Friday, November 18, 2005

mind, self, and young children

There are some powerful arguments to the effect that children less than about three years of age don't have a concept of a self. This is because one can have a concept of the self only if one has a concept of what a mind is. But empirical experiments on identifying what are the mental states of others indicate that young children do not recognize the concept of other minds; hence, they have no recognition of the concept of a self. Eventually, of course, virtually all do come to such a recognition of other minds, though some children, such as acute autisitcs, never come to gain such a recognition.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Young-, Middle-, and Old-age Man

Sometimes I live in the past, roaming around old memories in my head. This is becoming more and more prevalent in my life. I don't like it. It's a sure sign of the onset of middle age. Some observations:

  • Young-age man obsesses about the future.
  • Middle-age man (involuntarily) contemplates why the present is as is, given the past which led to it.
  • Old-age man, I take it as a guess, (involuntarily) continually reviews his past.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Q: Is Sarcasm Immoral? A: Any idiot knows it's not.

I've heard people make this claim: "Sarcasm always has a victim" I'm not so sure that's a proper analysis.

Although, sarcasm always introduces pain (i.e. mental pain) unto someone (which is the point of using it), that is not sufficient to make them a victim. Negative reinforcement can be a positive learning experience. Sarcasm is a particular type of negative reinforement; thus, sarcasm can be a positive learning experience.

For instance, Socrates used sarcasm to shock individual people into thinking and as a device for improving the quality of the whole community (by improving its leadership and educators). And other great moral figures have also used it to good effect. Take, for instance, Jesus' approach when the Pharasees would not listen to his more measured lessons. In fact, Jesus was really good at it. [1] Matthew 3:7 -- But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! [2] Matthew 12:34 - You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. [3] After the telling of the parable of the tenants in Luke 20, The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest Jesus immediately, because they knew he had spoken this extended parable against them as a sarcastic ploy.

A related issue is the difference between satire and sarcasm. I don't think there is any, since one's person's joke is another person's affront. It just depends on which side you're on.

So, in the end, sarcasm does not necessarily victimize. It might, but it need not. It depends on the intention of the agent behind it's use.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Intelligent Design logic entailments for resurrection explanations

One might worry that just as I accuse ID of being a fancy version of some type of argument from ignorance (where ID advocates readily rely on identifying a knowledge gap that science could potentially fill in later,) then it might also be possible that the inference to the resurrection is also an argument from ignorance--something that could be filled in naturally with ad hoc explanation or perhaps later historical discovery. It turns out this is a correct insight.

If one holds that there was some guy (say, Jesus) who died, and then he was alive again, there are several logical possibilities, though some of them admittedly have very remote probability or believability. For example, I am aware of no one saying that (1) alien beings from the Andromeda galaxy resurrected Jesus. Nor that (2) a very rare breed of bacteria just happened to have repaired his bodily systems. But many in history have claimed that (3) God resurrected Jesus. Or consider (4) [insert another logically compatible explanation here].

It might very well be that explanations 1-3 are wrong, and that some explanation (4) is the case. But of all the options I've seen, it appears to me that (3) is the best. Naturally there are a host of 4's given by all sorts of people. But (3) has seemed best to me up to this moment, but I have friends who think that (3) is every bit as crazy as (1) and (2).

Here is the point: for any spatial-temporal event, there are an infinity of ways to account for that event. Short of well-grounded quantified models (i.e. science) one must often go with what one takes to be the best explanation, all things considered. (Even that will vary with the education of the person who decides.)

Libertarian vs. Popularist

It strikes me that being populist need not be diametrically opposed to my being libertarian, as it might be that the values which libertarians espouse would serve the needs of the many better than the current values of the reigning political parties. I should caution at this point that political philosophy is not my interest and that I would typically be charged with being a social elite, since I am in the academy, am a white guy, and an American, and etc. However, just as there is variance among the animal kingdom in speed, strength, longevity, and etc., so too is there variance among people. Not all can enter the wrestling ring with Bruno Sammartinor (or whoever), but neither can we all do quantum tensor calculus (whatever that is). So, if one thinks the common person is oppressed by the elite in society, or that the instruments of the State need to be grasped from this self-serving elite and used for the benefit and advancement of the people as a whole, the problem is that not everyone is competent to act for their own end. (See the various silly ways people use their money, for instance.) I'm mostly about people fulfilling their potential and not merely having maximum freedom of movement, for people will often do stupid, evil, or self-harming activities with their aquired freedom of movement. Such a position, I recognize, does go against my libertarian leanings. But as I've said, I'm no political philosopher.