Archive for April, 2013

Quora answer: What if there are phenomena possible in this Universe, in which one needs to believe first, in order to understand/observe rather than understand/observe in order to believe?

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

There are a lot of interesting answers here, which is a rarity of Quora. And I really thing we need to go back and understand the Divided Line in Plato in order to understand this question better. The Divided Line is the core of our worldview. It is composed of two parts Ratio and Doxa. Doxa means appearance and opinion. But Doxa is divided into two parts which are grounded and ungrounded opinion/appearance. Now the question concerning belief has to do with our relation to doxa. Do we believe in the appearances/opinions we have. Belief implies that they related to the aspects of Being for us, i.e. Truth, Reality, Identity,  and Presence. If I believe in something I am positing that it is either Real, or True, or Identical with itself, or Present i.e. manifests some aspect of Being. If it does not relate to some aspect of Being then belief in it is moot because it will not influence any behavior. The problem we have I think is that we say we believe in things but mostly it is just talk. Heidegger calls this chatter inauthentic immersion in the Mitsein (They), i.e. ungrounded believe and appearances. What we really believe in, which can be contrary to what we say we believe in influences what we how we act, what we do, what we say we have and who we are.

So when you ask whether believing is a criteria for experiencing something I would say yes this happens all the time. If you look at ancient skepticism of Sextus Empiricus he said that we all agree on the things we all see, but it is the invisibles that we disagree about. Dogmatists have some preconceived idea of what the invisible things really are. Academics deny everything. And the Skeptic tries to keep the conversation going with regard to the invisibles to so that perhaps their nature will be discovered. This is the traditional role dialectics to consider distinctions by which we identify these invisibles, which when grounded   in reason is called non-representable intelligibles. Some invisibles are not only substantiated by grounded doxa (empirical evidence) and also by reason. So for instance examples of this are the forces of nature which are extremely substantial in terms of both evidence and reasoned argument. These forces exist whether you believe in them or understand them or not. In general a new phenomena needs some foothold in belief in order to get investigated. Sometimes there appears to be a new phenomena, and is believed in but turns out not to exist like cold fusion or polywater. This gets to what Kuhn calls Paradigm Shifts, and Foucault calls episteme changes. Heidegger says there are even shifts in the understanding of Being. All this has to do with belief. Basically if there was not belief emergent events where paradigms, epistemes could not occur. When you are in a paradigm or an episteme it is the beliefs that drive the normal science program. When the changes occur it is because some people change their belief so that a new science program can be carried on. But these beliefs concern what Is, i.e. some of the aspects of Being with direct effect on what is studied by science research programs. And sometimes those new programs uncover new phenomena or substantiate the new paradigm or episteme. Belief is key to this dynamic that drives scientific research. If you did not believe that some phenomena existed out there to be discovered, or substantiated, or replicated you would not research it. For example superconductivity is something that scientists did not believe was possible, but it could be replicated over and over to everyone’s disbelief because it seemed to violate basic laws of physics. It took 20 years to come up with a plausible explanation for the phenomena. Essentially no one believed it, but there it was replicated over and over again, so Science had to take it seriously and try to explain it. It took, belief of evidence of replication for scientists to take it seriously enough to explain it in ways that ran against laws that were thought to be unviable. But it was because replication brought a belief in the reality of this phenomena that was eventually brought into science as something explainable. If you did not believe in superconductivity it would be easy to ignore it because it was not something that you bumped into in the world without trying. On the other hand with polywater or coldfusion people wanted to believe that it was real, but no matter how much it was believed in Science showed it to not be true, not part of reality, not self identical but rather merely illusions, and something that could not be rendered present in replication experiment. Recently we had another phenomena like this which was neutrinos going faster than the speed of light. If it had turned out to be true then it would have changed the physics game in fundamental ways. The team itself tried to falsify their own results and failed. They only admitted that it existed after they had exhausted their ability to try to falsify it. But when others came in they thought of ways to falsify it that the team did not think of and this shows how well science works. Now if you believe in neutrinos going faster than the speed of light, if they don’t actually do so, then it has not effect on our experience of reality or truth or identity, or presence. Belief in itself in a phenomenon has no effect on its existence except for psychological, social, or cultural phenomena. But physical phenomena are not effected by our beliefs. But our beliefs play a key role in understanding them. With regard to phenomena that are self-generated by beliefs such as the gods for instance, their whole existence is in the belief. Take away the beliefs and they vanish. And so this should teach us a lesson. We should not invest in phenomena that is self-generated. And in fact we are slowly learning not to do that. But what happens is that we give truth, reality, identity, and presence to things that do not exist, mostly invisibles and this causes problems, because there are just so many non-existent things to believe in, for instance magic, witches, gods. These things are mirrors of our souls. In them we discover the flip side of Being, i.e. that it can be an illusion. In fact that is what distinguishes existence from Being. Being can be an illusion but existence cannot be an illusion. Both have all the aspects related to them. But with regard to Being we may be dealing with “truth”, “reality”, “presence” or “identity” and the situation where as Zizek says the appearance or the opinion of doxa is more real than reality, more true than truth, more present than presence, more identical than identity.

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Quora answer: In which of Kant’s writings is his concept of the thing in itself first mentioned?

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

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Quora answer: Can one, from his/her readings of Kantian philosophy, explain the concept of subjective ‘Space-time’?

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

A certain amount of information on a subject is needed in order to ask a question. This question is either missing something or is confused. So I don’t really know what to answer or how to straighten it out. Kantian Noumena posits that there is an unknown reality out there beyond our experience of phenomena through spacetime. Noumena do not live in spacetime as we project it and experience it according to Kant. Even objective spacetime is projected according to Kant. It is not that there is some projected spacetime that is subjective and another objective spacetime, all spacetime is projected in Kant, and so that is why he says that Transcendental Idealism is the only route to Transcendental Realism. But at the same time the phenomena as we see it is exactly what is there, it is not that there is some reality out there that is different from what we see, but it is precisely because we project spacetime and then the categories a priori that we can see things that are real to us. There is no reality other than reality to us. Best source I know on Kant is the lectures. I suggest anyone with a question like this about Kant listen to those lectures, even if you think you know Kant. There are a lot of bad interpretations of Kant out there. Because Kant is complicated and deep people like to make more or less out of him than he deserves.

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Quora answer: What are the ‘constructive’ principles that explain the growth of complex systems?

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

What comes to mind is Adrian Bijan’s Constuctal Law. It is a principle concerning how flows “live”, maintain their viability, by evolving their flow architectures over time with respect to volume, surface, or performance moving toward Laminar Flow. If you are looking for a principle to explain the growth of complex systems then the Constructual Law is a good candidate.

Constuctural Law:

For a finite-size (flow) system to persist in time (to live), its configuration must evolve such that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it.

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Quora answer: What’s the difference between “soul” and “spirit”?

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

The difference is between the breath as what is breathed (spirit) and the breathing itself (soul). They are similar to the difference between arabic Nafs and Ruh in this respect, but Spirit is seen as something higher than the soul while the Nafs is seen as something lower than the soul. It helps to translate across to another language whose roots actually mean something like Arabic for instance, but other translations to languages with roots is also good to explore cross-cultural differences in meanings.

It is of interest that in many traditional cultures there are always two different words related to the core of the self, and normally one of them stays with the body in death and the other goes away somewhere. So in Arabic for instance it is the Ruh that goes away to God (Ywhw/Allah) while it is the Nafs that is tied to the body. Thus in Sufism whose coda is “Die before you die” is all about purifying the Nafs into the Ruh, but they are considered to be basically the same thing. While in other traditional cultures many times there is a difference in kind between the to etherial parts of the self.

In Egyptian religion the two parts of the soul are called Ka and Ba.

Hillman always connected Spirit to monotheism and Soul to the Imaginal of Archetypal Psychology which is related to Images. I do not believe that this is particularly correct but it does seem to be a trend to denounce the Spirit and return to the Soul as central. Spirit is latin and Soul is Old English. Spirit really does mean Air, and Soul has to do with something like the waves of the Sea that suggests breathing. So I think that the relation of Spirit to Soul is closer to the use of Nafs and Ruh only we see the spirit as being tied to the transcendental in our culture and the breathing as tied to the body, while in Arab culture it was the other way around.

We talk about Spirituality rather than religion which many find more acceptable because it is not dogmatic, and seems to be expressed in mystical paths across religions. Soul on the other hand is something closer to ourselves as living creatures. We talk about music being soulful for instance.

Spirituality has opened up a nihilistic market place where everyone and their brother are selling the snake oil of enlightenment for a fist full of dollars. Zizek says that this idea of Spirituality is the ideology of our day, which is caught up in the denial of ideology. And he says that, along with Adorno, that it is precisely what the state wants that we give up thinking, and will. He also says this new “oriental” ideology of spirituality, is basically a support for corporatism which I rail about elsewhere. I think he has a point there, although I think this only applies to the superficial nihilistic versions of these “oriental” religious philosophies and there are more genuine versions of them which are nondual in character for which you cannot make the same argument. Buddhism for instance does have a moral stance in the world even if some of its versions like Zen seem to have given up that stance, as it was incorporated into culture and interpreted more widely. One of my favorite movies is called Satori which is about a monster that eats thoughts. This is an interesting popular interpretation of Zen buddhism that may have some truth. I believe that Hui Neng tried to straighten out this kink in Zen in the Platform Sutra and the Southern School of Chan.

I think to the extent that people think of Spirit as a transcendental and soul as immanent to the body they are mistaken about the nature of enlightenment. At least in original Buddhism emptiness is nondual and is neither transcendent nor immanent. Same is true of Taoism with regard to the void. Other deeper nondual paths like DzogChen that merges the idea of Emptiness and Void somehow are even less likely to be associated with even the duality between nonduals like emptiness/void. I like the idea of reappropriating Old English terms like Feorh as having this nondual meaning. Feorh is not Geist which is Ghost in Old English. Rather it is connected to the blood and via that to life, and means also spirit, but probably originally in the sense of spirited. I would place Feorh as the nondual barzak (interspace/barrier) between soul and spirit or ruh and nafs. The reversal that makes spirit into nafs and soul into ruh is very telling, because it is precisely the seeking of a transcendental that throws you back into a degenerate form of immanence. What is closer to us the Soul is that which can be purified into the Ruh. But both of these duals, nafs/ruh or spirit/soul are separated by something nondual. In English I want to say that is the Feorh the original spiritedness  that lives in the blood and is not the Ghost/Geist which becomes Mind/Spirit in German as seen in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit/Ghost/Mind.

In Sufism it is precisely the death of the Nafs that yields the Ruh in its purity. And so that dividing line between life and death is makes the distinction and that realm between life and death is called the Barzak which separates use from life in the next world through the time in the grave before bodily resurrection. Nafs in this sense which is I in Arabic means something like the ego. Ruh means something like what Soul means traditionally, as something preserved after death that exists in the grave and goes to the garden or fire after the resurrection with the body. Ruh means the purified self in a nondual state in my opinion. This is equivalent to the return to the orignal purity of children in some sense free of defilements that cling to the self. It is interesting that Jesus is referred to as the Ruh of Allah in Quran. Thus from an Islamic perspective what is special about Jesus is that he embodies, as we see him in the Injeel (Gospel of Thomas) as the wholly purified human being, the epitome of what we should associate with Spirituality. All other previous Prophets are in the position of Nafs to the Ruh of Allah, i.e. Jesus. The Barzak, i.e. nondual between these two kinds of Prophet is of course Muhammad. Within Muhammad (pbuh) are the nafs of all previous Prophets together with the Pure Ruh of Jesus which is the extreme of enlightenment without regard for immanence. What we see in Muhammad’s life is that this other option has its own characteristics and structure which we know about because Muhammad is a historical figure. We know more about Muhammad than any other human being alive or dead. So the Way of Muhammad is very clearly exemplified by all we know of him in his prophetic career. He single-handedly generated a heresy of the Western Worldview which was successful, unlike other Heresies that were crushed. Even when the Christians went to war against Islam they could not crush it. No one less than Nietzsche, unlikely as it may seem, has many good things to say about Islam. It is unfortunate in our time that some people calling themselves Muslims have decided to ruin that reputation, by doing horrific things in the name of this religion.

Anyway, when you see the difference between Ruh and Nafs as embodied in the prophets and you see Muhammad as the middle way between these two duals then that concrete embodiment in myth and history can give you a really good idea that these terms mean in Arabic and Islamic Sufism and that helps clarify in my opinion the relation between Soul/Feorh/Geist in Old English which I believe is something similar even though it is a completely different culture, and I would claim this is wide-spread. So for instance you have Ba/Akh/Ka in Egypt. Notice that the house of Allah in Mekkah is called the Kaba. I don’t think that is an accident.

We could go on to look at the Chinese idea of the split immaterial self called Hun and Po with Shen being the nondual barrier/interspace between them.

The problem we have is that we have lost the roots of Old English because so many words like Feorh have been lost in the oblivion of language change as French, Latin, and Greek words rushed in via  a former colonialization of the Angles and Saxons. But this gives us an opportunity to reclaim those words and use them for the lost sense of nonduality that was replaced by the radical duality of the Western Tradition. The key question here is what is the difference that makes a difference ala Bateson between Soul and Spirit. Spirit is the foreign word and Soul the indigenous word. But beneath that colonial overlay is the difference between Geist and Soul. Geist is only Ghost in English but in German it became the word for Mind and Spirit. Soul is the breathing, based on its connection to the sea, and Geist is the Spirit, i.e. what is breathed out as the last breath, what leaves the body on death, but then sometimes hangs around. Of course then the question is to think the Feorh as Spiritedness that is somehow in the Blood rather than in the Breath and Breathing. The heartbeat can be seen as more central to life than the Breath, we can hold our breaths for a minute or more but we cannot stop our hearts beating pumping blood throughout the bodymind. There are more heartbeats in our lives than breaths by a multiple of four I believe, if I remember rightly. All animals have about the same number of breaths and heartbeats in their lives regardless of their size and the difference is how fast they go, while humans have about 1/3 more than all other animals. So if Feorh is rooted in heartbeats and the blood flowing as the basis of “Spiritedness” leading to a kind of spirit then its complementarity between the moments of pumping is more central to us than the difference between our breathing and the air breathed. And of course when we enter the realm of the heart it is a whole different region of the psyche than that governed by the breath and its breathing. The Blood and its pumping is both part of the organism, while the breath is foreign to the organism and the breathing is the way we intervene with respect to this foreign substance, as invisible as it is, to take life from it via oxygen produced symbiotically by plants.  Both pumping and what is pumped are intrinsic to the organism while breath is extrinsic while breath is intrinsic. And of course now we know the blood carries that oxygen to the cells so that the two are interlinked. This interlinking of Breath and Blood is were we start to see the nondual aspect of what can be seen as duals. Breath and Breathed is Self/InvisibleOther, while Pumped and Pumping is Self/Selfing instead. But the fact that Self/Selfing transportation is transporting with comes from the Self/InvisibleOther distinction and dynamic means that the two are symbiotically interrelated and cannot be separated which is what makes them nondual. Nondual means that they cannot be divided, yet not because they are One, and not because their difference is illusory but because the difference is a necessity that is self reinforcing since both are intrinsic to life and one actually carries the other and the exhaling puts out the carbon dioxide that is necessary for our symbiosis with the plants. Blood also carries food, but we do not need to go there to prove our point Blood plays simultaneous roles in making life possible.

Note “pbuh” stands for “Peace Be Upon Him” which is a term of respect applied by Muslims to Muhammad especially but also to other prophets.

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Quora answer: Is my life all about me?

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

The antidote for this question is the poetry of William Bronk

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Quora answer: Are the ideas of responsibility/duty and freedom of an individual at loggerheads?

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

In Kant Freedom and Responsibility are two sides of the same coin. We can only have freedom when we take responsibility and fulfill our duty. Doing what ever we want and not fulfilling our obligations is only illusory freedom, it is in fact the worst form of slavery, slavery to our desires. A good example of this is in Bernstein’s lectures on Kant at where he pushes the foot of a student. When ever we push someone else, we say sorry because we have taken away from their freedom of action. We are responsible not to push others around causally and we want the same respect from others who we want to not push us around as if we are an object. Heidegger has this also in Being and Time where he talks about how our touching a wall is not the same as contact between two objects. We can only be free ourselves if others do not push us around, i.e. render us to be mere objects, and thus respect our freedom to move ourselves. Our freedom to move is precisely given by the respect that others give us by giving us freedom to move, and that only happens if each of us responsibly gives others the freedom to move themselves. The interplay of responsibility and freedom can be seen in this very basic form of dignity and respect that we must give others in order to get it back ourselves. It is precisely this that is taken away from us in war, crime and in accidents where harm is caused. So the same principle applies on the large scale as the micro scale from the view of Kant and that is the categorical imperative in action. Only do what you can generalize to a law without creating chaos and violating the freedom of others and yourself. This is what you are responsible for doing yourself. And it is your duty to preserve this for others against those that would violate this principle, and so it is an active responsibility to preserve freedom, and dignity, and the rights of others, not just a passive assertion of self-control in a world where no one else is exerting self-control. It only works if it is mutual and where the free commons is preserved.

It is significant that the occupy movement used this term “occupy” which implicitly accepted their role as objects that “occupy” space and thus implicitly accepted their role of being pushed around by the Financial institutions. Human beings dwell, and it is significant that via foreclosure this dwelling is being threatened by Banks. Being pushed out of  their homes people felt that their most effective protest was to become the objects that the banks had made them out to be. See Building, Dwelling, Thinking by Heidegger.

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Quora answer: Can humans become gods?

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

If we were to become Gods, then we would lose who we are, because we are known only to the extent we are contrast with Gods and we would lose our world that is made up of the fourfold according to Socrates of Heaven, Earth, Mortals and Immortals. We are in the time of the fleeing of the Gods according to Heidegger, and it is in our nostalgia for the Gods that have left us that we can think about becoming gods ourselves. We cannot replace the gods by ourselves within the worldview. I like what Morris Berman said in Coming To Our Senses that we have gotten rid of the predators and so that function in the world is now relegated to Traffic accidents. In other words we replace the ecological functions with something we create artificially and thus the world becomes degraded. The we begin to fulfill the function of the predator in relation to ourselves, say in War, Crime, Accidents where technology malfunctions, or is misused.

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Quora answer: What is intelligence paralysed without? Why?

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Using it to slowly and resolutely Think about significant matters seriously.

So little actual Thinking, i.e. slow thinking, goes on. We are in Fast thinking mode all the time which should really be called “schematization” not thinking, i.e. reacting based on what we think we already know.

See Daniel Kahneman Fast Thinking, Slow Thinking. I just started reading it. I saw him talk about it at the LA Times BookFair recently
See also 

For the history of Schematization see U. Eco Kant and the Platypus.

As Heidegger says in What is called Thinking to think is to thank what ever gives thought for the insights that arrive.

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Quora answer: Why do people on Quora have no sense of humor for responses to questions that clearly can never be answered?

Apr 08 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Quora admins take themselves too seriously as thought police.

This is very similar to the question: How can Quora not understand the nature of Questions and Answers and still run a Q&A site?

Not having a sense of humor and not knowing what they are doing kinda goes together.

People who take themselves too seriously tend to over value what they are doing and not notice that they really don’t “get it.”

Another quirk is that we have people who are administrators deciding the fate of answers on subjects that they are not experts.

This is not to say that all the administrators are the same or equally fallible. But like Quora itself many are out of their depth.

And quite honestly it detracts a great deal from the experience of using the site to know that there are thought police running amuck somewhere beyond the scenes and never knowing when they will strike again.

The only good thing about them as far as I can tell is that they probably protect us from a lot of spam.

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