Thursday, January 28, 2016

Brains!

I like what zombies represent - at-least to me.  Perverting the supposed goodness of what the Creator has made.  Twisting it and making the appearance as the horrific as the true nature of life.  Expressing the tragedy and ugliness in life in a way that the eyes can understand.  The nightmare that is this life being seen in brightest day - no longer disguised by the vitality of nature and health of the organism.  The vitality of nature only extends and prolongs the nightmare.  If all became sick and died then there would be no more suffering; no more sickness.  No more wickedness nor virtuous people to be assaulted by wickedness.  Zombies as mindless flesh (assuming they cannot feel pain) are in an enviable position because they essentially do not exist.  The zombie is a being that perverts the image of what the Creator (Augustine argues that the Lord has made all things good - clearly not the case) has made and while distorting it (showing its true horror) shows also the peace and solace that comes through an acceptance of Pessimism and Existential Nihilism; the peace that comes to the dead which is everyone eventually and no one for one cannot exist and be dead.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

RIP L--


People should not mourn loved ones not because nothing has been lost (something has) or because something’s been “restored,” they should not mourn the loss of life in those they love because the one’s they love can no longer suffer and are freed from the mortal bonds that likely gave them grief.  They are no more.  I am essentially favoring the solace given through Epicurus instead of that of Epictetus.  

A friend of mine killed herself on my birthday.  More of a friendly schoolmate really, but we saw each other at bars, and I, like many, thought of her fondly because she treated us so kindly.  She always acted with consideration for the person, which is a quality that is very hard to over-value.

I did mourn her death.  Regardless of whether or not that makes my views inconsistent with my behavior.  Personally, I think it is healthy and beautiful, although painful, when for a time we mourn the loss of someone we love.  And when others too mourn, we are brought together in our loss and through our pain our love of others is strengthened.  The good will of humanity is expressed through the appreciation of life and of others through the loss of one (or many).  We realize how brief and painful this life can be, and how it is our moral duty to love.

Take care.

And though the person who died cannot hear me, I'm glad you're pain is over, and you've finally attained the peace you so desired, and you so deserved.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On Music, Rejoicing in Existence and the Good Will



How splendid that thing which above all other things make the simple fact of existence a treat.  Beats and sound, like our existence without purpose or meaning, that cause the soul to become excited and makes this short and absurd trial called life seem as it is – something which is to be enjoyed and exists for no other reason.  Of course ethically we exist to diminish the suffering of others, and we require science and social policy for this – but personally we exist simply to delight in our own lives, in our own creativity and in the creativity of others. 
We exist first and foremost to serve, to extend this love, this compassion, this understanding and empathy to others, so they may not be in pain and they might experience the joys that only goodness can provide.  That feeling of joy that comes from the love of humanity and eagerness to share love and benevolence.  This life is something which must be first and foremost a tranquil and delight – not a burden.  The goodness of this life comes through the amazing happenstance that those who operate from a good will, those who have the phenomenological state of love in their hearts are never burdened but heightened from their service to others. 
We humans, with minds like no other beasts, would be in a hellish state if we had the bodies of rabbits or ducks, creatures incapable of creating the means of both removing the unpleasant stimulus of rain, heat, cold and can create the pleasant and intellectually stimulating aspects of existence that is the project of civilization.  Humans alone have the minds capable of boredom and irritation and alone have the bodies and creativity of satisfying their needs for entertainment.  These two facts, the happy happenstance of the good will being a will of service and enjoyment and the coupling of the physiology of the human mind and the human anatomy are things we should always try to be appreciative of and rejoice in whenever possible. 
Human beings are capable unlike any other creature to have a personal relation to existence in his state of being, to rejoice or feel condemned by his or her existence.  We should always remember that our own lives are always things which should be rejoiced in as along as we are capable of this good will and are free of pain.  Pain is a state that in those who are healthy is ephemeral, and the good will is something that returns to us with ease as we continue to practice.  Humans are capable of living good lives no matter how pointless those lives are existentially, and lives that have great purpose ethically due to the wretched state so many beings are in on this planet.  We are both more unfortunate and more fortunate than all other creatures on this earth, perhaps all other creatures in existence.  Though the will is not free, it is up to us with our pre-decided fates to live as if we were free and “choose” to act ethically and rightly – that is to say, with the good will to diminish pain.  But we also personally can delight in that which has no utility for others and only for ourselves to the extent we can derive pleasure from them.  We can rejoice in life despite the great pain of existence, and love and forgive for we realize the material and causal nature of our fellow sufferers. 
The goodness in humanity is like a muscle, it must be exercised, and because of certain institutions it seldom is.  A man must be encouraged and taught the love of humanity and blessing(s) of the good will; if you try to force a man to be good, he will never be truly good for he never had the choice, and therefore will never be acting on his own accord and according to his own nature.  Instead of punishing the “sinful” we must give them love – so that they may be loving.  Human beings respond very-much the way Hume described.  If I spit in your face, after you steal something from me, will you feel morally panged that you wronged me?  No.  You will feel confirmed in your actions for I responded in a way that may in some sense (depending on the circumstance) be worse than the original transgression.  But what if I show you love after you wrong me?  You will feel guilt.  And this capacity to feel guilt shows the fact that humans have a moral psychology, that is, they have the innate capacity to feel pained by the pains of others, particularly if they themselves are inflicting them.
This is one reason why Anarchism is a solution to both first world and third world society.  The Third World must revolt against their Capitalist oppressors and corrupts Statesmen and create sovereign and economic interdependent communities of sovereign interdependent individuals.  In the First World Man is too oppressed by Capitalism, but he is also oppressed by his own Ego and appetite.  If he were taught and given the opportunity to act on his nobler proclivities many more would than today.  The modern Capitalist State with business and taxes do not promote good will; instead, everything is turned into a transaction, and our “charitable” contributions are taken from us so we are not burdened with the responsibility of being moral human beings.  Many, I believe, do not help because they believe their tax money goes to help those in need.  And though this is true in some cases, it isn’t in others, and we would all benefit, those with material resource and those without, from an exercise in moral sentiment.
We have to remember who we are in our best moments, and try to teach others through example that goodness and generosity is not a burden but are themselves gifts.  We have to remember to be kind to others, but also be kind to ourselves.  The solution to the project of civilization isn’t scientific or technological – it’s experiential.  We must experience the world in a moral tone before we act in such a way, and we must act in such a way before it will be in such a way.  Technology has its utility but has a tendency to stimulate the Ego rather than the heart.
Today is my birthday.  Just the fact that we celebrate birthdays, the remembrance of another human being coming into existence and rejoicing in someone else’s life shows the human capacity for good will and love.  For consideration of others as individuals rather than simply means to our ends.  We can always love.  And love is never worse off than Ego.  For even if we cannot help those we love, and even if they respond with vitriol and viciousness, we will always be better off because we loved rather than thought of ourselves.  The man who never thinks of himself never needs to – he already has everything.

Monday, January 18, 2016

What? You wanted another Pointless Update? Well you got it.

Had an interesting dialogue with Noam Chomsky.  He was nice enough to take the time to have a dialogue with me but frankly he either didn't understand the points I made about free will or what's more likely he didn't want to exert the effort to have a dialogue as equals.  I appreciate what he does for social activism, but in general I think he has a type of snobbishness that comes out in some of his interviews.  For an Anarchist (and someone who claimed in my message to be a 'Humean Skeptic' though from what I've listened of him he discredits Skepticism as well as Hard Determinism as patently absurd) he doesn't seem to tolerate disagreement very-well. 

Maybe I'm mistaken.  And again, really cool that he e-mailed me.  Anyone who wants to start a dialogue with him just look at his MIT page.  When I was younger I looked up to Chomsky so I would be disappointed except honestly not only did I notice the snobbishness years ago but he makes claims about Aristotle that during my Independent Study this last semester I found out were quite inaccurate, so what I saw really wasn't anything novel.  I could go more into it but my point is that he seems to be sloppy when it comes to some points and doesn't care about intellectual rigor.

If I can I might read some Diderot soon.  He sounds like an interesting guy.

To a New Year and New Prospects of the Same

Including some of my more memorable updates I had just over two hundred pages of material double-spaced for 2015.  Yes.

The Importance of Art and Science in the cultivation of morals and alleviation of suffering



Despite his great moral sentiments Rousseau was a fool for condemning the arts and sciences.  For these productions are the saving graces of an overall wretched condition.  Unlike the beasts of the earth Man requires living quarters to live comfortably. He is easily perturbed by the heat and cold.  His mind is a developing thing that will suffer from malnutrition, just as he suffers from an empty stomach.  Though perhaps malnutrition of the mind is worse than of the body; for while a complete lack of sustenance merely causes death in the individual (which as I already posited is nothing to be feared and has no evil in its own right but only how people respond to it) lack of cultivation in the mind leads towards baseness, irrational fear and concerns and the agonies of living. 
Baseness comes to the ignoramus through lack of reflection and appreciation of the “higher appetites.”  Mill is famous for appreciating the higher pleasures in life and giving them their proper place, though perhaps not for the correct reason.  Hedonistic pursuit of the lower pleasures often leads to excess, poor character and greater pain than pleasure as Epicurus and others point out.  Poor character too adds to the pain of living, which is inflicted upon others, and the sensual, hedonist way of living makes a man always craving satisfaction but never being satisfied.  This is how Schopenhauer depicts humanity generally, and though he may be correct of the desirous aspect, perhaps even defining aspect, of the human condition he is wrong to paint Man with such a broad brush.  Many most of the time find ways to fill their time that are not vain attempts to satiate some great longing as Schopenhauer describes it.  Schopenhauer is very astute, but he seems to ignore how often we can content ourselves with simple entertainment or productive tasks and instead views the contentment attained from art as a momentary and occasional respite.   But now I’m getting ahead of myself.
Irrational fears and concerns take up the uneducated or uncultured man once again through lack of sober reflection.  Once we realize that we will not be present at our deaths, and that the only true evil in this life (and all things are to be measured through living things) is pain we do not fear death, nor morn the dead but feel glad they have been given such a breath of compassion from fate.  These irrational and in some cases immoral sentiments take hold of Man most regularly through religious indoctrination and observance.  Rousseau once said that Man was born free but everywhere lived in chains and this observance should include the mental manacles that are forced on him particularly through the Abrahamic faiths.  Fear of God is the existence of pain that is nothing more than needless suffering.  It is a form of childish worry that plagues millions who have developed physically but are still in some ways mentally prepubescent.  Also the moral values of certain interpretations of the faiths are dreadful and increase suffering.  Would it be not for religion would any sane person both condemn sexual pleasure and congratulate the bringing of another innocent life into this hellish world?  Particularly when one’s own situation is hellish?  These Pro-Natal sentiments I would argue are inevitable by-products in our species and in a sense only manifest themselves in the religions but the fact remains that they take form due to ignorance and lack of reflection which the faiths create materially through poverty and socially through ostracizing Atheists and encouraging faith over critical thinking.
Much of life is an insignificant concern, as I’ve already stated.  And though some have a naturally carefree temperament which is to be envied much concern themselves with trifles or past grievances that are best left unremembered.  Our entire lives are but a brief episode in a meaningless Universe.  And while we live we should endeavor that our time (collectively) be as pain-free and tranquil as possible – this is the project of ethics and civilization that requires both the tutelage of the sciences and arts.
The proper placing of the arts and sciences I have explored in another essay On Art Surpassing the Sciences in both Utility and Creativity, so I will make the remainder of this essay merely an addendum to it.
It must be said that while art has a cause to inspire action, science has the cause (or role) to make said action(s) possible and done with greater ease.  However, due-to the nature of our Universe and our biology this leaves science in both a “better” and “worse” off role ethically speaking.  It is better because of the poor state Man finds himself in.  Ignorant, alone against the elements, prone to illness and injury, Man requires technology to defend himself and alleviate himself from the elements – both macro and micro.  However, because pain is so much easier to stimulate than pleasure, and because human nature is unfortunately largely egotistical, unskeptical and tribal, science is used to control and dominate rather than to cure and aid.  Modern weaponry is an example of human sophistication being used for endless savagery.  The human mind can only create what it has motive for, and a mind without ethical intent will create without ethical regard – though those with ethical intent can still create that which will create much misery.
Art too, however, can and in some periods was used for largely nefarious reasons.  For just as I mentioned the capacity for art to inspire compassion and sympathy so it can be used to inspire hatred and malice.  A Sociological examination of a society is required to see the specifics of the art and science it produces, which is separate than its good or ill.  Art largely however has the potential to have humans temporarily embody a mind and live a life that is not their own and for that reason among others it still surpasses the natural sciences.
Both are necessary for human beings to live well.  But only art is necessary for human beings to be well in their actions.  As I’ve already stated:  the role of the sciences is to make actions possible or less strenuous, it is culture broadly speaking that motivates those actions.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Correcting the Faults of the Stoics



If it should ever happen to you to be turned to externals in order to please some person, you must know that you have lost your purpose in life.  Be satisfied then in everything with be a philosopher; and if you wish to seem also to any person to be a philosopher, appear so to yourself, and you will be able to do this.  -Epictetus
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Despite their wisdom the Stoics are a bunch that seem to preach much absurdities.  Namely their views of freedom of the will (a type of dualism in relation to the body and mind) and their views on rejecting pleasures as a type of evil.  Though I preach asceticism and find it something that most human beings (particularly those in materially abundant, “advanced” Capitalist countries like America) could benefit from and society, too, would benefit from I find the “denial of pleasure” to be unbecoming.
I will deal with the former first.  Epictetus expresses his dualism between the body and the will repeatedly in The Encheiridion[1].  This is very close to the Christian view that we are simply souls “trapped” in our bodies and we should not be concerned with our material agonies because our true condition lies in that of the spirit and our true and lasting vessel a waits in Heaven with Christ.  This is a sickly view that is used to rationalize either what can be cured and isn’t or what cannot be cured and must be coped with.  On the situation of the former, which is true “immediately” of much pain in the world today, that is it could be cured with modern medicine, and is true “potentially” of all pains (or at-least pains that science can properly cure) for we never know what will be discovered tomorrow, it is reprehensible to claim that the ailments of the body are not ones to the soul.  This is much like Augustine’s “freedom of the will” and claiming that all wrong-doing is always made freely through a deficiency of good.  Both consider the main problem, whether it be of pain or of wrong action with the agency of the person rather than with any causal agency or contingency of agencies that could influence this agent (who is not free, but causal).
The error of the Stoics is worse than that of Augustine.  For while the fault in Augustine’s thought only is in regard to the nature of human consciousness (can people decide their consciousness and are determined by physical agents?), the Stoics err in relation to a malady of the body (or any horror that is external to the individual and not produced in his or her mind) and how it affects the mind (if we lament or not and whether we lose our virtue).  What Augustine says is wrong, but it is a common mistake that many philosophers such as Aristotle have made; making “common sense” observations of agency and action.  The Stoics believe that external events are merely “appearances” that do not deserve much of our attention, and that instead what must be focused on is the mental and physical virtues necessary to not be effected by external circumstances.  And though a degree or form of this is healthy (being independent and not being concerned with the opinions of others) it overall is both demanding the impossible and the immoral.
If we are in pain, if a disease is going to turn our kidneys to waste we need not a Stoic will but the assistance of others – assuming we aren’t medical experts with a pharmacy in our kitchen.  If we do not receive help, either because people choose not to give it, there are no people close by to give it, or one lives in a time or place where the needed help does not exist or is not known, then we must either do what we can to suffer in silence or choose to end our lives and end our pain – in other words, it is only when the situation has become so abysmal that there is no remedy that we become Stoics.  The problems of this world are largely physical and societal, not psychological.  That is to say they are problems that can be solved by science (finding a cure or better way of doing something) and by public policy (implementing said cure so all can receive it, or arranging society so all – or at-least most – can reap in the wisdom of the sciences) to alleviate the burdens of this world.  True, all pains for a period of time can be coped with.  But as Negative Utilitarians and compassionate human beings, it is our obligation to end or prevent pain, not teach people how to cope with it.  This is much like the mistake of Tolstoy, of confusing the poor who suffer immensely but find ways to numb or forget their pain as better off than the intellectual class who complain of petty problems.  The lack of observance of a problem does not mean the problem does not exist.
There is a virtue in forbearance.  However, this virtue should be deemed a means of enduring the incurable or unalterable, not the common means of alleviating pain or of acting.  Instead of acting with fortitude one must act with diligence.  Diligence is actively pursuing the solution to a problem ‘til the resolution is at-hand, while forbearance is merely enduring this life and its hardships.  This is why the Stoics ultimate virtue is (whether they acknowledge it) in passivity and why they believe that God (like the Christians, particularly Augustine) has made all things good and it is only our weakness or ignorance which “makes things” bad by our weak perceptions or wills.
I honestly am confused by Augustine despising the Stoics in his City of God, if anything, Epictetus seems to be a Christian who merely rejects the after-life[2].  What if my wit or good humor leaves me through a car accident?  What has it been restored to?  If my intellect or good demeanor leaves me where has it gone?  Nowhere.  It is gone.  And saying that either one is mistaken to feel loss at the occurrence of, well, loss is a loss of reasoning.  Or to say, if we are to be dualists, that one only has a loss of intellect and character after a head injury because he chose to be of lesser intellectual or moral virtue – I don’t think much time is required, if any, to discount this absurdity. 
People should not mourn loved ones not because nothing has been lost (something has) or because something’s been “restored,” they should not mourn the loss of life in those they love because the one’s they love can no longer suffer and are freed from the mortal bonds that likely gave them grief.  They are no more.  I am essentially favoring the solace given through Epicurus instead of that of Epictetus.  The reasoning and comfort of Negative Utilitarianism rather than Compatibilism combined with I-don’t-know-what.
Now unto their type of asceticism, or rather a type of asceticism which appears at-times in Stoic writings[3][4].  Why should I rejoice when someone openly receives the good if it is far-more noble when I (or someone else) deplore the good?  Also why is hating a good good?  True, we should consider others as equals to ourselves (for they are equal in their capacity to feel pain), and I quite like the notion of teaching others to rejoice in others achievements and blessings rather than to stew in envy and contempt.  But why am I virtuous for shunning that which would bring me pleasure and no pain as a result?  If I build a home and give it to someone else, I am virtuous.  If a house is made for me and I burn it, I am foolish. 
It is true what the Ancient Cynics say of the sensual pleasures.  That they can distract us from acting virtuously and even lead to a painful circumstance either physically or mentally.  And it is true that the Cynics, as Negative Utilitarians contended that those who are closest to the Gods were those who had the least desires in this world.  However, there is a distinction between saying it is good to not have a desire and good to have a desire and never act on it – regardless of whether it will bring us future pain.  Will I be pained if I partake in the material bounty of a feast?  If a drink too much or eat too much, yes, but in the most general sense, no.  Epicurus too stressed asceticism but only as to reduce pain.  However, I do think that the Cynics and Stoics have a point in saying that the pursuit of pleasures and over-indulgence in them have their own forms of pain – appearing typically physically in the case of the latter and mentally in the former. 
We must also remember the Epicurean element of pleasure having the capacity of reducing or eliminating pain; though we do not (and I would not advise) need to accept the Epicurean definition of pleasure as simply the absence of pain.  When we experience hardships we might have our troubles alleviated through watching Steve Martin’s The Jerk, and have our pain forgotten through the introduction of a pleasure.  This is often how pain is forgotten if it can’t be directly cured.  Just as dining on a rare treat may have one forget the burdens of the back or shoulders or knees.  Pleasures in these instances, not only for their self-evident pleasurable qualities but for what they can at-least momentarily alleviate, are not things to be despised but blessings which allow us to live easier.  True, modern life is concerned incredibly with the pursuit of sensual pleasures over the pleasures and virtues of the intellect or the moral impulse, but we should not condemn pleasure, merely correctly put it in its place and focus on higher aspirations which help others rather than merely ourselves and which strengthen the virtuous capacities of humanity rather than deteriorate them through lethargy or decay.
Much like Augustine’s irrational hatred of lust, the Stoics seem to encourage mousiness and chastity (though this is open to interpretation) in women and feel that their place is in relation to men.  Now it should of course be noted that no one is completely free from the influence of their time, so I do not without consideration critique Epictetus for this passage, but it is clear what with his constant reference to wife and children how he views society and societal roles[5].  This, if interpreted a certain way, is not an awful message I suppose.  Saying that we should implicitly tell women they are valued for non-superficial non-sex based qualities and are seen as complete persons just as any man would be.  However, there is another interpretation that is implying that women want nothing more than the Ego-boost that sex and the desire from men attains them (which definitely occurs in today’s society in particular) and, as Schopenhauer said, the natural role of women is nothing more than their relation to men and later to children.  Also, though an emphasis on the superficial and the sensual has its ills as I’ve already stated, it does not follow that all things superficial and sensual should be chastised.  That is, though a woman frequently dressing provocatively for a certain psychological reason may be unhealthy or not possessing the greatest of intentions, it does not follow that we should instruct women to always dress homely and be “discreet” for fear of being seen as a tramp.
Finally, I do find Stoicism to be more akin than dislike Christianity for its view that we should submit ourselves to a reasoning omnibenevolent being who knows what is best.[6]  Or rather, we submit to a higher power rather than using our own reasoning to decide our path, what we deem to be right, and assuming the belief that the main focus is the alleviation and prevention of pain, or best to achieve the two.  Poverty, illness and lack of sight or sense is not deemed in-itself an evil to Stoicism, and therefore it should not be deemed a type of consequentialism, but instead a virtue ethics that focuses entirely on will; or rather, it’s a consequentialism that has divorced its desired end (a tranquil state of mind) from all known consequences and laws of causality.  It is a consequentialism that isn’t concerned with consequence.


[1] Disease is an impediment to the body, but not to the will, unless the will itself chooses.  Lameness is an impediment to the leg, but not to the will. And add this reflection on the occasion of everything that happens; for you will find it an impediment to something else, but not to yourself. 
[2] Never say about anything, I have lost it, but say I have restored it.  Is your child dead?  It has been restored.  Is your wife dead?  She has been restored. 
[3] Remember that in life you ought to behave as at a banquet. Suppose that something is carried round and is opposite to you.  Stretch out your hand and take a portion with decency.  Suppose that it passes by you.  Do not detain it.  Suppose that it is not yet come to you.  Do not send your desire forward to it, but wait till it is opposite to you.  Do so with respect to children, so with respect to a wife, so with respect to magisterial offices, so with respect to wealth, and you will be some time a worthy partner of the banquets of the gods.  But if you take none of the things which are set before you, and even despise them, then you will be not only a fellow-banqueter with the gods, but also a partner with them in power. 
[4] Has any man ben preferred before you at a banquet, or in being saluted or in being invited to a consultation?  If these things are good, you ought to rejoice that he has obtained them:  but if bad, be not grieved because you have not obtained them. 
[5] Women forthwith from the age of fourteen are called by the men mistresses (dominae).  Therefore since they see that there is nothing else that they can obtain, but only the power of lying with men, they begin to decorate themselves, and to place all their hopes in this.  It is worth our while then to take care that they may know that they are valued (by men) for nothing else than appearing (being) decent and modest and discreet. 
[6] In every thing (circumstance) we should hold these maxims ready to hand:  Lead me, O Zeus, and though O Destiny, The way that I am bid by you to go:  To follow I am ready.  If I choose not, I make myself a wretch, and still must follow.