March 29, 2005

A Tribute to Magritte

Ecrans Transparents: 'transparent' Mac screens. An homage to Magritte. | MetaFilter

One of the best links ever! One of the works of art I like a lot is Magritte's 'Promenades of Euclid' pictured below. One of my all time favorites is his Ceci n'est pas une pipe (also pictured below).

Posted at 09:54 AM

Readers

Readers may be divided into four classes: 1. Sponges, who absorb all that they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtied. 2. Sand-glasses, who retain nothing and are content to get through a book for the sake of getting through the time. 3. Strain-bags, who retain merely the dregs of what they read. 4. Mogul diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who profit by what they read, and enable others to profit by it also.

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, critic (1772-1834)


Posted at 07:47 AM

March 27, 2005

Eugenics

The New York Times > Week in Review > Did Descartes Doom Terri Schiavo?

I was reading this article on the philosophical perception of the existence of life. Descartian weltanschauung deems perception of consciousness the fundamental requirement for sentient life. Breathing and metabolism are not sufficient.

The next question is one of the sanctity of life. Early in the 20th century the US practiced a form of Eugenics by sterilizing people who were pronounced 'retarded'. The problem is that their diagnosis was flawed and the US had violated a fundamental right (right to procreate?).

The question I am currently pondering is my stand on Eugenics. In the past I was incontrovertibly against it. I can't see how it is possible for society to decide that we need everybody to look like Jude Law and Danny DeVito's genes need to be terminated. (The existentialist point is 'existence before essence' - hence we can't pre-judge people on nature alone). Now, I'm a lot more open to the idea. I suppose core to my change is the realization that we already practice eugenics on a limited scale. The 'arranged marriages' of India are an example of channeling the mixing of compatible genes on the basis of family background. Assuming evolutionary psychology is sound, today women choose mates on some genetic basis (tall enough to reach the top-shelf, rich enough to buy flowers that wilt and diamonds which provide limited utility). The way the system works today allows people at the 'bottom of the value ladder' to still make choices relative to their level (i.e.: trite platitude - "there is someone for everyone"). An eugenic system might deem that some genes are not worth procreating independent of the desires of the possessor of the gene. Is it possible for a central entity (computer or board for gene distribution) to make the decision on how genes should mix for the benefit of humanity? In some weird sense this system would only externalize the decision being made by couples today. Case in point women who make lists ('things I like about him' and 'things I don't like about him').

Time to re-read A brave new world.

Posted at 11:57 AM

March 26, 2005

Sartrian Koan

Consciousness is a being, the nature of which is to be conscious of the nothingness of its being.



Jean-Paul Sartre
--Being and Nothingness

Posted at 01:37 PM

March 22, 2005

Smile. Tomorrow will be worse

When I was younger my personal motto was "Smile tomorrow will be worse". This strip captures my emotion very accurately.

Posted at 09:56 AM

March 21, 2005

Nietzsche on Suicide

The thought of suicide is a great source of comfort: with it a calm passage is to be made across many a bad night.


Friedrich Nietzsche
--Beyond Good and Evil

Posted at 08:37 AM

March 18, 2005

A Life - what is it worth?

Fry Scott Peterson.
Save Terry Schiavo.
Stop Abortion.
Execute the mentally retarded.

Why are the divine rules for preserving life accepted without question?

Posted at 02:21 PM

March 14, 2005

NY Architecture

View from the hotel Roosevelt (45th and Madison) where I usually stay in NYC. The contrast in architectures is very well expressed in this image.

Posted at 09:11 PM

March 03, 2005

On insignficance

A man said to the universe: "Sir I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation."
-Stephen Crane, writer (1871-1900)
Posted at 08:13 AM

March 01, 2005

Ethical basis for life

A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.


Albert Einstein
--New York Times Magazine, 09/11/1930


I've been thinking about this for the last week. Some of the inputs that have colored my thoughts thus include Marx's view on morals as being artifacts imposed on us to maintain the super structure. (I know he didn't quite exactly mean this, but I'm unable to express myself with sufficient eloquence on this point).

The other source of this perturbation is Levi-Strauss' and his views on 'savages'. The idea is that the value systems implemented by the so-called less sophisticated societies can be quite elaborate. I guess the net of this is that it comes down to the Socrates Euthypro conversation - "Are things sacred because the Gods love them, or do Gods love them for they are sacred." Are morals time-less and across societal boundaries. I know, the relativistic view is that they are reflections of the time and society. This answer is not satisfying. It's almost like Kant's synthetic a priori knowledge. Are there some morals that are in fact timeless and incapable of perception in the current times and societies?

Posted at 03:43 PM
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