Category Archives: Philosophy

Thinking of the nature of the world and thought itself.

Do Octopuses Have Souls? (On the Nature of Animal Consciousness) | 3 Quarks Daily

Do Octopuses Have Souls? (On the Nature of Animal Consciousness) | 3 Quarks Daily

“Co-evolution implies the necessity of co-existence. And we must move beyond treating everything in the world (including our own selves) as resources for efficient utilization.”

‘Slaughterhouse-Five,’ 50 years later: What Kurt Vonnegut taught one soldier about war – The Washington Post

‘Slaughterhouse-Five,’ 50 years later: What Kurt Vonnegut taught one soldier about war – The Washington Post

“So it goes.”

I have reread Slaughterhouse Five multiple times. I also liked the movie. A young Valerie Perrine will be forever imbedded in my mind as Montana Wildhack looking at me from a tub. She made Billy Pilgrim forget his PTSD and created a respite throughout his time travels escaping a senseless hell. She brought peace.

I used to think there were some “just wars” like WW II. I am starting to believe there are NO just wars. I suspect Hitler’s rise could have been prevented by a much better foreign policy following WW I. His expansion could have been curtailed by a smarter, more unified diplomacy and the prevention of interference by multinationals, who worked on both sides to profit. The holocaust was preventable both by a different policy, the lack of constraints within Germany, and a more open policy towards accepting refugees in the US.

Slaughterhouse Five was published right around the time I was drafted for the Vietnam War. My lottery number was 39. There was no hope. I was called for my medical – “report to a bus pickup location with two days change of clothing at 6:00am.” A day before the life-changing event  I had a sudden medical issue and had to be rescheduled. The ensuing bureaucratic delays were enough to still be at home a couple of months later when Nixon cancelled the draft. A major lucky break! I was totally unsuited for military duty and likely would have gotten myself killed. If not, I would have been a classic PTSD basket case before that term became wide spread.

Life is strange. So it goes.

Om Shanti Om.

The Case For Panpsychism | Issue 121 | Philosophy Now

The Case For Panpsychism | Issue 121 | Philosophy Now

Dr. Philip Goff summarizes the hypothesis of Panpsychism.

“According to early 21st century Western common sense, the mental doesn’t take up very much of the universe. Most folk assume that it exists only in the biological realm, specifically, in creatures with brains and nervous systems. Panpsychists deny this bit of common sense, believing that mentality is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the universe. Mind is everywhere (which is what ‘panpsychism’ translates as).”

“There have been panpsychists in Western philosophy since at least the pre-Socratics of the 7th century BC, and the view achieved a certain dominance in the 19th century. Panpsychism fared less well in the 20th century, being almost universally dismissed by Western philosophers as absurd, if it was ever thought about at all.”

“However, this dismissal was arguably part and parcel of the anti-metaphysics scientism of the period: the attempt to show that any questions which cannot be answered by scientific investigation are either trivial or meaningless. This project failed, and metaphysics is back in a big way in academic philosophy. At the same time, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the physicalist approaches to consciousness which dominated the late 20th century, and a sense that a radically new approach is called for. In this climate panpsychism is increasingly being taken up as a serious option, both for explaining consciousness and for providing a satisfactory account of the natural world.”

Read more at Phliosphy Now.

More by Dr. Goff is on his blog.

The Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness | Issue 121 | Philosophy Now

The Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness | Issue 121 | Philosophy Now

This is an interesting article by Hedda Hassel Mørch on The Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness asking what is IIT all about?

“According to IIT, consciousness is linked to integrated information, which can be represented by a precise mathematical quantity called Φ (‘phi’). The human brain (or the part of it that supports our consciousness) has very high Φ, and is therefore highly conscious: it has highly complex and meaningful experiences. Systems with a low Φ, the theory goes, have a small amount of consciousness – they only have very simple and rudimentary experiences. Systems with zero Φ are not conscious at all.”

Her essay is based on definitions by neuroscientist Giulio Tononi, the originator of the Integrated Information Theory of consciousness, or IIT for short. IIT is now one of the leading theories of consciousness in neuroscience.

“The argument starts from a list of five axioms – claims about consciousness that Tononi holds to be self-evidently true upon reflection on one’s own consciousness. His first axiom holds that consciousness exists ‘for itself’, independently of external observers: it exists entirely for its own subject. The second axiom claims that consciousness is structured: it contains a variety of qualities at once; a mix of colors, sounds, emotions, thoughts, and so on (one might object that there are experiences of complete darkness that contain no qualities – but such an experience would still contain structure such as the left and right side of the empty visual field). The third axiom claims that consciousness is informative: like a painting, each experience specifies a ‘scene’ which is different from other possible ‘scenes’. The fourth axiom holds that consciousness is integrated: the qualities within consciousness are unified under a single point of view, or we might say, by belonging to one and the same ‘canvas’. Finally, the fifth axiom claims that consciousness is exclusive: the ‘canvas’ has an exact border, and any individual quality, such as a color or emotion, is either part of that canvas or not, never in between. Tononi holds that these axioms can be translated into a set of postulates that specify the physical counterparts of the properties they describe. These postulates are then given a mathematical interpretation, yielding the full version of IIT.”

Read it on Philosophy Now. Fascinating! 

 

Is the Hard Problem of Consciousness Connected to the Hard Problem in Physics? | Nautil.us

Is the Hard Problem of Consciousness Connected to the Hard Problem in Physics?

A great overview of an idealist hypothesis by Hedda Hassel Mørch. Consciousness and deep understanding of physics face the same challenges.

Here are excerpts. Read the article on Nautil.us.

“Where does consciousness—in this most general sense—come from? Modern science has given us good reason to believe that our consciousness is rooted in the physics and chemistry of the brain, as opposed to anything immaterial or transcendental. In order to get a conscious system, all we need is physical matter. Put it together in the right way, as in the brain, and consciousness will appear. But how and why can consciousness result merely from putting together non-conscious matter in certain complex ways?”

“[…] the deep nature of consciousness appears to lie beyond scientific reach. We take it for granted, however, that physics can in principle tell us everything there is to know about the nature of physical matter. Physics tells us that matter is made of particles and fields, which have properties such as mass, charge, and spin. Physics may not yet have discovered all the fundamental properties of matter, but it is getting closer.”

“Yet there is reason to believe that there must be more to matter than what physics tells us. Broadly speaking, physics tells us what fundamental particles do or how they relate to other things, but nothing about how they are in themselves, independently of other things.”

“This suggests that consciousness—of some primitive and rudimentary form—is the hardware that the software described by physics runs on. The physical world can be conceived of as a structure of conscious experiences. “

“This view, that consciousness constitutes the intrinsic aspect of physical reality, goes by many different names, but one of the most descriptive is “dual-aspect monism.” Monism contrasts with dualism, the view that consciousness and matter are fundamentally different substances or kinds of stuff. Dualism is widely regarded as scientifically implausible, because science shows no evidence of any non-physical forces that influence the brain.”

“The possibility that consciousness is the real concrete stuff of reality, the fundamental hardware that implements the software of our physical theories, is a radical idea. It completely inverts our ordinary picture of reality in a way that can be difficult to fully grasp. But it may solve two of the hardest problems in science and philosophy at once?

For another take on radical idealism you might also want to read Bernardo Kastrup’s rigorous papers and books on the subject here.

Thoughts on EURYDICE inspired by City Lights

EURYDICE – City Lights: Innovative, intimate theater in San Jose

“The myth has been told and retold for centuries. Grief-stricken Orpheus travels to the underworld, where he learns he can rescue his wife, Eurydice—if he doesn’t look back on the way up. Now, we see the story through Eurydice’s eyes. City Lights’ innovative new production combines Sarah Ruhl’s strikingly fresh script with the beauty of American Sign Language, reflecting the characters’ efforts to communicate across worlds. A lush and moving tale about life, love and the enduring strength of memory.”

A unique production pairs actors as both mirrors of their voice (spoken and ASL) and their feelings and inner life reflecting the perspectives of the living and dead. The spoken actors interact with their ASL counters exposing their inner dialog, they also cross the boundary between characters. Layered on this is the unspoken language of Hades ruled by “An Interesting Man.” The Chorus of silent stones reflect he subtle sound scene of the environment. It highlights the metaphysical nature of both myth and existence. The doubled cast truly feel as one.

It truly is both a subtle and breathtaking interpretation of Sarah Ruhl‘s play as directed by Lisa Mallette. We know Sarah Ruhl from other plays like the The Melancholy Play, Orlando, and The Room with a View or Vibrator Play.

Web CityLights Eurydice LeahCohen LaurenRhodes 

Euridice! What struck me at the heart? It is the feeling, the memory of the ecstasy of love imbued with the confusion that are all part of youth. And obviously there is the fear of loss, mortality striking at any time, and returning in a moment of weakness. The yearning and redemption of true faithfulness and trust – a path of salvation both between lovers, and father and daughter. And yet it all has to find its end in forgetting, losing your voice, oblivion, and peace – death.

Our journey is but short and predetermined, but glorious if lived with passion and mindfulness.

The play left me rejoicing in (a few) tears.

Support live local theatre and playwrights!

Seeds of Destruction

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Image taken from the article: Our ‘selfish’ genes contain the seeds of our destruction – but there might be a fix

The internet and social media spanning the world with billions of participants is changing the nature of our culture and civilization. Due to its fast spread its dramatic impact is likely higher in a shorter period than the invention of writing and the printing press. Film and radio as propaganda media had a dramatic impact on WW I and WW II. Will social media be seen as the fire that destroyed Western Civilization due to its pervasive impact?

In my view one of the most destructive culprits in the universe of social media is Facebook. It does not do this unknowingly.

Facebook’s seeding of social destruction is by cynical design. The system’s true monetary value is your data and ATTENTION.

ATTENTION is generated by siloing the user base and feeding each silo information that is bound to excite. It either fervently supports the shared outlook or fuels hatred of the opposition. The Facebook algorithm selects the user postings and seeded information from other sources in front of you based on deep analysis. If you look at the placed information, it is aimed at generating division even if it appears to support your point of view.

The silo user base amplifies this attention.

HATRED of the opposition is the strongest emotion here. Although we think we are debating facts, they move to the background. I should also note that the rules we use to view the facts in relation to the world are distorted impacting our perception of “truthiness.” More about that in another post.

In other words, Facebook’s SHAREHOLDER VALUE IS HATRED. It has earned them billions!

It is very destructive in its pervasiveness.

The destruction is on several levels:

  • The resulting divisiveness is poison to rational discourse.
  • Facts are no longer important, beliefs are.
  • It prevents rational resolution of issues based on compromise.
  • Trust in institution or experts is undermined and destroyed.
  • It leads to extreme leadership and demagoguery, which play into the tribal hatred. Centrism cannot compete in this atmosphere.
  • Eventually the polity is destroyed, because it cannot any longer be governed and function.

This is Stephen Bannon’s agenda. We are mid game in this regard, but well along the way of destroying institutions and regulation forged over the last decades and centuries. In fact, our Separation of Powers is no longer working! This is a constitutional crisis or at least Constitutional Rot. The real problem is not only that many people are seriously suffering (economic inequality) or dying (lack of healthcare,) but we are not furthering pace and the worldwide action required to solve climate change. And the window for climate change action is closing. Even if we get out polity back into a state of health, it might be too late to avoid catastrophic consequences, which will especially impact poor nations and lead to further global instability.

Although we seem to act like a “Banana Republic,” we are the largest economy in the world. Our leadership, action or inaction count in a dominant way.

To paraphrase Cato the Elder, Facebook must be destroyed,

Note: I originally posted this in response to a concern about social media’s destructiveness on the polity on Facebook. After some thought I had to elevate my response and start moving my focus away from Facebook only using it as a means of distribution and getting attention.

ps I first was alluding to the “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire, but then also found the Sons of Aeon, a melodic Death Metal Band wailing from Finland. My son really turned me on the genre, which actually has some very thoughtful if dark lyrics and exquisite instrument playing. I have become a fan of Katatonia (lately more progressive rock).

Here then the lyrics for Seeds of Destruction:

Sight into the future… Does not exist
We need no prophets to realise it
Next breath you’re about to take
Could be your last
Drown yourself in hatred, forget the past
This world of confusion
Where moral is just a word
Meaningless and forgotten…
Thing we should not talk about
Souls for sale
Dreams of yesterday… Drifting away
A glimpse of humanity… Does not exist
See the smile on their faces… You’ll realise it
Filth holds the reins of power
Rivers are turning red
Irrigate the fields of hate
Sow the seeds of destruction
There will be blood… Where dead roses bloom

And a quick taste of Katatonia from their track Last Song Before The Fade from their album The Fall of Hearts:


Who’s in control
Spite
So cold in this light.

Reflective summary
Froze me in a frame
My time had run out before the future came
Depart from insight
Breach was made.


For good reason this generation does not sound very hopeful. Time for some peaceful “Hearts of Space!”