Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Jump on the Hawaii bus

If Hawaii were like a bus in an accident that passerbys jump on to make a fraudulent claim what beauteous compo that would be. I foresee millions in payout for genuine distress. Hiding in a storm drain with your child thinking that your hour/15 mins. has come, ultimate P.T.S.D. The strange thing is the silence of the blogosphere. No one wants to talk about how a retaliatory launch might have crisped the planet and how easily that could have happened. The doomsday clock is now 2 1/2 mins. to midnight.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Pascal's Wager and the Way of Epistemic Humility

The problem with Pascal’s wager is that it is a wager, and so the stakes are fixed in advance. Betting is about winning some value you are already aware of, not learning that there is something new out there to be valued. If you set out to acquire beliefs without learning, you are cheating: gaining epistemic ground without doing epistemic work. By contrast, in the cases of aspirational faith, coming to believe that, e.g., we will still be friends on Monday, is part and parcel of a bigger project of learning to become a different kind of person. The project is intellectual, involving a change in beliefs, but it is not only intellectual — and its intellectual character is inseparable from its affective and motivational character.

Pascal may have been making a related point to the effect that the mind does not have a monopoly on wisdom when he famously declared that “the heart has its reasons which reason does not know”. But that sentiment, however beautifully expressed, leaves the crucial questions unanswered. Because suppose that Pascal is right, and someone’s heart has reasons that her reasons does not know. Do things have to stay that way? Couldn’t her reason learn those reasons? And wouldn’t that, in turn, be her heart’s opportunity to grow?
(Agnes Callard writing in The Stone N.Y.T.)

Such is her summing up in a nicely thoughtful and pleasant essay. Pascal’s Wager contains an irony that is missed by the non-believer namely the notion that a prudential option is possible in the matter of faith.

In the Year of Grace 1654,
Monday, the 23rd of November
Feast of St. Clement, Pope and Martyr,
and others in the Martyrology.
Vigil of St. Chrysogonus, Martyr, and others.
From about half past ten in the evening
until about half past twelve,
God of Abraham,
God of Isaac,
God of Jacob
Not of the philosophers and scholars.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
God of Jesus-Christ,
Deum meum et Deum vestrum.
(“My God and Your God,” John 20:17)
” Your God will be my God ”
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything,
except God.
He is to be found only by the ways
taught in the Gospel.
Greatness of the human soul.
“Righteous Father, the world has not known Thee,
but I have known Thee.
Joy, Joy, Joy, tears of Joy,
I have separated myself from Him
Dereliquerunt me fontem aquae vivae
(They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters,” Jer. 2:13)
” My God, wilt Thou leave me? ”
Let me not be separated from him eternally .
This is the eternal life,
that they might know Thee,
the only true God,
and the one whom Thou has sent, Jesus Christ ”
I have separated myself from Him:
I have fled from Him, denied Him, crucified Him.
Let me never be separated from Him.
We keep hold of Him only by the ways
taught in the Gospel.
Renunciation. total and sweet
Submission. total and sweet
Total submission to Jesus-Christ
and to my director
Eternally in joy
for a day’s training on earth.
Non obliviscar sermones tuos.
(“I will not forget Thy words,” Psalm 118:16)
(written on parchment found sown inside his coat after his death)

Following on from “the heart has its reasons....

277 The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know…
278 It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This, then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by reason.
279 Faith is a gift of God; do not believe that we said it was a gift of reasoning…

Does this sound like a man with a prudential option plan or a man who would mock the notion of a safe bet? There are no epistemic grounds for that leap. What you must do is say to yourself ‘I don’t know and there is no way that I can know by my own power’. A partial emptying of your need for regimental rationalism is to associate with believers.

Can I call this the way of epistemic humility?

Monday, 8 January 2018

The Two Sources of Morality and Religion by Henri Bergson

I tend towards Bergsonism which is an alert attention to his thought whether it seems inscrutable, as it often does, or not. Bergsonianism I take to be a willingness to co-opt a slice or two into one’s own loaf. I’m not sure that any of the modern Bergsonianisms have much use for his last major work The Two Sources of Morality and Religion. A citation will hint why which is odd because there is no major conflict with evolutionary ethics/ethology at present fashionable.

We have been searching for pure obligation. To find it we have had to reduce morality to its simplest expression. The advantage of this has been to indicate in what obligation consisted; the disadvantage, to narrow down morality enormously. Not indeed because that part of it which we have left on one side is not obligatory: is there such a thing as a duty which is not compulsory? But it is conceivable that, starting from a primitive basis of obligation pure and simple, such as we have just defined, this obligation should radiate, expand, and even come to be absorbed into something that transfigures it. Let us now see what complete morality would be like. We shall use the same method and once more proceed, not downwards as up to now but upwards, to the extreme limit.
In all times there have arisen exceptional men, incarnating this morality. Before the saints of Christianity, mankind had known the sages of Greece, the prophets of Israel, the Arhats of Buddhism, and others besides. It is to them that men have always turned for that complete morality which we had best call absolute morality. And this very fact is at once characteristic and instructive; this very fact suggests to us the existence of a difference of kind and not merely one of degree between the morality with which we have been dealing up to now and that we are about to study, between the maximum and the minimum, between the two extremes. Whereas the former is all the more unalloyed and perfect precisely in proportion as it is the more readily reduced to impersonal formulae, the second, in order to be fully itself, must be incarnate in a privileged person who becomes an example. The generality of the one consists in the universal acceptance of a law, that of the other in a common imitation of a model.
Why is it, then, that saints have their imitators, and why do the great moral leaders draw the masses after them? They ask nothing, and yet they receive. They have no need to exhort; their mere existence suffices. For such is precisely the nature of this other morality. Whereas natural obligation is a pressure or a propulsive force, complete and perfect morality has the effect of an appeal.
Only those who have come into touch with a great moral personality have fully realized the  nature of this appeal.

The primitive morality of which he speaks is the in group tribal morality of the closed society. This is a fundamental virtually instinctual promptness to align oneself with the good of the group. Bergson’s delineates the impossibility of moving to the open religious moral schema without the powerful spiritual magnetism of the avatar.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Brain Bypass

Is it possible to achieve a brain bypass? In the view of Bergson the brain is the organ of action keeping us focused on the present moment and its main purpose is to exclude all that is not salient. The depressive is like the Rorschach test subject that kept finding sexual themes in the blot patterns.
- My, said the psychiatrist, you have a dirty mind.
- What about you showing me all those dirty pictures?

The depressive finds a note of gloom and fatality in the present moment and all his acts are tainted with it. The point of the cone (Bergson’s image) is like a funnel drawing down the pollution of the past. Can a mind move away from that dismal fixation? In the Jungian way as in Yeats and in Eastern iconography; the possibility exists to move further out on the cone towards the larger considerations of the Anima Mundi. Meditation can bypass the tiresome engrams deep rutted in the brain. Allow the world to ‘fall through’ the archetypal psychic centres of the body known as the chakras. Feel the world via the heart. Link the breath with a positive aspiration.

And a happy New Year.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Telling All

We all have psychological burdens to bear. The notion that their weight is lessened by sharing them with the world at large is naive and may quite seriously add to the load. In the philosophy blogs which I frequent I have lately noticed that people are revealing the fact of debilitating depression or a deep sadness which is not warranted by the facts of their lives. This is not a prudent strategy and it will most certainly damage the careers of aspirant academics. That is how the world is. Thinking otherwise is a function of your disorder. Reserve your revelations to the persons who love you and to your counselors. Others may guess from your funny gait but its none of their business.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Divide Small and Serve All

So, in my view, the self comes into being with the first act of attention, or the first time attention favours one interest over another. This will occur when we have multiple interests, two or more of which are in conflict. At the very moment attention resolves such a conflict, the self is born.
(from an essay in Aeon self and attention
On the Self and Attention by Carolyn Dicey Jennings

Given that there is no greater focussing of the attention than that of the lover on his lass and vice versa must we assume that Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins has a divided self?

Her polyamory philosophy about which she has written in the Chronicle of Higher Education
has a photo of herself and her husband and lover flanking her throne. It lacks only a cheetah on a silver chain to complete the title of C.I.J. who must be Obeyed


Its not you, its not me, its not the others, its all of us. Can we recalibrate the emotional intensity, scale back the neediness, slow down the unfolding and retain a medium grade self-centredness, a dyke of privacy that can overcome the flooding of that sea of loss and incompleteness? The inner baby is crying in the nursery pleading for Mother. No Mother. The first words that you learn are ‘All Gone’. Yes. All Gone.
(from an unwritten story with proposed title A Strong Bench)

Friday, 22 December 2017

Thank Me for being Me

Seen in a year’s best books list:

Földényi’s Melancholy is a Burton-inspired chronicle that bests a thousand other intellectual histories of its kind. It spoke to me of what it is to be the sort of person who feels the need and drive to read all these books in the first place, and of the intangible benefits I gain from them.