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Philosophy — the learning curve   

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PATHWAYS CONFERENCE
Philosophy — the learning curve
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Here are the postings for the Pathways Conference on Philosophy — the learning curve from 3rd August 2004 to 19th September 2007. There were 162 postings totalling over 55000 words.

To obtain a key for the Pathways online conferences, you must be a member of the International Society for Philosophers.

Happy Conferencing!

Geoffrey Klempner


CONFERENCE TOPIC: THE LEARNING CURVE
FROM: Geoffrey Klempner (08/03/04 6:31 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: Philosophy — the learning curve

Welcome to the Pathways Conference!

The conference topic is 'Philosophy — the learning curve'.

The title is an ironic reference to the cliche about steep learning curves. In philosophy, no-one ever gets to see the top of the curve.

This conference will be an opportunity for Pathways students to exchange ideas and compare experiences, as well as offering helpful advice to those who are pursuing a self-directed course of study.

Do please remember our two ground rules:

1. Be prepared to consider the possibility that you might be wrong.

2. Treat one another with courtesy and respect at all times.

Enjoy your discussion!

Geoffrey Klempner

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Rachel Browne (08/07/04 2:16 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: The learning curve?

Did anyone see GK's intro to what this is supposed to be about?

I think that philosophy is so difficult — but enjoyable — that it makes you feel able to study anything after studying it.

Any other thoughts? Or did that even amount to a thought? Probably not.

Oh well, thought curve is on a down-turn,
R

    REPLIES (17):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/09/04 6:31 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: what do we learn from philosophy ?

    Rachel,

    is there a learning-curve in life ? What about "coming of age" ? As St.Paul wrote : "When I was a child, I spoke like a child and was wise like a child and had childish plans, but when I became a man, I gave up childish things." (1Cor, 13) This is common experience. All philosophical problems change, and we have to grow to be up to our problems always.

    But of course, as Geoffrey says : The learning curve is never ending. So I wonder : What makes the difference between a mathematical and a philosophical problem — or a problem of art ? If there is no well defined problem, there can be no well defined answer. The problems of life — and those of art and of philosophy — are not well defined. Would that do as an explanation ? Please come out from the hide everybody !

    Hubertus

  • FROM: OCHIENG OMBOK (08/10/04 9:53 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: The Learning Curve?

    "A leaning curve"?- Probably!

    But a learning curve? — Interesting!

    Is this supposed to be the path along which

    knowledge opens up to those who put little or no

    effort to make personal discoveries? That "curve"

    that makes most or all people within a certain

    domain to be more or less the same in thinking,

    mannerisms etc.?

    Or is it the different route one has to take in

    order to break away from the common way of

    thinking and come up with a new way of seeing

    things?

    Or could it be the rate at which the range of

    knowledge grows under given circumstances?

  • FROM: Michael Ward (08/10/04 2:34 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Un-learning curve

    Hi,

    Climbing out of the cave to respond to this learning curve question troubles me. It presupposes that we can learn i.e that things are predictable and do operate under certain laws.

    Who questions that assumption?

    Michael Ward

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/10/04 4:20 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: what is learned ?

    Ochieng,

    you wrote of "the range of knowledge". But when you go a way in the mountains you not only see new pieces of the way ahead, but the whole perspective changes always : The landscape changes, the look of the way behind you changes, your memory and expectations change, all things change always.

    When the philosophy of pagan antiquity began to be replaced by Christian philosophy mostly during the 4th and 5th century AD, there was not just a new range of knowledge opened, but a very different view on the landscape below. And in the opinion of many this was not even a good thing but a bad one, not a growth in knowledge but a closing of the mind. People began to see a new and wonderful landscape, but lost sight of another one of equal importance for some 1.000 years into the Renaissance. Who then decides what was gained and what was lost ? Today the Islamic world is losing its identity and is desperately defending it against Western "modern" thinking. Who is right ?

    Is "Western" thinking more advanced, more knowledgeable, more insightful ? What do you call a criterium of "progress in knowledge" ?

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/10/04 4:24 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: what is "knowledge" ?

    Mike,

    to know the laws of gravitation and of relativity or the Maxwell-equation surely is an achievement, and there is more of this sort. But this of course is factual knowledge and not "wisdom". So what would you call "wisdom" if it is of any meaning to you at all ? Our old difference of "knowing that" and "knowing how" and "knowing why".

    Hubertus

  • FROM: OCHIENG OMBOK (08/11/04 5:00 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Explanation or definition?

    Does the range of knowledge refer to what is known or what can possibly be known under the present circumstances?

    If it refers to what is known, then it would be different from one person or being to another. And if it refers to what can be known, then it would depend on the epistemological matrix in totality. (ie. What can be known, how it can be known, who can know it, where it can be known etc)

    When we speak of the human Ken, are we speaking of what humanity knows in totality, or what humanity is capable of knowing given the present state of human epistemology.

    But as Hubertus implies, does an opening of a new landscape necessarily diminish the development of an earlier one? Maybe it happened in the last few millennia because it had been necessary to enforce one opening and frustrate another, since most changes had been to either conquer politically or convert spiritually, mostly, an undertaking where the winner takes all.

    So, if the learning curve refers to what is known, this kind of undertaking would surely diminish. It would be a downward curve. But if it refers to what can possibly be known, then it would increment, since what was adhered to earlier could still be known through remembrance.

    Still not quite clear. Let me try again.

    The learning curve.

    Learning = acquisition of knowledge= epistemological
    Curve = not linear = Geometrical.

    Therefore, The learning curve = epistemological geometry
    Or , The learning curve = geometrical epistemology

    So now, which is which? Let me go anyway!

    The learning curve = An epistemological term describing the non-linearity of knowledge-
    acquisition.

    What would this mean? Would it mean that with every new field of learning opened up, the rate at which knowledge is acquired rises at a proportion that is not linear? Or falls ?

    HELP! HELP! HELP!

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/11/04 6:02 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: sinking in the philosophers pool

    Ochieng,

    too tired this moment to answer (1 am here), but HELP, HELP ! is a good argument for jumping into the pool again, so keep on ! As you know from experience : the best thing to do if you are drowning is — to do nothing but drift belly up and breathe ...

    Hubertus

    P.S.: Of course I know what "belly up" means, but you are no fish, so it is good advice.

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/12/04 8:07 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on changing views

    Ochieng,

    you asked "does an opening of a new landscape necessarily diminish the development of an earlier one?" Not necessarily of course. But many problems are never "solved" because the interest turns into another direction or the problem turn out to be falsely formulated or to be misunderstandings. In the time of Luther, Shakespeare, and Newton — i.e. from about 1520 to 1720 — Astrology and Alchemy were quite serious scientific endeavours. Today they are not, and it seems not too likely that they will ever be again.

    Similar in you life : Some time you are obsessed with a certain problem, then it becomes replaced by another problem or simply unimportant.

    This was what I was speaking of : A mathematical or physical problem may be well defined and only asking for solution. But most problems of private and collective life are not of this sort. In math and physics we most often (not always !) at least know the MEANING of a problem and only lack a solution (this applies with superstring-theory f.i., where we have to find meaningful experiments to decide them, or in the case of Fermats-Theorem, which is now solved), but in real life we often do not know the MEANING of a problem and just because of this we do not know the meaning of a solution either. Some people find meaning in the Gospel, they feel to be sinners and then by a personal great awakening they feel delivered from sin, which may be one of the greatest experiences in all their life. But many others don't feel to be sinners and thus find the whole concept of Christian salvation meaningless and absurd.

    How do you define in such a case "the problem" and how do you define "the solution". They both arise and vanish together like matter and antimatter in physics. And this is not only so in the Christian creed but in the Islamic and socialist and liberal and any other creed likewise. Thus it is a certain frame of reference that defines whether (1) a fact, or (2) a problem, or (3) a solution "exists". And this "frame of reference" was what I had in mind when writing of the "outlook".

    Of course there may be cases (and there are, but seldom) where a problem that seemed at rest all of a sudden explodes like the Mt.St.Helens in 1980.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (08/12/04 4:34 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Wisdom

    Hubertus

    If given the task of doing something wise tomorrow you will not be able to know whether it was wise or not until later. Wisdom therefore is a retrospective attribute.

    Now take me for instance, my wife calls me a pessimist, personally I see myself as a well informed optimist. Who makes wiser decisions the well or lesser informed.

    Wisdom = Getting it right more often.

    Michael

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/12/04 5:01 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: the ugly one to the nice Martian

    Mike,

    sorry, I have not changed a little bit (we all do not too much) : I think Hitler was very well informed and very optimistic ...

    Well, I know you better than that, but your criterium may not work. We have to think it over. Ask your wife on it ! Have fun !

    Always laughing Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (08/13/04 6:23 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: On being right

    Hubertus,

    Just when I think I have everything into perspective a new dimension appears and demolishes that picture well done.

    Not only my wife but I also would agree that knowledge alone is but one component of being called wise — the two others being successful outcome over time.

    Still, Wisdom = Getting it right more often.

    I think that still stands as even Hitler would have had a concept of wisdom founded upon what he perceived as right.

    Michael

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/17/04 8:22 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on being right and slaying each other

    Well, Mike, we will not do it but be nice as ever. But I had some second thoughts on this old problem of how to be objective.

    Socrates seems to be the first to have subjected all claims on truth to methodical testing, be they religious or moral or scientific. In this he was a precursor of Descartes and Kant and the founder of "solid" Western philosophy. At about the same time the Buddha and Mahavira in India and Confucius in China undertook a similar task of giving a solid fundament to all human thinking and arguing independent of the many traditions available. They all declined for a first time to take the tradition for granted and instead tried to justify human thinking and behaviour from first principles.

    As a methodical step this was a great achievement, but it turned out that the task was impossible to solve. In fact from the ruins of those traditions and convictions proven unsound and unjustified there sprouted a whole lot of new concepts of truth. Thus Socrates was not only the end of many schools of thought, he was at the same time the origin of many new ones, of Platonism and Aristotelianism and Stoicism and Epicureism which all then further splitted in different branches later on. This is a fate of all propositions : The Christian Church, even after excluding several heretical strands on the first ecumenical councils later split into the Orthodox and the Roman churches and from the latter the Protestant churches separated and then split further into countless denominations. A similar splitting took place in Marxism when Trotskyism and Maoism and Neo-Marxism separated from Leninism-Stalinism etc..

    Thus while the idea of never taking any conviction or tradition for granted but always asking for its justification remained accepted standard from the time of Socrates, there never has been agreement on what to call truth. The Buddhist, the Christian, and the Islamic concepts of the fundamental truth were quite outside of the imagination of Socrates or his followers Plato and Aristotle, but they were transforming the world-view of many millions of people in large areas of the world, and the same can be said of liberalism and secular socialism, which both were children of the modern Western idea of Enlightenment born in the European 18th century. To think methodical on why to accept some conviction as being true does NOT guarantee for one and only one truth and not even for similarity of the different answers.

    Like there are different ways of living and of furnishing your home, there are different ways of thinking and of furnishing your brain.

    The conflict between different philosophical, theological and scientific schools was never so much a conflict on details but was typically a conflict on incompatible approaches, questions, and preconditions. There will always be agreement on the hight of the water in the glass, but there will never be agreement on whether this is to be called half-full or half-empty. To decide whether the glass is half-full or half-empty you need some background assumptions underlying your evaluation, and these background-assumptions are in some way defining your personal stand, so you cannot and will not give up on them but defend them with teeth and claws. This explains why the project of objectivity never will succeed : What people are asking for is meaning, not facts. People want to know what to do and why to do it, and no facts will give them an answer.

    To know the meaning of a word or sentence you have to know the meaning of the text and context. Facts outside any frame of reference defining their meaning and importance are meaningless and useless in nearly all cases. Of course the law of gravitation is a fact. But it does not tell me what to do in a moral conflict where no law of gravitation is applicable. A world of objectivity is a world in which the answer to the question whether the glass is half full or half empty does not matter. But generally it does.

    And that is the problem to ponder : What is the MEANING of this difference ? Why do people get at each others throat over a jota ? Why is one Lutheran denomination in the liberal USA denying members of another Lutheran denomination to take part in the communion ? It's just like denying somebody whom you do not like to drink from your glass of beer. It looks like a minor but is insurmountable, because it is part of your identity.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (08/18/04 2:06 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: On objectivity

    On Objectivity

    When this idea is used it seems to be in the context of a non-self perspective and often taken as the neutral third party position between two opposing views.

    I am proposing that for the solipsist there can be no objectivity for there is even no second party perspective. Furthermore I am going to propose that there is no one who can with total assurance prove that I exist nor anybody else for that matter, we are to that extent all solipsists.

    We seem to have invented this concept of being objective as the counter position to being subjective as the majority of human values come as opposing pairs. However, being subjective is all that we can ever know, it is our only state of being for there is no possibility of getting out of ourselves into the position of a neutral (non human) observer.

    My mischievous thought experiments as the Martian are imaginings into what such neutrality or objectivity might be like but shackled with the human condition any such ideas I have must be an extension of that condition.

    And yet, the idea that a material world probably existed pre-human and most likely post human still gives me some meaning to using the word objective as some sort of neutral and enduring yardstick. The issues of truth and objectivity along with other social constructs, are just so much froth in the half full or half empty beer glass of life which I am quite happy to share with you. At least I think I think that!

    Michael
    A thinking being.

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/18/04 4:58 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on facts and exegetics

    Well, Mike, there is nothing bad with thinking of course. Kant and Heidegger each wrote a famous little text on "what is thinking ?" They both came to the conclusion that it is about "understanding your situation" in the sense of "what am I doing here ?" or "what is my problem ?"

    The central sentence in my latest posting was : //There will always be agreement on the hight of the water in the glass, but there will never be agreement on whether this is to be called half-full or half-empty.//

    The supporters of Blair and GWB on Iraq are not too different from the critics on the mere facts. They are clashing on the interpretation of the facts and on what to do about them, on "how to define the situation".

    I too think that there are some objective facts — at least in my fridge when I am hungry. And surprise — it works ! In this case I know what to do with those "facts". But what to do with "religious facts" ? What shall I answer to somebody who claims that the Bible is some sort of spiritual fridge to get something to eat from for the soul ? What do we MEAN if we call this "nonsense" ?

    There are those facts and there are we humans. And I am wondering what the nature of the connection between the two could be. Some people seem to have the right enzymes to get nourished from the Bible, while others lack those anzymes. But I am not sure that this is a good picture. Some called religion "the opium of the masses". This too may not convince everybody — and surely not me. So what do we call "reality" — and why ? That's the problem.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (08/20/04 10:40 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: What do we call reality and why?

    Everyone,

    For as long as I can remember I've had the certainty that I exist but I've not been so certain as to exactly what I exist in. Many would not even see it as a question but as the starting point of a journey and using this map analogy knowing where you are on the map is not the same as knowing what the map is.

    This is what lies behind my understanding of your (Hubertus) question and indeed my quest. I do not think that humanity is at the centre of reality any more than the earth is at the centre of the solar system although casual observation might make that seem the most plausible explanation. The likelihood that human ideas and values are the defining forces in the universe must be well past their sell by dates.

    As difficult, or even impossible, as it seems we must try to get our thinking outside of the box called human. To hold firm views in an arbitrary world in which we can never get first hand experience cannot be rational and without reason we would have no measure to compare anything, and I do mean anything. Without reason we would be forever limited to making statements and denied any meaningful dialogue.

    Now what do you call reality and why?

    Michael

  • FROM: Shaun Williamson (12/12/04 10:38 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Bizzare idea

    It seems to me to be a strange idea to think that
    you are certain that you exist since it seems to me
    me that the things you cannot doubt you cannot be
    certain of. I might doubt that you exist. I might
    prove that you exist. Those options are not open to
    you. You can SAY that you are in pain but you cannot
    doubt that you are in pain or know that you are in
    pain.

  • FROM: Michael Ward (12/18/04 5:49 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Who said that!

    Shaun,

    You can say you are talking to me but do you know that — am I listening, how can you know that.

    Michael

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/31/04 1:28 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: just mind the future a bit

Dear all,

below some links to what is going on in the labs today. I don't take all this too seriously. We still are "normal humans" this time, "old Adams" — and perhaps some new ones. I only wanted to share a bit information. People are working intensely on many fronts. We just should be aware.

There is a saying that "brilliant minds" go where the future is. This was applied on physicists (i.a. Einstein, Heisenberg, Dirac, etc.) during the 20th century : They revolutionized our world by inventing nuclear power and electronics (including TV and the computers) and modern chemistry (including pharmaceuticals and genetics).

Now the next century — this beginning one — was told to be the century of biology : Genetics, brain- and behaviour-research, eco-systems, etc.. Then a convergence is expected, where physics and biology and math combine to bring forth new creatures, true artificial life and true artificial intelligence. If true intelligence depends on being actively moving around and learning like a baby and toddler, so let the new generation of robots do just that : move around and learn from experience and improve yourself.

Well, up to now these are only dreams — and many think : Bad dreams. I don't think so. Anyway there is much work done on this in many labs around the world, Japan, China, India included.

I don't overestimate it. The central object of study is and must be still man and society and culture. We still have lots of "normal" problems : Wars and civil wars and genocides and torture, famines and epidemics and poverty and "social injustice" and backwardness etc.. The brilliant minds should rather concentrate on those "old-fashioned" problems.

Thus it is not all robotics and artificial life etc.. Those are marginal. But the little rodents that were the ancestors of all mammals while the big dinos still roamed the earth were to inherit the earth later on, and not the elephant or lion but the ape after transforming into a human was then to dominate it all. Thus what seems small and marginal today and hidden in some labs may become the master of the universe in a not too distant future. We should take notice then and now.

And this is part of modern philosophy, of our global "learning curve", of understanding what we are doing, what we are up to, what our nature is.

Hubertus

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Some links to "artificial life" :

http://www.blueammonite.f9.co.uk/alifeart/

http://www.channon.net/alastair/

generally see :

http://vivisimo.com/search?query=%22artificial+evolution%22&v%3Asources=Web&x=0&y=0

from which
http://www.alcyone.com/max/links/alife.html
http://www.alcyone.com/max/links/alife.html#Lindenmayer_systems_Lsystems
http://pages.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/~jacob/
http://pages.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/~jacob/IEC/
http://pages.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/~jacob/IEC/IEC%20Main%20Page/IEC%20Main%20Page.htm

some extras :

http://home.sprintmail.com/~kalki/id25.htm

http://www.nicholasantonio.com/artificial_evolution.htm

http://citeseer.ist.psu.edu/context/657/0

Those two below are books, but click the several related links to other books and recommendations etc. too ! By thus clicking around and reading the readers comments you will learn quite a lot on the field !

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0975271148/ ref=cm_custrec_gl_rec/002-1019422-6800854?v=glance&s=books

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0140282025/ tag%3Dlksmsubsite-sub-bk-asin-20/002-1019422-6800854

And add this one of course : http://edge.org/

and http://www.kurzweilai.net/index.html?flash=2

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Shaun Williamson (12/12/04 12:13 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: I think Hitler was very well informed and very optimistic ..

Well you are wrong. Hitler was very optimistic but
he was very badly informed.
If Hitler had had an ounce of sense he would have
quit in 1938 when he was still ahead of the game. If he had had the slightest understanding of why
Germany lost the first world war he wouldn't have
made the same mistake twice. The problem is that
men who like to dress up in uniforms usually
aren't great political thinkers. There was never
the slightest possibility that Germany could win
the second world war. Hitler was an idiot.

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Shaun Williamson (12/12/04 10:43 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: Assumptions

'Climbing out of the cave to respond to this learning curve question troubles me. It presupposes that we can learn i.e that things are predictable and do operate under certain laws.'

Its not an assumption. Scientists don't do
experiments to prove or disprove the idea that the
world is predictable but they don't assume that it
is either. Science has no philosophical point of
view.

    REPLIES (3):

  • FROM: Michael Ward (12/18/04 5:53 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Why?

    Shaun,

    I agree, science anwers the "how" questions but what really interests me is ther ever a valid "why" question?

    Michael

  • FROM: OCHIENG OMBOK (03/09/05 9:13 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on predictability

    Shawn, Mike,

    Shawn states that Scientists don't do experiments to prove or disprove the idea that the
    world is predictable but they don't assume that it is either.
    Mike agrees with this, but wonders whether there is a valid why question.

    I opine that whenever scientists carry out an experiment, they have an expectation in mind. This expectation is itself as a result of a certain rule or hypothesis, and the rule is as a result of a certain arrangement that contains a degree of predictability . The expectation may be realized in the experiment, in which case it would strengthen the hypothesis, or may not be realized, in which case, some premises would have to be revised.

    When we understand fully the dynamics of a certain situation, we are able to predict a future outcome by analyzing the present arrangement of the components that build up that situation. In order to ascertain whether or not the world is predictable, we have to know all the situations that make up the world, and then understand the dynamics of each of them. If the situations are finite, we can imagine a remote possibility of mastering all their dynamics and being able to make predictions ourselves. But even though an infinite number of situations puts us in an awkward position, it does not eliminate the possibility of the world being predictable, since predictability may exist without our ability to perform it.

    By asking whether there is a valid why question, Mike could be leaning, in my opinion, towards the thesis that the world is predictable. For why questions to be invalid, future outcomes should follow strictly from present settings. This would imply that there is no free will, hence, no justification for putting anyone on the defensive by asking a why question.

    Ochieng.

  • FROM: Shaun Williamson (03/09/05 7:38 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: The world is predictable

    Well there are two ways to look at this
    1. The world is predictable in a practical sense.
    2. The world is predictable in a theoretical sense.
    1 seems to be untrue because there are so many
    things we cannot predict, the erruptions of
    volcanoes for example.
    There is no way in which we can prove 2. How would
    we ever be able to prove that the world is
    theoretically unpredictable as opposed to the idea
    that we don't yet have the correct theories.

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: eddie street (07/11/05 4:24 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: It's all rubbish really

My Damascene revelation about philosophy was when I read the book 'The History of Philosophy' by J Lewis (Teach Yourself Books, 1970. What I found out that philosophy is only a series of one person or anothers opinion. There is no basis for one person being right and another wrong, it is all a matter of what makes sense to them. I suppose the one exception to that is David Hume, who I see as a meta-philosopher because he argues about the practicalities not the etheriality(sic). Oh, and Wittgenstein, whom I haven't fully got to grips with yet!

I want to understand more to see if I can find a personally satisfying view of existence based on the thoughts of others but not confined to the doctrines of that person. Somewhere in all the argument, counter argument and downright blether there is surely an underlying consensus? Or am I totally wrong in thinking that way?

    REPLIES (3):

  • FROM: Shaun Williamson (07/11/05 10:51 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Philosophy and consensus

    No there is no underlying consensus. Philosophers
    have failed to agree on the answer to one single
    philosphical question and they have failed to agree on the solution to any one philosphical problem. That in itself should show you that
    philosophy is a very strange subject and that it
    cannot be compared to science. We can say that
    there is progress in science since new theories
    build on the old ones.
    This is not true of philosophy. At the same time
    philsophers are not just expressing their own
    opinions, they are trying to get at the truth and
    the only thing that should interest us in philosophy is what is true and what is false.
    You may of course conclude that it is not possible
    to reach any sort of philosophical truth.
    Also philosophy can never be about finding a
    comfortable set of beliefs about the world or a
    personally satisfying view of existence.
    I think that any one volume history of philosophy
    can only give you the view that this philsopher
    had this opinion and another philosopher had a
    different opinion but that is a misleading view
    if it leads you to conclude that it is just a
    mattter of opinion. You need to study the details
    of why Kant thought as he did and precisely why
    he disagreed with Hume etc.

  • FROM: eddie street (07/17/05 7:43 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Concensus

    I am not expecting all, or any, philosophers to come to an agreement and I suppose that that is what intrigues me about the subject! My belief in concensus is not that all will agree on one fundamental 'truth' but that the processes by which we seek and arrive at our own 'truths'are so similiar that the conclusion is less important than the methodology...it is as if there is a Platonic Form of 'Opinion'which we are all trying to conform to.
    I am in the middle of a house move at the moment and so my library is all packed up, but as soon as I can I shall read Kant's views on Hume as you suggest

  • FROM: OCHIENG OMBOK (10/04/05 5:54 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Some questions on science and knowledge

    Welcome back ladies and gentlemen,
    Shaun says
    the only thing that should interest us in philosophy is what is true and what is false.

    And also,
    We can say that there is progress in science since new theories build on the old ones.

    Which implies that old scientific theories are built on older ones, and so on going backwards in time. But on what theory was the first scientific theory built?

    I may be allowed to ask,especially since Shaun states that Science has no philosophical point of view. Does this not leave the scientific point of view to be either scientific or theological!

    If our science got it all wrong and developed a retrogressive theory scientifically, would we still consider as progress whatever theory followed from the retrogressive one?

    When is science, or a science said to be true? Can we have a false science?
    If science is an end, then what is the means ?
    And if science is the means, then what is the end?

    Assuming that science were an end in itself, could we claim that it is necessarily true? Or shall we have to examine the means first?

    And if science were the means and the end turned out to be immoral or unethical, would the scienctific method call for judgement? Does the false-hood and truth-hood of science lie in the ethical and morality status of its ends?

    Are we, by leaving out all theological and philosophical methods in favour of the scientific , moving towards the direction of necessary truth? Or goodness?

    Before we can have science as our guide to truth and goodness, must we not get rid of all deity, and besides getting rid of deity, must we not find a worthy replacement?

    What is our present state of epistemology? Are we really progressing in science or specializing in the little we already know? Is there any other problem nowadays that can not be solved by an electronic gadget? Is there any other science to be invented after electronics? Have we decided to keep on "consulting electronics" rather than look for other alternative methods? Have we reached the end of our learning curve? Have we already stopped widening our ken and started deepening our knowledge?

    Do modern science (probably still in the province of fiction) like nano technology,robotics, and cryogenics open up a completely new avenue of knowledge, or is it just a quantum leap from one electronic level to another?

    Ochieng Ombok.

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Shaun Williamson (08/10/06 9:10 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: Science can't get it wrong

Science is based on the idea of finding a theory
that best explains the observed facts and has the
greatest predictive power of what future facts will
turn out to be true.

As such it has no religeous or metaphysical baggage.
Consider the difference between Darwin's idea of the
survival of the fittest and the Nazi
misinterpretation of this idea.

    REPLIES (14):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (08/27/06 2:42 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Science can't get it wrong

    Dear Shaun,

    first : Astrology and alchemy and witchcraft and other "sciences" have for a long time held to be science proper. For any true Christian believer theology is a true science. Things are not that simple. But I could leave it at that.

    Another question : Why do you call Hitlers interpretation of Darwinism a "mis"-interpretation ? Even apes of the same tribe kill each other in a fight over territory. See Jane Goodall on this. So what is wrong with killing by a "superior race" or "superior religion" or "superior culture" ? World history is full of stories of some tribe overcoming all others around and by this creating an empire. Alexander did it, the Romans did it, the Mongols did it, the Turks did it, the Habspurgs did it, the British did it, Napoleon did it. Why not the Germans ?

    What about "Western dominance" today ? What about imperialism and colonialism ?

    I do not mean that you are wrong, but I want to hear your arguments to defend your position as a philosopher on this philosophical platform. There never was a "right" to overrun your neighbors. People just did it.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (08/28/06 11:12 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Science can't get it wrong

    Shuan

    I think that your statement is not primarily about comparing Darwin's idea of "survival of the fittest" and Nazi "misinterpretation" of it. Rather that comparison is to support the idea that "Science" provides a better explanation of the world than do religion and metaphysics.

    Science is about theories that can be empirically tested. While metaphysical ideas can be questioned (a task for philosophy), they cannot be empirically tested. My daily circumstances involve some things that are empirically tested and others that seem beyond the boundaries of empiric testing.

    Following a recipe for baking Peach Kuchen is an empiric test. Perhaps the question about whether my wife and I will enjoy eating Peach Kuchen can be made the subject of empiric testing. But what baking Peach Kuchen for my wife says about my love for her is probably more a matter for Socratic inquiry than empiric science.

    Since religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam, result from unique revelations, I do not see how they can be subject to empirical testing. However religions are subject to historical and philosophical inquiries. In the human sense, this would seem to make religion subordinate to philosophy.

    The history of science is that some things once thought about exclusively metaphysically are now perceived scientifically. However metaphysical and ethical questions are not withering away in this age of science.

    If we as you suggest compare Darwinism to Nazism, we must understand what Darwin himself meant by "survival of the fittest." Darwin referred to Herbert Spencer's use of this term. That suggests to me that Darwin's theory is based not only on science (empiric inquiry), but also metaphysical and ethical inquiries and conclusions (philosophy).

    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/10/06 7:49 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Science can't get it wrong

    Hi Shaun,

    I'm with you on this one, welcome aboard.

    I won't leave it at that Hubertus: Science turns ideas into facts or defeats them with better ideas. All other things being equal I would call societies in possession of facts or verifiable truths a potentially better society.

    This notion of rights is in my view a wholly artificial human construct unless you believe you're the subject of some supreme authority capable of granting such rights. The only rights we have are those we have constructed amongst ourselves and by that very nature they are all restrictive. i.e we hope we have the right to expect not to be killed because we ourselves have accepted the social restriction not to kill others a purely reciprocal contract.

    Charles, you make the claim that religion(s) are the result of revelation — not so. I would not argue had you said personal experience but to have something revealed firstly presupposes a revealer and secondly that there is something there to reveal. As there is no empirical evidence for either describing it any other terms than an experience is rationally incorrect.

    The interpretations put on Darwinian evolution theory by believers tries to address the question of why when of course it is a irrelevant question in the first place there is no why to anything until we can first answer all the how questions.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/11/06 9:55 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Science can't get it wrong

    Michael you said in response to my reply to Shuan:
    "Charles, you make the claim that religion(s) are the result of revelation — not so. I would not argue had you said personal experience but to have something revealed firstly presupposes a revealer and secondly that there is something there to reveal. As there is no empirical evidence for either describing it any other terms than an experience is rationally incorrect. '

    Michael

    You seem to be saying: Only those human experiences that can be empirically described are rational. How do you describe poetry then? Is poetry irrational? Poetry is a primary descriptive form used by religions.

    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/11/06 12:32 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Poetry won't get it right

    Charles

    All experiences are 100% valid as an experience.
    Having had the experience the mind interprets it.
    The interpretation is the first stage of corruption.
    If the interpretation is based upon myth or belief we multiply the error.
    If we again link the experience with other similar errors it is compounded.

    If we could compare the original with the final we could see the change but I fear we are filling in pieces to a jigsaw of a world view of our own making. Hence stop making causal links which are not necessarily the case. If you want to know what is necessarily the case then only science will provide that empirical answer.

    Now poetry, or music or art are all aimed at emotional stimulation and may or not achieve that result but does it really matter. Some may see poetry in E=mc2 on the other hand they wouldn't in E=mc3.

    So yes poetry is irrational but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable or distasteful.

    1+1=2
    2+2=4
    4+4=8
    (Michael Ward)

    Is the above poetry or not or is this,

    custody battle
    a bodyguard lifts the child
    to see the snow
    (Dee Evetts)

    If it's a matter of subjective choice then it doesn't have a common yardstick so it's not rational.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/13/06 12:55 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on poetry, science, and religion

    Mike,

    of course poetry is "poetic" in a different way than is religion. True religion is a matter of personal commitment, which poetry is not. The only common ground of poetry and religion is to tell us something of what human life is all about. Thus I could see poetry and religion in a similar relation as "meeting nice people" as compared to "entering a marriage".

    Science in this respect is quite different. Science is not requiring commitment, it is only requiring consideration, which is not the same. If you ignore the laws of nature, they will hit you. But this ignorance or neglect is not lack of "commitment".

    I am very much interested in the varieties not of religious experiences (cf. William James) but of religious functions in culture and society. What is it that makes religions such an essential part of all human cultures from the very beginning of humankind and only changing its appearance, even into communism and scientology, but not vanishing from the earth. To call religions a lie and a stupidity is completely missing this essential point. It's like calling the family or the state outdated. We are humans and no robots, so we have to understand what religion means for humans, not for scientists. And again and again I repeat : Many truly religious people in all religions are undisputet among the best and the brightest in brains and erudition and character alike, so it is totally absurd to think that one has to be weak in mind or character to be a true believer. It is simply not true. Any atheist Kant, Hume, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Einstein included has to face this fact.

    And personally quite frankly, if I had to vote for a world leader in a general election, I would even as an atheist myself vote for a religious person, be it a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim or a Buddhist or even a Hindu. I just do not trust the judgement of naturalists. I even would prefer the incumbent pope to Hume or Kant or Freud. Religious people have a broader and deeper view of what it means to be a human and no robot. Even if we do not understand the true nature of religion, there must be in it something essential to the human nature that the atheists are not aware of.

    Naturalism in my opinion is missing some point. It is too simplistic. I just do not trust it. It reminds me of an architect who does not see that costs and comfort and usability as the only applicable criteria would never have brought forth any architecture of value — no Taj Mahal, no Guggenheim Bilbao, not anything worth a Pritzker Prize. Only so many boring but useful buildings. But greatness in priceless beauty and value is never "useful". About nothing that is great in human culture and awareness could be defended from a utilitarian point of view. Not even man himself.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/13/06 4:51 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: I think you're nailed

    Hubertus

    It appears to me that the simplest reason is often the most likely although experts tend to trade on the complexity of humanity rather than its simplicity. Would I want the finger of a believer in an afterlife on the Armageddon button or someone who holds this one and only life in higher regard well I guess my choice would be different to yours. It is invalid to relate communism to religion it's a rationally flawed tactic used by believers to equate the psychosis of religion on atheists.

    You say Even if we do not understand the true nature of religion, there must be in it something essential to the human nature that the atheists are not aware of.

    Yes, this is something that has intrigued me for some time, it hardly seems cultural as there are atheists across many cultures. Is it the emergence of a new species, maybe the successor to homo sapiens maybe even the ubermensch. I have tried but with great difficulty in seeing it as a disadvantage but more as a wider perspective on what is rather than what humanity thinks ought to be the case.

    If one is saddled with the one idea of a god type world view I equate it to a carpenter having only a hammer in his toolkit everything he then sees looks like a nail.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/16/06 4:12 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: I think you're nailed

    Mike,

    I didn't speak of God, I spoke of religion, that will not go away. Even the Zen-Buddhist is not a "naturalist" but is aware of something "more than meets the eye." What I am trying to defend is a certain sensitivity for "the holy". As one anthropologist put it "Man can be defined as the animal that makes a difference between holy water and natural water." This has nothing to do with Armageddon.

    In my opinion it would be a crime NOT to introduce children to religious things. It would keep a whole and important realm of reality and experience from them in the same way as, say, keeping music or the arts from them.

    I still insist that removing religion from earth is NOT removing stupidity or vileness from earth. The point of comparison of religion and ideology is : You can misuse faith=religion and you can misuse "reason" for your bad intentions. Faith and reason both are just instruments like the nuclear power. It depends on you what you make of it. It is this letter question — why are people evil or not — that I am interested in, not in the instruments they make use of.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/22/06 1:19 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Science can't get it wrong

    If I understand you correctly Hubertus: You seem to be saying that there is some sort of existential basis for people to know the difference between good and bad.*

    On the other hand Michael you claim that everything is relative. But Michael you also seem to be saying that the laws of science are constant across micro, macro, and cosmic levels.

    I however don't see any evidence for general universal agreement about any existential determination of what is good and what is bad. I do see the necessity for Socratic moral discourse though, about application of stem cell research and definition of war crimes in the 21st Century for example.

    I am confused by seeming elemental contradiction in claims for a scientific "gold standard" and unity of human understanding and expression about micro, macro and cosmic phenomenon in the relative world that you have described Michael. How can you claim everything is relative and then argue that a scientific standard exists. I think that perspective does make a difference. But the human condition makes necessary moral discussion about our real world that exists in human scale.

    (note* — I am referring to several current threads,

    Charles

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/23/06 4:34 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on relativism and what is good

    Charles,

    I think there is something to clarify. What I am fighting is this modern insistence on "proof". I am not speaking of an "existential basis" of the notions of good and evil. We humans are animals, and much of what we call good and bad is "inborn" in the sense of Aristotelian "natural rights" philosophy. The human mother has breasts to feed the baby. The baby has reflexes for sucking. The human baby is dependent on the mother's love, since the baby is helpless — different from the chimp's newborn, which is no baby at all, but shortly after birth rather independent. Thus the mutual dependence and love of the (human !) baby and the human mother is not only "natural", it even is essential for human development. This is not "existential", and neither it is "provably right", it is just "the nature of the human" in an Aristotelian sense.

    By this same argument I am fighting "relativism". This relativism is a typical "analytical nonsense", because it is by far too "brainy". As I said above, the "value" of the mutual love of mother and baby cannot be proven. To call for a proof is a modern misguided absurdity.

    Our whole human world is a world of values, and this is, because we are humans and no robots. How do you explain the value of colors to the blind ? How do you explain the value of Bach or the Beatles to the deaf ? This whole approach of asking for a proof is absurd and misleading. Analytical philosophy has led us into an absurd world. For Luther the grace of his God was not an analytical concept but a strong experience of reality.

    In a bedlam-context, people (those poor "madcaps") are not observend as normal humans "writing letters", but they are observed as human rats in a lab "showing writing behaviour". This is the analytical attitude : Nothing is accepted for what humans use to take it, but everything is seen with a cold eye of the detached observer. Seen in this way, of course everything is relative, because nothing can be proven to be of any value. That's correct. You cannot "prove" the value of music to the deaf. You have to hear the value with your ears.

    The Pope in his speech in Regensburg did not say "slay the infidels!", this would be irrational, but neither did he say "it doesn't matter, anything goes." What he was saying was : "We humans are reasonable beings, so try to convince me as a reasonable human." This is neither dogmatic nor relativistic, it is a "reasonable" request.

    All responsible teachers and parents from Socrates up to our time have always tried to show the kids the difference of what is valuable and what is not. They did so with respect for the human soul. The best never denied the kids a right to find out by themselves and have experiences. In the end all truly bright kids when grown up come back to confirm what the elders said — more or less so. After many errors and failures and experimenting they had found out for themselves. This is freedom of learning, this is freedom of speech and of critical thinking and debating. But it does not amount to relativism. And it has nothing to do with existentialism.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/24/06 8:15 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: on relativism and what is good

    Charles & Hubertus,

    Hubertus, we agree that everything is relative and yes you are right that it is a detached and maybe inhuman perspective but that is why it's valuable. When you're so close to a subject it's not possible to see both the trees and the wood so having the ability to switch viewpoints keeps us mindful that we are only talking about humans after all.

    If the Pope really did say "We humans are reasonable beings, so try to convince me as a reasonable human." then I say he is an hypocrite with a closed mind who is being disingenuous.

    Now you might think it's a reasonable request I do not as any convincing could only be done by his rules and beliefs which are anything other than relative.

    Charles, the scientific standard I maintain is a methodology based upon rules of logic and by that definition beyond any rational criticism. Now if there are other ways of thinking that are not based upon logic and reason (and are universal) then I would like to know what they are. The interesting question is can we think without language because if we cannot then any deductions we may make about the world carry within them the inbuilt errors of the language we use.

    On a more practical basis I think the physics of the universe are uniform for all similar parts only because if it were not so we would have to deny causality. Is that not being relative you may ask.

    Michael

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/25/06 5:06 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: on relativism and what is good

    Mike,

    two short hints only : First on your second question, whether we can think without language. Surely we can, and not even Wittgenstein would have denied that — the later Wittgenstein that is. There has been this "Sapir-Whorf hypothesis", that we are victims and "prisoners" of our language, but this is dead wrong. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapir_Whorf.

    To put it simply : The chimp who stacks chests for getting at the banana at the ceiling does not need language to do this, not even "inner language".

    Now for your first question : We always clash — an will do so in all eternity — over the "meaning" of religion. You see it as an epistemic problem, while I do not and neither does the Pope. You are living in a "monistic" world of naturalism, while I defend a dualistic view that insists on contrasting this "natural" world to "that which is beyond". European history is — from Plato and St.Augustine — guided by a dualistic view. Most of the best and brightest people always strived for that which is beyond common sense. This was Dante in his "Commedia", it was Don Quixote, it was Dr.Faust in the drama of Goethe, this even was Nietzsche. While Nietzsche had his Zarathustra say desperately "Brothers, be true to the earth. God is dead !" he still was pointing to something beyond common sense, which he despised. He did not exactly know what he was going for, but he expressly said that "Man does NOT strive for happiness!". So what is man striving for ? No, I stick with dualism, if only it prevents humans from mistaking themselves for smart rats going for pellets. This was exactly the danger even Nietzsche felt intensely in all his rage against the church.

    The funny thing is : Even in the Oxford Companion to Philosophy (edited by Honderich) "dualism" is only known as the (less important) dualism of mind and body as in the philosophy of Descartes. The historically much more important "Platonic dualism" of putting the "ideal but real" world of ideas against the "everyday but ir-real" world of common sense is not even hinted at.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/25/06 5:54 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: on relativism and what is good

    Hubertus,

    Quite likely the chimp has the iner language of symbol manipulation (ie boxes are symbols)would this not be a rudimentary language.

    I think it is healthy we disagree on some things as this tests boundaries of understanding far better than agreemnet does. But seriously show me this world of "becoming" or sense beyond common sense. I see the emporer without the clothes of religion and dualism in his full naked glory.

    You ask what man is striving for well I think it is to succeed — mankind struggles to understand what is, that is what mankind does best — overcome difficulties.

    REgards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/25/06 6:12 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: on relativism and what is good

    Mike,

    once more a shorty : First on the chimp : He surely has some idea in his mind of what is to happen. He is modelling and comparing the situation as it is now against how it will be after stacking the chests. But we have to use concepts carfully. This is not a conceptual language. The chimp is still comparing real situations. This does not prove that he is able to think of a chimp-god f.i., and not even that he is able to think of a chimp-tomorrow or a chimp-beyond. And anyway even if he were able to think of all this, he would be unable to communicate it to other chimps. How do you construct the concept of justice or freedom or "good society" without words and concepts ? You can't.

    On the other point : You still ask for the reality of "the beyond" the way a physicist would ask. I do not. I do not suggest to invent some physical device to prove the existence of the beyond. How do you measure the "greatness" of a work of Rembrandt or of Bach ? But would you call the works of those two "worthless" because you have no physical device available for measuring "greatness" ? In this way I defend religion and "the beyond" : They are expressions of what rises man's thinking above that of the chimp — in a similar way as the works of Rembrandt and Beethoven and so many others do. People who have seen and heared and experienced a lot seem to think this way. It's not all physics.

    Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Michael Ward (09/10/06 8:22 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: The theft of free speech witness wanted.

Hi,

Events leading up to the Holocaust show human behaviour at its most malign, and what happened in those concentration camps was obnoxious. We all have seen the dark images that imposed shame to all those who participated in such unspeakable acts.

However, I believe that Holocaust denial is not a crime. I profoundly disagree with the fact that in Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and several other European countries, as well as in Israel, it is a crime publicly to dispute the official version of Holocaust history. It is certainly wrong, it is assuredly misguided, it is wilfully ignorant of historical evidence, but it should not be a crime.

Free speech must be defended on the grounds that letting the government restrict speech ultimately causes more harm than protecting it. And it seems to me that letting the government decide that certain historical claims are illegal will ultimately do much more harm than good.

I have no time for ideas such as those of David Irving but the fact that he has been jailed for three years by an Austrian court for denying the Holocaust of European Jewry is intrinsically wrong. He should be laughed at, ridiculed, almost felt sorry for in his profound stupidity. But this denial of free speech is not liberty's finest hour — Holocaust notwithstanding.

Old proverb:
The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from on the common
But faster still it turns him loose
Who takes the common from the goose.

Who then is the bigger thief?

Regards

Mike

    REPLIES (2):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/10/06 12:24 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: The theft of free speech witness wanted.

    Mike, thank you for stubbornly defending the freedom of speech. And as for your other mail concerning "rights" that are always the invention and intention of humans, Bentham called the notion of "human rights" a "nonsense on stilts". But while he, as a jurist, was right on this, in that there are no "natural" rights but only "man-made" rights, he was wrong on the notion generally : Today human rights are very much on the international agenda and mind. "Humand Rights Watch" is not ridiculed save by those who do not like it very much, like the Chinese or the governments of Cuba or North-Korea or Myanmar.

    Now the situation with "a right to call the Holocaust a fabrication of the Jews to get money" is similar. If somebody goes around or is broadcasting on the internet to tell people that you are a child-molester, would you really defend this as his right to exercise "freedom of speech" ? How do you keep the damage in check — even if you try to sue him ? In such cases there is the juridical provision to "ask for an injunction", and if this request is not heeded there is the instrument of "coercive detention". This is what happens to Irving now in the same way as it would happen to sombody slandering you. There are limits even to free speech.

    We in Germany are a bit touchy now, since Hitler came to power legally. So we wanted to exclude this to happen again and said "no freedom to the enemies of freedom !" We cannot allow political parties that by their party-program openly fight liberal democracy to misuse the liberties of free speech in a pluralistic democracy to remove this democracy "in the name of truth" — where "the truth" is meant to be that of a religious creed or that of a political creed, but not that of anybody else. This has happened in Germany of 1933, and it should never happen again here — or elsewhere.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/10/06 3:07 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: The theft of free speech witness wanted.

    Hubertus

    I'll still stick with nonsense on sticks description as a background to restrictions on freedom of speech or more precisely the right to restrict others.

    I think we have to face up to the consequences of following the "no freedom to the enemies of freedom !" approach. We really are saying that we are going to restrict your freedom in order to protect your freedom, now that gives me a rather deja vu feeling didn't we use to burn the witches to save the witches?

    The reality seems to be that in order to stop the terrorists restricting our freedoms we are going to restrict our freedoms first. Oh and by the way plan B is to do exactly what has failed in the past but harder invade.

    You ask If somebody goes around or is broadcasting on the internet to tell people that you are a child-molester, would you really defend this as his right to exercise freedom of speech" ? Well my answer is yes because whilst I may individually be disadvantaged I consider I would be considerably more disadvantaged in loosing my freedom to argue against the perceived wisdom of the day. What! the Earth going around the sun you say sheer blasphemy, recant Hubertus or burn in hell.

    Now as to pluralistic democracies they have within them the possibility to throw up regimes that stick in the throats of certain countries the one that comes to mind is the one where the phrase you can have it in any colour you like as long as it's black originates.

    One needs to refute the ideas behind the actions and that brings me back nicely to religions, it's kinda difficult for one god-fearing nation to ideologically challenge another god-fearing nation so I guess war is the only option left.

    There's always a problem to resolve when you're in charge.

    Regards

    Mike

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/11/06 4:53 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: on morals and religion

Dear Charles and Michael,

I have to set something straight lest I be musunderstood on my position on religious things. See the following text and my comments.

From

Europe's Problem-And Ours, by George Weigel
First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life. Issue: 140. February 2004. Pages 18+.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Institute on Religion and Public Life;
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

I take :

//
Writing during the Occupation of France by Nazi Germany, Henri de Lubac, S.J., proposed that the civilizational crisis in which Europe found itself during World War II was the product of what he called "atheistic humanism"--the deliberate rejection of the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, in the name of authentic human liberation. What biblical man had perceived as a liberation from the whims of the gods or fate--the self-revelation in history of the one God who was neither a willful tyrant nor a remote abstraction--atheistic humanism perceived as bondage. Human greatness required rejecting the biblical God.

This, de Lubac suggested, was something new. It was not the atheism of skeptical individuals looking to discomfort the neighbors. This was atheistic humanism, atheism with a developed ideology and a program for remaking the world. Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas can have lethal consequences. At the heart of the darkness inside the great mid-twentieth-century tyrannies, de Lubac discerned the lethal effects of the marriage between atheistic humanism and modern technology. He summed up the results of this misbegotten union in these terms: "It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true is that, without God, he can only organize it against man." That is what the tyrannies of the twentieth century had proven--that ultramundane humanism is inevitably inhuman humanism.
//

To this I say NO ! There have been so many crimes committed in the name of God or Allah ! Even the Great War 1914-18 was started with blessings of soldiers and cannons on all sides, in France and Russia at least as much as in Germany. It was awful, it was ridiculous, it was disgusting.

It is simply not true that without God everything is allowed. We are not responsible to God, we are responsible to ourselves. When Socrates or Thukydides or Plato or Aristotle or Cicero called some behaviour stupid and revolting, they did not so in view of a Christian God or an Islamic Allah, who were not known to them. Instead they called stupidity and vileness just what it is : A shame for a reasonable and moral being like man is or should be proud to be.

If you need a god to behave reasonable and morally this is a pity and should not be. The Zen-masters at least can do without God or Allah and so can most normal people. No, for moral and reasonable behaviour you need no god, and neither Kant nor Hume nor Voltaire nor Goethe thought or said otherwise. And neither did I myself.

I am defending religion, and definitely so. But NOT for backing of reason and morals, but for illuminating sides of moral reality and behaviour that are not visible in the light of common reason and morals alone. THIS IS A TOTALLY DIFFERENT JUSTIFICATION OF RELIGION !

What I say time and again is : There are ways of acting and thinking that are followed because of love and respect and self-respect and guided by the idea to make this world a better place to live in and a more decent one and a world of mutual love and helping and understanding. Do you need a god to build a house that is — as a work of art and craftsmanship — great and pleasing and comfortable and a joy to live in ? I don't think so. You are building the house for you and your likes. So what has this to do with any god ? YOU decide what to do, it's YOUR house to live in.

This is far beyond what is or could be required by common reason and morals, which are only minimal standards. The model of Jesus or of the saints of all religions — Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic saints included — may help to encourage us in this "striving for the better" in the same way, as the model of the greatest artists and novelists and dramatists and musicians is showing us what is possible and what should be our measure of quality.

But if people are mad and stupid and vile, they are just that and should be called to be just that. They cannot excuse their bad behaviour with the assumed non-existence of God or Allah. This would be outrageous nonsense. Voltaire was quite right when he said : "There would be fewer crimes if they could not be committed in the name of God."

To call somebody's behaviour stupid and vile and revolting has nothing to do with the assumed exitstence or non-existence of any god. In this sense the argument of Henri de Lubac is absurd and misleading.

Hubertus

    REPLIES (2):

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/12/06 1:09 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: on morals and religion and "God"

    Hubertus,

    Almost all of what you say I agree with and in this respect we probably would not act very differently in similar situations. What still leaves me in a state of uncertainty is that your concept of "religion" isn't that common a view.

    If I understand it you want a "god-free" religion, something that will both inspire and comfort people as well as curb their agressive (apish as you say) tendancies. I can understand the leverage on behaviour that normal religion has on people who are unable to create and live by a moral and ethical code of their own deduction. Such people need to have restrictions placed upon them because they cannot restrict themselves but where is the penalty on the "sinners" if they do not abide by the rules when ultimate judgement is negated. I agree thare are people who need a god but not the reverse.

    I think you ought to call your "religion" something else to avoid the confusion you have just responded to — what would that be?

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/16/06 4:25 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: on morals and religion and "God"

    Mike,

    the "Buddhist religion" is essentially a god-free, a-theist religion. But since you have surely seen Buddhist rituals in temples in the cinema you know that this is a true religion. It is binding the human soul and phantasy to something which is far beyond "common sense". The pious Jew or Christian or Muslim is responsible to some personalized higher idea of what man could and should be. It is this attitude of humility and responsibility that I am defending. Platonism is a sort or religion too by the same argument.

    The most important statement of Kierkegaard and Barth and their likes was : God it NOT made to please the human mind, he is representing a world completely different from what we call reasonable. On this Buddhism and Christianity agree. God or the experience of the holy is needed to break up and to keep open the closed and small world of "reason". In a similar way art is not meant to copy our daily world like a snapshot, but to show us some world we never thought possible, to open to our imagination new worlds never imagined before.

    Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Charles Countryman (09/12/06 11:25 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: The comprehensive human mind.

Michael said: So yes poetry is irrational but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable or distasteful.

So how about poetry used to describe the natural world Michael? I submit a portion of Giraffe by Stanley Plumly both as a RATIONAL example of poetry and of natural history.

Giraffe

The only head in the sky.
Buoyed like a bird's,
on bird legs too.
Moves in the slow motion
of a ride
across the long legged miles
of the same place.
Grazes in trees.
Bends like a bow
over water
in a shy sort of
spreadeagle...

Michael also said: If it's a matter of subjective choice then it doesn't have a common yardstick so it's not rational.

Now Michael, since I'm not a poetry expert, I don't know if your submission qualifies as poetry or not.

1+1=2
2+2=4
4+4=8
(Michael Ward)

But since Giraffe was reprinted in A Child's Anthology Of Poetry (Edited by Elizabeth Hauge Sword, Scholastic Press, New York, 1995), I have no reservations about submitting it as an example of poetry. The fact that Giraffe was reprinted in an anthology of poetry indicates the use of a common yardstick. As poetry, it also is clearly a matter of subjective choice. And I think that it also is an excellent physical description of giraffes composed by one person, both for his benefit and others.

Michael, you also said: If you want to know what is necessarily the case then only science will provide that empirical answer.

But I think that you presumptuously limit the human mind. Humans have used poetry to describe and explain the world to each other since long before the advent of empirical science. Why should the development of human society now be limited to techniques that make use of numerical representation? Your proposal that human society rely on empirical answers alone appears to me to be an example of censorship and self inflicted injury.

Sincerely,
Charles

    REPLIES (12):

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/12/06 1:55 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: The conditioned human mind.

    Charles

    Poetry describes human perceptions and experiences — it is internal not the external world.

    I too an no poetry "expert" but what is an expert anyway, do I need to be taught beauty or how to recognise evil — well I suppose I do or have been as it comes subliminally along with all baggage of a cultural (not cultered) upbringing. Eastern music is generally not found pleasant to the western ear but both can be described equally well in frequencies. Such common yardsticks come and go when measured in subjective terms whilst in objective terms it never changes save to become more accurate.

    Far from limiting the human mind my aim would be to de-limit the human mind, to free it from the shackles of orthodox views, challenge everything with the methodology of science and see what stands the test and may become a candidate for objective truth. I would not censor anything, nor ban anything, but I will show up hypocracy and ridicule peoples most heartfelt beliefs and it that causes them the discomfort of having to examine themselves then so be it. Do I feel a fatwah coming on, well possibly.

    All the best

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/14/06 12:39 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: The comprehensive human mind.

    Michael

    I do not understand your position about perception. Re the poem "Giraffe" that I quoted from: I think it can be easily imagined as someone describing a giraffe to another person. So why would you describe that as just being an "internal experience?" What substantial difference do you find between my example of a person using poetry to describe an animal to another person and let's say a wildlife scientist out in the field, who might be inputting a description of a giraffe into an e-mail?

    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/14/06 6:42 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: The comprehensive human mind.

    Charles,

    Rather than the image of a giraffe lets say the poem described the taste of a giraffe. The reaction to the poem based on the internal experience of say a vegan to a meat eater would certainly not convey the same message.

    I can vouch for this from first hand experience when I participated in a writing course some years ago. We were all tasked with bringing in some food and circulating it to describe our experiences when tasting it.

    I removed the label off my can of stewing steak and replaced it with a label from a can of dog food. Lo and behold everyone (virtually) knew how horrible my stewing steak tasted purely because of the false label.

    No one was prepared to taste it themselves even though I gave them a total assurance that it was fit for human consumption.

    What did I learn? that peoples internal experiences override reality and that internal experiences are always conditioned.

    There is no baseline, no absolute — everything is relative.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/16/06 10:16 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: The comprehensive human mind.

    Michael

    The baseline that you referred to is established in conversation. As mathematicians use different base systems to express the same quantity, humans may verbally describe something in what first appears to be different ways. But in both math and verbal communication agreement can be reached on the meaning of terms.

    To say as you did Michael that everything is relative is just temporarily a conversation stopper. Even if everything were to be relative on the cosmic scale, human language doesn't occur at that level. People converse in a real world, where very little if anything is relative in the sense of being meaningless that I think you implied.

    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/16/06 12:27 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: The comprehensive human mind.

    Hi Charles,

    I think you described accurately how the use of language (including body) gets refined during dialogue with aim of, hopefully, sharing an idea.

    However, I do remain convinced that "everything is relative" and if it's relative at the macro scale it cannot be any less relative at the micro scale of humans — unless you see different laws of physics being applied or maybe thoughts aren't constrainted by physics (back to duality)

    Everybodies meaning is their own and they might be relatively similar or relatively dissimilar even though the headline name may be the same fi. love, pain, freedom, happiness etc.

    There is a fringe benefit to conversation stoppers because they just may force people to stop, think and review rather than dismiss out of hand the incomprehensible.

    If you send a reply and I don't respond it's because I'm away on a boating holiday tomorrow so I'll be back in a week.

    All the best

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/21/06 8:57 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: The comprehensive human mind.

    Dear Mike and Charles,

    I would like to enter some remarks on "relativism". First of course there are "common preferences". While there is no "proof" of anything being valuable, we know what in the cinema those "block-busters" are and how many copies of Harry Potter books have been sold, and who is on top of the charts and where the top restaurants are etc.. And if you pick a thousand women by chance and have them ranked by another thousand men picked by chance too (or vice versa) you can be sure that of those 1000 women about ten will carry 90% of all votes and leave the rest for the remaining 990 women (and the same with women voting). Such is life.

    Then along comes the dieticist and tells you that a crisp duck and other good things from the renowned chef are not that healthy and that you better had porridge and salads and fruits and water. Blah.

    And along come singing monks and nuns telling us how great life can be if you vowed "poverty, chastity, and obedience". By the way : Some of the Indian and Indonesian nuns in a nearby cloister are easily as pretty as Britney ever was. That's the trouble of Mike : Many beautiful minds and many beautiful bodies are stout true believers in any religion. They too had their strange preferences.

    I think it is a crime to keep children from knowing what is good, even if you cannot "prove" that anything is good. You cannot "prove" that Mozart was any superiour as a composer to Salieri. But "if you hear it you know it" — well, at least 99,9% of all lovers of music think so. In such a case it would be interesting to know what the minority voice — if there is any — would have told us. Sometimes the deviant voter has good arguments — as in the case of Socrates or Jesus — but most times he/she is only defiant and opposing by principle.

    C.S. Lewis wrote (in 1943) a good and short book against a certain positivism which is proud to tell children that "nothing is of any value and that value-judgements are unscientific and have to be debunked." While I do not agree with every argument in the book, I wholeheartedly agree with the gist of it. See

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Abolition_of_Man
    and
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0898707315/ref=pd_cp_b_title/ 104-3035604-2215166?ie=UTF8

    In the myth and fairy-tale and religion there is darkness and light, there is gold and dirt, there is splendour and poverty, and this is what the world is made from. Where there is splendour in poverty as in Socrates or Jesus, this is not to be denied, but generally there is not much of this sort. I prefer the Colours of Benetton to the grey in grey of socialist justice — which is not even justice. But the difference of good and bad is real. Sorry Mike : It IS known to all people in the world, really. There are false saint and there are true ones, and never has anybody been in error about the true ones — at least not in the long run.

    The Nazis and Stalinists are not despised now because of political repression. They are despised because they have been real failures. Don Quixote was mourned, Hitler was not by too many people. There is really something disgusting about such people. Whoever wants to identify himself with Hitler now has a dark soul. The question is not, whether this can be proven, but the question is, what this means with respect to us humans.

    There are values and we go for them and try to defend them. There are very few true geniuses and many incompetents, and I prefer to have the geniuses shine and be heared. I am no friend of relativism, not at all, when it comes to quality. But of course to know what is good and what is bad in, say, Egyptian music, you must have a trained ear to hear it. In such a case I will ask some music-loving people of Egyptian origin who have heard this music from early childhood. If they agree on what to call really good in their native music, I will try to get my ears used to it. And thus with everything. There always are masters and connaisseurs who don't think that "it's all relative".

    Of course I would never reject the "minority report" out of hand. But the burden of proof is with the minority. For this I would defend even monks and nuns of all religions. They know what they are speaking of. And of course "masters and connaisseurs" generally are minorities too. Thus the worst thing to happe would have been the Nazis destroying all "degenerate art". At least 90% of this art is valued today, while practically all of Nazi art is forgotten. Well, there is a problem.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/24/06 8:30 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Help stop child abuse

    Hubertus,

    This morning I listened to a short debate on a principally religious TV program where Dawkins likened imposing religion on children as a form of child abuse.

    I agree wholeheartedly with him and am thinking of selling some bumper stickers reading Help Stop Child Abuse Stamp out Religion

    As I have said repeatedly before I have no problems with religion if it were to be put into the fiction section of library but teaching it as fact well.

    Michael

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/25/06 5:23 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Help stop child abuse

    Well, Mike, we never will agree on this. For me (I cannot speak for Charles here) to stamp out religion would be a much worse form of "child abuse". I stick with my notion, that there are two sorts of "fiction" — one below and the other above "common sense".

    The blessing from Phil.4,7 "The peace of God, which is beyond all reason..." Yes, that is true. You deprive the children of the antibodies they need against the viruses and dangers of "common sense".

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/25/06 5:59 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Help stop child abuse

    Hubertus,

    I'm beginning to appreciate how mystical you appear to be. When you say "The peace of God, which is beyond all reason..." puts an end to any rational discussion.

    Seriously though, how did you convince yourself this was true?

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/26/06 4:24 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: help stop analytical philosophy

    Mike,

    you asked : Seriously though, how did you convince yourself this was true? (i.e. "peace of God...")

    To which I only can answer "by experience". It is the same sort of experience as when you call a work of Rembrandt or Bach "great". There is nothing to prove or to "convince yourself". You just know it.

    Christian faith is not spread by argument but by experience. You greatly overestimate arguments. This is the typical error of analytical thinking.

    If you want to convince yourself or somebody else of the greatness of Bach, you just hear some music. This is the way. And this is the way people get drawn into any religion. It is not any different from the way children are convinced of the value of chocolate or a cheeseburger or a really good apple.

    But of course : It may be not your taste, and even if it is, the cheeseburger may not improve your health. I would not deny those possibilities. I only said that this world — and our exchange about it — is much more than mere arguments.

    You English analytical people try your wits on arguments, we "continental" ones try our wits on "realities". But strange as it is : You are exporters of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Narnia, so there is some hope left even for the English people. There seems to be a "law of imaginative balance" : If you dry out imagination by being analytical, you create a counter-weight of phantastic literature to fill the void.

    Remember what I said before : It's no coincidence that the time of burning stakes all over Europe from ca. 1500 to 1700 was the time of rising scientific thinking. It was the fee to be paid for this transition. No other culture has had such burnings of thousands of innocents — because no other culture made this transition to modernity. Similar with the Holocaust. Similar with the mass-killings of Stalin and Mao.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/26/06 5:32 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: What's your reason

    Hubertus

    The fiction book "The Rhinestone Button" by Gail Anderson-Dargatz. A Canadian writer living on Vancouver Island. In real life she was brought up United Church, her husband was brought up Evangelical Baptist. In the early '90's her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour that affected his behavior. He started to get epileptic seizures which became more severe with time (eventually every day). Accompanying these seizures he also started to have intense religious experiences.

    I first heard Gail in an interview on CBC radio. After a number of these God encounters and other religious experiences she and her husband concluded these experiences were just the product of his tumour infected brain. She said the book was very much influenced by her life experiences with her husband's brain problem.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/27/06 9:02 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: What's your reason

    Well, Mike,

    I don't think that the Pope is suffering from a brain tumor, and neither is Charles, and neither was Dr.Martin-Luther King, or so many other faithful Christians and Muslims etc.. Human thinking is not that simple.

    Perhaps I should add a note to the former posting as follows :

    You may think that the music of Bach or the Beatles — or great art or whatever seems great — is "only subjective and a matter of taste, while the existence of God is meant to be objective and thus should be proven." Well, granted, but you miss a point here : If you ever have been in love with somebody, what do you call "that which causes love" to be — "subjective" or "objective" ? I think this is a meaningless alternative, because whatever you call "that which causes love", it made you do great things you would not have done otherwise. For a really great love you go a long way. In this sense it is objective, because it sets free real forces. And as you will have felt: much of this was good.

    This is what I call "experience". You just don't sit down to check your feelings and try "to convince yourself that your love is real". Same with religious people. They fall in love with the holy or with God. You may call this "fanciful" — but it is not a little bit more fanciful than the person you fell in love with. Of course the person(1), this anatomical-physiological body, is real. But this is not the person(2) you fell in love with. If you love a mere body and not a person, then you have a different sort of trouble. But this difference would be a topic for another exchange.

    There is an engineer's view, which is also that of the analytical philosopher, who is asking things related to materials, to measurable quantities, to something provable. And there is the view of the artist. He too is asking for something "real", but his reality is of a totally different, "im-material" character. He is asking for "greatness" in a work of art. This is as real as "that which causes a great love". As I use to say : "How does the dieticist tell me what to eat ? I am rather asking the gourmet what to eat and where to look for a good cuisine." Whose concept of "good eating" is "more real" — that of the dieticist or that of the gourmet ? The dieticist has "solid data", but only people with indigestion are interested in those data. The others just do not care. And why should they ?

    What is valuable in diamonds and gold ? What is valuable in beauty and charme ? What is valuable in goodness ? How do your prove or measure all those values ? The world of man is a fanciful world. Do you really think it shouldn't be ? Do you prefer a world of "reasonable robots" ?

    Of course, if your love drives you mad and makes you bad — as it does in the case of Anakin Skywalker, turning him into Darth Vader — this is another case. But then we have to debate that too.

    Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/21/06 9:58 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: on different realities

Mike,

we always use words too sloppily. There should be three versions or more of nearly every concept as in "spoiled(1), spoiled(2), spoiled(3)". This time it is "reality". If you are sitting before the TV-set and enjoying a film or soccer match, and somebody around is having trouble, you know where your priorities are. Thus the reality of the TV-program is on a level below the "real" reality. But for the true believer, the reality of God is not below but above "real reality". The "call of God" may change his/her life. To put God into the box of "imaginary worlds" does not justice to this difference of an imaginary world below and an imaginary world above "everyday" world. Thus let's call "TV-reality" = reality (1), "everyday-reality" = reality (2), "religious-reality" = reality (3), where higher number means "higher priority".

What about dreams ? Generally they are "low priority" like TV. But in a truly Freudian or Jungian analysis they can become of "priority 2" or even of "priority 3", which means, that even dreams can change your life, which happens very seldom though.

Hubertus

    REPLIES (8):

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/22/06 1:23 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: on different realities

    If I understand you correctly Hubertus: You seem to be saying that there is some sort of existential basis for people to know the difference between good and bad.*

    On the other hand, Michael you claim that everything is relative. But Michael you also seem to be saying that the laws of science are constant across micro, macro, and cosmic levels.

    I however don't see any evidence for general universal agreements about any existential determination of what is good and what is bad. I do see the necessity for Socratic moral discourse though, about application of stem cell research and definition of war crimes in the 21st Century for example.

    Michael in your relative world, I am confused by a seeming elemental contradiction in your claims about a scientific "gold standard" and also for unity of human understanding and expression about micro, macro, and cosmic phenomenon. How can you claim everything is relative and then argue that a scientific standard exists? I think that perspective does make a difference. But the human condition makes necessary moral discussion about our real world that exists in human scale.

    (note * — I am referring to several current threads, not just this one.)

    Charles

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/23/06 5:45 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: on the decisions of the artist

    Mike and Charles,

    once more a clarification : I never said that any value can be proven to be a value. I only said that the whole approach is missing the point and is starting from an erroneous assumption on what values are. Values are valuable for a subject, guiding its thought and deeds. There are no objective values. Values are labels indicating subjective preferences. In this formal sense I completely agree with Michael.

    But this does not include that "all is relative". This is true only in a logico-analytical sense. But we humans are living in a real world. We HAVE preferences, and we NEED have preferences. Thus a debate on what to prefer and why remains meaningful among reasonable beings. THIS was my point. Our human world — NOT the objective world of facts of course ! — is full of arguments concerning "justice" and "the good" and "a better future" and "how to evaluate Hitler as against Ghandi" etc.. This permanent "evaluating" is what our human world is all about, since we have to justify our deeds and plans. It is simply impossible to live in a value free world which would be a meaningless world. What Socrates was saying was : "As reasonable beings we should try to justify our preferences before ourselves and not follow some custom mereley because it is a custom or seems to be 'natural'." By this argument Socrates defended his decision not to flee the prison — which he well could have done. Providing reasonable arguments to a reasonable audience was what he did always. This is not relativism. But this is not existentialism either. It is comparable to the decision of an architect or a composer or a novelist to do this or that to make his work a better work of art. This is not "anything goes". The decisions of a good artist are never "provably right", but they are at the same time never without importance. He will get furious if you try to change his work. He has meant it to be exactly how it is delivered, and only he himself has a right to change it.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/24/06 9:58 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: I have a feeling!

    Hubertus

    Let us consider the good work of the artist or musician. Was it always good, did it become an acquired taste, did people have to learn how to appreciate it, do all people appreciate it.

    Now if your conviction holds true that ALL people know the good from the bad there will not be any dissention on works of art somehow I think we both know this is not the case.

    No, values are relative with the most common denominator being decided along utilitarian lines. Is it wrong to kill mostly yes however killing a certain number of tyrants would probably have caused less pain to more people.

    Can it be proven that dropping two A bombs left more people alive in WW2 I would argue yes and it probably was the least worst choice.

    I suspect it will never be possible to define the good because you cannot make up a rule that is universally applicable. What you are left with is how it feels to people which is subject to all cultural experiences and histories it is I fear a non starter.

    Michael

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/25/06 5:37 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: I have a feeling!

    Mike,

    I think you always blur the topic by arguments that are too vague. Of course there are happy cows and happy chimps. But I leave the old problem of whether there is progress in human history aside for the moment.

    My point is : If you really dislike the situation in this Memphis school whereof Mary Seifert wrote, you are obliged (in principle) to do something about it, and thus "improve the world". And if you think that it would be a good thing to "dry the swamps" where those "child-crocodiles" came from, then you are in the same position. And if you think that the state who made this swamp possible or at least did not much about it, then you are improving the world on a third level.

    Here are the real philosophical problems then. If the evil in the world is man-made mostly and not god-sent, the only argument to leave it there is because removing one evil may cause other evils and perhaps even worse ones. This argument I could accept. This was the argument for "dropping the A-Bomb as the lesser evil" in August 1945. But we generally cannot call the notion of improving the world and "drying the swamps" meaningless. It is an idea driving countless people everyday.

    In the realm of electrical engineering you know what is good from what is not because the criteria are well defined — mostly. In the world of human life the criteria are much less well defined, but they are not absent. Here is the core of the problem : Why are we all striving for "more humanity" or "more justice" or "more decency" or "more honesty" and "less of violence, of lying, of vileness, of corruption" etc. even while not one of these notions is well defined ? This is the questions we all have to find an answer to.

    In real life, we are not relativists, nobody is in his right mind.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/25/06 6:10 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: I have a feeling!

    Hubertus,

    The one swamp that causes all humanities problems is ignorance and in particular not seeing the need to overcome that ignorance.

    Christianity or Muslim or Judaisim are but another turtle on the stack of turtles that hold up the beleivers earth. It's been ignorance all the way down.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/25/06 10:29 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: I have a feeling.

    Michael

    Your assertion that "ignorance" is the source of all humanity's problems is shown to be false by applied social statistics.

    One example: "The result of Mao's "Great Leap Forward" was the greatest single human calamity of the 20th century. Stalin's campaign to collectivize agriculture had caused between 5 and 7 million people to starve to death during the early 1930's. Mao now sextupled that record, producing a famine that between 1958 and 1961 took the lives of over 30 million people, by far the worst on record anywhere ever." (from pp. 111-112 with notes to sources in "The Cold War — A New History," John Lewis Gaddis, The Penguin Press, New York, 2005).

    Mao was not an ignorant revolutionary Michael. His occupation before revolution was as a librarian. I guess that he was probably the deadliest librarian of all times.

    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/26/06 5:25 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Sheep

    Charles,

    I supect that neither Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Kenghis Khan or whoever actually killed very many people at all.

    No, it as all those ignorant sheep who followed these peoples orders out of ignorance and inability to reason a moral and ethical code for themselves.

    This is the problem that arises when faith is put in others be them madmen or gods.

    Everone is responsible for their own actions.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/27/06 9:21 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Sheep

    Mike,

    this time for one I agree : People should learn how to prevent and to oust persons like Hitler or Stalin etc..

    But this is not a private thing, but has to be institutionalized. This is why liberal democracy with checks and balances and due process of law should be introduced everywhere. No US-president ever has been a mad dictator or even tried to be one. Even Guantanamo never got near to Aushwitz.

    Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/26/06 3:55 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: on creative thinking in philosophy

Dear Mike and Charles,

My question is : What is the MEANING of our exchange here, what do we want to achieve as "philosophying animals" ? As I said in one posting, analytical thinking tends to wipe out the problems instead of answering them.

This is an interesting question put to Mike : How does it come that the Buddha and Socrates and Jesus, by analyzing "false thinking", brought light and meaning into darkness, while analytical philosophy only throws all flowers of phantasy onto the waste heap of "false thinking". At least in my opinion analytical philosophy kills all creative and productive thinking. But Mike may think otherwise, so he should try to defend his stand.

Hubertus

    REPLIES (2):

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/26/06 5:16 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: First make the case

    It has been written.

    Hubertus: My question is : What is the MEANING of our exchange there, what do we want to achieve as "philosophising animals" ? As I said in one posting, analytical thinking tends to wipe out the problems instead of answering them.

    Mike: Analytical thinking is like using Occam's razor which states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating, or "shaving off," those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory. In short, when given two equally valid explanations for a phenomenon, one should embrace the less complicated formulation. The principle is often expressed in Latin as the lex parsimoniae (law of succinctness)

    In short Hubertus don't create problems when they are not there in the first place because the underlying causes are not understood or apparent.

    Hubertus: This is an interesting question put to Mike :
    How does it come that the Buddha and Socrates and Jesus, by analyzing false thinking, brought light and meaning into darkness

    Mike: see fallacies 3, 4, 9,12 and 16

    Hubertus: while analytical philosophy only throws all flowers of phantasy onto the waste heap of "false thinking".

    Mike: see fallacies 15 and 21

    Hubertus: At least in my opinion analytical philosophy kills all creative and productive thinking.

    Mike: see fallacy 30

    Hubertus: But Mike may think otherwise, so he should try to defend his stand.

    Mike: In any proposition the onus is upon the proposer to make a case out for that which he proposes, it cannot be upon the defender to prove innocence. This is a long held tenet of anglo saxon law innocent until proven guilty. What you will not hear from me is the proposal that there is a god, or spirits or anything that cannot be reasonably sustained by critical analysis. Even when things can be sustained by empirical testing there always remains the possibility of instrument (brain/mind) error thus nothing is ever absolute.

    So I turn around your statements and have identified the fallacies contained within them I have posted a list of fallacies in the documents section which cross refer to the numbers above.

    I accept your challenge when you sustain one.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/27/06 9:29 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: First make the case

    Well roared, lion Mike !

    Today I have written so much already, that I adjourn the hearing. Innocent as long as not proven guilty. See you next time.

    Sincerely Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Charles Countryman (09/27/06 9:40 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: Wisdom and/or Sophism

Hubertus asked what is the meaning of the current discussion. I hope that it is not a detour into analytic philosophy, the right and proper domain of the professional sophists and their usual places of employment today at universities and think tanks.

Michael's assertion:

I suspect that neither Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Kenghis Khan or whoever actually killed very many people at all.

No, it as all those ignorant sheep who followed these peoples orders out of ignorance and inability to reason a moral and ethical code for themselves.

This is the problem that arises when faith is put in others be them madmen or gods.

Everyone is responsible for their own actions.

Michael lightly asserts that everyone is responsible for their own actions. He gives this as an excuse for social irresponsibility and an excuse to ignore history and the roles that leaders play in human affairs. Fortunately common law and common sense prevails over the extreme libertarian political nonsense that seems to be proffered by Michael.

What the meaning is here, both Michael and Hubertus, is that of two of life's primary questions: What is wisdom and what are her sources?

Sincerely,
Charles

    REPLIES (17):

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/27/06 11:57 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Whims and fancies

    Charles,

    I do hope it becomes a discussion about ideas and meanings rather than feelings and who said what to whom and how offended they were on last nights soap.

    It's far from a light assertion that we all behave responsibly. The alternative seemingly preferred by Charles is punishment to enforce behaviour and when they do it again yet more punishment. Carried to an extreme we ought then to put down "evil" chidren before they become the Sadams, Hitlers or Enron leaders of the world.

    If common sense says nukem then lets nukem lads.

    Wisdom is getting decisions right more often than wrong — but it has no source as it's a quality only conferred with the benefit of hindsight.

    To test this idea or source Charles what wise thing are you going to do tomorrow that you can tell me about in advance today?

    All the best

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (09/28/06 4:29 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Wisdom and/or Sophism

    Message revised 9-29-2006

    Michael

    You didn't make a mere statement about individual responsibility. You made an extreme libertarian statement that ignores the role and responsibility of leadership in malevolent mass movements. You also confuse punishment with law. I referred to the corrective nature of common law, saying nothing about punishment.

    I used common sense in the sense of the pragmatism that is displayed across cultures when dealing with the down sides of the human condition, e.g. a neighbor helping neighbor rebuild in Beirut today. Where did you come up with the evil children, nukem stuff? Perhaps you are making some prejudicial assumptions about my philosophical positions when you use those colorful expressions.?

    Wisdom is not your limited calculation of getting decisions right more often than wrong. I think that there are sources to Wisdom, e.g. cultural, religious, Great Ideas." I can point out some examples of Wisdom that have been pointed out to me, because Wisdom seems to be embodied to some extent. But I, myself, cannot as such define Wisdom.

    You asked about some wise things that I'm going to do tomorrow. I think that your question may come from some behaviorist confusion on your part about Wisdom.

    But:

    1) When I go to bed to sleep, I might remember an ancient rest benediction — translated by Alexander Carmichael:

    Bless to me, O God, the moon that is above me,
    Bless to me, O God the earth that is beneath me,
    Bless to me, O God, my wife and my child,
    And bless, O God, myself who have care of them;
    Bless to me my wife and my child,
    And bless, O God, myself who have care of them.

    2) I believe that this will have an immeasurable good effect on me, if I wake up again (and probably if I don't wake again).

    If I wake , I plan to do my morning Ki exercises (from my former martial art studies) and a short Tai Chi form that I think are good for people with mobility disabilities. I think that this daily practice based on Eastern tradition has both measurable and immeasurable effects. (Especially as I add Judeo-Christian prayer to some of the physical movement)

    3) As a Christian of former Lutheran persuasion and now Greek Orthodox catechumen, I plan to do an activity that probably has a negligible physical effect on my body, but I believe immeasurable spiritual effect. I'm planning to do the daily lectionary reading for Eastern Orthodox churches.

    I don't mean to limit Wisdom's definition to my small and elementary activities.
    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (09/29/06 5:00 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Wisdom and/or Sophism

    Dear Charles and Mike,

    while I like the position of Charles on wisdom very much, I focus on an important philosophical problem of your exchange this time: Charles is stressing a collective viewpoint two times, while Mike is pointing to personal responsibility. Charles is reminding us that leadership and wisdom are concepts that address a community of followers, while Mike is stressing that in any case to follow a leader or to accept some opinion as "wise" remains a private decision.

    I don't expand on this for the moment. I only see a deep problem hidden here. A first hint for further debate : To acknowledge the teachings of Darwin or of Einstein or of Marx etc. for truth, is this a private or a collective matter ? Same then with Lutheran or Orthodox convictions.

    But at least we come to the real stuff again, to the question of "what to call real".

    Charles, you got me wrong. When I asked "what are we doing here?" my intention was just the opposite of the analytical. It was meant to read : "Are we splitting analytical hairs now, or are we trying to get at real insight on what makes us better humans ?" It was a reaction against this "relativity"-debate. Mike seems to say : "Since I cannot prove that something is good, we may drop the notion of 'good' altogether as meaningless." This is what I am fighting, what I call the "analytical fallacy" and "dissolving problems instead of solving them". By "proving" that there is no Christian God, you implicitely prove that there can be no "grace of God", and thus you have shown that all the struggling of Luther has been just a waste of time and energy and he better had become a jurist.

    In this way you wipe out nearly all of human history, because 90% of all "problems" concerning humans are "meaningless" problems in a similar way as Luther's "grace of God" was a meaningless problem according to analytical thinking. In this direction we will arrive at the image of man as a smart rat or smart ape : The only things provable are those that can be eaten and tasted. All else — God and the good and the holy and the devil and freedom and justice etc. — is just meaningless fancy. Thus the only value of the human brain is to prove that nothing save good eating and good sleeping and good health is worth striving for. This is a logical consequence of analyticism, and this is what I am fighting. It is a "naturalistic fallacy" of a different sort : The only difference of a dull ape like the chimp and a smart ape like man is that the latter can provide food and shelter more effectively, since he's got brains. Glory, what a triumph !

    Well, this is a bit unfair. Of course Mike would subscribe to the idea, that good togetherness and mutual respect and decency and love and music and dancing and helping each other and good talks and many other things remain good things to have even after "analytical cleansing". I will not deny that. But I think I have pointed to a real danger. Perhaps see it thus : To be a religious person and to experience "the grace of God" or "the peace of God" or "the holy" is very different from the behaviourist evaluation of "person is showing religious behaviour".

    Are religious people just "rats in the religious maze" ? Should we really invest the behaviourist with the role of "philosopher king" ? I do not think so. I think that the behaviourist/naturalist is missing much of what makes us humans human. There is not only terrorism and slaughtering in the name of God or Allah. This would be a great simplification. There are a great many good deeds done daily in the name of God or Allah too. But those are taken for granted and not making headlines and crying covers on the leading magazines.

    The difference of seeing things from within and seeing them from the outside is another very deep problem posed to philosophers. Still much to do.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/29/06 8:00 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Talking about wisdom

    Charles

    Leaders do not create themselves, freedoms are not taken away they are given away, responsibility for one's own actions are one's own — that is if one thinks we have freewill and are not just actors in someone else's play.

    There are no laws other than those we construct ourselves. In physics or human behaviour we can observe and then deduce some rules that aid our future prediction. I well understand the purpose of laws in society being aimed at controlling the behaviour of those who do not want to be controlled.

    The Nukem comment was an example taken to an extreme of, if I understood you correctly, your resistance to the idea that people should take responsibility for their own actions without having rules imposed upon them. You know the sort of thing I mean like god and judgment day.

    Forgive me fighting for your liberty, even from your benign creator, but I think it is every bit as important as mine and also complementary for if you have no liberty mine is also reduced.

    I did not infer wisdom was a calculation they are your words. By asking for an example of future wisdom I hoped to better define in my mind your understanding of wisdom. Because you seem willing to talk about it's qualities with having a definition of the idea the phrase I've often heard past all understanding comes to mind here.

    I appreciate we have very different non-complimentary world views but all the activities you undertake I support your freedom to choose. However you also ought to believe that I have considered the faith/spritual based perspective of this existence and frankly find it wanting despite all the comfort and peace it seems to bestow on others. It is, in my opinion, a philosophical dead end.

    Still one day it will be over for both of us the only difference is you bet you'll know about it and I bet I won't so for me it's a worthless wager.

    All the best

    Mike

  • FROM: Michael Ward (09/29/06 8:23 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Chicken or egg

    Hubertus

    Your last analysis (if that's not swearing for you) was succinct and accurate and I thank you for that.

    Whether it is me or my background I simply cannot make leaps into unconditional belief even if based on personal experiences. Doubt exists everywhere in varying degrees yet for some people they inhabit a different reality. A world of black and white and certainties beyond questioning. I would truly like to understand what motivates this desire to construct the world in a form that meets their prejudices rather than just stop talking about things we do not know about.

    I also happen to think that humans (most) are extremely egotistical in thinking they can ask the why questions before ever understanding the how answers (which are in pretty short supply anyway)

    Now here's an interesting question was it asking the why or how or neither which transformed apes to humans?

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (10/08/06 4:39 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Chicken or egg

    Mike,

    I think it is "why" AND "how" that turns apes into humans. And they both form some sort of spiritual double helix. Of course the smart ape had to know the "how" of everyday requirements — f.i., how to get at food etc.. But if you are an intelligent being you cannot stop at this. You may begin to ask "why is there anything at all ?" or "What am I doing here ?" or "Where do my beloved elders go after death ?" etc.. Thus if you find in some place some old bones indicating "apish" animals and then find some sort of grave with burial gifts, you definiteley KNOW that is must be a place of humans. This is as sure as when you enter a foreign shore and there see a geometrical figure written into the sand. See the book "Traces on the Rhodian Shore" on the origins of science.

    No ape would ever draw geometrical figures — and no ape would ever bury his dead. Thus science and religion spring from the same source. They both are intelligent guesses on what is important in this world. The really important things always are as invisible as is the Law of Gravitation or the Electrodynamic Laws of Maxwell etc.. What meets the senses is always the reflection of the surface of things. The fundamental truth never meets the senses. Seen from this perspective "know how" and "know why" are just two complementing ways of understanding reality.

    But what is "know how" ? You would not even start to build a sky rocket without all the metaphysics needed to ask for the nature of the stars and of gravity and of man's future etc.. Thus in most cases there would not even be a know how before a know why telling you where to look and where to go. As I said many times before : The intention of Newton was — in his own explicit words — to lead people to a better understanding of God's wisdom. His interest in nature was a religious interest. He expressly said so. If you are only interested in "know how" you will not get very far. Really.

    Without religious thinking and questioning we all would live in the stone age even today. Science began when "humans to be" began asking "absurd" questions on "what reality is working invisibly behind the appearances".

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/09/06 10:30 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Chicken or egg

    Hubertus

    Ape becomes man, yes but not instantly and it is the transition that we speculate about. Some would argue punctuated equilibrium others gradual change we simply do not know. I agree there is a problem with knowledge as to what it exactly is again some would argue there is nothing in the mind that wasn't first in the senses others argue for reasoning or revelation.

    I am not at all surprised that science came out of religion with so many believers where else would it have come from! But that is a false conclusion f.i. if there occurred an increase of births during the full moon you might conclude that full moons cause birth rates to rise. But does a full moon actually cause more births, or did it occur for other reasons?

    You say Without religious thinking and questioning we all would live in the stone age even today. Well many religious structured societies do exactly that today. And, it seems to me the stronger the religion the less the development.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (10/10/06 3:10 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: who is transforming the world ?

    Mike,

    I think you are mixing up things here. Among the most conservative cultures historically are those of East Asia, i.e. China, Japan, the Koreas. They are not even religious in the Western sense, since they follow no personal God but Buddhist and Taoist and Confucian thinking and "the way of heaven". On the other hand, the most religious people in history, the Christians, have fostered the most modern and dynamical culture that is transforming the earth "in the name of God".

    Once more : There is not and never has been a NATURAL argument to study math or the natural sciences. The Asian minds have been as bright as the Occidental, but there was a lack of interest in the ways of nature. Nature was taken for granted. To exploit nature was no option. The sage is not interested in overcoming nature, he is interested in overcoming his own dark passions.

    This time the Western World is running into the paradoxes of progress. The consequences of Enlightenment are creating more problems than science can solve. This is why people get back to religious things now. Science has no answers to our deeper problems. Science is void and a lost cause.

    To win a Noble Prize is not solving anything. It only will lead to some new weapons or medical cures, but it will not answer the question of why to live or to kill at all. Science can tell you everything on means but nothing on ends. But man as an actor HAS to know something about ends.

    If they had been practical thinking persons, neither Copernic nor Kepler nor Newton would have found out anything of importance to modern science, because practical thinking people never would have put such absurd questions as these three did. Their questions have been of religious origins, not of practical ones.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/11/06 7:24 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Don't Panic

    Hubertus

    I might be mixing things up there were but one way to see things but as philosophers we take some comfort in having an ability, even an obligation, to consider the possibility of other perspectives.

    You propose that religion looks for answers to our deeper problems because science is void and a lost cause. This is the limited thinking of religious doctrines that there are in fact answers to be had for these human paradoxes because there is ultimately a reason for everything.

    Consider, if you will, the possibility there is no reason for anything, life is just arbitrary all we ever do is endless navel gazing. What is important to us is whatever we choose to make important to us and some people will choose differently to others. Neither are right nor wrong, neither are good nor bad and any struggle for answers will always fail because no one hardly ever seems to understand the question they are asking.

    Personally 42 seems a very good answer but as you well know no one knew what the question really meant.

    But — Don't Panic

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (10/14/06 6:14 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Don't Panic

    Well yes, Mike, I do not panic. But I think that you are generalizing too much. You sound "postmodern" in a sort of "anything goes". This is only partly true.

    There once was a time when certain works of art and music and literature were held "cononical", and while this concept is rejected today in the name of political correctness, it is still valid for the serious lover of art an music and literature. If you have seen and read and heared very much, you come back to the canonical works not because you were told so, but because you are convinced. Same with persons and with religions. some are simply the best for the experienced expert. But it may take you decennials to find out for yourself.

    And one more remark on religious things : People as Einstein and Dirac and Gell-Mann, with the help of a little advanced math, made us see very strange things in the nature of the atoms and the galaxies. Without math we would have never known. With a little math you can show exactly how the EM-fields of an antenna are moving through space and time. Nobody without math could have guessed that.

    But in a similar way some writers, especially religious writers, are showing us the hidden complexities of the human soul and the mysteries of human existence and human guilt and grace and humility and arrogance in a way "common sense" never could. Those writers are guiding us through the caves and immesurable spaces of human longing and despair. Read Joseph Conrad (an atheist) on "The Heart of Darkness" or Graham Greene (a theist) on "The Heart of the Matter", on those worlds hidden to common and "natural" thinking as much as the worlds of the atoms and of the galaxies are hidden to the unmathematical mind.

    This is why I fight naturalism : It is shutting down and wiping out whole worlds of really important "realities". It is depicting humans as smart rats or smart apes — which they are not. And this can be proven, since man is essentially an "un-natural" being, a being living in a spiritual world unknown to nature — and unkown to the naturalist alike.

    I would not deny that there are "false pretensions" too in the same way, as astrology is not Relativity Theory and does not compete with the theories of, say, Hawking. Thus I do not deny that there is really much of silly superstition which is no match to really deep theological understanding. But don't spill the baby with the bath-water.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/15/06 7:08 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Ducks, rats and apes

    Hubertus,

    I don't recall ever saying anything goes because I don't think it does. Even anarchists like myself :-) accept we have to live along with other anarchists and we have to place some restrictions upon our freedom.

    There is no point either of us claiming to know how the other feels about music or art or literature that's forever subjective. You say But it may take you decennials to find out for yourself. But what happens when one runs out of time or there is the distinct possibility that there is nothing in the music itself at all and everything is happening inside the listener what then of good music does it come down to good ears?

    As a critical thinker and confirmed skeptic I also doubt my own skepticism how much less credence do you think I give to the "canonical". Does political correctness rest easily with free speech because if it doesn't then for me free speech is the road to follow.

    Phrases like hidden complexities of the human soul and the mysteries of human existence just about says it all for a mystical world view. Should I consult my Ouija board before giving you an answer or look at my horoscope before going out to work tomorrow. I think if there are hidden complexities in the human mind then they have been put in there by the owner in the first place and not by some mystical demons.

    If it walks, talks and looks like duck the chances are it is a duck so if humans are not smart rats or smart apes what are they?

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (10/16/06 1:55 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Ducks, rats and apes

    Mike,

    I am as much a defender of free speech and free opinion as you are. But this was not the point. I know from experience — and you do too, really — that some things and values and qualities are grasped and well understood only after long hard work. And some really important experiences come to you as a great surprise. You never would have expected them. This is what I am speaking of.

    You seem to think — against your own better knowledge — that every important idea or experience or insight can be had without difficulty at every time. But this is simply not the case. To follow some guru or sensei who is telling you that when you go this way and overcome some obstacles you finally will arrive at some really great experience or insight, may well be worth a try. If you have heard second rate music all the time and then meet a true genius, you will be awed and think you have wasted your time so long with this second rate music and never known what music can be.

    This difference of what is first rate and what is second rate has nothing to do with "dogmatism" or with inhibition of free opinion. And this same argument applies with great literature or great religion. You cannot expect that this comes without some patience and hard work on your side.

    I know of several persons who like music very much — the music of Bach and Mozart and Beethoven etc. that is — but hate "modern" music and call it "trash" and "ugly noise". But people who got used to hearing modern music are able to hear and to esteem the best works of it in the same way as they had done with the "classical" music before. One just has to "open a different ear". Same with modern art, same with modern literature. It all needs patience and (sometimes hard) work.

    Thus to think that every evaluation comes "quite natural" is simply not true — and you know this. Of course even the experts may be of different opinion after all, I would not deny that.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/17/06 10:52 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Ducked

    Hubertus,

    You certainly ducked my last question — so if humans are not smart rats or smart apes what are they?

    Regards

    Donald

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (10/19/06 3:03 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Ducked

    Mike, no, I have ducked nothing. But like the old Chinese I offered indirect evidence.

    Well, let's see : Modern man is labeled scientifically "homo sapiens sapiens". I prefer to call him "homo sapiens creator". Which means : Man is not so much thinking as he is inventing and creating — houses, towns, novels, bridges, theories, cultures, musicals, etc.. He is not a "smart" ape but an inventive and "phantastic" ape, an ape full of fancies and dreams that drive him forward. He is exploring the depth of the spaces now, building rockets, but he has been an explorer of the depth of the inner spaces before, building cathedrals.

    This imaginative and creative side of man is what lacks even the smartest chimp. Compared to this the chimp is dull. This overstretching of the notion of "smartness" in "homo sapiens sapiens" is what I am fighting, since it sees man as a passive mind, the chimp going for bananas dangling high or the rat going for the pellets at the end of the maze. But what do you see in a theater or hear in a concert ? There you see and hear not bananas nor pellets, but human inventions. Some bright mind had created some great work from fancy and phantasy. Man is building worlds of his own, not just roaming the world around him like the animals.

    And this is why I defend religion in the same way as I defend the arts : Both are inventions that make us humans aware of realities that are hidden to the common mind.

    You will object : "Maxwell and Einstein made us aware of facts that are really real, while the reality of religions is a fancyful setup only like any novel." Which is not false, but a misunderstanding of what the human mind is doing : The laws of nature are "really real", yes, but what makes us go for the stars — the outer ones and the inner ones — is "fancy". But what else is human longing and striving all about ?

    Humans can well do without Maxwell and Einstein, they had to up to some 150 years ago. But they cannot do without fancies and dreams of goals that are worth dreaming of and striving for. In this sense Plato was much more important than Einstein.

    Now you see why I am anti-naturalist by principle : because it starts from a false concept of man. Naturalism is seeing man as the smart rat in a maze, not as a builder of "cathedrals" or "rockets". What I am saying in my PATHWAYS-essays is just this : We cannot find out about the future in a scientific way, because we ourselves are building this future. We have to invent and to build it, not to explore it. The future is not "there" like the Alps or the Rocky Mountains waiting to be explored by a smart ape. The future is waiting to be invented and built by the inventiveness and creativity of us humans.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/19/06 6:45 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Ducked

    Hubertus

    Yes this is interesting and there is much of what you say I am in agreement with but it is often a matter of different perspective in that you see Naturalism is seeing man as the smart rat in a maze whereas I see Religion is seeing man as the smart rat in a maze. It is after all the believer who is always being tested, compared, measured and finally judged hardly then can one also hold to The future is waiting to be invented and built by the inventiveness and creativity of us humans. No! religion does not make us masters of our own destiny but inferior bit players in greater script one that is ultimately determined. If you are prepared to subscribe to the high probability that religion is a human social construction with no really real substance behind it then we are of like minds.

    If by fancy you mean desire, if by fantasy you mean imagination then on these matters we also agree. As you rightly say the world is not the same as it was 150 years ago and given the increasing rate of change the next 150 is very exciting. Where I think we (humans) differ from the smart chimp is that we spend less and less time in the present (because we don't need to) and more and more time playing in our minds considering the future in virtual worlds we invent.

    Religion was one of the previously invented virtual worlds that works increasingly less well. I make the comparison of say the XP of humanism today with the religion as the DOS of yesterday.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (10/21/06 5:50 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: what was the question

    Dear Mike,

    I think that I have well understood your guiding idea, which is in a sense what Nietzsche had in mind when he had his Zarathustra exclaim "Brothers, stay true to the earth!", which was derived from the advice of Feuerbach (not verbally, but the gist of it) : "Change from the study of God — theo-logy — to the study of man — anthropo-logy. We never will understand God, which is a projection of man anyway. But we may come a long way in understanding humans, if only we try and work hard on it." This was what not only Hume and Kant, but Marx and Freud thought likewise.

    But I still insist that they all fell short of what man is. The essence of all religion is to create an open horizon, to make us humans feel not only humble but "not up to our own true destination and potentiality." All "reasonable" definitions of man tend to have us forget about this fact. They all tend to make us think of "the last and final man" and "the end of history." On this concept see the very good introduction by Fukuyama to his book "The End of History and the Last Man" (1992). The intro is available by

    http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/us/fukuyama.htm

    On the book and the author see

    http://www.amazon.de/s/ref=nb_ss_/028-5888602-2234907?__mk_de_DE =%C3%85M%C3%85Z%C3%95%C3%91&url=search-alias%3Denglish-books&field-keywords =fukuyama+history&Go.x=15&Go.y=7&Go=Go
    and
    http://www.amazon.de/End-History-Last-Man/dp/0140134557/sr=1-2/qid=1161423965/ ref=sr_1_2/028-5888602-2234907?ie=UTF8&s=books-intl-de

    and see http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Francis_Fukuyama and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Fukuyama

    A very good general commentary on the topic is http://www.wesjones.com/eoh.htm

    From Fukuyama's own intro I take :

    //
    The second, and in my view more powerful, criticism of universal recognition comes from the Right that was profoundly concerned with the leveling effects of the French Revolutionas commitment to human equality. This Right found its most brilliant spokesman in the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, whose views were in some respects anticipated by that great observer of democratic societies, Alexis de Tocqueville. Nietzsche believed that modern democracy represented not the self-mastery of former slaves, but the unconditional victory of the slave and a kind of slavish morality. The typical citizen of a liberal democracy was a alast mana? who, schooled by the founders of modern liberalism, gave up prideful belief in his or her own superior worth in favour of comfortable self-preservation. Liberal democracy produced amen without chests,a? composed of desire and reason but lacking thymos, clever at finding new ways to satisfy a host of petty wants through the calculation of long-term self-interest. The last man had no desire to be recognised as greater than others, and without such desire no excellence or achievement was possible. Content with his happiness and unable to feel any sense of shame for being unable to rise above those wants, the last man ceased to be human.
    //

    Thus to read Nietzsche can be dangerous : Nietzsche is NOT telling us to become "smart rats", but just to the contratry he is telling us to become "free humans" — which is not at all the same but is very difficult. Thus what we have to find out together is what this difference comes to. Remember that the Anti-Christ is almost to be mistaken for Christ himself.

    My overall intention is to get us away from the "smart rat trap" and to the "striving human" field. The essence of the "end of history" scheme is to think that man, if he finally becomes a well fed rat, living in peace and harmony with his brothers and sisters and with his environment will settle with this and have his coke and pop-corn in all eternity. To which I say NO !!! Man as a creative actor is building new worlds, is breaking for new worlds, will never become the blissful coach-potato of the final state of socialism or economic liberalism. It is religion that always keeps us humans going, because it is religion that says and keeps saying that "the world is not enough!" — motto of the Bonds. And it is ridiculous that leftists fight Fukuyama and his "end of history"-thesis not in the name of human freedom but only in the name of socialism. They too want to settle and have man become a blissful coach-potato, only a socialist one. They just don't understand the problem.

    To expel religion and God out of the world of man may seem comfortable on first sight. Comfortable that is, because we need not care "him" anymore and may get rid of much bad conscience and many complicated questions related to "his" assumed existence. But it is just this irritating "God behind the scene" presence that I want to defend to keep us from becoming complacent. What I am fighting is this idea that religion is only the bottom chest on which to stack another chest called "science" and then our smart ape, by climbing gloriously those two chests will finally get at his banana. What a pathetic image of man !

    Well, to a degree it is a matter of "levels of reflection". I very well understand your objection that the scary view of God and the devil is preventing a clear and unobscured view onto "the truth". But in my opinion what you call "the unobscured view onto the truth" in this sense is a clear and unobscured view onto "a wanting and incomplete but comfortable truth". Or, to put it otherwise : You will have a clear view on something which is "not the true thing" but only "a deficient replacement". But you will not know this, because nobody is there to warn you.

    Thus what we are always struggling about is whether "religion" is casting a veil upon the truth or whether what we call "reason" is doing this. To be more exact : We should not speak of "the" religion nor of "the" reason. It is very much a matter of the level of approach. Perhaps "99%" of what is called "religion" is just silly superstition and nonsense. But in a similar way "99%" of what we call "reason" is only simplistic and not up to the task of understanding the world we live in. Just think of how "difficult" the world of the greatest authors is, even if they keep God out of the picture like Shakespeare or Conrad or Camus. Do we "need" those difficulties ? Shouldn't we get rid of "absurdities" ?

    Perhaps we should turn the questions around : "Why is it essential in the definition of man to know of 'the absurd' and 'the difficult' ?" And in this same sense I ask : "Why is it essential in the definition of man to know of 'the holy' and 'the metaphysical evil' ?" A world without those would be much simpler of course, but would it be still the world of man or would it be a world of mere robots ? This is my problem.

    Of course you are right : From a "scientific point of view" the images of God and the devil are just fancies. But this is seen from a simplistic concept of truth. Truth is much more than "the proven facts". Truth is a very difficult concept full of metaphysical assumptions we are not aware of. What is "evident" need not be true. Just take the rising sun or the flat earth for examples. Maxwell and Einstein and Dirac could succeed, because they spoke of testable observations. Their theories were "falsifiable" in the Popperian sense. But we humans are "actors", we have to find and to dig and build our way into a man-made future. This is a work of creative minds, not of scientists. Thus I think it important to keep our imaginative senses "sensitive" and not shut some windows down with simplistic concepts of what seems "reasonable". That was my point.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/24/06 4:25 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Loosing excess baggage

    Hubertus,

    I accept that most of humanity needs God(s) for a multitude of reasons. To loose some weight I am on a diet which involves a change in eating habits, what I did not consider as a viable alternative was praying for the strength to achieve this weight loss.

    Religion is humanities cry for help in an unjust world regrettably there just ain't no-one listening. Eventually knowing this will become accepted and we will be forced to think differently, inevitably this will take time, possibly a great deal of time.

    Regards

    Mike

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Charles Countryman (10/02/06 11:16 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: Chicken or Egg

Before responding to Michael, I encourage anyone "lurking" out there on this list to join in. We may be responding to specific comments by each other, but there is no intention to restrict participation. We welcome thoughtful participation in this international philosophical cafe!
—---------

Michael

One of the problems with your extreme libertarian application of Descartes' skepticism is your focus on the individual alone. You have created a false dichotomy between the individual and the social. But in fact you cannot divide the two. The lone, responsible self is simply a libertarian myth. Of course the economic and social development of modern society has led to the liberation (or perhaps more accurately the potential liberation) of the individual from narrow intellectual tribalism. But the individual develops within the world view in which they were born and perhaps changes under the influence of a world view to which they convert.

If individuals can convert to another belief system, obviously there is some individual choice involved. Nonetheless the individual mind is to a considerable degree the product of culture and society. The idea of autonomous individualism is simply a modern/postmodern myth.

One of the reasons for common law is that human responsibility cannot be simply reduced to the individual. The human experience and mind are simply too complex. Yes there is individual responsibility. But there are also cultures, societies, and leaders within cultures and societies. Common law has to sort them out in determining responsibility. Common law is really an application of moral philosophy.

Regarding your question of whether it was "asking the 'why' or 'how' or neither which transformed apes to humans?" That is a question of cosmological philosophy not moral philosophy. We have an advantage over Socrates in that today cosmological philosophy is a precursor to science. However, I think Socrates was correct in believing that humans cannot absolutely establish cosmological truths. The primary modern task of philosophy is moral, doing philosophy in a real world.

Charles

    REPLIES (4):

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/02/06 5:52 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Egg or chicken or both

    Charles,

    First I would like to endorse your invitation for other participants to speak out if they are watching.

    ----------

    Of course the lone responsible self is not viable but then is it not a preferable ideal to the human cog in the machine of state if you do not think that I do.

    This so called mythical autonomous individualism requires an individual who can balance both personal ethics with the restraints of living in a society. But in that order, first self then society.

    I oppose the reverse where the individual is but a unit of production, a means to an end, part of a herd and subservient to the needs of a group.

    The hive cannot survive without it's queen, similarly I think you would say that society cannot survive without leaders and for most humans, as they are today, you may be sadly right.

    People are getting what they deserve for not liberating themselves from the leaders. Still it's always easier to sit back and blame someone else than it is to be responsible for own actions.

    If you believe that asking why and how is an insurmountable human task and also that humans cannot reliably establish cosmological truths what more chance do they have of understanding themselves and their place in the universe?

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/04/06 12:53 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Chicken or Egg

    Michael

    I think that perspective and scale make all the difference in the world in that they allow moral philosophy to exist. Philosophical discussions about whether a chair is real or not, what is the substance of a chair, and etc. are interesting and thought provoking, if one has the time and means to engage in that sort of thing. Perhaps we should all make more time for such discussions?

    But I think from the perspective of most people, it is more important to know how the chair is used. Perhaps time is infinite. But a day's time is limited to 24 hours by cultural and social agreement in the real world that I'm engaged in. Some would probably take that as an argument for everything being relative. Maybe everything is relative in the cosmic or sub micro scheme of things. But in the real world where someone might hit another person with the chair, then it can quickly become self evident that the chair is real.

    In the real world, perhaps in the fine arts to a limited extent, but more so using moral philosophy in the broadest sense of the words, people with differing world views can engage in what has been called the "Great Conversation." Even religions to a large extent are dependent upon philosophy for that.

    So I really don't see what you would gain, except perhaps only hearing your own voice and having to pick up the whole tab yourself at the philosophical cafe, if you excluded those like me who see benefits in attempting to follow the way of another and of being a believer in a religion. Do you really think that you would hear much of anything original in a gathering of supermen? The supermen would probably all be asserting themselves and no one would get a word in edgewise. That sounds like verbal hell to me!

    Supermen, being self contained, probably don't have any children. Religious folk though, trying to be fruitful and multiplying and all that sort of earthly stuff, as you have pointed out, tend to have children that can be taken away from them. The supermen, with their heads up in the clouds, have plenty of time to think about what is good and right for these children to think and do.

    So what about Truth and what about Wisdom and what are her sources? What are the effects of perspective and scale here.

    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/04/06 10:44 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Of Supermen

    Charles,

    We are both fortunate to have the time to consider theoretical and practical aspects in our philosophical discussions. And of course you are quite right that realistically I do not expend time doubting the existence of the truck bearing down on me when I cross the road — I get out the way.

    But I don't just exist at the animalistic level of survival or accepting the given wisdom of others I have my own questions about existence that go beyond the reality of the chair into all aspects of being in this world.

    I think it is extremely difficult, even impossible, to enter into the Great Conversation if there is no truly shared language. Is maths cultural or science cultural? I don't think it is despite people wanting to politicise it and make it so. That is the real language of any conversation something that is objective and not subjective.

    You are using the straw man argument when you introduce this Superman by creating a false scenario and then attacking it. e.g., Evolutionists think that everything came about by random chance. Most evolutionists think in terms of natural selection which may involve incidental elements, but does not depend entirely on random chance. Painting your opponent with false colours (Supermen)only deflects the purpose of the argument.

    Perhaps if you changed the phrase to a meeting of free men rather then your hell might evaporate. Also what is this her sources for Truth and Wisdom, do you also subscribe to mother earth, dame fortune and the grim reaper?

    Regards

    Mike

    "You don't need to take drugs to hallucinate; improper language can fill your world with phantoms and spooks of many kinds."
    -Robert A. Wilson

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/09/06 11:55 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Chicken or Egg

    I change: " However, I think Socrates was correct in believing that humans cannot reliably establish cosmological truths."

    I change this to " ... humans cannot absolutely establish cosmological truths."

    Charles

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Charles Countryman (10/09/06 11:19 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: Shared Language

Michael

You said: "I think it is extremely difficult, even impossible, to enter into the Great Conversation if there is no truly shared language. Is maths cultural or science cultural? I don't think it is despite people wanting to politicise it and make it so. That is the real language of any conversation something that is objective and not subjective."

I think perspective and scale do matter. But while there are great philosophical problems involved in subjectivity, humans are embodied beings with a comprehensive mind. Our minds being comprehensive, make us self-aware subjects with experiences on the scale encompassed by a real world. Almost all of us become aware that we share this real world with others. Our minds with their inherent capacity for language, learn to share our experiences in the world with others. Recent discoveries in neurological science, including the role of mirror neurons, verify that we have the ability to sense the mental state of others.

This recent research indicates that language is at least partially based on sharing mental representations of the physical world. As "Washington Post" staff writer Shankar Vedantam recently wrote: "When we hear words, we essentially act out their meanings in our own minds." (from "Science Lab," "The Washington Post National Weekly Edition," October 2-8, 2006.)

This theatre played out on the neurological stages of our minds is at least partially the basis of our conversation with others, including that about "mother earth, dame fortune and the grim reaper."

Sincerely,
Charles

    REPLIES (13):

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/09/06 5:35 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: No need for emails

    Charles

    As I watch and listen to news film and reports from around the world the evidence for a Great Conversation seems very scant. I accept that what constitutes news are usually bad events but even if there were equal numbers of good events they do not in my view cancel each other. Wishing for the great conversation makes it no more a reality than wishing for anything else though I fully accept that we need hope to achieve goals even if unattainable.

    That a child in Idaho or Iraq has an innate predisposition for language or religion is of no surprise it is the type of beings we have evolved to become. I will challenge, as I do, your use of phrases like humans are embodied beings as it adversely shapes perception without substantiation.

    I have studied the ability to communicate and it is fraught with many opportunities for errors in translation from perception to thoughts, from thoughts to unspoken words, from words thought to words spoken (incl. body language) and then all of this in reverse to the person you are speaking to. I ponder what would life be like if all this could be circumvented and we could experience other peoples experience with them but then could we because even if it were possible there are two different beings doing the experiencing and isn't half the experience a product of the different subjects themselves.

    How attractive does getting inside someone else's mind seem to you.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/10/06 10:58 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Shared Language & etc.

    Michael

    I also do not see much evidence for any continuing "Great Conversation." My personal experience with "Great Books" discussion groups here in the Pacific NW USA is that it is difficult to maintain participation over several months — year. I have had similar experience with non academic Internet philosophical discussion groups both national and international. But I remain hopeful. With my generation of American "baby boomers" now beginning to join the "senior" age category, I think that perhaps there are future opportunities there.

    Michael, I don't understand your perception of "embodied beings" being adverse. What I intended to convey was my opinion that Descartes type dualism is a philosophical error. (Is there any other type of dualism?) Also I intended to leave open the possibility of non dualistic discussion of religions.

    Language is imprecise. But I think the universe is constructed that way. Engineering preciseness is an artificial human construct. (Apologies to your profession and my son's planned profession!)

    Regarding your earlier comments about maths Michael. I'm very much the novice here. But I think math on the whole is much more fuzzy than precise. An interesting aspect of math though is its ability to cross barriers of scale and perspective.

    Hubertus threw in the idea of religion being a best guess. I think however that religion, whether theistic or not, is based on experience.

    No, I am not very interested in getting into someone else's mind. I would rather have the choice, for me or them, to understand what they want to convey. My personal belief is that only God knows the individual's true mind.

    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/11/06 7:43 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Shared Language & etc.

    Charles

    Our experiences with groups is very similar and on a seemingly downward spiral. The discussion group we have from time to time only happens when I organise it and likewise in my Rotary club there seems less and less willingness to provide service with more and more attention to self.

    I find all of this very discouraging as apathy seems to be the up and coming human condition. When all else fails you have an escape route (religion) I do not for reasons I have exampled on numerous occasions.

    Language is imprecise but the least worst means of communication we have (without telepathy) and as long as people hold some doubt about the precision then they would be more tolerant. Am I to understand that you don't accept dualism because neither do I as I think there is only one sort of stuff the world is made of.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/11/06 12:33 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Shared Language and dualism

    Mike

    A primary reason for me not accepting dualism is that I think everything that exists in our "universe" (including mental states) came about after the "Big Bang." Rather than saying however that everything is made from the same stuff (an argument that I see being about physicalism), I am thinking along the lines of fields and information.

    My understanding is that we stand inside of creation (the Big Bang). As a "believer," I think that God stands outside of His creation. (Mine is not an argument for a God with the attributes of a "watchmaker" however.) While I have some problems with Luther's theology, basically I think he was correct in his Philosophical Thesis that Plato's ideas were better than Aristotle's (Martin Luther's Heidelberg Disputation).

    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/12/06 2:23 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Shared Language and dualism

    Charles

    I include information/data within my definition of stuff as it is the order of stuff.
    Like you the only place this god would fit the little evidence I see would be either prior to or outside of known reality. Of the unknown I cannot speak with knowledge much less certainty.

    Two further considerations that interest me are time and alternative dimensions. But without a better understanding I can only speculate on what might be the case why do others go further?

    I do not follow your comments on Luther and the Heidelberg Disputation can you precis what you think this means.

    Regards

    Mike Ward

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/13/06 1:02 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Shared Language

    Mike

    Luther in his Philosophical Thesis said that Aristotle wrongly believed the world (matter) to be eternal. Luther said things of matter come forth through "nature" and applauded the mathematical order of material things maintained by Pythagoras. However Luther found Plato's "interaction of ideas" to be a better explanation.

    Luther believed that perhaps Anaxagoras was the best of philosophers though in that Anaxagoras apparently argued the infinity of form. Among other things, Luther felt Aristotle to be confused in finding matter and form to be the same thing.

    Today I think materialism continues to wrongly posit eternity for matter. When instead matter (and space and time) probably began with a bang and may have an ending.

    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/13/06 11:43 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Shared Language

    Michael and Hubertus

    Is information (memory) just physical or does it transcend time and space (encompassed by form and dualistic)? In light of memory's origin in the Big Bang though, perhaps information in its essence is non reductive, existing on a continuum from physical patterns in the brain through fields of information.

    However at this point, I think that I am stepping from science into questions of metaphysics. Socrates reminds me of the difficulty of coming to definitive conclusions here. In light of these difficulties, Socrates rightly focused on questions about what is good and true. Me, thinking in a tradition that finds our expanding universe rather porous to both metaphysical Light and Darkness, am reminded by the question what is Truth not to be blinded by the light of the cosmos, missing the patterns in human memory that point to Truth.

    Through hard experience with my disability with Parkinson's disease and my current involvement in my mother's Hospice care, I know that I lack Socrates' ability and stamina to deal with endless questions. While I find many things interesting and of great humanitarian concern, my life experiences seem to be pointing me towards those questions of Truth involved with bioethics from the perspective of the patient. I think though of course that those questions are dependent upon the Great Ideas sustained by the West's Great Conversation.

    This forum further offers the possibility of an international perspective, including those who doubt that the West's Great Ideas underly the conversation and those who think that the idea of Truth is ridiculous in the first place.

    Hoping the conversation continues and expands,
    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/14/06 5:49 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Truth — what is it?

    Charles

    Yes I will assist in these discussions in both continuing and expanding them. So, a word we frequently use is truth. What then is truth?

    Popular definitions are:
    Conformity to fact or actuality. (rather difficult as we can never know anything other than sense data)
    A statement proven to be or accepted as true. (but proof is only relative to other arguments)
    Sincerity; integrity. (unfortunately this cannot ever be known except by the first person)
    Fidelity to an original or standard. (but what counts as original or standard?)

    Even if we take something which might seem irrefutable as truth for example Pythagoras theorem, square on the hypotenuse etc. is this not true for all time? So did it not exist prior to humanity? Will it not exist after humanity has gone?

    Those who think this is a form of truth would also probably agree with Plato's Form's the essence behind existence. For myself I find nothing sufficiently permanent enough to render truth anything but subjective and contemporary. Ideas are good in their time because it suited the moment. Slavery, apartheid, women without the vote for example maybe one day the idea of war or fighting or superior gods may equally be consigned to the trash bin.

    Let us consider there is no such thing as a truth much less truth itself what have we lost and what have we gained?

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/17/06 6:08 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Shared Language — Truth and what is it?

    Hubertus & Michael

    Michael asked, if we assume there is no such thing as Truth: "what have we lost and what have we gained?"

    The popular definitions for truth that Michael provided are a little fuzzy on the traditional distinction between truth as a social matter and as an intellectual matter.

    Encyclopedia Britannica's "Syntopicon" (Index to the Great Ideas) says about Truth: "If truthfulness, viewed socially, requires a man's words to be a faithful representation of his mind, truth in the mind itself (or in the statements which express thought) depends on their conformity to reality." So I think, at least socially, that the loss of truth would lead to disconnection from reality!

    As virtue is related to truth, loss of virtue would be related to loss of truth. Loss of virtue includes issues of beauty, citizenship, education, government, happiness, law, liberty, love, mind, pleasure, prudence, and wisdom. The cascading losses would appear to dig a "pretty big hole." Wisdom says I think that reason neither supports digging nor falling into such an anti- humanitarian and anti-philosophical pit.

    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/18/06 12:16 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Shared Language — Truth and what is it?

    Charles and Hubertus,

    I could be deceived but I think that we all construct within ourselves a model of the external world and populate it both animate or inanimate objects based upon our observation, intuition, reason and deduction.

    I would argue that the definition of truth (or degree of truth) is a measure of the accuracy of this model when compared with what is out there i.e. non self. Given that we can never know what is out there other than by the third party routes of our senses I would argue that there can never be any form of absolute truth.

    Truth is therefore both conditional and relative which is at variance with the religious notion some Immutable deity.

    I do not think there is any serious danger of falling into holes because it is my contention we have never climbed to any demonstrable higher level.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (10/19/06 3:35 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Shared Language — Truth and what is it?

    Charles and Mike,

    this is a fascinating exchange ! I like the picture presented by Charles of the "pit" left after losing or denying all important realities. On the other hand : "Beauty" is in the eye of the beholder. Now in what sense can it be called "real" ? People can go mad and crazy because of beauty, but since it is "only" in the eye of the beholder, it is "not there" in the view of Mike, so people go mad and crazy of somehting "which is not there". And this is exactly what I am saying : By the "naturalistic" view the whole existence of man becomes absurd, since naturalism is telling us that (1) "what is important — f.i. beauty or God etc. — is not there", and (2) "what is there — f.i. electricity or the quarks — is not important,i.e., not stirring the human mind and soul so much".

    The world is full of facts, but facts don't make for a human living. Facts are just bananas for the smart ape, but "man does not live on bread alone." Only animals do.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/20/06 11:52 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Shared Language

    Hubertus & Mike

    The principal problem that I see in both of your analysis is that no one acts as if life is "absurd" and as "if we have never climbed to any demonstrable higher level," except for the possible exception of the psychopath. Even the non political suicidal have compared their life's lack of meaning or their personal pain to some other standard of meaning or well being.

    Hubertus, to just simply say "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is really saying nothing at all about the social perception of beauty. Of course we have individual reactions to things in our world. But beauty is defined in conversation with others. Those other may or may not, that remains to be determined, be form or God. And Hubertus, I don't want to insult apes by comparing them to humans. Humans have to make their own arguments. Let apes be apes and may they prosper.

    Michael, I would agree that we have yet to establish whether truth is anything beyond conditional and relative. But the fact that people are still working on those problems seems to imply the possibility of absolute truth.

    I think that perhaps truth (in the social, not in the intellectual or natural science senses) is embodied. In recent times, I give the examples of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Brother Roger of Taize.

    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/20/06 1:21 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Shared Language

    Charles

    If I understand you then you say that life is absurd? For myself I think that the universe is arbitrary and meaningless and it is only we humans who try to impose purpose and meaning to aid our progress through it.

    If I were to say I am still working to establish the existence of unicorns I might find a few like minded people in the world to agree with but that would not make the object of my search any more plausible. So how much more plausible would unicorns be if everyone in the world joined in my search?

    Do I deduce that you see three kinds of truth definitions namely social, intellectual and natural, but what is the common denominator that binds them all together?

    Regards

    Mike

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Michael Ward (10/20/06 1:41 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: Painting by numbers

Hi,

I have subscribed to a number of philosophical lecture courses to widen the perspectives I have on various issues. A marketing email received today had within it the extract below:

Dr. Greenberg is one of the most popular teachers of The Great Courses. He has recorded more than 20 courses on music's greatest composers, opera, and forms of music. This lecture is from his course How to Listen to and Understand Great Music. In addition to being an award-winning professor, Dr. Greenberg has composed more than 40 works for a variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles. He has performed, taught, and lectured extensively across North America and Europe. He is music historian-in-residence with San Francisco Performances, the city's premier presenter of chamber music, instrumental and vocal recitals, jazz, and contemporary dance.

If the aim of the course is to teach me how to listen and understand great music then do they fail me if I think the music is a load of rubbish or should I be awarded a diploma for being able to come to my own decisions. Likewise, has the priest really failed when someone turns away from his religious teachings to create their own values in life or can we really be taught to paint by numbers as I think the above extract implies?

Regards

Mike

    REPLIES (11):

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/22/06 10:53 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Painting by numbers

    Mike

    For ease of conversation, I have blended what I think are related subjects.

    You previously said: "I think that the universe is arbitrary and meaningless and it is only we humans who try to impose purpose and meaning to aid our progress through it."

    My thought is that our human experiences are experiences with limited perspective and perception. Out of necessity, humans construct mental templates to make some sense of things. What is somewhat arbitrary and possibly absurd are these mental templates or world views, not necessarily the universe itself. I think that the universe is simply too vast for humans themselves to establish whether or not it has any meaning.

    You asked if I deduce that "three kinds of truth definitions namely social, intellectual and natural, but what is the common denominator that binds them all together?"

    What I think is that these are three categories that humans have found useful in dealing with Truth. I find no fault with those who work on the problem of a possible big connection between what these categories of human mind represent. But I do try to follow Socrates advise though about what humans can generally come to an understanding of, focusing my quest for Wisdom there. This I think is primarily the social category.

    I readily admit that my mental template has become, is becoming orthodox Christianity. I admit that there is a great debate about what orthodox Christianity means (note- I said orthodox with a small "o.") But Socrates in his own way was religious. Whatever were the debates about and over religion at Socrates' time, didn't seem to impede his philosophical perspective. So I think religion is not necessarily an impediment to philosophical discussion today, as you seem to think.

    I have fallen several times for the marketed attractions of The Great Courses. I don't see them presenting the Great Ideas through "painting by numbers." Rather I experience them as a great way for a not so great mind (my own) to contend with major philosophical and historical issues in a practical manner. Personally I find it very useful to listen to a lecture more than once and in an environment that I can control to optimize cognitive reception.

    Mike, you seem to misunderstand the role of "priest," at least in the Christian tradition. But that is a vastly different subject.

    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/24/06 12:20 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Painting by numbers

    Charles

    Charles wrote My thought is that our human experiences are experiences with limited perspective and perception. Out of necessity, humans construct mental templates to make some sense of things. What is somewhat arbitrary and possibly absurd are these mental templates or world views, not necessarily the universe itself. I think that the universe is simply too vast for humans themselves to establish whether or not it has any meaning
    Then we are agreed neither of us can be certain whether there is any purpose to the universe, so why believe it to be the way you want it to be rather than just leave it in doubt?

    Charles wrote What I think is that these are three categories that humans have found useful in dealing with Truth. I find no fault with those who work on the problem of a possible big connection between what these categories of human mind represent. But I do try to follow Socrates advise though about what humans can generally come to an understanding of, focusing my quest for Wisdom there. This I think is primarily the social category.
    Should we put limits on what humans can understand I hope not.

    Charles wrote I readily admit that my mental template has become, is becoming orthodox Christianity. I admit that there is a great debate about what orthodox Christianity means (note- I said orthodox with a small "o.") But Socrates in his own way was religious. Whatever were the debates about and over religion at Socrates' time, didn't seem to impede his philosophical perspective. So I think religion is not necessarily an impediment to philosophical discussion today, as you seem to think.
    I propose that Socrates reflected the knowledge and society at the time he lived and there are numerous references to God(s) as difficult as it is we also need to try think outside the box of religion and this is what I believe the message in Plato's Cave is all about.

    Charles wrote I have fallen several times for the marketed attractions of The Great Courses. I don't see them presenting the Great Ideas through "painting by numbers." Rather I experience them as a great way for a not so great mind (my own) to contend with major philosophical and historical issues in a practical manner. Personally I find it very useful to listen to a lecture more than once and in an environment that I can control to optimize cognitive reception.
    I agree with you and it wasn't my intention to make a criticism of them what I was referring to was the principle of learning to recognize say beauty or virtue.

    Charles wrote Mike, you seem to misunderstand the role of "priest," at least in the Christian tradition. But that is a vastly different subject.
    As I understand it in the Christian Church (PLC) the priest is the conduit to God whereas the banned books on the new testament (f.i. Thomas) proscribed direct communication with God cutting out the middle man (priest). The Church kept the jobs for the boys and power and control and still does today.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/24/06 3:18 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Painting by numbers

    Michael, Hubertus, (and hopefully others),

    Mike said: Then we are agreed neither of us can be certain whether there is any purpose to the universe, so why believe it to be the way you want it to be rather than just leave it in doubt?

    My response: Mike, I don't think certainty is a characteristic of the universe as humans can know it. Your science is as least as much a belief as my religious beliefs are. Human sciences and mathematics are as much cultural constructs and representative of the real universe as any human religions are. However I think perhaps that your faith in science alone is a more narrow belief than those religious who also include science, e.g. Rev. John Polkinghorne.

    Speaking of probabilities and certainty in religion, I refer you to Pascal's Pensees, especially his wager. As a catechumen in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, I rely on Her chain of historical evidence and the testimony of Her Saints. The rational human mind can evaluate these as well as scientific evidence. I also rely on prayer, meditation, and the ability of the human mind to have uncategorized and unconceptualized experiences.
    -----

    Mike said: Should we put limits on what humans can understand I hope not.

    I said nothing about placing limits. I referred to what I understand to be Socrates' advise to philosophy: Concentrate on the human experience, rather than speculate about the cosmos.
    -----

    Mike said: I propose that Socrates reflected the knowledge and society at the time he lived and there are numerous references to God(s) as difficult as it is we also need to try think outside the box of religion and this is what I believe the message in Plato's Cave is all about

    I disagree. My understanding of Socrates is that he was in line with Xenophanes of Colophon in opposing religions made in the image of man, but was not an atheist in the modern understanding of the term. I am no expert on Plato's Cave, but would welcome discussing it in the context of reading Plato's Republic.
    -----

    Mike said: As I understand it in the Christian Church (PLC) the priest is the conduit to God whereas the banned books on the new testament (f.i. Thomas) proscribed direct communication with God cutting out the middle man (priest). The Church kept the jobs for the boys and power and control and still does today

    I think that perhaps your misunderstanding Mike is at least in part due to your not having much acquaintance with the history of Christianity. I hesitate to go there now, because I think that you probably don't have any interest in reading the Christian scriptures or the history of Christianity. Also, I don't know if this is a good forum for discussing in detail either religious history or theology. I don't want to appear to be using this forum for evangelism. My interest here is philosophy. Any other opinions about that Mike, Hubertus, and out there?

    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/24/06 5:04 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Human v2.0

    Charles and Hubertus

    Whether there is such an absolute as certainty I do not know but I still stand behind my statement that neither of us can know. However to determine the end of the search for a God by taking him along with you does seem to be somewhat prejudiced beginning.

    I know this vision of the future will not appeal either to yourself or Hubertus whereas I find it rather attractive and certainly exciting http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/broadband/tx/singularity/ (just saw it tonight on BBC2.)

    Yes you are right this forum probably isn't the best one for resolving how many angels you can get on the head of a needle (http://www.newadvent.org/summa/) or other more serious aspects of religious history, I just find the arguments made both dated and pointless and before you say no experience my latest religious experience was standing in a group of would be Christians waiting for the holy spirit to descend upon them (Alpha) no show!

    I would suggest that if you set out to change my mind about Christianity that would be evangelism however if you want me to change my mind then it needs to be an argument based upon reason and empirical supported is this not truth!

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/26/06 1:54 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Human v2.0

    Mike

    Apparently I can't watch BBC2, being outside the UK. Some of the commentary about Human v2.0 was available though and I did watch/read that.

    I don't worry too much about Ray Kurzweil's great "Singularity" and any possible Human v2.0, because he and other cognitists fail to appreciate two critical aspects of the human mind: 1) the energy required for mind; 2) the ability of the human mind to have uncategorized and unconceptualized experiences.

    It's going to take much more than batteries and electronic components (like in Star Trek New Generation's DATA) to run mind. Has Kurzweil even considered the heat problem created by attempting to power up a comprehensive mind in a small space with conventional bioengineering? Unfortunately for Kurzweil's Singularity, conventional is all he's got. Western science doesn't have a clue about the required ki (or chi) energy. Eastern sciences can only do very rudimentary tracing and channeling of ki as it passes through a human body.

    I suppose that there might be some possibility for engineers to get around the energy and heat problems through doing mind by networking on a global scale. But even then, would they have consciousness and solved the cognitist problem with uncategorized and unconceptualized mental experiences (which they usually just ignore)?

    By the way Mike, you have it wrong about believers carrying God along with them. For orthodox Judeo-Christianity at least, God works through revelation, beyond the boundaries of time and space.

    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/26/06 7:54 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Is God an Accident

    Charles

    I'd be more than happy to put the Horizon programme onto a DVD and post it you so you can see the totality of the issue rather than just bits and comments which I saw but were very scant let me know please.

    I could start debating that the vision is for the future with computing power expanding exponentially etc. etc. but I know that would not make one bit of difference so I won't.

    I find in all my discussions there is a no go area where even for thought experiment purposes alone those with religious convictions will not tread and that is what the world would be like IF there were no creator.

    I ask myself why is that, what is so dangerous or absurd to suspend belief if only for the purpose of validating that belief I have never been given an answer. On the contrary most people when faced with such a challenge avoid an answer by sidestepping the issue claiming that it's an invalid question or simply quote what others have said on the matter when it is their own views I am interest in. Will entertaining even a shred of doubt about their God bring their complete world tumbling down around them this seems highly probable.

    Hubertus posted me a link to an article called Is God an Accident which I have deposited into the documents section on this site. It is excellent and there is nothing I can find in this document which would not make it the strongest contendert to explain the need for religion I commend reading it and await your critique.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/26/06 9:48 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Human v2.0 addendum

    In projections for exponential increases in the computing capabilities of micro computers, I have never seen an explanation beyond wishful thinking about how exponential reduction in the power supply will be accomplished for these micro super computers. It doesn't seem reasonable to me for cognitists to make relatively short term "straight line" projections of continued exponential expansion in computing power for small computers when there has been no exponential reduction in battery or fuel cell sizes. A team of researchers at MIT has reported manipulating the M13 virus and adding a bit of gold to make nanowires work as positive electrodes for battery electrodes. But this is far from being a complete power system for a super computer.

    Just for an interesting comparison, here is information about the Hitachi SR8000-F1 Super Computer provided by the Leibniz Computing Centre of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.

    Dimensions (without disk array): 9m x 8m, 1.8m high

    Weight: 23 tonnes

    Energy consumption: 610,000 Watts

    Energy consumption of the total system (including air conditioning): almost 1,000,000 Watts (1 Megawatt)

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (10/26/06 10:25 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Re: Is God an accident?

    Mike

    I will certainly engage you in discussion about this. But perhaps someone else out there might want to enter this discussion also. Due to the family health issue that I previously mentioned to you, I will be away from this forum for about a week. About the DVD, yes I would like to see it. I will send you my postal address by this systems personal message.

    Charles

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (10/27/06 1:01 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Is God an Accident

    Mike,

    you wrote : //I ask myself why is that, what is so dangerous or absurd to suspend belief if only for the purpose of validating that belief I have never been given an answer. On the contrary most people when faced with such a challenge avoid an answer by sidestepping the issue claiming that it's an invalid question or simply quote what others have said on the matter when it is their own views I am interest in. Will entertaining even a shred of doubt about their God bring their complete world tumbling down around them this seems highly probable. //

    There are situations where every debate stops. Suppose you are loving somebody dearly, and another person is asking you to prove that the beloved one is worth it. Would you try to prove or would you evade the question and change the topic ?

    And then : You time and again see religious beliefs as an indication of a weakness of reason. You always take it for a matter of engineering inquiry, testing the soundness of the claims. You seem to miss an essential point just as in the example of love above. There are people who are religious out of fear or superstition. But many — and the best — are religious out of a sense for beauty and greatness and humility. They honour what is great in itself, what is worth to be worshipped in the way beauty and truth and justice and honesty are to be worshipped.

    I admit, that scientifically the existence of God cannot be proven. But as I said before, most of what we value highest cannot be proven valuable. This was the meaning of my example above. Newton, by publishing his theory of gravitation, was trying to convince people of the wisdom of God. He explicitely said so. The same with Kepler. They both were using reason to support what you call unreason. Why ? Because they knew that a world without God would be a meaningless world for "smart apes going for their bananas."

    The Saturn-Rocket taking astronauts to the moon was a symbol of our modern dreams of "going for the stars". The St.Peters cathedral was a symbol for older dreams of "going for God". The transcendent is what lies beyond the horizon. Humans are always dreaming of what lies beyond the horizon. The best in us humans is not out for comfort, but for going for a better world, even if this means suffering and hardships. This explains why so many true believers are strong minds and strong characters. To be an astronaut you should have got a strong mind and a strong character. And to be a true believer you generally have too. At least this is the true meaning of any great religion.

    But you are right : Many if not most of the true believers are weaklings. The problem is : If you take away the crutches, they will fall down. So what good is what you are doing then ? And those who are really strong will ignore your arguments anyway.

    I once said something like : "If I had to pick three persons as leaders of the world, I would prefer the pope and the Dalai Lama and, say, Mandela instead of Kant and Hume and Freud, let alone Marx or Nietzsche. Well, there should be some more than just three, but you see the idea. You do me a favour if you just try to think of this and why I say so. But you are free of course to defend a different selection of candidates for world leadership.

    I can give you a hint : In the essay of Paul Bloom "Is God an Accident ?", that you posted to the documents, Bloom explains why people see the soul as different from the body — contradicting all scientific evidence. Now if you try to be "scientific", you will miss peoples understanding. You will be right scientifically, but you do not "get at the hearts and minds of people", be them 6 year olds or 60 year olds. Thus to have agnostic and anti-theistic people govern the world would come to a vast rebellion of all those who feel governed by "heartless robots" (I beg your pardon !). It would be like a robot reading the good night story to a child.

    This is not the same as hearing, say, David Copperfield read from a CD if you are blind or otherwise unable to read. For the child it is "human relations". For the child, the reading human is "of my kind, thus to be expected loyal and trustworthy". On the other hand, children can very much trust in their teddy-bear or doll. They somehow project part of their soul into those "bodies". But if this is possible, they can as well project part of their soul into a different soul — that of God Almighty or of Allah the All Merciful.

    Some aspects of this problem are touched upon in the films "A.I." and "Blade Runner". In both of them there is an irritation arising from "near humane robots" and how to accept them for a replacement of "real" humans. But this is another theme for another debate.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/27/06 5:43 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Yes — God is an Accident

    Hubertus

    You say There are situations where every debate stops. Well yes in an emotionally charged atmosphere but this is a discussion forum and so has been the situation at other times but still no dialogue, no explanation, in short a refusal to engage.

    I must say I endorse without exception the article by Paul Bloom on the source of religion which has always been a exasperating puzzle to me as to why people choose belief over empirical verification. This commendable explanation refutes my assumption that people choose when in fact it's simply how they are made most people have no choice!

    None of the things mentioned individually come as a surprise to me but together they tell a very convincing tale about most of humanity. Now I exclude myself outside of most humanity in this respect which I will now deal with. Of particular relevance for me was the reference to Autism and my own personal experiences. A number of years ago whilst grappling with the issues of difference I experience with other people I investigated autism which led me onto reading a great deal written by persons with varying degrees of AS (Asperger Syndrome)

    With some professional assistance I ended up with a self diagnosis of mild AS which was welcome rather than shocking as it did offer some explanation of my ability to see what others could not see and vice versa. This was a point made in Paul Blooms article which I found of significant interest. Now AS is not bad news as AS people can be creative, high-powered thinkers, with courage to make a contribution outside the mainstream, many academics have AS and it has been said that computers were designed for and by people with AS! Also AS people also tend to be straightforward, not manipulating people or having hidden agendas all things that I experience.

    Having the ability to be outside the thinking box of most people I rate as an advantage and I have practiced this in the past sometimes with the aid of my Martian counterpart which I stole from Andrew Sacks An Anthropologist from Mars so what then are my experiences of the world:

    I do not see the world in duality of experience.
    I am my mind which is just a function of my physical brain.
    I do not think nor experience having a soul that will continue after my brain ceases to function.
    I am inseparable from mind.
    Life after death is a meaningless concept, life is life and death is the end of it.

    A few years ago, one of Britain's best-known autism specialists, Cambridge University's Simon Baron-Cohen, along with the mathematician Ioan M James, of Oxford University, made scientific headlines by arguing that at least three of the well-known personality traits of Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton -- fanatical personal interests, difficulty in social relationships, and profound communication problems -- suggested that these men were autistic. Elsewhere, Baron-Cohen has made much of academia, with its emphasis on narrow fixations, providing a natural resting place for other high-functioning individuals with the condition's traits. In addition to these I have also appended below people who it is claimed have similar traits, so if it's true for me I feel in no bad company.

    Of course the possibility exists that as well as this explanation fits the circumstances there is as yet another undiscovered and better explanation to be found. The main issue in not raising this with other people generally is that it could become the presumed reason for thinking certain things about me rather than the validity in those thoughts themselves that is if you don't like the message blame the messenger.

    What might other Martians make of humanities religious condition and are us atheists really just ordinary people like me without any need of invisible means of support.

    All the best

    Mike

    Not many Popes, Saints or Albert Sweitzer's amongst these!

    Jane Austen, 1775-1817, English novelist, author of Pride and Prejudice
    Bela Bartok, 1881-1945, Hungarian composer
    Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827, German/Viennese composer
    Alexander Graham Bell, 1847-1922, Scottish/Canadian/American inventor of the telephone
    Anton Bruckner, 1824-1896, Austrian composer
    Henry Cavendish, 1731-1810, English/French scientist, discovered the composition of air and water
    Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, US poet
    Thomas Edison, 1847-1931, US inventor
    Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, German/American theoretical physicist
    Henry Ford, 1863-1947, US industrialist
    Kaspar Hauser, c1812-1833, German foundling, portrayed in a film by Werner Herzog
    Oliver Heaviside, 1850-1925, English physicist
    Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, US politician
    Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychoanalyst
    Franz Kafka, 1883-1924, Czech writer
    Wasily Kandinsky, 1866-1944, Russian/French painter
    H P Lovecraft, 1890-1937, US writer
    Ludwig II, 1845-1886, King of Bavaria
    Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1868-1928, Scottish architect and designer
    Gustav Mahler, 1860-1911, Czech/Austrian composer
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791, Austrian composer
    Isaac Newton, 1642-1727, English mathematician and physicist
    Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900, German philosopher
    Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970, British logician
    George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, Irish playwright, writer of Pygmalion (see above), critic and Socialist
    Richard Strauss, 1864-1949, German composer
    Nikola Tesla, 1856-1943, Serbian/American scientist, engineer, inventor of electric motors
    Henry Thoreau, 1817-1862, US writer
    Alan Turing, 1912-1954, English mathematician, computer scientist and cryptographer
    Mark Twain, 1835-1910, US humorist
    Vincent Van Gogh, 1853-1890, Dutch painter
    Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1889-1951, Viennese/English logician and philosopher
    Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992, Russian/US writer on science and of science fiction, author of Bicentennial Man
    Hans Asperger, 1906-1980, Austrian paediatric doctor after whom Asperger's Syndrom is named
    John Denver, 1943-1997, US musician
    Glenn Gould, 1932-1982, Canadian pianist
    Jim Henson, 1936-1990, creator of the Muppets, US puppeteer, writer, producer, director, composer
    Alfred Hitchcock, 1899-1980, English/American film director
    Howard Hughes, 1905-1976, US billionaire
    Andy Kaufman, 1949-1984, US comedian, subject of the film Man on the Moon
    L S Lowry, 1887-1976, English painter of "matchstick men"
    Charles Schulz, 1922-2000, US cartoonist and creator of Peanuts and Charlie Brown
    Andy Warhol, 1928-1987, US artist
    Woody Allen, 1935-, US comedian, actor, writer, director, producer, jazz clarinettist
    Tony Benn, 1925-, English Labour politician
    Bob Dylan, 1941-, US singer-songwriter
    Joseph Erber, 1985-, young English composer/musician who has Asperger's Syndrome,
    Bobby Fischer, 1943-, US chess champion
    Bill Gates, 1955-, US global monopolist
    Crispin Glover, 1964-, US actor
    Al Gore, 1948-, former US Vice President and presidential candidate
    Jeff Greenfield, 1943-, US political analyst/speechwriter, a political wonk
    David Helfgott, 1947-, Australian pianist, subject of the film Shine
    Michael Jackson, 1958-, US singer
    Garrison Keillor, 1942-, US writer, humorist and host of Prairie Home Companion
    Kevin Mitnick, 1963-, US "hacker"
    John Motson, 1945-, English sports commentator
    John Nash, 1928-, US mathematician (portrayed by Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, USA 2001)
    Keith Olbermann, 1959-, US sportscaster
    Michael Palin, 1943-, English comedian and presenter
    Keanu Reeves, 1964-, Lebanese/Canadian/US actor
    Oliver Sacks, 1933-, UK/US neurologist, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings
    James Taylor, 1948-, US singer/songwriter

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (10/28/06 5:31 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Yes — God is an Accident

    Mike,

    much of our dispute on religion seems to be settled now. In an interview given after the articel was out, Bloom states referring to whether kids are talked into religious beliefs by their parents : //There's one really interesting finding that comes up in all of this research on common sense dualism and creationism. And that's that children believe it more than their parents do. What goes on in society isn't a question of taking kids with no religious beliefs and pumping religious beliefs into them. Instead, kids start with a strong, powerful propensity to believe all of these things. And then what society does is focus it: "There is one God"or, "There are five gods"or, "Here's what happens to your soul. It goes to heaven." "It occupies another animal." "It resides in the spirit world." Society tells a story and focuses these beliefs, but kids start off with the foundations. //(see http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200511u/paul-bloom)

    This was about what I used to say always. But now I need not convince you any more. In the same interview he says : //You have, on the one hand, the theologically correct version of religion, and that is generally sophisticated. And then you have the stuff that people actually believe. People have studied this a lot in Buddhism, because Buddhism is supposed to be extremely advanced and linked up with modern science. But when you look at what actual Buddhists on the street believe, they believe in a lot of superstition, they believe in dualism, they believe in creationism. And they often treat the Buddha as a Christ figure. It's the same thing in the Catholic Church when the Vatican presents official doctrines like that hell is not a place, or that people should accept evolution as a possible fact. Few of the people on the street believe that. //

    This is why I said that religion will always be with us, and we only have to steer it away from abuse and try to make the best of it, which is faithful people helping the poor and wretched "in the name of God" etc.. I know that you are doing good too, and Einstein was as much a pacifist as Schweitzer was, thus to be an AS-type does not mean to be bad or "a heartless robot".

    By the way, I think that this AS-type theory is a bit debatable, since we know from the music of say Mozart or Beethoven, or from the thinking of C.G.Jung, who are in your list, that they all had much of humour and sensitivity of things humane. So no "heartless robots" at all. Thus in my "world-parliament" there would be a mix from both sides — religious and a-theistic people of the AS type sitting together. But those religious people are needed to understand the thinking of the majority.

    And I would object to "God is an accident". It sounds a bit misleading. Humans are social animals, and to "over-socialize" our interpretations of what is going on, to "anthropo-morphize" even the thunderstorm or earthquake as "coming from the gods" etc. is to a degree meaningful in a difficult world. Thus we better say "God is a plausible explanation of many things if you are clueless." This explains why religion is "co-existent" with humanity. Humans "invented" God as an "actor" since only humans try to make sense of what is going on, and an "actor" is the most plausible explanation for a social animal. "Somebody must have done this."

    And there is another side-effect. As I said, religion is sharpening our moral awareness. If the world is full of "actors", of "souls", of "subjects", we are always in a "moral situation". Even nature is seen as a subject awaiting "to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." (Romans 8, 19-22).

    Again one has to be careful here. Many atheists are as much "morally sensitive" as any true believer is, and many a true believer is not "morally sensitive" at all. Things are not that simple. But "love thy enemy" is not from Kant but from Jesus. Kant, like Socrates, is giving a philosophical justification, which is very different from that of Jesus. The work of Schweitzer or of Mother Theresa (and many others) resulted from reading the Bible, not from reading Socrates or Kant.

    This is what I tried to get across in my other posting. Religion is stimulating a creative mind, not a rational mind. It is not analyzing but synthesizing the world. Which is expressed in the concept of the holy, which is related to that of healing, of putting fragments together again to a whole (cf. Luke 4,18). This healing of inner rifts and conflicts is central to most if not all religions and psychotherapies. The word "saint" is derived from "being sane", and sanity is seen as "being without inner conflicts, being an integral one."

    The strange thing is: While religion is about "healing rifts and broken hearts", it is at the same time "rebellious" against much of common sense — so much so, that Jesus has been crucified as a rebel. But this could be the starting point of another debate here.

    Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (10/28/06 6:21 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: being religious and being sensible in morals

Dear Mike and Charles,

after the struggle over the "causes" of religions has come to an end at least in part, I would like to start a similar, but different debate on what religious belief bears to "moral thinking and behaviour" in the wider sense. We have had some similar exchange before on the ambivalence of both, religious beliefs and "reason". Robespierre has been a butcher in the name of reason, while the Grand Inquisitor has been a butcher in the name of faith. But we seem to agree that it is better to be no butcher at all if you want to create a better world. Now here below is a part of an interview with Paul Bloom as a starter for this debate (see http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/print/200511u/paul-bloom ) :

//Q = Interviewer, A = Paul Bloom.

A: I think people have a strong moral sense that, to some extent, is built in. Children don't need to be taught that some things are fair and others are not. Of course it gets complicated, and of course there are some aspects that have to be learned. But if you're splitting up cookies between kids, a two year old will have a sense of what's right and what's wrong.

What a really good, contemplative person can do is take religious texts and use them to construct appealing virtues. But a lot of times, I think religious texts can corrupt our natural sense of morality. Most religions, for example, given the times they were created, have bizarre views about sex roles and the place of homosexuals in society.

Q: In America, though, it does seem that the people who are most motivated to go out and work in soup kitchens or take care of flood victims are often members of a church group. It's difficult to inspire and mobilize people without something as magnetic as religion.

A: Here's a way to look at it. You're right that you find all things in religion. During the civil-rights movement, a lot of people were able to effect change by working through their churches. And that's certainly still true today. On the other hand, most of the world's current fanatical movements evolved from religions. So even though it's the religious people who are doing the most right now to help the victims of the hurricane, there are also religious people who are involved in abortion-clinic bombings.

The role of religion and morality is a complicated one. What religion often does is give people a language to express their moral views. But people pick and choose. So it can be a very useful toolpeople who care about morality can get together under the rubric of religion and do good things. People can also go through the Bible and use it to justify all sorts of immoral things. A lot of people think gay marriage is terrible, but they won't say, "I think it's terrible because I hate gay people." What they'll say is, "I think it's terrible because it says so in the Bible." And they'll quote you chapter and verse. There are a lot of arguments against slavery in the Bible. There are a lot of arguments for slavery in the Bible. Religion provides a language, but the decision of what to say with it relies on other factors.

Q: And then there's the argument that Sam Harris makes in his book The End of Faith, that religions are standing in the way of a more authentic form of spirituality. He advocates being spiritual outside the context of these set religions. How do you feel about that notion?

A: I tend to be rather crabby about this. When people tell me how spiritual they are, I roll my eyes.

Q: Well, it's one of those words that's been overused to the point of self-parody.

A: People typically use it to tell you how wonderful they are. I would like to move away from such notions and towards more secular virtues such as intelligence and empathy and kindness and good sense. If it comes to someone deciding how to allocate money in society or how to treat animals or whether to allow gay marriage, I'd rather people give up both religion and spirituality and use their common sense and moral intuition. So I'm probably even more skeptical than Sam Harris.//

Hubertus

    REPLIES (1):

  • FROM: Michael Ward (10/29/06 3:36 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: being religious and being sensible in morals

    Hubertus

    Whatever our personal wishes we both agree that religion is unlikely to go away for many reasons that we have explored at length and equally we both think it could serve humanity better. I have always accepted it serves a different role for different people and I think this view has now come to fruition for me.

    Nevertheless my fall back position remains the same as Paul Bloom when he says I'd rather people give up both religion and spirituality and use their common sense and moral intuition. and I would qualify this with only when they are ready to do so. The question now is whether people will ever be ready to move on and if this were possible how would it be achieved without just replacing it with another religion.

    Regards

    Mike

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Michael Ward (11/03/06 6:17 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: Natural ethics

Hubertus and Charles

To paraphrase Richard Sloan religion is the house we live in, the only value system and source of hope.

It's as if science provides the bricks but the assembled bricks are the religious house. In this analogy for the religious house builder it matters not whether the bricks will bear the weight or test of time only that they can be imagined to do so. It is a house built on sand (Matthew chapter 7 verses 24 — 28)
—-----------
Two men each wanted to build a house. The first man (religious) was in a hurry — he wanted it to be easy. He found a flat, sandy spot. He didn't bother with any digging, he built the walls straight onto the sand. The house was quickly built.
The second man (scientist) wanted his house to last. He chose a place where the ground was hard. He dug deep foundation trenches for his walls, so that they were built straight onto the strong rock beneath the soil. It was a lot of hard work, and it took a long time — but the house was very strong.
Suddenly, a great storm came. Strong winds blew, and it rained so hard that flood waters swept across the land.
The house built on the rock stood firm, but the house built on sand crumbled into a heap of ruins.
Jesus said, "Anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it, is foolish, like a person who build a house on sand. Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock."
—----------
What better argument is there for having a solid rock foundation such as scientific methodology. I know it is claimed that science has no values but what universal measure can you use to measure religion or should it be beyond measure and placed as experiential. What does one religion consider another religion to be, just a meeting club?

The religious argue that ethics cannot be based on science because it has no values but only on religion which has values hundreds of values and hundreds of religions a bit like the pick and mix sweet stand at the local cinema. I wonder where the religious think humanists get their values and ethics from?

If like me one rejects a spiritualist-paranormal universe and/or the creationist drama of human salvation, I ask can science and reason provide us with a significant body of ethical principles, and can these impart sufficient commitment to replace the ancient systems of belief? Can they answer the basic existential questions: "What is the meaning of life?" and "How ought I to live?" Can they provide a moral framework for people longing for significance and direction? For many reasons still the Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Muhammad inspire countless millions by their moral pronouncements and spiritual guidelines but can naturalism provide equal role models that can inspire people, and yet not be rooted in spiritual mysticism. Is it possible today to move beyond these orthodox systems of dogma, based upon faith, custom, authority, emotion and unreliable interpretation of experience. The question I seek the answer to is can we develop empirical principles which are based on science and which draw upon rationality?

If the naturalistic account of nature is warranted, and I think that it is, then the religious prop for ethics falls by the wayside. Now if our ethical principles have evolved in human civilization over a long period of time then human beings are responsible for the kinds of moral principles and values that they adopt and hence in some sense for their own religious destinies.

Thus, the key questions are, "Is reason applicable to ethics?" and "Are values amenable to scientific treatment" Interestingly, the first question has been the central issue in philosophy from Plato and Aristotle through Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, John Dewey, and John Rawls to the present, and the consensus of the philosophical debate is in the affirmative, i.e., that ethics is amenable to reason.

To simply dismiss rationality in ethics is to ignore this extensive literature in short as Hubertus often says to simply miss the point. The effort to develop a science of value and valuation is a central problem for philosophers. This approach, which seeks to relate ethical theories to factual knowledge, is known as natural ethics. For obvious establishment reasons the public has not really been invited to participate in the vital intellectual enterprise of unifying our values with the scientific worldview.

People need some general understanding of the common methods of rational scientific inquiry and the standards used by scientists to validate and corroborate their findings. They also need some comprehension of what the sciences tell us about the universe at large and the place of the human species within it. The cosmic world view of the modern sciences is naturalistic, in that it involves a rejection of both the spiritual-paranormal model.

This then is the rocky ground upon which to build your new house the problem being most people are attached to their old houses and are uncomfortable with change.

Regards

Mike

    REPLIES (19):

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (11/04/06 4:30 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Natural ethics

    Mike,

    can ethics be founded on science ? I don't think so. Why ? Because
    science can show us ways and means, but never goals. The goal of being
    "good" is not conceivable save as a subjective goal, and thus cannot be
    evaluated scientifically, because science cannot evaluate subjective
    preferences. You may call life an utmost value, but it still is a
    subjective value and has been denied this utmost status many times. Why
    else would martyrs prefer a horrible death to renunciantion ? Only
    humans can value a God — which in your opinion does not even exist -
    above life and fear of a terrible death. Men are no animals.

    What do we mean by ethics ? There is a story of a cynicist in the times
    of Aristotle, who was chided for neglecting his kids. When he was asked
    why he should care about them, people said that the kids have come from
    him. Hearing this he spat out and said "this too is from me." No, ethics
    is evaluating personal decisions to do something or not. And once more
    it is on values, and by this cannot be scientific.

    Then there is the saint who does not beget offspring. So when we all
    turn saints, humankind will die out in a generation — saintly.

    And don't forget the madcap who kills humans in the millions "to improve
    the lot of humankind." Himmler felt "morally obliged to kill the Jews."
    Robespierre felt likewise when he killed "counter-revolutionaries" and
    "represetnatives of the old order". And so did all the leaders of the
    NKVD of the former UdSSR — Dzerzhinsky, Jagoda, Jeshow, and Berija. They
    all thought themselves to be "reasonable". See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NKVD.

    Pro-social behaviour in the family and in the society alike is "in the
    genes". It does not need scientific or even religious arguments.

    Ethics cannot be built on logics. Logics can only provide consistency.
    The buildings engineer is not the architect. This is the argument of
    virtue ethics as in the theories of MacIntyre's "After Virtue" and of Kohlberg. Look up
    the Kohlberg-stages :
    http://www.haverford.edu/psych/ddavis/p109g/kohlberg.stages.html and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohlberg's_stages_of_moral_development and
    http://www.aggelia.com/htdocs/kohlberg.shtml and
    http://www.xenodochy.org/ex/lists/moraldev.html and
    http://tigger.uic.edu/~lnucci/MoralEd/overview.html and
    http://www.selfhelpmagazine.com/articles/child_behavior/moraldevchild.html
    and http://www.pbs.org/newshour/gergen/february97/coles_2-21.html.

    Ethics cannot and need not be justified by science or philosophy. But it
    can be trained by arguments and models. White kids and coloured kids
    nowhere shun each other if not told so by the elders. There are
    countless cases where kids of all colours are best friends. I can see
    examples daily here. "Racism" is not in the genes. And neither is
    "injustice". As we all know and as Bloom confirmed : Even a two year
    old knows how to "justly" share the pieces of a cake. Even kids know
    very well the meaning of "justice" in a story. They don't need Kant nor
    Rawls nor any other philosopher for this understanding. Kant and Rawls
    are appealing to our "felt" justice, not the other way round.

    In ethics like in religion there is much lying and hypocrisy of course.
    Jesus was pointing to the Old Testament (Lev.19,18) when saying "thou
    shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". He did not try to give a
    "reasonable" argument. Himmler would have denied that the Jew could be
    his neighbor.

    GW Bush on Guantanamo is not the same : He explicitely and convincingly
    said several times that he is not at all fighting muslim true believers
    — neither because of their creed nor because of their "race" — but only
    is fighting muslim terrorists. He always showed great respect for
    muslims generally. He only insisted that those should show the same
    respect for the western values and creeds. Well, I don't think that
    Guantanamo can be defended, but it should be run under the Geneva
    principles of handling POWs. Hitler was different. He showed disrespect
    for Jews and coloured people generally. In the 1936 Olympics Hitler
    avoided to congratulate Jesse Owens because he was black. Is this
    "rational" ?

    Science cannot tell us anything on values. Religion can, because
    religion is telling stories. This is why children need religion — they
    need to hear stories of good people to know what is good. There may be
    some arguments to support our imagination, and there are some really
    difficult questions as in bio-ethics, but in the end we are judging by
    our instincts and not by the raguments themselves. We are "evaluating
    the arguments". If some day it has to be decided whether I should be
    kept alive or allowed to die, I would prefer some very experienced
    religious people to decide and not mere scientists.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (11/06/06 3:23 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Natural ethics

    Hubertus,

    For monists like myself the categorisation of values, ethics and morality is simply just another part of the stuff the world is made up of which like consciousness are arrangements of matter and energy. However for the dualist like yourself the world is split into the spiritual and material and thus a choice arises where to locate values such as ethics and morality.

    The deliberate manipulation of those with the spiritual-paranormal model to draw false boundaries of the material humanist perspective does them little credit. To debate by obfuscation and appeals to emotion only serves to expose the weakness of the case they try to argue by reason and logic.

    There is no reason nor logic in belief and if honesty were a virtue for them they ought to be open and say that belief is beyond any form of challenge and there is no point in discussing it any further. But of course they do not say this, they cannot, as they are unknowingly internally inconsistent.

    The ever more convoluted explanations and revised interpretations of their doctrines as the increased knowledge through science cuts swathes through the received wisdom of the ages is something their blind eye is all to frequently turned to.

    Hubertus rhetorically asks can ethics be founded on science ? I don't think so. Well I think that you are mistaken certainly in as much as ethics and values are sets of ideas and ideas behave like any other life form with the thesis, antithesis and synthesis being the means of evolution just another sort of stuff.

    The statement If some day it has to be decided whether I should be kept alive or allowed to die, I would prefer some very experienced religious people to decide and not mere scientists.

    At first I was uncertain about the point you were making, was it that the religious are by and large nicer people, or they have more empathy or they have a wider more holistic perspective or even that they can ease your way into the next life. Maybe it was a veiled insult that scientists are "mere" inferior people while the religious are "superior" masters. In the end I decided that it was probably just your personal inclination and I should not read into it any deeper.

    In the parting words of Dave Allen the Irish comedian "May your God go with you"

    Regards

    Mike

    Both mind and matter are merely convenient ways of organizing events. There can be no reason for supposing that either a piece of mind or a piece of matter is immortal. The most essential characteristic of mind is memory, and there is no reason whatever to suppose that the memory associated with a given person survives that person's death. Indeed there is every reason to think the opposite, for memory is clearly connected with a certain kind of brain structure, and since this structure decays at death, there is every reason to suppose that memory also must cease. Although metaphysical materialism cannot be considered true, yet emotionally the world is pretty much the same as it would be if the materialists were in the right. The opponents of materialism have always been actuated by two main desires: the first to prove that the mind is immortal, and the second to prove that the ultimate power in the universe is mental rather than physical. In both these respects, the materialists were in the right. Our desires, it is true, have considerable power on the earth's surface; the greater part of the land on this planet has a quite different aspect from that which it would have if men had not utilized it to extract food and wealth. But our power is very strictly limited. We cannot at present do anything whatever to the sun or moon or even to the interior of the earth, and there is not the faintest reason to suppose that what happens in regions to which our power does not extend has any mental causes. That is to say, to put the matter in a nutshell, there is no reason to think that except on the earth's surface anything happens because somebody wishes it to happen. And since our power on the earth's surface is entirely dependent upon the sun, we could hardly realize any of our wishes if the sun grew cold. It is of course rash to dogmatize as to what science may achieve in the future. We may learn to prolong human existence longer than now seems possible, but if there is any truth in modern physics, more particularly in the second law of thermodynamics, we cannot hope that the human race will continue for ever. Some people may find this conclusion gloomy, but if we are honest with ourselves, we shall have to admit that what is going to happen many millions of years hence has no very great emotional interest for us here and now. And science, while it diminishes our cosmic pretensions, enormously increases our terrestrial comfort. That is why, in spite of the horror of the theologians, science has on the whole been tolerated."

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (11/07/06 2:26 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Natural ethics

    Mike,

    we are speaking in different and incompatible contexts. I very well understand your naturalist-monist position. I know this way of arguing. Don't forget that I am a physicist. But your way of seeing things is not the only possible one.

    You wrote: "Does a good Christian need religion? Is it not sufficient just to treat people with kindness without all the carrot and stick baggage written into the 'Holy Books' ? If not, what extra benefit does the rest provide ?"

    No, Mike, a good Christian does not need religion to be good any more than you do. Perhaps see it this way : If you love somebody very much, you will do much to do him a favour and to support him, you will not shy away from costs of money and hard work and suffering to help him/her out if needed. But even if you don't like somebody at all, you will try to stay correct and supportive in a general way as a civilized human. Thus for just to be "correct and supportive" and even nice and helping you need not subscribe to any religion. But on the other hand you would not deny the value of a true love. In this sense the experience of the true believer is only partly connected to the question of "doing and being good". To be faithful in God (or Allah) means to love and honour God and to feel beloved and honoured by Him. This is about a personal relation, not about "doing good". And this personal relation is "providing the extra benefit" you are asking for.

    When "(the Christian) God entered the scene in late Antiquity" this has been a true revolution ! It was not so much an intellectual revolution but an existential one : People were told by the philosophers (Platonists, Aristotelians, the Stoics, the Epicureans) what the world and life were all about, and people most often felt bored and annoyed and lost by this. Now there was something totally different : God had come to visit this world and to bring light of hope and charity into the darkness of despair and hate. All of a sudden people had somebody to speak to and to listen to, somebody gentle and understanding and comforting like no philosopher and no god of Antiquity ever was. Thus all of the philosophy of Antiquity all of a sudden looked boringly intellectual and without any force or spirit.

    The word of the Jewish and Christian God is not the word of Greek "logics" and "rhetorics" and "dialectics", but is the creating word of "the creator" ("And God said : Let there be lights!" or "In the beginning was the Word.") and a word of consolation and of mutual love and understanding, the word of two persons speaking to each other — not to solve some intellectual problem but to solve some interpersonal tensions and misunderstandings. This is more than even mere "communication". It is "communion" in the way the exchange between to persons in love is communion. There even is "communion by silence", which is a complete nonsense of course in the context of analytical philosophy but not in interpersonal context.

    Modern philosophy — especially the analytical one — has made us forget about this other meaning of words. Analytical philosophy does not see words other than as "labels" attached to concepts for analyzing the world around us. It completely lost sight of the communicative and communicating use of words as in consoling and backing up and promising and mutual understanding and love. But this was exactly what the Gospel provided to the millions of lost people in later Antiquity : They heared a voice, a gentle and loving one, saying : "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11,28). And this was the voice of God himself, who went humbly among the humans. Don't you feel that against this word of consolation all of classical philosophy seemed like dust to souls dying of spiritual thirst ? Don't you feel that this is happening today to other millions of lost people again ? What does science provide to the thirsty soul save dust ? You need not change your mind to see the problem.

    You always keep to analyzing the arguments for and against religions and by this "miss the point" of what religion is all about. Religion is about "going a way shown by the master who leads you out of the dark wilderness into the sun of freedom". Religion is not about arguments that can be proven to be true as in science or philosophy. To follow in the steps of the master into the light of clarity about your life and existence is not to follow in the steps of an argument. This is what makes the fundamental difference of religion and philosophy. Philosophy is an intellectual thing, but religion is not. The meaning of love it not begetting offspring. The meaning of love is love. Love is not a means to some end but a way of being in the world. And so is religion.

    Your monist way of seeing the world is a detached way, the way of the intellectual, pondering arguments. The way of religious people is totally different. To paraphrase your question again : "If love is only about begetting offspring, what extra benefit does the rest provide ?" For most people "the rest" is much more important than the offspring. For begetting offspring, "in vitro fertilization" would do. For having offspring you need no love. It is just a physiological process. Thus to speak about love and to speak about offspring are two independent discourses. You can speak about the one without speaking about the other. But normally people don't see it thus.

    Now in a similar way you can keep speaking of naturalist "cause and effect" as belonging to a completely different realm from the religious one. You can "explain" everything in your naturalist-monist way. But religious people — while well understanding your arguments — just will not care. This is not because they are stubborn stupids, but because lovers are not interested in debates concerning offspring. It is just not on their minds. And this is what I call "missing the point".

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (11/07/06 5:12 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Who cares?

    Hubertus

    Whilst having a background based in the world of physics I have for the past fifteen years or so carried out the role of a coordinator in the design and installation of services that go into buildings. This role has essentially two aspects, firstly ensuring technical compliance with the design brief and secondly the task of reconciling the aspirations of both the client and contractors which generally are opposing ie. the client generally wanting everything for the least cost and the contractor providing the minimum for the most cost.

    Such a role brings into sharp relief both the emotional and the rational aspects of people. Whilst accepting on a demonstrable basis the need to provide what the brief required but having not included this in the price bid being made to provide it is often seen as an injustice. Having to pay the price for making an error is somehow seen as unfair.

    Such is an example of your we are speaking in different and incompatible contexts and my answer is no really we are not. What is different is the perspective from where the situation is viewed and the refusal to see matters from another perspective. Although if Paul Bloom is correct this not in fact a refusal at all but an inability.

    What follows is that people are unable not to be religious. I agree with you that God had come to visit this world and to bring light of hope and charity into the darkness of despair and hate. you are right this does happen but it seems to be a matter total irrelevance whether this is a false hope or not, provided it's still hope.

    Read what you will into the "communion by silence" but I can by observation alone learn a great deal just by watching people and can assure you that silence can be a deafening weapon in my negotiation role.

    You ask me four questions:
    1) Don't you feel that against this word of consolation all of classical philosophy seemed like dust to souls dying of spiritual thirst ?
    I do not have a spiritual thirst there are enough unknowns all around me to want to create some more. Furthermore many philosophical writings offer means of consolation and hope as I imagine you well know.

    2) Don't you feel that this is happening today to other millions of lost people again ?
    I think there is less today than yesterday yes there are serious questions on first cause but science has and continues to change the interpretations on all religious texts. Believers have much more to reject today than yesterday.

    3) What does science provide to the thirsty soul save dust ?
    Soul? show me one please.

    4) You need not change your mind to see the problem.
    This observation is no less applicable to you than to me or if Paul Bloom is right then maybe we both are right.

    You use the example of love versus sex as if people cannot see or experience the difference do you really assert that people cannot differentiate?

    Finally you say But religious people — while well understanding your arguments — just will not care — would such intolerance on my part be so easily accepted were I to similarly say that all the religious are child abusers or depict cartoons of Mohammed and not care about their response somehow I doubt it. Why do you bother debating these issues if I am missing the point and you don't care is it to save my soul:-)

    All the best

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (11/08/06 4:31 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Who cares?

    Mike, we could go on and on of course. Perhaps it may brighten you up that "agnosticism and atheism are the fastest growing 'denominations' in the USA". I would not even object to this if people really would become more loving and caring and respecting each other. But I doubt it. Many of them will just be more grumpy and reckless and egotistic than ever. As you know, I am interested in results, not in "creeds and Bibles" — be they theist or anti-theist. "From their fruits ye shall know them". As I said before : Most of the truly admirable persons in my life's experience have been religious persons. By this argument alone I cannot be convinced that to be religious is a bad thing, all your "scientific" objections notwithstanding. Things are not that simple, and I want to understand why this is the case.

    Now I turn to our latest exchange — which proceeded partly off this platform, but for other readers may be of interest in this context.

    Michael Ward cited:

    "aren't we all in pursuit of truth? Don't we all want to have true beliefs rather than false ones?"

    Well, Mike, you may call Christianity (or any other religion, Islam, say) "a false hope" in the same way as we may call Marxism or Hitlerism false hopes or false dreams. There are two ways of looking at those : One is "scientific" — your approach. The question then is "could this hope be justified in the light of reason ? If not then drop it." The other question is : "Does it bring out and appeal to more of the good or more of the bad sides in humans ? If more of the bad sides then drop it." Hitlerism was understandable. After WW-I a proud but defeated society of Germans wanted to feel great again. But then Hitler led it into lies and crimes. It was like you would steal and pretend to make a showing and feel great. The moral cost of "being great" would be too high. But many criminals go just this way : They build a great living in luxury on crimes and pretensions. It seems "natural" but not acceptable. In a similar — but not the same — way, Stalinism was built on self-deceit and lies. One of the questions that fascinated many people studying Stalinism was : Why was this horrible dictator mourned by so many Russians when he died while Hitler was not ? The answer was : With all his many crimes Stalin led Russia into the modern world and made it great again — a world-power — while Hitler had left nothing to the Germans than defeat and destruction and moral shame.

    But compare this to Christianity or Islam : Did they need to commit crimes ? Generally they did not ! Of course religious hopes have been misused to a degree. But generally the religious leaders were always and still are truly caring the human soul. They are speaking of hope and charity — and they mean it. What do you put against this ? Only your "scientific truth" — which is not much to enjoy. As I said time and again : You are praising the dieticist instead ot the great chef. You cannot hope to draw many people to your cause by this. People always will prefer "grand cuisine" to healthy porridge. My approach is different : I try to improve "grand cuisine", i.e., defend it's principles, but urge for a bit less of the bad things — sugar, salt, and fat. So if you try to pep up your healthy porridge, we may meet somewhere in the middle. But in the end porridge remains porridge and will never compete with a really good and tasty "grand cuisine". What do you gain from talking the likes of Mahalia Jackson or Ray Charles out of their "joy in Gods amazing grace" ? What do they "buy" with your "scientific truth" ?

    You will tell me of course that to be "reasonable" in the sense of Hume and Kant and Freud is a value in itself. But not even Socrates thought so. If Plato was right in his "Phaedo", Socrates was pointing to the gods and to eternal values. For Plato as for Plotin and St.Augustine the truth and God coincided. There was no contradiction between "true beliefs" and "Christian beliefs". Instead there were TWO realms of truth : The lower one — scientific — and the higher one — religious. As the theologians even before St.Augustine put it : "Believe to understand — understand to believe!"

    Medieval philosophy was generally not "irrational" but tried hard to reconcile "reason" and "belief". Those theologians thought humans to be rational beings and they thought that the human ability for rational thinking should be honoured and respected. Thus they tried to prove that the Christian faith is compatible with reason. This was the conviction of all great theologians up to our time. This position is definitely and explicitely the position of the incumbent and the late pope also. They both were well trained in philosophy and erudite in the sciences.

    The general idea was : To tackle a problem you first have to see it. But to see it needs light. Thus religious people see the world in the light of God (or Allah), while "positivist" people like you think to see all but may in fact be blind to many important problems visible only to the spiritual eye but not to the physical and not even to the "rational" eye. And by this "rational" people may be "missing the point". But I would admit of course that this "two realms of truth"-thesis is a deep philosophical problem.

    Hubertus

    This below may be needed to understand the answer above :
    >
    > Subject: Re: Amazon.com: The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God: Books: Robert Louis Wilken
    >
    > Michael Ward wrote:
    >
    >> Hubertus,
    >> What religion next, when does the new saviour come along, what will be the new message. These things are processes they do not stop — new ideas will replace these — extrapolation of human history will tell one that.
    >>
    > My answer : That may very well be the case, Mike !
    >
    >> You : Hey, remember the old pantheist days when we had a god for every day of the week!
    >>
    > Me again : Remember the old communist days, when many bright minds at Oxbridge and Paris thought the end of all evils was near in the person of Stalin !
    >
    > The interesting question remains : Why was Jesus speaking of mutual love while Stalin was not ? To be starry eyed and credulous is only one side of the problem. You really should read the book to know what early Christianity was all about. It was NOT about "superstition" but about mutual love and a new hope in dark times. And then as today the Gospel drew many of the very best minds and characters around. This is what never should be forgotten ! You always think that one has to be blind or stupid to be a true believer. It simply is not the case. And you should think a bit why this is so. There is a problem. But I have to admit that even Marxism drew many really bright minds — at least for a time. Only that today there are not many good Marxists left. While there are still many good Christians. So the question sticks with you.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (11/08/06 7:48 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Who cares?

    Hubertus,

    As you said before : Most of the truly admirable persons in my life's experience have been religious persons. By this argument alone I cannot be convinced that to be religious is a bad thing, all your "scientific" objections notwithstanding. Things are not that simple, and I want to understand why this is the case.

    Have to considered or accepted these points?

    The linking of religious persons with admirable persons is non sequitur it does not necessarily follow. Given that there are vastly more believers than non believers in any population the number of admirable religious persons will always outweigh the number of admirable atheists in an even distribution. The exception would be that religion causes people to be more admirable persons and I see little evidence to be able to stand behind that idea.

    Following the teachings of Jesus (which were mostly plagiarized from previous faiths) does not require any acceptance of the supernatural. People can behave quite ethically and morally towards each other without this supernatural plug-in.

    I think like yourself I am more interested in the output rather than the input and the future than the past when considering the way people ought to behave. I also think you also will agree that change is necessary and I may be more revolutionary than evolutionary when it comes to changing religion.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (11/08/06 6:25 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Natural ethics and robonoetics

    Mike is arbitrarily creating a dichotomy between science and religion that doesn't need to exist. Likewise in the previously mentioned human v.2, the focus was entirely on a cognitive understanding of mind, arbitrarily excluding alternatives and additions to an algorithmic theory of mind. However if a noetic approach is used, religion and other perspectives may prove fruitful in coming to a comprehensive understanding of human mind and one of its key applications- ethics.

    I suggest noetics as a means of stepping beyond arbitrary boundaries established by using scientific method alone. Noetics has been defined as the study of mind which utilizes the rigors of science, the logic of philosophy, and the humility and absolute truth of theology. Plato was an ancient practitioner of this art.

    The foundations of philosophy of mind can still be used in the age of AI and the WWW. A comprehensive alternative philosophical vision to cognitive science's human v.2 is possible. Robonoetics could seek a holistic perspective on mind's extension by AI, possible integration of mind and AI, and of the nature of intelligence in AI Robotics.

  • FROM: Michael Ward (11/09/06 10:24 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Natural ethics and robonoetics

    Hi Charles,

    I never heard of noetics before but a brief sojourn into these two web sites brought a smile to my face and prompt check on the calendar for 1st April Charles, you're having a laugh aren't you?

    http://www.orionsarm.com/sophontology/noetics.html
    http://www.orionsarm.com/sophontology/greatest_archailects.html

    We're moving on from the white bearded variety to AI gods now, and what next souls for your toaster or microwave possibly well maybe in the same way as amoeba are thought to have souls.

    There is a dichotomy between science and religion and it isn't false and I'm satisfied it suits the religious establishment to keep some clear blue water between itself and science. I know Hubertus often cites religion as the father of science but its track record as a good father is found rather wanting starting as long ago as Copernicus, Gallileo, Kepler etc. right up to genetics research today and other acts of mankind "playing at being god". The book at the end of the following link also made me smile a very poignant title!

    http://www.catholiccompany.com/product_detail.cfm?ID=3837

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for stepping out of our region of comfort and considering new ideas but what concerns me is what I might be stepping into — if you know what I mean.

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (11/10/06 5:33 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: looking for the true villain

    Mike, you did us all a great favour when pointing to http://www.orionsarm.com/sophontology/greatest_archailects.html and "sophontology". It was to be expected that there always will be this sort of rubbish around.

    Of course there was as much nonsense intertwined with Christianity (or any other religion) from the beginning. I never denied that. There are several encyclopedias of sects attached to Christianity alone and alive today. Surely every 10 years or so there is another group the founder of which claims to be a re-incarniation of God. About 40 years ago I was handed a leaflet of one such group here in Bonn.

    But all this is marginal. I just read something on Epicurus, who must be very much in your line and was admired by Nietzsche. The position of Epicurus was about the same as that of modern positivism and humanism in the sense of "humanist manifesto" (http://contenderministries.org/humanism/manifesto2.php). On Epicurus see http://www.epicurus.net/and esp. http://www.epicurus.net/en/history.html. But this all may be well known to you already.

    I still think that you and the humanists and Epicureans are "barking at the wrong tree". All those theories that see Christianity as a mere deceit or self deceit or some bad faith imposed on stupids are "missing the point", which is, as I said many times, that the leading theologians never have been weak of mind or character. Whatever you may think of GWBush and "the Christian right" in the USA, there are as many strong opponents of the Bushies who are as much true believers in God and who are effectively leading governments and conglomerates and armies. Those are really bright and strong and practically thinking "no-nonsense" people. Those "admirable persons" I spoke of in my other answer have not been "nice pious grandmas" but have been of the same cast : Strong, bright, effective, reliable, humorous persons, not at all weaklings in any respect. THIS is the problem you have to face ! It is simply not true that one has to be weak or silly to be a true believer in Christ.

    If Christianity was nothing more than an absurd superstition, why did it draw so many really bright and morally intact persons ? Seen in this light, the "explanation" of the Epicureans on the nature of Christianity are silly. I know all your arguments, and I know them well. And I respect your honesty and know what you are trying to show me. But if I think it over and try to see before my inner eyes the "world parliament" of a not too distant future time peopled with "the best and the brightest" MPs from all times and continents, there will be still a religious majority. There will not be a single member from "sophontology" of course. Not because those would be excluded, but because not one of those "religious" persons I have in mind would mistake them for being serious.

    To be "serious" is not to be "right". The incumbent Pope — like the late one — would take the Dalai Lama serious, but surely not any member of the Scientology, let alone "sophontology". It is a difficult question — and well worth our exchange — what this "seriousness" comes to.

    In my opinion, while your arguments are consistent in the sense of Epicurus or the "Humanist Manifesto", they are missing something very essential. Your picture of man and his situation in the world looks "oversimplified". There is something lacking which is much more than merely the appeal of the "grand cuisine" over the "healthy porridge" (my simplification). I think that the analysis of Hume and Kant and Marx and Nietzsche and Freud on what religion is all about falls short of the real problem. If they were right, they would convince "the best and the brightest" — but they never did. If I look at the "secularists" site (http://www.secularism.org.uk/weblinks.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular and http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/shb/index.htm) and their "table of honour" I don't see any really impressive person. Hume and Kant and Nietzsche have been clear thinking guys, but in what way "impressive humans" ? No, I am not convinced.

    To be not misunderstood : There is so much religious and pseudo-religious nonsense and superstition around, that every "secular humanist" is needed ! For example what I have seen of the arguments of creationists is so much rubbish and even dishonesty that they have to be fighted. But there remains a hard core of religious truth that does not boil down to "naturalist explanations", which are simplifications. Man is not a smart ape striving for the bananas of happiness. Whe have to understand what makes the difference. As in any good whodunit the most probable suspect never turns out to be the true villain. You seem to think the case closed and "religion should be shot". But I think the true villain is among the seemingly innocent bystanders. We need some Hercule Poirot to find out.

    But let me thank you explicitely for stubbornly forcing me to think hard how to defend my stand. I do not underestimate the seriousness of your arguments, I only question their soundness. There is something that does not fit, and like Hercule Poirot I would like to know what it is exactly.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (11/10/06 6:30 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: The villain is in the genes!

    Hubertus,

    You say THIS is the problem you have to face ! It is simply not true that one has to be weak or silly to be a true believer in Christ. My contention isn't that they are silly or weak which clearly is not the case, it was up until the explanation proposed by Paul Bloom my opinion that people chose religion or had it thrust upon them I now have a third alternative that it's a genetic component in their structure which prevents a lesser objective world view. The world of the religious is religious there is no point for them to miss as differentiation is not possible. See also http://www.objectivethought.com/atheism/module.html

    From — Is God an Accident Our dualism makes it possible for us to think of supernatural entities and events; it is why such things make sense. But there is another factor that makes the perception of them compelling, often irresistible. We have what the anthropologist Pascal Boyer has called a hypertrophy of social cognition. We see purpose, intention, design, even when it is not there."

    I agree, if religion is hard wired into most people then it isn't going to go away BUT if the process is reversed then like any other type of change it will evolve out of use when it stops being a benefit. What I find less than ideal is the dependency that people have on it to be happy and content and caring for each other when it is almost certainly based upon a falsehood. On the other hand what better ideas have I and other humanists got to sell and why aren't people listening well if I'm right they wouldn't would they!
    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (11/11/06 12:42 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: The villain is in the genes!

    Well, yes, Mike, religioin seems to be hard wired in the genes like any notion of "making sense". As intelligent beings most people cannot live on in a meaningless world. People with a hope generally can stand more hardships than those without hopes, so to be hopeful is a selective advantage in the Darwinist sense. Whether you do what is good because you think that God is looking on or that you could be punished on the Day of Reckoning or that you should do what is good out of love for your saviour and redemptor it all does not matter as long as the result is — that you do what is good. I think Freud could subscribe to this.

    Now you see why I am defending "good" religion against TWO assaults — against the assault of the "secular humanists" and against those of "bad religion" likewise. The secular humanist weakens the hopes needed to keep to what is good against all odds, hopes even enabling martyrdom for what is good. The "bad religion" could and should be weakened, because it does not support what is good anyway. Thus if people do deeds of love in the name of religion, then I will defend them, but if they commit deeds of hate and destruction in the name of religion I will fight them.

    In my opinion "secular humanism" is somewhere in the middle: It is not as strong in supporting what is good as any good religion would be, but it is less prone to do evil out of blind hate and ignorance.

    I would compare the attitude of secular humanism to the "correct" attitude with respect to your enemy : You will not kill or torture him, but you will not love him either. In a "correct" world you will have no devils like Hitler or Stalin or Saddam, but you will not have any saints like Gandhi or Schweitzer either.

    I seem to prefer a world with saints and devils to a world with only correct people in the same way as I prefer a world with true splendour and true darkness to a well ordered world of equality. Perhaps this is what it comes to.

    I simply love fairy tales with kings inhabiting golden castles and a beautiful princess saved from the ugly beast by the glorious knight who will marry her. You could replace this whole world by a world of well meaning nice modern democrats. No king, no princess, no knight — but no beast either. Perhaps see the Roman and the Orthodox churches in this way : There is much gold and incense and holy ritual to stress the existence of a world very different from ours. By this people get elevated above the misery of everyday life. They rise their hopes far above all mere bananas. And by this they become more than mere smart apes.

    It is no coincidence that Hume and Kant and Nietzsche were protestants without any true grasp of the nature of evil. To understand that, you have to turn to the Roman and Orthodox authors, to Bernanos or to Dostoevsky and their likes. The Lutheran and Puritan mind may be different. They too had a feeling for what is dark in the human soul and not only "unreasonable" — which is not the same.

    Hubertus

  • FROM: Michael Ward (11/11/06 4:02 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: The villain is in the genes!

    Hubertus, if you really mean Whether you do what is good because you think that God is looking on or that you could be punished on the Day of Reckoning or that you should do what is good out of love for your saviour and redemptor it all does not matter as long as the result is — that you do what is good then welcome to the, dare I say English, philosophy of Utilitarianism.

    OK so you would rather have the extremes of Saints/Sinners or God/Devils rather then the more middle of the road secular humanism that's your choice and any way I guess it makes for better movies.

    I am with you on the Lord of the Rings, the good and evil of Star Wars and Harry Potter which are all excellent examples of time out of our normal daily routine. BUT you seem to think still in these terms as if there is some entity called evil just as there is some entity called god. Isn't darkness the norm until someone shines a light on it.

    All the best

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (11/12/06 10:46 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: robonoetics

    Mike

    No, I wasn't joking. I think that "The Cambridge Dictionary Of Philosophy" gives a better definition and summary of noetic than the two web sites that you referred me to. The Cambridge definition for noetic includes: "In a strict sense the term refers to non-sensuous data given to the cognitive faculty, which discloses their intelligible meaning as distinguished from their sensible apprehension. We hear a sentence spoken, but it becomes intelligible for us only when the sounds function as a foundation for noetic apprehension."

    The Cambridge definition goes on to point out: "For empiricist thinkers ... there is strictly speaking no distinct noetic aspect, since 'ideas' are only faint sense impressions." I don't know where Cognitive Science falls in the empiricist scheme of things. But by using the particular word combination "robonoetics," I am attempting to point out that there is possibly substantially more to any possible "Strong AI" and AI robotics, e.g. "human v.2," than just reducing mind to algorithmic information processing, even if done quantumly.

    Also as a person whose disability has cognitive aspects, I have an immediate interest in how personal computers and the WWW Internet function to enhance not only cognitive mental functioning, but also noetic apprehension. I do not think that system engineering is complete in its explanations. Thus robonoetics as a means for investigating PC's and Internet enhancement of personal noetic apprehension.

    Charles

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (11/12/06 11:06 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: dichotomy between science and religion?

    Maybe Simone Weil was correct: "As one has to learn to read or to practice a trade, so one must learn to feel in all things, first and almost solely, the obedience of the universe to God."

    (From a note I wrote and used to mark her place in my copy of The Cambridge Dictionary Of Philosophy. I don't recall where I found the quote.)

    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (11/13/06 7:51 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: Seeing Red

    Charles,

    "For empiricist thinkers ... there is strictly speaking no distinct noetic aspect, since 'ideas' are only faint sense impressions."

    The very fact that there are at least two perspectives on noetics should give rise to uncertainty on any validity in the idea. This statement caused me to think about Nagel's classic "What is it like to be a bat?" which must be one of the most influential papers on consciousness of the last century, and still very relevant.

    His aim was to launch a kind of counter-attack against physicalist arguments (mine), which would equate the mental to the physical. Nagel argued that as tempting as it may be to fall back on the familiar kind of reductionist approach which has worked so well in other areas subjective experience is a special exempt case. Reductive arguments always seek to give an explanation in objective terms, but the essential point about conscious experiences is that they are subjective. I think you would agree that the whole idea of an objective account therefore makes no sense well no more sense than you asking me what my inner experiences are really like, as opposed to how they seem to me.

    How they seem to me is all there is to them. Any neutral, objective, third god type person explanation has to leave out the essence of the experience. The point about conscious experience is that there is something it is like to see x, or hear y, or feel z and this can only ever be a relative experience. On the other hand I would argue the fact of selfhood, and the moral agency and responsibility it supports, are features of the world which are just too salient to be denied: the task is not to debate their existence, but explain their nature.

    It is this explaining the nature that I am interested in and if there is never any possibility of knowing what it is like to be bat (which I don't think we ever can) then similarly all other experiences are subjective and the best we can ever approximate is by saying it is like.

    Hence Charles how do you convey to me:
    What is seeing red like well like seeing crimson for example.
    What is experiencing god — ??????????????
    What is the idea of noetics like — ?????????????

    I hope you're not seeing red over this reply!

    Regards

    Mike

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (11/15/06 10:20 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Seeing red

    See corrected text.

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (11/15/06 10:20 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Seeing red

    Mike

    No, I'm not "seeing red" because you are critical of both the concept of noetics and my idea of robonoetics. But my view is that the noetic concept continues to be a legitimate area of philosophical investigation and today should be extended to artificial intelligence and AI robotics. Certainty is of no concern to me here. I think uncertainty is a fundamental aspect of the universe.

    I put robonoetics out as a response to "Humans v.2." It is a very interesting BBC program. However based on the "Chinese room" argument and my doubts about claims of continued super exponential increases in computer power, I don't worry about independent machine intelligences. Super AI robots being a threat to the human future or displacing humans as presented in Humans v.2 is pure speculation. I think a super robot, similar to "Gort" from the 1950's movie "The Day The Earth Stood Still," is more likely than super robots with independent machine intelligences.

    The threat I fear from robots is not their imagined development of independent intelligence, but when they are integrated with malevolent humans. The fact of net-centric warfare today makes robonoetics a vital concern, whether or not noetic is a "faint sense impression."

    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (11/16/06 7:44 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: Seeing red

    Charles

    Maybe this link is to a site which you might agree is a more measured approach to noetics let me know if their description is similar to yours.

    http://www.noetic.org/about/what_is.cfm

    You believe noetics to be a legitimate area of philosophical investigation I think that all ideas are legitimate areas of investigation at least once in a one's lifetime but then after investigation they need categorising until some further information is added.

    There is a prejudice amongst us organic beings against the idea of intelligence residing in inorganic beings (not that we know what intelligence is in the first place I might add), this is not at all surprising as many examples abound where humans of one race considers another race to be sub-human and I'll not bore you with examples. It seems that the first, second and third person approaches in the above description include ideas that I would argue have been categorised as not fit for further serious consideration. Now we all know what a unicorn looks like don't we but I assume that neither of us really considers it worth much of our limited time for consideration in any areas outside of mythology. Would you put research funds into searching for possible unicorn DNA somehow I think not.

    The concept behind the word noetics and idea seem to be Greek and all I would say in support of it is that it was "an idea of its time". For other similar ideas of their time see this link http://www.intute.ac.uk/sciences/reference/plambeck/chem1/p01012.htm

    As well as considering new ideas per se part of any scientific consideration is both the source and motivation of the proponent of the idea. My insight here tells me that if these ideas gain some viability then along with them come the non-empirical ideas of soul, spirit and gods. All of which serves to muddy the water to one parties benefit. What a tangled web we humans choose to weave.

    Yours in conspiracy,

    Mike

  • FROM: Hubertus Fremerey (11/17/06 4:40 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: why I am not a utilitarian

    Mike,

    referring to my statement, that I don't care, why somebody is doing good if he only does, you suggested that I am in the camp of utilitarianism. But this is not the case. What I wanted to stress — and on this only I side with you — is the well known fact, that even (against the Third Commandment) many faithful people misuse the name of God to do evil things in his name. Voltaire was right when he said that there would be less evil in the world if it could not be done in the name of God.

    But I try to be precise. If you do somebody a special favour "out of love" and not "out of obligation" or "out of calculation" or "out of convention", then these are four distinctly different motives, and I don't like to have them lumped together by a cynic who says "whatever we do we do it out of selfishness". This sort of pseudo-insight does lead us nowhere and is reducing the richness of culture and of human thinking, feeling, and interacting to some prefetched simplistic model.

    No, while Booth rightly stressed the value of "soup and soap", his final goal was "salvation", and I do him and those he tried to help the honour to take this seriously. Soup and soap never have been the goal, they have been preparations only. The goal has always been salvation. And this is not utilitarian. We should not deprive people of the meaning of their life and deeds by "knowing better". Maybe we don't ?

    If I criticize religious people, I try to do so in the name of their own ideals, not in the name of mine ! I am asking : "Are you up to your own standards ? Do you think that Jesus would act like you do in this situation ? Or are you just trying to debunk and diminish others as heretics and sinners for your convenience and vanity ?" This attitude can and should be learned from Jesus. Everybody should take the way he/she founds proper and convincing. We only may hint at pitfalls and other dangers. But we should learn and listen too.

    I am no Christian faithful. On the nature of God I am agnostic. But if I can learn from somebody, I will do it. And even for an agnostic there is much to learn from Jesus and from the Bible generally. There is no inconsistency in this. All evil deeds and bad thoughts in the name of God do not take away from what is good in the Christian teachings and thinking. I can only confirm my deep gratitude for the existence of the Bible and the churches — even as a non-believer. Truth is a concept too rich to be left to the utilitarians.

    Hubertus

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: marvin kirsh (11/13/06 4:24 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: SOLID REALITY

If religion starts deep in the past with superstition, simple science, and/or philosophy, all thinking leans to self enlighten to know what is not known. In the 400-500 B.C. era I find the most interesting thoughts, about change....the resting state is one of change. If one views back and forth, yesterday ...today, all these ideas are placed in to the categories of the social and life sciences, as separate from the solid physical world of the physical sciences-that now encompasses ideas of invisible mass possessing particles that travel in vacuums at universally fixed rates. Taboo voids(as vacuums), unwitnessable theoretically (mathematically-existent/consistent) entities that form the backbone of how we comprehend the world; two classes of notions that impinge on the perception as related indirectly, acting in the invisible background upon the life experience. One may with some common sense first deduce that religion does not have a mathematical construction and second that these two enterprises cannot occupy the same (one-as the only category possible based on definition). space. The mathematics is taken as purely theoretical and the religious as time dependant social evolution in nature; and the life sciences(time dependant evolution) as a (frustrating fit)subset of the mathematical. Had creation itself been born of a mating with solids?(The are current science articles of men wired to machine to control pictures on a TV screen, by reflection) .
At the root of this issue is a refusal to accept what is-the world as a place of roots and trees that, though a root for such a place cannot be imagined-is always a part of the same place-men draw science schemes that overlap with the unknowable, as if to penetrate common sense, reject their own roots, with a conception of their own.
Looking again back and forth from what we know of the beginnings of thought until today, every thought takes a root of something of the old, which may not have a good foundation at all, as the oldest problem of history, existent to the beginnings of its known history is the power struggle between men and women of which the ideas of science and history study are totally constructed by men, and in which it would be very difficult for either a man or woman after the elapse of time to ascertain an alternative view. Up against a void to create notions of them, walls of which we encapsulate ideas to penetrate them. A fetish to be objective about the solid and material as staple unchanging entities with different natural laws than the living and have not yet realized that we have defined them so this as quantum mechanics does not possess explanation to spark life into the life sciences. It is as mathematical and undescriptive of the real world as is a perfect circle.
In these struggles to escape membership from the tree structure of nature, seeking to fill a void, there in lay a real danger the more our roots in life's activities are divided from the past-our technological revelations not seen in perspective or defined correctly with respect to a correct notion of nature that we may harm ourselves by damaging nature-it is not ethical to rape a wall and it causes it harm. As one example, a nuclear device bases on deviousness to trick nature not only hurts the balance of things-change the distribution of energy across a wall of very high potential, its intent is criminal in itself.. The changing of genes in a cell is a lesser example. Basically, mankind's doings are of a first sense apprehension of the world...in a linear like manner without a pause for reflection and growth. This behavior so extensively dominates all the facets, effects all the worldly news and information, local society in which I resolve, that I'd cease to exist of suffocation if I were to hold my breath in patience for the slightest trace of a insight to this activity. My life is oppressed by it.
That of conflicts expressed, the facts and opinions of experts, it is too irrational to give science a test to your spiritual knowing-it(science) is always wrong-produces infertility, a bad mating against a wall while experiencing the attracting fascination of the short end of an infinite void; does not produce walls as offspring, but materialistic wall builders-Mathematical Voider Wall Forces that occupy a vast percentage of the worlds economy and produce robots.
This may sound radical, but I am not a radical person and would hardly join a group that would have me as a member. It is offensive to the sense's, that I seek to enlighten those before your questions that science has no possible valid or logical place in an individuals religiously based decision making and life. It is only a tool. Consider a wrench of gigantic proportions to be able to twist the whole earth to adjust it. The wrench be so immense that it would be invisible, could, though, become a part of anyone's thoughts-religious, social, scientific, ..but is still only a wrench designed to fit something, and not a mathematical model of the universe.

    REPLIES (5):

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (11/15/06 12:26 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: SOLID REALITY

    Marvin

    Your recent contribution included: "One may with some common sense first deduce that religion does not have a mathematical construction and second that these two enterprises cannot occupy the same (one-as the only category possible based on definition). space."

    I think that "common sense" may be in general maligned by philosophy. But common sense is a nebulous evaluation when applied to either mathematics or religion. For example, I personally have an initial hesitation about the concept of "negative numbers." But how would we comprehend such things as electromagnetic phenomena without them?

    Regarding religion in general, I think it also is of very nebulous nature. Other than having some value in social scientific inquiry, I think that philosophically it is more important to focus on the claims made by particular religions than on the idea of religion in general. Regarding the theistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I think that they claim that God is the Creator outside of time and space, so conceptually there is no conflict between maths and God.

    Charles

  • FROM: marvin kirsh (11/15/06 3:33 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: SOLID REALITY

    Charles: That is the point that religion is not mathematical-but is it realized that the world is not either, only in short range repetitions, and with certain reproduceable periods. Science is a big part of the lives of modern man and my argument was about knowing ,recognizing where to draw the line between the two(science and religion)I wasn't trying to imply that our common sense is multiplied mathematically to advanced thinking. I have two thoughts on this:

    1) Hegel writes of self awareness -its construction from action ad feedback-learning that he divides into an immediate sense topic-first impressions, and subsequent struggle and the development of wisdom. I was trying to impress that with some of the definitions and activities- investigations put down to us of science-technology-it would be hard for the common man to determine or extract validity in terms of commonsense from what he knows already-his accumulated wisdom's. In many cases science has an overcomplicating stretching approach in its' testing-sidetracked from its original questions vague in classification and problem titles-(which I think-and partly another topic for its complexities- does more than test). Indirectly challenges common sense right where we think-approaches the magical invisible to account for reality in a way that seems to test with validity. Basically, underlining it, is the absence of awe for the sacredness of nature-in understanding a little of it we are taking it for granted. Our numbers are vastly greater than in the past- the number of laws established very few with vast explaining power-yet the situation hasn't really changed-I think just a false security of being amongst large numbers in a sea of near infinite numbers. My philosophy of science instructor related the story that he (who is not essentially pious) when in a foreign land, at their temple simply kneeled and prayed with the rest-he said as showing respect. it is obvius though that regarless of his knowldge of the specific religion, his personal of philosophical differences he felt no conflict or inhibition at his praying). I think just a characteristic of humans they could war with strict philosophy's and when they are unaware do the opposite. I think more and more eachday his thoughts rather than reflex escape the coup, let loose into his actions, rather than the opposite.
    2) over complication in life-a false sense of power, understanding, security, can this not influence the innate response to things of which our common senses are built. Why do we raise question about creation and science, invest a great deal of time reflecting on the topic. We have not only exaggerated the abilities of science-violated its definition in the creation of these exaggerations, we never really understand what is meant by the word creation. For practical commonsense-and to reduce science to its appropriate title-creation is everything but science. Th part of my writing that you refereed to "common sense"... I think that we innately know but forget(we like to think, communicate and experiment) exactly what the world is to start-a place of roots, inceptions and trees-definition does not proceed further-we still ponder things like thinking about the belly button. I know would incite to length, many scientists, but I think much of what they do is belly button research-even with respect to many of the most respected and established endeavors-very hard for the common man to sort through and probably much of the evidence, in contrast to a logical root to the problem, is buried in history. It is the historical facts that the ordinary absorb easily. At the root is the perfection of mathematics in description, the invisible unmeasureable-directly testable, and the empirical that is never perfect like a circle. When I think of this I fear science fall in numbers, persons(of talent) choose other things, but this is only a problem of science and not about its total pursuit. It is also missing the influence of women from its start(that is one half of the population that is different from the other half-in a catch twenty two situation-that perceiving differently- nothing of interest catches their eyes-if not directly discriminated against).
    Last, I can relate best to your comment on negative numbers. I had come to the conclusion that they do not really exist in nature-nor a zero(which I think has a mathematical constant status)...exist in nature anymore than a (the physical bead itself)bead in an abacus can be a negative-is just on one or the other side of the tally. negative numbers are just a short cut in the world of ratios we live to avoid having to count vast totals over and over etc. Some how we have come to worship absolutes- and put in place all the voids.. negatives ..etc that pleased us...is a matter of maturity and a new second sense learning not arrived at yet.I firmly think all the current immune diseases on the rise sre from this type of navel research.

    Marvin

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (11/19/06 9:52 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: SOLID REALITY

    Marvin

    You said about science: Basically, underlining it, is the absence of awe for the sacredness of nature-in understanding a little of it we are taking it for granted.

    But I think that the problem may be more modern and postmodern indifference and being self centered among the wealthy (most of us in N. America, Europe, Australia, & Japan). In general I have the impression that the rich in the West appropriate the benefits of science, but actually have very little knowledge of it. (I don't attribute an opposing virtue in the poor Eastern masses as the Maoist version of Marxism did though, nor in the Islamic masses that Islamofascism does today. Those are other topics though.)

    I think that some scientists at have taken a lead in ecological ethics. For example, the naturalist E.O. Wilson has argued that species extinction threatens the human spirit. So I think that an awe and respect for nature can be attributed to at least some science. The source of taking nature for granted must lie elsewhere.

    I don't see much evidence for respect of nature by common men. Neither do I see much understanding of science there. But as a quite ordinary man, I think it possible to both appreciate nature and understand at least some of science. I think that religion can be useful in pointing out humanity's shortcomings, or more correctly sins, in science and the material world in general. I don't see a necessary conflict between science and religion.

    I hope to discuss more of this later with you and others here in this forum of philosophy.

    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: marvin kirsh (11/21/06 9:23 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: SOLID REALITY

    Dear Charles: Thank you conscientious replies.
    With reference to your last reply, mankind, society has a real dilemma. May be you would like my essay in theories of existence topic. As all living things we organize things innately-our bodies, the way we learn has an organization to it. We created a world of a million pockets in analogy to the way we toss our thoughts in the air, juggle them , to find resolutions-thus have imposed -always speaking of our selfs-which is at some stage of maturity which changes until death-spoken of ourselves to externally manage the world, in suffering state to start. Our paradigms of life change as we age. In old age we tend less to venture beyond the nietsches we have established-are more stable, more content, less adventureous. Not a soul though has the witness to see and/or know over long time periods beyond his own era. The world is defined in some other terms with respect to this, and the acquisition of knowledge. If progression is in the hands of the wealthiest-sometimes even the wisest, and science, which is not often reflected on in that respect to be seen almost as miraculous, a pillar of logical purity, can undergoe can undergo change and revolution of the same type of which the wealthiest have emerged, he is likely to apply his funds to this ideal. Then how does a scientist accept and apply funds (for what is essentially housing construction built of his own flesh-the forces of change) so ignorantly. Today, in history of philosophy class to I combined tweo ideas. One of old concerning hubris-status and power of the professions, that all can be reduced to "room science" the occupation of space-conflict and struggle for it-its' real and very common simplicity though. The other notion was, applying the idea of trees and the facts of the world with notions of this-volume-space- thought of the 'tree in the box' new paradigm of mankind. It wont ever fit in the box-yet the world itself is volumes. the scientist is fighting for space also and his opinion respected. Philosophy and mathematics thought always proceeds at a differtent pace than the physical sciences and it is the scientist with less understanding the
    aristocrat, as intellect it his specialty. Intellect to produce witnesssable evidence and some predictability of behaviors of imparticulates and invisibles. As mental tool I can almost image this happening on a street corner or a residential neighborhood- growing to and /or starting as the same as th entire world -new science/scientists gaining a name with experts. The world the same as the seed with a greater complexity of problems. Things donot change until the seed does and in many cases it is has been mentally propogated and its creators no longer among the living fighting for room, the science they created though relates to their struggles only. Jus as I can transmitt my ideas over seas on a computer, things can be transmitted with an infinite greater speed to others who feet are elsewhere with different problems and environments. Akin, to an extreme example of a very intelligent radical designing weapons etc, but always the same real example-observed nature is the same but the human problems (by defintion that all things are unique) are not. ..could potentially finds its way to a means to unknowingly "box the tree".
    The Chinese are known in history to have, when ventured beyond their homes (and on very rare occasions) to have observed only foreign cultures and to have taken no participation. President Kennedy before his assignation was vehemently opposed to America's potential involvement in the world to exploit it or engage in its' problems. When I read articles(this weeks Nature) about science and the old world-Islam- I can grow to possess a great anger and disrespect for what appears to be the same authority that produced my education. 'Islam is behind with their old fashion ways and ideas better catch up with modern science-nanomaterials-gene cloning, animal research(of which the ethics are currently being challenged in America and losing that court trials are arising out of the disturbance-intelligent design vs evolution(the meticulous logic of science proof applied to nature), stem cells research. They will fall behind in the world. Not only is Nature a respected by majority/esteemed journal, current science philosophy with the potential to catch on quickly, is a very fast success-a quick unfailing metastasis with a long reputation. There is little way to tread a step in its direction without the whole included bundle. package. They also employ references to terrorism backwardness in leverage- to exactly where the masses already point their fingers as the cause of world troubles-and originating in places of poverty and great suffering that their science is getting a good hand at. I cannot say that all terrorists are fingered unjustly-that they have any moral rights to their acts ,but in example what is the point of sending Saddam Husein, a key witness to world history, to death(for the actions of his guards and armies?-I doubt he committed crimes himself or was even a direct witness and the stories that filter through to us I believe are always innaccurate) . I canot say I would even like him if I met him-could find him abdominable-but I do not see this actions in any different light from the above dicussed ignorance metastasis. Examples and examples of attempts to bury the past, escape the roots of our beginnings from big to little that a person think to build a spaceship and escape(and again a leaving of the roots that I do no think a new culture can grow from few in a cramped space ship we may actually be confined to the earth as our natural homes, with no say in the floor plan. A good tree as the last of the standing sacred, could be place to seek refuge, but someone might be likely to find a way to make fast foods from the leaves in the crisis — electrical energy from the bacterial flora.

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (11/26/06 10:09 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: SOLID REALITY

    Marvin

    I have been away and am just getting to your message of 11/21. There is more than I can respond to at this time. But I was especially interested in your writing: " Just as I can transmitt my ideas over seas on a computer, things can be transmitted with an infinite greater speed to others who feet are elsewhere with different problems and environments."

    I think it truly is an amazing thing, the human attempt to share ideas. Although humans may not often succeed in completely sharing their ideas. I think real failure only occurs when people no longer make the attempt to share.

    Sincerely,
    Charles

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: Charles Countryman (11/19/06 10:55 AM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: Noetics — robonoetics continued

Mike

The Institute of Noetic Science, which the link you provided connects to, supports and contributes to interesting research on consciousness. But I do not share what I understand to be their New Age political enthusiasms. I also think that they have too limited a definition of noetic in their emphasis on "inner knowing" and "intuitive consciousness."

This inner knowing and consciousness is the human "purely uncategorized and unconceptlualized experience" that materialists, such as George Lakoff and Mark Johnson ("Philosophy In The Flesh") deny. But I think that meditative and religious experiences are only one aspect of the noetic.

The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy definition of noetic that I referred to earlier is a wider definitiion than the Noetic Institute's. Also I think that Lakoff and Johnson and cognitive science are too quick in their singular embracing of empirical method and denial of traditional philosophic methods. While Platonism may be of the past, I don't think that Socrates' method is. If Socrates were alive today, I think that he would view robotic and computer integration with the human mind holistically. This integration is possibly more than just an algorithmic problem. So I suggest that there may be a place for robonoetic inquiry.

Charles

-----------------------------------------------

FROM: marvin kirsh (11/27/06 5:10 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS

To Charles-RE: The exchange of ideas

Dear Charles-I agree that exchange of ideas between cultures is essential. What is added by computer is a decreased time interval -spontaneity. This is ok in most cass as any two elements in most case are reflective with respect to action. Things do go slowly in history though and the real truth is never known. Two minds (or a million minds)can be worse than one. Consider this the types of communications between ourselves. They have a certain philosophical quality to them -the arguments themselves are always valid or seek validity. Truth and validity, or the discussion of one or the other is not the same thing. A kink to the slow workings of time is the talking nose-it short circuits intellectuals revolution- of Hegels immediate sense learning , no matter the nature, lifetime, or applied wisdom's- of ,an always, approximation of the world, of a limited tunnel view of which the more exacting, mathematically appealing and fitting to valid test results, the more dangerous-when two parties agree to solutions to problems that involves science and the forces of nature-especially elemental, very theoretical type forces and science theory. Scientists forget that certainty of 100 percent is never possible, they believe their data and ideas-it doesn't matter on the majority of consensus. Even worse than this is the bad use for military purposes-always works out logically to be unethical and eats away at us psychologically-though we always find justification-real understanding of the nature of truth, science- religion, history creates a more formidable intellectual and instinctual barrier to these actions. These are the real types things that are essential in the exchange of ideas. Technology, medical, discourses I believe instead, result is a loss of total diversity as a final result. Diversity, has a maximum and best rate of change-absolute beneficial limits that can be short circuited in a matter akin what happens when there is excessive crossbreeding, no isolation and incubation to produce stable new combinations.

I think this is all known and understood up to he point of the causation of psychological auto immune like disturbance-for your bread you must design weapons, clone animals-is an absolute disease causing indoctrination from simple mental application that spreads into behavior, is passed onto offspring as one route of its' social and historical effects ,less the resulting terribleness of the consequences, which again feeds back to cause those to seek and find more solutions with the same method. This paints a picture of a slow abortion process-everything downhill instead of up-sometimes the same persons or ideas cannot fix what they break-especially if those persons actions cause a decreased variation from which new hands and ideas are not found. Altogether, this description is of something with second rate of change -changes faster over time like a geometrical progression starting with a number unequal to one -and by definition leads down hiil(gets very large or very small). After early times of civilization, the idea to include notions of a void in science theory, all of our ideas and equations never have limits of one -they are either zero or infinity,zero=infinity where diversity is concerned as diversity has finite limit (depending on the (though unknowable starting point) to a tangible starting amount that is not zero or infinity-is the same in description as a descriptive "one". Zeros and infinities should fall out of our equations-exist in reality on both sides of the equals which are written slanted-offset to have filtered over history into our thinking and the way we absolutely perceive he world.(a scientist could have reasoned to write these kind of equations easily, confusing a seed of motion-impetus with a void within what exists that he directly perceives). In the dark a oneness to all things, life and matter-the universe- is not apparent- requires a second sense learning-is perceived very far beyond the intellect as illogical unamendable to science, not on the surface of reflection or nearby it, that instinctually it is ignored to the limit of its' exclusion from the tools of reason. If not for the investigations in to the life sciences, and the progress, (today we are in a stage of frustration to connect the physical sciences with the life sciences)

I WOULD HAVE NO RAY OF HOPE AT ALL FOR THE SURVIVAL OF ANYTHING IF NOT FOR THE SIMPLE EXISTENCE OF A BASICALLY SUCCESSFUL LIFE SCIENCES AND A KNOWLEDGE OF THE EXISTENCE OF UNKNOWNS F AN UNREOLVED DICHOTOMY ARISING FROM THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES(I.E HOW CAN I ACCOUNT FOR BIOLOGICAL LIFE WITH QUANTUM MECHANICS?-

LIKE THE EXISTENCE OF A STERILE REGION IN A QUICKLY SPREADING INFECTION.

The problem: all attempts at equations look like one=one- are very simple in relations to the complexities we have created ourselves resembling "I think therefore I am" which is already written; involves all the "baby" sciences(many of which, like psychology are very disorganized without a universal agreement that exists in the physical sciences) and the truth cannot be found without a universal notion to include both; it is also very discouraging and involves extensive economic loss vs total loss if human behaviors do not change radically.

IT(THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM) ARE UNKNOWN/UNELUCIDATED WITH RESPECT TO THE REMAINEDER, PETTY IRREGULAR-LIGHTLY PERCEIVED -CONNECTIONS AND APPEARING INSTABILITIES THAT ARE IGNORED IN LIEU OF ESTABLISHED AND TESTED PILLARS; IS NOT A COMMONLY KNOWN LESSON-THAT THE WHOLE AS FAR AS TOTAL COMMON EXPERIENCE IS ALWAYS ONE-TODAY'S KNOWLEDGE OF THIS IS AT THE FRINGES, IN THE MATHEMATICAL AREAS OF INQUIRY.

How does a chromosome appear to condense when pulled on?, how do species traits not always follow expectation, what is the purpose of reverse transcription(things from outside getting established in the genes)-imprinting-dynamics of survival that do not appear linearly directed, inorder with time, what are nanomaterials -surface reactions in relation-are nanomaterials things one their way uphill or down -(or are some just testing dangerous and explained as so from the known models-are they always naturally exisiting-can a balance be affected from our utilization of them -what is classified as nanomaterials-are all of those classified or suspicious as, of the same characteristic or like heroin is to a drug addict i.e a relieving but defeating technical solution.

    REPLIES (7):

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (11/28/06 2:19 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS

    Marvin

    I agree with you that computers can facilitate spontaneity in discussing ideas. Even more computers facilitate and enhance non-sensuous data processing and appreciation by a human mind. As a person with a disability that can have both physical and cognitive symptoms, Parkinson's disease, I tend to focus on the capability of computers to augment and support humans, not their capabilities to operate as agents for malevolent humans or possibly independent agents which might someday threaten humans.

    I guess that my daily experience with computers as a disabled person brings me to have more appreciation than fear of science. Even before and beyond using computers though is my recognition of the benefits modern medical science has given me through its developing treatment for neurological diseases.

    So although I agree with you that there are potential and present dangers in scientific inquiry, especially that involving the elemental forces of nature. There are also many benefits that arise from science. But as I have stated before here, I don't see any necessary dichotomy between science and noetic ethical inquiry or between science and religion. Rather than be discouraged, I am amazed by the ability of the human mind to incorporate sensuous and non-sensuous experience, including that which is purely uncategorized and unconceptualized (e.g. meditative experience). To me, science is just one of several methods of inquiry.

    I think that entropy is an attribute of the physical realm. Although I go back and forth on this because of my personal experience with Parkinson's disease, I am not a physicalist. I do not think that entropy necessarily applies to the mental realm. So I don't think that everything necessarily goes downhill.

    Also while a particular situation may have a maximum and best rate of change, I hesitate to apply this to diversity in general. In fact science has highlighted the ecological benefits of diversity. But one of the arguments that I would make for noetic ethical inquiry is recognition of the difficulties that arise in considering the effect of human motivations on natural selection.

    Sincerely,
    Charles

  • FROM: marvin kirsh (11/28/06 2:56 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS

    Dear Charles: I am not sure we do not have our catagoreies confused. Your statement says it all-recognition of the difficulties that arise in considering the effect of human motivations on natural selection.-reflects the theme of my wtiting inwhich i try to reason how men could have come to think to push evolution around. Involves long time periods. I also try to be very definite when I talk about bad science. Moistly I am talking about physics and high intellectual scientists building weapons as alivlihood.I do not think any of these persons could in person harm someone and this filters back to them in some way and back to society that made the decisions and gave them the restricted choices in their bread winning as physicists. In biology, disease relief and cure are separate from genetic tampering-though I dont like that stuff anbout the mind moving pictures on a computer. I have a PhD in biology from 20 years ago-and that is from where I am speaking- I was gung ho graduate student-liked the idea of curing disease-did not actually clone genes -was biochemical genetics-bought my materials from things like the fishing industy that sold salmon testes-now would opposed to the use of laboratory animals(even did a little of that though from my undergraduate years). All with very good intentions, but unquestioning-someone else was making all the decisions -that today I feel expert enough to write about it. I know parkinsons disease is terrible(my father had a mild case of it-diagnosed after his retirement)-I am sure research in the area
    uses laboratory animals -derives a lot of basic theory from past and current the same. hter might be other ways around that-I do not think they are getting at the actual cause though-is of part of my writing that a factor-the self-objectivity is vastly overcompensated for in the development of science because there was no menas to refer to commonality-or a philosophy able to initiate all investigation from the single self perspective-the two notion arise together with a reorientation-Einstein was the best interpretation but still involved unmeasureables (mass of a photon eg) and an absolute number as opposed to some other absolute description(rather than number_-commonality. (I am waiting for a positive decision on a manuscript) so I am free to completely discuss what I think.
    The medical trails of investigation today can provide relief from suffering but I dont think in any cases find a real cause/origin-is a matter of philosophical approach in all the sciences and a second common sense.. The success of what I think will lead to a trail to cause prevention and cure surely comes from what how I have been educated-and the vast data bases accumulated todate withor without a correct perspective-I thinkit is a matter of form and change that for instance the shape anmd genetics of a virus can be reduced to a seed shape (of common sense) missing historical data --etc. An example Anthrax a (very old if no the original one known )disease of soemthing under the skin that I beleive is bigger than a virus-and doesnt require an electron microscope with respect to causing factoror the events of history- that is where science has to be very careful when it treads-superstitution can be flatten wrongly as being historical rathe rthan sicien tific

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (11/29/06 2:05 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS

    Marvin

    A note of clarification to my last message. My comment about the effect of human motivation on natural selection was my language as a lay person. It was in some sense a question. I wonder how deliberate human action, good and bad, is factored in when considering the effect of natural selection in a particular environment?

    You seem to distinguish between good and bad science in an ethical sense. I would be interested in more detail of how you determine what science is good and what science is bad?

    Charles

  • FROM: Michael Ward (11/29/06 11:56 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS

    Charles,

    This statement you made caught my attention "To me, science is just one of several methods of inquiry."

    From this I assume that other methods are of equal merit in understanding things in themselves. Whereas I can contemplate my navel utill the end of my days and reach any conclusion I choose there is no way of validating my viewpoint untill it can be shared with others. I need a second party to carry this out and the information needed from the second party can only be obtained by communication.

    But if we don't speak speak the same language and it's clear we mostly don't then what other method of enquiry is left to you other than scientific. As a serious question do you have an enquiry dialogue with your god.

    Regards

    Mike

    ps in the Humanv2.0 video did you notice the monkey controlling the computer screen with a joystick eventually ended up controlling it with his mind or was it it's brain.

  • FROM: marvin kirsh (12/01/06 2:38 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS

    Reply to Charles: What science do I consider good or bad:
    This is not a simple question as I do not think linearly like most practical scientists o rinthe way common sense guides us. In other words; science that we manipulate things tangeably around to our witness to suit us-change induced in an area-subset of the world, I divide into good or bad deepending whether or not it affects the rest of the world. In effect we are speaking falsely if we say that we understand things, with regards to the known science we have, if we can predict experimental results with consistency. We are tricked. If you consider the velocity of light, its' measured velocity could fit either a theory that says no such constant exists, or a theory that says it has a fixed value in all points of refence that is and so value in a vacuum. The truth as to which idea is valid is irrelevant unless a false idea is applied to human events-especially to cuase intended deat and destruction. Men se things i a common sense point of view, where in the world is divided into the living and tangeable objects and the chemistry of change-i.e how could releasing enrgy from uranium with a certain space have anything to do with the rest of he existing energy in the world. Any thing man ever did wih respect to his environment worked only by A pushes B into C...DEFand G are out of the picture. However the energy within the atom is theorized from invisibles, not tangeables-a scientific construction-the "glue" of the atom-treated as if one thing and in effect possibly changing all
    the same as if releaseing a bad gene into the population.Mans assumption to understand what he is doing is of a prematurely arrived understanding-comprehension. Nature does not allow natural reactions which can grow on their own-the water evaporates from heat whenever critical point is approached. In order to bbuild the bomb a mechanical device was used to lock the water inside at the same time the bomb was coerced to touch the ground. The ultimate outcome is so deviously created and the destruction and suffering so vast, that I consider it an act against the self. This interpretion can also be arrived at from many angles, but the design of the actual device is the best, In an accelerator there is never a critical mass nor evil intent. The concept that intellectual intention has to do with actual consequence is hard for many to grasp. The world is a place of names and not numbers.
    It is evenmoe difficult to grasp that caging an animal for research is not the same as killing it in the wild-i.e simple death of the animal -even with ethical considerations as to its' suffering-this is a total violation of free will to partners in the same shared ecology — co-interactionaries. zthe interaction to ge t food, or even of meaness is not the same interaction as the brute force used in medical study. Would sacrificing people to throw their body parts at enemies in warfare be the same as throwing the already dead, or throwing rocks..living body parts could potentially be more destructive than either for the purposes of warfare. Do you think that Mangola(the doctor of Hitlers fame) wrote medical books fromhis tortures-or that any trained eye that had come to observe do anything of a similiar notion but apply anything he learned to life -the actions of appplying help vs written document for addition to science. The unethicalness of Mangolas' makes any kind of such application impossible-what is learned comes across in interpersonal action and communication only. Extending this notion to animals is still another step -we do not see it as any diffeent from learning from the ants we squashed on the sidewalk as children. I sapent hours with a volley ball in hand sometimes watching an ant struggle to reach a place and each time try to force it start over-either hitting it with the ball which was near impossible, or bouncing it close enough so it was forced to walk in the other direction than its goal. People can be like this at some stage of life, but I do not think a suitable way to gain medical knowledge. Conflictary in nature ,but probably true for many persons, I am here today from advances in medical knowledge. We all had the Salk vaccines for polio, and the influenza vaccines..all involved animal research. I do not think civilization can fall from this alone,, without a failed comprehension and change-there are always alternate ways to do things we have not stumbled on yet-causes and cures are always different in nature as are reverse and forward paths in a reaction. Diseases are like chemical reactions-we see an abreviated time period of the reaction-and are able to predict a little. A natural chain-trail in history is the desired evidence-disturbances leave heavy trails-like the crooks ina bank robbery compared to events of the wind.

  • FROM: Charles Countryman (12/04/06 11:50 AM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS

    Marvin & Michael

    To me science is just a method of inquiry into the natural world, without any particular ethical content or method. Ethical inquiry may involve science, but it requires other methods to. And no Michael, they are not limited to navel contemplation.

    There are at least several methods of mind. I am not attributing any hierarchal value in my order. There is the logical development of an argument, dianoia. This would be included in science, but not exclusively there. For this method to take on any ethical inquiry would require it to include some moral ideas (which are made up of non-sensuous data).

    There is nous, or intellectual intuition. An example of this would be Albert Schweitzer's experience and concept of "Reverence for Life." While Schweitzer referred to this as "ethical mysticism," I distinguish between this nous and purely uncategorized and unconceptualized meditative experiences.

    There is a level, noetic inquiry, that includes the problem of Forms and possibly Edmund Husserl's concept of intentionality. Perhaps this is the intentionality that you refer to Marvin?

    Meditative experience, such as the lord Buddha's, may result from and lead to ethical inquiry. There is also a level, Michael what you called "talking to God." I don't take this flippantly as perhaps you do Michael. Here I suggest consideration of the possible efficacy of prayer.

    Michael, re the monkey with the joystick in Human v.2: I think that is a very good question: Did it involve mind or just brain? I think though that I would like to broaden the question to be about animal minds in general, because of my daily experience with my assistance dog Friday.

    Charles

  • FROM: marvin kirsh (12/16/06 3:47 PM GMT -06:00)
    SUBJECT: RE: THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS

    Dear Charles: My replies are so far lengthy, as the topics maybe defined but no resolution found. With regards to your discussion about other means of inquiry other than science and my discussion about instant computer communications, there are two key words to all:
    "forms"(which can be outlined geometrically or at least mathematics defined within a framework of forms, but the key element forms -the highest topic is far from resolved. I think the best common sense is that all the complexities in description resulting from the unknown of the world , have to reduce to and be added in reverse from a common element of any witness/perspective. "This lack of resolution and current established science, viewed as science in total", leads to your statement that science is not the only means of inquiry-it is just incomplete and has no bridge to the other things you referred to.
    With this total lacking in science theory, sometimes spontaneous communications can be dangerous if the forest from the trees is not known-can lead to bad agreements and action in the absence of other needed learned wisdom's. Assessment of the state of current progress in is in a quagmire, as is the progress itself-if not the wisdom's of the philosophy and logic of science not confusible with science activity itself-one enormous nearly untouchable holy quagmire in full combination that leads into brain and neurological science efforts-nitty bity bits and pieces analysis looking for answers. We are without needed insight and left with the perfection's of math and logic as tools-the science and notion of forms left far behind with the Greeks who I think had the whole inquiry better sorted out. I am just a beginner in the study of Philosophy, but have some indication that(at least the philosophers in my department) think that definitions in terms of a forms are what is lacking, though they admit my conversation, in our few and very brief meeting "goes right by them".
    I am not a orally oriented person-of few words usually expressed form learned science logic)though some scientists also had to ask- delve into "what I mean" when I did not think there were altenative meanings-the science language taught was not what I had learned though I had A's in most of the courses. and conversations and associations continued for decades.. My biology mentor-a geneticist- now deceased-his last remembered comments about my essay on the Theory of Natural Processes was suitable for 'the journal of Theoretical Astrophysics which did not exist at that time and ,about a new physics theory do you think for the beginning text book? Recently "You have invented a new system of logic though answered some of the intermediate questions wrong with respect to your system but have the right answer.
    I am also nearly flunked out also by examination, in which I fail to elucidate the exactly taught lesson clearly, though I know I understand the material well and have arrived upon much of it own my own(I think could be part of the problem-how I relate to the topic, which(my relation) is hard to change, to almost need to forge/counterfeit a different perspective as if I was learning it from class and readings-this could be very difficult if not impossible depending on the teachers perspective and expectancies from experience.
    This is an in-person example of the total quagmire -of which actual social states and norms affect definition, even of experts. I do know how students are judged , critically on rote answering, or based on assumed comprehension, or a mixture which can still cause a false evaluation, or if it is thought to dismiss a person for other reasons to include exam performance.
    I have almost lost faith in institutions of scholarship beginning with my failures to find employment after attaining a Ph.D. In each case where there was trouble-it was the most influential(and politically respected factor) element that an absolute influence that was also inconsistent over long periods(decades) of time, and the absolute positive support(i.e "the best student to have passed through the university over my 14 years of association") was completely ignored....without regard, it appeared, to my fate as a transient indigent, abused unfairly in any jurisdiction I traversed and with the associated expenditure of millions of dollars of public funds. My life long added income is $50,000 -a possible yearly income for someone with a fraction of my education. My attendance boosts my income from 10,000 to 20,000-though borrowed money only available on my academic success. How does this not exactly parallel currently known(and past predicted/observed) scholarly appraisals of a negative trend as a whole to civilization and the indirect, pettily oriented, tangential, obscure and undefined nature of its causation, for such obscure and tangentially (but known) factors to be embodied in the life of (also obscure and tangential factors themselves to the concerned) a single individual. Leads around in circles big the same as little in its' features.
    This imbalance, I think in exact ratio 50,000/1,000,000's reflects the degree of aberration, impureness, in state affairs, though always present, compromises at the threshold of church principle to lower the view of the total with respect to learned ideas of fairness and ideals, not that I'd care to work as a biochemist any longer for reason of the learning of other things.
    What goes right by them?(only sense to make of the situation if mutual welfares are concerned)..I should be handled with kid gloves-spoon fed by the state-given a residence in the presidents mansion rather than being expelled. A person in my situation could have difficulty studying-relatively my grades considering my circumstances should be A's, reflecting ability and environmental handicap. ... facing expulsion to a beggars life again.

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FROM: Richard W. Symonds (09/19/07 2:53 PM GMT -06:00)
SUBJECT: Philosophies of Science

Hi ! Just joined the class...the last few comments have been about Philosophy and Science...

To my (limited) mind, Karl Popper has the best Theory of Science (a formula)...which can be applied to all other disciplines...and to life itself :

P1 -> TS1 -> EE -> P2 -> TS2 -> EE -> P3 etc etc

Where

P1 = Problem 1 (the original problem)
TS1 = Trial Solution 1 (Conjecture/Theory to P1)
EE = Error Elimination (Refutations of TS1 )
P2 = Problem 2 (a new problem created)
TS2 = Trial Solution 2 (Conjecture/Theory to P2)
EE = Error Elimination (Refutations of TS2)
P3 = Problem 3 and so on...

It's a great formula to apply if you don't want to fall victim to dogmatism !

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