Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Some quotes and excerpts from Essays in Love by Alain de Botton, a wonderful and engaging book that I would recommend for all those who wish to gain a more honest philosophical perspective on love.

* Most people would throw away all their cynicism if they could. The majority just never get the chance.

* Unrequited love may be painful, but it is safely painful, because it does not involve inflicting damage on anyone but oneself, a private pain that is as bitter-sweet as it is self-induced. But as soon as love is reciprocated, one must be prepared to give up the passivity of simply being hurt to take on the responsibility of perpetrating hurt oneself.

* Perhaps the easiest people to fall in love with are those about whom we know nothing.

* I did not love Chloe for her body, I loved her body for the promise of who she was. It was a most inspiring promise.

* Lovers cannot remain philosophers for long, they should give way to the religious impulse, which is to believe and have faith, as opposed to the philosophical impulse, which is to doubt and enquire. They should prefer the risk of being wrong and in love to being in doubt and without love.

* However happy we may be with our partner, our love for them necessarily hinders us from pursuing alternatives. Why should this constrain us if we love them? Why should we feel this as a loss unless our love for them has already begun to wane? Because in resolving our need to love, we do not always succeed in resolving our need to long.

* The unknown carries with it a mirror of all our deepest, most inexpressible wishes. The unknown is the fatal proposition that a face seen across the room will always hold out to the known. I may have loved Chloe but because I knew Chloe, I did not long for her. Longing cannot indefinitely direct itself at those we know, for their qualities are charted and therefore lack the mystery longing demands.

* Why don't you love me? is as impossible a question (though a far less pleasant one) to ask as Why do you love me? In both cases, we come up against our lack of conscious control in the amorous structure, the fact that love has been brought to us as a gift for reasons we never wholly determine or deserve. To ask such questions, we are forced to veer on one side towards complete arrogance, on the other to complete humility: What have I done to deserve love? asks the humble lover; I can have done nothing. What have I done to be denied love? protests the betrayed one, arrogantly claiming possession of a gift that is never one's due. To both questions, the one who hands out love can only reply: Because you are you – an answer that leaves the beloved dangerously and unpredictably strung between grandiosity and depression.

* ... there is a great difference between identifying a problem and solving it, between wisdom and the wise life. We are all more intelligent than we are capable, and awareness of the insanity of love has never saved anyone from the disease.

(hat-tip: Sabahat, for directing me to this book)


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sanity is like a thin crust of stability over underlying horrors. At some places, some times, it is stout and pliant, but at others, it is paper-thin. You could poke a hole in it with a finger, peel it away with a nail, and lay bare the raw core of irrationality, the fears, the demons...

One can see the hollowness of this veneer, the superficiality, the pomposity, the self-indulgence and the myopic ignorance. I can understand why the mad sometimes pity the sane. Yet, I would not abandon sanity, nor I would rob someone of it, unless (until?) I had something better to offer in its stead. The insanity that lurks beneath — the insanity I attempt to 'cure' (oh, the arrogance!) — is no better a replacement. No wisdom to bargain chaos for order, albeit artificial and arbitrary that state of array may be.

One may possibly seek something above, but any über-sanity to my mortal eyes would appear no different from lunacy.

'In this life, I learn strength; in the next one, I can be strong enough to be vulnerable.'

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Two fascinating articles I read recently related to child psychiatry:

* Psychopathy in children
* A 6 year old Schizophrenic who might possibly have been born mentally-ill

A 2003 study The Serotonin System and Spiritual Experiences published in The American Journal of Psychiatry reveals an interesting correlation between Serotonin receptor density in the brain and the capacity for spiritual experiences. Given the limitations, the results of this study must be interpreted with caution; however this may reveal insight into the biology behind the fact that not everyone is capable of mystic experiences. 

And of course, it would be erroneous to interpret this study as demonstrating that mystic experiences are 'all in the head'. The study proves no such thing.

"In the present study, we found an association between interindividual variability in 5-HT1A receptor binding potential and the self-transcendence score on the Temperament and Character Inventory. We found no correlation for any of the other dimensions. The lack of correlation for the other dimensions is consistent with a previous study that used Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire, and an earlier questionnaire covering the four temperament dimensions of the Temperament and Character Inventory.

The self-transcendence dimension is the most stable Temperament and Character Inventory dimension over time and is also one of the two Temperament and Character Inventory dimensions showing the largest variability. The self-transcendence dimension consists of three subscales representing several aspects of religious behavior, subjective experience, and individual worldview. Of interest, in the extended analysis, we found that the correlation of self-transcendence was shown to be fully dependent on the spiritual acceptance scale, whereas no correlation was found to the other two subscales. (My emphasis)

The spiritual acceptance scale measures a person’s apprehension of phenomena that cannot be explained by objective demonstration. Subjects with high scores tend to endorse extrasensory perception and ideation, whether named deities or a commonly unifying force. Low scorers, by contrast, tend to favor a reductionistic and empirical worldview.

A role for the serotonin system in relation to spiritual experiences is supported by observations of drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, N,N-dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine that are known to cause perturbations of the serotonin system in several brain regions.

On a behavioral level, these drugs elicit perceptual distortions, illusions, a sense of insight, spiritual awareness, mystical experiences, and religious ecstasy. Of interest, such pharmacological effects induced by hallucinogens resemble the extrasensory perception and ideation endorsed by subjects scoring high on the spiritual acceptance scale.

However, another drug causing spiritual experiences is salvatorin A. This drug may act primarily on the kappa opioid receptor system, indicating that the serotonin system is not the only brain neurotransmitter system that may be related to spiritual experiences."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Does Multiverse answer the Fine Tuning Argument?

It possibly could, if it is shown that physical constants actually exist over all possible ranges. If so, then it would explain why we have the appearance of fine tuning.

Does Multiverse answer the question "Where do the laws of physics come from?"?

No. Because in the setting of the Multiverse, there would still be a set of more fundamental bedrock laws whose origin will not be accounted for.



"An astonishing concept has entered mainstream cosmological thought: physical reality could be hugely more extensive than the patch of space and time traditionally called “the universe.” We’ve learnt that we live in a solar system that is just one planetary system among billions, in one galaxy among billions. But there are signs that a further Copernican demotion confronts us. The entire panorama that astronomers can observe could be a tiny part of the aftermath of our Big Bang, which is itself just one bang among a potentially infinite ensemble. In this grander perspective, what we’ve traditionally called the laws of nature may be no more than parochial bylaws—local manifestations of “bedrock” laws that must be sought at a still deeper level."


"But, the philosopher says, What about the laws of physics? They are something, not nothing—and where do they come from? Well, says Krauss — trying to be patient — there’s another promising theoretical approach that plausibly posits a “multiverse”: a possibly infinite collection of self-contained, non-interacting universes, each with is own laws of nature. In fact, it might well be that the multiverse contains universes with every possible set of laws. We have the laws we do simply because of the particular universe we’re in. But, of course, the philosopher can respond that the multiverse itself is governed by higher-level laws."
It is one of the biggest ironies that morality itself has such unfairness in its roots.

Morality is unfair because the moral challenges that individuals face are not of equal difficulty and are without uniform chances of success. For example, the moral challenge that a paedophile faces is of much greater difficulty with a much greater chance of failure compared to us. 

Related posts:
A Moment of Judgment
Moral Luck

Monday, May 14, 2012

Beentherella writes brilliantly and with great clarity about feminism and choice in her recent blog post, something that I have been trying to highlight for a long time myself:

"I always took great care to separate the rhetoric about choice with some basic rules that feminism did initially aspire to achieve before it forayed into its present dark alley of dada-ist and gaga-ist absurdities. Yes, feminism is about choice but one needs to be honest about the fact that it is also about making certain types of choices, whether or not we like to admit it. Putting a burgeoning career on hold for love is by no means a 'feminist' choice and I would refrain from calling it one. Neither is putting off a PhD for several years because one wants to start a family first. These are choices and women must be free to make them, but no, they are not feminist choices. It would be childish of me to try and take the course many women do of trying to defend their choices by labelling them as feminist just to feel better about themselves. It is counterproductive and it confuses the discourse, and frankly, feminism is a confused enough discourse to begin with! I suppose what it boils down to is accepting ones choices for what they are and still taking pride in the face that one made them."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"The mother of all the logical and semantic paradoxes was Russell’s paradox, named for its author, twentieth-century English philosopher Bertrand Russell. It goes like this: “Is the set of all sets that are not members of themselves a member of itself?” This one is a real screamer—that is, if you happen to have an advanced degree in mathematics. But hang on. Fortunately, two other twentieth-century logicians named Grelling and Nelson came along with a more accessible version of Russell’s paradox. It’s a semantic paradox that operates on the concept of words that refer to themselves.

Here goes: There are two kinds of words, those that refer to themselves (autological) and those that don’t (heterological). Some examples of autological words are “short” (which is a short word), “polysyllabic” (which has several syllables), and our favorite, “seventeen-lettered” (which has seventeen letters). Examples of heterological words are “knockkneed” (a word that has no knees, touching or otherwise) and “monosyllabic” (a word that has more than one syllable). The question is: Is the word “heterological” autological or heterological? If it’s autological, then it’s heterological. If it’s heterological, then it’s autological. Ha! Ha!"

Thomas Catchcart & Daniel Klein, Plato and a Platypus Walk Into A Bar... Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes


Tuesday, May 1, 2012


This is something I'd love to read to my children. The Conference of Birds: Beautifully Illustrated Story of Belonging Based on an Ancient Sufi Poem by Peter Sís. (See the link for more illustrations)
 

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