Breath


Breath is an essential part of life. We do it from the day we’re born, until the day we die. We inhale and exhale over and over. In meditation, practioners often focus on breath, which seems to have calming or grounding effect. It seems that everything we do is interconnected with breath.

We do other things, of course, we refuel, and we excrete waste. We eat. Our body breaks down the food. What the body doesn’t use up is pushed out the other end. It seems that breathing and producing waste is what people do most of the time.

Now, here some argue that we think, socialize, and the like, but honestly, myself included, most of what people think isn’t of much use. By this, I mean it isn’t original, or it isn’t useful. Maybe, for example, a person doesn’t like Trump. This is, hardly, original.  They decide to form a group and protest. Will the protest result in a new president? Most likely the answer is a resounding no.

To sum things up, people are breathing excreting machines. There’s nothing, essentially, wrong with that. It’s just what people are most of the time. Human being are very sensitive creatures. If their breath or their ability to refuel is taken from them, then they perish. People can learn to make better use of their time. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind that us people are alive for a very limited amount of time. We take a very limited amount of breaths. Use them wisely.

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The Truth Part II


Objective truth is an interesting notion. Us finite creatures like to think of it as both existing and accessible, and perhaps, most importantly, capable of informing our morality. I would, however, like to point out that morality and truth-seeking can only really matter to the “developed.” Those starving can only truly care about staving off their hunger and, perhaps, their loved one’s hunger. I, suppose, that might be tipping my hat to Maslow. Still, if one doesn’t think this true, one only has to look at the looting that takes place after a natural disaster.

Furthermore, even in a culture that is developed, one has to ask if objective truth can truly be found. It is quite popular today for people to think that science and philosophical debate can shine a light on objective truth. Unfortunately, people are not rational humans at heart, and as Nietzsche pointed out time and time again in Beyond Good and Evil often a philosopher’s  argument says more about the philosopher than the truth.

The problem, at base level, with trying to use logical methods to carve out objective truth is that human beings are not inherently rational beings. Thus, this begs the question of whether or not human beings even have the ability to discover objective truth. It is as if we can only see through a people through a windshield of car, while driving through a snow storm. We are prone to error, and these errors can be dangerous.

This is to to say, a little knowledge, without enough knowledge, can be dangerous. First year med students are known to want to over diagnosis themselves and their families with horrible illnesses, it is for this reason medical schools don’t give them prescription pads. Nevertheless, we give philosophers and clergy free reign over what constitutes objective truth.

On the other hand, objective truth may be out there, but can humans grasp it? I would argue that this is not clear, and this why much of the time we need to operate in probabilistic and pragmatic truth. It matters that Janet isn’t lying when she says John raped her. It matters that the engineer who worked on the bridge did his math correct, so I can be sure my car can go over it safely. It matters that the underlying mathematical system is sound. I can be reasonably sure, that everything shown on the Ancient Aliens program is horse shit.

Finally, some want to argue that we need to have one undefined axiom and rely on that for system of truths. They, conveniently, want to add God as this axiom. The problem, however, is that the really is no sufficient reason to think that such an entity exists, and its existence raises more problems than it solves. Even if it did exist, this beingm almost by definition, be incomprehensible to us finite creatures, but this isn’t the way most monotheistic traditions see God. Instead, the Western traditions are absolutist and ingrained with either “believe in our God and in our way.” The being the believe is defined with omni properties, acts a certain way, etc. Without these notions, the whole structure of their truth and morality falls apart. I would argue the falling apart of the absolutism of the monotheistic Western God is partially responsible for the chaos and culture wars we see today in the West.

The Truth As a Woman


“Supposing truth is a woman–what then? Are there not grounds for the suspicion that all philosophers, insofar as they were dogmatists, have been very inexpert about women?” Nietzsche

What makes forming any type of workable ethical system up hard is that there are a lot of moving parts. For examples, ethics is very tied up with morality, and what is morality tied up with? Truth. What is the truth tied up? The definition of truth. As you can imagine, there are many subcategories I could list, as well as general categories not mentioned.

Nevertheless, here at the bottom rung of truth, there is still an intensive amount of work to be done. For one, there is the issue basic definition. Although, most people go about their lives, as if this isn’t the issue. If a person hasn’t seemed to run into any problems, they don’t see why this can lead this to a meltdown. They are one of the lucky ones! Then there is the question of how we can obtain truth. Then, there of what to do with the truth, once we have found it. Is it better to hide certain devesting truths? Once again, I could go on. And on. And on. Well, you get the point.

It is as if, throughout the ages, people have prized the truth as a pure virginal woman. If she was not protected, she could be harmed, murdered, or worse have her “purity” tainted. People were executed for her. People fought wars over her. Families disowned each other over her.

The truth, however, is not in need of protection. If for example, Big Brother style, every book, every website, every media, and every outlet of every kind was changed from past to present to future to say that Abraham Lincoln was a slave owner, and over time people learned “the new history” and the rest of us died off would that change anything? What if no one ever, even up to human extinction ever figured out that Abraham Lincoln did not own slaves? Does that change anything? Well, the actual truth doesn’t change. The only difference is human ignorance. Martyrs aren’t dying for the truth. Their dying for the spread of the knowledge of what they believe to be true. Their beliefs may or may not be truth. No one can taint what is true.

Now this, is of course, works for certain definitions of truth. Most us, I’m assuming, use the word truth in “objective” way. In other ways, something it something corresponds. Now the problem, is that definition is not always good, and some for example, prefer pragmatic definitions, but that is a post for another day.

Objectivity vs Subjectivity


It is very easy for those of us with some kind of STEM background to appreciate objectivity. In the sciences and mathematics, subjectivity, generally, has no place. Things need to be objective, if we are to get at the truth of the natural world. Thus, many times in discussions subjective details are left out and seen as unimportant. However, subjective experiences are part of being human. Thus, I would argue that people should not see subjective experiences as irrelevant or unimportant in all areas of life.

Now, this is not to say we need to add subjective thinking into the STEM fields. That would be an extreme mistake. However, what I am saying is that humans are not robots, and there is a time and place for understanding people’s subjective experience and not simply pushing those experiences aside.

To say that a conservative’s subjective views on abortion doesn’t matter, would be a grave mistake. The conservative might know people that regretted having an abortion. Certainly, there could be objective studies showing how most women tend to feel about their abortions, whether it be positive or negative. This is where people in the conversation tend to want to point out studies and use other scientific tools, as this conservative doesn’t have a large sample size of women who  had abortions. However, how the conservative feels certainly does matter and so does the women who regretted having the abortion. Their feelings and experiences do matter whether or not they speak with the strength of a study.

In this case, the conversation is about social standards, morality, and the effects abortions have on women. Even if most women don’t regret abortion, it is certainly worth noting that some women do. Additionally, what is a good social standard and what our morality should be should be up for debate, and while, objective science can help one cannot forget the subjective experiences of all the people effected by this debate. A philosophy that cannot be practiced in the real world is useless, even if some like the particular arguments of the philosophy.

Note: I’m not trying to answer the pro-life/pro-choice debate.

As always, let me know what you think!

On Truth: An Atheist Quotes Scripture


I am going to do some very odd for an atheist, but bear with me. I am going to quote scripture.

In John 18 Pilate is questioning Jesus who, according to the Bible, will soon be crucified.

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Many claim to be pointing to the truth. The Christians have Jesus and the Bible. The Muslims have the Quran. Many atheists declare there is no god with at least some degree of certitude, and everyone seems to think that if everyone else followed the same thought processes that they did everyone would reach the same conclusions. When everyone doesn’t reach the same conclusions, the other group is wrong and excuses are made. In a sense, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” Of course, we have no idea if Pilate really said this, or indeed, if this scene really took place. Still, imagine just giving up flabbergasted and retorting, “What is truth?” I’m sure most of my readers know that it was Barabbas who was released. Does the truth matter? And what do you do with truth once it is found? Do you get a gold star for finding the truth?

But there is a scarier situation. What if on the journey to find truth, all that is found is chaos and, ironically at the same time, nothingness? What if, on finding the truth, the notion of human progress seems flimsy at best. What if there are no answers on how to live a good life? What if, at base, there are no logical answers to life’s most urgent questions? Maybe you do get that damned gold star, but at what price?

I’m not saying truth is that grim, only what if? Does one live their life wearing their gold star with pride, or do they do something different?

As always, opinions welcome!

 

 

The Bias of the Obvious in Philosophy


Philosophers often struggle and strive to create logical arguments to get at the truth of a particular subject or so the claim is. In philosophy classes, students are bombarded with various forms of logical deductive and inductive arguments, so that they know what qualifies as a genuine argument. The students are trained to avoid logical fallacies, and they write many a paper, where they will lose many a grade point if they fail to make a logical argument and avoid these fallacies. Still, doing real philosophy is not this simple. I would argue, that philosophers are often “biased”.

This is not to say that philosophers aren’t, for the most part, making logical arguments. The problem is that even a logical argument can potentially be wrong, if new information arises. For example look at this argument:

  1. All white bears are polar bears
  2. X is a bear
  3. X is white
  4. Thus, X is a polar bear

That argument is logical, but it is also wrong. Non-polar bears can be, of course, white. But, if someone had never heard or seen a white non-polar bear, this argument would seem reasonable, wouldn’t it?

And, this brings us to the next point. Philosophy and logic are absolutely indispensable, but logic alone is not enough to bear the weight of the burden of proof in many cases. If someone had never had a science class or lived a long time ago, it would make sense to them that the sun went around the earth. Why? It seems patently obvious to the naked eye. Both modern knowledge and logical argumentation is necessary to prove that the earth in fact goes around the sun and the like.

One of the problems philosophy faces in arenas outside science and instead in arenas such as morality and religion is to get past the “obvious.” It is obvious to some that God exists, and it is obvious to other that he/she/it doesn’t. Many a premise and conclusion are made to prove both sides of this debate correct, but the debate still rages. For example, when people make the claim that something can’t come from nothing, this will seem obvious to many people, but has anyone ever dealt with absolute nothingness? Could we be wrong about the obvious? I’m not trying to claim the answer one way or the other, but the point is, how would we really know? These philosophers and lay people are relying on the obvious which is in reality a bias!

Nevertheless, it is not just religious philosophy that suffers from the problems of the bias of the obvious. For many the idea of maximizing happiness as a moral system seems obvious, not that there aren’t arguments for this, but should we be digging deeper? Sure being happy and causing others to be happy seems “nice.” However, it is tempting to ask if happiness and pleasure are really the highest aims to being human.

There are many other cases and examples I could have used in philosophy. I hope to have used some relatable ones. The problem with philosophy, sometimes, is that it is often trying to answer questions before we have enough knowledge, or it is trying to answer questions where superior knowledge will never be found. Often the bias of the obvious is used, so I beseech you to notice this when you are doing your own critical thinking.

 

Thank you for reading. Feel free to like and comment!

Why, as an Atheist, have I been Talking so much about Buddhism?


Here is my unscripted off the cuff remarks on my interest in Buddhism