The influence of gaslight or electric light on the growth of paraheliotropic trees

bonebrushing the edges of the res interna (upper transcend)

Month: December, 2009

Nagel on Freedom

Because we’re always acting from within our circumstances (motivated by subjective inclination and external causation) true freedom, a freedom for the higher objective self-being, is elusive. However, by choosing new motivations based on more external-objective views, we can eliminate some of our biases and move to a sphere of closer freedom.

Of course, when we externalize and act based on the motivations of a temporal-neutral self, we still have a master — and when we externalize beyond our selves and act based on universal rules, again, we still have a master. The difference might be that once we structure these other selves and the motivations they implicate, it becomes possible to choose our master — choosing the present over the prudent, choosing the universal over the local —

That choice, then, to know that cigarettes are bad and decide to smoke anyway (or  to decide not to smoke) is a free one to extent that it is fairly well-informed.

Lie there and think of England

Chasing dirty money like mind-blind rats in a maze

The Triumphant Tragedy of Man

The Man Who Forgot Who He Was

Did you ever hear the one about the salesman who was in a car accident and suffered brain damage to his right frontal lobe. This is the lobe that controls our sense of being in our body and integration and all that — anyway, he was injured and ever after he lost the sense that his arm was his own — he would see and it think it was someone else’s. Eventually, the invasion the salesmen felt at looking at pieces of his body that he knew belonged to someone else drove him insane —

His wife came home and found that he had cut off his own hand. When she found him, bleeding his life out on the kitchen table, he was smiling.

The Illusion of Purpose in Evolutionary Theory

“What evolution teaches us is that it is all about procreation — that is our purpose.”

No, brother, there is no purpose to evolution, there is only pattern, and though the pattern of variation, life, and death has created a mirrored pattern of organisms good at and interested in procreation, it is not a purpose, only a pattern.

This desire for the continuation of our species, then, is not our essence, only a contingent accident (though this contingent accident may have been inevitable). What is our essence — only to continue living, and to avoid pain.

Is the Non-Jew adequately accounted for morally in Jewish ethics?

The short answer seems to be no.

Talmudic Judaism seems to accord non-Jews (non-parties to the Divine-Human Covenant) a lower moral status than Jews (human parties to the Covenant).

While Talmudic and textual rulings on this issue are not dispositive to understanding the current structure of a religion, as a Jew (which I am, of course, Secret Readers), I do think it is important and necessary to identify this one more poison at the heart of our culture and do everything in our power to root it out.

Cursed Ground

“But as Sergeant Josh Brown, 22, briefed his successor when a detachment of men from Golf Company was swapped for an incoming contingent from Fox Company, he warned of the strange atmosphere and inexplicable phenomena that plagued OP Rock. “The local people say this is a cursed place,” he said. “You will definitely see weird-ass lights up here at night.” “

Annotations of Etymology of Change

Etymology of Change
April 7, 2008

First, the etymology means to barter. From this we learn that change means This for That. Or, Now This, Next That.

Second, under the Subject, Form, Lack description, what is interesting here is the persistence of the subject across changing.

(What accounts for the persistence of the subject? Is it difference? Subject-A is delimited by all that is Not-Subject-A?)

The Growing of Man

Sages. Great Minds in soft bodies, looking inward to look out, pressed against the limits of understanding. Laying on the ground, seeing the units of a cube — how many golf-balls does it take to fill a school bus — now seeing more — calling the world the Middle Enclosure, fencing out Dark Shadow Wind-Spirits and the Great Bright Ancestor-Spirits — now calling the world something else — the Growing of Man — the Place of the Growing of Man — the place where we find ourselves // where we find ourselves changing —

We sit crosslegged, faces exposed to the storm of time, even as in single twinkle of hypothetical god’s eye, mountains are hills, now dust —

The Dawn Star, brightest of angels, heralds the sun. The being signals the becoming.

We extend beyond ourselves. Where does this extension come from? Is it merely a result of the sad pattern of living and dying that has given us eyes and ears and arms? Or is it a happy accident of that other pattern, now seized by the mind that knows its self, now directed towards some new end?

While life was blind, we danced to random drumbeats. Now, we go where we will.

The question is not how or why.


The Meaning of Life / the Purpose of Life

What do we mean by meaning of life? When someone asks us what the meaning of life is, how do we begin to answer that question.

What do we mean by meaning of? If someone were to ask us what is the meaning of X, what type of answer would we give? Descriptive? Or normative?

When someone asks us what the meaning of a word is we give them a definition. In other words, we are attaching the signifier to the signified.

If we see a penalty flag thrown down in a football game, we may lean over to a more knowledgeable spectator and ask “what is the meaning of this flag?” Again, we expect a description of what the flag signifies — which in this context will refer to the general rule, the causes of the rule’s breach, and the effect of the rule’s breach. We may also want to know the reason for the rule. Of course, there may be no strong reason — the rule may simply be a coordinating rule, followed and enforced merely to preserve order.

All words are icebergs, their signifier obscuring and summoning the vast unknown definitions and objects and relationships signified by the sign. Objects too, when subjected to the gaze of consciousness, are icebergs, calling forth to the questioning minds the strangeness of its presence and the nature of its relationship in and with the greater universe. When we ask about the meaning of an object, we are asking for an explanation of those submerged relationships that ground and illuminate the object’s existence.

Life is such an object. When we ask about the meaning of life, we are asking to be told about life’s place in the universe. To the extent that what we are really asking about is the human life, we are asking about humanity’s place in the universe — all the things it can do, achieve, be — we are asking what is signified, or summoned, by our being?

So … what is signified? What is relevant to our Being-In-the-World? The first is clearly that we exist — being. The second is that we are not alone — that we are with others. The third is that our actions have consequences, potentially significant ones. The fourth is that we are mortal, and the dead do not interact with the living and cannot act on the world. This is our place, the ground-state of our existence.

Certain conclusions and relationships follow. By virtue of the structure of our being, we love pleasure and hate pain.  By virtue of the design of our species, we can communicate with others and discern that they exist in the world in the same way that we exist in the world. Through our actions, we discover that we can structure our world so as to vary the amount of pain and pleasure we would otherwise experience.  We discover that our actions involving others can cause pain and pleasure, in ourselves and in the others. And by virtue of our species, we delight in others, some others more than other others, and some others more than even ourselves.

And of course, presupposing all these reflections, we understand that we can reflect, that our minds are able to model the universe and act out potential actions and interactions — and doing so has direct consequences to our ability to change the world in order to vary the amount of pain and pleasure we receive.

Reflection suggests (and for provides the means for) a system of rules that could aim your world-changing-actions in a certain chosen direction. These rules would regulate our actions involving only the world and our interactions involving others.

Whatever these rules are, they should provide a theory of the personal good (what is pleasure and pain for myself and what I will do to achieve them, the Aim and the Path) and a theory of relationships (how shall I interact with others).  Our theory of relationships will include a theory of morality, which will tell us what we can and cannot do to others.

Our mortality will merely sharpen all of these considerations. These then are the rules of our existence.

Still, with only the grounding of our existence and the rules of our existence, something is left out. We don’t yet know the hows and whys of our existence — the connection between our particular existential grounding and the greater universe. We understand the football penalty and its operation, but we want to know why the penalty exists. We want to be explained what football is. We want to know our place in the universe.

It is amazing what we have accomplished so far in the childhood of our species, merely by looking. We now know what the universe is (ever expanding space, stuff, and force) and what we are (self-perpetuating complex stardust). We are the Children of the Universe. This is our world. This is our place.