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Showing posts from January, 2011

Elopement

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The Aati-Awais Flow Chart (Click to enlarge)
Me: There is a very common theme on TV these days. Girl runs away with someone from home. Parents give 'baddua' (curse). Girl's marriage fails. Girl realizes Allah mian punishing her. Returns home and begs forgiveness. Saw in some dramas. Even a caller told this story on Amir Liaqat show. What do you make of it?
Aati: I think it's rubbish. I also think it's very likely to happen -- a girl making her own decisions in this society faces enough problems. Add to that a drastic choice and it sets the marriage off to a bad start. The guilt will increase and the husband would likely eventually start seeing her through the same lens as the rest of the society. (He is part of the problem because his cultural upbringing puts him in a mindframe where he feels justified in judging women as moral/immoral even when their actions were for his sake because as a man 'he owes nothing'.) So you have a girl without the external support…

Reasons

X: Men here marry for the wrong reasons: sex and children. Women also marry for the wrong reasons: they are dependent on others and have no choice.

Interview with Us Magazine

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(Click to enlarge) Issue: 28 Jan, 2011

Vocabulary

'Love uses the vocabulary of sex to write a text unintelligible to sex alone.'

Don Colacho, Aphorism #2,686

Pak Anthem Remix

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An interesting rendition of Pakistan's national anthem.



Edit: I was mistaken earlier about the artist as being DJ Tiesto. It turns out it is a false attribution. It is also falsely attributed to Paul Van Dyk. Most likely, this is an edited version of a remix that originally belongs to Salman Ahmed of Junoon.
[Hat-tip: Nouman.]

The Price

Taken from an email conversation.
Me: The issue [can moral acts be selfish, with the agreement being on yes] becomes a problem for me in practice because the freedoms that I recognize to be my moral rights are not recognized so by the people around me. To take one example, for my parents, 'obedience to parents' is still a virtue, and they see my attempts to get out of their influence as a disregard of that virtue. While I am perfect aware that it is my moral right to live my life as I see fit, I am also perfectly aware that my parents (and other people, like my girlfriend) are getting hurt in the process and would get hurt even more in future. As a somewhat empathetic being, I am affected by their pain, and if I am to live my life inspite of that, it requires a certain "hardening" of character, a certain blunting of empathy. It no longer remains a simple question of whether this or that is a moral act, but becomes associated with the question of what sort of a person …

Silent Credence

Awais Aftab
Amid the ruins of deconstruction Sophia advises the smile of silent credence: To believe in love, but not call it Love To believe in god, but not call it God. The purity lost in names Salvaged by a graceful reserve

Syapa

Aati: The more time passes, the more I realize I am not a commitment person. When people mention me and O as one, with the responsibility of his actions somehow automatically my burden to carry and the consequences mine to bear, I get irritated and I do wish or imagine he's left me and married someone else already. End of syapa. I love intimacy. I crave intimacy. But not at the cost of losing my own self, my individuality; you can't spell intimacy without two I's.

Veteran's Confession

You can't beat the system at its own game.You can't live within this society, live your own life, and yet do things the socially-acceptable way. The only way, perhaps, is to refuse to play this game at all. I give up.

Reichian Orgasm

Random interesting digged up finding of today:
Wilhelm Reich, a psychologist of Freudian tradition, believed that emotional health depends on the free flow of universal orgone energy (universal life force) through the body, and this flow finds its full expression in the Reichian Orgasm, a quasi-religious experience of cosmic orgasm, obtainable after a particular massage therapy. Apart from the Reichian Orgasm, ordinary orgasm also channels the orgone energy, but to a lesser extent. The ability to release energy during orgasm is called 'orgastic potency', and society's sexual oppression decreases orgastic potency, leading to various sorts of neuroses.
For further reading.

The Kind

X: What kind of a theist are you? *baffled*Y: The kind of theist who delights in quoting Nietzsche!

Beyond Good and Evil

"One is most dishonest towards one's God: he is not permitted to sin!"

Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
Meera Singh: In our own half-blind process of sifting good from bad, the moral from the immoral, we have cleverly managed to keep a tight mental leash on God and His activities lest He confound and upset us with His playfulness and freedom and good cheer He shows in this evolutionary playground. For a theist, this leash is religion . For an atheist, atheism. The duality of good and bad was necessary to organize well our reality in an evolutionary world but linking it to God who is pure Oneness is to see our own muddy reflection in Him. The most difficult endeavor for a man is to see His face as is.

Hell

"Excommunications and hells are the infantile products of Ignorance, our brainchildren on the earth or above; there can be no paradise so long as a single man is in hell!"
Satprem, Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness

The Philosophical Life

Sarah Bakewell writes in her review of James Miller's book Examined Lives:
"Apropos of Descartes, Husserl wrote, “Anyone who seriously intends to become a philosopher must ‘once in his life’ withdraw into himself and attempt, within himself, to overthrow and build anew all the sciences that, up to then, he has been accepting.”
It is an extraordinary thing to do: a project that remains “quite personal,” as Husserl admitted, yet that reaches in to seize the whole world and redesign it from the very foundation. Perhaps this is what still distinguishes the philosophical life: that “once in a lifetime” convulsion, in which one reinvents reality around oneself. It is a project doomed to fail, and compromises will always be made. But what, in life, could be more interesting?"

Will You?

The response of Richard Dawkins to Lady Warsi.
'Dear Lady Warsi
Is it true that the Islamic penalty for apostasy is death? Please answer the question, yes or no. I have asked many leading Muslims, often in public, and have yet to receive a straight answer. The best answer I heard was from "Sir" Iqbal Sacranie, who said "Oh well, it is seldom enforced."
Will you please stand up in the House of Lords and publicly denounce the very idea that, however seldom enforced, a religion has the right to kill those who leave it? And will you stand up and agree that, since a phobia is an irrational fear, "Islamophobic" is not an appropriate description of anybody who objects to it. And will you stand up and issue a public apology, on behalf of your gentle, peaceful religion, to Salman Rushdie? And to Theo van Gogh? And to all the women and girls who have been genitally mutilated? And to . . . I'm sure you know the list better than I do.'

The Sacrifice

Awais Aftab
He was a free soul Forever transforming Discarding old clothes I was the imprisoned one Blind to my bars Until I tried to reach out He could see no love without freedom I could see no freedom without love I wanted him to want me Enough To want my cage To desire captivity Enough For us to be together Till I became those very metal walls: The finitude of his existence The sacrifice demanded of him by the Infinite

Aristotle and Justice

What Aristotle contributes to modern political debates on Justice:
Michael Sandel: I would put it this way: the third approach, this Aristotelian idea, is indispensable. We can’t make sense of our debates about justice without drawing, to some degree, on this third, Aristotelian tradition. And the reason I think this is important and worth emphasising is that most of our debates today involve contests between the first two approaches: the utilitarian idea and the rights idea. For example, debates about torture.
There are those who say yes you should torture a terror suspect to find the ticking bomb. That’s a utilitarian idea—numbers count, consequences count. As against Kantians who would say ‘No there are certain universal human rights and certain things are just wrong—torture is one of them, regardless of the consequences.’ So we’re very familiar with the debate between utilitarian and rights-oriented views. I think what we neglect often is the Aristotelian strand.
Take the torture deb…

Lesley Hazleton: On reading the Koran

'Lesley Hazleton sat down one day to read the Koran. And what she found -- as a non-Muslim, a self-identified "tourist" in the Islamic holy book -- wasn't what she expected. With serious scholarship and warm humor, Hazleton shares the grace, flexibility and mystery she found...' [source]


I would have given this lady an enthusiastic clapping myself.
[Hat-tip: Bilal Munir]

The Bed of Procrustes

I have always been a fan of aphorisms, and I got to know today about a recent book "The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I haven't read it but I got a good taste of it by looking inside it on Amazon. The central idea of the book is luring:
"The Bed of Procrustes takes its title from Greek mythology: the story of a man who made his visitors fit his bed to perfection by either stretching them or cutting their limbs. It represents Taleb’s view of modern civilization’s hubristic side effects—modifying humans to satisfy technology, blaming reality for not fitting economic models, inventing diseases to sell drugs, defining intelligence as what can be tested in a classroom, and convincing people that employment is not slavery.
Playful and irreverent, these aphorisms will surprise you by exposing self-delusions you have been living with but never recognized."
And a sample of aphorisms that caught my eye:
* An idea starts …

Synesthetic Madness

In the synesthetic madness of LSD emotions, Blind parrots fly off to green fields, where Yellow murders are being committed by gun-smoke, and Blue lips blow in air unreceived kisses, so that Heart bleeds out red words of unwisdom, in colorless Poems that none would have.

In My Head

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In mY hEad by =Ziennaat at deviantART

Human Free Will

Komal: If there is no soul, then there cannot be free will. I disagree with the compatibilists on this point. [...] Yes, there are many external influences, but there is still a free will, even given those influences, provided there is a free choice-making entity, whose choices are themselves undetermined; undetermined in any causal sense.
Me: What I feel about the human free will issue is that there is definitely a free will, but there are also strong deterministic influences. It is possible for the deterministic influences to direct what action is eventually taken. This is what i have always felt, and when I read Satprem*, I felt he was talking something similar. He speaks of a "frontal man", and the free psychic being (soul). The frontal man is essentially the psychologically deterministic being, while psychic being is free, and the over-all result of human behavior that we see is the combination of the two.
Komal: Yes. The more a person is attuned to their psychic being, t…

Common Sense

"Common sense is the paternal house to which philosophy returns, in cycles, feeble and emaciated."

Don Colacho, Aphorism #2,628

Better

Foreman: You can't blame yourself for her death. This wasn't your fault! House:That's the point! I did everything right, she died anyway! Why the hell do you think that would make me feel any better?!
House MD, Episode 6.22

The Lynx Effect

The Story of Evolution, Reason and Morality

Evolution and Empirical Reasoning
Reason developed as a part of evolution to make sense of the sensory data from our environment. A dog is also getting sensory information about the world, and it can see, hear and smell danger approaching, and behave accordingly. But its ability to make sense of its environment is not as good as that of humans, who have evolved more in this ability. This sort of ability to reason, to makes sense of the physical world, definitely has a huge survival advantage. Making sense of the sensory data such that it corresponds with the environment as it actually is, appears to be the defining requirement of this survival advantage. And even though an absolute correspondence cannot be established, but one can say that to a particular degree and extent, our empirical reasoning does correspond with the way things are. And as far as this empirical reasoning goes, science has become the epitome of such a way of reasoning.
This making-sense-of-the-world happens at two l…

Critique of The Moral Landscape

Sometime back I had showcased the ideas of Sam Harris regarding creating a secular moral realism on a scientific basis. This here is a very good philosophical critique of that.

Naturalism

"But how do you know that naturalism is true? That you believe it with great conviction cuts no ice. As Nietzsche says, in his typically exaggerated and febrile way, "Convictions are the greatest enemies of truth." Can you prove naturalism? If you try, you will soon entangle yourself in a thicket of thorny metaphysical questions from which you will not escape unbloodied. You cannot prove it. I guarantee it."
Maverick Philosopher

Works

X: There is a reason why people have make-up sex; it's because it works!

Paul

Islam had no Jesus; it only had a Paul.

Saying what needs to be said

Aati: Saying what needs to be said, even if nobody's willing to hear it. :)
It was said in response when I told her that I would like to write a particular book even if nobody was going to publish it. I think it also beautifully captures the spirit with which I blog.

Too Much of a Philosopher

For a short period in his life, Bertrand Russell believed that the Ontological Argument was a valid argument. Regarding this, Dawkins writes in The God Delusion, "I suspect that he was an exaggeratedly fair-minded atheist, over-eager to be disillusioned if logic seemed to require it."
What? Huh? So apparently Russell is too much of a philosopher for Dawkins's scientific taste. And why not? Indeed, how can one be an honest intellectual if one does not take arguments seriously? I am (I hope) too much of a philosopher, and I am not ashamed of it, even if it is to the distaste of the New Atheists.
*I don't think the Ontological Argument is sound, btw.

Caution

Readers might notice some changes in the old blog posts. I regret the modifications but madness is engulfing the country and caution is warranted.

The Euthyphro Dilemma

The Euthyphro dilemma is the apparent impossibility of attempting to invoke God as the source of morality. In simple words the problem can be put as: Why did God choose the moral rules he did? For example, why did God make charity good and rape wrong? Were there any reasons for that (Lets say because they increase human well-being)? If there were any reasons, then those reasons provide the basis of morality and not God. And if God had no reasons and he decided arbitrarily, then he could just as easily have made rape good and charity wrong. The problems exists because we all feel that there is something intrinsically moral about certain actions, which exists independent of anyone commanding us to do that action. This dilemma is clearly a fatal blow to any conception of God that relies on a revealed scripture for providing a moral code for humans. However, this dilemma can be by-passed by considering certain conceptions of God.
Komal explains the problem and then offers its possible sol…

Re-assessing the moral realism debate

What have I actually proved by my argument in favor of moral realism?
It seems to me now that what I have actually proved is neither the direct truth of realism nor the direct refutation of relativism. I have in fact shown naturalism to be self-contradictory, and it is this refutation of naturalism that has significant things to say about the realism/relativism debate, and the debate is not as quite settled as I had initially believed. (I take naturalism is the belief that the only facts we should accept are the ones that are endorsed by and/or compatible with science.)
I have also shown that for knowledge to be possible, intuitions have to be valid (Butters pointed that out in the comments, actually). However, for rational knowledge to be possible, only rational intuitions have to be considered as having an objective validity. It appears that it is possible to maintain that only rational intuitions have objective validity while moral intuitions do not. i.e. the falsity of naturalism an…

PhilPapers Survey: Ethics

The PhilPapers Survey was a survey of professional philosophers and others on their philosophical views, carried out in November 2009. The Survey was taken by 3226 respondents, including 1803 philosophy faculty members and/or PhDs and 829 philosophy graduate students.
The whole survey is pretty interesting. I had read it sometime early last year, and today I digged it up again to see what the survey revealed about the questions of moral philosophy. I am pasting the results related to ethics below, with brief definitions of respective issues for the benefit of those unacquainted.
Meta-ethics: moral realism or moral anti-realism?(Moral realism is the view that moral facts exist independent of subjective opinion. Anti-realism is its opposite.)
Accept or lean toward: moral realism525 / 931 (56.3%)Accept or lean toward: moral anti-realism258 / 931 (27.7%)Other148 / 931 (15.8%)


Moral judgment: cognitivism or non-cognitivism?(Cognitivism is the view that moral sentences express meaningful propos…

The Questions of Plain Persons

* [In his recent book] Alasdair MacIntyre argues that "neither the university nor philosophy is any longer seen as engaging the questions" of "plain persons." These questions include: "What is our place in the order of things? Of what powers in the natural and social world do we need to take account? How should we respond to the facts of suffering and death? What is our relationship to the dead? What is it to live a human life well? What is it to live it badly?"
* ... in his first exposure to analytic philosophy, Cavell found the study of symbolic logic "exhilarating." His subsequent realization that the reduction of philosophical problems to symbolic logic would require him "to leave" not just "natural language quite behind," but also the questions he found most pressing, forced him to face a "permanent choice, in blind ignorance, between what I wanted to understand and what was truly understandable."
Source: Stanley…

Defending Moral Realism

This is a continuation of the previous post, and must be read in succession to that.
If we wish to be consistent, there are only two positions to take.
EITHER: You believe that your intuitions, both moral and rational, have no objective validity, and that you are trapped in an inescapable black hole of moral and rational uncertainty.
OR: You believe that your intuitions (and intuition is not the same as faith, nor does it imply that all people are at an equal capacity for intuition) have an objective validity (to whatever degree). As to the nature of this objectivity, there are two options. You can either believe that this objectivity exists as a sort of Platonic Ideal, or you can resort to a philosophical conception of God that by-passes the Euthyphro argument (I won't go into the detail of that at the moment). Both options are philosophically adequate in my view.
Relativism dies its own death because if you cannot trust your rational intuitions, you can't even presume the truth …

Human, All Too Human

This is something Meera Singh wrote to me during our conversations on morality. I must emphasize to the reader that this is not meant to be a proof of anything. I am posting it because I find it a beautiful and eloquent articulation, and it deserves to be shared.
"The origin of conscience or morality as either metaphysical or biological cannot be solved by debate. Never. It's like the consciousness problem itself. In a way, the naturalist is half-right in asserting that conscience is a product of biological evolution and hence must be talked of in relative terms. Because conscience is found only in humans. And yet again, it does not stop you and I from speculating that conscience may have deeper roots in the Absolute and hence must be talked of in absolute terms. But I wish to say that relativism or absolutism, morality is a human concept and only about humans. Even if we suppose it comes from God, by the time it threads its way to earth and comes here, its pristine robes are …

The Inadequacy of Relativism

Moral relativists claim that our moral intuitions are a product of our biological evolution, and hence they possess no metaphysical objectivity. All morality is therefore merely a human construct and nothing more.
However, by the same naturalist account of the world, rationality is also a product of our biological evolution. If we have no reason to ascribe any objectivity to our moral intuitions, we have no reason to ascribe any objectivity to our rational intuitions either. If we have no reason to believe that the intuition "one should not inflict cruelty" has any objective value, we also have no reason to believe that our rational intuition of a deductive inference being correct or a logical axiom being self-evident has any objective value.
A stubborn naturalist can even concede to this, I believe. But then he would try to squeeze his way out by suggesting a pragmatic account of rationality. He might say: okay, I accept that there is no reason to suppose rational intuitions …

Parental Disappointment

"Saray chotay hotay kehtay thay kay iss kay khayalat baray oonchay hayn, bara aadmi banay ga. Kisi ko kia pata tha kay iss ki soch itni ghalat aur ghattya niklay gee." (When he was a kid, everyone said he has lofty ideals and would be a great man. Who knew he would turn out to have such false and base thoughts.)
My mother, on my refusal to condone religion-sponsored murder.
Yes, indeed, the apple has fallen far from the tree.

The Islamist Consensus

“My people will never agree upon an error.” (Hadith; Abu Daud, Al-Tirmidhi)
How do you determine what a religion actually is? For instance, what is ‘true Islam’ and how do you determine that? “From the scriptures, of course” is not an adequate answer, because the scriptures don’t mean anything per se. They are always in need of interpretation, and they only mean something in the background of a theology. It is only a theology that links various portions of scripture in a coherent manner, resolves apparent contradictions, and provides a legal and moral framework for that religion. Interpretations vary, and so do theologies, and furthermore, these evolve with time. So, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a ‘true religion’ or ‘actual religion’; there are only different theologies, all based on the same scripture, interpreting it and relating to it in different ways, none of which is “true” or “false” in any objective sense.
This does put us in a practical dilemma: how can we spe…

Why Be Moral?

I have always felt there was something wrong about the question "Why should we be moral?" or "Why should we care about others?" and I realized today what that is. The question assumes that any valid answer would have to phrase morality in terms of individual self-interest or otherwise the question would remain unanswered. And that is precisely where the flaw is: morality cannot be reduced to self-interest, and the moment it is phrased in terms of self-interest, it ceases to be morality and disintegrates into something low and base. The more we engage in the question, the more we validate the underlying assumption. I believe there is no answer to this question, or if an answer exists, it is of this sort: we ought to be moral because morality is a compelling reason itself for moral beings.
Now, it is true that morality does have certain advantages for an individual. For example, a moral life leads to psychological and spiritual well-being (as claimed by virtue ethic…

Rethinking Morality

Below is an excerpt from Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A work of fiction. It is an excellent intellectually-satisfying philosophical novel that I would recommended for all thinking readers:
"My last question to you, Professor Seltzer, is, what motivation for adopting the moral point of view can you possibly offer without a belief in God and immortality?"...
"Professor Fidley worries that, without a belief in God, people will act only for reasons of self-interest instead of behaving morally. But then what does he offer as the only persuasion to adopt the moral point of view? Concern for one's self, in this life and the next. Without this, he says, there's no reason to act morally. In the end, it's Professor Fidley who reduces morality to self-interest.
"And it's no wonder that in the end he has to fall back on self-interest as the ultimate motivation for morality. He can't see what can be morally compelling…