Sunday, October 14, 2012

Elitism in J.S. Mill's Utilitarianism

Elitism in J.S. Mill's Utilitarianism

"It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides." (Utilitarianism - J.S. Mill) 

It is this quote, parroted in ethics classes that slowly bugged me more and more while studying moral philosophy. Doesn't it just seem to reek of elitism? I thought it did and because of this slowly moved away from Mill's two-tiered conception of pleasures (lower and higher - bodily and intellectual, etc) to Bentham's more 'pure' conception of utility that is based on only intensity, duration, certainty/uncertainty and propinquity/remoteness.

Recently, however, I read an article by D.D. Raphael[1] that led me to reconsider Mill's utilitarianism, or at least led me to drop my accusations of elitism on him. The passage in particular that appealed to me was this one:

"It is possible for Mill to maintain, as he does, that it is quite consistent with hedonism to say that the pleasure of philosophy is better in kind than the pleasure of rolling in mud - so long as he also maintains that the qualitatively higher pleasures are superior in quantity as well." (pg 11)

D.D Raphael's interpretation of Mill might look something like this:

 Whilst the fool is completely satisfied they are still not be as satisfied as Socrates. The scale on the above graph should represent absolute pleasure (10 representing bliss and 0 being nothingness). It's not that the fool isn't happy - the fool is indeed happy, as happy as he can possibly be! It's just that the fool is unaware that his potential for happiness could be increased if he were to take up poetry instead of pushpin. Socrates, on the other hand, is dissatisfied because there is a gap between his potential pleasure (the pleasures of philosophy perhaps) and his actual pleasure. So if we take an absolute perspective on happiness based on something fairly objective (maybe the level of endorphins and serotonin in someone's body) we can understand that it's completely possible to be dissatisfied yet still happier than someone who is completely satisfied. Being satisfied isn't everything - it matters the extent of the pleasure that is derived from the satisfaction too. 

I think that this is the most charitable interpretation of Mill because it avoids jumping to the conclusion that there is something metaphysically different between the higher and lower pleasures. Instead it is conluded that whilst both pleasures have the same quality (pleasure is pleasure no matter what its source) it is impossible that a lower pleasure can ever exceed a higher pleasure in terms of gross utility. So this type of thing would be inconceivable to Mill:

In this case although Socrates is engaging in higher pleasures he still has less overall pleasure than the fool. This does not compute for Mill. He says:

"It may be questioned whether anyone who has remained equally susceptible to both classes of pleasures ever knowingly and calmly preferred the lower...From this verdict of only the competent judges, I apprehend there can be no appeal...What means are there of determining which is the acutest of two pains, or the intensest of two pleasurable sensations, except the general sufferage of those who are familiar with both?"

The underlying argument here is simply that somebody who has experienced both higher and lower pleasures would always choose the higher pleasure. The temptation is to flatly deny this argument and say something like "But right now I'd much rather have sex than be working on my metaphysics essay, philosophise that Mill!" and D.D Raphael does exactly that. Raphael responds:

"Could not the fool and the pig retort in kind? Socrates knows all about mental pleasures but not enough about bodily [pleasures]. The pig has no capacity to enjoy philosophy, but Socrates has spend so much time on philosophy that he has not given rolling in the mud a decent chance. He does not know the exquisite pleasure that it can bring to those who go in for it in a big way." 

 I wholeheartedly agree with Raphael. It is entirely conceivable that a lower pleasure could bring more utility than a higher pleasure and the attitude in which the pleasure is approached probably influences the utility derived also. I do not doubt that Mill gets more pleasure from philosophy than eating or sex. But maybe the reason that this is so is because he presupposed his conclusion beforehand and hence psychologically tricked himself into enjoying the food and sex less and the philosophy more. Perhaps cultural and societal influences were at play here - people who enjoy food are called gluttons, people who enjoy sex are deviants, etc, etc. 

Overall I still rather like Mill as a utilitarian but I'm looking forward to moving on and reading some Sidgwick for his more egalitarian account of pleasure as "desirable consciousness of any kind".

[1] Raphael, D.D., Bentham and the Varieties of Utilitarianism, in: B. Parekh (Hrsg.), Jeremy Bentham: Critical Assessments, London 1993.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Maurice Sendak - Nostalgia

I was reading a blog about banned books (here <--- excellent artwork that you should all check out) when I stumbled across a familiar book title. The book was called 'In the night kitchen' by Maurice Sendak. It turns out that Maurice Sendak is the author of 'Where the Wild Things Are' but  I originally knew about him for a  different reason.

When I was growing up there was a VHS tape with a collection of short, surrealist, cartoons that I watched on repeat until the VHS tape was so warn and damaged I could barely watch it anymore. After some internet detective work I figured out that the VHS was entitled 'Really Rosie' and is based on plotlines from Maurice Sendak's picture books and with vocals sung by Carole King.

The nostalgia hit from rediscovering the video clips on youtube was intense. It was also really illuminating to watch the same clips again as an adult. These video clips aren't anything like anything else I watched as a child, in other words they are completely different to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Sharks, and Biker Mice From Mars. These are bizarre video clips - brilliant and creative, yes - but fore-mostly bizarre.

Here's a taste of what I mean:

The original picture book that this clip was based on (entitled 'In the Night Kitchen') was banned because (and here I quote some wikipedia):

Critics object to Mickey's nudity (which depicts not only his buttocks, but also his penis and testicles). Some also interpret sexual innuendo in the events, with the nudity, free-flowing milky fluids, and giant (allegedly phallic) milk bottle.

Interesting. I really don't think that my 5 year old self could recognize any of the sexual innuendo or was particularly bothered by the few short glimpses of Mickey's animated penis. Nonetheless I do wonder what watching sort of psychological influences watching these videos had on my young and impressionable mind.

This one is another classic:

Basically Pierre is an apathetic little brat who says 'I don't care' to everything despite his parents well-meaning attempts to engage with him in caring conversation. The best bit comes when Pierre meets an unusually congenial and rational lion. This section goes like this:

'Now as the night began to fall,
A hungry lion paid a call,
He looked Pierre right in the eye,
And asked him if he'd like to die,
And Pierre said.... "I don't care".

"I can eat you don't you see?"
"I don't care"
"And you will be inside of me"
"I don't care"
"Then you'll never have to bother.."
"I don't care"
"With a mother and a father"
"I don't care"
"Is that all you have to say?
"I don't care"
"then i'll eat you if I may"
So the lion ate Pierre.

Pretty gruesome huh?! Pretty excellent also. It makes me wonder whether my supreme hatred of apathy comes from the subliminal messages ingrained in my brain from repeat viewings of stupid Pierre. Pierre gave me my first taste of existentialism, and I didn't like it. . .actually, I still don't.

So I thought I'd share with you what cartoons I watched as a child. I watched cartoons that are philosophical and surreal. Perhaps unsurprisingly I'm still gripped by the philosophical and surreal now as I was at 5 years old.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Patriotism #2

Patriotism #2

"Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all it's faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority" - Arthur Schopenhauer

I posted the above quote to a forum recently and got a very mixed reaction. Some people agreed with Schopenhauer and others defended patriotism and the flag as a symbol of the positive values of a country. I've blogged about patriotism before (see here) but I was, perhaps, a little harsh on the supporters of patriotism. So I'm going to take another look at the issue in a more charitable light.

 Let's start off with the assumption that patriotism is a good thing. As evidenced by my other patriotism blog I don't think that this is the case, but let's assume for the moment that patriotism is great; that it brings people together, inspires us to progress as a country, reminds us of all the things we should be proud of, etc, etc. If we accept that patriotism is a good thing then it should probably be promoted right? But how do we promote patriotism? - This is the important question.

It seems to me that there are 2 main types of patriots (there are probably more types, or hybrids of these types, but for simplicities sake let's just stick with two):

The first type of patriot (let's call them 'Person A') reaches their view through a thought process like this; they say:

                "I have a set of values that I have reflected upon and decided are worthy. Conveniently   these values match the values of my country! I love Australian Values."

The second type of patriot (let's call them 'Person B') reaches their view through this sort of thought process:

                "I love Australia. 'Australian Values' are a part of Australia, so I love Australian Values too"

Whilst both Person A and Person B both would call themselves patriotic they are patriotic for completely different reasons. The first person is reflective and unbiased - They have thought about what they value and then discovered that it matches that values of their country. These are the people that when you ask them why they have a flag hanging in their bedroom they can tell you all about the values that Australians tend to hold and why these values are important to them.

Person B, however, is less reflective. Person B's love of Australian values comes from a general love of living in Australia. The problem is that they have not reflected on what it is that they actually value about Australia as an individual. They have fallen prey to the composition/division fallacy and assumed that because they love Australia as a whole that they love Australian values too. Or maybe they never made that assumption at all - Maybe they just bypassed the 'reflective phase' altogether. Either way this is the type of person who is likely to defend their country as being great not because of any particular values persay, but because they enjoy their life in Australia. Unfortunately without reflection it's hard to say whether it's the values of Australia that this person approves of or something completely different like, for instance, the fact that Australia is a first world country with nice beaches.

You can argue as much as you like about the proportion of the 'type-A' patriots to 'type-B' patriots in Australia, but it seems that one thing is clear: If we are to promote patriotism (for whatever reason) we should be aiming to promote 'type-A' patriotism whilst steering people away from 'type-B' patriotism. It is the foundation of a successful democracy that people actually think and reflect on issues, rhetoric and conformity will likely prevail. Only type-A patriotism includes this type of reflection.

So how do we do promote Type-A patriotism? The answer - compulsory education about ethics, morals, and values. In short, philosophical education as part of schooling curriculum. This gives people the best chance to make an objective (or at least 'less subjective') judgement about their country based on values rather than the influences of mob-mentality and unreflective, flag-waving drones. 


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Utilitarianism, David Benatar, and Thought Experiments.

This blog post is a response to another philosophy blogger (blog here) who argues that utilitarianism becomes hard to swallow when considering a certain thought experiment. I discuss some interesting new philosophical literature that might, if accepted, provide reasons to doubt the strength of the thought experiment. I'm not sure (yet...) whether I accept the counter-argument I present but I think it is definitely food for thought (plus I've been wanting to blog about Benatar for a while now :P). The thought experiment is, as worded in the original post, as follows:

Imagine you are some sort of inter-dimensional space-time traveler, and you wind up in the following situation. You can create a better world than Earth in a new parallel universe (maybe you can do this by time-travel, or creating a mirror-universe somehow, or some other possibility). Now the new world is not an exact copy of our Earth. It is very similar, and has the same population, but it has different individual people in it. More importantly, there is some important and concrete way in which Earth Mark II is plainly superior – from a utilitarian perspective – to our Earth. Maybe in Earth Mk.II Hitler never existed, or racism, nationalism or religious intolerance never really took hold for some reason. As a result, there is more peace, trust, prosperity and diversity in the new world, and as a result more happiness. Or maybe there are just better supplies of safe drinking water in Africa, or terrific alternative energy-sources that don’t inject carbon into the atmosphere. Choose whatever you like that would make our world and its prospects better if we had it.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that to create that world you need to destroy our world (imagine that we need to demolish this planet in order to perform the mapping process that creates the almost mirror-image of Earth in the other universe).

Should you do it?

Breakey assumes that the utilitarian response would be to advocate the construction of the parallel universe in place of the current universe. He then states that destroying the existing world would also destroy the hopes and dreams of all the world's current people and that this move would not be justified by the creation of a 'super-happy' new world. Breakey discusses the problems that utilitarianism faces if potential people are given the same status as existing people; if this is the case peoples lives become mere vessels for carrying happiness and can be traded for the lives of people who could potentially be happier. This, for Breakey, is a serious concern.

As a utilitarian myself I am always keen to try and defend the theory against counter-arguments and I think this objection can be countered too. In short I would like to deny that the utilitarian is obligated to create "Earth Mark II" in place of the current earth. I think that the intuitively immoral consequences of this thought experiment can be escaped if one accepts certain arguments about the status of potential persons.  I believe it is the duty of the utilitarian to make 'people happy', rather than making 'happy people'. I will try to sketch out my reasons for this below:

The first assumption that must be accepted in order for the thought experiment to appear repugnant is that the destruction of the world will cause suffering to the inhabitants of the world. If the destruction of the world involves a slow and painful demise of all sentient creatures it is obvious how this might be the case. Both hedonistic utilitarians (like myself) and preference utilitarians can agree that this would be a bad thing because pain is intrinsically bad and unpleasant, and people generally have a preference to avoid pain.

But it might be the case that the destruction of Earth1.0 is not slow and painful but instead ephemeral and painless. If this is the case a preference utilitarian might want to argue that they would experience harm due to one's 'preference to continue living' being violated. Already I find this problematic because, as I have argued here, I do not understand how something impossible to perceive (like 'being dead') can be a harm at all. Hence I do not think that the world being destroyed is necessarily a bad thing provided that the destruction of Earth1.0 is unperceived (instantaneous, painless, unexpected, etc) - In this case there is no change in the utility of the agents involved and no recognition of an unfulfilled preference. This sort of argument, however, might be unconvincing to the type of preference utilitarian who holds that even unperceived-unfulfilled-preferences cause harm. Furthermore there is nothing in the thought experiment that suggests that the destruction of World1.0 would be either unperceived or painless.  

So, looking at the destruction of Earth1.0 as a stand-alone event it can be considered acceptable if:

a) You are a hedonistic utilitarian and the destruction of Earth1.0 causes no displeasure.

b) You are the type of preference utilitarian that believes that a preference must be perceived in order to cause pain and the destruction of Earth1.0 is not perceived (either before, during, or after the destruction).

On the other hand the destruction of Earth1.0 can be considered harmful if:

a) You are a hedonistic utilitarian and the destruction of Earth1.0 causes pain to sentient beings; or

b) You are a preference utilitarian with a preference to live which is denied through the destruction of Earth1.0    

But is the pain caused by the destruction of Earth1.0 (either through direct experience or through unsatisfied preferences) counteracted in a utilitarian calculus by the pleasure that will be experienced by the inhabitants of Earth2.0?  

To answer this I would like to share an argument put forth by David Benatar in his book "Better Never to Have Been". Benatar highlights that there is an asymmetry between pleasure and pain. His premises are:

1) The presence of pain is bad;
2) The presence of pleasure is good;
3) The absence of pain is good, even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone.
4) The absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation.

The most ambiguous and contested premise is probably the third one - It seems strange to think that the absence of pain can be good even if there is no-one around to experience it. Benatar explains that this premise must be thought of retrospectively in terms of the person that may have existed. For example think of a severely disabled person who suffers enormous amounts of untreatable pain and claims that she wishes that she was never born. This desire seems to make sense even though in the alternative world that she imagines she would not be there to appreciate her non-existence. This scenario supports premise 3 that 'The absence of pain is good, even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone'. It seems uncontroversial to say that we might even have a 'duty' to prevent bringing people into existence that we know will suffer a great amount. The reason we wish not to bring these people into existence is because we feel that they are better off not-existing than experiencing the harms of existence.

So we agree (hopefully) that the absence of pain is good, even if the person that it is good for does not exist. The converse, however, does not follow. We do not seem to think that the absence of pleasure is bad unless there is somebody to experience this 'bad-ness'. To use another example we do not feel that we have a duty to bring happy people into existence. When we consider a couple that have the financial, emotional, and genetic means to have a happy child but choose not to procreate we do not consider them morally repugnant. The potential child experiences no harm in its non-existence despite the fact that it could have experienced great pleasure through existence. This argument supports premise 4 that 'the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation'.

There is a lot more to the argument that I have skimmed over for the purposes of brevity but I think the general direction that Benatar is headed is obvious. He illustrates his point using this matrix:

Benatar's argument is simple: Scenario B (non-existence) is preferable to Scenario A (existence). A 'good' + a 'not bad' is better than a 'bad' + a 'good'. If Benatar's argument is sound (and I'm still trying to establish whether or not it is myself) then the thought experiment proposed by Breakey must be seen in a different light. If one adopts Benatars outlook there would be no benefit in creating a whole new world full of people that otherwise would have not existed. The reason is that their non-existence is not a harm and that the pleasure that they are deprived off in non-existence is not experienced by anyone. Seen in this light the existence of Earth2.0 causes people that did not exist to exist, and, as seen in the matrix, this is arguably a bad move.

To return to the original thought experiment destroying Earth1.0 is only done because it is a necessary step in bringing Earth2.0 into existence and the existence of Earth2.0 is considered more beneficial than Earth1.0. But coming into existence is, according to Benatar, not a benefit at all - So there is no reason to consider destroying Earth1.0 in the first place! In fact Benatar would probably argue that the best state of being is in neither Earth1.0 or Earth 2.0 but non-existence. Nontheless there is no reason for mass-genocide because as Benatar points out there is an important distinction between lives worth continuing and lives worth starting. It might be that now, since we're alive, we might as well continue living. However were we to somehow objectively view our lives we would, argues Benatar, be no worse if we didn't exist then if we had the most pleasurable life imaginable.  

I admit that Benatar's argument is quite radical and I'm still working my way through his book to see whether I can agree with him, but so far I find his arguments hard to escape. The implications of his argument are far reaching and lead to an anti-natalist position. . . So part of me is hoping that there is a massive flaw in his argument somewhere so I can escape his conclusions.  

There is a great blog post on Benatar's writings here which deals with Benatar's central thesis in a lot more detail than I have in this post.

As always I welcome any comments or criticisms. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bits and Pieces.

Philosophy has been a bit thin on this blog lately. . . I realize this. But now that the uni holidays are over  I should be back to talking about philosophy again soon enough. (To be specific I'm studying Advanced Topics in Metaphysics in the next semester so my blogs will probably be related to that). For the meantime there is this post: a sort of personal summary of what I've been up to lately. I'm not sure whether anyone is actually interested in this sort of thing, and it's mighty arrogant to pretend that people will be interested at all, but I guess the beauty of having a blog is the egotistical buzz of broadcasting meaningless shit into cyberspace and pretending that people care. Anyways, here is what I've been up to lately:

I've got a new job! This means that I've stopped working in the soul-crushing profession that is 'market research'. Market Research is one of those jobs that is worth having on a resume for the simple fact that is sounds much better than it is. It sounds like an 'adult job' if you know what I mean. When I used to tell people that I worked in Market Research they would raise their eyebrows and say things like "Oh, interesting". I would chuckle inside. Little did they know that I was the person on the phone trying to get them to do political surveys. BUT that is all behind me now because I've moved on to bigger and better things. I'm now a sort of motivational speaker/tutor hybrid that presents seminars on studying to high school students. I realize that this isn't everybody's 'dream job' but those who know me will know how perfectly this type of thing fits my personality. Not only do I get to demand people's attention for an hour at a time but I am also encouraged to make lots of lame jokes. Brilliant!

So far I've only just begun and have only come as far as my first training, but even this has been a tough process. For my training I had to learn two 1hr scrips off by heart and it was very difficult. Nevertheless I'm pleased to be working in a field that is close to what I would like to pursue for a career (philosophy teaching).

I've also joined an 'Ultimate Disc' team recently. Ultimate Disc is what you get when you combine casual frisbee throwing with AFL and Netball. The result is a fast paced sport with an entire sub-culture following it. It is not as nearly as silly as it sounds and there is a huge amount of strategy and skill involved to play the game well. I'm just learning at the moment but it has been great fun! In fact, it's probably the most enjoyable sport I've ever played.

The last thing that I've been up to is working on establishing a website called "Anything But Goon". Those of you who know me are probably sick of hearing about it so I won't go into a huge amount of detail about it. Basically "Anything But Goon" aims to move new drinkers (18-24yr olds) away from the highly alcoholic (and highly vomit-worthy) drinks like Goon to tastier, but still affordable, alternatives. We do this by writing up as many alcohol reviews as possible about 'bang-for-your-buck' beers, wines, ciders, and spirits. Ultimately it's been a great experience - I've been drinking a larger quantity and variety of booze and I've been motivated towards inspiring other people to broaden their drinking horizons. I can remember the first time I had a truly great beer after only experiencing the over advertised, under flavored, commercialized grain-water that large companies ambitiously label 'beer' (i.e. Tooheys, VB, etc) and  I am inspired to cause this revelation that 'there is better beer out there' to domino it's way through society. If I'm going to be grandiose about it I might say that I'm hoping for a 'craft beer revolution' but really I'd be satisfied with helping a few people try some new things. Anyways for those interested here as some links to the facebook site, the main Anything But Goon page, and a review for a beer that I got particularly passionate about.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sensory Deprivation

A friend and I recently decided to spend 40hrs being blind followed by 40hrs being deaf to learn about disabilities and ourselves. This experiment is a part of my quest for new experiences. To simulate deafness we used earpugs + earmuffs and to go blind we wrapped our faces in bandage tape. The idea was to try and live 'regular' lives for the 40hr period. This means things like catching public transport, eating out, walking down busy streets, attending social gatherings etc.  This is what is was like:

Being hearing impaired:

Being hearing impaired was a thoroughly frustrating experience. Conversations were limited to one person at a time and to environments without any background noise. When crowded environments were unavoidable it was tiring trying to listen to what people were saying. In everyday life I don't think that we 'listen' very much at all - we just 'hear'. To actually 'listen'; to squint your eyes in concentration, tilt your ears and body towards the noise in question and concentrate on the sounds;  is usually unnecessary with functioning auditory senses. When you're hearing impaired however this type of listening takes up a large part of your day - And it is exhausting!

Eventually you end up just giving up and hoping that you don't miss anything juicy or important and most of the time this strategy works. There were a few amusing moments where I would mishear things and confidently try and join in the conversations only to realise that I was being massively irrelevant. There were other times where I would get asked questions but not realise that I was being spoken to at all. One of the few upsides of being hearing impaired is the lack of expectation to contribute to conversations. Occasionally I would hear the murmurings of a conversation but have no desire to contribute to the conversation, it was nice to just sit there saying nothing and know that nobody will call you antisocial. Being hearing impaired  amounts to a fairly significant decrease in social interactions - whether you like it or not.

Outside of social scenarios there were moments where the quiet was nice; when it is night time and everyone else is in bed it's calming to only be able to hear your own breathing and nothing else, but overall I wouldn't come close to saying that being hearing impaired is desirable in any way. 

Being Blind:

Being blind was a strange and challenging experience. The most poignant memory of those 40hrs is feeling distinctly robotic. I was completely reliant on Scotty for cues about my surroundings and listening and obeying his directions became the most meaningful part of my own existence for a while. I'm sure that actual blind people don't always feel this way; surely with time one can learn how to develop real independence, but for us  the 40hrs of being blind translated to '40hrs of surrendering all control of your life to another person'.

The first hurdle to overcome was anxiousness. It is tempting to create mental maps of locations, to predict upcoming obstacles, and to move accordingly: But this is a bad idea. The best state of mind to be in is of relaxed obedience. It takes a fair bit of self-assurance and trust in the other person to reach this point, but it is well worth it.

The next hurdle is boredom. Contrary to my optimistic wishes being blind did not inspire me to engage in lengthy sessions of introspection and philosophy. Time seemed to pass incredibly slowly and I found that it was best to be constantly doing something stimulating to keep myself amused. You might think that something like walking might be a good way to fill the time, but you would be wrong. After the initial apprehension has been overcome walking becomes supremely tedious. When you have zero knowledge about your surroundings walking reduces to what, in essence, it really is: moving the muscles in your legs in an organised way.

Despite these hurdles there were definite moments of realisation that made being blind a valuable experience. One of my favourite parts about being blind was not giving a toss about what anybody thought of me. It's near-impossible to feel self-conscious or embarrassed when you can't see people's reactions to you. Instead you adopt the false, yet comforting, reasoning of: If I can't see them then they can't see me. It's a fairly liberating sort of feeling and one that I'd like to bring back with me to my regular life. Complete imperturbability - That's the aim.

Strangely, when I look at the photos of the places that I went when I was blind I feel as if they happened to someone else. Through my 40hrs being blind I instinctively started painting myself imaginary scenery around me and when I remember those few days I remember the imaginary landscapes I'd conjured up rather than the images that reflect reality. I feel like there are arguments to be made here about reality and perception. . . but I'll leave them for another time.

Some other interesting experiences that we had being blind and deaf were:

Travelling in cars:  Motion sickness kicks in very quickly when blind.

Going to the toilet blind:  The perpetual nervous wipe. . .

Social Interactions:  Being social isn't awful when blind, but gestures are certainly a problem. Blind Scotty was at a restaurant and decided to point to the meal he wanted on the menu (joking obviously). He ended up pointing directly at my friend's boobs. It was pretty amusing. He didn't end up getting boobs though. Just pizza.

Seeing Toucans. . . . everywhere: Because being blind provides absolutely nothing to look up we came up with an inside joke to make it a bit more bearable. In short we imagined toucans.

Here are some pictures  of what we got up to:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to make Baileys Irish Cream

How to make Baileys Irish Cream 

Baileys is surprisingly cheap and easy to make. It also tastes like all your favourite foods have mated and spawned a miracle - So that's a plus.

The version I made is almost identical to the recipe posted by the blogger 'Not Quite Nigella' here.  I've just modified a few small details and added some comments that I hope might be helpful.

So here's what you'll need:

1 teaspoon of instant coffee
2 teaspoons of cocoa powder (or chocolate syrup)
3/4 cup of heavy cream
3/4 cup of milk (either powdered or regular. . . I'll explain why you might want to use powdered milk later)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (395gm)
1 tablespoon of honey
1 and a 1/2 cups of Scotch Whisky
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or essence)
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract (although I imagine you could replace half of the milk with almond milk and get the same effect)

It's grouse. . . 

You will also need these things:


1. Mix the coffee granules, cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons of cream together in a large bowl. The idea here is to make a sort of creamy chocolate paste. The original recipe said to use a blender. . . but I would advice using a fork instead. When I used our crappy blender it all got caught in the blades and made a mess and cleaning that thing is a real pain and just use a fork ok?

2. Add everything else. To the bowl. 

3. You know that tin of condensed milk you just added to the bowl? I suggest you run your finger around the edge of the tin/hold the tin above your head and catch the drops in your mouth/use a spoon  to get the remaining sticky nectar into your body. This stuff is diabetes in goop form, so naturally it tastes delicious.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I've read that if you add warm alcohol to cold milk you run the risk of everything curdling. I'm not sure about the credibility of this claim but is seems legit enough to be a concern. So either cool your cup and a half of scotch first so everything is cold OR use powdered milk with room temperature water (so that everything is room temperature).

4. Blend the mixture until there is froth. (Froth in the baileys the baileys that is, not your mouth;  Although it will smell so good by now that you may well be frothing also. This is normal.)

3. Pour the mixture into whatever container you have and bung it in a refrigerator. It makes about a litre of Baileys.  Serve by itself of with milk. Either in a glass or 'old greg style' in a shoe.