Thursday, December 25, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Why am I alive?
In my early forties, I find myself in a state of tortured confusion where my every past action or experience, my daily movements are measured and appraised by one who does not seem to be myself. An alter ego who stands by with detached and contemptuous mien, sneering at the bumbling efforts of a human in search of a soul, a human burdened and bewildered more every day by the external questions: "Where do I come from? What am I? Where am I going?"
Swept by doubt, desperately seeking just one little sign from Heaven---the sign that those who believe do not demand, I am carried along like duckweed down a Chinese river, feeling yet always denying the existence of a benign Deity, knowing so well in my heart that I have reached the supreme goal of egoistic existence. For what?
Belief. Why does it elude me? Why can't I find peace of mind like those I envy? Those who have listened and heard and felt, and having done so, contritely let fall all other barriers and started to believe wholeheartedly in God?
Why am I even unable to begin by renouncing the material things, the transitory and ephemeral? Why, knowing---and knowing, strangely, with humility---my faults, my myriad imperfections, do I go on with outward complacency, yet with growing inward desolation? Why must my mind remain factual and materialist while within me I stifle my cry for help and will not yield an iota to the stumbling craving in my soul? Will this rebellion against God never end?
Whom the gods want to destroy, they first make mad. Perhaps this is what's happening to me. Or maybe I can seek solace in the thought that I'm only going through a sort of male menopause.
So this life is only a preparation for a hereafter? This is still an illogical premise to explain the period of human history in which I have lived. The graveyards at Anzio and ten million of the world's finest men swallowed up, sacrificed upon the most incomprehensible of all mankind's bizarre altars: humanity's inhumanity to humanity, war.
So belief is a word the meaning of which eludes me. I mean belief in the concept of a benign all-seeing God. God, in the sense of a creator, yes. God in the sense of a Supreme Being I can believe in.
But a God who believes in me, a God who is aware of my soul's existence, who after death will clear up the great mystery of my reason for life in this world, I have no belief in this God, nor can I even begin to seek it with a full heart.
Today I see a strange world, more bewildering and paradoxical than anything I have read in history, even the birth of Christianity. One half of mankind grimly devoted to stamping out the ideas of God and religion, the other half apathetic to both. Supine and hypocritical, the professed believers in a Christian God today give lip-service in the various totem-houses, listening in private to their ministers and priests dencouncing the other Chrsitian sects with hatred and malice. In the light of the Church's sordid history, its stubborn refusal to keep pace with modern thought, perhaps this apathy is understandable.
The world's need for belief is desperate, more desperate than my own, for I am only one lost individual in a tortured universe, a world that is weary, shocked, and shattered. No philosophy or fanatical political dogma can stand against a true belief in God.
Belief. I wish I had it.
Errol Flynn, "Faith?"
Rome (or Naples?) 1952 (1953?)
Friday, December 19, 2008
Few spend any time and energy on analyzing how we know our most basic and valued convictions are true. In fact, we have a natural repugnance to doing so. We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when these assumptions are openly doubted leads us to seek some excuse for continuing to believe them. So most of our so-called reasoning about basic convictions is just finding arguments for continuing what we already believe.
Adapted from James Harvey Robinson, 1912
July 28, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
"Once the Republican ticket was defeated, the time had passed for ad feminam attacks on Palin. Hence my surprise and dismay at Dick Cavett's Nov. 14 blog in the New York Times, "The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla," which made a big splash and topped the paper's most-read list for nearly a week. I have enormous respect for Cavett: His TV interviews with major celebrities, which are now available on DVD, set a high-water mark for sheer intelligence in that medium that will surely never be surpassed.
However, Cavett's piece on Sarah Palin was insufferably supercilious. With dripping disdain, he sniffed at her "frayed syntax, bungled grammar and run-on sentences." He called her "the serial syntax-killer from Wasilla High," "one who seems to have no first language." I will pass over Cavett's sniggering dismissal of "soccer moms" as lightweights who should stay far, far away from government.
I was so outraged when I read Cavett's column that I felt like taking to the air like a Valkyrie and dropping on him at his ocean retreat in Montauk in the chichi Hamptons. How can it be that so many highly educated Americans have so little historical and cultural consciousness that they identify their own native patois as an eternal mark of intelligence, talent and political aptitude?
In sonorous real life, Cavett's slow, measured, self-interrupting and clause-ridden syntax is 50 years out of date. Guess what: There has been a revolution in English -- registered in the 1950s in the street slang, colloquial locutions and assertive rhythms of both Beat poetry and rock 'n' roll and now spread far and wide on the Web in the standard jazziness of blogspeak. Does Cavett really mean to offer himself as a linguistic gatekeeper for political achievers in this country?"
December 10, 2008
December 10, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
But why? Why must smoke be a sign of fire and not evolution? Why should a fossil imprint be a sign of an individual species of fish? Why should a red and white striped pole be a sign of a barber shop rather than a candy shop?
In each situation there must be some underlying connection between a sign and what it stands for.
In whatever way a sign is related to what it is a sign for, there is another relation underlying and justifying the relation in question, the foundation relation. Natural signs are signs that have natural foundation relations.
Why is smoke a sign of fire rather than something else? Because smoke, the sign, is the effect of the fire, the thing represented by the sign, and fire is the cause of smoke. A total or partial cause, may sometimes be a sign of its effect. Carpenters at work (final causes) or stacks of lumber and bricks (material causes) or an architect's blueprints (efficient causes) are causes that may be a sign of the construction of an effect such as a building. The sign is a sign for whatever it represents because the two are by nature causally connected.
A fossil imprint is the sign of a species of fish rather than something else because it's appearance is similar to the extinct fish. In this example, the sign is similar because the extinct fish was the cause of the sign, the fossil. A picture reminds me of a loved one because it is a likeness of the loved one, because they really look alike.
So a foundation relation may also be one of natural similarity, either alone or in combination with a causal foundation relation.
Furthermore, similarity may sometimes be a similarity of relations rather than things or properties, in which case the sign is a metaphor. Light sometimes is a sign for truth, as when I say truth is light or truth is like light. There is no real similarity between truth and light themselves, but the relations each bears to something else are similar.
The relation between truth and the knowing mind is like the relation between light and the object it illuminates. A lion might make me think of a king, since the lion is believed to be, to other animals, much like a king is to their subjects. When I see a sunny sky, I may think of a smile, since the sun illuminates the sky as a smile illuminates the face.
Whenever the foundation relation is natural, real, and not made-up or artificially contrived by a mind, the signs in question are natural signs. Causation is the most common foundation relation for natural signs, but similarity and possibly other relations such as propinquity, spatial contiguity, or temporal contiguity also bring about natural signs.
A sign whose foundation relation is artificial is an artificial sign. A red-and-white striped pole might seem to be more similar to peppermint candy than to barbering. But it's a sign of barbering and not something else because our culture in its customs and habits, conventionally associates the two, even though it may have been motivated by some vague natural resemblance such as blood and face cream in shaving. Three balls are a sign for a pawn shop and the word "rain" is a sign for rain itself for the same reason.
When the foundation relation is not natural but imposed by choice, artifice, convention, custom or habit, either by an individual or group, it's an artificial, arbitrary, or conventional sign. And when these signs are specially contrived, I call them symbols.
So signs are either natural or conventional.
Language tools are similar to logical tools. And words are signs. But are language tools natural signs or conventional signs? Maybe they're both. Certain words are onomatopoetic or ideographic. When spoken, words such as "ring", "honk", and "bowwow" are similar in sound to all or part of what they represent, but they are still conventional and arbitrarily constructed. In the same way, Chinese and Egyptian written languages are almost entirely ideographic, the written characters appearing similar to what they represent, more originally than in their developed forms. The Chinese character for "move from place to place" is a picture of a foot. But no matter how much language may be based on original similarities between words and things, it's always arbitrarily designed to perform a certain function. So any sign is connected with what it represents either naturally as a natural sign, or at least partially arbitrarily, as a conventional sign.
Every sign refers to or stands for whatever it's a sign of. A sign is anything, including a symbol, that represents something other than itself.
When I say "Where there's smoke, there's fire," I mean that smoke is a sign of fire. I say that a red-and-white-striped pole is a sign of a barber shop, or that the word "rain" is a sign or symbol of rain. To recognize a sign for what it is is to be led cognitively by the sign to something different from the sign itself, that which the sign signifies. The physician Becquerel recognized that certain impressions left on a photographic plate signified something other than the plates themselves. The impressions signified the radioactive character of uranium. If I fail to recognize this pointing characteristic of a sign, I may know many of the characteristics of a sign, but I won't know what it represents, or its importance or its meaning.
So every sign represents something other than itself. And even though one may represent oneself in a court of law, that does not make one a sign of oneself. What is represented in a sign is always an existing thing that is distinct from that sign itself.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
The most basic feature of all knowledge and awareness is that it's always about something other than itself. It refers to something other than itself. We have an experience of beauty, a feeling of pain, a concept of a triangle. We make statements about gravitational objects, and arguments that are about the interior angles of a triangle equaling two right angles. All awareness, all consciousness, all knowledge, is about something other than itself. It tends into, or intends, something distinct from itself. Intentionality is one of the most basic traits of knowledge. All knowledge is intentional and every item of knowledge is an intention.
The moment we start to think about it, we can see the same of/about structure contained in instances of knowledge in all acts of will. I intend to study, the purposing of something, and so on. Willing and purposing are intentional because they contain a cognitively intentional element. I can find out the purpose of being courteous only when I have knowledge of what courtesy is.
So knowledge is intentional: it's always of or about something other than itself. It points or refers to something other than itself. This distinguishes instances of knowledge from other things. My concept of a triangle or my statement about its interior angles is of the triangle or about the triangle. But the triangle isn't of or about anything. It's just itself. So intentionality is the unique and most basic general characteristic of all items of consciousness.
That being so, the tools used to get knowledge are also intentional. Knowledge tools, like knowing itself, are necessarily revealing, disclosing, and meaningful. The tools we use to know reality must be signs of reality. So all cognitive tools are signs. An understanding and use of logic requires some knowledge of signs.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
But why are these tools usable in these ways? Why do I use them? What makes them useful to me for knowing and understanding things?
But wait a minute: What am I looking for in "why" questions? What kind of answer do I want?
I'm looking for a reason, an explanation, a cause.
What and why questions implicitly contain a third question: Is there something?
When a child asks "What is that?", implicit in this question is a further question: "Is that something?" "Is there anything there?", and an assumed answer: "Yes, there is something there." When the child asks, "Why do birds fly?", the further question, "Do birds fly?" and its assumed answer, "Yes, birds do fly", are present as silent determinants. This question as to whether something is such and such is usually tacit because the question concerns things which are immediately sensed and whose "whether" is therefore beyond question. Hence "whether" questions usually increase as my mind extends itself beyond immediate sensation, and consequently as I mature.
But even in children the question is often explicit: "Is it raining outside?" "Do dogs go to heaven?" "Is Santa Claus real?"
What kind of answer does a "whether" question require? Answers using the word "is" or something equivalent, as in:
"Yes, it is raining."
"No, Santa Claus is not real."
"I don't know whether dogs do go to heaven or do not."
A "whether" question asks for an answer concerning the existence, reality, or factuality of something.
So there are three knowledge objects: what, whether, and why.
"What?", "Why?", and "Whether?" are natural and inescapable questions for me. They seek three kinds of objects: a characteristic, a reason, or a fact.
The mind intends three aspects of reality: essence, cause, and existence.
And that is what I'm seeking to know.
So the objects of knowledge are phases of the reality around me, and there are three kinds: The "what" of things is their essence or nature, which I seek knowledge about when I ask "What?" type questions.
The "whether" of things is their existence or nonexistence, which I seek knowledge about when I ask "Whether?" type questions.
And the "why" of things is their cause or reason, which I see knowledge about when I ask "Why?" type questions.
These three kinds of knowledge objects are precisely correlated with and determine the nature of the three logical tools. The tool for knowing a what or essence is an idea or term or concept. The tool for knowing a whether or existence is a statement. And the tool for knowing a why or cause is an argument or demonstration.
Furthermore, since language is designed to convey knowledge, there will necessarily be three types of language tools corresponding to the three types of logical tools and the three objects of knowledge. If I'm asked what I'm reading, I might say "a blog". The language tool corresponding to a concept and to a "what" is a word or phrase.
If I'm asked whether or not this is a logic blog, I might answer, "Yes, it is or claims to be a logic blog." The language instrument corresponding to a statement and a "whether" is a statement, although not always a declarative statement.
And if I'm asked why this is a logic blog, I might reply, "Because it's a blog that is explicitly concerned with the universal tools for knowing, and any blog with this explicit concern is a logic blog."
So the language tool corresponding to an argument and to a "why" is an integrated set of statements.
The parallels between knowledge objects, logical knowledge tools, and language knowledge tools can be summarized in this way:
- I conceive an essence or "what", and express it through a word or phrase.
- I state an existence or "whether", and express it through a sentence.
- I reason about a cause or "why", and express it through one or more sentences called arguments or paragraphs.
ATTAINING AND CONVEYING KNOWLEDGE
- Knowledge Object --> Logic Tool --> Language Tool
- Essence/What --> Concept --> Word/Phrase
- Existence/Whether --> Statement --> Sentence
- Cause/Purpose --> Reason/Argument --> Paragraph
- Logic Tools
- Language Tools
- Word or Phrase
- Essence or What
- Existence or Whether
- Cause or Why
Friday, November 28, 2008
Concepts by themselves are not knowledge. Concepts have to be combined in statements. Words and word combinations by themselves just don't make complete sense. Words have to be put into some kind of statement in a structure first, to make a complete thought or become capable of being true or false. In other words, logic is in a sense just the grammar of thought. And logic is the knowledge tool in the same way that language is.
Both language and logic are required to communicate, achieve, obtain, and have knowledge.
I take my use of language for granted, usually not even thinking about it or having any concern with perfecting my use of it. And I treat logic the same way, which is part of why I'm likely to think of mind tools as artificially contrived instruments of scientists instead of basic natural knowledge tools such as concepts, statements, and arguments.
Concepts, statements, and arguments I also take for granted and hardly ever try to understand or master them.
But logic and language are not the same thing. The English word "house" is different from the German "haus", and "haus" is different from the French "maison". Yet all three have the same core meaning, different as words, but all conveying the same basic idea or concept. So there's some difference between linguistic entities called words, and the ideas I intend to convey using those words.
And there's a similar difference between statements and truths:
- He laid the book on the table.
- Er hat das Buch auf dem Tiseh gelegt.
These two statements have different grammatical sructures, but say mostly the same common or basic thing. Both statements are designed to express the same basic truth. Given multiple languages, there are a large number of ways to express this truth using statements with different syntactic structures. But unlike grammar and linguistics, logic is about the inferential structures of intended truth, not directly about statements and their linguistic and grammatical structures.
So there are thought rules and active thinking, logical entities and the language used to communicate thoughts about logical entities.
Whatever the exact definition of ideas may be, I still can't know anything without having some idea of what the thing in question is. Otherwise I could not distinguish the thing in question from nothing at all. Any alternative ends up being a rose of a different name, as well as love's labor lost.
Now while ideas, such as "eternity", "logic", "higher than", "evanescent", "fortitude", or "parallelogram", are knowledge tools I can't do without, they're not the only ones. I could multiply my ideas indefinitely, but they still would not be knowledge in the usual sense of the word, although they do assume knowledge about themselves and general reality.
The Idea of the Statement
Suppose I have the ideas of "dull" and "logic". I still have not arrived at the truth that logic is dull, not until I've combined my ideas in a way that will make them capable of being true or false. The notion of parallelogram in itself is neither true or false. Nor is the notion of "logic", "dull", or "angiosperm". And even in combination, ideas do not necessarily become true or false.
Suppose someone were to ask me, "Blue people whom Caesar trusted---is this true or false?" the question could not be answered. But if someone were to ask me, "Caesar trusted blue people," that would present to me something I could believe to be true or false.
So to find truth or knowledge I must also combine my concepts into statements., because only through statements can ideas be true or false and be enough to call knowledge. Just as I can't know anything about anything unless I formulate a statement about it, saying whether the thing in question is this or that, or what is true about it. The tool I use to come to know whether or not something is this or that is the statement. Truth and knowledge are obtained only by using statements.
Another tool is argument. Suppose I have the ideas of logic and "a waste of time", and suppose I've temporarily formulated the statement "Logic is a waste of time". Do I know this for a fact? Am I certain? After all, a statement is susceptible to either truth or falsity. But which is it? Is it true or is it false that logic is a waste of time? The ideas and the statement aren't enough to answer the question. I have to look for some evidence of the truth or falsity of the statement. And to advance evidence is to construct an argument in support or refutation of it.
So I might say "I talked to my friends and they say logic is a waste of time. Therefore I believe it's true." Or I might say, "Any subject that deals with thoughts and words and not with laboratory-testable facts is a waste of time."
There are many arguments that logic is a waste of time, but they're still arguments.
And as arguments, they assume that logic is crucially important. Argument has to be used in the daily process of trying to know and understand things.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Some may say that this common world of everyday experience has been discredited and displaced as a result of the world view of modern science, particularly physics. And a logic adapted to a knowledge of everyday experience must now give way to a logic adapted to getting to know the esoteric world of modern physical science.
But as long as one remains within the context of the elaborate mathematical constructions and theories of modern physics, a logic adapted to the intentional function of enabling us to come to know things in terms of what they are essentially, through their causes and in their acts of existing, appears to be out of place and irrelevant, since mathematical theories of physics seem unconcerned with things such as causes, essences, substances, acts of existing, and so on.
But that does not imply that our world or our logic for understanding our world is discredited or displaced. Scientists cannot avoid being human, immersed in an everyday world of living and nonliving things, friends and enemies, birth and death, joy and sorrow, change and permenance, intelligibility and mystery. And as an inhabitant of this world of common experience, a scientist cannot avoid thinking and reasoning and trying to understand as a human being. So a scientist will want to know what this is, whether that is, and why something else is, a concern with essences, existences, and causes. But such concerns are served only by a human or humanistic logic.
Concepts, statements, and arguments are necessary instruments that we naturally use in trying to understand the world.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Also, a self-referentially inconsistent statement is its own subject matter. Hence, it refers to itself. But a self-referentially inconsistent statement can't explain or justify itself.
I'm so glad no one can read or communicate a statement in English!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
or have any implications for my life, since that too would fall
under the same category and be jettisoned with the same
eager relish. Any apparent deviation would be purely
arbitrary, so that I would not be accused of capitulating
to some kind of rationalistic objectivism.
So there's no way to tell the difference between "life is
meaningless" and "life is meaningful" since both positions
seem to enjoy all the same supposedly paradoxical
characteristics: self-exemption, self-referential
inconsistency, etc. Surreptious obligation to hold value X
in relation to philosophy Y.
What I would then do is exempt my own views from the premise
of universal absurdity, and then parade them around casually
as if they are necessary imperatives for intellectual salvation. A
"Come to Jesus" all over again, of sorts, but with social
I take my views on the grand tour: through all the motions
of their counterparts: being stated, being held as a
proposition that has some fixed relation to the person who
holds it, declaring it to be somehow appropriate,
acceptable, worth having as a view, asserted, etc., and of
course suspended when I get inconsistency allegations.
Postmodernism has had a really bad time of this, while the
views it has tried to counter have picked up the
methological ball and run with it. Reminds me of the time
I asked a prof at UT what he thought about arbitrary
relativism for the hell of it, using a roulette wheel to
choose which values (or disvalues) to champion. It would
have to be patterned after Wheel of Fortune or else I would
just plain lose interest.
My view would be that values are person-relative, including the
values of meaning, consistency, reason, and
self-referential implications. But to hold this, I would have
to get rid of that nagging backdrop of fixed definitions and
selective preferences, both for my own values and value per se.
Nevertheless, self-exemption and arbitrary deviation are
great fun and should be forced on all at-risk youth.
But the implicit rationalism of all the above still dogs me.
Our knowledge comes from two sources in the mind: receiving representations of objects, and also conceptualizing representations of objects.
So receiving representations provides given objects, while knowing through representations provides thoughts about objects. Therefore, intuition and concepts are required elements of all knowledge, and neither by themselves can yield knowledge.
Both intuition and concepts are either pure or empirical. They are empirical when sensation is contained in an object. They are pure when no sensation is mixed up with the representation. Therefore, pure intuition contains only the form through which we see. Pure conception is the form through which we think. Pure intuition and pure concepts are only possible as prior notions, while empirical intuition and concepts are only possible in the aftermath of an experience of empirical data.
Sensibility is the mind's ability to receive representations whenever affected. But the understanding is the power to produce representations to spontaneously know things. Our intuition always has to be sensuous and must always be the way we are affected by objects, whereas the understanding is what enables us to think about the objects of our sensuous intuition. Neither one of these faculties is preferable to the other. Without sensibility, objects would not be given to us. And without understanding, we could not think about them.
Thoughts without contents are empty.
Intuitions without concepts are blind.
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason
Alan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind
Maybe my true readers are not here yet, and that my writings will produce them.
The independence of this consciousness, which has the strength to be immune to the noise of history and the distractions of our immediate surroundings, is what the life struggle is all about. The soul has to find and hold its ground against hostile forces, sometimes embodied in ideas which frequently deny that soul's very existence, and which indeed often seem to be trying to annul it altogether."
A detective reflects on someone's death because there's a conflict between the fact of the person's death and something already in the mind. Detectives order their experience on the principle that events have causes.
This event challenges inclusion in that system of thought. The detective makes the event fit by learning, observing, and reflecting on the details of the problem. Observation is guided by what experience has already taught such as which details are likely to be relevant.
Consequently, the detective pays more attention to bruises apparently made by some blunt instrument, for example. The details don't come from focusing on one thing, one piece of evidence, or one fact. The basis of a new thought must be broad. If the question was merely who might have used the blunt instrument, their would be an indefinitely large number of answers. The question is who must have done this in view of unemptied pockets, signs of a struggle, the butler's loyalty, and perhaps a hundred other things---all relevant details.
A successful conclusion from a single factor alone would be an accident. The conclusion come from all of the facts and rules of thought taken together. The problem is to fit a detached fact into the entire overall system.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Very few can or do truly think. Many minds wander from the subject in hopeless reverie or they just get bored. They can't think about ideas. They may be tired or distracted or just not interested. Or they may be over-emotional. They might be insane, or just plain wierd. These things we pass by. They distort and disrupt by breaking in from the outside.They have an importance, and some thinking is at the mercy of those factors.
But thinking can can never surrender itself completely to the control of the subject-matter and it can be objectively logical, even though it can be influenced by instincts, desires, and feelings. If that were not the case, one could not know that fact, much less state it. If all thinking is governed by non-logical factors, then that statement itself is also governed by those non-logical factors, and that statement has no more claim on our acceptance than any other non-logical factor. If we can't solve a problem, it's because of a lack of knowledge or lack of creativity or the will to inquire.
Consciously question those assumptions. They are no longer obstacles. The methods you choose will get rid of restrictions without as much pain and effort as might have been thought. You focus on the methods and the steps .
You maintain control when you focus on the positive as well as thinking out alternatives to the negatives. You control your situation because you know your alternatives.
Knowledge works by merely having it.
Becoming free is simple. It doesn't depend on the support of others. I'm not urging you to accept these ideas.
You’re not obligated. You don't have to change society. You don’t have to convince anyone of anything. You don't need my support of the support of the public.
These ideas depend only on you. If you were the only person who knew about them, they would still be useful. Whether they work for anyone else is irrelevant. You decide whether they can work for you.
You have to make the decisions. I can't tell you how to live. I'll point out alternatives and techniques. You’ll decide which ones to use.
Only deciding everything for yourself produces the purpose and conviction necessary to live freely.
You decide what, how, and why. Otherwise, your hopes, plans, and enthusiasm will cave, once there's interference. I'm not telling you how to live. You have to decide how to live. You have to decide what to do with these ideas. I’m not demanding anything from you. You decide everything for yourself.
Assumptions and restrictions accepted without challenge are often empty once examined closely. There are many specific ways to free yourself from complex problems and perpetual burdens. These techniques for changing to a free life are not some ideal image. I'm not trying to make you conform. They work, if freely chosen and tailored to who you are, what you control, and what you want.
You don't have to accept obligations, liabilities, and demands that others may try to hand you. There's a better way. You are about to discover a fascinating world of naturally motivating and sustaining opportunities.
Why am I here? Why do I exist? Atheism has no answer only because the question assumes there must be a reason envisioned by some purposeful God.
It's not a limitation of atheism. The question is similar to "When did you stop beating your spouse?" assuming that the person being addressed has been beating their spouse. If they never beat their spouse, then technically they simply cannot answer the question. (52. Jerome Shaffer, Reality, Knowledge and Values (New York: Random House, 1971), pages 104-105.)
The theist must prove the existence of God. The theist offers an explanation of existence and must give reasons for accepting it. This also applies to the most basic assumptions of atheism, but more about that later.
If the reasoning for belief in God is faulty, then it can't support the claim that God exists. Ignorance of alternative explanations doesn't justify belief in God. Only knowledge justifies beliefs, not ignorance. We cannot cannot merely assume what we're trying to prove. And because we have to start with premises, it is impossible to prove God's existence.
So there is good evidence against the existence of God, generally as a good creator and specifically as in an ultimate personal mind.
Monday, November 17, 2008
"All that is non-viable in nature invariably perishes. We humans have transgressed the law of natural selection in the last decades. Not only have we supported inferior life-forms, we have encouraged their propagation. Their offspring has produced individuals lower than any beast. What we want from people in the future is different from what was wanted in the past. We must create the new human so that we will not succumb to the degeneration so typical of modern times." --from a Nazi propaganda film
"With savages, the weak in body or mind are eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propogate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed." --Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 1871
Thursday, November 13, 2008
"The ultimate standards of logical correctness are merely the everyday uses of ordinary language."
Is THAT statement merely an everyday use of ordinary language? If so, how can it even talk about ultimate objects used as universal criteria of truth? It's just language used a certain way, right?
You can often spot a grandiose self-referencing contradiction in its use of the word "merely".
Why would anyone, whose statements and thoughts are merely a way of using language, want to make statements about ultimate standards or criteria of anything?
The actual logical uses of ordinary speech are most obvious in the fact that ordinary conversation is what produced things like symbolic logic and even logic itself. And there are philosophical reasons for using ordinary speech in these ways.
Some say the way we use language is just accidental and has no philosophical intelligibility. But how then can language be used for such practical and theoretic efficiencies as intended goals and the construction of a system of philosophical concepts and terms?
What is properly or uniquely philosophical in being logical? What value is there in knowing logical techniques and procedures?
This line of questioning can be answered only by knowing something about the philosophical grounds and the importance of logical tools and techniques.
Constructing, analysing, and changing systems of thought is itself pre-theoretic, used much like breathing prior to any philosophical reflection.
Logical forms are about things, pertain to things, predicate something about some object, and that's why they're the natural tools for knowing things.
But how do logical forms intend?
Underlying all artificial languages is the necessary natural intuitive logic or common sense which is designed not just for scientists, scholars, technicians, and other specialists but for anyone who wants to understand reality.
Logic is the universal mind-tool correlated to an actual world. And even if one believes the world to be illusory, that illusion has to be treated as an actual world. And all issues remain.
Monday, November 10, 2008
That's why we have to learn definitions, for example. They're not already there for all we encounter.
What is true about this universe I'm in? What should I do? What do I want? What do I expect? What is my final destiny? Is immortality possible? Would this life affect any possible future one I might have? Why is everything a struggle, including the struggle to think through these questions? What am I, anyway? What does all this mean?
It's easier to come up with superficially plausible answers to these kinds of questions than it is to discover answers based on convincing reasons from organized analysis. But only post-experience reflection uses evidence and possible answers to fill in an already-existing system.
No limited mind has the complete structure. For that reason, my thought is episodic, uneven, and disconnected. So to develop my thought, I must attack it comprehensively so that it will include a more complete integral system of compared possibilities.
I feel like the cow who runs into the field screaming, 'Hey, you know that truck that takes some of our friends away every month? Well, they don't take them to another field like we thought. They shoot them in the head, bleed them dry, cut them up, and put the pieces into packets. Then those humans buy them and eat them!' Imagine what the reaction of the rest of the herd would be: 'You're crazy, man. They'd never do that. Anyway, I've got shares in that trucking company and I get a good return.'"
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Is there anything that really obligates belief in something? Is it merely a prior committment to act according to a set of rules? Do we have a built-in prior commitment or bias to think and act in a certain way while rejecting all other ways, however provisional that bias might be in principle? Belief in obligating factors of mind, for example.
Why is any question an appropriate object of thought? And what are the irreducible statements assumed in order to know what a question is?
Is there a set of statements that rule all thought without exception? How do we live in relation to them? And would that imply anything about their role in how we are defined as an object that questions? What exactly am I, in asking or thinking about a question, other than being merely a question-asking object?
And are all my actions carried out based on an already believed-in hierarchy of universalized values?
Monday, August 04, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I want to know whether or not x is the solution.
If x has been discovered to rectify the past, reverse entropy, and eliminate death, then my knowledge of x and how to act in relation to knowing that x is the solution, may imply that x could extend my existence indefinitely in a universe where only the good would thereafter be renderable in a progressive, even exponential, synthesis of the feeling of well-being.
To claim that there is no solution assumes a single solution---mere denial, because it resolutely pertains to the problem, a substitute solution, however heuristically it functions.
Usually with the insinuation that it should not be discussed any more. But that's another story.
The discussion of this possibility is based on a set of assumptions that are necessary to think thoughts and make statements---even statements about those statements themselves.
To talk about whether universally and exceptionlessly true statements are possible already assumes a set of ultimate thoughts to be universally and exceptionlessly true rules about how we must or ought to think about universals, obligations that the mind 'must' or 'ought' or 'should' refer to and depend on as one shows or even states the denial of universals.
Sorry, no free ride for the casually dismissive. The tell-tale heart arbitrarily balks here, and will not go another logical step beyond this point.
Unfortunately, it has all those mere claims just bandied about as somehow saving one from something. They either stand by themselves in some kind of anti-intellectual posturing, or else retreat into the same kinds of justifications it rejected in all arguments to the contrary.
Now that you're rid of God, welcome to the mind god that just won't go away.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
In perceiving the world, I discovered that I exist. And to discover anything assumes some permanent guiding factors, in the framework of which things can be discovered and have meaning and value.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Based on irrational beliefs and emotional feelings, one can undermine the principles which must be observed to some extent for anyone to be able to be happy.
The spoiled, angry child rebels against the most basic life responsibilities and yet demands that a government meet their needs for life.
Human life requires free choice, voluntary cooperation, adjustment to individual differences in talent, drive, personal appeal, preferences, and work ethic. No one wants the rewards of life to be leveled. No human being wants a life of rules that contradict personal incentive and cause resentment, or reduces one to a dependent of the government or some organization or group.
This kind of view preys on weak individuals who dislike themselves, by:
- creating and reinforcing self-perceptions of victimization;
- satisfying any claim to entitlement, indulgence and compensation;
- encouraging and promoting feelings of envy;
- Getting individuals to subordinating themselves to the will of the government or some organization or group to satisfy those feelings of victimization, entitlement, and envy.
Distorted intellectual development produces irrational beliefs. When you can get someone to whine about victims, rage against perceived villains, and try to run the lives of other people who are already competent to run their own lives, the breakdown is progressing.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Your unique position in the cosmos implies that the meaning of existence is not the inevitable outcome of evolution. Evolution might well cause the last person instead of the superperson. The meaning of your life is in rising above the common mass.
This rising, this going over, requires that you become a creator. A break with previous rules is constructive only when you've disciplined yourself in all areas of knowledge. The last thing you want is to be easy on yourself. First comes the beast of burden, then the defiant lion, then the creator.
Adapted from Nietzsche