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[P]
Persistence of Vision

By spaceghoti in Op-Ed
Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 05:54:15 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Today I was feeding my daughter (it's gotten remarkably difficult in the past couple of days. She's been very uncooperative, and I suspect her teething is accelerating) when a program called "Human: All Too Human" came on the Australian Broadcast Company. They were discussing Jean-Paul Sartre, and had solicited comments from several people with the apparent career title of "philosopher." I didn't hear much of what was happening because the volume was too low, Emily was making too much noise and my hands were full. But it got me thinking.

What is to follow might be more appropriate as a diary, and you may vote accordingly. Alternately, you may skip this either as a diary or article submission and I won't take offense. This is a philosophical journey describing some of my observations and conclusions about the world around me.


It's been said that there's nothing new under the sun. 36 established core plots, the same old depravity and sin, the same moments of rapture and bliss, the same march of progress toward a better world. Love, hate, greed, altruism and all the rest have been with us since the beginning of humanity, regardless of when you believe humanity got its start. There are no truly unique ideas or actions, only variations on a theme.

What's the point of being a philosopher anymore? The wisdom of Plato and Aristotle are still with us, and many of their lessons are still appropriate today. For that matter, what's the point of doing anything? There are thousands of years of recorded human history and philosophy available to us, practically at the touch of a button. Think of a topic, any topic, and you're likely to find a wealth of information covering it. It's easy to fall under the weight of ennui and give up.

So why do we keep at it? Why do we keep belaboring over the same points over and over again? Why do we argue the same topics, rehash the same ideas, fight the same battles? The only answer I can come up with is "relevance." It's been explained to us in language simple and complex, but we still haven't figured it out, yet.

In previous diaries and articles, I've argued everything from the abolition of monogamy to the destruction of organized religion. Why? Has the human race advanced so far that we're beyond such primitive concepts? Apparently not. We seem to need these and other archaic security blankets as much as we ever did. We still fight over dominance no matter how often the lesson of cooperation is demonstrated. We argue over truth regardless of the facts presented to us. We're a singularly contrary and contradictory species. What's the point?

Relevance. Humanity seems to cycle through history. We embrace religion, then we turn away from it, then embrace it again. We dabble with free love, put it away, and come back to it. We test, we prod, we turn away and turn back. The wisdom of our forefathers is forgotten and rediscovered, or it's examined and tested endlessly. We're still the same people who burned heretics at the stake for heresy, and yet we're completely different.

Modern science has achieved some spectacular feats in advancing human knowledge. Long ago it was postulated that all matter was composed of tiny elements so small they could not be separated. Nobody knew whether or not it was true because no one had any way to test it. Finally, technology progressed to the point where we could test the theory and found it to be true. Also long ago, it was postulated that the Universe revolved around the Earth. Everyone accepted this was true because no one was aware of feeling any motion on the Earth. Technology progressed to the point where we could test the theory and found it to be false.

Discoveries like the ones I've described aren't necessarily unique. People have discovered all sorts of truths about themselves and the universe that haven't fit accepted wisdom. Not too long ago a surgeon argued that the brain, not the heart, is the seat of consciousness. He went so far as to prove his point by dissecting a cadaver and revealing how the nervous system spreads out from the brain and not the heart. The response he received? "Were it not for the writings of Aristotle, you might convince me."

The world has changed. We now have means to test the world around us and discover if what we thought to be true can be proven. When we find a theory or wisdom proven or disproven, we can accept it instead of rejecting it for being contrary to the wisdom of our forefathers. Go back to the Dark Ages and prove to a peasant or a noble that two objects of differing weight will fall at the same speed and you just might get burned as a heretic. Not anymore.

Much of what I have to say throughout my life will not be unique. My ideas and philosophies are not original; even the way I apply them to my life has probably been attempted before. There are two reasons why I bother: the first is that I live in a time of unique opportunity, when advancing my cause and choosing my own wisdom can be tolerated and even encouraged. The second reason is because there is simply too much wisdom and philosophy to encompass. I could spend my life researching the wisdom that came before me and not have enough time to encompass it all. I can only observe the world and lives around me to draw my conclusions. That I repeat what has already come before me says to me that humanity has not changed enough to invalidate my statements. That I can state them without fear of bodily harm says that we have changed enough to hope for more.

I am a study in contradiction, just like everyone else around me. I am confident and afraid, wise and foolish, emotional and rational. I will fail in some tests and pass in others. I speak to the moment, to the world I perceive around me without fear that the past has already said the same. I'll keep repeating it and hope that future generations repeat what I am passing on in hope of the day when we finally figure it out.

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Poll
Favorite philosopher
o Plato 4%
o Aristotle 3%
o Socrates 9%
o Marcus Aurelius 4%
o Calvin 8%
o Hobbes 21%
o Sartre 8%
o Other, please comment 38%

Votes: 124
Results | Other Polls

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o Also by spaceghoti


Display: Sort:
Persistence of Vision | 185 comments (159 topical, 26 editorial, 0 hidden)
Other, OTH-ER !! (3.00 / 4) (#4)
by Jel on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 08:27:02 PM EST

No one spared a thought for Chuang Tzu yet? Or Lao?
...lend your voices only to sounds of freedom. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from. Fill your lives with love and bravery, and we shall lead a life uncommon
- Jewel, Life Uncommon
Yes, well... (2.50 / 2) (#6)
by spaceghoti on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 08:31:49 PM EST

It goes back to what I wrote. There's simply too much to fit it all in. I thought of several others, but there simply wasn't enough room to add them all. That's why I included the "Other, please comment" option.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
I forgive ya =) (2.50 / 2) (#7)
by Jel on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 08:35:14 PM EST

That's OK.. great article, nonetheless =)

Those two would be happy to lead from behind anyways =)

...lend your voices only to sounds of freedom. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from. Fill your lives with love and bravery, and we shall lead a life uncommon
- Jewel, Life Uncommon
[ Parent ]
It's easy to... (3.25 / 4) (#8)
by joeyo on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 08:44:45 PM EST

It's easy to fall under the weight of ennui and give up.

Don't give up-- you gotta struggle. I know whenever ennui falls on me I put up a good fight. That guy is heavy too, let me tell you... :)

/joeyo || Geek || Grad Student || All-round Nice Guy
GPG fingerprint = F76B 9ACA 4197 C707 6E4D 2B78 E430 101A B663 781B

Wonderful (3.75 / 4) (#10)
by AaronDev on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 08:51:05 PM EST

Terrific article; I really enjoyed it.

I've mulled over the same thought many times myself (heh). My conclusion was thus: I am a unique individual with a complex brain, with a different set of experiences than everyone else. Therefore, even though it seems that every philosophical idea has been stated and analyzed already, it is quite likely that my particular combination of ideas is entirely new.

My hope and plan at this point in my philosophical development is to create a fully logic-based system, bringing all of my beliefs down to a few "self-evident" axioms. And, yes, it has been tried before. But it is more than likely that my results will be different than any those of any other human. That is why I find it necessary: because I am not Aristotle or Descartes; I am only me. I've got to build my beliefs my way, in a way I can fully understand, in a way that is logically consistent in my own understanding.

Thanks again for the thought provoking article.

Discuss everything here
By the way (1.00 / 1) (#14)
by AaronDev on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 09:01:24 PM EST

Ayn Rand is probably my favorite philosopher at this point.

Discuss everything here
[ Parent ]
Seriously (3.40 / 5) (#18)
by qpt on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 09:19:43 PM EST

Who is your favorite philosopher.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

Again (2.00 / 1) (#23)
by AaronDev on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 09:29:16 PM EST

Ayn Rand. Have you read any of her writings? The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue of Selfishness, Introduction to Objectivist Epistomology?

Yes, she was a writer. But her writings contained her own original philosophy, Objectivism. Although I don't agree completely on all of her ideas, I have found her books to be quite interesting. Check here for more information on her writings and philosophy -- or, better yet, read some of her books.

Discuss everything here
[ Parent ]

So was... (2.00 / 1) (#54)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 02:20:31 AM EST

Yes, she was a writer. But her writings contained her own original philosophy...
Kurt Vonnegut also has an elaborated personal take on life in his works, but I still wouldn't answer the question with his name (and I really like his stuff).



[ Parent ]

Okay (none / 0) (#129)
by AaronDev on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 06:32:46 PM EST

Well, that's certainly your preference, but if you read my post or went to the link I provided you should have noticed that there is actually a named philosophy "Objectivism" created by Ayn Rand. She wrote several nonfiction books laying out this philosophy in great detail. There are lectures given on this philsophy.

I consider her a philosopher. You can consider her whatever you like.

Discuss everything here
[ Parent ]
Sorry. (none / 0) (#176)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 05:09:52 AM EST

I guess some of us overcompensate for our earlier endorsement of some of her ideas with too much angst aimed against her. Maybe it is something about feeling like we understood something only to later feel like someone was leading us on.

Like her all you wish. Over all, it seems to me, her stuff isn't a bad stepping stone. However, she did seem to over use rhetoric and preaching to convince when rationality ran out. Wish I could recall some examples, but I've got a damn shoddy biological memory system.



[ Parent ]

Contradictions (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by spaceghoti on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 09:26:59 PM EST

First of all, thank you for your kind words. Buttering my ego is something I rarely discourage.

Your concept of originality is debatable, which is sort of the point. On the one hand, you are quite unique. There will never be another person with your chemical makeup, cultural upbringing and environmental pressures. All those things and more come together in a mysterious way to make you who you are. Another person put into your situation would likely choose different actions and reactions, resulting in possibly minor but distinct differences. On the other hand, your uniqueness falls within a certain range of statistics, also closely related to your chemical makeup, cultural upbringing and environmental pressures. Because of those elements and more, you are predictable within a certain degree.

It's enough to make my head spin. This is why I describe humanity as a study in contradiction. Consider a preference or thought that you have, then see if you can find similar sentiments online or among the people around you. I predict that you'll find a startling range of people agreeing with you. Then consider several preferences or thoughts and look for people who share them all with you. The number will drop significantly. Eventually you will find that each thought in your mind is shared by someone else, but the sum of thoughts separate you.

You're right that the combination of ideas within you make you unique, but that uniqueness is a lot more fragile than you might want to believe. I agree with your statement, and disagree simultaneously. Remember that we're all the same in that we're all unique.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Favorite Philosopher: (2.66 / 3) (#11)
by malikcoates on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 08:55:17 PM EST

Right now my favorite is Wen Wong

Float (3.60 / 5) (#12)
by n8f8 on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 08:55:45 PM EST

3 -Kids
2 -Jobs
1 -House Payment
0 -Time For Contemplation

I think its best just to float. Keep your eyes pointed ahead, mind clear and float through the mess. Make the mistake of looking around or back and the world may become unbearable. Look at weightlifters while they are lifting or manrathon runners.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
I don't disagree (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by spaceghoti on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 09:37:51 PM EST

I think your point is valid when you're attempting to focus on a goal. When trying to make your first million dollars, or trying to finish your thesis or what-have-you, focus is critical. This is why marathon runners should never ever look behind them. And this is why it's so easy to get overwhelmed when you feel too much stress from details in your life like your job, kids, house payments, etc.

Almost by definition, philosophers are not worried about survival. They're not worried about their next meal, or if they are, they're aware they don't have much control over it and thus choose to conserve their strength. This is also a valid point of view. If you're trapped in a corner with no way to run, the worst thing you can do is panic. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi: "God grant me the strength to change that which I can, the serenity to change that which I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference." Personally, I can't think of a better way to live.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
A bit tired (none / 0) (#102)
by ghjm on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:06:50 PM EST

The problem with this quote is that it makes an observation but fails to provide much of a useful framework for acting on that observation. Essentially it says: Don't try to be an agent of change unless it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that change is possible. Personally, I thank $deity that we have people who refuse to follow this advice.

Also, this doesn't require strengh. If you will ask God for strength, ask him to grant you the strength that your actions always reflect your true beliefs and principles. If you use your "strength" to force yourself to accept the inevitable (through "serenity") when you cannot possibly change something, you are betraying your own beliefs. In other words, God grant me the strength to serenely cease opposing evil when evil gets too powerful.

Thankfully, St. Francis of Assisi never actually said that. If you want to sum up the philosophy of Francis of Assisi in one pithy (mis)quote, a better one would be: Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

Perspective (none / 0) (#117)
by spaceghoti on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:25:46 PM EST

It's only a bit tired if people forget how to use it. The message I get about it is to pay attention to the world around you. It isn't advocating that you give up on anything without trying, it suggests that you give up the habit of beating on dead horses.

Change that which I can. The way I apply this is that any job worth doing is worth doing well. If there's something that needs doing and I know that it falls within my purview, then I need to stand up and get it done.

Accept that which I cannot. There are a lot of windmills to charge these days. Global warming, social issues, space exploration, bigotry, poverty, hunger, ad nauseum. The list is endless. I have to accept that I cannot solve them all. Perhaps the most telling example is when trying to help someone who is self-destructive. I can be supportive of such people, I can help watch over them and prevent them from harming themselves, but I cannot convince them to stop their behavior. They have to accept that for themselves. All I can do is help show the way.

The wisdom to know the difference. This is the key to the whole philosophy. Choose your battles wisely. If I'm walking down the street and witness a man violently beating someone else, am I morally obligated to get involved? Yes. What if I know that physically interposing myself would only result in two people getting beaten? Should I just accept it? No, I need to choose another method to getting involved. Like finding a phone and dialing the police. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we must be aware of them and accept their limitations. There's nothing that says we can't work to overcome them, but don't be stupid. If you know that the direct method is going to serve no purpose, try an indirect method. Do your best. Whenever possible, think about it and act rather than letting yourself always react.

There's also something to be said about stretching your limits and attempting something that you thought you couldn't do. I think that's human nature and it can reveal some interesting surprises about ourselves, but again it needs to be done wisely. Know the difference between crusading and windmilling.

As for the origin of the quote, everybody seems to think it came from St. Francis. I accept that may be wrong, but I don't know. You're the first person I've heard to suggest it.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
The Serenity Prayer (none / 0) (#180)
by ghjm on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:50:46 PM EST

Reinhold Niebhur wrote the Serenity Prayer in 1932, for Alcoholics Anonymous. The full text is as follows:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

While this is a nice piece of work, and does give a sort of sense of tranquility, it does not provide a good set of guidance for actual life situations. It is too easy to use as an excuse not to oppose wrongdoing. To use your example, an addict can retreat into the notion that they cannot change their addiction and so should serenely accept it and all the destructiveness it brings. Second, Jesus certainly did not take "this sinful world as it is" - and he certainly did not accept the things he could not change. Did he, or could he, eradicate sin from the world? Would the world be a better place if he had serenely refused to try? Conversely, can you see any evidence of this philosophy in Jesus's behaviro as documented in the Gospels? Was he following this credo in the temple of the money changers, for example? Was he following this credo when he faced Pontius Pilate?

Morality requires that we oppose wrongdoing wherever we find it, regardless of pragmatic considerations. Yes, there is a limit to how much you can do each day. Yes, you have to make choices about how much effort you put into any given initiative. But this does not mean you may, or should, "serenely accept" things you believe to be evil.

-Graham

[ Parent ]
Write-in philosopher (3.33 / 6) (#26)
by Delirium on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 09:37:45 PM EST

Probably Nietzsche. He's one of the few philosophers who's also a good author, and many of his ideas, while not fully or rigorously fleshed out, where rather original and tend to fit in well with my thoughts. I also like some of Kant's stuff, but I disagree with a lot of it and a lot more of it is largely unintelligible.

I really don't give much credence to anything coming from the ancient Greek philosophers, as far too much of it is metaphysical hogwash (for reasons Kant enumerates at great length).

Since then (1.00 / 1) (#57)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 02:40:00 AM EST

About your second paragraph: Did the empiricists have too much metaphysics for you? What about the positivists, logical positivists, or linquistic philosophers? A lot has happened in philosophy since the Greeks; a great deal that has nothing to do with metaphysics.



[ Parent ]

Hm.. (3.00 / 2) (#33)
by Pseudoephedrine on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 09:57:15 PM EST

Favourite philosopher is a hard one.

Here's a list of philosophers who've influenced me, at least:
Karl Popper, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Epictetus, J.S. Mill, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Rene Descartes, Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Kurt Godel, Diogenes of Sinope, Lao Tzu, Jean-Paul Sartre, Cicero, John Locke, W.V.O. Quine, Robert Pirsig, and Paul Feyerabend. A lot of them haven't shaped my viewpoint with their own, so much as by their criticisms of others.

I'm sort of a libertarian/anarchistic pancritical rationalist by nature. Though even that's not quite right.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
I would... (1.00 / 1) (#55)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 02:22:54 AM EST

... add Hume and take out a few of the overly wordy guys. Otherwise you've got a mighty fine list.



[ Parent ]

Hume's answers (3.00 / 1) (#93)
by Pseudoephedrine on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:16:58 AM EST

I actually consider Hume answered by Kant, Popper, and possibly some of the logical positivists when I'm feeling charitable.

Hume and Berkeley both only work if we take Lockean empiricism lock-stock and barrel (pardon the pun). The idea of a priori knowledge, knowledge that is innate in us, like space and time, or more generally, all heuristic methodologies (buzzword alert :)) built into our brains, gets around that.

After all, if there are things built into our brain that are not phenomena of consciousness (if they aren't created by our minds, in plain english) but instead underly interpretation, we can assert that these exist with certainty, because they are not dependent on subjective experience.

The other option is Popperian, and is that induction only occurs after judgement as a test of falsification. I sit down in the chair with the notion/theory in my mind already that the chair is stable, and that theory is tested by whether the chair breaks and I fall, or whether I sit down comfortably.

Personally, I prefer the latter, if only because I'm biased against Kant :)

And who do you mean by the 'wordier' guys? I've always considered most of them, with the exception of Russell and possibly Godel, very readable. And even Russell has his moments, mostly in his shorter works. I've never read a primary source for Godel, so I can't testify as to his writing style.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]
Hmmm. (none / 0) (#175)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 05:00:46 AM EST

I have to admit, I've never summed up Popper with Kant and checked that combo against Hume. Then again, there could be a good reason for that; I've never been able to extract much in the way of substance straight from Kant. Maybe it is something about the writing style or the translations.

As for Hume and innateness. There are readings of Hume that has him allowing for (even tacitly proposing) innate relations of ideas, once the ideas themselves are made from impressions by a person. So modern proofs that there must be innate information in the brain might have been fine by Hume so long as the actual content of the ideas that went into the constitution of the information came from the world as the person perceived it. After all, he was one to talk a lot about the natural habits of our types of minds. What could that mean if not that some things are innate?

Kudos for your occasional charity towards logical positivism. If you feel thus toward them, I hope you have or will glance at some of the linquistic philosophy stuff just after them. It has much of the same spirit with fewer of the obviously tenuous commitments.



[ Parent ]

Kant rant (none / 0) (#185)
by Pseudoephedrine on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 04:19:18 PM EST

To be honest, Critique of Pure Reason is the only book I've ever physically thrown away from me in disgust. I fully admit Kant is just plain unreadable. What I've gained from him of any use has mostly come from reading interpretations and talking about them with my history professor (HIST121: Intellectual Origins of the Contemporary West - the world's greatest not-technically-a-philosophy-course philosophy course) There's a weird rule with Kant's writings, though - the shorter they are, the more understandable he is overall. "What is Enlightenment?" for example, is practically coherent. ;)

As for Hume's notion of innate ideas, I think we're confusing epistemic notions with psychological ones. Hume, as I understand it, readily admits to innate notions, such as emotion, and our prejudice towards induction, but denies that they are of epistemic use - we cannot know truth from our emotions or induction. They are merely psychological artifacts. Whereas, with Kant, innate notions (his categories - space time, extension and whatnot - subtly different than what Hume was talking about) are the very foundation of our notions of truth.

Where they differ is precisely in what they think of as innate notions. Hume thinks of things without epistemic use - emotions and whatnot. Kant thinks of innate notions as being things like our knowledge of space and time. To Hume, these are things we learn.

As to post-positivist linguistic philosophy, I'm actually looking for recommendations on where to start. I've been wholly turned off deconstructionism (I'm not a post-modernist by any stretch), but I don't know enough about Structuralism in general, except that it wants to treat the world as a text somehow. Know any good primers on hermeneutics or anything along those lines that you'd recommend?

"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]
My quick write-in vote: (2.66 / 3) (#38)
by Bunny Vomit on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 10:50:25 PM EST

Carl Sagan. Anyone who can make both science and humanity beautiful is cool in my book. Ok, I'll be quiet now.

--
(\_/)
(O.o)
((")(")
Progress? (4.00 / 4) (#39)
by BehTong on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 10:53:18 PM EST

I don't quite agree with this:

the same march of progress toward a better world.

It seems to be that the progress of the world is anything but towards a better world. Yes, we have better technology, but people have become way more lazy and unproductive. Yes, medicine has advanced by orders of magnitude; but people are still doing stupid things that harm themselves. Yes, we have codified cherished ideals like tolerance, human rights, etc., but everywhere we see these ideals talked about but not practiced. Yes, the standard of living of many countries have dramatically improved, and more countries are heading the same way, but we find ourselves increasingly stressed under an increasingly demanding life of schedules, deadlines, and endlessly more things that must be done. Yes, we know so much more about nutrition, yet who actually has a healthy diet? The list goes on and on.

To me, the answer must lie elsewhere. Progress itself is meaningless. In fact, it's questionable whether it's true progress, or we've just built better toys to amuse ourselves with, but nothing has really changed.

Beh Tong Kah Beh Si!

Progress and Technology (4.00 / 1) (#47)
by spaceghoti on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:24:19 AM EST

Bear in mind that there's more to progress than neat gadgets and labor-saving devices.

Progress means a lot of things, and doesn't mean a lot of other things. It means that humanity is moving forward. Whether the destination is one we would prefer is irrelevant. We're changing and modifying, opening some doors and closing others. It does not assume that things are getting better, it merely suggests that the world is not the same as it was.

However, I'm willing to make an optimistic claim that humanity is showing some improvement. While you may feel that we're falling far short of the mark, I believe that we've still come a lot farther than we used to. The concept of democracy was introduced by the Greeks, but even they believed in a feudal caste system. It's only been in recent centuries that the concept of freedom and equality for everyone regardless of birth, race or gender has been taken seriously. I'm not aware of any other point in history that can make that claim.

I'm also of the opinion that our technological prowess is a good thing. The Romans were frighteningly advanced for their day, both in their military and peacetime technologies. They literally paved the way for better communication and healthier living, even if they hadn't grasped many of the fundamentals of medicine we take for granted today. Today we're aware of the failings of ourselves and our neighbors, and that's largely due to our increased capacity for communication and education. We have yet to find a way to balance technology's role in our lives, but I believe that should come with time.

We're not perfect. Far from it. But we're working on it. I think that's encouraging in itself.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Well (none / 0) (#76)
by BehTong on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 08:19:19 AM EST

It's only been in recent centuries that the concept of freedom and equality for everyone regardless of birth, race or gender has been taken seriously. I'm not aware of any other point in history that can make that claim.

And what makes us so sure that is necessarily a "better" thing? I know we'd like to assume it's a better thing, but how would we know for sure?

We're not perfect. Far from it. But we're working on it. I think that's encouraging in itself.

Heh, I know we're working on it. But how is that "encouraging"? We've been working on it for countless centuries and millenia. Sometimes it seems that we get rid of one problem only to have another pop up somewhere else. It almost feels like endless mole-whacking.

Beh Tong Kah Beh Si!
[ Parent ]

Subjective (none / 0) (#128)
by spaceghoti on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 06:16:54 PM EST

what makes us so sure that is necessarily a "better" thing?

Well, I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm of the opinion that making the most of the pool of labor and creativity available to us is a "Good Thing." You never know what good ideas or works might spring out of the most unlikely sources, so if everyone is given equal status for equal vote and equal reward, everyone benefits in the long run. Not to mention, it improves morale of people, which means less negativity to spread around and drag people down.

Again, it is by no means perfect or complete, but we've come farther than any other point in history.

We've been working on it for countless centuries and millenia.

So we have, and hopefully so we will continue. Progress is rarely measured in leaps, but tiny steps. Each step brings us farther and farther along the track of "progress," providing us with the means to push even farther. As someone else has clarified, it's a continuing cycle that includes setbacks and regression, but the cycle itself moves forward. Should we stop all movement, we would stagnate and that would mark our death as a species.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Stop all movement? (none / 0) (#130)
by BehTong on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 06:35:26 PM EST

Should we stop all movement, we would stagnate and that would mark our death as a species.

I wasn't trying to say we should stop all movement. I was just suggesting that perhaps we're going about things the wrong way. Perhaps we should stop for a moment to reconsider, and perhaps start in another direction, instead of blindly going along with what everybody else is doing.

Beh Tong Kah Beh Si!
[ Parent ]

Your radical ideas about philosophy ... (1.00 / 1) (#48)
by xriso on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:55:36 AM EST

... have already occured to others

Your ideas appear to come from <u>Jean-Jaques Rousseau</u>. Congratulations!
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]

Who is this "We"? (3.50 / 2) (#105)
by Wah on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:30:30 PM EST

The we who "have become way more lazy and unproductive" yet "find ourselves increasingly stressed under an increasingly demanding life of schedules, deadlines, and endlessly more things that must be done."

I believe that do get any useful thought out of the idea of progress you have to narrow it down a bit. Have we progressed in the ease of suffering? Yes, both physical and mental. Have we porgressed in the treatment of our fellow beings? Yes, on the whole (although this is eminently arguable). Have we progressed in the understanding and control of the world around us? Yes, without a doubt. Have we made cooler toys? Hells yea. Have we made it easier to learn about all these things? Again, without doubt.

Maybe you can elucidate on what areas "we" haven't made much progress? And help me out with who this "we" is anyway.

And for some other stuff to chew on, I think freedom and will are good indicators of progress. If one has the freedom to act and generates the will to do what they want, if they are able to do so without unnecessry difficulty, then this is a good indicator of progress. The degree to which these possiblities change over time would indicate progree or the lack thereof. I pick this aspect of progress since I believe it to be one of the more fundamental.
--
Choas and order, flowing down the drain of time. Ain't it purdy? | SSP
[ Parent ]

Philosophers ? How about their works too ..... (4.00 / 3) (#40)
by nr0mx on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 10:57:28 PM EST

Can you do us a favour and put down the works that make them your favourite ?. There are no shortcuts in this game, but it would still be nice to get a list of works that people find have inspired them. As you say, there is a wealth of information available right now, and sifting through them is not an easy task, and a very time consuming one.

My current read is 'The Feeling Buddha' by David Brazier. Other influences are 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' by Robert M. Pirsig ( hated 'Lila' though ), 'The Tao of Pooh' by Benjamin Hoff. 'Tao Te Ching'. 'What is man ?', the essay by Mark Twain.

You may argue that they are not philosophers in the strict sense of the word, but that's beside the point. Philosophers are those whose works inspire you.

BTW, great article!!



Inspiration (2.00 / 1) (#88)
by Mike Connell on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 10:33:50 AM EST

Philosophers are those whose works inspire you.

Surely those who inspire you are artists. Philosophers, through reason, clarify and elucidate the world that lies between empirical science and religion.

0.02 etc

[ Parent ]

Defining a philosopher. (3.00 / 1) (#97)
by nr0mx on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:39:00 AM EST

The definition here says the following :
  • a person who seeks wisdom or enlightenment,
  • a student of philosophy,
  • a person whose philosophical perspective makes meeting trouble with equanimity easier
  • an expounder of a theory in a particular area of experience
  • one who philosophizes
To this end, I consider the ability to inspire an essential part in my accepting and assimilating the philosophy in question. I agree with you on the last statement, but artists and philosophers need not be mutually exclusive definitions.



[ Parent ]

Sigmund Freud (3.50 / 4) (#42)
by BlowCat on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 11:40:00 PM EST

Next time you are feeding your daughter, tell her about Sigmund Freud.

Favorite Philosopher (1.00 / 1) (#43)
by fuzzcat on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 11:52:13 PM EST

Personally, I have to go with Emmanuel Levinas. His work in "Time and the Other" is just blows every other philosopher I've ever read completely out of existence.

The concept of existence in the eyes of the Other leads down some very interesting roads. I also love the idea of passivity as an ideal.

I strongly recommend picking up The Levinas Reader (edited by Sean Hand) if you'd like an introduction to Levinasian theory.

cyclic methodologies - analogies (2.00 / 1) (#45)
by adiffer on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:09:45 AM EST

36 core plots? Someone has to have a desription of those written up somewhere. Does anyone have a link?

On that note, though, that gives us 36 building blocks with which to interpret the world and the actions of others within it. That is actually quite a lot because we also tend to use combinations and permutations of them. DNA molecules get away with four basic building blocks yet the genetic codes of life are quite rich. With many more building blocks available to us, our cultural codes have the potential to be MUCH more complex. Your personal contradictions are excellent examples of these combinations.

Look around you and you will find that close inspection of any one part of any one of our societies suggests simplicity and repetition of history. Look at the bigger picture, though, and you will find that the cycles are going round, but their centers are moving too. Are the centers cyclic in a closed sense?

Science is one example of a larger collection of small cycles. Each of us work our little problems, write our papers, teach our classes, and so on. In the bigger picture, though, only the blind would think Science hasn't moved in the last 400 years.

I like these kind of stories whether they are in a diary or not. Please keep it up.
-Dream Big. --Grow Up.

36 dramatic plots (3.66 / 3) (#94)
by Pseudoephedrine on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:23:11 AM EST

Here's a link to it on Anders Sandberg's homepage.

I think you'd like Hegel, btw. He had a very similar viewpoint on history.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]

Why I'm still interested in philosophy (3.66 / 3) (#46)
by HagakureGuy on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:21:41 AM EST

As a philosopher (in the "lover of wisdom" sense, not paid professional), I would say there are two reasons while I am still actively interested in going on.

1. No matter how many incredibly brilliant people have asked (and answered) these questions before, this is the first time around for me.

2. Maybe we are approaching a time where there are some fundamentally new things under the sun. It may soon be possible for people to live for hundreds of years. What will that do to the sense of family? How about cloning and genetic engineering? What about the potential for universal, near-instantaneous access to information and each other (the reason that I have a Teilhard de Chardin book in my "to read" stack). Extrapolating out even further, what if we do get to the Star Trek era, where we can modify matter on command? What will we value if everyone can drive around in a solid gold Rolls-Royce?

I don't have the answers, but I find the search fun and interesting.


Trek era values (2.00 / 1) (#122)
by yogger on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:24:03 PM EST

Extrapolating out even further, what if we do get to the Star Trek era, where we can modify matter on command? What will we value if everyone can drive around in a solid gold Rolls-Royce?

Good taste would be my most immediate answer. Following that there is always that odd sentimental value we place on things. Yes, you could "replicate" gramma's old crockpot down to the smallest detail; however to me, I just can't imagine it feeling the same.

The is only a test .sig
If it were a real .sig it would contain useful and/or funny information
[ Parent ]
Couple of sciencey points (4.33 / 6) (#49)
by rusty on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:55:49 AM EST

Long ago it was postulated that all matter was composed of tiny elements so small they could not be separated. Nobody knew whether or not it was true because no one had any way to test it. Finally, technology progressed to the point where we could test the theory and found it to be true.

...and then we found that if it was true, that pretty much screws some of the other things we tested and found true, so now we're hedging on the whole "indivisible point particle" thing with strings and superstrings and multiple dimensions and whatever the current fashionable explanation is. Look for this worm to turn many more times in the future.

Also long ago, it was postulated that the Universe revolved around the Earth. Everyone accepted this was true because no one was aware of feeling any motion on the Earth. Technology progressed to the point where we could test the theory and found it to be false.

And then along came Einstein, who proved that there is no absolute frame of reference. Though little commented on, one of the conclusions you can draw from this is that "assume the Earth is the only fixed point in the universe" is a perfectly valid stance to take. It might make the model a bit more complex, but it's no more wrong than assuming the Earth revolves around the Sun.

What goes around comes around, unless you assume a different frame of reference, in which case what comes around goes around.

____
Not the real rusty

Invisible Unicorns (1.00 / 1) (#52)
by joecool12321 on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:39:18 AM EST

"assume the Earth is the only fixed point in the universe" is a perfectly valid stance to take.

So, umm, yeah...I have thus, uh, Invisible Unicorn in my house. And it's cool. My friends always wonder, why they can't see it, but...duh: it's invisible. (sheesh) And then they start asking me why they can't see its droppings. Well, that's obvious: it doesn't eat!

And so on and so on I could go. Yet I don't - or at least, you shouldn't believe in the invisible unicorn. Why? Occam's Razor, the KISS principle. One could believe the earth is the center of the universe, as long as one also accepts an incredibly complicated model of planetary motion. But we don't: there's a simpler answer that predicts.

--Joey

[ Parent ]

Not a question of Truth (2.00 / 1) (#63)
by rusty on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:20:43 AM EST

I'm not talking about believing anything. Belive it or don't, doesn't make any difference. My point is that in an Einsteinian universe (see spaceghoti's comment above) it's equally possible to assume that your frame of reference is a fixed point at the center of the earth as it is to assume it's a fixed imaginary point outside the whole universe (which is what you want it to be).

It would, as I said, make the model a lot more cumbersome to deal with if we took our fixed point to be the center of the Earth, and needlessly so. So we all usually adopt the "fixed imaginary point outside the whole shebang" model, because it's pretty. No argument on the utility of doing that. My point is that neither model is more true. Just that some are more convenient.

And none of this has anything to do with invisible unicorms.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Factor in the distances (2.00 / 1) (#71)
by caine on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:06:44 AM EST

It would, as I said, make the model a lot more cumbersome to deal with if we took our fixed point to be the center of the Earth, and needlessly so.

If you can say that it becomes more cumbersome, putting the "fixed" point at the center of the Earth, obviously this causes more and more complicatied movement and calculations relative to other bodies in the universe. This would suggest that another point is actually more suitable as fixed point since things must move less and more predictable relative to it. Even if you have a circle adrift in nothingness, it still has a center. There may not be a One Ultimate Truth (TM), but there may be some things closer to the truth than others.

Then, on the other hand, I have no idea if it actually WOULD be more encumbering, and therefor possible to draw this conclusion, because IAMNAAP (I am not an astrophysic), but it's an argument against what you're saying.

--

[ Parent ]

oh dear (4.00 / 1) (#80)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:10:49 AM EST

Both you and rusty are a little confused, but he much less than you.

This would suggest that another point is actually more suitable as fixed point since things must move less and more predictable relative to it

No. What Einstein showed is that any frame of reference is exactly as good as any other from the standpoint of the universe. There is no such "best point" to use as your frame of reference.

A heliocentric model of the Solar System involves much less in the way of numerical complexity than a geocentric one, but this is merely a local condition.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Read, rinse and repeat (1.00 / 1) (#116)
by caine on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:14:46 PM EST

If you'd actually read what I wrote, I wasn't saying anything about what Einstein said, and everything about what Rusty said. As I stated, Rusty might very well have it wrong, that calculations would be easier if you put "the point" somewhere else, but assuming it actually was easier somewhere, it was a sign it actually was a better point.

I don't argue against Mr E, simply because I don't have a clue about this on any interesting scale. I do whoever have a clue about Rusty's argument. And I'd like to point out that Einstein did designate one point of reference, which he's been rather famous for.

--

[ Parent ]

Not quite (none / 0) (#156)
by JetJaguar on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 02:28:24 AM EST

Well, yes and no. I would say that what you're getting at has more to do with symmetry, than special reference frames. It's sort of like trying to do calculations on a sphere using cartesian coordinates. You can do it, but the math becomes a lot easier if you make the transformation into spherical coordinates.

Any "special" point(s) of reference are usually chosen for this reason, because the symmetry of the problem makes a particular point the logical choice, and makes the problem easier to solve/conceptualize. That doesn't mean that the chosen point is special in any way, it just means that the math becomes a lot easier to work with in a particular coordinate system, when you choose the right point as your origin. But that doesn't really make that place special, you could choose other reference points that would theoretically work just as well under a different system, or may not depending on the symmetry.

[ Parent ]

Once more with feeling (2.00 / 1) (#158)
by caine on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 04:37:52 AM EST

I totally agree with you that any special point is chosen often for reasons because of the symmetry, but they're also chosen based on an outside reference frame that's usually available, because you've limited the system you study. On Earth we often limit our systems so we can use the Earth as a reference frame outside the system. In an unlimited system, which the universe would be, you would have no outside reference frame, and probably no point which would be better to perform calculations from or not. However if you as Rusty implied, that there's certain points that's harder to base your calculations of, it's often a sure sign that that it's more fixed compared to your outside reference than other points.

Now, if you've already stated that the there is no outside reference, this would be RAA, and make either the premise "there's no outside reference" or "some points are easier to calculate from" false. I would guess on the latter.

By the way, if you can't understand why a point is easier to calculate from if it's more fixed, think of this example. You're measuring the speed of a ball falling down a ramp on the Earth. You're interested in it's speed relative to the crust of the Earth. You can either measure the location of a point on the balls hull or, a point in the dead center. Both can be used to calculate the speed, but one is much easier than the other. Why? Because it's got less movement relative to your reference frame.

--

[ Parent ]

Clarification (none / 0) (#159)
by caine on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 04:40:22 AM EST

However if you as Rusty implied, that there's certain points that's harder to base your calculations of, it's often a sure sign that that it's more fixed compared to your outside reference than other points.

Should be: However if you as Rusty implied, that there's certain points that's harder to base your calculations of, it's often a sure sign that that it's less fixed compared to your outside reference than other points.

--

[ Parent ]

Ok (none / 0) (#179)
by JetJaguar on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:57:14 PM EST

Well, I think we are more or less in agreement, but I disagree with you that certain points may be somehow special, although I guess it depends on what you mean by special. If by special, you mean that the symmetry of a problem might dictate a certain choice of origin and coordinate system, then I would probably more or less agree, I guess I'm just not so sure I like giving that point "special" status though, to me it's more of a natural requirement. The kind of problem you are trying to solve dictates the reference frame and coordinate system you use to solve it in, which makes your choice more of a matter of context. Even with respect to the example of the ball you gave. If you are interested in the overall motion of the ball, then the natural reference point is the center of the ball, but what if you need, for example, to solve a problem in the reference frame of that point on the surface of the rolling ball? The center of rotation is still an important factor, since you have to use it to calculate the transformations of rest frames as the surface point moves through them, but the center isn't really important anymore other than as a transformation point. Well, I don't know if I'm quite making sense, it's been a while since I've played around with rotating reference frames...

As for a special reference frame, the only frame that I might consider to be special, might be the rest-frame of the big bang, all other frames are more or less chosen for convenience. There is some observational evidence that there is a cosmological rest frame, a few years ago the cobe satellite detected redshifts and blueshifts in the cosmic background radiation (the result of our own rotation about the galactic center) which was a somewhat unexpected discovery.

[ Parent ]

Science twists (3.00 / 1) (#53)
by spaceghoti on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 02:13:49 AM EST

...so now we're hedging on the whole "indivisible point particle" thing...

Yes, but then you get into the subatomic range and discover there's a whole new set of rules. Technically, Democritus and Leucippos are correct. If you take a lump of silicon, the last bit of matter you can strip away and still have silicon is the atom. Separate that and you discover subatomic elements, but what's left isn't silicon anymore. It's still a matter of perspective, but from a logical point of view the atomic theory is still valid. It just happens to open the door for a new host of questions, which is the only constant in science as we know it.

...along came Einstein, who proved that there is no absolute frame of reference.

This is why scientists have taken to referring to "Newtonian" and "Einsteinian" universes. The Newtonian universe is the one we can perceive and interact with reliably. The Einsteinian universe is far more complex, and while it complements the Newtonian it seems to operate on a whole new set of rules. In the Newtonian universe, the Earth's motion is determined by the Sun's gravity, which in turn is trapped by the gravity of the Milky Way, which in turn...

As far as the interaction of celestial bodies within the Newtonian universe, there is a distinct frame of reference, even if we don't have a concrete picture of the whole. The Earth is most definitely not the center of the Universe. Last I read, we're on the outer fringes speeding away.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Centre of the Universe (2.50 / 2) (#74)
by spiralx on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:49:41 AM EST

The Earth is most definitely not the center of the Universe. Last I read, we're on the outer fringes speeding away.

Probably because there is no such thing as the centre of the Universe.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

No center to infinity (none / 0) (#132)
by acronos on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:00:06 PM EST

While there is no center to infinity, we have yet to prove the universe is infinite. The center may be relative, but we surely don't know everything yet. The big bang theory would put us on the fringe of an ever expanding universe. Maybe in a philosophy thread people will forgive me for saying that truth is only true in one context of assumptions. The universe as a whole has so far proven far too complex for the human mind to put in one context. So we keep our little boxes handy and pull them out to keep our world within a framework that we can understand. While I appreciate you expanding the discussion by bring in a new perspective, it is probable that you are as wrong as the rest of us. To sum up, there is an absolute truth, but only in the right context.

Wheeeeiiii, this is fun. I bet that that is why people like philosophy. I bet it is more fun to write than read though.

[ Parent ]
Who said anything about infinity? (none / 0) (#163)
by spiralx on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 07:50:07 AM EST

While there is no center to infinity, we have yet to prove the universe is infinite.

Unless a) everything we know about cosmology is wrong and b) there's a solution to Olber's paradox then the Universe is definitely not infinite!

But that doesn't mean the Universe has a centre. Imagine a balloon with spots painted on its surface. Now as you blow the balloon up the spots recede from each other, but there is no "centre" of the balloon's surface. In a similar way our Universe is expanding at all points, not from any centre.

While I appreciate you expanding the discussion by bring in a new perspective, it is probable that you are as wrong as the rest of us.

Well that's a good way to say "I don't know what I'm talking about, but my perspective is just as valid!".

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

hmm... (none / 0) (#172)
by acronos on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:22:33 AM EST

But that doesn't mean the Universe has a centre. Imagine a balloon with spots painted on its surface. Now as you blow the balloon up the spots recede from each other, but there is no "centre" of the balloon's surface. In a similar way our Universe is expanding at all points, not from any centre.

If it is a sphere it has a point that is equidistant from all points of the surface that many might consider the "center." If "center" is defined such that it has to be in one of the dots or on the surface then said balloon has no center. My point was that it is a matter of context or perspective. The context of the word "center" in this discussion has not been clearly defined. That balloon has a center of mass. This is not a very fruitful discussion.

In a similar way our Universe is expanding at all points, not from any centre.

Your balloon and Universe IS expanding from a center. There is a center place where all of this matter is moving away.

Concerning Olber's paradox, is the universe composed only of matter or does the space in between count? If the space in between counts then the universe can have infinite space but finite matter. This would make the universe infinite because the space counts in this context.

This discussion is silly. I don't see any point in arguing symantecs. We both pretty much agree on the physics.

[ Parent ]

Nope (none / 0) (#177)
by spiralx on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 06:33:07 AM EST

The Universe in the context of this analogy is the surface of the balloon. There is no centre of the Universe that is within the Universe, so it's a meaningless concept.

This discussion is silly. I don't see any point in arguing symantecs. We both pretty much agree on the physics.

Well apart from the fact that you're saying one of the core ideas of cosmology is wrong, yes.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

center of the universe (5.00 / 1) (#142)
by nodsmasher on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:20:49 PM EST

there actully can be a center ot infinity, like teh origin of a graph
the universe was created from a single point and is all speading away from that point, there should be a point hypotheticly some ware that all matter is going away from equally.
only problem with finding this point is that matter is acually speading up as it go's farther way so it looks like all matter is actuly speading a way from the earth.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
-Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
Wrong (none / 0) (#164)
by spiralx on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 07:56:16 AM EST

the universe was created from a single point and is all speading away from that point, there should be a point hypotheticly some ware that all matter is going away from equally.

Nope, that's wrong. See my balloon analogy below. There is no "central point" of the Universe.

only problem with finding this point is that matter is acually speading up as it go's farther way so it looks like all matter is actuly speading a way from the earth.

Matter isn't "speading [sic] up" at all... it's the expansion of the spacetime metric that makes up the Universe that causes things to appear as if they were moving away from us. The key point of cosmology is that no matter where you are in the Universe you will see the same expansion of the Universe.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Distance and General Relativity (5.00 / 1) (#167)
by Ranieri on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 11:19:52 AM EST

One of the crucial concepts in general relativity is that the position of two points (measured in coordinate numbers) and the distance of the same two points are not necessarily related by the eulerian distance formula (s^2 = dx^2 + dy^2 + dz^2) as they would be in Newtonian physics/in a flat (euclidean) space-time. The formula that connects coordinates to distance (the so called line element, or metric) depends on the geometry of space time, and therefore on the distribution of matter therein. As prof. Guth put it, "Matter tells space how to curve, space tells matter how to move".

Now let's consider the expanding universe. We see that the distance betwen two stars is increasing. Does this mean that the two stars are moving away from in other (in coordinate space)? Confusingly enough the answer to this question is "not necessarily".
Since the metric of the universe changes with time, so does the the way we measure distance. This reflects the expansion of space itself, much like (as spiralx was trying to tell you) dots on a balloon don't move relative to the balloon, yet move further away from each other. We are on the three-dimensional surface of a four-dimensional balloon.
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]

Agreed (none / 0) (#170)
by priestess on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 02:54:37 PM EST

Einstein did indeed show that your frame of reference is set for simplicity rather than truth, but even Newton knew that the earth and the sun both in fact rotate around their common center of mass, which is pretty close to the center of the sun but not quite there.

Then, of course, you have all those other planets messing things up even more.

I did find it interesting when, fairly recently, the Catholic Pope finally agreed that the earth isn't the center of the universe and they still have it wrong. Phew!

Pre............

----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
"Other, Please Comment" was a genius in (2.75 / 4) (#50)
by xriso on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:02:29 AM EST

I'd have to go with Locke though. His model of the human mind is one of the best I've seen so far.

I am a machine! Give me sense data [x]or give me death!


--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)

Why philosophize: (4.00 / 3) (#51)
by Apuleius on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:08:00 AM EST

1. The questions haven't changed much, nor has the range of answers, but I for one need my own answer to these questions, and that means ruminating over prior work yet again, and inflicting my own answers on others where appropriate.

2. The context in which these are asked differs from man to man. Marcus Aurelius's thoughts are to be expected, coming as they are from a Roman emperor who doesn't feel like dealing with petty court intrigue, hence the gist of his neo-stoic worldview: don't sweat the small stuff. (Ironically, had our man Marcus sweated the small stuff, he might have noticed just how unfit his son was for the throne and picked someone else. His allowing Commodus to be his heir is a major blot on his name.) But I am not a monarch, hell, I don't even have servants. A philosopher preaching to peasants would have more to say to me.

3. The context in which these questions are asked has changed over the centuries. The transformation of the structure of society has changed our view of what is moral and what isn't. The future holds more of the same. Science has given us answers to questions the Greeks could only speculate on, changing our outlook toward the answers Plato and Aristotle gave. Our knowledge on biology changes how we discuss human nature. The existence of computers means we define what is human not just in comparison with the animals, but with machines.

4. It gives me something to do.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Other philosophers. (3.66 / 3) (#56)
by Apuleius on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 02:35:05 AM EST

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest who devoted a major part of his life to writing a reconciliation of Catholic doctrine and evolution along the lines of Thomas Aquinas's attempt to reconcile Catholic doctrine with Aristotle. His work does not have the rigor philosophers demand of each other, but it does have a good lot of tasty cud for the reader to chew on. He coined the term noösphere, which in many ways predicted the existence of the Web, and in the 1950's speculated that the noösphere, would be built through computers, and is thus quite possibly the first to think that computers would be used for communication rather than just calculation. Tom Wolfe wrote a chapter on him in his latest book, Hooking Up and that helped bring Chardin a new amount of popularity. His work lacks strictness and rigor, but those are over-rated anyway.

The mathematician Gian Carlo Rota makes a good case for my off-hand comment in his book Indiscrete Thoughts. It's a shame the man died before putting more of his philosophy on paper.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
You've heard of him? (2.00 / 1) (#58)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 02:44:31 AM EST

Rad. I'm one of those philosophers for whom he didn't have enough rigor, but I liked some of his stuff a bit. As for the Noösphere, I liked the direction that in which Popper took the idea, but I hadn't heard that reference from the 50's. Thanks.



[ Parent ]

Thanks to Tom Wolfe. (3.00 / 2) (#59)
by Apuleius on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 02:53:58 AM EST

I am the ultimate NPR dilletante.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
A few comments (4.50 / 6) (#60)
by joecool12321 on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:01:31 AM EST

Well, where to start? I'm not going to wade through the whole thing, but I'll start at the beginning and go as far as I'm able to.

You say there are no new thoughts in the world today. It does not mean there will never be new thoughts, new ideas. After all, someone `thunk it' for the first time. Plato, Aristotle, Dante, and Shakespeare, from nearly anyone's point of view, are more than great. They were dominant culture shapers: they exist in a world pretty much of their own making, in terms of creating movements, having people react to them, really setting the agenda. It's exciting that Plato and Aristotle lived one right after the other. I see no reason to think there won't be another `original thought' at some point in the future.

The point of your next paragraph is unclear to me. It seems that you are saying, "Hey, Plato and Aristotle are still around, so, hey, we must not be getting very far!" Could it possibly be the case that their overwhelming brilliance led to the creation of works fundamental to the very essence of what it means to be human? Their applicability is a persuasive argument (in my mind) that there is more to the person than their limited culture: there is something (wonderfully indefinably) human about each and every one of us, which transcends twenty-five hundred years. And you can't say, "Well, they were the first, so we're just reacting to a bad foundation." While they may have laid a bad foundation (and they are obviously wrong about some things), they did so brilliantly. I don't see their persistence as a particular problem.

Your third paragraph is entertaining, if nothing else. I'm beginning to sense a definite temporal elitism. Perhaps marriage is still around because <gasp> it's a good idea. Perhaps religion touches at the core of something that is humanity.

Well, that's about all the energy I have right now...I've gotten weak.

--Joey

Responses (5.00 / 1) (#133)
by spaceghoti on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:06:41 PM EST

Sorry it's taken me so long to get to you. There's far too much for me to address.

I see no reason to think there won't be another `original thought' at some point in the future.

That's fairly subjective. Certainly, someone had to "thunk" it the first time, and I grant you that. Einstein had some fairly original thoughts that spawned an entire new generation of scientific research and investigation. Like Isaac Newton, he made observations about the world that were so fundamental people never saw them. He had the added benefit of a genius capable of expressing those ideas in clear mathematical formula. However, most people build on or are inspired by the work of those who came before. Freeman Dyson is a good example of this. By and large, new and original thoughts are going to be extremely rare and can't be depended on, and you can't always assume they weren't built on someone else's work. It's safer to assume there isn't anything new coming up, just clarifications of the old.

I don't see their persistence as a particular problem.

Frankly, neither do I. I'm not always as clear as I'd like to be, and usually not as clear as I ought to be. That's why I stuck that disclaimer in the intro. You are witness to the recording of my thoughts and the process I use to validate them.

I'm not saying that it's a problem we can still apply Plato's wisdom to the modern world. I'm saying there's a reason for it. It's like there's a reason pig meat is forbidden in certain cultures: you can get deathly ill from eating badly prepared pig. The clincher is that we figured out why we need to be careful with pork and we can now safely prepare it for human consumption. We haven't quite figured out Plato, and the reason we know this is because his words come echoing back to us through new voices. When we start applying that wisdom so that it becomes part of our culture and lives, the echoes will diminish and we'll move on to the next questions. I hope that clarifies my position somewhat.

I'm beginning to sense a definite temporal elitism.

Oh, I'm a snob. I freely admit this. And I accept there are good reasons for things like marriage and religion. Likewise, there are good reasons for diapers on small children. I say this not to be condescending, but to make a point. We had some very practical reasons for things like monogamy and religion Way Back When, and they've now been with us so long that we're heavily invested in them. However, we have some very clear examples that the insitutions we cherish are not necessarily the only ways to live and think. There are humans around the world that have different practices and beliefs, and they're very happy with them. Many of them violate our code of ethics in a multitude of ways. Does this mean that they're wrong? Does this mean that we're wrong? Or does it mean there's more than two sides to these issues? We have a lot of self-imposed boundaries and barriers to our behavior that help us get along with each other, and that's fine. The question is when will we outgrow the need for those boundaries and get along without the need for artificial guidelines?

This gets off into all sorts of tangents, which is not a bad thing. However, it does get time-consuming. If you want to know more of what I'm trying to say, browse my diaries and articles. There isn't a lot to wade through, but it's presented as clearly as I know how.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Cultural context can be a bear... (none / 0) (#144)
by seebs on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:35:53 PM EST

It's certainly unclear whether any of our social institutions are, in and of themselves, necessary... But just as the people who don't have the same institutions often seem to be happy, so too are many of the people who *do* have these institutions.

I know people who grew up in cultures with arranged marriages. While I would be horribly upset at being paired off for life with someone I might not even know, apparently it works out pretty well. They get social stability, and no one has to spend a lot of time dating. It's not such a bad trade-off.


[ Parent ]
You're looking for a contradiction,... (4.14 / 7) (#61)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:08:42 AM EST

... funny, I'm of the opinion that the universe doesn't really have any.

Even as a professional(in training) philosopher I don't have much of an answer for your main question, "why do it?". That isn't my sub-field of philosophy. However, I would disagree with the proposition that Plato and Aristotle's wisdom covered the issues to any great extent. I see the situation as similar to that of the first primate to walk upright and hit their shin against a table. Their lessions may be relivant, but that doesn't imply that they are all that important. Some things are relivant because they show you what not to do again.

About the other question, "why do anything?": my answer is pretty simple, because I'm here and that implies that I must do something. More than that, I even find myself to have drives and desires for some things and states of affairs. I find myself there each morning, and if I don't get up, well, I find myself there again in a few hours. So far I haven't been able to lay there for more than a couple of tens of hours before I'm impelled to move and do things.

I don't see the question as "why do anything", I see it as "what do I wish to do?", "what do I will to happen?".

As for the poll, I don't know that I have a single favorite philosopher. I never really had a favorite color as a child, or favorite band. I'm not sure I form many thoughts of that type, favorites and whatnot. So I'll just name a good one that I like a good bit, one that always seems to give me a chuckle and an insight rolled in one, David Hume.



Why do anything? Why be anything? (3.00 / 3) (#106)
by dcheesi on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:31:49 PM EST

Heh, perhaps you've never been seriously depressed (at least since you adopted this philosophy). There are plenty of depressed people who would gladly spend the rest of their life in bed, and/or try to end it. "'Cause I'm here" isn't a good enough reason for them. That's one of the reasons why people ask these questions.

Another reason is to make sure that we're not doing the wrong thing, and in our ignorance defeating our greater purpose. Since I don't believe in absolute purpose (neither do you I'd guess), I'm not the best cheerleader for this issue; but for some, it's very important.

[ Parent ]

Actually... (none / 0) (#174)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 04:36:22 AM EST

I have be "seriously depressed", if by that you are refering to clinical definitions. Even then I found myself moving, getting out of bed at some point, even when it was after 16 to 18 hours in bed. Even after I crumpled to the floor weeping over the lack of meaning in life, I was still there, breathing.

In the end, the "because I have to do something" really did help me with the depression. I saw it as taking depression to the logical extreme and letting it defeat itself (I did the same with same "serious paranoia"). Even killing oneself to get out of the rest of life is doing something. Even staying in bed is doing something. I must do something. So what is it that I actually have some desire, no matter how small, to do?

Answering that question, despite my constant failures to do what I really want to do, does help me stave off my depressive thoughts (with various degrees of success).

Then again, I could be an outlying modifier. I certainly admit that is possible. Other people might find other lines of thought helpful with depression. Sometimes it helped to call dear friends and tell them that I was thinking of offing myself in order to keep from going further down that road. I knew that I couldn't kill myself right after talking to them b/c that would be a heavy burden on someone I cared about. So, sure, other people's mileage with depression may vary, but "because I am here and find myself to have desires" was a key for me. It isn't all that polite of you to assume otherwise.



[ Parent ]

ignore comment rating (4.00 / 1) (#151)
by johnnyc on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 12:26:25 AM EST

Enjoyed your post and thought I had rated it 4 - somehow it came out as a 2. Seems this has happened to me before. Wouldn't mind /. type ratings her at k5. They're more descriptive, and I make less mistakes with them.

[ Parent ]
Thanks (none / 0) (#173)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 04:17:58 AM EST

I've had brief interchanges with rusty about just having a single number to rate things with. Somehow I've come to be convinced that it is quite possibly the best solution to a subtle problem.



[ Parent ]

The danger of experimenting in philosophy. (3.80 / 5) (#62)
by Apuleius on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:16:45 AM EST

Here's the real reason why philosophy cannot attain any of its goals: covering new ground can be downright dangerous. From Candide.

One day when Miss Cunegund went to take a walk in a little neighboring wood which was called a park, she saw, through the bushes, the sage Doctor Pangloss giving a lecture in experimental philosophy to her mother's chambermaid, a little brown wench, very pretty, and very tractable. As Miss Cunegund had a great disposition for the sciences, she observed with the utmost attention the experiments which were repeated before her eyes; she perfectly well understood the force of the doctor's reasoning upon causes and effects. She retired greatly flurried, quite pensive and filled with the desire of knowledge, imagining that she might be a sufficing reason for young Candide, and he for her.
On her way back she happened to meet the young man; she blushed, he blushed also; she wished him a good morning in a flattering tone, he returned the salute, without knowing what he said. The next day, as they were rising from dinner, Cunegund and Candide slipped behind the screen. The miss dropped her handkerchief, the young man picked it up. She innocently took hold of his hand, and he as innocently kissed hers with a warmth, a sensibility, a grace-all very particular; their lips met; their eyes sparkled; their knees trembled; their hands strayed. The Baron chanced to come by; he beheld the cause and effect, and, without hesitation, saluted Candide with some notable kicks on the breech and drove him out of doors. The lovely Miss Cunegund fainted away, and, as soon as she came to herself, the Baroness boxed her ears. Thus a general consternation was spread over this most magnificent and most agreeable of all possible castles.
I'm sorry. Couldn't help it.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
No one likes a smart-ass..... (1.00 / 1) (#64)
by morkeleb on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:56:47 AM EST

Except me of course =)
"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry." - Emily Dickinson
[ Parent ]
Favorite Philosophers (3.00 / 2) (#65)
by fraise on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:13:03 AM EST

Douglas Hofstadter, for "Gödel - Escher - Bach", Paul Ricoeur, and Bourdieu for his "engaged philosopher" role. I may not agree with everything of Bourdieu's, but I like thinkers who live what they philosophize. Ricoeur a few years ago co-wrote a book with neuroscientist Jean-Pierre Changeux titled "What Makes Us Think? A Neuroscientist and a Philosopher Argue about Ethics, Human Nature, and the Brain".

As for the whole question of relevance, you can claim "repeats", but when you get into details (which is where the real meat in life is), I am the only human of my name born on my birthday in my city, county, state, country, planet, who speaks way too many human languages and who studied at my kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools, and later universities, who has a boyfriend of his name born on his birthday who knows way too many computer languages, etc. etc. Noone ever shares the same life, thus noone can ever truly share the exact same beliefs, because their interpretations will naturally be different, due to their life experience. It could be an infinitely small difference, but a difference is just that. Anyway adiffer already wrote about cyclical methodologies, which is where my reasoning leads (or comes from...).

On that vein: Daniel Dennet. (1.00 / 1) (#68)
by Apuleius on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 05:36:26 AM EST

Consciousness Explained is a good book.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
true (1.00 / 1) (#79)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:06:44 AM EST

But "The Mystery of Consciousness" by John Searle is better.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Dennett Schmenett (2.00 / 1) (#91)
by minra on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 10:55:27 AM EST

Sorry no time to make links, but...

Dennett is a mechanist. A holdover from the Strong AI camp.

He pictures consciousness as the interplay of little programs acting in a strong-ai fuzzy logic kind of way.

He fails to respect the chaos induced by self-awareness (the recursive self-symbol as I call it :-) and the deep mysteries of emergent properties.

Dennett, Minsky et al made significant contributions to AI, but their entire conceptual framework is the wrong one for explaining/understanding what we call 'consciousness'.

Even Hofstaedter finds time to skewer Dennett in "Metamagical Themas", IIRC.

"Consciousness Explained" is not worth the read.

Harmful, actually, IMO.

[ Parent ]
A comment, and a plea (3.25 / 4) (#67)
by axxeman on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 05:28:49 AM EST

While this article is by no means great, it's better than a lot of the other excrement recently posted. +1.

And for the love of $deity, Signal 11, PLEASE don't write a followup.

Desperately need Egyptologist. Can you help?

We're all philosophers (3.00 / 3) (#69)
by varelse on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 05:53:16 AM EST

Though most of us don't have the "philosophers'" words to describe our wonderment of the unanswerable, we all, in our way, still poke at the questions. There are some fundamental questions that one can't help but mull over. "Why are we here?", and, "Why me?", come to mind. It's no surprise that we're "running over the same old ground, but have we found the same old fears?" (Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here)

This article reminded me of a bumper sticker or t shirt or coffee mug, I can't remember where I saw it, but the phrase was, "Always remember that you are a unique individual... just like everyone else." That to me says it all.

Your poll did overlook one of the finest philosphers of the 20th century however. Popeye, who said, "I yam what I yam and dats all dat I yam!"
-=-
I was the kid next doors imaginary friend.

you seem conflicted, grasshopper ... (4.00 / 5) (#70)
by gregholmes on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:03:42 AM EST

You have absorbed the academic contempt for tradition, family, and religion, but ... you found yourself mostly ignoring some academic argle-fargle on TV because you were busy feeding your daughter. Hmmm. Tradition, family, perhaps even a religious obligation to your family, reasserting itself?

Or were you actually complaining that you couldn't hear the argle-fargle, or pay attention to it, because of your daughter? Please tell me it wasn't that!



Conflict (4.00 / 1) (#134)
by spaceghoti on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:16:52 PM EST

Please note: I didn't hear much of what was happening because the volume was too low, Emily was making too much noise and my hands were full. This meant I couldn't relay what was being discussed because my hands were too full dealing with a fussy baby to raise the volume. I apologize for not making that clear.

Far be it for me to complain that my domestic duties kept me from my daily dose of navel-gazing. I'm far too dutiful a husband for that. What little I gleaned from the "argle-fargle" was sufficient to inspire my rambling discourse of tripe. I'm content, but I wanted the series of events that lead to my train of thought.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
The futility of philosophy (3.00 / 2) (#72)
by Hopfrog on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:36:59 AM EST

What is the point of anything? If we stay on earth, we will continue doing what we have always done. Civilisations will rise and fall.
If we travel to space, we will continue doing the same things. And then the universe will stop expanding and fold in itself, and we are gone without a trace.
There was no point to having done anything.
The conclusion of my philosphy is that there is only one way to make life unfutile : believe that the world will end when you die. And do whatever will make you happy till then.

Hop.

Actually (2.00 / 1) (#112)
by joecool12321 on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:12:26 PM EST

That's what makes life futile. Living for death doesn't make any sense. You have to live life for something other than yourself to be non-futile. Some people find God/god/gods/etc., others live for their children. Some live for their business, others for peace or chairty.

But you definately can't live like everything's gone when you die, if you want to live un-futile-ey. You might be able to be happy (but I doubt it in the "strong" sense of the word) but not significant.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
"Information society" (2.50 / 2) (#73)
by dannu on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:48:58 AM EST

an information society is one where more and more value lies in producing pure information and less and less value lies in actually producing informed things. (my own translation from german)

Vilem Flusser was most inspiring for me with his works on "information" starting in medieval times till today. His expressions and words are very connected to the world. He inspires me a lot. if somebody is interested in some german audio tapes, contact me.

which Hobbes? (3.00 / 3) (#75)
by oyenstikker on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 08:13:24 AM EST

I'm voting for the stuffed tiger.

I learned more from Bill Waterson than all the other listed philosophers. Combined.

A shot in the foot. (3.00 / 1) (#78)
by minra on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 08:58:49 AM EST

<chide>

Your capacity for philosophical treatises doesn't extend beyond a 4-cell cartoon?

I'm sorry I can't post my comments in that form. I'll try to use short paragraphs, sentences and words.

Watterson has pithy moments, yes. But your statement is an (unintended) indictment of American anti-culture.

Partly to blame is the "Myth of Modernity"; the smug belief that past thinkers had little of use to say.

Old/ancient philosophers don't speak with contemporary style. This forms a significant barrier to reading comprehension for modern pulp culture consumers.

It's laziness, really.

</chide>

[ Parent ]

RE: A shot in the dark. (3.00 / 1) (#90)
by spcmanspiff on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 10:54:49 AM EST

*snort*

Boy, is someone feeling snobby today?

I think the point the original poster made, and that I agree with, is that when it comes to making decisions, doing things, and keeping life in perspective, a well-written cartoon is better far than any Book Of Truths and Deep Thinking you can dig up by some dead white guy.

Sure, I read philosophy, but when it comes to actually living life instead of academic navel-gazing, I take my cues from the stuffed tiger Hobbes.

Irreverence is a healthy antidote to modern living and weighty metaphysics both. Maybe you ought to try it sometime instead of whining about this imagined death of culture...


[ Parent ]

Beethoven vs Backdoor Boys (4.00 / 1) (#95)
by minra on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:23:55 AM EST

Boy, is someone feeling snobby today?

Perhaps. However I assert that the greater arrogance is to not respect and study that wisdom which has been passed down over generations and proven itself applicable to many cultures and many times.

I doubt Bill Watterson will be remembered 1000 years hence and regret that you and I won't be around to test that hypothesis.

...whining about this imagined death of culture.

"Go watch 'Who's the Boss' and then we'll talk." - Bill Hicks

Those with sufficient time and interest may profit from this site [arizona.edu].

[ Parent ]

Just a thought (2.00 / 2) (#107)
by joecool12321 on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:37:55 PM EST

One of the goals of philosophy is to derive a schema for right actions. Although Aristotle argues that when someone knows right, they do right, I think it's debatable. After all, many people know it is wrong to steal, and yet people steal - whether on a large scale or a small scale. And I'm not even talking about people who justify stealing in some sense - I'm talking about the people who really think stealing is wrong.

In the same way, some people think courage is a virtue, something one should practice on a daily basis. But I ask you, "What grants more courage: thinking about courage or music that spurs one on to courage?" The music "grabs a hold" of the person, and harnesses their passion. It seems to me like the musician is more important than the philosopher, the musician more important than the philosophy.

Umm, yeah...sooo. Well, I don't know that this exactly meets with the Watterson issue, but thinking about it inspired the thoughts. Perhaps his cartoons do more to harness passion than the philosophers as well.

--Joey


[ Parent ]
Re: Dead White Guy vs Corporate Strawmen (3.50 / 2) (#111)
by spcmanspiff on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:10:54 PM EST

However I assert that the greater arrogance is to not respect and study that wisdom which has been passed down over generations and proven itself applicable to many cultures and many times.

Respect, sure. Study, yeah. But I'm talking about living life, and the best and only way to go about that is to figure it out as you go. Studying philosophy is a poor substitue for following your passions, for seeing and tasting and smelling every bit of the life experience that can possibly be eeked out of your allotted 80 years.

Now, if this Ancient Wisdom and Philosophy is your passion, then good for you: sup to your heart's content, think and dream and distill what wisdom you can. But don't fall into the trap of condemning others, or condescending to them, for valuing other things more.

I doubt Bill Watterson will be remembered 1000 years hence and regret that you and I won't be around to test that hypothesis.

Like I really care ---- Calvin & Hobbes taught me irreverence, and as far as my life is concerned that's worth ten thousand deeply reasoned theories of existence. You might disagree, but that's your life, not mine.

And as far as culture is concerned, you seem to believe that culture is some big architectural construction (like, say, an ivory tower?) that was erected by Old Masters for the universal benefit of humankind, and Oh No! It's getting old and decaying and falling apart!

News for you: Culture is a moving target, always has been, and always will be. It will never die, but it is always changing. If you don't like the change, then you can a) Ignore most of it and find a subset that you're comfortable with, b) Try to influnce it with changes of your own, or c) complain.

Anyway, that's enough for now.


[ Parent ]

Australian Broadcasting Corporation not Company (2.00 / 2) (#77)
by breakin on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 08:57:38 AM EST

didnt actualy read the article but...
Australian Broadcasting Corporation not Company.
proof is about 3 cm from the top of page at
www.abc.net.au

philosophy (2.66 / 3) (#81)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:12:30 AM EST

sadly for those who hope to make a career in these things, everything worth saying was said by Kant.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
but (3.00 / 2) (#84)
by speek on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:39:38 AM EST

You could say again intelligibly.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

this is true (1.00 / 1) (#101)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:01:41 PM EST

Kant can be pretty unreadable, so there may be jobs for two or three gifted Kant scholars to work as philosophers.

But that's about all really.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Ironic (1.00 / 1) (#89)
by kes on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 10:53:05 AM EST

sadly for those who hope to make a career in these things, everything worth saying was said by Kant.
This statement brought to you by the "Kategorischem Imperative".

[ Parent ]
Kierkegaard (3.00 / 3) (#82)
by speek on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:22:58 AM EST

Has always been my favorite philosopher. Individual relationship to the absolute, paradox of faith and all that. Plus, he's a damn good read compared to most.

Socrates gets honorable mention, and so does Richard Rorty.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

(Comparatively) Easy Reading (1.00 / 1) (#104)
by fuzzcat on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:11:12 PM EST

Plus, he's a damn good read compared to most.

Agreed. Kierkegaard was a refreshingly easy read compared to most of the philosophers in my critical theory courses.

Kierkegaard was really ahead of his time in my opinion. His response to Hegel's theories provokes thought even today -- especially when you consider the degree to which Western Civilization has embraced the rationalism of the hard sciences. Not sure that I completely agree with him on the point that science is the new Tower of Babel, but I rather like having my fundamental beliefs challenged. ;)

[ Parent ]

Life, the universe and everything ... (2.00 / 2) (#83)
by kes on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:26:14 AM EST

can be reduced to our struggle against our own mortality, trying to achieve immortality.

That is the short answer, everything we, humans, do expands this answer, gives it shape. This everything includes includes kids, family, philosophy, religions, science, technology, ...

Being Toward Death (1.00 / 1) (#99)
by fuzzcat on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:57:11 AM EST

Have you read anything by Martin Heidegger? Your view sounds quite similar to his. If haven't read behind him, you might find his work interesting.

You can find a list of works written by Heidegger that can be read online by following this link. I'd recommend Existence and Being as a great starting point.

[ Parent ]

My favorite (2.00 / 2) (#85)
by Ryan Singer on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:51:41 AM EST

My favorite would have to be Robert Nozick. He teaches at Harvard and I love his books. He wrote such titles as: "Anarchy, the State, and Utopia" and "Socratic Puzzles" and my favorite: "The Examined Life". definatly worth checking out.-Ryan Singer

Nozick (1.00 / 1) (#123)
by blkros on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:32:39 PM EST

You should use the past tense for him. He died last month.

[ Parent ]
Other... (2.00 / 2) (#86)
by CodeWright on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:55:00 AM EST

Pierre de Chardin

And how could you leave out my favorite:

Nietzche?



[406@k5] NON ILLIGITIMI CARBORUNDUM EST
Maybe because it's all wrong? (2.50 / 2) (#87)
by derek3000 on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 10:08:48 AM EST

I don't know about everyone else, but I still get a kick out of the whole subjective/objective reality thing. Maybe 2 + 2 = 5.


-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars

How come nobody ever mentions the eastern stuff? (4.00 / 7) (#92)
by Skippy on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:08:52 AM EST

I've seen one comment mention Lao-Tzu. No one has mentioned Buddhism, Taoism, or Confucianism or any of the adherents or proponents of their teachings. Is it because they are so often considered religions and not philosophies? Just curious. As for my favorite philosophers I vote for:
  • Lao Tzu - Link to Chapter 8 of the Tao Te Ching
  • Thoreau - "To be a philospher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but to so love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically."

    So there are my 2 cents worth

    # I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

  • On Eastern philosophies. (4.50 / 2) (#108)
    by nr0mx on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:46:23 PM EST

    You raise a good point. The Eastern teachings do not fit into the traditional mould of philosophy as is examined by the Western philosophers ( Nor do they easily fit in as a religion ). Maybe it is because they are from a much, much older era.

    One thing they all have in common --- All of them put forward a way of life, and emphasize the practical rather than the theoretical. i.e. to know the philosophy is to live it.

    One practical problem with these teachings is the language. You have to rely on translations for the most part, and these themselves vary on small but significant points. Even after going through the text, you are left with the conciousness of being unable to differentiate between the teaching and the interpretation of it.



    [ Parent ]

    This Article, K5, Philosophy, and Discourse (4.16 / 6) (#96)
    by fuzzcat on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:37:59 AM EST

    I am a study in contradiction, just like everyone else around me. I am confident and afraid, wise and foolish, emotional and rational. I will fail in some tests and pass in others. I speak to the moment, to the world I perceive around me without fear that the past has already said the same. I'll keep repeating it and hope that future generations repeat what I am passing on in hope of the day when we finally figure it out.

    My Modern Theory professor, Dr. Melvyn New once defined philosophy as "discourse that opens". In many ways, the real "point" of philosophy is the continuing cultural conversation that comprises it. Philosophy doesn't really seek to find one final answer or grand unified theory of existence. It seeks to preserve the discourse about existence itself.

    When you say that you "speak to the moment, to the world I perceive around me", you actually raise a very important point. Emmanuel Levinas might phrase this a little differently saying that you are speaking to the Other which gives you existence. In other words, you have chosen to enter into the discourse by conversing with a larger Other -- that which is not you. This conversation, this discourse is precisely that face-to-face interaction that gives you existence. Turning that around, you are also a part of the Other which gives me existence. In this world-view, you and I have an infinite responsibility to each other (and to everyone else) to continue the conversation.

    I want to sure that I make it clear that my role in this cultural conversation (according to Levinas) is not to attempt to grasp what you're saying. In fact, Levinas breaks with Edmund Husserl on this point and goes into it at some length. Rather than grasping ideas -- which, for Levinas, equates to shaping ideas into the form that you wish -- Levinas prefers a methodology he refers to as the caress. The caress seeks merely to understand what is there without a preconceived idea of what should be there.

    So what does K5 have to do with any of this? K5 seems to be an embodiment of this alterity. It's a marketplace of ideas and belief systems. We all converse with each other and give each other existence. K5 really is a community. We have chosen (just as you, the author of this article) to participate in the discourse.

    Sorry to use this article as a springboard for discussion of (my probably biased and somewhat wrong views of) Levinasian theory. I really enjoyed the article, and I think you touch on a lot of interesting philosophical points.

    Two Questions (4.50 / 6) (#98)
    by JetJaguar on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:45:47 AM EST

    I'm going to put this very simply. You ask "Why?" And I ask "Why not?"

    Life is very much a journey worth embarking on. While it's true that many people squander it on things that might be percieved by others to be frivolous pursuits, and sometimes they really are frivolous pursuits ;), that really isn't a good reason to give up on trying to improve yourself, or your understanding of the world.

    Even more, what makes you think that all the philosophers of times gone by really did have it all figured out? Do you really believe that everything has already been said? I sure don't. Sometimes original ideas can be hard to find, but they are out there, and on occaision they are actually good ideas!

    Post Modern Rant? (3.00 / 4) (#100)
    by Some call me Tim on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:59:56 AM EST

    "Everything that can be invented has been invented." -- Charles Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899

    I'm sorry, but even this rant is outdated. History always seems to be moving more quickly in retrospect, when you have a more perspective. Would you say that nothing important has happened in the last 100 years?

    Existential questions tend to plague us most when we are feeling low. "Why are we here?" seems to be a good question when one is really tired, depressed, overworked, or just not feeling happy with one's life in one way or another.

    When happy, satisfied, and fulfilled, one doesn't often feel the need to ask that question. So I posit that one's purpose in life is to be happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. ;)

    And getting there is the challenge. Good luck.

    Tim



    What Charles Duell Said (4.00 / 3) (#103)
    by epepke on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:10:11 PM EST

    Come on, people--this has been thoroughly debunked, even in the Skeptical Inquirer.

    What really happened was that Duell was giving a keynote-style speech and said something like "Even if it ever came to pass that everything that could be invented had been invented, the Patent Office would still server a useful purpose in blah blah blah"


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    Fear (3.33 / 3) (#109)
    by epepke on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:48:58 PM EST

    "Philosophy is the Valium of intellectuals." --Eric Pepke

    Why do we do it? Fear. Philosophy makes people happy; they wrap themselves in a cloud of ideas and words and are comforted.

    Three extremely terrifying things happened in the past hundred years. Common-sense notions of time, causality, and logic all went wahoonie-shaped. This scares people. They don't like it. So they make up words to protect themselves from facing it.

    This was added to the other fears that have been there all along. People have wars and kill each other; it might happen to you. Your spouse might run off. You might, through no particular fault of your own, catch a disease and die or get run over by a horse.

    Philosophy provides comfort by providing an artificial, contrived framework wherein things that really don't make any sense appear to make sense.

    Fortunately, your musings weren't weighty enough to go into a lengthy discussion of Cantor's transfinites or anything like that, so it's much easier to address some of the things you brought up.

    Free love: Well, there are any number of places within a few hours' drive where I can go to get as much of this as I want. You may not think it's exactly free, as there's usually a cover charge, but it's quite reasonable and pays for food, upkeep of the premises (the sheets do have to be washed, and things need built), and sometimes a DJ, live band, or even unlimited beer. Why do "we" withdraw from it? People are scared. The opposite of free love is expensive love, and expense is related to scarcity. They think that if the cartel isn't maintained, they won't get to extract as many goodies.

    Religion: Same basic deal as philosophy, slightly different mechanism (or not, depending on which religion you pick).

    The Brain: Actually, I thought that Aristotle thought the liver was the seat of consciousness, which would be about par for the culture that eventually produced Ouzo.

    We're a singularly contrary and contradictory species. All of your fine philosophy, all your speech, all your reasoning, all your arguments about cooperation, reside in a thin layer of neocortex wrapped around a far older brain, and everything you want to do has to go through that limbic system and R-complex to make any muscles go. Plus, it can basically shut your neocortex down with a surge of emotion. Surprise! It's the Cosmic Cement Pie, right in the face!

    Why bother? My answer is that I'll sleep when I'm dead, and I'm in no hurry.

    By the way, your poll omitted my favorite person-who-is-called-a-philosopher, Nietzsche. He wasn't much of a philosopher at all in the modern sense, but he was one hell of a great anthropologist.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    Hrm... (2.00 / 2) (#114)
    by joecool12321 on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:16:07 PM EST

    You say the purpose of philosophy is to, "[make] people happy," yet you cite Nietzsche as your favorite philosopher.

    Now, I have no inherent problem with Nietzsche, he is the brilliant conclusion of "the state of things" if Darwin, Marx, and Freud are right. But he's hardly a "happy" philosopher.

    --Joey

    [ Parent ]
    Not quite (3.00 / 1) (#119)
    by epepke on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:45:01 PM EST

    I cited Nietzsche as my favorite person who is normally called a philosopher. Not quite the same thing. I'm also weird. Major weird. I don't feel bugged about QM and GR and the undecidability of the Entscheidungsproblem--I like them. Knowing that I and the world I walk through is a sea of amplitudes interfering and producing a range of probabilities is my idea of fun.

    Nietzsche probably doesn't make most people happy, which is probably why he wasn't on the list. Most philosophers can't stand Nietzsche. However, his writings make me happy. Zarathustra is probably the most uplifting book I know, especially "On the Three Metamorphoses" and "The Grave Song." I also like it when Nietzsche points out, say, that Kant has produced some of the wordiest tautologies in history.

    That's because I'm weird. I repeat, major weird. I didn't walk out of The Gods Must be Crazy when the President got shot. I like to write programs with no bugs. I like Mad and South Park. I use both English basic subjunctive forms (plus all the modals, of course). I have some Ren 'n' Stimpy on laserdisc (not DVD). And, if that weren't enough, I own 3 Macs!

    So, with me, you're obviously dealing with a peculiar mutation in the human species. It doesn't stop me from commenting on humanity, though.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    Zarathustra (3.00 / 2) (#126)
    by ldambros on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 05:09:36 PM EST

    The Three Metamorphosis is great, I'm quite fond of On Prudence myself. Who's translations do you generally prefer? I've found the Kaufman ones to be pretty good, and some other (can't name any names) to be quite bad, so I've only read the Kaufman ones... The Madman from The Gay Science is also an excellent passage.
    On a completely unrelated note, have you ever seen the movie Schizopolis? If not you should.


    Is not the greatness of this deed to great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it? -- FWN
    [ Parent ]
    There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya (none / 0) (#138)
    by epepke on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 08:49:23 PM EST

    I'm quite fond of On Prudence myself.

    Yeah, that's a cute one. I am one of those who does not do well with prudence and is thus well advised to avoid it.

    I've found the Kaufman ones to be pretty good, and some other (can't name any names) to be quite bad, so I've only read the Kaufman ones...

    Kaufman is pretty good, but I think that Hollingdale is pretty good, too. In some ways, Hollingdale has a slight edge. I've done some of my own translations, but not many--it's hard work. One of the things is that Nietzsche writes more like the Cohen Brothers than like any biblical character, and he also puns more and better than Spider Robinson. Most translators ignore the puns; I'm trying to translate them into similar forms in English. E.g. there's one passage translated by Kaufman as something like "to some people you should not give your hand but a paw, and it would please me more if your paw had claws." The problems is that in German, to give a man a paw is to rap him on the hand with a cane so that his hand swells up. My translation says "to some people you should not offer your hand but rather your fist, and it would be better if you were wearing brass knuckles." It gets the sense better by being less accurate.

    Don't even get me started on the Thomas Common translation.

    I'm having a hard time translating Uebermensch. "Superman" and "Overman" are totally inadequate. First of all, Mensch is specifically sex-neutral and also specifically emphasizes the human and humane qualities of a person over the bestial qualities. The primary connotation of Ueber is the sun coming over the horizon, so Kubrick got it right visually in 2001, but what do you say in English? Plus, the combination is obviously used as one might say homo futurus, but that's way awkward. I thought of "Child of the dawn," but that sounds like some aging hippie.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    Metaman ? (none / 0) (#139)
    by Apuleius on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:09:48 PM EST

    Yeah, it sucks just as much, but for different reasons.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    That's a though one (none / 0) (#154)
    by ldambros on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 01:58:44 AM EST

    Perhaps it would simply be best to leave it un-translated... I've been seeing if I could come up with any good thematic translation, but am hampered by lack of a good thesaurus. The idea being humans who have overcome/moved beyond themselves/humanity. There's no good equivalent in english unfortunately. I'd almost say posthuman, but post is used far to often these day's I think, and that could all to easily taint the meaning.
    Is not the greatness of this deed to great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it? -- FWN
    [ Parent ]
    you're not weird (none / 0) (#162)
    by kubalaa on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 05:39:27 AM EST

    Don't flatter yourself. I'd think hanging around here would have taught you that.

    [ Parent ]
    Not quite yet (none / 0) (#168)
    by epepke on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 12:14:03 PM EST

    I'd think hanging around here would have taught you that.

    Not quite yet. However, I admit that this site has a higher caliber of weirdness than most places I've looked.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    No Fear (4.00 / 2) (#121)
    by spaceghoti on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:15:16 PM EST

    I oppose the standard of living by fear. I know too many people who let fear dictate their lives, who content themselves with reacting instead of acting. It's a horrible way to live. It has its place, but not as the final authority.

    Free love. I'm not talking about the kind you pay for on streetcorners. I'm not talking about the kind you get from a one-night stand. I've stated elsewhere that I don't believe in monogamy, but neither do I believe in tallying as many bedpartners as humanly possible. I believe in literally broadening the human capacity to love, to rid ourselves of the notion that there's only one person we can (or should) love with all our heart. I believe that our capacity for love has yet to be explored, hampered by the notion that we have only a finite supply that should be reserved for one particular person.

    Religion. I agree that religion and philosophy are closely related, and I feel that the proper place for religion is in philosophy. It seems easier for people to accept that someone else lives by a different philosophy than by a different religion. I mean, can you imagine philosophy wars between the followers of Kant and Hegel?

    The Brain. I'm probably wrong. It's been a while since I've read any translations of Aristotle, and it's possible that the translation I read got it wrong. I was of the understanding that ancient wisdom said that the seat of consciousness resided in the heart, and that it was proposed by Aristotle. Maybe someone else suggested it.

    We're a singularly contrary and contradictory species. We are more than the sum of our parts. We are more than a symbiotic organization of cells and tissues that form the body of a human. We retain much of our animal nature which is why we continue to be affected by chemical stimulus, but there's more to it than the neo-cortex. The whys and wherefores are still under research, and it constantly sways between physiological and metaphysical explanations. In the end, it all comes down to us. What do we believe, and why? For the same reason I believe in God without accepting religion, I believe in the soul without needing a neurological foundation. It's part of those contradictions I so enjoy.

    Why bother? One reason is as good as another. I believe we're responsible for finding our own purpose and destiny. There's the path we're set on and the path we choose, and they're not always the same. One does not necessarily hold primacy over the other.

    Yes, I'm aware that my poll neglected Nietzsche and Hegel and the Easterners and Africans and Australians and all the hundreds of thousands of sources of philosophy. That's why I added the "Other" option.



    "Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

    [ Parent ]
    philosophy vs religion (none / 0) (#161)
    by kubalaa on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 05:37:30 AM EST

    I'd say that once a philosophy is taken out of the abstract, unemotional plane of ideas and into something more concrete, it becomes a religion almost automatically. There will never be philosophy wars by definition.

    Of course, this isn't airtight... "communism" and "capitalism" aren't religions. Or are they? Or can you even be sure religion is ever the cause of war, and not rather a justification for psychological or material motivations?

    [ Parent ]

    Brains, livers, synergy and the Great Hegel Wars (none / 0) (#171)
    by Mr Fred Smoothie on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 05:12:52 PM EST

    You don't remember learning in European History class about the bloody conflicts between the Kantians and the Hegelites on the plains of Westphalia (and of the great Hegelite general Locke's famous battle cry of "Give me dialectic or give me death", which he uttered moments before he was mortally run through with a Kantian soldier's categorical imperative)?

    On (several) more serious note(s):

    • The Brain: wasn't Galen (c. 150 CE) the first to systematically rip open human carcasses and actually discern the distinctions between hearts, livers, spleens, etc., making Aristotle's (c. 350 BCE) "heart" or "liver" really more like "guts?"
    • Synergy: I submit that we are not more than the sum of our parts, but that the perceived synergy is the result of emergent behavior inherent in a complex, distributed network of many simple but specialized components.
    • Free Love: I think that you are extremely lucky to have had partners not subject to what seem to be almost universal human traits of jealousy, irrationality, and deceitfulness (see synergy). See this expansion of my views on a related theme if you like.


    [ Parent ]
    the gap (3.50 / 2) (#110)
    by Boronx on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:54:43 PM EST

    Doesn't philosophy suffer from the same gap problem as religion in relation to science? The domain of philosophers seems to shrink as the domain of science grows.

    Aristotle devoted some thought to gravity, biology, and kinetics, but science has come along and invalidated many of his and others ideas in this area.

    Recent thinkers spend alot of time refining ideas about the mind and conciousness. But how far are the sciences of physiology and emergent systems from actually figuring the basics of how these phenomena come about? When they do, philosophers will be pushed into a smaller gap.
    Subspace

    Umm, no. (nt) (1.83 / 6) (#115)
    by joecool12321 on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:17:16 PM EST



    [ Parent ]
    finding meaning in life (4.00 / 3) (#113)
    by akp on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:15:51 PM EST

    I guess I'll start out with philosophical disclosure: My favorite philisopher is Richard Rorty. Much of what I'll write below could be taken from his writings. I'm also generally a fan of Foucault, (later) Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Hume, and Locke. For that matter, I'd probably add in Robert Anton Wilson and... umm... Zen Buddhist thought in general, since I can't really single out an author there. (Side note: yeah, yeah, I'm a big fan of Rorty and haven't gone back and read Dewey and James, or, for that matter, Davidson, Sellars, Quine, or Frege. I'm working on it.)

    As for the article... Philosophy has been trying to find out the Right Way to live since Plato, and, as you've observed, we haven't gotten all that far in proving just what that is. But I think that that begs an important question: is there actually a Right Way to live? Is there some external judge of humanity, be it God, Reason, or what have you, that, if only we could figure it out, will tell us what we've been doing wrong for all these years?

    Common sense tells us that there must be some absoulte goal that we, as humanity, are trying to reach. After all, if there is no such goal, then life is meaningless. But common sense is just the collected traditions of our culture that has been ingrained in us since childhood. To quote the Principia Discordia, common sense is what tells us that the world is flat. If we want to be any different than our ancestors, then we need to be willing to go against these intuitions when it becomes necessary.

    So what good are philosophers? Well, for one thing, philosophers can give us explanations that challenge our common sense. They can offer us ways to be moral without believing in God. They can suggest that people together can determine their own laws, instead of having them handed down from the people with the most guns. They can redescribe our social norms in such a way that it changes the ways that we behave towards one another.

    What can't philosophers do? Well, I think that we're finding out more and more that philosophers can't give us an truly objective account of, well, much of anything. It seems like every time someone tries to get through Plato's appearance-reality distinction, someone else comes through and points out that they've merely replaced appearance with subjectivity and reality with objectivity, or with signifiers and signified, or any other such dualisms.

    So maybe it's time that we gave up on that project. Maybe we'd all be better off if we stopped worrying about how to find an epistemically grounded Right Way to live, and instead thought more about how to make the world a better place, using our own subjective conceptions of 'better'. And as time passes, people will challenge our ideas of 'better', and come up with new ideas of the meaning of that term. And, instead of trying to live our lives finding some external justification, we will create meaning ourselves, both individually and as cultures. We will live our private lives as poems, and our public lives in hope of making a better tomorrow. Which, in the end, is pretty much what you said here, in your last two sentences:

    I speak to the moment, to the world I perceive around me without fear that the past has already said the same. I'll keep repeating it and hope that future generations repeat what I am passing on in hope of the day when we finally figure it out.

    -allen



    My idea of 'better' world (1.00 / 1) (#120)
    by derek3000 on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:54:24 PM EST

    is a drug-free, prostitution-free, polytheism-free society. Not to mention minority-free.

    I know...but see what I'm saying?


    -----------
    Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
    [ Parent ]

    If you also believe... (3.00 / 2) (#125)
    by Wah on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:57:29 PM EST

    ...that using applied physical force to achieve positive goals negates their benefit, then what's the problem?
    --
    Choas and order, flowing down the drain of time. Ain't it purdy? | SSP
    [ Parent ]
    well, then that's fine (5.00 / 1) (#155)
    by akp on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 02:07:03 AM EST

    Go for it. Of course, I'll do my best to stop you ('you' being the hypothetical speaker there, of course, rather than the human author). And we'll both try to convince others that our ideas of a better world are superior, or, if we're in a society where not everyone's opinion matters, we'll try to convince the people in power of that. And whichever of our arguments is more persuasive, by which I mean actually manage to convince our audience, will be the one that becomes the social norm.

    Isn't that the way that things work? And I'll pretty much guarantee you that if one of us tries to convince people of our beliefs by giving the best epistemologically complete proof that we can come up with that that person won't get very far. Unless, of course, that argument is backed up with some other, more practical points, such as "If we persecute people because they're different, then someday you too may be persecuted," or "If you don't believe me, then after you die, you'll spend eternity in Hell," in which case I'd say that it would be the latter argument that would be prevailing, rather than the former.

    -allen



    [ Parent ]
    "begging the question" (none / 0) (#150)
    by kripke on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:15:30 PM EST

    Philosophy has been trying to find out the Right Way to live since Plato, and, as you've observed, we haven't gotten all that far in proving just what that is. But I think that that begs an important question

    I apologize if this is somewhat off-topic, but I feel compelled to say something.

    One of the more misused phrases in philosophy (and indeed in the English language as a whole) is "X begs the question" -- in fact, this phrase means "X assumes what X is trying to prove"; *not* "X raises the following question..."; nor does it mean "X presupposes a different, related question..." which is how I took you to be using the phrase in your second paragraph.



    [ Parent ]
    begging the question (none / 0) (#152)
    by akp on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 01:38:30 AM EST

    Hurm. I'd say that's pretty close. If I restated my original statement to be:

    Philosophers have been trying to find out if there really is a Right Way to live since Plato. Most of their arguments go like this: 'Is there a Universal Good towards which man should strive? If so, what would it be? Well, to find out what the Universal Good is, first we have to...' Which begs the question.

    then that would be correct, no?

    For that matter, I could argue that asking (going back to my original wording) 'What is the Right Way to live' implicitly asks two questions: '1) Is there a Right Way to live, and 2) if so, what would that be?' Following up on 2) without addressing 1) properly would beg question 1). But, well, I think that would be a bit of a stretch. So I'll take the criticism as valid. :)

    -allen



    [ Parent ]
    according to whom? (none / 0) (#160)
    by kubalaa on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 05:31:32 AM EST

    I know you're right, but why? If we simply look at the meaning of "beg," the latter -- correct -- meaning makes very little sense, while the former -- incorrect, but common -- meaning seems fairly natural. Who says that when we put "beg" and "question" together we should get a totally new, weakly related meaning instead of the one everyone obviously intuits.

    People find value in obscurity because it makes them feel better when they know some "fact" that few others do. Even if they made up the fact themselves.

    [ Parent ]

    Taking a detour (5.00 / 4) (#118)
    by mattw on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:44:41 PM EST

    "We're a singularly contrary and contradictory species."

    As opposed to, say, sheep?

    I liked the writing, but I'm left wondering what (if anything) you were trying to say. It was a well-written ramble, but no exposition. Were you trying to say that the point of philosophy was to continue to examine our beliefs in order to slowly evolve our social consciousness? If anything, that seemed to be where it was going, but it definitely was taking the back way, then took a detour into self-examination and never returned.


    [Scrapbooking Supplies]
    Ah, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, eh? (4.00 / 4) (#124)
    by Mr Fred Smoothie on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:46:38 PM EST

    I prefer to think of us as constantly refining our ideas and re-examining them in light of our changing circumstances.

    For example:

    Long ago it was postulated that all matter was composed of tiny elements so small they could not be separated ... Finally, technology progressed to the point where we could test the theory and found it to be true.
    becomes:
    • c. 500-350 BCE - Leucippus, Democritus Epicurus postulate the existence of indivisible "atoms"
    • c. 1890-1913 CE - Thompson, Rutherford, Bohr develop ideas leading to Bohr's model of an atom with a central nucleus of protons surrounded by a cloud of electrons
    • 1932 Chadwick discovers neutrons in atomic nucleus
    • 1934 Fermi postulates existence of neutrinos
    • 1962 Murray Gell-Mann describes neutrons & protons as being made up of yet smaller "indivisible" particles, "quarks"
    • the explosion of "fundamental" particles leads to string theory and other attempts to simplify the underlying model, a search still ongoing...
    So, rather than having ancient ideas which are subsequently "proved" and reified into "facts," we have an evolving intellectual model of the world which helps us interact with it in different ways (by cooking it with microwaves or blowing it up w/ energy released by atomic fission/fusion reactions, for example).

    Even our conception of knowledge is fluid (e.g., is knowledge simply "justified true belief?" -- epistomology is my personal favorite branch of philosophy). Thus -- like science -- philosophy and religion constantly challenge us in ways ever more subtly nuanced. The big questions never get answered, but the form of the questions gradually change shape.

    That's why I love thinking about science, philosophy, and religion. It's the constant challenging of one's understanding of "self" and it's relation to the world.

    Thanks, read on. (none / 0) (#136)
    by spaceghoti on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:50:02 PM EST

    Rusty and I went over this here.



    "Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

    [ Parent ]
    string theory? (3.50 / 2) (#127)
    by alkaline on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 05:15:26 PM EST

    Long ago it was postulated that all matter was composed of tiny elements so small they could not be separated. Nobody knew whether or not it was true because no one had any way to test it. Finally, technology progressed to the point where we could test the theory and found it to be true.

    First we had atoms, then protons and neutrons and electrons, then quarks (and a whole lot of other particles), now strings, which are supposed to be the smallest structures. But do we absolutely know this to be true? I know the lastest theory is string theory (which, granted, I don't know a whole lot about), but how do we know strings aren't representable by smaller structures?

    Doesn't matter. (none / 0) (#137)
    by Apuleius on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 08:48:08 PM EST

    As other comments point out, once you split an atom to its component parts, the parts no longer compose a sample of the element it previously did. Hence, Democritus and his buddies were right.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    slightly off topic (none / 0) (#153)
    by JetJaguar on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 01:44:17 AM EST

    Going a bit off on a tangent here, but with string theory, the strings (or membranes or p-branes) are unlikely to be reducible, because the properties of the strings themselves are a result of the geometric properties of space-time, eg the geometry of space-time determines the allowed vibrational modes of the string, which in turn describe what particles a string can represent (electron, photon, neutrino, graviton, etc).

    So essentially, even if you could break a string into pieces, what you would get is...another string, with essentially the same properties as the parent, and would probably even be indistinguishable from the parent string, aside from what ever vibrational mode the daugther strings are left in, which could be much different than the parent.

    [ Parent ]

    Have to disagree here (4.33 / 3) (#131)
    by carbon on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 06:54:52 PM EST

    It's a very well written article, but I'd like to point out a few things that I disagree with. This being philosophy, there's no good way to see if my point of view is better then yours, but I think I'll follow my standard pattern and just assume it is. ;-D

    Humans work like this : they are a giant layer of abstractions upon a symbolic and referential data, capable of analysis of large bodies of data and summarization by relation, self-analysis, dynamic priority setting, and many other nifty things. (No, this isn't an advertisement for a router). Basically, when something "new" is created or understood, it's one of two things happening: either, a human gathers a bit of data that's never been gathered before and applies a known abstraction to it, or the human comes up with a new abstraction for a bit of data, to make it seem new.

    Most artistic creations probably fall into the second catagory. So it's a given that any piece of art is going to be based on a new way of looking at old data. Keep in mind that the lowest form of data (the bits of the human mind) is sensory data gathered directly from the 5 senses. When a human abstracts this data, he/she will link it together, then treat a collection of data and how it all relates to itself as a new item, which can then be linked with other items. If a particularly interesting concept (or more likely, hundreds of concepts) is grokked, then a human might feel the need to express it and share it with other humans, which is what results in art. BTW, everything up to this point is my personal opinion, based on my experiences as a 2 armed, 2 legged, and overly crotchety human.

    Now, back to your article. You claim that "There are no truly unique ideas or actions, only variations on a theme.". You're not correct, because there are still an infinite amount of sensory combinations that have not been experienced yet by human senses. Moreover, since humans like to abstract new concepts by relationizing old ones, there are infinity to the second power new concepts for humans to grok (a bigger infinity? :-).

    So, all art is basically a reahash of old art (old conepts) plus new sensory information and or relations of new/old sensory information (each of which can be operated on as a datem in and of itself, and related with others, and so on). My whole point is, art is an evolutionary process, not a process of creation in entire newness, since the human mind can't do anything new without new data. Art isn't dead, and there are new concepts to be explored.



    Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
    An excellent argument (none / 0) (#135)
    by spaceghoti on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:40:50 PM EST

    I very much enjoyed reading that. Now I'll respond.

    I'll grant there are new things under the sun. But as I've stated elsewhere, you can't depend on it. It's rare and unreliable to expect something new to come along to shake up the world the way Newton, Pasteur or Einstein managed. The majority of what we have around us, scientific, practical and artistic, is based on the work of what came before. If you think air conditioning is a revolutionary concept, I agree. And we have air conditioning because NASA needed a way to cool things down on their rockets. The examples are endless.

    There are exceptions to every rule, and I will never deny that. But even with the endless permutations of sensory input (nice description, by the bye. I'd love a router like that), our interpretations of that input are heavily influenced by what came before. We are the product of trillions of factors all ranged within a cloud of probability that allow us to generally predict and interpret what will come. As I've said earlier, if I hand you an object and say the word "orange" I can predict with high confidence that you'll understand what I mean. From there I can't predict your response if I invite you to share that fruit with me.

    Because of that mix of predictability and unpredictability we come to what I described as "contrary and contradictory." Humans, ornery creatures that we are, will always surprise the observer sooner or later. The human race will continue in its own plodding way toward the future, learning and forgetting as it goes. We managed to escape the gravity well of our birth planet which is new, but at the same time we're still struggling with the fundamentals of what it means to be human. We're orbiting around a central theme, making greater leaps into the unknown but still coming back to our roots. It's hard to be truly original when we keep coming back to the same ground. Eventually I see us breaking free and finding new dimensions to explore, either within ourselves or the universe around us.

    To that end, I see myself and those around me as part of that process. You, me and the community of K5 represent a small slice of the process and potential of humanity.

    Talk about pretentious...



    "Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

    [ Parent ]
    Thanks, and yours too (none / 0) (#169)
    by carbon on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 02:50:02 PM EST

    Heh, I may not have been clear enough with my arguments. It almost feels like your argument is a summary of mine, in that we both pursue the point that human beings can't learn anything completely new, that it's always based on coming back to what we already know, understand, and have created.

    Yeah, I'd like a router like that as well :-)



    Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
    [ Parent ]
    "Archaic" (3.66 / 3) (#140)
    by seebs on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:09:53 PM EST

    What makes a thing bad just because it's old? If monogamy is *inherently* flawed in your eyes, because it's existed for so long, why not concepts like "morality", or "value"? Why not go all the way, and argue that survival, too, is a bad thing?

    I'm not saying that any given moral system deserves respect solely because it's old - but neither does it deserve *hostility* simply because it's old.

    You have a good point. (none / 0) (#141)
    by spaceghoti on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:16:29 PM EST

    I address your concerns here and here. That doesn't count my diary entries and articles.

    Let me know if you would like me to expand on it further.



    "Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

    [ Parent ]
    I don't see this addressed, really. (none / 0) (#143)
    by seebs on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:28:01 PM EST

    (And yes, I can imagine wars between followers of "philosophies" rather than "religions" - I used to hang around in a philosophy department.)

    My concern was only with the apparent claim that the word "archaic" was sufficient to dismiss something as "irrelevant".

    I don't think monogamy is about "a finite supply of love". After all, many monogamous people have children, and seem to love them. I'm currently monogamous (I haven't always been), and the reasons have very little to do with some "finite" supply of love; perhaps more to do with a finite supply of *time*.


    [ Parent ]
    Archaic values (none / 0) (#146)
    by spaceghoti on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:41:38 PM EST

    I consider monogamy to be losing its relevance in part because of the fluid nature of our lives these days, and in part because of the decreasing need to track lineage.

    It isn't that I think commitment and security are outdated. However, I disagree on what constitutes commitment and security. A lot of people are programmed to believe that in order to be in a truly committed and secure relationship, there must be no one else. No other romantic interests and in some cases, no other close relationships. Just thee and me and a sensory deprivation tank.

    Certainly, time constraints suggest that you can't embrace the world. But each person has their own way of handling and organizing their needs, and what is impossible for you may be possible for someone else. Furthermore, I believe an open and honest assessment of what can and can't be expected in a relationship is a healthy thing.

    I'm married, we have a baby and I'm looking for work in a country new to me. That means to me that I'm not looking for any new partners and I'm not going to hook up with anyone new. But when things settle down and I learn what to expect of my new responsibilities, the question may open up again. Should the opportunity arise, there are going to be some frank discussions and decisions taking place. One of the primary things to note is that my wife and child will always have top priority in my life. I will not sacrifice them for any reason. I will be responsible for juggling all those eggs, and I may not handle things perfectly, but it should be assumed that I'm doing my best.

    Most of all, it should be understood that because I love someone, it does not mean that my love for anyone else is in any way different. I don't stop loving one friend because another friend has come along. I merely have to juggle my schedule. Expand that into deeper relationships and you'll find the same thing. So long as everyone is honest about what's going on and can accept it without feeling threatened, there's no foul.

    Western society is taught to believe that it's wrong to accept more than one deep relationship. Not that it isn't practical or feasible, but that it's wrong. That's the attitude I consider archaic and unhealthy. I believe it's possible to do in a mature and healthy manner, and I've accomplished it in the past. There's no reason it can't be possible in the future, so long as everyone understands and accepts what to expect from me.



    "Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

    [ Parent ]
    I'd have to sort of agree. (none / 0) (#147)
    by seebs on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:45:56 PM EST

    I don't particularly believe that it's "wrong" to have multiple romantic relationships. I think it's often impractical, and that many of the people who do it *are* doing wrong and irresponsible things, but I've met the occasional poly couple/trio/whatever consisting of people who seem decent.

    I am firmly convinced that all genuinely "wrong" behavior can be identified by the simple observation that evil *always* taints people. You can't be immoral in just one way for very long. Thus, if I know, say, a gay guy who doesn't lie, cheat, or steal, who doesn't go around hating people, and who otherwise seems to be basically good, I know that homosexuality is not, in and of itself, evil.

    Things that I currently believe to be probably evil are lying and hatred. I'm still looking for others.

    I freely grant that the radical right "christians" may be right about homosexuality, polygamy, and dozens of other things, but my current policy is to focus on things I'm sure about. If and when I have completely eliminated lies, hatred, rape, murder, and the rest of the obvious cases, I will cheerfully spend a few years trying to find something else to worry about.


    [ Parent ]
    Free love vs. monogomy. (none / 0) (#166)
    by jolly st nick on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 09:39:33 AM EST

    I've seen people's experiments with "free love" go disasterously wrong. Of course, we'v all seen experiments with monogomy go disasterously wrong too. I don't personally know of any successful experiments with free love, but I've heard people claim this and have no reason to disbelieve these claims. I personally have a fulfilling, long term monogomous relationship and know others that do to.

    My point is not that monogomy is safer or better than free love. Although this happens to accord with my personal observation, it would be naive to generalize my perspective to humanity as a whole.

    My point is that life is about participation, not prescription. You have to choose a way to live, and live that way with integrity and consideration for others. The question of the relevance of mongamy or free love for humanity as a whole is itself irrelevant.



    [ Parent ]

    The conceit of the 20th Century (3.00 / 1) (#145)
    by Apuleius on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:36:21 PM EST

    is that society gets more sophisticated and wise as time goes on. It will take some time for the conceit to be shaken off - an entire generation of academics, I'd say.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    Sophisticated, not really. (none / 0) (#148)
    by seebs on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:47:16 PM EST

    "Complicated" I'd probably agree with. "Sophisticated", I'm not so sure about. Most of the "sophisticated" people I know are actually fairly shallow. The people whose opinions carry the most weight with me often have "simplistic" world views - which actually still mean something.


    [ Parent ]
    Which is why I call it a conceit. (none / 0) (#149)
    by Apuleius on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:50:29 PM EST

    One of the things Neil Postman's books (The Disappearance of Childhood, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Technopoly...) document is just how more open minded society was in the 19th century compared to the 20th, and how much more willing to engage in serious internal debates. It's easy to put on a sophisticated air. Much harder actually to be sophisticated.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    Feynman continues to be right... (4.00 / 1) (#157)
    by bjlhct on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 02:44:51 AM EST

    Alrighty! Lets all give up hope! 1...2...3!

    But...What if they're wrong? What if there is some point?

    It doesn't matter, because it would be just as likely we should give up hope as anything else?

    Almost, but not quite. I'm going to go out on a limb and say we should aim for knowledge and thought, because then we could find out what the point is and go for it then. However, on any current "point of existence" debate, I'd point you to (Richard) Feynman. He just refuses to stop being right long after he died. What he said was basically that the worst periods were when we had people who thought they figured out The Purpose, and then forced this on others, and that we should have freedom of speech. Not too philosophical, but then, he wasn't too fond of philosophy. [returning to live action] It seems the overall message is: *We redo stuff. This is just peachy. Don't worry about it. *We should change some stuff. It's bad. I'm right. On the first: well, perhaps we need a Global Info Organization System...like the internet, except with what you're looking for, in one place and one place only, and where you can find it. On the second: OK. Oh and right, I forgot to say, I'm new here. 3rd post. Helloa!

    *
    [kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism

    I'm not advocating giving up hope (none / 0) (#182)
    by spaceghoti on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 04:17:52 PM EST

    In my article, I pointed out that there's proof the world has changed enough that there's hope for more. I state that I am part of that process, and that the future will bring new generations to continue the process of learning.

    Eventually, we'll get there. I just explored how we seem to be going about it.

    Keep posting. You'll fit right in.



    "Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

    [ Parent ]
    Chaos and philosophy (5.00 / 1) (#165)
    by dollyknot on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 09:20:36 AM EST

    Hello,

    I like Spinoza, because he said God did not create the universe, God is the universe. Makes me a pantheist I suppose. My philosophy is very simple really, there is a world inside my head and a world my head is inside of. I can ignore the world my head is inside of and pretend it does not exist, I can hate the world my head is inside of and I can love the world my head is inside of. I choose the later even though the world my head is inside of appears, to dislike me sometimes.

    If you want to read my complicated philosophy it lives at http://freespace.virgin.net/peter.turland/START.HTM for the time being. But its likely to be moving soon. So if you like it, save it, it is also copyleft.

    Peter.
    They call it an elephant's trunk, whereas it is in fact an elephant's nose - a nose by any other name would smell as sweetly.

    Hope (none / 0) (#178)
    by digitaleopard on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 08:54:07 AM EST

    Oh, C'mon, Mike, you can do better than that. Or are you just melancholy about Emily? Anyway, I am sitting here literally watching a sign of excellence and hope for the future - the olympic torch. (No, it's not on TV; I'm working at the SLC winter games NOC, and we get more video feeds than you would believe..) Now, before you roll your eyes at me, allow me to point out that I'm no more of a sports junkie than you or any of our friends are; to me, the torch represents the striving for excellence in ANY endeavor, athletic, artistic, or intellectual. (Personally, I think speed chess would make a great olympic event.) We have (I think) had the discussion about cycles before, so you know I agree with you; mankind's history is filled with a myraid of them, in every area and level. Governments themselves are cyclic, rising and falling in favor and flavor. Despite this, humanity as a whole does advance; for the first time, we have the ability to reach beyond our own planet, to examine the smallest pieces (or waves) of matter, and to rationally discuss subjects, relatively openly, that would get you burned at the stake just a few hundred years ago. Of course we aren't advancing as fast intellectually or emotionally as we are technologically; technology improves synergistically, with many improvements feasable from a single discovery. But man isn't a microchip; what constitutes ethical and/or moral behavior varies with circumstance, unlike what constitutes effecient electron flow. We are making progress. It's just rather slower that most of us would care for. Everyone who is self-aware is a philisopher, in that they make their own rules of behavior, without consideration of public mores. I would argue that you are making unique applications of your philosiphy, even though the philosiphy itself is not unique. (As an example, consider some of the things you have done that are available for public viewing on the internet.) Hope you (and Kaye) are doing well. Email me sometime; SLC is not exactly a hotbed of fun. Ron.

    Hope and despair (none / 0) (#181)
    by spaceghoti on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:54:55 PM EST

    No, Ron. I'm not melancholy, just thoughtful. You of all people ought to recognize the difference.

    I'm not talking about the death of hope, although it seems I wasn't too clear about that. I'm discussing reasons why we should hope, even when evidence suggests we don't know how to learn our lessons. I was rambling on about how we have learned our lessons gradually, even if we take the scenic route to get there. In the end, I pointed out how I am part of the learning process by interpreting philosophy and wisdom to the best of my knowledge for modern understanding, and looking to future generations to attempt the same.

    Eventually, we'll figure it out. After all, I wasn't put to death for most of my heretical ideas, so we must have arrived at something.

    Glad to hear you're inspired by the Olympics and the torch, in spite of the controversy. It doesn't even stop after the Games have started. I'll get started on that email.



    "Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

    [ Parent ]
    Melancholy V. Thoughtful (none / 0) (#183)
    by digitaleopard on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 07:25:43 AM EST

    Well, I usually go by tone, which is kind of difficult via writing. Certainly the way you started out gave me the impression that you were less than thrilled. Mostly, like you said, you were rambling; I couldn't tell weather you were being hopeful or despairing. After all, it's been a while since I was able to converse with you. I am glad that you were able to find hope in the future. As for the Olympics, I never said I found hope in the games themselves. They're still about money, nationalism, and political recognition. The athletes, though, and the torch - they are rather hopeful. The snowboarders, in particular, are all part of a community that at least in part transcends their national identity. Sort of like K5er's.

    [ Parent ]
    my thought (none / 0) (#184)
    by Fuzzwah on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 06:24:08 AM EST

    You're not the first to think that everything has been thought before.

    Just because someone else thought it first doesn't change the meaning it has. Our history is built on firsts. First man on the moon, first to plit the atom. Etc. I can imagine a time in the future when we do meet an alien race who look down on us and say "yeah, but we did all that a million years ago". Does it mean that our human acheivements are any less? No.

    --
    The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris

    Persistence of Vision | 185 comments (159 topical, 26 editorial, 0 hidden)
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