A cross post from Byssus Threads. I really like this picture, taken while waiting for what proved to be a seriously good Southern Indian takeaway. Be burning it off tomorrow washing windows. I promised to do it last month but breaking my vow did at least make for a nice shot.


Bring What You Expect to Get

The Processes

In the field you have just left. You have no escape

A moment from the history of policing in the late 20th century Western Europe from the U.K. Footage from ‘operation solstice’ popularly known as the Battle of the Beanfield.

“Bring what you expect to get”, is an old slogan used in the free festival movement in the 70’s AND 80’S. Watching the mind boggling deployment of military weaponry on American streets at the moment; brings back memories of the police’s increasing use of use of militarized tactics in the mid 80’s.



Perfectibility In Frozen Realms?

I wonder how much emotion will play a part when we finally in Scotland all hit the polling booth shortly. My head says vote to stay in the U.K. my political emotions tell me to get the hell out.

Legacy of Thatcher has lead to very out of step politics between the North and the South. Like the majority of urban Scots I am left of center in my voting habits yet this conservative administration lurches more to the right in the south.

Its indeed an issue the S.N.P have played on. The notion of Scotland as some egalitarian utopia under self rule is I think somewhat over optimistic. One example is the recent move in Scotland to have armed police officers carrying guns as a matter of routine while engaging in normal police activities. This fundamental and alarming change was made in a private conversation between the head of the Scottish police force and the justice secretary. But it seems to speak volumes with regard to the small scale nature of Scottish politics. Detached from the wishes and needs of the population and non-democratic.

The vexing issue of land ownership a ‘traditional’ and ongoing highland political issue and one the S.N.P (although its far from alone here) has been notable inactive, speaks volumes in regard to the rather close relationship of Scotland’s administrative classes.

David Cameron has at least had the sense to stay very quite on the issue as he is well aware he is a liability in the North as far as supporting the union is concerned. But that’s a far from comfortable observation to make.

Whilst I am not a fan of the conservative party and was pleased when they were wiped out in the North at first, its really not good for democracy when one perspective is so under-represented (we famously have more panda’s than we do conservative M.P’s) and power concentrated on one side.

I suspect this political lack of balance will be a strong emotional factor that’s going to play out heavily on the day, but who knows its such a huge decision to have to make and the debate has been appalling on both sides.

Rather daunting prospect.

Regardless of the outcome the mud fight is also going to continue regardless of which way the vote goes as no matter what we are going to see increasingly devolved powers in Scotland, which have ramifications for the political balance in the rest of the united kingdom. What you would hope to see is a more democratic U.K. with more devolved regional powers in England as well.

I would vote yes in a heartbeat just for the short term fix of getting shot of a horrifically right wing administration, nothing to do with any sense of ethnic identity. The only thing stopping me is the perspective that  the legal fallout will take years to resolve no matter that it is in the interest of both countries to resolve uncertainty in a short time frame.

What alarms me the most is every time the no campaign opens its mouth, I find myself in strong disagreement. Its really gone for threat tactics, and the bias pro-union perspective from a London biased media, is naked. Its a position I agree with but that does not make it anymore pleasant to watch. Unbalanced, self- serving arrogant and condescending.

Unbalancing factor here is the way the media is so London focused, much to the detriment of the rest of the Island regardless of which flag you care to wave or which political strips you cover yourself in.

Thing I walk away from in regard to this matter though is just how poverty stricken the debate has been both in the media and from all the main political parties.

We are being asked to make a decision which will impact not just on Scotland but the rest of Britain and Ireland The poor level of debate and being asked to make such a momentous decision on such a poor evidence base, does not seem the best example of how a modern democratic state should operate in the 21st century.




Beneath The Azure Wave

Flags, Jacks, Pendant’s and Philosophical Marching Bands

Slipping and sliding all over the place trying to get a contextual hold of lord Monboddo. The contexts here are multiple. One not without contemporary resonance ( I got my polling card for the upcoming independence vote yesterday) is the Matter of Britain and the Scottish enlightenment.

Also a feature of the philosophical experiments on second sight in Scotland at this period. The first sustained empirical accounts on this issue alongside the customs and manners of highland culture are military in origin. Many reports on this issue originating from the brutal mop up operation immediately following the battle of Culloden.Some indeed concerned that the Scots have the ability to predict in advance aspects of military intelligence using second sight.

The interest in second sight at this time is in part drawn in the anxiety and emotive heat of battle and the clash of identities as is it’s rejection as a scientific and philosophical project. This wider political and cultural tension also forms the background to the philosophical lights being turned on in Edinburgh and Scotland in this period.

Jacobite Philosophers

One other popular anecdote about lord Gardenstone (the pig loving judge featured in the last post) who was a Jacobite commander in the war, was that he narrowly avoided on the spot justice and his neck at the end of a rope when captured by English forces, as at the time of his capture he had hit the bottle and was too drunk to face a hanging (the story goes he was so incapacitated he had not been able to take part in battle).

Lord Monboddo ( a friend of Gardenstone) also had strong Jacobite leanings yet flourished and was a favorite of the king at court  and also achieved significant successes professionally, rising high in the Scottish legal establishment. But his membership of the British establishment is not without tension. Chambers presents Monboddo like Gardenstone as an eccentric figure of fun but with less sympathy as he is presented as a conservative anachronism (yet one more strand to this is working out how Monboddo is moved out of time and context into the future, the encyclopedia will preserve his perspectives more sympathetically into Chambers 19th century present).  

This cultural background also makes Monboddo’s philosophical perspectives more understandable, they are in part cultural and a response to wider cultural matters and issues.

Chamber’s records Gardenstone speaking in broad Scots but for Monboddo, along with all the figures of the Scottish enlightenment, standard English and the avoidance of Scottish ‘errors’ is the written language of choice. Improvement and the cult of taste forms  in turbulent political and emotive azure waters in the frozen North. 

An age of considerable commotion and upset both politically and philosophical. Both these aspects seem intimately linked. 

What Is A Monboddo?

Sometimes when reading philosophical history I can’t help but getting slightly irritated by the way its presented as the work of great isolated minds. I suspect that’s because I am far more interested in looking at history (in which the history of ideas is one vital aspect)  than with philosophy and the style of speaking and writing in this way is a form of shorthand I suspect (I may be wrong I am not a philosopher).

But its also what makes Monboddo attractive, philosophically he is on the wrong side of debate and is now largely ignored. His approach to philosophy was historical and understanding his perspective requires a deep historical approach. As a historical learning strategy, looking at this obscure figure is not without its benefits as it requires  a deep historical approach; classical, medieval and Renaissance ideas all jostle in Monboddo’s vision. His vision is tempered by his historical approach to philosophy.

Although acquiring the different forms of knowledge to deal with such a creature does seem at times somewhat of an uphill struggle.

In This Mode of Living

Of Lord Gardenstone’s Swine,the Devil and Lord Kames  

This Judge had a predilection for pigs. One, in its juvenile years, took a particular fancy for his lordship, and followed him wherever he went, Like a dog, reposing in the same bed. When it attained the mature years and size of swinehood, this of course was inconvenient. However, his Lordship, unwilling to part with his friend, continued to let it sleep at least in the same room, and, when he undressed, laid his clothes upon the floor, as a bed to it. He said that he liked it, for it kept his clothes warm till the morning. In this mode of living, he was full of strange eccentric fancies, which he seemed to adopt chiefly with a view to his health, which was always valetudinarian.

Lord Gardenstone was as great an admirer of the fair sex of the human tribe in general, as he was a friend to the sow in particular. Being once met at the door of the Parliament-house, by Lord Kames, who informed him of a scandal which he had heard related at his (Gardenstone’s) expense, and took occasion to jeer him, Gardenstone, in allusion to the natural avarice which had for many years been gaining upon the disposition of Lord Kames, retorted well by saying “Gang to the deil;, my lord! My faut’s aye growin’ the langer the less; but yours is aye the langer waur!”


Robert Chalmers, Traditions of Edinburgh, Vol. 2

In This Altered State



Contrary Creatures ( Law and the “Science of Man” in the Late 17th Century)

“Slavery was introduced by the law and customs of nations. It is indeed contrary to the state of nature, by which all men were equal and free; but is not repugnant to the law of nature, which does not command men to live in their native freedom, nor forbid the preserving persons, at the expense of their liberty, whom it was lawful to kill. Now this was the case of captives in lawful war, and those upon whom deprivation of liberty was inflicted, as a punishment for crimes.

The parents being slaves, the children behoved to be of the same condition. “



A. McDouall ( Lord Bankton), An Institute of the Laws of Scotland in Civil Rights (1751-53) Vol. 1, cited in, Jean Allen (eds.) Understanding of Slavery: From the Historical to the Contemporary, Oxford, 2012


Contrary to nature, can be understood as contrary to traditional perspectives of the original state of man in nature.


David Hume To Robert Dundas of Arnston, Lord Advocate, 20th Nov. 1754

“My Lord

Reflecting on the conversation which I had the honour to have with your Lordship yesterday, I remember that your Lordship asked wither I insisted that these three books must be in the library? I believe I answered that the books were indifferent to me, and that being expelled I did not see how they could be restored except by being bought anew….. This answer was the effect of precipitation and inadvertence. I take this opportunity of retracting it…….. The expelling these books I could not conceive in no other light than an insult on me, which nothing can repair….. There is a particular kind of insolence which is more provoking as it is meaner than any other, ’tis the Insolence of Office…..”


David Hume was keeper of the Advocates library in Edinburgh from 1752 until 1757. Library was a key engine of the enlightenment in Scotland.

In April, 1754 Hume had purchased a number of books for the library, later in June when the library Curators made an inspection of accounts, objections on the grounds of indecency, were made to three of the books purchased and they were ordered to be removed from the shelves. Hume mentions two of the curators by name in his letter, who he claims had no bad intentions but  does not mention the two other curators James Burnett ( Lord Monboddo, at this date he had yet to receive his title) and Sir David Dalyrmple of Newhailes.


J.Y.T. Greig (eds), The Letters of David Hume, Vol. 1 1727-1765, 2011, Oxford