Showing posts from May, 2013

'What is there in this that is unbearable and beyond endurance?'

"Do not disturb yourself by picturing your life as a whole; do not assemble in your mind the many and varied troubles which have come to you in the past and will come again in the future, but ask yourself with regard to every present difficulty: 'What is there in this that is unbearable and beyond endurance?' You would be ashamed to confess it! And then remind yourself that it is not the future or what has passed that afflicts you, but always the present, and the power of this is much diminished if you take it in isolation and call your mind to task if it thinks that it cannot stand up to it when taken on its own." Marcus Aurelius , Meditations (Source: The Atlantic )

It all goes back

"It all goes back and back, to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance on in our steads." (Tyrion Lannister) George R. R. Martin ,  A Storm of Swords

Moral Relevance

"What gets eaten, what gets aborted, what gets smashed, will never be decisively resolved by an inspection of internal structures and capacities of a given candidate for destruction. Even smashing a mere chunk of solidified lava -- evidently purely passive, and homoeomerous from one end to the other -- can be experienced as a  transgression by the person who is properly sensitized, for whom the chunk shows up as salient within her ethically charged environment. Are fetuses morally relevant? Yes, they are. So are chunks of lava. Does that mean you mustn't destroy them? Not necessarily, but you shouldn't suppose that the way to gain license to destroy them, whether this license is conceived cosmically, socially, or individually, is to produce arguments that cut them off from the sphere of moral relevance."  Justin Erik Halldór Smith ,  The Moral Status of Rocks . An excellent post, worth reading in full.

A Kind of Narcissim

"If we are cursed to forget much of what we read, there are still charms in the moments of reading a particular book in a particular place. What I remember most about Malamud’s short-story collection “The Magic Barrel,” is the warm sunlight in the coffee shop on the consecutive Friday mornings I read it before high school. That is missing the more important points, but it is something. Reading has many facets, one of which might be the rather indescribable, and naturally fleeting, mix of thought and emotion and sensory manipulations that happen in the moment and then fade. How much of reading, then, is just a kind of narcissism—a marker of who you were and what you were thinking when you encountered a text? Perhaps thinking of that book later, a trace of whatever admixture moved you while reading it will spark out of the brain’s dark places." Ian Crouch , The Curse of Reading and Forgetting at The New Yorker


Gordon Finlayson : "What I don’t like about [moral error theory] is the view that all our moral judgments are false and that, notwithstanding this, we keep believing them anyway. Why does the ordinary forensic process of experience, whereby falsehoods are eventually discovered, overturned and, when all goes well, replaced by truths, not function in this case? Skeptics about ‘morality’ owe an explanation for the fact that morality as a whole (not in part) has proven to be pretty durable and that people have continued to hold their moral beliefs, with as much certainty as their ordinary epistemic beliefs." Interviewed at 3 AM Magazine


"I'm post-skeptic but pre-mystic."

The Fiery Landscape of Depression

I am the second author of this review article published in Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences . The Fiery Landscape of Depression: A Review of the Inflammatory Hypothesis Ali Madeeh Hashmi, Muhammad Awais Aftab, Nauman Mazhar, Muhammad Umair, Zeeshan Butt Abstract The purpose of this article is to review the evidence linking depression with inflammation, to examine the bi-directional relationship between the neuro-humeral circuitry of depression and the inflammatory response, and point out new treatment implications of these ideas. The evidence available is in areas of genetic links, association of depression with raised inflammatory markers such as Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF)-alpha, Interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6, co-morbidity of depression with inflammatory medical illnesses, administration of cytokines leading to depression, and the recognition that anti-depressants have anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective properties. Inflammatory response and mood regulation constit


Weltschmerz.  German for 'world-weariness', 'world-pain', 'world-grief'. "it's the depression you feel when the world as it is does not line up with the world as you think it should be." (as defined by David Levithan in  Will Grayson, Will Grayson )


"[I]n the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The

Beyond DSM

Thomas Insel , the Director of National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) writes on the Director’s Blog : "While DSM has been described as a “Bible” for the field, it is, at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each. The strength of each of the editions of DSM has been “reliability” – each edition has ensured that clinicians use the same terms in the same ways. The weakness is its lack of validity. Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure. In the rest of medicine, this would be equivalent to creating diagnostic systems based on the nature of chest pain or the quality of fever. Indeed, symptom-based diagnosis, once common in other areas of medicine, has been largely replaced in the past half century as we have understood that symptoms alone rarely indicate the best choice of treatment. Patients with mental d

Mental Disorders: A Scepticism of Gentle Variety

"The place the essay has ended up can be described as sceptical – a scepticism of the gentle variety. Having considered the ways in which mental disorder is understood in psychiatric practice, the explicit definitions in the diagnostic manuals, and bearing in mind the clinical problems that they characterise, and having examined the more elaborate, rigorous definitions in the surrounding literature, the most influential of which is due to Jerry Wakefield, and the sociological approaches, and the paradigms and general findings of the current science – there ends up being, so far as I can see, no stable reality or concept of mental disorder; it breaks up into many, quite different kinds, some reminiscent of an old idea of madness or mental illness, others nothing like this at all. This instability and fragmentation corresponds to diversity in the phenomena, in current clinical services, and in current terminology. I would have settled for one clear proposal as to what mental diso

William Vallicella on the Meaning of Life

William Vallicella (aka Maverick Philosopher ) recently made a series of posts on the topic of meaning of life , and these contain some of the most philosophically sophisticated and refined discussions that I have read on the matter. In this post I’d like to summarize some of his main conclusions, primarily for my own clarity of thought. For a detailed understanding of his reasoning and arguments, I’d strongly urge the readers to look up the original posts. 1) The Question of the Meaning of Life: Distinctions and Assumptions The existential meaning of life refers to ‘the ultimate and objective point, purpose, end, or goal of human willing and striving, if there is one’. Existential meaning has a teleological aspect: a meaningful life is a purpose-driven life. This is a purpose that the individual has to choose for himself out of his own free will. This purpose has to be both non-trivial and achievable.  Existential meaning has an axiological aspect: a meaningful lif


"When you're single, you're exactly as happy as you are. When you're married, you can only be as happy as the least happy person in the relationship." Rules of Engagement