Archive for the ‘ Philosophy ’ Category

Critical Thinking

This is something most Americans no longer want to do.

They can think about the small problems of everyday life – but not the big problems that are doing them in.

They will react indignantly to anyone’s suggestion that their problem-solving powers are not up to the job. That they are in big trouble, because they cannot see what is going on. When this is clearly the case.

Their critical reasoning powers have moved into their unconscious minds – where they can act without being observed.

This discovery of the Unconscious was one of the major discoveries of our time – but this knowledge has been strongly resisted. I can remember my Mother saying, as strongly as she could “I am not an animal!” When she was the mother of four children, formed in the usual manner – by her unconscious body.

If I had access to her unconscious mind, I would have seen some powerful, conflicting forces – that she did not want to know about. The struggle of her entire race was going on there. A struggle reduced to its simplest elements – the life-and-death struggle between Good and Evil. In which I played a minor role.

This universal struggle has been played out in the last several centuries, all over the world – with puzzling results. The most important of which – has been our determination to not see this struggle at all! But to participate in it unconsciously.

In our own lives, we enact the struggle between Success and Failure. And it is not clear which one is going to win.

The Independent Existence of the Mind

We have a body like any other animal – but we also have a mind, that is something different. How to manage this difference is one of the problems of our human existence.

You may be saying “I don’t want to think about it!” Which is a typical reaction for our time. If that is your policy, you will not be interested in what follows.

I can remember the Sixties, when this was a hot issue – although it was not defined this way. Instead, people wanted to know how to make themselves better – it was called Personal Growth. And they could not imagine anything as abstract as – carefully defining what they were. That was too mental – and they were interested in emotional issues.

If they had redefined their problems, and thought about them more abstractly – perhaps the Sixties would have continued – instead of gradually fading away.

How strange, to be not interested in the mental problems that had fascinated people for thousands of years. People had separated themselves from their minds – with devastating consequences!

Perhaps they simply became afraid – they were trying to make fundamental changes to their world – and the forces in charge of their world, were dead-set against that.

Asceticism in Our Time

This notion may sound strange to those who concentrate on getting as much as they can. This pursuit produces people who have a limited existence – not having much of anything! Which they overcome by not noticing anything – including, of course, their own unhappiness.

This is extreme asceticism – not being aware of anything. And is common in America – the richest nation in history.

It is typified by a compulsive attempt to get everything – and a studious effort to not notice they have nothing!

The wealth of any nation is in the quality (not the quantity) its social interactions. 

This can be easily examined by our latest invention – the Computer – with its Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet was first about People – but it is now about Things. And People are not complaining – they know when they have been outclassed. They have been pushed to the background – and now leave the important things to their Things.

This is a shocking situation for me – but perfectly normal for them.

It can be mapped as objects and interactions – where people are some of the objects. Object-oriented programming has become an obsession. Because it seems to be what is going on in the real world. I am now studying functional programming – that eliminates all this noise – but is not popular at all.

Politicians closely monitor the messaging going on between people – their Tweets, and their Facebook comments – and contribute quite a few of their own. Everyone and everything is messaging – and doing their best to manipulate everything else. The noise is astonishing – but the meaning is minimal. The quantity of their social interactions is high – but the quality is low.

Everyone knows the quality of their lives leaves a lot to be desired. But they don’t want to think about it – and believe it cannot be fixed, in any case.

This is quite a change from their optimism at the end of the 19th Century – when their future seemed bright! They want this back – and will support anyone who promises this.

Such as Trump.

Thomas Reid

I never heard of this guy – before I heard of him on The Great Ideas of Philosophy. I downloaded his An Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense. That I found easy reading.

He did his best to bring people to their senses. But people found illusions that interested them more.

What We Can Change, and What We Have To Accept

We have to accept that one plus one equals two – and the rain falls down. We cannot change either one.

But, we will say, with complete assurance – we are God’s people – and no one can take that away from us.

Between these two extremes lie many things we can do – and things we cannot do. Most of them being things we cannot do.

For example – once a person, or a group – makes up their minds about something. Changing their minds is difficult – if not impossible. And it’s amazing how many situations are like this.

I am listening to a description of the American Civil war- that was about slavery. The slave-owners would not give up their slaves – no matter what! The lengths they went through to justify this were amazing. But, in the end – amounted to one thing – they would die before they would give them up – and many of them did!

That was a few years ago – but Americans still believe they are special people – not God’s people perhaps – but something close to it.

They will not die to defend this belief – but plenty of other people will.

What Does It Mean, To Have an Idea?

I am taking a MOOC about Cognitive Neuroscience – how our nerves let us feel and think. It refers to a book I have on my desk Metaphors We Live By – that explains how our brains use areas associated with practical matters, such as our ability navigate through space (a very complicated task!) – to think of abstract ideas, such as Love.

Plenty of smaller animals have most of these skills – the tiny flying insects, so common in the tropics, for example – can fly, walk, see, smell, and taste – and reproduce in vast numbers. But it takes a large brain (like the one we have) to use language, and be conscious.

We do have some understanding of how we feel and reason – by giving people some simple problems to solve, and watching how they solve them – in perhaps a fMRI, a functional MRI. Certain areas of the brain are used to do different things.

This is the basis of Experimental Science – one of the greatest advances in human knowledge. But one which most people today have rejected entirely.

No Science for them! They are not interested in the way things are – only in the way they should be. They are not interested in learning from the world – only in making the world learn from them.

A crazy idea if ever there was one.

Software and the Rest of the World

I sometimes wonder why I am interested in Software. Is it just an idle pastime, or is it more than that?

It is a well-paying profession, much in demand – and getting more so all the time. But here again I must ask – is that all?

Philosophers of Science – and there are a few of those around – have been asking themselves – is Science (that has given us so much) all we have? The answer, obviously is “no” – for many reasons. We are emotional beings. And the Computer can never be emotional. But it can be creative, and add to our store of knowledge.

All the Computer’s creations – and there are more of them all the time – are part of the World. What else could they be? They effect the World – and the World affects them.

Note the two words effect (a noun) and affect (a transitive verb). When we see someone talking on their phone (or to their phone) we see both of these happening.

The Computer, and its Software. have added to our World.