Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. —Buddha

This is often-seen advice and generally considered to be wisdom.  And I agree there is something to it, in the sense at least that one can fritter one’s life away dreaming of past or future, and that seems a waste.  But it’s one of those half-truths that are only complete when put together with their opposites.  Like “out of sight, out of mind” and “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  In this case we’d need at least two other aphorisms, one about the blessing of memory, and one along the lines of “anticipation is half the fun” to express a complete truth.

But right now I want to talk about the effect of pre-retirement (and contemplating packing and moving).   (more…)

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The problem of evil—how could an omnipotent-omniscient-omnipresent-all-good god create or allow to exist a universe containing evil and arbitrary suffering—has always been a, if not the, major barrier for me to believing in any approximation of God. The following represents a way of tackling the question in non-didactic terms. The question at the end is not merely rhetorical—I’d really like to know what people think.


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I’ve been poking around on BlogHer recently, and ran across this post, which got me musing about Christianity. Most of these ponderings occurred to me many years ago, back in the day when I hadn’t yet rejected Christianity for myself. I was raised Methodist, in a small town, and around this time of year often get nostalgic for when the religious side of Christmas meant more to me. But–well, whatever. On to the ponderings. Which I decided to post here instead of in a comment on SandyHov’s blog because they will seem blasphemous, and possibly offensive, to many Christians, and I have no desire to offend her. (more…)

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(I started this one a long time ago, and browsing through old drafts decided it’s close enough to being coherent to publish. At one point I probably thought I had more to say about it–but thanks to memory loss, I no longer know what that might have been.)

People, particularly religious conservatives, often assert that truth, to be true in any meaningful sense, must be absolutely true. In keeping with my tenet that

We learn most from those who are different from us; they help us walk around our piece of reality and see it in new ways,

my discomfort with that assertion inspires me to write the following. (more…)

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(I’ve had this experience, and these thoughts, many times, but let me tell it as one, not many.)

I stop, halfway up the mountain, in a pullout made for this purpose. A ponderosa pine has inspired me to stop: the desire to say hello, to smell the sun-warmed vanilla smell of it. I turn off the engine and step out into the warm summer day.

Listening to the summer silence, the pings of the cooling engine, bird calls, hum of insects, light wind in my ears, I walk over to the tree, put my hands on it, lean close, and sniff deeply. (more…)

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Tee hee.

Found this here. Ordered the book–it looks more entertaining than the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which I’ve dipped into recently.

I’m working on a post about the recent decision by the CA State Board of Education’s decision to require ALL 8th graders to take Algebra I starting in three years*. It’s clearly going to take awhile–I have too much to say, which is making it hard to get started. And I don’t just want to rant, tempting though that is. So I figure if I publicly commit myself to doing it, it’s more likely to get done.

*Actually, the decision only mandates that they all be tested in Alg I, but given NCLB and the consequences thereof, that’s a distinction without a practical difference.

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I’ve been following, sort of, a conversation here that started out to be about meaning, delved into questions having to do with “is there anything more/other than the physical universe?”, and recently turned to the basis of morality and our sense of morality. This led me to this post, which discusses the matter of consciousness and feelings (qualia of consciousness).

I’ve posted a few comments in these other conversations, but decided to save my snippier comments for my own blog, so here goes: (more…)

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I wrote the folowing in a comment I made on another blog, and I’ve been turning it over in my mind ever since:

We often hear that it’s the journey that’s the point, and maybe that’s true. I know my own persistent underlying agnosticism is oddly comforting to me at times. It’s as though I’m searching for something, I know not what, but something in me is sure it’s there and that I’ll recognize it if/when I find it. Which, if you think about it, is faith of a kind.

The reason is stuck in my head is because of the combination of facts that (more…)

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(For the full effect–do not click on the thumbnail yet.)

Yesterday the dogs and I took a nice long Christmas walk, and I captured this picture, thinking perhaps I’d write a post on shadows. Gradually, the way memories do these days, the memory of this post seeped back into my forebrain–so I won’t repeat myself.

But I will comment on that blue whatever-it-is in the upper left corner. I was totally unaware of it until I looked at the picture in my camera back home. (more…)

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I am not like other people. Oh, not completely, of course; in fact, I have the firm belief that given any two people in the world, they’ll have something in common, though they may have to dig to find it. But all my life, I’ve perceived myself to be outside the mainstream, regardless of the nature of the mainstream I happen to be amidst at any given time. (more…)

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there are those who like
to get up and do things
coffee in the morning
beer after work (more…)

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I was rummaging around in my bookcases this morning, and (as I often do these days) ran across a book I couldn’t remember reading. Pulling it off the shelf, I found something I had highlighted (apparently I have read the book) that I rather like and wanted to share. But first I need to set it up a bit.

Various paradoxes have been much discussed over the past 100 years or so in philosophy and in mathematics. I won’t attempt a full exegisis here, but just to give you a taste, here are a couple of the best-known: (more…)

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I haven’t gotten into it very far yet–I’m on page xii of the Preface–but for anyone interested in grappling with questions such as, What is consciousness? What is mind? What is/am “I”? How are these related to the brain? What about “soul”? or esoterica of language, the book

I Am Strange Loop

by Douglas Hofstadter*

will be of interest.

I know, I’m only on page xii. So if you don’t believe me–here’s a review. Or click on the title link and dip into it on Amazon.

* For those who might remember it, he wrote “Godel, Escher, Bach” back in 1979

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A couple of months or so ago, this tree in my front yard fell over, during or after one of our rainstorms. We didn’t have any really intense storms this year, so I’m not sure why it fell. (more…)

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Belief can be shared, but certainty is private.

What do I mean by that? And why do I think it’s worth saying? (more…)

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This is something that I often say to my students (prospective teachers). As a teacher, we never really know our own impact and influence on our students, for good or ill. We just do the best we can, based on the best information and theory of teaching/learning we can muster, and hope for the best. (more…)

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I just finished reading Speaking of Faith, by Krista Tippett, the host of the public radio program of the same title. A really excellent book–I would encourage everyone to get it and read it. I kept running across snippets of wisdom on which I thought I might compose a post for the blog, but was pulled to keep on reading instead.

A few quotes from it to whet your appetite: (more…)

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This post is an effort to move toward a metaphysics that works for me, as I discussed here. I haven’t made a lot of progress, though I have generated a number of questions, and clarified for myself a few more things I don’t believe, that don’t satisfy me. Or maybe that’s progress of a kind. Anyway, here I start with a few things I do believe and take for granted–and end with some questions. (more…)

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I’ve been reading threads lately on whether or not there is or can be an objective basis for morality. [Here and here if you’d like to see them for yourself–they make interesting reading, but the second in particular is quite long (and more academic in flavor)–I had to read it in multiple sittings.] I decided to post my own take on the question here. (more…)

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“You see but your shadow when you turn your back to the sun.”

  1. Kahlil Gibran

The obvious (to me) meaning in this has to do with turning away from the source of life/understanding/love etc. and how that leaves one seeing and feeling only the painful, dark, negative things in oneself and in life. But shadows, at least our own shadows, offer us other very interesting metaphors. (more…)

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