Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Philosophy of Technology, Making Better Something We Haven't Yet Invented

Philosophy isn't always looking backwards. Sometimes it is arguing forward, and where better to argue than the subject of shoes; err, I mean, technology. My son just walked into my library took one look at these shoes (above) and said to me: "Men respond to cars the way women respond to shoes." 

And he's right. Well, mostly. But the one thing upon which both genders usually agree is the benefits of technology, or applied science. Technological advancement is what keeps contemporary society connected. Not only is technology a formidable economic force but it is a cultural and philosophical one, as well. 

Science is the concern of what is, whereas technology concerns itself with what is to be. Having worked with engineers for the last 20 years, I have heard it said this way: 

"Scientists want to figure out what's going on and how it works; engineers are busy figuring out how it ought to work, but better."

In other words, technology aims to change the world into what we most desire it to be. Theoretically, a future philosophy of technology will include questions about what drives the innovation process, the importance of brainstorming, the casual relationship between intuitive judgment and scientific methods on the basis of empirical evidence (or, that which is derived from data mining), and shoes, lots of shoes. 

Let us consider design; its process and the artefacts produced. If engineers are focused on problem solving, by design, then each new upgrade should theoretically address a specific problem encountered in daily life. This includes hunger and other aspects of inequality. Apps on how to grow your own food, DIY projects to improve your standard of living, and other life hacks would become piecemeal upgrades, a product of social engineering, as we think about how each component or feature will improve the lives of millions.  

Let us say for example that a team of experts figure out how to extend human life by two or three hundred years. Should they? Who decides? Who pays for the additional load on our planet's resources? A number of ethical themes arise before the design process. Do we design obsolescence into an object? If you own a GE appliance, you may already know the answer to this question. 

Responsibility has long since been a central theme in the ethics of technology. The traditional philosophy of ethics claims we are responsible for the technologies we develop. Is that not akin to saying that the engineer is guilty if his/her technology saves a person's life and that later that same person commits a crime? 

Philosophical questions lead to scientific theories and experiments, which then get developed into the technology upon which we rely. The philosophy of technology is essentially asking how to make better something we haven't yet invented. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Inadequacy of Writing Debunked

What is inadequate about "writing" is hardly that it is not "visual" ... let alone beautiful: most simply, it is not aesthetically inviting. It is not comforting. It is not sexy. It does not fit into our vision of the world. It is a "thing" sent to the "archives" of society, awaiting its Alexandrian executioner. Thus how serious can a doomed fate be?

To writing we bring our everything, but the words illuminate more than what we bring. We enter a new ideology, thrust into an affair of perceptions and sensations. Words bathe us in the experience of sensation, enlarging citizens with consciousness. Even resenters are entertained. 

We are all Pagans in the liberal spaciousness of literacy. Primal ambivalents internalizing the hero-villain. Asking which is pious and patriotic, and whether hypocrisy is as substantive as we imagine it so. 

Inviting kindly modifiers like little goodwill trees, in which our only pleasure is the imagining. We cannot solve the puzzle of our representation, so we delve back in, before atrocity can prevent us through her shrewdness. One would hope that the words we find are persuading enough to lead us to the next abyss.

But this is illusory. Both the writer and the Reader know it. The bond between theme is intimately elusive. No one has sway over the pen. It guides us all. 

Beyond the injured self of ego, we take on the burden of language's mystery. We raise our fists at it in beautiful defiant delight. If the beauty of language is found in our reaction to it, language itself is ugly. Battered and truncated by our fashionable ideologies, caricatures of our own design. 

Not even Shakespeare was a Shakespeare, which explains his adherence to the word "nothing". But cheer up! All is not lost! Literature's characters are unmatched by how real we make them. 


Says the mind of the Reader! 

Who takes an art virtually unlimited, and offers us a second nature - and we "listen" - to the perplexed triad. Heeding mirrors with many voices, who neither act nor speak for nature. Pragmatically there is no difference, though you can hear the sun set between the two. 

But words impart meaning, attributing values to our ideas of self and to other persons. Certainly more or less a Parisian spectator sport, in which Voltaire is judge and jury. 

And therein we find the why of writing.

The Seduction of Richard III

These blandishments do not ensue us
From rhetorical magnificence.
Cold brilliance, complex genius
Serving the Mistress of Intimacy,
with more foreboding paws
than has the king of cats.

Wretched indulgence,
the unhealthiest of fantasies,
die not; it is, a certain relishment
alone that accounts.

Endless exuberant gusto
appeals and delights and terrifies,
and like a page turned vital,
transforms each line into death's dive.

All his audience can do
is rest and recharge
 in long-winded Margaret's exorbitance,
nearly giddy in footing,
stumbling, and falling in
- a soul's respite.

But the empty vast smothers our wandering air,
and the sour ferryman returns us back
to the slimy bottom of the deep, 
in defiant poetic bathos
by which the greedy kingdom of perpetual night
greets us.

Stranger still to be rendered incapable
of resisting his charm.

~Soph Laugh

Monday, September 18, 2017

Socrates, Irony and Soulmates

Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.), the founder of the Socratic sect, the father of Philosophy, fundamentally a Skeptic, did not force his opinions on others. Instead, his method of questioning enabled others to walk through and share their opinions on philosophical constructs. According to Plutarch, Socrates considered the entire world a school of virtue, and therefore appropriate for teaching. He was the first to conceive of the soul existing within the body - prior to which, souls were commonly considered disembodied beings who hung out at the entrance of the otherworld. Recall, in Ancient Greece mythology, the otherworld was where souls went after death and was the Greek idea of an afterlife. At the moment of death, the soul was transported to the entrance of Hades. For all practical purposes, Socrates rescued the world's souls from Hades and gave them a new habitation and a name (cue author of the Shakespearean plays). 

Like other philosophers of his time, Socrates believed in the preexistence of the soul prior to its immersion inside the body. This soul, he felt, was endowed with all knowledge, but upon entering into material form it became confused and stupefied. Fortunately sensible discourse caused it to reawaken and recover its original knowledge. The only true evil in the world, in this sense, is ignorance. 

Socrates used the rhetorical device of irony to subtly and satirically (hilariously, for him) emphasize the contrast between what we think apparent and what we consider incongruous or irrational. It is through the absurd that Socrates' meaning is inferred.

claims to know nothing
demolishes your argument

Irony comes from the Greek comic character Eiron, a clever underdog who by his wit repeatedly triumphs over the boastful character Alazon. In humor studies, irony is often confused with sarcasm, cynicism, skepticism, or wordplay. For this reason many people fail to 'get' irony, or use the term incorrectly. Irony is a satirist's favorite technique, and one that is difficult to master. 

Image result for irony

Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is an excellent example of ironical love. The four young lovers (Helena, Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius) symbolize the arbitrariness of young love, from the perspective of everyone except the lovers. Hippolyta is a captive bride, while Oberon and Titania are so accustomed to mutual romantic betrayal that their conflict has nothing to do with passion, but instead with protocol of who is in charge of the changeling human child. In this sense, irony, as seen in this play, is when one's object of affection is not in love in return, or when the rejected lover returns, evermore, to bid for one's affections. The ironical dynamics are what give the play its charm.

When asked what Socrates thought of his brilliant satirical irony being used to convey the limiting perspectives found in cynicism and skepticism, as promulgated by his disciple, Antisthenes of Athens (444-365), who later founded the Cynics sect, Socrates had this to say: 

"Not to brag, but before me, souls were disembodied beings at the outskirts of Hades. I saved them by brining them into the body. Essentially speaking, the notion of soulmates would be nonexistent without me. You're welcome." 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Aristotle and the Seven Immortals Walk Into A Bar

The Metaphysics of Aristotle opens with these words: 

To satisfy this common urge the unfolding human intellect has explored the extremities of imaginable space outside and the extremities of imaginable space within, searching for a relationship between the one and the all; the grand effect and the cause; the spirit and the substance of the spirit; the illusion and that which we may effectively label as the reality. 

Regarding reality a little closer to home, Plato wrote: "He who has not even a knowledge of common things is a brute among men. He who has an accurate knowledge of human concerns alone is a man among brutes. But he who knows all that can be known by intellectual energy, is a God among men." 

Essentially our role in the natural world is determined by the quality of the thoughts we consider. If our minds are enslaved to bestial instincts we are on par with the brute. Those whose rational faculties ponder domestic human affairs belong to the category of common man or common woman (i.e., ordinary, average); but those whose intellects are elevated to the consideration of higher realities is already a demigod, for this individual's mind is in proximity to the luminosity his or her reason has considered. 

In other words, the grander our thoughts, the closer our minds to the grandeur we call existence. In his encomium of "the science of the sciences" Cicero exclaims: "O philosophy, life's guide! O searcher-out of virtue and expeller of vices! What could we and every age of men have been without thee? Thou has produced cities; thou hast called men scattered about into the social enjoyment of life." 

In other words, we would be lost without the ability to philosophize, organize, categorize, rationalize, consider, and then act in relation to those summations. But unless you're speaking with a professor of philosophy, the word philosophy has little meaning in modern society. Even among philosophers it has little meaning unless accompanied by some other qualifying term. 

Philosophy is the proverbial elephant one must eat one bite at a time. (Creighton William Abrams, Jr.), which means: Start small. 

The whole of philosophy is broken up into numerous isms; each more concerned with disproving each other's fallacies than considering the sublimer issues of cosmic order and humanity's role (or, lack thereof) in it. Ideally philosophy is to serve as the stabilizing influence in human thought. By virtue of its intrinsic nature philosophy should prevent the mind from establishing unreasonable codes of life. 

Genis Carreras

Philosophers and philosophy students delve headfirst into narrow paths which are supposed to illuminate the straight path of rational thinking, but really most just get lost in a Wonderland of their own making, without understanding the overall map and its outstanding systems of philosophic discipline which have kept philosophers questioning since ancient times (some twenty-seven centuries). 

So, Avatar Alice, where do we begin? 

Aristotle &
The Seven Immortals
Walk into a Bar

Or, so the story goes, according to the Greek busybody Diogenes Laertius: 

Feeling parched, Thales, Solon, Chilon, Pittacus, Bias, Cleobulus, and Periander decided to go to a local tavern in Turkey. Wet-blanket Thales wanted a glass of water, served in a tall glass with a little floating boat umbrella: "To replicate the primal principle or element, upon which the earth itself floats like a ship. Look ... If I shake my glass, the little quakes hitting the edges of my glass are the result of this universal sea."  
"Oh, Thales, give it a rest, already!" exclaims Anaximander, the first of the last Ionian philosophers (Anaximenes, Anaxogoras, and Archelaus). That joke was dead in the water when the Ionic school ended. 


The Greek school of philosophy had its inception when upon the seven immortalized thinkers the appellation of Sophos, "the wise" was first conferred. 

"Soph?" asked Avatar Alice, "Are you named after the Sophos?" 

"The Sophos had an empty spot on their bench, I just sat down," said Soph. "I guess you could say that my mind is in proximity to the luminosity their reason has considered." 

And with that, Soph laughed, and is still Laughing. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Avatar Alice & Wittgenstein's Humor Challenge

Plato regarded philosophy as the greatest good ever imparted by Divinity to man. And how could he not? The evolution of philosophy is the evolution of the history of human thought, in all its glory. 

In our last post, we compared the six (6) disciplines of philosophy (metaphysics, logic, ethics, psychology, epistemology, and aesthetics) to Transformers. Why, you ask? 

Just to see if we could, I say. 

Random Explanation:

If we imagine the process of coming into conscious awareness, and start with basic human curiosity, our questioning might land us in the realm of metaphysics, a place where early ruminations on what's actually going on start bubbling forth in our brains. 

We trace these thoughts through their many cycles, all the way from early childhood until middle life, a place where our experiences and relational viewpoints are typically heightened (or dulled), and then we arrive to a few final summations, sometimes remarking: "I better write this down before I die" - a meta-concept if ever there were one, that basically takes into account our most profound or relevant life epiphanies, transcribed with the flavor our lifetimes have afforded them. 

In this sense metaphysics are those first "why" questions we ask; then later on, those devastating "I'm actually going to die" recognitions and, if we're lucky, those "I might not know what's going on, but it doesn't mean I can't have fun" declarations.


It is here where we make a choice: "Steal the Declaration of Independence, or live our our lives wondering." 

This type of cognitive evaluation leads us to the domain of logic. With our THINKING CAPS fully fastened, we ponder about like a Classic Pong, wondering: "What is the right thing to do?" 

This is where our learned values, morals and judgments (ethics) chime in. Our opinions of right and wrong form the basis of our psychological judgments (psychology) of our self in relation to others. The systems and methods we adopt (epistemology) become the ways by which we engage with knowledge and the world. 

The longer we live, the more refined or stagnant our methods and responses become, the more our tastes, judgments, and modes of expression define our unicity. Our creative expression is what the world ultimately sees (aesthetics). 

That which we express can be a thing of beauty, a thing of truth, or a unique blend of authentic expressions packaged up into modernisms that convey a universe of sentiment onto a single apple. 

I imagine both Socrates and Plato would have laughed had they the opportunity to see a painting of this nature. Instead, they laughed at Sophists. Even though philosophy eventually became a ponderous and complicated structure of arbitrary and irreconcilable notions, each was indeed substantiated by almost incontestable logic. The lofty theorems of the old Academy which Iamblichus liked to the nectar and ambrosia of the gods, have been re-molded by Play-Toh resembling opinion - 

which, of course, Heraclitus declared to be a failing sickness of the mind. Convincing evidence of the increasing superficiality of modern scientific and philosophic thought is persistent throughout this blog, as well as in philosophy's formal drift towards materialism. 

When Napoleon called out that great astronomer Laplace for not mentioning God in his Traité de la Méchanique Céleste, the mathematician brilliantly replied: 

"Sire, I had no need for that hypothesis!" 

Brilliant or naïve, 
we may never know.

In his treatise on Atheism, Sir Francis Bacon tersely summarizes the situation thus: "A little philosophy inclineth a man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." 

In 2011, when I conceived: 'The Punchline Theory of Humor', I had no idea that six years later I would return to it, to take up Wittgenstein's humor challenge. Before, I demolished it in sprinkles, unicorns, and rainbows - just because I could. 

Armed with the map of where my own thoughts and experiences on the philosophy of humor have traveled, follow me if you want to take a deeper dive. 

Just for giggles

Alice from the Looking Glass is a charming and fearless girl explorer. The Avatar is an enlightened being that aims to bring unity to opposing thought systems, if only to make clear what seems irreconcilable. Together, Avatar Alice sees Wittgenstein's Humor Challenge and raises him her entire court. 

Avatar Alice

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Six Transformers of Philosophy

There are six headings under which the disciplines of philosophy are commonly classified. This post associates those disciplines with the personality types of known Transformers.

Metaphysics, which deals with such abstract subjects as cosmology, theology, and the nature of being; 

is the founder of the Decepticon uprising, and their most well-known and feared leader. As a young charismatic leader forged in battle and the heritage of war, he began to believe in a grand purpose for his race - it is the Transformers' glorious destiny to rule an empire which will span the universe. The opposite of his mortal enemy Optimus Prime, he feels great contempt for other Transformers who, he feels, betray their proud heritage by demanding peace and cooperation with weaker life forms. It is the destiny of the Decepticons to bring order to the universe through conquest, though in the millions of years since coining this purpose it remains to be seen how much of his mission statement is altruistic ... and how much of it is mere words built to fuel warriors to further his desire for personal power. 

Logic, which deals with the laws governing rational thinking, or, as it has been called, "the doctrine of fallacies";

is an Autobot and the resident medical officer of Team Prime. Ratchet is known as the doctor and scientist of the Autobots. Ratchet usually stays behind at the base to work on his projects, or on a case when one of the team members gets injured. On Earth, Ratchet wasn't fond of humans at first. However he was able to work and learn with them, and began accepting them as a noble species and as friends. Ratchet us usually the cranky old bot but Ratchet is the best medic and friend to have. Ratchet is clear-minded and would do whatever it takes to aid his team/family, and defend them against any threat that came their way.

Ethics, which is the science of morality, individual responsibility, and character - concerned chiefly with an effort to determine the nature of good; 

is consistently depicted as having a strong moral character, excellent leadership, and sound decision-making skills, and possesses brilliant military tactics, powerful martial arts, and advanced alien weaponry. 

Psychology, which is devoted to investigation and classification of those forms of phenomena referable to a mental origin; 

is one of Optimum Prime's most trusted lieutenants. Although he is not the strongest or most powerful of the Autobots, Bumblebee more than makes up for this with a bottomless well of luck, determination and bravery. He would gladly give his life to protect others and stop the Decepticons. He is also the ally of humans.

Epistemology, which is the science concerned primarily with the nature of knowledge itself and the question of whether it may exist in an absolute form; 

is one of the oldest and toughest Autobots, and has been on Optimus Prime's team for a long time. "They don't make them like they used to" is an apt description of Ironhide - he's yesterday's model, but he's built to last.

and, finally, Aesthetics, which is the science of the nature of and the reactions awakened by the beautiful, the harmonious, the elegant, and the noble. 

(Tigre in Italy) is the "very cool, very stylish, very competent" member of the Autobots. His original vehicle mode is a Martini Porsche 935 turbo racing car. Self-possessed, calm, and utterly collected, Jazz is Prime's subordinate and first lieutenant of the Autobots, as well as head of Special Operations, with his own dedicated roster of agents. He often gives the most dangerous assignments to himself; not as a matter of ego, but because he has the coolest head for the toughest missions. Jazz's ease extends to his environment, no matter how weird or wonderful. He effortlessly tunes into the local culture, assimilating and improvising, and making creative command decisions, making him an indispensable right-hand bot to Optimus Prime.

Helpful Infographic

A Fine Line between Philosophy and Humor

There's a fine line between being philosophical and being funny. Philosophy is the science of estimating values. Humor is the art of revealing them. The superiority of any state or substance over another is determined by philosophy, and yet the author of this blog registers all states and substances as equal in their existence, just not in their time/space/location/position along the rope of destiny. 

By assigning a position of primary importance to what remains when all that is secondary has been removed, philosophy becomes the true index of priority or emphasis in the realm of speculative thought. By walking that rope for yourself, the primary importance shifts to one single, solitary, a priori focus:

Don't fall!

The mission of philosophy a priori is to establish the relation of manifested things to their invisible ultimate cause or nature. The mission of humor is to point out the relationship in relation to something else, i.e., the absurdity of an elephant showing off his extraordinary balance.

If you consult philosophy's giants on the matter, "Philosophy," writes Sir William Hamilton, "has been defined [as]: The science of things divine and human, and the causes in which they are contained [Cicero]; The science of effects by their causes [Hobbes]; The science of sufficient reasons [Leibnitz]; The science of things possible [Wolf]; The science of things evidently deduced from first principles [Descartes]; The science of truths, sensible and abstract [de Condillac]; The application of reason to its legitimate object [Tennemann]; The science of the relations of all knowledge to the necessary ends of human reason [Kant]; The science of the original form of the ego or mental self [Krug]; The science of sciences [Fichte]; The science of the absolute [von Schelling]; The science of the absolute indifference of the ideal and real [von Schelling, again]; The identity of identity and non-identity [Hegel]; Trying is the first step towards failure [Homer Simpson]. 

just beause