Saturday, December 10, 2011

The importance of context

It's 5:54 on a Saturday morning I should be sleeping. But the storm is howling out side and the thoughts generated by listening to the philospher Esa Saarinen's lecture yesterday is whirling around in my head.

During the lecture I notice Mr Saarinen explicitly mentioned quite a few dead people. In order of apperance:
  • Terry Fox
  • his friends husband
  • his own father
  • a decorated war veteran
  • his uncle Eino
This lead me to the following question:
Do I recognize his need to to process death by mentioning 5 dead persons or,
is it because I have a hidden need to process death that I notice theses mentions?

Hi later ends the lecture with a clip of Shirley Bassey signing
...and now the end is near...

Now this could all be coincidence, after all hi does mention ice-hockey and beer alot more than death. I don't know the guy enough to tell if he really likes hockey and beer this much or is he just good at targeting his lecture according to his crowd. After all, speaking to a general Finnish audience, for a majority ice hockey is a religion and beer is God. But i would be surprised if a speaker of this magnitude would say anything by chance.

During his lecture Saarinen used many film and TV clips, one of which has a clip from the movie Invictus staring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as the South African rugby legend François Pienaar. From the scene where  François meets Mr. Mandela for the first time, Saarinen points out a line said by Mr. Mandela to Mrs Brits as she comes in with the afternoon tea, it went something like this:
Ah Mrs Brits, you are the sunshine of my days
Saarinen then goes on by how great it was of Mr. Mandela to great his assistant in such a warm way. [haa  haa, almost made a subconscious slip there by typing "worm" instead of "warm"] Once again I'm not sure, did Saarinen intentionally take this line out of context, a line that had been preceded only a few lines earlier by another line by Mr. Mandela, again freely quoted:
Please sit here François (pointing at the chair, then walking to the sofa with it's back against the windows and continuing) the light hurts my eyes

Taking that Saarinen's lecture evolves around this loosely translated statement of his:
Positivity is not the absence of negativity
but a treasure chest, that the size of which we determine
It is easy to see why he would chose to down play, or miss altogether, the sarcastic link between these two lines, the light hurting Mr. Mandelas eyes and him calling his assistant "sunshine" (or massive amounts of light). This is where Kelso, of That 70's show, would yell out "Burn!!".  The statement itself led me to construct this formula

P = positive willpower or intent or cause
N = negative willpower or intent or cause
R = the  real world out come or effect

this in turn would give
 the size of P (positive force) and N (negative force) is up to each of us to determine for our self and thous "dragging" R toward the larger of these to forces. In order to make the world a more positive place we need to take every action to make the positive as big as we can.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A letter to Lance

On what would have been my father's birthday, I took a break from reading and wrote a letter to Lance.

Dear Lance and the livestrong team,

Hope it’s OK to call you Lance, as Mr. Armstrong doesn’t seem to fit
among fellow cyclists.

I’ve been meaning to write to you for many years, but never gotten
around to it, knowing that you must get like a million messages, but
here’s one more.

On the day that would have been my father’s birthday I want to thank
you, you’d been an inspiration for me and my family in more than one way.

The first and most obvious is the cycling part. About the same times as
your first come back in 1999 I started to take cycling more seriously
with club level racing. Trying to emulate your style of riding with a
high cadence and loving long climbs.

Some five year later comes the second and third reason to thank you for
your inspiration, as my wife and I had trouble getting a child. In the
midst of the on setting despair I said to my wife “If Lance made it
through this so can we”. Just a few months after we began our treatments
(IUF and IVF), my father (also an active cyclist) was diagnosed with
lung cancer.
Once again I said, this time to my dad, “If Lance made it through this
so can you” and he did, or much longer than the one year the doctors
said he would. Four years he lived strong and active, volunteering at schools and
raising funds as a Rotary regional governor, until he probably felt his
job was done. The day after he died was also the day I took of my yellow
band, not that I gave up on the fight against cancer, but to focus on
the memories of my father before the illness.

Two years later we adopted our daughter, she never got to meet her
granddad, but she shares the family passion for cycling. When she grows
up, she wants to be a triathlete and reach for the sky when she crosses
the finish line like the cycling boys on TV.

Riding around on your bike really can make a difference. Thank you!

-roger & family

Dad's Texan card

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Road signs

Next up is the question of symbols, extensively explained through the example of numerals and numbers. Numerals like 1,2,3.. or I, II, III are not the same as one of something, two of something a.s.o. I like to illustrate this with this Buddhist proverb:

Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?

The Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng of the Zen sect
This is quite clear to all, but this is also where I hit another problem I have whit many religions. Here I refer to the many holy scripts, that are taken as "the words of God".

Many readers of these scripts are so concentrated on the story that they miss the plot altogether. The plot is great "Be compassionate towards each other", for simple folks of ancient times this was probably to abstract. The stories needed to be more concrete examples and advice for every day life at the time, and that they still are. But this doesn't make the letters (the symbols for a pronounced sound) the words of God.    

This is like taking the finger for  the moon, or the road signs for the town it points to.

Likewise, the act of doing good, being compassionate, is not the good, it's the result of  doing good that is the good.  That makes evil the result of the absent of compassion and as I stated in my previous post,

Only where and when there are beings capable of compassion, can God exist
One further danger to take the letters for the words of God, is the fact that these stories has also been used as objects of power to direct and control the actions of the subject and thous the stories have most likely been adjusted or interpreted to suit the needs of the rulers along the decades since the actual events depicted happened.

As a final note about part II of the book, reading 17th century text is hard for the untrained reader.

Now on to part III, epistemology.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Where the fun begins

Continuing to read on in the "Core Questions In Philosophy (Elliott Sober)" and at the beginning of Part II;chapter 4 I found my self stuck on a disagreement with the text. Part II is also where the fun begins, part I is a description of the mechanics of classic western philosophy, which is not to say it isn't useful or interesting, which it is.

Back to the point where I got stuck. It's in the definition of God (God-A), used by Saint Thomas Aquinas "God is a person or being who is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient) and  entirely good (omnibenevolent) [all-PKG], that the author seems to take somewhat as a given, although the author does comment on that this is not the only definition. But even in the referred to chapter 11, it's not questioned that God be a being of gender, only that 'he' might not be all-PKG. I do understand the need to limit the scope in order to more easily be able to illustrate the process of philosophical testing of arguments.

But why not test the basics of the premises to see if they are true. If you set out to prove a being with big ears and a long trunk exists, you'll probably come up with an argument for the existence of an elephant. What if the object of proof doesn't have big ear or a trunk, if the object to be proven is the effect of the long trunk, the sound coming out of it.

In my definition of God (God-E) [see my previous post] I dismissed part of the all-PKG God-A definition and the fact that God-E is is a physical being, furthermore my view is the God-E is not the cause but the effect.

It's like the sound when you whistle, just because you have a mouth doesn't mean that there is the sound of you whistling, but if you had no mouth it would be impossible to hear you whistle. God is like the sound, not like the mouth.

Then there's the problem that humans have a need to be able to explain everything, and when faced with something that they  have not been able to explain, they've taken the short cut of assigning it to the doings of the Gods. These God-X's are something totally different to the God-E and can in part be dismissed by modern science.

Still the fact that our capability to understand is limited and renders us inherently unable to understand everything hold open the possibility for God-X's to exist.But God-X's doesn't have to be all-PKG.

From the point of view of a dog. A dog probably doesn't understand the inner workings of an internal combustion engine, but still the engine exist as some thing the dog doesn't understand. Even if the dog would consider the maker of the engine a God-X, this God-X or engineer, as we call them, doesn't have to be all-PKG, just PKG-enough to produce the engine.

So far the argument (that I feel I'll need to revise at some point) includes:
God-A, is a composite of a wrongfully interpreted God-E, as the cause not the effect, and the God-X's.
There are things we are unable to understand because of their complexity, that could be the workings of God-X, but could also be random events.
God-E, is the effect of love (in the form of compassion, caring, etc..) between beings

Only where and when there are beings capable of love between each other, can God-E exist

That would make for, God-A not be one necessary all-PKG entity, God-E a contingent effect and God-X would be the non-all-PKG maker of Paley's watch.

But Paley's watch need not have a maker, it could just be the product of a long string of random events, some of which we are incapable to understand. If the theory of mass-energy conservation is correct the string of events doesn't have to have a beginning or an end, it might as well be a circular chain of events.

Now what would be really interesting to know is, have I fallen for some rookie fallacy or is there some solidity to my argument?

The why.

Why blog about God?

Even thou, "one revelation is not Buddha", it all comes down to this text I wrote for my father's funeral (here translated from Swedish and slightly revised):
My father, God and eternal life.

What is God?

God is omnipresent. The love between us is always there and everywhere.
God is all-conquering. The love between us conquers all obstacles.
God is forgiving. The love between us, forgives our mistakes.

The love between us is God.
How can we live forever?

As we influence someone's life, we become part of the collective experience.
When we teach what we have learned, we will become part of humanity's collective knowledge, that future generations can rely on.

The collective experience and knowledge is the eternal life.

Dad lives on as part of God in eternity through the love, the experiences and lessons he gave us. Together with all who loved him,
taught him and shared his experiences with him.
This is essentially the conclusion of a thought process that started some time in my teens around the time a toke part in the Confirmation Training at our parish. Been brought up in an active parish, I have a active knowledge of the stories in the Bible. But at some point I started to question what I heard in church, "do I
really believe, that what the pastor is saying in his sermon to be true?". I didn't.

After that insight I stopped going to church. But my interest for philosophy was still dormant, waiting for it to come to life years later.
For a few years now, my passion for science has been getting stronger and at present turning more to philosophy.

The "Core Questions In Philosophy (Elliott Sober)", that I'm reading at the moment, is my first take at classical western philosophy. Earlier I've read about Taoist and Buddhist philosophy. I like the Buddhist take, to questions things.
Do not believe in anything(simply) because you have heard it.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumoured by many.
Do not believe in anything(simply) because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and
is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all then accept it and live up to it.

Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya Vol I, 188-193 R.T.S. ED)
This blog is me thinking out loud about what I read in the aforementioned "Core Questions..." 

Note added July 26th, 2013

To clarify, I don't consider there being an entity called “God”, but that the abstract feeling of love and compassion constitutes that what religious scripts have simplified as “God”. “Act's of God” are altogether different, as being events in of the natural world that previous generations have lacked the knowledge to explain and thous taking the easy way by accrediting them to “(the) God(s)”.