Friday, December 26, 2003
Deep Einstein

"We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality."

Principles for our aspirations and judgements are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations. Taking that goal out of its religious form and looking merely at its human side, we might define it as a free and responsible development of the individual - so that we may place our powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind. Souls are found in individuals, and the high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule, or to impose himself in any otherway.

Consider the interrelationship of means and ends. Mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to form in the social life of man. Balance, perception, form - all play a part. The question of faith rests in ideas. Ones that you might take or leave with breakfast, and others that you might be willing to give your life for? What is your truth today?

- posted by -g @ 1:05 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Advice to Leave...or Take

Never cry about your woes. Making lamentation only discredits you; to better purpose, as an example of boldness against passion, than one of timidity under compassion; to lament is to open the way to the very thing of which you complain - a sour gift for the listener. Giving notice to a first insult makes way for a second. Complaining of injustice past makes way for more. By crying for pity we gain only sufferance - or contempt. It is better politics to laud the generosity of one; laying the obligation of the same upon another. To recite favors done by those absent is to compel them from those present. This is to sell the esteem in which you are held by one, to another. Publish not the slights or wrongs you have suffered, but only the honor in which you are held, for it will serve better to constrain your friends and restrain your enemies - have you one or the other or both...or most sadly/splendidly, neither.

- posted by -g @ 10:16 AM | | 0 rocks in pond

Monday, December 22, 2003
Observing Chagall

- posted by -g @ 9:17 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

Thursday, December 18, 2003
Julia - Em...thank you for your contribution to the discussion of truth. I would dearly like to hear from Dan, Allie, Bruce, Greg and Eva on this. I have a general idea of what each might say, but how am I to be certain if I do not see it? *smile

Ah...that reminds me of yet another aspect of truth that might be addressed - the idea of moving beyond truth to knowledge. For generations, discussions of truth have been bedeviled by the question, "How could a proposition be true unless we know it to be true?" Aristotle's famous worry was that contingent propositions about the future, such as "There will be a sea battle tomorrow", couldn't be true now, for fear that this would deny free will to the sailors involved. Advocates of the Correspondence Theory and the Semantic Theory have argued that a proposition need not be known in order to be true. Truth, they say, arises out of a relationship between a proposition and the way the world is. No one need know that that relationship holds, nor - for that matter - need there even be any conscious or language-using creatures for that relationship to obtain. In short, truth is an objective feature of a proposition, not a subjective one.

For a true proposition to be known, it must (at the very least) be a justified belief. Justification, unlike truth itself, requires a special relationship among propositions. For a proposition to be justified it must, at the very least, cohere with other propositions that one has adopted. On this account, coherence among propositions plays a critical role in the theory of knowledge. Nevertheless it plays no role in a theory of truth, according to advocates of the Correspondence and Semantic Theories of Truth.

Finally, should coherence - which plays such a central role in theories of knowledge - be regarded as an objective relationship or as a subjective one? Not surprisingly, theorists have answered this latter question in divergent ways. But the pursuit of that issue takes one beyond the theories of truth.

Have a safe and joyful holiday break!

- posted by -g @ 6:49 AM | | 0 rocks in pond

Saturday, December 13, 2003
i am truth. you are truth.

there is truth in xylum and phylum, root systems and rudimentary hearts.

there is truth in misused words.

in chapped lips.

in packer games.

i know there is truth all around me, but when something is everywhere it seems to be nowhere.

In this journey the seeker reacheth a stage wherein he seeth all created things wandering distracted in search of the Friend. How many a Jacob will he see, hunting after his Joseph; he will behold many a lover, hasting to seek the Beloved, he will witness a world of desiring ones searching after the One Desired. At every moment he findeth a weighty matter, in every hour he becometh aware of a mystery; for he hath taken his heart away from both worlds, and set out for the Ka'bih [1] of the Beloved. At every step, aid from the Invisible Realm will attend him and the heat of his search will grow.


On this journey the traveler abideth in every land and dwelleth in every region. In every face, he seeketh the beauty of the Friend; in every country he looketh for the Beloved. He joineth every company, and seeketh fellowship with every soul, that haply in some mind he may uncover the secret of the Friend, or in some face he may behold the beauty of the Loved One.

(Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 4, 6)

- posted by emily oi! @ 4:53 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

Does the truth really truly matter? When everything is said and done what will the truth matter? How can we really know the truth is when we can never be sure about anything? The only thing that can be proven is that we can never know anything because even that is a contradiction, which proves the theory.

I know that finding truth is part of life but sometimes the truth doesn't want to be found or maybe we're all a little too scared to find the truth ourselves.

The only truth I know is there is no truth because we don't know what the truth is. A vicious cycle that will continue because the truth is still lost to me and until I find it this is my truth.

- posted by Julia @ 2:58 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Continuing Examination of Truth

Although we do speak of true friends and false identities, philosophers believe these are derivative uses of 'true' and 'false'. The central use of 'true', the more important one for philosophers, occurs when we say, for example, it's true that Montreal is north of Pittsburgh. Here,"true" is contrasted with "false", not with "fake" or "insincere". When we say that Montreal is north of Pittsburgh, what sort of thing is it that is true? Is it a statement or a sentence or something else, a 'fact', perhaps? More generally, philosophers want to know what sorts of things are true and what sorts of things are false. This same question is expressed by asking: What sorts of things have (or bear) truth-values?

The term "truth-value" has been coined by logicians as a generic term for "truth or falsehood". To ask for the truth-value of P, is to ask whether P is true or whether P is false. "Value" in "truth-value" does not mean "valuable". It is being used in a similar fashion to "numerical value" as when we say that the value of "x" in "x + 3 = 7" is 4. To ask "What is the truth-value of the statement that Montreal is north of Pittsburgh?" is to ask whether the statement that Montreal is north of Pittsburgh is true or whether it is false. (The truth-value of that specific statement is true).

The principal problem is to offer a viable theory as to what truth itself consists in, or, to put it another way, "What is the nature of truth?" To illustrate with an example - the problem is not: Is it true that there is extraterrestrial life? The problem is: What does it mean to say that it is true that there is extraterrestrial life? Astrobiologists study the former problem; philosophers, the latter.

In the first century AD, Pontius Pilate (John 18:38) asked "What is truth?" Jesus did not respond. He did say, when asked about the way, that he was the way, the truth and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him. (John 14:6).

- posted by -g @ 7:25 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Philosophers are interested in a constellation of issues involving the concept of truth. A preliminary issue, although somewhat subsidiary, is to decide what sorts of things can be true. Is truth a property of sentences (which are linguistic entities in some language or other), or is truth a property of propositions (nonlinguistic, abstract and timeless entities)? The principal issue is: What is truth? It is the problem of being clear about what you are saying when you say some claim or other is true. The most important theories of truth are the Correspondence Theory, the Semantic Theory, the Deflationary Theory, the Coherence Theory, and the Pragmatic Theory. They are explained and compared here. Whichever theory of truth is advanced to settle the principal issue, there are a number of additional issues to be addressed:

1 Can claims about the future be true now?
2 Can there be some algorithm for finding truth - some recipe or procedure for deciding, for any claim in the system of, say, arithmetic, whether the claim is true?
3 Can the predicate "is true" be completely defined in other terms so that it can be eliminated, without loss of meaning, from any context in which it occurs?
4 To what extent do theories of truth avoid paradox?
5 Is the goal of scientific research to achieve truth?

- posted by -g @ 7:41 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

Sunday, December 07, 2003
Ode To Spot

Felis Cattus, is your taxonomic nomenclature,
an endothermic quadruped carnivorous by nature?
Your visual, olfactory and auditory senses
contribute to your hunting skills, and natural defenses.

I find myself intrigued by your subvocal oscillations,
a singular development of cat communications
that obviates your basic hedonistic predilection
for a rhythmic stroking of your fur, to demonstrate affection.

A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents;
you would not be so agile if you lacked its counterbalance.
And when not being utilized to aide in locomotion,
it often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion.

O Spot, the complex levels of behaviour you display
connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array.
And though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend,
I nonetheless consider you a true and valued friend.

Data, "Schisms" (From Star Trek The Next Generation)

- posted by -g @ 5:08 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

Flea and Fly

A fly and a flea in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
"Let us fly," said the flea
"Let us flee,"said the fly
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

- posted by -g @ 5:04 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

Congratulations to the Quiz Bowl Champs!

You Rock.

We *bow*.

- posted by -g @ 7:09 AM | | 0 rocks in pond

Is Duty a Theology?

A duty is a moral obligation that an agent has towards another person, such as the duty not to lie. Etymologically, duties are actions that are due to someone else, such as paying money that one owes to a creditor. In a broader sense, duties are simply actions that are morally manditory. Medieval philosophers such as Aquinas argued that we have specific duties or obligations to avoid committing specific sins. Since sins such as theft are absolute, then our duty to avoid stealing is also absolute, irrespective of any good consequences that might arise from particular acts of theft. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, many philosophers held the normative theory that moral conduct is that which follows a specific list of duties. These theories are also called deontological theories, from the Greek word deon, or duty, since they emphasize foundational duties or obligations. We find one of the first clear indications of this view in The Law of War and Peace (1625) by Dutch philosopher Hugo Grotius (1583-1645). For Grotius, our ultimate duties are fixed features of the universe, which even God cannot change, and comprise the chief obligations of natural law. Some moral theorists at the time based their list of duties on traditional lists of virtues.

One problem with traditional duty-based ethics involves the list of prescribed duties. What was self-evident in the 17th and 18th centuries seems less self-evident today. The existence and nature of God are more widely questioned now, hence it is speculation to claim that we have a set of duties toward God. Advocates of personal liberty question the traditional duties to ourselves. For example, the right to suicide is now widely defended, and the right to self-rule implies that I can let my faculties and abilities deteriorate if I so choose. Finally, many of the traditional duties to others have also been under fire. Defenders of personal liberty question our duties of benevolence, such as charity, and political duties, such as public spirit. For some, the traditional list of self-evident duties needs to be reduced to one: the duty to not harm others. Another problem with traditional duty theory is that there is no clear procedure for resolving conflicts between duties. Suppose I am placed in a situation where I must choose between feeding myself to avoid starvation, or feeding my neighbor to keep her from starving. Consequentialist theories provide a clear formula for resolving this conflict: the morally correct choice is the one which produces the greatest benefit (either to myself, or to society at large). Traditional duty theory, by contrast, does not offer a procedure for determining which obligation is primary.

Kant adopts the distinction between perfect/imperfect duties and direct/indirect duties. He also endorses the distinction between duties to oneself and duties to others. Kant further refines the notion of duty by arguing that moral actions are ultimately based on a single, "supreme principle of morality" which is objective, rational, and freely chosen: the categorical imperative. Although the categorical imperative is a single principle, Kant gives four formulations of it:

1. The Formula of the Law of Nature: "Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature."

2. The Formula of the End Itself: "Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end."

3. The Formula of Autonomy: "So act that your will can regard itself at the same time as making universal law through its maxims."

4. The Formula of the Kingdom of Ends: "So act as if you were through your maxims a law-making member of a kingdom of ends."

The last serious attempt to revive duty-based ethics is W.D. Ross's The Right and the Good (1930). Like his 17th and 18th century counterparts, Ross argues that our duties are "part of the fundamental nature of the universe." Accordingly, Ross falls into the deontological (or nonconsequentialist) camp of ethicists. Ross believes that when we reflect on our actual moral convictions they reveal the following set of duties:

Fidelity: the duty to keep promises

Reparation: the duty to compensate others when we harm them

Gratitude: the duty to thank those who help us

Justice: the duty to recognize merit

Beneficence: the duty to improve the conditions of others

Self-improvement: the duty to improve our virtue and intelligence

Nonmaleficence: the duty to not injure others

Ross does not include duties to God, self-preservation, or political duties. By appealing to our actual moral convictions, Ross attempts to address the problem of including principles that are not duties by our standards today. This list is not complete, Ross argues, but he believes that at least some of these are self-evidently true.

So, what do you perceive to be your duties?

- posted by -g @ 7:04 AM | | 0 rocks in pond

Friday, December 05, 2003
Objective and Subjective...Truth and Faith

The objective thinker is interested in objective truth, while the subjective thinker is interested in subjective truth. Objective truth includes historical truth and philosophical truth. Subjective truth includes religious truth. The objective thinker is indifferent to the truth of subjectivity, while the subjective thinker finds an eternal happiness in subjectivity. For the subjective thinker, eternal happiness is an absolute good which is attained by faith. Faith is a passionate inwardness which affirms the truth of subjectivity.

Objective truth is characterized by outwardness, while subjective truth is characterized by inwardness. The objective thinker does not find an eternal happiness in subjective truth, and is disinterested in the truth of subjectivity. The objective thinker is interested in what defines existence, while the subjective thinker is interested in how existence is defined.

Reflection on the nature of existence may be objective or subjective. Truth may be reflected upon objectively or subjectively. I suggest that the objective thinker finds truth by approximation, while the subjective thinker finds truth by appropriation. The objective thinker has a need to quantify certainty or probability, while the subjective thinker ultimately must accept uncertainty. Faith cannot be attained by approximation, or by an effort to quantify deliberation into a higher degree of certainty. Faith can only be attained by an appropriation or acceptance of the condition of uncertainty. Thus, faith requires a leap from disbelief to belief. Faith is a state of objective uncertainty in which the individual affirms his or her own subjectivity.

Are you subjective or objective? Have you ever kissed a grapefruit?

- posted by -g @ 8:40 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

Thursday, December 04, 2003
Thinking and Losing Self

The supreme paradox of thought is the attempt to discover something that thought cannot think.

The greatest hazard of all, losing one's self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly: any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife etc - is assured to be noticed.

- posted by -g @ 6:45 AM | | 0 rocks in pond

Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Making Inadmissible the Essential

Why did Socrates compare himself to a gadfly? Because he wanted his influence only to be ethical. He didn't want to be an admired genius standing apart from the rest, who therefore simply makes life easier for them, for they say, 'Yes, it's all very well for him, he's a genius.' No, he did only what everyone can do, understand only what everyone can understand. That's where the epigrammatic quality lies. He dug his teeth hard into the individual, constantly compelling and teasing him with the commonplace. It was thus he was a gadfly, causing irritation through the individual's own feelings, not letting him go on leisurely and weakly admiring, but demanding of him his very self. If a person has ethical powers, people will gladly make a genius out of him just to be rid of him, for his life contains a demand.

'When subjectivity, inwardness is the truth, the truth becomes objectively a paradox; and the fact that truth is objectively a paradox shows in its turn that subjectivity is the truth . . . The paradoxical character of the truth is its objective uncertainty. This uncertainty is the expression for passionate inwardness, and this passion is precisely the truth.' (Kierkegaard, 1845a)

- posted by -g @ 7:47 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Pondering The Paradox of Faith

Faith is precisely the paradox that the single individual as the single individual is higher than the universal, is justified before it, not as inferior to it but superior--yet in such a way, please note, that it is the single individual who, after being subordinate as the single individual to the universal, now by means of the universal becomes the single individual who as the single individual is superior, that the single individual as the single individual stands in an absolute relation to the absolute. This position cannot be mediated, for all mediation takes place only by virtue of the universal; it is and remains for all eternity a paradox, impervious to thought. And yet faith is this paradox.

- posted by -g @ 4:18 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

Monday, December 01, 2003
It is a delight to see you here in blogger land again, Eva. Perhaps now that you are riding on a wave of personal love (and pain) we might find you here more often - where the air is more poetic and less political. You certainly are capable of contributing to the poetic.

I ponder a contradiction in words and deeds. It is best explained in a rant that has no beginning and no's call it a snap shot into my thinking:

When a man turns his back upon someone and walks away, it is so easy to see that he walks away. But when a man hits upon a method of turning his face towards the one he is walking away from, walking backwards while with salutations he greets the person, giving assurances again and again that he is coming immediately or incessantly saying 'Here I am' although he gets farther and farther away by walking backwards ... then it is not so easy to become aware. And so it is with the one who, rich in good intentions and quick to promise, retreats backwards farther and farther from the good. With every renewed intention and promise it seems as if he takes a step forward, and yet he not only remains standing still but really takes a step backward.

So . . . which way are you walking? From which side of your mouth are you talking?

*In an effort to be true, but knowing full well that all these words are orchestrated for your approval...peace*

- posted by -g @ 7:17 PM | | 0 rocks in pond

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