David Malet Armstrong - Wikipedia

David Malet Armstrong - Wikipedia

David Malet Armstrong (born 8 July 1926), often D. M. Armstrong, is an Australian philosopher. He is well known for his work on metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, and for his defence of a factualist ontology, a functionalist theory of the mind, an externalist epistemology, and a necessitarian conception of the laws of nature.[1] He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008.[2]



Armstrong's philosophy is broadly naturalistic.


Armstrong's view of knowledge is that the conditions of knowledge are satisfied when you have a justified true belief that you arrived at through a reliable process: that is, the belief was caused by some factor in the external world (hence the label of externalism). Armstrong uses the analogy of a thermometer: as a thermometer changes to reflect the temperature of the environment it is in, so must one's beliefs if they are reliably formed. The connection between knowledge and the external world, for Armstrong, is a nomological relationship (that is, a law of nature relationship).[3] Here, Armstrong's view is broadly similar to that of Alvin Goldman and Robert Nozick.[4] The intuitions that lead to this kind of externalism led Alvin Plantinga towards an account of knowledge that added the requirement for 'properly-functioning' cognitive systems operating according to a design plan.[5]


In metaphysics, Armstrong defends the view that universals exist (although Platonic uninstantiated universals do not exist). Those universals match up with the fundamental particles that science tells us about.[6] Armstrong declares himself to be a scientific realist.[7]
Armstrong's philosophical development has been heavily influenced by John Anderson.



  • Berkeley's Theory of Vision: A Critical Examination of Bishop Berkeley's Essay towards a New Theory of Vision. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1960.
  • Bodily Sensations. London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1962.
  • Perception and the Physical World. London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1961. [ISBN 0-7100-3603-5]
  • A Materialist Theory of the Mind. London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1968. [ISBN 0-415-10031-3]
  • Belief, Truth and Knowledge. London: Cambridge University Press, 1973, [ISBN 0-521-08706-6]
  • Universals and Scientific Realism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978. [ISBN 0-521-21741-5]
  • The Nature of Mind and Other Essays. Cornell University Press (1981). [ISBN 0801413532 ]
  • What is a Law of Nature? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. [ISBN 0-521-25343-8]
  • A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. [ISBN 0-521-37427-8]
  • Universals: An Opinionated Introduction. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989. [ISBN 0-8133-0772-4]
  • A World of States of Affairs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. [ISBN 0-521-58064-1]
  • The Mind-Body Problem: An Opinionated Introduction. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999. [ISBN 0-8133-9056-7]
  • Truth and Truthmakers. Cambridge University Press, 2004. [ISBN 0-521-83832-0]
  • Sketch for a Systematic Metaphysics. Oxford University Press, 2010. [ISBN 0199590613]

Selected Articles

  • "Is Introspective Knowledge Incorrigible?" Philosophical Review 72 (1963), 417-32.
  • "Meaning and Communication". Philosophical Review 80 (1971), 427-47.
  • "Alan Ker Stout, 1900-1983", Proceedings of the Australian Academy of the Humanities 12 (1982–83): 106–109, retrieved 2009-02-18.
  • (with Peter Forrest) "An Argument against David Lewis' Theory of Possible Worlds". Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62 (1984), 164-8.
  • "Classes are States of Affairs". Mind 100 (1991), 189-200.
  • Black Swans: The formative influences in Australian philosophy, in Rationality and Irrationality, (Proceedings of the 23rd International Wittgenstein Symposium, Kirchberg am Wechsel, Austria, 2000) ed. B. Brogaard & B. Smith, Wien.


  • "Interview". In Lee Jobling and Catherine Runcie (eds.), Matters of the Mind: Poems, Essays and Interviews in Honour of Leonie Kramer. Sydney: University of Sydney, 2001, 322-332.

See also

Further reading

  • R.J. Bogdan (ed.), D.M. Armstrong Dordrecht: Reidel, 1984. [ISBN 90-277-1657-9]
  • John Bacon, Keith Campbell & Lloyd Reinhardt (eds.), Ontology, Causality, and Mind: Essays in Honour of D.M. Armstrong. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. [ISBN 0-521-41562-4][8]
  • J. Franklin, Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia (Macleay Press, 2003), chs 9, 11, 12,
  • S. Mumford, David Armstrong. Acumen, 2007. [ISBN 1844651002]


  1. ^ Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Philosophers, London: Routledge, 1996, pp. 31–32, ISBN 0-415-06043-5
  2. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  3. ^ Lehrer, Keith. (2000), Theory of knowledge, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, p. 178, ISBN 0-8133-9053-2, 0813390532
  4. ^ John L. Pollock (1999), Contemporary theories of knowledge, Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, pp. 13, ISBN 0-8476-8936-0, 0847689360
  5. ^ Alvin Plantinga (1993), Warrant and proper function, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-507863-2, 0195078632
  6. ^ D. M. Armstrong (1989), Universals, Boulder: Westview Press, ISBN 0-8133-0763-5, 0813307635
  7. ^ D. M. Armstrong (November 28, 1980), A Theory of Universals, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-28032-7, 052128032X
  8. ^ Cambridge Catalogue -- Ontology, Causality, and Mind

External links

David M. Armstrong - Knowledge, Truth and Belief (1973) - analysis of the infinite regress of inferences, "reasons behind the reasons"

David M. Armstrong - Knowledge, Truth and Belief (1973) - analysis of the infinite regress of inferences, "reasons behind the reasons

David Malet Armstrong's (1926- ) book Knowledge, Truth and Belief (1973, pp.150-61) contains an important analysis of the infinite regress of inferences - "reasons behind the reasons" - first noticed by Plato in the Theatetus (200D-201C). 
Knowledge traditionally entails true belief, but true belief does not entail knowledge.
Knowledge is true belief plus some justification in the form of reasons or evidence. But that evidence must itself be knowledge, which in turn must be justified, leading to a regress.
Following some unpublished work of Gregory O'Hair, Armstrong identifies and diagrams several possible ways to escape Plato's regress, including:
  • Skepticism - knowledge is impossible
  • The regress is infinite but virtuous
  • The regress is finite, but has no end (Coherence view)
  • The regress ends in self-evident truths (Foundationalist view)
  • Non-inferential credibility, such as direct sense perceptions
  • Externalist theories (O'Hair is the source of the term "externalist")
  • Causal view (Ramsey)
  • Reliability view (Ramsey)
Armstrong is cited by Hilary Kornblith and other epistemologists as restoring interest in "externalist" justification of knowledge. Since Descartes, epistemology had been focused on "internalist" justifications.
Armstrong does not subscribe to traditional views of justifying true beliefs, but he cited "causal" and "reliabilist" theories as direct non-inferential validation of knowledge. Direct validation or justification avoids the problem of the infinite regress of inferences.
Causality and reliabilism also were not original with Armstrong. He referred to the 1929 work of Frank Ramsey. Today these ideas are primarily associated with the name of Alvin Goldman, who put forward both "causal" and "reliabilist" theories of justification for true beliefs.

Here is how Armstrong described "causal" and "reliabilist" views:
According to "Externalist" accounts of non-inferential knowledge, what makes a true non-inferential belief a case of knowledge is some natural relation which holds between the belief-state, Bap ['a believes p'], and the situation which makes the belief true. It is a matter of a certain relation holding between the believer and the world. It is important to notice that, unlike "Cartesian" and "Initial Credibility" theories, Externalist theories are regularly developed as theories of the nature of knowledge generally and not simply as theories of non-inferential knowledge. But they still have a peculiar importance in the case of non-inferential knowledge because they serve to solve the problem of the infinite regress. Externalist theories may be further sub-divided into 'Causal' and `Reliability' theories.
6 (i) Causal theories. The central notion in causal theories may be illustrated by the simplest case. The suggestion is that Bap ['a believes p'] is a case of Kap ['a knows p'] if 'p' is true and, furthermore, the situation that makes 'p' true is causally responsible for the existence of the belief-state Bap. I not only believe, but know, that the room is rather hot. Now it is certainly the excessive heat of the room which has caused me to have this belief. This causal relation, it may then be suggested, is what makes my belief a case of knowledge.

the source for causal theories is Frank Ramsey (1929)
Ramsey's brief note on 'Knowledge', to be found among his 'Last Papers' in The Foundations of Mathematics, puts forward a causal view. A sophisticated recent version of a causal theory is to be found in 'A Causal Theory of Knowing' by Alvin I. Goldman (Goldman 1967).

Causal theories face two main types of difficulty. In the first place, even if we restrict ourselves to knowledge of particular matters of fact, not every case of knowledge is a case where the situation known is causally responsible for the existence of the belief. For instance, we appear to have some knowledge of the future. And even if all such knowledge is in practice inferential, non-inferential knowledge of the future (for example, that I will be ill tomorrow) seems to be an intelligible possibility. Yet it could hardly be held that my illness tomorrow causes my belief today that I will be ill tomorrow. Such cases can perhaps be dealt with by sophisticating the Causal analysis. In such a case, one could say, both the illness tomorrow and today's belief that I will be ill tomorrow have a common cause, for instance some condition of my body today which not only leads to illness but casts its shadow before by giving rise to the belief. (An 'early-warning' system.)

In the second place, and much more seriously, cases can be envisaged where the situation that makes 'p' true gives rise to Bap, but we would not want to say that A knew that p. Suppose, for instance, that A is in a hypersensitive and deranged state, so that almost any considerable sensory stimulus causes him to believe that there is a sound of a certain sort in his immediate environment. Now suppose that, on a particular occasion, the considerable sensory stimulus which produces that belief is, in fact, a sound of just that sort in his immediate environment. Here the p-situation produces Bap, but we would not want to say that it was a case of knowledge.

I believe that such cases can be excluded only by filling out the Causal Analysis with a Reliability condition. But once this is done, I think it turns out that the Causal part of the analysis becomes redundant, and that the Reliability condition is sufficient by itself for giving an account of non-inferential (and inferential) knowledge.

6 (ii) Reliability theories. The second 'Externalist' approach is in terms of the empirical reliability of the belief involved. Knowledge is empirically reliable belief. Since the next chapter will be devoted to a defence of a form of the Reliability view, it will be only courteous to indicate the major precursors of this sort of view which I am acquainted with.

Ramsey is the source for reliabilist views as well
Once again, Ramsey is the pioneer. The paper 'Knowledge', already mentioned, combines elements of the Causal and the Reliability view. There followed John Watling's 'Inference from the Known to the Unknown' (Watling 1954), which first converted me to a Reliability view. Since then there has been Brian Skyrms' very difficult paper 'The Explication of "X knows that p" ' (Skyrms 1967), and Peter Unger's 'An Analysis of Factual Knowledge' (Unger 1968), both of which appear to defend versions of the Reliability view. There is also my own first version in Chapter Nine of A Materialist Theory of the Mind. A still more recent paper, which I think can be said to put forward a Reliability view, and which in any case anticipates a number of the results I arrive at in this Part, is Fred Dretske's 'Conclusive Reasons' (Dretske 1971).
Hilary Kornblith on Armstrong
The Terms "Internalism" and "Externalism"
The terms "internalism" and "externalism" are used in philosophy in a variety of different senses, but their use in epistemology for anything like the positions which are the focus of this book dates to 1973. More precisely, the word "externalism" was introduced in print by David Armstrong' in his book Belief; Truth and Knowledge' in the following way:
According to "Externalist" accounts of non-inferential knowledge, what makes a true non-inferential belief a case of knowledge is some natural relation which holds between the belief-state, Bap ['a believes p'], and the situation which makes the belief true. It is a matter of a certain relation holding between the believer and the world. It is important to notice that, unlike "Cartesian" and "Initial Credibility" theories, Externalist theories are regularly developed as theories of the nature of knowledge generally and not simply as theories of non-inferential knowledge. (Belief, Truth and Knowledge, p.157)
So in Armstrong's usage, "externalism" is a view about knowledge, and it is the view that when a person knows that a particular claim p is true, there is some sort of "natural relation" which holds between that person's belief that p and the world. One such view, suggested in 1967 by Alvin Goldman, was the Causal Theory of Knowledge. On this view, a person knows that p (for example, that it's raining) when that person's belief that p was caused by the fact that p. A related view, championed by Armstrong and later by Goldman as well, is the a href="/knowledge/reliabilism.html">Reliability Account of Knowledge, according to which a person knows that p when that person's belief is both true and, in some sense, reliable: on some views, the belief must be a reliable indicator that p; on others, the belief must be produced by a reliable process, that is, one that tends to produce true beliefs. Frank Ramsey was a pioneer in defending a reliability account of knowledge. Particularly influential work in developing such an account was also done by Brian Skyrms, Peter Unger, and Fred Dretske. Accounts of knowledge which are externalist in Armstrong's sense mark an important break with tradition, according to which knowledge is a kind of justified, true belief. On traditional accounts, in part because justification is an essential ingredient in knowledge, a central task of epistemology is to give an account of what justification consists in. And, according to tradition, what is required for a person to be justified in holding a belief is for that person to have a certain justification for the belief, where having a justification is typically identified with being in a position, in some relevant sense, to produce an appropriate argument for the belief in question. What is distinctive about externalist accounts of knowledge, as Armstrong saw it, was that they do not require justification, at least in the traditional sense. Knowledge merely requires having a true belief which is appropriately connected with the world.

But while Armstrong's way of viewing reliability accounts of knowledge has them rejecting the view that knowledge requires justified true belief, Alvin Goldman came to offer quite a different way of viewing the import of reliability theories: in 1979, Goldman suggested that instead of seeing reliability accounts as rejecting the claim that knowledge requires justified true belief, we should instead embrace an account which identifies justified belief with reliably produced belief. Reliability theories of knowledge, on this way of understanding them, offer a non-traditional account of what is required for a belief to be justified. This paper of Goldman's, and his subsequent extended development of the idea, have been at the center of epistemological discussion ever since.

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My family is stressing me out so much - The Scribble Pad

The Scribble Pad

My family is stressing me out so much. I think I am going to have to stop communicating with my sister permanently. I don't know what else to do because I can't handle this anymore. She needs to accept my parents are not going to let her stay with them any more, as they have reached the breaking point. No one is willing to help her anymore because it's too overwhelming and it's like agreeing to harm yourself. On the other hand, I am terrified of what is happening to her now and what will happen to her in the future. She is telling me the guy is crazy and obsessive and controlling, she lost a lot of weight, and she was talking of suicide. My sister is not the sort of person who threatens suicide randomly. She has done this from time to time under extreme stress but uncommonly. I wish there was something I can do but there isn't, there just FUCKING ISN'T, I can't make her work and take care of herself like a normal person, and I'm not going to let her stay with me and drive me crazier... because that is an invitation to constant abuse and drama.
I told her the situation (no one in the nuclear family is going to put up with you) so you need to contact our extended family for a temporary residence if this guy is abusive or crazy. My sister lies so often it's hard to tell what's true. She might be in an extremely unsafe situation, or she might be in a ordinary but slightly uncomfortable situation; there is no way to tell from her responses as she will lie in both cases. However, non-verbal indicators are that she is under extreme stress and not doing well.

I told her to call our cousin, or our aunt, both will lend a place to sleep. But our parents and your siblings wont as we know you well and all of us understand the abuse and craziness that lies there.

You know when I look at my situation and how fucked up my life is and how minimally functional I am, it's just really not fair that I have to carry someone *elses* problems and baggage and try to sort their shit out too. Half the time I am trying to find the strength to keep going to my shitty job, to keep my life regular, meanwhile I have to carry my adult sister who absolutely REFUSES TO MAKE EVEN A TRIVIAL FUCKING EFFORT to live a regular stable life.
Something as basic as trying to work, nope.

I want to make it clear, in case it wasn't already, that I am no one to look up to, respect, or take advice from. I always feel uncomfortable whenever I receive compliment or praise either online or in real life, because I am an utter failure of a person. There is nothing at all about my life that is remarkable or desirable and you should ignore everything I advise or blurt out the way you would ignore a screaming lunatic on the street. So I managed to lose weight; who fucking cares. What else did I do? Nothing at all. LITERALLY NOTHING at all. My biggest accomplishment is holding employment for >3 years so far and paying my bills and not being on SSDI, and faking normalcy most of the time...although I fool no one in real life and pretty much everyone thinks I'm a fucking low functioning nutter weirdo. And they're right.
It was better when no one read my blog, because I rarely felt embarrassed about anything I wrote as I was talking to no one. Now I have to deal with the fact anything I write say or do is witnessed to a dozen or so people who are all thinking "what a fucking freak". Really sorry for spazzing out yesterday, it happens. I slept 7 hrs so I am much more lucid/not on invisible drugs.
I bet my neighbors think I am like mentally handicapped. I kinda just run around randomly, all day long, at all hours of the day. I am totally isolated. Mentally handicapped people do things like this. I bet the local police think I'm a fucking nut too, as they patrol the neighborhood and see me just kinda meandering around randomly at 4, 5 am. I should wave to them and wear a nametag; we really should introduce ourselves. They probably have a nickname for me as they do all the other derelicts who are regulars to the 'hood. "Oh, that nut girl who walks alone in the middle of the night responding to internal stimuli... " When I worked at a liquor store we had nicknames for all the lowlives who frequented the place. I wonder what my nickname is.

It's also a miracle I have not yet been attacked abudcted or any attempt at this made. Pretty much every day someone asks me to get in their car, multiple times per day/night actually. I guess almost no other 20 something female walks alone in the middle of the night for hours, so most guys observing this assume she is looking to be propositioned, like a cat in heat. I never see any other female doing this, except for the odd drunk straggler coming home from a party or something, so it's understandable I suppose how all men in cars could get this idea. No, sorry, actually I just have a compulsive need to move around because it's the only thing that helps me feel better that isn't a drug. But thank you again sir for asking me to get in your car, I'll have to pass that offer for now. So far none of these people has been crazy, I'm on a lucky streak!

North of where I live is an abysmal crime ridden ghetto; literally a few blocks up. South is relatively safer (relatively). I always walk south, so, I'm GTG. It's like an invisible barrier, the bad can't hurt me you know.

Should I tell anyone of my habit of walking around everywhere at all hours of the night obliviously, they look at me like a nut. That is the only look I deserve, ever, in every circumstance, no matter how reasonable I might be superficially seeming to be.



Sidereal said...
Woo, maybe some of us hang out here because we respect your intelligence, insight and resilience and don't think you're a freak. Most others I've come across with the type of mood problems you have live on welfare. How are you a failure? You didn't JUST lose weight, you lost 160 lbs and are holding down a high-stress job and are looking after yourself financially. Being accomplished in life don't have to mean having worthless college degrees, or worse, being a bored housewife to some successful cluster B type in a big house in the burbs, or worse yet, being part of the typical boring middle class couple with a house, two cars, two jobs and two and a half kids. For some of us, success is being able to get out of bed each morning and showing up to work on time. We are dealt a genetic hand at conception I'm afraid and we have to redefine success within the framework of what we can realistically accomplish with the CNS we have.
v/vmary said...
can you get a dog? do you live in a place with a yard? a dog is a good excuse to walk at all hours. or get a cat and get one of those pet carrier baby carriages so people think you have to be out with the baby cuz its crying. why not try to seek out more real human company? internet friends are better than nothing, but a poor substitute. my friend at school used to volunteer at a battered women's shelter because he like d to play with the kids of the women. he wasn't weird, he just liked the kids' company. teaching little kids almost always improves my mood because they are so funny and angelic. if my advice is always missing the mark with you, tell me and i will refrain. ps there are battered women's shelters your sister could go to in the short term. if she is serious about a dangerous situation, she could go their for a couple of weeks first.
Liam said...
Order this http://tiny.cc/dcp5hw if you want the science for the first book get this http://tiny.cc/zdp5hw It really is transformative shit
Kim said...
Woo...you need a VACATION. You need to get away from your family & your job. I second what Sidereal said above: you are a brilliant and highly functional woman...it's just really hard to maintain perspective when you're stressed/distressed/sleep deprived. You're not crazy, but you can see it really well from your backyard! A BIG dog could be a good idea if you're out at night...but, getting a dog is like having a baby...can be a wonderful companion or just one more f___ing responsibility. I was miserable in my job & life for many years and so depressed. I use to go out walking alone at night when I was 20-drove my friends & family insane. Amazing I never got assaulted, or worse(Kenneth Bianchi killed two girls who lived 2 houses down from me during that time). Anyway, I recommend a break...go PLAY DANCE Breath Sea Air..whatever...away
Tate Metlen said...
I find weightlifting helps. Heavy weights in the morning evens out my mood all day and at night I fall asleep as soon as my head hits my pillow. When I stop lifting, my mood nosedives and I lay awake all night.
keto-katharsis said...
My gut reaction to this is family can really tear us apart and darken every thing we see and every thing we do, and every thing we think we are. Im not saying your sis is a sociopath, but your reaction to her red flags a classic vampiric bloodsucking soul destroying sociopathic game shes playing. She probably doesnt even realize she does it. Ive had to distance myself from most of my family for painful reasons. Im there in emergencies, thats it cept for very rare occasions. It seems to just be a rite of passage as we age. People grow apart. Families become estranged. The internet? Hmmmmm. Maybe you could start a more personal blog with privacy settings for invited guests only? Id hate that if I never got an invite, but you could keep this blog up on the side for more diety , or general stuff. ----- see, no flatery intended, but this is what artists do, they put in physical form ideas and feelings that others could NEVER express no matter how terribly they need too, or want to. Your following is growing because you r so very intelligent and wise and brave, and everyone wishes they had that talent, to analyze and dig and figure things out and then brilliantly bleed it onto the page like you do. SSorry if this makes you uncomfortable, buts its the curse of talented people. I get this from observation (not experience, hehe) Ive had many writer , artist friends in my twenties and they expressed themselves in the same ways you are now. Please never mistake your strengths for weaknesses Woo, its just not so! Hmmmmph!

Atlantic magazine, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" and Men Who Don't Have Much (NSFW) - Speakeasy - WSJ

Atlantic magazine, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" and Men Who Don't Have Much (NSFW) - Speakeasy - WSJ

Here’s the latest installment of “NSFW,” the Wall Street Journal’s comic strip series about life, work, play, culture, ideas, media and whatever else we can come up with. You can see past installments here. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.


Obama and Romney compete for Jewish voters - Yahoo! News

Obama and Romney compete for Jewish voters - Yahoo! News

Obama and Romney compete for Jewish voters

In this Jan. 22, 2008 file …
FILE - In this May 30, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at a Jewish American Heritage Month reception in the East Room at the White House in Washington. Mitt Romney is trying to win over a tiny sliver of a small _ but powerful _ section of the American electorate on a trip to Israel. President Barack Obama is doing the same at home. Romney’s international trip is unlikely to change the broader campaign with Obama but Romney is looking to close the gap among a Jewish electorate. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — On a trip to Israel, Mitt Romney is trying to win over a tiny sliver of a small — but powerful — section of the American electorate. President Barack Obama is doing the same at home.

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2008 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition of Florida in Boca Raton, Fla. Mitt Romney is trying to win over a tiny sliver of a small _ but powerful _ section of the American electorate on a trip to Israel. President Barack Obama is doing the same at home. Romney’s international trip is unlikely to change the broader campaign with Obama but Romney is looking to close the gap among a Jewish electorate. (AP Photo/LM Otero)But while Romney's trip is unlikely to change the broader presidential campaign against Obama, he's hoping to close the gap among Jewish voters.

For all the wooing of American Jews in presidential campaigns, those who say Israel's fate drives their vote make up 6 percent of a reliably Democratic bloc. The tiny numbers are overlaid with an outsize influence. Campaign donations from Jews or Jewish and pro-Israel groups account for as much as 60 percent of Democratic money, and groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee can bring strong pressure on candidates.

"This is going to be a close election. We are in a tight, tight race," said Democratic pollster Jim Gerstein. "But this race will not swing on the Jewish vote."

The notion of being an American Jew has changed over the years. Jews have married outside their faith and ethnic enclaves have given way to integrated cities. In the process, Israel has faded as a driving issue in their homes and seems to have faded as a flashpoint in politics.
"They're disconnected from their ancestral roots," Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based consultant, said of Jewish voters. "People are becoming less observant so they're less tied to Israel, less tied to their faith, less tied to their history."

In turn, Jewish voters look at the election through secular lenses. Although the campaign rhetoric skews toward them when the candidates talk about Israel, assuming that Jews vote based on U.S. policy toward Israel is a losing proposition.

Romney also needs to show his commitment to Israel because the reliably Republican evangelical Christian vote also holds candidates to account on that topic.

"Jewish Americans, like most Americans, have come to assume that mainstream politicians and elected officials will stand strongly with Israel so there's oftentimes no urgency that is reflected in the polling," said Robert Wexler, a former Democratic congressman from Florida whose district was heavily Jewish.

"Even partisan people who cherish the American-Israeli relationship cringe when Israel is used as a political football," said Wexler, who was a co-chairman of Obama's 2008 campaign and now leads the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

That hasn't stopped Romney.

"I think, by and large, you can just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite," Romney said earlier this year when asked about Israel.

Obama has riled his critics, including Romney, by urging the Israelis and the Palestinians to make good on their promises to bring peace to the troubled Middle East. Specifically, Obama publicly has chastised Israel for continuing to build housing settlements in disputed areas and has pressured both sides to begin a new round of peace talks based on the land borders established after the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict.

That has raised the ire of groups such as AIPAC, which feel he's been disloyal to Israel. Obama's strained relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — a longtime Romney friend — hasn't helped that perception.
"The current administration has distanced itself from Israel and visibly warmed to the Palestinian cause," Romney told AIPAC's annual conference earlier this year, where Obama also spoke.
Previous presidents have sided with Israel on all points, at least in public.

"This is the most hostile president since the state of Israel was created," Romney supporter and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said recently. "He's demonstrated that hostility right from the beginning of his administration."

Such language is designed to whittle away at the Democrats' long-held advantages and nip away at the 78 percent support Obama enjoyed among Jews on Election Day 2008.
The Gallup polling organization reported Friday that Obama's standing stood at 68 percent among Jews, while 25 percent favored Romney.

"They elected him with historic numbers but they have to look at how President Obama has handled the whole situation," said Rich Beeson, Romney's political director. "Voters can say, 'I've not made a mistake, but he has not lived up to what he promised and it's OK to (vote for someone else).' Every vote that we can peel off from Barack Obama helps."

That approach fuels the on-the-ground effort to continue Jewish voters' slide away from the Democratic fold. Romney allies at the Republican Jewish Coalition are planning a $6.5 million campaign to help GOP candidates, and Romney himself is looking to reach into Jewish communities in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and Nevada.

But the Jewish vote won't make a difference in this election. Exit polls show Jewish voters typically make up 2 percent to 4 percent of the electorate nationwide. In 2008, they were 2 percent of voters nationwide and Republican Sen. John McCain won just 21 percent of them.
In 2004, George W. Bush fared a bit better, winning 25 percent of the vote, the largest share of the Jewish vote any Republican has earned since 1988.

But that's not to say they don't have clout.

"Jews are less important as voters than they are as activists and contributors. Jews provide pretty close to half of the money available to Democratic candidates," said Benjamin Ginsburg, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University.

And it's not as though Israel alone will even decide Jewish voters' preference. A survey earlier this year by the American Jewish Committee found only 6 percent of American Jews listed U.S.-Israel relations as their top priority. The economy was the top concern, at 29 percent, followed by health care, at 20 percent.

"When it comes to determining votes in the American Jewish community, it is not a safe assumption that Jews are single-issue constituency that cares only about Israel," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a pro-Israeli group that promotes a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through diplomacy instead of military action.
"Jews are just like all other Americans. They're fully integrated in the United States. They are concerned about their jobs, their kids' education and just like all other voters, the voting patterns and approval ratings move in the context of the larger race," Ben-Ami said.
Associated Press Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.


Study: Cat Parasite Affects Human Culture | LiveScience

Study: Cat Parasite Affects Human Culture | LiveScience

A parasitic microbe commonly found in cats might have helped shape entire human cultures by manipulating the personalities of infected individuals, according to a new study.
Infection by a Toxoplasma gondii could make some individuals more prone to some forms of neuroticism and could lead to differences among cultures if enough people are infected, says Kevin Lafferty, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In a survey of different countries, Lafferty found that people living in those with higher rates of T. gondii infection scored higher on average for neuroticism, defined as an emotional or mental disorder characterized by high levels of anxiety, insecurity or depression.  His finding is detailed in the Aug. 2 issue of the journal for Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biology.

Manipulating behavior

T. gondii infects both wild and domestic cats, but it is carried by many warm-blooded mammals. One recent study showed that the parasite makes normally cautious rats outgoing and more prone to engage in reckless behavior, such as hanging around areas frequently marked by cat urine, making the rats easy targets.

Scientists estimate that the parasite has infected about 3 billion people, or about half of the human population. Studies by researchers in the Czech Republic have suggested T. gondii might have subtle but long-term effects on its human hosts. The parasite is thought to have different, and often opposite effects in men versus women, but both genders appear to develop a form of neuroticism called "guilt proneness."

Other studies have also found links between the parasite and schizophrenia. T. gondii infection is known to damage astrocytes, support cells in the brain that are also affected during schizophrenia. Pregnant women with high levels of antibodies to the parasite are also more likely to give birth to children who will develop the disorder.

In light of such studies, Lafferty wondered whether high rates of T. gondii infection in a culture could shift the average personality of its individuals.

"In populations where this parasite is very common, mass personality modification could result in cultural change," Lafferty said.

The distribution of T. gondii could explain differences in cultural aspects that relate to ego, money, material possessions, work and rules, Lafferty added. In some countries, infections by the cat parasite are very rare, while in others nearly all adults are infected.

Adding to cultural diversity

To test his hypothesis, Lafferty looked at published data on cultural dimensions and average personalities for different countries. The countries examined also kept records of the prevalence of T. gondii antibodies in women of childbearing age. Countries with high prevalence of T. gondii infection also had higher average neuroticism scores.

"There could be a lot more to this story," Lafferty said. "Different responses to the parasite by men and women could lead to many additional cultural effects that are, as yet, difficult to analyze."

Lafferty thinks that climate could be an important factor in determining which human populations are infected by T. gondii. The parasite's eggs can survive longer in humid, low-altitude regions, especially at mid latitudes that have infrequent freezing and thawing.
Other factors could also influence infection rates, including how a culture's attitudes about having cats as pets and the hygiene practices of its people.

Despite its association with neuroticism, Lafferty doesn't think all of the cat parasite's effects on human culture are bad.

"After all, they add to our cultural diversity," he said.




Toxoplasma_gondii - Wikipedia

Diagram of Toxoplasma gondii structure
T. gondii infections have the ability to change the behavior of rats and mice, making them drawn to, rather than fearful of, the scent of cats. This effect is advantageous to the parasite, which will be able to sexually reproduce if its host is eaten by a cat.[15] The infection is widespread in the brain, with more cysts targeting the parts of the brain corresponding to fear. The widespread nature of the infection causes many previously unnoticed symptoms in the rats.[16]

Studies have also shown behavioral changes in humans, including lower reaction times and a sixfold increased risk of traffic accidents among infected, RhD-negative males,[17] as well as links to schizophrenia including hallucinations and reckless behavior. Recent epidemiologic studies by Stanley Medical Research Institute and Johns Hopkins University Medical Center indicate that infectious agents may contribute to some cases of schizophrenia.[18][19] A study of 191 young women in 1999 reported higher intelligence and higher guilt proneness in Toxoplasma-positive subjects.[20]

The prevalence of human infection by Toxoplasma varies greatly between countries. Factors that influence infection rates include diet (prevalence is possibly higher where there is a preference for less-cooked meat) and proximity to cats.[21]

According to Merck the standard treatment for toxoplasmosis is pyrimethamine, but most immunocompetent asymptomatic people infected with T. gondii, with the exception of neonates and pregnant women, require no treatment.[22]

Possible link to psychiatric disorders

Studies show the toxoplasmosis parasite may affect behavior and may present as or be a causative or contributory factor in various psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.[13][14][15] In 11 of 19 scientific studies, T. gondii antibody levels were found to be significantly higher in individuals affected by first-incidence schizophrenia than in unaffected persons. Individuals with schizophrenia are also more likely to report a clinical history of toxoplasmosis than those in the general population.[16]

Recent work at the University of Leeds has found the parasite produces an enzyme with tyrosine hydroxylase and phenylalanine hydroxylase activity. This enzyme may contribute to the behavioral changes observed in toxoplasmosis by altering the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in mood, sociability, attention, motivation and sleep patterns.

Schizophrenia has long been linked to dopamine dysregulation.[17] A large serological study in the United States found evidence that Toxoplasma infection was elevated in a subset of young people with bipolar disorder type I who reported both manic and major depression symptoms. [18] Minocycline, an antibiotic that is capable of passing the blood–brain barrier and used for treating toxoplasmosis has been found to alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia.[19]