Are you Open or Closed?

I have found in my encounters with people that there are two kinds of person.

Actually a better way to express this is that I have found that two categories which I either discovered – or more likely – created are useful for describing and talking about people.

These categories I have called openness and closedness.

Aristotle’s quote “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” is a good, succinct description of an open person.

A word that is close to closedness is bigot.

A closed person has their opinion and are willing – all too willing – to express their opinion and hear other people express commensurate opinions; but they will not listen to and try to understand the opinions of other’s if they run contrary to their own.

Both the closed person and the open person are susceptible to verbosity and to remaining silent.

So how much someone talks is not a metric for how open or closed they are.

What defines the open person in contrast to the closed person is the way in which they listen.

An open person listens with the intent to understand. If the thoughts being conveyed run contrary to his own he will suspend disbelief and attempt to understand as if he believed.

A closed person listens with the intend not of understanding but of criticizing, showing as wrong the thoughts of the other and showing how his thought is superior to that of the other.

Of course people oscillate between these two states.

A closed person can be very open when he is conversing with someone about a subject he hasn’t developed any concrete beliefs about.

I’ve noticed this particularly in religious people; amongst whom I include atheists because they are both quite dogmatic and the questions “How did reality come to be?” and “Is there a God?” are both unanswerable with the scientific method (or any method I have come across in my hotch-potch wanderings through philosophy).

In fact they are metaphysical questions and the negative answer to the question of God is as much a positive metaphysical proposition as the affirmative answer.

The agnostic position is the only position with regard to such questions that we can give any grounds for. That is we can show that we just don’t know and show the reasons for that inability.


Philosophy is a Source of Delight; not a source of Depression

I don’t understand why so many philosophers are depressed; or how the idea of a tortured genius has attached itself so ardently to the idea of philosophy.

Nietzsche’s probably most to blame for this image. But his madness could have been the result of syphilis or some other conditions.

This image of the philosopher as a tortured genius or a madman has made people wary of philosophy.

Luckily most people don’t really know what philosophy is. Most people think it’s something to do with reading lots of difficult books and thinking hard. They have a very indefinite idea of what philosophy is.

Of course philosophy is many things; like what Wittgenstein is trying to say about language and how you can’t just say it is a simple thing philosophy is a set of thought-games (empirical activity, phenomenology, epistemology, metaphysics and so on).

Due to the fact that people don’t really know what philosophy is they are blissfully unaware that they are philosophizing during their deepest and most fulfilling conversations.

For me philosophy is a source of delight.

I love the way that reading what other philosophers have thought makes my own thought life flourish.

For me philosophy is an ever present activity to engage in that doesn’t cause suffering.

A way of thinking other than the normal worries and re-runs of past failures. You know the “Oh, she doesn’t like me!”, “I don’t have enough money!” and of course “My room is a terrible mess and I really ought to clean it!”

The more I delve into philosophy the more wondrous life becomes.

Everyday things that I would normally take for granted, dismiss out of hand as being trivial, and boring because of their familiarity – such as language – become these awesome landscapes that radically change with the slightest shift of perspective.

I think the reason why so many philosophers do get depressed and become miserable isn’t because of the activity itself but because the kind of mind that altruistically philosophizes is the kind of mind that thinks a lot and sometimes those kinds of minds can get stuck in depressive feed-back loops.

That is to say that the depression and the altruistic philosophizing have the same ground. That the one does not cause the other rather they are both caused by the same thing.

Journal of my journey towards understanding: Wittgenstein 1: Philosophical literature at its best

Wittgenstein’s “Philosophical Investigations” is philosophy literature at its best in my opinion.

One of the greatest features of philosophy is that it takes something we have grown familiar with, think is simple, think we have explained and so finished with; it takes this and explodes it into a complex, unfamiliar, mysterious (because it is unexplained) terrain full of mountains and valleys before which we can stand in awe.

In fact Wittgenstein in his preface to “Philosophical Investigations” describes his remarks as “sketches of landscapes which were made in the course of… long and involved journeyings”.

As far as I have got in the “ Investigations” – I’m on remark 78 – the phenomena he has exploded into its magnificent complexity is language.

A lot of his remarks are questions that he doesn’t answer but asks again and again in various analogies.

I love the way he doesn’t just say that Augustine was wrong with a capital “W”; rather that Augustine describes a language which doesn’t describe all that language does but never-the-less describes a language that could be considered complete.

This is where the concept of language games comes in. The language game that Augustine describes is a game not only in its own right and can stand on its own; but is also part of a larger game.

So it could be said to be complete and incomplete.

Isn’t that ambiguity just beautiful? To be able to say of a thing that it is whole and yet lacking?

Journal of my Journey towards Understanding: Heidegger: Is there a Being-Toward-Birth in Heideggerian ontology?

It seems to me that birth shares a lot of the features of death.

It’s my own-most past action.

Though if Dasein exists before being thrown out of the womb then it could be said that whilst in the womb biological birth was Dasein’s own-most-potentiality-of-being-in-the-world.

Wait there; I’m being stupid.

Let me define the term “Birth” as the beginning of Dasein’s existence just as “Death” is defined as the end of Dasein’s existence.

So is there a being-toward something in my past?

I think I’m using being-toward something inappropriately here. Could being-toward something include the imagining/remembering of a past event? If so then Dasein could never be in the mode of being-toward its own birth because I don’t know about you but I don’t remember being born.

Actually that’s stupid; I’m making the mistake of taking the moments of Dasein’s existence as objectively present things and saying “we can’t be toward-birth because we can’t remember it happening” but neither can we remember or imagine what death is like. Both present a kind of void.

But still I think that the question “Can there be a being-toward birth?” Is just as important a question as “Can there be a being-toward-death?”

If there is to be a potentiality-for-being-whole surely a being-toward-birth is as necessary as a being-toward-death.

Also it doesn’t share the feature of being-toward-possibility because it has already happened.

Birth shares a lot of the features of death except indefiniteness. This is because looking back nothing is indefinite; it always happened at a particular time, particular place and was a particular action or event.

“Yesterday at 2pm I juggled for 10 minutes in my hallway.”

But future events and actions are always indefinite. Firstly you cannot be sure – no matter how determined you are – that it will happen.

Also when Dasein is authentic it is faced with a plethora of possibilities that constitute its situation and in the mode of resoluteness it’s reticent so the activity it will choose to do from the mode of resoluteness is indefinite.

Birth shares with death in that it would be my own-most. Even though I cannot look forward to my birth as I can my death; birth is still my own-most because only I was born and no-one else.

I am certain that my birth occurred; I am, I exist.

It’s non-relational because I don’t remember my birth and so can’t communicate authentically about it with others. (I may be misunderstanding the term “non-relational” there because I think non-relational may have been used to designate the fact that nobody can take my place and die for me; which would still mean that birth and death shared this feature because nobody can be born for me).

An interesting question that just popped into my head “At what point, as what phenomena, would the existence of a new Dasein be disclosive to another Dasein?”

The kicks felt by the mother and people placing their hands on the mother’s gravid belly?

One of the key features that birth shares with death is that of individuation and freedom – or would freedom be in Heideggerian terms resoluteness?

If I look back to my birth I don’t remember signing anything that obliged me to act in such and such a manner. Even if I did I would have to have signed something previous to that to make the first signing binding and something previous to that and so on.

I think here I’m getting at thrownness; once you realize that you are thrown into your situation and all that entails you realize how you are not obliged to do anything but can if you choose engage in any of the possibilities that are disclosed to your understanding in the situation.

Maybe the most distinguishing feature of birth is that at birth you are at your most vulnerable to falling-prey to the They.

Maybe biological birth is a movement from one state of a comfortable lack of freedom (the womb) to another less comfortable state that lacks total freedom but contains more freedom than the womb; that is the movement into the inauthentic they-self of everydayness.

Journal of my Journey towards understanding: Prologue 2: How I Approach Texts.

When I first approach a text I try to do so from as naïve a place as possible.

I don’t read any of the secondary literature surrounding the text or the introduction if it is written by someone other than the author.

I want to see what I see in the text before I see what others have seen in it.

I first read the text straight through. Basically when I first read it I read it in the same way I read novels. I just let the words flow through me.

As long as I have that tacit feeling of understanding what I’m reading (and that understanding may well be totally wrong) I don’t stop the flow of reading.

When I feel as if I have lost that tacit understanding I will stop and re-read the paragraph a few times; if that doesn’t avail me of the feeling of understanding I may look up a few words and if that fails then I just struggle through until I reach some kind of lucidity.

Often I don’t read a text more than once and have found that weeks or months later I start having a flood of ideas and realizations that feel as if they originate from me but then I’ll catch a glimpse of the text on my book shelf and be like “Oh what a silly billy I’ve been! That’s not me that’s Schopenhauer!”

I know it’s a lazy way to approach these kinds of texts but the main motive I have for reading them is that I’ve found my thought life to flourish when I do and to stagnate when I don’t.

Don’t expect the entries to be systematic or formal; I’m not writing academic papers here.

I’m writing my thoughts about what I read as they come whilst I am reading the text.

Also I won’t be writing the entries after reading the text but will write them before, during and after reading the text.

One more thing before the journal starts proper. I will only be writing them when I feel like it because often I will feel like writing about things unrelated to anything I am reading and really this blog is just an excuse to maintain a writing habit – which is helped incredibly by the positive affirmation I have received.

So yeah I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts as they scramble up the mountains of philosophy!

Journal of my Journey towards Understanding: Prologue 1

I am going to begin a series within this blog which will consist of the steps on my journey to understanding the texts I am reading.

Sometimes the entries will take the form of an affirmation of something I have realized in the text, at others it may be a critique and in others it will just be what I think the text is saying.

Now due to the fact that often I will be approaching these texts and philosophers for the first time the understanding I derive from them will not always be “correct”.

I am bound to unwittingly erect straw-men in my critiques and make many other errors; but that doesn’t matter because I am not claiming to understand the meaning of the text.

My aim in these journal entries isn’t to rubbish a text or philosopher/philosophy but to understand them; rather my aim is to document my engagement with the texts in such a way that it will produce discussions that may aid me to see clearer that which I see dimly.

Also I hope to make them entertaining (to the right audience of course).

Lastly, even if I have misunderstood something in a text and talked from this misunderstanding I have surely understood something and expressed that; which surely has value. Maybe then the discussions could help me not only understand what I have misunderstood but also give a name, or the place within the academic landscape to that which I have understood in my misunderstanding.

If Dasein is not Consciousness then Dasein is an Inference.

The problem I see with Heidegger’s concept of Dasein is that it is an inference. He takes the fact that every experience we have had is an experience of something; that is he takes the intentionality (or is it intensionality?) of consciousness and infers that that which is conscious is dasein.

Take the concept of disclosedness for example. He says that we are conscious of what dasein discloses.

But it could equally be said that consciousness is a kind of vessel, a screen that has the property of being able to receive impressions.

Both of these are inferences from conscious experience that cohere with the fact of conscious experience. That is they are two stories about the cause of conscious experience that explain conscious experience equally well.

Heidegger was trying to overcome or by-pass some of the problems in a Cartesian world-view; but his way of doing it isn’t the only way.

From my own experience I have come to the conclusion that we are passive observers of our lives; or rather consciousness is utterly passive.

We are consciously aware of choices being made and feelings being felt; but we are not aware of the causes of these choices and feelings. They pop up spontaneously, seemingly out of nowhere. All we can do is make inferences concerning their cause.

I realized this when I began asking myself two questions:

“How do I distinguish between that which I have control over and that which I don’t?”

“How do I distinguish between internal phenomena and external phenomena?”

With the first question I began with the supposition “I have control over that which does what I choose it to do.”; but then I asked myself “Where does my choice come from?” and “Why did I choose what I chose and not something else?”

I saw when I watched myself in the act of making choices that the choice sprung from a black-box (that is to say it came from a place my awareness didn’t extend to).

First there spontaneously popped up an urge to do something; often I immediately act upon the urge without any thought.

Even when I deliberate about whether I should choose to enact the urge I saw that I was imagining the ramifications of doing or not doing the thing. I would then take each scenario and place it before the altar of my preference and pick the one I preferred.

Every step in this process just popped up into my awareness out of the black box.

There’s a paradox involved here that succinctly shows what I am trying to convey: “You don’t choose to choose what you choose before you choose it.”

This also works for thought: “You don’t think a thought before you think it”

The second question (“How do I distinguish between internal phenomena and external phenomena?”) led to similar conclusions.

I began with the supposition that all external phenomena appears to be spontaneous. We can make guesses about what will happen next but we can’t be certain.

So that being the case internal phenomena should not be spontaneous… right?

But it is spontaneous!

This is sometimes covered over by the stream of conscious babble; the voice we talk to ourselves with and the images we imagine.

But I spent years watching my thoughts; trying to find their moment of conception and no matter how hard or long I looked all I was ever aware of was words and images popping up spontaneously.

So the Cartesian problem of how can a thinking thing – and I don’t think he just meant thought by cogito but also awareness – cause an extended thing to move is no problem because:

      1. Thoughts are objects out there

      2. Our awareness has no effect on what is out there

      3. Our awareness is just receptivity

Of course point 3 is the inference that distinguishes what I’m saying from what Heidegger says. Point 1 and 2 aren’t; just look for yourself.

It could be that consciousness is an activity of dasein, the brain, some kind of spiritual thing or whatever. The fact is that we are not transparent to ourselves and so have to make inferences concerning our being; concerning that which is conscious.

Which is cool because stories are fun to read and write!

Could the Dasein be the brain or an activity of the brain?

Could the Dasein be the brain or an activity of the brain?

Heidegger characterizes Dasein as Being-in-the-World.

He also gives it a set of Equiprimordial modes of Being-in-the-World: Disclosedness, attunement, understanding and discourse.

Studies of the brain have found that if you stimulate certain areas of the brain you can get Dasein to disclose certain things.

For example: If you stimulate the C-fibres of the brain (whatever they are I am no neurologist and this is hear-say) then the subject reports the experience of pain. That is to say that the Dasein discloses the attunement of pain.

When I first began reading “Being and Time” I thought that Heidegger was saying that Dasein was consciousness (awareness) but I now know that consciousness is merely conscious of what Dasein discloses.

Phenomenology, as I understand it, is a method of interrogating reality from the 1st person subjective awareness and Heidegger assumes that reality appears as it is.

(On a side note I’ve noticed that every philosophical system has a starting point that has to be taken on faith and I believe that this is one of the starting points in Heidegger’s system. The other being being-in-the-world. Both of these are starting points that cannot be proven but act as a foundation.)

A problem I see with saying that Dasein is the brain is that the question “Is reality as it appears?” still remains. This is because the brain acts as a kind of radio. It modulates (that is changes) the input into something intelligible to consciousness; rather it changes the input into objects of consciousness.

Maybe the reason why I am so inclined to say that Dasein is the brain is because all the characterizations that Heidegger gives are activities. I think that he even says that Dasein is potentiality-for-being and each being is a kind of activity; that is an enactment of a possibility.

So is he saying that Dasein is possibility and if so then you can make the statement “Possibility enacts one of its possible possibilities.” which seems a bit absurd.

Maybe its just because in language we always have something that acts but here we’re having an activity that acts.

I don’t know – – – I’m in a bit of a shambles over this one!

“You’re a Bitch!” aka “You won’t have Sex and be in a Relationship with me!” aka “You’re not obeying me!”

One time I was rejected by a girl.

Well it wasn’t the only time I had ever been rejected. You’d need to be a creature with loads of fingers to be able to count on your hands the times I’ve been rejected and dumped.

Anyway she gave that normal “It’s not you it’s me” line. She also said things like “I just don’t think I’m ready for a relationship” and so on.

You know all the things someone says when they don’t want to say why they really rejected you.

The reason she rejected me was because I wasn’t her type; our ways of living and values didn’t match up; and maybe she didn’t find me sexually attractive (but that’s obviously not true because my grandma says I’m handsome).

Now why all the evasions?

One obvious (and probably the main) reason is that she didn’t want to hurt my feelings; which is a laudable reason. But that isn’t the only reason.

Wait there; we need a bit more context.

We had gone on a date of sorts. We had kissed and fondled a bit.

In my eyes this behaviour (including actual intercourse) is done in order to test compatibility; to see if I was her type. Given this it’s perfectly fine to call it quits if you don’t think you and the other are compatible.

The problem is that some people label this behaviour “leading someone on” and this (especially when attached to women) is considered by those people as “sluttish” behaviour.

Of course it hurts when someone you find sexually attractive and want to be compatible with rejects you; but they haven’t done anything wrong by rejecting you!

If they have then I’ve done something wrong whenever I leave the Brussels-sprouts on the plate!

To get to the point.

We had an amicable and open conversation on Facebook after the rejection where I managed to get her to own up to the fact that she just didn’t like me in that way.

I didn’t do it in a nasty or forceful way. I said things like “You do know it’s fine to not like someone in that way?” and “You do know you’re not obliged to be with someone just because you kissed them?”

I talked to her about this because I was curious about why someone would use such evasions and eventually I got her to admit “It’s because I don’t want to seem like a bitch.”

This made me realize something!

When people insult people seriously it is because that person has failed to do what the person doing the insulting wanted them to do. It’s basically a masked way of saying “You’re not obeying me”.

I can see where the urge to call a woman who rejects you a bitch comes from; it’s a desperate ploy to get sex or a relationship. Also it comes from the pain of rejection; it’s a vent.

The silliness of using such tactics and being offended by them is easily seen because a bitch is a female dog and a human is a human.

Also you are trying to accuse someone of being promiscuous for not acting promiscuously!

Ha ha people are silly robots sometimes!

How do numbers relate to reality?

The other day at work I was thinking about numbers and how they relate to reality.

I don’t think there is any natural relation between numbers and reality; I believe we first create or discover categories in reality and then associate these categories with numbers.

For example: we create the category “leaf” and then we can make statements like “There are 146 leafs on that tree.”

A more scientific example would be the noticing of certain features of objects such as weight. We could then pick a certain amount of a certain element or object and designate that to be a unit of weight.

This designation is arbitrary. There may be reasons given for choosing this particular amount of this particular element such as how it makes it easier to combine with the measurements of other features of objects such as volume or something.

Still though the designation would be arbitrary because why choose to have a certain amount of space as a unit of volume? It could be said because it makes it easier to relate to other units of measurement; but then we’re back with the question “Why choose that specific something to be the unit for the measurement of that feature?”

But I have gone somewhat off track.

So numbers act as a very useful means for mapping out reality. Science is dealing solely with that part of reality that can be mapped out with numbers; that can be quantified and measured.

The problem is that science has increasingly become religious; especially in its public projection. It tries to say to us that all that exists is what is measurable. That is to say that anything that can’t be talked about in terms of number doesn’t exist.

I believe this is making the mistake of confusing the map with the territory.

There are different kinds of maps all of which are designed with a different purpose in mind.

There are maps that map the varying altitudes of a terrain designed for use by mountaineers and pilots; but they don’t indicate the colour of the terrain, the nature of the terrain and so on.

I think the claim that all that exists is measurable is the same as the claim that all a terrain is, is differences in altitude.