Category Archives: other

All posts that do not belong in the categories of buddhism or sustainability goes in here. Please check tags for more details about what the post is about.

Our place in the universe is here and now

What is so special about human beings? Are the only beings that think we are special ourselves?

For 13 billion years the universe has done just fine without us. The universe does fine with us now. And the universe will do just fine without us again after our extinction.

Our knowledge and existence is simply insignificant within the larger picture of the reality. It is only with humility that we can truly live a full life. We must make significance and relevance for ourselves and others around us now, not elsewhere and not in the past or future.

Idealism, coffee grinders, movie magic

I clean my electric coffee grinder every time I grind beans. First I unplug it then I wipe it down. Then I wipe it dry with another cloth. I always unplug it. Even though there is little chance that I will trigger the grinder (it is sunk into the body) for safety reasons I will always unplug it lest I grind my fingers.

But if the reality does not conform to the way I see the world works then why I unplug the grinder. Without seeing the power I still know it is “there”. But how can I know it is there without being able to see it?

The truth is I do not know it is there. Only the fact that for the grinder to work it must be plugged into have the power for it to work. Unplug it and it will not work.

To put it another way it is only in horror movies that grinders “come to life”. In reality there is always an explanation including an explanation for movie magic (it is plugged in but you cannot see it).

The idealist project of that nothing exists outside of cognition of it serves no purpose for how we interact with reality other than the fact we use this knowledge to make interesting films.

Philosophical triangulation

1.
People ask how can the sensory representation of the physical world be relied upon. They ask how can I be sure that thing I see is there. The question is always framed through the visual sense.

Yet, all senses come into play.

The perceived thing visually will likely be accompanied by sound. If near enough I could probably touch and smell it. And if you are a baby you will likely want to lick (taste) it. In short, verification is never in a single sense dimension.

This kind of sensory triangulation is often forgotten. We do it so automatically that we take it for granted.

Yet the “what if the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow?” question should really be more precise like “what if the sun rises tomorrow and I don’t feel its heat?” The discrepancy between senses should trigger alarm bells.

It could be a dream perhaps. Or am I a man dreaming of being in a physical world, or a man in a physical world dreaming?

Silly question really.

For what elaborate reason would there be for creating this kind of The Matrix illusion?

Give me the red pill, please, and bring on the philosophical sentinels.

2.
The problem then with minds, souls, and spirits is that there is no triangulation other than hearsay. And when there is triangulation to the mind it is always through observation of a body-object.

There is no transference of The Matrix-like I-know-kung-fu data.

Nothing is there … or rather only a movie is there.

The imagination of the brain (not the mind) is what gives us The Matrix (literature and entertainment), Idealism (philosophy), the special theory of relativity (science), and God (religion).

Not only does the brain lead us to astray (as metaphors do), it also leads us sometimes back onto the right path (as metaphors do).

No body, no mind. No mind, dead body.

At the beginning of the internet in the 1980s (mass access anyway) I had started an online persona. It was as though I was a no more than the digital bits. The possibility was that the physical body was of little consequence.

Living online from the 90s my wellbeing deteriorated. Dislocated, I felt lost and insubstantial.

It was during this time that I began to truly ask who or what I am. Is it my body and/or my mind that is the real me? Or is it neither?

Trying all options, I have, by process of elimination, narrowed it down to this — the body plays a huge part as to who and what I am.

The mind supervenes to the body. No body, no mind. No mind, dead body. The mind does not go somewhere at death. It ceases to exist. More accurately, when the physical process ends, being alive ends. The implication is that what we call a mind does not exist as such but is a process of an object, this particular object, the body.

There was an experiment once that tried to observe the change of weight at death as the soul leaves, effectively trying to give the soul a quantitative number. As expected no change was observed. It is like the weight of an appliance with and without the power on.

Some argue that our ability to measure this is simply not sensitive enough. Or it could be it just isn’t there. Given the evidence, the body is more real than the mind. And the mind needs the body to exist.

I play a game of tennis. I do not think a game of tennis.

The general and the particular

Plato was mistaken, or at least his concept of forms (ideas) was.

The mistake was in the relationship between physical reality and innate ideas. The concept is understood to be that the thing of the reality is derived from the innate idea (forms). The concept is that forms are the true reality, and the physical world is but its shadow, or reflection of it.

Modern science has shown where ideas are created — in the brain as the mind. The more experience we have the better our ideas of the things of physical reality. Each particular thing categorised becomes a general idea of the thing. It is within the name-meaning (sign) that which our knowledge is based upon.

Mind, soul, spirit

“The official doctrine, which hails chiefly from Descartes, is something like this. […] Some would prefer to say that every human being is both a body and a mind. His body and his mind are ordinarily harnessed together, but after the death of the body his mind may continue to exist and function.” (Ryle, The Concept of Mind, 13. Underline mine.)

Often, the mind (your thoughts or your ability to think, feel, and imagine things) is equated to the soul (the part of a person that is not physical, and that contains their character, thoughts, and feelings. Many people believe that a person’s soul continues to exist after they have died) and spirit (the part of someone that you cannot see, that consists of the qualities that make up their character, which many people believe continues to live after the person has died).

Today, we know the mind resides in the brain. The mental state is created there. Unlike the soul or spirit, the mind can be affected and influenced by diet, sensory input, and thoughts. The soul or spirit is some “thing” that is fixed, unchanging, immortal (in Western culture, at least). The soul seems to have character, thoughts, and feelings. The spirit contains character but not thoughts and feelings. Both soul or spirit are defined by its continuation after death, the expiration of the body’s animation.

So, slowly we are moving away from the notion that the mind equals a soul or spirit.

Today, we are unafraid to ask, does the soul or spirit exist. Religions will try to keep you saying yes. Science tries to convince you to say no.

The better question is to ask does the soul or spirit interact and affect the physical in way after the death. In that sense, equating the soul or spirit with the mind is better since it would suggest that mind, soul or spirit really only interacts and functions with this world when it is animated within the body. After death it has no influence other than through those who have interacted with that mind as a body. Anything beyond that interaction is a conceptualisation.

Is there such a thing as antihumanism?

Lately I have been hearing ‘antihumanism’ as a term being brandished around a lot more to refer to postmodernism (pomo). While it is true pomo is in some ways antihuman in its outlook it is by no means its main tenet.

I was hard-pressed to find anything in specialist dictionaries and general encyclopaedias with the entry ‘antihumanism’. A search of books came up with more. Most books with the word title were written in the turn of the century and were invariably contrasted against ‘humanism’. My point being this is a term that does not stand on its own, that it is always determined against humanism as disparate arguments.

Antihumanism is not a tradition but a group of thinkers and philosophies which have criticisms against humanism but is not a full blown -ism in itself. Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Heidegger are not “antihumanists”. Positivism and science, structuralism, poststructuralism, and postmodernism are not antihuman philosophies. The label is one of convenience, not one of coherence.