Conservative Blast

May 28, 2008

People on the right wing of politics around the world annoy me.  The further right the bigger the annoyance.

It seems to me that the conservatives of this world, by their nature, veer off into a closed bubble of self.  The very nature of conservatism is to be introvert.  Amass wealth and superficial sundries.  Look after nobody but yourself.

The further people drift left the more they see the injustice on this tiny planet, the socialist tendency allows facts like:

“Richest 2 Percent Own Half the World’s Wealth.”

…to sink in.

I would go so far as to say most conservatives are so consumed in their own personal bubble that they are beyond caring for anything or anyone who doesn’t in some way come into contact with them.

Superficial actions do not count.

Most people vote based on a surface tension layer of understanding, formed from tabloid red top head lines for the most part.  Xenophobes who think that people worse off than them should not be allowed in to their respective country.  They of course forget that if the positions were reversed they would leave their nation of birth and seek something better.  That of course is irrelevant to them.  Xenophobia creates many of the worlds issues and ruins many lives.  But I again refer to the ‘bubble’.

Let’s not be silly and say everything that is proposed by right wing parties or organisations is sensible.  But the essence of the philosophy is correct.  The morality at the core should speak to a society based on ethics, morality and the good of mankind.

I have little faith in the human race as a whole.  Not to say I haven’t been in my own bubble of self indulgence, but I like to think that I learn from mistakes and evolve in my own understanding of this small planet we all inhabit.  I suppose my urge to study the arts, philosophy and politics in relative depth rather than showbiz, soap and tabloid news stands me in a better stead and I think that is where the general population of the western world falls down.  But I generalise.

I suppose I can sum up by saying that I wish the population of our wide ranging societies would spend less time looking in their own wallets, at their own selfish desires and more to the bigger picture.  You may only have £50 in your bank, but someone else only has £1.  You may want that bigger house or other belonging that you don’t really need. Someone else wants for the means to survive.  Even in your own country.

I recently listened to a podcast that made an impression.

It focused on spending an hour thinking about what you could do without and still be happy.  I think if most people were brutally honest with themselves it would be a lot more than they would initially realise.  We live in an ultra capitalist society here in the west.

Is it really good for us as a species, individuals, on a planet of limited resources?


Philosophy: The Basics 4th Edition by Nigel Warburton

April 4, 2008

Review proper.

This little gem of a book covers the most pressing, if I can use that phrase, of philosophical problems.  They are grouped in to the following categories via chapter:

  • God
  • Right and wrong
  • Politics
  • The external world
  • Science
  • Mind
  • Art

Each subject is covered from a layman’s stand point delving just deep enough to keep the novice mind ticking while prompting further questioning by the keen intellect and introducing technical terms as and where appropriate.

Obviously this book is not going to be suited to someone already familiar to the concepts introduced; however I would venture that Warburtons treatments of the subjects he introduces would fall well on the seasoned philosopher to boot.

The further reading sections at the end of each chapter also provide a guiding hand as to where to go to pursue areas of particular interest to the reader.

To sum up?  An excellent introduction to philosophy for the novice and beginner, which a more advanced reader could surely appreciate, and gain at least some use out of.


Meta-ethics

April 1, 2008

This aspect of Ethics in relation to philosophy at large is definitely a topic I want to delve into.

The anti-naturalist rather than Kantian or utilitarian view seems to me to be the way I would go, though with my own corrections and views.  There are other interesting properties to the larger argument such as moral relativism and Satre’s ‘No Human Nature’ stand point to take into account among many others.

It is obviously a deep and interesting philosophical subject that has troubled and danced in the human mind as far back as we have had the capacity to think.

Right or wrong still, and always will, divide society and individuals for a long time to come.


Philosophy: The Basics

March 30, 2008

By Nigel Warburton

4th Edition

This is an excellent read so far and this post isn’t a full review.  The text is expanding on what knowledge I have already garnered and while I wouldn’t say I am a complete novice, it is also pointing me in different directions and to different texts / works.  I haven’t finished the complete read, so when I have I’ll be sure to elaborate further.


Big Ideas

March 26, 2008

It seems to me that there are two major areas of understanding that we need to grasp as a species and explore, but the majority never do, being so wrapped up in the mundane task of living day to day.

We need to understand what goes on inside us and what goes on outside us.

I know that seems like a rather stupid and obvious statement, but I make it referring to Philosophy and Physics  and how they combine and where.

I want to see what the Kierkegaard’s, the Kant’s, the Nietzsche’s see along with the Hawking’s, the Einsteins and the Feynman’s.  It’s a lifelong quest I know, but it’s one I undertake every day with baited breath while dealing with the mundane politics of Socialism, the equisit words of Plath, the philosophy of Buddhism and the unending wonders of my partner and daughter / step daughters.  Each has it’s own importance and I hold each dear to me.  It’s the juggling that maybe teaches me the most.


Zeitgeist

January 17, 2008

I watched this film last night and I have to say it was a rather interesting experience. In fact, I watched it twice. Sometimes in your life, a film or documentary comes along and it changes these questions. Your most fundamental perceptions about what’s going on in the world.

I was in two minds as to whether I should include this review on my film review site chewed celluloid or simply put it in my blog. I came to the conclusion that this isn’t really a film review it is more my comments on this film or documentary.

So, where shall I begin well, the film is split into three parts. The first part deals with religion, the second part deals with 911 and the third part deals with international banking and its possible controls over the world. The first part, religion is excellently executed and totally believable as something that I actually believe myself. After this excellent introduction, some of the ideas put forward do become a little muddy. I would think that there have been 911 conspiracy theories since the day after 911 itself. And yes we all know that most conspiracy theories are a load of rubbish. However, there is some truth or something that rings of truth in this second part of this documentary. If you do get the time to watch this which I highly recommend you will see what I mean. There is the possibility that 911 was a conspiracy. However unlikely it may seem to us rational thinking people. The third part to this film is the part that really does begin to push what we can believe or at least it did with me. No doubt there will be some people who watched this film and took it all at face value.

Like I say, I watched this film twice, back to back, because it really did get me on the first watching. After second a viewing I did begin to question how real all of it could be when put together, they do say truth is stranger than fiction. And I have no doubt that this is true in most cases. All I can say is to watch this film/documentary and make your own mind up. Maybe, as it did with me it will leave you questioning, certain things that you’ve taken for granted. Or maybe they will slide over you as just another conspiracy theory. Weather you do find any grains of truth in this film. Or take it simply as entertainment, I guarantee you one thing, you will be entertained.

Website

Torrent


A Review of My 2007

January 1, 2008

Like most peoples years, mine has had it’s fair share of ups and downs. Plus the usual personal issues and quirks.

January was the month I found out my daughter CJ was to be arrive in September later in the year.

A little later on I had spent a lot of time reading and researching the current state, future prospects and how I can do my bit towards preventing the current march of man made global warming. This led me to becoming vegan, and joining the Green Political party of the UK. You can see more about this on my about me page.

What about technology? I got my PS3, and it kind of revolutionized my living room as a media center. I continued my linux march forward with a switch from PCLinuxOS to Kubuntu. I only now use M$ products / software on my old laptop, and that’s mainly for itunes. I built my new Desktop, a Core 2 Duo 4gig monster, and purchased the amazing little Asus EEE.

Towards the end of the year I began reading some books on Buddhism. After some extensive research I decided to pursue this ideology as something of a person philosophy, and as I continue my studies, this is one aspect of my life that I really want to improve and learn more about in 2008. I already have feelers out for a possible teacher. You can find info about this in my Buddhism is a Philosophy page

The two most important events of my 2007 were the birth of my daughter CJ and the death of my Gran. CJ came into the world on the 23rd of September and I can honestly say this was the happiest day of my life. She has changed my life in so many amazing ways and given me so much in her short time here. She is the light of my life. On the other side of this coin, my Gran passed on the 29th December. She will be missed so very much. Things will never be the same again.

I opened my ebay store. Added numerous books to my collection. Started my film review site, Chewed Celluloid. Celebrated the first birthday of my blog. Saw my Dad for Christmas for the first time in three years. Did the compulsory change about of my blog, including the move to this domain name. Started my Ecology diploma. Had the usual ups and downs in my personal life and health. Watched the amazing Six Feet Under and Dexter. Watched the world and our race come closer to implosion. But in the end, I have to say that the year just gone was revolutionary in lots of ways. There are plenty of things I missed out here, but the important things must be those that sprang to mind.
Bring on the variety of last year, this year, the sweet and sour, rough and smooth.

Hello 2008.


Where Did The Universe Come From?

September 8, 2007

And so I begin a little bit on one of my pet interests. Philosophy. I will include more of these from time to time. The next will be my favourite. Does God Exist? Well, that’s for another time. On with the show…..

About twelve billion years ago an unimaginably violent explosion occured. Expanding outwards at incredible speed, this cataclysmic blast gave birth to space, energy, matter and indeed time itself. The universe we see around us is the debris from this Big Bang.

But why did the Big Bang happen? What brought the universe into existance? What lies on the other side of the Big Bang?

What Caused the Big Bang

The scene: Mathers, a theologian, and Figgerson, a physicist, are fellows of one of the grander Oxford colleges. Both love to engage in philosophical disputes. They have just sat down to dinner at High Table.

Figgerson: What philosophical mystery shall we discuss this evening?

Mathers: I have been thinking about the origin of the universe. Could we perhaps discuss that?

Figgerson: Why not? Except there’s little mystery there. We scientists have solved that particular conundrum. Ican tell you that tthe universe began about twelve thousand million years ago. It started with what we call the Big Bang, a colossal explosion in which space, energy, matter and time itself began.

Mathers: That’s no doubt true. But you’re wrong to suggest that there’s no mystery. We know the Big Bang happened. My question to you is: why did it happen?

Figgerson: I’m not sure I follow.

Mathers: What I mean is: what caused the universe to exist? Where did it come from? Why is it here? Indeed, why is there anything at all?

Figgerson: Why, as it were, is there sonething, rather than nothing?

Mathers: Yes. That surely is a mystery.

Did God Cause the Big Bang?

The puzzle Mathers raises is perhaps the deepest and most profound mystery of all. The traditional solution is to appeal to the existance of God, which is precisely what Mathers now suggests.

Mathers: It seems to me that there is conly one possible solution. God. God must have caused the Universe to exist.

Figgerson: Ah, God. I wondered how long it would be before you brought God into the conversation.

Mathers: But surely we must introduce God at this point? Look, when we entered this dining room we found two chairs here. Now, it would be absurd – would it not? – to suppose that these two chairs just popped into existance for no reason at all? The existance of these chairs must surely have had a cause. Don’t you agree?

Figgerson: Yes

Mathers: Similarly with the universe, then. It just isn’t plausible that it popped into existance for no reason. It, too, must have a cause. But then God must exist as the cause of the universe.

Let’s call Mathers’ argument the cause argument. It’s an example of what is commonly known as a cosmological argument. Cosmological arguments begin with two observations:that the universe exists and that events and entities we find around us always turn out ti have a cause or explanation. The arguments then conclude that the universe must also have a cause or explanation and that God is the only possible (or at least the most likely) candidate.

What Caused God?

The cause argument certainly has some prima appeal. It’s associated particulaly with the thirteenth-century philosopher and theologian St Thomas Aquinas (1225-74). Aquinas constructed five arguments for the existance of God, of which the cause argument is the second. Unfortunately, the argument is flawed. Figgerson explains why.

Figgerson: I’m unconvinced. As you know, I don’t believe in God. But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that God does exist. Your appeal to Him as the explanation of the exisatance of the universe still ultimately fails to remove the mystery with which we began.

Mathers: I don’t see why.

Figgerson: Well, then, let me ask you what caused God to exist? You say that it’s absurd to suppose that something might come into existance uncaused. As you said about the chairs, they cannot have just popped into existance for no reason. But then it follows that God’s existance also requires a cause.

Mathers: Well, God is the exception to the rule that everything requires a cause. God is the supreme being to which rules that govern other things do not apply. The existance of the universe requires a cause. The existance of God does not.

Figgerson: But if you’re going to make an exception to the rule that everything has a cause, why not make the universe the exception? Why do you posit the existance of a further entity – God – in addition to the universe?

Mather: I’m not sure I follow.

Figgerson: You argue that everything has a cause. Then you make God the exception to this rule. But why not make the Big Bang the exception to the rule? What reason have you given me to add God to the beginning of this chain of causes as an extra link? You have given me none. But then you have given me no reason at all to suppose that God exists.

As Figgerson points out, the most obvious flaw in the cause argument – a flaw also pointed out by the philosopher David Hume (1711-76) – is that it involves a contradiction. The argument begins with the premise that everything has a cause, but is then contradicted by the claim that God does not have a cause. If we must posit a God as the cause of the universe, then it seems we must also posit a second God as the cause of the first God, and a third God as the cause of the second, and so on ad infinitum. So we shall have to accept that there are an infinate number of Gods. Either that or we must stop with a cause that itself has no independant cause. But if we must stop somewhere, why not stop with the Big Bang itself? What reason is there to introduce even one God?

Of course, some might be willing to accept and infinite chain of Gods. But such a chain still wouldn’t remove the mystery with which we began. For then the question would arise: why is there such an infinite chain of Gods, rather than no chain?

Here’s an analogously bad causal explanation. When struck by the question of what holds up the earth, some people posited a great creature – an elephant – as its support.

But then the question arises: if the earth is held up by an elephant, then what holds up the elephant? A second creature – a vast turtle – was then introduced to hold up the elephant. These people decided to stop with the turtle. But why stop there? For, of course, the question with which they are grappling – the question of why anything at all gets held up – has still not been answered. In fact, if we pursue their reasoning to it’s logical conclusion, the earth will end up perched on top of a huge tower of creatures – an infinite number of creatures – stacked up one on top of the other.

But they didnt do this. They stopped with the turtle. But if it’s claimed that the turtle requires no support, then why not just say that the earth requires no support and leave it at that? What reason is there to introduce any supporting creatures at all? There is none.

Despite being a poor argument, the cause argument has always been popular. In fact, when asked to give some reason why they suppose that God exists, the cause argument is the one to which those who believe in God often first appeal. The question of what brought God into existance is simply overlooked.

What’s North of the North Pole?

Figgerson and Mathers continue to argue, each becoming more and more infuriated with each other. Eventually, to Mathers’s intense annoyance, Figgerson suggests that Mathers original question – what caused the universe? – may not even make sense.

Figgerson: Look, while it may make sense to ask what caused this chair, that mountain or this tree to exist, it surely does not make sense to ask what caused the universe as a whole to exist.

Mathers: H’m. You suggest my question does not make sense. But what reason do you have to suppose that it doesn’t make sense? Justify your suggestion.

Figgerson: Very well. It seems to me that to ask for the cause of something is to ask what other thing within the universe brought it about. That is how the game of asking for and giving causes is played out. When I ask, for example, what caused that tree outside the window to exist, I am asking for you to identify some other thing or event within the universe that brought that tree into existance. Someone might have planted an acorn in that spot, for example, or someone might have moved a tree there to improve the view from this window. But if to ask for the cause of something is to ask what other thing within the universe brought it about, then it cannot make sense to ask what is the cause of the universe as a whole. That would be to persue the question of causes outside the context in which such questions can meaningfully be raised.

Mathers: I’m not sure I follow.

Figgerson: Very well. Let me explain by means of an analogy. Suppose I ask you what is north of England. What would you say?

Mathers: Scotland.

Figgerson: And what lies to the north of Scotland?

Mathers: Iceland.

Figgerson: And to the north of Iceland?

Mathers: The Arctic Circle.

Figgerson: And to the north of the Arctic Circle?

Mathers: The North Pole.

Figgerson: And what lies to the north of the North Pole?

Mathers: Er. What do you mean?

Figgerson: If there is something north of Englan, and something north of Scotland, and something north of Iceland, then surely there must be something to the north of the North Pole too?

Mathers: You’re confused. Don’t you understand that ‘north’ means? Your question doesnt make sense. It doesn’t make sense to talk about something being north of the North Pole. To say something is north of something else is to say that it is nearer to the North Pole than that other thing. But then it can’t make sense to talk about something being north of the North Pole, can it?

Figgerson: Aha. So my question doesn’t make sense. Well, the, neither does your question about the cause of the universe.

Mathers: How so?

Figgerson: One can ask what is the cause of an earthquake. One can then ask for the cause of the cause of the earthquake and so on. One can trace the chain of causes back to the Big Bang if one likes. But it makes no sense than to ask: and what caused the Big Bang? That is like asking: and what is north of the North Pole? That would be to ask a question outside the context within which such questions can meaningfully be rasied.

Still, as Mathers points out, his question about the origin of the universe does at least appear to be cogent.

Mathers: But my question does seem to make sense, doesn’t it? And it seems to me that you haven;t actually shown that the question about causes cannot legitimately be raised about the universe itself.

Figgerson: Why not?

Mathers: You seem to argue that if we don’t normallyask a question outside a certain context, then it cannot meaningfully be raised outside that context. But your argument is fallicious. Here’s a counterexample. It seems probable, I think, that for long periods of our history mankind considered only practical questions, questions the answers it would be useful for us to know. For example, no doubt we wanted to know what causes plants to grow, what causes the seasons to come and go, what causes storms and diseases, and so on. we wanted to know the causes of these things because they affect our day-to-day lives. Probably we weren’t interested in asking questions that didn’t have any practical relevance for us. For example, perhaps we didn’t bother asking ourselves what causes the sky to be blue. But it doesn;y follow that if we didn’t normally ask such impractical questions, then such questions, if they had never been asked, would have made no sense. Surely, evn if we never did ask ourselves what causes the sky to be blue, we might have done, and, if we had, our question would certainly have made sense.

Figgerson: I suppose it would.

Mathers: Thank youfor that admission. But then why do you suppose that it makes no sense to ask what caused the universe? Just because we don’t normally ask this question doesn’t mean that it is senseless. In fact, it seems perfectly clear to me that, unlike your question about what is to the north of the North Pole, my question does make sense, even if it is difficult to see how it might be answered.

Figgerson: H’m. Perhaps your question does make sense.

Mathers: Aha! In that case, what I want to know is this: if God did not cause the universe to exist, then what did?

The Unsolvable Mystery

Figgerson stares wistfully into his spotted dick and custard. Then he gazes out over the heads of the assembled undergraduates eating below.

Figgerson: Perhaps nothing caused the universe to exist. Perhaps its existance is simply a brute fact. After all, we physicists are inclined to accept that some things are just brute fact and inexplicable. Often we explain, why one law holds by appealing to others. One can explain, for example, the law that water freezes at zero degrees Celsius by appealing to the laws that govern the atoms and molecules out of which water is composed. But few suppose that this process can go on for ever. Presumably one must eventually come up against laws that cannot be accounted for or explained in terms of yet other laws. The obtaining of these basic laws is just a brute fact. And if we are to allow that there are at least some brute facts, then why not suppose that the existance of the universe is also a brute fact, a fact that requires neither a further cause nor an explanation? Why suppose that it, too, must also have a cause, an explanation?

Mathers: It seems to me that the existance of the universe cannot be a brute fact, as you suggest. It isn’t plausable to suppose that the universe popped in existance for no reason. The Big Bang didn’t just happen surely? There must be a reason why it happened.

Figgerson closely examines his pudding as if searching for an answer. He watches as the spotted dick crumbles into the custard, the currents swirling slowly outwards like the stars in some huge pudding galaxy.

Figgerson furrows his brow. He hates to admit it, but Mathers does appear to be right.

Figgerson: I must say, I do feel confused. I agree that it doesn’t seem to be adwquate to say that the Big Bang happened for no reason at all. And yet it seems we can say nothing else. Why is there something, rather than nothing?

Mathers: The answer is God.

Figgerson: But that answer will not do, as we have already seen.

Mathers: So what does explain the existance of the universe, if not God?

Figgerson: That’s a mystery.

Conclusion

It seems that when it comes to the question what is the ultimate cause or origin of the universe ? there are four options available to us. These are to:

  • Answer the question by identifying a cause of the universe.
  • Claim that, though the universe has a cause, we cannot or at least do not yet know what the this cause is.
  • Claim that perhaps the universe has no cause – it’s existance is simply a brute fact.
  • Deny the question even makes sense.

The problem is that on closer examination none of these four options seems satisfactory. The difficulty with the first option is that as soon as one offers God or indeed something else as the cause or explanation of the universe, the ‘something’ to which one appeals in turn becomes the focus of the demand far a cause or explanation. So it seems that the first kind of answer can never be adequete. Rather than answering the question about ultimate origins, we merely sweep it under the carpet. The difficulty with the second option is, again, that if one suggests that the universe has an as yet unknown cause, the question the arises: and what is the cause of that unkown cause? So the mystery is merely postponed. The claim that the universe simply has no cause, on the other hand, also seems unsatisfactory – is it really plausable to suppose that the universe simply popped into existance for no reason at all? Surely not. And yet the fourth and final option seems equally implausable – certainly, no one has yet succeeded in providing an uncontroversial explanation of why the question about the cause of the universe makes no sense.

So it seems that, while no explanation can be acceptable, yet neither can the question of the ultimate origin of the universe simply be set aside or dismissed. Which is why this particular philosophical mystery remains so perplexing. It appears that the question of the ultimate origin of the universe is a mystery that can be neither explained nor explained away.

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