Archive for July, 2008

Forgotten (Free) Thinkers

“We should not be ashamed to acknowledge truth and to assimilate it from whatever source it comes to us, even if it is brought to us by former generations and foreign peoples. For him who seeks the truth there is nothing of higher value than truth itself; it never cheapens or debases him who reaches for it but ennobles and honors him.”

–Yaqub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi (d. ca. A.D. 870), one of the earliest free-thinking Muslims, and likely deemed a heretic by past and present Islamic traditionalists. His point here is that truth can be found in various places, even outside Islam.

If this quote were from a member of the European Enlightenment or a 20th century intellectual, I would not have posted it. But it is always fascinating and refreshing when someone in an age of religious dogmaticism and strife can sound like a Thomas Jefferson or perhaps even a post-modernist.

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Categories: Philosophy Tags: ,

The Good Samaritan in a Modern Age

07/29/2008 2 comments

So we have all probably been in this situation: you drive by someone having car troubles and it automatically crosses your mind (being the moral person that you are) that you ought to help them out. If you're as morally minded as the great Mithrandir, you don't just feel morally obligated to help them out, you actually want to help them out. Just a five minute drive to the gas station and back to their car is all they need and it would be so easy for you to accommodate. But if you ever went to elementary school or were ever taught lessons by your parents, you know at least one thing: don't get into a car with a stranger. I mean, that's obvious, right? But no one ever said anything about the other way around: never let a stranger into your car. Or should we? Well, that's the question you will have to answer when you see that stranded soul in need of a lift. Could the person you want to help be a serial killer or any sort of dangerous criminal? Not likely, but it's possible. And it is here we see that we have a classic instance of a potentially high risk, low probability circumstance. In other words, helping out this person could lead to the worst of all possible circumstances, say, death or severe torture. But at the same time, what are the chances? Again, very low.

There are other things that we do that are also potentially high risk, low probability. Car driving itself is one example. Fatal accidents are rare but they do and can happen. Yet, we still do it and don't discourage it among others. But perhaps the difference between this action and the action of picking up strangers in an attempt to help them out is that the former (driving) is more or less necessary in a modern world whereas the latter (picking up strangers) isn't.

So is playing the part of the Good Samaritan in the situation of stranded drivers a smart thing to do? If you are like me, you are a person who likes to help others but also one who is cautious. And I'm sorry to say, I don't have the answer to the question. Better safe than sorry seems like a generally good rule of thumb to live by. But what about in those cases where the probability of being sorry are astronomically low? Maybe sometimes we just have to live with a bit of risk in our lives. But how can we do that when it is so easy to drive on by?

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Categories: Miscellaneous

This just in: Episode II

07/10/2008 6 comments

This just in, Mithrandir is extremely annoyed by people who think they know what they're talking about but are ultimately just retards…i.e….religious apologists, political analysts, the everyday person that thinks they read some fucking article or heard some bit of information about such and such and start using its "factual information" to support their arguments and then upon further investigation I find that they are just plain wrong and the article or news they "read" and "heard" said something entirely different or perhaps only minutely different but different enough to make a difference to their own stupid-ass argument. 

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Categories: Miscellaneous

This just in: Episode 1

07/02/2008 4 comments

This just in, apparently blue whales have a heart the size of a car.

Holy shit.

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Categories: Miscellaneous