Posts

Showing posts from August, 2013

Securalism

Ian Pollock does a very good analysis of secularism here. He argues that secularism is, in fact, unprincipled, but at the same time, it is probably practically necessary. "I believe that secularism, as imagined above, arises more or less as follows:
• Participation of citizens with differing views in political debate is supposed to be part of the democratic process.
• However, a large fraction of citizens hold some views that are (in the judgment of more sober minds) straightforwardly insane, and would not hesitate to impose the policy implications of those views upon the rest of society if given the ability to do so.
• Religious moderates, religious minorities and non-believers, tacitly recognizing these two facts, promote secularism as a compromise, despite its philosophical bankruptcy and practical pathologies." I am of the same opinion. I agree that that there is no principled difference between religious beliefs and secular beliefs. However, I also do not see how a multic…

Insulin Coma Therapy: A Case in Point

Insulin coma therapy was a once wildly popular psychiatric treatment for Schizophrenia in which large doses of insulin were repeatedly administered to patients to produce daily comas, continuing on for several weeks.

Consider this 14-year follow-up study on the effectiveness of insulin coma therapy for schizophrenia that was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1955, and stated "We conclude that insulin coma therapy is effective in restoring the schizophrenic patient to his prepsychotic adjustment." If these researchers could study an intervention (that we now, with hindsight bias, know to be obviously ineffective) on 800 patients for 14 years and still conclude that it was effective, we can imagine how many researchers doing studies with much smaller samples and follow-ups would only end up seeing what they want to see. How much of cherished research today would be discredited two or three decades from now?
Here is another study from another prestigious journa…

The Cognitive Revolution

Coursera: A Brief History of Humankind by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari
Personal Lecture Notes from Lesson #2: The Cognitive Revolution
(These are personal summaries and paraphrasings of some of the major points of the lectures that I felt to be important. They are not meant to be comprehensive records nor intended to be reproductions of copyright materials. I encourage you to participate in the course for better understanding.)
Cognitive Revolution: the appearance of new ways of thinking and communicating between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago.
Around 100,000 years ago, Homo sapiens first tried to migrate to Middle East from East Africa but they were driven away by Neanderthals.
70,000 years ago, however, Homo sapiens tried again, and this time they were successful, driving away other human species in the process. 60,000 years ago, they reached China and Korea. 45,000 year ago, they crossed open sea, and landed in Australia (first time for a human species). Later they reached America about 15,000…

Propositions and Rational Belief

Coursera: Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy Hannes Leitgeb and Stephan Hartmann
Personal notes from lectures of Week 3: Rational Belief
(These are personal summaries and paraphrasings of some of the major points of the lectures that I felt to be important. They are not meant to be comprehensive records nor intended to be reproductions of copyright materials. I encourage you to participate in the course for better understanding.)
Propositions and Possible Worlds
Propositions are true or false at possible worlds, with one of these possible worlds being the actual world. It is possible to show that worlds are identical if and only if the same propositions are true at them; and propositions are identical if and only if they are true at the same worlds.
Propositions can be defined as sets of possible worlds, such that every proposition is identical to the set of worlds at which it is true. Using set theory, we can visualize negation ('not'), conjunction ('and') and disju…

The Banality of Evil

Week 3 of Coursera Social Psychology course deals extensively with three famous sets of experiments: 1) Milgram experiments on obedience to authority figures 2) Asch conformity experiments 3) Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment
As all these experiments are quite famous (refer to wikipedia links) I would not go into any detail here. Even though I had knowledge of all these experiments before, it was quite chilling and insightful to see the video recordings of the original experiments (the lecture materials included Obedience, Milgram's documentary on his experiments, and Quiet Rage, documentary by Zimbardo).
The take-home message, so to speak, is the immense power the situational factors have on our behaviors, something that we are, in general, blind to. Under certain circumstances, people will continue to obey orders, despite reluctance, that they can apprehend to be morally objectionable, if the orders come from an authority figure. Under certain circumstances, people will…

Tarski and Truth, Part 2

Coursera: Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy Hannes Leitgeb and Stephan Hartmann
Personal notes from lectures of Week 2: Truth
(These are personal summaries and paraphrasings of some of the major points of the lectures that I felt to be important. They are not meant to be comprehensive records nor intended to be reproductions of copyright materials. I encourage you to participate in the course for better understanding.)
Liar Paradox
The vocabulary of L_simple does not contain the word ‘true’ but English does contain the term 'true' already in its vocabulary. So, a definition of truth for English as a whole should allow us to derive sentences that talk about the truth of sentences. This can, however, lead to the famous Liar Paradox, which can arise when a sentence refers to itself.
* The sentence that is introduced by a star symbol is not true.
Applying the truth predicate:  'The sentence that is introduced by a star symbol is not true' is true if and only if 'The…

Tarski and Truth, Part 1

Coursera: Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy Hannes Leitgeb and Stephan Hartmann
Personal notes from lectures of Week 2: Truth
(These are personal summaries and paraphrasings of some of the major points of the lectures that I felt to be important. They are not meant to be comprehensive records nor intended to be reproductions of copyright materials. I encourage you to participate in the course for better understanding.)
Truth and falsity are ascribed to descriptive or declarative sentences, or to what is expressed by descriptive sentences. Descriptive sentences express propositions. What does the sentence 'Snow is white' express? It expresses that snow is white.
Traditionally truth has been defined as correspondence with reality. The meaning of ‘corresponds to’, however, is far from clear. 
The Polish philosopher Alfred Tarski was the first person to state a precise definition of truth in familiar terms.
The Truth Scheme
Tarski suggests two requirements for a satisfactory de…

Perception and Persuasion

Coursera: Social Psychology Scott Plous
Personal notes from lectures of Week 2: The Psychology of Self-Presentation and Persuasion (These are personal summaries and paraphrasing of some of the major points of the lectures that I felt to be important. They are not meant to be comprehensive records nor intended to be reproductions of copyright materials. Social Psychology is the most fun course I have had on Coursera so far, and all the concepts mentioned below are presented in lectures with brilliant illustrative examples and experiments.)
Attribution Theory: Deals with how people interpret behavior, their own and that of others. It's important because our interpretation determines our further behavior.
According to Harold Kelley our interpretations of behavior are in terms of i) something about the person ii) something about the situation iii) something about the occasion. The attribution will be based on i) consensus ii) distinctiveness and iii) consistency.
A behavioral outcome is…

Social Perceptions and Misperceptions

Coursera: Social Psychology Scott Plous
Personal notes from lectures of Week 1: Social Perceptions and Misperceptions (These are personal summaries and paraphrasing of some of the major points of the lectures that I felt to be important. They are not meant to be comprehensive records nor intended to be reproductions of copyright materials. Social Psychology is the most fun course I have had on Coursera so far, and all the concepts mentioned below are presented in lectures with brilliant illustrative examples and experiments.)
Our perception of the world, and our psychological construction of reality, is powerfully influenced by where our attention in directed, by context, by past experiences, expectations, and many other psychological factors. 
Change blindness: Changes in visual field are not noticed while our attention is focused elsewhere. These may include significant changes, such as while paying attention to a video of a card trick and eyes focused on the card, we may not notice t…

Mlle Pogany

Image
Constantin Brancusi, Mlle Pogany, 1913 Sculpture at Museum of Modern Art Photo credit: Bryce Edwards on Flickr See this 2 min video at MoMA website on how this rather exquisite work of art became the subject of ridicule when it was first exhibited.

Wissam Shawkat - Calligraphic Drawing

Image
Wissam Shawkat's calligraphic drawing for the  cover of the Canadian edition of Shereen el-Feki’s Sex and the Citadel. It depicts archaic Arabic words for sex. (Source: ArabLit )

Infinity in the palm of your hand

Coursera: Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy Hannes Leitgeb and Stephan Hartmann
Personal notes from lectures of Week 1: Infinity (These are personal summaries and paraphrasing of some of the materials in the lectures that I felt to be important, with possible additions of personal impressions. They are not meant to be comprehensive records nor intended to be reproductions of copyright materials.)
Let us see how set theory in mathematics can help us understand infinity. The Principle of Extensionality states, in essence, that two sets are identical if and only if they have the same members.
There are two different ways of comparing the size of sets. One can, for instance, say that if X is a proper subset of Y (all the members of X are members of Y, but not vice versa), then X is smaller than Y. Another way of doing so is to pair off members of the sets with each other. Set X {A,B} can be paired with Y {1,2} but not with Z {1,2,3} because Z has a member that has no corresponding pa…

Humans, and Other Humans

Coursera Course:  A Brief History of Humankind  by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari
Personal Lecture Notes from Lesson #1: The Human Family (These are personal summaries and paraphrasing of some of the materials in the lectures that I felt to be important, with possible additions of personal impressions. They are not meant to be comprehensive records nor intended to be reproductions of copyright materials.)
There is no unbrigdeable gap between history and basic sciences like physics, chemistry and biology. History in the next stage in the process of ongoing complexity in the universe.
Three main revolutions of history: 1) Cognitive Revolution: 70, 000 years ago. Homo sapiens evolved unique cognitive abilities.  2) Agricultural Revolution: 12, 000 years ago. 3) Scientific Revolution: 500 years ago.
Homo sapiens belong to the Family of great apes. (All the Genera in a Family spring from a common ancestor.) Chimpanzees are our closest relatives, the two species splitting apart just 6 million years ag…

Coursera

I am taking various online courses on Coursera these days, and to make the best use of them, I will post my lecture notes (sometimes extensive, sometimes not so) on this blog for some of the lectures. Hopefully many of the readers will find them to be instructive as well (apologies to those who would not). For those who have time and are interested, and go ahead and try out the classes for yourselves.

Sin

The cardinal sin of the modern marriage is to wed without love.

Emptiness

Image
Drawing by Jenny Yu (contrast adjusted)

If the diagnostic judgment of mental illness is an evaluation

"If the diagnostic judgment of mental illness is an evaluation – an expression of our values – rather than simply a description of the facts, then mental illness cannot be an objective matter; it cannot be a feature of the fabric of the world, independent of our own perspective."
Tim Thorton, Reductionism/Antireductionism (Essay include in The Philosophy of Psychiatry: A Companion)

The Offering

Image
Eric Gill, Ibi Dabo Tibi (1925) Wood engraving on paper Image from Tate collection
The title 'Ibi Dabo Tibi' is a reference to Song of Solomon 7:12. The relevant sentence reads in Latin as ibi dabo tibi ubera mea. This is generally translated as:  'there will I give thee my loves' (for instance, see King James version) But if you go by the literal meaning of ubera, the translation becomes: 'there will I give thee my breasts' (see Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition, which makes more sense to me if you see the context)
The engraving beautifully plays on both these versions.  Below is the translation by John Cunyus of 7:12 and 7:13
Let us rise up early and go to the vineyards! Let us see if the vine blossoms, if the flowers give forth fruit, if the pomegranate blooms! There, I will give  my breasts to you!
The mandrakes gave their scent in our doorways! All my fruits, old and new, I saved for you!

Infinity