Saturday, June 23, 2018

Follow Me

Follow Me, I know a shortcut ...

A shortcut is a heuristic technique, it is what we do to learn or discover something new for ourselves. It is what we call a "hands-on" experience. It is the way in which we solve problems, learn, or discover new information. 

We also know that taking a shortcut means we will see what lies just beyond our normal peripheral vision, a parallel path, if you will. This path may not be perfectly groomed and manicured, but it is immediate because it is new. 

When our brains encounter new information we are nearly fully engaged. This engagement results in a quickening of the heartbeat, a livening of the imagination, and a fueling of the spirit, which invigorates and propels us onward, filling us with bravery and courage each step of the way. 

There is a bias, though, as we instinctively believe shortcuts will enable us to reach our destination faster, resulting in our capacity to travel onward, further ... toward discoveries that would have not come to fruition had we taken the straight and narrow path. 

As we travel along the path toward wherever it is we're headed, shortcuts speed up the process of finding that which we seek. Shortcuts deliver our dreams to us faster, enabling us to enjoy them longer. The more enjoyable the journey, the more immediate the sensation of being alive, and the happier we feel. 

Deep happiness leads to altruistic behavior. When our needs are met, we are far more capable of meeting the needs of others. These are those times when we walk side by side with others, pointing out the beautiful scenery, sharing thoughts and ideas, and enjoying simple discourse, whatever the topic. 

These very human reactions indicate that the goal of life is not reaching the destinations we set for ourselves but rather, the newness of information, the outward expansion of our sense of being becoming [itself]. The state of becoming is thus the ideal state. 

It is in becoming where we take flight; where our true intelligence lies; where the cognitive burden of making decisions is at ease with itself. These are those educated guesses, those intuitive judgments, and common sense to which we refer when we just know something is true. 

On the straight and narrow path we quickly learn the terrain, to the point we stop seeing it. But trial and error shows us that we do not always know what we think we know. 

Take light, for instance. Had Einstein not questioned its fundamental nature, how long would the world have waited before someone else came along and pondered its mysteries? 

Pondering mysteries is what immediately takes us off the straight and narrow path. Here we must sit and visit with an idea, a truism, or a mystery ... asking it questions and listening for answers.  

Imagine putting together a puzzle. You start with a box of pieces, all randomly thrown about. You begin pulling out a few pieces at a time, matching them according to shapes and color. If you know what the puzzle "should look like" you have a head start, but you are also missing out on a fundamental experience: the realm of the unknown. 

It is in the "not knowing" that we discover what we actually know. When we approach an idea with notions on what it is or what it will become, we rarely venture far from that thought path. 

The ability to bring together pieces of a puzzle into a preconceived shape speeds up our success rate. It gets us to the goal of having a completed puzzle faster. From here we can move onto new puzzles, repeating the process over and over again until the point that even new information no longer feels new. 

... or we can dump out all the puzzle pieces before us and without a preconceived image, begin assembling bits and pieces in a way that our instincts are exercised. When we try to see what we can derive from very little information, we engage our instincts in a way that we become more intuitive, more instinctual in the process. It is from these instincts our species has learned to survive and thrive. 

Easy as this sounds, it can be a daunting experience. Few people are comfortable venturing into the unknown. Those who do, either do so tiptoeing, little by little, or do so with GUSTO, jumping head first! 

Shortcuts are hard-coded within us by evolutionary processes. Our approach to taking them explains how we make decisions, formulate judgments, and solve problems when we are faced with complexity and incomplete information. 

The rules or methods we use are our own, and work in most circumstances, but how delightful is it when they don't work? This is when we open a new door within ourselves, unlocking a new pathway we hadn't previously seen or considered.

Let us journey to Utopia ... 

In Plato's Republic we imagine the "ideal city" - only it does not yet exist. We must first create it. Since the 4th century B.C.E. we have been in pursuit of Utopia, the beautiful society where egalitarian principles of equality are woven through its foundation, where government and justice work in harmony with principles of respect and dignity, where all beings live and work in harmony, traveling hand in hand as the entire species moves forth, venturing through an unknown cosmos. 

Boundless opportunities exist in a society that travels onward in harmony, finding a place for all to contribute naturally and with great enthusiasm and joy. All of us have something to offer this society, and the society works optimally when we all are given the opportunity to share our unique perspectives, talents, and pearls of wisdom. 

Life is not meant to be traveled ahead of time. Success is not moving ahead of society, taking more than one needs to actively and happily participate and contribute. 

Life is all about the participation, the level of engagement we bring to the table.

That's thriving!

*Follow me, a photography project by Murad Osmann
Article by Sophy Laughing

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Hedonistic Calculus

To determine an individual's pleasure or pain from an action, English utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) suggested weighing intensity (pleasure's strength), duration (how long pleasure would last), certainty (the probability that the action will result in pleasure), propinquity (how soon the pleasure might occur), fecundity (the chance that the pleasure would result in further actions), and purity (the probability these further actions would be further pleasures and not pains). He also added extent, taking into account the effects of the said decision on other people. 

Because universities are yet to offer a course in Hedonistic Calculus, we can only guess the specific algebra required to compare these variables, on how to quantify, for example, the intensity of pleasure. 

We can, however, look to J.S. Mill via Sandel, at this Harvard University lecture on the philosophical notion of utilitarianism. 

If this sort of lecture isn't your thing, follow these instructions.

Do that which brings you pleasure. 
Prior to the dissipation of the pleasurable sensation, ask yourself these five questions: 

  1. Are you feeling good? 
  2. Do you want to do this again? 
  3. To what extent are your thoughts different from ordinary, pleasure-deficient thoughts? 
  4. How willing are you to repeat that which just brought you pleasure? 
  5. If you could, would you choose this sensation, uninterrupted and ad infinitum? 

Write down your answers. 
Think about them. 
Repeat, as necessary, to formulate your opinion. 
Compare and contrast your opinion against your opinion outside the pleasure state. 
How do these opinions differ? How do you account for the differentiation? 

Formulating pleasure into a body of science requires a demonstrated replicability both of the application of the method and of the results obtained in this way. 

When in doubt, guess. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What happens when a Philosopher joins your company's legal department

Solipsism Warning: 

The consumer should be aware that he or she may be the only entity in the universe, and therefore that any perceived defects in product quality are the consumer's own fault.

Determinism Safety Advisory:

Every citizen is advised that despite the possibility that his or her acts are all entirely predetermined by the blind mechanical nature of the universe and are therefore unavoidable and inescapable, he or she will still incur a legal responsibility and liability for any torts, violations, misdemeanors, or felonies he or she commits.

Knowledge-Definition Warning:

Because knowledge is defined for the purpose of this product literature as "justified true belief", the manufacturer cannot prove that they "know" any of the information provided with this product to be true, correct, complete, or consistent because they cannot demonstrate their internal belief states through the principle of Philosophic Privacy.

Cartesian Evil Genius Alert:

The reader is advised that he or she may be subject to an illusion generated by an evil genius and that his or her "sensory fibers" may be falsely manipulated at any time with neither advance warning nor any possible legal remedy.

Epistemological Denotation Warning:

The consumer must understand that due to the a-priori impossibility of assuring a shared denotation amongst independent agents, none of the advertising material, product literature, instructions, or safety warnings (including this one), associated with this product may contain what the consumer perceives to be factual information.

Non-Universal Ethics Notice:

Due to the possibility that a common notion of ethics is not universally shared by all sentient beings, and that therefore the manufacturer may have entirely different concept of "fairness", "equity", "honesty", and "integrity" than the consumer, the consumer should not expect the product purchased to conform in any way to the advertised properties of the product.

Godelian Product Disclaimer:

As it has been proven that there are many true but unprovable statements, the manufacturer cannot be held liable for any of its unsupported product claims.

Penrose Addendum to Godelian Disclaimer:

Despite the above warning, the manufacturer is confident that all its product claims are true because of its mystically acquired and computationally unrepudiable organic intuition. Unfortunately, the manufacturer cannot in any way demonstrate that its intuition is correct, or indeed that it has an intuition.

Philosopher-General's Existentialist Tobacco Products Label:

Warning! this product has been found to cause cancer and emphysema and to lead to increased likelihood of strokes and heart disease. However, as the Universe is a soulless waste inhabited by unthinking machines it doesn't matter in the least whether you smoke or not. Go ahead, light up, it's all the same in the end.

Philosophical Break-Up Lines, Infographic

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The page you're looking for could not be found

"Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth;
The page you're looking for could not be found."

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

  1. The movie
  2. Leaf Falling Example
  3. Determinism
  4. Random Snoopy Example
  5. Flower Plucking Example
  6. Hume
  7. Bart Simpson & Dobby Example
  8. R&G Are Dead

The Movie

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is a Tom Stoddard flick about free will against the plot of Shakespeare's Hamlet. It illuminates the philosophical debate between Hard (or, Soft) Determinism vs Libertarian Free Will or Hume’s compatibilism. It is a theatrical query on whether or not life is determined, or whether we have free will. 

Leaf Falling Example

If you take for instance the leaves falling from the trees in a Northern Hemispheric winter, you might say the leaves had to fall due to the presence of a hormone in leaf-dropping trees that signals a chemical message to every leaf to essentially, “Take a dive!” 

Once this message is received, little cells appear where the leaf stem meets the branch. They are called “abscission” cells. Like their namesake, “scissors,” they cut themselves free. 


In this sense, a leaf must fall. Its prior causes necessitate later effects. It is the leaf's fate to fall; it is already determined. 

Random Snoopy Example

“What if the wind picks up and blows the leaf off the tree?” 

That’s a good question, Snoopy. 

In this scenario, it appears that the leaf’s fate is random, i.e., not-determined. It can be affected by additional forces. Since the presence of random is not under our direct control, there is still no free will.


But what if your tribe is seated at the same campfire as Hume? 

You may retort the notion of determinism, saying that free will does not mean to do other than what you actually do, nor is it something that happens other than what actually happens

It means, doing something you want to do, regardless. 

Flower Plucking Example

Here, we pluck a flower and put it in our hair. Adorning ourselves with nature’s beauty. We exercised free will when we chose to pluck the flower. We seal its fate in our own story. 

Was the flower going to wither and fall, regardless of our action? Yes. 

Did we exercise free will? 
Yes. No. Maybe?

Bart Simpson & Dobby Example

Consider instead a more serious topic, one of life and death. 

In this scenario, we as human beings cannot escape death. We are still trapped in the cycle of birth and death (regardless of whether that cycle is singular or plural; get it? This image of Bart dying over and over is a gif. It keeps playing). 

We still die 
(dramatic pause), 

But if we had a choice, we may not choose death. The fact that is not our choice to make indicates that we have no free will. 

This is the dilemma of determinism, 

R&G Are Dead

In R&G Are Dead, both realize they are trapped. Literally living out a certain set of actions. In their realization, they still "decide" (free will) not to tell Hamlet, which ultimately leads to their deaths, the climax of their roles in the play Hamlet. 

Oh, and, by the way, 

Heads or tails? 

"Free will is a revenge theory.
We cannot answer the question of who wins."
~Soph Laugh

Friday, November 3, 2017

Cato Letters, Revisited

"We derive our liberty directly from our nature as human beings." 

Powerful words echo through the pages of time, relevant still today as they were in 1720 when the London Journal launched a series of letters under the pseudonym "Cato." The letters were written with such vigor and eloquence that they soon made the London Journal the nation's most influential paper - a particularly vexatious irritant to the administration.  

John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon wrote about more than the bursting of the South Sea Bubble. Their political convictions were consistent with the natural law and natural rights theories embraced by the radical Whig writers and particularly by John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government. 

The theoretical principle upon which Cato based the authority and compass of government was in our inherent right to defend ourselves against those who would trespass against our lives, liberty, or property. The contract by which civil society is established is one that constrains sovereignty to the safeguarding of the lives and estates of its subjects. This proposition defines the limit of state action, relegating its role to only that which is necessary to enforce "the laws of agreement and society." 

When government seeks to impose constraints upon the individual's natural and absolute liberty, beyond that which is necessary, the state becomes despotic and must eventually fall to revolution. 

Again, powerful words, but what do they mean? Beyond Trenchard and Gordon's fondness for the Whig revolutionary martyr, Algernon Sidney, whose Discourses Concerning Government was one of the leading treatises on the rights of resistance to tyrannical government, was the philosophy that self-same rights have their origin in the laws of nature, from which the rights of the individual are derived, directly prior to the establishment of civil society. 

In the name of self-awareness, a wave of patriotism swept the land, combined with High Church views, which judged failure equally pernicious. The next wave as passionate as The Independent Whig, which vehemently advanced the primacy of the individual conscience over ecclesiastical authority. 

Two groups in diametric opposition, with the same distrust of hierarchy and an equal sympathy with latitudinarian principles, albeit differently expressed. 

If freedom of conscience is our first natural right, then immunity from the convictions and judgments of others is the clearest implication of the supreme law of nature. In other words, 

To each their own.

The style and wit permeating through the Cato letters attack pretension, leaving collaboration in its place. The world of "collective enterprise" forged the way for the industrial revolution. From the embers that regenerated the classics, to the birth of the next new fiction. The stories we continue to tell ourselves along the way echoing public support. 

The penultimate recognition of self-hood is the limits of authority any One has over the other. In society we are held accountable for the results of our actions, intentional or unintentional, knowing or unknowing. To safeguard other we temporarily imprison ourselves. Where? Oh where, did our freedom go? 

Controversies arise when we attempt to answer that question because the answer is not the answer. The question is the answer. The unanswered question implies an incomplete understanding of freedom. If some are free and others are not, none of us can know freedom. We can only know the illusion of freedom. 

Where, then, can freedom be found? 

There is no such thing as a Glorious Revolution, only the spectacular growth of collective debt brought about in large measure by the sacrifices incurred in the endeavor to safeguard illusions. The wars of kings, nothing but ill-conceived self-protective schemes carried out under the illusion of freedom, in exchange for monopoly privileges, at the cost of heavy burdens for public credit and public goodwill, under which the whole of society operates. 

Under the terms of the principles culminating throughout the Cato letters, we are told to look to nature for individual authority. In other words, to look within. When faced with a choice to exercise authority, we realize that it is not a choice, but a matter of seasonal fortune and circumstance. As the world evolves, so too do our seasons. A season for reaping, a season for sowing. The collective centerpiece becoming: Progress. 

But progress is just another name for work, with the proceeds going to the fortunate. In Book X of Virgil's Aeneid is writ: Fortune favors the bold. In book XII, fortune is that which we learn (receive) from others.  In other words, fortune is a gift. But even Virgil feared the Greeks, even when they brought gifts. 

By receiving more, we must become more. More is the foundation upon which opportunity is born. When life offers one more, the one who honors self-freedom intimately senses the notion of privilege, recognizes the opportunity of that state, and feels the responsibility to give back by becoming the epitome of that which brings more to the world. 

It is human nature to desire more, to do more, to become more, and to give more. Reconciling the gifts of nature with human nature is where the greatest opportunity for human advancement lies. Human evolution is not the taking of liberties under false illusion. It is the recognition of liberty of all. 

The instant that liberty and the recognition of liberty become the driving principle of humanity is the instant in which we will, as a species, understand freedom. The path to this understanding is our collective journey and all that we do to advance it, a gift to the world. 

The illusion that false liberty affords benefits some but not all. The alliance between what benefits and that which offers safety of all people is what constitutes the Supreme Law. It is the Supreme Laws that the liberators of society seek. This is our measurement rod, not crime and punishment. 

Even Trenchard re-examined a number of his political beliefs when Gordon died. Political adjustment is precisely what is required for a world that desires to discover true freedom. Until our world leaders act on behalf of THE ALL, we do not understand the meaning of government. We have and know only the illusion of government, no matter how influential. 

The natural rights purported by enlightenment thinking are not limited to government. The proper limits of authority reside with the individual. The right to resist tyrannical magistrates is personified in individual compromise. The sharing of the world's resources is what loosens the shackles of our collective illusions. 

Solidarity is Freedom