Saturday 28 January 2012
A young monk, with little exposure to the company of women, finds himself aroused and seduced by a peasant girl:
"What did I feel? What did I see? I remember only that the emotions of the first moment were bereft of any expression, because my tongue and my mind had not been instructed in how to name sensations of that sort. Until I recalled other inner words, heard in another time and in other places, spoken certainly for other ends, but which seemed wondrously in keeping with my joy in that moment, as if they had been born consubstantially to express it. Words pressed into the caverns of my memory rose to the (dumb) surface of my lips, and I forget that they had served in Scripture or in the pages of the saints to express quite different, more radiant realities. But was there truly a difference between the delights of which the saints had spoken and those that my agitated spirit was feeling at that moment?" [Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose]
Unacquainted with the vocabulary of love, this young man caught in the moment of passion finds himself helplessly uttering words from the scripture.
We may also imagine its converse, a more familiar example: devoid of a proper vocabulary, a mystic caught in divine ecstasy finds himself helplessly uttering words of passion, love and desire.
Wednesday 25 January 2012
Monday 23 January 2012
"And when the grace and protection of the Divine Mother are with you, what is there that can touch you or whom need you fear? A little of it even will carry you through all difficulties, obstacles, dangers..."
Saturday 21 January 2012
What Happened Before the Big Bang? The New Philosophy of Cosmology
What existed before the big bang? What is the nature of time? Is our universe one of many? On the big questions science cannot (yet?) answer, a new crop of philosophers are trying to provide answers.
Read this brilliant interview of Tim Maudlin. He approaches the interaction of philosophy and physics with a lot more rigour and understanding than what we find in Hawking and Krauss.
"There's an idea that suggests all the universe's electrons are actually one particle forever traveling backwards and forwards in time. It's a simple, elegant idea that solves some of physics's biggest mysteries. There's only one tiny problem....
This is the story of that bizarre thought experiment and John Archibald Wheeler, the brilliant, largely unsung physicist who came up with it."
Read more at io9: What if every electron in the universe was all the same exact particle?
Thursday 19 January 2012
bodies and souls
look at me
at this instance, naked, free of the body and spirit
in understanding all the (extraneous) stimuli, I submit only to my impressions
(because) I am truly free of body and soul
(being naked and not covered)
again a virgin
I return to the disorder
and the last wing falls (or the last paper will tell) that I will return to this dance
and I will help me by myself
I will dream rich dreams
I will free my emotions
I will no longer live in subtitles of others
but only with the fruits of my tongue
I will be complete
I will comprehend your suffering
I will also laugh and we'll see the light
I will embrace your craziness
your inevitabilities, your inviolabilities.
there are so many uncertain roads, I may rest cold., abandoned
I believe I plunge
at this moment so free
of body and spirit
beautifully translated into English for this blog by Sharmeen A. Khan ©
(follow her on twitter at @sharmeenalikhan )
note: translation is more impression than verbatim. brackets are translator's additions.
Monday 16 January 2012
"There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you -- of kindness and consideration and respect -- not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn't know you had."
[hat-tip: 3 Quarks Daily]
Friday 13 January 2012
Here are 6 brilliant short videos (combined in a single one) by the Open University explaining 6 famous thoughts experiments in a fun and easy to understand manner, and that too in mere 60 seconds. Enjoy!
1. Zeno's The Paradox of the Tortoise and Achilles
2. The Grandfather Paradox
3. Searle's Chinese Room
4. Hilbert’s paradox of the Grand Hotel
5. The Twin Paradox
6. Schrödinger’s Cat
Wednesday 11 January 2012
Sunday 8 January 2012
@AfiaAslam raised a question on twitter whether it is ethical to preserve diaries after the death of their writers. Here are my thoughts on the matter:
While some may say that a diary is, by default, meant to be for author's eyes only, the situation is not entirely so clear in real life, where people attach different degrees of privacy to their diaries. Some may wish to guard them obsessively, others may not be so averse to their being read, especially after they are dead. In situations where the wishes of the author are not known, and in the absence of any clues that may indicate what the author would have preferred, or if such a desire is not evident through the contents of the diary, and the material in the diary is not of a personal and sensitive nature, then I do not see any reason why it should constitute a moral violation.
If the writer had expressed a desire that the contents of the diary be kept private and/or the material in the diary is of a personal and sensitive nature, then the ethical thing would be to honor that wish.
However, if the contents of the diary are of potentially great literary worth (such as Kafka's or Plath's) then it would put the custodian in a utilitarian dilemma, where he would have to weigh respecting the wishes of the deceased against benefitting humanity with the work of a literary genius. If the work is sufficiently valuable, one may treat the wishes of the author as we treat their self-destructive tendencies while they are alive — that is, just as we think it morally justified to attempt to save a man from killing himself, we may consider it morally justified to save a literary masterpiece from destruction.
Friday 6 January 2012
“Patriarchy does not just influence people through socialization, but also through our collective subconscient heritage, which is a kind of cultural infrastructure into which we are born.”
Emanuel Derman in his post 'To me you’re a wave, but to myself I’m sometimes a particle' compares moral behavior with the wave/particle duality in Quantum Mechanics. Just as behavior of matter can simultaneously be viewed as being a wave or a particle, he says that behavior of humans can simultaneously be viewed as having responsibility for their actions and as not having free will.
When I do something GOOD, I like to say I acted freely, and I experience it that way.
When I do something hurtful or BAD, I sometimes excuse myself by saying I couldn’t help it (meaning I experience the cause as compulsion, provocation, reaction, environment, upbringing, parents, circumstances …)
But, when you do something GOOD OR BAD, I tend to praise OR respectively blame you as though you acted freely, in either case.
People can be simultaneously responsible for their actions, and yet not exercising free will. Or vice versa.
As far as descriptive ethics goes, I think it is pretty accurate, and I'd say that the switch between holding a person responsible and viewing them as devoid of free will is governed by Strawson's Reactive Attitudes.