All posts for the month December, 2007

Out west with Sylvia, Tom and Robbie … Vegas, Death Valley, Sierras, Tahoe, San Francisco, Sequoia, Flagstaff, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Vegas.

Highlight for me was Monument Valley (at 12F) and Sequoia for a white Christmas day – oh, and the pleasure of meeting Alice and Family. Surreal moment, eating dinner outdoors on the balcony at Olives with 6 hours to kill before our return red-eye from Vegas – recommended fountain-entertainment-and-food value even at The Bellagio prices.

More later when I’ve sorted the pictures, and dealt with the e-mail backlog.

Having noticed that the content of the “Taking Science on Faith” post below, provided to me by Gary Wegner, was also in the current edition of The Edge, I see that it is also covered in the comment thread to the Daily Kos post reviewing Paul Davies “Cosmic Jackpot” … The Edge and Paul Davies being the connection.

That’s the Anthropic Principle thread that wound Island up, though I have to say the piece reads as a reasonable if sceptical summary, despite the clamour of self-congratulatory closed minds in the ensuing thread. That post of mine was of course prompted by Marsha picking up the Daily Kos article on the Pirsig Metaphysics of Quality discussion forum … Pirsig being my connection with Gary in the first place

A series of interviews by Matt Frei with journalists. bloggers and the YouTube team of under-21 Billionaires, and others across the US. The agenda is about the place of professional journalism in this media revolution … don’t worry Matt, there still is one.

One interesting discussion – a traditional journalist expressing the concern with blogging / social networking communities tending to be self-selecting amongst people who already agree / re-inforce their pre-conceived perspectives. Actually I don’t believe that is true. How to put this … I’m sure the “less intellectual” select their mainstream media channels to satisfy their prejudices too, and the media re-inforce that by pandering to their audience tastes. The more intellectually / experientially curious will always seek more channels of input – where different equals interesting. I’d suggest that’s true whatever the media, the difference is choice is simply easier with the bottom-up channels.

Again, third time today, 99% of blogging and social media content is crap, and 99% of mainstream media content is crap too because, repeat after me …. 99% of anything is crap. (If the idea of 99% crap offends, insert your own preferred interpretation of the 80/20 rule, the Pareto principle. Despite the odds, the point is to treat the 1% nuggets as a “cup half full” – something to work with and build on.)

(Interestingly, the YouTube video parodying the YouTube business success story to the tune of “We Didn’t Start The Fire” is off the air …

“This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by a third party.”

(Billy Joel’s music publisher presumably, not YouTube itself. Pity, it was an excellent piece of work.)

Interestingly ironic thread with Dave Snowden on Euan Semple’s Obvious about this Doris Lessing comment.

Referring a few posts ago, to Johnnie Moore commenting on the persistent inanity of most of what the evolving web technologies are used for.

Lest we forget, 99% of the internet is inane crap, because 99% of everything is crap. The important thing is knowing how to pan for the nuggets … peer-to-peer connections, context, etc …

Doubly ironic is Euan’s slightly later post on Gartner appearing to rubbish the investment value in Web2.0 … given Dave Pollard dubbing KM2.0 as KM0.0 (also reported by David Gurteen.) Interconnected enough for you ?

I’ve mentioned many times that “meta” is an important concept – the word itself seems to come and go with fashions. “Meta-X” equals “X concerning X”

In my agenda here it is a way, in this Subject / Object oriented world, of taking that one step back from the apparent objects and focusssing on the objects (processes) by which they arise and interact … less risk of “reifying” the objects themselves.

Ant drew our attention to this new “Meta-Q” blog by Caryl Johnston, in Philadelphia PA. Meta-Q signifying Meta-Quality, and very much looking at the place of Pirsigian Quality in an educational / academic context.

By (Pirsigian) defintion, Quality itself is undefinable, and attempts to do so of limited value and ultimately counter productive. Meta-Quality is a concept I like – definition through the processes and interactions through which Quality arises – rather than direct definition of Quality itself.

Less than a month in the blogosphere, but several interesting looking essays there already. Added to the blog roll so I can read at leisure and post some more specific comments in due course. Caryl describes the Pirsigian (Metaphysics of) Quality agenda as an attempt …

… to raid the encampment of philosophy, which has become entrenched in the subject-object dualism of modern rationalism and fortified by the spoils dispensed by universities, government, and economics, to capture its real prize: an orientation that makes sense of the world, makes a difference in how one lives, and does justice to all levels of human nature.

Addressing the problem of the “subject-object dualism of modern rationalism”. Absolutely. Sounds like my manifesto (in the header).

(Post note : been browsing around and Caryl has multiple blogs – all very interesting. She concludes another essay with …

We need to re-dynamize ourselves
– by remembering the paradoxy in orthodoxy.

Well said. And talking of the paradox in the orthodox, conflict with the static, I’m reminded of Pirsig’s own words in the Baggini nterview … )

Dynamic or static, both are absolutely essential, even when they are in conflict. As stated in LILA, without Dynamic Quality an organism cannot grow. But without static quality an organism cannot last. Dynamic liberals and radicals need conservatives to keep them from making a mess of the world through unneeded change. Conservatives also need liberals and radicals to keep them from making a mess of the world through unneeded stagnation. This also holds true for philosophy. My feeling is that subject-object way of interpreting the world is stagnant and inadequate for our time, but without that base of subject-object understanding to build from, the Metaphysics of Quality, by itself, has no value either.


Series of two articles and letters to the editor in the NY Times, and a SlashDot thread …

Dennis Overbye “Laws of Nature, Source Unknown”

Paul Davies “Taking Science on Faith”

(More of the same by the same authors in the latest “Edge“)

Letters to the NYT Editor “Scientific Method; Evidence not Faith”

SlashDot “Where Do the Laws of Nature Come From ?”

Forwarded by Gary Wegner, picking up on Pirsig’s “Ghosts” theme on “scientific laws” in Chapter 3 of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Robert M Pirsig

“feigning twentieth-century lunacy”

just like everyone else.

Gary highlights this “SPUN1352” response in the SlashDot thread …

There are three basic approaches to this existential dilemma. First, decide based on arbitrary experiences that one particular explanation is right. Second, decide that no particular explanation matters since you can’t know which one is right for sure, and get on with your life. Third, go batshit insane.

Buddha was asked a number of questions by a wise philosopher of the time, such as “Is there a soul,” “Is there a God” and “Is there life after death?” Buddha refused to answer because the answers aren’t important. If they are important to you, there is a more basic question you should be asking first, which is, “Why is it important for me to believe that I know the answers?”

You will find the answer to this is always some variant of, “Because I’m afraid of dying and knowing the right things will help keep me from ceasing to exist.” So the question becomes, why am I afraid of dying? And the answer is almost always something along the lines of, “Because I see myself as fundamentally separate from the Universe, and when I die, I’m gone.

This is based on the fact that mind has privileged access to some of it’s own internal state. No one else seems to know our internal worlds, and so we fear that when we die, those worlds will be lost. Worse yet, as we believe we are the only ones who can put them in their proper context, when we die, they might be misinterpreted.

Well, buck up. You aren’t separate from the universe. You are not a subject, observing the objects. You aren’t a little man sitting in your head looking out through your eyes and hearing through your ears. The sense of self is just another sense, just another track in the recording. No one is listening because there aren’t any such things as individuals to observe.

Is that confusing or upsetting? Then you are stuck in dualistic thinking, and will always be, in some sense, scared of death. If you can let go of dualism and realize that there is no subjective observer separate from the objects observed, but that observation still exists, then you will be free and it won’t matter one bit whether we are living in a simulation, or even whether there is a God, a soul, or an afterlife.

Interesting final quote – see my last Dawkins “Talking Point” piece, where I think I quoted Dennett that, to an atheist or agnostic, the question of the existence of god can be of no pragmatic consequence. But so much more in there … more later.

If you ask the wrong (existential) question …

the answers aren’t important.

[Post Note – It occurred to me that the quoted expression “Why is it important for me to believe that I know the answers?” is in fact a meta-question – a why-question about why-questions. See next “meta” post.]

Did this back in 2003.

Sam picked up on it recently, and I was prompted to re-do and see how my outlook has changed.

Latest Result

1.  Aquinas   (100%)  Information link
2.  Aristotle   (94%)  Information link
3.  Jeremy Bentham   (72%)  Information link
4.  Plato   (71%)  Information link
5.  John Stuart Mill   (55%)  Information link
6.  St. Augustine   (53%)  Information link
7.  Epicureans   (52%)  Information link
8.  Spinoza   (51%)  Information link
9.  Jean-Paul Sartre   (50%)  Information link
10.  Ayn Rand   (46%)  Information link
11.  Thomas Hobbes   (40%)  Information link
12.  Stoics   (40%)  Information link
13.  Nel Noddings   (38%)  Information link
14.  David Hume   (38%)  Information link
15.  Nietzsche   (37%)  Information link
16.  Cynics   (29%)  Information link
17.  Ockham   (14%)  Information link
18.  Kant   (11%)  Information link
19.  Prescriptivism   (3%)  Information link

Previous Result

1. Spinoza (100%)
2. Aquinas (89%)
3. Stoics (89%)
4. Aristotle (86%)
5. Nietzsche (85%)
6. Jeremy Bentham (70%)
7. Epicureans (68%)
8. Jean-Paul Sartre (68%)
9. Nel Noddings (65%)
10. Plato (64%)

Significant differences … the survey itself seems modified behind the scenes, certainly the reporting has.

Aquinas, Aristotle and Plato all up, Spinoza down, Nietzsche well down. Weird ? Re-reading Nietzsche and reading Spinoza both at the moment. Not sure if this is meaningful at all. Clearly there is a level of interpretation in the survey relationships to the specific philosophers introduced by whomever created it.