Archive for the ‘Personal Philosophy’ Category

Mind-Body Dichotomy: Part II

April 11, 2019

Our current system of teaching ethics in the schools is to give a “philosopher’s paradox”, or some context-less questions and present an either/or choice. I was a Teaching Assistant (TA) for a course where the professor would teach engineering ethics by presenting context-less questions. The professor would poll the class to see who was willing to step on a bug. Most of the class raises their hand. Then, the professor would see who was willing to kill a mouse. Then a cat. Eventually a human. Hands started dropping by mouse. By human, students were beginning to ask questions. “Is the human trying to hurt me?” No answer. “What are the circumstances?” No answer. Context-less, either/or choices.

Another popular example: A giant meteor is headed towards Earth. Engineers have built a spaceship to leave Earth, but it only seats a few people. You are presented with a list of people, and you can only pick some fraction of them to go. They range from deranged murderers to pregnant women to doctors. Who goes on the spaceship?

Some will argue for the pregnant lady, the doctor, etc. Their “spirit” is in the right place, or, in the case of the pregnant lady, there are actually two spirits instead of just one. This is the mind side of the mind-body dichotomy.

Others will argue that it doesn’t matter. The criminal is simply another animal and the selection should be totally random. This is the body side of the mind-body dichotomy.

So, what choice should you make?

First, step back from the problem. I’ve limited you in a thousand ways with this problem. I’ve given you very little context, and simply instructed you to go through a list of people and make a yes or no, go or no go decision. You’ve submitted to authority, mine, that you only have two options. What authority did I have? None. I just told you I had it.

So, what choice should you make?

Build another spaceship. Find a way to deflect the meteor. Find a way to live after its impact. I couldn’t possibly list all of the possible answers, and nor would you want me to. You are only actually limited by your own creative thoughts.

The first telephone didn’t come about because Alexander Graham Bell was trying to decide which Pony Express rider needed to deliver the mail. The first semiconducting transistor get invented because its four creators were picking which vacuum tube was more efficient.

Whenever you are presented with an either/or, consider that those may not be the only two options.

Thank you for reading my post.

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The Mind-Body Dichotomy: Part I

April 10, 2019

What makes a human being a human being?  Are we an animal?  A spirit?  A collection of chemicals?

We have enough trouble defining life, and what it means to be alive.  However, five minutes after someone passes away, we can say, “they are dead.”  Their collection of chemicals is still the same.  Therefore, a human being is more than chemicals.

Maybe we are an animal.  Let’s look at other animals.  We’ll use a rabbit as an example, though pick the animal of your choice.  Animals have instincts.  A rabbit always runs away from danger.  It never commits suicide.  It never actively chooses death over life.  It has no system of morals.  A female rabbit can sleep with whomever with no feeling of shame, as its biologic purpose is to reproduce.  A male rabbit can fight another rabbit with no sense of being a bully, as it is his job to make sure he gets the most territory, and thus, female rabbits.  “No means no” does not exist in the rabbit world- the male rabbit mates with whomever he can catch and not get killed.  Rabbits have no technological advances, and no art.  They have no purpose for them.  Because “might is right” in the rabbit world, one warren is as good as another.   Humans have very few instincts.  We have developed codes of morals that attempt to protect the weak.  We have a system of property values that recognizes “might does NOT make right.”

Maybe we are a spirit.  And yet, show me a person who does not have physical structure or is made of chemicals.

The truth of the matter is that we are all of these, and any division between them is false.  (For the purposes of this discussion, I will lump chemicals in with body).  The division between them is called the mind-body dichotomy, and it is a false dichotomy, a false choice.

Most of our political issues can be broken down into the mind-body dichotomy.

For example, republicans say abortion is the killing of a spirit that has very few physical features, and therefore is the killing of a person.  Democrats say abortion is merely the killing of some animal tissue.

Another example is sex education.  Republicans say that sex is dirty, and we only need it because our human spirit is trapped inside an dirty, lowly human body.  Democrats say we are basically animals, and that teens will have sex because it’s instinct, and that’s all they know to do.

You can link many issues to this dichotomy.  So which is correct?

Neither.

The human being, as discussed above, requires all of these things.  A human body with no consciousness (spirit) is a zombie.  We make horror movies about them.  A human with a no body but a spirit is a ghost.  We make horror movies about them, too.  Somehow, we know this to be true.

What about the afterlife?  Aren’t we a soul meant for heaven, trapped in a worldly body?  Maybe.  Biblically, we are described as “becoming like angels” (Luke 20:36, Matthew 20:30, etc.)  An angel is perhaps different than a human being.  I haven’t met an angel, nor can I speculate on their being.

Here, on earth, we are human beings.  The combination of a mind/consciousness/spirit and a physical/chemical body.

Anytime you are presented with an “either/or” option, look to see if those are your only two options.  If you can’t see more than two options, see if your two options fall into the category of “body” and “mind”.  That’s your clue that there is more than two options.

Thank you for reading my post.

Ballots “Found”

November 10, 2018

NM flipped its southern district overnight due to ballots that were “found” after the election.  It’s crooked.

As disappointed as I was in the election, it was not unexpected.  At the national level, not much will actually happen.  Trump will say that water and fresh vegetables are healthy and the house will oppose him.  They will huff and puff and stop anything he tries to do, but that’s about it.

I’m more concerned at the state level with our new anti-gun, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist governor.  She had a free pass to run amok through our state.  She is for passing background checks for all guns, for banning any gun she thinks is ugly, for higher taxes, and so on.

We voted ourselves into this mess, and there is really no escape from the socialism that is coming.  We will just have to hide and let it run its course.

Thank you for reading my post.

Two Cars of Students

March 29, 2018

I recently went on a trip to a conference with a bunch of undergraduate students. Driving there was a rush, as we had to leave early Friday morning for Provo, hoping to get there before the evening events. We arrived with 20 minutes to spare.

On the way home, there was no rush. We had all day to get back to New Mexico, other than getting back to study and such.

We were split between two cars; I had three students in my car, and the other car had five students total. All eight of these students are relatively good students.

We left in the morning. I stopped in Moab, UT, for lunch. The other car said, “We don’t have time to stop” and they drove on. Instead, my group bopped around Moab for a nice lunch, a nice walk, and a little sight-seeing.

We drove a little farther and stopped to walk up to Wilson’s arch, a natural arch along the roadside. The other group texted to say they were crossing into New Mexico.

In the end, we showed up three hours behind them. But who had a richer experience?

Often, as hardworking people, we feel that we don’t have time to have fun. That we don’t deserve it. Look around. All of the people who DON’T work stop and have fun once in a while. Why can’t we?

Thank you for reading my post.

Malia Obama and Other Kids

March 8, 2018

I will preface this article by saying I don’t like Obama.  I hated most of his policies, and I hated the way people thought he did no wrong.

Having said that, I have seen too many articles over the past week about Malia (Obama’s daughter) and her boyfriend.  Can we please leave the girl alone?

I have thought this with all of the presidents and their kids.  I didn’t like it when they hounded the Bush kids over using a fake ID, and made them out to be alcoholics.  I didn’t like it when they called Palin’s daughter a whore.

These kids didn’t get to pick their parents.  Perhaps they would have preferred to not have a president as a parent, and perhaps they are happy with it.  Either way, they are becoming their own people and probably don’t need the attention as they try to make their own ways through life.

Let these kids be themselves.  Let them date, make mistakes, do whatever.  I may not like Obama’s policies, but I don’t really care who Malia is dating while she is in college.   It is simply not my business.  I don’t care that the Bush twins were caught using a fake ID.  Are you sure your kid isn’t using one in college?  I don’t care that Bristol Palin got pregnant before she was married.  What was your daughter doing at 17?  Let these kids alone.

Thank you for reading my post.

School Shooting

February 23, 2018

I’m exhausted and emotionally drained.  This most recent school shooting, while extremely tragic, has whipped up a frenzy unlike any I have seen.    Sure, people have been outraged by school shootings in the past, but this one is somehow different.  I’m not sure how.

I have argued with long-time friends on social media, most of which started out their post with something like, “F*** the NRA” or “white men strike again” or other such drivel.  My mistake was to try to reason any of these people.

At work, the other professors complained about “easy access” to firearms but then asked if I knew who had a concealed carry permit, and who carried.  I told them, “Yes, I know…but no, I won’t say.”  I realized that even though these professors are generally good people (they are), that if I revealed this tidbit of information, it could be harder for them to get into grad school, get letters of recommendation, and so on.  When, in reality, whether they carry or not is none of the school’s business, once they are not on school grounds.

Instead, I go through my friends list and realize that I have none.  There are virtually no people who support my right to own the AR-15’s I already own.  Between the professors asking me that question, between the ad hominem attacks on my friends list, I realize that our right to own guns is almost over.  We are losing this battle.  In ten years, I bet there is a ban in place.  If there isn’t, we’ll run around like druggies, ostracized by society and struggling to find employment.

Yet, I will surrender none of my guns.  I don’t know if I have any will to fight, but I will try to vote every chance I can.  I will try and respond, when there is some shred of logic in the statements that are argued against me.  I don’t think it will do any good, but I’m not sure what there is left to do.

Thank you for reading my post.

Anti-technology

February 1, 2018

Along my commute this morning, I snapped a few cell phone photos of the sunrise.

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It would be easy to say that the “man-made” things in these photos spoiled the photos.

But what is it I should damn? Should I damn the lampposts which have provided light and safety for the people that walk through here at night? Should I damn the power lines that allow me to share these photos with anyone who is interested? Should I damn the roads and cars? These roads and cars make our routine traveling today was seemingly impossible, a mere one hundred years ago (or a brief flash in human existence). Why is it when a deer makes a path through the woods that it is natural and good, and yet when man makes his own path, it is to be damned?

The antitechnologists would have you believe that the world was better man “wrecked” it.  They would have you believe that life was better when man lived in caves, foraged for berries.  They have a strange fascination with the primitive.

Don’t let it fool you.  Life was tough, brutish and short.  In addition to the fact that none of our modern comforts were available, the division of labor that was made possible through technology has afforded us more free time.  It isn’t just that our lives are longer, but the quality of our lives has improved.

No longer does a person have to simultaneously farm his food, sew his clothes, raise his livestock and his children, repair his hovel, mend his wounds and teach his children.  With the division of labor made possible through improved technology, he can purchase these things for cheaper than he can make them himself (in terms of time and effort, which translates to money).

Do you want to light your house with a candle instead of an electric light?  Do you want to face the nearly-routine cycle of house fires?  Do you want the limited light, smoke and wax in your home?  Or would you rather flip a switch, and thank the power company, Thomas Edison, and the others with your gratitude and your dollars?

Would you rather walk (or care for horses)?  Would you rather travel in a manner that does not protect you from the elements, at low speed, for short distances?  Would you rather that a relative moving out of state be gone forever from your life?  Or, would you rather thank the airlines and the car manufacturers with your gratitude and your dollars?

Would you rather return to the days of medicine by leeches and blood-letting?  Would you rather consider it normal to die during childbirth?  Would you rather we return to the “amputate and wait” days of injuries?  Or, would you rather thank your doctors, pharmaceutical companies, researchers and scientists with you gratitude and your dollars?

Don’t buy into the anti-technology mindset that is unfortunately so common today.

Thank you for reading my post.

Check Your Privilege

December 15, 2017

If you are straight, white, cis-gender, male, able-bodied or any combination of these, chances are you have heard (or will hear in the future) the phrase, “Check Your Privilege.”

This expression is used when you make an assumption about some social situation and have not, in the eyes of the opponent, properly addressed the plight of those who are marginalized in some way.

The expression can be meant to open up a real discussion, as if to say, “check your premises.”   However, more often than not, it is used to silence you by pointing out past oppression, slavery, or mistreatment by a group of people who look like you.

Embedded in the privilege discussion is that you haven’t worked as hard as someone else, or perhaps you didn’t earn all that you have.  It is implied that if you had been born under different circumstances, you would have not been so fortunate.

You may hang your head.  You don’t know about slavery, having never experienced it.  You may not have escaped the inner city to get your college degree.   You may have never experienced life from a wheel chair.

If you insist that you worked hard for you position and the things you have, you are a racist/homophobic/sexist/ablest jerk.  You may even find yourself with no defense to these statements.

Forget all of it.

The proper response to “Check Your Privilege” is “Or What?”

People don’t run around saying these things to actual Nazis or Klansmen or Terrorists.  Those people don’t care about being called a racist.  They don’t care whether their ancestors had slaves- they would have them today.

You are (hopefully) not one of these people.  You own no slaves, and want none.  You don’t actively say you won’t hire women.  You don’t beat people for being gay or how they dress or what gender they identify.  You don’t actively want life to be difficult for anyone for conditions to which they have no control.

When someone says “Check Your Privilege,” the only weapon they have is your own guilt.  Your own guilt for the very common thought, “I’m not good enough.”

Is it any wonder that these discussions occur in college classes, where most students and faculty suffer from “impostor syndrome”?  Impostor syndrome is when you constantly feel like you have risen above your competence level, and is experienced by practically everyone with an above average IQ.

Is it any wonder that, over the years, I’ve lost more former college students to suicide than car accidents?

But you have a defense.  Their only weapon is your own guilt.  Don’t give it to them.

By replying “Or What?” you acknowledge that their statement is an empty threat.  It is an unbacked attempt to silence you.  There will be no answer, at least no logical one.  They counted on your guilt, and you won’t have given it to them.  The best they can do is to resort to more obvious ad hominem attacks, such as calling you uneducated, backwards, etc.  You know, standard liberal drivel.

In Objectivism, this concept is called, “The Sanction of the Victim.”  It is best demonstrated in Atlas Shrugged, during Hank Reardon’s trial.  He goes before a panel of judges; they expect him to grovel and confess his sin- the sin of being a businessman.  Instead, he refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing.  To paraphrase, “it is bad enough to whip a man, but to force him to first manufacture the whip used against him is a special kind of evil.”

Don’t give it to them.  Don’t deliver them a weapon to use against you.

Why #MeToo is a Waste of Time

October 20, 2017

Recently, the hashtag #MeToo has been cycling around social media.  The idea behind this hashtag is for women to come forward and discuss their stories of sexual harassment.

The problem is, sexual harassment is pretty vague.  According to The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is stated as,

“It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.”

Sounds clear right?  You can’t fire your secretary for turning down your advances, according to the law.

The problem is the package deal that is wrapped up in the sexual harassment.  To be found guilty of sexual harassment, the only proof is that someone else felt uncomfortable.

Obviously, rape, sexual assault, and so on are a violation of individual rights, and the perpetrators should be dealt with harshly by the law.   However, lumped into this same category is everything from rapists to a single catcalling construction worker.

Instead of recognizing that there is a long distance between an unwanted comment and rape, we are expected to swallow, as one package deal, that everyone who has received a catcall or an unwanted comment is a victim equal to a rapist victim.  And, that everyone who has laughed at a sexist joke, or went in for a kiss and got rejected, or whatever is now on par with a rapist.

The end result of this is to treat every man as though he was a rapist.  Furthermore, it is to teach every man that they are no better than a rapist, for every single (straight) man has glanced too long at a woman, or made a stray comment, and are now guilty of rape.

It’s the danger of a package deal.

 

Facebook Anger

October 13, 2017

I have finally started cleaning up my Facebook feed.  I don’t defriend people, but I have started unfollowing people and blocking posts.  After this last shooting, I have become sick of all of the nonsense, and was realizing how much time I waste arguing with walls and reading garbage.

So many of my friends, so many people of my generation have been nursing the government teat for so long that they can’t imagine life without it.  Every problem requires a government solution.  If I dare say that the solution lies within the people, (who supposedly make up the government, in a free society), I get lots of flapping arms, yelling, and ad hominem attacks.

Side Note:  spell check wants to change “ad homiem” to “Eminem.”   That’s what’s wrong.

Another Note:  I posted the above statement on Facebook with an animated GIF.  Perhaps I’m what’s wrong.

Anyway, this week, I skipped out on all of my old friends calling NRA members “racists” and “terrorists” and read exactly no articles about “white privilege” or “male privilege” or any other nonsense.  It’s all gone from my feed.  No more articles from Vox, Upworthy, or Vice.  Good riddance.

For my trouble, I enjoyed a productive, less-stressed week.

Am I avoiding the problem?  Perhaps.  However, there is nothing to do about it on Facebook, so why increase my stress level and fight over stuff that isn’t going to be changed on Facebook anyway?

I’m not engaging any of these folks anymore.  They can treat Facebook as their echo chamber and recite their practiced lines against guns, Trump, God, whomever, if it makes them feel better.  They can beat their chests and declare themselves geniuses of social issues and politics, and the most they’ll get from the likes of me is an uninterested, “that’s nice.”  I just won’t be listening.