Bite Sized Philosophy: 14 July 2015: Philosophers

 

A philosopher holds a unique, almost exalted position in academia, a position distinct from that of the other sciences, the hard sciences; such as physics, math, engineering, and biology; as well as other, similar branches, psychology and theology. It is the discipline of questions and inquiry. The willingness to question, while now applauded and admired, was once quite dangerous. This is also the reason for the enduring popularity of famous philosophers. Another is their willingness to answer, or attempt to answer, questions in matters science has yet to discover.

The dangerous part of being a philosopher is to question long-held traditional, religious, and spiritual beliefs. This has cost philosophers their lives and livelihood. Socrates was sentenced to death; Galileo was put on house-arrest for being a proponent for the Copernican model of the solar system, and he was kind of being a dick about it.

There are countries in the modern world where questioning religious or political beliefs can get you sentenced to death. No person in the history of the world has brought pain upon anyone by being curious except for the pain imposed upon them by those who think it is dangerous. The impulse to ask the kind of questions philosophers normally ask seems to be a uniquely human impulse. While I am sure that how factors into an animal’s rationale in nature, such as How can I get to the food? I doubt, however, Why do I need food?  is a question considered by River Bison. (I apologize for any thinking River Bison I may have offended.)

Douglas Adams said there are three stages of civilization: the how, why, and where stages: How do I eat? Why do I eat? and Where shall we have lunch?

What makes a philosopher? How is someone given the title of philosopher? What does it mean?

In Charles Darwin’s era, before we split the atom and mapped the human genome, biology was natural philosophy. This label was applied to those who offered theories regarding long-standing, unsolved questions in regards to our knowledge about nature and the universe.

 

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The choice one makes when becoming a philosopher or studying philosophy, knowing it to be a thankless profession of challenging beliefs and institutions upon which millions depend, for one reason or another, for purpose, or meaning, for comfort.

Philosophical and theological institutions cater to a unique human need, perhaps a pertinent expression of our genes to survive at all costs and because of our higher brain functions, capable of expressing our resistance to mortality. The system of philosophy arose to facilitate the existential resistance to our own non-existence: to cultivate the idea that purpose feeds worth to what is fleeting, allowing a sort of compromise between mortality and immortality through what we think of as our legacy, an acceptance of our inevitable end if, we can put purpose to chaos, which gave rise to our oldest mythological beliefs. It was a way for us to explain the inexplicable in a time where the systems we now take for granted didn’t exist. It is a unique and storied branch of academia put in place to ennoble the highest aspirations of our creativity, intelligence, and patience.

To explain lightning, we had Zeus; for the explanation of winter, we had the story of Demeter’s sadness regarding Hades’ kidnapping of her daughter. We now know that lightning is caused by positive and negative charges built within cloud-banks, producing a spark when the two clouds collide. Well, there goes Zeus. We know that winter and all of the seasons are caused by the Earth’s 23 degree axial tilt. So, there goes Demeter, Persephone, and Hades.  The Norse believed that Thor was the God of Thunder and that winter was caused by Ice Giants. The philosophy of the Norse culture is more pessimistic than The World as Will and Idea by the pessimist: Arthur Schopenhauer. Even the Gods are killed in Norse mythology–by the Midgaard serpent.

The skeleton key for understanding a civilization is their mythology; it represents their fear, desire, their psychosexual and subconscious urges towards the profane and taboo; the characters representative of these attributes are the externalization of a rich, curious culture, representing the collective unconscious of an entire civilization, and it allows a unique glimpse into the mind of ancient thinking peoples. Looking at the way past civilizations are described and the way we learn of them, and what we learn, affords us an idea of how we may be remembered someday, either by analyzing our heroes and villains, as it has been with Greek and Roman mythology, or the teachers and their schools of thought, which is more a type of ancestor-reverence than mythology in China and East-Asia, or by the histories embedded into their religious traditions, as it is with many cultures in the Middle East. The value of philosophy is, more than anything, despite its pretentiousness and abuses, an invitation to think. The brain, like our muscles, becomes stronger the more you use it, and it is the most powerful weapon we have. We may not have the speed to outrun a cheetah or a tiger, but based on precepts developed by philosophers, such as the scientific method, and techniques of measurement and engineering developed by Greeks, we can build machines that can get us the hell away from animals that would have caught and enjoyed the greater majority of our ancestry, the strongest as easily as the weak. Philosophy is systematized questioning, whose answers are not always either right or wrong: rather useful an individual or not. It is a system that sets us apart from animals, figuratively and literally, as anyone who has had to flee a rampaging T-Rex would attest.

Poem: Living Memory

1
Milo, are you there?
“Hello—“
How have you been old friend?
“You know—“
I saw Diane, again,
“Her ghost?”
Of all the friends that I have lost,
she bothers me the most of all.
“What did you see?”
She waved at me.

2
Through the window,
down the eaves—
She follows me into my dreams.
“She can’t return.”
She never leaves.
“A haunting?”
I guess, possibly.
“What can you do?”
I’ll talk to you.
“God, this feels like déjà vu.”

3
There is no cost to put on loss.
“Life has a price.”
But can’t be bought!
For when one dies,
a sun has set;
We have one life.
“That’s all we get.”
It’s not a lull,
it is a bye.
The sun is swallowed by the night.
To get to live is such a gift.
“It isn’t offered twice.”

4
“Most of you believe the lie,
that life’s in infinite supply.”
Memories are all we have;
“A soul trapped in a photograph.”
Touch her brush, and feel her hair,
“And watch her as she disappears.”
Above she hovers trapped in space,
With a white dress and a glowing face,
“Try to grab her.”
Childish laughter;
She evaporates.
So much I wish I could have told her.
“And now it is too late.”
She’ll live forever on the page.

5

I guess we’re chasing yesterday–
By crisscrossing memory lanes;”
All I think of is her name.
Shelly who I barely knew,
Was as good as me or you;
Giotto’s charity and grace—
“It’s written plainly on her face.”

6

Loss is the name we give to Death,
But we should never use regret.
Nor should we ever so forget,
That’s something we should never do
She lives in me, and lives in you;
“And now upon this paper too.”
A eulogy to me you see—
Are shadows of a slanted beam.

7
Taken young and far too soon,
She died under a paper moon.
I guess I just believed that lie,
That life’s in limitless supply.
“That might sound good.”
It would be nice.
Life is a gift not offered twice.
“The rarest thing—you get to live.”
No words can any comfort give.
She has gone, and hope has flown;
The soul at last has made it home.
Far too many I’ve seen leave
Retired to our memory.

Poem: Necromancy

10 March 2015
Op. 44 (Necromancy)

When reading prose, tall-tales, and poems,
we start not knowing where it’s going,
and yet we know it’s brief.
The beginning, insincerely,
leaves us with just our memories
Guideposts spread among a web
allowing us to find,
the friends we’ve lost,
we’ve left behind
More than childhood, more than time,
A new Sun rises–night expires;
The moving-finger,
fleeing fire–
Trembling, each word looks both ways
then moves onto a newborn page.

That is the madness of our lives,
to know that will fall to time.
Forever gone, for Heaven lost,
we give our life,
That is the cost.
And one by one–it’s true for all
Leaves look their best after they fall
Green is lovely
but the change,
the transformation in the rain
Draws us in because we know,
the scene is finished, yet the show,
Goes on–as it must go.

The past expires in the fire
we must not weep for time;
For conductor, in his bluster,
hath made Despair a crime.
So we arrange our quirky games
to keep felled leaves alive
And the embers we remember
does much as we define:
It pushes us, and focuses
the lens’ to let us see,
that we may stain a windowpane
to frame our fantasies.

When I was nine my father died,
I could have wept;
I could have cried,
Instead I played a game.
I’d say his name, cover my face,
walk in his room and pray,
when I uncover my eyes,
he’d reappear, he’d come alive;
My hands removed, I’d find, instead,
his portrait more the empty bed.
It never happened,
so I imagine,
at least I have my dreams.

Some times I see him while I’m reading,
I put away my book.
It’s just a pattern often scattered
and yet I always look.
And that mirage must give us pause,
to remind ourselves that someone else
looks at the stars through iron bars
with no fantasy to help.
Our memory quite eerily
can resurrect the dead

We know that hope, if truth be told,
is desire in a noble robe;
It’s all inside our head.
Yet to deny these soothing lies,
is yet more painful still,
There are some who come undone
some don’t want to heal.
And our fair Queen, in love with grief,
Would deny love just not to feel.

That is the reason Hope is treason;
and Faith is on the hill.
An overflowing wishing well
Is proof enough there is a hell.
So dedicated to a ghost,
They lose themselves,
they can’t move on;
As all are loyal to the Throne.
The Royalty may give for freed
the price is what they take;
They clean the vase until it breaks.

And all that noise is truly poison
Lost in the past, we’re stranded;
There is magic in this madness,
For it makes us Necromancers.
Who with some spell may defy hell,
From the grave onto the page,
from ashes to the canvas:
defying time line after line
We are the Necromancers
A painting, opera, or poem,
is life in a more lasting form;
And life being one brief season,
snow on the desert’s face
Calls on us who have the touch,
to replace the footprint
and leave in its place
A beacon that the lost may trace,
Through all of time, through history,
and reclaim what we were missing.

And those moments we thought stolen
Defying time and death,
we find them waiting,
Mother Mary,
we do not have to pray;
Though for you it may be noon,
For some a dying day,
In that last second, resurrection;
The end defines the play;
So last call–a pint for all!
The fire fades away.

Poem: Improv op 27

A poem a tale, about a shadow
that crept along the wall
it’s frail silhouettes curtain call
Ta-da, it’s done
the show has stopped
the sun has gone,
the seagulls of the surf had flown.
To a new place one word of black
with light shaped bullets through
criss crossed in pairs so debenair
the sandstorm settled too.

All is calm what a miracle mile
where kids never have problems
only to smile,
to cheris what they did not ask for,
just for a little while.
A little while to learn it all to raise your standards watch them fall as moons above like circling doves pass by and then they’re gone. The only thing left when time and the theft have left us breadcrumbs there, the place in the sky where nobody cries
where people just talk and grow old
sit on a front porch watching the fireflies
thickets full of wilted rose subdued by the eyes
half asleep and half awake
for some whim or fancy take
through the world, a ride, a show
a timid play for virtue sorrow
look at this it’s a smile
look at this such a grin
you’re never going to see it again.
Look through the door
that’s you on the floor
and you’re smiling like nothing is wrong
and in the room you hear faint a tune of a loved one singing along.
the days and nights ha-ha’s and frights
and Eve:
the one that made the monsters leave.

The monsters who in numbers grew and shouted night and day
and bit by bit took all took it took all happy away
miserable lay the sun whose rays at last will lastly blow away
the marbles by the earthen sky forever come and grow
our shouts and calls to god are small
and he’s the star of the show.
Maybe in the encore,
before the act is done,
God himself will come.
He’ll stand before the quiet rows
with no one there to here
and when they’re all gone like nights a faun
turns into dim a show.
Until then a when we wait
for God himself to show himself at last
because all of us who live will die
before we’ve glimpsed those golden eyes
but now we’re dreadfully tired.
The timid kids went out and hid
the fire in the eyes faded
and partly jaded closed the lids
from the light that hides the dark
in it’s bag of mail
a hail, perhaps a chance to rain
today it seems, my hopes and dreams,
did not fit the part.
Other actors stormed the stage
where one I laid upon and stayed
in the lights of fortune fair.
When life was good and when we would
together laugh and snare.
Those were the days when kids when they played
played with a smile on their faces
and the ones who stood apart
singled out right at the start
and gave a path for him to walk
through corridors where often doors
opened and the squawk
decaying wood sometimes it would
would never let me start

Commandetore, le capisce?
Didn’t you say when lonely I paid
just for internal peace
of mind where there I’d find
all the things to me sublime
family there and Christmas night
In the trees electric light
zig zags across the grown.
A ferris will goes up, goes down,
what once was a smile is now a frown
one to take it away
and once what you said while alone in your bed,
lord will you answer today?
Why did she die you saw us cry what alibi
is there for that whose lives you had
and dropped into the sand
swept it up and walked away and feeble gripped the hands
the hands that held the hollow shell
of what was once a man.
A man who thought and with this bought
shame and confusion, contempt
ballet shoes and there the muse
in a locked cage now is kept
so all the tears and all the fears
will not be swept again
so they’ll swell and one day wail
and fall onto the ground.

The Artist’s Garden, short – 12 June 2015

Once there was an artist who lived on his own by the bay. He painted and played piano, the violin and wrote poetry, plays and novels. Yet none were good, or so he thought, and so everyone seemed to think. And, frustrated, he gave it up and went to war. After many years away from home, the war ended and he was discharged. Returning home by boat, with friends, they found a strange man on a lifeboat. His accent was peculiar and his manner of dress out of fashion by some hundred years. Gradually he gained their trust and friendship and revealed himself to be a genie. His story was most interesting, as they had all heard the story of a genie’s lamp, or some variation, and as the self-proclaimed genie pointed out, in all those tales, what did they ever really know about the genie, the magician who granted them fortune and fame? Continue reading

Release date for The Chameleon Mirror set: 24 August 2015

From chapter 17, A Pocket-Sized Mirage

That’s the conceit, that to put on costumes put on make-up put on masks remember your lines and it’ll mean something, someone may love and maybe you, and maybe it’s more, more than a group of costumed men reciting words of men and women now long dead. It’s just how characters without character become great if for a moment, Alain may at his best be some Iago or a Lear, but strove I felt to be the King’s fool. And I guess he was, I’d give him that, perhaps more Edward though, and his bastard’s revolt, to be sincere, a director like Pinocchio had Gepetto loved him. And it’s easy! so much easier; isn’t it? To play Proust’s goddess Mme. de Guermants or the enchantress Albertine or perhaps Bovary, because it meant something, somehow, someone cared. Because they meant something to so many, and through osmosis this makes us mean something, at best, if not to ourselves but someone. So we say the things they say and wear their clothes, what do those without talent do but play some better written part? Continue reading

No Nobility: Poetry dump 8 June 2015

There was a tale about a Queen–
Whose regal name was Kathryn
She was a broken flower,
Unable to be picked, or helped,
And by her dead king lay;
And one day, walking,
Came a talking,
Peasant and he said:
“I could take your pain away.”
Queen Kathryn turned her head.
By her King’s old grave,
chained like a slave,
she wished to wake the dead,
though restless silent as she lay. Continue reading

Individual and Individuation

It is clear that it was known more than a hundred years ago that the fusion of the spermatozoa and the oocyte begins the life of a new individual human being. In embryology, the terms understood are integral. In the common sense there is human, being, persona, individual, human being, life and human life. It is unfortunate that every one of these terms have been corrupted, by scientists and the lay audience alike, to mean something that it does not. This is made evident in the corruption of the term individual into individuation. There are other problems, that is, when the early embryo split, does the ‘soul’ also split? And, if until that time, how could there be, then, a person. By soul, in the scientific context, one refers to the ‘animated essence.’ This is not an issue for theology alone, but theologians always muddle the waters of this very issue when it comes to abortion… Continue reading

L’homme Neuronal

Of all of nature, with its myriad of animals, it is the mammalian brain that has proven most adaptive. It adapts during the postnatal period, and continues to adapt, learning from new experiences. In the 60’s, a series of studies demonstrated that rats, when placed in different, more complex environments, grew thicker brains and new synapses. This study showed that the once popular belief that learning and memory are additive processes involved in the formation of new synaptic connections and the strengthening of existing connections… Continue reading

A Nervous System

We have seen that normal development of the brain depends on interaction between genetic inheritance and environmental experience. The genome provides a general structure of the nervous system. Nervous system activity and sensory stimulation refine the mode of operation. This ‘fine-tuning’ doesn’t mean the addition of new components or connections. It is achieved by elimination. Continue reading

Fragments

Imagine what would happen
if you could change the world
And somehow you could resurrect,
a memory, a girl;
It’s been ten years, yet still, the fears,
they make my stomach curl;
Seventeen into the sea,
no cards to play, she folds;
Empty to me sans she–the world
In the end I lost a friend
It never could recur;
I’d give my pen, I’d give my pad,
I’d give my cash and my left hand,
for one more glimpse of her. Continue reading

The Geometry of Thought

It is not directly possible to know the exact circumstances, or selection pressures, that favored the development of the human brain. Consideration of its structural evolution, and comparative research, on human and nonhumans (other members of the primate order) have provided insights into the early ‘drafts’ of the modern mind. It is believed that, during the evolution of our mind, the nervous system changed in a number of manners, four to be precise. The arrangement of organs first became centralized in architecture, being the next step of evolution from a loose connection of nerve cells, as in jellyfish, to a spinal column and complex brain with impressive swellings at the hindbrain and forebrain. Centralized architecture led to hierarchy amongst structure and it appears that newer ‘drafts’ of the brain overtook the earlier additions and in effect became the Operator, the master of the domain of evaluating sensations… Continue reading

Children of the Mind

In mammals, there are three major components of the mind with two new structures, or subroutines. Neocerebellum, added to the cerebellum, looks like a growth at the base of the brain. The neocortex, therefore, is a product of the forebrain. Most mammals, though they have a neocortex, the additions are not large as relative to the brain stem. In the primate order, of which we are a part, they are larger; in humans, the neocortex is so large that the brain stem is hidden by a complicated mass of gray, neural matter. This remarkable increase of neocerebellar activity and neocortical tissue, gives humans the highest ratio of brain to body of all of nature’s children… Continue reading

What is Called Thinking?

In mammals, there are three major components of the mind with two new structures, or subroutines. Neocerebellum, added to the cerebellum, looks like a growth at the base of the brain. The neocortex, therefore, is a product of the forebrain. Most mammals, though they have a neocortex, the additions are not large as relative to the brain stem. In the primate order, of which we are a part, they are larger; in humans, the neocortex is so large that the brain stem is hidden by a complicated mass of gray, neural matter. This remarkable increase of neocerebellar activity and neocortical tissue, gives humans the highest ratio of brain to body of all of nature’s children… Continue reading