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Showing posts from September, 2012

Revolutions

Revolutions are doomed to fail: they can radically transform the political structure, but they can't radically transform human nature.

Heidegger for Bros

"The Bro finds himself at the Party, thrown into it - no one asked him if he wanted to rage..."

An entertainingly brilliant summary of Heidegger's Being and Time in hip-hop style by Philosophy Bro.

Promise

You ask me to promise you something that is not in my nature to do, and you know it too.  Shall I assume then that what you really want is for me to lie?

Our Collective Psychopathology

My op-ed in today's The News:

Our Collective Psychopathology 

Sigmund Freud contemplated a question of which I am reminded, as in the aftermath of the violent protests we witnessed last Friday. Freud wrote in Civilisation and its Discontents: “But there is a question which I can hardly evade. If the development of civilisation has such far-reaching similarity to the development of the individual and if it employs the same methods, may we not be justified in reaching the diagnosis that, under the influence of cultural urges, some civilisations, or some epochs of civilisation-possibly the whole of mankind-have become ‘neurotic’?”
Freud restricts himself to the case of neurosis, an abandoned psychiatric term referring to emotional and psychological distress without a loss of contact with reality (in contrast to psychosis, which does involve such a loss of contact). However, let us not limit ourselves to a particular category of disorders and ask the question: Can a society collective…

TS287-293

#TS287 prompts: Eye, Love, Ewe.
He made sheep's eyes at her throughout the party, only to be pepper-sprayed when he asked her out. 'Psychopath,' she declared. #TS287
#TS288 Prompts: Dear, Deer, Derrière.
"Ahū chashm" He eulogized. She giggled. "Say something nice in Urdu abt my ass now." He wondered if the seduction may yet be salvaged #TS288
#TS289 Prompts: Text, Spies, Homicide.
Queen's spies intercepted the letter from the King's mistress; she perfumed it with poison and sealed it with a kiss. #TS289
#TS290 Prompts: Schadenfreude, airplanes, Paris Hilton.
'Boobs can only take you that far.' She gloated as the bimbo made a spectacular fool of herself. 'Crash & burn, baby, crash & burn.' #TS290
#TS291 Prompts: Pursuit, Conquest, Tiny purple fishes. 
'I will sift the seven seas to win your heart.' 'And I will run laughing through your fingers, like Clapton's tiny purple fishes.' #TS291
#TS292 Prompts: Coffi…

Interview

Interview with The Pakistani Spectator:
Would you please tell us something about you and your site?
I am Awais Aftab, a doctor and aspiring psychiatrist. My blog A Myth in Creation (http://awaisaftab.blogspot.com) has been the repository of my intellectual, artistic and literary explorations for the past six years. It has a definite philosophical bent, which has become more prominent over time.
I'm wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?
The most memorable experiences have to do with interacting and meeting with other bloggers, some of whom went on to become very dear friends and have significantly influenced the course of my inner life.
If you had to describe life as a blogger in a Twitter message (140 characters) what would you say?
I would borrow the words of Maverick Philosopher, with some modification to fit within 140 characters: blogging is a vehicle for the relentless quotidian questing for sense and truth, without which some of us would find lif…

Surprising Validators

Excerpts from 'Breaking Up the Echo', an insightful article by Cass R. Sunstein on the psychology of changing minds:
"It is well known that when like-minded people get together, they tend to end up thinking a more extreme version of what they thought before they started to talk. The same kind of echo-chamber effect can happen as people get news from various media.... The remedy for easing such polarization, here and abroad, may seem straightforward: provide balanced information to people of all sides.... Unfortunately, evidence suggests that balanced presentations — in which competing arguments or positions are laid out side by side — may not help. At least when people begin with firmly held convictions, such an approach is likely to increase polarization rather than reduce it.
Can anything be done? There is no simple term for the answer, so let’s make one up: surprising validators.
People tend to dismiss information that would falsify their convictions. But they may rec…

Nagel Reviews Plantinga

Thomas Nagel has recently reviewed Alvin Plantinga's Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism for The New York Review of Books. While Plantinga's argument for faith's epistemic validity leaves me unconvinced (as presented by Nagel), the problems he identifies with naturalism do indeed merit recognition. (Nagel's own upcoming book Mind and Cosmos tries to grapple with these very problems.) Despite being an atheist, Nagel's review of the book is heart-warming and justly charitable:
"The interest of this book, especially for secular readers, is its presentation from the inside of the point of view of a philosophically subtle and scientifically informed theist—an outlook with which many of them will not be familiar. Plantinga writes clearly and accessibly, and sometimes acidly—in response to aggressive critics of religion like Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. His comprehensive stand is a valuable contribution to this debate.
I say this as some…

TS279-286

#TS279 prompts: Lubricious, Vulpine, Roué.
"I fancy a dominatrix." The old roué grinned. "I'll keep the handcuffs ready," the lubriciously dressed cop flashed a vulpine smile. #TS279
Prompts for #TS280: Wine, Women, Jealousy.
He thought the ménage à trois would only improve in flavor with time, like a Vintage wine, but jealousy turned everything sour #TS280
Prompts for #TS281 Crispy fried chicken, Epiphany, A venereal disease
At KFC she experienced an epiphanic vision of Jesus that changed her life forever; later it turned out to be a case of neurosyphilis #TS281
Prompts for #TS282: Vernacular, Spectacular, Furcular
The twins appeared to be licking their forks as if speaking to each other in a code language. "How spectacular!" mummy exclaimed. #TS282
Prompts for #TS284: Cyanide, Sun-eyed, Choke.
The kiss was bitter as cyanide. "Not ur sun-eyed girl any more." She disclosed with sugary frigidity & left him choking on the ground #TS284
Prompts …

Sin Without God

@monichirrups_ asked on twitter: what does Camus mean when he says, 'The absurd… does not lead to God… the absurd is sin without God.'? 
Camus is referring to Kierkegaard here. Kierkegaard argued that when confronted with the absurd a man must take a leap of faith in God. Despair in the face of the absurd was to him, among other things, a state of sin, as it is a state of alienation from God. Camus's dramatic statement is a reply to Kierkegaard in his own words. It is Camus's assertion that the absurd does not necessitate a leap of faith in the divine.
This will become clear as we consider the context of the quote from The Myth of Sisyphus:
"I want to know whether I can live with what I know and with that alone. I am told again that here the intelligence must sacrifice its pride and the reason bow down. But if I recognize the limits of the reason, I do not therefore negate it, recognizing its relative powers. I merely want to remain in this middle path where the …

Man and The World

"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it". Marx
"The point is not to change the world but to be changed by it." [I vaguely remember reading it somewhere, but have been unable to find the source.]
In our efforts to create a better world, it is all too easy to forget the need of also changing ourselves for the better.

TS271-278

Prompts for #TS271: Rose, Episteme, Looking-glass.
'Episteme is the unseen in the looking-glass of history...' The lecturer continued on, even after the last student had risen and left #TS271
Prompts for #TS272: Piranhas, Senator Rehman Malik, Pie in the sky.
The newswoman expected a pie-in-the-sky rhetoric, but instead he lamented the state of his gaudy wardrobe, fishing for compliments. #TS272
Prompts for #TS273: Reverie, Alethia, Joker
His diary disclosed her docile-in-bed hubby as a sadomasochist in reverie. In cruel humor she buried him handcuffed, and with a whip. #TS273
Prompts for #TS274: Life isn't all ha ha hee hee, A Bollywood song, Delusion
'Zindagi na milay gee dobara!' He shrieked & the asylum inmates broke out in a Bollywood dance adaptation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra #TS274
Prompts for #TS275: Harmonic, Digression, Onomatopoeia
"Baby, I can't be sidetracked. This harmonic logarithm is important." He whizzed back to his math. "I wan…

Indian Philosophical Tradition and Sanskrit

Excerpted from Justin E. H. Smith's Why I'm Studying Sanskrit on Befrois:
"The core thought, which I believe I was able to convey, was that India provides the best, and perhaps the only, full-fledged instance of an independent philosophical tradition that covers all of the fundamental questions addressed in the European philosophical tradition. Arabic-language philosophy cannot provide a comparison case, since in fact it is a continuation and development of the same tradition with which Europeans identify; and Chinese philosophy cannot provide as useful a comparison case, since for the most part it is concerned with ethics, statecraft, political philosophy, and rather less with the metaphysics and epistemology that have, arguably, underpinned the Western philosophical tradition (I am waiting for this point to be refuted). For this reason, any serious attempt at understanding the nature of philosophical inquiry through cross-cultural comparison will be one that considers …

On The Other Side Of The Wall

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The Riddle of Power

My op-ed article published in The News on 7 September 2012. (Readers will recognize that this based on a previous blogpost.)
The Riddle of Power
Awais Aftab
There is a famous riddle about the dynamics of power in the TV series Game of Thrones based on George R R Martin’s fantasy novels. Let me briefly quote it for the benefit of those who are unaware:
“Power is a curious thing, my lord. Are you fond of riddles? Three great men sit in a room; a king, a priest and a rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives, who dies?” “Depends on the sellsword.” “Does it? He has neither crown, nor gold, nor the favour of the gods.” “He has a sword, the power of life and death.” “But if it’s swordsmen who rule, why do we pretend kings hold all the power? ... Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall, and a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”
The conclusion is startling, despite being so…

God, Physics and Nothingness

Recent attempts by Hawking and Krauss to show how a universe can arise out of 'nothing' suffer from the same fundamental objection that I raised against religious use of creation ex nihilo. At the very minimum, according to their arguments, a universe can arise spontaneously out of nothing according to the laws of physics. But what about the laws of physics? Do they not have to exist, at least in ontological sense if not physical, for them to bring about a universe out of nothing? And how is their existence compatible with nothingness, which is the absolute absence of all existence?
Partly, Hawking and Krauss are motivated to show that science makes God unnecessary, and while this may strengthen the conviction of atheists, it does little to shake the views of theists, who can easily declare the mysterious laws of physics to be the manifestation of God's will or God's nature or something of the sort. 
Gerald Schroeder explained the resemblance between the two very well:

TS264-270

Prompts for #TS264: visceral, degradation, a conviction that roses are not really red.
In the ravaged waste of a world, botanists argued over whether roses were ever really red or was it just a visceral poetic myth. #TS264
Prompts for #TS265 Lamella, Chupacabra, Inamorata
Guilt & blood wrapped the sobbing girl like a membrane. The officer saw the dead body & sighed. 'Love makes monsters out of us all.' #TS265
Prompts for #TS266: truncate, benison, pugilist.
'Better to be violent, if there is violence in ur heart.' Pandit's blessing lulled the crisis that was to truncate his boxing career #TS266
Prompts for #TS267: phantasmagoria, Judas, travel.
the inn owner told tales of his travels, featuring the most phantasmagorical amorous intrigues, and the betrayal which broke his back #TS267 [the phrase 'the most phantasmagorical amorous intrigues' is from Aldous Huxley, Crome Yellow.]
Prompts for #TS268: adrift, connection, end.
She went to the sea like Thoreau…

Creation Ex Deo

If
God created the universe, and 'before' that the only existence was that of God.
and
From nothing comes nothing, and something always comes from something.
then
God must have created the universe out of his own being. (creation ex deo)

Creation ex nihilo

It appears to me that creation ex nihilo employs 'nothing' in a certain narrow sense, as in being the non-existence of all things whose existence is material or physical. True nothingness, however, would be utter and absolute non-existence, not restricted to material or physical existence. The case in point being the existence of God. If God exists, then the existence of God is incompatible with absolute nothingness, because that would demand even the non-existence of God. If God exists, and if we are to be stringent in our use of nothing, then creation ex nihilo is untenable. It would simply translate as saying that God created universe out of a state of affairs in which there was no material/physical existence.