How to make your brain ache

December 5, 2008 at 2:00 am 2 comments

soldierpeemWorld Philosophy Day happened recently in Palermo, Italy. Did you miss it? In my undergrad days, studying philosophy, I always wanted to get that “philosopher look”. I imagined you would need to get those thick “bottom of a coca-cola bottle” glasses; wear a jaunty little scarf around the neck or perhaps perch a beret on the head; dangle an elegant cigarette holder from the hand with tufts of smoke curling up; be a bit eccentric and stare thoughtfully into the distance, contemplating the meaning of life and one’s existence. Never quite got that look right but I did confuse my lecturer with an essay on whether pink panthers exist. Must dig that piece out of my archives and have a good laugh.

So reading up on World Philosophy Day, I came across an article in BBC News by philosopher David Bain. He offered up four questions for us to contemplate:

  • should we kill healthy people for their organs? (well, that seems to happen in certain countries in the world already!).  And this question: you and six others are kidnapped and the kidnapper somehow persuades you that if you shoot dead one of the other hostages, he will set the remaining five free, whereas if you do not, he will shoot all six. (Either way, he’ll release you.) What to do? Personally, I’d grab the gun and shoot the kidnapper dude.
  • are you the same person who started reading this article?
  • is that really a computer screen in front of you?
  • did you really choose to read this article?

Contemplate and leave a comment as to your answer. Meanwhile, I offer up a favourite of mine: just because you’ve never seen a pink panther does this mean they do not exist?

And a few others I often ponder:

  • is it human nature to seek truth or comfort?
  • is death a bad thing?
  • what is freedom?
  • does tomorrow already exist?
  • does the law exist?

I’m getting a headache already. But some of you may have a go at me if I don’t offer up an argument or two. So I’ll take the question Does Tomorrow Already Exist? Here are some brief rambling thoughts:

  • I’d say that “tomorrow” exists when you rustle the notion up in your mind. It exists in your mind as a construct. But in “reality” (which begs the question “what is reality”) tomorrow does not exist until it becomes today. Until tomorrow comes along, it is non-existent.
  • if tomorrow exists then does this mean the events of tomorrow are predetermined? But would that matter, because when we get to tomorrow, we would think we were acting with free will.
  • if in reality “tomorrow” does not exist, then “tomorrow” is only a term we use to describe an unknown future
  • so if tomorrow doesn’t exist in reality, then how could the notion of time travel work? The future is “empty”, nothing exists – so people living in the future do not exist, they could not travel back in time to visit us nor could we visit the future.
  • in order for the question to be possible, doesn’t this mean the future must exist?
  • we experience “tomorrow” day after day, we live it. So doesn’t this prove that tomorrow exists (barring of course some catastrophe wipes us all out ergo there’s no tomorrow)?
  • the last point assumes a linear progression of time. What if we consider David Bohm’s notion of the implicate and explicit order? To quote Bohm: “In terms of the implicate order one may say that everything is enfolded into everything“. The explicate or unfolded order is everything we see in this world; it’s our level of existence. The implicate order is a deeper order of existence but there is a constant flow of movement and exchange between the implicate and explicate orders – the universe constantly enfolds and unfolds so that everything in the universe is a seamless extension of everything else and hence everything is interconnected. Bohm suggests that “…sequences of moments that ’skip’ intervening spaces are just as allowable forms of time as those which seem continuous” and so as the universe ripples through its enfoldings and unfoldings, the future could enfold onto the present or the past onto the future. 

Well, I’m sure you have better ideas so leave a comment!


Entry filed under: philosophy. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Paris  |  December 6, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    is it human nature to seek truth or comfort?

    2 quotes to start with:
    – “If human beings were shown what they’re really like, they’d either kill one another as vermin, or hang themselves”.(Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
    – “An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling lie.”Aldous Huxley

    Do people really prefer a thriling lie, to an uncomfortable truth?
    Have you ever wondered why genocides were discovered and ashaming humanity far well after they took place?
    Maybe no one likes to face the truth: any war/conflict means crimes, but only loosers forcibly admit theirs. As time pass and civilisations wane new generations can’t be guilty of their ancestors’ crimes any more, so they can lately face a truth, cause it’s not theirs.

    Do human seek confort?
    Why do human comit crimes?
    because these crimes are necessary to get a confortable rich life! stealing land, gold, oil, women, jobs, etc has allways been a motivation to wars and genocides. What are all those for? COMFORT
    so why human fool themselves into thinking their crimes aren’t serious, and even highly justified? because comfort is most important to them.

    Why didn’t USA cooperate with Europe & Japan on Kyoto to cut greenhouse gases and avoid future deaths? because of comfort (cars), and all that is disguised by a lie:”oh no we don’t know if CO2 is causing problems to climate”

    Why do GMO firms, pesticides firms (strangely same ones!), car companies or mobile phone companies, all try to curb research showing their products cause health (including deaths) problems but instead promote lies and greewashing?
    because they seek confort (of their $$$ billions ) over truth.

    I deeply believe most historical and economical data show that humans seek comfort (ie power/money) first, and that usually comes at the expense of truth:
    for one rich guy confortable lie hides the ugly truths of a million sick, starving poor people.

    A very interesting article from Jared Diamond could help understanding why nastiest people (intelligent liers) are ruling our current world with lies for confort:
    The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race (May 1987) Discover pp. 64-66 by Jared Diamond.

  • 2. thinkingshift  |  December 7, 2008 at 4:20 am

    don’t disagree with you Paris. I very much liked Jared Diamond’s book Collapse but will check out the article you mention.


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