Maurizio – Omnologos

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Every Day, a Christmas Carol for the Soul

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In Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is an aging man, money-tight and with a soul drier than the harshest desert, finding happiness and moral redemption only after meeting the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future.

Most of us will not receive any visit by eerie presences: still, we all risk to see our lives wither away in a hailstorm of irritability and sulking.

Fortunately, there is a way to recover youth and enthusiasm the way of Scrooge: by looking at our inner “ghosts”, the pieces torn from our inner selves one by one by Time itself.

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As the years go by, in fact, the constituents of one’s soul lose “sync” with one another. Some parts of the inner being survive as throwbacks to the past, becoming the Past Inner Ghost, “Ego Praeteritus”. Other elements live in the here-and-now, making up the Present Inner Ghost, “Ego Presens”. Others still have their basis in what is yet to come, belonging to the Future Inner Ghost, “Ego Posterus“.

For example, women and cars, fast or slow as they be, provide the best evidence that an important element of our souls does indeed live in the present. In fact, an obvious component of the Ego Presens is the sense of fashion: contemporary in the extreme and constantly a-changing, with wardrobes getting refreshed not just of worn-out items and impossible-to-find (as new) the same stuff of a few years earlier.

Female beauty itself means changing body shapes every decade or so, even if the owners of the proverbially beauty-beholding eyes don’t all die off that often

That is exactly what happens with cars. Look back at the vehicles in the market 20 or 30 years ago, and apart from true “classics”, you will see primitive, ugly boxes of metal, not the sleek lines, inviting quality, and superior engines of today’s automobiles (alas! themselves destined to turn into ugly boxes of metal… by 2027!).

Politics is itself not immune from the “spirit of the times”, the zeitgeist. Big worldwide debates appear to be coming and going, monopolizing it all for a while, then becoming either boring and outdated or boring and obvious (another definition for “being fashionable”?).

In the past century, colonialism, imperialism, protectionism, fascism, communism, democracy and universal suffrage, worries about nuclear war, civil liberties, poverty, the environment: nowadays, “global warming”.

Are we then “Citizens of the Zeitgeist”? Or “Prisoners of Our Times”, with our Ego Presens socially and commercially pressured into “freely” thinking with the consensus and “voluntarily” getting the most up-to-date gadgets?

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Not completely.

It’s an altogether different story for musical tastes. For some reason, most people get their melodic preferences cast in stone between the ages of 16 and 25. So if you’re 50 you may have to accept that your preferred music was recorded at least 25 years ago, and is unlikely ever to re-appear in the charts but for a very short time.

That’s an example of what constitutes the Ego Praeteritus, the inner Ghost of the Past. Other instances include lifelong friendships, usually forged by the end of the “teens” years, as anybody that has ever left hometown can attest; and most personal fears including fully-fledged phobias, rooted perhaps in the first 3 or 4 years of one’s life (just like family ties: are all those related, one wonders?).

And of course, we are bound to keep accumulating memories, those images and feelings condensed (and filtered) in an increasingly-heavier baggage capable of influencing all our thoughts and actions.

Worse still: parts of the Ego Praeteritus appear to become lethargic, if not dead altogether, around 16 years of age (as famously quipped by Benjamin Franklin). For instance, the ability to change and embrace innovation; the sense of academic excellence, invariably coinciding with one’s own year of graduation; morality, inevitably going down the drain since the days of one’s own youth; youths themselves, not showing any longer the respect of old to parents and adults in general.

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It’s in the Ego Futurus that one can find life instead, in the very dreams that keep us alive.

Those may be the hope of getting to see another day, or of seeing one’s children live long and prosper, or of being able to buy whatever one desires. Whatever their kind, still those are hopes, the last bits of us to die, and without which life would be absolutely pointless.

Hopes and expectations are not only rooted in the future: they belong to it. Fulfillment of one’s desires may be what we think we aspire to, but more often than not, when that happens it strikes as anticlimactic.

No need to be an Apollo astronaut back on Earth or a retiring World Leader to ask oneself that most open-ended, unsettling, and desperate of questions: “now what?”. A question that we will all have to face.

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As times goes on, and dreams come to materialize (or fail to), one’s Ego Posterus can only fade. In the meanwhile, the Ego Praeteritus grows bigger. More and more of one’s inner self gets anchored to the past, resulting in a progressive larger detachment from the “real world”, and from one’s slowly disappearing Ego Presens.

This may be the strongest sign of having an elderly mind: when the soul is left with almost no connection with the present, or the future.

Sadly, that’s a well-traveled path, with one slowly but steadily growing “grumpy”, stagnatingly aged in spirit instead of just old in body.

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How can one avoid such an end?

Perhaps some good memory erasure would help. There would be plenty of space to learn new musical tastes and how to become a different person.

A more practical way may be to become instead aware that parts of the soul do not live in the same epoch as the rest of them, or the World out there.

Accepting all internal differences on a temporal level too, we can then confront our Egos of the past, present and future, day-in, day-out, in an unrelentingly rejuvenating “time travel of the soul”.

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In fact, it’s the Christmas Ghosts that bring back grumpy extraordinaire Ebenezer Scrooge to a happier life, better connected to the world out there and at peace with what went before, what is happening now and what is yet to come.

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/20 at 22:45:27

Acknowledging a mistake…

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…there is no “if”, there is no “but”. There is no excuse, there is no defense.

If one really wants to acknowledge a mistake, maybe even learn from it, it’s much better to shut up, listen wholeheartedly, avoid being defensive, stop rationalizing.

Say, even if one doesn’t really believe it, pretend that the people pointing out the mistake are right. Get on their side.

Otherwise it’s going to be as useful as running in circles. Worse: it may reveal one as not actually having acknowledged a thing. Bye bye reputation!!

Written by omnologos

2007/May/25 at 21:13:11

Posted in Philosophy, Sociology

Anti-evolution at the Vatican

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Catholic circles especially in Rome are unwisely toying with the idea of discounting the Theory of Evolution, as it would confine God “to just lighting the blue touch paper for the Big Bang” (Evolution and Religion – In the beginning“, The Economist, April 19).

Furthermore, if natural selection works with random steps, according to some people we lose the “unique, God-given role in the animal kingdom” for the human species, especially favoured by Pope Benedict XVI.

Actually, the “blue touch paper” issue is ill-posed. Even if the Universe has been created to follow Natural Laws such as Evolution, there is enough built-in uncertainty, such as in Quantum Physics, to allow any Creator to tinker at His pleasure.

And regarding man’s unique role…I would rather promote more humility…it makes little sense to try to defend one’s standing when the counterpart is… God!

Written by omnologos

2007/May/22 at 21:45:08

The High Priests of Contemporary Atheism

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Truly gone are the days of Epicurus.

Gone are the discussions about Free Will and the existence of Evil. Recently, some vocal atheists apper to be thinking it is time for puerile opinions instead.

Sure, many “persons without God” (including agnosticists such as Breaking the Spell”’s author Daniel C. Dennett) have a healthy respect for the experiences and beliefs of fellow human beings, be them atheists or not.

But then what can one say when an otherwise brilliant thinker like Richard Dawkins publishes without a grain of self-awareness the “Ultimate 747” argument, a so-called “definitive proof” that God does not exist?

It is a sort of an updated “who created the Creator” question that anybody with a brain can beautifully, simply and quite obviously take apart (hint: the Creator doesn’t have to be part of the Creation).

In Italy, philosophy Professor Maurizio Ferraris finds it worthwhile to spend his time arguing that Jesus is akin to Santa Claus, whilst mathematician extraordinaire Piergiorgio Odifreddi can’t even think of belief in God as anything else than irrational superstition.

Things look like going even more downhill now, with Christopher Hitchens’ new book “God is Not Great”: apparently, a masterpiece with pearls of wisdom such as asking if the Jews did not know that murder and adultery were wrong before they received the Ten Commandments.

Obviously, the problem is not with Hitchens, a professional polemicist that utters outrageous statements for a living (sort of a male Ann Coulter with just a tad less smell of sulphur). The problem is not even with Dawkins’ anti-fundamentalist crusade that truly throw the baby (Faith) with the bathwater (religious establishments).

There is a much larger issue at hand: the blind acceptance of their half-backed arguments by people evidently in need to justify their atheism to themselves.

Take for example Michael Kinsley’s review of Hitchen’s book (With brio and anger, an atheist takes on religion”, International Herald Tribune , May 12, 2007).

Mr Kinsley finds “entertaining” some blatantly silly questions such as “How could Christ have died for our sins, when supposedly he also did not die at all?” (Answer: please do read at least one Gospel, once).

Worse, Mr Kinsley is “satisfied” with (yet another?) “disproving” of the existence of God. Wow…it’s nice to know that age-old questions can finally be set aside: why don’t Messrs. Hitchens and Kinsley explain to us the Meaning of Life too?

Mr Kinsley is also quite happy to repeat Mr Hitchens’ thoughts on religious ecumenism. “if any one of the major faiths is true, then the others must be false in important respects – an obvious point often forgotten in the warm haze of ecumenism”. Boy, have they “obviously” squared the circle or what?

Do people like Kinsley and Hitchens realize how deeply, reactionarily catholic (with small “c”) is such a limited view of Faith (one God, one Truth, one World)?

How much was the Mahatma a “moron, lunatic or liar” then? That’s their definition of a modern believer. After all he did say “Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and also faith in man” and “One’s own religion is after all a matter between oneself and one’s Maker and no one else’s.”

Doesn’t anybody remember Quintus Aurelius Symmachus? One of the last pagans in ancient Rome, Symmachus protested the removal of the Altar of Victory from the floor of the Roman Senate by a Christian Emperor by saying “We contemplate the same stars, the Heavens are common to us all, and the same world surrounds us. What matters the path of wisdom by which each person seeks the truth?”.

(No need to waste your breath on our activist atheists, o civis Symmachus! They wouldn’t even know what you’re talking about).

Anyway, there is just the faintest of hope of some reasoning capability left in the activist atheist’s mind. Mr Hitchens writes that a sustained argument about the (non-)existence of God shouldn’t be either necessary, nor sufficient. I am sure only the most fundamentalist believers and atheists will disagree with that.

What is for atheists then the point of writing books belittling something they do not have?

Perhaps, just perhaps, one day people like Mr Hitchens and Mr Dawkins will realize that they may as well uselessly ponder on mysteries such as why a wonderful person as my wife ever fell in love with a less-than-perfect guy like me. Good luck with that!

Is this really what millennia of debates between believers and atheists have gone down to? Somebody will rightly point out that there are plenty of idiots that believe their Faith should be expressed by insulting, outlawing, threatening and killing others.

Yes, there are!

But two wrongs don’t make one right: weren’t Dawkins et al. supposed to be the Brights, the superiorly intelligent humans capable of shedding silly arguments and superstition from their lives, and from the lives of anybody that would follow them?

Why are they then switching off their brains whenever the conversational topic is Religion?

If theirs is the Light, we live in a very dim world indeed.

Like the Conquistadores in the Americas, these Brights are fighting to destroy what they can’t understand in the belief of improving the human lot. The bringing down of anything spiritual, it has become their spiritual quest. The attitude of the vast majority of their fellow humans, they consider it a primitive relic unworthy of their own perfection. Several thousand years of contributions in logic and philosophy, that doesn’t mean a thing to them.

Having discovered the “definitive arguments” for the double impossibility of proving the non-existence of any Divinity, they put themselves outside of human history. And they even gather around their books of wisdom, to accept with little sense of critique anything that is said to belittle the very idea that human being can believe in God.

It’s a hubris extravaganza.

Contemporary (activist) atheists truly set themselves in competition with God: here’s a hint of why they find so compelling to make however flawed an argument against the scandal represented by anybody not believing in their “religion of atheism”.

Written by omnologos

2007/May/21 at 21:54:19

The Physics of Miracles And Of Free-Will

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A scientific finding published a few months ago on Physical Review Letters and reported on The Economist may soon send religious types of all sorts and shapes to salivate back to their Physics books.

5% of a proton’s magnetism is contributed not by the host quarks but by visiting strange quarks that have popped out of nowhere“.

It is a perfectly reasonable discovery. Current quantum physics in fact

predicts that so-called virtual quarks, together with their anti-matter partners, are continuously emerging from the vacuum of space and then disappearing again as a result of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. So, while a proton has three resident quarks, it also plays host to a lot of short-term visitors

Nevertheless, such a discovery may herald fascinating consequences.

First of all, 5% is not exactly a negligible quantity.

Second, the measurement is obviously an average, so one proton will get a little nudge in one direction, another proton a slightly larger or smaller nudge in another direction, and so on and so forth. There is no macroscopic effect…but only insofar as the virtual particles pop up randomly in the protons.

Third, if this happens for one kind of particle, it is extremely likely it will happen for all kinds of particles, not just protons

Fourth, if this happens for one kind of force, it is highly likely it will happen for all kinds of forces, not just magnetism

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The end result is that when we will be able to control where, when and how virtual particles pop-up within real particles, we will be capable to do all sort of currently deemend impossible actions. Imagine being able to “focus” the properties of a magnet so that it will attract a particular metallic object, instead of all the objects within a certain distance range….suddenly, one could move specific objects from a distance. That’s telekinesis for you.

Or look forward to the time gravitational fields will be strengthened, weakened, focused at will. That’s levitation for you. And spaceflight and levitating cars will become a child’s play to build and pilot.

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Those are just dreams at the moment, impossibilities, what we could call Miracles if we were to witness them (as per A.C. Clarke’s famous saying: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic).In fact, what is there to prevent God from using those same virtual quarks exactly to perform…Miracles? (God of course could be prevented by being non-existant 😎 ; but let’s assume for now that’s not the case…).

Levitation does indeed allow one to walk on water or fly from Mecca to Jerusalem, or telekinesis the parting of the Red Sea. Some good control of the strong force and quark mechanics simplifies transforming water into wine or anything else.

Etc etc. So virtual particles popping all over the place may be God’s Backroom Control: invisible and intangible but still very much of consequence. Sort of a Miracle Physics (MP) Model.

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For the Theist, it all makes sense.The Deity would have created a Universe that can take of itself but still not completely impervious to on-the-fly modificationsAlso the main objection against miracles would lose ground, as in the MP model the Divinity can intervene without foregoing the natural laws inscribed in the Universe

Just as light is a wave AND a particle, and an electron is a wave and a particle, we could say that the Universe is at the same time deterministic AND random. Not to mention that Evolution can then be a random walk AND the guided unveiling of some underlying plan.

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So do we (well, IF we exist) have free will or are we in the hands of an omnipotent figure (if He/She exists) that decides things for us? Both.

Written by omnologos

2007/May/02 at 22:03:34

Reasons To Be Optimist

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Early XX century: millions in Europe dream of a bright future of “continuous progress”.

They will confidently march towards their deaths in the fields of the First World War.

Early XXI century: millions in Europe can only imagine a nightmare future of environmental and social catastrophes…

Written by omnologos

2007/Apr/24 at 23:13:20

About Intellectual Dishonesty

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Recently, concentration-camp doubter David Irving moved to a different table rather than have lunch with a Shoah survivor. As Leo Tolstoy (may have) said:

I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.

Yet, there is a straightforward way out of intellectual dishonesty: and it is to declare publicly under which circumstances one will agree to change one’s mind and conclusions.

This tells healthy skepticism from denial and close-mindedness.

And it applies to all sorts of circumstances. For example, try asking a person that doesn’t believe people landed on the Moon in 1969, what kind of proof he or she will accept, to change their mind…

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Myself, I will convert to the Climate Change scenario, as soon as any part of the world climate will change in a manner as significant, say, as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

And I will be convinced of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) when that change will happen in ways that are overwhelmingly explained with increases in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

In fact, it’s been a couple of years since I have asked, even on pro-AGW sites such as RealClimate, for anybody able to point me to any recent “change” in climate, of any sort but not just in temperatures, apart from known natural variability factors such as, of course, the NAO.

I am still waiting…

And I am still waiting for pro-AGW campaigners (and Moon-landing doubters) to explain what if anything would change their minds.

If nothing will, the only wise choice is to abandon them to their lives of self-deception.

Written by omnologos

2007/Mar/27 at 21:16:39