Author Archives: signature103

About signature103

Language teacher and researcher. Object Philosopher. Buddhist.

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

Reality
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.

Perception
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.

Language
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?

1.
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?

2.
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.

3.
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.

4.
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.

5.
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

1.
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.

2.
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

1.
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.

2.
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.

3.
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.

4.
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.

5.
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.

Things are individuated. The p=q is not a truth. Categorically, this can be true. Realistically, p is p and q is q.

Inclusion

Inclusion is a perceptive process, not a reality. Reality doesn’t care about inclusion or exclusion. It’s the mind – another kind of process – that thinks it(self) is important.

Avoiding transmission situations and route

‪If #covid19 has asymptomatic transmission then the only thing we can do cut the chance of exposure with masks and general avoidance with people. Respiratory exhalation (talking and singing) seems to increase likelihood of transmission. ‬

Japan is a culture where talking (socialising) seems far lower than the West, and could be one reason for lower transmission rates. Certainly, physical contact is not the cultural norm. I doubt I would physical come into contact more than once a day with people I live or work with. This is a cultural thing not an expression thing. Love or any other expressions of feeling are done in other ways.

Killing two birds with one stone – good ol’ fashion labour

I have been riding a bicycle everyday for about three weeks now. I hadn’t gotten exercise for a couple years and I was getting out of breathe just by climbing two flights of stairs. But now the stairs are easy and my body recovers quickly.

Modern life is the opposite of fitness. Everything is made to make things easier. And for this easiness one has to exercise instead. Is this not double the work. Should not the things we do in life be also pet of your fitness. Should it not require effort so as to help maintain your fitness.

Isn’t doing things the long way really a way to kill two birds with one stone?

It is true though I cannot always do manual labour. White collar work is simply too static that one needs to do exercise outside of the labour. Unless I can incorporate physical work into teaching (without being sued for slavery) I have no choice but to bike.

But biking is not so bad. it is definitely fun. And it is a change in scenery to my indoor existence.

Of the mind

Once and for all I shall rid myself of absolutes. Not in the real sense for absolutes firstly do not exist other than in the mind. To say in mind is to give it substance for which is has not. Such is the power of language. Of the mind is better but still not adequate.

Without the process of thought there is no idea or concept of absolute. For it to be conceived is for it to be thought. In this sense Descartes is right – I think therefore I am. And for Berkeley to be is to be perceived is a leap of faith too far in my opinion.

The notions of rationality and idealism are in the end notions of process not notions of corporeal things. As much as ideas are in language countable they are nowhere to be found. Neither are their minds independent of the very metaphorical machines that produce them.

The unexperienced reality is no different from the experienced one. I can say then that the mind produced by the body is as much part of the reality that it inhibits. But I cannot say that it exists outside of the process that produces it. The Rylean categorical mistake is thus to believe something exists because it is named.

The objectification of non-things

Unless a concept is turned into an object – a noun – we cannot talk about it. We cannot escape the the idea of it being an “it”. Notice the countability of “it”. This move or ability to convert a concept into a countable, tangible thing is one of the most powerful and useful tools to us – the human being. It defines us and at times separates us from other beings. So much so, that it may elevate us about gods or even God. This is not a new idea. Nietzsche had said so much with the phrase “God is dead”. But let us go further and talk about what it is like where God may be talked about in the past tense, to be able to talk about a time when God was alive. The fact that God was, is and will be yet is only ever discussed in terms of the present or presence (as it were) should set off critical and philosophical alarm bells.  Fundamentally, we must see through the power (and weakness) of language which had once moved us forward but is now holding us back.

still in the shadows

where is the law
when the law
is standing over you
and standing on you,

that a man can die
for no better reason
than for his colour
simply is unfathomable.

one has to wonder
why so little
has been learnt
all this time,

all these centuries.
how can someone be a threat
when one is cooperative,
patient and forgiving

only to be toyed with
then killed, murdered
as it were
in the darkness

that was apparently
not dark enough
for it to be captured
on film, as if

we do not have enough
evidence already
that racism is still
hiding in the shadows.

Experience

I experience, therefore I am.

There is nothing more to say … other than you were wrong, Monsieur Descartes.