Monthly Archives: July 2020

Pure sensation

There are five main faculties. In ordinary language these are sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. It may be obvious but they need to be named. The most used faculty is sight. Your eyes work like a video camera and monitor. The camera captures light creating an image of the things in view and thus determining the space. The faculty of sound does something similar but only in audio form. The faculties of smell, taste and touch are more “localised” where distance and direction is not so important whereas intensity of source is.

Simultaneously, these five faculties give you all the information about the reality, informing you about what exists, their relationship in space and also inform you of time. This information however, needs to be interpreted in synchrony. And this is done by the mind. The act of mental interpretation is called perception.

Processes and noumenalisation

Earth formed not long after the sun formed. But was does “forming” mean?

It is a process not so much deliberate as accidental. The conditions for conducive the weak forces of material mass brought about a lumping together that can only be called planetary formation. This accidental formation then is a process.

In the early 2000s a man named Steve Jobs invented a device (or a better one at least. Others too were working on similar a product) that could make phone calls, replace your diary and notebook, connect to the internet and not require a keyboard but on a multi-touch sensitive screen. Again, what do we mean by “invent”?

It is, in this case, a process not so much as accidental but deliberate. The conditions were also conducive of putting ideas together to invent the iPhone. This deliberate inventing is also a process.

Whether we talk about planet or iPhones they are things. The forming and inventing are processes that cannot be said to exist as thing but as processes of things.

The word processes, in plural form, hints at the limits of language. To make processes a thing is not only to nominalise but also to noumenalise it. The act of giving a concept a signifier is to nominalise. The act of giving the sign (signifier-concept unit) quality of substance – that is to become a thing – is to noumenalise. Similar acts can be and are done regularly to qualities.

There are two problems. Firstly, the process of noumenalisation is so pervasive that almost goes unnoticed. And secondly, it leads to the perception that there is more than what actually exists.

And it is with this second problem that comes about the unbridgeable gap between ontology and metaphysics.

Rationality and Empiricism

Rationality without empiricism is impossible. A child born without experience is not considered “alive” for a reason. (This may sound circular but) we necessarily start with reality, then experience, then thought (reason). What ends in death is experience and thought but not reality, for the body remains.

This may be a common sense view, a conventional view, a “reductive” point-of-view but there is nothing that I should apologise for … except for being boring perhaps.

Mind and body…

However, in physics, things exist such as point particles (no length or breadth), forces (only location), and wave functions (probabilities of being found at certain places), which do not fit the spatiality criterion but are not mental in nature. There are also things which lack spatial character yet are actual, such as numbers.

Mind and body…

Mind and body is a problem that will never end.

But does a point exist in physics, or have we mistaken geometry for physics here? I also question numbers as well.

No, I am not doing this to be a pain in the butt. I am genuinely questioning whether they exist at all, or are they only mind constructs of a physical brain. This leads to me to question why the focus on mind only when the post is about body as well.

With the physical reality we can test things, including the mind. It was pointed out in this post also that awareness is criteria of mind. But I question whether we are aware of mind when truly all senses are shutdown as in the case of comatose. In such a state where body (as in reality) does not matter (figuratively and literally) anymore would not mind be in a state of bliss. Why should one return to a state of imprisonment, of bondage, if disembodiment is a possible existence? I will argue that in the state of coma, the mind (as a function of the brain) will have the representations (thoughts as it were) to perceive. But without spatiality, relational values will seem to not matter and therefore collapse. The patient slipping away may be like a switched off computer, where memory may need some time to actually clear from its memory banks.

Is realism colorless reductionism?

Realism that has been described as colorless reductionism I call your colourful additionalism*. My move is a kind of Ockham’s Razor and partly Zen Buddhism. I was taught that some things are unnecessary.

*Mix of American and British spelling fully intended.

Soul, spirit, psyche, mind

Language influences not only the way we think but also the words we use. In many cases it also limits our choices.

The soul, incorporeal part of which makes a material being “alive”. Seen as that which survives the body’s death. It is what imbues the being with reason, decision and action. The soul is the seat of consciousness, self and essence. Starting with at least Socrates and Plato the soul is seen as separate from the body it occupies.

Related to the wider spirit which is not individuated but animates (giving breath to) matter and sometimes defines what is life from non-life. Spirit, unlike soul, may infuse all things created. In this sense, animism is a religious belief of the spirit in all things.

Psyche, the Greek term for soul and the root word for psychology has to do with the mind in which, in part, is hinted to be more than simply its neuroscientific functioning (by implying soul).

I feel for those isolated from tribes in the Amazon jungle

I went to a Catholic school. Although I wasn’t a Catholic the school accepted non-Christians as students.

While I was there I had gone to church once in a while, had read the Bible and had tried to fathom God.

But what I found problematic was the idea that non-believers went to hell. Having travelled from Young I saw different people from different cultures, non-Christian cultures included. So it seemed strange to me that these people who may have never encountered Christianity will, without a choice, go to hell. This being a decision by someone or something else.

If I had wanted all others to go to hell (so to speak) all I had to do was keep them away from Christianity. I could not believe a benevolent being would do that.

For that reason alone I had began to question the validity of Christianity and other religions.

So I feel not for those in the jungle but for those exposed to a religion that condemns them to the concept of heaven and God.

I am lucky because I saw other possibilities, not tied to one way of thinking. I wish others to be able to see the illogical discourses of such thinking.

Willing suspension of belief

Most people have heard the phrase willing suspension of disbelief where we ignore inconsistencies in film and fiction in order to allow the work to work its magic, as it were.

So I am suggesting, if one is to move on from their religion one must, in the same manner, be willing to suspend their belief.

Body and soul

For as long as religion has been with us the soul and how it relates to the body has been central to human life and understanding. Let me stress this again – human life.

While some will argue that we are different to (the catch-all-term) animals it is suspicious that it is a binary between human and animals. We consider ourselves special, different, privileged. What makes us different is the soul. Animals have none. Animals do not sin. Animals do not go to hell (but always to heaven). Puzzling.

Animals have body and “spirit”. Humans have body and soul. Let us not forget things are animate or inanimate. Someone found it hard to make the word humanate.

So we can give animals souls … if we want but then brings about the problem (already pointed out) of sin. What is a soul good for if there is no sin?

So if we go back to the original problem of what exists then we can say this – we have body. Making soul disappear difficult because we must make sin and god(s) disappear as well. They will not let us because in the end they are grandnarratives.

The surprising part is, I do not want them to disappear also. Not for the reasons of belief in them, but because this is what humans to do best. The human mind creates religions, science, philosophies, literature and art to help us understand or to make sense of the world. But more often than not it confuses the hell out of us. “Theology is anthropology,” wrote Feuerbach in 1841, 40 years before Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra the work most associated with eh idea of “God is dead”. Specifically, he was looking at Christianity. Indeed, religion (and philosophy) should not escape analysis.

Reality, perception, language

Given our experience it is a reasonable assumption that things “exist”, and they exist whether perceived or not.

For example, the bottle of milk in my refrigerator remains there inside after the door is closed. There is no miraculous disappearance and reappearance between the closing and reopening of the door. More dramatic still is the piece of paper in front one’s eyes. The reverse side not seen directly does not cease to exist because it cannot be seen.

My point is reality has a characteristic, and we have learnt from experience of it. I function daily within this reality. I do not question it anew as that would keep me in a state of paranoia. I have decided to trust that this is its characteristic and live by it.

I have lived before without a trust of it. But I had been unhappy. It was a time of nervousness, of not knowing what would happen. A life where I did not know how to predict how things worked and how people reacted. It is still quite possible for people to behave differently than to what I would expect but I have learnt to expect variation and inconsistencies between reality and my expectations. The inconsistencies are just less than what they were before.

I would think Roger Federer when he plays tennis he knows and understands how the ball and opponent react to his strokes, so as to be able to win the tennis match. We can see he has trouble against Rafael Nadal who has better knowledge and understanding of the characteristics of the game on clay court. Their realities are not different. It is not a mental thing. It is a physical one. One translates the understanding to a physical one. One cannot tennis by mere thought. One has to play the game.

I will say this again in different terms – to be is not dependent on perception.

Berkeley resorted to God for his ontology. I say neither God nor perception (human or otherwise) is necessary. There is a fear that nothing makes sense without a posited Perceiver (God) or perceiver (human). This comes down to a misunderstanding of what (a poor word for a non-thing (about to be explained here)) is, for example, God, mind, perception or conceptualisation. These are not things but processes of things. Let me illustrate.

To run (to move very quickly, by moving legs more quickly than when you walk) is something certain kinds of things do. Animals do it. We do it. To run is not the animal as such but the process of the animal. But running becomes a thing when converted into a noun. Verbally we consider them things but this is a conceptualisation. The act of conceptualisation (like running) is also a process of a thing. Part of the problem then is to mis-take the nominalisation of a process for a thing when it is a thing only in name, not in reality. I extend this to mind (as processes of thinking, perceiving, conceptualisation) also as well as God (the process of conceptualisation and projection into a being).

I understand the last is especially uncomfortable for many people. It goes to the heart of one’s beliefs. But I have come to this conclusion, no more no less than from your own conclusions, from my faculties of senses and mind.

Much of the problem seems to me stem from the inability to see the difference between the logic of reality and the logic of language. The mind is not a thing. perception is not a thing. They are only made to resemble things because they undergo an act of nominalisation (a process in itself).

Does X exist?

I have never physically been to France.

I have read a lot about it. Many things have occurred there. I have met French people. I have friends who have been there. But I have no direct evidence of the existence of France other than the things I read, hear, the maps I see, the people I meet. As far as I am concerned the existence of France could be a conspiracy of the entire world for my benefit.

But why would the world conspire to make me believe its existence? For what reason? Sure, I can go and check. It isn’t that hard. The “French” I have met, if they are not French, surely came from somewhere else. Perhaps they are a people of compulsion to lie collectively. Why?

It doesn’t need to be France. It could be some other place. There are many places I have not been to. But I can go there and check. Korea, for example, is a short plane’s ride. Finances and time willing I can go (it is within my means).

The act of checking and the the ease of such checks surely tells us about the nature of reality and the nature of secondary sources. I have no reason not to believe someone that they come from France, or have been to France. Many a time I have experienced something they have not. Pretty much my life before I came to Japan is a mystery to my children and wife. I tell them about it. They believe it. There is no good reason to lie about it. It is mundane as mundane can be.

The question of God’s existence is a little different.

No amount of wanting to check will bring me to God. God is not anywhere (though it is claimed God is everywhere). I cannot find God except with in thought and name. That is not to deny God’s existence, but rather to say what I know of God.

I know God as thoughts and name as much as I know France as thoughts and name. While I can check France’s existence I cannot check for God’s. Fundamentally France and God are different. One is a concept of a place. The other is a concept of a concept. I’ll let you decide which is which.

But still we talk of God as much as we talk of France, if not more. No amount of talk will allow me to go check of God’s existence. Buying a plane ticket will.

If I want to see God I am told go to a church. But when I get to the church I do not see God but only a church. If I want to know about God I am told go read the Bible. But when I read the Bible I do not know God but only the Bible.

This is true of all other religions, philosophies, sciences. There is a difference between first-hand knowledge (experience) and second-hand knowledge (reading, hearsay). Check for yourself when possible. Be weary of indirect sources. Do not confuse the two.

Determinism and relativity

Think about it. If your language determines your thought entirely then the entire population of speakers of a language would all think in exactly the same way. Variation of thought exist within a language/culture. Otherwise we would not need to vote in elections, have different types of cereal or have genres or music. Relative to other languages your language influences somewhat the range of your thought.

The English grammar distinguishes singular and plural. Arabic grammar distinguishes singular, dual and plural. And Japanese grammar does not distinguish number. By being forced to think about and encode number in English and Arabic, and not needing to encode in Japanese will influence your thinking.

Japanese tend to encode plurals poorly in English as a second language. More than likely, Arabic learners of English will find it easier to produce the grammar for plurality.

Like bat-and-ball sportsmen who tend to pick up other bat-and-ball sports quickly, language learners from related languages also acquire the second language faster. In applied linguistics this is called positive transfer. It makes sense that transfer can be applied to other skills like sport as well. But this does not mean a sportsman cannot become good at a dissimilar sport. If things were (pre)determined then we will never need to try because there is only one outcome – failure. Language learning is partly nature, and partly nurture. Both are necessary. It is not either/or but and.

But history may proof that nature and nurture may be misnomers which have ultimately influenced our way of thinking all along.

Like old friends holding beers

If I have to have a PhD in some topic in order to have the right to say something about it I would have nothing to say. I do not expect that of others either. I am forgiving and I respect those who are also forgiving. In this way we can have an open conversation without fear, like old friends laughing at our similarities, differences, quirks and stupidities over a couple of pints from the cold tap at that dark dank pub on a Friday night and forget we ever had that conversation the next day after the hangover.

Baggage and garbage … rhyme

Like most people I grew up with “baggage”.

My mother used to rave on about the greatness of Chinese culture/civilisation. True there are some things which are admirable about it. But like everything else there are unsavory parts to it as well.

Recent Chinese history is not something I can praise. In fact the opposite. The underhanded way in which China (HK and clampdowns in postcovid) has craved for world domination is ugly. Equally, the West (particularly No. 45) is no better. And Japan has its unseen side (Abe and the Moritomo affair) also.

In short, baggage is not culturally or ethnically based (as if it ever really was). Everybody, and I mean everybody, is trying to force their opinion on to you. We are by nature like this.

So to try to live a life where I do not throw my opinion out there is near impossible. That is why I had chose to be a monk once. We want to escape from it, not be a part of it. The Amish and Luddites have tried. Brazilian tribes to hide in the forests. But in the end, isolation is unattainable or unsustainable. The world is not a series of enclosed bubbles. And if it is, it is as fragile as soap.

For all the baggage we try to throw out and discard it remains like garbage in a landfill.

Experience, memory, learning, knowledge

The way I hit a tennis ball determines the way the ball behaves. My serve, stroke, smash and volley is not going to beat Roger Federer or even any of the top professional players let alone the guy down the road … or my son tennis playing son.

The point is my idealised (imagined and willed) version of tennis will not make me a great or even a good player. I have to work hard (practice) to get there, follow a corporeal regiment because the physical world takes priority. The physical supervenes upon the mental.

I have broken (not lose, thank goodness) a my finger bone before. During karate when I was receiving a kick in practice. My bad for not keeping a tighter fist.

I have met people who have lost a finger, foot or limb. But none of these losses affect their mental capacity. For it is not in the limbs that the mind resides. Similarly, my broken finger affected my hand but not my mind. Experience tells me that the mind is in the brain or rather it is created by the brain.

There is something important about the definition of experience (knowledge or skill that you gain from doing a job or activity, or the process of doing this). Experience is more than memory (something that you remember from the past about a person, place, or experience). And it is more than learning (knowledge gained through reading and study).

Like the construction worker character Douglas Quaid in Total Recall, or the replicant Rachel in Blade runner they have implanted memories, not experiences. The danger lies in the fact that the definition of experience makes the concepts of memory and learning conveniently disappear.

We have knowledge as though it is 1 or 0 (no knowledge). It is a non-mass noun. It is one thing. Memory can be plural (memories). They are “things”. The attraction of that is knowledge is important in the sense that it says something about the way we think of it. Like a catchment or a carbon sink, it is one.

Memory is not knowledge. While a thing (count noun) it is not about gain or knowledge.

  1. I have had many experiences.
  2. I have had many memories.
  3. It was a good experience.
  4. ?It was a good memory.
  5. He has a lot of experience.
  6. He has a lot of memory.
  7. He has a lot of learning.

Experience is more important. Memory and learning are the basis of experience.