25 May 2009

Ass kicks elephant: the failure of GOP ideology

Is the American Republican Party slowly sliding into political irrelevance? It’s ironic that the nation which founded the Pragmatist school of philosophy in the 19th century should have a major party that prizes evergreen theories over prosaic, practical outcomes. When it came to determining ‘truth’ values, American Pragmatists like John Dewey believed that it wasn’t an issue of theory versus practice but rather of “intelligent practice versus uninformed, stupid practice”. And to exercise the former one must be committed to facts and figures, even if - and especially when - they do not give us the news we want.

04 May 2009

Life is meaningless (but that's OK)

In her article ‘Purpose, Meaning and Darwinism’ published in the January/February 2009 issue of Philosophy Now magazine, Dr Mary Midgley insists that, contrary to certain interpretations of Darwin’s theory of natural selection that paint biological history as a purposeless, random process, there is indeed meaning and purpose to life. And Midgley isn’t just saying that life has meaning from a human perspective. No, she believes that all of existence has an intrinsic purpose, and that “purposiveness is not a peculiarly human trait… it is one we share with many other animals.” Purposiveness – as defined by Midgley – is “persistent, systematic striving till a particular end is achieved.” Therefore, a person, animal or even a plant demonstrates purposiveness when striving to reach a specific goal, whether gaining a job promotion, escaping from a trap or (as Midgley provides as an example) in the case of seeds, growing around and through paving stones, “lift[ing] them out of place, if necessary.”

Customized love, designed devotion

Imagine a future society where artificial intelligence (AI) and cybernetics are sophisticated enough to allow the creation of artificial humans with organic bodies. The definitive difference between them and ‘real’ people is that these artificial humans are manufactured rather than being sexually conceived. Other than that, they are almost indistinguishable from ‘real’ humans.

The post-theological age

Bring on the post-theological age!

Theological inquiry may have been the natural next step forward from our pre-theological past, when our remote ancestors were not intellectually developed enough to ask the big questions about life, the universe and everything (and lacked the sense of humour that would have found the answer ‘Forty-two’ a ticklish one). Yet terrible signs throughout history warn us that theology, with its attendant superstitions and myths, has long since become irrelevant, even destructive, to human hopes and endeavours towards a better future.

To speak of a post-theological era of civilization is to speak of a future filled with optimism, courage, curiosity, freedom, prosperity and intellectual achievement. It is especially optimism that prompts me to declare that the post-theological age is inevitable, for it is the natural next step forward from the current theological age. The twin forces of secularism and scientific progress are gaining a widening influence around the world, displacing theocracies and false traditions. Humanity will not believe in gods forever. As a child eventually outgrows his need for irrational comforts from supernatural fears, so too will humanity emerge from its ‘self-imposed immaturity’ by discarding outmoded beliefs in preference for rational, liberal and humane convictions.

Reason, compassion and unfettered imagination will infuse all human action and thought, lighting the darkness of both the internal sphere of the human character and the external realm of unexplored space.


"Hey, we're on the same side here."

Today I read these words by Ayn Rand and they struck me with a clarity forceful enough to disperse foggy ideology:

If [former US Republican senator] Barry Goldwater advocates the right principles for the wrong metaphysical reasons, the contradiction is his problem, not ours.

I now understand that it is overzealous and unfair of me to insist that those who share my acceptance of true and good principles should also support the philosophical foundations those principles were built on. While metaphysical and epistemological foundations remain important, the fact that an ally in principle does not embrace such foundations as enthusiastically as I do is poor grounds to accuse them of moral and intellectual evasion. As Rand put it, their contradictions are their own cross to carry and have no averse effect on my own convictions.


The damning thing about commercialism is that its proxies - media editors, critics, bankers, brokers, culture gatekeepers, CEOs, shareholders, advertisers, retailers, consumers - all conspire to squeeze you tighter and tighter in a vice of 'economic interests' until your integrity spurts out your arse. It's the spiritual equivalent of dumping toxic waste into a virgin river, then bottling the foul water and charging you five bucks for the pleasure of drinking it.

The evolution of the mob

My dear G,

I worry that you may have misinterpreted my comment on my misanthropic tendencies. Unfortunately, as you and I are well aware of, written communication has its limitations. Words can be read in the wrong spirit, and without body language to escort them, misunderstanding can happen. Not to mention the time lapse that prevents instant clarification or modification of a statement. Still, we try our best.

So, what's your drug?

Romantic fantasies untempered by scientific knowledge births chimeras of half-truths and outright nonsense. But the sovereign individual with her irrefutable subjectivity is entitled to her imaginings, however ridiculous. The facts of things are indifferent to self-indulgent silliness.

Still, she could benefit from such mind games, if only as a distraction from the implacable ‘is-ness’ of things she secretly fears.

To each their own self-medication against existential angst. To each their own self-concocted balm to dull the chronic ache of life.