Showing posts from July, 2012

Quantum Physics, Materialism and Minds

Stephen M. Barr beautifully explains how Quantum Mechanics poses a threat to Materialism. Do read the whole post, I am just posting his conclusion.
"The upshot is this: If the mathematics of quantum mechanics is right (as most fundamental physicists believe), and if materialism is right, one is forced to accept the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics. And that is awfully heavy baggage for materialism to carry.
If, on the other hand, we accept the more traditional understanding of quantum mechanics that goes back to von Neumann, one is led by its logic (as Wigner and Peierls were) to the conclusion that not everything is just matter in motion, and that in particular there is something about the human mind that transcends matter and its laws.  It then becomes possible to take seriously certain questions that materialism had ruled out of court: If the human mind transcends matter to some extent, could there not exist minds that transcend the physical universe altogether?…

Existence Thick and Thin

Excellent post by Maverick Philosopher on the continental and analytic approaches to the philosophical notion of 'existence': Nausea at Existence: A Continental Thick Theory

Disgust and Morality

"[T]he idea that disgust plays a deeper role in people's everyday behaviour emerged only recently. It began when researchers decided to investigate the interplay between disgust and morality. One of the first was psychologist Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who in 2001 published a landmark paper proposing that instinctive gut feelings, rather than logical reasoning, govern our judgements of right and wrong.
Haidt and colleagues went on to demonstrate that a subliminal sense of disgust - induced by hypnosis - increased the severity of people's moral judgements about shoplifting or political bribery, for example. Since then, a number of studies have illustrated the unexpected ways in which disgust can influence our notions of right and wrong."
Read more here: The yuck factor: The surprising power of disgust

Nothing is ever lost

'One of Robert Bellah's central ideas is that "nothing is ever lost". We are built like the cities of Troy on our previous selves. Every night we sleep uneasily on their rubble.'
Andrew Brown, Religion in Human Evolution, part 2: faith, language, music and play

The Riddle of Power and Religious Reform

There is a famous riddle about the dynamics of power in George R. R. Martin's novel A Clash of Kings. Let me post it for the benefit of those who are unaware of it:
“May I leave you with a bit of a riddle, Lord Tyrion?” He did not wait for an answer. “In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. ‘Do it’ says the king, ‘for I am your lawful ruler.’ ‘Do it’ says the priest, ‘for I command you in the names of the gods.’ ‘Do it’ says the rich man, ‘and all this gold shall be yours.’ So tell me—who lives and who dies?” Bowing deeply, the eunuch hurried from the common room on soft slippered feet.
"Power is a curious thing, my lord. Perchance you have considered the riddle I posed you that day in the inn?"

"It has crossed my mind a time or two," Tyrion admitted. "The king, the priest, the ric…


You must always seek to be free of bias, but never delude yourself that you are free of it.

Precursors of Morality

Z: Some very interesting (and amusing) experiments although you can't convince me that they constitute "morality".

Frans de Waal: Moral behavior in animals

Me: ‎"Morality" comes with abstract thought, which obviously these animals have in a limited capacity. But moral behavior exists in these animals, indicating that moral instincts precede the development of abstract moral thought, and that certainly "morality" didn't emerge in humans out of nowhere; it appeared amidst a rich biological background of moral behavior and moral instincts which constitute the precursors of morality.

The Uncertainty of the Poet

Giorgio de Chirico, The Uncertainty of the Poet
Image taken from Tate©
Michael Glover: "The fact that the classical statue – a note tells us that it is Aphrodite, she who once emerged from the froth of the ocean – is set in conjunction with a bunch of bananas transforms this section of the painting into a kind of still life. (Yes, we have often seen, and especially in the Renaissance, paintings of brimming bowls of fruit and flowers beside statues of the pagan gods.) And yet the whole point of a still life, surely, is that the elements are perfectly still, whereas we are not entirely sure that this particular statue is quite still enough. In spite of the fact that it has lost its head, it looks altogether too fleshy, and too much in twisty motion, for us to be entirely convinced that it is made of stone. If we pricked that buttock, would it bleed?"

Love's Ontological Aspiration

'According to Sartre, the lover wants his or her facticity to be necessary not contingent: we are thrown into a meaningless existence by chance and there is much about us that we did not choose, yet there is a widespread desire to be more than an absurd empty consciousness that we fill through our commitments. For Sartre the lover wants to take on the role of God according to the Ontological Argument (the argument for the existence of God that makes God's existence necessary - by definition): for the one who loves us, each of us wants the contingent aspects of what we are to seem as if they had to be so - no other individual could take our place. Described in this way, this is a hopeless wish - given that, at least according to Sartre, our existence is in no way necessary.'
Nigel Warburton, Tate Modern Course: Anguish, Absurdity Death - Notes from Session 4


Hamartia The character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall.
See more of these beautiful Unusual Words Rendered in Bold Graphics at Brain Pickings.


'Ordinary people, only through lack of experience in reflection, are without the means to judge such situations as these [the death of the teacher]. They therefore tend to accept mere imitators who step into the shoes of a teacher and reject those who are indeed carrying on his work.
When a teacher leaves a community, by dying or otherwise, it may be intended for his activity to be continued -- or it may not. Such is the greed of ordinary people that they always assume that this continuity is desirable. Such is their relative stupidity that they cannot see the continuity if it takes a form other than the crudest possible one.'
Idries Shah, The Way of the Sufi

Rumi on Poetry

'I am giving people what they want. I am reciting poetry because people desire it as an entertainment. 
In my own country, people do not like poetry. I have long searched for people who want action, but all they want is words. I am ready to show you action; but none will patronize this action. So I present you with - words.'
Jalaludin Rumi (quoted in The Way of the Sufi by Idries Shah)

Doctors' Strike and Moral Justification

During the strike of doctors last year in Pakistan, I wrote a post as an effort to make sense of the issue of whether a strike by doctors can ever be morally justified. I am reposting it with relevant changes and refinements given that the current circumstances have made it all the more pertinent again.
In the wake of the on-going strike by doctors in Pakistan, the morality of the issue has been raised and questioned. There are mixed reactions from the public, and both Doctors and Government are being held as responsible for the harm to the public. This post intends to explore the circumstances in which a strike by doctors can be justified and in what way it ought to be carried out.
The Responsibility of Public Health Care
Whose responsibility is it to provide health-care to the people? The traditional and usual answer to this is that it is the responsibility of the doctors, that doctors are responsible for treating those who are in need of treatment. However, this answer is utterly si…