Saturday, November 21, 2015

Loony, Ghost, and Monster

Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo & The Mother.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Where we do not yet know what questions to ask

Essays & Opinions

Philosophical writing is typically obscure, academic, difficult. All the easier to come off as profound — and to claim that others are misreading you... more » Keith Frankish
But some great philosophy is creative in a way that is incompatible with clarity. It doesn’t seek to construct precise theories; rather, it reaches out to unmapped areas of thought, where we do not yet know what techniques to employ, what concepts to use, or even what questions to ask. It is more like art than science, and it makes its own rules. It is not that such work is defective by being ambiguous; it is trying to do something that cannot be done clearly, and its aim is precisely to stimulate diverse interpretations.
This is, perhaps, the best justification for obscurity. However, it should be used with great caution. Work that respects standards of clarity can be evaluated against those standards, but how to tell if a difficult text is ground-breaking and creative or just pretentious nonsense? And how can we be sure that any good ideas it spawns were latent in the original, rather than the creation of ingenious interpreters? It’s prudent to be very suspicious of such texts; they must earn their status as serious works through a long history of intellectual fertility.
Finally, some philosophers might write obscurely because it creates an aura of profundity and mystery. This invites interpretation and scholarly attention: special effort is required to engage with the work, helping to create a cult following among scholars. The work is also harder to challenge, and criticisms can be dismissed as misinterpretations. Meanwhile, writing that is more transparent can seem less fertile or exciting, and its errors easier to spot. Not admirable, perhaps, but is it cynical to think that such motives for obfuscation sometimes play a role?
In most cases, obscurity is a defect, not a virtue, and undue concern with interpretation puts the focus on people rather than problems. It is not easy to write clearly, especially on philosophical topics, and it is risky. Clear writers stand naked before their critics, with all their argumentative blemishes visible; but they are braver, more honest and more respectful of the true aims of intellectual enquiry than ones who shroud themselves in obscurity.
January 29, 2014 Interview with Paul W. Kahn, Author of Finding Ourselves at the Movies - Hope Leman (@hleman)
Philosophy, I believe, is dialogue.
Philosophy is not a means to some other end. I cannot prove the usefulness of philosophy by showing you that it will improve your job prospects, find you a partner, or make your life easier. We engage in philosophy because we are drawn to self-reflection. We not only act, we think about what we are doing. At times, we think about our entire lives, what we are committed to and why. Everyone, in some way or another, is drawn to these reflections. That is part of what it means to be a person. Philosophy is only a more sustained effort to engage in this sort of self-reflection. The importance of that experience in one’s own life is the only ground upon which philosophy can be defended.

Most philosophers think of their activity as one of explaining. I don’t disagree with the urge to explain, but I think we need to get people enthusiastic about looking for explanations. That is the role of disruption: to shake people out of their ordinary assumptions about themselves and their world and to get them thinking.

Schelling's Practice of the Wild: Time, Art, Imagination: 2015.11.11 : View this Review Online ... #philosophynws
Contrary to the Platonic tradition still embedded in modern discourse, he will argue that the imagination is the font of all thinking and the principle of creativity that is formative of the very opening upon things. He will present the image as a 'revelation' without representation. Wirth sees the problem of the image and imagination as a contemporary problem and, rather than merely reporting what Schelling says, purports to think through this problem with Schelling in a mutual practice of the wild, thereby rendering Schelling our contemporary, a project that, in my judgment, is utterly prodigious. 

Taoufiq Sakhkhane - 2012 - ‎Literary Criticism - Spivak's attitude or indirect participation in that controversy came in the form of a ... 
The received dogma asks us that our language be pleasant and easy, that it slip effortlessly into things as they are. Our point of view is that it should be careful, and not take the current dogmatic standard of pleasure and ease as natural norms.

The Spiritual Gift of Madness: The Failure of Psychiatry ...
Seth Farber - 2012 - ‎No preview - ‎More editions
Exploring the rise of Mad Pride and the mental patients’ liberation movement as well as building upon psychiatrist R. D. Laing’s revolutionary theories, Seth Farber, Ph.D., explains that diagnosing people as mad has more to do with ...

Writing the Self: Diaries, Memoirs, and the History of the ...
Peter Heehs - 2013 - ‎Preview - ‎More editions
The self has a history. In the West, the idea of the soul entered Christianity with the Church Fathers, notably Augustine. During the Renaissance the idea of the individual attained preeminence, as in the works of Montaigne.

Famous British philosopher says this nightly exercise is better than a ... - ‎3 hours ago‎
The Swiss-British philosopher Alain de Botton has made a career of bringing high-minded philosophical concepts to the masses with best-selling books like 1997's "How Proust Can Change Your Life" and 2006's "The Architecture of Happiness."

Bengal Dreaming

A philosophy of 'dreaming' occupies a central place in the Bengali mindset. However, the trouble arises when action does not transcend the act of dreaming. The substantial joy out of sheer 'wishing' the fulfilment of one's remote desires could obstruct development of an attitudinal climate where one's role and value in society is measured mostly in terms of actual performance and achievements rather than potentialities and promises.
Adverting to Sri Aurobindo would have supplied muscle to the argument but ideological straightjacket tuns it insipid. [TNM55]

Decoding Indian Belief Systems: Is this world just a dream?
Latest article in the series by @shreyansmehta

Monday, November 02, 2015

John von Neumann, I.J. Good, Vernor Vinge, and Ray Kurzweil

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology is a 2005 non-fiction book about artificial intelligence and the future of humanity by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil.
The book builds on the ideas introduced in Kurzweil's previous books, The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990) and The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999). This time, however, Kurzweil embraces the term the Singularity, which was popularized by Vernor Vinge in his 1993 essay "The Coming Technological Singularity" more than a decade earlier.[1] The first known use of the term in this context was made in 1958 by the Hungarian born mathematician and physicist John von Neumann.
Kurzweil touches on the history of the Singularity concept, tracing it back to John von Neumann in the 1950s and I. J. Good in the 1960s.
Kurzweil says revolutions in genetics, nanotechnology and robotics will usher in the beginning of the Singularity.[22] Kurzweil feels with sufficient genetic technology it should be possible to maintain the body indefinitely, reversing aging while curing cancer, heart diseaseand other illnesses.[23] Much of this will be possible thanks to nanotechnology, the second revolution, which entails the molecule by molecule construction of tools which themselves can "rebuild the physical world".[24] Finally the revolution in robotics will really be the development on strong AI, machines which have human-level intelligence or greater.[25] This development will be the most important of the century, "comparable in importance to the development of biology itself".[26]

Kurzweil concedes that every technology carries with it the risk of misuse or abuse, from viruses and nanobots to out of control AIs. He believes the only countermeasure is to invest in defensive technologies, for example by allowing new genetics and medical treatments, monitoring for dangerous pathogens and creating limited moratoriums on certain technologies. As for artificial intelligence Kurzweil feels the best defense is to increase the "values of liberty, tolerance, and respect for knowledge and diversity" in society because "the nonbiological intelligence will be embedded in our society and will reflect our values".[27]
Paul Davies wrote in Nature that The Singularity is Near is a "breathless romp across the outer reaches of technological possibility" while warning that the "exhilarating speculation is great fun to read, but needs to be taken with a huge dose of salt".[41]
Anthony Doerr in The Boston Globe wrote "Kurzweil's book is surprisingly elaborate, smart, and persuasive. He writes clean methodical sentences, includes humorous dialogues with characters in the future and past, and uses graphs that are almost always accessible."[45]while his colleague Alex Beam points out that "Singularitarians have been greeted with hooting skepticism"[43] Janet Maslin in The New York Times wrote "The Singularity is Near is startling in scope and bravado", but says "much of his thinking tends to be pie in the sky". She observes that he's more focused on optimistic outcomes rather than the risks.[47] ~Wikipedia

Accelerationism Without Accelerationism - Here is my review of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’ INVENTING THE FUTURE. Cross-posted from The Disorder of Things. Steven Shaviro.
The term accelerationism was coined by Benjamin Noys in 2010, in order to designate a political position that he rejected. In Noys’ account, accelerationism is the idea that things have to get worse before they can get better. The only way out of capitalism is the way through. The more abstract, violent, inhuman, contradictory, and destructive capitalism becomes, the closer it gets to tearing itself apart. Such a vision derives, ultimately, from the famous account of capitalism’s inherent dynamism in the Communist Manifesto. For Marx and Engels, capitalism is characterized by “constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation… All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.” Far from deploring such developments, Marx and Engels see them as necessary preconditions for the overthrow of capitalism itself. [...]

But it still remains that they — like nearly all “Western Marxists” over the course of the past century — are a bit too quick in making the leap from economic matters to political ones.
Still, I don’t want to end my comments on such a negative note. The greatest strength of Inventing the Future, to my mind, is that it does indeed turn our attention towards the future, instead of the past. A big problem for the left today is that we have too long been stuck in the backward-looking, defensive project of trying to rescue whatever might be left of the mid-twentieth-century welfare state. While it is perfectly reasonable to lament our loss of the safety net that was provided by mid-twentieth-century social democracy, the restoration of those benefits is not enough to fuel a radical economic and political program. Looking nostalgically towards the past is far too deeply ingrained in our habits of thought. We need to reclaim our sense of the future from Silicon Valley and Hollywood. 

Related books:
  • C. J. Townsend, The Singularity & Socialism: Marx, Mises, Complexity Theory, Techno-Optimism and the Way to the Age of Abundance (Rancho Cordova, CA: Createspace Independent Publishing, 2015).
  • Paul Mason, Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future (London: Allen Lane, Penguin Books, 2015).
  • Edward F. Kelly, Adam Crabtree and Paul Marshall, Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015). 
  • David Harvey, Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference (Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell Publishers, 1996).