

    The Gaza discussion with Regev went thus - JP - If Israel deliberately bombed out the UN school wasn't it a crime?
    Regev- It's a crime for Hamas to use human shields.

    But the next JPO question should have been this -
    If Israel thought Hamas were using human shields -, did Israel deliberately attack Hamas through the human shields?

    Because , all you Israeli-apologists, Britain did not do that in Northern Ireland. And if someone were firing rockets into Kent we would not attack them back on the inhumane and merciless scale that the current Israeli government has Gaza.

    Those of use who still support the right of Israel to be a state in the first place are having a very tough time at the moment - mostly because it is becoming a rogue state, with its spokesmen with Australian and American accents claiming to speak for the great project that should be a symbol for peace not a cause of suffering.

  • Comment number 50.

    Hawkeye_Pierce (#47) "Beware the seduction of sciencism."

    Oh dear, and a reference to Kuhn to boot....I've been at this for a long time Hawkeye.

    The thrust of 'Word and Object' (1960) was to make large numbers of Anglo-American philosophers seriously wonder whether it was time to shut up shop. They were the serious, sane ones. What happened subsequently was a proliferation of rubbish as universities expanded and hawked their dubious wares.

    Most of that amounted to creative writing, nothing more. When one goes from selecting 5-10% of the Gaussian distribution to nearly 50%, the bad inevitably drives out the good and the bad lose all sense of perspective.

  • Comment number 51.

    #38 bookhimdano
    Council Tax

    I caught the end of a Ministerial statement in the house in December about Council Tax , if my memory serves me right the Gov said it would only consider using it's capping powers if a council tried to increase above 6 %.
    Sadly I sow no report on the news or on news websites at the time.

  • Comment number 52.

    Energy Crisis

    Glad to hear we only import 2% of our gas supply from Russian.

    I would of liked Mr Paxman to had asked the Minister "What would have happened if the Lisbon Treaty solidarity claws was now enforce ?"

    Maybe next time huh !

  • Comment number 53.


    B---dy Judean Peoples Front!

    Trouble is, budding messiahs all want to be the one with the true message. They never realise that being wrong is more instructive than blindly believing they are right.

    You are not being dull JJ. You are blazing across the sky like a comet . . .

    Here's to Revelation!

  • Comment number 54.

    #50 JJ

    Lest not forget that we agree on many things. Much of modern of philosophy and science (especially social science), is drivel.

    I thoroughly love and enjoy maths and logic. But I’m not a fundamentalist. Nature does not actually obey Newton's law of gravity, in the sense that objects compute their own attractive forces to each other, but it is a jolly good way of modelling and predicting our day-to-day world. Ultimately, scientific units of physics are man made and arbitrary (but fortunately, a metre is still a metre no matter what language we use). Our mathematical models can look good, and even show a strong representation of reality. It does not mean that reality actually obeys these laws.

    Anyway, as for the comment “Oh dear, and a reference to Kuhn to boot....”, there was me looking for an argument, and all I got was:

  • Comment number 55.


    Hawkeye_Pierce (#54) "Ultimately, scientific units of physics are man made and arbitrary"

    The only worthwile philosophy is philosophy of science, which comes down to how best to do it, i.e learn to improve stimulation of our sense receptors and thereby better manage our world. That's not scientism, it's pragmatism, and it's very Quinean/Skinnerian. Sometimes what is said in academic terms sounds esoteric simply because it is unfamiliar. One does not get more down to earth than Quine and Skinner. If you are to be taken at your word, I advise you to ditch the rest and get up to speed as fast as possible in your own best interests. Kuhn wrote a load of popular nonsense based on some rather dubious late 50s early 60s psychology (which I've alluded to in another post).

    Begin with 'The Scope and Language of Science' (In 'The Ways of Paradox and other Essays', but also available online), and ch. 2 and 6 of 'Word and Object' (1960) - a major workout. 'From Stimulus To Science', and 'Pursuit of Truth' (i.e science) are condensed summaries which only really make sense in the context of his austere extensionalism and philosophy of logic. He wiped the floor with Chomsky. If one pays close attenion to this battle one quickly comes to see the alignments and the cultural fall-out. His eulogy to Skinner was unusually cryptic.

  • Comment number 56.


    barrie (#53) "Here's to Revelation!"

    Try telling that to Blogdog and Kalman P. Bland

  • Comment number 57.

    Thanks for the reading list JJ - Stimulus to Science was already on my (growing) in-tray.

    It is interesting that you connect behaviourism with pragmatism. The book "Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn also emphasises the link. It also suggests that the principles behind behaviourism are now becoming increasingly widespread in management, education and even in how we rear our young.

    A recent post of mine that demonstrates the growing emphasis placed on target and inspection regimes (see below), is also likely to be due to the ascendancy of behaviourist doctrine:

    The very doctrine you espouse is probably far more prevalent than you appear to give credit.

    The work of at least three people that I have referenced (Kohn Seddon and Simons) suggest that there could be very real problems with the practical application of the technique, such as un-intended consequences (although misapplication through pop-behaviourism could be a factor).

    However the pragmatist's solution to obesity is an anti-fat pill - unquestionably scientific in it's narrowly focussed solution, but monumentally failing to treat the real cause, instead just the symptom (why not live a healthy lifestyle instead?).

    The acceptance of behaviourism leads to some very big questions / assumptions:

    - Reification: some things just cannot and should not be quantified
    - Reductionism: pragmatism and behaviourism encourage the ever more detailed and narrow pursuit of scientific (but insignificant?) knowledge
    - Determinism: without free-will we are nothing more than complex automata (please reassure me that you engage in blogging for some sort of intrinsic motivation, and that I am not debating with a clockwork assemblage of chemicals)

    Hence my current scepticism on the subject.

  • Comment number 58.

    Hawkeye_Pierce (#57) "The very doctrine you espouse is probably far more prevalent than you appear to give credit."

    Don't count on that. For reasons which I am not prepared to disclose, I know this matter rather well ;-) The problem has, however, been one which I, and others, have, in an applied context, been trying to redress for some time.

    With all due respect, your sceptisicm is just lack of awareness. Radical Behaviourism is descriptive.

    I am indeed an 'assemblage of chemicals', but clockwork I am not.


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