Archive for March, 2009

Thomas Nagel

More quotes from the living philosophical legend, Thomas Nagel.

In recognizing [skeptical possibilities] we recognize that our ideas of the world, however sophisticated, are the products of one piece of the world interacting with part of the rest of it in ways that we do not understand very well. So anything we come to believe must remain suspended in a great cavern of skeptical darkness.

However often we may try to step outside of ourselves, something will have to stay behind the lens, something in us will determine the resulting picture, and this will give grounds for doubt that we are really getting any closer to reality. The idea of objectivity thus seems to undermine itself. The aim is to form a conception of reality which includes ourselves and our view of things among its objects, but it seems that whatever forms the conception will not be included by it. It seems to follow that the most objective view we can achieve will have to rest on an unexamined subjective base, and that since we can never abandon our own point of view, but can only alter it, the idea that we are coming closer to the reality outside it with each successive step has no foundation.

The aim of objectivity would be to reach a conception of the world, including oneself, which involved one’s own point of view not essentially, but only instrumentally, so to speak: so that the form of our understanding would be specific to ourselves, but its content would not be.

The fact that objective reality is our goal does not guarantee that our pursuit of it succeeds in being anything more than an exploration and reorganization of the insides of our own minds…there have been enough cases in which what was once thought a maximally objective conception of reality has been included¬† as appearance in a still more objective conception so that we would be foolish not to expect it to go on. Indeed we should want it to go on, for we are evidently just at the beginning of our trip outward, and what has so far been achieved in the way of self-understanding is minimal.

To switch gears a bit, here is a quote by Nagel on his atheism. I find his view to be absolutely fascinating if only for the fact that it would seem to be a rare view indeed and one that I do not share myself:

In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

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QotD: If Money Didn’t Matter…

If money didn't matter, what job would you most like to have?
Submitted by Rainbird.

Does having no job count as a job? I mean, if money really doesn't matter…

It's a difficult decision because it would not merely be a matter of choosing which (out of many) interest to pursue but which interest to destroy. Drink your fill and you no longer want any more, so to speak.

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QotD: Relationship Deal Breaker

03/24/2009 2 comments

What’s your “deal breaker” when it comes to relationships?

That’s actually a really deep question that is very difficult to answer if we assume normal conditions. Obviously murder is likely going to be a deal breaker. But dating a murderer would not constitute normal conditions.

Besides the above, the most obvious deal breaker for me would probably be cases in which the other person had some sort of irrational and morally unacceptable prejudice: racism or some sort of hatred toward, say, homosexuals or any people group for that matter that didn’t deserve it (some groups may deserve a sort of hatred…the Nazis perhaps). Of course even these sort of prejudices may not constitute normal conditions. Let’s be honest: there are not many blatantly outspoken racists nowadays and even homosexual haters are not the sort of people I usually run into. I would probably generalize and say that what constitutes a deal breaker for me is if she is simply downright stupid (judged by my standards of course) and/or is the sort of person always complaining about other people or is rude to other people while being completely oblivious to her own shortcomings. I guess I would just break it down to intelligence. Not because other things are unimportant but because if you are intelligent by my lights, you won’t be a bigot or a racist or be one who constantly complains about others, etc.¬† I should mention that being intelligent by my lights does not presuppose that you agree with me on everything. It presupposes that you have a certain sort of attitude–a certain humility–when it comes to certain issues or to discourse in general (discourse in the very broad sense as in how one treats other people on a day-to-day basis and not merely how one debates with others).

I will just leave it vaguely at that. I don’t wish to construct a clear and organized treatise out of this question. And I’m sure there are other deal breakers, such as not liking Dave Matthews Band or baseball or Family Guy…just kidding….no, actually I’m not….yeah, I am………seriously, I’m kidding…..well, maybe not….yes, of course I’m kidding….but then again….no, for real this time, I’m just jokin around….perhaps…

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QotD: It’s the Little Things

What's a little thing you do every day that brightens the lives of those around you?
Sponsored by Nature Made.

Ah shit, I'm supposed to be doing that? 

Oh wait, I know. I leave people alone. That should brighten up their day.

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Vampires are real…awesome

03/12/2009 1 comment

"Vampire" unearthed in Venice plague grave

Matteo Borrini, an anthropologist from the University of Florence, said the discovery on the small island of Lazzaretto Nuovo in the Venice lagoon supported the medieval belief that vampires were behind the spread of plagues like the Black Death.

"This is the first time that archaeology has succeeded in reconstructing the ritual of exorcism of a vampire," Borrini told Reuters by telephone. "This helps … authenticate how the myth of vampires was born."

The skeleton was unearthed in a mass grave from the Venetian plague of 1576 — in which the artist Titian died — on Lazzaretto Nuovo, which lies around three km (2 miles) northeast of Venice and was used as a sanitorium for plague sufferers.

The succession of plagues which ravaged Europe between 1300 and 1700 fostered the belief in vampires, mainly because the decomposition of corpses was not well understood, Borrini said.

Gravediggers reopening mass graves would sometimes come across bodies bloated by gas, with hair still growing, and blood seeping from their mouths and believe them to be still alive.

The shrouds used to cover the faces of the dead were often decayed by bacteria in the mouth, revealing the corpse's teeth, and vampires became known as "shroud-eaters."

According to medieval medical and religious texts, the "undead" were believed to spread pestilence in order to suck the remaining life from corpses until they acquired the strength to return to the streets again.

"To kill the vampire you had to remove the shroud from its mouth, which was its food like the milk of a child, and put something uneatable in there," said Borrini. "It's possible that other corpses have been found with bricks in their mouths, but this is the first time the ritual has been recognized."

While legends about blood-drinking ghouls date back thousands of years, the modern figure of the vampire was encapsulated in the Irish author Bram Stoker's 1897 novel "Dracula," based on 18th century eastern European folktales.


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The Butterfly Effect

Categories: Comedy

QotD: …On Ice

If you could see any movie, tv show, play or sporting event "on ice," what would you choose to see performed on ice skates?

Donnie Darko because to pull it off would require that they hand out hard drugs to everyone.

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