Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sex just for Procreation? Drugs just for Medicine?

I talk about how the common idea that marriage or sex is done for more than procreation is akin to the idea that drugs are not just for medicine- they are both invalid and entail one another.  

I go over two approaches: Denial and Expansion. 

-Denial regards the claim that sex is just for procreation as false by using examples from humans and nature how sex is utilized for more than procreation. In this same way, both animals and humans use drugs for more than the relief of a dysfunctional symptom.  

-Expansions reexamines the definition of the words procreation and medicinal, by expanding them to include short term goals like relieving stress for overall function (procreation) and changing mood (medicinal).  

Therefore, if you accept the claim that drugs are only for medicine, then you must accept that sex is only for procreation. That is, the two claims have the same underlying logic- they imply each other. 

Hopefully by the end of this video you're able to understand how both these claims imply each other and are both invalid. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Free from Bias?

"Man is free to the extent he knows himself"
-Alan Watts

Many people feel that they can take an unbiased view of an issue or event. They tell themselves, "let me consider this in an unbiased manner". They may do an experiment or search for some relevant information which comes from outside of them. Therefore as the source of the information is external, they feel its unbiased. So one will hear "its based on math" or "evidence" when hearing rationale behind a claim- done in order to justify it.

But can we ever be free from bias? My opinion is no we can't, if unbiased means we are taking a point of view which does not exclude. All points of view exclude by their very nature. There is no point of view from nowhere. Each point of view takes on a certain perspective in spite of some other perceptive. I look right so I exclude what's on the left. I consider a mathematical perspective which excludes a qualitative perspective. Every perspective is opposed to some other perspective- no perspective can include it all.  

Where does that leave those who want to act in an unbiased manner? This is where the epigraph comes into use and Mr. Watts gives us some advice: we can become unbiased by becoming aware of our biases, rather than attempting to remove them. We will always have our biases- it gives us our identity. Bias may as well be a ontological phenomenon rather than a purely semantic one.

All in all, bias defines our point of view. It is impossible to remove all bias. Each point of view excludes some aspects of reality. Therefore, if we want to become free of our biases we must get to know them. We must familiarize ourselves with the biases that define our motivations and tools; it is only then that we can free our selves from bias by keeping attention on it and regarding other points of view.

The point is not to get rid of our biases, but keep an eye on them, while considering other points of view.

What Progress in Philosophy? (Philosophy is like Bathing)

Some may feel that philosophy as a whole has not made any progress. Some are quick to point out how philosophers have been arguing over the same problems for centuries- seemingly making no progress.

Philosophy is like taking a bath or shower. No one would come to and ask "how much progress have you made in getting clean?".It seems like a silly question. You (hopefully) shower or bathe everyday, all the while knowing you will get dirty again. In this way, bathing is not an additive process like technology is. Technology is builds upon itself, while bathing is an iterative process- one of returning back to and repeating.

Philosophy is more like bathing than it is like technology. This distinction is what causes scientists and others ignorant to the true scope of philosophy to see it as something that makes no progress. But what they fail to see is that philosophy is like bathing, in that it is a iterative and not an additive process. We return again and again to philosophy to orient ourselves- to clean out thoughts and wipe away the inconsistencies and fallacies of our ways.

Philosophy cleans the picture of reality so we can understand on a grand level what it is we are doing in our day to day lives. Like bathing, philosophy we do often- not with he intent of never getting dirty again, but rather with the desire to see our nature devoid of all the dirt of the world- gaining a new perspective. Philosophy is a way to get this perspective. We must return to it and cleanse ourselves like we do in bathing.

Therefore, the progress made in philosophy is like the progress made in bathing- although it seems to go no where, it is actually vital toward our image of ourselves and our world. Philosophy, like bathing, is a process we repeat over and over, while technology is a process which builds upon itself. When science and technology make strides in development, philosophy and bathing are needed to cleanse the mind and body from the days work in the world- washing away inconsistencies and fallacies- allowing for progress to head in the right direction- rather than in unconsciously biased directions.      

Mindful Entertainment: Watching the Car Wreck of the Contemporary World Vicariously

Keeping up with current events and learning about the world’s affairs is like watching a car wreck. It’s a hideous thing to look at (war, poverty, injustice); but for some- like myself- they cant help but to look. The engrossing chaos of the contemporary world is like a vicarious roller coaster ride- the plot twists and contradictions provide the curling turns and the death-defying drops. But many are content to not give it the least bit of attention. They are happy to just know about what they feel directly affects them. Things like their gossip, finances, and the smorgasbord of mindless entertainment- designed to turn ones attention away from the current and into fantasy, all reinforce their choice of willful ignorance.

What may seem like a selfish decision to look away from the current world (especially to a naive me) is actually a form of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is best defined by an example- a psychological experiment to be more specific. In the 70s, researches were investigating the effects of punishment on dogs. They came up with the arguably sadistic but nonetheless important scientific decision to test the effects of continuous punishment. They set out to do this with dogs and electric shocks. The dogs were placed one at time on one of two adjacent metal platforms, from which they were confined to by bars. These metal platforms were connected to electrodes which would give a shock to whoever was in contact with them. The researches then continued to shock the dogs causing them to move from one platform to the other. Much to the dog’s dismay, both platforms were electrified- there was no escape. The dogs from then on stopped trying to move and laid on the platform to be repeatedly shocked. The dogs refused to move because they seemed to know it would not help them. But the incredible part comes when the researches removed the bars- allowing the dogs to move from off both platforms. One expects the dogs to leap from the platforms to safety, but the opposite happens. The dogs continue to stay and receive shocks although they are free to leave. The dogs had learned to be helpless- thus the term learned helplessness.

Confronted with the calamity of the modern world, most people are unable to figure a out a way to fix things. This is akin to the dogs not finding a way off the platforms. Like the dogs, they learn to take the shocks- which for them means numbing themselves to current events. Unfortunately, when the opportunity for a genuine plan to help the situation arises, these people will be blind to it- unable to seize the chance. Sad as that may be, it is expected and should not be thought of with contempt.

I say this because for myself- one who can’t help look away from the car wreck of current affairs- my gazing is passive. Instead of learning to look away with passionate disinterest, I have learned to look toward with dispassionate interest. That is, while others are passionately involved in the small scope of their immediate interests, I have become a detached observer. I’m not looking to find a way to help the situation with my gazing. I look because I am engaging vicariously or virtually with it. It’s as if I am finding entertainment in it. If this is the case, how is this any different from mindless entertainment. Is this the opposite? Is what I engage in a mindful form of entertainment?

Wait… the common conception of entertainment is that it must be mindless by definition. So what do I mean when I say gazing at the car wreck (vicariously) is a kind of mindful entertainment? It seems like I’m contradicting myself. But am I? Appearances may be deceiving- especially at first glance.

Can entertainment be mindful of current events rather then unconcerned with it? Let’s first ask a easier question. Does all entertainment have to be fantasy? This is obviously not the case. Reality TV (although much of it is scripted) shows that people can be entertained by the idea of watching something real as opposed to something made up. But what about the kind of topic entertained; does it have to be trivial instead of crucial? This I believe gets more to the hear of the matter. Most want to entertain shallows content, which does not affect them too much.

Can entertainment of crucial topics be engaging in a way as not to cause dread and helplessness but of hope and/or vicarious entertainment?  Is there a way to make entertainment about vital topics without shying away from their unpleasant aspects? I believe I have been doing this some how. I find mindfulness in all the entertainment I watch. I find myself following alternative media because I find it entertaining in the mindful way I am describing here. However I am not sure how exactly it happens for me.

I would like to envisage a time when people can trade mindless for mindful entertainment. I think it would help us by reversing the learned helplessness via a redirecting of attention toward the world- now with the guise of vicarious entertainment rather than frustration. The key difference is one can look at the worlds problems like a car wreck- telling yourself its OK to watch although there is no apparent fix. There is no reason to run from the world because it is chaotic when one can learn to become entertained by it and learn to experience it vicariously. This way, we can be at the forefront of the world’s issues and notice when we have a chance for a true fix, like jumping off an electrified platform when bars holding one in are removed.  

We should learn to watch the car wreck of the modern world with vicarious eyes looking for entertainment. Although at first it may seem disrespectful to find entertainment value in a car wreck, when all things are considered, it is a better option that not looking at all. If we learn to become detached observes, content to keep up with the unfolding of current events, we become more aware which eventually leads to change. Ignorance on the other hand will never lead to change.