My Saturday Chat in IRC

IRC Undernet #philosophy (written around the year 2001)

I spent many hours today in IRC philosophy chat. Here is my side of the conversation. There were 10 or so people posting at any one time.

I was just searching on Nagel and found this statement: “Philosophy is in general not a primary inquiry into the nature of things. It is a reflection on the conclusion of those inquiries that may sometimes terminate, as it did in the case of Spinoza, in a clarified vision of man’s place in the scheme of things.”

Philosophy is concerned about truth, but come to think of it, so is poker.

One must know how to live, financially, nutritionally, educationally, etc… there are skills to living a life. Some are more successful, while others are less successful, or perhaps complete failures.

If we know all sorts of things, intellectually, but do not have the skills or wisdom to care for ourselves prudently, then, we are in trouble.

I am just thinking that philosophy must or should have something to offer the ordinary person for the task of living.

Someone asks “how can you know if you are an intellectual?”

I reply:

Carefully analyze the newspapers you read and the magazines you subscribe to and, if you cannot find your bookshelf, well, you have some evidence right there! Mark Twain once said that a classic is a book everyone wants to say they have read, but no one wants to read.

Nagel wrote : .I believe that there is a necessary connection in both directions between the physical and the mental, but that it cannot be discovered a priori.”

I just realized something very interesting. Aristotle says that human nature LOVES to imitate things (“mimesis”.) Now I see something Nagel said. He argues that people can have good reason to commit acts that benefit another without the expectation of benefit for oneself and without being motivated by factors such as sympathy. – Nagel

So, here is what I just realized: that through mimesis, vicariously, sometimes we act in such a way as we WISH we would find others acting. so, vicariously, we satisfy ourselves by becoming that person we wish to encounter.

I realize that I have done that many times in my life.

We intuitively know that there are various curious rocks on Venus, Mars, and other planets and moons, which exist, and pass through hour after hour for millenia. Yet no one will ever see them. How is their existence similar to or different from, say, Napoleon’s existence?

Now, none of you have every seen these rocks of which I speak, nor have any of you seen Napoleon, or even a photograph of Napoleon.

Perhaps Mars and the other planets are a hoax. How could I prove to you otherwise?

Perhaps Napoleon is a hoax and never really existed. Can you really prove that Napoleon existed, and lost the battle of Waterloo?

Yes the word “Napoleon” unquestionably exists, and an idea of Napoleon exists in your minds, which you can recognize subjectively.

Ideas have existence, and words which point to them have existence, so perhaps existence is a matter of words and ideas, thoughts

Here is experiment: hit your thumb with a hammer, and then debate the existence of your thumb and the hammer.

Perhaps you have never hit your thumb with a hammer. and perhaps you refuse, saying that it will hurt. but how do you KNOW that it will hurt, if you have never tried it?

But, does not such inference presume existence.

So, our notion of existence is, in some way, the product of faith.

I am thinking right now of Hume’s gap, that no “IS” ever implies an “Ought” and Hume awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumber, so Kant claimed.

Even more interesting than the question “what is existence” is the question “what is non-existence or nothingness?”

Sartre said that if it were not for non-being, then reality would be such a plenum, such a fullness, that there would be no room for freedom.

Did Sartre have a happy life. If Sartre were given the choice to relive his life, would he choose to change anything?

He was immensely popular in France. His funeral procession had 50,000 people

I once hypothesized that any advanced race would have to be pacifist, and benign, or they would have destroyed them selves long ago with their technology it seems obvious to me that there must be some relationship between technological power, and non-violent values; that an excess of power, and a deficit of benevolence, spells extinction.

One military leader once observed that we are technological giants and ethical infants.

We have advanced in science so much, in the past 200 years, but emotionally, we differ not at all from Homer’s Iliad. How strange that this should be the case!

Mr. Eastman, the founder of Eastman-Kodak, learned, in old age, that he had a fatal disease which would involve immense suffering, so he wrote a note saying “my work is finished” and shot himself.

He made the decision to choose the time and manner of his death.

He was a very successful business man, a philanthropist, and considered very sound in mind.

I think Camus said that “the most important philosophical decision is where or not to commit suicide on any given day” (paraphrasing from memory.)

One of my fellow students at St. John’s Annapolis (great books program), became a physician. Last year he and I had a debate about physician assisted death. He was against it, and I was in favor.

His objection was based on a religious belief that were he to assist in death, that he would personally suffer guilt/blame for his actions.

I presented him with a powerful argument in favor of assisting, based on his own religion. But he said my thinking was twisted.

The objection to “pulling the plug and tubes” is that death by starvation and dehydration, is undignified.”

I asked an agnostic secular humanist physician (a nephrologist), his opinion, and he smiled and said, “an overdose of morphine has the same effect as unplugging, so what is the difference”

Regarding my school friend, now physician and devout Christian, I pointed out how Christ himself, according to doctrines, assumed the sins and guilt of all mankind, past and future, and suffered in their place, so therefore, he as a physician, should not hesitate to assist in death simply out of fear that he would incur some karmic consequence of guilt or sin.

But he gasped and said, “oh how twisted your reasoning is!”

Rev. William Coffin was despised in the 1960s for his anti war efforts, but before he died recently, had been acclaimed as a hero for many of his positions. I imagine Rev. Coffin was a decent fellow in spite of his religious side.

Religious orientation is analogous to sexual orientation. one cannot fairly stereotype or profile someone on the basis of either orientation.
Mathematician Allan Turing helped win World War II by decoding the “enigma machine” that the Nazis used to encrypt messages. But he was a practicing homosexual, was persecuted as a security risk and ate an apple dipped in cyanide to end his own life.

Turing was no more to be despised for his sexual orientation, than Rev. Coffin for his religious orientation, in my opinion.

And certainly, Kierkegaard had a religious orientation, and yet contributed to Existentialist thought, as perhaps also did Blaise Pascal.

There have been recent articles to the effect that there may be a “religious” gene as well as a “sexual orientation” gene.

I say that if readers/students have maturity, then they may study any writing whatsoever, whether religious or secular, and take from it what they find of value, and discard what they find superfluous

My father, a veteran who landed at Normandy on D Day, despises William Sloan Coffin, calling him a traitor, and he despises homosexuality, so he was upset when I pointed out that Alan Turing, a gay man, helped win world war II, with his skills in cryptology

Then, I pointed out that technically, George Washington was a traitor, in the eyes of the King of England, and I found a proclamation declaring Washington a traitor my father was really displeased with that

Jane Fonda accompanied Wm. Sloan, and Dr. Spock (the baby expert) to North Vietnam… and there were bumper stickers popular that said

“I ain’t fonda Hanoi Jane”

I believe in memes.

I suppose atomism was a meme, which gradually, over the millennia, became documented through experimental evidence

A meme is a pattern which dwells in the substratum/matrix of the minds of a generation, such that each individual is one cell in the meta-mind which holds the meme thought and, the meme evolves and changes over the centuries.

If you observe my posts carefully, you will notice that I almost never address any individual directly, or attempt any argument with an individual.

It seems that the most important attribute for survival is adaptation in a species, the ability to change, and the genetic shuffle is like a random number generator which produces a host of imperfections, but once every century or so, produces something superior for a new change in environment.

The moderator posts this topic for discussion: Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.

I wonder if “one-up-man-ship” is central to the personality of the wise
or, do they rather have more equanimity, and stay in the background, making observations and writing?

Whom would you classify as wise in the 20th century?

Wm F. Buckley? Bertrand Russell? Sartre?

A professor’s dilemma of “Publish or perish” seems to fall on the side of “having to say something.”

Is it possible to consider someone wise, and yet disagree with their conclusions, or is it more often the case that the people we call wise are also the people with whom we agree?

It is noble to be able to admire “the enemy” for that which is truly admirable.

In Homer, each side of a conflict seemed to truly admire the bravery of their enemy, and honor and respect them when they fall in battle
the same was true in World War I, among the fighter pilots, who gave the fallen enemy a magnificent funeral.

Bravery in particular is a quality we can admire in an enemy.

There is a true account of some American Indians, who rode up to a hill top, and gestured to the soldiers in a fort, to lure them into an ambush from which they could never escape.

All the soldiers were killed by the Indians, but there was one unarmed soldier who carried and played a bugle (for the battle call.)
With only his bugle as a weapon, he fought so valiantly that, the Indians, once they killed him, covered his corpse with a buffalo skin
whereas, they dishonored and mutilated the bodies of the other soldiers.

We are inundated in media entertainment with so many valiant fight scenes between adversaries representing abstracted “good and evil” that, perhaps the habit of admiring valor in an enemy lives on in the human heart, since the times of Homer’s epics that which we repeatedly choose for entertainment certainly is some kind of barometer or measure of our inner values.

I grew up in the late 50’s, and watched many a “Lone Ranger” “Hop-a-long Cassidy” and “Roy Rogers” episode, and never realized until it was recently pointed out to me, that they never once portrayed a villain being shot and killed.

Consider IBM’s “deep thought” machine, which was pitted against a world chess champion, and won, but IBM was rather secretive, and refused a rematch.

Kasparov played against the computer, here is an account http://www.research.ibm.com/deepblue/meet/html/d.3.1.html
“deep thought” was renamed “deep blue.”

Excerpt: Deep Blue was now capable of examining and evaluating an average of 100 million chess positions per second.

Machines of necessity resort to “brute force” methods to solve/succeed.

In the convention of mathematicians around 1905, one of the problems cited as a challenge for the coming century was the 4 color map problem, to prove that any map could be made with only 4 colors.

Someone solved it using certain brute force computer techniques, and mathematicians criticized the proof for being too inelegant

I just found this very interesting time-line of mathematics in Wikipedia while looking for the 4 color map problem

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_mathematics

1900, Hilbert lists 23 math problem challenges for the 20th century to tackle we should attempt to produce a similar list of problems in philosophy, perhaps

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilbert%27s_problems

1976 – Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken use a computer to prove the Four color theorem.

The four color theorem was the first major theorem to be proven using a computer, and the proof is not accepted by all mathematicians because it would be unfeasible for a human to verify by hand (see computer-assisted proof).

The perceived lack of mathematical elegance by the general mathematical community was another factor, and to paraphrase comments of the time, “a good mathematical proof is like a poem; this is a telephone directory!”

I mentioned last week that aesthetics is sometimes a consideration in mathematical proofs.

We are considered “gentlemen” and our technologies produces “brutes”. I find that intriguing.

I was very fond of a notion, which I presumed my own, that inside each black hole is another big bang expanding time-space continuum, and all such black holes represent a “multi-verse”. But apparently
apparently Stephen Hawking demonstrated that it would be impossible for such to be the case so, I am “back to the drawing board.”

In the late 60s at St Johns, when I was required to read the Iliad, I became enamored of the battlefield scene commonly referred to as the “aristeia of Diomedes” I think each of us, on some level, yearns to be the protagonist in such an aristeia (burst of excellence), if not in battle, then, perhaps academically, or in literature.

Perhaps the pursuit of knowledge and education should be more impersonal, less egocentric.

Yet, such ego is encouraged by prizes like Nobel, Pulitzer, and our educational and grading systems, the popparatzi of ideas.

Popparatzo was one photographers nick name in “La Dolce Vita”, it means mosquito (singular.)

There is a poignant scene in the movie, where a father adjusts mosquito netting over his small children. I felt symbolically, to protect them from the evils of media voyeurism which can sometimes cause fatalities, as we have seen graphically demonstrated

I recently subscribed to “The Atlantic Monthly”, and there is a column there about grammatical correctness, and various other issues.

Someone, living in a senior center, complained that a popular movie was rejected for viewing, because it contained the “F” word.
But, here is what I found significant in the reply: The reply of the magazine stated that we, who view media entertainment, are essentially “voyeurs” who want to see into private lives and conversations

I think that notion of us as a society of voyeurs fits in with some points about popparatzi, and tabloids.

But then Heidegger describes man as that voyeuristic creature who beholds Being “reluctantly” disrobing.

Well, it is possible to see philosophical inquiry as a tad voyeuristic.

Quite naughty, don’t you think!?

I have wondered if “being, reluctantly disrobing” has some connection with that short story “Bartleby the Scrivener.”

The un-lived life is not worth examining, as psychologist David Viscott points out.

Loaded statements are what differentiate the “poem” from the “phone book”

Nietzsche seems to load his philosophy with a lot of drama, more so than other philosophers.

I made up an interesting test question scenario once: Imagine, a powerful genie appears and gives you 10 minutes to make a choice (and you MUST choose or suffer worse consequences)…
choose between two different lives to be born into…

One life is long, but quite boring, a farmer let us say,… with family and children, nothing dreadful happens, nothing exciting either, and he dies in his sleep in his 90s the other life, is sort of a Humphrey Bogart life, say, in the French Underground Resistance….
One suffers greatly, but enjoys intense pleasures, dies young, a martyr, but a celebrated hero.

So, each must explain why they choose as they do.

Aha… but, part of the scenario I paint is that the family is neither loving, nor hateful, but just “blah”

The long life gives you simply “long life”, with no extremes of pleasure or pain.

I suppose the point of my test question, is how much do you value plain and simple existence, living, without the drama, the tragedy, the comedy?

To argue that the scenario might be otherwise, is to entirely miss the point of such what-if scenarios.

If a geometer says, “imagine a point in a plane, and a line not passing through the point” and you argue “well perhaps there are some other planes over here, with different points and lines” … well you miss the point of geometry!

Its like a game, like chess.

You accept the nature of the board, the pieces, and you play by the rules. The life and writings of Hemingway, as only one example, illustrate someone who makes the Humphrey Bogart choice.

One of Hemingway’s sons, after the suicide, said “He would have made a nice old man. But he could not figure out how to be an old man.”

Now, there is one scene in “The Painted Bird” where children lie upon the railroad tracks, and experience the train, and death, rushing inches above them the author says “only in those moments would I feel truly alive.” – Jerzy Kosinsky

Oh… listen to this…. I once had a question about “free will” and I downloaded an entire novel from Tolstoy (or was it Dostoevsky), into a word processor, and did a text search it was very fruitful but…. like that computer solution to the 4 color problem… more like a phone book than a poem.

Last week, I downloaded all of Plato’s Republic, and search in a text editor for “the art of”

and yet,…. my endeavor of minutes was no different in its result from the endeavor of someone in the 19th century, who had only reading, and notepaper, at their disposal.

Now, the argument of mathematicians AGAINST the computer proof of the 4 color problem, is that no one can manually verify all the millions of calculations… but rather, we simply take it on faith that the computer and the programmer have done their jobs whereas, in my case, of the string search, someone may verify the passages I have found, or read the entire book to find additional passages.

Andrew Wiles had a mistake in his initial publication of the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, and had to rework the proof over several months, until it was error free.

I suppose, just like the criteria of the experimental methods, that a result be reproducible so, others achieve the same result
time and again.

Well, Wiles was only 10 when he first learned of the Fermat problem, and aspired to solving it, which took 30 years he mentions that his wife never knew him at any period when he was not engrossed in the problem. He told her of his project several weeks after the wedding
so, he must have had a lot of emotions, hopes and dreams invested it the success of his proof they say that Hilbert’s tombstone has the epitaph, “We must find the answer, we SHALL find the answer” (or succeed, I forget the exact words) but, imagine how Hilbert felt when Godel proved that there must be mathematical truths which are not provable since Hilbert asserted “if something is true, it must be provable.”

One might perhaps discuss the aspect of personal emotional involvement that a philosopher has in his philosophy, I suppose
I mean, if we were truly, objectively, concerned only with what is true, then we might be quite happy to be refuted, if we were given something more true as a consolation prize

It amazes me how Sartre abandoned his own brain child of Existentialism when it was at a height of popularity, and he might have enjoyed the lecture circuits.

And, didn’t he reject the Nobel prize or some prize?

Sartre seemed quite immune to the siren call of popularity and praise.

but, not good for you, only good for him not “good for us”

I simply take your words at face value “good for him”, and try to understand what such a response might mean sometimes, people say “good for him” in the spirit of that fox who thought the grapes, just out of reach, must be sour.

Yes, “bully” has a much different tone a better choice

Smacks a bit of the Roosevelts, but a better choice

Jacob Kline was at St. John’s in the late 60s, a Greek scholar. He made a big point about the first word of Plato’s Republic, “katabenein” (I WENT DOWN to the Piraeus)

Kline claimed that the choice of this one word set the stage for the end of the Republic, the myth of Er, and the descent into the underworld

Someone claimed that Plato had rewritten the first page of the Republic 50 times, to achieve such effects… but I have no way to know if this is apocryphal.

Anyway, people like Kline, and Leo Strauss (Persecution and the Art of Writing), made a big deal about this sort of subtle interpretation.

The word Katabenein indicates a “going down” or descent

Leo Strauss took the example of Solomon’s metaphor that “A word of wisdom fitly spoken, is like an apple of gold in a filigree of silver”
The topic appears to be about writing (I just got here).

So that, at a distance, to the general public it appears to be a silver apple, but, as you draw close, and inspect, you see a glimmer of gold, and finally, you recognize the reality, of something concealed
the book was Strauss’, but he and Kline were buddies.

I am simply pointing out that there was one school of thought which laid great importance to very subtle observations.

One scholar there, a Latin/Greek scholar from Heidelberg, Gisela Berns, did her thesis on Lucretius’ “De Rerum Natura”, and actually counted all the words, to find that the midmost word was “nature.”

Well for example, if an author simply dashes off a page, and writes a book quickly, then, it might be doubtful that they were intentionally weaving all sorts of subtleties, for the reader to uncover.

BUT, if one could know that an author, (James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake) for example, labored over each sentence, with many drafts, then the notion that such subtleties are intentional on the part of an author would be more credible.

I have already answered that once.

Repost: BUT, if one could know that an author, (James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake) for example, labored over each sentence, with many drafts… then the notion that such subtleties are intentional on the part of an author would be more credible

For example…. Death of a Salesman was written in 6 weeks, and Red Badge of Courage was written in a mere 10 days…

So, it is less believable that the authors, in such a brief time, wove such intricate and subtle meanings into their works.

BUT, Annie Proulx spent 6 months on her 30 page short story, Brokeback Mountain, and she admits that she could write a novel in 6 months.

So, one naturally asks the question, what is an author up to when they spend an inordinate amount of time writing something that is very short.

Of course, it is possible that the subconscious is at work, investing subtleties in a work , but that is a very Jungian point of view.

Milan Kundera complains that “critics discover other people’s discoveries.” We might ask whether the same complaint might be lodged against those who write commentaries on the philosophers.

That is exactly what Kundera objects to, that the life of the author is something separate from his work.

He explores that in his novel “Immortality”, in which Hemingway and Goethe become best friends in heaven, and peer down to see the mischief of critics who continue to comment on their works.

I feel that a comedian/director like Woody Allen is brilliant, yet I know people who refuse to watch his movies because they object to the scandals in his personal life.

Yet, perhaps if we knew something about Shakespeare’s personal life, or Plato, we could have the same sort of objection… but they are shrouded in the mystery of antiquity.

F. Scott Fitzgerald may have come close to writing the “great American novel” but he was such a tragic alcoholic and spendthrift.

The other day the wheel was mentioning Nagel. Google reveals that Nagel wrote about “moral luck.”

One example is that painter who abandoned his family, and went to Tahiti.

google on “moral luck” Nagel

In other words, if a scientist divorces his family, to gain more time for research, and comes up with a cure for cancer or aids… then this is called “moral luck” since there will be people who will look the other way at his immorality, because, the end justifies the means.

But for every such lucky artist or scientist,… there are hundreds or thousands of others who are “morally unlucky”, since the do their misdeeds, but produce nothing to make amends.

Imagine if Einstein were not of Jewish ancestry, but had been a Nazi, bent upon destroying what he considered an enemy nation, and hence pursued relativity solely for the purposes of making possible an Hiroshima.

Without Einstein, perhaps Hiroshima would have been impossible, but then, perhaps someone else would have come up with the technology.

I agree with Jung that matter has a “tendency” to produce psyche. One may see this in the theories of organic molecules forming in the prehistoric oceans on a cooling young planet.

ONE PERSON ASKS ME: Are you something of a panpsychist then?

I REPLY:

Our society and education conditions us to desperately search for some Greek-sounding technical term, and , once we have found that buzzword, and attached it to something, then we have achieved understanding, and earn an “A” for the marking period.

If you really want to know what I am, you could read everything I have posted for 10 years, and I am sure there would be no one word to describe it, any more than there is one word to describe any of us

And if you aren’t truly interested enough to read everything and know what I am, then, why ask?

We will all be dead and forgotten in 100 years or less, what difference does it make, my particulars… or you persuading me of something, or me persuading any of you…

But, if mankind exists in 100 years, then people will still be discussing Sartre, Plato, Shakespeare, and their likes.

When two individuals argue, one trying to convince the other, or disprove or refute the other, i see it as pointless, since mankind in several thousand years of culture has not come to unanimous unilateral agreement upon any significant issue (except perhaps, number theory, atomism, energy and the like) why would I want to limit myself by some label of an -ism or -ology, and why would I want to label anyone else, since most people here are probably young, and will change much during the course of their life.

I think labeling with buzzwords is a bad habit instilled in us by an educational system of multiple choice testing it.

I mention ideas…. things which i encounter in my reading, few of them are MY ideas, most of us speak of very little which is truly our own. And one can search on ideas like Nagel, Jung, etc. and read up on it, and form your own notion of what something is or is not

What I am or am not has little to do with anything of real importance.

One of my pet peeves, is that one should “address ideas, and not individuals” but, i think our education and society conditions us to crave “one-up-manship” and confuse debate with discourse.

I will give you a prime example. last week, there was something in here that I found annoying, i.e. i found it an unproductive theme to harp upon. And in PM, one person asked if this does not mean that I am “a skeptic”, because I showed my disagreement…

Well, I feel it is simple-minded to search for some buzzword label, to attach to someone, such as “skeptic”

I explained (I shall clean up my language here) that “poo stinks”, and
asserting that poo stinks does not make me a skeptic… it just means i have some common sense.

Actually, the issue had to do with someone who said “axiomatic” in every other post.

But, I have no desire to argue I have no desire to convince others, except possibly, in values which I see as an impediment to learning
i see the desire to defeat others in debate and consider it some kind of intellectual victory, as a mistake, a confusion.

It would only make sense if one could point to an example of one idea (not scientific or mathematical) which came to be unanimously accepted by all peoples in all places.

For me, debate is a form of violence. I can simply express my ideas, and name books or links to articles if someone feels like reading they will read.

If they want to form some different idea from mine, altogether different, then that is their freedom

Imagine yourself on a “ship of fools”, and you take a year to convince all of them something, and you become their leader, then, is all that consensus and agreement proof that you have found the truth?

Speaking of the metaphor of a tennis ball, I once made up an examble of a game called “goodminton.” Badminton has the goal of knocking the birdie out of flight. and scoring a point

But in my “goodminton” game the object is to keep the birdie in the air as long as possible. Iimagine a Thrasymachus trying to play a game of “goodminton”.

In the interests of “goodminton” I try never to address an individual, never to nitpick on their spelling or grammar, never to attach a label to them, and a host of other things i suppose, so that “the byrdie stays aloft.”

It is easier to destroy than to create.

it is easier to object, than to explore, extrapolate, improvise, conjecture.

When you attempt to conjecture, you crawl out upon a limb, and attract all those who only care to criticize and refute. Yet you will notice that the addicts of refutation never really produce some interesting hypothesis or conjecture, or a body of writing somewhere to read because they fear falling victim to their own tactics.

Just like war, a necessary evil

But, refutation has never produced universal accord on any none mathematical/scientific issue.

It seems that religions argue more than any other arena of inquiry, yet you seem to imply that lack of refutation leads to religion.

Then why do various sectarian group perennially try to refute each other>

There seems to be lots of sectarian violence, for decades, in Ireland, and now Iraq.

It seems simply foolishness to claim that matters of faith are free from disputation or refutation, simply because one assumes that there is no arbitrary laboratory for conducting experiments.

Centuries of violence, and centuries of medieval disputation, show otherwise.

Stop and think how the study of comparative religions can be likened to the study of chess. The board and its pieces have no meaning, but there is a logical movement and history, almost like a mathematics. The same is true of the history of religious thought. One might be a student of comparative religion, not be religious or spiritual at all, and study the “geometry of arguments,” so to speak.

I have spent much of my life studying just that but, the rules of this channel against religion make it dangerous to mention the word at all…

Although, ironically, quite ironically, someone might be here hour after hour, day after day, saying essentially that “religion is nonsense” and they would not be reprimanded or in violation of the rule against religious talk I mean, if you spend a lot of time saying “religion is nonsense”, you are in effect discussing religion.

Regarding that “geometry of comparative religion” I can point out the most intriguing thing I have discovered as a difference between the god of the old testament and the god of the Koran.

The Koran asserts that God is not bound even by his own pronouncements, but can revoke and repudiate anything, whereas the essence of the old testament is that God cannot lie, and is bound by his own decisions this logical difference seems to me quite rich in philosophical possibilities aha, ABROGATE, that is the word i was seeking.

The Koran claims that God is so powerful that he can abrogate or nullify and command or statement precisely, not omnipotent, if self limiting but, the alternative is total capriciousness.

In effect, each religion is like a geometry, with certain assumed principles, definitions, which reasons from those assumptions to arrive at certain conclusions.

Its a long story, not every question has a one sentence answer.

At least, a one sentence answer that is adequate and does justice to the question.

I want to tell you a true story from my life that is very amusing, and has a philosophical lesson in it I think. I would like to hear it. My wife is from the Philippines, and I am non-Asian. She took me once to a Catholic pentecostal-style revival, where the lay preacher and everyone except me, is Filipino Now, I am old, and walk with a cane, … so the speaker asks me to stand up and asks me if I would like to be healed, and free of my cane I said “No” and everyone was thunderstruck and asked me “Why not” I explained that I see some purpose to old age, sickness, and death, and have no wish to escape the natural process, which is truly how i have felt most of my life.

I once discovered a glaring oversight in one papal encyclical which advocated the elimination of world poverty… namely, one verse where Jesus says “… for the poor shall always be with you”

And, that phrase, interestingly is echoed by Moses, when he forbids gleaning fields he commands to leave tidbits for the animals and poor people “who shall always be around” medical science dreams of eliminating disease, yet viruses and parasites evolve resistance to drugs (consider the malarial mosquito).

And communist Marxist ideologies dream of eliminating poverty and class distinctions but, we have seen the economic failure of such societies i know one Russian American who would fly in Russia in the 1960s, and mock them for having “first class” when they boast a classless society.

At the end of Goethe’s Faust (part II), Faust undertakes a project to “reclaim land from the sea” and build some perfect society…

But, his whole bet with the devil is this, if EVER there comes to Faust a moment, where he says “thou art so fair, linger”, then Faust loses and the devil wins

Is this “the best of all possible worlds”? Can we improve it? Or will we destroy it in our attempts to improve it?

Someone once said to Helen Keller “The world is filled with suffering” and she answered “But the world is also filled with the overcoming of suffering.”

If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.

Engineers have devised a plan to preserve Venice from the oceans destruction,… but it would take 30 years to build no regime/party in Italy stays in power for more than 2 years, so none would support a 30 year project… because it would not benefit them in the short term

This aspect of human nature is precisely why there will be no improvement, even when it is technologically possible if you concentrate on the sea level, you miss the whole point of the example there was a one hour documentary about Venice, and the engineering proposal.

There was another hour long PBS documentary on the tower of Pisa, apparently, yes, they made progress.

Different example of the problem of human nature…. American business was criticized in the 1980s for only looking down the road one year, at the bottom line of the financial statements, and the stock market, while japan was positioning itself for 30 or 60 years down the road.

If we were to clearly see the destruction of mankind, 1000 years in the future, and clearly see a plan to avert it which would take 100 years of hard work and sacrifice, many would say “why bother, since I shall not be around to suffer the calamity.”

There would be a minority of idealist activists who would champion the project…. and a majority of people who would be apathetic.

There is an ancient story about an old man in his 90s who is out planting a bread-fruit tree which will take 100 years to mature and yield fruit a passerby sees the old man and tells him he is such a fool to plant the tree, since he can never live to taste its fruits
the old man explains that he does it for future generations, as his forefathers planted such trees for his enjoyment in his lifetime

Basically most people are selfish sh!ts, but they prefer to use rhetoric to justify why their position is perfectly reasonable.

It is such a relief to pronounce oneself utterly blameless.

That movie “paying it forward” is so clever. the teacher asks each student to come up with some idea that will change the world.

So, the one kid comes up with the idea to benefit one person, but require them to “pay it forward” by benefiting THREE others, and placing them under the same obligation. Of course the story must end with the martyric death of the young hero-protagonist.

If it is true that we owe a debt to our ancestors, then who can we possibly repay, other than future posterity.

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2 Responses to “My Saturday Chat in IRC”

  1. Elmar Manafov Says:

    I would love to get some thoughts on my discovery that Shakespeare’s Hamlet is juxtaposable with Plato’s Phaedo. Check out my website: thehamletenigma.com if this sort of thing interests you and let me know your thoughts. It may have some relevance to this discussion.

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