Tag Archives: theory

Religion from a biological or anthropological point of view

It seems to me that everything we do is for one purpose and one purpose alone, and that is to survive. We eat, sleep, exercise, work, play, wear clothes, buy houses, read, write, speak, listen, study, teach, sing, have sex, defecate, pretty do everything as a way to survive.

We create institutions to survive. Health care, education, science, philosophy and religion are just some of the institutions we have as a way to survive as a group rather than as an individual.

Seen this way, religion is no different to the ballroom dancing club, tennis club, academic associations that we create in order to survive. Religion, God, souls, mind and self, therefore, are concepts to help us, and should be studied as a biological and anthropological necessities. It should be off-limits to scrutiny.

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.

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

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.

The Experience

The Experience is the source of all knowledge. By experience I mean sensation from the senses. The five basic senses are the eyes, ears, skin, nose, and tongue, in the modes of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste respectively. Perception is also part of experience. Perception is the interpretation of the physical data from the senses and also the interpretation of the concepts (mental data). Conceptualisation is a part of this experience. It is the accumulation of concepts – physical and mental data – that I term knowledge. Signification (language) is the part of this experience of this particular animal.

Without sensory experience we do not have knowledge. The beginning of sensory experience is what we call life, and its end is death. Everything in between is The Experience.

Differance and the metaphysics of presence

A is a because it is not b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, or z.

B is b because it is not a, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, or z.

C is c because it is not a, b, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, or z.

And so on until z.

A does not have an inherent meaning, only meaning because it differs to the other symbols.  And by not having an inherent meaning it defers meaning. This is what Derrida had meant by differance. The choice of a different letter but identical pronunciation was to highlight differing, deferring and difference. The implication is that nothing has meaning present unto itself, only meaning via absence. He terms the mistake to think otherwise metaphysics to presence.

Type and token things

There are things. Let us call each thing a token. Let us begin with the smallest unit – the atom.

There are unfathomable, countless multitude of atoms in the universe. Yet, as we look at each atom carefully we see similarities and differences between them. Let us call one a and another b. a and b are dissimilar, in fact, so dissimilar that we will continue to call them a and b.

We look at another atom but this one is similar to a and different to b. So maybe we shall call it a1. After a while we have a whole bunch of grouped together. Here, they can be called A to represent all of the tokens called a. This big A we shall call type that which is a general representation of all tokens.

This A, of course, does not exist in the world, only as a classification or categorisation within the mind of the thinker. It is a concept that becomes a thing by virtue of being the actual letter A. It is in the sign that we mistake it for being real. The concept until being turned into a sign had no reality other than being a process within the mind/brain. The sign makes it “materialise” so to speak.

Furthermore, the person who speaks has not seen all the tokens of a but generalises this to all the a. A is thus a “rough estimate” of any a mentioned. Even if we are talking about a specific instance of a we cannot help but be drawn into the estimation that is A.

This is the quality of language that is continually (dis)missed, in all language use, ordinary, philosophical, or otherwise.

Linguistic efficiency

Chomsky believed there were innate ideas when it came to language. But cannot the patterns (deep structures) of language explained by the limitations of probable choice and the tendency towards linguistic efficiency, rather than some kind of pre-determined given?

In some ways this is what Chomsky is saying. But somehow there is a gap between his understanding of the physical reality and the reality of his language.

Language is a physical property and should be treated as such, not as some mystery akin to religions and gods.

Heraclitus and time

The natural state of the world is flux. No matter what we do time marches on. It is one directional. Time’s arrow.

While it is nice to call time (Mr Parmenides) an illusion the static state of ideas is not that same as reality.

Or that things must come from the perfect ideas like “forms” is nice too (Mr Plato) but perfection and is something of seemingly of the mind, and not to be found anywhere in the world except for in the mind, or brain as it were.

No, universals were the creation of the mind, not the other way around.

Everything is in flux. And everything makes sense (has meaning) only as relative to all else. This includes God of which Man needs to define himself*.

*no apology here to Man since pretty much he is to blame.

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

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.

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.

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.