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jeffrey
Friday, May 5th, 2017 04:20 pm


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jeffrock
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jeffrey
Saturday, February 7th, 2015 11:26 am
"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

--James Madison

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jeffrock
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jeffrey
Sunday, February 1st, 2015 06:21 pm

got into an interesting discussion with someone online about whether or not there is room for objective moral principles in a materialist world view (contrasted with an idealist one)...it's a bit lengthy, philosophical, and nerdy, but here is my response:

"My opinion is that in a purely materialistic worldview there is no objective reason for people to obey moral laws—people can choose to be moral, but there is nothing objective compelling them to be. It is a controversial position because we live in an era where science, academia and popular society in general are dominated by materialist, naturalist and atheistic thinking-- and many people advancing such positions often have a difficult time coming to grips with their often tragic ramifications.

I think the easiest way to understand why objective morality can’t be supported within a materialist framework is to look at why it does work in an idealist one. Fundamentally materialism puts forward that everything that exists is matter and energy, and idealism puts forward that everything is consciousness. If the idealist is right nature and everything in creation are manifestations of a singular Ocean of consciousness in much the same way that all the thrashing and rolling waves on the sea are just varied manifestations of one ocean below it.

The implication of objective moral codes and morality in general—and consequently the reason that so many people rebel against them-- is that life has an underlying universal purpose or goal. The implication of this is that we need to learn to be behave, that there are rules and standards of conduct that we must adhere to in order to lead a successful life. The world’s oldest metaphysical and spiritual teachings, among other things, put forward that the purpose of life is for each individual to uniquely manifest some attribute of the Infinite before resuming a conscious identity with it. Under this view moral precepts are those rules and standards of behaviour that, when followed, facilitate an expansion of consciousness that will eventually lead us to resume our identity with the Universal Spirit.

Thus moral injunctions like “love thy neighbour” “thou shalt not kill”, “thou shalt not steal” and so on are not arbitrary—they are rooted in the understanding that we are all waves on the same Ocean and that there is a fundamental spiritual identity between all people. Thus the REASON we shouldn’t hurt, kill, lie and be mean to others is that despite the fact that it appears on the surface that we are distinct individuals, the truth is that we are all children of the same Spirit—one in essence, and therefore to hurt and steal from another person we are effectively hurting and stealing from ourselves. A careful analysis of universal moral precepts, the ten commandments etc. indicates that they all designed to facilitate unity and connectedness, and do away with disharmony and selfishness.

Contrast this with a materialist way of looking at the world. In materialism all that exists are atoms and energy—there is no ocean of Spirit or consciousness underlying and unifying all material forms—just a bunch of fundamentally distinct particles and beings. Since there is no inherent unity of all forms it becomes impossible to assign a universal goal to life—everything becomes discrete and arbitrary. The Darwinian maxim “survival of the fittest” is a logical offshoot of ontological materialism, as is “the ends justify the means”. Both of these provide a tacit and implicit condoning of any behaviour should the right circumstances demand it…whether said behaviour violated moral laws or not. It is of course possible to for there to be morally good materialists, and there are many good reasons for people to be moral—but there is nothing to compel it for everyone, it cannot be made objective. In a materialist view of the world—but there is nothing to logically moral behaviour for everyone, no underling spiritual unity to make us all brothers—to the materialist morality is at most an arbitrary choice. "

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jeffrey
Thursday, March 27th, 2014 07:23 pm

I was recently asked why humans evolved the appreciation of beauty. Latent within the wording is the tacit assumption that appreciation of beauty is in fact that something that “evolved” in humans, that is to say something that, in the course of our evolutionary journey from protozoa to the present, a) at one point wasn’t there, b) appeared somehow via Darwinian mechanisms, and, most notably, c) served some value and survived the rigorous selection process of nature so as to still be a characteristic of humanity today. My reply then was “[Our appreciation of beauty] is not a product of evolution, but an innate quality of the human spirit”, a reply that, as can be seen above, has gotten me in hot water with many of the members of this sub. My aim right now is to explain what I meant by that and, to answer your question, to elaborate on why I take my perspective on what it means to be a person to be favorable to the strictly naturalistic accounts preferred favored by many modern orthodoxies.

Essentially what we’re asking is: What does someone refer to when they say “I”? What am I? What is consciousness? In the current philosophical tradition there are two “problems” associated with consciousness, namely the “Hard” problem and the “Easy” problem. The Easy problem consists in understanding how consciousness processes stimuli, perceptions, memories etc. ie., how our minds process, store and manipulate information. The Easy problem has had quite a bit of headway made on it. In fact, everything that has been thrown at me in this thread as an explanation of consciousness falls under the headway made on the Easy problem. Essentially the Easy problem consists in understanding the mind/consciousness as an analogue to a digital computer, ie., as an information processor-- and this is something that has been done very well, however it’s also where the controversy begins.

There are many people who think that this is where the story ends, ie., that the mind/consciousness is essentially just a very complicated and fleshy digital computer, that the terms mind/brain/consciousness are all basically referring to the same thing. It seems to me that this is the viewpoint favored by many in academia. In the words of one of my interlocutors elsewhere in this thread, consciousness will be “revealed to be no more than a larger and more beautiful complexity of the simple bacterial response to stimuli”. This is the naturalistic description I am objecting to, known in other quarters as the “computational” view of mind. The quiddity of this viewpoint is that consciousness is a) a complexity, meaning the aggregate of some other factors or parts (as opposed to something singular and whole) and b) essentially a collections of inputs and outputs, ie., ‘responses to stimuli’.

So what is the problem? As mentioned earlier, in addition to the Easy problem of consciousness, there is the Hard problem. Essentially the Hard problem consists in taking what is really the fundamental experience of consciousness, ie., asymmetrically accessible subjective conscious experience, and coming to grips with it within a naturalistic framework. Now, why is this a problem? It’s a problem because implicit within the naturalistic framework is the need to confine or at least base everything within the objective physical domain, ie., the domain of physics and observation. But this can’t be done—my consciousness, and your consciousness, is entirely subjective-- it’s asymmetrically accessible. What I mean by that is that there is nothing I can EVER do to your brain that will give me the experience of being you—the most I could ever get is some dim perception of being you through the lense of being me. We cannot get out from behind our own subjective consciousness. So it seems then, from a cursory analysis of its basic nature, that consciousness somehow exists over and above the objective external world—something outside it peering in. Incidentally this is coincident with how we experience things—I don’t experience myself and the objective world as one, there is an logical dichotomy inherent in the act of perception, ie., that of the perceiver and that being perceived. Furthermore, I don’t experience myself an aggregate of parts— I experience myself as one person.

So the problem is this—it’s been the job of naturalistic science for the last 200 years to come to grips with the most fundamental attribute of our being, our subjective consciousness, within a naturalistic framework. In other words an account of consciousness purely in terms of the material and processes of the objective physical universe. The perceiver must be confined entirely to the realm being perceived as external to it. There have been many attempts, but so far, in 200 years, there has been no headway at all on the Hard problem that does not in some way involve sacrificing something essential to our experience of consciousness.

Naturalists, then, are faced with a choice—either maintain that truly subjective consciousness is an illusion somehow, that it can be reduced to a product or result of objective processes and confined to an objective world. The problem here is that there seems to be no way to do this without sacrificing our inherent subjectivity, the very essence of what we perceive within us and that with which we are the most intimate. The infinite “I”, the source of all inspiration and creativity within is much too vast to be fettered by the finite crystalizations of the physical world. On the other hand, naturalists could admit, finally, that metaphysical naturalism is a grossly insufficient framework with which to get a complete picture of reality.

Ultimately what is at stake here is a matter of fundamental world views, of which there are basically two general sorts—materialism and idealism. Materialists maintain that the material world is the most fundamental plane of reality, with everything else, consciousness included, being derivative from it. Idealists, on the other hand, maintain that consciousness is more fundamental. The viewpoint, then, that I am defending above all is idealism—I believe the world within me is more fundamental and meaningful than the world without. My reasons for this are simple and empirical—all I have ever experienced is either consciousness, or something delivered to my faculties through the medium of consciousness. To my mind and heart, along with all my experience, I am a conscious being first and foremost and a material being second. My body is the source of aches, pains and a desire for food, but my consciousness is the seat of my understanding, of my perception, feeling, yearning, love of all things and above all who I am as a perceiver. It seems utterly absurd to me to cast into doubt the very faculty by which I am able to question or contemplate anything at all. To my mind, any picture of reality that does not represent subjective asymmetrical conscious experience as the fundamental feature of our existence has its priorities out of whack.

Looking at it in a Platonic way-- in the external world appear to be examples of things that are beautiful, but it is by my inner faculties, which alone perceive the infinite form of beauty (as how else could I recognize beauty in the world if I didn’t have an innate inner sense of what it was) that I am able to discern and appreciate beauty. From every angle I come at this, and given the failure of the current paradigm to even make feasible in a complete way, I have no difficulty standing behind the age old belief that a human being is fundamentally an individual spark, or a soul, of an Infinite Consciousness that forms the essential matrix of all that is.

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jeffrock
jeffrock
jeffrey
Friday, May 10th, 2013 12:02 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAuxXvNVhgA

Some light in a dark tunnel.

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jeffrock
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jeffrey
Sunday, June 17th, 2012 12:44 pm
"The heart is a muscle. The heart beats. My arm will contract and cause the fist to beat; but it beats only when my will commands. But here is a muscle in the body that beats when I am asleep. It beats when my will is inactive and I am utterly unconscious. It keeps on beating all the time. What will is it that causes this heart to beat? The heart can not beat once without a command. To me it is a most wonderful thing that a man's heart goes on beating. It does not beat by means of my will; for I can not stop the heart's beating, or make it beat faster or slower by commanding it by my will. But there is a will that controls the heart. It is the divine will that causes it to beat, and in the beating of that heart that you can feel, as you put your hand upon the breast, or as you put your finger against the pulse, an evidence of the divine presence that we have within us, that God is within, that there is an intelligence, a power, a will within, that is commanding the functions of our bodies and controlling them…"

~ J.H Kellog

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jeffrock
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jeffrey
Monday, September 26th, 2011 05:22 pm

At the end of the day I still prefer Livejournal to Facebook. The degree of personalization here is unprecedented. The calendar is also a much-missed feature. At the end of the day my LJ actually feels like it's my own space, whereas Facebook feels more like someone else's space that I'm using. The communities are also vastly superior here. If it weren't for the fact that virtually everyone I know is on facebook (whereas I think I've only actually met one of my LJ friends in real life) I would probably still be a regular citizen of this place.

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jeffrock
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jeffrey
Sunday, September 11th, 2011 05:57 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW6mJOqRDI4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POiXd47MCHo&sns=fb

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJldun440Sk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ltowJPCH4I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htgV7fNO-2k

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7926958774822130737

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggxiBWv4xYE

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jeffrock
jeffrock
jeffrey
Friday, December 24th, 2010 12:21 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMfHxoM07YM

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8797525979024486145#

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jeffrock
jeffrock
jeffrey
Sunday, December 19th, 2010 10:04 pm

"As thinkers, mankind have ever divided into two sects, Materialists and Idealists; the first class founding on experience, the second on consciousness; the first class beginning to think from the data of the senses, the second class perceive that the senses are not final, and say, the senses give us representations of things, but what are the things themselves, they cannot tell. The materialist insists on facts, on history, on the force of circumstances, and the animal wants of man; the idealist on the power of Thought and of Will, on inspiration, on miracle, on individual culture. These two modes of thinking are both natural, but the idealist contends that his way of thinking is in higher nature. He concedes all that the other affirms, admits the impressions of sense, admits their coherency, their use and beauty, and then asks the materialist for his grounds of assurance that things are as his senses represent them. But I, he says, affirm facts not affected by the illusions of sense, facts which are of the same nature as the faculty which reports them, and not liable to doubt; facts which in their first appearance to us assume a native superiority to material facts, degrading these into a language by which the first are to be spoken; facts which it only needs a retirement from the senses to discern. Every materialist will be an idealist; but an idealist can never go backward to be a materialist.

The idealist, in speaking of events, sees them as spirits. He does not deny the sensuous fact: by no means; but he will not see that alone. He does not deny the presence of this table, this chair, and the walls of this room, but he looks at these things as the reverse side of the tapestry, as the other end, each being a sequel or completion of a spiritual fact which nearly concerns him. This manner of looking at things, transfers every object in nature from an independent and anomalous position without there, into the consciousness. Even the materialist Condillac, perhaps the most logical expounder of materialism, was constrained to say, "Though we should soar into the heavens, though we should sink into the abyss, we never go out of ourselves; it is always our own thought that we perceive." What more could an idealist say?

The materialist, secure in the certainty of sensation, mocks at fine-spun theories, at star-gazers and dreamers, and believes that his life is solid, that he at least takes nothing for granted, but knows where he stands, and what he does. Yet how easy it is to show him, that he also is a phantom walking and working amid phantoms, and that he need only ask a question or two beyond his daily questions, to find his solid universe growing dim and impalpable before his sense. The sturdy capitalist, no matter how deep and square on blocks of Quincy granite he lays the foundations of his banking-house or Exchange, must set it, at last, not on a cube corresponding to the angles of his structure, but on a mass of unknown materials and solidity, red-hot or white-hot, perhaps at the core, which rounds off to an almost perfect sphericity, and lies floating in soft air, and goes spinning away, dragging bank and banker with it at a rate of thousands of miles the hour, he knows not whither, — a bit of bullet, now glimmering, now darkling through a small cubic space on the edge of an unimaginable pit of emptiness. And this wild balloon, in which his whole venture is embarked, is a just symbol of his whole state and faculty. One thing, at least, he says is certain, and does not give me the headache, that figures do not lie; the multiplication table has been hitherto found unimpeachable truth; and, moreover, if I put a gold eagle in my safe, I find it again to-morrow; — but for these thoughts, I know not whence they are. They change and pass away. But ask him why he believes that an uniform experience will continue uniform, or on what grounds he founds his faith in his figures, and he will perceive that his mental fabric is built up on just as strange and quaking foundations as his proud edifice of stone.

In the order of thought, the materialist takes his departure from the external world, and esteems a man as one product of that. The idealist takes his departure from his consciousness, and reckons the world an appearance. The materialist respects sensible masses, Society, Government, social art, and luxury, every establishment, every mass, whether majority of numbers, or extent of space, or amount of objects, every social action. The idealist has another measure, which is metaphysical, namely, the rank which things themselves take in his consciousness; not at all, the size or appearance. Mind is the only reality, of which men and all other natures are better or worse reflectors. Nature, literature, history, are only subjective phenomena. Although in his action overpowered by the laws of action, and so, warmly cooperating with men, even preferring them to himself, yet when he speaks scientifically, or after the order of thought, he is constrained to degrade persons into representatives of truths. He does not respect labor, or the products of labor, namely, property, otherwise than as a manifold symbol, illustrating with wonderful fidelity of details the laws of being; he does not respect government, except as far as it reiterates the law of his mind; nor the church; nor charities; nor arts, for themselves; but hears, as at a vast distance, what they say, as if his consciousness would speak to him through a pantomimic scene. His thought, — that is the Universe. His experience inclines him to behold the procession of facts you call the world, as flowing perpetually outward from an invisible, unsounded centre in himself, centre alike of him and of them, and necessitating him to regard all things as having a subjective or relative existence, relative to that aforesaid Unknown Centre of him.

From this transfer of the world into the consciousness, this beholding of all things in the mind, follow easily his whole ethics. It is simpler to be self-dependent. The height, the deity of man is, to be self-sustained, to need no gift, no foreign force. Society is good when it does not violate me; but best when it is likest to solitude. Everything real is self-existent. Everything divine shares the self-existence of Deity. All that you call the world is the shadow of that substance which you are, the perpetual creation of the powers of thought, of those that are dependent and of those that are independent of your will. Do not cumber yourself with fruitless pains to mend and remedy remote effects; let the soul be erect, and all things will go well. You think me the child of my circumstances: I make my circumstance. Let any thought or motive of mine be different from that they are, the difference will transform my condition and economy. I — this thought which is called I, — is the mould into which the world is poured like melted wax. The mould is invisible, but the world betrays the shape of the mould. You call it the power of circumstance, but it is the power of me. Am I in harmony with myself? my position will seem to you just and commanding. Am I vicious and insane? my fortunes will seem to you obscure and descending. As I am, so shall I associate, and, so shall I act; Caesar's history will paint out Caesar. Jesus acted so, because he thought so. I do not wish to overlook or to gainsay any reality; I say, I make my circumstance: but if you ask me, Whence am I? I feel like other men my relation to that Fact which cannot be spoken, or defined, nor even thought, but which exists, and will exist. "

Emerson, The Transcendentalist

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