Archive for October, 2008

The Self Does Not Exist

October 29, 2008

… Or why if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it is not really a duck.

The Self Does Not Exist

One of the targets of the Postmodernist philosophers is subjectivity, particularly Jean-Paul Sartre’s conception. They have tried to annihilate the concept, but try as they may, good ol’ commonsense says nay.

These fools (and that tosser Wittgenstein) deny the existence of a self because it is (totally) socially constructed. This is rather odd; it is though they believe there is a perfect other-world where social construction does not exist, that this other-world is the ‘true world’, not this one (Platonism, anyone?). It is precisely because the self is socially constructed* that it does exist. Although I could try to fool myself through ‘reason’ that I have no self-experience, my senses would not oblige. More to the point, the self is not narrowly socially-constructed, but ‘worldly-constructed’. It is through my engagement with the world, my being-in-the-world, that I come to recognise a self. This self is real, not the non-self of Postmodernist fantasy worlds.

*The self is socially constructed at the highest level (self-identity). At lower, more biological levels the self (not self-identity, but the most basic sense of self) exists without social interaction, but not without interaction with the world. The simplest of organisms evidence behaviour which can be attributable to a sense of self, even if they lack cognition of self-identity.

The psychology of Internet debate

October 29, 2008

Through argument, the pitiful man displaces his precious self-concept into the hands of his judgemental opponent and then seeks to retain it with honour by vanquishing him in rhetorical battle. The trophy is his returned self-concept, with added smug self-righteousness – truly gratifying!

Why philosophers still don’t get emotions

October 24, 2008

Philosophers like to think of themselves as rational*, as ‘rational’ connotes intellectual superiority. An air of intellectual superiority is essential to the pride of philosophers because in other regards they tend to be lacking (e.g. physical stature, social skills, success with women). The philosopher’s egotistic belief that he possesses a magic compass called rationality can render his beliefs impervious to commonsense arguments and everyday observations to the contrary.

Thus it is with the typical philosopher’s beliefs concerning emotions. The philosopher has fallen in love with the narrative that any expression of emotion is tantamount to thought crime. His attitude toward the emotions belongs to a superstitious age where emotions, particularly the violent ones, were seen as some kind of demon-possession. Try to penetrate this backward ideology with a few simple examples which demonstrate that emotions can be rational and you will smacked down with a brick wall.

But I think the tide is slowly turning. Example: Emotions and Moral Skepticism

The author is starting to get it, but is still a long way off. He completely misses the point that emotions are intrinsically action-orientated. Emotions are ways of dealing with the world. They drive us to action which may or may not be pursuant to our goals in a rational sense. More likely the former, as emotions are intentional. We do emotions, they do not ‘do us’ as in the demon-possession understanding. Emotions are ways of taking control of situations, not giving it up**. To argue that emotions are irrational is to claim that all actions inspired by emotion cannot be helpful in obtaining one’s goal. This clearly is not the case.

Take anger for example. Righteous anger was a very successful strategy for the Women’s Liberation movement. You wouldn’t have thousands of Feminazis protesting, burning bras and decrying all men as pigs without the emotion ‘pissed-off’.

Take resentment – this emotion can be useful in maintaining my commitment to throwing off the yolk of wage-slavery and inciting revolution against the capitalist pig-dogs. Hitler used this emotion remarkably well in pursuit of his goals.

What about love and compassion, are these not rational emotions considering that my goal is to help mankind? Only an incompetent philosopher would claim that these emotions do not give rise to actions that are rational in pursuit of the stated goal.

*For a collection of assorted rants against this specious concept, see Debunking myths of reason

**It would be interesting to investigate the extent to which a negative view of emotions has been propagated by the elite and the middle classes in order to maintain passivity amongst the populace, making them more amenable to existing societal arrangements. We could investigate the attitude of elites toward the emotions in regard to the Women’s Liberation, anti-colonial, anti-slavery. anti-segregation and union movements.

Death liberates

October 23, 2008

Richard Dawkins in ‘Unweaving the Rainbow’ writes:

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

I am not very moved by this, perhaps because I believe my existence was at least partly determined at more than a few stages of life. That I exist was not solely determined by genes in isolation, but environment as well. To claim that my existence is just a matter of gene probabilities is not only blindingly reductionist, but bad science. Indeed, it is just the kind of wacky metaphysical narrative that Dawkins criticises whence coming from religious people.  Dicky’s analogies and figurative language are lacking in originality and imagination. However, I do like “we are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones”, but from a different perspective to that of Dawkins’.

We are lucky that we are going to die, because death, or rather the realisation that we are going to die, makes us truly free to live. With realisation of my impending death I recognise that the negative judgements I have of myself and the world are not for eternity and are not absolute. I know I won’t lament the loss of positive judgements when I die because I can’t (because I’m dead!). I can choose at any moment how I will see myself and the world knowing that when all these moments are over, it won’t matter a bit. Now that’s freedom!

If I lived forever I would struggle contemplating the weight of my existence. I would be conscious that my moments would always matter for my future existence, absolutely. This would be an intolerable burden to action and a veritable prison, as my freedom would always be constrained by consequence. With the near certainty of death my freedom is constrained by nothing. Death is nothing.

Death liberates us from consequence. The serious, intense realisation that we are going to die gives us the freedom to act without ultimate* consequence. No matter how bad I think something is, I know it won’t last forever. No matter how good I think something is, I know I can embrace it wholeheartedly, knowing that any negative consequences are not for eternity.

I think that those of us who reject religious notions of afterlife know all this intellectually, but I don’t think we fully realise it in our will. Although we say we don’t believe an afterlife, we do not believe in the absolute freedom that comes with the nothing of death, the nothing of ultimate consequence. The belief in an afterlife may be deeply engrained in the human psyche.

*Give attention to the adjective ultimate – I’m not trying to impel you walk in front of a bus thinking it won’t hurt you. There are still consequences for your life, but not ultimate ones. Ethically, I’m obliged not to encourage you to do something stupid.

Unoriginal pagan bullshit: Original sin

October 23, 2008

Another perspective on evil

I would not condemn such myths if they were harmless – this one is pernicious. Augustine’s idea of ‘original sin’ has been used by the Church for centuries to repress and corrupt. It is time the idea was given back to the sick mind from which it came. The officials of the Church ought to show a modicum of integrity in publicly apologising for inflicting this violent, destructive dogma on unsuspecting and naive people.

I don’t expect the Church’s officials (priests, ministers, pastors, Pope, Cardinals, etc.) to apologise though. They would rather be ‘Orthodox’* than honest; their vanity is in their outward ‘Christian’ identity, they have no pride in Christ.

*Orthodox means adhering to the dominant dogma (the dogma which is backed up by force: heresy charges, excommunication, ostracism, etc.), no matter how farfetched from the earliest Christian teachings it is

Kierkegaard’s ‘Fear and Trembling’

October 23, 2008

A nice summary here: Fear & Trembling

The purpose of life is selfish hedonism?

October 22, 2008

According to Christians, yes.

From the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

The Catechism offers a few prooftexts to support this hedonistic idolatry, but we all know you can prooftext anything from the Bible (e.g. slavery, anti-slavery, infanticide, self-giving love …), and most fools do.

I don’t think Jesus says anything of the sort however. Along with the command to love God, Jesus gave the command like it, to love neighbour. The Catechists for some reason thought this was not relevant.

Blogging and the self

October 21, 2008

The reason why people blog is because their self is bound up in it. Blogging is utterly egotistical and I am not one to pretend otherwise.

However, contrary to myth, blogging isn’t a bastion of rampant individualism. Most bloggers are well socialised and follow the norms of the dominant Blogosophere culture and its rationality. Bloggers learn the demeanour and etiquette of blogging through feedback on their posts and commenting on other blogs. They check out blogs more popular than their’s in order to keep up with the latest blogging fashions and lingo. They follow the leader in writing about topics that they hope will advantage their blog stats and give them prestige amongst fellow bloggers. Bloggers put an inordinate amount of time into the content of their blogs for very little substantive result. They hunt for pictures with Google Image Search, dig up quotes and references  and rip off YouTube videos in order to enhance the life of their blog. They need to do this so that their cry, “look at me!”, will pay off in terms of more than momentary attention.

It is very rare that I come across a blog that speaks to me of the author’s deep sense of existence. There are far too many people blogging to be seen by men, rather than facing a profound and shared sense of being alive. Bloggers don’t take advantage of the radical freedom of thought and speech they have on the Web, instead they demand high blog stats and status amongst their peers as compensation. If you are looking for spontaneous, idiosyncratic, enthusiastic, ecstatic and confronting outbursts of self-expression it is best to avoid the Blogosphere; it is the herd of the dead.

The Powerless God

October 21, 2008

Jesus represents the powerless God, the servant, but most Christians prefer an omnipotent Zeus-like fellow. Their false image of God is useful for the institutional tyranny of the Church, but not much else.

We lord it over the powerless God shown in Jesus. We can even choose to execute him if we so desire.

We control whether this God forgives sin:

Mark 11:25-26
‘Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.’

We don’t genuflect before this God as though he were a Roman emperor of divine majesty. We pay our dues to Caesar, not to the Christ.

The Christ washes our feet like a lowly servant. God is our servant and we are his master.

Yet most Christians truly find the image of God as servant highly repugnant and blasphemous. They feel much more comfortable worshipping a tyrant. It just goes to show how little they read their texts and how captive they are to systems of honour that reward masters, rather than servants.

Why evolutionary biologists believe in the supernatural

October 19, 2008

Metaphysics: meta = beyond, hence ‘beyond the physical’, ‘beyond nature’ or supernatural

Causality: a necessary relationship between one event (called cause) and another event (called effect) which is the direct consequence (result) of the first (Wikipedia).

Causality is a metaphysic.

Wikipedia again: Evolutionary biology documents the fact that evolution occurs, and also develops and tests theories that explain its causes.

When will these poor sods give up their infantile superstitions? Time to read Hume, ol’ chaps.

In other news:

I watched a video of Daniel Dennett giving a lecture to a herd of infatuated ‘skeptic’ puppets today. What a waste of time. The high priest has nothing useful or interesting to say; just a shitload of pseudo-scientific speculative nonsense and mildly-derogatory caricatures; what a wanker. The selective skeptics lapped it and gave due praise to their authority.