Saturday, September 29, 2012

Consistency and Completeness

To all my regular readers (ha, as if I have regular readers!) sorry I haven't written in such a long time.  I've been busy going overseas to a combat zone.

Anyways, I've been reading Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid and the author brings up an interesting concept.  Can one actually conceive of a universe that doesn't follow logical rules?  In that regard one might use the copout argument that just writing or saying the words means that one can conceive of it.  But that's a silly argument, and doesn't really count.  That's like being able to read Korean script but having no knowledge of what's being said.  Just being able to say the words doesn't mean that it's actually conceivable.

But, it is conceivable?  Think about sci-fi movies and such... or a world that doesn't have mathematical consistency.  Could, even in a movie, there be a world where 1 + 1 = 3?  I'm not talking about the words 'one,' 'plus,' 'equals,' and 'three.'  Even in this world there are a variety of ways to express the number '1' but could there exist a world where having two of something couldn't exist?  In the movies it is easy (or is it?) to blur the lines between conceivable and inconceivable.

The book often references "zen" and that zen readily accepts contradictions.  It seems like cheating to me... like saying 1+1=2 and 1+1=3, and just accepting both as being completely correct.  It's like throwing out Aristotle's laws of non-contradiction.  The same thing, at the same time cannot be two opposite things!  According to Aristotle without these distinctions we cannot know anything, to which zen would probably responds "yes, we cannot know anything."  Accepting contradiction is not a way of dealing with it, it's a way of ignoring it.  I would guess that zen would eventually draw a line somewhere and stick to some standard.  Maybe not, but even if one ignores a fact or a non-fact does that make it any more of a fact or non-fact?

Nothing quite like seeing an airshow from above the planes

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thomas Aquinas

If you've never heard of him Thomas Aquinas was an apologetics master.  As I've mentioned before, I've been listening to the philosophy podcast and the most recent episode was about Aquinas's proofs for God.  He used the unmoved mover, uncaused cause and other arguments to show that the concept of God is perfectly logical.  I need to read more from this brilliant man!  That being said, this made me think of another reason to believe in God (caveat this is by no means a good reason to believe).

Before I go into that reason, let's discuss "human progress."  The only thing that has really progressed for humanity is hubris and pride.  Okay, when I say only I'm not saying that there haven't been lots of technological advances over the years.  In just my short 30 years (almost 31) there has been huge progress in the power of computing.  That's not what I'm talking about, technological advanced are not true progress, it's just more complicated ways to put together different things in different ways.

Let's look at human progress in the realm of morality or at fixing social ills.  In the past few thousand years, how has humanity progressed at eradicating any of these things that plague humanity?  Hunger?  Poverty?  Disease?  Homicide?  War?  How well have we done in getting rid of these things?

Going back to the topic of great philosophers, hearing some of the writings of Thomas Aquinas made me pause and think about another reason to believe in God, aside from all the great apologists' arguments.  There are dozens upon dozens of brilliant people that have proved time and again that the concept of God is rational.  So, when someone stands up on his or her little soap box and states unequivocally that "God is dead" or "man is God," that person is stating that he or she has more knowledge, wisdom, insight, and logic than many of the greatest thinkers.  Of the history of philosophy podcast that I've been listening to, basically all of the philosophers so far, have believed in some form of god/gods, that includes Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle.  Then there are the other great thinkers like C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Thomas Aquinas, and many many more.  I'm not saying there aren't smart people on the other side of the argument.  I'm saying that humanity needs to take a break and remember from where we've come.

Like my last post about believing in God just because without such belief one has no hope, TRILLIONS upon TRILLIONS of people for centuries have believed that there's Something out there that created everything.  Who are you to rail against human history and claim that man is all there is!?

Beautiful view of the Golden Gate bridge from the south side

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Existence is Futile

All of human existence is simply a pointless cycle of boredom - desire - satiety - boredom.  Eating is the most basic example, you're hungry - you eat - then you're full; for a time then it starts all over again.  The past is empty/nothingness, the future is vain unattainable hope.  People try to pass themselves on via procreation and leaving a will, but the person is now gone no matter what they try to leave behind.  In the grand scheme of the universe, time, space and eternity no one makes any difference.  There is nothing worth living for; hoping for the future is in vain and nothing can be gained.  All that one gains in life is lost in death.  Even if one passes on a large amount of possessions/money to one's offspring that person still dies, and becomes nothing.

Interesting though in the  made a point against Epicureanism: One shouldn't dwell on the past; it's gone/a dream, nothing can be done about it.  One mustn't dwell on the future; it's unknowable and always unpredictable.  Lastly, one shouldn't live for the present either; it's fleeting, only here for just a moment then lost to the past, which is a dream.

Where is this coming from, you ask...  I've been listening to this podcast here, and it's based on a translation of Author Schopenhauer's work, The Emptiness of Existence.  I can't believe that there aren't more people that commit suicide based on this work.  If all of life is a short tumble down the hill of existence into non-existence, why go on living?

Along the same lines, a friend and I were talking about the concept of being able to transfer one's consciousness into a machine.  He kept calling that technological advance, "the singularity."  I'm assuming he was referencing this book The Singularity is Near by Raymond Kurzweil.  My friend kept saying that being able to do that would render a person (virtually) immortal.  Total hogwash!  Thinking like this is such a small view of eternity/infinity.  Computers break down over time; data corrupts over time.  On an even larger scale energy sources will eventually run out.  Even the sun will eventually run out.  Infinity is so much farther into the future than computers or electricity or the sun.

Keep in mind that one must caveat that first paragraph with... "without God..."  With God, nothing is futile, everything and everyone has meaning and purpose.  I don't agree with Pascal's wager: that one should believe because it doesn't hurt and in the end if it turns out you're wrong then it doesn't matter. However, this is something similar... if life has no meaning without God, then you should believe, so that your life has meaning.

Love the beautiful central California coast

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fear of Looking Stupid

I drove (about 3 1/2 hours) down to Monterey California yesterday to hang out and eat at some of the places I used to enjoy when I was attending the Defense Language Institute there.  It was a great trip, I went for a hike/run at one of my favorite parks, Garrapata State park.  Then took a swim in HUGE waves at Carmel Beach.  Then, after lunch and hanging out on the coast I stopped for gas.  While I was filling up my tank I overheard the conversation that started me thinking about this topic.  I heard a woman walking along, talking to a Chinese man.  He asked a question about what the different prices were on the gas sign.  To which the woman responded that the lowest price was "unleaded" and the higher prices were more leaded.  The highest price has the "most lead."

Now, first I want to say, there's NOTHING WRONG with not knowing everything.  No one knows everything!  What I'm worried about, is why she didn't just answer honestly with "I don't know."  Why do we, in general, fear that tiny little phrase!?  There's nothing wrong with that woman not knowing what the difference is between the different octanes.  Where she went wrong is where she made something up an told someone who honestly didn't know something that's not even close to the actual fact, apparently just to save face from having to say "I don't know."

I love this town, hope to move back there some day

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Abolish meta-insert the blank

First, if you've never heard the term, meta- comes from Greek meaning "after or beyond."  It's been used in various compounds, the most famous being Aristotle's works (not titled by Aristotle).  The irony of this is that the title has double meaning: either that it's the chapter/book after physics, or that it's beyond physics; i.e. on a higher plane than physics.  Interesting enough this is the only compound using "meta-" that I think should be kept, and I'll cover more about that later.

First, let's consider metalanguage.  The idea that there's some conception of language beyond language, doesn't make any sense.  The "thing" behind language, is thought.  Now trying to conceptualize thought is virtually impossible because you have to think to think about thinking (like that?).  Now, studying and thinking about what kinds of thought generate language.  Sure, but don't call it "metalanguage."

Next, meta-philosophy, that's like saying the philosophy of philosophy.  First off, philosophy is a vague enough word as it is: love of learning.  What is that?  Why do we romanticize the idea?  I think the term meta-philosophy was made up by a philosopher that wanted to get laid (aka sound smart).

There's a large variety of words that misuse the term "meta-," and I won't go into them all now let's just say that most often the words could be replaced by some other word or concept.

The exception: As I mentioned before I think the term metaphysics should still be used.  Here's why: God exists (only using the term "exists" because of a lack of a term that fits better) outside the human plane of existence, and there's no better term to describe something that is beyond our concept of the physical universe.  I've written a couple times about this topic on my blog and I've posted some on this topic at a philosophy forum.