Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Parent Contradictions

The complexity of reality, and the limitations of verbal tools, can perhaps be glimpsed in two things Jan Cox said, on different occasions, to his students: One--that everything everywhere affects you and TWO -- that the news of the world does not affect you. Sounds contradictory huh. One way, perhaps one way of many, to parse this is--

The wider world of events, does not affect you because your concern moment by moment should be on the vigor of your cranial composure. 

ALSO though, everything about you ripples in patterns affected by -- roadkill in Australia, -- and   everything else going on. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Other Hand

We quote David Brooks, as he reports on the winners of  "the Sidney Awards, named for the renowned philosopher Sidney Hook, go out to some of the best magazine essays of the year. "

Alan Lightman writes in “The Accidental Universe” in Harper’s that the existence of life is so incredibly improbable that there can be only two realistic explanations: Either there is a God who designed all this, or there exist many, many different universes, a vast majority of which are lifeless. Many physicists are gravitating to the latter theory. Our universe is just one of many. The universal laws of physics aren’t really universal. They are just the arbitrary arrangements that happen to prevail in our own little universe.

This is a wonderful example of binary thought---either you believe in a god who arranged the whole universe, or our universe is not improbable because it's a crap shoot.  One or the other is true; that my friends is binary thought. The first is no explanation, but a cop-out, an intellectual crutch for we can't figure it out, but don't want to admit this.  The second may be incoherent, -- when you run the numbers putting in an infinite, you often get a garbagey result, or so I have read. 

Well, there may well be way more than two alternatives here -- but how about just a third, for now: Self Knowledge. Our ignorance is data we can empirically investigate. We can live on surmises if we are tender with the edges of our knowledge. It takes guts to be objective, and self-knowledge is the giraffe on the porch.