Philosophy

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Does this summarize his column today?
Those who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps are the good guys and deserve their rewards, while the rest are just the takers like Romney’s 47%. Brooks didn’t say this but this is essentially the interpretation given by many of the commenters, and I agree.

I grabbed the following quotation from ….There could be snakes in here:

“I think now that the right thing to do would be to begin my book with remarks about metaphysics as a kind of magic. But in doing this I must neither speak in defence of magic nor ridicule it. In this context, in fact, excluding magic has the character of magic.”
– Wittgenstein, (PI manuscript)


So what is Wittgenstein trying to say here??

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Here’s a Youtube I want to capture here. Ingmar shows an excerpt from a movie and then gives his thoughts on God which he replaces with holiness as seen by human beings through music and art.

Bergman's Wisdom

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The Rev. Carl Scovel, minister emeritus of King’s Chapel in Boston, and recipient of the UUA’s highest honor, the Distinquished Service Award, gave an amazing speech delivered before the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 23, 1994. This is known as the Berry Street Lecture of 1994.

I knew Carl back in the mid-1950’s when we both attended the Gannet Club, a club for singles, at the Arlington Street Church in Boston. He was a serious young man, very knowledgeable and headed for the ministry even then. He had grown up in China as his parents were missionaries there. I remember once riding in a car with him and another bright young intellectual by the name of Karl Nelson (not sure of that first name), going to some club function. They were discussing 19th century religious people, and referred to someone as “the last of the Transcendentalists”. I was very impressed with their knowledge, and that expression stuck in my craw. I wonder whatever happened to that Nelson fellow.

Here is a inspiring excerpt from Carl’s lecture:

We also know that spirituality is not simply the product of fear, frustration, or bad digestion. We know that our yearning for meaning and fulfillment is given in our very being. So! Follow that yearning, need, reaching to its source, to our creation, to our createdness and surmise with me, if you will, that this yearning, this reaching, this need, is no accident, no psychic atavism, but a reflection of that reality from which we come.

The Great Surmise says simply this: At the heart of all creation lies a good intent, a purposeful goodness, from which we come, by which we live our fullest, to which we shall at last return. And this is the supreme reality of our lives.

This goodness is ultimate—not fate nor freedom, not mystery, energy, order nor finitude, but this good intent in creation is our source, our center, and our destiny. And with everything else we know in life, the strategies and schedules, the technology and tasks, with all we must know of freedom, fate and finitude, of energy and order and mystery, we must know this, first of all, the love from which we were born, which bears us now, and which will receive us at the end. Our work on earth is to explore, enjoy, and share this goodness, to know it without reserve or hesitation. “Too much of a good thing,” said Mae West, “is wonderful.” Sound doctrine.

Do you see how the Great Surmise stands all our logic and morality on its ear? Neither duty nor suffering nor progress nor conflict—not even survival—is the aim of life, but joy. Deep, abiding, uncompromised joy.

I would like to thank the Rev. Richard Beal for providing this excerpt and telling us about Carl Scovel’s Berry Street lecture.

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OK, here’s the ultimate reference and review of this whole mind-body thing, or rather consciousness, from a Quantum mechanical point of view. It includes within it Henry Stapp’s theory just as one approach out of many. I’m really going to try to read the whole thing, I think. Just want an overview. It was written by Dr. Harald Atmanspacher.

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I came across the following on Henry Stapp’s Wiki:

Stapp favours the idea that quantum waves collapse only when they interact with consciousness. He argues that quantum waves collapse when intelligent brains select one among the alternative quantum possibilities as a basis for future action.

This seems crazy at first glance, but here’s a further sentence from his Wiki:

Stapp postulates more global collapse via his ‘mind like’ wave-function collapse that exploits certain aspects of the quantum Zeno effect within the synapses to explain attention.

If you check out the above link to the quantum Zeno effect, you find something strange indeed. Say no more! Except the effect is related to the Turing paradox!

Over and out for now.

Oh, before I go, here’s another link: Physics and Whitehead Workshop.

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Almost invariably when I check Psybertron I find something that fascinates me. Today his reference to the book Mindful Universe by Henry Stapp, started me on a search for explanations. There are several Youtubes of Henry Stapp trying to explain his theory, and a fascinating but very hard for me to follow, debate between Stapp and Matthew J. Donald. So, what is he basically trying to say? He’s making a connection between quantum theory, eastern mysticism, and the mind-body problem, if I have that right and not oversimplified it too much. Another related link I found is a long talk by Carlo Rovelli,”Science is not About Certainty: A Philosophy of Physics”.

My work is cut out if I want to understand any of this.

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Last Sunday I caught Bill Moyers on PBS and he had two interesting interviewees as usual. The first, Neal Gabler, talked on the influence of Pop Culture on politics, and the second, Christian Wiman, talked about his life, love, incurable cancer, and he read a couple of his poems.

The theme of the Wiman interview was his love, faith, and incurable cancer. His two poems, “Five Houses Down” and “Sitting Down to Breakfast Alone”, were written during the infrequent times when he was free from worry and self doubt. Moyers quizzed him in depth about his religious faith and it’s clearly unconventional, although he is a christian.

Moyers showed an interview he had previously conducted with Clive James in which James showed great anger with God. Wiman’s response was that this was merely a human projection of God and that we have to get beyond this humanized notion. He invoked Simone Weil a couple times. At least Wiman is not your conventional christian if he likes Simone Weil who was a christian mystic. But he loses me at this point. However, I’ll hasten to add if there is a God, it would have to be incomprehensible in the sense that Wiman seems to believe, and perhaps even Weil.

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The problem of where our mind is — it’s in the brain, but how, where? — is tackled in these abstracts from the Philosophy Workshop on the Embodied Mind, July 9-10, 2007, University of Hull.

Here’s a typical abstract:


“The Apparent Truth of Dualism and the Uncanny Body”

Stephen Burwood
University of Hull

It has been suggested that our experiences of embodiment in general appear to constitute an experiential ground for dualist philosophy and that this is particularly so with experiences of dissociation, in which one feels estranged from one’s body. Thus, Drew Leder argues that these play “a crucial role in encouraging and supporting Cartesian dualism” as they “seem to support the doctrine of an immaterial mind trapped inside an alien body”. In this paper I argue that as dualism does not capture the character of such experiences there is not even an apparent separation of self and body revealed here and that one’s body is experienced as uncanny rather than alien. The general relationship between our philosophical theorizing and the phenomenology of lived experience is also considered.

Neuroscience in general does not concern itself with these philosophical meanderings, but I’m strangely, in fact strongly attracted to them.

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Sam Harris is a well known atheist, a hater of religion along with the other “horsemen”, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Dan Dennett, but he has this mystical side. That word, mystical, must be defined very carefully, however, or the wrath of Sam will be upon you.

Here is a good tract by Sam Harris in which he goes into this. He argues that secularism has no content other than its negativity:

To be secular, one need do nothing more than live in perpetual opposition to the unsubstantiated claims of religious dogmatists.

The “mysticism” he espouses has to do with meditation and the mystery of consciousness. Here is the last sentence of his third note in his article:

Still, consciousness remains a genuine mystery, and anyone who attempts to study it is confronted by serious conceptual and empirical problems

Antonio Damasio, a well known neuroscientist, has a new book out in which he attempts to explain consciousness scientifically. However, John Searle, a well known American philosopher takes issue with Damasio’s claim in his New York Review of Books article, The Mystery of Consciousness Continues.

All very interesting.

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